Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Break


Robin's Roundup is taking a vacation break. I'll be back blogging on January 3, 2011. I wish my family, friends, followers and visitors a joyous holiday and a very happy new year. Between the e-books stored on my Kindle and the physical books I just can't give up, I'm planning to do a lot of reading over the next couple of weeks and I imagine we'll have lots to discuss when I get back. Feel free to post a comment in my absence and let me know what you're reading.

All best,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Declaring Independence

As parents, it falls to us to raise responsible, compassionate and independent children. In theory I have always appreciated the importance of helping my children develop their independence confidently. In practice, though, it's sometimes bittersweet and just plain tough. While I am in no rush for my children to grow up, I want to help them grow up into people they are proud to be. Independence is a key component. It can be difficult to find that balance between nurturing your kids and making sure they feel safe on the one hand and encouraging them to move forward on their own, on the other.

Tonight my family attended a holiday party for my husband's firm at a skating rink**. I am not a skater and our daughters are beginners, at best. My husband usually takes our kids out on the ice at parties but didn't feel like skating tonight so we sent them off on their own to rent skates and slide around. I watched from inside and tracked their progress with typical mom anxiety, particularly at that point where they dissolved from view and I had to take a leap of faith. Lo and behold, just when I was about ready to call a search party together, they emerged from the rental area all booted and laced up and took to the ice. The three of them clung to the side and to each other. From where I stood, it looked as if they were negotiating who would lead the pack.  The daughter who until moments before they struck out on their own was thinking she may not want to do this at all suddenly sprung out from the huddle and slid forward. The others followed. I watched gleefully as they made their way around the rink, cheering each other on and giggling all the way. I ran out to greet and photograph them as they closed their first loop and they warmed my heart on an otherwise cold night. They regaled me with the tales of how they made their way through the line to rent skates, requested their sizes and laced up and they were all full of praise for one another. I was so proud that they figured it out by themselves, didn't kill one another in the process and delighted in their time together. For me, loosening my hold on my kids and encouraging their independence is inextricably tied to arming them with values and skills and reminding them constantly in their good fortune to have each other. Tonight I had a magical glimpse into what I hope will be a long-lasting reality - my independent children leaning on one another and deliriously happy in their togetherness.

**Added 12/18/2010: My husband and oldest daughter woke up this morning, read this blog post and suggested that an addendum would be appropriate to give context as to why I gushed so much in this post so here it is: The skating party we attended was at Bryant Park. The beautiful skating rink at Bryant Park is packed with people and while there are private party areas indoors at this venue, the skating rink is open to and used by the public. Hundreds of skaters means hundreds of people waiting in line to rent skates and going through a long process requiring patience and persistence. My kids, who are 12, 12 and 14 are old enough and resourceful enough to maneuver their way through the process but, until last night, they had never had to do it without parental guidance and assistance. Last night they made their way through the mob, got their skates, figured out what to do with their shoes, put their skates on, made it on to the ice, whirled around, had an awesome time, returned the skates, got their shoes back and on, came back inside and proudly told their tale. Even with the context, this may not necessarily seem like the biggest deal to anyone but me but, as a parent, you learn to appreciate that even the seemingly small things can be packed with significance and, to me, last night's accomplishment was no small thing.

I'm not sure that you can raise responsibly independent kids if you don't spend a great deal of time focusing on, instilling and living a life steeped in good values. I can't think of an author/illustrator who conveys good values more effectively or enjoyably than the immensely talented Jon J Muth. Start with The Three Questions or Zen Shorts and build your collection from there. These are the kinds of picture books you read with toddlers through teens. Muth's books are the perfect gift for a child entering Kindergarten. The art is spectacular and the messages so meaningful. I find that I still like going back and reading through them on my own. Stillwater, the sage panda in the Zen books, offers pearls of wisdom that never get old.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marketing 101

When adults reflect upon their skills - for the purpose of a job search or a self-discovery exercise - unless our chosen profession is marketing, we often forget to include one of the skills we practice every day; one of the skills we've been practicing since childhood. In a sense, we're all marketers. We've been selling ourselves to others from the time we were small. I don't mean to suggest we've been "selling out" or "selling our souls" and I certainly don't mean to suggest that we are all equally skilled marketers. Whether it's conscious or not, though, everything we do, from the time we get up in the morning, brush our teeth and hair and get dressed,  involves an element of marketing. It's not a bad idea to remember that our kids are marketing themselves too - to their peers, to their teachers, to colleges, to prospective employers and, to some small extent, to us. They are also serious idea marketers - when they want a dog, when they want to stay up late, when they want to go to a party... With that in mind, we might all want to consider marketing tips to be life lessons.

