parenting

5 Cognitive Tools to Protect Your Child(ren) from the Emotional Impact of Bullying

5 Cognitive Tools to Protect Your Child(ren) from the Emotional Impact of Bullying

Since the world will never be completely free of jerks, the rest of us need to arm ourselves and our children with tools to mentally combat the abuse as much as possible. 

A Stranger Took Pictures of My Kid: Parenting in A Digital World

A Stranger Took Pictures of My Kid: Parenting in A Digital World

Finding a balance of being polite and courteous but aware and protective in today’s society is difficult.  Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to come up with a short and sweet answer. Rather, the bittersweet taste of technology is the flavor of the future.  I doubt it will ever taste good to me.  

The Mile Walk Home From School

The Mile Walk Home From School

Knowing what I know about the importance of children getting daily exercise and fresh air (added bonus: I get exercise too), I recently decided we would start walking home from school.  

It has been a magical experience and I would like to share with you two discoveries I witnessed once I slowed life down to a walking pace.

Shit, Let's Talk About It: The Importance of Not Shaming Your Child's Poo

Shit, Let's Talk About It:  The Importance of Not Shaming Your Child's Poo

Our poop tells the sordid tale of how our bodies are functioning.  It’s important to teach our children more than their letters and numbers.  We need to also teach them how their bodies work and how to use everyday poos...oops, I meant clues, to help manage their body and mind.

Toxic Masculinity: What is it? How can we stop it?

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The name is Bond, James Bond.

When you hear/read those words, what image comes to mind; an alpha male or a beta male? My mind goes straight to the epitome of what the ideal man should be according to society.

The perfect, powerful, well-dressed, classy, measured, always more agile and clever than the “lesser/weaker” male. Bond never cries. He’s always in control, always ready to fight or f*%k. His emotions bounce from anger to lust to sex to savagery. This ideal…Bond…is a type of “savior” for mankind, keeping the world (or at least Britain) safe, one fight at a time.

Interestingly, a few months ago I saw Daniel Craig (a.k.a. the current James Bond) being publicly shamed for wearing his newborn baby in a baby carrier when he went out shopping. WTF is that all about people? Really? Really? Really?

No wonder men in our culture are confused as to “how to be a man.” In one breath society says how attractive, heartwarming, and even sexy it is when a man holds and cares for his baby, and in the next breath society states very clearly a “REAL MAN” does not carry his baby around.

In our current society all males are measured against this ideal of the “alpha male.” The problem is, this type of man often exhibits what is currently labeled as “toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity is a phrase that is getting tossed around lately so let’s take a moment to try to understand it a bit better.

The idea that there is only one way to be anything is ridiculous, yet that is exactly what toxic masculinity is; it is the belief that to “be a man” a male has to be aggressive, strong, tough, hypersexual and unfeeling.

And when our softer, gentler boys are unable to live up to this ideal, and struggle to emotionally cope with the constant onslaught of bullying from peers/parents/TV/news/society, they are turning more and more to violence to fill the void within.  

The world is in dire need of sensitive men but I’m not sure we as a society even know how to facilitate this change.  

In order for change to happen, I think society needs to get as angry when someone tries to shame a boy for having an emotion that isn’t anger as we do about our girls being sexually harassed.

What if that happened? What would it look like if mothers and fathers started getting mad at anyone who shamed a male for expressing a “feminine/weaker” feeling such as fear, sorrow, or submission; yes, even submission.  

I believe that to be a great leader you must, at times, be able to submit to and follow someone else to truly understand the experience of those you lead.  

So, how do you raise a kind, gentle, caring man who will be strong enough to cry and kick someone’s ass if needed? And gentle enough to calm his sleeping baby and strong enough to withstand the jokes slung at him from his “mates” at work who make fun of him for being a hands-on parent?  

When I take a step back and look at the gestalt, or the macro of society, and then take a look at the micro of each individual human being, I see two things parents can do which could force society to change one little boy at a time. These two concepts parents must know about to help foster this change are the following:

World View

and

Inner Voice

It’s my belief that we, as parents, can change the worldview of an entire generation (both genders) by offering them alternative ways to view the world.  

