Posts Tagged ‘ harley rotbart ’

What I Wish For You On Mother’s Day

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

mother's dayEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

Our house is a simple two-story with four bedrooms upstairs, one at each corner of the rectangle-shape footprint. My wife and I are in one corner bedroom, and the other corners are our three kids’ rooms. However, except for a few weeks each year, the kids’ corners are now empty. We walk by their rooms dozens of times each day. Their beds are made, and the memorabilia of their childhoods is collecting dust on the bookshelves. The hallway walls between the bedrooms are filled with pictures of our kids at every stage of their childhoods. Just like the hallways in your homes, I’m sure.

We still drive the same minivan we did when the kids were home. Now 15 years old, it’s never looked better. No Cheerios or juice boxes on the floor, no fingerprints on the windows, crayon marks scrubbed clean. The “baby on board” sticky sign and the pull down baby window shade have been replaced by college decals and bumper stickers, now also anachronistic as the kids have all graduated.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, typically the highest phone call volume day of the year. Whereas long ago, Mother’s Day in our home meant homemade decorations and cards, breakfast in bed, and picnics in the park, our little ones are now in graduate school or the workforce and, like so many other parents of a certain age, we’ll be looking forward to their phone calls this Mother’s Day.

As I reflect back on Mother’s Days past, when all the corners of our house were full and the minivan was a mess, when we could snuggle with our kids before bedtime and snugly buckle them into their car seats on the way to preschool, of course I’m nostalgic. But I’m not sad about how fast time has passed, and I don’t have misgivings about how we spent the time with our kids when they were young. When I walk by the empty corners of our house, I feel fulfillment and satisfaction that we were there with them as often as we possibly could be, and we made the most of the time we spent with them. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but also on plain old Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Of course, there were many childhood moments that got away from us because of our commitments or the kids’ commitments. Parents can’t be with their kids all the time, and kids need independent time to grow and form their own opinions and make their own decisions. Parents need to fulfill their adult responsibilities. But when life got in the way on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or any other special family time, we did our best to make up for it the next weekend or two. And we made an effort to actually celebrate mom and dad more than once a year.

We can’t go back to the Mother’s Days when the corners of our house were full, but even if we could, we probably wouldn’t do it any differently—which is a wonderful feeling. It’s the feeling I wish for you when your corners are empty: the feeling of having no regrets.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock

Mother's Day Paper Crafts: Paper Blooms
Mother's Day Paper Crafts: Paper Blooms
Mother's Day Paper Crafts: Paper Blooms

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Kids Take the Lead at National Parks

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

family at national park

Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

We are a “National Parks” family. When our kids were young, most of their spring breaks and many other vacation days were spent in the parks. We’d rent an RV and usually pick a route that allowed us to visit the most National Parks and National Monuments in the shortest time. Pulling away from the house, we always sang along to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.”

It was our custom to stop at every official National Park entry sign for a picture of the kids climbing on and hanging from the sign. Next we’d stop at the ranger station to watch a short video about the park, pick up a trail map, and then find a spot to park the RV. That’s when the trouble typically began.

Getting our kids out on the hiking trail was often like pulling teeth. I think it was because playing in the RV was too much fun for them to ever want to go outside onto the hot and dusty, or rainy and muddy, or gorgeous but “borrrring” trail. But we cajoled and coerced, bribed and bartered the kids into submission—hiking hundreds of times during their childhoods—thanks to walking sticks, army canteens, trail mix, and lollipops with chewing gum in the center.

Arches National Park near Moab, Utah has always been our favorite. The campground is an adventure unto itself, with climbing rocks and pseudo-caves to explore—all close enough to the camper that the kids figured they weren’t risking a whole day of indoor RV games by playing in the campground. Plus, we always held out the hope to our kids that one of the tenuous arches would collapse just as we were watching (from a safe distance)–the visitor’s center has “before and after” pictures of that happening. My wife and I didn’t mention that those events occurred only once every 75 years or so—it could still happen when we were there, couldn’t it?

When people think of the state of Utah, many picture Delicate Arch, the iconic formation in Arches National Park that’s pictured on the state license plate and on nearly every Utah post card and poster. Our youngest child, Sammy, eyed that arch wistfully from the time he was 4 years old on our first trip to Arches. Viewed from the parking lot, Delicate Arch seems unattainable to a young child—like hiking to a beautiful sandstone rainbow perched on the moon. On that first visit, all the kids were too young to make the tough climb to Delicate Arch, so we contented ourselves with shorter adventures and plenty of snacks.

In subsequent trips to other parks, being the third child, Sammy usually followed one of the hike “leaders”—his older brother or sister. Being a “hike leader” was occasionally incentive enough to get the kids onto a trail. For some of the more ambitious hikes, Sammy went back to explore the ranger station or to a playground with me while Mom and the other two braved the wilderness. The older kids were jealous of Sammy for not being forced to hike, while Sammy always felt a little left out when it was too tough a trail. Sometimes, you just can’t please anyone.

