Category Archives: personal development

Keeping thoughts positive about our upcoming meeting with Dept of Ed.

My husband was feeling under the weather this week and took a day off of work to stay home and rest.

At some point in the morning, he was doing a puzzle with a couple of the boys and looked up at me and said, “It’s such a beautiful environment here.  Thank you for all that you do – I know it doesn’t happen by itself.”

Often I look around at my home and family, and feel a deep sense of contentment: of being right where I’m meant to be, doing what I’m meant to to do, living my life every day with the people I love. I don’t ever take it for granted. It’s been a choice that I didn’t make one time, but many, many times.

It’s been a choice when feeling conflicted and pulled about finances, homeschooling, living in a different country.  But our decision to build our family in a given way has been a consistent. In our home there are a lot of people, a lot of personalities, a lot of things that are happening and moving parts in so many directions!

And now we come to a place of once again consciously making the choice to create this environment for our children.

We recently filed a new application that included Yirmi as he has reached the age for official homeschooling.  On Sunday morning we have an appointment – together with ds5, ds8, ds10 and ds11 -with a committee at the Department of Education regarding our homeschooling application.  I don’t find it appropriate for adults to question children about the educational decisions their parents have made for them, but no one has asked my opinion on how to run things in our government. :)

Yirmi, age 5- at day camp this summer

Yirmi, age 5- pic taken at summer day camp

I had a lot of anxiety about this process for a very long time – from the time Yirmi was an infant, actually.  I felt that submitting this application for a child with special needs would be voluntarily walking into the lions den. But as I’ve said before, making decisions from a place of fear isn’t a good place to be at.  If I’m feeling fearful I need to look at my thinking – and then I ask myself if I’m giving away my power to the officials at the Dept. of Education.

I can’t control what the people I will meet will say or do or think of me, but I do have a choice about the thoughts I allow into my mind!

  • I choose to picture a pleasant and positive meeting with all involved.
  • I choose to picture permission to homeschool all of our children, and particularly Yirmi, being granted quickly and easily.

I’m choosing to keep my thoughts focused on a positive outcome, rather than fearing our quality of life being threatened if permission is denied. I trust that the same One Who gave me these children to raise will help us through this process. That thought has helped me replace my anxiety with feeling empowerment instead. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the call about the meeting that I felt very calm – even after hearing the name of the person we’ll be meeting with (someone with a reputation for being very difficult to deal with).

I won’t write more than to say that this is a significant meeting, particularly since I’m not aware of any other child with Trisomy 21 being homeschooled in the entire country. So we’ll be blazing a new trail. :)

Another camp picture

Another camp picture :)

We’re looking forward to receiving our legal approval and to sharing our good news with you! We welcome all positive thoughts and prayers on our behalf as well!

Avivah

clarity

How To Get Clarity About What You Really Want

I think much of the inability to teach others how to respect you stems from a confusion as to what our needs really are or where boundaries should be. How can one achieve that kind of clarity? How does one teach others when one often cannot articulate one’s needs to oneself?

What an insightful comment on my last post!  Yes, this is completely true – so often we don’t know what we want and therefore we can’t communicate it to another person.

The six foundational principles of my Leadership Parenting approach are:

Connection, Compassion, Clarity, Courage, Calm and Correction

Every one of these are critical in parenting effectively.

Let’s talk a bit about clarity. Very, very often when parents ask me questions about how to handle different situations, I’ll ask them what they want.  “What is your goal in the situation?  How would you like this to play out?  What do you really want?”

That might seem simple, but knowing what you want often isn’t simple at all.

I recently had my first Supernanny stint, when I went into the home of clients to watch their family dynamics and see firsthand what was happening.   During our session that followed, I told the mother that she wasn’t clearly communicating to her child what she wanted of him.  In the privacy of my office, I was able to ask, “What do you want?”

She explained and explained and explained, and I finally told her: “I’m a mature adult sitting here listening to everything you’re saying, and I still don’t know what you want!  We can’t expect a child to be able to figure it out – we have to make it easy for him!”

You know why it wasn’t clear to her child or to me?  Because it wasn’t clear to her!

It’s okay not to have clarity. It’s not a moral failing. It’s understandable to feel ambivalent and have conflicting feelings about what you want. But lack of clarity can lead to unnecessary pain and frustration in our lives. To get the most out of life, you need to be able to clearly articulate to yourself what you really want.

Why is it so hard to get clarity?

