We brought my first son home from the hospital on Christmas Day. After the flood of family and friends departed, we were finally left alone with our tiny infant. I remember thinking to myself “OK, now what!?”
As a professional coach who sometimes works with dads, I once conducted a survey where I asked, “What training did you receive to be a father?”
One dad shot back, “You’re kidding, right?”
I wasn’t kidding. The sad truth is that you get more training to drive a car than to have a child.
The kind of father you become can be heavily influenced by notions you don’t even know you have the day your child is born. For better or worse, it’s impossible to enter life as a parent unaffected by the framework and culture of your upbringing. That’s your starting point.
I myself was exposed as a young boy to many different models of fatherhood from various sources on TV, at the movies, in my family, and around the neighborhood:
• the quiet, aloof dad who comes home from work and is left alone to sit in his chair (hey, he worked hard all day) while mom cooks dinner
• the docile dad who leaves all the big decisions to his wife, “the boss”
• the all-powerful patriarch who rules the roost without opposition
• and the Great Santini-style marine sergeant who is always ready to knock some sense into his young charge.
I also grew up in a time where fathers were expected to be breadwinners, not nurturers. So I figured I was in charge of making the money for the family, taking care of discipline, and academics.
It’s not as if my wife and I discussed any of this. They were just assumptions I made without realizing it. I think it’s safe to say I inherited these roles from my own father, like an automatic download.
But I knew I wanted more. Most dads do.
I wanted always to be able to talk to my children, to maintain an active and open channel of communication. I wanted them to know I could see what they were doing and who they were becoming. I wanted them to know that, in good or difficult times, we would always be able to talk.
I also wanted my children to know and feel, without any doubt, that I loved them unconditionally — that no matter who they became, what they did, where they went … that I just loved them. I wanted this love to give them the freedom to be whoever they wanted to be.
Though I am far from perfect, I have worked at being present in this way to my two sons. And this has been the greatest joy of my life.
I don’t mean to suggest that everything has gone just swimmingly. Hardly. My wife and I have experienced many of the great moments that parents dream about, but also some of the moments you pray will never happen.
So here’s my bottom line about being a father. It’s easy when the report card is aces, when health is good, when the kitchen is full of laughter. But your finest hour doesn’t come until the going gets tough. And it inevitably does.
It is in the most challenging circumstances that you get to see what kind of father you really are. If you haven’t taken the time to consider this, you may too easily default to some automatic setting. And that’s probably not who you really want to be for your children, nor who they need you to be.
Recently, for completely different reasons, I chose to have a difficult and uncomfortable conversation with each of my two sons. Both times I was nervous. Both times I was able to be vulnerable, as they say. I’m not ashamed to say there were tears. And both conversations ended with an embrace.
It’s been 21 years since the doctor gently placed that tiny boy in my hands and here’s what I’ve learned: In the end, the key to being a father is to see your children — to see them so clearly that they can feel it! Because this is how your children will know that you are standing with them — not just one part of who they are but all of who they are.
And when in doubt, go with your heart, not your head.
A Day of Joy
Who is the number one person that deserves a day of joy?
Mothers. A Day of Joy is an all day event with 4 workshops, lunch, and goody bags. Mothers get to spend a day playing! Dancing! Creating art! And most of all Relaxing. No talk of children, or schedules or what’s for dinner. This day is for Moms to recharge their fuel tanks…
The inspiration for this event came from trading stories with a colleague. While discussing funny things the children we work with do, we got on the topic of Mothers who don’t get to experience the fun. POOF! A DAY OF JOY!
Joy is what rules children. At the core of their existence, children have the capacity to experience joy every single day. As children get older and eventually become adults, they/we can lose our connection to joy, because of responsibilities, fear, judgment, self doubt, guilt, worry, shame etc.
Children experience joy naturally and spontaneously. It can be seen with a sudden skip down the street, a burst of laughter, or seeing a balloon. It’s physiologically healthy to be expressive and clear on what is felt and desired. Adults do not have the space or courage to let all this energy and emotion out, plus the police might be called or we could end up on the front of the local newspaper or for shame: on social media looking crazy.