So, my fellow marketers, you might be interested in reading the most recent blogpost from marketing guru, Seth Godin, whose nuggets are generally thought-provoking and, often, subtly game changing:

Lady Gaga and me

Do you think it bothers her that I don't listen to her music and wouldn't recognize her if she stopped by and said hi?
It shouldn't.
Even if you're a pop star, you don't need everyone to be a fan or a customer. And especially if you're not a pop star, worrying about whether everyone laughs at your jokes, buys your product or even likes you is counterproductive.
Unless you're running for something that requires a unanimous vote, it's a mistake to focus on the frowning guy in the back of the room or the dolt who doesn't get your subtle references or the miser who isn't going to buy from you regardless...
You're on the hunt for sneezers, for fans, for people willing to cross the street to work with you. Everyone else can pound sand, that's okay. Being remarkable also means being ignored or actively disliked.
BTW, I'm virtually certain that Lady (do her friends call her that?) doesn't read my stuff, so we're even.
In the world of children's books, we frequently read about negotiation between child and parent or between friend and friend. These negotiations generally begin with a position someone is trying to "sell" to someone else. Take one of the favorite modern day children's book characters, Olivia the pig and consider how she convinces her family to spend a vacation in Venice. Between us, I think Olivia could convince anyone to do pretty much anything!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good night, sleep tight!

I thank my mother for sharing with me the following tidbit: In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes, the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase...'Goodnight, sleep tight'. The "don't let the bed bugs bite" part must have been added by a modern day New Yorker.

Without knowing the quaint historical background behind the bedtime exchange, it was adopted in my household, like so many others, ages ago. The only problem is that when we're done with the exchange, nobody goes to sleep. It's never worked. When our kids were younger they tried all the typical tactics to evade bedtime, like asking for water or another story or one more goodnight kiss or insisting every family member share their favorite part of the day. Mercer Mayer's Little Critter book, Just Go to Bed, a favorite of our kids when they were younger, was our reality.

Somewhere along the line, our kids decided bedtime was merely a guideline and we've been tremendously ineffective at dispelling that notion. I'm not sure why. I'm pretty sure I yell, "JUST GO TO BED" at the top of my lungs several times each night. Nobody flinches. Maybe they realize I'm yelling because I'm tired and I want to go to bed and figure it has little to do with them. They wouldn't be entirely wrong. But what is it about staying up late that is so appealing? Is it that they're afraid to go to sleep or think they might miss something if they do? Sometimes it might actually be that they're just not tired but I get the sense that our kids never really stop to ask themselves that question. I remember feeling so cool as a kid whenever I got to stay up late and I remember bragging about my first all-nighter when I got older. Of course, there's nothing truly fun or cool about staying up late but it's just one of those things you accept as truth when you're young, know is ridiculous when you're older and don't stop to think about in between. Trying to stay up later than you should is simply a rite of passage. Like in so many other cases, it helps to remember that our children's role is to push the envelope and the parents' role is to push back and say no.

Speaking of sleep, though it has nothing to do with sleep, per se, teens may enjoy Angela's Morrison's Sing Me to Sleep. The protagonist is described as an unattractive girl with a beautiful voice whose turn from the Beast into the Beauty brings her both love and complication.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I am my mother

When babies are born, family members try identifying the source of their features ("she has her dad's eyes"; "she has her mom's mouth"; "she has Uncle Fred's double chin"). Once those babies are old enough to speak in sentences, they begin asking their parents, "what do I get from you?" When children are toddlers, we're happy to let them know that they have our smile, our disposition, our sense of humor. The connection is important to them. This is the beginning of their process of self-discovery and reflection. Our preteen and teen daughters still seek out those connections. One of our daughters insists she looks just like I did as a child. I laugh when she says it because, other than the fact that we both have long brown hair, I just don't see it - she's so much prettier than I ever was and so much more interesting! In any event, that connection gives her something she needs and I'm delighted that a comparison to me gives her comfort.  Before you know it,  the tide turns, and children don't want to be anything like their parents. Isn't it interesting, then, that, as parents, we now know that things eventually come full circle? At some point we realize that there are days and situations when we wonder what our parents would do and each of us, inevitably, becomes more like our parents than we'd have ever thought possible.

