If you missed last week’s Clubhouse chat, we had a great discussion about connecting with our kids. We shared ways we care and express love for our children. There were ways in which we were similar and ways in which we were very different.
Grab your coffee, set your kiddos up with an activity, and join us on Saturday mornings on Clubhouse at 8 a.m. CST. We have some great conversations. The guests bring a lot of really great ideas. You’ll learn so much, meet a lot of neat people, and have a great time!
Here is a bit of our Coffee and Kids conversation about Making Connections. Below is my contribution to the conversation:
The way I showed my children I cared for them when they were younger was different from the way my husband did. We both provided food and a stable home for them. I showed my kids love and compassion by telling them how much I loved them and by talking to them, being there and present for them, and being honest with them.
But there were times when I raised my voice or flew off the handle. I’m not a perfect parent, and it was definitely difficult to be a working mom. When I say the word “working,” I’m not just talking about the nine-to-five jobs outside the home. Stay-at-home moms are working moms too. So how do you balance working and giving your kids the care, time, and attention they deserve? I would encourage you to put your phone down, turn off the TV, and listen to your children. I would take the time to listen to my daughters’ needs and respond the best I could. I would show them that I was paying attention with nonverbal and verbal feedback. As my girls have grown up, I’ve continued to use these parenting skills.
Make sure you emphasize that the things they’re saying to you are important because they ARE. I really didn't use material items to show my kids I cared about them (not that they wanted for much of anything). I took the time to show my kids I cared about them by spending time with them and giving them my full attention. It can be difficult to carve out this time, especially with everything else going on in our lives. When my daughters were young, Saturdays consisted of grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning and organizing the house. Throughout the day, I would always find moments to stop and pay attention to my kids. It was a challenge with everything going on, but we were able to carve out precious moments together.
As adults, my daughters and I still spend a lot of time together, giving each other time and attention. Hugs and encouragement are still needed into adulthood.
You can read more about connections and nurturing in my book Raising the Well-Adjusted Child: A Parent’s Manual.
What I have learned: Giving people your time and attention is healthy for everyone involved. Stop what you’re doing, put down your phone, and listen to the person talking to you.
One of our Coffee and Kids Clubhouse topics was Modeling for Our Kids. I started off the conversation by sharing the poem below. When I was a child, this poem hung on the wall in our home. It has always been ingrained in my brain and has guided my decision-making more than once. Even when I was going to school to become a teacher, I know I drew from this poem numerous times. The poem is timeless, and it bears repeating.
Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
We are not perfect parents, and I have made my fair share of mistakes. Over the years, I've learned that words are important. The analogy, “You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube,” demonstrates how hurtful words can be. In education, we tell our teachers that for every negative comment, a student needs four positive comments to overcome it. It also takes one hundred verbal repetitions to reverse a negative emotion or feeling. Similarly, when modeling behavior, it takes just one example of a negative behavior to stick with your kiddos.
Kids are watching us. They're watching our reactions and our behaviors. For example, think about your typical day. How did you approach the morning? Were you grumpy? Your kids are going to learn from your approach, and they may follow your lead by being grumpy in the mornings. Are you complaining about the chores you have to do today? Again, they're going to follow your lead and complain when you ask them to clean their room. Are you grumbling about having to go to work, or are you complaining about the bills? They're watching, listening, paying attention, and learning from you.
Now let's reverse these examples. If you greet the morning with a smile, it’s ok to still be sleepy. Your response to the day may be something like this, “It's okay that I'm just not really feeling it this morning, but I'm going to push through today.” Now you’re teaching your children to persevere! You’re teaching them to push forward and work through tough days. For chores, maybe you say, “I'm not really looking forward to doing these chores, but I'm really thankful that I have a roof over my head.” You are teaching them how to appreciate what they have. Another reframe might be, “I really need to clean up the house. I don't want to, but I worked really hard to get these things and I appreciate them.” Once again, you are teaching them about gratitude and positivity. Your reactions and responses are critical to your children’s development. They are watching you, so what kind of role model will you be?
