Getting Through Back To School (without yelling)

Ah, back to school. The time of year we all dread and relish at the same time. We’ve had about ten weeks of summer break and while it always seems like a great idea at the beginning, by the time week six or seven roll around, most of us parents have muttered “I can’t wait for school to start” more than once.

It’s a double edged sword, summer break. We begin with the idea that no schedules, sleeping late, camp and family vacations are going to bring us weeks of euphoria. We block out the eventual overtired, cranky, mouthy, unappreciative kids that come with that euphoria. Ten weeks is a long time to be carefree. And it’s a long time to have to juggle schedules and camps and activities to keep our kids entertained (code for keeping them out of trouble).

By the time mid summer rolls around, the mere hint of back to school gets us excited. We walk around the stores and see piles of school supplies calling our name while at the same time we lament that we couldn’t possibly be thinking about back to school already. Until the week when your kids are on your last nerve. You know that week. The one where they repeatedly tell you they’re bored, even though they’re neck deep in activity all day long. The week where they pick fights with their siblings for no reason, I mean, I know that happens every day, but when it’s summer it feels like it’s more often. The week where they argue about bedtime because “MOMMMM...it’s summer!!!” That’s the week I’m talking about, the turning week.

We’re ready for structure again. We want schedules. We want to know our kids are in one place all day long and that we don’t have to worry about picking them up from a half day of soccer camp to schlep them to a half day of dance camp just to keep their day full. We want school. Except we don’t want the stress that comes with it. You see, double edged sword.

Back to school season has become one full of stress for us parents and our kids. We scramble to get summer homework packets finished - because instead of allocating time to do school work every day like we said we would, we’re cramming it into the last few days before school starts! We make lists of supplies, new clothes and shoes and backpacks that need to be procured. We are on multiple group emails and texts between parents about teacher assignments. It’s exhausting!

So how do we make our last few weeks of summer less stressful? How can we enjoy our last lazy days in the sun and at the same time plan and organize for back to school without losing our cool?

First we have to actually be excited about back to school and mean it. Talk to your kids about how great the new school year is going to be. Tell them stories of when you were their age, it makes you more relatable and can help ease some anxiety your kids may be harboring. If you can show them you’ve been there, done that and survived, you’re golden!

Once you’ve generated some positive buzz about back to school and quelled some anxiety, spend some time with your kiddos. Don’t wait until the day before school to go shopping for supplies. I like to take each of my kids separately to do their shopping. We have a date day that consists of shopping for sneakers, some clothes, school supplies, lunch and ice cream.

It gives us the opportunity to have some alone time without siblings to connect and catch up. It’s one of my favorite days of the year.

After you’ve shopped for your kids new loot, get them involved! Enlist their help to get their gear organized. It would be terrible to wake up on the first day of school frazzled and unprepared. Have your kids pack their new backpacks, label their folders and find homes for everything. Being prepared and ready to go creates an atmosphere of ease, and can help with the back to school jitters you’re all experiencing.

Finally, celebrate together. The day before school starts, we like to have a family day. We go to the park or do something together to cap off summer and kick off back to school. We have a family dinner, get some dessert and watch a movie. We share our favorite summer stories and set expectations for the upcoming school year. We make it a celebration, a day filled with love, laughter and calm.

Back to school doesn’t have to be a challenge if you choose to make it fun and include your kids in the process. Here’s to a successful back to school time for you and your family!!



 

Sometimes Mother's Day Just Plain Sucks

There. I said it. 

What more than 50% of us were probably thinking yesterday when we finally were able to tuck our cherubs into bed last night - I'm glad today is over. Surely none of us started out with the expectation that our "special" day would be trying, and yet, for some of us, it was. Including me. 

In no way did I think my Mother's Day would be full of yelling at my six year old - pretty much all day. No way did I think we would cut our lake house weekend short or skip going out to dinner because of the tantrum throwing. I seriously thought I was going to have a nice, peaceful day doing nothing except the things I actually wanted to do. As of noon yesterday, I wanted it to be over. 

Mother's Day - the day all moms are supposed to "take off" - like that's actually a thing. I mean, great, someone else will do the dishes but in real life no one is going to proactively do all the other things we do on a daily basis. I had just come off of a week in California - jet lagged to the extreme coupled by two days of intense allergies. I did not want to do anything for Mother's Day this year. I wanted to stay home, read a book, make breakfast (yes, I had help, but because everyone wanted something different, we needed more than two hands) and choose the chores I was going to do. Laundry, yes. Scrubbing toilets, no. 

