What Love Really Looks Like

I have the distinct honor of sharing a guest post with you from author, Dr. Susan Forward, whose book “Mothers Who Can’t Love: A healing guide for daughters” I’m currently reading. Dr. Forward allowed me the privilege of reading her book prior to its release, and it’s extremely compelling. While I was fortunate to grow up in a loving, two parent family, I have worked with countless “broken” families as a counselor and juvenile probation officer. I’m a mother of three beautiful daughters, two of whom joined our family through adoption. It’s through my love of reading and learning that I try a little bit harder everyday to be a better mom. I can guarantee you that Dr. Forward’s book reads as interesting and compelling as her following blog post; once you start, you can’t stop reading.

mothers who can't love bookA guest post from Dr. Susan Forward

A lot of pressure comes with bringing a child into your family and stepping in as a loving mom for someone who couldn’t stay with one. There’s so much to make up for, so many hurts to heal. I’ve spent much of my career working with the kids who didn’t get away, the ones who grew up with toxic parents and mothers who couldn’t love them. Those children suffer greatly, and the suffering continues far into adulthood because they didn’t get to learn what it feels like and looks like to be valued as an independent person.

Here’s what love really looks like

Here’s what you should know. Love isn’t the product of some happy-happy nirvana where you never get upset, never ask “What have I gotten myself into,” and never say something to your child you regret later. I define real love—the love that your children will carry in their hearts to protect them and give them the courage to be their best—like this: Love is consistent behavior that engenders in your children a belief in their own value. It nourishes their sense of safety, self-respect and confidence. It’s built on everyday acts that keep that goal—I want my child to believe in herself—in mind.

Four great ways to show your child love

How do you do that? There are many, many ways. Here are a few:

  • Praise your child for her efforts—without taking credit for them. Let your child have the spotlight without competition from you.
  • Give your child room to breathe. You may be tempted to stay close, to fill up your life with your child’s activities. But part of helping your child build confidence is allowing him or her to safely experience life as a separate person. During the “terrible twos,” when children begin trying out the word “No!” they learn that even when they assert themselves and defy you, you don’t stop loving them. When a child sees that, he learns that it’s safe to be his own person. It’s safe to grow, evolve and become a separate individual. This is a huge life lesson that’s relearned throughout childhood, and it’s a hard one for a worried, protective mom.
  • Keep an eye on any tendency you have to criticize and control. Your child needs guidance, but not belittling, bullying or manipulation. As your child gets older, remember that your goal as a loving mom is to help your child gain the confidence to act on her own.
  • Take care of yourself. Your child will learn by example. When you show yourself kindness and self-care, your child will learn to value herself, too. Please, please take care of any addictions, relationship problems or depression—without involving your child. The more you take the role of adult, the more you free your precious child to have a happy, healthy childhood.

Susan Forward’s latest book, “Mothers Who Can’t Love: A healing guide for daughters” was just published by Harper. It’s full of guidance for people who came from unloving families and for good moms who want to learn from the mistakes of unloving ones.



High School Sports. Now I Get It.

2013-09-17 15.58.27I have never been the athletic type. I’m not terribly competitive and sports aren’t all that interesting for me. It probably won’t surprise you that I was not involved in High School Sports, except for the golf team (if that really counts). I had no ill feelings toward kids who seemed to love it, and my best friend was in Track and Cross Country. For me, it was “no big deal”.

After majoring in Sociology and working extensively with troubled youth, first as a counselor and then as a juvenile probation officer, I still didn’t really “get” the high school sports thing. While I spent more time with kids than most people, they weren’t into sports. The kids I worked with had bigger life issues than playing basketball or volleyball. Yet, maybe if there had been an interest (and social/family support) they wouldn’t have been in the situations that placed them with me. Who knows.

What I’m getting at, is that for the first time in my life, I have a teenager who IS interested in sports. When she played competitive fast pitched softball,  I got a taste of why parents encourage their kids to play sports. Aside from the physical fitness and healthy activities aspects, she made lots of friends. I got a chance to get to know her peers much better. Parents are thrust into spending time with other families they previously didn’t know. Last spring when my daughter wanted to learn to play lacrosse on our first ever girls team, I barely knew what it was. Together with the other families we learned the rules and traveled to area towns to cheer on the kids. (They won the championship game, btw).

