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Progress from Imperfection: Making Room for Mistakes, Doubt and Risk Personally and Professionally

i-am-a-work-in-progress_bigstock-450x452Women (and many men too) are notorious for aiming for perfect. Whether it’s in parenthood, the workplace, our looks or the overall appearance that we have it all together, imperfections are painted over with a broad brush.

The result?

Low risk. Low reward.

Our lack of honesty with ourselves and others is hurting much more than it’s helping.

For any of us to move forward in any realm of life, there must be room to make mistakes. To take the risks. To swim in doubt. To be authentic and imperfect and unsure on our path to success. Living a photoshopped life grounded in reality show flawlessness and Facebook photo perfection does not lead to forward movement.

So here’s some food for thought.

  • When do you feel most connected with people? To truly connect, we must be real. Think about those friends, work buddies, clients or relatives in your life to whom you feel the closest. They know the real you, don’t they? The messy you. And it’s this raw honesty that allows the relationships to deepen. When we reveal our concerns, doubts and mistakes along with the strengths and accomplishments, you allow others to love you for who you are rather than who you project yourself to be. And the relationship authenticity can then go both ways.
  • When can you progress as a parent, professional, athlete or performer? It’s when you take risks and go beyond your comfort zone, isn’t it? When trying a new technique or going down a path you have not yet visited, it’s hard to be perfect. We must embrace ourselves as the learners we are so we can take risks without the baggage. Each time we learn—each time we make a mistake—we become stronger, more knowledgeable and ironically, more successful.
  • When can you figure out your next steps in life? It’s often when we provide room for doubt. If we continue to plug in the next move, the next job and the next conversation without providing space and time to figure out what we do and don’t want, we can be squelching our true, thought-out next steps. We must be able to ask ourselves, whether professionally or personally; “Am I happy with the direction I am going? Do I want to change my trajectory? Do I want to try something new? What do I truly want?” Doubt can be uncomfortable—but it’s a necessary vehicle for progress.

Life is not perfect. We must stop striving for perfection and instead, try for our best. Try for learning. Try for better, stronger, more nuanced and more open than yesterday. Life is messy, weird and wonderful. We make progress from imperfection. Letting go of perfect can feel like it’s shining high beams on our weaknesses but in actuality, it demonstrates our courage and strength.

Go for it!

Dr. Robyn Signature

 

 

 

MOORE, OK - MAY 21:  Piles of debris lie around the northeast corner of Plaza Towers Elementary school after it was damaged by a tornado May 21, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado of at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down yesterday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Parents; How to Talk to Your Children about The Oklahoma Tornado

“Hi Robyn; We’re fine. It missed us by 2 street blocks.  We’re fine, our houses are fine. So sorry we weren’t able to call or text during the storm.  We love you guys.”

In the recent past, I’ve written articles about how to talk to children about horrifying events such as the SandyHook, Connecticut shooting and The Boston Marathon bombing.  In both articles, while incredibly concerned, I was not touched personally by the tragedies.  I had lived in Boston for many years (I received my PhD from Tufts University near Boston) and made many friends there—but nobody I knew had attended the marathon and all were perfectly safe during the tragedy.

Yesterday, a massive tornado hit Moore, OK.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw the name in the news.  Moore?  I have a deep personal tie to Moore.  Both my children were born there.  Both of their adoptions took place in Moore.  And most significantly, the birth family of both my children still live in Moore.  Their birth mother, their birth father and their birth grandmother.

Many of you who are constant, devoted readers of my parenting site know that we have an open adoption plan with my children’s birth family.  This is not just on paper.  We are extremely close with the birth family—so much so that none of us regard each other as “birth family” and “adoptive family” (I only use those names here to avoid confusion)—we just call each other family.

I am so happy to report that our family members in Moore are all safe.  The message on the top of this article was left by our children’s birth grandmother.  We have been in contact over the last 2 days and while our whole family had quite a scare, they got out of the storm unscathed.  The tornado passed 2 miles away from my kids’ birth father’s house and a ¼ mile from his girlfriend’s place of work.  He was holed up in a bank vault for safety while my kids’ birth mother took refuge in a Walmart with a hundred other people.  The kids’ birth grandmother literally drove herself away from the oncoming storm.  The whole thing is beyond scary.

The experience has given me a more nuanced perspective of how to talk to children about frightening events such as this tornado in Oklahoma.  Since my children (especially my 4 year old) know about the storm and how it affected our family, it is from this perspective that I write my tips today.

(1) Ensure your children know that this tornado is not a threat to their safety: “Is the tornado coming here” my daughter wondered?  Sometimes just saying; “no, it’s all done” is enough.  Other times, for the very curious child, this may be a good  for a little weather lesson.  You can say; “Just like a speed bump in the road slows down cars, most people believe that something gets in the way of tornadoes making them slow down until they are no longer tornadoes anymore.  That’s what happened to this tornado! So no, it’s all done.  The tornado is not coming here.”