Mothers’ are overwhelmed. I see the depletion of energy, lack of zest, and low emotional, spiritual, and physical states in Mothers, this is not the most worthy place to parent from, and children are directly impacted by this.
A Day of Joy is a day for Mothers to play and to tune in to their inner and outer Self. There are no expectations other than to show up on time, creating a sacred space. An important agreement we make at the start: “give no advice.”
Mothers attending A Day of Joy experience mind body connections that last in their lives beyond this one day.
I have witnessed women having soul connections, with no words spoken. Spontaneous laughing, hugging and dancing erupt. I have also witnessed Mothers eating lunch alone by choice, and really enjoying not being a caretaker for anyone else, free from any obligations and worries, even if just in the moment.
Mom’s reflect back on the day with peace of mind and disbelief on how good it feels to be free in their bodies and minds.
I know awareness reaches heightened states by having these experiences and opportunities. When some sadness, guilt, worry, bitterness, shame and sorrow get expressed, then real JOY has a place to expand. This kind of joy is the kind that makes life peaceful, makes the skin glow, brings blood pressure down, reduces anxiety and stress, and brings in hope and possibility. This kind of joy elicits the fact that no one is alone in parenting struggles. In place of stress and anxiety are thoughts of humanity, love, trust, compassion, and joy.
Bio: Shane Kulman, MS SpEd is the founder of Your Beautiful Child LLC, private practice. She offers workshops nationwide, as well as local women’s groups. For more information on Shane go to http://www.yourbeautifulchild.com
Moms: Everything you may need to be a proud NYC MAMA
Originally posted on Red Tricycle:
Being a new mama is exciting, but it can be overwhelming, too, especially here in NYC. But have no fear, new parents; help is here. From the best spot to see a movie or enjoy a beer with baby in tow, to the must-visit playspaces and smart ways to find a sitter, Red Tricycle can help you navigate new motherhood with ease. Take the below advice as you embark on the important task of raising a savvy city baby.
1. Need to get out of your apartment already? With two Manhattan locations, apple seeds is an-all-in-one playspace that offers cute classes for kids of all ages, starting with newborns. Try Developmental Movement or Songs for Seeds. Your baby can have fun and you can talk to another human (adult). This play space also operates an adorable children’s book and toy store called half dozen if you’re in the market for…
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I invite you to read this with an open heart and an open mind. It’s clear and beautiful…
As a retired New York City educator, every once in a while someone will ask me what is my perception of the failings of the New York City school system. Well,I believe it’s a number of things.
First of all, when people ask what’s wrong with the school system,they often are really asking why are the inner-city kids not progressing as they should and displaying such hostile behavior.Why are these students so out of touch with education, they wonder.But what they really mean is, what’s wrong with the African-American, African Caribbean and Latino students who comprise the majority of the inner-city schools.
Having been an African-American student myself and then becoming a teacher, I say let’s look at the history that is so very much a part of us and how that history reflects what it means for black and brown people today transitioning from being considered subhuman to enslavement, to Jim crow/segregation,lynchings and poverty.Let’s look at the subliminal messages that black and brown students receive and that are translated into “you”are not good enough through the media. And what about the scantily taught and often down right omission of black,latino and Caribbean history and literature.
Let’s look at the recent and continuous rash of black and brown people,especially,males who are being incarcerated,killed and brutalized by the judicial system under the guise of fear and protection.
Although I do not believe in allowing students to succumb to their disadvantages and disappointments even under such objectionable circumstances,I do understand that these are some of the reasons that we bare witness to a failing school system.
Failing schools are simply a symptom of some of the failures in our society.
And until we honestly and collectively work to annihilate them ,we will always be scratching our heads and asking the same questions.
I have a moment to share about anger, bullying and power… of a 4. 5 year old. I’ve known this family for 3 months. I began working with them because their 4 year old son was having high emotions and anger during the school day, he was hitting other children, and his teachers were upset, had no answers, and cared a tremendous amount about this young boy I’ll call Jack* which is not his real name.
