6 years ago I received a birthday gift from my parents – it was the generous birthday check I received each year. Since my birthday is July 10, it was disconcerting seeing the check dated for 10-10-10. My husband encouraged me to point out the error to my father, as it would be difficult to do anything with a check that has a date well into the future. But I chose not to. I figured I would hold onto the check for a while.
My father died on 10-10-10. There were giant balloons in the airport that day. Big 10’s filled with helium. I remember them as I was rushing to get to his bedside. I remember the call I received that it was too late and the tissues and water bottles strangers brought to me as I cried beside the bouncing Mylar balloons.
I didn’t remember that birthday check until several months later.
For the years that passed by after my father’s death, I hoped that I would dream about him. My siblings and mother reported experiences — some difficult and some wonderful — where they met him in their dreams. I just wanted to find my father in a dream too.
Time went by and I still could not find him in any dream. Until October 2015. On October 22, 2015, I dreamt about my father. I heard someone walk into another room. I walked into that room and there he was. He was dressed in a suit and he looked wonderful. He gazed at me and then at the beautiful young lady beside me and then he slowly knelt down in tears as he realized he was meeting my new daughter.
There were no words. I just felt his acceptance and love and I also woke up knowing the answer to a question that we struggled to find. In addition to gaining our last name, our newest child wanted us to give her a middle name as well.
That night while in bed I didn’t ask for my father to appear in a dream, in fact I was more focused on our upcoming adoption. I prayed for our family and for assistance with finding her a middle name.
Upon waking up that October morning, it was obvious what our daughter’s middle name would be – she would be named in honor of the grandfather she never met.
The entire time I was looking for my father, he was with me the whole time. He is the voice in my head when I need him most.
© 2016, michelefried.com
My mom (pictured here with me) used to say she just wants all of her children to be healthy and happy. I know that is still her wish today. That’s what I want for my children. But I want them to be good too.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ~ Desmond Tutu
Preparing for a trip to Jerusalem this past summer, I asked my son and his pregnant wife if they had a special prayer they wanted me to bring to the Western Wall. “Yes,” they said and without a thought my son replied, “I want the baby to be good.”
There were giggles from his siblings and an “Oh Jordan!” from another. But in that moment so many thoughts and prayers rushed back to me. I too wanted good children.
In that moment my son’s hopes for his baby could have been superficial – I hope the baby is adorable and sleeps through the night – but to me being good has a deeper meaning.
I guess it would be easier to say Be Kind. Be Gentle. Be Fair. Be Loving. But Be Good says so much more. Goodness is not an action. It is a trait within you and it is a quality to constantly strive for. The closest I can come to defining Be Good is to be a human being. A Mensch.
A Rabbi’s wife, upon making a referral of a couple who wanted to desperately be parents, and adopt through the adoption agency I founded, said to me: “Get them a good baby.” At first I was surprised. What did she mean? Why would the Rabbi’s wife put so much pressure on me? It took me a long time to realize that it simply was her prayer that they would be blessed with a child that had goodness within them.
Of course you may want a baby who is not colicky or who doesn’t have allergies or who is born without a disability. I know, I know. We dream about the traits we hope our children inherit from us and those we hope will disappear with the next generation. As parents we can’t help ourselves, and often find ourselves with expectations regarding parenthood and our children. But if we really think about it, we are hoping for a special kind of kid, right? Don’t you want a child that when people meet them they say, “Wow, that kid is awesome”? You know, the kind of child that stands out not because they are an athlete or an academic, though they can be, but really because they radiate goodness.
“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” ~ Dalai Lama
Children are awesome. Coursing through their veins there is this goodness – each one unique and on their own journey. I believe that every child is born a good baby. It is however the unknowns in life as to whether or not the child ends up traveling a path that has them sharing their inner goodness. For some of us it is not that easy to be good and for others it appears innate.
Children have a desire to make the world a better place, they provide unconditional love that bonds family, and they exhibit joy that is contagious. I have seen children with outstretched arms welcoming others; children with empathy that turns into action; and those with the skills that embody leadership. I’ve witnessed the bravery that allows children to keep going when adults would have given up, and I am envious of the easy humor that attracts friendships. I’ve also listened to many of their hopes and dreams for others to find the goodness in them and in those around them.
