Tag Archives: feelings

Why I don’t ‘Go away!’

Sometimes it feels like my son is deliberately trying to push me over into that parenting place where my thinking stops and feelings rule. Where finally, after a full day of whining and sibling squabbles and talking back, I lose sight of my boy’s goodness and say something I later regret. It’s usually in the form of, “Why can’t you just… (fill in the blank),” or “Why do you always have to… (fill in the blank),” or “What is going on with you!” My tone is harsh, and in that moment, my desire is to shirk my responsibility as the only adult present and to blame. I don’t expect an answer to my questions. I’m just boiling hot, and need to release my frustrations. And there’s my little boy, standing in front of me. I see him cower, but the engine of my anger train is just revving up, and it’s energy overcomes me. It’s leaving the station, and it has power over me. I’ve now lost control too. I’m overcome with a “need” to overpower something or someone. A power that when I’m in my right mind, I don’t even want.

That’s what a bad day looks like. And we all have them.

Mostly, though, I’ve learned how to avoid boarding those anger trains — those trains that take me on a ride towards the land of blame and shame, where I can rule with an iron fist (at least with the younger ones). I hate that land. It’s not perfection I strive for as a parent, but my goal is to hop that train as infrequently as possible.

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The other day my boy was driving me nuts. He was sulking around the house, barking at his brothers with all sorts of choice words, and the only response he could muster up to any bit of thinking I offered was, “What do I care?” I thought to myself, “One more ‘What do I care?’” and I’m going to be on that train of mine. I asked him if he wanted an hour of Special Time.

“No!” he barked.

I took a deep breath. I knew he needed to connect with me. And I knew I needed a framework to help me remember that I love him.

I set the timer for an hour. I’ve been doing Special Time with my boys for years, so I’ve built up stamina. I can pay full attention to one of them for those 60 minutes, pouring in love and appreciation despite their ugly behaviors. I can be pleased to do whatever they want — accept their requests for sugar-loaded treats, or set up a bunch of pranks around the house. None of it phases me anymore.

“I’m all yours, baby. I’ve got an hour, and we can do whatever you want.”

“I want you to go away!” he shouted in my face. “I want to be alone!”

I took another deep breath.

“I’m not going to leave you alone when you’re struggling. Later on, you can be alone. No problem.”

He lay down on the couch, facing the back cushions. I sat down next to him, positioning my tush behind the crook of his knees. He tried to push me off with his backside, and again screamed at me to go away. I stayed. After a few minutes, he stopped pushing and continued telling me to leave. I stayed. After another few minutes he quieted.

“What do you want to do for Special Time, baby?” I asked again in a tone that expressed the sweet anticipation I was now feeling.

“I don’t want to do Special Time,” he threw out the words with about as much life as a dead cat.

“Well, here we are doing Special Time. I’m all yours for probably 45 more minutes, and I’m happy to just sit here on the couch with you, if that’s what you’d like. I’m happy to just be with you.”

He was quiet.

After another five minutes or so, he asked me if I knew how to make caramel. I told him it just happened that one of my college roommates had lived on caramel corn, and I had watched her make it so many times I was sure I could do it with my eyes closed.

“I don’t want to make caramel corn,” he stated, with zero enthusiasm. “I want to make caramel.”

“OK,” I said, in a chipper tone. “Let’s do it!”

He dragged himself off the couch and towards the kitchen. I knew he wanted to make caramel and that he was grateful for my attention, but his body language successfully disguised his pleasure. I was familiar with the “How long will you hang in with my nutty behavior?” test. And I knew how to hang.

For the next 45 minutes we played in the kitchen. It started out slow and quiet, but fairly quickly my boy grew more animated. The smiles returned. It was as if we had blown air into that half-deflated balloon from last night’s party. He stood up straight. Suddenly had lots to talk about.

When the timer rang we had just poured the sticky caramel into a glass baking dish. Together, we cleaned up our mess, and then we went our separate ways. He headed to his room to do something on his own. And I made myself a cup of tea and took a five-minute break to appreciate my success in staying off the anger train, and bask in my son’s sweetness — and love of sweets!

This piece was originally published on HuffPost Parents.

How tears can bring you and your boy closer.

I got an email the other day from an editor at the Huffington Post, asking if I would be willing to write up a short thank you note to my dad to contribute to a Father’s Day piece she was putting together. 150 words max. Seemed easy enough to write a thank you, but I totally failed on the 150 words. It seems they excerpted a soundbite and published it here.

Here’s what I really wrote (Note: THIS PIECE IS MUCH MORE INTERESTING.) 

As I was writing, one of my boys was looking over my shoulder. When I turned around to peek at his reaction, his eyes were glassy wet. I asked him how he liked it, and he said, “It almost made me cry.” “Oh,” I responded, with a sideways glance. “I guess I’ll have to keep working on it.” He smiled. This boy can hold feelings in, and needs a perfect setup to really let those healing tears flow. I asked if he had read the eulogy I’d written for my father’s funeral two months earlier, and he hadn’t. He asked me to pull it up, and I did.

