Tag Archives: family time

Achieving Equality: A PipeDream?

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Pic from ExhaustedWoman.com

 

Did you go into your marriage, pre-children, expecting to have equitable parenting duties with your husband? Did it ever occur to you that your career would be deemed less important, therefore you’d be expected to have more time to shop, clean, care-take? Did you ever imagine that you would have less time off to replenish, while working more than your spouse? If you knew all this going into your marriage, would you feel differently about your husband?

Equitable parenting duties. Equal time off. Mutual respect. In 2018, according to multiple studies, these are still drastically missing within heterosexual couples who have children.

In reality, for most American women, these ideas are mere pipe dreams. It’s just not how our society, and how most fathers, behave. Period. End of story. There is a lot of research to back this up. See the links below for in-depth articles in The Washington Post, Forbes and Time magazines. 

Maybe in the top echelons of society among very young couples who live in democratic, liberal University settings, do you see fathers who are doing more and are behaving with more respect. But for the most part, throughout America, at every age and social and economic demographic, this isn’t the case. A woman’s career can be treated like a hobby and not as important as a man’s, by his behavior—forcing a woman to feel battered into doing the lion’s share of parenting, cleaning, care-taking of in-laws, parents and organizing of family activities.

For example, one mom interviewed said her husband “Just doesn’t get up.” She explained that her young husband will remain drinking his coffee at the kitchen table and checking his phone, while his wife, also a full-time working executive, is racing to put together backpacks, get the children dressed, prepare lunches. It puts her at a disadvantage with work as well as loading her down with stress, anxiety and bitterness—resulting in poor health and marital resentments, lack of sex drive and dissipating connection between mom and dad. And the children notice. They see what we do, much more than what we say—and model our behavior. Which is why many experts say the misogyny behind the #metoo movement, has its roots at home where mom is undervalued, taken for granted and disrespected.

In the Washington Post article Where do Kids Learn to Undervalue Women? From Their Parents, multiple studies showed that: “even progressive spouses don’t divide burdens equitably. The children notice.”

According to university research, conclusions ranged from misogyny budding from modeled parent behavior to malignant gender dynamics being passed down generation to generation.

Sadly, recent studies showed the following, reported by Darcy Lockman:

“Among heterosexual parents, fathers — even the youngest and most theoretically progressive among them — do not partake generously of the workload at home. Employed women partnered with employed men carry 65 percent of the family’s child-care responsibilities, a figure that has held steady since the turn of the century. Women with babies enjoy half as much leisure time on weekends as their husbands. Working mothers with preschool-age children are 2 1/2 times as likely to perform middle-of-the-night care as their husbands. And in hours not so easily tallied, mothers remain almost solely in charge of the endless managerial care that comes with raising children: securing babysitters, filling out school forms, sorting through hand-me-downs.”

Ey ey ey people.

I feel strongly that this lack of respect and “unawareness” among fathers who overburden their wives by not stepping up, is the root of divorce. I’ve seen so many moms become severely bitter, insecure and disconnected without hope they can ever achieve their dreams within this family dynamic. This is likely the reason why so many mothers look forward to their alcohol binging nights out with other moms, highlighted in The Bad Moms movies. And it is also why I, as a full time single mother for the past nine years, feel extremely lucky. At least as a sole parent, I don’t have ANY expectations that a partner will be, or should be, doing ANYTHING for me and my boys within the household on a daily basis. No one will be prepping for schools, buying foods, cooking dinners, planning sports and summer camps, going to parents nights or performances, yard work, etc. It’s just me. Surprisingly, I find peace and liberation with this as I have lost all my bitterness from needing that from someone. I am also never, ever going to live with someone who may be critical of my appearance, or my house’s appearance, my cooking (or lack thereof), or parenting abilities—while also pouting about my lack of sexual desire at the end of the night. I’m tired. Yet, I’m following my dreams again and writing novels and teaching yoga and my boys know that mommy needs help at home and that her dreams are just as important as their own.