I have a little bit of my mom and a little bit of my dad in me and those are the parts that give me comfort, direction and wisdom. There are times I open my mouth and hear my mom's words come out (sometimes I swear I can hear her voice too). There was a time I couldn't imagine that happening. I am so curious to see what our kids will be like when they get older - not in a rush but curious nonetheless. I wonder if all three will utter my words and hear my voice. Scary...

Pick up a copy of Spork by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault for a heartwarming "multi-cutlery" tale of Spork, the offspring of a spoon and a fork. It's easy to see which attributes this hybrid child inherited from each of his parents but not so easy for Spork to fit in. This is a story of self discovery and developing self-confidence as Spork tries to find a place at the table.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Let it snow!

It started to snow on my way home from work tonight. It was by no means the kind of snow that can cause the roof of a Metrodome to collapse but the flakes were big and beautiful and falling steadily.

When my kids heard that it had started to snow, they began praying for a snow day, as if they were desperate for a day off. The fact that in just a few more days they'll start a two week winter break from school didn't matter. What is it with kids and snow days? Having grown up enduring real Canadian winters, I can't help but laugh at what passes for a snowstorm in New York City. A few years ago,  there was even a pre-emptive school closure - the anticipation of a snowstorm was enough for city schools to announce a closure the night before the snow was expected. Of course, it's New York City - the snow never came, schools stay closed nonetheless and every child is hoping for another one of those.

The general rule is that kids love snow days and parents don't. There is a great deal of talk and concern these days about over-scheduling kids and I find it curious that over-scheduled parents are rarely considered the culprits. Most of us are so busy and our days are so full that the disruption caused by a snow day is monumental. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all regain the perspective of a child and just enjoy the snow?

For an appreciative, youthful perspective, take a look at Lerryn Korda's Millions of Snow with your child. If it doesn't make you want to go out, build a snowman with your kids and then cuddle up over a cup of hot chocolate, I don't know what will!

Speaking of hot chocolate, I've said it before and I'll say it again - one of my favorite treats in NYC is Lily O'Brien's Skinny Lily, hot chocolate made with sugar free dark chocolate and fat free milk. Yum! Lily O'Brien's Chocolate Cafe is on 40th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, right across the street from Bryant Park, which is a winter wonderland with shops and a beautiful skating rink at this time of year. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"It's not fair"

So, Friday's post got me into a little trouble at home. To be clear, each one of my daughters defies any restrictive label and each has too many astounding dimensions and attributes to list on a blog. Having stepped into one of those "how come you said so much about her/what about me/it's not fair" situations, it seems only right that today's post should focus on that vile three-word phrase: "It's not fair!" or, alternatively, its four word cousin,  "You're so not fair". Life is unfair, we tell our kids, full of injustice - so buck up! While this is true, I'm not sure it's the most helpful message to convey. What's so good about "fair" anyway? As a concept, it's pretty bland and unexciting. When it comes to kids, if we're not treating everyone the same way all the time, it's testament to the strength of and our respect for their individuality. At best, fairness seems to be a feeble level of expectation. I think we should aim higher. I have to believe it's far more worthwhile to strive for responsible and compassionate and informed when it comes to the way we treat people, rather than simply "fair". I remember when my beloved grandmother was living but not feeling her best and I'd ask how she was feeling, her answer would be "fair, just fair". It's not a word that's ever moved mountains for anyone. Next time my kids tell me that "it" is not fair, I think my answer will be, "Awesome!". I'm sure they'll look at me like I'm nuts but I'm equally sure I won't miss the opportunity to set a new course.

Anita Harper and Mary McQuillan's It's Not Fair is a nice way to get a child used to the unparalleled unfairness of a new sibling.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Don't Label Me

When our kids were born, my husband Jeff and I were determined to avoid labeling them in any way. We wanted to raise individuals whose potential was not at all restricted. We even went so far as to ask friends and family to refrain from referring to our younger daughters as "the twins" (even though they are twins) because they deserve to be treated as the individuals they are. So what do I make of the fact that the other night before bedtime, one of our daughters says, "Mommy, one of my sisters is the smart one and one of my sisters is the nice one. What am I?" I explained that each one of them is so much more than a label, that they each have so many amazing qualities, that each of her sisters would likely resent being restricted to the single characteristic she attributed to them, that the "smart one" is also nice and the "nice one" is also smart "Yeah," she said, "but what am I?" Now, anyone who knows this particular child knows that she is the "funny one". I asked if that's what she was waiting to hear. Turns out that it wasn't. She knows she's funny - it seems she was hoping to be something more than the "funny one".  And she is - she's so much more than the funny one. She's also the smart one, the nice one, the athletic one, the compassionate one, the fun one and the pretty one. No matter how much I tried to use the moment to teach the importance of staying away from labels and being all that you can be, she wanted her adjective. As we ran through her list of attributes together, she happily settled on "athletic". She is, indeed, the "athletic one" - albeit a smart, funny, nice, compassionate, fun and pretty "athletic one".