(2) Listen to their fears:  Parents often want to “fix the fear” or diminish the importance of it as soon as possible.  Take a moment to listen instead.  It is valid that your children may be scared.  Ask questions like “What is scaring you?” and  “What might make you feel better?”  Reflect their concerns by saying: “Yes; it’s scary to hear that the tornado hurt some people” or “I get the feeling that you are worried about tornadoes coming to our town.”  Steer clear of saying; “Don’t be scared” or “Stop worrying so much” as it invalidates their emotions—which are quite real.

(3) Turn off the news: Make sure the information your children are learning is from you rather than from the TV.  The news can be very graphic and not at all age-appropriate.  While you may want to keep posted on what’s going on, do it privately rather than in front of your children.

(4) Let them know about the positive stories: This morning I heard about a teacher who kept her students safe in the school while the tornado came through town. Tell your children about that. There have been reports that, through his family foundation, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant pledged $1 million to the American Red Cross disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma. Tell your children about that.  This morning it was reported that the OK Highway Patrol confirms that 101 people were found alive in Moore overnight. Tell your children about that.  In this tragedy, there was good news—and children need to know about these stories. There are a lot of helpers and we are so grateful.

(5) Encourage them to do something to help: My daughter is only four and my son is just shy of three—but that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything to help.  They can write letters, draw pictures and may even be able to help donate items needed.  But perhaps their voices of love may be the kindest thing to provide.  We had our daughter call her birth mother, her birth father and her birth grandmother and leave a message on their phones (getting through is still tricky).  She was able to say; “Hi, I love you and I’m so glad you’re safe.”  The act of “doing” can be very reassuring for a young person.  Actually, it can be very reassuring for all of us!

During all of this—stay calm.  Our children absorb the emotion we release.  That doesn’t mean we need to be stoic or happy—it just means that we should leave the heavy burden of our feelings to our peers and our adult loved ones.  You can say; “I’m sad for all the people in Oklahoma who are having a tough time right now because of the tornado.  I wish it didn’t happen.”

Because really; don’t we all feel that way?

 

 

 

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Mind Your Manners! 5 Ways to Tame Rude & Crude Behavior in Your Children

manners_introphoto1-684x1024Dr. Robyn Silverman answers one parent’s question about how to instill manners in her children– especially when they haven’t been overtly enforced in the past.

When children are very young, making people laugh or getting a look of shock is easy encouragement for someone looking for a little extra attention.  While it may not be so funny anymore, your children may still be looking for a positive reaction. They may also form some negative habits– resulting in poor manners. Creating new, positive habits around manners may take some time but will certainly be worth it as he shows others consideration, respect, and kindness.

We also can’t deny that boys, especially, get attention for lack of manners.  Peers might laugh or think such boys are courageous or “cool.”  Media underscores rudeness and lack of manners– so it makes it harder to raise boys without these negative influences.

In her video above, Dr. Robyn suggests and explains the following tips to help instill manners in children (watch the video for more information!):

(1) Nix the negative labels

(2) Dine away from home sometimes to provide opportunities to rise to the occasion.

(3) Explain, expect but don’t lecture

(4) Compliment, praise and be grateful when you see manners

(5) Don’t laugh at poor manners

And remember to be consistent!

Explore the answers to your parenting questions here and on our Facebook site or even on twitter! Join us!  We’re always talking about something interesting…

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Mom & Dad; Are we safe? Talking to your children about scary things presented in the news

martin_bostonmarathonAs we now all know, yesterday’s tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon resulted in at least 176 people injured.  Nine of them are children—at least 8 of whom are being treated in hospitals.  One child, 8-year-old Martin Richard, was killed during the Boston Marathon explosion while enjoying ice cream with his family. His 6 year old sister lost her leg and their mother underwent brain surgery due to her critical injuries.

There are many other stories of families affected and many of us have been touched either directly or indirectly by this senseless act.  One of my good friends just reported that her son’s friend may lose his hearing because pellets were sprayed from the bomb and got lodged in his head. He was there to cheer his dad on who was running the marathon. The juxtaposition of happy joyous cheering, eating ice cream and enjoying a special outing with the family with the horror of a senseless bombing is hard to fathom.  It’s even harder to explain.

As we talked about during the Newtown Connecticut shootings and other stories of senseless child murder, these are unimaginable acts that are likely to bring about questions.  Some are easy to answer.  Others feel nearly impossible.  Still, we can’t put our heads in the sand, as we want our children to hear the truth in an age-appropriate way from someone who knows them best—and that likely means you. Remember, if you aren’t talking about it and they want to hear an answer, they will go to another source.  It is our job to be the source.

