The Myth of the Perfect Family

22 Aug

perfect familyWe sat in the sunny, cheerful, morning room of my childhood home.  Sipping coffee at the familiar wooden table, my mother and I discussed a matter that had always troubled me.  In my eyes, one of her dear, lifelong friends had a seemingly perfect home life.

Mom was flabbergasted by my comments.

“Did I ever tell you about what Theresa did years ago while she chatted on her corded phone at her kitchen desk?”

corded telephone

Exhibit A

In those days, one couldn’t roam around while having a conversation on a landline.  (Thus, moms and others were literally chained in place by a stretchy cord attached to the phone. Please see Exhibit “A” above.)

Sadly, I was immensely eager to hear about the imperfections of this faultless friend of the family.

Mom continued, “Well, Theresa was so annoyed by her pestering son that she threw the phone at him.  He ducked and the receiver hit and shattered a window adjacent to the front door.”

Seriously?!!!

I guess Mom’s friend shared the goings-on of her family life, but Theresa’s kids always (in my opinion) portrayed an impeccable image.

My respect for Theresa grew by leaps and bounds during that coffee conversation.  Not because she had become so angry at her son.  Not because she wasn’t perfect after all.

I respected her for being honest about her family life.

These days, it seems to be the opposite.  People may be more comfortable presenting all of the plusses of family life, while subtracting the missteps.

No family is perfect.

No family will ever be perfect.

All families are human.

Studies have shown that people feel compelled to present themselves in the best possible manner when posting on Facebook.  These researchers also found that about 1/3 felt self-dissatisfaction following time spent on this social media platform, especially after looking at vacation posts.

Well, this imperfect mom will confess that in the past 10 minutes, I reminded my 14 YEAR-OLD to comb his hair twice.  His comment, “Mom, why don’t you listen to me?  I told you I’d do it after I finish my computer project.  I’m almost done.”

It’s ok.  I am Cate and I am a flawed mother.  I’ll do better next time!

Wishing all of you a weekend blemished with the beauty that makes family life so very rich!

I’d love any comments!

Catie (Cate Pane)

 

Our Family Summer

19 Aug

end of summer
Every summer has its own story
and 
ours is a novel.

~Author Unknown

Thank You, Boston: We Collected Memories

18 Aug

vacation with teensDear Boston,

My older son, John, and I returned from you late Saturday night.

We made memories on our journey.  We:

  • conversed about faith, forgiveness and future goals.
  • enjoyed seeing the actual Magna Carta at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts!
  • were captivated by our tour of the USS Constitution and learned the origin of the word “scuttlebutt.”
  • ate the best Boston Irish seafood ever!
  • experienced conflict and resolution.
  • enjoyed 2 Red Sox Games, including one where a fan jumped the seating fence and was tackled by 4 security officers between 1st and 2nd base (unfortunately, a curse – they lost the game).
  • allowed ourselves to relax in the hotel room on a very rainy day in the city.

Most importantly, our relationship strengthened.

Boston, you are one of my favorite cities.  Thank you for helping me to grow closer to my son.

Your fan,

Catie (Cate Pane)

#RedSoxNation

 

 

Sweet Discoveries: Traveling with Teens

14 Aug

Boston Cake

Courtesy of Cake Methodology

As we stood swaying to the Red Sox anthem, “Sweet Caroline,” I thanked God and my lucky stars for my older son.  If it weren’t for John, my love for this Boston baseball team would never have been born.

As a matter of fact:

  • I’d never have discovered that one can love both classical music and classic munchies (Pop Tarts!).
  • I’d never have discovered my love for Boston.
  • I’d never have discovered that (for me), ice hockey is by far the most captivating sport.

Spending one-on-one time with kids is critical. Research demonstrates that nurturing your relationship with your child and communicating support helps stimulate cognitive development.  Furthermore, that time may increase teens’ social confidence and feelings of self-worth.