We switched places. He sat in the chair holding my laptop, and I sat on the bed behind him, peering over his shoulder. I noticed the first tear drip down his cheek, and then the second. I didn’t say anything. Just set my hand on his back. It seemed forever until he finished reading, and then he closed the laptop and walked out of the room. I followed. And as he sat at the table, his head buried in his own two hands, I listened as he grieved. “It doesn’t seem like it’s really true. Maybe it isn’t? Is his wife still living in the house?” And then the sweet memories. This was good.

His behavior has been quite off-track since we got the sudden news of my father’s passing, and my husband and I left the boys with Grandma and flew to the States for three days. My son had needed me and I wasn’t there. I couldn’t be. And it’s been hard to find my way back to his heart. He’s been mad, rude, and often choosing his friends over us, his family. But since that cry he’s done an about face. He asked me to print out the eulogy for him to have. He’ll sit and listen as I read his little brother Harry Potter. Yesterday he laughed hysterically with that same brother as they told us joke after joke on a long car ride home. He even let me give him a hug.

I know his walk back towards me is far from over, but I’m about to print out that eulogy, and I’m preparing to stay by his side as he reads it again, let’s his guard down and his feelings out, and continues his walk back towards me. Sweet boy, my arms are open wide.

Do you worry you’re not a good enough parent?

Sometimes this parenting thing gets tiresome. It feels like I’m giving giving giving, but not gettin’ any – if you know what I mean. READ MORE>

The Car Ride From Hell That Didn’t Really Bother Me

It’s been a long, hot summer here in our new home. We have gone from North America to Middle East, freezing ocean to warm sea, English to Hebrew (but I’ll keep my posts in the former), urban to rural, family dog to no dog, burritos to falafel, no cousins to tons of cousins, driving lanes as guides, to driving lanes as mere suggestions for placement of your vehicle (which most choose to ignore), many friends to many future friends…

Oh, and there was the month of chicken pox, baseball dreams that didn’t come true (more on that another time), broken down cars and a new dryer that didn’t work (not that we need it in this heat)… I could go on.

The point is, though, that while I’m ready to scream at the top of my lungs, “Yahoo! School starts tomorrow! We made it!” The reality is that each of the five of us is a well of emotions pounding the shore much more like the waves of the Pacific Ocean than the Mediterranean Sea. READ MORE>

A shout out to immigrant parents

When my husband first came to the United States 21 years ago, he did not speak English and he was not an American. I would go to work in the morning, and he would stay in our rented room in a shared house and…well, I don’t really know what he did. But I do remember what he didn’t do. READ MORE>

Talking to Young Ones About Sex

Just tell the truth. READ MORE>

Finding the Sweet Spot

It’s that place where we can help our children dream big — and give them the tools to make those dreams come true. READ MORE>

When there’s no easy answer to the question…

Why do our kids think we know everything about everything? Can I just tell you right now that I know next to nothing about space, including which suns or moons rotate around which planets (or is it the planets that do the rotating)! This means that I don’t remember why it’s winter in New Zealand when it’s summer here in San Francisco (that feels like winter), or why it’s a different time here than in the Middle East. I also don’t know how electricity works, so I cannot explain to my son how, when he plugs in the light, it turns on. In case you’re wondering (like my 10-year-old), I also can’t recall who the Californios were, and how they petitioned for Ranchos. READ MORE>

Raising Compassionate Boys Means Having Compassion For Boys

This post is part of the 1000 Voices for Compassion movement, an online campaign happening on February 20, 2015 (or on February 21, if you’re an overwhelmed mom of three, trying to cultivate self-compassion…) to flood the blogosphere with kindness, caring, compassion, non-judgement and all around goodness. To read other stories of compassion, check out the hashtag #1000Speak on Facebook and Twitter.

The other day on the way home from school, my 8-year-old suddenly interrupted his own excited play-by-play of his day’s highlights with a roaring rendition of “Tomorrow,” the famous tune from Annie. “The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow ther’ll be sun…”

READ MORE>

How crying about the Holocaust helped me parent better.

In many ways, the last few weeks on planet earth have been bleak. There have been terrifying plane crashes, heart-wrenching massacres and shocking hostage takings and terrorist attacks. For the first time since WWII, the largest synagogue in Paris did not hold shabbat services. Despite my only occasional attendance at such services, I expect that they will go on. I garner comfort in knowing that despite the chaos of life, certain traditions remain.

But when I woke up the other day to a front page story about an estimated 3.7 million people in Paris and around the world marching in unity, I felt hopeful. 3.7 million people moved beyond their grief, their fear, their hopelessness, their business, and prioritized unity – togetherness – connection. For a few hours people were thinking about what bonded them to one another rather than what separated them. READ MORE>