Who Wants Less Stress and More Happiness?

This Huffington Post article provided a great jumpstart to my day. I’m moving forward this morning, more mindful of reducing my stress and increasing my happiness. My guess is this info graphic will do the same for you:

http://huff.to/1jCx4WS

Enjoy your day!

– Linda Williams Rorem, Permission Slips, 23 April 2014

Spring Into a New Year

Last week marked the start of my favorite season, the appearance of sunnier skies and fragrant flowers, the 23rd anniversary of my marriage and the approach of Easter. For me, as for most people, springtime initiates deep cleansing and fresh starts.

Beautiful sunrises, clear skies and fresh air provide renewed energy and lead to more positive outlooks.

hyacinthsHouse windows open, letting in the scents of blossoming flowers and budding trees. Birds appear on windowsills and chirp as they fly to their new nests. Children squeal with delight while playing in their yards. Neighbors emerge from their homes and chat as they stroll in the evenings or work in their gardens.

Store shelves burst with gardening supplies, birdseed, short-sleeved clothes, Easter baskets and jelly beans.

Several years ago, a good friend introduced me to Nowruz, the Persian/ Iranian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring, commemorating the rebirth of nature. As the sun crosses the celestial equator, bringing night and day into balance, it seems a fitting time for fresh starts.

Apparently Nowruz has its roots in the religious traditions of Zoroastrianism, which dates back to the 6th century BC and later influenced Judaism, Islam and Christianity. According to Wikipedia, “the religion states that active participation in life through good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay.”

Preparations for Nowruz include a major house cleaning (Khouneh Tekouni – shaking of the home) and the purchase of new clothes and spring flowers, such as hyacinths and tulips. It seems spring cleaning is a universal concept.

In addition, Nowruz promotes time to honor family and friendships with short visits and gifts. Wikipedia tells me that “whatever a eastercandyperson does on Nowruz will affect the rest of the year. So, if a person is warm and kind to their relatives, friends and neighbors on Nowruz, then the new year will be a good one.” I grew up with similar versions of that concept: “Do unto others…” and “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

When my friend told me about this Persian high holiday, she showed me her family’s Haft-Sin – or seven S’s – table display. The array includes seven items, all starting with the letter “S” in Persian, symbolizing such virtues as age and patience, love, affluence and health.

I like to think of spring as the start of a new year, too. A new year of marriage and life, with a clean home, a colorful garden and thoughts of health, happiness, patience, love and good deeds, I wish the same for you, dear friends and readers.

Oh, and I give myself – and you – permission to dip into the jelly beans a bit early. I’m already on my third bag.

Linda Williams Rorem, 24 March 2014
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Out of Your Prime

As magazines, newspapers and TV specials wrap up 2013, a salient theme has emerged: it was a very bad year.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll, Obamacare issues, congressional gridlock, mass shootings and natural disasters contributed to our nation and world’s bummer of a year.

“Put simply, most Americans are happy to see 2013 go,” states the poll. More than half of respondents – 54 percent – said 2013 was a “bad” year for our world, while 15 percent termed it a “very bad” one.

On a more personal note, 41 percent stated it was a “bad” or “very bad” year for their families.

20131230-085141.jpgI definitely fall into that camp, as do many of my friends and relatives. Sure, we are reaching the age where health problems start to dog us and our parents begin to “age out,” but in my realm, the issues were more widespread, including accidents, divorce, job loss and disaster (did I mention that a 120-foot tree fell on my house, crushing the garage and cars inside it?).

I believe there is a good explanation for this. Please bear with me for a moment as I share my “prime-number theory“:

(First, a disclaimer: I am no scientist, and prefer empirical data to surveys and statistics. So, take all this with a “grain” of salt.)

Anyway, I think it’s clear that the world likes balance, and mathematicians are awed by the numbers behind and in our universe. However, it seems to me that the prime numbers — those that can only be divided by 1 or themselves, such as 3, 5, 7, 11, etc., throw us off. In my estimation, those years of life represent major transitions.