By shifting an individual’s worldview their inner voice inevitably changes; these two “ingredients” are of utmost importance in solving the problem of toxic masculinity within our current society.

Society has to stop reinforcing toxic masculinity and until that happens you must be the filter.  


Worldview: What is it and how parents can help shape it.

Do you see people as innately good or bad? Do you see the glass as half empty or half full? How you view the world around you is as unique and specific to you as your fingerprint.

This unique lens helps you experience/interpret the world and is called your worldview.  Every living human being has a worldview. You may not be aware of it, or even know it exists because you can’t see it, but you have it nonetheless.  

In 2007, the International Education for Peace Institute printed a handbook on how to accomplish world peace.  They suggested that by shifting the world’s worldview from a Survival-Based/Identity-Based one to a Unity-Based Worldview, humans might have a chance at world peace.

I won’t go into all the details of the differences because this post is about toxic masculinity; however, you can get a pretty good idea about worldview by examining the graph below.  

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An individual’s worldview is like a pair of contact lenses that you are born with.  Each one of us is born with clear lenses. Then slowly, little by little your contact lenses start to change prescription depending on what you are exposed to and how you are taught by parents to respond to things in the world.  

Each of our lenses obviously impacts how we perceive/interpret/understand and react to each other and the world around us. Our lenses are forming from the first second we enter the world.  

Were you born into a warm and safe environment? Or were you born into a war zone with bombs exploding nearby? Everything factors into how we see the world.

Why is it important to understand your worldview and what helped shape it? Because, not only do we filter everything we absorb around us through our worldview, we also use it to decide/judge what’s normal/abnormal or acceptable/unacceptable.

This brings me back to the topic of this article which is how we (parents) can change toxic masculinity within society.  

How do you change your worldview and teach/offer your child(ren) the ideas of tolerance, understanding, empathy, integrity and hope?  How do you change your current worldview to a more Unity-Based Worldview?

Here is my preliminary list:

Steps to take to change your worldview:

  1. Question how you see the world around you and what factors (over the course of your life) were impactful in this formation and why? Write it down if needed…

  2. Seek to understand new ways of thinking/seeing the world, which promote unity, togetherness, and those positive traits you seek in yourself and children. An example would be reading a book called The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama.  Seeing the world through someone else’s lenses often helps us notice a color we haven’t before.  

  3. Share with your children (partner/friends/co-workers etc.) the things you’re learning and how it’s changing you for the better. When we teach others, the information we are sharing builds new neural pathways that strengthen this new worldview/outlook.  Sometimes a therapist, life coach, or insightful friend is helpful in this process of discovery.

I am still continually growing and “undoing” my knee-jerk reactions in situations which force me to challenge my worldview.

For example: I grew up with an Identity-based worldview. I had to win/be the best at everything that I tried my hand at and I was in constant competition with everyone and everything. People didn’t even know that I was competing with them most of the time!

However, in my early 20s (after a few years of college and being away from home) I realized that this type of “win at all costs” mentality was adding a lot of stress to my life.  Plus, as I learned more about psychology and humans I began to realize just how much every interaction we have with others impacts our lives. The way forward for me was a Unity-Based worldview.  

Just remember, not everyone in your life is going to embrace this new and enlightened you.  Just like in chemistry, if one of the elements in a mixture changes, it affects the entire solution.   

Be strong and remember you are making the world better for your children one person at a time.

Inner Voice: 

Imagine that you just walked into a room and forgot what you walked in there for…now pause.  What were the words you spoke to yourself when you realized you had forgotten what you were doing?  What was the overall gist of what you said? Were the words judgmental, sarcastically funny, supportive, or mean and spiteful?  

Those words which popped immediately into your head, without effort, came from what is called your inner voice.  

Maybe a phrase your parents often said to you came to mind. That’s because parents are the most influential person in our early formative years.  

Your words are currently shaping your child’s inner voice. What are you putting into their heads? Ideas of tolerance and forgiveness or words of cruel judgement and disapproval?

This image is more effective in explaining how your words impact your child’s inner voice than anything I can write.  

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Just as we do now, our parent(s) repeated themselves many times in an effort to teach us, keep us safe, and help us “fit in” a specific culture/social group.  

