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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Are We There Yet?

The Baras familyMany parents, when they think of traveling with their kids, immediately hear this whine in their mind, coming from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?” I have seen similar scenes in way too many movies too. Being in the car with bored kids is possibly one of the most common fears parents have, which causes many of them to avoid traveling with their children.

How horrible.

Another thing that is now very common is the use of electronic gadgets to pacify kids and keep them occupied on the way to interesting places, because of the fear of what they might do if they get bored. Watching a DVD or listening to music, often each person separately listening with headphones, seem like good ways to “have some peace and quiet”.

Again, how horrible.

Ronit and I have just returned from a week away with our kids. It is now winter in Brisbane, with temperatures below our enjoyment threshold, so we decided to go to Port Douglas, which is in the tropical region of Australia. We were hoping for nice, warm weather. Instead, the sky was overcast, it rained lightly on most days and the temperatures we pretty mild. But we had a ball anyway.

Read more about how to travel with children

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…

How Time Flies

Girl at 4 agesLife happens so intensively and so rapidly we do not get many chances to reflect on it. Parenting children is a long and important part of our life, so when we live it every day, it is easy to feel things will always be this way – homework, bedtime stories, teaching new kills, the heavy responsibility and the fantastic moments of joy.

But it is not. Time flies when you are having kids.

In the past few weeks, Ronit and I have done some reflection and some planning. Last week, we went away on our own for a couple of days and spent most of that time dreaming about the future and coming to many important realizations about how our life will change.

In 3 weeks, Tsoof will be graduating from high school. In 5 months, he will be going to university. In less than a year, he will get his driver’s license.

In just over a year, Eden will finish her Bachelor’s degree and start working in psychology, while she continues to study. Shortly after that, Noff will start going to high school (she is our baby and she is only 10 now, but this is what will happen, whether we believe it or not).

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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.

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Save Your Marriage (17): The "Right" Trap

Two dogsMarriage, like other relationships, requires two people with a special connection between them. There are many reasons why marriages do not last long and one of the reasons is falling into the “right” trap.

When I see couples during their relationship coaching program, the “right” trap is always there. It is not always spoken, but it underlies a lot of the conflicts. One of the partners or both of them have a strong feeling about their “rightfulness” and they cannot let it go. The problem is not just thinking that they are right, but believing the “right thing” exists, because when they sort out the first conflict by putting pressure and giving up, they get a confirmation of their “rightness” and they expect the next time to be the same – one is right and the other one gives up – a recipe for disaster.

Mira and Chris came for relationship coaching because Mira was convinced she was right and Chris was wrong. It happens a lot that one person does the booking and it sounds like this:

“Chris, why are you here?”

“Mira asked me to come”.

It was a very honest answer and it helped me find out who was seeing themselves as the “right” one in that relationship.

“OK, Mira, so why are you here?”

“I need you to explain to Chris…”

I knew that was another “right” trap.

First, I need to explain that our relationship coaching program is not mediation. It is meant to help the couple find their strengths and use them to renew their love and build their relationship on a mature and respectful foundation. If you want to get help in your relationship so the therapist can tell your partner he/she is wrong, you are trapped.

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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….

Kids are Such a Burden

Cute babyBecoming a parent is a special thing. It brings enormous joy with it, a sense of achievement of having carried a baby (to term, hopefully) and gotten it out into the world (one way or another). If the baby is healthy and the mother is fine, life smiles at your family. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, evidently, a lot.

Somehow, too many of the parents I meet treat their children like a burden and parenting like the hardest and most unrewarding thing they have ever had to drag themselves through. “Those kids could drive you nuts”, they say with a tormented face and a desperate voice, “I wish sometimes I could make them go away, even for a while”.

Wait a second! How did you get from “koochi koochi koo” to “get away from me NOW, you little monster”?

Let’s backtrack to before we were parents. What were we then? Oh, yes, we were a young couple at the peak of our health and abilities, our dreams ripe with success and fame and changing the world.

So why did we have kids?

Read more about how to love your kids

Having a Baby with Down Syndrome (poll)

Baby hand and footLast month, someone very close to me (I will call her Naomi) went through a very tough decision. She discovered on the 19th week of her pregnancy she was carrying a baby with Down Syndrome. Although she works as a social worker, she had no doubts about what she was going to do, but the people around her were not so sure.

Down Syndrome can be detected during pregnancy by checking the amniotic fluid (Amniocentesis) or after birth by a quick physical test. In 1866, a British physician named John Langdon Down described the condition. Almost 100 years later, Jerome Lejeune discovered it was caused by an extra copy (whole or part) of the 21st chromosome. The chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome is 1 in 733, but it becomes more common with the age of the parents.

Apart from very distinctive facial features, the average IQ of kids with Down Syndrome is 50, as opposed to the general IQ average of 100. Their health is very poor and their life expectancy is very low, and even though their life expectancy is increasing, the intellectual and physical disabilities remain part of their life and the life of their parents.

Would you keep a baby with Down Syndrome?

Baby’s Sex – To know or not to know?

BabyFor my mom, the sex of the first baby was very important. Where she grew up (in Iran, ages ago), first born sons brought a lot of pride to the family and even in those old days, there were many ways to discover the sex of the baby.

Only when I got pregnant for the first time, I learned about all those beliefs and traditions:

  • If you are pretty during your pregnancy, it means you will have a boy (because girls take away your beauty)
  • If you hold your necklace with your wedding ring hanging from it and the ring moves in circles, you will have a girl
  • If you touch your nose after someone sprinkles salt on your head (without your knowledge), you will have a boy (because he will grow a mustache under his nose), but if you touch your eyebrows, you will have a girl

It was so funny, I thought back then I could do a PhD thesis on the beliefs surrounding the sex of babies.

Somehow, my story was a bit more complicated.

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