When he was 40, the renown Bohemian novelist and short story writer FRANZ KAFKA (1883–1924), who never married and had no children, was strolling through Steglitz Park in Berlin. He chanced upon a young girl crying her eyes out because she had lost her favorite doll. She and Kafka looked for the doll without success. Kafka told her to meet him there the next day and they would look again.
The next day, when they still had not found the doll, Kafka gave the girl a letter "written" by the doll that said, “Please do not cry. I have gone on a trip to see the world. I'm going to write to you about my adventures."
Thus began a story that continued to the end of Kafka’s life.
When they would meet, Kafka read aloud his carefully composed letters of adventures and conversations about the beloved doll, which the girl found enchanting. Finally, Kafka read her a letter of the story that brought the doll back to Berlin, and he then gave her a doll he had purchased. "This does not look at all my doll," she said. Kafka handed her another letter that explained, "My trips, they have changed me." The girl hugged the new doll and took it home with her. A year later, Kafka died.
Many years later, the now grown-up girl found a letter tucked into an unnoticed crevice in the doll. The tiny letter, signed by Kafka, said, “Everything you love is very likely to be lost, but in the end, love will return in a different way."
We all have opportunities in life where we have the choice to make a difference by our words and actions. Especially during this holiday season, may we all choose to be loving and kind.
This story is credited to Marina Veronica and Jim Fagiolo. Marlene López is the artist of the watercolor drawing.
This blog is from a Facebook post that I saw thanks to my sister Joanna Osborne Masingila. I love what it says about what is truly important in life—memories, unconditional love and passing both on to our families and others.
“Calvin? Calvin, sweetheart?”
In the darkness Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years. Calvin struggled to open his eyes. God, he was so tired, and it took so much strength. Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed. At the foot of his bed stood his wife. Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, “Did… did you…. find him?”
“Yes dear,” Susie said smiling sadly, “He was in the attic. “
Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll. Calvin could not help but laugh. It had been so long. Too long.
“l washed him for you,” Susie said, her voice cracking a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.
“Thank you, Susie.” Calvin said. A few moments passed as Calvin just laid on his hospital bed, his head turned to the side, staring at the old toy with nostalgia.
“Dear,” Calvin said finally. “Would you mind leaving me alone with Hobbes for a while? I would like to catch up with him.”
“All right,” Susie said. “I’ll get something to eat in the cafeteria. I’ll be back soon.” Susie kissed her husband on the forehead and turned to leave. With sudden but gentle strength Calvin stopped her. Lovingly he pulled his wife in and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips. “l love you,” he said.
“And I love you,” said Susie. Susie turned and left. Calvin saw tears streaming from her face as she went out the door.
Calvin then turned to face his oldest and dearest friend. “Hello Hobbes. It’s been a long time hasn't it old pal?”
Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll but the big furry old tiger Calvin had always remembered. “It sure has, Calvin.” said Hobbes. “You… haven’t changed a bit.” Calvin smiled.
“You've changed a lot.” Hobbes said sadly.
Calvin laughed, “Really? I haven’t noticed at all.” There was a long pause. The sound of a clock ticking away the seconds rang throughout the sterile hospital room.
“So… you married Susie Derkins.” Hobbes said, finally smiling. “l knew you always liked her.”
“Shut up!” Calvin said, his smile bigger than ever.
“Tell me everything I missed. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to!” Hobbes said, excited.
And so Calvin told him everything. He told him about how he and Susie fell in love in high school and had married after graduating from college, about his three kids and four grand-kids, how he turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on. After he told Hobbes all this there was another pregnant pause. “You know… I visited you in the attic a bunch of times.” Calvin said.
“But I couldn’t see you. All I saw was a stuffed animal.” Calvin’s voice was breaking and tears of regret started welling up in his eyes.
“You grew up old buddy.” said Hobbes.
“I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry I broke my promise! I promised I wouldn’t grow up and that we’d be together forever!!” Calvin broke down and sobbed, hugging his best friend.