It’s normal for your parents to want you to follow and understand the spoken and unspoken rules of the family.

However, here are some harmful “rules” that support the ideals of toxic masculinity:

  • Women do the dishes

  • Men do the yard work

  • Children’s opinions don’t matter on family decisions

  • Males don’t wear feminine colors or display feminine/weak emotions

  • Females aren’t allowed to get angry or show aggression

Of course we all know these ideas are outdated.  So upgrade. You’re the parent now. You make the rules of the house.  Remember though, it’s not just about changing the rules, you have to change that inner voice, too.  

Instead of saying things like:

“Don’t be a girl and cry.  Man up!”

“Look at what you did!  How could you spill the milk again, you lazy thing.”

“Why can’t you stop running around and act like a lady?”

Try to say things like:
“Everybody cries once in awhile, it’s ok.”
“Oh no you spilled the milk again? Go grab some paper towels. Let’s clean this up and talk about why this keeps happening and try to fix it.”
“You sure do have a lot of energy. But right now it’s time to sit down.”

Whatever your family rules were/are I’m pretty sure some of them involve ideas that support toxic masculinity. Identify them and make a conscious effort to try and change them.  

Read books/blogs/articles to become more aware of toxic masculinity so you can begin to point it out to yourself and your children.

It amazes me the toxic thoughts that still pop into my mind even after 16 years of continued study and self-exploration once my eyes were opened to the injustices in the world.  

I didn’t realize just how many “isms” were my “norms” from the things I had been exposed to growing up; you know like sexism, racism, ageism, etc. It’s much harder undoing an adult than it is to positively build up a child.

It takes a lot of hard work to rewire your brain but it’s worth it and it’s doable!  To start the mental reset for your thoughts you must first:

  1. Acknowledge the toxic “rule” when you have it/realize it.

  2. Think about/research facts that dispute this idea.

  3. Repeat the new information you learned multiple times over multiple days to strengthen the new neural pathway.

Just like riding a bike or learning a new skill which requires muscle memory, our brains need to be primed with the new positive thoughts to try and override the old ways of thinking.

It could look something like this:

  1. Your son starts to cry when he doesn’t get his way.  Your first thought is “boys don’t cry.” You acknowledge this thought and that it supports toxic ways of relating to boys.

  2. In those few seconds after your son starts to cry and before you say something that supports toxic ideals, you stop and rethink, and instead say: “I know it doesn’t feel good to not get what you want.  Everyone cries sometimes and that’s ok. Just don’t sit in the sorrow too long because you may miss out on something else you didn’t realize was an option.”

  3. After your son has gotten himself under control and engaged in a new activity, you find quiet times over the next several days to sit him down and talk about the event.  Talk about what upset him and talk about how he successfully resolved the situation. Practice coping skills and reaffirm the notion that ALL emotions are OK and felt by everyone.  At some point, feel free to bring up the fact that there will come a time when crying in society might not always be the best or appropriate.

This process won’t be easy, especially if you are new to the idea of toxic masculinity and rather see the “symptoms” as simply describing all the men in your life.  

It won’t be easy but it will be worth it, and it is necessary for the futures of our boys and girls.


The Wrap-up

The world needs more sensitive men.

I say that sentence to my son at least once a day.  I am raising a soft, gentle, kind, thoughtful, and intelligent little man.  

He is very aware of the world around him and since he is being raised by two females, neither of whom will EVER say to him “man up,” his inner voice will hopefully be full of positive phrases not laden down with the ideas of toxic masculinity.  

When I see something that is toxic I speak up and explain to my kids how that person’s response wasn’t appropriate/kind.

We talk about what they could have done instead (build those positive pathways) and if appropriate, offer kind words or a helping hand to the recipient of the toxic interaction.  

Your child needs you to be their filter in a world that is currently stuck in a “eat or be eaten” mentality.  

Change the words of the story

and change the ending.