So how do you talk to your children about ugly, scary things that are talked about in the media?  What can we do?

(1) Media exposure should be limited:  Information is best coming from a trusted source who is sensitive to the way your child can best receive it—at a time when is best for your child. You can limit details based on age and maturity—and seeing gruesome photos and frightening video is inappropriate for most children. Information on the news is aimed at adults—not at children.

(2) Let them know that responsible adults are working to keep us safe and healthy: When situations seem unsure, children need to know that the grown-ups are helping those in need.  Authorities are working to keep people safe. Medical staff, like doctors and nurses, are helping those who have been hurt.  And be sure to let them know that this incident is rare and in no way means that it will happen again in the same or a different location.

(3) Stay calm and keep your emotions on an even keel: It is normal and natural to feel frustrated, sad and angry when senseless acts occur.  As a parent, teacher or child mentor, being “there” for young people sometimes means keeping our emotions in check so that we don’t overwhelm or alarm our children.  While you certainly don’t need to be stoic or aloof—and you can talk about feeling sad when things like this happen—the full gravity of your feelings should be reserved for other trusted adults in your life.

(4) Expect questions to come over time: Children aren’t always ready to talk when you are.  That means that it’s normal for children to have questions about sensitive topics over time.  It may go on for weeks—a question here and a question there—never lasting more than a minute or two.  Other times you may have a few longer conversations. Children process tough topics in different ways.  It’s OK if you don’t know the answer—sometimes it’s more important to simply listen.  Other times, you may need to tell them you can find out the answer for them at a later time.  You are a source of comfort and information—but you don’t need to be Wikipedia.

(5) Remain open to talking about fears and concerns:  Don’t be surprised if fears and concerns seem illogical, disconnected and come at unusual times.  You might be driving your child to an after-school program on a beautiful sunny day when your child pops a question about something horrific that happened days or even weeks before.  Your child may develop a temporary fear of the dark, loud noises, people in uniform or otherwise while trying to regain their footing.  Ask them; “is there something I can do to help you feel safer or more secure?” or “Would you like advice or would you prefer that I just listen?” Be patient and open to talking, reassuring and even just “there” during these tough times.

(6) Know that unusual behavior or feelings may arise: Sometimes frightening and unexpected news can make children act in different ways.  Some may become clingy or hyper while others may become withdrawn and quiet. Some may sleep more while others may sleep less. Still others may eat more while others may report that they aren’t hungry. Ask them if it would be helpful for them to talk out their feelings. Assure your child that their feelings are OK and give them space to feel anyway that they do—validating their emotions as normal and natural.

(7) Don’t stop living: Sometimes you may want to just construct a bubble for your family to live in just to keep potential dangers out.  I get that.  I’m a parent too.  But living in fear is no way to live.  Instead, enjoy everyday.  Love deeper.  Hug longer.  Tell your children how grateful you are for their safety, their health and their presence in your life.  Teach your children to do the same.

And don’t forget to tell your children about the good in the world.  There aregood people. Very good people.  As Mr. Rogers’ said; “look for the helpers.” People who look out for others.  People who put themselves out in order to take others in.

Instead of blocking out the world, let us teach our children to become the kind of people that make this world a better place.  Children thrive when they feel that they can contribute to their family, their community, their country and beyond.  Encourage them to do that.  By doing so, you will teach them that there is a lot more good in this world than there is evil.  And, yes, they are a big part of that good.

In other words, they don’t just need to look for the helpers, they can become them.

 

 

 

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Ask Dr. Robyn: Teaching Children to Keep a Positive Attitude In New Situations

Dear Dr. Robyn,

My daughter will be going to a new school next school year. She didn’t have a positive experience this year since her friends got into a fight, asked her to choose sides, and she refused to do so.  They wound up both turning on her.  She now wonders if it’s her and thinks that the new school will just be more of the same. What should I do?  — Rachel:  Tallahassee, FL

blonde_smile2-259x300In the above video, I talk in depth about 6 tips to helping children keep a positive attitude including:

(1) Realizing the prior situation was specific

(2) Watching the language you use

(3) Governing your thoughts, feelings and actions

(4) Presenting the evidence to the contrary

(5) Visualizing positive results

(6) Helping her to connect with others

Let me know YOUR thoughts– how have you helped your children to adopt a positive attitude in new situations?  Leave your thoughts here or come join us on Facebook!

 

 

 

Picture Day, Hot Pink Socks and Raising an Assertive Daughter: When Values Can’t Be Conditional

pinksocks-243x300“I want to wear the pink socks.”