Hobbes stroked Calvin’s hair, or what little was left of it. “But you didn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were always together…. In our dreams.”
“Yeah, old buddy?”
“I’m so glad I got to see you like this… one last time…”
“Me too, Calvin. Me too.”
“Sweetheart?” Susie voice came from outside the door.
“Yes dear?” Calvin replied.
“Can I come in?” Susie asked.
“Just a minute.” Calvin turned to face Hobbes one last time.
“Goodbye Hobbes. Thanks… for everything…”
‘No, thank you Calvin.” Hobbes said.
Calvin turned back to the door and said, “You can come in now.”
Susie came in and said, “Look who’s come to visit you.”
Calvin’s children and grandchildren followed Susie into the room. The youngest grandchild ran past the rest of them and hugged Calvin in a hard, excited hug. “Grandpa!!” screamed the child in delight.
“Francis!” cried Calvin’s daughter, “Be gentle with your grandfather.”
Calvin’s daughter turned to her dad. “I’m sorry, Daddy. Francis never seems to behave these days. He just runs around making a mess and coming up with strange stories.”
Calvin laughed and said, “Well now! That sound just like me when I was his age.”
Calvin and his family chatted some more until a nurse said, “Sorry, but visiting hours are almost up.”
Calvin’s beloved family said goodbye and promised to visit tomorrow. As they turned to leave Calvin said, “Francis. Come here for a second.”
Francis came over to his grandfather’s side, “What is it, Gramps?”
Calvin reached over to the stuffed tiger on his bedside and held him out shakily to his grandson, who looked exactly as he did so many years ago.
“This is Hobbes. He was my best friend when I was your age. I want you to have him.”
‘He’s just a stuffed tiger.” Francis said, eyebrows raised.
Calvin laughed, “Well, let me tell you a secret.”
Francis leaned closer to Calvin. Calvin whispered, “If you catch him in a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich as bait, he will turn into a real tiger.”
Francis gasped in delighted awe. Calvin continued, “Not only that he will be your best friend forever.”
“Wow! Thanks grandpa!” Francis said, hugging his grandpa tightly again.
“Francis! We need to go now!” Calvin’s daughter called.
“Okay!” Francis shouted back.
“Take good care of him.” Calvin said.
“l will.” Francis said before running off after the rest of the family.
Calvin laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. The time to go was close. He could feel it in his soul. Calvin tried to remember a quote he read in a book once. It said something about death being the next great adventure or something like that. His eyelids grew heavy and his breathing slowed. As he went deeper into his final sleep, he heard Hobbes, as if he was right next to him at his bedside. “I’ll take care of him, Calvin…”
Calvin took his first step toward one more adventure and breathed his last with a grin on his face.
It is that time of year—when shopping can have additional challenges with all the holiday items on display, crowds of people to contend with and lists that are longer than usual. You might be tempted to do anything possible to leave your children at home or with a friend or a sitter. After all, what can little kids learn when they are shopping with their parents in the store?
As it turns out, they can learn a great deal. To begin with, they learn about how to find the items in the store, what lives on each isle. They can learn about quantity, quality and what’s the best value. They can learn about how much you love hanging out with them in the store and how helpful they are to you. They can learn about not getting what they want right now--delayed gratification, self-control and how to entertain themselves when bored.
They can learn all this and more as long as they aren’t watching a video on a phone or a tablet. Many parents of young children allow that. It’s understandable. It makes it easier in the short term. However, I believe that what happens when they are young lays the foundation for what happens in your relationship with your child later in life. I believe in paying now… rather than paying much bigger later on.
So… the next time you’re in the store, would it be healthier for the child to be helping you shop? How can you make that happen?
• Before you go, your child can help you draw pictures of a few of the items you need to find. Another option is to print images of these items off the web or have your child circle items in the weekly grocery store flyer. If your child can read and write, s/he can write down a list that you dictate or copy the one from the frig. Now the child has something to hold in their hand as they help you on your mission.
