Priming the pump when your well runs dry

In our day to day whizzing about, our feet hit the floor running. Work; kids; relationships; meal planning, shopping, and preparation; laundry; cleaning; errands; ferrying people about; making and keeping appointments; volunteering; providing a shoulder to cry on… 
We give and give and give, sooner or later to have nothing left to sustain ourselves, let alone anyone else. Then where are we, and all of those who depend on us? 
The problem is that we think we don’t have the time, the money, or deserve to do the types of things that are indispensable in keeping us sane. They need not be time consuming or expensive. And it’s not necessary to resort to alcohol or other chemicals for relief or relaxation.
  • Pamper yourself. Light some candles, put on some relaxing music, and luxuriate in a bubble bath (you’ve seen what a nice bath will do for wound-up kids).
  • Go to a beauty salon just to get your hair washed, or find someone willing to sit quietly and brush your hair or rub your feet.


  • Visit a library or book store. Browse an area that is of special interest, be it travel, art, garden, cooking, poetry, inspirational, or some other topic of wonder. Children’s books are great fun to look at. You may come across one from your childhood; certainly, you will discover some new ones with stories or illustrations that will take your breath away or bring tears to your eyes.


  • Allow yourself daily contact with nature. Smell the flowers, the fresh-cut grass, the soil. Lookup through the branches of a tree and drink in the many shades of green as the sunlight filters through the leaves. Revel in the gentle breeze, the bird song, the crickets, and cicadas making their music. Watch the squirrels and their antics, the sparrows tormenting the crows. Visit the spider that is bound to be spinning a web someplace in the yard. Wonder at how all of life has its own routines and boundaries…
  • Get yourself some really nice colored pencils and a coloring book geared toward calming the frazzled minds of adults- Roger Burrows’ Images, OptiDesigns, Mandalas, Coloring Books for Women. Coloring is very relaxing.
You may notice that I tend to suggest things that seem more appropriate for children. We all have an inner child and being able to access him/her is very useful in connecting on a deeper level with the children in our lives. Not only that, but we can give ourselves the nurturance we wanted and may not have gotten as a child. 
That said, it is my firm belief that even adults should have a stash of toys of their very own. I keep a drawer of toys in my office: bubbles, slide whistle, magic wand filled with glitter, slinky, kaleidoscope, magnet sculpture, Jacob’s ladder, Koosh ball, and a snugly stuffed animal that is actually a comfort to me when I am sad or lonely. My personal favorite is a handheld labyrinth that serves to collect my thoughts when they scatter following intense and extended concentration or spending a few hours in the company of several children all vying for my attention. 
Make your own list of ideas for when you just can’t take it anymore! In the end, we must rely only upon ourselves to provide the nurturing our soul so desperately craves, to fill our spirit so that we can care for those who need us, and stay on top of the many other demands in our lives. To expect it from someone else leads only to disappointment and resentment.
RDW (2007, revised 2010)

Are We There Yet??


As summer approaches we start fantasizing about hitting the road, but the reality of traveling with little kids brings our revelry to a screeching halt. So many of us are intimidated by the idea of making a long trip with very young children, but doing so is not only great fun, it lays the groundwork for a future of traveling undaunted by mere distance. 


Given that we have family in New England and California, our kids became accustomed to entrapment in their car seats for many hours on end, and to this day we all love long road trips. That is not to say that we didn’t learn many lessons the hard way. I am here today to spare you some of these headaches.


First of all, make a comprehensive list of the things you will be needing to bring along. When you are finished with it, put it someplace (e.g., your underwear drawer) where you can find it for future reference. Likewise, keep a copy of house notes left for the person caring for pets and plants, etc. so you don’t have to write new ones each time you go away. Changes can be made as necessary before the next trip, without having to create the whole thing from scratch.


