Bonding and Independence

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It’s an interesting phenomenon between parents and children. 


Parents (with G-d as the third partner) birth and raise their beautiful children. 


It is in a way a thankless job that we all savor and do with love, joy, and even gratitude just to have the opportunity. 


From sleepless nights to dirty diapers, homework to honing on how to be a mensch, family outings to school trips, braces to bar/bat- mitzvahs, birthdays to sleepover parties, shopping trips to college choices, as parents there is nothing we won’t do for our children. 


Yet, the role of children is to learn and grow to be independent. Children must spread their wings, so they can function as their own adults and parents one day (and hopefully before they are 33 and still living in mom and dad’s house)!


Yet to a parent, a child is always their child, no matter how big, smart, or successful they are (and even when, G-d willing, they surpass their parents in height, good looks, and achievements).


My father used to say, “Blood is thicker than water,” meaning that it’s a harsh world out there and the family always needs to stick together.


As children of Holocaust survivors, I learned that we can’t stray to far (or far at all) from either our religion or family, because otherwise, “We let Hitler win.”


We grew up living next to my grandparents (1 block away) and later in life, we always lived right near my parents as well. 


I watched TV and ate salami sandwiches with my grandmother and doted over my grandfather who sat on the bimah in his big chair as the president of our then struggling synagogue in Manhattan. 


Similarly, my parents were like surrogate parents to my own children and regularly babysat, picked the kids up from school/camp, made Sabbath meals, and happily spent time with them doing whatever. 


My parents were always there to advise, guide, lend a hand and support…no matter the cost to them, as my father used to say, “I would go through fire for my family” and this–his devotion and integrity–I knew was the utter truth. 


In turn, I tried to be a good son and although I disagreed and fought with my parents (mostly my dad) on many issues (often religious and sometimes politics as remember them), I knew they loved me dearly and I them.


As my dear parents are now gone, and I have become (slightly) a helicopter parent myself with forever worries about how my kids are doing, I know that they need to be independent–and that (more than) sometimes means making mistakes or falling down, and hopefully getting right back up again on their feet.


It is hard to learn that as parents, in many cases, we are just spectators–not that we know everything, we don’t, but the maternal and paternal instinct is to safeguard our children whom we love and adore. 


Kids need three things to individuate successfully: stability, consistency, and safety. Absent those, you run the risk of unhealthy knotted bonding and stunted separation anxiety. 


Everyone needs to lead their own lives–we really only have one life to live. Yet, as family, we are very much the foundation and part of their inner strength for everything that follows from their determination, hard work, and blessings from Above. 


For parents and children, it is critical to balance the need for healthy separation and independence with love and bonding that is timeless.


We have to “let go and let G-d” and let our Children. 


The parents are the past and the children are the future, but we mean everything to each other. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Walking It Good

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Took a nice walk with my honey.


Down the Bethesda Trolley Trail.


Needs a little repaving work.


But it’s nice lush green at this time of year. 


The exercise is good (and my diet appreciates it). 


And of course, spending time together talking and bonding is the road best traveled. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Work-Family Is A Word

Team

This week I learned something about “work-family.”


Yes, work is not family–it’s your job.


But on the job we meet people that influence us, change us, and sometimes inspire us. 


Not everyone has a positive impact on us–some people we work with are bad, unbalanced, selfish, biased, and abusive–they bring their personal craziness into the office. 


But some are truly good people out there–and they leave a lasting impact. 


This week was the first time I experienced someone in my group passing away suddenly. 


She was at work Monday and Tuesday–we had talked and joked.


I remember she wore pink on Tuesday and it matched a pink stuffed animal on her desk–she looked happy or at peace. 


By early Wednesday morning, I was getting texts then calls that she had passed away (I simultaneously let my boss know). 


One day she was there in the office (and had been for some 30 years) and the next day she was gone.


But there was something special about this lady and how she interacted with the team. 


She seemed to touch people far and wide with her outreach, caring for others, joking around, and good spirit despite whatever challenges she herself may have been going through.


When she passed this week, people were in my office and the halls crying–they loved this lady, their coworker and friend.


At 9 AM, I gathered the broader team to announce her passing. “One of our own has passed.” I spoke and then went around offering others to say a few words, which some surely did. 


At 10 AM, I sent a notification of the passing to the people in the entire building (and others associated).


Later in the day, there was a toast to her and more speeches from up and down the chain to remember this good lady as well as to pull together as a team to support each other.


By the next day, things had quickly moved to care for the family, packing her office things and memorializing her, as well as provisions for some grief counseling. 


[Note: I am blessed with an extraordinary high-performance team, and this passing was not only a shock but added to the intensity of the work we do and how much of it there is.]


Once we have all the funeral arrangements, then next up is sending out an broader department-wide notice–and a large attendance for her is expected. 


What I learned is that while work itself can be productive and meaningful, through doing good to others and sincere personal interactions on the job, there can be bonds formed that can have a personal impact on people and bring tears to their eyes. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Western Wall 1000

Western Wall 1000

About 20 years ago, we took on a little family activity to put together this 1000 piece puzzle of the Western Wall (“The Kotel”) in Jerusalem.