  1. Sometimes we’re afraid to admit to ourselves what we want. It feels too big, too unreasonable, too hard to attain. So we readjust what we want to what we think we can have, and then we tell ourselves that’s what we want. However, there’s often a residual niggling discomfort that remains of the subordinated original desire that will keep poking at you.
  2. Sometimes the lack of clarity is because you’re living life based on what others expect of you and doing what everyone else does.
  3.  Another reason for the lack of clarity comes from having competing agendas – for example, someone who wants to be a stay at home mom and also wants career success. I recently experienced a conflict of competing agendas, which I shared at a seminar with the person leading the sessions. His feedback was that I have to be honest with myself.  That was not the answer I wanted to hear.  I felt like screaming in frustration when he gave me that answer, because (I thought) I was being honest with myself and that’s why I felt conflicted!

But when I thought it over afterwards and didn’t feel so defensive, I realized he was right. There was something I was saying that I wanted because I felt I should want that – and part of me really did want it and felt excited at the thought of taking on that role – but there was something else that I wanted more which I was giving my available life energy to.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “What do I really want?”

To tune into the answer, choose a quiet place when you can be alone with your thoughts. It can be helpful to lie down with some beautiful relaxing music playing in the background, or to sit outside in nature. I like sitting in my garden – you don’t have to go far from home! The main thing is that it feels peaceful to you.

Take some deep breaths and try to quiet your mind.

When I start this process, I initially get mental noise, like the static when you’re not tuned into an official radio station. “I don’t know what I want! I want this and this and this and I can’t have it and it’s to much and I’m completely overwhelmed!!!!”  While I consciously may say I want clarity, there’s part of me that likes being able to be ambivalent because then I don’t have to change anything I’m doing.  But if I keep sitting with myself and giving myself space for the response to come, the answer gets more and more clear.

Your inner self really does have all the answers.  However, sometimes you’ve gotten so used to habituated responses that aren’t in tune with that inner self that you can’t distinguish what is the healthy voice of truth and what is the voice of fear or habit.  It can be helpful to get feedback from someone you trust who is outside the situation; those people can often see things more clearly than you can.

Being a parent is such an amazing opportunity because it opens us up to incredible possibilities for growth and awareness that we wouldn’t have had otherwise!  Seriously.

Having to be clear with your child forces you to think more about what you say you want and why you want it. Let’s say you’re battling a child to take a bath every night or eat dinner. What do you really want? Do care that much about the bath? Is there something else that you care more about that you’d rather be investing your time in?

Often parents admit that they don’t really care that much about the things they’re fighting with their children about, but they feel these are rituals or activities that everyone should do so their child should also do it.

Well.

Doing what you think you should do because everyone else does it doesn’t align well with being happy!

Sometimes it becomes clear that yes, the bath or meal or whatever else really is the priority. In that case, it shouldn’t be set aside but there might be some more effective ways to go about achieving your goal.

There’s no one right way to parent and there’s no one right way to deal with a given situation. It depends so much on what you really want – you can have two very happy and healthy families who have chosen completely different ways of living their lives.

When you get clarity you can create healthy boundaries and teach others how to treat you, as you align what you say with the actions you take.  That’s a very empowering place to be!

Avivah

treat others how to treat you

You Teach People How to Treat You

I was wondering if you could share with the blog readers more about the idea that we teach people how to treat us.Can you explain how that works, and how we can change the way they treat us?

Yes, I’m happy to explain that a bit more!  Before I begin, I want to clarify one very important distinction: we do not have any direct control over the actions of others, and can not directly change how they treat us.  What we do have control over is our own thoughts, speech and actions.  That’s where our power lies and that is always where our focus has to be.

I was speaking recently to someone who was complaining about all the people in her life who don’t treat her kindly. People are mean to her, kids are mean to her children, and everyone who passes her yard is mean to her pet!  And then a five minute walk away just a day earlier, I met someone who told me that the people living in that area are just wonderful, everyone is so kind and helpful. Are these two people living on different planets?

In a way, they are. Their inner worlds and the way they view themselves is constantly playing out with those around them.

**This is not about shaming oneself or feeling at fault for being treated badly by others. Not at all. There’s no blame here at all. It’s about recognizing where you have power to make your life better.

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My eight and ten year old sons came home upset one afternoon after playing with a friend. This is a boy who they’ve been extremely nice to, a nice kid who has strong reactions to what seem to others like very small triggers. In this case, he got upset and began throwing bricks at them, then ran after my eight year old and punched him.

When they got home, they asked for my feedback on how they could have handled the situation.  One said he’s not going to play with this boy anymore and he doesn’t have to keep being nice to someone who isn’t nice to him. The other said he sees it’s very hard for this boy to control himself and he doesn’t want to be treated like this, but he doesn’t think it’s nice to tell him he’s not going to be his friend.