Labels, even those that are merely implied, tend to box people in and limit the possibilities and opportunities they are willing to consider for themselves. Labels make most of us think of  movies like Mean Girls and High School Musical where we are introduced to the the different cliques or categories of kids at school and cautioned against changing the status quo. Then along comes a book like Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, which considers the fact that people change, sometimes even the mean girls.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Gift for All Seasons

I recently had the pleasure of spending an evening with one of my daughters at her school with her classmates and their parents for an evening of reading together. Motivated, I'm sure, by the gift-giving season, the English teachers who ran this program selected the classic story of giving and receiving, The Gift of the Magi, for a read aloud. The experience was meaningful and moving. This is the story of a young, poor couple in love who each sacrifice their greatest material treasure, her hair and his watch, to buy happiness for the other. Just in case you're one of the few people unfamiliar with this story, I won't spoil the twist at the end. Suffice it to say that the greatest gift each could ever want turned out to be one another and the love they shared. I love a good story and The Gift of the Magi is a really good story.

Storytelling is a talent and a great story is an invaluable gift. Sitting on my desk beside me at the moment is another one of those picture books I think I'd like to give to everyone I know, regardless of age. Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas' Clever Jack Takes the Cake charmingly captures the craft and immeasurable value of a good story. Jack, like Jim and Della in The Gift of the Magi, is poor. He is invited to the princess' birthday party and cleverly finds a way to assemble ingredients and bake her a beautiful cake. Though he carefully transports the cake to the palace, he has a series of adventures along the way and has nothing left for the princess by the time he reaches her. As always, I have no intention of spoiling the story for you and want you to read it for yourself  so go buy the book and find out how clever Jack is! The story is completely different from and yet reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite children's books, Phoebe Gilman's Something from Nothing. I am awed by the power of words and there is nothing I enjoy more than getting lost in a good story. As much as I love shoes and jewelry, for me, a good story is the greatest gift (next to my darling daughters and wonderful husband, of course). In life we are all the authors of our own stories - one can only hope there's at least a little Clever Jack in each of us.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Generally speaking...

My kids get annoyed when I begin a sentence with "Kids your age...". My husband has a similar reaction when a sentence of mine begins with "Men...". But my life is busy and if I can save time with a well-placed generalization, it seems like a sensible thing to do. After all, kids their ages really do blame everything on their moms and men really do seem incapable of changing a toilet paper roll and putting the toilet seat down. It is what it is, right? Or is it? Generalizations and stereotypes often begin somewhere but, even though every adolescent seems to blame mom for everything that goes wrong in their lives, we all know there must be some household somewhere where this is not the case. Not mine; in my home, it's safe to bet that I'd even get blamed for leaving the toilet seat up!

We don't like to be subject to generalizations because that offends our sense of individuality. But maybe we could do more to preserve our uniqueness by simply breaking the mold and changing offensive conforming behavior. People don't tend to generalize when behavior is good, only when it drives them crazy!

It's important to break out of stereotypes and boxes and explore our differences and our potential. A world of sameness would be a lot less interesting than a world defined by diversity and difference. If we were all the same, we would miss out on the joy of meeting dancing dinosaurs (Brontorina) and a reading dog (How Rocket Learned to Read).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Feeling My 40's

The irony about being in your 40's is that, on a mental or emotional level, you feel as though things are just coming together but on a physical level, everything starts to fall apart. In the last week, my back went out, my knee went out and I broke a tooth. I have also noticed that in the last few months my eyesight has deteriorated at a frighteningly rapid pace. Yes, I am a mess! Yet, with the exception of chronic forgetfulness, my mind is sharp, I have more confidence in my abilities than ever before and I am the most comfortable with myself than I have ever been. At times I feel like I'm at the top of my game but then I look in the mirror or turn ever so slightly the wrong way and I am reminded of so many things I'd rather forget. Where is that forgetfulness when you need it?! At the end of the day (the figurative end of the day, not the literal one when I just want Tylenol and a heating pad), getting older is far preferable to the alternative and I'm not that old! I've also come to appreciate the fact that I've done a lot in my life so far and my battle scars are sometimes a source of pride (always a source of pain but sometimes a source of pride too). It's seems strange, though, that many of us start to lose control of our bodies around the same time our kids do. Getting our kids through their phases and the changes their bodies go through is a nice distraction from what's ailing us. Who's getting us through?