What I have learned: There are so many pieces to modeling behaviors for our children. I know one thing for sure - they are watching and learning from us each and every day.
Showing Up for Your Kids
On Saturday mornings, I host a room called, “Coffee and Kids,” on the social networking app Clubhouse, where we talk about all things parenting. A few Saturdays ago, I raised the topic of supporting our kids and posed the question, “How do you show up for your kids every day?” While the guests were processing and preparing to respond, I shared a big way in which we recently showed up for our daughter.
March 26th is Epilepsy Awareness Day. Those of you who know me know that I have a 22-year-old daughter who is diagnosed with epilepsy. The diagnosis came when she was 10 years old, so she has struggled with this illness for 12 years of her young life. She has had to manage her medications, making sure she takes them on a timely and regular schedule. She has had to significantly alter her lifestyle, ensuring she gets plenty of sleep and devotes sufficient time to stress management (as lack of sleep and stress are triggers to her seizures). She has had to learn to regulate her emotions and handle difficult situations, oftentimes by talking with friends and family or journaling (CLI created a wellness journal, Kickstarting Wellness, to help people manage stressors in their lives). She has had to learn and DO all of these things to take care of herself. As she has grown with this illness, she has also worked to educate others about epilepsy. To start, she would educate her friends and family about what they needed to do in the event that she had a seizure. Her advocacy surrounding epilepsy awareness and education steadily grew from there.
On March 26th, 2022, we showed up for our daughter in a big way. It was a Saturday, so my husband and oldest daughter were coaching their 18U softball team in a tournament. We decided to use this platform to shine a light on Epilepsy Awareness Day. We wanted to bring awareness to the players and their families, as well as to honor my youngest daughter’s strength in the face of this illness.
The color purple represents epilepsy. For the softball game on Epilepsy Awareness Day 2022, we wore our epilepsy awareness t-shirts, made cupcakes with purple icing, and painted our nails purple. The team wore purple ribbons in their hair. My daughter brought purple wristbands that said “Hope” and “Love,” which were worn by the players, coaches, and fans. We educated the girls on epilepsy, including how people are diagnosed and what they can do to help a person who is having a seizure.
It was a memorable day of awareness and advocacy. On top of that, we showed our daughter a great deal of support. We showed her how much we love her. It's incredibly important to show up for your kids - advocate for them, have their backs, cheer for them, stand up for them, support them. I encourage you to show up for your kids.
In honor of Epilepsy Awareness Day, here are some helpful tips for helping a person who is having a seizure:
What I have learned: Showing up for your kids is critical to their development. It shows them how much you love them.
The first time I tried to meditate…I had no idea what to do. As I sat on the floor in my bedroom, I couldn't figure out what to do about all the thoughts racing through my mind. I couldn’t sit cross-legged because it hurt my hips. I didn’t know what, if anything, to focus on. I sat there for a few minutes and, unsurprisingly, didn’t feel any benefit from it.
After that experience, I was determined to try meditation again, so I actually looked up how to meditate. I want to share what I have learned and how I practice meditation.
It’s really pretty simple. Meditation can be done anywhere. In fact, let’s try some right now. Stop reading, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Focus on breathing in and out slowly. Continue this practice for one to five minutes. It's okay to let thoughts and ideas in your mind come and go. Bring yourself back to focusing on your breath each time you notice your mind wandering, breathing in and out. Be still and breathe. Absorb the sounds around you and the way your body feels against the seat in which you sit. Keep breathing until you feel relaxed.
I think many times we think that we have to be in this Zen-like state to meditate. We think we have to be in our yoga clothes, at a yoga studio, or in a picturesque natural environment. But really, at any point during your day you can stop, pause, close your eyes, and focus on your breath for a few minutes.