This is a classic example of “we teach people how to treat us”! Substitute coworker, spouse or neighbor and you have the same kind of situations that we adults are dealing with all the time!

I told them they get to decide what kind of friendships they want to have.  How do they want to be treated by their friends? There is never a reason to tolerate someone mistreating you in the name of ‘kindness’ to them. You have a right to be treated respectfully and it’s your responsibility to teach people to treat you with respect.

So what would that look like in this case?

treat others how to treat youFirst of all, I told them in the future if it happens to leave the situation and come home immediately.  If he comes to play at another time, he can be told, “I don’t like what you did (yelling and throwing things at me).” They can then choose if they want to give him another chance or not.  If they give him another chance they can let him know, “If you get angry and hit me, I’m going to stop playing with you”.

The boy now knows clearly what their expectations of the relationship are. Can they control if he becomes explosive?  No, absolutely not.  But if he acts in an unkind way again, they will honor their own boundaries by leaving the interaction or even by leaving the relationship- and he will have learned that they mean what they say and will not interact with him if he can’t treat them nicely.

Now let’s look at another possibility.  What if they continue to play with him time after time regardless of how they are treated?  Then have them taught him that they will tolerate being abused from a ‘friend’, that it’s okay for him to explode when something bothers him.

Their response to his action teaches him how to treat them.

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If a young child playfully bats you in the face or calls you a name, how do you respond?  Do you smile and let her know you think she’s so cute?  Do you ignore it and tell yourself it’s not a big deal? Or do you hold her hand in yours and soberly tell her, “No hitting Mommy”? You are teaching your child how to treat you.

A couple of days ago I asked a child of mine to do a task and the child agreed, but with an edgy manner of speaking. I looked at that child for about a minute without saying anything.  The somewhat abashed response to me after a pause was, “Okay, that was obnoxious – I’m sorry. Yes, I can do what you asked me to do.”

What was my nonverbal message when I looked intently at this child? That although I was choosing not to respond verbally, I wasn’t oblivious to the inappropriate tone that had just been used. Yes, it’s definitely a more subtle response!  If the child was younger and might not have realized on his own that his response was out of line, I could have let him know: “You know, that sounded disrespectful. Can you say what you want in a more respectful way?”

This is just as true with people who aren’t related to us. If someone initiates a conversation topic that we would rather not participate in, we can direct the conversation to a different subject rather than feel forced to participate because we want to be ‘nice’. If someone speaks to us disrespectfully, we do not have to stay in that interaction to be ‘nice’. We teach others how to treat us.

One of my kids once opened the door for a neighbor since I was in the middle of reading to a younger child. I had never spoken to this neighbor before and he wasn’t a warm and friendly kind of person. Before I even had a chance to get up from the couch and without waiting for an invitation, he walked right into the center of my living room.  I felt my space had been invaded, and I told him to please wait next to the door and I would speak to him there. He got angry and threatened not to talk to me or help with the issue that he had come to speak about (the damage a leak from his home was causing to us) but I didn’t back down.  My home is my space and no stranger is welcome to come marching in as if he owns the place. My home, my terms.

treat others how to treat y

You can set the terms of the interactions that you participate in.  We worry too much about being nice to others, while not considering that it’s extremely not nice to ignore your own needs and subjugate them to the needs of others.

maya[1]Every day we have choices: what to respond to, when to respond, how to respond – and it really all begins with, how do we feel worthy of being treated? Do we honor our own needs, our own time, our own preferences?  We communicate this in so many ways and we’re not even aware that we’re communicating that! But our kids are watching us and have a very good sense of what we we really care about.

Avivah

y trampoline 2

See the possibilities in your child, not the limitations

Can you believe that Yirmi just recently turned 5?

Until Yirmi was born and we received the birth diagnosis of Trisomy 21, I knew very little about what that entailed.  I had the stereotypical perceptions of people with Down syndrome based on very limited personal connection.  When Yirmi was born, my eyes were opened to a much broader, more appreciative and more accurate way of seeing people with differences.

Though people tend to assign a lot of significance to the differences (skin color, religion, political affiliation, income level, abilities), we’re all more alike than different, and we all benefit when we place more emphasis on what makes us similar.  More than anything – every one of us wants to be valued for who we are.  And this has been my focus in raising Yirmi.

Yirmi and his big sister, May 2017

Yirmi and his big sister

We had a 3 hour appointment with a developmental pediatrician very recently (the first since leaving Karmiel 2.5 years ago), who was blown away by Yirmi.  She kept exclaiming that she’s never seen a 5 year old with T21 like him in her decades of working in the field.

