Making the Summer Day Camp Commitment

A friend of mine signed up her 10 year old daughter, Emma, for a one week soccer camp.  But Emma hates sports.  So why on earth would she do such a thing?!

Somewhere along the way, between working full time, taking care of her aging parents, along with a divorce, years of being a single parent and then getting re-married, the idea of getting Emma involved in sports was lost.

A few months back, Emma stated, “I don’t do sports.”

In that moment, my friend felt like she’d really failed Emma.  It’s not that being part of a sport in and of itself is the most important thing.  It just made her sad to think that at only 10 years of age, her daughter had already ruled out this entire arena of life that can be so very fulfilling.

When summer camp sign ups came along, my friend sat her daughter down and talked to her about what they could do this summer in terms of camp options.  She told her, “I want you to try out some sports camps, just to see what it’s like.  You can’t say you don’t like something that you’ve never tried.”  Emma reluctantly agreed.

A week of soccer camp was up first.  As the day approached, Emma was dreading it.  She even cried a couple of times over this.  My friend bought Emma a pink pair of shoes she can actually run in along with some athletic gear.  Emma already loves to shop, just like her mom, and this seemed to take the edge off.

Well, today was the first day.  My friend dropped Emma off.  After the drop off, my friend texted me, “Looked like 10-12 kids.  All boys but one.  It might be a tough evening.”

My heart ached for my friend and for Emma.  At least there was one other girl.  But I knew my friend would spend a day of second guessing herself while trying to stay focused at work.

At lunch, I touched based with my friend to see how she was doing.  She recognized that it’s one week.  It’s only 5 days.  There are children all over this world who truly suffer.  Being forced to attend soccer camp for 5 days cannot be considered suffering.  And maybe a little suffering will build some character?  Needless to say, it had already a long day for her.

Just before the afternoon sitter was to pick up Emma, her mom texted Emma and asked her daughter to text a selfie with an update on her day.  20 minutes later, a selfie of a smiling girl,

“My eyes burn!! I forgot my water bottle today too!! It was also tiring and fun”

My friend was elated, “Fun!  She had fun.  I’m so glad she had fun.  I’m so relieved she had fun!”

Her goal was for Emma to SEE herself as a girl who can do sports.  Over dinner, Emma was non-stop chatter which isn’t typical for her.  She talked all about the things she had learned and how someone said she was a good kicker and on and on.  Emma found a water bottle and her mom got Emma some sunscreen that wouldn’t be so hard on her eyes when she got sweaty again tomorrow.  Emma picked out her outfit for the next day and even packed her lunch!

My friend didn’t know where this may lead but this process brought back some options today that had been ruled out a few months ago.  All thanks to summer day camps and being willing to make a commitment…for 5 full days.

On deck for Emma this summer:  Volleyball camp, Biking/Cycling Camp, Science Camp, some summer school, a couple of vacations and even one week of more traditional day camp.  I’m excited to see how Emma and her mom comes out the other side of this.

Balloon Animals: A Parenting Improvement Story

Do you ever have moments where learning something at work teaches you something that impacts how you parent your children at home?

At a recent performance review, I was told, “Your team loves working for you and they are learning a lot from you.  The main feedback I have for you is that you’re managing things so well that the members of your team don’t have any room to fail.  You should step back a little so they can stumble and learn from it and grow more.”  While this is important information for me to have as a manager, I found myself much more worried about how this applied to me as a mother.  If I wasn’t aware of this at work, was I lacking self-awareness at home?

The following weekend, I set out to really observe myself and NOT help my 9 year old daughter or 13 year old son (with Autism).  It was a very enlightening weekend.  I’ll just share one story:  “the balloon animals”.

Saturday morning, my daughter informed me that she wanted to make balloon animals and that we needed to get balloons from the store.  Instead of adding this to MY list, I said, “do you want to go to the store with me so YOU can get the balloons?”  She wanted me to get them for her.  This was my first ah-ha.  If I take responsibility for this, I’m the one who has to remember and she doesn’t need to do anything.  Not this time.  (And I love having her join me at the store anyway.)

At the store, I was almost done shopping.  She had not mentioned the balloons and they were not in the cart.  Should I remind her?  I don’t want to go back to the store when she remembers AFTER we get home.  My next ah-ha:  in my effort to avoid adding a 2nd trip to the store OR avoid an unhappy child who forgot her to buy her own balloons, I’m not giving her room to make a mistake by forgetting.  I need to set aside this want/need for efficiency so my daughter can learn.  And you know what, she remembered!  We had already gotten in line to check out but she remembered.

As we stood in front all the balloon options, she grabbed a set.  They were NOT the kind of balloons required to make balloon animals.  They were just the big, round balloons.  I didn’t want to make an extra trip.  Instead of fixing this for her, I just asked a pointed question, “So, those are the kind of balloons you need to make balloon animals?”  She slowly read the balloon package.  As I was in a hurry, it felt like an eternity.  But she realized she had the wrong ones and put them back.