Bring along lots of nutritious snacks and drinks. Stopping in parks or playgrounds for snack or lunch, and runaround time will make the next stretch of travel much easier. You can spend an hour having a picnic and getting the wiggles out instead of having to further restrain the children in a diner. If you plan to go the restaurant route for meals, go on-line and map out the locations of some acceptable choices. Having to search high and low for someplace to eat with a car full of hungry, cranky kids is not fun! (Remember to do a headcount when leaving a pit stop. Driving off without one of the children happens far more often than one would expect!) 


Packing a bag of “stuff” (notebook, crayons or colored pencils, small toys, books, a deck of cards, a ball or Frisbee for pit stops) for each child to keep themselves entertained is most useful. Or, you may want to dole these playthings out one at a time every hour or so.


Never travel without a large box of Ziplocs and a couple of bath towels kept within easy reach in case of a sudden onset of carsickness. The bags don’t leak and the smell is contained until you are able to dispose of it. 


Perhaps most critical is lots of kid-friendly music that parents can fall in love with and tolerate listening to hundreds of times because this is what kids do. It doesn’t have to be “kid’s music”- so much of that becomes terribly annoying in short order. But there are a few gems out there. Our very favorite children’s artist is Tom Chapin. He is a singer storyteller and in my opinion a talented genius who either knows kids extremely well or has a vivid recollection of childhood. 


Exposing children to a wide variety of music is a gift that lasts a lifetime. You can’t go wrong with the Putamayoseries of world music, Benny Goodman(big band/jazz), folk music (Peter, Paul, and Mary; the Weavers), or classical music that tells a story (Carnival of the Animals, Fantasia


While you may be tempted by the possibility of keeping the kids occupied through the use of a DVD player, keep in mind that when children are watching TV, they are missing a world of first-hand experience. Children become so excited when they see a herd of cattle, or the huge sculpture of a dinosaur, or various other landmarks. 


Numerous travel games keep the whole family entertained. Have everyone in the car pick a color and count cars. See how many different states can be identified on license plates. Play word games. (I learned how to read playing the alphabet game using the signs we passed).


You may be surprised to remember the large repertoire of songs you learned as a youngster in school or in scouts. Even if you can only remember part of a song, it is very easy to find the lyrics on-line. Kids love learning the silly songs we learned as children.


Of course, long road trips with little (and not so little) ones are not all fun and games. There are the inevitable spats that have a way of escalating to unacceptable proportions. Pulling over to the side of the road, turning the ignition off and sitting quietly (without letting yourself get sucked into the fray) until they decide it’s time to move on is most effective in restoring the peace. In extreme situations, removing a child from the car (regardless of weather, and always with close parental supervision) provides a clear message that the behavior will not be tolerated.


When planning a road trip, including all family members creates a team spirit. Discuss beforehand the expectations, limits, and consequences of certain behaviors. When children are equipped with this information ahead of time, they are eager to cooperate; and if it becomes necessary to enforce disciplinary measures, it is by choice of the person misbehaving .- RDW (5-13-10)

The Joys of a Good Dump

We write to communicate, make lists, leave messages, write thank-yous, correspond with family and friends, share recipes, arrange for events, leave reminders, fill out applications, pay bills, make labels, give directions, make complaints, take minutes… The list goes on and on.

Then there are those of us who write because we have to. We have something to say, to explain, to teach, to understand, to envision, to brainstorm, to remember. We need the page to seek answers, put things in perspective, come to terms. We write to create a record, an illustration of the evolution of our families and ourselves. We want to leave something behind that is tangible.