“Honey, you have a blue and white dress on.  Please just wear the white socks.”

“But I want to wear the pink socks!”

“Tallie, I’m exhausted.  Please stop arguing with me.”

“I want to wear the pink socks!”

“Fine! Wear the pink socks!”

My 4 year old daughter puts on the hot pink socks. I angrily stomp upstairs and ask myself why she doesn’t want to listen to me and just put on the socks. They’re just socks! So I go back downstairs to plead my case.

“Ugh, Tallie.  It’s Picture Day.  You can wear the pink socks any other day.  Can you please just wear the white socks?”

Tallie puts on the white socks.  I win.  Or do I?

I want my daughter to be assertive.  I want her to stand up for what she believes in, follow her own lead and make choices that are meaningful to her no matter what anyone else thinks.  I really do. We talk about being assertive.  I ask her to be assertive in restaurants when ordering.  With friends on play-dates.  With her brother when choosing a movie to watch.  Being assertive is important.  But can she be assertive on any other day but picture day?

As it turns out, values can’t be conditional.  They can’t depend on schedule, holiday, company or place. As parents we may know that intellectually but in practice, the notion can seem like quite a nuisance.   Well, in the short run anyway.

So I thought about it.  And after Tallie left for school I confessed my blunder out loud.  Raising healthy, strong daughters is an everyday thing, not a sometime thing.  It’s not about convenience, it’s about commitment.

So I plopped the hair on top of my head in a clip, put on a warm up suit, brushed my teeth and walked out the door with hot pink socks in hand.  I drove to the school and went inside.  Then I asked if I could see my daughter for a moment.

When Tallie came out, she looked a little confused.  Why was I there?  I knelt down infront of her and took her hands.  Speaking softly and looking her in the eyes, this is what I said;

“Tallie; this morning Mommy made a mistake.  You really wanted to wear the pink socks and I told you I wanted you to wear the white socks.  I got very upset and yelled.  That was not OK. Mommy was wrong.  You know that I want you to be able to speak up and tell me and everyone else what you want.  That was what you were trying to do this morning and I wasn’t letting you.  That was wrong. So if you want to wear the pink socks, here they are.  Do you want to wear the pink socks?”

Tallie shakes her head yes.  I smile.

“Can I put on the pink socks now?”

“Yes you can.”

I help her put her pink socks on. Tallie smiles.

“It’s OK, Tallie?”

Tallie nods.

“So My Love, when someone comes to you and tells you that they are sorry and that they made a mistake, that’s when you can say, when and if you are ready; ‘It’s Ok, everyone makes mistakes.’”

“It’s OK, Mama. Evweeone makes micktakes sometimes.”

Tallie kisses and hugs me.

“Thank you, Tallie.”

“I’ll miss you Mama.  See you yater.”

As Tallie turned around and walked back to her classroom in her blue dress and her pink socks I couldn’t help but smile.  I don’t know if she’ll remember this exchange but I know I will.

You see, they were just socks.  Hot pink socks. But that’s my daughter.  We don’t always get the big moments in life to announce our values and transfer them to our children.  We get the tiny moments.  The moments that come and go so fast you can miss them if you aren’t aware of them. It’s these little moments that build one on top of each other until they create a value that sticks with your child wherever they go in life, whether you are with them or not.

Today it’s socks.  Tomorrow it’ll be something else.  Friends.  Drugs.  Sex.  What she wants to do with her life.

My husband and I are creating an assertive girl.  Assertiveness can not be contingent on convenience.  It just doesn’t work that way. And believe me, sometimes raising an assertive girl can be a pain in the butt—but I think it’s worth it.  Don’t you?

 

 

 

Pregnancy By Proxy: The Out Of Body Experience of Open Adoption

In honor of our daughter’s 4th birthday, I am republishing some of my adoption articles. This is the third article in the series. Happy Birthday to our sweet baby girl.

wey_77b_mommykiss-225x300Believe me.  This was not what I had envisioned when I thought about pregnancy for myself.  I was more of a traditional gal—thinking that the whole baby- boarding process would actually be taking place in my own body. You know—baby bump, bloated feet, morning sickness–the whole enchilada. I certainly hadn’t considered the possibility of pregnancy being an out-of-body experience.

But when we decided on adoption, and ultimately, open adoption, that’s what it became. I can say now that I couldn’t be more grateful.  It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. But at the start, I thought I might just throw up my lunch.

Look; the 1st trimester is never a sure thing. It’s unpredictable, tenuous, and scary.  I should know; I had lost 4 pregnancies during those 1st 12 weeks.  And yet, here I was willingly and excitedly matched with a birth mother whose baby—no, fetus—was only the size of a pin head and looked more like a baby seahorse than anything human.

