Stop Being the Parent You Hate. Read this Book.

I don’t really like reading parenting books. Hate ‘em. I do. As a matter of fact, I would say I still have parenting book “burn out” several years after I tried unsuccessfully to do any of the following:

a. Have a panic free pregnancy after reading enough pregnancy books to know how large my unborn child was relative to fruit on any day of my pregnancy (i.e. your child is now the size of a baby kumquat).

b. Breast feed any of my children for more than four weeks after reading every single book I could find on stress-free breastfeeding. All of which stressed me out more and inversely reduced my milk supply.

c. Get my kids to sleep. I tried every strategy that The Baby Whisperer had to offer me and I tried so hard to have The Happiest Baby on the Block but the results were temporary at best and the ever present circles underneath my eyes indicated just how successful I was at employing the tactics. Although I was an awesome swaddler. I could swaddle a baby like nobody’s business.

Unfortunately, my kids are seven and five now and while I would love to still swaddle them, I think that this might be considered child abuse. Though I think that would be really cute. And handy, too, especially when they are out of line.

The thing is, if you have a friend who is an award winning parenting expert, chances are, another parenting book is going to find its way into your hands. Even if those hands are a little scared. And not ready to clutch another book full of parenting wisdom close to your already bruised parenting ego.

When Deborah’s book, “Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being the Parent You Hate” came in the mail, I admired the cover and thought to myself, “Wow, look at how great her arms look on the cover!” I smiled back at her beautiful face and oohed and aahed over the reviews on the back cover.

But it took me a few days to open it. Not because I don’t need it. I do. In our household we very consistently don’t get the behavior we want and we totally loathe ourselves as parents on some days. No, we most certainly needed it.

I wasn’t ready to take on another failure. I wasn’t ready to read another book which I would get so excited about, only to learn that while these strategies could work, they would just not work for me.

Here’s why parenting books generally don’t work for me:

a. I have no follow through.

b. No matter what I do or how I say it, the recommended advice does not get the results I want with my kids and I just end up yelling and screaming like a banshee. (Don’t do that, it never works).

c. They don’t have the same evocative plot twists as say Breaking Bad on Netflix. Because Breaking Bad will win. (Even re-runs).

So, here’s the good news about Deborah’s book. Unlike so many other parenting books, it is not overwhelming and it’s not some insurmountable tome that is painful to get through. The best way to describe reading this book? It’s like your practical older sister looking you in the eye and giving you advice about all the daunting things we face as parents. While having tea. Or maybe a glass of wine.

She’s funny and pragmatic. I think being a family physician for many years has given her a great perspective on understanding the challenges of parenting. Of course, having four boys of her own might help a little bit with her credibility too.

The book also doesn’t have to be read in one long sitting. It’s meant to be more of a roadmap for when you are navigating some difficult situations. Which is helpful, because who has time for that, yo?

I especially love the emphasis on respect throughout the book. Having respect for your children, but also teaching children self-respect by being someone who walks the walk and talks the talk. Without developing that core balance of respect between children and parents, it becomes really hard to move forward and see progress in correcting behaviors if the fundamental core of respect is not stable.

I ultimately want to raise socially conscious, respectful, smart, self-motivated children. I think this book is one of the few that touches on how to do this in a practical and attainable manner.

I now keep this book by my bedside table every night and I read a chapter or two, that pertains to what we are going through as a family and I usually glean some great advice and insight every time I do that. And by reading in small sections, I am more likely to put the lessons into action.

I wholeheartedly agree with Jill Smokler, aka Scary Mommy, who said, “Thank you, Dr. G, for giving me the only book on parenting that I don’t want to chuck out the window!”

I totally agree with Jill. Despite my parenting book burn out, this book is here to stay and I will be buying several copies for friends too. Who will probably give me dirty looks because they will assume I think they are a bad parent. But then they will read the book and forget they were ever upset with me, so it will all work out in the end.

Read more about Deborah Gilboa, MD, aka Dr. G at AskDoctorG.

deborah

Tooth Fairy Chronicles

My daughter lost her first tooth the other day. It was a really momentous occasion, because you only lose your first tooth once and you’ll always remember the day you got your first memento from the Tooth Fairy.