“Dialogue launches language, in the mind, but once it is launched we develop a new power, ‘inner speech,’ and it is this that is indispensable for our further development, our thinking. . . . ‘We are our language,’ it is often said; but our real language, our real identity, lies in inner speech, in that ceaseless stream and generation of meaning that constitutes the individual mind. It is through inner speech that the child develops his own concepts and meanings; it is through inner speech that he achieves his own identity; it is through inner speech, finally, that he constructs his own world.”
— Oliver Sacks, is a physician, best-selling author, and professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine

It’s OK to be disappointed: The importance of allowing your child to feel uncomfortable

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My son just started kindergarten and as I was leaving the school one day, an administrator and I started chatting.  This woman has worked in both private and public schools all over the country for many years. Her most notable observations in children over the course of her career  is.

the significant decline in children’s ability to cope with being disappointed.

She shared that parents don’t seem to allow their child to experience being disappointed and it’s seriously impacting the child’s ability to reach their fullest academic potential.  I told her about my blog and that I would be happy to share my thoughts on the topic…so here we go.


Disappointment happens when our expectation is not met and we realize that we won’t get and/or can’t have what we want.


This knowledge usually prompts feelings of sadness. We’ve all felt it and have experienced the emotional and physical wound in our hearts when we don’t get what we want.  It totally blows, and most people will do almost anything to avoid “bad” feelings.

Let me set the scene: you are feeling pumped up and listening to party music whilst you deck yourself out in your favorite sports fan gear, and as you walk out the door you hear your phone buzz.  Your mate just texted to let you know that they’ve had something unexpected come up and won’t be able to meet you at the game. Ugh…disappointment sets in.

Take two: It’s been an incredibly stressful day and you don’t want to cook dinner for the family and decide to “treat” everyone to a night out.  For the most part, getting everyone dressed and out of the house goes relatively smoothly. You pick a local place that is a little farther to drive to  but that you know has “something for everyone,” so you cope with the hungry noises coming from the back of the car. Once seated, the waitress comes to tell you the daily specials and you find out that they are “sold out” of the main dish your child(ren) eat.  Disappointment sets in, followed by a few other feelings, such as complete and utter rage.

It’s normal to be bummed when you don’t get what you want. We all feel it and we all hate it.

Maybe that’s why we (parents) try so hard to protect our children from feelings we deem as negative or uncomfortable.  However, it is really a disservice. Instead of shielding our children from those feelings, provide them with age-appropriate coping skills.


Every parent and child supporter (i.e. relative or family friend) want their child to succeed academically and emotionally (i.e. to be content with life and feel happy more than they feel stressed).  

It’s important to note that when our brains are overwhelmed with emotions the “learning highways” of the brain shut down and you are no longer able to retain/comprehend/understand what you are learning to your fullest potential.

Consequently, it’s important to not only teach your child things like colors, shapes and letters.  It’s also vital to teach them how to cope with their feelings and the emotionality that comes with simply being a human being who interacts with others.  

Herein lies the problem. Many parents are often unaware, or dont have the language needed to be able to explain to their child (in concrete terms) how to appropriately deal with their feelings.  I’m most definitely not blaming anyone.  I’m simply saying my experience is that knowing about or being able to teach emotional intelligence to your child(ren) isn’t easy for parents as a general rule of thumb.  

The term emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) means an individual can:

  1. recognize, understand and manage their own emotions and

  2. recognize and understand how their behaviors influence the emotions of others 

Essentially, this means being aware of how your emotions can drive your behavior and impact other people (positively and negatively).

Remember being a teenager and losing your temper with your parents, which ended in you losing privileges? You lost control of your emotions; which resulted in a punishment from your parents, because they were trying to teach you how to “hold your tongue.”  Emotional intelligence also includes learning how to manage both positive and negative emotions, especially when under pressure.  

What do you do when you’re under pressure?  I am just going to list a few things people tend to do when they are feeling emotional pressure.  Maybe you will be able to relate.

  1. Displace your frustrations on to someone or something else.  i.e. co-parent pisses you off, you turn around and yell at the dog for doing something like licking his paw, because the sound irritates you.  Or you slam the car door really hard and break something in the process.

  2. Start to “tune out” the world around you.  Maybe you start sinking deeper and deeper into your thoughts.  You know people are talking to you; but you are so overwhelmed emotionally that it’s like they are speaking underwater and you can’t understand what they are saying.