What was I doing to myself?  How would I survive the next 35 weeks just watching and hearing updates from the sidelines? The last time I checked, pregnancy was notsupposed to be a spectator sport. I often wondered how I would get through it all considering I was no longer in charge.

I tried to remain “stress-free.”  I did yoga. Took hot showers.  Went to bed early.  But my mind stayed up like a hyped-up teenager on a case of RedBull. Is she eating right? Drinking? Smoking? Resting? I hope nobody is stressing her out at work.  I’ll kill ‘em.

OK. So maybe “stress-free” wasn’t going to happen. I’d settle for not going nuts.

The one saving grace was that our birth parents, C and M (not providing full names because I want to be sensitive to their privacy), were totally relaxed and completely willing to share the process with us.  In fact, C would give me the play by play.  And what could have been unpleasant and anxiety-provoking, became, well, fun!

“You’re baby has elbows!” she wrote to me in an email. I loved that she said “your baby” – It reassured me that this was actually happening. This baby would become my child.

And I loved that she kept track of what was happening inside her body.  I savored every nugget of information—no matter how small—because it somehow connected me to this life that was soon to intertwine with mine.  C even sent me a phone video showing a remote control dancing along her belly just so I could experience what it was like to see my baby kick. She didn’t have to do it. But she did.

C invited me to become her partner in this process.  We came to care about each other.  We checked in with one another.  How was she feeling?  How was I? What were our thoughts, concerns, hopes and dreams for this child? What questions did we have for the doctor? Amazingly, and with great sensitivity, she allowed the pregnancy to become “ours” rather than just “hers.”

Of course that meant that we got all the stressful news as well.  Yippee.  There was the bleeding episode in the 10th week when we all put our feet up in sympathy and prayed for a summertime miracle. And then there was “the flu that stole Christmas” when M called us from the hospital to tell us that C had thrown up 17 times and she was now on an IV drip. Happy Holidays.

But the good always outweighed the scary.  And while my body wasn’t growing and changing, C allowed us to experience the pregnancy through her.  She invited us into her private world.

So we were there—flanked at C’s head and feet— when Tallie made her first on-screen 3D cameo.  It was week 18 and the four of us found out that we were having a little girl.  I couldn’t help it.  I kissed C right on the head. And when we couldn’t be there, since we were in Massachusetts and they were in Oklahoma, C played a CD of our voices to her belly every night and morning. “She loves when you sing to her,” she would write.  “You’re going to be the best Mom.” My heart was full. She had no idea how much that meant to me.

She even let me feed her. Does that sound strange? I don’t mean that I carted C around on a satin chaise and fed her grapes.  No.  She allowed me to send her big vats of food.  Being raised by a Jewish woman, I guess you can say I am programmed to make feasts.  It’s in our blood.  So C indulged me when I sent containers of turkey chili, roast turkey dinners and of course, chicken soup, to her home.

Being a girl who didn’t cook and who lost her mother at the tender age of 13, C didn’t know much about home-cooked meals.  So she gobbled up what I sent her, replete with yummy noises to boot, and thanked me profusely.  She told me how grateful she was. But she was the true hero.  By allowing me to nourish her she was also allowing me to nourish my future child as well. Not everyone would get that. But she did.

And when it came time to discuss the birth plan, it was decided unanimously that we would all be in the room.  She insisted on it.  And Jason was to cut the cord.  “He’s the Daddy, after all,” she said. “Besides, M would faint like a little girl if he had to do it.”

So on the day of our daughter’s birth, we all stood united in the delivery room.  And at 10:19am, we all cheered and teared up when Tallie took her first breath.

I was the first to hold this beautiful baby girl—a momentous occasion indeed.  But perhaps one of the most memorable moments came after all the doctors were gone. It was the moment that we got to introduce our baby girl to her birth mother—the one who had cared for her over the past 9 months—the one who had loved her enough to place her in our arms—and the one who made this out-of-body pregnancy one of the most precious experiences of our lives. One might think this moment would be scary. It wasn’t.  It was…beautiful. It was the moment that we became a family.  All 5 of us.

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a Child & Teen Development Specialist, Professional Speaker and parenting expert often seen in national press such as on The Today Show, Good Morning America & Anderson Live.  Her adoption series won a silver award from Parenting Publications of America. She is so grateful to have been able to build her family through the amazing process of open adoption.

The Infertility Club: Shifting My Goal from Pregnancy to Adoption

In honor of my daughter’s 4th birthday, I’m republishing my adoption series.

robyn_tallie-292x300As you can probably imagine, I felt like the shoemaker’s daughter. I didn’t just work with children and families, I provided parenting tips and tactics to moms and dads around the world…all the while housing a secret that taunted and tortured me every day. I couldn’t get pregnant. Well, that’s not exactly true. I was pretty good at getting pregnant. I just couldn’t seem to stay that way.