Are you kidding?? I don’t have time for that. Besides that, I can’t write!
Relax. Writing can take different forms and need not be the least bit intimidating.
In Success is a Journey, Jeffrey J. Mayer recommends creating what he calls a “master list”. This is no ordinary, “manageable” to-do list. This is a mind dump! Get yourself a small notebook (4×6”). Make a list of every single thing you think you need or want, or wish to do or have: obligations, home improvements, events, things that you really want to do with your family, places you wish to go, shopping lists, chores, decorating ideas, recipes, every single thing that has been running around in your mind keeping you awake at night and making you feel stressed and miserable
I keep mine in my purse year-round for writing movie ideas, books I want to read, great quotes, gift ideas, garden ideas. Even if you don’t use it as a checklist (I rarely even refer to mine), you can look back at it another time and be amazed by how much you have accomplished, or how much it didn’t matter. Plus, it serves as a diary of sorts.
(Remember this: So often when we are beating ourselves up for not getting this or that done, it is the result of our own unrealistic self-expectations. Once I realized that no one else knows how much I don’t get done, it didn’t matter as much!)
Another form of writing is journaling. Journaling is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It had been recommended over and over before I finally decided that I was willing to do whatever was necessary to be a better parent and a better person, and this turned out to be the ticket.
The challenge comes not only in being faithful but in completing the three pages that are necessary to untangle the mess that clutters our thought processes, preventing us from fulfilling our deepest dreams and fullest potential.
Now, three pages is a lot to write every day and at times you will find yourself at a loss for what to write. So you look around you and write about the mess, or how lovely your house is, or the weather, or any random thing and before you know it, you have found another thread to unravel.
Setting aside time for journaling- each morning, or while the kids are doing their homework, or after they are in bed- will change your life. It helps one to center; to work out conflict, anger, depression; to plan and dream… When you have those old negative tapes running around inside your head (“I’m fat, ugly, stupid, a bad mother, a bitch, blah, blah, blah…”), you can get them out, over and over if need be until they become so diluted they become meaningless; or you realize that you can only whine so much about something before you recognize that the only way things are going to change is if you do something about them!
Writing helps to keep your mind free so that other thoughts and inspirations may enter. When you go back to reread your pages at a different time in your life, not only do you have a record of happenings, you are able to see just how far you have come on life’s path.
When I get out of the discipline of writing a full three pages every day, I become out of sorts and lost. Like the Master List, it keeps my mind open to inspiration and the positive energy that helps us to create the life we are meant to have.
You deserve to do this for yourself. Still, need convincing? This will set an amazing example for your kids. And isn’t that what being a good parent is all about? -RDW (2007, revised 2010)

My Perfect Day


I stumble through my days in a perpetual state of discombobulation and oblivion, sifting through my thoughts for my current intention, wading through chaos for the object I seek. I long for clarity. Repeatedly, it occurs to me that my mind is a reflection of the clutter that smothers me at home and at work. Approaching my day is like walking through a sand storm. 

I try to convince myself and others that my approach enhances my life through the flexibility it offers. By winging it through my days, I remain open to the flashes of inspiration that occur so suddenly, and fleetingly. Still, how much more fulfilling my life could be if my mind were not a swarm of gnats, filled with the distraction that so interferes with the perfectibility of my days. Ah… to create a perfect day would require more hours than we are given. Would that I had the wherewithal to construct my days just so…

I awaken before anyone else in time to take advantage of my mind in its relaxed state and without distraction. It is still and dark, the sky just beginning to lighten in the east. I enter the kitchen which remains in the clean and tidy state of the previous evening. I savor the aroma of coffee as it culminates in gurgle and whoosh. The kitties wrap themselves around my ankles in purring contentment as I prepare their morning meal. I pour my coffee, settle comfortably in the living room, warm laptop alleviating the slight chill I feel. My eyes sweep the artful rugs, books lined neatly on the shelves, tasteful knickknacks, paintings, stained glass lamps that provide a warm glow to the woodwork. The scent of freshly mowed grass and lilacs wafts in on the morning breeze. Strains of George Winston play quietly in the background, filling me with the memory of young love. 
I am ready to begin my work: developing curriculum, writing an inspiring newsletter, planning for the coming season. Today I do the final draft of a piece of writing in preparation for Writers and Friends. The next hour is spent completely absorbed in the task at hand, and I am surprised when I hear the first wake up call upstairs, provided by the morning news. I slip back into our room for a warm snuggle with my beloved. We laugh and talk and listen to the stirrings of our sons.

I return to the living room to spend the next hour with my journal, dreaming, writing about the hilarious or invigorating or disturbing events of the previous day, taking inventory, making lists… This is perhaps the most important thing that I can do for myself, for when I am neglectful of this task, I become unhappy, irritable and discontent. Golden sunshine suddenly floods the living room as the sun makes it’s way over the hills in the east.