Consider these facts: at age 3, most kids are potty-trained and gaining independence; at 13 (a year with plenty of its own negative connotations), children enter the crazy teen years, but they haven’t yet moved to high school. Seventeen-year-olds start to feel like adults, but are too young to drink legally, vote or enter the military.

This year was, for many, a double-whammy, as the calendar date was prime and also included an unlucky 13. Many of those marking prime-number years themselves experienced extreme transitions.

In my own family, my oldest brother, at 59, retired early and began a new chapter of his life.

One of my sisters, nearing the end of a prime-number year, faced a health challenge.

I, also in a “prime” year, had a whopper of a time, with a hiking injury that led to surgery, lots of family drama and the tree issue.

In my nest, three of my four kids endured prime number years (19, 17 and 13), and all faced major transitions that brought stress and tumult.

In fact, I had two 17-year-olds: my second son was 17 until June, and during that time chose a college that is across the country and quite challenging. My third son turned 17 last week, and is already sensing the unrest ahead.

Before you poo-poo my theory, don’t forget about the “seven year itch” that plagues many marriages. An article on Wikipedia states that “the phrase has…expanded to indicate cycles of dissatisfaction not only in interpersonal relationships, but in any situation, such as working a full-time job or buying a house, where a decrease in happiness and satisfactions is often seen over long periods of time.”

Of course, we can counter my doom-and-gloom perspective with thoughts about the 17-year cicadas that, according to several studies, benefit from rearing their heads n prime-number years.

“Cicadas that emerge in prime-numbered year intervals…would find themselves relatively immune to predator population cycles, since its is mathematically unlikely for a short-cycled predator to exist on the same cycle.” Researchers call this a “successful evolutionary strategy.”

Nevertheless, for now I’m going to stick to my own theory that after the prime-number year 2013 goes up in flames, we’re all going to feel better out of, not in, our prime.

– Linda Williams Rorem, 30 Dec. 2013
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Believing in Magic and Miracles

Believing in Magic and Miracles.

Believing in Magic and Miracles

I often wonder why we put up with this time of year.

Not the holidays themselves, but all the clutter around them: the stress, retail crowds, social obligations, four-month-long Christmas displays, heart-tugging songs in public venues and pressure on the pocketbook.

And then, when I’m feeling my very Grinchiest, I’m reminded that the season is all about magic and miracles.

For those who remember and believe in the holiday’s religious beginnings, what could be more miraculous than a virgin giving birth to a major game-changer, in a stable full of stinky animals?

Sure, most kids focus on the presents they hope to find under the tree – and tv ads provide them with plenty of “must have” ideas. However, I think it’s the potential for magic that most captivates children.

Holiday rituals fill kids’ hearts and souls: waiting in line to see Santa’s stand-in, driving around town to gawk at holiday light displays, feeling joy during church pageants, watching “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and “Elf” on tv, enjoying family time with hot cocoa and cookies and waiting for the season’s first snowfall.

For most of us, the best holiday memories revolve around family time and experiences, not the yearned-for gifts that appeared on Christmas morning.

We all want to experience magic and miracles this time of year.

I happen to know a real magician – not just the kind who performs card tricks at kids’ birthday parties (although he probably boosted his income that way at the start).

Mark is quite accomplished (check out his website here) and, for many years, lived well by performing tricks at corporate gatherings. Yes, even adults want to believe in magic.

He stopped by my house a few years back, and performed a few tricks for five 15-year-old boys. You could almost see their jaws bouncing off the floor as even the most jaded teenager started to believe.

When seemingly rational, negative thoughts cloud my otherwise positive attitude, I look for magic and miracles.

The morning that my father passed away, when I was a graduate student in Manhattan, I woke up to a beautiful flurry of white flakes. Even though I felt as if my heart had been ripped from my body, I found solace in the snow, and started to believe that life would eventually feel better.