When I was married, my older son was learning something different. He was learning that mommy’s dreams don’t count, because they don’t pay as well as daddy’s, and that she needs to do the lion share of parenting and cleaning and deserves less time off than daddy. And I’m to blame for allowing this dynamic. I used to think my ex taking our son to the park on a Saturday afternoon, after he had been gone all week and I had spent late-nights catching up on work, meant that I had an hour to clean the house and race to the grocery store. It didn’t occur to me to get a massage and let him help me do the other stuff later. Yet I was working full time as a magazine editor and taking care of our son solo and staying up late managing deadlines. Where did I get this misconception that I had to work, work, work and never rest? From my parent dynamic of a working full – time mother who did all the parenting. It really does get passed down generation to generation and women (especially those raised in the South) are taught to believe that they are just more compassionate, better organized, better at cooking, more patient and therefore, better at parenting, so it’s easier for us. I can’t tell you how many times I heard friends prepare weeks of food for their husbands before leaving for a work trip because their husbands “just can’t open a can of soup.”

This has to stop. Having a penis doesn’t mean a man can’t cook, tuck a child into bed, read bedtime stories, grocery shop, plan birthday parties, volunteer at schools, design holiday cards, and help with in-law care-taking. None of these activities are exclusively made for humans with vaginas. But I understand why women just do the extra work when they fear that it just won’t get done otherwise.

It took divorce and becoming a full-time single mother for me to realize that I allowed this toxic, old-fashioned inequitable dynamic to exist by not demanding my ex do more. If I had boycotted the home situation, protested, left for an extended amount of time while leaving our child at home, perhaps my ex would have seen what was going on. Or likely, he would have hired a full-time nanny and not fretted about the cost.

I predict there will be a shift in the American family (heterosexual) dynamic within the next 50 years where women just opt out. We’re tired. And we’re worthy of time off and help. It’s time for us to raise our hands, lift our white flags and say ENOUGH. Doing it all and being everything to everyone, enables a toxic old-fashioned view of parenting, and is just not worth ruining our health and forgetting our dreams for.

If this has riled you up, sadly, here are more articles and studies regarding the lack of gender equality in American households and society:

“A stunning chart shows the true cause of the gender wage gap.” 

“From concubine to CEO, how far have women really come?” Forbes, Dec. 20, 2015

“The Parenting Fantasy that holds Women Back” Time, Oct. 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hawaii w Kids: Locals, Farming, Aloha, & a lil Me TIME!

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On top of Koko Crater!

I love Hawaii. I think everyone knows that by now, lol! Three weeks ago I took the boys back to Honolulu for our sixth visit. Who would think there was more to do and see? There was SO much more. It was a magical trip for this single mom. It was partly a working trip for me, as I’m writing my fourth novel which occurs mainly on a farm in Hawaii (Read about Orbiting Jupiter HERE.). I also sold a story to MindBodyGreen (to be published in May, so I can’t go into too much detail here) about an organic farm in poverty-ridden Wai’anae, on the western side of Oahu, that also provides scholarships to teens and internships to college students.

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William picking mangos at the farm.

What I can tell you, is that the boys and I got to farm with a youth-leader there, mulching  in the heat and learning, not just about organic farming in a dry region, but about the struggles most Hawaiian teens growing up in this poor area of Oahu, go through. My boys who live in a bubble of wealth in Hermosa Beach, learned what it’s like when most friends drop out of school, get mixed up in drugs, have high rates of pregnancy, can’t eat lunch, can’t go to college because they can’t afford it, etc. We learned how diabetes and heart disease is the highest in this region, than any where else in Hawaii. Once abundant, we now also discovered that quality fruit and vegetables are scarce, mainly because the military cut off the west side’s main water source, diverting it for their needs, so growing is a struggle. The boys loved gardening and creating their own organic lunch later and the connections made were priceless. 

Just down the mountain road from the farm is this amazing, deserted beach. Can you just say WOW?