She said that he is bright, communicative, emotionally present, focused, takes initiative, and has the confidence to try new things in a new environment.  She told me that these aren’t qualities that she’s seen in a child with T21 of this age, particularly combined with a language delay like his (‘Usually these kids are shut down.’).

A week later I took Rafael for his intake appointment, and again she remarked on how taken she was with Yirmi.  “He’s so emotionally intact.”

y trampoline 2

Why is it the norm for a child with T21 to not be emotionally intact?  To not be confident or communicative in new situations?  To not trust their abilities?  To not be willing to try new things?  To not keep trying to be understood?

Could it be in part because of how those with whom they interact regularly treat them?  Are the frameworks in which they spend most of their time focused on what they can’t do instead of what they can?  Are they being defined by limitation instead of possibility?

Having fun with Daddy!

Playing on the trampoline with Daddy!

People have told me Yirmi doesn’t act like he has Down syndrome, or that he must have it ‘just a little bit’.  What does that even mean??? What limited perceptions are those comments based on??  You can’t have T21 just a little bit – either you’ve got it or you don’t.  He definitely has garden variety Down syndrome, present in every cell of his body.

Though professionals have told me that Yirmi is doing very well, it’s not because he’s inherently different or better than any other child with T21.  I’m not holding him up as an ideal or trying to imply he’s the most amazing child with T21 ever. Comparisons of performance and impressing anyone else isn’t my goal – he is who he is and and regardless of percentages or testing or anything else, he is enough as he is right now.

Having said that, in line with the 80/20 principle, I believe 80% of children with T21 can be doing just as well if given similar support.  I don’t think he should be as unusual as the professionals say he is.  Actually, I think a lot of kids with T21 are already doing great but probably most of them are also being treated like outliers.

I passionately believe that every child deserves to be treated with respect. With respect for where he is right now, with support for whatever limitation he has at this time, and with belief in who he will be in the future.

It’s not hard to do this.  It’s really not.  It may be counter cultural, but it’s not hard.  People think I must ‘work so much’ with Yirmi.  I don’t see what I do as work; he’s not my project to fix.  What I do that I think is of the most value is to parent him the same as all of my other children – I look at what his needs are and try to find integrated ways to support those needs in our daily lives.

Integrating support in a fun way - trampolining!

One example of how we integrate support in a fun way – trampolining!

In my opinion, the most challenging thing is to recognize the aspects of your thinking about your child that are limiting, and then to change those thoughts.  Your actions will follow your thoughts, and your child responds to your thoughts about him.  If you think your child is capable, you’ll have different expectations and take different action than if you think your child has significant limitations.

To consciously shift from a paradigm of limitation to possibility means seeing the potential in your child and acting in alignment with what you trust he will become, long before you see that in him. 

If he can’t yet talk or can’t yet walk, it means believing that if you keep giving good quality input, that you can trust the timing of the output (ie performance) even when it’s taking a lot longer than you would like. At age 4, Yirmi still hardly said any words.  Now a year later, we’re seeing an explosion of speech.  And I trust that we’ll continue to see significant gains with time.

Shifting that paradigm means reflecting your child’s positive inner value to him even at times that he’s immature, irresponsible, unreliable, hypersensitive, or mean.  It means trusting your child’s potential and holding on to that vision even when external circumstances might give you reason to feel discouraged.

And that’s something that benefits every child,  regardless of diagnosis!

Avivah

woman-wearing-bathing-cap-and-swimming-goggles-BMJ28C[1]

Lessons from the Pool – recognizing the limitations of childhood thinking

Last week I went on a two day retreat with 300 other women.  I had a wonderful time and some powerful moments of growth and awareness. Since they were so personal I wasn’t going to share about them but I was strongly encouraged to do it by someone who told me it would be of service to others.   Here is one blinding moment of clarity and light that I experienced.

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When we got to the hotel in the north where we were staying, the pool was open and it seemed almost everyone opted to go in!

I held back for a bit, since I don’t particularly enjoy being in a crowded pool. After a while it thinned out a bit and I went in. I looked around and realized that although there were a lot of women there, they were mostly clustered in groups around the edges of the pool. If I were to swim across the width of the pool, I would mostly be able to do that. So I set off for the other side, and the deep pleasure of swimming surged through me as I sliced through the water. I went back and forth, thinking all the time how amazing it was to be in the water, feeling one with myself and my movement through the water. I haven’t swum in fifteen years and it felt so, so good to be swimming again.