Every once in a while, if I'm feeling really lousy, my husband or one of my daughters will look after me. It's rare but so special when it happens. A book came through our office earlier this fall that made me think of the times the people I care for have turned around to care for me. The book is called A Sick Day for Amos McGee and it's written and illustrated by the young husband and wife team of Philip and Erin Stead. It was named one of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2010, a well-deserved honor. I love the intricate illustrations (the facial expressions on the animals are precious) and wonderful story (the animals tend to their under-the-weather zookeeper and friend) equally and I think I might start giving it to my mom friends as a gift when they get sick or break body parts.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Danger at a keystroke

My brother is a social worker who has dedicated his career to youth protection and cases involving juvenile delinquents. I have tremendous respect and admiration for the work that he does. He came under fire by our family a few years ago when he announced that the internet should be destroyed. This is not someone who lives in a log cabin and shuns electricity. Rather, this is someone who faces the most extreme dangers of technology on a daily basis - the risk to children. Over time, my brother has begun to soften his position and acknowledge that his point was extreme. Over time, I have developed an appreciation for his extreme position and see his point clearer than ever.

Pedophiles and other deviants have a more expansive playground by virtue of the internet and their reach knows no bounds. There is no way to keep them out. This is terrifying. There are other dangers, though, that are so much closer to home than that. Those of us with teens and preteens who spend time on the internet have to spend even more time worrying about the people they know. As noted in the important article on cyberbullying in this weekend's New York Times, "the Internet erases inhibitions, with adolescents often going further with slights online than in person" The article goes on to say that "this is a dark, vicious side of adolescence, enabled and magnified by technology." The Internet enables kids to post comments anonymously in various places. With the swift tap of the "send" or "publish" button, cruel words can wreak havoc on a person's self esteem and the perpetrator need not take any ownership of the words he or she selected. Teaching our kids responsibility has never been more important.

If you've been following this blog, then you know that cyberbullying and Facebook (don't even get me started on the dreaded!!) are soapbox issues for me. Grappling with these issues and the reality they represent has made me more preachy than I ever thought possible - turned me into a single issue sanctimommy, if you will. The reality is, though, that if we don't continually talk about these issues with our kids and with one another then we cannot hope to contain the harm.  We need to each start by reviewing with our kids what it means to be responsible. I think we need to start with the innocuous behaviors and trends that can so easily escalate. Kids routinely hack into one another's Facebook accounts to change their status. The jump from this kind of hacking to more insidious hacking is more like a hop. Harmful hacking is the next logical step - it may start off as a joke and spin out of control at the speed of light. Kids need to know what behaviors are not acceptable and kids need to know how quickly acceptable behaviors can devolve. If we don't teach them who will?

At some point in a future post I will write about the fact that colleges and employers look at Facebook pages to assess judgment of candidates. It's a wholly separate reason why I take issue with kids on Facebook but is not relevant here. Just thought you should know that it's coming in the future. Until then, consider the two following books you might want to read with your adolescent:

Jennifer Brown's protagonist Valerie creates a hate list of bullies who torment her and deals with the guilt of their death in a high school shooting perpetrated by her boyfriend.  

Jay Asher tells the story of Hannah who leaves cassettes for Clay and others,  revealing the 13 reasons why she committed suicide, causing the reader to contemplate the consequences of actions that may have been big, somewhat small, seemingly innocent, or something not so much but they lead to Hannah to an inability to cop.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

But what does it mean?

In fourth grade, my kids had a teacher who used to teach them vocabulary, focusing on the "wacky word of the week". My kids loved these lessons and especially delighted in walking around and using their new words coloquially. I remember feeling the same way about learning new words. I still do. In fact, the dictionary is one of my favorite books. Really. If you feel the same way, you might get a kick out this blog post.
The following are the 10 most frequently looked up words on Pretentious, Ubiquitous, Love, Cynical, Apathetic, Conundrum, Albeit, Ambiguous, Integrity, Affect/Effect. It seems fair to assume that people look up "affect" and "effect" with regularity to be certain they use the correct one.  You have to appreciate the fact that "love" made the list. This is either because people like to include a definition in speeches and cards or because people are searching for meaning and questioning if they'll know it when they find love. There's something sweet and simultaneously sad that "love" made it onto the list. And what about "integrity"? The fact that people flock to the internet to learn the meaning of "integrity" must say something about people and our culture and I suspect it's not a very positive something. Despite these curiosities, I'm quite pleased with this list because "pretentious", "ubiquitous", "conundrum" and "albeit" are among my favorite words. I also happen to adore the word "nevertheless". One of my daughters just let me know she loves the word "ricochet". Her sisters love the words "cliché" and "style". Do you have a favorite word?

