Infusing this holiday season with meaning, gratitude and joy

I’ll begin this essay with the disclaimer that it might be a polarizing topic and that I fully support everyone’s right to believe and celebrate whatever they wish. I also support the decision to question beliefs and let go of what’s no longer serving us.

After becoming a parent, I started noticing more and more aspects of holiday traditions in the U.S. that I hadn’t given much thought to before. At first, I became increasingly aware of the overwhelming commercialism. It feels like we’ve lost so much of the substance and connection to these holidays and replaced it with things. I’m by no means a minimalist, but I do believe that material things should support the holiday, not the other way around.

The second and more complicated concern that kept coming up in my quest to find meaning is that actually, I don’t fundamentally agree with most of the holidays I’ve always celebrated.

Thanksgiving is so closely tied to colonialism and white supremacy.

I’m very spiritual, but not religious, calling into question my celebration of Christmas and Easter.

I also have struggled with Halloween, because it’s so much more than dressing up and begging for candy. The origins are rich and fascinating, but you’d never know it based on how we celebrate today. I also don’t see what’s so scary about black cats and witches, but that’s a rant for another day 🙂

I’ve thought a lot about what I want from traditions for our family that I’m not getting under the traditional holiday system:

  • Celebration of seasonal changes and what’s happening in nature
  • Gratitude for the abundance in our lives
  • Acknowledgement of our privilege as a white family living in America
  • A focus on experiences, not things

Most of the Christian holidays we celebrate today are modifications of pagan celebrations and customs, so my research began there. After all, I don’t want to completely throw out our traditions…I want to understand their roots so that I can better honor them and perhaps even bring back some of the original intentions that have been lost.

My goal, beginning with this year’s holiday season, is to try new things to determine what sparks joy for our family and to retire what no longer feels authentic. I’ll cover the autumn equinox/Mabon, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Halloween/Samhain, Thanksgiving, the winter solstice and Christmas.

I hope you’ll join me as I document our experiences along the way!

Seasonal baskets for kids: Autumn edition

The autumn equinox is just a few days away, and I’m starting to prepare for the shift to a new season. I have a list of fall crafts to do with our toddlers, several new recipes to try and a plan to visit a local farm for its fall festival. With the coming of each new season, my goal is to honor the transformation and energetic shifts happening in nature and acknowledge what each season brings. I love apple picking and pumpkin spice as much as — okay probably more than — the average person, but we can look to Mother Nature for valuable lessons in slowing down, reaping what we sow, nurturing the land and following the natural rhythms around us.

In our family, we are constantly looking for ways to get back to nature, to reconnect with the land, to show our children where food comes from and to encourage them to feel the changing seasons with their bodies.

Below, you’ll find a few ideas for a fall-themed morning basket for toddlers. You can read more about how we use morning baskets here.

The changing seasons are such a sensory experience, and I hope you get to treasure them all!

Fall sensory bins. Busy Toddler introduced me to sensory bins, and I’m so glad I discovered them. With a little practice, they can be perfect for independent play, and I particularly love the seasonally themed options. You can make your own at home by collecting things like leaves, acorns and pinecones or check online retailers like Etsy for creative, ready made kits. This pumpkin sensory kit is fairly basic and looks like it would be good for a younger child who is new to sensory bins. It’s also a great price! This pumpkin patch-themed bin is intricate and more appropriate for an older child.

Fall playdough stamps. How sweet are these woodland creature playdough stamps? They’re handmade with love and so beautifully detailed. My two year old will love them.

Fall stickers. My oldest daughter turned two a few months ago and has been on a major sticker kick ever since. These leaf and mushroom stickers would be perfect for decorating pumpkins or making fall tree crafts. This set of whimsical autumn stickers is so cozy and unique….also perfect for a young baker!

Fall flashcards. I hesitate to use the term “flashcard” because it sounds so…studious. And institutional. But actually, we have a set of touch and feel cards, and my two year old and one year old both adore them. I love this fresh take on flashcards: autumn themed movement cards. They say “stretch like a scarecrow,” “drop like an acorn,” “sway like a tree,” and other movement-related phrases. The designs are beautiful, and the set is only $3! (You print at home.)

