What Does Being a Parent Mean to You?

clip_image004_thumbHave you ever wondered what being a parent means to you? Besides being biologically driven by your survival instincts. Besides being put on a familiar and safe social path. Have you ever really stopped to think why you have chosen to bring children into this world and what would happen if you had not been a parent at all?

I know a woman who had her first child when she was 41. She had to go through medical torments and spend a lot of money to have them, but she wanted them with everything she had and now, she feels complete. Still, she cannot describe why.

Last night, Ronit and I watched an Australian film called Not Suitable for Children, a story of Johan, a young party animal, who find out he is about to lose his fertility and embarks on a crazy mission to have a child. Being generally reckless, it seems odd to everyone around him that he wants to be a parent so much, but bit by bit, we find out.

We thought the movie was beautiful. It was well played, well produced, and despite the expected direction of the plot, managed to deliver a few surprises and include several side topics into the mix, such as the single 40-year-old woman and the lesbian couple.

There is one point where Jonah is asked why he is so desperate to have a child, even though he knows he is too young and has no steady partner. He says something like, “Just before my mum died, she told me she was OK with it, because she had my sister and me and we made her happy. I want that too”.

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Mother: The Best Job in the World

Ronit Baras and the Be Happy in LIFE familyMother’s Day is just around the corner and many things happened to me in the last month that made me wonder about the hardest thing I have ever done, the most important thing and the best thing of all.

I have done a lot in my life. Luckily, although some things were incredibly challenging, my life has been very rewarding overall. I am the kind of person who goes to work and it does not feel like a work, more like serving a purpose. I am an educator in every cell of my body. I teach parents how to be the best they can be and how to raise happy kids by being happy themselves and I have changed the lives of thousands of children. Still, the best of all my talent, I have given to my own children: Eden, Tsoof and Noff. Being their mother always seems to bring out the best in me.

All this wondering started when one of my clients had a daughter. She had given up her career and the search for a partner and with her mother’s help, she had gone through the journey of having a child on her own. I saw a photo of them and it reminded me of the first day I met my daughter Eden, my happy thought. Her birth was the birth of many new feelings and since then, I have been a different person. A better one, I think.

Then, Gal was talking on Skype with a man who wanted to do business with him. I was working next to him when they had a very serious discussion about web developers. The other man talked about “them” as being a bunch of stupid people who could not see that working with him would make them part of a network similar to Facebook or the companies owned by Richard Branson. After a while, Gal felt uncomfortable with all the judgment and asked him, “Do you have kids?” The man hesitated and said, “No”. Gal tried to say to him politely that when people have children, they think twice before giving their time to someone they do not know in exchange for promises. This made me think about the feeling I had when Eden was born – pure joy and happiness, hope and excitement, mixed with a heavy burden of responsibility. Kids cannot be sent back to the manufacturer for a warranty replacement! You can only truly understand this when you have your first child.

Read the rest of my Mother’s Day post…

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Little girl enjoying a mirrorRaising kids with confidence has been my goal ever since I started studying education. It was funny to discover along the way that teaching my kids knowledge was not going to make them successful and happy in life. At first, I was a bit disappointed to discover this, but as I have chosen to focus on the role of the most important agents – parents and teachers – in raising happy, confident, successful, healthy and friendly kids, I kept searching for ways that work.

I have 3 kids of my own and they are everything a parent can dream of. They are “the full package”. One of my friends told me that if she did not know them, she would think I was making them up. Almost every person who meets my kids asks us, “How did you do it?” Modestly, we say we were lucky, and we were. I am convinced that some things were just lucky, but no one wants to know about your luck, because luck is not something you can bring into your life. So these people say, “Come on, Ronit, tell us how you did it”.

I think I am using this parenting blog to say how I did it. As of today, there are 911 posts (is this a sign?) explaining how 3 kids in big differences in age, each born in a different place in the world, who each went through many changes in their life, can all be their parents’ bliss.

Today, I want to share with you a very easy trick to raise such kids. I call it “the mirror trick”.

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Wonders of Creation

Admiring mother and daughterAre your kids the most precious, amazing and wonderful things in the world?

If you are not sure, keep reading.