After repeatedly bashing myself and feeling every emotion from maudlin inadequacy to stark raving anger, I decided to donate my body to science. Yes, I became a card carrying member of the ever-popular but rarely discussed “infertility club” which allows millions of women to play the role of “the willing pin cushion” in the quest to become a parent. Not that I wasn’t grateful for the possibility—it’s just challenging to keep up your enthusiasm when your hormones are fluctuating between those of a moody adolescent to those of an over-heated menopausal woman. And this was normal. Or so they said.

When you join the “infertility club” you start out thinking that there are certain thingsyou’ll have to do and certain things you’ll never do in order to get pregnant. Well, at least I did. I found myself making concessions and deals–“I’ll take the pills but I won’t do the injections” – “I’ll do the injections but I won’t do IVF.” But years get long and time gets short and well, desperation sets in. “I’ll never do injections” turns into “just make it quick” as you hand your husband a 2-inch needle, turn around and close your eyes. You’ll do anything. You don’t know if it’ll work but you’re willing to try. You have to have a baby. NOW.

Each time you think “could this be it?” And sometimes it works. And it’s a miracle. It’s exactly as it was intended to be. But other times, as in our case, it wasn’t that simple. The drugs did their job but my body played hooky. Each of my four pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

As a woman, this was unacceptable. I had the will. I had the heart. I had the parts! After years of trying not to get pregnant, this was supposed to be MY time. I was ready…and waiting.

Of course they told me that it wasn’t my fault— but you can’t help blaming yourself. I went over every place I had been, every food I ate, and everything I did over the previous weeks. Was it the sushi I ate before I knew? The 5 pound bag of potatoes I lifted at the market? The plane ride I took to my cousin’s wedding? Your head tells you “no” but your heart demands an explanation.

And with the blame game came the ridiculous claims and promises—”Next time, I’ll keep my feet up in the air. I’ll stay on my back. I’ll barely move until it’s time to push.”

I felt so alone. Pregnant women were everywhere. And babies. In the park. In the library. At the market. What angered me the most was seeing parents yell at their children—or worse yet, ignore them. I wanted to throttle them and say, “Don’t you see what you have here! You should be grateful every single day!” But I kept my mouth shut and merely grumbled under my breath. I promised myself that when I did have a child, I would cherish every moment. I would make myself remember that there are women out there willing to trade places–even on the most challenging days—just to have a turn to be called “mommy.”

I often found myself in tears but nevertheless, I carried on. I tried new things. I learned more about my body than I ever wanted to know. Temperature. Timing. Patterns.

Roadblocks came up frequently. In our case, after the doctors put me out and retrieved a total of 38 eggs during two different IVF procedures, they explained to me that something was wrong with my eggs. My husband and I tried to keep things light. We had countless jokes. Eggs Behaving Badly! Eggs Gone Wild! How would you like your eggs? Scrambled!

So we turned to the women whose eggs were pristine and in demand. Egg donors. Never heard of it? It’s very hush hush. Most people don’t talk about it. I actually felt a little naughty while interviewing them since the whole thing felt so “underground.”

Truthfully, it was kind of like online dating. What do you look like? What are your hobbies? Could I implant some of your DNA in my body so I can have a baby?

I thought, could this be our solution? Could this be the ticket to Babyville? But we kept getting tripped up. This one had already donated up to her limit. That one couldn’t get off work. This other one didn’t respond to the drugs. But we had to try again. We had to get in sync. We had to take more drugs. We needed another week, another month, another round.

Every couple has their breaking point- -when they say, “enough is enough” and they put down their needles. They throw away their pills and they take a much needed, life-altering, deep breath.

Our breath of fresh air came on April 12, 2008. It was the day our final donor told us she wasn’t going to be able to make it. It was the day we decided to stop researching new ways to get pregnant and start looking for ways to have a family. It was the day we decided to adopt.

I didn’t know exactly how it was all going to play out but I did know one thing that day. We were going to have a family. Finally, I knew for sure. And it was one of the best days of my life.

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child and teen development specialist, professional speakerand parenting expert often seen in national press such as on The Today Show, Anderson Live, Good Morning America and various print media.  She won a Silver Award for this Adoption Series from Parenting Publications of America. Dr. Robyn is proud to have built her family through the amazing process of Open Adoption. The first of this adoption series is posted here.

Finally Forever: The Life-Changing Letter and Our Decision to Adopt

talliemom_sum2009-300x224It seems like only yesterday when my daughter was just a little baby. I can’t believe it! My daughter is 4 years old today.  In honor of her birthday, I am republishing this letter I wrote to my family and friends telling them that my husband and I were planning to adopt. To all those who have come to the same conclusion or to those who are contemplating it, I wanted to share this letter with all of you.