The shower is running constantly as the boys begin their synchronized morning ablutions. The slightest delay on the part of one leads to a squabble, but thankfully they are old enough to work these things out among themselves. They crash down the stairs to begin the kitchen dance in which they move about each other in relative silence, making their lunches and preparing breakfast among themselves. The house is a flurry of activity and swift goodbyes, abruptly silenced as they rush out into their day.

I close my journal, relieved that I have started the day off on the right foot. I descend to the basement to put a load of laundry in. Then clattering about the kitchen, singing along to Simon and Garfunkel or Cat Stevens, or the Moody Blues, I load the dishwasher, put things away, clean the counter, sweep the floor, and think about what to make for tomorrow evening’s meal. Gathering the ingredients, I start a pot of soup and pull a container of spaghetti sauce from the freezer. Once the soup is on, I head upstairs to make my bed, collect laundry, and shower. I luxuriate under the hot water with my favorite scented soap and shampoo. I further pamper myself with lotion and fresh, crisp, clean clothes. As I step into the hall, the fragrance of the soup prolongs my sensual delight. But now I need to step up my pace as I throw the laundry into the dryer, eat my own breakfast, and walk briskly to work. The day is perfect: clear, green, kissed with dew and the scent of new spring.

The phone is ringing when I enter the building and one of my closest friends is wanting to make a date for lunch. It has been some time since we have seen one another and my heart soars. I take a moment to return phone calls before the children arrive and thank heavens that I have mended my ways and left the building in readiness for today’s class. There is a plan, and everything that I will be needing for the day is ready in a place where it will be easily accessible. The children arrive happy and expectant, playing together while I speak briefly with parents. When the parents have left, I check in with each child. One presents a masterpiece that she has created for me.

The day goes smoothly, there are no tussles between children, everyone likes the snack I have chosen for the day, we have created works of art that make us proud, learned of something new, loved a story that had not been heard, and danced the wiggles out. The children depart, leaving me once again in silence.

My friend arrives for our lunch date and we go to a new place we have just discovered. We become so immediately absorbed in deep conversation that we lose ourselves and have forgotten to look at the menu. When lunch arrives, it so hits the spot that I swoon with pleasure. The world once again recedes as we resume our heart to heart, feeling completely at peace with one another as we divulge our innermost thoughts and concerns. Neither of us is in a big hurry, so we stop to browse our favorite garden center and come across a plant once seen, and since coveted. Not only that, there is a perfect spot for it in the garden. On the way back to my house, we burst into side-splitting laughter that hurts, brings tears to our eyes and leads both of us to dribble a tiny bit. We acknowledge to one another the amazing, incredible gift that is our friendship.

Traces of Eau de soup greet me as I enter the house looking forward to a well-deserved nap. I’m exhausted and have no trouble drifting into that state of total relaxation in which I am at the surface of deep slumber, thoughts wandering about non-sensibly between the strains of music penetrating my consciousness. I awaken feeling refreshed and rested to the sounds of boys horsing around downstairs and to the scent of fresh coffee. We banter over music that rather jars my senses and I feel intense gratitude for their presence in my life. I wish I could stay home with them, but have places to go and people to see.

My writing partner pulls up out front as I gather the things I need for the rest of the afternoon. I am filled with anticipation as we greet one another and pull out of the driveway. I heave the accustomed sigh of contentment as we enter the building and then settle in the garden for a bit of catch up before we turn our attention to the matter at hand. I marvel that spirit has brought the two of us together in our writing pursuits, because we make an awesome sounding board for one another, providing one another with support and encouragement and inspiration. The allotted time flies by and we part with a sense of magnetism toward our next writing endeavor.

I reluctantly turn to matters of business: phone calls, bills, classroom preparation for the following day. By now, I must summon my reserves, and thankfully get a second wind and so accomplish the necessary tasks before going home.