At one point, I thought to myself how nice it was that I can enjoy swimming even though I might not look like a very good swimmer to someone watching. I was feeling good to be fine with myself regardless of what others might think.

And then I got to the end of the lane and someone said to me, “You swim beautifully!” “Thank you”, I said, while I thought “hmm..”  Why is someone in a pool full of women singling me out to tell me how well I swim but my mind is telling me that I’m a sloppy swimmer? Cognitive dissonance.

I was pondering this as I continued my laps, wondering who was right – me or the outside observer?  It’s strange that I had this negative self-assessment as a swimmer when I love swimming and the only feedback I could remember was positive and took place when I was 12. At that time I was assessed in camp to determine what level group I would be in. The instructor, who was a kind of tough drill instructor type woman not given to praise, exclaimed about me: “Wow, she has power!!!”  And almost as an aside added, “But her technique needs a bit of work.”

This women was impressed by me! I always thought back on that comment as a positive memory. So how if I’ve only had positive feedback on my swimming, I wondered, had I somehow internalized that comment to mean I was a lousy swimmer?  When it was clear to me and everyone standing around that she was very impressed?

All of a sudden, I realized that it was ME who gave myself that definition. Me, who found the tiny possibility of negativity in her comment and blew it up larger than life; me, who created that image in my mind of myself. Me, who continued to unquestioningly own that definition three decades later.

‘If my swimming form could use some work, obviously I was a sloppy swimmer,’ I had somehow reasoned. Is that what she said? Was that the truth? No. It wasn’t based on anything in reality. Just my inability as a twelve year old to allow myself to completely accept wholehearted praise for what it was.

“How many other times and in how many other ways have I done this to myself?” I wondered.

As I had that thought, I was suddenly I was so overcome with emotion that I just started crying right there in the pool.

I can’t describe to you the power of that moment, realizing with stark clarity that I had limited myself for so long without even being aware of it.

This wasn’t about my swimming. In my world, how well I do or don’t swim has very little significance.

It was the power of deeply recognizing how our thinking patterns as children carry into adulthood. If unchallenged, they continue to run our lives behind the scenes. I’ve consciously changed so much of the scripting of my younger self, and this has benefited my life enormously. But I never could change this scripting because it wasn’t until that moment that I had a deep gut level realization that this  way of thinking had been a subtle and pervasive part of me.

It can be painful to let the spotlight shine on our inner workings and imperfections, but it can also be so powerful and freeing. For me this was an extremely expansive and illuminating experience, allowing me to start to see and move away from a limitation that was invisible to me until that moment.

And oh – I can now recognize without reservations that I’m a good swimmer and I have been for many, many years.

Avivah

happyanniversarytop[1]

My tips for making your marriage awesome!

My husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage!  Eleven wonderful children, several national and international moves, job changes, health scares…we’ve navigated lots of situations together over the years and our marriage is a source of great happiness and stability for us both!

In honor of our anniversary I want to share some of the lessons that have been helpful to me in building our relationship.

Me and my husband

What I say is applicable to husbands or wives, but for simplicity I’m going to address this post to women. I also believe that in the typical relationship (not including abuse or addictions) women have more power than men do to significantly impact the quality of the relationship.

Here’s my first  tip for a good marriage but only those of you who aren’t yet married can use this one:

  • Choose well.  Choose a spouse who is kind, caring, emotionally stable, shares your values and with whom you emotionally connect.  Lots of problems that later come up in relationships are because people didn’t choose well and that’s something that’s really hard to overcome.

I was young when I got married but I consciously sought out role models of strong relationships and thought about what kind of person would be a healthy match for me.  Notice I said ‘healthy’, not ‘good’.  People get into relationships that can feel exciting or good on some level but not be healthy.  People mistakenly think that marriage is all about meeting the right one and the stars sparkling in the air around them.  That can be part of it, but there’s a definite place for carefully looking for the qualities that are important to you.

Okay, on to other musings that are of applicable to everyone!

A general principle of healthy relationships is that people want to be around people who make them feel good.  When you were dating, the odds are high that you and your husband enjoyed one another and felt appreciated by the other.  And you loved being around each other.

But too often, the sheen wears off after you’ve been married for a while and you start focusing on what isn’t and what you don’t have instead of what is and what you do have. You want to change him to be more like what you want him to be. Guaranteed recipe for misery.