Unfortunately that was not to be. Not without arguing among the minions. And my older one was not to blame for the most part. I mean, he did retaliate when provoked, but who wouldn't when there's a over active six year old in your face, poking and prodding your private parts for a reaction while you're trying to do homework? I would drop kick the kid if it were me!

The issue is that the little one doesn't know when to quit. He keeps going because he thinks it's funny and because he wants a reaction. Sometimes he gets a laugh, because, sometimes it's actually funny. Not yesterday. Yesterday it was annoying. 

My day was filled with lovely texts and social media posts from friends and relatives wishing me a happy day while my kid was being a jerk. It was impossible to not check out my news feed a few times to see all of the lovely posts from my friends and the day they were having. Lots of hearts and flowers and "I'm blessed to be your mommy" posts. Lots of thanking their own mothers (I did too - it was my mom's birthday to boot!) for their love and support. No one posted about having a crappy day. Until I did on my Instagram story in the afternoon. The little one had just gotten in trouble by his father and was restricted from playing baseball outside because he could not listen. Because it was so fun, I made a little video of it. 

Last night after watching the hysterical video of Amy Schumer on SNL the night before tell her child his birth story , I decided to get real with the mamas I have on a group text. I simply said "my kid has been an asshole all day" which prompted my girls to chime in with their replies. One offered up that her son was being a jerk too, and another admitted that she was being the asshole! Bonus points for that one. Relief that I was not alone. 

Here's the thing. I love my kids more than life itself. I don't love the idea that we're supposed to have a day off that never actually turns into a day off. I love that we celebrate motherhood, but we should celebrate it everyday, because as it turns out, moms are badass. I love that my kids make me home made cards and profess their undying love for me. I don't love that they bicker and can't listen which truthfully is every day of the year in some capacity. It's the nature of the beast. 

Instead of trying to have a "perfect" (I actually don't really like that word) day, how about we have zero expectations and go with the flow? Be grateful for the day we've been given, challenges and all and grow from them. That's my idea of a good Mother's Day. And if all else fails, there's mimosas. 

xo

 

A Mothers Gift

It's a funny thing, this club we're in. The motherhood club. I recently spent a few days away from my family, at a conference with close to 700 other mothers. Sure we talked about our work, our goals, and our dreams but mostly, we talked about our kids. Because, mothers. It's what we do.

We fret and we fuss. 

We laugh and we cry.

We yell and we comfort.

We worry and we trust.

We do all of this because we know our children need to find their own identities. We know that while we want to keep them under our wings for as long as humanly possible, we have to allow them to spread theirs. We watch the days go by in a flash and wonder where the years went as they continue to hit milestones. We look in the mirror and critique every line and dimple. We see ourselves as we were ten, twenty years ago, not as middle aged. We wonder what our children see. 

We encourage and we explain.

We work and we play.

We provide and we teach.

We adore and we protect. 

Most of all we love with our whole hearts. We love so big it can physically hurt. We love every single thing about them and we hope they see that. Unconditional. Pure. True. A mothers love is the greatest gift of all. 

Happy Mothers Day.

xo

 

 

I Am Changed

I recently wrote a piece for the TODAY Parenting website and thought I would share it here as well. The topic is about who you are as a person, not as one singular noun. I would love to hear your stories....

Ok, I'm not gonna lie, knowing who I am has not come easy, and it's taken a lot of work. That's why as a life coach, it's a subject I often help frazzled mamas with - knowing who you are (and ultimately who you want to be). You guys, I'm exactly like the rest of us, a mom (and much more). I'm part of a club that never knew what unconditional love meant until the day my children were born. Someone who never thought she would literally deal with crap and vomit all in the same day with bare hands. A woman who thought she knew who she was before the kids came, and swore they wouldn't change her after they showed up.

I used to have a pretty great life before my little monsters arrived. A good job, living in NYC, awesome husband, sex whenever we wanted, an active social life, travel...all of it. I used to say "oh, when we have kids, we'll just incorporate them into our lives and not much will change." Famous last words, right?

Well, they arrived and the awesome person I thought I was took a little hiatus to become a mother. Don't get me wrong, I was really good at making it all look good, but I was drowning a little  on the inside. I was afraid of exposing my insecurities and my inabilities. I didn't want to be called out for mistake making and I definitely didn't want to become a mom who judged other mothers because damn, this motherhood job is the hardest thing I've ever done.

It took me having to face a major career decision to wake up completely. And that was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I was able to actually see what was in front of me, I could look inside and do the work needed to emerge as the awesome person I am. It was then that I realized I didn't need to hide my true feelings, I needed to express them. I didn't need to apologize for my actions or my parenting, I needed to own them - flaws and all.