To the ones we love:

First, we want to tell you how much we’ve appreciated your kind words of encouragement and support over the last several years as we’ve gone through some very tough times. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Jason and I spoke a few weeks back about the current direction we’re taking with building our family. We said. “If one more negative thing happens on the current path we’re forging, we have to change direction.” After four miscarriages, failed IVF attempts, embryos of the likes nobody has ever seen before, countless false starts with multiple donors, a historically stellar donor who didn’t respond to the meds (which nobody had ever seen before) and now…a letter from our current donor telling us that she sadly needs to bow out, we have decided that the signs are quite obvious. I’m not supposed to get pregnant.

It was just the other day that I told Jason that I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right and that this wasn’t going to work out. This wasn’t negativity. I have had a sixth sense about these things for the last four years– always knowing when I was going to miscarry and always knowing when something was going to be sidetracked or derailed. Jason has learned not to question it since it has proven right every time. Yesterday’s letter from our current donor did not come as a surprise when she kindly wrote that she was not going to be able to continue. Our feeling is that she likely did us the biggest favor one could ever do.

We are planning to start the adoption process. I’m writing this down for severalreasons. First, I need to just write it. There are many feelings that go along with it, and it just needs to be written down. Second, you all deserve to hear our thoughts in completion, however, to be honest, the thought of repeating ourselves multiple times doesn’t sound like the making for a great Sunday.

Third, I don’t want anyone to have a moment of sorrow, pity or “feeling sorry” for us. If you do, we would prefer that we were out of ear-shot. We want to embrace this new direction with fervor and positivity and don’t want any sadness to go along with it. While I’m not suggesting that you would feel pity for us, I know how supportive you’ve been in the past with regards to the miracle of a positive pregnancy, and I can imagine that for family members, sadness and loss might be an emotion that would cross the heart.

I’m telling you now, we’re OK. In fact, there is something very exciting about going through a process that can only end in the positive rather than rolling the dice another time.

The signs have been pointing in this direction for so long now that it’s almost embarrassing how long it’s taken for us to stop forcing the proverbial square peg into the round hole. Dad always told me “don’t force it” whenever I tried to get something to inappropriately “fit” when I was a kid. It’s the very advice that Jason remembered yesterday and repeated out loud, as if Dad were sitting with us and giving us his counsel. I believe he was there. And if he were alive today, I imagine this is what he would have said.

I’ve been asking for a sign but refusing to see them–filling in false starts and skewed plans with new donors, more drugs and more invasive procedures. It’s enough. I’ve always loved the idea of adoption; although, it scares the bajeezus out of me. I feel confident that some little souls have been waiting for us to open our eyes and our hearts so that they can be born, and we can all be mutually blessed by their love and energy our entire lives. What an honor.

I had given up my genetic tie with my children many months ago, and Jason and I just want to have a family. We feel that our loved ones who are looking over us from above have been shouting to us for years but we shut them out in favor of what we thought we should be doing and what we thought we wanted. But when it comes down to it, I don’t need to be pregnant to feel the love in my heart, and Jason doesn’t need to have fathered these children to be the best Dad these children will ever know. At this point, we need to put it in the hands of whomever is guiding us to make this decision. We feel it strongly, and we’re not going to fight it anymore.

I am excited to say that I believe now that I will be a mother in the next year. You have been so supportive of us through these very trying four years of agony. And they have been agony. They have taught me patience. They have taught me resilience. They have made me strong. Jason and I have never been more ready.

Our request at this point is that you continue to be the amazing people that you are and support us full throttle in this next journey that can only result in the very thing we’ve wanted all this Time: a baby.

So no more tears– let’s go full steam ahead. Oh yes, and you can close your mouths now. You had to know this was coming eventually.

Lots of love,

Robyn

In celebration of our daughter, Talia Paige Silverman, born February 19th, 2009, through the amazing and beautiful process of open adoption. In our hearts and lives forever, our sweet baby girl.

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child development specialist, professional speaker and parenting expert who became Mom to daughter, Tallie Paige & son, Noah Stone through the miracle of open adoption. 

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Should I lie? 10 Gut-Checking Questions Parents Must Teach Their Children

lying2-276x300The first time your child lies to you can be a shock to any parent.  And while lying is part of growing up, we don’t want to encourage the behavior.  Our children need to learn right from wrong, reality from fantasy and truth from untruth.

The Powerful Word of the Month this month is Self Control– and part of self control is taking a moment to think to oneself; Is this safe? Is this fair? Will it work?  When it comes to lying, taking the time to think through both good and bad solutions can make the difference between right and wrong.