Seeing her lose her tooth made me nostalgic for my own first lost tooth. I remember that the Tooth Fairy gave me four dollars. That was a lot of freaking money for a tooth when I was 7 years old. But then after that, she really didn’t deliver, often forgetting my next few lost teeth or sometimes downgrading me to a quarter or two.

Bitch set me up for disappointment.

John wasn’t home yesterday to see Shaila’s excitement over losing her teeth and I felt sad for him because if you don’t know already, John loves teeth. His own glimmery, pearly white teeth always stand out in his smiles. He smiles all the freaking time, which I think is directly related to the fact that he is a show off and he wants people to see his teeth.

It is no coincidence that John is a model for our Dentist’s office. His face lines the walls of the office, the brochures and even the website. I guess my teeth didn’t make the grade, because I don’t remember them asking me to join John on this modeling venture.

That’s ok, when I go to the Dentist’s office, I try to do inappropriate things in front of or to his picture. In the picture below, I appear to be mounting the shot of him in the reception hall. The Doctor’s staff understands because they know he travels a lot.

john at dentist

Point Taker

mommy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nice to look into the eyes of your partner and know that you have found a safe haven, a person who accepts you for just yourself. That you have found someone who will never play a game of tit for tat with you and horror of horrors, start keeping score on your relationship.

Well, I hate to say it. I don’t know when it all happened during my marriage, but at some point, I became an avid score keeper. Relentless.

At first, it wasn’t like that at all. There didn’t seem to be too many things to keep score over. Early on we found our cadence over things both simple and hard. We easily figured out how we would split holidays amongst our families and how we could support each other at work. Work travel schedules were tightly coordinated and in the absence of children and any really big problems, we could afford to be generous with the leeway we gave each other.

Who was keeping score? It certainly wasn’t me.

Until, well… Something shifted. If John went out for a few drinks with some of his friends, or played soccer in his indoor and outdoor leagues at night or went away for a guys’ weekend, I would slowly start to build these resentments. Over time these resentments were full on earthquakes of fury. We weren’t in a position where both of us could do these things at the same time. Someone had to be responsible and hold down the fort. So I started to simmer. And when he came home from work to tell me that he couldn’t hang out because it was his fantasy football draft night, you might understand why I wanted to throw the lasagna I had raced home from work to cook in his utterly confused face.

His confusion could have been caused by why I seemed so angry. Or it could have been about why I was yelling like a crazy woman over the lasagne instead of just eating it like a normal person would do. Regardless, he was rightfully confused.

I could start to feel my foundations shift a little and the nuggets of resentment I harbored made way for the beginnings of some basic score keeping. But like a faultless martyr, I held on to these toxic resentments. When I communicated about my feelings, I came off as irrational because allthesefeelings were just so hard to explain to my happy go lucky husband who seemed to be able to do it all.

And then the babies came. Well, first one. Then another. And you should have just bought be a scoreboard right there because I was no longer living a life in which points weren’t being wracked up against me. Though we both worked, I often felt that when something happened with the kids, it was my duty to drop everything and run, even if it compromised my position at the office. With the limited time we now had, girls nights out with my friends became a rarity as did a lot of my extra-curricular activities. I’m not saying, he didn’t give up things along the way to make things work for our family, but in my mind, it felt like he was making less sacrifice and I was carrying the burden of his now frenetic travel schedule, increased demands on his time with coaching both our kids’ soccer teams and all the things I feel like he signs us up for.

He doesn’t get why I don’t want to run from a flag football game to a soccer game to another soccer game throughout my Saturday. He doesn’t understand why he has lost major points in volunteering to coach both our kids’ teams which also involves mid-week practices, something which I feel we barely have time to acknowledge, much less help run.

So that’s where I am. I am in a place in my life where I alternate between being reasonable, simmering, deducting points off a non-existent scoreboard for all the ways in which I feel like I have been wronged.

Healthy, isn’t it?

It would be alright if it all stopped there and I was just tallying score someone innocuously, with a running tally to show my true martyrdom. But the reality is far different. I keep score and I get angry. I snap. I snarl. I sometimes say really ridiculous things that make no sense even to me.  But the truth is that I do find myself angry. Snapping and snarling is not where I wanted to be with my husband.