I'm not just a list of "things" because that would be too easy. Like all amazing badass mamas out there, I'm doing my best. I'm tired and energized. I'm worried and excited. I'm smart and questioning. I'm passionate and hesitant. I work hard every day to make sure other women know how powerful they truly are, because I know I am.

Motherhood changed me, that's for sure, but it doesn't control me. It's a part of me, one that will always be front and center, but it doesn't mean it deserves all of me.

I am changed. In the best way possible.

xo

I'm Begging You - Please Stop

A letter to every person in the United States,

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. Our children are dying and we’re wasting time. My kids are asking questions about their safety. My husband, who works in the news business is stressed out beyond reasonable capacity, and all I keep asking myself is “how can I fix it?” Because really, thoughts and prayers only go so far.

I don’t know about you, but I’m angry. My Facebook news feed is full of argument when it should be full of solution. The latest that has me fuming is the debate about the accuracy of the actual number of school shootings. Is it 18, or is it not? That all depends on how the data is presented. You know what WHO CARES?? Who cares, because guess what? ONE IS TOO MANY. One. And because most of us have the ability to be reasonable, I ask you to stop obsessing over this tidbit, because it doesn’t matter (because one is too many, lest we forget) - and obsess over helping contribute to the solution.

I don't know about you, but I'm sad. Judgement of others without knowing one thing about them is sad. I think that’s really what burns me up the most. Our society is so quick to judge and jump to conclusions. Because I like to think I’m an objective person, I’m not offering judgement or scorn, yes, I’m angry but that’s because no one has provided a solution. So as far as I can tell, if we spent more time on what actually matters like working together to find a solution rather than finger pointing, blaming and judging - our energy wouldn’t be wasted on the bad, it would be contributing toward something good.

My job is to help people. So naturally that’s what I want to do in situations like this. I want to understand the issues and find a way to help, to be part of the solution. The epidemic of shootings in our country is unfathomable everywhere else in the world, and yet, when it has happened in other places, they’ve been able to find a solution.

There are a lot of issues surrounding shootings but as I see it, three of them keep popping up in conversation. Gun control, mental health and bad parenting. Let’s break it down.

Gun control - First and foremost, gun owners, no one is trying to take your precious guns away from you. As someone who had a police officer for a father, I was raised around guns. I’ve used them and I’m actually a decent shot. I can see why someone would be interested in owning guns. I cannot see why someone would be interested in owning a banned assault weapon. The gun laws in this country are antiquated. They need revision. We need better vetting processes. So how about we stop kowtowing to the NRA and we start putting our loved ones first? I mean, I don’t actually know anyone in the NRA personally (or maybe I do and just don’t know it), but the people I know, who are gun owners, are not afraid of some checks and balances being introduced. Oh, and my loved ones are way more important than the NRA. I mean, the NRA isn’t paying my mortgage or putting food on my table or celebrating at my kid’s birthday parties, so I have no use for them. We need better laws. Period.

Mental health - This is a big issue that instead of being addressed is being defunded by our government. I’m confused. I mean, if the government is not interested in gun reform, and they keep blaming shooting incidences on mental health, then why on God’s green earth would they defund mental health programs? Head scratcher. Here’s the thing, mental health is a thing and it can be addressed quite simply if you ask me. How about this - how about instead of being afraid of someone with a mental health issue, we try to understand it? How about we start including them in the conversation? How about instead of telling our kids to stay away from the “weirdos” (I’ve actually seen this happen), we tell them to be kind to them? I’m not saying we all have to be besties, but making an effort to help another human being is a good place to start. NONE of us knows what others are going through. We have to learn how to be better at practicing grace. By offering our compassion and kindness and making an effort to better understand mental health issues I bet lives could be saved.

Bad parenting - This is my favorite because I have a lot to say here. Again, I’m going to state that no one knows what happens behind closed doors, unless you are actually behind the door. Parenting is hard enough. I’m willing to bet one hundred percent of us don’t know every single thing our children are doing. I bet one hundred percent of us don’t know every person our children interact with on a regular basis. I bet one hundred percent of us don’t know what is going on in our children’s heads. We can try, sure, but we will never know all of it. Ever. So hear me out on this. A mother calls the police on her own son, and nothing is done about it. And then, that very same mother later dies, leaving her son in a fragile emotional state. While I do know what it’s like to lose a parent, I was not an unstable child when it happened, and that was hard enough. So now we have a child of questionable mental health with no parents to care for him living with family friends. I can appreciate him being taken in, that’s selfless on the friends part, and for that I say thank you. I imagine the family that took him in was doing their best to include him while also trying to give him his space. I don't have the answer, it's a difficult position.