You can even take a break and mentally transport yourself to one of your favorite places. For example, maybe your favorite place to meditate is in nature. Close your eyes and picture yourself in this cherished spot. You may be sitting on a rock in the middle of a forest along the bank of a creek, or you may be sitting on a sandy beach feeling the sea breeze against your skin and hearing the waves crash along the shore. Revel in what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. Take a few minutes here. Then, inhale a very deep breath and exhale it out, pushing away all of the stress and worry from the day.
When I am sitting on the beach (literally this time), I spend a few minutes and take it all in. The picturesque blue-green of the ocean, the sound of waves crashing on the shore, the smell of the salty water, the feel of the breeze on my skin. I make a mental note to store that beautiful, serene spot in my brain. I also remember how relaxed I felt in that place. Having those mental notes allows me to tap back into that relaxation wherever I am.
Experiencing stillness is one of the most important elements of meditation. It allows your mind to calm. When I am in a state of frustration, I will stop, pause, and close my eyes. I will take a few deep breaths and bring something joyful to mind. It might be reflecting on last week’s date night with my husband. It might be anticipating an upcoming vacation with loved ones. It might be a visit to the serene spot I cherish.
I have a feeling that while you’re pausing and practicing these techniques a smile is going to come across your face. You're going to start to feel the muscles in your neck and back relax as your breathing begins to deepen. Exhale out the worries and blow them away. Take good care of you.
What I have learned: Meditation can happen anywhere. Make an effort to be still each day.
I remember there was a time in my professional life when things were spiraling out of control. Life was tough. I didn’t want to talk about it to anybody other than my husband and my mom. It wasn't that I was ashamed or fearful of someone judging me, I just didn’t want to talk about it. During that time, my friends helped me through it without them knowing they were helping.
I relied on my friends without explicitly asking for their help. After a year or two passed, the scenario changed in my professional life and things were getting better. I had a new job, and things were looking up. I was on a long walk with a friend when I finally began explaining the situation to her.
She said, “Why didn’t you tell me about this? Why did you wait so long to tell me? I would’ve been there for you. I would've listened to your story, and I would've helped you along the way.”
I told her, “But you did help me.”
She replied, “How did I help you?”
I said, “Do you remember the night that I sent out a text and asked if anybody wanted to get together and drink some wine?” She nodded. I went on, “I was at an all-time low, and I really needed support and laughter and joy from my friends. You provided it for me. You came over, we drank wine, and we laughed. For a moment, you made me forget about everything that was going on in my professional life. I was able to just be myself. I was just your friend, and it felt so good. You helped me when you didn’t even know you were helping me.” Then, my friend understood what I meant.
Sometimes you just need your friend’s presence, not their conversation. Just some good ole fun can work wonders!
It’s true friendship when a friend doesn’t even have to know why they’re needed or why they’re asked to come over. Their presence alone is healing. That is real friendship.
I encourage you to remember that we don’t always know the reasons we are placed in people's lives. We don't always know the impact we are having, so let’s make sure that when we are together we are doing our best to help, support, and love one another.
What I have learned: You never know when you’re going to be needed. Be caring. Be compassionate. Be a friend.
What do you do when your 8-year-old daughter asks you to start a book club with the parents of her 8-year-old friends? You start a book club with women you barely know!
The book club I’m part of has been going strong for 14 years. When Oprah was starting to talk about her book clubs and schools were beginning to create extracurricular book clubs, our girls loved the idea. They wanted to have a book club and wanted their moms to have one too. We had no idea how to start a book club, but that’s exactly what we did. After lots of brainstorming, we created our own system and our own routine. Fourteen years later, our book club has become more important to me than I ever would have imagined.
Over the years, we’ve provided love and support to one another through the trials and tribulations of our lives. We have shared laughter and tears. We have helped raise our children together. We have met religiously about every six weeks (except during the height of COVID).
Our families refer to it as “wine club.” Whatever! Ok, there is usually wine involved. We may only talk about the book for four or five minutes, but it doesn’t really matter. The best part about book club is our time together and the connections and friendships we have made. Another wonderful benefit is that we are ALL so very different. We like different types of books and styles of writing. With the club, I have read books I never would have thought to read. I myself am a sucker for a romance novel! They all groan a bit when I pick the book, but I know, secretly, they love it.