It isn’t always easy traveling with teens.  Sleep schedules, occasional moodiness and impatience with sight-seeing can cause conflicts. But, having taken several trips with each of my sons, I have found that the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Tips for traveling with teens:

  1. Plan the trip together.  Both parent and teen can plan for activities to enjoy.  Hopefully, many of the plans can be appreciated by both.  On this trip, my son chose a “Duck Tour” of Boston.  Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed it, “quacking” and all!
  2. Let your teen sleep longer in the morning.  This can allow for the parent to spend time alone enjoying an activity that a teen may not savor. Teens need more sleep than adults.  Heaven knows we don’t want to awaken them too early and suffer the consequences the rest of the day! In fact, I am presently blogging as John snoozes away in the other bed.
  3. Give your teen responsibility.  Use their strengths to aid in developing independence.  My older son LOVES maps.  He has been in charge of negotiating the fabulous “T” subway system of Boston.
  4. When conflicts arise, deal with them and let them go.  Yesterday, John and I were inadvertently separated on the subway, After figuring out the cause of the snafu, we quickly let it go.
  5. Show your child how to compromise. Don’t expect your teen to behave as an adult, but don’t allow them to hijack the trip to suit their own purposes either. Teens are in a self-centered stage of development.  So, adults need to make sure that the trip isn’t run by their child.  Yesterday, John went on a batting practice tour of Fenway Park while I went back to the hotel to nurture my sore throat.  (This was after my tear-filled melt down, losing my subway pass and a taxi ride that made absolutely no sense!) He wasn’t happy going on the tour alone at first, but ended up enjoying it.  I needed to stop and take care of myself.  John needed to step outside of himself and empathize with my need to rest.

Guess what?  Nobody died.

Some 17 years ago, when I held my first child in my arms with trepidation and naivete as to the future, I never dreamed how much I’d love my son and discover about myself when traveling with him.

So, in the words of Neil Diamond:

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined,
To believe they never would
Oh, no, no”

 

Happy Friday!

Catie (Cate Pane)

Hope for Teens with Depression

14 Aug

robin williamsBoston Public Garden Bench from 1997 Film “Good Will Hunting

Robin Williams Memorial

I’m not much of a television viewer, but I imagine that this week the air waves have been inundated with news of the recent suicide of the genius comic and actor, Robin Williams.  While visiting Boston, we found fans of Mr. Williams turning the famous bench used in a scene from “Good Will Hunting,” with Williams and Matt Damon into a memorial.

It is my hope that memories of this tragedy will increase cultural awareness and understanding of depression.  Today, I’m especially concerned about our teens.

Signs of depression to look for in teens:

Emotional changes

Look for:

  • Crying spells unrelated to a specific cause or general feelings of sadness
  • Anger, frustration or irritability
  • Inability to enjoy normal activities

Behavioral changes

Look for:

  • Fatigue
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Alcohol or drug use

The good news is that with therapy/medication, depression in teens is highly treatable!

Excellent websites for further information:

Mayo Clinic:  Teen Depression

National Alliance for Mental Illness:  Depression in Children

STOP THE STIGMA MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT

Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness

If you have any concerns, please speak to your child’s doctor or a child psychologist immediately. Left untreated,  depressed kids may self-medicate, leading to a problem of addiction which may inhibit treating the underlying issue.

Tomorrow, I will return to Boston tales! Tonight, we’ll be at Fenway rooting for our favorite team, the Red Sox, and singing “Sweet Caroline.”  It takes so very little to bring me great joy!

Boston_Red_Sox

Hoping you have a fantastic Thursday,

Catie (Cate Pane)

 

 

Making Our Way Through Boston

12 Aug

ducks-boston

My older son, John, and I are enjoying the sights of Boston this week.  Dad is home with our younger son on a staycation.

In the next few days, I’ll be posting about traveling with teens and the importance of spending one-on-one time with kids.

Have a beautiful Tuesday!

Catie (Cate Pane)

Dancing For Better or For Worse

11 Aug

bride and groomAs we recited our vows, hands extended, intently gazing in each other’s brown, tear-filled eyes, I was splendidly naïve as to the meaning of the words, “for better or for worse.”

Needless to say, after 19 years of marriage, we are more than aware of the sober reality of weaving our lives together.  Children, family and friends are certainly a blessing.  But, with blessings come love and with love comes both joy and pain.