As I enter the house, I am greeted with the mouth-watering aroma of spaghetti and warm bread, my timing perfect. The table is set, and my dear husband greets me with a warm hug and kiss. The boys clamber in the kitchen as I serve up dinner. I am so tired that I eat in comfortable silence as I drink in the circle of love and appreciation and respect that flows between the six of us. The table is cleared and the kitchen cleaned up by the boys while my husband and I relax in the living room reviewing the day together.

I move into the evening by planting the garden treasure acquired earlier in the day, enlivening my soul-nurturing gardens as my spirit becomes one with the running water, the birdsong, children’s laughter, and the warm breeze rustling in the leaves. The phone rings. It is my Robin calling to discuss plans for our next visit. – RDW (6-23-08)




Babysitting Basics

One of the hazards of winter is going stir crazy trapped in a house full of kids. If you don’t have a sitter, the time to get one is now! Good sitters are few and far between, but if you can find a responsible 7th or 8th grader, usually they are not so involved with extra-curricular activities and homework that they are never available. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have him or her around for a few years!

There are a few things that you will want to clarify with the person you are entrusting your children to:
  • Check references! Referral from someone you trust is ideal.
These things need to be negotiated prior to the first job:
  • What are her (or his!) rates? Often, teens don’t have enough experience or assertiveness training to quote a fee for their services. You should have an idea what others are paying per hour, per child. For example, you may pay $5 per hour for the first child and $2 for each additional child. Check the rates in your community.
  • Does s/he have a driver’s license? A car? Will you be needing to pick your sitter up or do they have another way get to your house. The employer usually bears responsibility for getting the sitter home after dark. Do you want to allow your child to ride with others? Are the required car seats available? Is there someone available for transport in the unlikely event of emergency.
  • Are you looking for someone who is available evenings? weekends? 
  • Invite him/her over to meet the children and to discuss routines, bedtime rituals, discipline, playmates, outings, and activities
  • Discuss special needs your kids have regarding diet, health problems, allergies, fears, etc.
  • Show where phones, emergency phone numbers, first aid kit, flashlights, smoke alarms, thermostat, and message board are located.
  • Schedule a practice session: stay in the background, observe how s/he interacts with your children. Explain things s/he does well, point out what needs to be done differently.
  • Make clear your rules for her, preferably in writing: regarding homework, TV (e.g., only PBS, no other TV unless kids are asleep), computer use, snacks, no company, no texting while the kids are awake, no smoking in the house or around kids, no spanking, tidy up after self and children, and any other guidelines you deem appropriate.

Note: The Red Cross offers a six hour baby-sitting course that covers multiple aspects of baby-sitting including responsibility, leadership, safety, handling, and first aid in emergency situations. They may be able to refer a teen who has completed the training, or you may want to encourage your novice sitter to attend a session. For more information, contact your local Red Cross chapter.- RDW 3-3-09

Getting a Jump Start on the Holidays

It has occurred to me that my most enjoyable holiday season was the one where I had actually planned ahead and incorporated holiday preparations into our normal day to day activities from early on. Try it. It is so rewarding!