For a fun look at words, check out Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman's 13 Words and Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser's Fancy Nancy Series.        also boasts an impressive collection of user-submitted words. These are the clever words or phrases that really should be in the dictionary. It was here that I first learned the "word" SANCTIMOMMY for a mother who points out perceived faults in the parenting of others. How awesome is that?!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

I am about to start Steve Stern's The Frozen Rabbi. I appreciated that reviews compared the author to Michael Chabon, who I think is a brilliant writer, and the fact that reviews of this book described it as exuberant, hysterically comical, poignant and satisfying.

The story begins with a 15 year old finding the body of a frozen rabbi in his parents' basement freezer. I know from the summary that this ancient rabbi came from Poland. I also know that the rabbi will thaw and be revitalized in this story and that the consequences will be disastrous.What can I say? I suspect this book is unlike anything I've ever read and that always appeals to me so I'll give it a shot.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Adolescent Social Agression - Them's Fightin' Words!

I attended a parent workshop this morning on "Social Aggression". This concept comprises actions directed at damaging another's self-esteem, social status, or both, and includes social ostracism, gossip, talking behind backs, verbal attacks, glaring and eye-rolling, and manipulating relationships. Social Aggression is a concept that characterizes the adolescent years. Oy! One of the trickiest parts of rising to the parenting challenge during these years is the underlying need to acknowledge that each one of our children can be both aggressor and victim. Yes, even the "good kids" can be bad. That's a tough nut to swallow. It's not easy to accept that your own child might be damaging the self-esteem of another. Not easy but critically important because we need to spend a lot of time during these years setting boundaries, saying no and teaching our kids how to treat one another and we also need to teach them how to deal with victimization themselves.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A friend is a gift you give to yourself

Our friendships feed, nurture, comfort and often, at least partially, define us from the time we toddle through the time we creak. As a child, it's hard to imagine that a particular friend or group of friends will not be in your life forever but as adults we know that circumstances change, people change and so do friendships. As parents, it can be difficult to witness your child's confusion as friends and friendships change - easy to empathize but challenging to explain and fix. So what do you do when your child's friend pulls away from him or when your child starts to pull away from someone else? When our children feel left out or left behind by a friend, we try to reinforce the importance of their other friends, we suggest that maybe it's a temporary break, we try to explain that things change and it's not always fun or easy. When our children cause someone else to feel left out or left behind, we remind them how they felt when it happened to them and remind them of the importance of treating people the way they want to be treated. There's no easy answer though, is there? Let's face it, many of us still mourn the loss of particular friendships from way back when or at least think about them periodically and wonder what happened. Why do you think there's so much adult stalking happening on Facebook? Friends come and go and people do change but it's important to remember that every true friendship is a gift to be appreciated for as long as it lasts. It is also important to remember that we keep the best parts of those friendships with us and that each friendship over the years has helped define the people we become.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lights! Camera! Book Fair!

I had the pleasure of joining one of my daughters at her school book fair
today. The 45 minutes we spent there, exploring books and delighting in them together, were, easily, the highlight of my week so far. Though she's in the 6th grade and an excellent reader, she humored me and, at one point,  happily allowed me to lead her to the picture book section. She's open-minded, full of joy and incurably romantic and I was so excited to share with her one of the sweetest new picture books that came out this year. I handed her  Peter McCarty's  Henry in Love, which she then read aloud to me in her school gym. We ooh-ed and aah-ed in unison and hugged a lot. I enjoyed one of those magical moments when you hug your child, flashback to the angelic baby she was, flash-forward to the incredible adult she is developing into and feel gratitude and tremendous love for who she is right now. All this from a picture book about a quiet dreamer who has a thing for a bold girl who says what she thinks and the blueberry muffin that brought them together. The moment reminded me why I started writing this blog in the first place. I wrote in reaction to a New York Times article that declared the death of the picture book. So not the case! Picture books create magical experiences that transcend age differences and barriers. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture book and the experiences it can generate are priceless. Needless to say, we bought the book (and several more, of course). What a perfect gift for the first night of Hanukkah!