It is our job to take these amazing childhood qualities and work to keep them bright as our children grow. We can do this by recognizing these traits early and praising them and fostering them so that they can be nurtured well into older childhood and young adulthood.
Most importantly, as responsible parents we must model goodness for our children. We must be good human beings and provide them opportunities to experience life outside the family bubble. By providing our children with the tools and resources to help neighbors and the greater community they will develop a greater understanding and commitment to Tikkun Olam (acts of kindness to repair the world.)
It surprises others that I really don’t worry much about my children’s grades, their daily achievements, or how many times they have fallen and how many times they have gotten up. I care more about who they are and who they want to be. I care about how they view themselves and the world around them. I care about their hopes and dreams and their acts of kindness.
All I can ever want for my children is bundled up in my daily prayer: Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Good.
“Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained.” ~ Lao Tzu
© 2016, michelefried.com
I’ve always thought how interesting that on the very same day of someone’s happiest moments another person is struggling with the saddest of times.
I remember an adoptive mom sharing that her son’s September 11th arrival continues to be a date people don’t associate with happy thoughts. To this woman September 11 is when she became a mom. At the same time, September 11 is the date another woman grieves over the loss of the same baby, and a country mourns the loss of thousands of lives.
Other dates are less publicized but nonetheless share common stories of loved ones gained and lost. Whether we are aware of these everyday moments we should never take for granted the little things, as when it is all said and done, they will end up being the big things. The first moments, the silly gestures, the small misunderstandings, how the clouds parted, and the wind that pushed us slightly until we began to run. If we considered every breath, tear, and true belly laugh as gifts then our journey, no matter how painful, discouraging, boring, exhilarating, or happy, will be all the more special.
I recall a young girl sharing an awakening she had after complaining to her psychologist. She shared she was in so much emotional pain and the psychologist responded, “That’s amazing – feel that pain – you are alive, you are breathing, you are feeling, and that is beautiful.”
We have no control of what happens next but we have every bit of control of our reactions, what steps we choose, how we end up interpreting the experience, and what we gain from the feelings we have.
Breathe in deeply. Exhale. Be thankful for this very moment. Reach out to those who can support you in all the good and not so good the world has to offer.
My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry. ~ Maya Angelou
© 2016, michelefried.com
I do find it funny sometimes that we as individuals can easily identify negative people. However, we often do not identify the negativity displayed by us. Such negative behavior can be presented both overtly and subtlety, verbally, and non-verbally. We focus so much on negativity. How often do we focus on being positive?
“Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic. If something is not to your liking, change your liking.”
~ Rick Steves, Author
The truth about positivity – it’s really easy once you get the hang of it. It’s not about political correctness, it’s about listening, processing and reframing.
During a team building exercise at work a couple of years ago, a young social worker introduced the concept of reframing. While I was no stranger to the concept, I was unaware that there was a term known as Reframing. I loved the input shared. While reframing is rewording something a different way, I prefer to refer to it as Positive Reframing. We can always reframe something but it is important to be aware that when presented with a problem, there is always a different way to look at it. The different perspective should be positive, attempting to gain a sense of understanding and problem solving. This technique can be addictive once you get the hang of it.