  • It is apple season, so stock up on apples this fall. Picking apples is a very fun family activity. Can’t work it in to your busy schedule? Farm markets seem quite charming to young children, and even the grocery store has good apples now. Visit a cider press and see how cider is made; it freezes easily and can be used throughout the winter as needed. Apple sauce is easy to make and can be frozen as well, to be served with a pork roast or in a holiday confection. And while you are immersed in apples, why not get a few friends together to make lots of apple pies for the freezer. Take an unbaked pie out as needed, pop it in the oven and- voila- fresh baked home made apple pie! Allowing children to see where these staples come from provides an opportunity to learn about process and the work involved before these commodities reach the shelves; to their knowledge these things come from “the store”.
  • On a rainy afternoon make your favorite cut out cookies for the freezer to decorate later. This will afford the extra time necessary for child involvement, without the added tension of limited time and an overwhelming holiday to do list. And remember this: some cookie recipes are better without decorations!
  • Have a Girls Night Out with your friends to cook and freeze for the holidays: soups, casseroles, baked goods, dishes to pass. This will allow a night for friendship and hilarity or heart to heart, when ordinarily we are reluctant to indulge ourselves because there is simply too much to do.
  • Go on a fall nature walk with the kids. Collect dried milk weed pods, teazles, acorns, chestnuts and pine cones, etc for making angels, wreathes, and other ornaments. There are numerous children’s nature craft books filled with ideas and methods for making gifts and decorations.
  • Rotate with other moms (or dads!) to do gift projects with the kids. If three parents take turns, each will have a couple of hours to do whatever needs to be done, be that wrapping or spending some quiet time to oneself. Perhaps more importantly, having the kids involved in such a hands on way in their gifting to others, the focus becomes more on the excitement involved with giving rather than the commercial aspects of receiving.
  • If you are like me, you start collecting gifts months ahead of time as you find the perfect remembrance for those dear to you. Wrap gifts as you get them, or have them wrapped (eg, lots of places have free wrapping sponsored by various organizations- make a small donation, save lots of time and money on wrap). Make sure to keep a well-hidden list, lest your mind is a sieve like mine!
  • Start writing those holiday greeting cards to long lost friends. Writing letters in longhand is such good therapy, and doesn’t take too long if you do one or two at a time. Most people would rather receive a personal, handwritten letter from a long lost friend or relative than to receive another something that they have no use for. Then squirrel the cards away where you will find them, for mailing the day after Thanksgiving!

We want so badly to create family traditions and to provide the magical experience we like to remember. All too often the holidays are upon us, and we try to achieve a set of unrealistic self-imposed expectations that makes us and everyone around us miserable. By jump starting preparation, we are able to actually relax and enjoy the season in a way we would not have thought possible.

RDW (9-24-09)

Gracious Acceptance

One of my very favorite movies is Pay It Forward. It is about a young middle school student challenged by his social studies teacher to develop and implement a plan to make the world a better place. The boy takes in a down and out homeless person and helps him get on his feet, making a huge impact on the quality of this young man’s life. He in turn is required to have a part in improving the lives of three other people in need, who are required to do the same, and so on. I love this story.
Throughout our lives, there are times when we are faced with the necessity of accepting help from other people. My biggest issue happens to be with transportation. Newly independent, I used to leave the house at 3:30 a.m. to walk the six and a half miles to the town where my ride to work lived. He insisted on coming to pick me up; I absolutely refused on the grounds that I could never impose on someone like that. So he felt guilty, and I felt exhausted.  
Late one night years later, my husband and I were driving to visit a friend who lived in the middle of nowhere, and the battery on our car became so run down that we had no headlights to speak of. We were crawling along the pitch black and twisting road when a young couple came along and offered to guide us to our destination. It involved these people going 30 miles out of their way. They insisted, assuring us they had nothing better to do. Upon our arrival, they turned to go back from whence they came, and being quite broke, all we could do was to wish them the same good fortune one day. It was an amazing experience for all of us. Now, every time I have a chance to do something extraordinary for someone else, I think of those two kids.
It is not easy to accept help or a gift. Someone offers to help us do something we would not otherwise be able to do (physically, financially, or through any number of limitations) and we feel beholden to him or her to return the favor or gift. It is not necessary or expected in most cases. People are good; they want to help. Doing something for someone else feels good! And you will certainly have an opportunity to lend a hand to someone else down the line.
Setting an example by involving children in random acts of kindness has a powerful impact on the type of people they grow up to be. Children need to learn that doing for others is at least as gratifying as being the recipient of material things, They need see us doing things because it is the right thing to do, rather than because we expect something in return. Likewise, they need to learn not only that it is okay to ask for and accept help when it is needed, but how to do it as well.
We need more random acts of kindness in this world. If we are on the receiving end, we need to learn grace in acceptance, and remember the pleasure we derive from an opportunity to do the same.