Parents, like most people, often view the world in absolute terms – “This is pretty”, “This is wrong”, “This smells good” or “How rude!” Naturally, the way they view their children is similar. They break each child down into separate properties, such as looks, math skills, strength and manners, and assign a rating or a score to each one of these important aspects in each child.

The result is disappointing more often than not, simply because nobody is perfect in every way, let alone kids, who undergo big changes and have not mastered every rule in their parents’ book. This is particularly apparent during the teenage years, when even calm and obedient children turn into full-sized, defiant and opinionated creatures. Many parents of teenagers are so focused on what their sons and daughters are not doing (right) they have a hard time remembering how they behaved last year, when they were still in primary school.

But your kids are the most precious, amazing and wonderful things in the world.

Really.

First, consider the odds of any of them being born at all. Out of thousands of potential partners in your life, you have chosen only one to have each child with. That child would not be the same if you had chosen anybody else.

Out of hundreds of eggs and billions of sperm, only one sperm combined with one egg to produce each child. The odds of having that particular child with those particular physical traits and basic character make winning the lottery seem like a sure thing.

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My Name is My Identity

NamelessRecently, I ran a series of workshops with about 700 students in grades 6 and 8. The workshops were about diversity and acceptance and how to treat migrants coming from different cultural backgrounds. One of the questions that came up in every session was about names – what do you do with your name once you move to live in a different country?

I have been running these workshops over the last 4 years and have seen over 10,000 students from grade 4 to grade 12. In many places, the kids were convinced that changing a name is a must when you move to a new country and when I ask them if they know the meaning of their name, surprise, surprise (or maybe not), most of them do not know the meaning of their own name.

Out of 700 students, only about 30 raised their hands to share the meaning of their names with others, while the rest were nameless. They did not know what the meaning of their names was or why their parents had given them that name. They knew nothing about the story of their name.

I believe that explains why they people change their names once they move to another country and why the people in their new country expect them to “localize” their name.

To get the kids’ interest, I told them that in my tradition, the name you are given determines your destiny. You will have the character of the name or the character of the person you are named after. My name is a Hebrew name, which means “little happy song” (in a female form). I think I live up to my name, because I dedicate my life to “singing the happiness song” and teaching others to find their own happiness. It is no coincidence that my life coaching business is called “Be Happy in LIFE”.

I am also short…

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Are You a Normal Parent?

clip_image006_thumbThe concept of being “normal” has been problematic for me since I studied special education. Normality is a set of common behaviors, yet sometimes I think it is overrated. Within a group of “nuts”, who would you call a normal person?

Usually, I reject the desire to be normal, because I believe we need to examine every situation separately and manage our behavior accordingly. This week, I had my beliefs questioned when I heard about a conflict between parents who are both my clients about the way to raise their 2-year-old daughter.

Damian and Alice were very successful. They were wealthy, established professionals, yet they struggled to raise their 2-year-old daughter Mel. Damian was anxious about their daughter and Alice tried very hard to reach “normality”.

At first, I thought Alice’s desire to be a normal family cluttered her perception. I did not really understand what she meant when she said, “Damian is not normal”, but the more I got to know them, the more I realized that although striving for normality may be limiting, having no sense of normality can be devastating for children. I understood that isolation and normality could not go hand in hand.

Read more about how to raise normal children

Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Babies

clip_image002_thumbI follow many parenting rules, because I believe each rule works well for me. I have adopted some of them from other people in my life, developed some of them by looking at others and created some rules from my own experience. Every rule is there to prevent me from re-inventing the wheel. Life is a process of going forward and choosing which direction to take is a constant battle. Much like the Bible that gives the believers a framework for life, my parenting bible is my framework for raising my kids.

If you are a believer, you do not need convincing or proof. Whether you believe in God or in another set of rules, you do not question the rules. You accept them as commandments and this gives you the confidence and the certainty to keep going forward in your life. The difference between believers and non-believers is in the questioning and the doubt.

I am not saying there is no place for questions in life. On the contrary. They are very important in coming up with the commandments of the bible, but once you have come up with a commandment, it becomes a living guideline. Questioning it makes it (and you) weaker.

Read the next chapter from Ronit’s Parenting Bible….