  • Be conscious of your husband’s good qualities and let him know how much you appreciate them!  Just because you see some other less desirable qualities doesn’t erase all those good qualities. Every one of us is a work in progress. Don’t be shy about letting your husband know you think he’s a great guy!  What you focus on grows.
  • Don’t get so used to the things he brings to the relationship that you take them for granted.  My husband goes out to work every day to support his family and has done this for many years.  Does his consistently showing up and being responsible not deserve positive feedback just because he’s been doing it so long??  I let him know on a regular basis how much it means to me that he works so hard to take care of us even though he’d probably rather be kicking back on a beach somewhere.

And when it comes to making those changes that you want him to make – he’s lots more likely to make the effort to please you when he feels accepted and appreciated by you.

  • No one wants to feel taken for granted, belittled or inadequate.  I’ve often heard wives talk about their husbands as if he’s one more child that needs to be tended to. Ladies – guys aren’t completely obtuse.  When you think about him like this and speak about him to your friends like this, don’t you think he gets a sense of that even if you don’t directly say anything to him?

And let’s face it.  How many of us can feel that kind of exasperation and not express it?  Come on, you’d have to be a saint to be thinking those kind of thoughts and be able to keep them to yourself!  Learn to shift your thinking by focusing on his good qualities.

  • You’re not his mother.   It’s not your job to fix him or oversee all the details of his life.  He’s an adult, so treat him like one.
  •  When you husband does something to make you happy, don’t point out all the ways he could have done it better.  Let him know how much you appreciate the effort.
  • When you first see your spouse after a long day apart, don’t jump into complaining about how hard your day was.  I know, it’s hard to set aside one’s desire to be heard.  But take a few minutes to warmly greet your spouse.  A warm smile and welcoming, “I’m so happy to see you!” help make your home a place your spouse wants to be.
  • Let him make mistakes without pointing out everything he did wrong.  Seriously, would you want to live with an all seeing eye who pointed out all of your errors? I’d want to run in the other direction!  That’s one reason for the escape of men to their man caves.
  • Ask for what you want.  Don’t hint around and don’t expect him to read your mind and then get resentful that he didn’t do what you wanted him to do!  And don’t tell yourself if he really loved you he’d know what you want without you telling him – that’s not true and it’s just not fair.
  • Make time to spend just enjoying each other. Not at home, distracted by the chores that need to be done or the kids that need to be put to sleep.  It’s worth the effort to get out on a regular basis.  My husband and I go out every week and when we took a break from this for a couple of months due to scheduling changes, I  felt something was missing.
  • Have friendships outside of your marriage; don’t expect your spouse to be the one and only person you can talk to about everything.  That can become a burden.  My husband is my best friend, but that doesn’t mean I expect him to be interested in every single thing that interests me!
  • Similarly, don’t expect your spouse to be your therapist and to listen to all your sadness and pain – that gets old pretty fast.

And here’s a really big one, so big that I could have really put this first.

  • Make self-care a priority.  It’s not your husband’s job to make sure you get enough sleep, time with friends, exercise, meditation, yoga, bubble baths, upbeat music, etc, etc.  It’s your job to make yourself happy.  You can ask for his logistical support and chances are high he’ll be happy to help you make it happen if you’ve been warm, affirming and positive toward him.  Most husbands really want to make their wives happy.  But it’s not his job.

If you could live with someone who was cheerful and fulfilled by her life, or someone who was a resentful martyr who put herself last, who would you rather spend time with?  Who would you want to come home to?  I’ve said this before about raising children but it’s just as true with marriage – you do everyone around you a favor by making yourself a priority.

I could go on and on with lots of little tips but it really comes down to this: treat your husband as you would want to treated- with kindness, respect and appreciation.  Give him the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong.  Learn to let go of having to have things your way, and realize that ‘our’ way can be even better. Stop shaming, blaming, and complaining.

You know how I learned all this?  By making lots of mistakes!  At times I’ve been petty, judgmental, not respectful, impatient, unappreciative and resentful.  But I chose a good man and I was smart enough to remind myself of that even when I was feeling disgruntled. I knew that strong marriages didn’t happen by themselves; I messed up plenty but I’d try to do it better or differently the next time.

Personally, learning to let go and accept and appreciate what is has been one of the biggest lessons for me.   Some people are naturally easy going and accepting; I’m not one of them.  I came into marriage with a strong propensity to move fast, think fast, and be detail oriented, which strongly correlates with being impatient, reactive and critical.  I’ve worked very, very hard to learn to slow down, to make room for the interpretations that others bring to situations, and to focus on the positive.   And that’s made a huge difference in my marriage.

My husband has been an incredible source of acceptance and support for me through all these years, and I’m very, very grateful to be married to this amazing man.  Every year has just gotten better and I’m looking forward to the next 25 years!