We all sat around the dining room table in my parent’s house working to put the puzzle together.

It was a pretty tough puzzle, since the pieces of a large part of the puzzle, The Wall, looked so similar.

But it was something we all rallied around, had fun with, and figured out as a family.

The only problem we couldn’t readily solve, came down to the last piece of the puzzle, and almost smack center–it was missing.

A 1000 piece puzzle with only 999 pieces.

My dad, ever the innovative one, took out a marker and colored in the missing piece.

He framed the picture of the holy Kotel and hung it in their living room.

I was amazed that he took such great pride in the puzzle we worked on, since it was imperfect.

But it taught me that while nothing in life is perfect, it is our bonding together in love that creates a type of spiritual perfection.

It was also interesting to me that like Jews now-a-days put little pieces of paper (“Kvitels”) with their deepest prayers into the crevices of the Western Wall, my dad put the families last piece into the representative puzzle picture of it.

Finally, the Western Wall is itself just a piece of the destroyed (twice) holy Temple (“Beit Hamikdash”) that stood in Jerusalem, and one day hopefully it will be rebuilt with all the pieces through the loving bonding of the people that yearn for that special connection to the Almighty again.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Send Parenting To The Cloud

Don't Send Parenting To The Cloud

So my youngest daughter is taking her SAT’s.

Where did the years go?

As a parent, what’s my role in helping her prepare?

With all the new technology out there, you’d think I was just a parental annoyance…yeah, in some ways I am.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “parents are too tired, too busy–or too mystified to help” with homework.

And now “digital tutors” are taking their place for about $24 to $45 per hour (and even prorated per minute).

For example, on Tutor.com you can get on-demand tutoring to text chat and do calculations on a shared screen with your kid.

Tutor.com has about 1,200 tutors, 95% from Bangalore, India staffed by “moonlighting or retired teachers, college professors, or [other] professionals.”

Other online resources include Khan Academy with educational videos, Chegg.com with answers to homework problems from 2,500+ textbooks, and StudyBlue.com for sharing “study guides, notes, and flashcards.”

While these online tutoring resources can be a huge help for students, I think that parents can still play an important role.

Recently, my daughter and I have carved out some time every night to sit down at the dining room table with books, scrap papers, and our own flash cards to study, together.

What I am finding is that this is a really special time for us to bond and sort of be in this SAT rite of passage together, where I can provide emotional support and some structure for the studying.

We also have signed her up for a more formal review class as well as some online resources, but I am glad to be a parent to my children and not rely only on canned cloud solutions.

While I don’t know most of the answers and she does–I take that as a good thing. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Paperman, For Dannielle

Valentines Day is next week, but I wanted to share this with someone very special to me, Dannielle.

This wonderful movie short by Disney called Paperman shows the amazing chemistry between two people that draws them to each other.

I love how the man and women laugh on the train platform holding the paper with the lipstick on it and how from his office when he sees her in the skyscraper across the street, he jumps up and down waving trying to get her attention.

The movie reminds me of another favorite, The Red Balloon, where a little boy Pascal at the end is carried off by a cluster of sentient balloons, just as in this movie the man is carried off to his love by the paper airplanes he made to try to connect with her.

While I am usually not one for animation, this one captures it just right! 😉

>Reading is Love

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http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/cbsnews_player_embed.swf

What an inspiring story this week about Jim Brozina and his daughter Alice Ozma.

Jim’s wife left him when Alice was ten years old.

And when Alice started 4th grade, Jim (a retired librarian) made a challenge to his daughter to see how many nights they could read together in row–it was a way for them to spend time together and bond.

Well their “Streak” went on and on–for over 3000 nights–almost 9 years–until Alice’s first night at Rutger’s University.

Alice majored–of course–in English Literature.

And she wrote a book called “The Reading Promise” about her dad’s selfless devotion and love to her, reading every night.

I remember as a kid, the commercials encouraging reading–“Reading is Fundamental“.

Now I know that reading is not just fundamental (to learning and growth), but is also a way to love someone.

In the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, how many of us spend the time with our kids–consistently and with the utter devotion that this father did–one chapter a night, every night?

Aside from the lesson of selflessness in this story, I also see in this the message of incremental change and growth–by starting off with just 15 minutes a day and building on this incrementally, Jim and Alice were able to accomplish so much together over the years–in terms of learning and their relationship.

So while, the big blowout moments in life are significant memories for us and very often get a lot of emphasis (i.e. as in “let’s make a memory”), the day-to-day consistent building of relationships and learning, can have a truly larger than life impact over the long-term.

On a more personal note, I remember when I was debating going back to school for my MBA (while working full-time during the day), and my dad encouraged me and told me that the years would come and go regardless, but that if I made the commitment, at the end, I would have something valuable to show for it.

I listened to his advice and went to school at night for what seemed like ages for an MBA and then numerous certifications and other learning opportunities, and I am always glad that I did. Dad was right…the years pass regardless, but your hard work pays off. I will always be grateful to him for that advice and support–love comes in many shapes and sizes.