Fall books. Of all of the fall books that we own, my favorite by far is I Am Thankful by Sonali Fry. The book is written in rhyme, and each page offers a different set of (seasonal) things to be thankful for, like “crunchy leaves,” “bees that buzz,” “apples we pick,” “grandma’s pies,” etc. The illustrations are so sweet, and the book ends with the question, “What are YOU thankful for?” (There’s no reference to the Thanksgiving holiday for those of you who don’t celebrate it.)

Time anxiety and how I’m addressing it

I don’t consider myself a particularly anxious person, but if there’s one area I struggle with, it’s feeling overwhelmed about time. I was introduced to the concept of time anxiety through Laura Tremaine’s 10 Things to Tell You podcast. Before this episode, I never considered classifying those nagging little worries, but as with most things, naming it has given me so much more awareness and understanding.

In a nutshell, Laura describes two types of time-related anxiety: 1) the short-term, how-will-I-ever-get-everything-done-today type of panic, and 2) the long-term, I’m already-40-how-will-I-have-time-to-fullfill-all-of-my-dreams type of dread.

My concerns fall mostly into the first category, and when I notice them creeping in, I try not to pass judgement. I use it as a reminder to focus on whatever I’m doing, because I’ve found that when I’m feeling time anxiety, I tend to flutter between tasks repeatedly rather than finishing one and moving to the next.

I’ve also taken Laura’s advice about adopting a time-related mantra, which I use repeatedly throughout the day: “I have enough time.” It does feel a little empty at first — more like a wish than reality — but over time, it’s started to sink in. I feel much less frantic and more in control of my time, like I’m deliberately choosing how to spend it versus letting the clock run all over me.

P.S. If you’re looking for a deeper dive on time anxiety, I highly recommend listening to Laura Tremaine’s podcast, episode 145.

P.P.S. Read more thoughts on how we spend our time. Will we choose guilt, shaming or joy?

Making time for a spiritual practice when you have young children

I could’ve titled this post “Aspirations for the year” because creating space for my own spiritual growth while staying at home with a two year old and one year old has been my focus for months. I don’t pretend to have it figured out, but I want to share what’s working for me in the hope that my suggestions will benefit others. Let’s jump right in.

Primary barriers

The biggest barriers in nurturing my spiritual practice are 1) having time and 2) having space. The lack of time speaks for itself…it’s hard to set aside blocks of time for meaningful spiritual experiences; put another way, it’s hard to have a spiritual breakthrough while your child is absorbed in a 15-minute episode of Trash Truck. Hey, it can happen, but it’s tough. It’s much easier to do a load of laundry and let your spirituality take a backseat.

In some ways, I think creating time is easier than creating space. By this, I don’t mean physical space. I think of creating space in energetic terms; I need a basic amount of calm and focus to be able to sink into a spiritual experience…both of which can be tricky to come by in a house with kids.

I’ve looked for ways to address these barriers in my life and made some small adjustments that have yielded big results for me.

First, reframe how you define “spiritual practice.”

For months, I was so hung up on wanting the perfect, deep spiritual experience — where I could set aside two hours for a reflection on self love for instance — that I missed out on having any experience at all. Don’t be like me! Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good! Be honest with yourself about what’s realistic in this phase of your life and give yourself a lot of grace when expectations aren’t always reality.

Look for ways to incorporate spiritual practices into everyday life.

After months of trying and failing to make time for myself, I had a breakthrough: if I wasn’t able to make time away from my kids, then my kids would need to be part of my practice. My goal for these rituals is simple…grounding and gratitude. They’re easy to incorporate into our morning routines, and though my children are young, I think it helps model good habits for them as well as benefitting me. Here are a few habits to consider:

  1. Light a candle or incense and set an intention for the day.
  2. Play grounding music. I’ve been listening to a track called “Any Energy Still” by Beautiful Chorus on the Insight Timer app; it repeats the mantra “any energy I do not need may leave” and it feels so clearing. I do this while I’m tidying our kitchen and making breakfast. Side note: This is a concept called “pairing” that I learned from Gretchen Rubin, and it’s a great way to incorporate new habits. For instance, flossing your teeth while you talk on the phone; you don’t need to set aside extra time and the old habit (talking on the phone) is a reminder to do the new habit (flossing). Simple but effective.
  3. When the kids are fussy, I burn sage as a reset for all of our moods.
  4. Show gratitude and acknowledge nature. As soon as my children wake up, we sit on the sofa together and look out the window to our backyard. I say good morning to the sun, trees, flowers, insects and animals and thank them and Mother Earth for their protection, bounty and love.
  5. Prepare special baths on the full moon with Epsom salt, essential oils and a relaxing playlist.