As she looked at the 10+ different types of balloons, I could see exactly where the right ones were.  But it was taking her a while.  Another moment where I wanted to just grab the right one and go.  But SHE really needs to do this on her own.  As painful as the shopping process was, it was nothing compared to what happened when we got home!

If you’ve never made balloon animals before, those balloons are really hard to blow up!  My daughter struggled with this for at least 20 minutes.  Frustration lead to huffing and puffing which lead to tears.  This was like hearing your baby cry and wanting to go pick her up and comfort her.  But she needed to figure this out.  If I wasn’t watching myself, I’m sure I would have been helping her blow up these balloons.  But I stepped back and just encouraged her to keep trying or find another way.

She eventually asked me if we had an air pump, the kind you use to manually blow up an air mattress.  Great idea! And she came up with the idea on her own.  If I had helped her, she wouldn’t be using her brain for problem solving.  Once again, it would have been easy for me to run downstairs to get it for her.  Instead, I told her where I would look but I wasn’t sure if it was there or not.  More frustration from her.  She wanted me to find it for her.  But she went and found it.

She wrestled with the balloons and the pump for a good 20 minutes.  I felt like she was wrestling a baby bear.  She struggled to get the balloon onto the pump.  The balloon would shoot off when she pumped air because she didn’t have enough hands to pump the air AND hold the balloon in place.  She eventually found a “chip clip” to help hold the balloon onto the pump so that she’d have enough hands.  More great problem solving.  Watching this was painful as I wanted to help her so badly!  And admittedly, my husband and I had to work to keep from exploding in uncomfortable laughter.  This was quite the spectacle!

When she finally got it all worked out, she created her first animal.  And it was amazing, something I certainly don’t know how to do.  And she was so proud.  It was a level of pride I haven’t seen before, likely because she did it all herself.

I learned a lot from all of this:

1. It takes time and a lot of patience to really be a good parent.  We need to slow down and give our kids time to figure things out and do things themselves.

2. When we help our kids too much, we rob them of this feeling of pride, accomplishment and sense of being capable.  And we may even be indirectly communicating to them that we don’t even THINK they are capable.

3. By spending more time in the short run, raising more capable kids will save us time in the longer run.  For example, my kids get themselves ready for school – alarm, getting dressed, making their own breakfast, making their own lunch, being ready to catch the bus on time.  This saves me a TON of time in the morning as we’re all getting ready for the day in parallel.

This is something I’m going to need to keep working on.  And it won’t happen overnight.  As for work, my self-awareness on this is much worse there.  So I’ve just asked my team to help me.  I’ve asked them to tell me when I’m stepping in to do something they don’t need me to do.  And I’ve got a deal with my boss that if something small falls through the cracks and causes some issues that we can recover from, I’ll consider that a success.

Using Social Media to Help Our Kids Define Themselves

“How do you keep track of what your kids are doing on social media?”

Parents of tweens wrangle with the question of whether or not to set them up with a social media account and the bigger question of, “How do we keep track of what they are doing?”

The common answer I hear focuses on proactively monitoring.  But how could parents be even more proactive?

I attended a session at a Grace Hopper Conference a few years ago that focused on managing your personal brand in social media.  I learned a lot.  As I consider what I learned in the session, I think a lot of this could apply to our teenagers and we could turn their activity on social media into a huge opportunity for helping them discover who they are.

Tip #1:  Choose 5 words you’d use to describe yourself.  Post things that will encourage others to use those words about you.

What a WONDERFUL discussion to have with your teenager!  This is a great catalyst for pushing THEM to think about who THEY want to be.  What words would you want your children to use about themselves?  Smart, dependable, responsible, kind?  Needing to get through this exercise in order to get that social media account set up feels like a GREAT incentive and might set the stage for positive experiences on social media.

Tip #2:  Choose between 1 and 3 primary topics to focus on via your social media presence.

This is another great opportunity.  What are your kids interested in?  Do they HAVE any interest?  “Hanging out with my friends” doesn’t count.  Again, this is a great way to help our teenagers find constructive interests that help them grow into amazing young adults.  Football, baseball, math club, computer club, cheerleading, volunteer work, their dream college — there are so many wonderful things for our kids to focus on.  This exercise can help bring focus to how our kids are spending their time.

Tip #3:  Write down these 5 words and areas of focus where it’s easy to reference.  As you post content on social media, refer to this and see if you’re still on message.