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Other highlights of this trip include hanging with a friend who now lives in Honolulu, her kiddos playing with mine. The coach for the Honolulu Bulls, met us in Vegas during a soccer tournament earlier, so invited my William and his best friend to practice with them on a steamy night for two hours in Honolulu. What a work out! The coach was so kind and most of the boys on the team gave William their info so they can follow each other on insta. None of them had ever been to California and asked my son SO many questions about girls and celebrities. 🙂 It was eye-opening for William as these boys, unlike the ones he plays with in LA, are super hungry and motivated to move up—as for some, it may be their only ticket to college. At the practice, there were adults and a few college players who were ‘mixing it up’ by playing with the teens, making it more challenging for them. The practice, also unlike the amazing facilities in LA, was held in an over-grown small field near tents of homeless. There had to be at least 25 homeless families camping just near the edge of the field. Just part of life in Honolulu.

What else? We hiked the Koko Crater! It’s a steep hike up an abandoned rail way, at points near the top, hikers see hundreds of feet below them, as they step on wooden planks. My 9-year-old was so scared that he shook and cried at points! But his big brother and I coaxed him on, helping him get over his fears. He was not a happy camper when he finally made it up to the top, but after he finished, he was ecstatic and beyond proud of himself, telling others they can do it, if he could. I’m proud of him too! 🙂

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post-crater hike wipe out!

This trip was really the perfect trip. It allowed us to meet with more locals, make new friends, explore little-known areas, even going to a Buddhist center downtown and a little known hole-in-the-wall eatery for yummy fish. I met with a realtor, got a few apartment tours for a possible move too, and even got asked to be a teacher at a yoga studio in Waikiki. How cool is that? And since I invited one of my oldest son’s friends, I had make shift babysitters one afternoon and escaped to relaxation: getting a massage (how I love groupon!), with time for day-dreaming at the spa pool after. What more can a mom ask for?

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Aloha until next time. ❤

L. xo

Manifesting B A LA N C E = More Play

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B A L A N C E

 

In yoga it’s a daily mantra that we use physical metaphors, such as hand stands or Warrior 3 poses, to represent. Off the mat, in civilian life, it’s the juggling act of not tipping the scales too much into work verses play. Balance represents the Yin & Yang of our existence. I find that when I’m ‘on’ with the kiddos for months on end and working at a hectic pace, the minute they are with their dad, I have to literally restrain myself from going a little nutty. I have SUCH an urge to dance, be naughty, to travel somewhere random, you name it, I crave it. Right now, I’m in a dancing mood, lol.

LOVE this! My mood currently. ha ha

 

 

And it’s just because I’m not currently balanced.

Living in Europe was refreshing as I saw so many balanced people. People who drank one glass of vino with their meal each night and wouldn’t finish the glass if they didn’t like the wine, for instance. Europeans also take more than 6 weeks of holiday time, on average. So they have a lot of leisure time, do nothing time, be present time, decompress time, play time. In America, most of us (from my perspective, including myself!) work until we are drained and then party over-the-top to blow off steam. We can get attracted to relationships that mirror that up and down drama too, to help us FEEL alive and out of a monotonous grind.

If I just played a bit more on a weekly basis, doing what I love: dancing, jogging, hiking, playing between the long stretches of work … I’d have more balance. That’s my goal for 2017.

I just dropped the boys off at the airport after being on for months and right now, I’m craving a European or Greek holiday filled with a few weeks of just pleasure, writing, dancing, laziness, drinking and eating naughty food or all of what I mentioned. 🙂 I’m manifesting this in the new year. 🙂 Sometime in Summer 2017.

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I’ve been drooling over this Greek Island villa for 3 years! I found it on Airbnb…built by a British shipping magnet, it has two old buildings, with surprise rooms with rope ladders and hidden door ways…pools, sauna, tennis courts, basketball courts, jacuzzis, a huge outdoor eating area and kayaks. It is the only estate on the entire little island. It comes with a driver and cook who live off site. So, I’ve been trying to manifest this for three years, waiting for the right time, the right person to come into my life, the right circumstances … and I’ve decided that I’m just going to do it. The time is now.  There are no ‘right’ circumstances. At $116 a person/a night, it’s not bad ey? And it’s perfect for kiddos as they can scurry up and down the Cliffs, run amuck on the island without supervision and adults can hang at one of the pools or outside spots for yoga, wine, dinners, swims. … So, I’m manifesting this playtime that will either be a retreat for yoga and writers, a newkindofrebel.com retreat … or just fun with families and kiddos.