  3. Begin to panic and resort to your “primitive” means of coping, which is fight, flight or freeze.  You verbally or physically attack the person you feel threatened by. You walk away from the perceived threat.  You stand still like a deer in headlights, not moving.

At some point in our life we have all been emotionally overwhelmed and unable to cope in the moment.  There have also been moments when we have felt underwater yet managed to keep our nose and lips above water long enough to regain our emotional footing without losing it.  

You know what I’m talking about, right? Like when a boss/friend/co-worker gives you a dressing down but you manage not to to give them the satisfaction of seeing you get upset. That’s what you need to teach your child: how to “keep it together” when they are feeling “RUN…. RUN AND NEVER LOOK BACK!!!”

This brings me back to the point of the blog.  How do you as a parent allow your child enough time and space to experience the feeling of being disappointed and then help them recover?  Additionally, how do you teach them to cope with negative feelings in general?


Acknowledge the feeling

First of all, let me say if you (the parent) struggle to identify and cope with your feelings (positive or negative) it is important you practice what I’m asking you to do with your child on yourself first.  Get a “feel” for what your child will be going through and use your experience to enhance/educate your child.


For example:  When at a friend’s house for a playdate, your child wants to play with a toy someone else has, but the other child is not done playing with it.  Your child will more than likely do one of the following:

  1. Snatch the toy

  2. Wait patiently

  3. Walk away

Regardless of how your child physically responds, we both can be pretty sure they are feeling disappointed that the toy they want to play with is occupied by someone else.  It doesn’t really matter which way your child responded, you can still label and validate the feeling and experience for your child by saying something like…

“I saw that you really wanted to play with X. It’s disappointing when we don’t get what we want and I understand.”

If needed, feel free to share a time when you felt disappointed. Just make sure to keep the moment about them and not your “glory days of disappointment and doom.”  

Refocus the attention

I want to make a clear distinction between helping your child recenter themself emotionally, rather than merely distracting them from their emotions.

Recentering involves experiencing the emotion and sitting in the uncomfortableness that comes with disappointment, then moving through that feeling into a more pleasant one, like excitement that comes from seeing another toy they may have missed.  Or sit in the sadness with them and, if you see they are emotionally “stuck” at this point, you can give them a nudge toward another activity or thought.  

Distracting involves shifting the child’s attention away from the uncomfortable feeling by ignoring it and shoving it deep down…down into the black metal box that sits at the bottom of your soul and keeps all your “bad feelings” locked up tight with iron chains ensuring its closure along with a 15 digit coded padlock AND a key.  

Yes, that is a slight over-exaggeration. Yet, you see where I am going with this, right?

 

Distracting a kid merely tells that kid that bad feelings should be AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS and ignored.

The problem is, more and more studies are coming out showing that “bottled up feelings” end up manifesting themselves in physical symptoms (chronic back or neck pain).  

I’ve had a client say they felt like they were carrying the emotional weight of their entire family on their back.  Guess what, they had severe back problems which limited their employability, leading to more issues. Again, I’m sure you see where I am going.   

When they are ready to recenter on another activity or toy, say something along the lines of:

“Even though we can’t play with that toy… we could find a different toy or go for a wander around?  What would YOU like to do?”

Empowering through choice

Giving your child a choice in that moment allows them to feel empowered and in control, which immediately shifts their feeling of disappointment.  Yes, they may cry and pitch a fit, regardless of how you approach them. But eventually, over time and through practice, when you bring them “choices,” more than likely they will want to choose one that does NOT include a temper tantrum.  

Society in general does not support people who throw fits in public.  I don’t believe any child wants to have the label “cry baby” at school or a party.  It’s my experience that children desire to learn how to control their behavior.  They want to learn how to manage their frustrations and disappointments and not to be laughed at or labeled or pushed to a corner of the room to cope alone


The Wrap-up

Human’s must experience negative feelings to be able to truly appreciate and feel joy or happiness.

Every ying must have its yang and it’s hard as a parent to watch your child struggle with anything, but especially when your child is feeling crappy.  We’ve all been there and seeing it in your child triggers our own natural instinct to protect and shield them from danger.