Next, I want to implement some morning yoga with my kids and one page of journaling for me while they play with their morning baskets. Here are some other ideas for getting out of your head and into your body.

While these ideas are by no means groundbreaking, I’ve found that they help me keep a healthy mindset and inspire me to make more time for spiritual development when I can.

Plan ahead to facilitate deeper spiritual work.

Simple daily practices, while incredibly effective, likely aren’t a replacement for deeper spiritual work; that type of practice takes time, focus and the ability to really drop in to reflect and receive messages. This area is still a work in progress for me, but here a few things that are making a difference:

  1. Have a list of resources ready so that when unexpected free time appears, you don’t waste it by wondering what to do. Your list can include rituals, articles or podcasts you want to explore, meditations, local and online classes, journal prompts, etc. I keep mine in the notes section of my phone so that it’s always available.
  2. If possible, find a community in your area that shares your belief system and your schedule. I recently came across a teacher based in Atlanta who is the mother of two young children. Most of the people in the community she’s built are also moms, and the times they gather are much more aligned to my schedule than someone who appeals to single adults.
  3. Put it on the calendar. Gretchen Rubin coined the adage: “something that can be done at any time is often done at no time.” I found that by scheduling my spiritual work, I was much more likely to not let other things like housework get in the way. You could begin with rituals aligned with moon cycles since that offers a built-in structured framework.

You can always ask for support from the Universe…for a community…for more time in your day…for help prioritizing…for a new teacher to come into your life…to help you make space to learn and grow. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you might also want to adopt a time-related mantra. But most importantly, give yourself grace when things aren’t going well and acknowledge that this is a particularly busy season of life. If you’re feeling a little dormant, know that spring is coming.

Morning baskets for toddlers

About a year ago, I came across the genius idea of morning baskets through this post from because I said so, baby. The basic premise is to fill a small box or basket with toys or activities for your child to play with first thing in the morning. While they’re playing, you can make breakfast, clean the kitchen, drink your coffee or make space for your own morning routine.

I’ve implemented morning baskets for our two kids (ages 2 and 1), and it works beautifully. I know it sounds simple (and maybe obvious?), but the magic is in the implementation. At first, I gathered up all of the toys my oldest child was interested in at the moment (the youngest wasn’t born yet), and divided them up evenly among seven — one for each day of the week — fabric cubes with lids. I regularly rotated out the toys so that the box contents stayed fresh and held her attention. That process worked really well for nine months or so. By then, my second daughter was old enough to play and both children were getting bored. I returned to because I said so, baby (can you tell I’m a fan?!) and found her post on morning baskets for 3 and 4 year olds. She goes into detail on how to create themed baskets…bugs, dinosaurs, autumn, etc. I love a good theme, and as it turns out, my daughters do too. Now instead of a toy rotation, I’ve implemented a theme rotation. Our current themes are: safari animals, the ocean, transportation, building, farm animals, ABCs, and colors and numbers. The next baskets I’ll introduce are autumn, insects, dinosaurs and outer space. You can find more ideas on creating a Fall-themed basket here and a Spring-themed basket here.

This approach is totally flexible based on what you have at home. I haven’t had to buy new toys or books to create our existing baskets; instead, I gathered their toys together and divided them into themes based on what was available. And when it comes time for birthdays and holidays, I have a few gift ideas in mind based on what we’ll need for our future baskets. It helps give grandparents ideas too!

Seasonal baskets for kids: Spring edition

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the traditions that I want to instill in our family life. My goal is to be mindful about what we introduce to our children (who are still quite young, under two), adding to, and in some cases, scrapping traditions that were handed down to us by our parents altogether. I’m planning a much more extensive post on the topic soon, but for now let’s suffice to say that I’m looking for ways to add more opportunities for reflection and learning and escape from the endless purchasing cycles (Christmas! Valentine’s Day! Easter! and on and on). I’m by no means a minimalist, but even I have my limits.

