The Family Program: Parenting With Kindness, Compassion & Structure

Full disclosure – there is no book, class, movie or study that will prepare you for parenting. There are suggestions, ideas, outlines and blogs – ultimately this is a hands on job. Each and every child is born with their own unique personalities, needs & wants, and that is why every experience of parenting is a new frontier.

The best advice we received from our Lamaze instructor was applicable as each visit to the hospital began – take a good look around before you leave because life as you know it will never be the same. As a planner extraordinaire, each of my three children have taught me that there is no planning that will ever make parenting a follow the dots proposition. In fact my experience as a parent with each one of them was in essence them laughing in my face and challenging me to up my game. I assure you my husband felt the same way.

What I have found is that there are some concrete ideas that form the foundation for a family, once in place being consistent allows the room for all the creativity to flourish. Once your family has structure in place, you are all more confident in pushing boundaries a bit without fear. The most important part of parenting, starting out, is that you realize it is a lifetime commitment. If you don’t understand this before starting out you are like the bride who is all about the wedding, and didn’t give much thought to the marriage. Parenting is not for wimps, it is hard, it will kick your ass in ways you cannot imagine. It also has the miraculous ability to make every second of even the depths worth it when you get it right.

I think the reason I am ready to share this parenting book now is that I have three children I can now consider “fully baked”. They are all ready to head out on their own, and we are ready to let them do so. Along the way we have been told how “lucky” we were to have such “easy” kids. The Family Program will share just how much hard work, dedication, heartache and consistency went into making it look that easy. Most importantly, I am happy to share when I got it wrong. I think the unkindest thing you can do to a parent is to make them feel that everyone has it figured out except them. We are so tied into making sure that by all appearances we have it under control that we are afraid to admit that at times we have absolutely no idea what we are doing!

I want this book to serve as the kitchen table, the front stoop, the place where sharing happens and advice is given as it would be between family and friends. I want this book/blog/page to be a place to learn, to feel good about yourself and to raise kids who will grow up to make the world we live in a better place.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure!!! xo

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Who Do I Think I Am?

From my earliest memories I remember my mother reprimanding with the words “Just who do you think you are??”. This was not her early attempt at introducing me to inner wisdom or prompting me to search for my own truth, this was a very pointed reminder to mind your place. There was a very strong message not to think you are special, better than anyone else or deserving of special treatment.

To a child who wore a pink tutu and a tiara around, who wanted a cage built for go go dancing so I could practice while wearing my white boots and who looked upon Barbie as a lifestyle coach rather than a doll this question was more of a challenge than a reprimand. I had a very strong opinion of who I was and exactly what I wanted to be doing. I also was blessed with a father who supported my vision and encouraged it in his own way, including building me small bench to dance on in lieu of a cage.

My Dad died when I was eleven.  I lost not only my supporter but the one person who saw my vision and said go for it – the hell with anyone who doesn’t like it. My father had a lot of phrases that stick with me to this day, I hear them within me when I need them, when I need a voice to tell me that standing up for right – for yourself and others – is the only way to be.  My sense of integrity, of being the announcer when the emperor is naked, is definitively connected to being the daughter of my father.

Some cool memories that have never faded include fishing and being allowed to bait the hook, going for drives, shopping for records and tools at EJ Korvettes, going to White Castle on Fordham Road where you were served at the car by waitresses on roller skates, hours of skee ball on City Island and parties in the yard overflowing with people and music. And birthdays – my birthday was always a huge celebration and often held in conjunction with the Labor Day BBQ (in hindsight that is probably why it was so huge, but I digress).  One of my favorites was my eighth birthday in 1969 – an amazing example of how my Dad “got me”. The trip to Korvettes for that birthday included a purple tee shirt, purple tie dyed bell bottoms,  a faux snakeskin fringe vest and the Crimson and Clover Album by Tommy James and the Shondells. This outfit and this music, paired up with my round purple tinted sunglasses (from the set where you could change the lens colors) made me feel like life just wasn’t going to get much cooler. If you can recall a purely blissful day in your life – for me this was one of them.

The store of these memories have stayed with me over the past thirty nine years –  they have consoled me, bolstered me, protected me and have given me refuge. My mom dealt with a lot in her life that did not give her the capacity to be the cheerleader, the supporter or the fan. The message was clearly be responsible, be mature, don’t cause trouble and do as I say. My inability to toe this line was often met with the famous question “who do you think you are?”.

The many years between eleven and now held many fine accomplishments, achievements and goals met yet often the celebration included that tape that plays in your mind that only a mother can record. The doubts, the insecurities, the inability to take a stand and know that you earned it and deserved it. And always that question…..

The last few months have been ones of change and introspection for me and so much good and positive energy have come out of it. I feel as if I am in such a good place and surrounding myself with books, meditation, journaling and experiences has opened up my spirit beyond what I thought I was capable of. The most important result of this self work is that the other day, for the first time, I was able to firmly state that I know exactly who I am.

I am the sum of all I have experienced thus far, and it has all been a lesson to prepare me for who I am today. Every person, place and thing I have encountered on this journey was there for a purpose – at some points my spirit was ready to learn the lesson and at others it was not; therefore, those lessons continued. Each day is a new opportunity, a new choice and my choice is to be positive and forgiving. To be adventurous and bold. To be challenging to my self and gentle with others.

Mom & Dad thank you for my lessons. I was sent to be parented by you to become who I became. On May 12th I will remember the thirty ninth anniversary of my Dad’s passing with gratitude for all that he imparted to me in our time together, and for his spirit that has never left my side. On May 13th I will celebrate the memory of my mother as an example of someone who mothered to the best of her capacity and who gave me the gift at the end of her life of explaining it all and filling in all the missing words I had been waiting to hear. I also feel your spirit with me.

Who do I think I am?  I am exactly who I was meant to be!

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