“The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities—warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful—happier.” ~ Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness
Positive Reframing Examples
|It’s a problem.||It’s a challenge that we can learn from. It is an opportunity.|
|We have already tried that.||Terrific. Now we know what doesn’t seem to work. How can we approach it differently?|
|This has been a failure.||There are often many unsuccessful attempts needed in order to achieve success. What should we try differently?|
|This will set us back.||It’s an experience that will help us grow. Let’s try a different approach.|
|This didn’t go as planned.||It’s something that may be part of a much bigger and more important plan. How can we use this opportunity to move forward? That’s okay, not everything goes as planned, but let’s keep working trying.|
|We don’t have time for that.||How can we be flexible while determining what might need to be adjusted in order to identify more time? Let’s figure out a way everything can fit.|
|I don’t see the positives.||The glass is half full – not half empty. I see the positives. Let’s work together to find them.|
|Ignore them. They are always seeking attention.||I wonder what the child/person is trying to communicate to us that we aren’t getting? What do we need to do in order to better understand them? Let’s listen and share ideas.|
|There are too many limitations.||I don’t see limits here. I see opportunities.|
|There is so much to learn.||We are learning everyday. I am so excited for new learning opportunities. There are many new ideas and experiences to gain perspectives from.|
|They are difficult people.||What makes them feel difficult to you? What are their expectations? What are your expectations? Everyone is entitled to share their opinion and I have learned better how to respond and be accepting.|
|I’m freaking out.||How else could we respond to this? I have so much going on (or so much on my mind) and I am going to work to accomplish my goals to the best of my ability.|
|So much is going on.||It is a sign of positive change and growth. A lot is happening and I think it is cool and I am going to embrace it and take it as an opportunity.|
|Life is hard.||Life is about joy and learning. It may feel like a hard day but let’s embrace the challenge.|
|I don’t understand why this happened.||This situation or experience will show you something about yourself. I am excited to learn what the lesson is. Let’s look for the silver-lining.|
|They aren’t interested in getting involved.||I wonder if they feel there are barriers that may be intimidating them from participating? How might we approach them next time? Let’s respect their decision and extend an invitation to another/others.|
|I don’t think I can do it.||You are strong and your strength will guide you. You can do it. Feeling unsure is okay, I would like to see you try because I have confidence in you.|
|I need help.||I am so glad you shared that. You may have everything you need right here. Let’s look at your available resources. Let’s seek out additional tools to help.|
|This first day is not going well.||Day one: So lucky to be here. What can you do to make day two better? Day one is always the hardest, let’s find ways to embrace day two with an open mind and have fun too.|
|No one seems welcoming or friendly.||Amazing how much spirit and excitement is in one place. What can I do to meet new people? It’s hard to figure out people from the outside, introduce yourself and get to know them.|
“One great thing about a life of positivity is that it comes with no regrets.”
~ Edmond Mbiaka, Author
What I love most about positive reframing is that it allows us to not only see things differently but it permits us to learn more about ourselves and to deal with things more effectively. It causes us to seek out alternatives and recreate the scene enabling real positive action that results in very real success.
Positive Reframing can at first feel silly, but it is ultimately a powerful exercise that will change the atmosphere at work and at home. The goal is to change the “meaning” of an issue, not changing the issue itself. If there is a real challenge, then meet it head on! This provides you the opportunity to view this issue by educating and inspiring.
Start now by challenging yourself and others to reframe situations, ideas, concepts and emotions with positive alternatives. In fact, consider sharing the Positive Reframing Chart Exercise (PDF) as an activity providing family members or coworkers an opportunity to fill in their own positive responses.
“When you are joyful, when you say yes to life and have fun and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the center of every constellation, and people want to be near you.”
~ Shannon L. Alder, Author
© 2016, michelefried.com
If you’re in the middle of the ocean with no flippers and no life preserver and you hear a helicopter, this is music.
~ Tom Waits, Musician
I’ve been called a Helicopter Parent. When I first heard the term I had to take a moment to visually understand the phrase, “Ahhh you mean a parent that hovers?”
I now think the term is comical and I am not insulted by being given the label. If it means I am involved in my children’s lives, albeit. What is funny to me are the different sides people take on the topic. I didn’t know it was a debate. It reminds me of the age-old quarrel regarding working moms versus stay at home moms. I am not taking sides on that one today but this Helicopter Parent thing makes me laugh.
Am I a Helicopter Parent?
I do not do my children’s laundry. I do not pack their suitcases. I do not fight their battles. I listen, give advice (not always asked for) and certainly co-vent with them. I do not call teachers to ask for my children’s grades to increase or for them to advocate that they get chosen for a role in a play or on a team.I do not call people to intervene on my children’s behalves.Okay, once I did that and it was awesome, appreciated, and things really turned out well.Does that make me a Helicopter Parent?
Having been a member of the mom club for over 28 years, I have come to realize there are all types of moms and the definition of a Helicopter Parent varies depending upon whom you speak to. I don’t know if the term completely fits me especially when I see how some of my peers behave. I can’t call out all their behaviors for fear they will not appreciate it, but let’s say I have not even thought about doing half of the things these parents have done!