One fundamental principle that’s inspiring a lot of the traditions on my mind is observing and honoring nature and the changing of the seasons. With that in mind, I plan to begin each new season with themed baskets filled with items to help us further explore and appreciate the changes happening all around us in nature.

Those items could include craft supplies, toys and tools gathered from around the house, new purchases and homemade items. I like the idea of using the baskets to facilitate activities.

Spring activities for small children

Plant something. What better way to celebrate the new life that spring brings than by watching plants grow? You could plant bulbs outside, a container garden, an herb garden, a terrarium. Gardening tools like this set on Amazon or this more complete kit on Etsy are a good start, along with seed packets, gloves, little bags of potting soil and containers.

Go on a scavenger hunt. Create a DIY scavenger hunt to look for new signs of spring life around you. Supplies include a small net, magnifying glass, a jar and a handwritten list of what to look for (this will vary depending on the climate you live in and the age of your child or children but could include flowers blooming, specific insects, moss, rocks, etc.).

Learn about bugs. These garden bug rollers facilitate fun, hands-on creative play. Kids can use them with playdough or in the dirt outside to play pretend, practice their motor skills and make art. Life cycle figurines are also a very tactile way to teach children about bugs like butterflies and ants.

Ideas for older children

A gorgeous wild hare embroidery kit

A bird-house woodworking kit

For your hot tea lover: a sampler pack of spring flavors

Baskets aren’t your thing?

Alternatively, you could fill a jar with slips of paper; on each paper, write a different activity for spring. When you have downtime throughout the season, select a piece of paper and voila! Endless opportunities for fun.

Permission to enjoy Nutella (and other indulgences)

This week, a friend and I were talking about several new activities keeping her busy this year. While all of the new developments are incredibly positive — a new kickboxing hobby, more time with friends, a meditation course she’s hosting — she’s overwhelmed with managing her time.

She started recounting her typical schedule and after a pause, said in a dark tone, “I’m addicted to TV.” I asked what she meant; I’ve known her my entire life and was surprised to hear this confession. She said that she watches one show every morning — it’s her guilty pleasure — and she can’t give it up. She said “I know tv is bad for me. I know what you’re thinking. How can I complain about being busy if I’m watching TV for 45 minutes every morning?”

I asked her how she feels after watching her show. If it’s a part of her morning routine that helps her feel relaxed, ready to take on the day and even a little indulgent, then how could it be unhealthy for her?

This thinking is such a common trap. We get so caught up in busyness, productivity and what’s “good” and “bad” for us, that we often avoid day-to-day pleasures that could make a substantial difference in our overall happiness. It’s all about the energy with which we approach these small indulgences…with appreciation, joy and mindfulness as opposed to feelings of insecurity, lack or guilt.

Admittedly, this distinction isn’t always straightforward. Almost two years ago, I had my first child. She was born in the midst of COVID, and the pandemic combined with my new stay-at-home mom status left me feeling pretty isolated. A friend of mine started a virtual moms’ group and invited me to join. The group’s charter was to have meaningful conversations about parenting mindfully. It sounded like exactly what I was looking for, so I was baffled that after only joining a couple of times, I found excuses to not attend week after week.

It took me two years to understand why. I knew at the time that I always hung up the phone feeling so much worse than before, and I assumed that was because I’m an empathetic person, and listening to a dozen women share their deepest feelings of anguish, anxiety, sadness and fear was difficult. But the calls also made me question, very fundamentally, whether I was fit to be a mother at all. On one call, I remember a very judgmental discussion about watching Netflix in the evenings and the diagnosis that if we’re watching TV, then we’re “numbing out” to escape unaddressed issues and unhappiness in our lives. At the time, I had been watching “The Crown” in the evenings with my husband, and I broke down weeping on the call and told the group, between sobs, that I didn’t want to be that kind of parent.