• When they find something you need, they can feel great accomplished. If they spot something that’s not right, you can say, “Oh, that’s really close! That’s almost what we want. Let’s look over here. Oh, look at that. It looks just like our picture. Look, it says ‘Beans.’ The letter ‘B’ stands for beans.”
• You can ask questions: “Are we going to get the small one for this price or the bigger one? I think we should get the bigger one. It’s a better value. That means the price is just a little bigger, but the quantity is a lot bigger. ‘Quantity’ is just a fancy word for how much you get.”
• If you have a child in middle school or high school, get their input on a new recipe to try out for dinner. Have them shop with you to get the ingredients and put the groceries away afterwards. Help them develop a specialty dish that they prepare (with your help as needed) for dinner. Consider having this be a weekly chore or contribution to the family.
These things make shopping so much more fun and think about the lessons learned with respect to vocabulary, math, and other essential life skills. Of course, they are not always going to be happy about this approach, particularly if they have become accustomed to watching videos or playing games while you are shopping.
That’s okay because it is most important to give our children small opportunities to become unhappy or bored. Think about it--do these feelings still come our way as adults? The healthiest people are those who learned early in life that these feelings are temporary and that they can cope and get through them.
Adapted from a blog by Sharon Eganby
In just a few days, we will be sitting down to enjoy Thanksgiving meal with family and friends. Dinner conversations in homes across the country will begin with the ritual of going around the table to share what each is thankful for and why.
This is a wonderful and meaningful ritual to have, but how many of us limit this ritual to this one special day when we are gathered around a turkey dinner with all the trimmings? Giving thanks and showing appreciation is an art and one that needs to be worked on daily. It is a habit that we need to develop and practice and then, pay forward the art of gratitude to those around us.
Many parents say: “I tell my kids to appreciate what they have-that there are a lot of other children in this world that don’t have what they have. But they don’t seem to get it AND they take everything I do for them and what I give to them for granted!”
So, this November, let’s start a new tradition to be grateful and appreciative for what we have. Pay it forward by incorporating the FIVE tips below into your daily living and see what develops in your family
1- Express, share and model your own gratitude. Express gratitude for what we often take for granted--having a roof over our head at night or food on the table—when your children are present. Doing this allows us to become mindful of life’s daily blessings and to shift our focus to the blessings instead of complaints. The more we share our gratitude for life’s simple pleasures each day, the more our children will naturally discover their own reasons to be grateful and learn to express their gratitude, too!
2- Appreciate your children. Here are some ways you can express gratitude to your children beginning today!
Showing and expressing our appreciation to our children is a gift that will keep on giving. Imagine the sheer joy of your children feeling appreciated and then imagine and savor in how much more cooperative your children will be. Now that is something, we can all be grateful for!
3- Give your children chores. Chores are contributions to the family and make the family work better. We all need to be needed, especially our children. Through helping out, not only will your children learn that the family runs more effortlessly and efficiently but they will learn to understand that hard work and effort is required to accomplish tasks (clean dishes do not miraculously appear on the table each night) and that their effort is greatly appreciated. The more your children feel appreciated, the more they will be willing to help.
An important note is that children should not be paid for these regular contributions. Otherwise, they are hired help. Of course, you can have a list of additional chores that you are willing to pay them to complete
4- Teach the value of patience and hard work. There was a time that children would dream and brainstorm how they could earn the newest pair of sneakers or the latest hi-tech gadget. Today, a common complaint is that children have an increased sense of entitlement. It is important to keep in mind that their seemingly lack of appreciation is being fueled by parents and others catering to their every desire without sacrifice of any kind. And then we become resentful that our children do not show appreciation and act like “ungrateful little brats”.
We have robbed our children of the excitement of dreaming and of the understanding of what it means to wait and to even work for something that is out of their immediate reach. Brainstorm with your children on ways they can earn what they want.
Helping our children learn to work and to wait for life’s treasures by focusing on needs vs. wants will cultivate a stronger sense of internal gratitude and increased feelings of happiness. Being patient while waiting and working towards a goal helps to create a sense of appreciation for what we have and don’t have.
5-Give back to others. Look for opportunities to help others as a family and talk about ways to help others in daily life. Talk about the saying, “to give is better than to receive” and ask your children what they think it means. Have a challenge for a week to see how many people each person can help and talk about it over dinner. To give to others is powerful but we must provide our children with opportunities to be selfless and to give back to others. What opportunities will you give your children this holiday season to give back? What ways does your community offer to get involved?
Love and Logic Parenting, By Jedd Hafer, www.loveandlogic.com
Miriam was at a loss about her son, Michael. For two straight weeks, she attacked his homework folder as soon as he walked in the door, diving into it like it contained all the answers to the universe. To her chagrin, she found Michael was slacking and leaving many assignments undone or sitting in limbo.
She tried lectures but even her best ones seemed to fall upon closed ears. She threatened to remove all the stuff he liked but that strained their relationship. Finally fed up, she turned to her wise friend, Linda, for advice.
“He doesn’t seem to care,” Miriam lamented, “I don’t know what to do. When do I step in and when do I step back?”
Linda shared some general ideas she had learned as a Love and Logic teacher:
• Hug your son before you hug his homework folder. You want him to know his worth has nothing to do with school performance. Tell him you love him and you’re glad to see him. Don’t even bring up schoolwork when he comes in.
• If you do help, do so only when you’re both in a relatively good mood. Help when he asks nicely — as long as the pencil stays in his hand. Let him experience some real results of not getting work done. In general, you want him to own his grades. If you step in too much, you rob ownership from him.
Linda noted that there is always some judgment involved in deciding when to step in: Factors might include a child’s age, grade level, developmental level, personality type, and how often these problems occur.
Miriam decided to be more careful about stepping in and to intentionally communicate that she believed in Michael. She stopped asking about homework and allowed Michael to bring up the subject. She decided to be supportive by providing a distraction-free work area and a time in the evening (after chores) for everyone in the family to “study” and/or have a quiet time.
To her surprise, as her observable anxiety over Michael’s assignments lessened, Michael’s concern over his own academic performance seemed to increase. In other words, when the adult is doing all of the worrying regarding homework, the child doesn’t need to be concerned. But when the parent steps back, the responsibility lands on the child, and more times than not, they will take on the responsibility.
Give your kids the gift of owning their homework assignments.
From the stories of King Arthur and his knights comes the one about Sir Gawain. In the tale, Sir Gawain agrees to marry Ragnell, a grotesquely ugly woman, in exchange for information that will spare the life of King Arthur. On their wedding day, a great sense of mourning hung in the air because King Arthur’s handsome and gallant knight was being married to a monstrous hag.
On his wedding night, Sir Gawain waited in bed while is bride prepared herself for their first night together. When Ragnell laid down beside him, she said, “You have kept your promise and much more. You have never shown me pity nor revulsion. All I will ask of you is one kiss.”
Closing his eyes, Gawain leaned over and kissed his bride. When he opened his eyes, he was startled to see a beautiful woman lying next to him. Leaping from the bed, he exclaimed, “Who are you? Where is my wife and is this sorcery?”
Calming, Ragnell said, “I am your wife and I will tell you my story.” She told of how her stepbrother, Sir Gromer, hated her because of her beauty and the fact that she didn’t succumb to his fear tactics and commands. His jealousy and resentment lead him to convince his mother—an evil sorceress—to turn her into one of the ugliest women ever.
Ragnell then told Sir Gawain that there was a second part of the curse. She said,
“Since you have treated me with love and compassion, I am allowed to give you a choice. I can be a beautiful woman by day, so that all may admire me and consider you a lucky man, but I would become the ugly Ragnell by night. Or I can be the ugly Ragnell by day, only to become the beautiful woman you see before you at night. Which would you prefer?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Gawain replied, “This should not be my choice but yours. You must choose for yourself. I will accept either decision as long as it is your will.” And with that response, the curse was lifted and Ragnell was the beautiful woman she was meant to be day and night.
This story captures the essence of true, unconditional love which is meant to be the basis of all relationships. Sir Gawain wasn’t focused only on his own needs but saw beyond them and was concerned about his wife’s happiness and well-being. His desire to empower her is what healed each of them and could bring them both real joy.
As partners and parents, we often lose sight of this way of viewing love and believe that love doesn’t dwell within but is separate/outside of us. In his book “Mindful Loving—10 Practices for Creating Dee per Connections,” Dr. Henry Grayson says, “Thinking of love and God/the Divine as separate from us, we create a never-ceasing need to seek love outside of ourselves…And by shifting the responsibility for change from ourselves to the other person, we unwittingly reinforce an insidious cycle of blame that prevents true healing.”
There are many books and practices on how to heal our relationships with our spouses, children, parents, siblings and more. But the essential point that is often missed is that all change begins with me and my daily choices. The more I delve into relationship work, I am discovering that the central purpose of all relationships is to help us uncover our essential Divine Nature, and to help others do the same.
If you would like support on your own healing journey, please check out what I offer and Contact Me.
Did you know that your child’s emotional health can be largely impacted by the way you guide them in key moments throughout their day? Affective Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp explains that “Positive emotional systems…capture cognitive spaces, leading to their broadening, cultivation and development….As a general principle, the larger the sphere of influence of the positive emotions, the more likely is the child to become a productive and happy member of society.”
So, how do you create a healthy emotional system for your child to develop in?
Here are the 9 Most Important Minutes of Your Child’s Day:
So, instead of pulling the covers off and rushing, could you spend 3 minutes waking up together? Or running downstairs to sit and start breakfast together? Maybe when your child gets home from school, instead of running to the TV or homework, walk to get the mail together. Find a way that works with you to spend these 9 tiny minutes together!
Because all children experience so much throughout the course of a given day, a great way to promote emotional health and processing is to capture your child’s attention and make an emotional investment at these key times.
Optimize the time:
--For your young child who cannot speak yet, spend time looking at books, singing, talking softly, or cuddling.
--Ask open-ended questions and, as your child responds, guide them to use “feeling” words to describe their experiences.
--When you go to check the mail and notice the falling leaves or new buds along the way.
--How about a back-scratch or a shoulder massage for your preteen?
It’s important to remember that a great parent makes the most of the little moments. I challenge you to try this for one month and see what nine minutes a day can do!
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” -Mother Theresa
In her book, “The Conscious Parent—Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children,” Dr. Shefali Tsabary says that to be more effective in relating to our children, we need to be willing to face and resolve issues in ourselves that come from the way we were parented. She states that, “In fact, it’s my experience that the relationship between parent and child exists for the primary purpose of the parent’s transformation and only secondarily for the raising of the child.”
Think for a moment about a recent time that you were triggered by something that your child did or said. If you are not familiar with the term, getting triggered is an intense physical or emotional reaction to an event or interaction. Maybe that trigger comes from your two-year-old refusing to get in her car seat after a particularly stressful outing to the grocery store. Perhaps it comes when your preteen screams, “I hate you, you never understand me” or your young adult child returns your car on empty or forgets your birthday.
Regardless of the cause, the reality is that the things that trigger us almost always connect back to wounds and unmet needs of our inner child. Instead of blaming our children for our emotional reactions, we can use this opportunity to recognize that we are uncovering or awakening something in ourselves that needs our attention as I wrote about in my blog a few weeks ago. www.coachmyrna.org/coachmyrna-blog/triggers-and-awakenings
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of helping my son and daughter-in-law while they became first-time parents. It was amazing to be able to support them as they discovered all the joys and challenges of caring for a newborn. However, at one point, I found myself becoming angry and at first, I couldn’t figure out why. As I examined my emotions, I realized that it had to do with not feeling valued or appreciated. Could it be that I was jealous of all the attention that this beautiful child was getting? If so, where is that coming from?
As I explored more deeply, I realized that this was an opportunity to revisit a book that I had been reading, “Recovering Your Inner Child.” Author Dr. Lucia Capacchione says, “Without awareness, we automatically repeat the kind of parenting we received as children…However, if we do not like the way we were parented, we do have a choice. We can change. We can re-parent ourselves…Recovery of your Inner Child is the way to begin anew and heal your life.”
If you are intrigue to explore this topic more, I encourage you to:
“Healing happens when we open the door and invite the Inner Child to come out and be a part of our lives.” Dr. Capacchione
Is there anyone in your life who seems to fly off the handle at the slightest perceived insult? Do you know anyone who throws verbal barbs and biting accusations your way any time you try to engage in conversation? If you have vital signs, the odds are very high that you do.
Success with occasionally angry people… as well as the chronically ticked-off variety… involves remembering these three essential truths:
The first truth reminds us that we maintain our personal power only when we choose to separate ourselves from the other’s anger. Empathy provides a powerful tool for accomplishing this. That's right! When we perceive the other person as hurting… rather than as obnoxious… we are far less likely to find ourselves being triggered by their ire.
The second truth reminds us that ears are mightier than the mouth. Some people remain angry and confrontational regardless of how well we understand their point of view. Most, however, calm significantly when they see that we care enough to listen.
The third truth reminds us that thoughtful, sincere questions cause others to think. Examples include:
In our audio, Putting Parents at Ease, we describe how teachers can apply these skills with difficult parents. One educator relayed his surprise at how well the skills worked with his adult son:
I was ready to use the skills I learned with the parents of my students. I wasn't prepared for how well they worked when my 25-year-old son blasted me for saying "no" to a loan. Instead of us fighting over the phone, we ended the conversation with some mutual dignity.
On our recent visit to Rome, my husband and I were greatly assisted by the Google Translate App. It was so helpful when we were ordering tickets to the Vatican Museum, knowing which direction to the ride the Metro and figuring out the difference between cream or milk in the small market near our Airbnb.
I was thinking that we sometimes need such an app to help us in our communication with those we love. Of course, an app cannot convey emotion or communicate from the heart. But often, our words to our children and other family members don’t relay the true intention of our heart even when spoken in our native tongue.
When was the last time that you said to your child, “Where were you? Do you know what time it is?” The intensity of your voice probably didn’t communicate that you were so worried and didn’t know what you would do if something happened to your child.
Or how about when you exclaimed with a furrowed brow several pitches higher than your normal voice, “What are you watching on your phone/tablet/ TV? Did you finish your homework yet?” The translation of this might be “You have so much potential. I want you to have a great future with unlimited possibilities and being responsible in school helps make a foundation for that.”
Have you ever said, “Don’t be so lazy; you have to work hard to amount to anything” when what you really meant was “I want you to be better than me, to have more opportunities than your father and I did. We want you to have an amazing life.”
Although there is not yet an app that can translate our true heart, there are some steps that we can take to help us as parents. My friend and author, marriage/ relationship educator, Bento Leal III says in his new book “4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication” that we need to start with empathy as the essential relationship ingredient in communicating with others.
Mr. Leal says, “Empathy is a powerful state of mind, but it’s not something we try to pound into ourselves, it’s something we want to cultivate and let out—it’s our capacity to have compassion and concern for ourselves and others.” His book gives practical tools on how to work on developing empathy and includes steps for a 12-Day Communication Challenge. Check out Mr. Leal’s book here: tinyurl.com/y3g58aqy
Other things I suggest are:
• Write a gratitude list for all things that you appreciate about your child/ren
• Write a note or a letter to express some of these appreciation to your child/ren
• Make time to sit down and talk with your child. Make a date to spend time with him or her one-on-one. Do more listening than talking.
• Say “I am sorry.” If you blow it, explain that you were too intense, what you really meant to say was….
• Practice modeling what you want your children to inherit by saying, “I am really upset right now. Let’s talk about this later when we are both calmer.”
“If you want to get good at anything where real-life performance matters, you actually have to practice that skill in context. Study by itself is never enough.” Josh Kaufman