This fall my daughter went out for cross country, and we are enjoying the meets. We’re getting to know more parents and kids, broadening our scope of who we know at her school and in the community. When we host social gatherings at our home, we can call the other kids by name, encourage them, know their family, and continue supporting their efforts. So, now I get it. I get that sports are “fun” for the kids playing, but I also understand why parents enjoy it too. Now, if we could do away with the over zealous, crazy parents who focus too much on “winning” and want to live vicariously through their kids to reclaim their youth and somehow feel important, that would be swell!

Puppy Training. Again.

2013-08-05 15.37.52We got another puppy this summer, and it feels like we’ve started over again. I guess in many ways we have. With a grown dog, two adult cats, and all the kids in school, having a puppy around changes things.

We’ve had to rethink how and where to feed the pets, so they don’t eat each other’s food. We’ve had to ask for baby gates back from friends, so the puppy doesn’t go upstairs unsupervised. Our youngest can no longer leave little toys and barbies on the floor if she doesn’t want an unrecognizable glob of  chewed plastic later. Our invisible fence works great for our adult dog with a collar, but the puppy has free reign to check out the neighbor’s property which we have to patrol constantly.

Most time consuming is the potty training. While he’s catching on fairly quickly, he has to be watched so we know and can anticipate the next time he needs to go out. It’s all a lot of work in a hectic family’s schedule. However, he’s a really smart puppy with a sweet disposition. He enjoys laying around and staying calm. He rarely barks and is very tolerant of the kids’ antics. Best of all he doesn’t shed and won’t get very big.

If you are considering a puppy or dog, I highly recommend the Humane Society of Minnesota. We got Gizmo at the Coon Rapids location, and they were wonderful. It’s an understatement to say that getting a dog is a big responsibility and you should proceed carefully. When it is right for your family, it really is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to learn responsibility. Gizmo and the rest of the circus, as we like to call them, provide hours of laughs and entertainment for the kids. (see picture of Gizmo with a doll in his mouth standing on the computer desk; I promptly scolded him for this after I took the picture).


Family Meals: How we get it done

blood-pressure-monitor-746492-mIt’s not easy to figure out meal time, especially when there’s so much pressure!

Pressure to eat together as a family; studies show that meals together reduce the chance of my kids doing drugs. Well, that’s certainly pressure.

Pressure to eat healthy; we’ve been on a weight loss and healthy journey over the past year and half, so we want to continue. Healthy foods don’t include processed, pre-made, or fast food so there’s more pressure.

Pressure to prepare a meal with very little time since I work full-time; With four kids, four pets, a full-time husband and three properties (home, business, and rental) there’s a serious lack of time. No time is definitely more pressure.

Pressure to stay on a budget and not eat out or buy convenience food, even if you can find healthier options. Groceries are really expensive and that’s more pressure.

So, how do you eat healthy, not spend a fortune, all eat together at a decent hour, and not go crazy under the pressure?


I make supper every morning during breakfast. While the kids are eating breakfast, I peel, chop, marinate, thaw, mix, blend…I get food in the crock pot or ready to pop into the oven or grill later. Some nights while cleaning up the supper dishes and putting away leftovers, I start the next night’s supper (especially if it’s a marinade or something that is better to sit). If I can use up leftovers, I don’t even pack them away in the frig. I transform them right there and have them ready for the next night.

I know this sounds super Type A, but really it’s a routine. It works. I take advantage of the free time I have, multi-task, and prep supper when I have others around to help me. If the kids finish their breakfast, I have them trim green beans or scrub potatoes.

If you feel like pulling your hair out about meals, I encourage you to give this a try. What do you think?

Back to School, Again

confessions of a mom back to schoolIt’s back to school again for the kids, but this fall is different. For the first time since my oldest started school, I will have all the kids in school everyday, all day. The first day of school will mark a new chapter in my life as a mom, and a new era of work for me. I’ve been both a stay-at-home mom and working mom (at the office). For the past few years, I’ve been a work-from-home mom who’s flexed her hours to accommodate everyone else. When the bus pulls up on Tuesday, and I wave good-bye to the kids, I’ll have my first hot cup of coffee in my home office without interruption. Until the first kid gets sick and stays home from school, right?