Whoever is hosting usually themes a beautiful table and a meal that goes along with the book in some fashion. For example, I hosted a night where we read Paul Riser’s book Parenthood. I printed off pictures of all the ladies’ families and pinned them on a board in the dining room. I also put a picture of their family at their spot on the table. The food was served homestyle as a family would eat. There are also occasions when our meetings are much more simple. For example, I recently hosted and just ordered Panera soup and sandwiches. It’s not necessarily about what’s on the table or within the pages of the book, it’s about who is gathered around the table with me. I love hosting my girlfriends. They’re one of my support systems. We support one another and help one another. And, we laugh and laugh and laugh together.
Aside from the friendships that were started by our 8-year-old daughters many years ago, we have some other interesting accomplishments. We have read over 90 books. We have been together for 14 years. We are a small and elite group - only eight of us with no one else allowed to join. We have kept a scrapbook of our books read and who hosted each night. We have kept the tradition alive through so many ups and downs.
I am here to tell you these ladies are amazing. I am so grateful for our four little 8-year-olds who had the great idea of getting their moms together for a book club!
What I have Learned: Get yourself a group of amazing girlfriends and find something to do together. You won’t regret it.
Girlfriends are as critical to us as the oxygen we breathe. When I think about my girlfriends and the role they have played in my life, I think about the unconditional love, the unwavering support, the continuous laughter, and the heartwarming emotions. There’s just something about a girlfriend.
They’re different from your mom. They're different from your spouse. They can be people who are going through similar things as you, or they might just be the person you trust enough to share your emotions and experiences with. You might be a teenager talking with your girlfriend about a crush you have. They can understand and relate, all the while giggling with you. Maybe as an adult you’re confiding in your girlfriend about challenges in your marriage that you don’t want anybody else to know. They are there to support and listen to you. Perhaps you want to share with your girlfriend the fears and worries you have about your career. They are there with some strong words of encouragement to help you get through that difficult time.
They are people with whom you can let your guard down. They’re non-judge mental. They give you the best advice and are the ones who tell you things you don’t really want to hear but need to know. They’re fun and crazy and adventurous.
I strive to be the same thing for my girlfriends. I hope they know that I am the shoulder they can cry on, the person who will be their cheerleader, the person who will keep them grounded and remind them of their roots. It’s like having a check-in buddy, an accountability coach, and a partner in crime.
There are all kinds of girlfriends. I have many circles of them. I have high school girlfriends, current and former work friends, golf friends, book club friends, lake friends, and lifelong friends I’ve known since kindergarten. Each person, in their own unique way, adds to the person that I am. They all fill me up in different ways. They see my strengths and my weaknesses uniquely, and that’s the best part of having girlfriends.
What I have learned: Friends come in all shapes and sizes. Every girlfriend contributes to the friendship in a unique way, and they all play an important role in your life. Cherish these beautiful ladies.
I’m a terrible judge of age. It’s almost embarrassing sometimes. I might talk to someone thinking we’re the same age only to realize they’re 20 years younger than me. I remember talking to a new teacher and thinking that she must be married with kids. I was completely wrong. She turned out to be 25 years younger than me, single, and had no children. The ladies I played golf with were 10-15 years older than me, and I never really knew it. I could never do the job of the carnival worker who guesses people’s age.
I have always had friends that are older, younger, and the same age as me. It has never mattered because our relationships are based on similar interests, our lives, and our families. Throughout my life, I have tried to find people to connect with that stimulate my mind and help me grow as a parent, teacher, wife, and individual. So when looking for a friend, age is not something that is a prerequisite to the relationship. Age is just a side note that may or may not come with wisdom to be shared. We can learn a lot from our elders, but we can also learn from people of all ages too. I certainly learn a lot from people younger than me. Everyone has something to share, no matter their age. I love to learn from others.