The time is now.

This I know for sure: 2016, with all its losses, has taught me to take control of manifesting my future. So that includes creating balance, incorporating more  fun, healthy love and work that feels like play.

What does B A L A N C E mean for you?

Seriously, I’m interested, so chime in. 🙂

AS Always, thank you kindly for reading my meandering prose. What would I do with all these rambling thoughts swirling in my little brain. No wonder I have to run, bike, do yoga and still write it all out. ha ha

Love & Light … AND have some playful fun this week 🙂

L. xo

Today

(Dedicated to my friends on the verge of divorce.)

What if, just for today, I loved you for exactly who you are?

What if, just for today, I decided that my joy was my own to create, and not connected to you at all. Today, my joy does not depend on your mood, your smile, your behavior, or you doing the dishes, or any other chore for me. Just for today, my joy, my bliss, is independent of you.

What if, just for today, I decided my job wasn’t to fix you, control you, or try to get you to be more like me.

What if, just for today, I asked for help, but without any conditions or any criticism.

What if, just for today, I decided to give myself to you, with such reckless abandon, that it leaves you breathless and without a clue as to what you did to deserve it.

What if, just for today, I decided that you didn’t need to ‘do’ anything, or ‘be’ a certain way, to deserve some reckless, playful love.

What if, just for today, I remember what drew me to you, what I adore about you, and I tell you what I still see, what I still respect, and what still drives me crazy about you.

What if, just for today, I don’t interrupt you, correct you, or keep record of any past wrongs.

What if, just for today, I let myself be vulnerable and raw? Instead of getting mad, shutting down, turning away or stomping off, I will pause, breathe and say: “I need you. Hold me. I’m sorry. I love you.”

Today, I will not fight with you.

Today, I will focus on being a better me and let you figure out your own journey.

Today, I will respect you enough to make your own choices.

Today, I will love you without worrying about tomorrow, or what ifs.

Today I will breathe deeply and be present.

Today I will be patient.

Today I will listen to my heart and quiet my mind so that I do not feel the need to ‘do’ anything, or react, or panic.

Today I will be grateful for you, for this journey, and for all that we have created: the good, the bad, the frustrating, the joyful, because it is teaching me something valuable.

Today I will try to realize that I chose you, I chose this journey, this lesson, this experience so that I can grow. You loved me so much that you let us have this, have all of this.

Today, I will hug you because no matter what, we are blessed.

X & O

Loving Counts

My prophetic little four-year-old said to me tonight: “Loving counts mommy.”

We had been hanging pictures up. I turned and looked at him. I actually blinked as I took in the simple notion, then replied: “Yes, it certainly does.”

What an incredible little man.

Sometimes it’s as simple as that. What counts in your life? Think about it.

What do you love most?

Your family? Your God? Your Work?

Does it show?

For me, love is essential. It is essential in every aspect of my life. My boys are everything to me. But I wonder if they always feel that from me. Saying that I love them is one thing. Showing them is quite another.

For a child, I wonder what defines love? It certainly has to be about more than saying ‘I Love You’ or buying cool toys. Kids always seem to cut right to the chase. They know who they can depend upon. They know who is kind. They respond to those who play with them, acknowledge them, listen to them, encourage them, take care of them, accept them.

I know that my two boys are the most appreciative when I’m present with them. They know when it’s time to turn off the computer or cell phone and just be with them.

Being present, however, is much harder than it sounds. The other day I had an insane tax deadline. I was up until 2 a.m. working, slept for three hours, and was back at it. At 7 a.m., as I was finishing my expense spreadsheet, my little guy comes into my room and starts to climb into bed. He ruffles my sheets and starts to crumple some papers and receipts. I yelled upstairs to my older son to take him up and put on Sesame Street. As he padded out of my room, I instantly felt remorse. If I had finished this project earlier, I wouldn’t have sent him away and just enjoyed some cuddle time.

Clearly, ‘loving’ requires a bit of organization and balance so that work doesn’t intrude on important quality time at home.