During the following decade in New York City, snowfalls always calmed me and reminded me to believe in endless possibilities. Snow provides a blanket of quiet, beauty and hope in an otherwise over-stressed environment.
photo (3)

Many years ago, my husband suffered from a mysterious, traumatic illness. Doctors claimed they couldn’t cure him, they could only “support” him through the ordeal. One evening, a nurse called and asked me to rush to the hospital, as Rich was in crisis. As I drove westward across Lake Washington, I spotted a beautiful rainbow. And at that moment, I felt peace, believing it was a sign that Rich would survive.

Later that night, one of my closest friends–who was living nearly 200 miles away–left me a voicemail: “I saw a rainbow this evening, and know it means that Rich will be okay.”

He did survive, against all odds, and is living a full and normal life today.

My oldest brother wasn’t so lucky; he succumbed to lung cancer a decade ago, on Christmas day. Of course, I think of Rick’s death every Christmas morning, but I like to believe that he is somehow present in the lights and the music and the angel that tops my tree.

When a young family member struggled with a rare and very serious disease several years back, I always smiled when I saw a beautiful sunrise out my bedroom window, or a rainbow in the evening light. On one particularly challenging day for her, a double rainbow appeared, and I took it as a positive sign. She is thriving in college today.

My very wise mother-in-law recently said to me, “It’s important to push out the fear to make room for hope.” I guess snow and rainbows and sunrises help dissipate my fears and negative thoughts, and give my heart room for more positivity.

I want to believe that magic and miracles are possible. I know that around the globe, others are enjoying this holiday season for the same reason.

–          Linda Williams Rorem, 15 Dec. 2013

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Put Up the Lights and Lighten Up

Several years ago, in our pre-blog days, we took a “girlfriend getaway” during the first week of December. Our good friends thought we were crazy:

“How could you leave your families this time of year?”

“You’ll miss all the fun parties!”

“When will you manage the Christmas shopping?”

“Aren’t you too busy to take off work?”

Exactly our point.

While we did tackle some holiday shopping during the trip, without the benefit of frazzled crowds and piped-in Christmas music, we mostly just relaxed. Yes, we did miss a few parties and events, but our friends forgave us. And, somehow, we finished the pressing tasks at work and home in time.

Our great escape had the inverse effect of what our friends had predicted: it made our holidays run (and feel) smoother. Our stress-free break allowed us to enter those final hectic weeks of the year with calm and more open hearts.

We have since, separately, tried to continue the trend. This year we decided it was time for a reunion trip, ostensibly as a writer’s retreat.

Hemingway writer's retreatSo, here we are, sitting in Ketchum, Idaho, coffee shop, gaining inspiration from a larger-than-life photo of Papa Hemingway, But our best inspiration came during lunch on Saturday.

We kicked off our 48-hour retreat with roasted red-pepper soup at the Kneadery, a casual, local favorite, which features moose heads on the wall and a 10-foot stuffed grizzly bear by the door.

REd Hat LadiesOn this particular afternoon, the restaurant also boasted a boisterous tableful of lovely ladies, all wearing decorated red hats and purple coats or sweaters. We were immediately drawn to their laughter and positive energy.

We looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Looks like a great Permission Slip in the making.”

And it was.

“We’re part of the Red Hat Society,” the group’s leader, Poo Wright-Pullium, explained. “Actually, we’re the ‘Potato Heads’ chapter.”

Of course, we wanted to hear more.

“Our purpose is to have fun,” explained Wright-Pulliam. “We meet once a month, with the goal of just taking care of ourselves and not worrying about anyone or anything else.”

The ladies, wrapping up their meal, leaned in to tell us about their chapter and the international society – which we may be the last on the block to learn about.

Apparently the Red Hat Society was formed in 1998 by Sue Ellen Cooper, a Southern California woman of a certain age who was inspired by Jenny Joseph’s 1987 poem, Warning, with the oft-quoted line “When I grow old I shall wear purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

The society “began as a result of a few woman deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor, and elan,” according to the society’s website. “We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together.”

Now incorporating more than 20,000 chapters in the U.S. and 25 other countries, the Red Hat Society is the world’s largest woman’s social group; its members strive only to take life a little more lightly. The society is open to any woman aged 50 and up, while younger gals can attend meetings if they wear lavender clothing, not purple, and pink hats, instead of red ones.

In Ketchum, the lively group we encountered meets monthly for lunch and social activities, such as last weekend’s trek through the area’s holiday bazaars.

Clearly, it is not a sisterhood of the traveling pants, but a community of clashing red hats and purple clothes, geared solely for friendship and fun.

Chapter Queen Wright-Pulliam explained that the Potato Heads have met regularly for some eight years. Many of the members were not acquainted before joining the now tight-knit group. The ladies often pull together between monthly meetings to entertain visiting Red Hat Society members.

During birthday months, members must wear their outfits in reverse – red coats and clothing, and purple hats. That’s one way to keep the celebration going.

On meeting days, the members’ ostentatious red hats and bright purple clothing announce that they are out for fun and fellowship, and that they refuse to take themselves too seriously.

Especially during the holiday season, with unyielding pressures on most of our time, patience and pocketbooks, we could all stand to lighten up a little.

Saturday afternoon, the holiday spirit our new red-hatted friends exuded was contagious. We walked away, across a snow-covered, slippery sidewalk, feeling inspired.

Not only did we remember the value of a “time out” during the so-called “most wonderful time of the year,” but we also took to heart the reminder to relax more and stress less.

Hats off to you, ladies!

–          Carol Lewis Gullsad and Linda Williams Rorem, 9 December 2013
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Pitching Perfection

Most of us remember seventh grade, and few of us remember it fondly.

For me, it involved glasses and braces, two broken arms (within five months), and stringy long hair that suddenly needed more than one wash per week.

Jan Brady, of TV’s “The Brady Bunch,” was my idol, and even she felt awkward about wearing glasses. (She resented her “perfect” older sister, lamenting the attention going towards “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”)

For others, seventh grade comprised acne, weight gain, lower grades (often due to distraction), clumsiness, social exclusion and even bullying.

No matter how we managed or suffered through that age, most of us recall it as a time where we started comparing ourselves to others, and started setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. (Note: If you have a child close to that age, consider these great tips from wikihow.com.)

House drawingI love the advice from Ask.com: No one is perfect. If you try to be perfect, there will always be someone who thinks otherwise and will always be disappointed that you are not living up to their expectations. Just be yourself.

At the same time, our children receive mixed messages about perfection from their parents, teachers, coaches, piano teachers and peers. We celebrate their coloring within the lines, dressing themselves without mixing stripes and plaids, scoring goals in micro-soccer and memorizing all their spelling words.

From the get-go, our children feel pressured to work hard in school, excel on the field, dress appropriately – or even fashionably – bathe regularly, avoid cavities and act kindly towards others.

The reality is that few kids will earn 100 percent on every homework assignment and test, bat over .500 or lead the conference in touchdowns, wear wrinkle- and stain-free clothes each day, wake up in time to shower and straighten or braid hair every morning, regularly reply appropriately to nagging teachers, parents or coaches and resist the temptation to snap at friends making mean comments.

As a parent, I want my kids to know that perfection is overrated, and that while it’s important to set high goals for ourselves, “flawless” should stay off the list. I wish they could truly understand that they are “perfect” exactly as created, whether or not that involves near-sightedness, crooked teeth, acne, hyper-activity, math challenges, hand-eye coordination issues, skinny legs (as a boy) or muscular thighs (as a girl).

I want my daughter to know that she is wonderful exactly as-is, and doesn’t need to spend hours each morning straightening her already-curl-free hair, covering up blemishes and wondering if her thighs are too bulky (not at all; she’s a dancer).