I’m coming to realize that my marriage is not a Weight Watchers diet and all this point counting and taking is doing nothing productive for John and me, because we are ultimately on the same team. My points are his points and his points are mine. Until we recognize that, I’m probably going to continue to take score. We need to realize how to balance things so we both feel like we can be individuals without having to take score every time we feel a little bit of our individuality slip away from us.

So for now, I am granting John amnesty from all the points he has accumulated over the years against him. I am sure he is ecstatic. Maybe happy enough to go out for some drinks with his friends.

But that’s ok, this time, I won’t be counting.

XO,

Kiran

 








What My Eyes Could See

enhanced-buzz-wide-25197-1407868204-16When I was so little, that I could hardly see above the kitchen table, I viewed the world as good. I believed that my parents could keep me safe and that if I did what I was supposed to do, that I would be alright. The world seemed to make sense and when I went to bed at night, I took comfort in the harmonious balance of good around me.

When my eyes could see over the table, or maybe sometime around then, my views started to change. I started to realize that you didn’t just get treated a certain way because you did the right thing. I started to realize that the way people saw each other dictated how they processed their actions. Two people could do the same thing, but the lenses people used could distort the actions of one of those people, especially if they didn’t like the look of that person.

I started to realize this because I was different. And I was treated very differently. And maybe that’s a good thing, because it always made my eyes see.

When my eyes were mature enough to read a book about Martin Luther King, I cried. I cried because this fight that this amazing man had fought, did not feel so foreign to me. Yes, it happened before I was born, but it didn’t mean that it was long ago. It didn’t mean that the hatred that made those atrocities possible during the Civil Rights Movement had been eradicated. That hatred was still there, often hidden under a veil of civility that could be threatened if the wind blew in the wrong direction.

My eyes could see that hatred was there and that civility was sometimes tenuous at best.

And so my eyes turned to the news. And year after year, the incidences of cases of mistrials against young, black men seem to increase. The statistics on the number of black men who received exaggeratedly harsh sentences in comparison to their white brothers who committed similar crimes seemed inflated. Let’s not even touch on the number of black men who have died and will die under the death penalty in comparison to their white counterparts. This is not South Africa during apartheid, I would think. This is not the time of the esteemed Martin Luther King. These things can’t be happening.

This wasn’t his dream.

This is a nightmare, in fact.

Ferguson is a town in Missouri and it may seem very far away from many Americans. The reality is, Ferguson is not that far from any of us and what is happening there epitomizes America to it’s core. You can’t take a country and look only towards the good and not acknowledge the massive, bleeding wounds that can be recreated in any number of cities across this it. What’s equally scary about what happened in Ferguson is that these incidents are becoming all too familiar to America.

“Another black boy shot?”

“Oh, not this again.”

Yes, this. AGAIN. And AGAIN.

Except this time, the full horror of hearing that a boy was shot execution style by a police officer even after he put his hands up in the air, couldn’t go ignored. This is America. Michael Brown was an American boy. Americans cannot sit back and allow this kind of injustice to take place if we want to believe we are a country that respects and protects freedom for all. There is no way that this young man should be lying in his grave for whatever crime they are looking to connect him to. A pack of cigarettes, my ass.

There was a time when this young man couldn’t see over the table and hid behind his mother’s skirt as he navigated a roomful of strangers. There was a time where he went to bed at night believing that the world was good and kind to those who did what they were supposed to. Before he learned that he would be judged and looked at and sometimes dismissed by the color of his skin, he believed that he was special, because he was.

The protesters who are out there today are saying what I hope every American is fighting for in their heart. While this includes a plea for justice for Michael Brown, it also encompasses the hope that we do everything we can to prevent another boy from becoming the next Michael Brown.

And the hope that every child can believe as long as they can that the world is a fair and safe place.








Can Any Mom Have it All? Guest Post by Sheryl Parbhoo

Today’s post was written by a friend of mine, fellow blogger Sheryl Parbhoo, who you can find at Southern Life, Indian Wife. According to Sheryl, she is “born and bred in the South, I am as American as they come.  My shoulders burn after 30 seconds in the sun, I love fast food, and the only language my ancestors ever spoke was Southern.  I am also the wife of an Indian man, who is paradoxically as Indian and as American as they come.  His arms turn black after 30 seconds in the sun, he loves fast food and his mom’s food, and speaks or understands five languages, including “Redneck.””

