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Parenting (64 posts)
Claire Potter faced this conundrum with her 13-year-old son, whom she describes in the Guardian as being "eager for more freedom and independence" but also "a boy who hated sustained effort and shied away from any kind of system or daily ritual." So she devised 13 challenges, each of which played to his strengths while also addressing real-life issues. The challenges are inventive and inspiring; for example, the first was "Get on a train on your own. Get off at the 13th stop. Go to a sit-down cafe or restaurant. Order the 13th item on the menu. Then buy yourself a whole outfit with £13.13."
First of all, what a brilliant parenting move. Since she helped him to buy the ticket and they live in a rural area, Potter was able to present the train trip as a grown-up adventure, while also being able to keep tabs on his whereabouts. And the challenge truly does help him to hone some adult skills. But upon reading this I thought, not just, wow, that does sound like a very practical and also fun challenge, but also, Wait, I want to do that! I go places and buy things all the time. But taking the train to a place I've never been -- just because? Ordering a randomly preselected item on the menu? What a fun way to add secret sparkles of fun to every day.
The challenges span from learning and performing a piano piece in public to completing 13 household chores to creating a self-portrait of himself to learning Hungarian. As Potter puts it, the real lesson she hopes her son will learn is "that life is full of possibility and playfulness if you want it to be." Which is something we could all stand to learn, no matter how old we are. (Read the whole essay for Potter's inventive ideas for challenging your children -- or yourself.)
Rites of Passage for Grown Women
Challenge Yourself and Energize Your Life
So I am overwhelmed just reading about Lou Xiaoying, the Chinese rubbish collector who rescued more than 30 abandoned babies over the course of her life. Although she lived in poverty with her husband and her own children, Lou personally raised 4 of the children and found homes for the rest. According to the Daily Mail, Lou said, "The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish. She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in. I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage how could we not recycle something as important as human lives."
She adopted her youngest child when she was 82.
Now, according to the Huffington Post, Lou Xiaoying is dying of kidney failure, and trying to raise money to help support her youngest children after she is gone. She is being hailed as a hero in her community, and no wonder. Any mothering has echoes of the heroic in it, but when you add extreme poverty and an even more extreme altruism, when you think of the children whose lives had no value to anyone but Lou, well, it kind of makes you want to rise to the occasion, to find the bit of Lou Xiaoying in all of us.
(Read the whole article to learn more about how China's policies have likely contributed to the large number of abandoned babies and about how you can contribute to Lou Xiaoying's family.)
The Controversy Over Older Mothers
The Baby You Have to Give Back
For more information on why birth defects are up in Iraq, how Preemptive Love is connecting kids with surgeons who can save their lives, and what you can do to help, visit Preemptive Love's website.
Providing School Supplies for Iraqi Children
Healing in a War Zone
The Deutsch Blog shares an email from Max's mother, in which she writes about how Max (who is also a junior ambassador of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where he has been treated since birth) was not only scared, "He was also very sad that summer would be in rest in recovery instead of playing baseball, golf and traveling. Around bedtime he asked if I would stay up with him and talk. He wanted to make a 'CAN DO' list. So we wrote out all the things he can do so he could focus on those. Then he said we definitely had to 'Fun Up' the house." You have to read the whole email for this family's list of ways to "Fun Up" their house -- surgery or not, these are some seriously amazing ideas. And I love the idea of a Can Do list. Instead of grumbling about how we don't have any friends inviting us to summer in the Hamptons (seriously, people, where are you?), perhaps we could all do to make our own Can Do lists. What's awesome about this summer? About this life? If you can't see the world before August, can you arrange for a visit to the sprinkler? Can you bravely conquer a reading list? Can you "fun up" your own house/office/existence? It's a pretend question. You can. You know you can.
And don't forget what Max told his mother: "I don’t have a choice. I have to go through it. I don’t like it and it’s still scary—but I have to. So I think I might as well go through it with a good attitude." We should probably all say this to ourselves every day. We should scrawl it on our front doors, to remind ourselves as we go out into the scary world every day: "I might as well go through it with a good attitude."