‘Being present’, according to mindfulness experts, also requires that you let go of anxieties and fears that distract you and pull you out of the moment. If you have deadlines looming, projects that need to be carried out, are going through a divorce or are facing health or personal challenges—it’s incredibly hard to clear worries from your mind and just listen to or play with your children, isn’t it? (For a great article about mindfulness, check out What Really Helps Make Mindfulness Work by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.)

I’m still finding my way and started meditating on a regular basis just this past year. I’ve done yoga for years and find that it helps me clear my mind. The physical exertion and mental focus on intentions and goals allows me to let go of issues and anxieties that may whirl in my mind. I find that afterwards my mental slate is clear and I’m much more focused and calm that evening with the boys. I’m still a work in progress, clearly.

While I’m still honing mindfulness techniques, I have learned that it’s incredibly hard NOT to live in the moment when spending time with a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease. I flew to North Carolina last week to visit my mother who is struggling in what seems to be the final phase of the disease. She didn’t know who I was. She can barely talk or walk. I think she just thought of me as a friendly face. I had to force myself to always smile, relax, and think about what she needed or what would reassure her when visiting. I knew after each visit that she wouldn’t remember I had been there the next day. But I reminded myself that in the moments that I held her hand, or showed her pictures, or just talked with her about various things, that it mattered. It counted. Those moments were hard for me, but they brought her a bit of happiness—even if fleeting. And she deserves that.

On the last day I spent with her—on the day that I likely said my goodbye—my mom was ‘playing’ bingo with other residents. The woman who ran the game would call out the letter and number combinations. My mother, who doesn’t recognize her numbers or letters anymore, would put a marker on any letter/number combination. She apparently still recognized that four in a row allowed her to win—so she just kept putting four in a row. B-6 might be called, but she’d put her acorn on C-12, right beside another marker. I knew not to correct her.

“Wow, mom, you won again!” I’d say with a laugh.

She’d just smile. One time she looked at me inquisitively and said slowly, “I. Like. You.”

That was a big accomplishment as she typically speaks with just one word.

I replied “Well, I Love you.”

She looked at me like I was a bit crazy, giving me a one-over glance.

Later in the day, I went through her sweaters and found one that still fit. As I was putting it on her, she quickly smiled. It was as if she had been shaken and her eyes got wide with acknowledgment. She leaned into me and said, “Love.” I put my forehead to hers and a moment later she said “You.”

As I settled into my seat on my first plane during my trek back to California, I thought that it may be a long time before I got the chance to see mom again. It’s hard to fly back with the two boys due to expense. I know if I was closer I could do more, visit more. It was such a gift to hear her say those words. And in that moment, I know she meant it. In that flash of recognition, she knew who I was. It might have only lasted a second for her—but for me, it counted.

Even when brief and fleeting, loving counts most of all.

Helping Your Kids Open Up

When’s the last time one of your children came to you for a real heart-to-heart chat? Has it been over a year since you’ve held your sides with giggles while doing something silly together? Do you feel like you are constantly battling video games, cell phones and the Internet in order to get a one-sentence response—let alone a conversation—with your kids? In this fast-paced, over-scheduled world, months can go by without real conversation and that’s too much for my liking. I’ve thought about the times when I’ve really connected with my kids to recall what triggered our closeness. And since no two kids are a like, I’ve reached out to experts as well for more ideas. Here are the top tactics that may help you bridge the communication gap and get your kids talking.