I wish my oldest son, who struggled more than a little this past year, could believe that we never asked for perfection, and we didn’t – and still don’t – expect him to act exactly like his siblings or friends.

I wish I had worked harder, when my kids were little, to discuss and celebrate my own flaws and, therefore, give permission for imperfection.

To be clear, I did try to highlight my mistakes when the kids were younger; I would laugh and say, “Oops, Mommy goofed!” or, “I guess they’ll haul me off to BMJ (Bad Mommy Jail) for that one!” However, I’m not convinced that I, or my kids, ever believed I was absolutely at peace with my own imperfections.

I do set high standards for myself and others. I want to appear to have everything under control at all times. I don’t lash out at my friends. My flaws  scream at me from the mirror. I try to hide my hurt and my self-doubt.

Fortunately, I recently happened upon a fascinating book by Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazelden, 2010). (I missed the boat, but apparently Oprah offered a six-week eCourse related to the book, promising to help participants “move from how you think you’re supposed to be…and embrace who you ARE.”)

In her book, Brown suggests that many of us, subconsciously, set prerequisites for our own happiness and self-worth, with hurdles such as, “I’ll be worthy when I lose twenty pounds…if everyone thinks I’m a good parent…when I make partner…when I can do it all and look like I’m not even trying.”

Brown stresses that we must convince ourselves that we are “Worthy now. Not if. Not when…Right this minute. As is.”

The downside of believing otherwise is, according to Brown, shame. She notes that “shame is all about fear. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, how much we’re struggling, or believe it or not, how wonderful we are when soaring.”

Brown states that this resulting shame “is related to violence, aggression, depression, addiction, eating disorders and bullying.”

Perhaps that’s why so many superstars and celebrities who appear “perfect” are hiding cracks beneath the surface. For example, the gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who at age 14 made history earning not just one, but seven perfect 10s in the 1976 Summer Olympics, didn’t think her routines were flawless.  Several decades later, when asked about her winning performances, she noted:  “I never felt they were perfect. They were very good, but I still could have been better.”

Even Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick) struggled with high ideals for herself. A 2008 article related to the release of McCormick’s memoir, “Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice,” states that after the show ended, she “spiraled downward into substance abuse and depression as she struggled to reconcile her Marcia Brady image of the girl next door with her private pain.”

I hope today’s teenagers actually listen to the words of pop singer Pink’s  “F**kin’ Perfect” (2010), as she urges, “pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel, that you’re less than, less than perfect.” She adds, “Change the voices in your head. Let them like you instead.”

More than a few of us adults could learn from this wisdom, too. I also plan to heed the advice of the esteemed essayist Anna Quindlen, who noted in a commencement speech, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” 

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 11 Nov. 2013
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Get Out of My Village

Moms – Permission to stand up for your kids. This is an outrageous story.

Get Out of My Village.

Keeping Out the Ks: Exercising the Mommy Veto

It’s hard to avoid hearing about the Ks. In supermarket checkout lines, their faces, boobs and butts festoon magazine covers, with headlines screaming about sex tapes, cheating, divorces and drugs.

photo-24This “famous for being famous” family has (or had?) a reality show on TV. Talk show hosts joke about the dad’s plastic-looking plastic surgery results, the mom’s pretty much everything, the older girls’ weddings, the days-long marriage and the “directionally” named baby.

Like many Americans, my middle-school-age daughter can’t seem to divert her eyes.

In all fairness, I know precious little about this blended family. I have never seen the reality show and don’t read the tabloids. However, I’ve heard enough to believe that the girls have nothing to offer my daughter, and couldn’t possibly serve as positive role models. So, after Pea quoted the show one too many times, I banned it.

Yes, I exercised the “Mommy Veto.”

We all know that mothers, as top executives of the household, hold this power. It comes in handy when absolute reason won’t work, when a vote has taken place and mom is in the minority or when we just inherently know that a course of action is wrong.

This is also known as the “Because I said so” or “Because I’m the mom” argument.