Most of us work really hard to provide and care for our children. To encourage them, protect them and be active in their lives. Some of us don’t have the luxury of all of that, which makes me cry just thinking about it. Some of us have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, therefore sacrificing time with our children. We have to rely on others for help. We have to put basic needs like food and housing before the emotional needs of our children. That’s wrong.

Instead of blaming the parents how about we find a way to help them. Perhaps parents with some time on their hands could find a few hours a week to organize a community outreach program. Perhaps local law enforcement could create a program for troubled youth that is productive. Perhaps you can work with your neighbors to find a solution that’s right for your area. Boys and girls clubs, YMCA’s, Big Brother/Big Sister organizations all exist for mentoring and companionship. Stop pointing fingers and start working on a solution.

And don’t say “it’s not my kid, it’s not my problem” because that statement is exactly part of the problem. Take a good look around you, be grateful for what you have and that your children are still alive, and find a way to be part of the solution.

Look how easy that was! Instead of me writing a letter blaming everyone and everything for the problems, I’ve managed to offer up some suggestions to help. I’m just as frustrated as you are. I cry every time I see one of the victim’s beautiful faces. I hug my children tighter. I anger at the fights happening on social media. And so I will work to help find resolutions. I will with my local educators to bring discussion to schools, to our children, to let them know they’re loved and appreciated. I will make it a priority in my already over extended life because humanity is my priority. I hope you will at least consider it too.

xo

Find Your "It"

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the notes Patrick Turner, age 16, left for his parents, friends and teachers before he took his life last week. On the outside, Patrick seemed like a regular kid. Active in sports, worked hard in school, lived in an affluent community. On the inside there was a different story going on. One that is playing out more frequently these days. One that has made me take pause at my "why" to focus on my "it."

When I started coaching, the popular marketing thing was to find your "why" - your reason for why you do what you do. I started coaching because I wanted to make an impact on other people's lives. To help them find their own "why," to have my own business, to have a better schedule for my family, etc. As I was reading Patrick Turner's notes, I realized it shouldn't be about "why" it should be about "it." 

I recently created a presentation for Tween and Teens - it focuses on five key foundations we all need to help create our life path. I started it with women, and based on feedback I got from some of my clients, they wanted to share the content with their own teenagers. One of them said to me "for as much as your content is helping me, I think my son needs to hear it too." I was humbled and excited that she wanted to share it with him. Please do! That led me to making a few updates to the course I originally created and now I have a version for our children. 

In the presentation I focus on things like why it's important to have big dreams and how to work for them. I talk about diversity, inclusion and the importance of focusing on your "it" - what are you good at? What do you love to do? You see, not all of us are built to be top academic achievers (Lord knows I wasn't). Not all of us are gifted athletes or musicians or artists. Not all of us have a way with words. But we all have something. We all have an "it." The key now, especially with our children is to encourage that. Encourage "it." Support "it." 

I worry all the time about my boys. Are we being too demanding of them? Are we putting too much stress on them to be "well rounded?" We recently started touring high schools in NYC - talk about pressure. You want to know what my husband said to my son as we toured a top school? He said "Wyatt, I want you to know something. I went to high school, your mother went to high school. We both went to college. We both tried a few different jobs before we decided on what we wanted to do. We got married, had a couple of kids, built a life we both wanted together. I'd say we've been pretty successful. I'm saying all of this because the most important things in life are not based on a grade you get or a school you go to. As long as you're happy, that's what matters. That's what we want - for you and your brother to be happy. And whatever that is, we will support it." 

He's a smart cookie that husband of mine. I've been telling my kids the same three things everyday since they were born - be happy, make good choices and I love you. You guys, we have to be better for our children. The amount of pressure we are collectively putting on them is too much. What happened to letting kids be kids? Letting them play outside in an unorganized fashion? To allowing them down time that's not scheduled? Why are WE being competitive for them? 

I'm going to a high school in Massachusetts in March to talk to 400 kids about finding their "it" and I can't wait to tell them how amazing they all are. I can't wait to talk about having big dreams and working for them the right way. About supporting their passions and empowering their friends. About learning the power of mindset and communication and that not one of them is less than the other. We are all equal. We should all celebrate that.

What's your "it?"

My heart is broken for Patrick Turner's family and community. I pray that this tragedy can be turned into something more, but what that is, I don't fully know. We need more dialogue and less shame. We need more support and less criticism. We need more optimism and hope and love. 

I found my "it" after a few tries, and now I'm sharing it in ways I never thought possible. I'm privileged to be able to do what I do. Share motivation and optimism with the world. To help others find their "it." The world needs your stories, we need your "it." If you're struggling and don't feel like you have someone to turn to - find me. Find a friend. Call someone. Talk to a stranger. But please, don't give up. 

xo

Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/