(PS - By all reports, the surgery was a success, and it looks like Max is going to be enjoying a pretty rocking summer in his Funned-Up House.)
How Positive Energy Can Change Your Life
Maintaining an Upbeat Vibe
Last year, Lisa Bloom's book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World came out, and started a nationwide (and Internet-wide) conversation about how we talk to our little girls, and how simply saying different things to them (and encouraging reading and thinking) can help them grow up to be smart women. Boys, presumably, were doing okay. After all, men have it easy in today's world, right? I mean, they never have to wait in line for a public bathroom. How hard can their lives be?
Well, guess what. Bloom's new book -- Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture (can this lady rock a subtitle or what?) -- is out, and now she is telling us that our boys are in trouble too. (I know. Bummer.) Apparently, we are not expecting enough of our boys, and in this way, undermine their early development. Bloom writes for The Huffington Post, "The new cultural trope is that girls naturally mature faster, that they have better innate verbal skills, and so pushing young boys to read is unrealistic and vaguely unfair to their boyness...Boys today do worse on national reading tests compared to their own gender a generation ago." And what's more, "Poor readers -- mostly boys -- struggle to read textbooks and tests in all subjects. They get suspended, expelled, flunk out and drop out at alarming rates - the majority of our African-American and Latino boys (who have the lowest reading proficiency of all) drop out of high school, with white boys faring only slightly better."
I admit to a sinking feeling of guilt upon reading this. My son is only 14 months old, but I already hear myself saying things all the time like, "Oh no, he doesn't really have any words yet. His sister did by now, but you know - boys!" As if I accept -- even expect -- that this smart kid is nothing more than a hammer-, truck-, ball-obsessed little caveman. How can our low expectations begin so early? Knowing that kids rise to the expectations (or lack thereof) we set out for them?
Thankfully, one of Bloom's solutions is, you guessed it, reading to our sons. "Make your home a reading mecca," she writes. "Kids with parents who read for pleasure are six times more likely to do so themselves -- and their grades shoot up." This I can handle. As soon as my little caveman stops hitting his sister over the head with that board book.
Lisa Bloom on How to Talk to Little Girls
The Bond Between a Mother and a Son
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* Just in time for Father's Day, there's a sweet new StoryCorps video featuring Samuel Black as he remembers his father, a janitor who worked 16-hour days to provide for his wife and 11 children. (RauchBrothers.com)
* And here are six more lovely recollections of dads by their daughters. (O Magazine)
* Brighten your day by checking out what an adventurous toy Storm Trooper is up to. (George the Trooper)
* It's hard not to feel like a winner while listening to the special guest that makes every member of this wedding party sound like a champion. (YouTube)
Last place is where high school junior runner Meghan Vogel found herself on Saturday, at the Division III girls state meet in Columbus, Ohio. She'd just won 1,600 meter race and was worn out, and found herself lagging behind in her next run, the 3,200. Then with about 20 meters to go, the girl in front of her collapsed. According to ESPN, Meghan helped the girl, a sophomore named Arden McMath, to her feet, and carried her across the finish line. Oh, and she made sure Arden got across the finish line before her.
Just like anyone would, right? Um, I doubt it, though Meghan seems to think so: "Any girl on the track would have done the same for me," she told ESPN. "I think fate may have put me (in last place) for a reason." She's attracted international attention for her action, to which she says, "I just did what I knew was right and what I was supposed to do." Well, apparently someone was raised right. (You must check out the ESPN article for a photo of the girls running the race -- I feel like I want to make an inspirational poster of it to look at when exercising should I ever do such a thing. Those pained yet utterly determined expressions!)
This wise teenager seems to have found some meaning in the overwhelming media response to her action: we love good news, yes, but also, we need this idea that you find yourself where you are for a reason. Even if where you find yourself seems to be last place. Because it's only last place if you let it be.