As adults, by the time we were on social media, we already know who we are (for the most part).  When we hear horror stories of what some teenagers post on the internet, could this be a symptom of them just not knowing who they are and simply stumbling through the painful process of figuring it out?  And not understanding the huge negative consequences of posting and documenting those mistakes forever?  As parents, if we can help them understand this concept of a personal brand, can we help them avoid some of these mistakes and even more proactively figure out who they want to be.

Last, after having this conversation, as we continue to proactively monitor our kids’ activities on the internet, when we see something we don’t like, I imagine we could have a MUCH more constructive conversation with them.  Did that post fit in with the 5 words you want people to use to describe you?  Why?  Maybe as they are evolving, it’s time to revisit that list of words and revise it — intentionally.

I’m just starting down this road so I haven’t put any of these ideas into practice myself.  I’d love to hear comments from other parents on what they think of this idea so we can all help each other navigate this new world of raising teenagers who are out there on the internet.

Does Being A Parent Help You Become A Better Manager?

I spent over an hour this evening in the card aisle at my local drugstore looking for a Hallmark card.

A coworker that I mentor is leaving Microsoft.  I care a lot about the people that I mentor and the people that I manage.  The emotions I develop for them are a combination of a big sister and a mother.  I’ve been told I care too much but it’s the only way I feel I can do this part of my job well…by caring that much.

My friend that is leaving has been working through this decision for a while.  Deciding to leave a job is difficult.  Uncertainty of the unknown.  Fear.  Taking a risk and moving out of your comfort zone.  I wanted to find a way to get her to stay at Microsoft but I knew that a different environment was probably the best thing for her.  As you try to help others in decisions like this, it’s all about helping them through their own thought process.  You don’t have the answers, they do.

As she has wrangled with this decision over the last few weeks, I have found myself shedding quite a few tears on her behalf after I leave those discussions and come home.  As I looked for the right card, no words could capture my feelings and the sentiment I wanted to share with her.  Thank you?  Congratulations?  Words of encouragement?

I’m excited that she will experience something new.  She has only worked at Microsoft.  And it takes a unique set of skills to succeed in such a large organization.  She’s going to a small start up.  I know she will learn more than she could have ever imagined in an environment that Microsoft just can’t provide.  And her confidence is going to grow in ways that I could never help her with.

I wonder if this is how I may feel when I send my own daughter off to college?  I hope that I can find a way to keep in touch with her to see how she’s doing, how she’s growing.  The downside of becoming this invested in people is that it makes it harder to see them move onto their next opportunity.  But I think this is the right way to manage and the right way to mentor people.  You teach them all you can and hope that they can take those lessons with them, and use those skills without you by their side.

To all the people I’ve ever managed, I hope I’ve made a positive impact.  And I couldn’t do it without the mom and big sister within me.

Cause and Effect



One concept that I REALLY want my kids to understand is — Consequences.  They are young, my daughter just turned 9 and my son is about to turn 13, so now it the time.  I really don’t want them learning this concept for the first time as they drive the family car on their own.

So where do I start?

Working full time, the time with my kids is precious.  When teaching moments come along, I need to grab them.  One morning this week, I had an opportunity.

My daughter was running really late that morning.  We needed to be out the door by 7:40am in order to get through a construction zone on our route, drop her off at her Summer Art Camp and drop off my son at his Summer Outdoor Camp (shameless plug: ).  For him, we meet a van and they head off on various adventures at different locations each day.  If you miss the van, you’ve got trouble.

We were in such a hurry to get out the door, that it wasn’t until we were well on our way that I went through my mental checklist for the morning.  My kids have learned to take on the majority of the responsibility for getting themselves ready each morning, including waking to their own alarm, getting dressed, making their bed, making and packing a sack lunch, getting their own breakfast and remembering to comb their hair and brush their teeth.  But they still need a little oversight. 🙂

Backpacks, sunscreen, oh no, I turned to my daughter, “Did you remember to make a lunch for today?”

“Uh oh.”

I didn’t respond like a perfect mother, “What!?  What are you doing to do for lunch!”


OK, I need to recover from this.  I need to be grateful for the fact that usually she gets it all done AND is ready to head out on time. I also want her heading off for the day on a positive note while also learning from this mistake.

This is my opportunity.  If I just solve this problem, nothing is learned.  But if I involve my daughter in the process of solving the problem. this turns into a teaching moment.

I looked back at my daughter through the rear view mirror, “We will figure something out.  You know, you’ve got some new things going on in your morning routine.”

She just got her ears pierced the weekend prior and is learning how to clean them herself which is taking some time.

“Did you know that when anybody has a change in their routine, it can mess them up?”

Her eyes got big and the tears stopped, “Really?”

“Yes.  since you need to clean your ears each morning, you should just plan to get up a little earlier tomorrow and then you won’t be late and you won’t forget to make your lunch.”