Wikipedia reports that a Helicopter Parent gets very involved with their children’s academics.Others say that Helicopter Parents are obsessed with their children’s credentials. I don’t know, doesn’t sound like me.But when it comes to being what we fondly term, the quintessential Jewish Mom, I’m all for claiming that title. Though I do fall short when it comes to being an awesome cook and so far I haven’t been a matchmaker for anyone of my kids – though I am not opposed to that!
God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers. ~ Jewish Proverb
Studies on Helicopter Parenting: How Do Helicoptered Children Turn Out?
In 2012, University of Texas Psychologist Karen Fingerman and her colleagues decided to actually study ‘Helicopter Parenting’ as did the Council on Contemporary Families whose mission is to provide the latest research and best practice findings about families.
According to the findings presented by Dr. Fingerman and her team, the children whose parents provided them with intense support experienced better outcomes. Helicoptered children actually had higher life satisfaction and more clearly defined goals.
Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families, sees a bonus to Helicopter Parenting that is becoming more obvious as time goes on.She reports it is “the enduring friendship often forged between the generations, in contrast to the ‘generation gap’ of old.” The study found that the increased closeness between parents and children is found among the healthiest children rather than the ones who are categorized as unhealthy. Parents who are very involved and unconditionally supportive have children who reach adulthood with a better sense of self and with a greater satisfaction of their lives.
Don’t Leave the House Without a Sweater
I want my children to succeed but it is more important for them to be healthy and happy.I love when they feel accomplished and I worry excessively when something appears to be off.Okay, so that one is a biggie.I worry too much.And then yes, I wonder if it will take years off my life. But then I go back to worrying about them — now and in the future.I am trying to worry less.
I learned from my mother and her mother before her that we should never leave the house without a sweater. It really helps if you have a water bottle and snacks with you too.
Maybe I’m a Helicopter Parent or maybe I take rides in that awesome machine every now and then.I have learned with every label there can be crazy extremes, but a healthy dose of hovering and worrying, and remembering to take a sweater, isn’t so bad.
The desire to fly is human, but the desire to hover is divine! ~ Unknown
© 2016, michelefried.com
As my children are getting older (and so am I), motherhood seems to be defined in so many different ways. One thing remains constant for me, and that is the feeling of being afraid. Afraid for your child.
Before I became a mom, so many people told me how hard being a parent was. In my early months of parenthood I never could understand what they meant, because everyday mothering seemed more wonderful. Until one day, while feeding my first child, hives popped out all over his body. Another day a child on the bus would not sit next to my son because of the color of his skin. One day it was ear tube surgery, the next day, eye surgery. Somehow I managed to get through these times (so did the kids.) I was being a mom.
When the doctor called to tell me that our then 14-year-old’s scoliosis x-ray was normal, I didn’t expect him to say, “We have some concerning information though. The x-ray shows that your son’s heart appears enlarged.” I was at work when I received the call so I naturally wrote down everything he said, much like a case note I would have written for a client. I was professional. I was calm. “What do I do?” He told me. I did it. Cardiology appointment made. Everything organized. I was being a mom.
The hard part came when I realized I needed to tell someone what was going on. Husband. Yes, call him. And so I told him. He had way too many questions and I had no answers. I would not search the Internet knowing I would only find doom. Since the appointment was almost three weeks away, we decided not to tell our son about the cardiology appointment until closer to the date. Not one day passed without me worry that something may be wrong with my son’s heart. Not one day. When my mother told me she was so worried about it, I snapped at her because I could not talk about it. Professional. Calm. I was being a mom.
The day before the appointment I finally told my son that he would need to miss some school the next morning because he had a doctor’s appointment. Besides being a bit stressed over missing a class or two at the very start of his freshman year in high school, he handled it well. But he didn’t ask why he had an appointment. From experience, I have learned only to give a child the information they want to know when they are ready to know. Later that night he asked and I answered. He asked if it was true that his heart was enlarged what would it mean? I told him I wasn’t sure but that medication, diet and an exercise program may be prescribed. Okay, I cheated and looked on the Internet. I was being a mom.