I have used the veto to negate our family’s democratic process on several occasions (“we all voted and decided the next vacation should be at Disneyland”) and I have employed it to ban plenty of activities, from playing violent video games to attending sleepovers to wearing sweatpants to school.

Keeping out the Ks was a bit harder. Aside from the possibility of watching at someone else’s house, Pea has access to Netflix and YouTube on TVs, computers and even an iPad.

Now, let me take a moment to state that if you have no idea what show or family I am discussing, no worries. I barely know who they are myself.

And, because I don’t want to bolster my reasoning with actual facts, which would require my watching the show, I need to trust my gut and just say no.

I think my daughter – who is still quite sweet and compliant – really has stayed away from the TV program. At least she stopped mentioning the family, primarily because I said she couldn’t even utter the last name in our home or around me.

That “around me” took on new meaning when I found myself in Los Angeles with Pea and her friend Smiley not long ago. Like many visitors to the area, they were on the lookout for stars, and mentioned several they hoped to meet.

photo-23When the “K” name came up, I took advantage of the “teaching moment.” “Honestly, girls, why would you want to see them? They are famous for all the wrong reasons. They don’t actually do anything. They haven’t contributed to society in a positive way.”

The girls tried to argue the girls’ virtues, and, after gaining no ground, took a new tack. “The younger two are okay,” Smiley avowed. “Those girls didn’t ask to be famous. They don’t want to do the show. They volunteer at an animal shelter. Their dad [that Olympian whose last name starts with a J] hates doing the show, too.”

I listened to Smiley and Pea, and replied, “Those ‘J’ girls are about your age, so they should be working on their educations, not out partying. They should do something worthwhile with their lives, and if I see them, I’ll tell them just that.”

Pea was aghast, and screamed, “Mom, you wouldn’t!”

My reply: “Oh, you’d better believe I would. I would have no problem setting those girls straight.”

At this point, while the conversation was all in fun for me, I’m not sure Pea and Smiley thought I was joking.

Which is why they both panicked a bit, the next afternoon, when they spotted a lanky teenage girl walking towards us in Studio City’s quaint shopping district.

“That’s one of the J girls,” Smiley whispered. “I know it is. She’s with her friend [whomever].”

The fact that Pea also recognized the girl, and knew of the friend, set off an internal alarm. I made a mental “We’ll discuss this later” note.

So, yes, there I was, face to face with the celebrity I had banned from my house and my daughter’s vocabulary, the same girl I had promised to “set straight.”

Both Pea and Smiley stopped dead in their tracks, and looked at me quite nervously. “You aren’t going to say anything, are you?” Smiley asked.

“Of course I will,” I challenged. “I’m going to give her the ‘what-what.’ “ Pea was praying, almost visibly, that I was bluffing.

We smiled at the gorgeous girl and her buddy, and watched as they entered the store we had just exited.

After the girls in my charge calmed down, Smiley announced, “I’m going in to ask for a photo. She’s really nice; I’m sure she’ll say yes.”

“If she agrees, I’ll take the photo,” I offered.

“Please, please don’t say anything to her,” Pea begged.

I kept up the charade a little longer. “Maybe I’ll just suggest she get a real job when she’s older.”

Of course, the very sweet-seeming 15-year-old “J girl” agreed to a photo. And, after seeing her up close, all I could utter was,  “Wow, you have amazingly beautiful eyes.”

We’ll see if Pea takes me seriously the next time I make a threat. Meanwhile, the show, the magazines, and both the K and J words remain on the banned list. Why? Because I’m the mom.

–Linda Williams Rorem, 28 Oct. 2013
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Daughters Teaching Mothers

Those who know me, know that I am never short on words or advice. If one does not want to hear my advice, I give them the out, prefacing my comments with: “You may not want to hear what I have to say…” I do not voice my opinion if it is not wanted. So, if you do not want to hear my advice on raising teenage daughters, read no further.