The problem is you won’t always be around to do that.  So, instead of shielding them, arm them with tools of protection like:

  1. Providing language to accurately label their feelings

  2. Teaching them ALL feeling are normal and ok to experience

  3. Modeling for them how you cope/deal with disappointment

  4. Celebrating when your child is successful in coping with disappointment

We all have bad days and feel disappointed about things.  How we respond to these small, everyday disappointments factor into how the rest of our day goes.  Teach your children that everyone feels disappointed at some point, but it’s the working through the feelings and coming out the other side that is what should be focused on.  

It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.
— Ann Landers

Don’t “mind the gap” but “fill the gap”. It takes a village to raise a child.

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We are all born with certain traits such as green eyes, mocha-colored skin, raspberry red hair and for some like me, an overbite to boot.  Some of these characteristics can be changed or modified using hair dye or colored contact lenses, or even very expensive dental work.

We are also all born with certain talents/gifts/abilities, or whatever you wanna call it.  Sometimes these gifts are obvious to the general masses (i.e. musical talent or sporting ability) and sometimes they aren’t (i.e. generous and kind-spirited or a good problem solver).

I bring this up because parents can be very very hard on themselves, and I know I am one of them.  It is hard for me to admit I’m not a “perfect” parent and that I can’t be the “one perfect person” in my child’s life.  The funny thing is we can’t be that perfect person for anyone really, not a parent, spouse, teacher or partner.

No individual will ever able to fulfill all the needs of another person. It’s impossible; even though media of all types tell us that there ARE perfect parents out there we just aren’t one of them.

Ok, now let me get to my point.  Here it is. If you have something, anything to offer ANY child in the world, please offer it…fill that gap don’t be shy.


My Younger Village-

My mother used to tell everyone she met that I was raised by the village and I would have to agree. Some village members I sought out and others found me.

For example, we didn’t have a lot of sweets growing up and I am not a “sweet-toothed” person in general.  Nevertheless, every once in awhile I get a hankering for something sweet. I guess the need to fulfill that desire is strong because…

When I was 3 years old my mother caught me going door-to-door in our neighborhood asking people “Do you have any candy?” Our neighbors would happily fill me up with sugar and then send me back home.

You don’t think that’s a good example of a village raising a child?,    Before you think my parents were negligent, I assure you they weren’t. They knew the people I was going to see so it was all good in the hood, as they say.

Here’s another example: My mom used to drop me off at a church friend’s house when she needed a break from me or had to run some errands.  This family had 6 children and the mom who ran the house didn’t play….you know what I’m saying? Not a criticism at all…

If you have 6 children in your house someone needs to “alpha up” and this mom did it well.

When I was at her house running wild and having fun with her kids, I often found myself sitting in the “time out” chair.

Recently, I was reminiscing with my friend from this family and she said she thinks I sat in the time out chair more than any of her siblings.  We had a good chuckle about that…guess I needed some serious fencing at times when I was younger.  

I still have the internal desire to run wild but have learned, over time and through trial and error, how to rein in my impulsivity and excitability.

God, I sound like I am describing a dog. Well, I guess if you think about smaller type breeds, you know the type that when you let them off the leash they go absolutely bananas? That was me a lot of the time…especially in crowds because I’m a natural extrovert and feed off the crowd’s energy.  

Quick side note:  Recent research states that time-outs don’t actually work like people think they work.  This is a debate for another post.  What I will say is this:

no matter who you are at some point or another your child will have pushed every single last one of your buttons and will then come in for the kill, and in that moment you realize you’re about to lose your shit.

Instead of unleashing it on your child, you put them in a time-out instead (i.e. a chair, couch, room, whatever, you just get them out of your line of vision).  

Those types of time-outs I’m totally down with because it’s  

  1. halting the racing mental train your child was riding, and

  2. prevents you from regretting a behavior.  

Many people had a hand in raising me, from the strange man at the grocery store who held me so I would calm down, to my 6th grade teacher who took me aside and told me

“You’ve got to learn how to control yourself and behave. When you get out of control I can’t control the class. Realize you’re a natural born leader and act like one.”

Or something along those lines. To everyone: thanks.


