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Celebrating Joy and Parenting Wins

January 1, 2018

Patrick would have turned 40 today.

Our friend Jen eloquently posted this message on Facebook about him:

His message was always to take joy. Here is his take on Fra Giovanni’s “Take Joy,” from Tasha Tudor’s eponymous book, which Paddy put into his own words when I was writing my college senior essay about the last year of my beloved grandmother’s life:

No peace lies in the future
Which is not hidden in this present instant;
Though much is taken, much abides: take peace.
Though your fears are great, your heart is strong; take heart.
Though your eyes are dim, your spirit is bright; take light.
And though there is sorrow, there is also joy; take joy.

In honor of him and his consistent focus on the positive, in spite of the fact that our brains are wired to make negative thoughts “stickier” than positive ones, I offer up four parenting wins that happened last year.

1:  The Frindell Club

One of our kids was having a very, very hard time managing anger and frustration.  This kid resorted to hitting, biting, saying nasty things, and lashing out in whatever way possible.  I finally had this heart-to-heart, being experienced in having a hard time managing anger and frustration (just ask my parents):

“We always notice when we don’t make good choices about our big feelings.  What if we notice when we do make good choices?  If you really, really want to slam a door or hit someone or say unkind things, and you don’t, tell me and we’ll have a mini celebration.  And I’ll do the same when I really, really want to make a bad choice and don’t.  So it can be the Mommy-Kid club.”

This kid wanted to make it more inclusive, so it became the Frindell Club.  Now whenever we are upset and want to make a bad (Sarah Rudell Beach would call it an “unskillful”) choice, and don’t because we take a deep breath or walk away or grit our teeth or whatever it takes, we high-five the nearest family member and exclaim, “Frindell Club!”  And we try to notice and praise when our kids do too.

2:  Animal Technology

Also in the realm of helping upset kids, one day in sheer desperation I took two stuffed bears and made them repeat the conversation the kid and I were having:

Bear 1:  “I’m so mad!  I want to hit someone!”

Bear 2:  “Why are you so mad?”

Bear 1:  [growls]  <–yep, my kids sometimes growl.  It’s like parenting small animals.


The kid was so fascinated that all intensity melted away, and another sibling came over to offer the bears advice about the most constructive way to handle the situation.  The original kid started calling this role playing “animal technology.”

It doesn’t work every time.  But when it does, it’s magic.

3:  On Cussing

While bathing one of the children, they dropped a bath toy and said, “Damn it!”

Stunned, I asked them what they had said.  They repeated it.

I explained that this was a bad word, that grown-ups shouldn’t use it but sometimes do, and that its meaning is asking God to curse the world.

This kid crumpled into tears and exclaimed, “I cursed the world twice today!”

But I bet they won’t anymore.

A related example:  while walking in some woods near my parents’ house, a different child said, “Fuck off.”

“What did you say?” I asked as calmly as possible.

The kid repeated the statement, and I saw then that it was graffitied on a large rock nearby.

The downside of having kids who are able to read.

I explained similarly tho this kid that these words were cursing words, and that no one should say them.  The kid then tried to explain this to a sibling, who of course wanted to know what the dangerous word was.  I managed to get the original child not to repeat it yet again.

4:  The Birds and the Bees and the Condoms

I did not think the conversation about prophylactics would be started in a community center bathroom.

My kids saw a condom dispensary in the women’s restroom while making an emergency trip post-swimming, and asked about the picture.  Of a condom.  In use.

“Let’s talk about it when we get to the car,” I said.

They already knew vaguely how babies are made, so I explained that sometimes people want to have sex but not make a baby, so they use this thing called a condom.  Only for when you’re much, much older (as some of my children are already talking about who’s in love with them and who they’re going to marry).

One of my small ones:  “Oh! So [two people we know] just got married, so they must need to use one sometimes!”

Me:  “Yes, but let’s not ask them about it…” (imagining the top-volume greeting the next time we saw either married party:  “Hey! If you don’t want to have a baby but you still want to put his penis in your vagina, do you have to use one of those things we saw in the bathroom?”

I don’t think they’ve referenced it since.  At least not loudly and in public, so win.

I do think Paddy would have laughed his hearty laugh at these stories, especially the last one.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions anymore, but a few years ago I read about people who were choosing a guiding word for the new year.  Two years ago, mine was Trust.  Last year, it was Balance.

This year, it’s Joy.

Take joy, my beloveds.


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