I asked Sheryl to come and bring her voice over to Masala Chica to share it with our readers over here. I hope you enjoy her authenticity as much as I do. Today she asks if any mom can have it all, inspired by Pepsi CEO Indrani Nooyi’s recent musings on the subject.

Sheryl and Dharmesh 2014

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Can any mom have it all?

I recently read online Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All, where Nooyi admits her own faults as a mom trying to balance career success with motherhood.  What she said made the insecure stay-at-home mom in me doing a little mom-jig.  She may be wealthy and successful, but she isn’t a great mom, either.  All the years of insecurity about missing my calling as a career woman faded.  I haven’t had it all, but she hasn’t either.  

Fifteen years ago, I stood in a mall elevator with my four small kids, smiling back at a middle aged woman next to us. My newborn twins napped in the double stroller, my older kids held onto the side of the stroller as instructed, and I rummaged through the diaper bag for my phone.

Elevator woman gazed benevolently at the babies, “Aw, how old are they?”

“The twins are six weeks and,” I patted my son and daughter’s heads, “five and three.”  The woman nodded politely and gave a little wave to my daughter who peered from behind her new stuffed puppy.  Then, my son started banging on the buttons, my phone rang on full volume and both babies screamed awake.  As I searched for pacifiers, the doors opened and my son and daughter bolted out.

Elevator woman said as she held the door for me, “Wow. Better you than me.  If I were you, I’d shoot myself in the head.”

Yeah, she really said that.

Needless to say, the choice to stay home and raise four kids came with judgment from a spectrum of elevator people, movie theater people, waiting room people, neighborhood people, and even family people. And, to really give grit to people’s comments, we went and had a fifth kid!  That really crossed the line.  Deep down inside, though, I judged myself right along with them.  How could I do this many kids and myself justice?

The answer is – I couldn’t.

When we got married twenty two years ago, my husband and I agreed that I would stay home to raise our hypothetical two kids for the first few years. But, after graduating with honors from college, I felt pings, and sometimes stabs, of regret being stuck at home pregnant while my friends went to graduate school and built careers.  Still, I knew the end was in sight. I would go to law school soon, then our neatly packaged life would commence.

The wrapping on that package fell off when I set foot in a law school classroom.  During lectures and readings of case briefs, my mind wandered to nursery rhymes.  I knew someone else was nuzzling my baby girl’s fuzzy head while she took her bottles, and someone else was reading Dr. Seuss to my toddler son.  So, I put the legal dictionary I’d just purchased at the university bookstore on the shelf, and went back to play dates and nap time and rolling out Play Doh snakes in the afternoons.

Just one more year with the kids, and then I’ll reenroll.

Then the twins happened, and the package completely unraveled. And the comments began:

Four kids? Wow. Are you Catholic or Mormon?

Did you plan this many kids?

Haven’t you figured out how this happens yet?

Not wanting to get arrested, I kept my fist to myself and ignored strangers.  Family, though, I couldn’t escape.

My husband is Indian, and true to a stereotypical Indian family, nearly everyone our age is a health care professional of some sort.  His Indian friends and cousins had semi-arranged marriages to good Indian wives. Both worked, and the guys’ parents took care of their one or two kids.  At family dinners, men and women alike chatted about medical or dental crap that I could care less about, while I silently spooned spicy daal and rice into my mouth.  When I was younger, people asked me when I was going to finish law school.  After the twins, I think they benignly wrote me off.  Not only was I white, I wasn’t a professional something-or-other.

Or was I just judging myself?

I’ve thrown myself into raising my kids, and until recently, forgot I was a person outside of being a mom.  I’ve been room mom, field trip chaperone, classroom helper, chauffeur, and room mom. I’ve spent entire mind-numbing school days at driving around town to find the right soccer cleats, and shopping for the perfect teacher appreciation gifts.  I’ve been bored, stressed, and craved conversations about something other than my kids.  I’ve yelled at them, I’ve nagged them, and I’ve cried when they’ve told me they hate me.  But, I’ve also gotten the good stuff.

When the school nurse calls me about a sick kid, I am the one that gets to hold a cool cloth on their foreheads when I bring them home.  When they come home from a long day of middle school drama, I am the one they share their frustrations with as we sit at the kitchen counter and eat a bowl of popcorn. And when they forget a major research paper because they were up all night typing it and forgot it on the printer, I get to save their butts and bring it to them at school.