What I have learned: I invite you to consider the prerequisites you require in your relationships. Age doesn’t matter. If we connect, then we are friends!
I have to admit…I’m not a huge fan of winter, but I do believe that snow is a miraculous and amazing sight. A snow day is a gift! My, how snow days have changed! As an educator and a mother, the scope of a snow day has certainly evolved over the years. When I first started teaching and before I had my own children, I would stay up late hoping school would be canceled. Back then, the only way we knew about a snow day was by being awakened at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to a phone call from another staff member. We were all part of a phone chain in which each of us had to call the next person on the list to let them know that school was canceled. At this point, I would be fully awake and excited for a day off. I would make some coffee, snuggle up on the couch, grab my next crochet project, and watch the snow fall.
Then, as I had children, snow days turned into days of excitement and experience. I remember bundling the kiddos up, going outside to play in the snow, trying to build snowmen, and sledding down hills. My husband would always pull the girls around the backyard on a sled attached to his four-wheeler (slowly and carefully, of course). I treasure the memory of their giggles and the dog barking in the background.
On snow days with my kids, I would make so many plans for us. I would make chili and bake cookies. Hot chocolate was, of course, a must! We would watch movies and cuddle up on the couch together. I would also try to sneak some time for myself by finally finishing up a scarf I was crocheting or by reading the last chapter of the book that had been sitting on my nightstand. I often had some grandiose plans for those precious 24 hours. Some days I pulled it all off and some days I didn’t. Whatever the outcome though, it sure was exciting to think about all the fun things we could do on those unexpected days off in the middle of the year.
Fast forward to today. Snow day updates are sent out as a phone blast the night before as predictions of weather are much more accurate. Sometimes they will even cancel multiple days in advance if a particularly nasty storm is predicted. Many schools have pivoted and now utilize virtual learning when inclement weather arises. I don’t think that went over very well with many parents and students. However, many other school districts are still granting traditional snow days and allowing kids to experience the joys of playing in the snow. Let’s face it, snow is a miracle and it’s amazing.
Now that my children are grown and out of the house, snow days are different but still exciting. I still plan something special to cook or bake. I watch movies and play games with my husband. Just as I always have, I try to pile as much as I can into that 24-hour period of being “locked in” on a snow day. It’s like we’re given an unexpected gift to stay put and just be!
What I have learned: Snow days are a gift. Appreciate and enjoy the moment.
I have always felt that age is truly just a number. I’ve never really cared about my age. It is what it is! It’s something I cannot change, so I have always embraced it. I recently celebrated my 52nd birthday. When I think about those 52 years, I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had. Yes, I could focus on that wrinkle here and there or those changes in my body’s shape. I could think about how I’m no longer young and able to do some things that I used to, like turn cartwheels or ride roller coasters. I could focus on how my body parts just don’t work the same way they used to 30 years ago. But nope - I am not going to do that!
The lens we use to look at life is one that sometimes requires refocusing and adjusting. Instead of looking at age negatively, I’ve chosen to focus on how my body has allowed me to travel the world and experience many beautiful places and people. My mind has allowed me to pursue a great career and multiple degrees. It has given me the capacity to learn and for that I am forever grateful. My heart has allowed me to love and embrace so many people in life. My eyes have allowed me to watch my children grow and experience awe at their accomplishments. My hands and lap have provided a comforting space for my children and pets. My voice has allowed me to express love, fear, and many other emotions accompanying everyday life. The passing of time has provided 34 years of loving my husband and creating memories galore of raising our family. As the years have gone on, the trials, tribulations, and lessons of married life have helped us grow together. So 52 years of that sounds pretty amazing to me. I will take 52 more!
What I have learned: The lens in which you view your age makes a difference in how you feel about yourself. I encourage you to consider whether your lens needs to be adjusted.
Tania Farran is an educator, mom, business owner, and an author. Her blogs tell about balancing all of these things in life! Laugh or cry with her and maybe learn a thing or two.