As parents, we always want our children to choose the safest, most fair and best decisions. When we are with them, we can ensure that it usually happens that way. When we aren’t, we leave it in their hands. This is why so many parents can’t sleep at nights even though we’re all so tired, right?

We must arm our children with some Powerful Questions that can help them to choose right over wrong.

(1) Is it safe? Or, perhaps for some we can teach, “If I lie, is someone likely to get hurt?” Some children will lie to protect someone– whether it’s a sibling or themselves. Sometimes when they are “sworn to secrecy” it’s not a big deal– someone is planning a special birthday party or a big surprise and they need to pretend they know nothing about it.  But other times lying about something can be unsafe. Think of the child who was told “not to tell” that a friend was planning to run away, an older sibling was throwing up after each meal or a younger sibling was climbing over a fence near a lake.  That’s when this question becomes crucial.

(2) Is it fair? This question certainly requires perspective-taking.  Clearly they are going to be more inclined to say something if it’s not fair to them.  But what about others?  Think of the child who knows that a friend is cheating off another student’s paper in class and both children involved get in trouble.  What’s fair?  Think of the child who knows that her sports team is doing something underhanded in order to get into the finals.  Is this fair?  The perspective-taking question that pairs well with this one is; if the tables were turned, would it seem fair to you?

(3) What is my gut telling me to do? When we teach our children to listen to their gut, we are providing them with a very important skill. Our bodies often tell us what our minds our try to disguise. If your child chooses right or wrong, ask them, what made you make that choice? What was your gut telling you to do? What will you do next time?

(4) Will I be able to look my parents/friend/teacher in the eye after I do it? We often know when our children are lying because they can not look us in the eye. Helping your children to understand that answering “no” to this question is a sign that they may be on the verge of making a poor choice.

(5) Could I look at myself in the mirror after I do it? This is really the crux of it, isn’t it? In fact, this is the way my own mother explained the meaning of integrity to me. If our children feel that they could not look at their own selves in the mirror after making this choice (and be proud of what they did), they should take it as a warning. Their conscience is telling them that the impending choice could bring them a feeling of regret or shame.

(6) Would I do this behavior whether someone was watching me or not? I often explain to children that the definition of good character is choosing to do the right thing whether all eyes are on you or all eyes are looking away. If your child can not answer “yes” to both scenarios, then she should probably not be doing it.

(7) Does the end justify the means? This can be a tough concept for children. After all, if they want an A on their book report and get an A on their book report that should be a good thing, right? Yes, accept when that A is achieved through dishonest means such as cheating. Sometimes, children have trouble remembering that parents actually care more about effort and character than about their children being the very best regardless of the cost or means. We must be patient and clear up this confusion so that children will choose “right” over “best” when faced with a question of integrity.

(8) Am I doing this because it is right or because it is popular? We have all heard of peer pressure. This phenomenon can happen on a variety of levels. Think of the child who argues that his friend, who clearly lost the race, crossed the finish line first. In this case, the child succumbs to the rules of friendship over the rules of fairness and integrity. We also see it when the child pretends not to like someone because his friends don’t think the person is cool. Either way, he is letting the popular thing get in the way of doing the right thing. We must teach our children not to allow popularity to cloud their judgment because in the end, the truth usually comes out.

(9) Am I being who I am or am I being who others want me to be? This question coincides with number 6. We want our children to be themselves. When they alter their thoughts, actions, appearance, or choices because others want it that way, they are doing a major disservice to themselves and others. On the one hand, they are not allowing others to get to know the real individual behind the farce. On the other hand, they are building their friendships on a lie. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, wrote, “If you live your life trying to please others, half the people will like you and half won’t. And if you live your life according to your own truth, half the people will like you and half won’t.” The underlying question it brings up is; “which half do you want as friends?”

(10) If I get caught lying, will I get in trouble? So, the lie unravels.  Everyone knows the truth.  Are their any negative consequences?  Obviously for the child who kept the “surprise party” a secret or even told her mother; “I’m going with Dad to lunch” when she really was going to set up for that party, there is no getting into trouble.  But what about the child who lies about a grade she got on a today’s quiz? Tells you she already studied for tomorrow’s test when she didn’t?  Says “I don’t know” when you ask where her big brother is when she knows he’s doing something you’ve told him not to do?  Your child likely knows that consequences would be imminent.

As we know, mistakes will happen. If we use those mistakes to help our children make better choices next time, we will be strengthening their integrity.

In the end, we are cultivating future leaders. And I imagine, as Powerful Parents, you would agree, that we want our future leaders to base their decisions on well-instilled values and principles rather than what is fast, popular, and self-serving.  These questions are part of critical thinking skills that they can apply today and for the rest of their lives.