A High School Basketball Champ's Inspiration
9 Stories of Every Day Kindness
My kids are obsessed with this song "Don't Give Up." (Yes that would be Bruno Mars singing on Sesame Street.) We sing it to each other all the time, and lately we're having lots of conversations like this: My daughter says, "This is too hard!" And I say, "You're right. Let's give up. I can't color this Diego coloring page. It'll never work. Let's lie on the floor and cry." And a knowing smile spreads across her face and she says, "Nooooo, don't give up! DON'T GIVE UP!" It's a silly game, but I also can't help feeling like it's a kind rehearsal for larger, more give-uppier moments.
I doubt this "Don't Give Up" game would work with anyone over the age of 3, though, so instead I offer: Matt. W.
A reader just sent me the link to this video and oh man. This boy, 9-year-old Matt W., is a total and complete inspiration. Matt, who has spastic cerebral palsy, decided to do the 400-meter run at his school's track-and-field day, apparently on a mission to make everyone in the world's hearts explode out of their chests at once. He runs. He struggles. He runs. And then, his teacher and classmates join him, cheering him on. Now here's a word of warning: you have to stick with this video. There's a stretch in the middle where Matt is running, alone, a bit like a baby deer, and you will think you can't do it. But listen, if this kid can run this race, you can watch this video. Wait for the end. Wait for the little subtitle "It's okay to start crying now. Matt's mom is." If you can even see if through your tears.
Will you ever give up again?
via Yahoo Sports (Thanks, @TheGnombre!)
Boy With Cerebral Palsy Walks For First Time
The Cookie Diva Who Never Says "Can't"
As he told Chicago Parent, "This is for my daughter, first and foremost. I want her to see how easy it is to give back to others. I have a newborn, a life outside of work and a full-time job, but it's still easy to do random acts of kindness." Okay, guy. I can't even manage to floss every day, but that's just me. Garcia is on Day 151 of his mission of kindness and hasn't missed a day yet, whether it's donating money to a charity, wearing a color to support a cause, or something more involved like passing out valentines to strangers or making laminated signs for the homeless. Go, Ryan Garcia! Only 215 days until you can start being mean to everyone! (Ed. note: Just kidding.)
The more of Garcia's good works I click through, the more my initial feeling of guilt (so many kind acts!) dissolves into a sense of lightness. He's right. It really is possible to perform one small act of kindness every day, and the key is just that, keeping it small. Donating the extra dollar at the pharmacy register for pediatric cancer; paying a library fine. These really are things every one can do without going broke or having to spend a ton of time, things that can make a little difference in the life of someone else, and will make a big difference in your own life.
Inspired to do some good today? Like or follow Garcia and guess what, he'll donate 10 cents to charity. There, wasn't that easy?
9 Stories of Generosity
Daily Ideas for Good Deeds
But how, oh how, do people do it? I'm still furious about a prank that was pulled on me in seventh grade. People like me would do well to study Fatemah Golmakani. This woman is a beacon of goodwill and forgiveness. Her 22-year-old son was murdered last year in an act of gang violence so brutal that Golmakani suffered a heart attack while hearing the details in court. Since the four killers were sentenced to prison, Golmakani has summoned up vast forces of compassion, and now plans to start a charity to help the teens who killed her son.
According to the Huffington Post, Golmakani said, "What these men didn’t realize was that when they murdered my son, all their hopes and dreams were buried in Milad’s grave with him." She wants to start a charity that will include a safe space for troubled teens -- and you'll never guess how she plans to raise the money to get her charity off the ground. This woman is the definition of large-hearted, and it occurs to me, this is what it truly means to be a mother. The care-and-feeding-of-the-young is one part of it, but also there is this, the consciousness that every troubled person, even a criminal, is somebody's baby, has a damaged child inside of them. That everyone, even a murderer, wants to be forgiven and loved. If only we could all go through our daily lives remembering this, what Fatemah knows: "that forgiveness is the greatest remedy for grief."
Forgiveness in Action
Give Yourself the Gift of Forgiveness
4 Steps to Forgiveness