RDW 05-26-07, revised 10-8-09

Practicing the art of letting go

You are feeling desperate to get your youngest potty trained and he absolutely refuses. Your teenagers are making bad choices. You can’t get your spouse to stop drinking. You’re involved in a relationship that is not progressing in the direction you were hoping for. Your parents are aging and you are no longer able to care for them yourself. Someone at work can’t stand you for no apparent reason. The world seems to be falling apart and there is nothing you can do about it.
Things that we are powerless over happen every day as we scurry through our lives.
My first conscious experience of letting go was when I was in college and needed to get to a final exam on the other campus, and the shuttle bus was running late. I was fervently praying for the bus to appear, willing the traffic to make way for us, the lights to be green, when it occurred to me that I would be late and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
When raising children, it is critical to learn the art of letting go. Priorities drastically change and we must sacrifice so much of what had previously been taken for granted: time to oneself, intelligent conversation with another adult, time with friends, order, routine, sleep, a complete thought, and the freedom to just be.
As parents we feel so protective of our progeny that we want to spare them the pain of growing up. We are inclined to intervene on their behalf when it is better to let them stand up for themselves.
Letting go is to allow learning through natural consequences. For instance, I have known many well- meaning parents to drop everything to take lunch, gym clothes or a musical instrument to their elementary student, over and over again. I was not in a position to do this, so my children learned after once having to borrow lunch money or beg off of friends; wearing the spare set of clothes kept in the phys ed department for this purpose; and having to sit through music lessons despite the fact that they didn’t have an instrument to play. Meanwhile, the parent who enables this forgetfulness to go on, continues running back and forth to school several times a month.
Letting go is understanding that you can’t do it for someone else. Your child is the one who needs to finish a project in the way s/he sees fit. You can guide and even assist if asked, but if you do it for him, he is learning that he is incompetent. On the other hand, if the teacher makes him do it over, he learns that more is expected of him.
Letting go is allowing someone to be who they are without judgment. For example, nothing we do or say will change someone who tends to be messy and disorganized into a neatnik. Changing the way we react to a child’s cluttered room (helping to clean it, or closing the door on the mess) is much less frustrating than beating our head against the wall with endless nagging. 
Letting go is not trying to arrange outcomes of other people’s lives, for we each have our own lessons to learn. When we assert ourselves on behalf of our children by defending them when they get in trouble, or are graded unfairly, or not chosen for the lead in a play, we are denying them the experience and satisfaction of standing up for themselves, or coming to terms with a decision that affects them. Children grow from these experiences, and if we intervene every time they encounter a bit of rough going, they cannot learn to become independent.
There are days when the Serenity Prayer becomes my mantra: Accept the things I cannot change (e.g., my child’s temperament, the choices other people make); change the things I can; and hope that I am wise enough to know the difference. I repeat it over and over and over to the exclusion of the relentless negative thoughts that are making me miserable (he thinks I’m stupid and unreasonable; I’m always the bad guy; they don’t take me seriously). Compartmentalizing a situation in this way makes it tremendously more manageable.
Children are champs at letting go. If they squabble amongst themselves, they move on as quickly as they are distracted from the current bone of contention. They have so much to teach us. Once I threw my arms up in exasperation and pleaded “what am I going to do with you?” My wise little 2 ½ year old replied, “Hug me.” – RDW (07-03-10)

Napping is not optional

Make no mistake. Little kids will take a nap if it is routine and non-negotiable. It’s true. Nap time needs to be a priority, not worked around errands and phone calls and play dates. 

You will notice that children sleep more during a growth spurt. That’s what children do; no matter how often you admonish them to stop growing, they grow. There must be a routine for sleep.
Be consistent about when it is time for nap. When my kids were little, if nap time was to work, we had to have lunch and cleanup behind us between 12:15 and 12:45 or they would get their second wind and be going strong until late afternoon when they would either fall apart completely or crash until bed time. Some of my friends gave me such a hard time for being so anal about it, but my kids (and I!) were so much happier for our days revolving around nap time.
Plenty of fresh air, light and exercise before hand needs to be part of the routine. (One of our favorite things to do when our kids were little was to find out when the marching band practiced and chase them around the block a couple of times.)