On our second trip to Arches, just as Sam turned 7 and had had several easier practice hikes as “leader,” it was finally his turn for the big time. We had saved Delicate Arch for him. Starting early and not rushing, we followed Sam as he negotiated the sometimes narrow and slippery trail to Delicate Arch. As he triumphantly ran the final 150 feet to the base of the Arch, he pumped his fists in the air just as he had seen his brother and sister do when they had led us to other trail milestones. There, at the foot of the arch, we had our victory picnic—and officially renamed Delicate Arch, “Sammy’s Arch.”

Sixteen years later, the poster of Delicate Arch we bought that day still adorns his bedroom wall at home. Now a college graduate in the workforce without a spring break, his trail maps have been replaced by subway maps. But he still whispers, “Woo-hoo” and pumps his fist whenever he sees a Utah car with his arch on the license plate.

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock

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Confessions of a Baby Boomer Parent

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

three generations on a hikeEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

My generation, the Baby Boomers, witnessed some changes that probably couldn’t even have been imagined by the “Greatest Generation” that preceded us. For example, the Boomers championed the feminist and civil rights movements, which made our society more tolerant, diverse, and culturally-sensitive than ever before. The Boomers also brought NASA and Woodstock, putting a few Americans on the moon and many others just hallucinating space travel.

We also changed parenting forever, allowing more moms and dads to feel comfortable choosing to work either inside or outside the home. But along with this positive development came an unfortunate compensatory concept that I apologize for on behalf of my entire generation. We introduced the notion of “Quality Time” to help us deal with our guilt about spending less quantity time with our kids. Quality Time was a “scrapbook” family outing to the theater, ballet, or a nice restaurant—short bursts of uber-parenting, memorialized with souvenirs that attested to how much we loved our kids. It was typically both intensive and expensive. And after each carefully planned activity, we patted ourselves on the back and returned to our busy lives.

Don’t get me wrong—the theater, ballet, and nice restaurants are fine if you have the time, interest, and money. Or maybe you’d rather go to the park, zoo, botanic garden, or museums.  All are excellent ways to enjoy family time with your kids, and worthy of setting aside protected time.

But there’s a better and more affordable way to experience high-quality time with your kids that’s less structured and will leave you feeling much more fulfilled. You can have it in the kitchen preparing dinner together; in the car on the way to soccer practice or to the ice cream store on the way home from practice; walking your kids to playdates instead of driving; backyard insect hunting with a magnifying glass after dinner; collecting leaves during the day and then tracing them and coloring together before bed; or building a snowman by starlight.

This “New Quality Time” does require is a different mentality than we Boomers had as parents. Rather than thinking of what you have to do with your kids to get all of you through your day’s commitments and responsibilities, think of all those logistical hurdles as opportunities to be with your kids. Quality Time is all the time before and after your planned outings. It’s the cameo appearances you make with your kids throughout the week that you never acknowledged as true family time because you’re so consumed by the choreography of daily family life. If you can make this time with your kids special, seeing it as moments rather than minutes, you’ll never have to audit how much time you spend with your kids. Quality Time is whenever you are with your kids, doing whatever it is you are doing together.

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?

Image via Shutterstock

 

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The Pet Contract

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

dog

Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pets recently. We had to put our beloved 15-year old Springer Spaniel to sleep last week, and it was a great loss for us – Lizzy was our “fourth child,” our three kids’ best friend, and known to us as the Queen of Fetch.  We’d had her since she was a freckle-nosed puppy, and the love and warmth she brought to our family were immeasurable. If you’re considering getting a pet—whether it’s a puppy, parakeet, goldfish, gerbil, cat, canary, hamster or horse—I have a few words of advice. Get your kids’ promises in writing.

There are many benefits of having a pet, and perhaps the greatest are the life lessons you can teach your kids: compassion, responsibility, selflessness, benevolence, and humaneness. Pets can help kids grow their independence, and pets complete a triangle of companionship and love between you and your kids. However, before you decide to add a pet to your family, you need to ignore your kids’ verbal promises about taking full responsibility for the new pet they are pleading for. Once the puppy or kitty settles in and the novelty wears off, your kids will forget every vow they made. If your kids talk the talk, they have to walk the walk. And they have to walk the dog with you. Even in the rain or snow. Puddle jumping and snow angels are encouraged.

When our kids were older and we were out in blizzards walking alone with “their dog” because they were busy with homework, after school activities, or playdates, I wished we would have had them sign a “pet contract” when we first brought Lizzy home. As much as our kids loved her and she loved them, when her water bowl was empty, it was almost always Mom or Dad who noticed. Of course when we told the kids the bowl was empty, they filled it. But the next time the bowl was empty, it was again Mom or Dad who noticed. And it was mom or dad who remembered Lizzy needed a walk, a friend to fetch with, or a bath.