In hindsight I see that sweeping accusations like the Netflix finger pointing that I endured are completely ridiculous. After giving 23 hours a day to my child, I chose to watch “The Crown” because it made me happy and because my husband and I enjoyed talking about British history, historical events, set design, living in Europe, etc. together. It brought us closer together. In our reality as new parents in a pandemic — too cautious to do much outside of the house — these were our dates, and they gave us so much joy.

It saddens me that even in the more enlightened wellness/metaphysical community, we can’t help but diagnose behaviors and try to fix people. When you’re looking for a problem, you will always find one. That’s not to say that TV and other addictions aren’t real and very serious…they are. But every action should be viewed in context.

I urge you to look for ways to inject some joy into your life. Try doing something normal at an unexpected time — like watching a show in the morning. In 2018, while I was living in London for work, I found a way to incorporate Nutella into my breakfast every Friday; having it for breakfast felt absolutely decadent and so celebratory.

Eat your Nutella. Watch your show. Use your wedding china. Burn the nice candle. What better way to honor the beauty in life than to make time every day to enjoy it?

A not-so-scary approach to writing your memoir

A friend recently gifted me a copy of Laura Tremaine’s Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First.: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level. Each chapter of the book begins with an essay about Laura’s life through the lens of a particular theme: pivotal decisions, belonging, magical moments, breaking points, etc. The close of each chapter includes a writing prompt on the same topic.

The book is a quick read (or listen), and while the writing wasn’t exactly profound, I was incredibly inspired by the prompts and overall layout of the book. By covering just 10 themes, Laura manages to share the highlights of her life to date and paints a vivid, even complex, picture of herself. By the end, you truly feel like you know her.

About halfway through the book, a lightbulb went off. If I took the time to sit down and explore all of these writing prompts, I, like Laura, could have a pretty thorough personal memoir to show for it. I’ve considered writing down my story before, but I’ve been intimidated by the process. But 10 chapters? With themes that have already been decided for me? I could start now, tackle one theme a month and have a full memoir written by December. Now that feels doable.

I do have to admit that it’s not quite that simple. There’s nothing particularly dazzling about each chapter of Laura’s book, but there is something dazzling in the way they marry to tell a full story. At face value, it comes across as simple and straightforward, but I suspect that a lot of thought went into chapter order, which stories she selected and how she ensured continuity without being redundant.

One of my most treasured projects over the past year has been writing a tribute book about my grandmother who passed away in 2020. She developed dementia over the last few years of her life, and when symptoms appeared, I sat down with her for a series of interviews about her life. I asked her everything I could imagine, wrote it down and collected photos and recipes to accompany the text. I began designing the book in 2014 (!) and finally had the first draft printed last month. This book will be treasured by so many members of my family as well as future generations. I wrote it down exactly as she said it, so the stories are in her voice. As a result, I can hear her in all of the pages. It is one of my most valued possessions.

Writing down your stories is both a tribute to yourself and also a therapeutic process. I can’t wait to see what old memories surface and what I learn about myself along the way. If this resonates with you, I hope you’ll try it, too. Let’s get writing!

Practical advice for grandparents from a new mom

When I first had a baby, I asked everyone I knew for advice about navigating the relationships between me and my parents and my in-laws. I was surprised by how dramatically those relationships changed, practically overnight, after my husband and I became parents. We were no longer the children…our child was. Expectations changed too. For instance, we were now expected to host family holidays and other visits rather than traveling to our parents as we’d always done. I felt an unspoken shift in the power dynamic as well; we controlled access to the thing they cared most about: their first grandchild.

I won’t sugarcoat it: based on my experience and that of all of my close friends, this transition usually doesn’t go smoothly. Almost every mom I know admits that when grandparents come to visit, they end up bringing unwanted toys, enabling bad behavior, getting kids off schedule and spoiling them with sweets, often making the already strung-out mom’s job even harder. My midwife told me an anecdote about one of her clients whose mother-in-law came to visit after her grandchild was born. The grandmother told the new mom, days after delivery, that she would hold the baby while the healing mother cleaned the bathroom. There are at least two things wrong with this offer, but unfortunately the sentiment is fairly common. Most grandparents are so focused on and excited about their role as grandparents that their role as parents takes a back seat.

