Tag Archives: parenting

A Change of Venue

Who else goes on vacation and wonders why they shouldn’t just up and move to an exotic location? I doubt I’m alone and, if you’d been with my family and me in Turks and Caicos, you might’ve decided to stay there.

Vacations are a wonderful way to rejuvenate the spirit, reconnect with your family and friends, and explore a different part of the world. I love taking my kids to new places so they can learn about and experience different cultures, foods, and ways of life.

The family

Of course, this was just a four-day trip, so we didn’t do much exploration of the island–just a lot of relaxation, and perhaps a little internal exploration.

This is what I learned:

View from plane

  1. The colors of the sea there are the most striking variation of turquoise that I’ve ever seen. Whether seeing it from the plane or the shore, the ocean is simply breathtaking. Better yet, it is crystal clear when you swim.

The beach

2. It’s windy there. Really windy. I’ve never been so cold while basking in the sun. On the upside, it made for excellent sailing and parasailing!

3. Jerk chicken rocks. My son, in particular, ate more than his fill of this Caribbean favorite.

Ford sailing

4. It was a treat to put aside work. During the past two years, I haven’t gone more than 24-hours without writing. That’s right, even when on vacation, and every weekend, I usually do a little work. This trip, I promised my family I wouldn’t pull out the laptop. Instead, I lounged around the beach reading books (if you haven’t read JoJo Moyes’s One by One, do so!), drinking smoothies, and sunbathing. I NEVER do that. By the fourth day, I had really unwound. Now I know I need to do this a little more often.

Parasailing

5. My list of “top places to retire” keeps expanding. I’d always wanted to go west, to a mountainous area like Colorado or the Sierra Nevada range. Now I’m thinking island living might not be too bad. And I’m pretty sure my kids would like to come visit often if we chose someplace like this to live, right?

So how about you? Where have you been lately, and what did you learn while you were there?

xo-Jamie

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Losing Control vs. Letting Go

I confess, I like to control my environment. In fact, one of my favorite things about writing is that I can dictate every single aspect of my characters and their lives. If only my children and husband would give me that same power!

Since my 50th birthday this past fall, however, I’ve begun to accept that I can’t actually dominate anything but my own thoughts and actions, and that attempting to extend that reach is exhausting. I finally see the difference between losing control and letting go. I can’t exactly “lose control” over things I never truly governed in the first place, right? Meanwhile, “letting go” means having faith that, even without my interference, things will eventually work out for those I love.

It’s not easy. I’m not always gracious about it, either. It’s hard to bite my tongue. Sometimes things like “Try it this way” slip out. Why? you ask. Well, in my mind, I’m deeply invested in the people I love, and trying to help is one way of showing my love and commitment. But I understand that my habit can be annoying—or worse, insulting—to others. In other words, it has the opposite effect of my intentions. Thus the newfound attempt to “roll with it.”

A potential bonus of my new attitude is that a more flexible approach should also help me remain happy in my career. The publishing industry is in constant flux, which is difficult for someone with my preference for structure. And unlike my former legal career, where you could rely on hard work to achieve certain results, in publishing, you can work extremely hard and still not get to where you are trying to go. Opportunity, luck, and subjectivity play important roles in this profession, none of which are in my control. So, like the beloved Dory advises, I “just keep swimming.”

I assume some of you are like me (controlling) and others are more relaxed. I invite those who fall into the latter category to offer me some advice on how to chill out!

xo-Jamie

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Holiday Shopping vs. Holiday Spirit

You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?

xo–Jamie

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Halloween: A Snapshot of Budding Character

They say you can tell a lot about a person from the way they handle themselves on the golf course. Does she cheat? Does she throw a fit when things aren’t going well? Does she understand the etiquette? However she plays that game is likely how she handles herself in life, at work, and so on. I think there is some truth to this particular saying, and I’m going to take it a step further.

60514268 - halloween: kids excited to trick or treat

60514268 – halloween: kids excited to trick or treat

You can tell a lot about a kid from watching her on Halloween. First, what costume did she pick? Is that little girl in a princess dress, or a football uniform? Next, does she look you in the eye, smile, and yell “trick or treat,” or does she keep her chin tucked and look back at her adoring mom or dad? Is she alone, with one friend or sibling, or running with a pack of kids? Does she ask “how many” she’s allowed, or just grab as much as her little hands can heft out of the bowl? Does she say “thank you?” or does she thrust her hands in there during someone else’s turn and grab a bunch before running away without ever once acknowledging you or the candy?

Last night I saw a little bit of all of these things. I admit, I get discouraged when I see discourteous children. I wonder how a kid gets to that point, too? Didn’t her parents teach her good manners? I know there’s a whole “anti-sharing” culture out there (schools that cater to that, too, by allowing kids to “save” toys from others even when they aren’t playing with it), so maybe that’s to blame.

A “me first” attitude is a huge turn-off to me, in kids and adults. It seems parents who are against sharing seem to think that, when another kid asks for a turn, then if their kid is expected to share, it is teaching that other kid that they get what they want whenever they want it. That seems to be a really twisted form of logic in my opinion. If anything, teaching your kids they never need to share (even if it is community property, like in a classroom or playground), is teaching YOUR kids that their needs always come first. ICK!!

Sharing is good for everyone. It teaches us to be part of a community. To realize that, if we’re lucky enough to have “more,” we can use that power to help others who have less. Giving is kind, and most people actually feel GOOD when they make someone else happy. Learning that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your needs is also a good thing (which I think sharing promotes rather than destroys). And people who share are much more likely to make friends easily and socialize better than kids who clutch everything for themselves.

What’s your take on all of this?

XO-Jamie

 

Resilience in Parenting

As a mother, I make many parenting choices every day. Some are relatively minor, like what kinds of groceries to stock. Others, like when to give your kid enough rope to hang him or herself, require more thought and impose bigger risks. For me the most difficult challenge is handling the uncertainty–the not knowing whether I’ve made the right choice until it’s too late to reverse course.36637400_s

This semester has been a real test. For the first time, my middle-schoolers both decided to prioritize their social lives over academics. My husband and I made the conscious decision to buck our natures (and the New England trend) and let the kids’ grades flounder. Our rationale? Middle school would be a better place for them to stumble and fall (and learn the consequences of their actions) than high school.

Well, we’ve stumbled, fallen, and are getting up a bit bruised. I’ll admit, I feel a bit depressed and torn about the parenting choices we made. IF, next year, the setbacks motivate them to work harder and strike a better balance among their various interests, it may have been worth it. However, if the defeat causes them to give up instead of motivating them to “overcome” the setbacks, then my husband and I have failed terribly.

In the great scheme of our lives, rationally I know these are relatively common and minor issues we’re dealing with compared with many parents. Still, no parent likes to watch their kid struggle. I think the reason it’s extremely difficult to stand aside and make them find their own solutions is that we can’t “see” the outcome and “know” all will be well. We can only hope, pray, encourage, and lead by example.

In the meantime, like my kids, I, too, need to dig deep and find my own resiliency so I can live to parent another day!

Whether you choose to micro-manage your teens’ lives or hand them the reigns, how do you handle a setback (drinking lots of wine is NOT an acceptable answer–LOL)?

xo-Jamie