The appointment came and we sat in the pediatric cardiology waiting room with young mothers and their infants. We sat amongst the toys that my son didn’t play with anymore because he was a teenager. After filling out the new patient forms, a kind doctor came to the waiting room to greet us. In less than twenty minutes I watched my son being weighed, have his oxygen level taken, and an EKG and an ultrasound done. The doctor engaged my son in conversation and educated me (and the medical student beside us) about hearts. He then said, “Nothing to worry about mom. His heart is fine.” I cry every time I recall that moment just as I cried when I first heard those words. I thanked every possible higher power right then, and the doctor too. I was emotional because I was afraid and because my son was okay. I was being a mom.
© 2016, michelefried.com
I talk a great deal about expectations. Working within a field filled with unknowns, we experience heightened expectations as well as low expectations. But, honestly, even adding the adjective before the noun already makes it an expectation — heightened or low expectations. So, I ask you, who determines if one’s expectations are high or low? Who determines if they are realistic?
Learn to Communicate Your Expectations
Expectation is the mother of all frustration. ~Antonio Banderas, Actor
Expectations make or break relationships. Understanding the power of expectations in a relationship is an incredible skill. I tell myself all the time to pre-examine my expectations especially when it deals with family relationships. I find that if I examine how I am feeling and really communicate with myself, I can gauge my expectations for a certain family gathering. For example, does it measure up to what would typically occur at that gathering? It doesn’t mean that I am setting myself up for disappointment or surprises, but rather getting my head in the right place.
Can you find the word communicate in the paragraph above? The key to managing expectation is communication. It really isn’t our expectation that is off kilter — it is our communication. You have your expectations. I have my expectations. If we are lucky, we are on the same page or close to it. But our expectations can be so far off that it is actually quite funny – to the observer – probably not to us.
Have you really talked with someone about their expectations? I was already an adult, parenting several children in fact, when a supervisor of mine challenged me to ask my mother what her expectations were as a grandmother. I accepted the dare and had a very heartfelt, albeit emotional conversation with my mom. I learned what she thought life would be like as a grandmother and how many grandchildren she “expected” to have and hold the presses, her daughter completely trashed that vision when the number of grandchildren already reached, well lets just say 5+. It wasn’t because my mom wasn’t an awesome grandmother, and still is. She knew what it was like to raise her four children and to dream about being a grandparent. But she wasn’t familiar with much larger families or families that grew through adoption, or about parenting children with disabilities – by choice. It wasn’t that she didn’t approve. It just didn’t fit what she later realized was her expectations. Many parents “expect” their child/ren to go to college, or to marry someone of the opposite gender, or to be an academic overachiever, or a sports fan… whatever it is, it is impossible to not have expectations.
Understanding the Difference Between an Expectation, Dream, or Wish
We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation. ~Ivan Illich, Sociologist, 1926-2002
It is not realistic to tell yourself not to have any expectations, as expectations are important, but it is healthy to process your expectations, communicate them, and understand the expectations of others.
It is also important to understand the difference between what an expectation, dream, hope, or wish is.
An expectation is a belief that something will happen now or in the future.
A dream is to contemplate the possibility of doing something or that something might happen.
A wish or hope is to feel or express a desire for something to happen.
Expectations, dreams and wishes are an important part of our daily lives and assist us in making sure we succeed in the simplest and hardest journeys.
Being Expectant Rather Than Having Expectations
We never live; we are always in the expectation of living. ~Voltaire, Writer, Historian, Philosopher & Poet, 1694 – 1778
I am an advocate for living in the here and now and making our and others’ dreams come true. I am a believer in achieving all your hopes and dreams and creating a set of guidelines or goals to live by and strive for.
But I would much rather be expectant – having an excited feeling that something is about to happen — rather than believing something should be a certain way. I would rather embrace life and live everyday with positivity.
So, I ask you again, who determines if one’s expectations are high or low, and who determines if they are realistic? We are the author of our own expectations and the answer to these questions. So I leave you with this — being positive isn’t the same as expecting a positive experience, but rather accepting all experiences and making them positive.
Syndicated on BonBon Break.
© 2016, michelefried.com