Many parents and kids today hate to hear the truth. Parents love to assume that their child is perfect and uber smart; that he or she never lies, steals or cheats. These parents love to blame other parents and their kids’ friends when something goes wrong, instead of looking in the mirror and taking full (or partial) blame themselves. And in our small yet over-protected community, some parents even threaten others with a lawsuit–really!!!!

Katsman youngThe other day at the gym, with pure joy, I was able to exercise with my dear friend Linda (co-author of PermissionSlips). Linda and I enjoy each other’s advice and company, and share deep-rooted Midwest values when raising our children. We give our kids just enough rope to slip and just enough rope to reel them back in. Since Linda has four children, she is far more experienced in child rearing than I. But I have more girls than she does.

Linda and I commonly discuss the latest issues surrounding her Number Two and Three sons, who are friends with my two daughters. Linda loves to hear the stories of our community from the “girls” point of view, and I like to hear the “boys” point of view. On this particular day at the gym, she asked if I would be willing to share my advice with PermissionSlips readers. So, here goes:

Keep Kids Busy
When my daughters were babies, a very wise neighbor said to me, “The best advice I can give you when raising a daughter is to keep her very busy, very, very busy. The busier your daughter is, the less likely she is to get into trouble.”  I have lived by those words.

My girls have been over-programmed since they could start Kindermusik and infant swimming. They have played on every sport team and taken every type of sport lessons, including, but not limited to, horseback riding and water skiing.

What has stuck for more than 16 years with my oldest is dance. At 18 years of age she is still dancing. My 16 year old has been dancing for 14 years. I like to think they are too busy and exhausted to get into trouble.

Make Children Accountable
In our household, we have always made the guilty party accountable for their wrong.  No taking the cell phone or car away. Why would we do that? It only punishes the parents.  Take away something that is embarrassing or puts the child on edge – maybe no Varsity baseball team or cheer squad. How about doing the punishment that the principal states is required for forging a parent’s signature, instead of arguing that your child would never do such a thing?

Honesty is the Only Policy
In our home, I raised my girls to be honest. We stress that no matter how terrible the crime is, be honest about it. We parents can help our children out of a bind if they tell the truth. The truth never changes, but lies always change. In our home, if the truth is told there is no additional punishment. If there was, then why tell the truth in the first place? Some kids would relish a night, week and month with out being wired into something.  Just tell the truth.

Never Judge Others
My girls know that I will never judge their friends. Everyone’s personal life is different.  Everyone’s family situation is different. And truthfully, some family situations are terrible.  Does that give us permission to judge someone else’s child?  No, it brings us to empathize with them.

Save Secrets
I know that there are several “secrets” my girls have kept from my husband and I in the past. Little do they know, I have found out most of the secrets. Instead of confronting them on these little secrets, I save them in the back of my mind for those “just in case” moments when I need to pull something out of my own bag of tricks. Why let your child know you are angry with them in the heat of your anger? That only promotes more anger. Most teenage girls generally assume that their mothers are always upset with them for something. We are not always angry or upset with our daughters; their perceptions stem from their fragile, hormonal egos.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Katsman recentMy oldest child just set off for the University.  She is opening her eyes and world to something so foreign to her and away from our loved and protected Island. I have told her to learn from her errors and mistakes. I said, “Now is the time to really figure out who you are. It is okay to make mistakes.” We all did; we were just never told it was okay. It is okay to figure out who you are. For example, I said, “You may change your major a dozen times. Just make sure that whatever you choose to graduate in is: 1. Employable; 2. Can support your lifestyle.”

Remember Where You Come From
I was always told to stand tall with my head high. And lastly, to remember what my last name was. I was also told, “Never embarrass your mother and father.” I hope that I have instilled these lessons in my daughters. Though my lessons may not indicate the popular choice or the perfect choice, they have been the steadfast choices in our home.

Lisa Katsman, 14 Oct. 2013
Mother of 2 daughters

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