She already seemed to feel better.  I want her to realize she made a mistake but I also want her to know that I can understand WHY mistakes happen and we can come up with ideas to keep mistakes from happening again.  Today, it’s forgetting to pack a lunch – very trivial.  But when she’s a teenager, these things will probably be a bigger deal so I want to get this kind of dialog started now.

Next opportunity – problem solving.  Instead of just solving the problem, I just thought out loud to involve my daughter in the problem solving process.

“If we stop at the store first but hit bad traffic with all that construction, your brother might be late.  And then we’ll have to drive to wherever his camp activity is today.  We don’t want to solve one problem and create another.  Let’s get through the construction and see how much time we have.  If we are running late, we’ll drop off your brother first, and then go to the store and then get you to camp.  That will make me late for work, but I can work later tonight since your dad is picking you up.”

Elsie agreed that was a good idea.  She also understood that she was going to be making me late for work and that this wasn’t a good thing.  She started brainstorming other ideas on where we could go to find lunch stuff as well.

As it turned out, we breezed through the construction, found a convenience store to grab some lunch items, dropped her off first as usual and still got both me and her brother off on time.  And she still wanted to give me a hug goodbye as I dropped her off for the day.

My daughter learns from these moments and I know she’ll get up a bit earlier tomorrow.  She’s learning cause and effect, consequences, problem solving and that her mistakes can negatively impact others — all great life lessons that we need to find opportunities to teach.

As a side note, because of my son’s Autism, I can’t have conversations like this, but I KNOW he’s taking it all in.  By having these moments with my daughter, my son is learning from them, too.

Meet The Neighbors

National Night Out got me thinking about how important it is that parents of Autistic children get out and meet their neighbors.  But it also reminded me of how difficult this can be.

We are so busy with therapy appointments, IEP meetings, all kinds of things.  We aren’t exactly on the “play date circuit” either as our children struggle to engage with other children in the neighborhood.  It would be easy to just hide out in our homes and keep to ourselves.

So why do we need to get out there?  We NEED our neighbors.

When our neighbors understand our situation, they can help us.  They can understand why we decline play dates.  They can teach their own children to understand why the little boy next door doesn’t say anything when their own kids try to be friendly.  We can teach them about our situation and in doing so, we teach them how to interact with us.

When my son was about 8, he fell off his scooter, slammed his face into the pavement and broke off his 2 front teeth.  I saw the whole thing happen.  It was like a nightmare rolling in slow motion.  In the moment, I HAD to focus on him.  This bad situation could quickly spiral out of control if I didn’t get him understanding what happened and that it would be ok quickly enough.  The problem:  my FOUR-year old daughter was also outside playing.

My next door neighbor was in her kitchen making dinner and saw the incident from her kitchen window.  She grabbed her husband and they came to the rescue.  They knew my circumstance and because of that, they knew I needed help.  I focused on my son.  My neighbor collected my daughter and brought her into the house behind me.  And her husband found my son’s teeth and put them in a little baggy for me.

I don’t know what I would have done without them because I don’t know how I would have divided my attention across my son AND my daughter.  If they didn’t know my situation, they may have NOT come out, worried they may offend me by thinking I needed help.  And as I repeatedly thanked them, I reinforced my need for them and my gratitude for them.

This is an extreme example but there were many occasions where my neighbors found my son wandering.  He had escaped in the brief moments when I had looked away to attend to my daughter when she was first born.  They knew my situation and because of that, they had my back.

So I hope we all take the time to get out and meet our neighbors and not by shy about telling them our situation and even being bold enough to say, “if you see my son wandering the streets, PLEASE, bring him back.  This is a problem I’m dealing with right now.”

Nurture or Nature: Being Organized

For my daughter’s birthday this year, I knew she was getting a lot of Barbie stuff so I planned to get her something for her Barbies.  When I was a kid, I remember having this little pink suitcase where I kept all the clothes, shoes, etc.  I couldn’t find anything like this at the store and in that moment, I realized that _I_ would probably appreciate some organization type of gift but Elsie probably wouldn’t anyway.  I compromised and got her the portable “Barbie dorm room”.  🙂  It will prompt discussions about going to college AND it folds up nicely for easy storage.  She loved it.  She got 2 new Barbies along with a lot of new Barbie outfits from her friends.

But last night….

My daughter woke up, crying, and came into my room saying, “Mommy, I had a nightmare!”  I pulled her into my bed and asked her to tell me about her nightmare.  She said, in her hyperventilating, crying voice, “I had a nightmare that I lost some of the little pieces that came with my Barbies!!!”  I am NOT kidding!!!!  I couldn’t believe it.

I told her about the little pink suitcase that I had when I was little and told her we’d find some way to store her Barbie stuff so she won’t lose any of the little pieces.  I praised her for what a good job she does of taking care of her things and put her back to bed.

So it’s confirmed:  the organization thing must be genetic!  🙂