His awesome Mom shared this story of his playground time. At age 5 something happens, children begin teasing more, comparing themselves, and being “mean” to each other in a very personal way. Bullying also happens. This is a huge subject, I have a lot to say on this matter, but this blog is super focused on this young boys experience. And now for the story…..
Mom, younger sister and Jack are enjoying a day in the park, they are at a new playground, everyone is excited. During activity, a young girl began calling the young boy all different kinds of “baby,” she may have been several months older, not more. She began relentlessly teasing him. He went and told his Mom, she brainstormed with him to ignore her, keep on playing, walk away and some other ideas, he tried all of them, he came back and tried to keep playing. What Mom witnessed next is amazing for this child, but also as an inspiration for all human beings.
She came back to tease him, he said nothing, but let his anger come up and looked at her in a powerful and angry way.
You know what happened? GUESS!!!
She ran away crying. He had used no words, said nothing. He let his anger come up and didn’t get physical, or even any closer to her. He stood his ground and became his powerful self. AMAZING!!!!
Why am I so inspired by this? This young man and his family have been working on acceptance of ALL feelings, there is not one feeling that is “good” or “bad” they are all healthy. Hitting is not ok when angry, but being angry is ok. Throwing a glass cup is not ok when frustrated, but frustration is ok.
This young man now has an experience of how powerful his anger is. No one got hurt, no one got disciplined, he just let this little girl know, he wants her to stop and he is not messing around. This experience lives in his body forever, and this little girl knows to not mess with him ever (at least this is what I believe.)
I have met, witnessed and experienced myself, resisting certain feelings. Feeling our feelings is a BIG mission, there is a ton of research on why people don’t feel certain feelings. Have you ever heard yourself saying anything similar to these phrases?
- Stop crying
- Use your words
- Don’t be angry, just share
- Why aren’t you happy?
- Don’t get frustrated, just use your words
Words dissipate feelings. Words create comfort, some situations are beyond words. Words make the feelings go away. When feelings get repressed, it affects the physiological body. What you resist persists. Nothing has to change, the challenge I offer:
Tune in and become aware of when a feeling is felt in your body. What is your next action? Do you shoo away the feeling, do you eat? Do you start to blame or talk about others? Do you get a headache? Start to track what happens when an “uncomfortable” feeling arises… You will be surprised.
Thank you from my heart for reading this, ALL of your comments and feedback are welcome here,
It’s a good question… Is it “good” to cry in front of your child?
Originally posted on My Life in Yellow:
He broke my heart that day.
Not once did I let the smile leave my lips,
determined to be stronger than I really am.
I think he did it because he needed to see me cry,
He needed to know that I could feel something.
I do wonder if it would have ended differently
I asked him not to walk away,
If I admitted that somehow he figured out
a way to reach me, and reminded me how
to fall in love.
Joy a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
What brought you joy before having your child? Several parents I work with have difficulty with this question. “It’s hard to remember,” and “sleeping,” were the most popular answers. I see parents being run down, overwhelmed and turning to outside pleasers to feel good. Food, shopping and having a glass of wine. While I know these activities are socially acceptable ways of relaxing and having fun… they do not feed the soul, which means they are short lived joy.
Waiting behind two Moms in a discount store. It was close to the time to go pick up their children from school. It was a medium sized line, and they were “high” on the bargains they had found. As the line got closer to their turn, they began taking turns to go get one more thing, run away and come back with a new score. Along with the time crunch of paying and having enough time to get their kids. I felt the energy rising. At one point, the woman who was on the line, began grabbing things nearby looking at them, tossing them in her wagon, then taking them out, leaving some… Then she grabbed some chocolate covered almonds and went at it. The friend came back and they both began eating their eatable find until it was their turn. WHEW!
I knew these feelings, I know these feelings, and I am aware of the compulsive shopping and food challenges. There are many false feelings of fulfillment, joy, excitement, deserving,
“Outer joy is more like excitement, involving a quick flash of pleasure. It stems from either thrill or some animated feeling.” –WWW.PRAJNAYOGA.NET This is an exact description of the ladies in from of me. The truth is, I can see this outter joy, because I spend many years only knowing of this joy.