The only way to protect yourself from becoming the sole guardian of your kids’ pet is with a contract. Contracts may seem a bit intense for a preschooler or kindergartner, but they can be an important life lesson in and of themselves. A commitment is a commitment, and a contract formalizes a commitment. The contract should be a written one so you can hang it on the cage, hutch, or kennel and point to it whenever your kids forget whose pet it is and let the water bowl run dry. It can be as short as a line or two: “I promise that if Mommy and Daddy get a ferret for me, I will feed and water my ferret and help clean the litter. If I don’t, I know Mommy and Daddy may have to take my ferret back to the ferret store.”

You supervise, but the pet “belongs” to your kids. Of course, it’s the whole family’s pet, but having your kids take personal “ownership” when they’re young is a big part of the commitment life lesson. The time you spend supervising your kids’ care for their pet is wonderful quality time—even the walks with your kids and the dog in the blizzard. But “with your kids” is the critical part of that sentence. Don’t get caught out in the cold alone with your kids’ pet.

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners
Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners
Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners

Photo of dog by Sara Rotbart.

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The Most Important New Year’s Resolution

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

family playing together indoorsEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

January is an optimistic time of year. Although it’s dark and cold outside, the dawn of each New Year brings with it the promise of doing things differently and better than we have in the past. Of course, reality sets in shortly after the New Year and some of our most resolute vows fall by the wayside. I’d like to suggest just one resolution this New Year—but you have to promise me that you’ll keep it as if your entire parenting experience depends on it. It does.

This year, resolve that when you’re with your kids, you’ll really be with them. Here’s what I mean. Besides the often overwhelming choreography and daily mini-crises with our kids, our non-parenting to-do lists are also on our minds all the time–work worries, the dishes in the sink, the lawn that needs mowing, taxes waiting to be filed, bills to be paid, grocery shopping, home repairs. We have responsibilities to our spouses and friends, commitments we’ve made for community and volunteer activities or for helping out at the kids’ school. Some of us are also juggling responsibilities to our own parents or other family members. As a result, even though we spend hours each day with our kids, our minds are often elsewhere. It’s no wonder that each January 1, we can’t believe that another year of our kids’ childhoods has streaked by.

By resolving to be truly with your kids whenever you’re with them, you’ll slow things down a little, and enjoy parenting a whole lot more. Here are 3 tips:

  1. Meditate on your kids.  Think back to the magical time in the delivery room after they’ve handed your newborn baby to you for the first time. You held her close, counted her fingers and toes, brushed the wispy hair from the soft spot on her head, debated who she looked like. You were so into your baby! When’s the last time you noticed your child as deeply and meaningfully as you did in the delivery room? This New Year, “meditate” on your child three times each day, for 2 minutes each time, just the way you did in the delivery room. Pick three random moments each day when you’re with your child to focus on whatever she is doing–playing, eating, throwing a tantrum–and feel wonder in the miracle you created! This is your baby, now growing up a little each day. By committing a total of only 6 minutes a day to this meditation practice, you will feel more with your child than you have in a long time, perhaps since the delivery room.
  2. Listen lovingly. Our kids are always talking to us. Jabbering, chattering, babbling, and blathering. About anything and everything. It’s easy to tune out – to be there physically, even looking at your child while he’s talking to you–but not hear a word he’s saying. Your mind is on the…yes, the dishes in the sink, the lawn that needs mowing, the taxes waiting to be filed, bills to be paid, etc. etc. Kids often say wonderfully pithy and insightful things. Even more often, though, our kids are much less profound. Their speeches to us may seem like random streams of thought. But they’re talking to us because they want our attention and they want our feedback. Even though what they’re saying may seem unimportant in the grand scheme of our day, that’s because we’re hearing it through our adult ears. To our kids, what they’re telling us is front page news. When your kids are talking to you during this New Year, listen lovingly. It may take just a little more energy to lock in on your kids’ words, but it will be worth it. You’ll know, and they’ll know, that you are with them whenever they’re talking to you. Believe me, as your kids become adolescents, you’ll long for the days when they were little chatterboxes and blabbermouths.
  3. Channel your kids. Forgive me if this suggestion sounds maudlin, but it’s really worked for me. My dad died before our kids were born. As our kids were growing up, I realized more and more how much my dad was missing by not knowing them.  So when our kids were little, and still today with our grown up kids at milestone moments, I have tried to “channel” their images to my dad, hoping I can somehow share my kids with him. I hope he’s getting my “messages,” but even if he’s not, by focusing on my kids’ big moments in such a deep way as to channel them to my dad, I find myself more conscious and aware of my kids. I’m more WITH my kids when I’m mentally “showing” them off. At meaningful times in your kids’ lives, try “channeling” images of them to a loved one who’s not with you. As you’re doing it, you’ll see your kids more clearly than if you were just watching for yourself.

May 2015 bring you and your family health and happiness!

The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock

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