  • Get Active:
    Experts agree kids chat more with you while busy doing a physical activity together. I learned this when I was a camp counselor one summer break from college. Campers between the ages of six and 17 stayed the entire summer at this camp in the Pocono’s that catered to Manhattanites.  My job was to take each child out in a canoe, teach them the basic strokes, and later take small groups on trips. I was amazed at how the children, from the youngest to the oldest, would open up after 10 minutes or so of hard work in the canoe—especially the boys. The repetitive motions in the sun and fresh air, seemed to get even the shy kids babbling about friends, parents, school, pets, etc. I was overwhelmed with the sadness of some of the stories: a daughter raised by a slew of nannies; a son whose dad left when he was a baby; an eleven-year-old girl terrified her mom wouldn’t visit unless she landed the leading role of the camp play. …It goes on and on. I would listen and correct their J and C strokes. By the end of the summer, I was convinced that the best therapy in the world occurred while canoeing, hiking, running, or just walking with someone you trust. Even if you have a demanding work schedule, mini hikes on weekends or even walking into town for an ice cream, can inspire meaningful conversation or simple fun.
  • Family Dinner:
    Doing research for my article “How the Family Dinner Can Help Your Teen”, I discovered a survey conducted by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse that found teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and less likely to have substance abuse problems.Today, only about half of American teenagers say they have regular family dinners and the survey suggests that family time may be more important to children than many parents realize—even more important than a host of extra-curricular activities.Will Courtenay, Ph.D, psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif., father of two, and author of Dying to Be Men agrees family dinners work—but only if limits are imposed. “Family dinner is great—and research shows they’re beneficial for kids—but these benefits are lost if your daughter or son is texting at the table or engrossed in tunes streaming through their earbuds. It’s important for kids to learn that dinner time is a time to communicate with others at the table and to share stories of the day.” (I’d add that some parents are just as bad. Make sure the television is turned off before sitting down at the table!)
  • Family Game Night: (And, YES, this is possible for us single parents, too!)
    This may seem corny for some, especially teens, but give it a go anyway. Experts say it works if you incorporate your kids’ interests. So if your children hate scrabble or charades, don’t impose that on them.“It’s all about finding out what they like to do. What are their interests? And what is their temperament?,” points out Rona Renner, R.N., a parent educator, mom of four, and founder and host of Childhood Matters Radio Show. As an example, Renner says she purchased a ping pong table when one of her sons was 13-years-old and put it in the living room.“We just needed something to do together that we both enjoyed. When he turned 13 and entered junior high, it felt like overnight we just had nothing in common,” she reflects. The times playing ping pong were “precious” as it helped them reconnect and just have some fun.
  • Volunteer at School:
    I know this is a hard one for some. It may not be feasible to volunteer often at your children’s schools. But, if possible, find out all the different events and activities with parent involvement and sign up for one. Even if you’re only able to take off one day of work and spend one day being a chaperone on a school trip, you’ll get a chance to see your child’s friends and meet more parents. Dipping into your kids’ worlds at school opens up a host of things to talk about.
  • Sleep Talk Therapy:
    Can’t squeeze in quality time during the day? Try it at night! That’s right. Sleep talk therapy is becoming recognized by experts as a way to reinforce your love and encouragement to your children. Believe it or not, it works! A child hears differently in a sleep state and once you introduce yourself as his/her parent, your child rises into an alpha state of sleep where he can hear you, but doesn’t wake up. Please read my article “Connect With Your Children While They Sleep” to see how it works in detail.
  • Limiting “Kids’ Exit Strategies”:
    I call these the zone-out toys. For my oldest son it’s video games—but for others it can be online chat, Facebook, texting, Nintendo, TVs and computers in bedrooms or other solitary activities that keep kids away, silent and in their own worlds. Put limits on these and offer up fun activities to do together when possible and see what happens.
  • Family Pet:
    If you have the space and finances, a family pet, like a dog who needs to be walked every day, is a great way to bring unconditional love, silliness (and activity) into the family. Courtenay said one of his clients tried this strategy with great results: “A mom who was struggling with getting her adolescent son to open up, recently told me she decided to get a puppy—which she knew her son would like. The two have since been able to connect more deeply with each other, as they both care for their new addition to the family.”
  • Stay Present and Patient:
    It’s hard to connect to a parent who has his laptop on his knees at all times. So try to leave your work behind when you’re home and hanging out with your family. Experts say carving out family time—even if just for an hour in the evening—sends the message to kids that they are important. And if your teens (especially boys) barely notice, Courtenay says to have patience.
    “Patience is also important. A man I work with just today talked about how grateful he was to his mother for giving him time to “warm up.” Driving home from school, he’d be silent for what seemed like an endless amount of time—which she wouldn’t interrupt—and then finally, he’d be ready to open up to her.” The morale to that story is not to nag or push. Sometimes becoming a friend (even to your children) takes being a friend. Lighten up, listen and take the time to get to know one another.

Another article for inspiration: Stay Connected: Family Fun That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune.