If you follow me on twitter (or have noticed my new twitter sidebar) you'll know that I went to the Mommybites Summit last night, hosted by babybites, a social and educational community for moms and moms-to-be. I'm a babybites brooklyn member and attended many great new moms luncheons last year - in fact, it was at my first new moms luncheon that I made the connections that lead me to my mom's group and babybites brooklyn will actually help you form a new mom's group now (and in Manhattan, babybites runs support groups). Definitely a resource I recommend.
But back to last night - it was a great event! There were talks and vendors and food and drinks and swag and I for once left my camera at home and kicked back and enjoyed myself. I attended the keynote as well as two other talks - all were inspiring and interesting and provided lots of food for thought. I also squeezed in a quick round of all the vendor tables and it was great to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones.
Actually, I would have loved a bit more time to mingle (maybe a full day event next time?!) but I wanted to attend as many talks as possible, and I came away with so many helpful notes I thought I would share them here. I'd love to hear about the other talks I missed!
A big thank you to babybites for organizing this event and to all the speakers and vendors for a fun and informative evening.
The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness
Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of a book with the same title as his talk, gave a keynote speech that resonated strongly with the audience, myself included. He outlined a plan for parents to give their children the best chance at lifelong happiness:
He particularly emphasized connection, urging parents to give their kids as connected a childhood as possible, not only connecting with them yourselves but facilitating as many opportunities for positive connection as possible - with family, friends, pets, school, activities, teams, clubs, the past, the spiritual (not necessarily religion but "that which is beyond knowledge").
He also talked about the importance of play - of imaginative engagement and exploration, including down time, free time, empty time, so that play can be repeated over and over and becomes practice, which leads to progress and recognition which feeds back into connection.
He said that our job as a parent is not so much to worry about grades and good schools and being "at the top" but to make sure our kids are making progress at something that is challenging and meaningful to them. It's the confidence, self-esteem and optimism that results from this that are the building blocks for happiness.
It's important for kids to make a dream come true - in other words, to imagine something and then to make it happen. It's important for them to have someone who believes in them. It's important that they are in a learning environment that isn't based on fear.
He also said that happiness is not about having what you want but about wanting what you have, and that if you're enjoying your kids then you're doing it right!
I think one of the reasons Dr. Hallowell's talk really resonated with everyone is because a) it makes sense and b) it sounds fun, but also c) doesn't it sound great and don't we all want these things? We could all benefit from following this "plan" for ourselves as well as for our kids.
“Oh,______! My Mother/Mother-In-Law is Coming!”
This talk was given by Karen Rancourt of Rancourt Parenting, herself a grandmother, and I think everyone can relate to the more negative fill-in-the-blank words that most typically would come to mind in this context! However, I have to say, things have been great with both my mother and my mother-in-law (and I'm not just saying that because they could both be reading!) but this turned out to be a really interesting topic anyway.
Karen has been kind enough to share her MommyBites presentation here. Because of the limited time frame, she focused on her guidelines which she has written both for new/young moms, and for moms/mother-in-laws once there are grandchildren involved. If things are going pretty well with your children's grandparents (and often there are more than two sets involved) chances are these guidelines are already more or less being followed, but I think they're worth checking out anyway, and definitely so if things are more rocky or you are an expectant parent or grandparent and worried about how things might go.
Many key points were made that really rang true for me. Karen was adamant that first and foremost, it's the new/young mom that's in the driver's seat and moms/mother-in-laws need to respect that and, as she said "defer, defer, defer." At the same time, the new/young mom needs to lighten up a little if things are not done exactly as you would (I think the same is true with spouses and other caretakers - no one is going to do it exactly as you would, but it doesn't mean it's automatically worse).
Also, new/young moms should not try to get their mom/mother-in-law to agree that they are "right" - they only have to agree to honor your wishes when they are with your children. I think the same is true in reverse as well - a lot of conflict arises when moms/mother-in-laws try to pursuade their daughters/daughters-in-law that THEIR way is right. I really appreciate that my mother and mother-in-law have both been very sensitive in this respect, and I think it's the main reason things have gone as smoothly as they have!
(And yes, it's hard to lighten up when you have a newborn, impossible even as a first time mom, but it does get easier!)
Marsha Greenberg's talk on "Everything Toddler" and was very helpful as I feel like I'm entering a whole new world of parenting. Marsha painted a very vivid and colorful picture of how a toddler experiences the world. She said that every toddler varies in how flexible they are and how big their moods are, and that you should try to understand where you toddler falls on that scale and be adaptive to their needs. "Tolerate your toddler's feelings," she said, which means that, especially with younger toddlers, you let them go through what they're feeling and redirect rather than try to talk them out of a meltdown.
She talked about how children learn through play, and how important it is to spend time on the floor with your toddler, following their lead and reciprocating. If you want to build towers and they want to knock them down, then that's what you're going to do - build towers for them to knock down.
Her final message was to "get out of your partner's way". Give your partner the dignity of struggling to find their own parenting style and build their own relationship with your child, she said. It's easier to parent with two wholes rather than two halves.
nyc baby, child and family photographer alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn and specializes in contemporary, natural light portraiture. view her portfolio of babies, children or families or send her an e-mail here!