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What do our kids need from us most? To be truly seen

It costs nothing, and takes only moments a day. 

What do our kids need from us most? To be truly seen

My father died four and a half years ago. Over those days of grief and togetherness, my two brothers were asked by relatives—separately, without the other in the room—what they will miss most about our father. Both men gave the same answer. Word for word.


My brothers both said that what they will miss most about our father is the delight on his face when they walked into the room.

Quick back story about these brothers of mine. They are prototypical guys’ guys. Men who would rather talk about their trucks than their feelings. Men who would rather watch sports than a romantic comedy. Men who keep their feelings close to their chests. I found it incredibly touching that their fondest memory of our dad was the light in his eyes when he looked at them.

But it makes total sense, doesn’t it?! It is pretty much the bottom line of being human.

We want to be seen. We want to matter.

We want others to want to be near us. We want those things when we are little kids, and we want them when we are full grown adults.

In 2000, Toni Morrison did an interview with Oprah and talked about the parenting mindset she had for a long time. When her kids walked into the room, she would look them over, ensuring that their hair was combed and their clothes were neat. At some point she realized that she was missing what really mattered, which was showing, on her outside, the love she so clearly felt for them on her inside. She challenged parents to reflect on this question: “Does your face light up when your kids come into the room?”

Much has been written about the amount of pressure that parents feel today.

Many of us work longer hours than our parents did, and when we are home, it’s all too easy for our heads to be full of a myriad of stressful thoughts. Family dinners can be few and far between. And then there are our handy-dandy devices which seem to pull us to different corners of our homes. Even amid this hustle and bustle, I feel clear we can take up Toni Morrison’s challenge. We can find the few moments it takes each day to mindfully and intentionally convey to our kids exactly how we feel about them.

In my new book, Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want, I write about the importance of “little p presence,” which I define as showing up for small moments of connection. Let yourself be inspired by my father and Toni Morrison (oh how I love putting the two of them in a sentence together) and take a little p presence challenge. For the next seven days, at every departure and reunion, catch your kids’ eyes and allow your face to register the positive emotions you are feeling about them. Take note of what happens to the vibe in your house when you do this consistently.

  • How does your mood shift?
  • What do you notice in your kids’ attitudes?

Feeling deeply seen is, without a doubt, what your kids need from you most of all. They need it more than help with math homework, more than private violin lessons, and more than broccoli. Your kids want to light you up. Your kids need to feel like the apple of your eye.


This article was originally published on Psychology Today.


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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Life

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

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Life

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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