My Current Village-

I do believe there are angels among us and my neighbor Robin just happens to be one of them.  My co-parent and I literally walked into our house with our freshly-squeezed brand new baby boy when we heard a knock at the door.  I knew it wasn’t my family because we had asked them to give us 2 weeks alone with the baby before “showing him off” to anyone. Friends and family ended up coming before that 2 week marker, but Robin was the first.  


She just “had to see the new baby” and from that moment on she became my go-to-gal to help fill the role family or close friends often do when they live nearby (i.e. babysit, let out the dogs, babysit, watch the house when you’re away, babysit, let the repairman into the house, babysit, become a much needed emotional venting person, babysit…you get the drift.)

My family is close enough for visits (a 2 hour drive) but not close enough to help with those day-to-day things like popping over for 15-30 minutes so you can go grab the oldest from preschool without having to wake the youngest from a nap.. Robin fills a very huge gap in our family unit and she most definitely deserves this shout out for helping me with my village. I wish every family had a Robin.  


My “Paying it Forward” Village

I have made an effort my entire life to put good energy and deeds into the world and it always comes back to me and then some.  Even though I am a parent and have young children I still believe I have to keep “paying into the bank” so I don’t incur a negative balance on my positive karma spreadsheet.  

When my son was a little over 3 years old he attended a preschool for a few months.  During this time I volunteered at the school because….wait for it….. I believe in paying it forward.  I had the time and talent to do several things; I ran a music group and the gardening program for the school.  

When I would arrive at the school some of the kids would come up to me for cuddles, or to show me something or tell me something they did…and 99% of the time I gave these children my “priority attention” over my son who was also in the class and also wanted to say hello to me.

After school one day on the drive home my son asked me “Momma b.  Why don’t you pay attention to me at school like you do the other kids?”  (or something along those lines). I told him “Darling, I love you to infinity and beyond (yes, I actually say that and no he has NEVER seen Toy Story…he has always loved numbers and will say to me he loves me as much as “1000” and I say I love him to “2001” etc.  Then one day I was over the game and taught him the word infinity so I could “win.” He then askes me what was beyond infinity….hence the comment and hence the feeling that I needed to explain.)

Moving right along. I said to him that I loved him very much and that I was talking to his classmates because they don’t get to see me very often.  

I reminded him that he gets to see me all but the 3 hours he is in preschool. I also reminded him of the happy feeling he gets inside when I get “excited” listening to his stories.

(By excited I mean animated and engaged with intense and playful eye contact with the child talking to me…most adults/parents don’t do this. Totally fine…don’t feel pressure to act silly.  I just know that acting a little silly often makes someone else feel really good inside, or so I’ve been told/seen).

I further explained that other children don’t get to see their parents as often as he does. We discussed single parent homes and dual income homes (both parents work) and compared the hours those children were able to see their parent(s) vs. the time he got with both of his parents.  

When I focus my attention on classmates it’s because I can sense in that moment that child might be needing some extra love, so I gladly and willingly give it.


I have no clue the child’s background with regard to time spent with their parent, I just know my kids get enough and they can share a little of my love and attention when they’re around other children who may need some.

He got it and he actually stopped coming up to see me as often because he was “leaving space” for those who may need it.  Kids get it.


The Wrap-up

Society in general is built on the idea that we work together for a greater good.  So let’s do it. Start filling small (sometimes big) gaps in the lives of the children you are around and who you  know might benefit from what you have to offer.

Invest in the future of the people who will make decisions that will impact your life when you’re old.

Obviously be respectful of the relationship between the child and their parent(s).  Ask the parent if there is anything you can do to help out. You can even point out something you think you could offer their child that they may not know about (a  secret hidden talent or skill like magic tricks, or a passion for art history).

Even if you have children, see if there is anyway you can help fill any gaps for other children in your life.  It most definitely took a village to raise me and I’m grateful to those in my life who did.

Society won’t survive by producing carbon-copy kids. We need to nurture the shy artist, help channel the energetic athlete’s focus, encourage the soft-spoken to speak louder and above all make sure to share your love.

Love grows when you share it…and every single person in the world has something to offer someone else if we are just open to giving and receiving.
“THE CHILD WHO IS NOT EMBRACED BY THE VILLAGE WILL BURN IT DOWN TO FEEL ITS WARMTH”
— African Proverb