Avivah

 

snychronicity

Does history repeat itself? A strange coincidence? Or something else?

My husband’s parents flew in from the US for the wedding and we enjoyed spending time with them this weekend!

We’ve been wondering if our branch of the family is related to other Werners and got into a discussion about my husband’s grandparents generation.

We learned for the first time that my husband’s great aunt and uncle had a child with Trisomy 21 who was institutionalized at birth, which tragically was the norm at that time.  I still couldn’t help wincing when the story was shared.

And then we learned something that kind of made us all shiver.

My father -in-law had an aunt and uncle who couldn’t have children.  Someone who was very ill asked them to raise her little son as their own when she died.  Since his mother had requested that her son be raised with her last name, he was raised in every way as their son but he wasn’t legally a Werner.

When my father-in-law shared this story, and then said the birth name of the child raised by the Werners three generations ago, my family members all looked at each other.  “What did you say his last name was?” someone asked.  “XYZ”, said my father in law, and spelled it out.

The same last name of our Rafael.  The same spelling.  A last name I heard for the first time when we were shown his file.  Not a common name at all.

And Werner isn’t a very common name either.

And so three generations ago, the Werners raised a little boy as their own, but keeping his birth name of XYZ.  And right now, the Werners are raising a little boy as their own, but keeping the same birth name of XYZ.

I can’t tell you what the significance of that is but it feels like more than just coincidence, don’t you think?

Avivah

Self-care-300x300[1]

Self-care – you can’t afford not to do it!

Yesterday a very busy mother of four young children who is longing for a break asked me, “How do you make time for yourself?”

I told her, you just have to do it!

So much easier said than done.

For many years, I minimized my need for self-time.  Sure, I would relax with a book or exercise at home with a dvd, but I didn’t really go too far beyond that.  Friends who wanted to meet me for coffee would be met instead with my flat response: “I can’t do it,” “It’s not realistic, I’ve got the kids home all the time.”

But do you know what?  I didn’t even stop to consider how to make that happen – I could have done it if it was really important to me.  But instead I right away assumed it was impossible. When it came to making time for myself (outside of home), with few exceptions I told myself I didn’t need it, that it was too much trouble to find a babysitter, too expensive or exhausting to make arrangements.

Well.

Over the last year I have been actively embracing self-care and it is a pretty darned wonderful thing to expand the ways that I enjoy my life!  After so many years of taking care of someone else and putting my own needs lower down on the list, I’m putting myself right at the top.  And I highly recommend it!

Taking more time for yourself begins with seeing it as an important and valuable use of your time.

This morning I went on a two hour nature outing with a small group of women to a park about a 15 minute walk away.  Later this week I’ll be going on a sunrise hike (I love these – this will only be the third one I’ve done in the last year – I get exercise, social connection, time out in nature and am home by 7 am, without anyone even realizing I was gone!)  Next week I’ll be going away for two days and one night to northern Israel for a women’s getaway. It sounds kind of decadent, doesn’t it?

The morning after the wedding, do you know where I was?  On a hike to a local forest.  When I arrived the organizer looked at me in shock and said, “Even though you said you were coming, I didn’t believe you would actually be here!”  I obviously didn’t get home very early the night before. :) I had a ridiculously full day that day, that included taking dd16 to Jerusalem for her seminary interview in the early afternoon, returning home, then turning right back around with the rest of my family and traveling to Jerusalem for that night’s sheva brachos. Does it seem I was making my day too full and stressful by going on a hike in the morning?

I made this commitment to myself before the interview was scheduled, and I decided I would go because it was important to me especially with the busyness of the wedding season to make time for myself.  I would have cancelled my appointment with my daughter and told the seminary administration I would have come a week later before I would have cancelled this time for myself.  Hiking in the woods and later sitting quietly alone for almost a half hour in the forest while the other women continued on a different trail was spiritually and mentally renewing for me.

Honestly, I’ve had to work through my mixed feelings about all of this.  I’ve been moving out of my comfort zone in this arena for a while and continue to expand the boundaries of how I nurture myself. Because I did so little self care in this way for so long, sometimes by contrast what I do now feels selfish and self-indulgent.  That’s not reality, it’s just my mind getting in the way of letting myself feel good about taking care of me.

self-care

We parents deserve to take time to care for ourselves.  We NEED to take time for ourselves. We are worthy of treating ourselves with kindness and compassion, to create and embrace opportunities to nurture those parts of ourselves that we tend to set aside when the responsibilities of life take up so much space.