My kids are now 20 and 18, with the twins at fourteen, and the youngest is seven. I’ve found myself once again now, not as a lawyer, but as a writer, and I crave the excitement I feel crafting my own future on the page.  Would my kids say I was a great mom to them because I stayed home to raise them?  Hell no. I guess they get to have it all, either.

Who gets to have it all?  I don’t think anyone ever does.  Fulfillment is different for the Indras of the world, for the cousins and friends, for the elevator people and all the rest. And that’s okay.  I just do my best to accept and be peaceful with all the little choices that add up to my life.  I love as much as I can, and like we all do, I always, always search to create something sweet to look forward to.

Family Pic 2014








Line of Sight

dsc_5204A few months ago, I was talking to my father on the phone. He asked me how I was doing and as I am programmed to do, I said, “I’m fine.” But he knew I was NOT fine and he pushed a little harder and asked me why I seemed so distracted and not like myself. Because apparently, I am usually a fine tuned and effervescent bubbly thing.

Snort.

And so I told him about some things that were bothering me. Some uncertainties that had crept into my life which had made me doubt myself. I wouldn’t say that I was having a pity party for myself, but … ok, I actually WAS. It was pitiful how much self-pitying was happening at this really not fun party. To which I had invited nobody but myself. It felt only right to finally extend an invitation to my father.

I expected my father to tell me to snap out of it. At times like this, he likes to talk about God and believing in God’s plan, and as someone who is not very religious, he will usually lose me here as my eyes glaze over and I listen to how I am supposed to put my faith and trust in G to the O to the D.

But that’s not my belief system and so at times like this, I usually find little comfort in my father’s words.

But on this day, my father surprised me. He didn’t talk about God. He didn’t ask me to pray. He didn’t even tell me to meditate, which is another one of his favorite solutions for my problems. On this day, he shared with me one of his own stories of feeling grave uncertainty in his life.

I have written before on my blog that my father is nearly blind. Most likely as a result of the intense malnourishment he suffered as a child, he developed several cataracts, glaucoma and an illness called Retinitis Pigmentosa at a very young age, before he was even 40. The cataracts and glaucoma were bad enough but Retinitis Pigmentosa is a degenerative disease which basically starts on the outsides of your eyes – think your peripheral vision – and slowly starts to work its way inward until you become fully blind.

My dad didn’t know how long he had until the Retinitis worked its way completely into his eyes. He knew he had to stop driving though, because he was losing vision at such a rapid pace that it was frightening.

At the same time, my father was scared. He had to earn a living and he had to support his family in America and help those he could in India.

As things turned out, it was during this time that my father learned that he was laid off from his job after several staff cuts. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Not only was being unemployed a challenge, but he now had this handicap that could prevent him from being able to find a job. In addition, he didn’t know how long he had until he lost his eyesight.

I think about how scary this time must have been for my father. I think about the uncertainty that he was living with everyday and am amazed at how positive he remained, for I recall him during this time and had no idea of the burden that he was bearing on his shoulders. He did not share his fears with me as a child, and I am grateful because I don’t know if I could have handled seeing that fear.

My father ultimately found a job – one in NYC which he could commute to by public transportation. He had to make some compromises to make it work, but he did what he had to do with the situation he had been dealt.

My father shared this story with me to remind me that we all go through times where things look bleak or our options feel limited. That everybody has to go through some uncertainty in life. Sometimes there are no clear answers or solutions waiting for us on the other side of our uncertainty.

But there is a way. There always is a way.

On that day when I was talking to my dad, I wasn’t ready to embrace the positive or hopeful that could be around the bend which I couldn’t see or touch. Instead, I was focused on the negative which seemed so much more real in that moment. Hearing my father tell me his story made me realize how different things would have been had my father only chosen to embrace the negative, which he was getting pounded by. How different would his life be if he had let himself be defeated by a diagnosis that assured him he would be robbed of sight before I graduated from high school? (FYI – he can still see today. It’s limited, but he can see more than any of the doctors anticipated).

My father may be nearly blind, but he was able to see the possibility in the positive, something which many people with sight, myself included, often overlook. And I am so grateful. So freaking grateful that he did.








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