Inner joy suggests contentment, contentment that is more refined than the quick pulse of pleasure.
What are the benefits of this inner joy? Pshhht! Many! Here are a few:
- Improving heart health, less risk of heart disease
- Better overall health, (both in individuals and communities, to include families)
- Positive thoughts flow
- Emotional vitality: a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness,
Are any of these a priority for you? There is no Dr., no shooting, no amazing bottle of wine that will help you attain this inner joy. Here are a couple of practical and easy ways, to insert joy into your day. Tricking the body into joy is REAL, and it has actual impact on the brain.
- Start laughing, even if it feels weird
- Look in the mirror and smile
- Look in the mirror and make absolutely wacky faces (your kids or anyones kids will love it.)
Laura Kubzansky “State of mind = State of body”
What awareness does this blog bring you? Do you resonate with it? Have you witnessed it? Are you that shopper? Know this. You are not alone! I think we all have felt these shopping highs, purchasing impulsively or compulsively. We do live in an age where you can text someone hello, just as easy as you can buy airline tickets on our smartphones.. I hope your biggest take-away is awareness. Nothing has to change, nothing has to be done different, just an awareness of the activities we engage in. Your state of you mind correlates to the state of your body.
Who you surround yourself with makes a difference. Who your child calls his/her friends and who they admire matters. I see a lot of children who have BIG emotions, (mostly labeled anger.) Some of the important answers to know is, who is your child friends with?
Each morning I teach students who are incarcerated. The classes have have recently changed up the students in class. I see how certain peers bring out he worst in certain peers. I see the same peers shining when in class with other students. There is a huge difference in behavior when the “right” students are together.
Children are sensitive to energy and seek power. If your child has been showing signs of anger at home, know this. It’s critical they hang out with the “right” kids. The angry kids at school usually get the most attention and that can be impressive to a child who seeks out ways to feel “big.” I hear many Mothers worried about the impact this has on their children. If your child is displaying new behaviors that has you believing they are picking the wrong friends to hang out with and you worry about their future, know that you are not alone. Many children are dealing with copying the “bad influence” kids at school While worrying is something that feels real and valid. It’s a waste of energy. Actions are the only thing that will help this worrisome situation.
If your child does any of these behaviors at home, it’s time to step in…
- They come home using a fake voice that you KNOW is something they heard
- They are aggressive to their sibling or a pet
- They don’t look at you in the eyes when getting loud
- They suddenly begin throwing items when they are frustrated
- They look at you in the eyes and say “I don’t care”
- You hear them curse
If any of these behaviors start suddenly, do not ignore it. This is the exact time get real and know that this is a call for help. It usually does not just disappear, and it’s a pivotal point where you child can receive the love and support from you – the kind that lasts forever.
What to do next: Set up a meeting with their teacher and find out: whats really going on. Children are highly impressionable and follow the big energy, it can be something simple or these behaviors can be a sign of something bigger. Either way, it’s not the time to blame the school, other children or your child.
If this feels like something major, seek support for yourself from an education or therapist professional is a wise move. Take notes, when exactly does your child “act-out, ” what is happening exactly before. Being able to witness your child without judging if the are right or wrong, will help you stay neutral, instead of restoring to yelling, punishing, and basically acting exactly as they are.
Ideally, if there is a problem going on at school. you would like your child to come to you with any stories. If your child does come to you, it’s critical, to JUST LISTEN and ASK QUESTIONS. These are the times your child will learn problem solving. Be aware that you need to DO nothing, but listen and ask questions. This is how children receive support, by you giving them the space to share and come up with their own answers. This empowers them, giving advice only makes them feel right or wrong. Imagine you tell them what to do, then they don’t do it, (or can’t do it) then they come home feeling like they disappointed you.
Being a mindful and conscious parent is not easy. You love your children with all your heart. LOVE THEM ENOUGH TO TRUST THEM.
It’s not easy to