When we become parents we don’t stop being the people we were until then – and once we hammer that into our own consciousness, we then have a great opportunity to model this lesson for our children.

The more I recharge myself, the more emotionally present I am for myself and for others.  Really.

Can you afford NOT to take time to recharge yourself?  Even if you don’t feel you deserve to take time for yourself, wouldn’t your children benefit from an energized, upbeat mother who values herself?

Learning to care for and love yourself the way you care for and love your children – the new horizon!

Avivah

And now yet more wonderful news – our son is engaged!

We are thrilled and delighted to announce the engagement of our oldest son, Elazar!

You may remember him from a photo last week with his two youngest brothers:

Ds23 with ds4 and Rafael

Ds23 with Yirmi and Rafael

I began writing this blog 10.5 years ago, when he had just turned 13.  Some of you have been reading from the beginning and have watched him (as well as our other children) grow up through all these years.  He has become an amazing young man.

Last week my husband and I had the opportunity to meet the young woman he was dating (we went right from there to pick up Rafael!).  At that point it was clear that his intentions were serious and it didn’t take more than a few minutes for it to be obvious to us both what a beautiful person she is and to see what a perfect match they were!

Last night he proposed to this very special young lady.  It brings me so much joy to share with you all our overflowing happiness as he embarks on this new stage of life with his wonderful fiance, Rivkie!

Elazar and Rivkie

May you all be blessed with abundant good in your lives, and may we all share in continued good news!

Avivah

self love

Burnout, too many expectations and not enough self-love

I constantly hear about burnout, both in  my professional life working with parents and in my social life.

There is so much expectation, so much strain and anxiety and so much shame that people are feel about not  measuring up, not being able to do it all.

Underlying all the various ways this issue is expressed, I’ve noticed an underlying self-imposed urgency.  ‘It’s not self imposed,’ you may protest.  I then hear how these things really are so so SO important, with the sentiment expressed that if the speaker doesn’t do them, something bad is going to happen.

What is going to happen if you don’t do this particular thing for your child?  When I suggest that a lot of the pressure the parent is feeling might be unnecessary and excessive, the response is usually “But don’t kids need to…go to sleep at a given time, brush their teeth, eat the right amount of nutritious foods, get to school on time, do their homework???”  The list of what responsible parents ‘should‘ do doesn’t end.

And the pressure that parents put on themselves doesn’t end either.

Could we possibly  learn to lighten up and let go of some of that tense perfectionism that is rooted in fear?  Can we trust ourselves and trust our kids instead of a checklist?  Really, we’re not going to fail them or ourselves if we don’t do this long list of things on a regular basis.  If we do the things that really matter – which comes down to providing a nurturing, loving home for our children – they’re going to be okay.  They really are.

Not because you’re the perfect mother.  Not because you line up all your ducks in a row and manage to execute flawlessly every day.  No.  You don’t and you can’t.  And you don’t need to.

Can you embrace loving yourself as you are right  now?  Right now, with all of your imperfections?

I’ll tell you something that might be intuitive.  Or it might be counterintuitive.

Do you want to be a more effective parent?  Do you want to be more loving, more effective, more emotionally and physically present?  Try treating yourself with kindness and compassion, with appreciation for your efforts and forgiveness for your lapses.

The more love you show to yourself, the easier it is to love those around you.  When you learn to nurture yourself appropriately, it becomes much easier to nurture your children.  When you stop continually raising the bar so high for yourself, accept your mistakes and appreciate your good intents, it’s natural to do the same for those around you.

We are so harsh to ourselves.  So, so harsh.  Do you think you’re being responsible to push yourself more, to tell yourself why you need to do more, to be more?  No, it’s not responsible.  It’s harsh.

Listen to me.  There is nothing more valuable to your children than being raised by a mother who loves and accepts herself.  Do you know how powerful it is to be loved unconditionally?  Most of us don’t and we don’t know how to give that to our children.  But it’s not too late – because you can give yourself that gift.

Start with small ways to love yourself.  Go to bed earlier.  Take a ten minute shower instead of a five cupofselfloveminute shower.  Sit and enjoy your cup of herbal tea.  Little things that reflect the kindness and compassion that you deserve.

Allow yourself to slow down or do less without feeling guilty about it, without feeling defensive or apologetic, without the habitual self-shaming of telling yourself you really should be doing something else.  Something more valuable, more important than taking care of yourself.

There’s not much that’s more important than appropriately taking care of yourself.  Your capacity to give to others is rooted in the care you take of yourself, and the love you learn to give yourself will flow out to those around you.

For today, lovingly put yourself first.  You deserve it, and your family deserves it.

Avivah