 Good timing

If you give your kids a wholesome lunch such as whole grains, dairy products, rice and eggs to name a few, these will help to encourage sleep because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep. Giving children junk food for lunch is certain to sabotage your efforts.

Establish a nap routine. Just like adults, kids need a few minutes to wind down if they’ve been running around. Story time and a song is a good prelude. If you do this routinely with your kids, they will begin to associate the activity with falling asleep. 

Pull the shades down, turn off the tv and the ringer on the phone. You might want to play soft music. After the kids are asleep, use the time for yourself- reading, writing, dozing, doing something creative. The housework can wait. Taking that time for yourself will make you a better parent.

It is so unfortunate that generally speaking, a nice nap in the early afternoon is frowned upon. I have always had a hard time staying awake after lunch. In fact, when I was working in the field of social work, I learned quickly not to schedule appointments with clients between the hours of one and three in the afternoon. It is amazing how intolerant people can be when you drift off as they are baring their soul. So I would bring a jolt of caffeine to my office and do paperwork during that time. And remain sluggish for the afternoon. Then I discovered the magic of putting my head down on my desk for 20 minutes.
Bad timing

I have mentioned that when my children were young, my soul purpose in the mornings was to wear them out so they would all go down for a nice long nap. When they eventually outgrew naps (after they became accustomed to kindergarten), I remained cranky and lethargic until the end of the day. Until I realized that naps are as beneficial to us as they are for kids. In fact, as Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance proclaims, “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, napping is not optional.”

Several years ago, I was blessed with the gift of being surrogate mother to a one- year-old boy. In my effort to make his time in strange surroundings with people he did not know less lonely, I stayed in the room with him as he went down for nap, so that he would not wake up completely adrift, not knowing where he was. Little did I (and does he!) know that he gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.
Nap time offers an opportunity to let go of the mayhem. Not to be confused with sleeping, a nap is a chance to drift for a moment from the turmoil, to experience your inner being, your soul, the essence of who you are… That state of half sleep allows you to work out creative solutions to any number of things. Having gotten into the routine of letting my self be quiet, I realized how critical to the contentment of my soul this disconnect time has become. When I am finished, I can get up and do another full days work. RDW(4-30-10)

Booking the lives of children

     When my children were young they played Little League baseball and attended scouts. Many of our friends’ children did as well, in addition to their piano lessons, dance, karate, and church school. 
     It seemed as I spoke with other parents that this level of involvement with extra curricular activities was the norm and I began to question my own instincts to let the kids have the time I thought was necessary for creative play, for discovering who they are without being bombarded with scheduled activities. In a moment of self-doubt, I asked my sons if they felt gypped because their friends got to do all of these things and they didn’t. “No! I like to play!” 
     And play they did. They built forts and went in search of stream critters and made treasure maps and played Hide and Seek and Capture the Flag. They had neighborhood Olympics and read great books, created masterpieces with sidewalk chalk, made potions, climbed trees, kept detailed notes as they spied on one another, had back yard carnivals, and played kick ball. 
     It was a rare occurrence to hear them complain that they were bored. TV time, including video, was limited to an hour per day. Computer time was limited to 30 minutes per day, or an hour after they turned ten to accommodate more sophisticated activities.
     So many kids today have little time just to be. There is so much pressure on us as parents to live up to the standards of the people around us. I want to laugh and cry when I see the Baby Einstein and educational materials designed to create little geniuses and when the children can’t live up to being the best, most brilliant, most athletic, most fashionable kid on the block, excelling at each thing put before them, then clearly they (or their parents) are a failure. What pressure they endure from the most well meaning of loved ones!  
     I have come to believe that the thing that matters most is that they are fully aware of their own inner light, that they are able to call on their inner resources: creativity, courage, contentedness, acceptance, forgiveness, and happiness. Allowing the time to discover who they are in this world without the constant intervention on the part of the adults in their lives. Guidance yes. Loving support and encouragement, by all means. But trying to mold them into the some preconceived notion of perfection, or into the person we wish we had become can only be detrimental to their well-being.- RDW (6-26-07)