Some seasons are colored more with pain.  And when we think it is all too much to bear, an oasis of optimistic inspiration changes our mood.

Thank God for amazing days and beautiful breaks from reality.

Saturday, we attended a lovely, romantic and joy-filled wedding.  My mind wandered back to my own August wedding, nearly two decades ago. My head was filled with the melodious music of Bach’s, “Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

As the bride and groom exchanged their vows, sealing a precious covenant, their countenance was absolutely exhilarating. Seriously, their happiness was so very profound that the stunning bride nearly skipped down the aisle as the new couple processed out of the church.

It made ME feel like skipping.

I relived being pronounced “husband and wife.” But, as we have evolved as a married couple, we have learned to negotiate the floor of unexpected twists and spectacular turns.

beach bride and groom

Frank and I have learned to dance.

We have bellied birth and limboed loss.

We have chasséd professional twists and turns.

We have waltzed health and tripped through illness.

And have foxtrotted serious decision-making resulting in both positive and less than favorable directions.

Frank and I will never be that wide-eyed, amateur couple again.

Looking back, I know that learning to dance was made possible by the mutual rhythm of our faith. Sans our shared beliefs, we would have spent more time stepping on each other’s toes than moving together in time.

I guess God knew our future.

We met in a swing dancing class and we’ve been partners ever since.

Happy Monday,

Catie (Cate Pane)

Sage Sea Advice for Parents and Kids

7 Aug

oceanadvice

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, Summer 2014

 

 

After 19 Years…

5 Aug

etsymarriage

With Love to My Dear Husband, who cherishes me unconditionally and joins me in the quest for “clear parenting.”

Catie (Cate Pane)

 

 

Nurturing a Child’s Inner Voice

4 Aug

innervoice

 

Last week, I solicited examples of parental constructive criticism, using the guidelines suggested in my post:

Let’s Turn Around Maternal Criticism  

I received a few responses:

  • Sasha from Mom Life Now wrote, “When you are mean to your friend it makes her sad inside.” (Great for younger kids.)
  • One Gentleman’s Perspective suggested, “I noticed your friend Sandra crying when you told her she could no longer sit next to you. Sometimes we say things to hurt other people, without taking into consideration the long-term effects. When you find yourself in a situation like that again, put yourself in their shoes. Words are powerful and can be used wrongly in the heat of a moment. Be mindful of the things you say to others.” (This is best used for teens who can fully grasp the comments.)

To summarize the guidelines, think:  focus on specific behavior that can be changed.  In other words, “The 3 A’s,”

Our constructive criticism should be similar to praise:

ACCURATE

ACTION-FOCUSED

ATTAINABLE

and used sparingly!

A study demonstrated that kids who receive constant or even occasional criticism can suffer greater self-esteem damage than those who are physical abused.  K. Q. Duane, from It’s the Women, Not the Men!, responded to my criticism blog:

“In many cases, verbal abuse can be much more destructive than physical.”

Now, I know that I am focusing on appropriate observations, but I believe that too much feedback can overload children, even if delivered appropriately.

Let’s put ourselves in our children’s shoes.  Do we want to be continually evaluated?  Or, do we want to feel free to do our best without constant judgement?

As for me, my “inner voice” was polluted with criticism as a child.  When I went off to college, I simply kept up the psychological self-abuse.  It was FAR WORSE than any feedback my parents delivered to me during my early years.

negativethinking

Thankfully, I grew weary of the self-critical voice in my head.

So, it may sound strange, but one year I gave up self-deprecating thoughts for Lent!

Guess what? It worked and it’s been working for decades. It is truly the Easter basket that keeps on giving chocolate!

I have an inner voice that refuses to ingest a daily diet of denunciations.

Let’s help our kids to develop their inner thoughts in ways that bring joy and confidence rather than self-ridicule and reprobation.

Let’s use praise and feedback that is accurate, action-focused and attainable.

Let’s nurture in our children the great gift of an affirmative inner voice.

Please comment!

Have a wonderful week,

Catie (Cate Pane)

 

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