Obviously, everyone is entitled to decide where they place their priorities, but hear me out. If you, as a grandparent, decide to focus on your grown children during the first few difficult years that they’re parenting babies and toddlers, you will strengthen that relationship for a lifetime. You will avoid so much of the strain, hurt feelings and resentment that’s unfortunately so common today within families. And you’ll set the tone for a wonderfully healthy, loving relationship with your grandchildren as they get older.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this transition from my perspective as a new mom, and I’m sad to see how prevalent the rifts and resentments are that stem from them. The fact is, some of the stress is inevitable, but I’m convinced that most of the conflict is very avoidable. Below are a few practical suggestions for navigating the new relationship with your child and their partner to minimize conflict and improve communication,

1. Prioritize the support they need, not the support you want to give. It’s only natural that when grandparents come to visit, they want to spend time with their grandchildren, but it would go a long way to also consider what their parents need. Do they want a break from cooking and cleaning to spend some quality time with their children? Do they need a break from kids to run errands or have a date night? Do they need someone to take their older children to the library so they can get quality time with the baby? You could ask what they need, or better yet, make a few offers and see what they take you up on. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, after all.

2. Don’t create more work. The parents of children, particularly young children, are exhausted and overwhelmed. And in today’s world of social media, the pressure to make it all look easy and go above-and-beyond is enormous. In most cases, they probably feel like they’re barely getting by, much less getting everything done on their mental to-do lists. The simple act of adding guests to the mix, however helpful and low maintenance they are, automatically creates more work and planning for the parents. One of the best ways to avoid feelings of resentment is to mitigate that impact as much as possible. For instance, offer to bring food with you when you visit and/or coordinate ordering and picking up takeout meals. Help with preparing and cleaning up after meals. If you’re staying overnight, treat your “check out” like you would an Airbnb: strip the sheets off the beds, put your used towels in the washing machine and take out your trash. This might not be behavior that was modeled for you by your elders, but I urge you to try whatever version of this feels authentic and manageable for you. Even small gestures can go a long way.

3. Get informed about their parenting approach. If you plan to take an active (or more active) role in helping with your grandchildren, having a solid understanding of their daily life is critical. This doesn’t mean you need to check parenting books out of the library! But it does mean having a basic foundation for things like how your grandchildren are put to sleep, what they are/aren’t allowed to eat, their daily schedule, their nighttime routine, how much screen time they can have and whether or not they get disciplined. An easy way to begin is simply to ask their parents, without judgement or comparison to how you raised your children.

Be prepared to take notes; parents today are inundated with new and old parenting methods, expert opinions and the latest research results ranging from vaccine interactions to speech development…and that’s just on Instagram. Within two weeks of having my first baby, my husband and I saw a midwife, chiropractor, occupational therapist, lactation consultant and pediatric dentist specializing in tongue ties — all of whom shared different opinions, suggestions and resources to find out more information. And that was for a healthy baby! As a result, it’s easy to accidentally become an expert on any number of topics and trends as a new parent and to become particular about how your children are raised and what they’re exposed to.

It’s a tremendous help when grandparents can help reinforce good habits and maintain a sense of continuity and predictability that help children feel safe. For instance, my mom knows that we’re trying to encourage language development with our toddler, so when we pick her up, we say, “up, up, up!” My mom adopted that phrase and also says “down, down, down” when she’s done holding her. And that’s so important. Grandparents can create so many new traditions and habits and memories with their grandchildren without undermining the foundation set by the parents.

4. Be conscientious about gift giving. Sadly, I think one of the most common points of contention among my friends is the amount and type of gifts given by grandparents to their kids A friend of mine told me recently that her husband has been getting increasingly agitated about the gifts his mom brings to their two sons when she visits. After many warnings, she arrived at their house for a visit with tons of presents in hand. Her husband immediately stormed out of the house with the gifts, took them out to the street and left them on the curb. In this situation, everybody means well but the conflict and tension are completely avoidable.

The first step comes from tip number three: get familiar with their parenting style. Whether or not they’ve shared gift-giving “rules” or preferences with you, knowing what they value as parents will only help you buy gifts that their children will use. For instance, if the family is modeling a Montessori approach, they likely don’t want the children to be inundated with toys; instead, the children have access to a few toys that are rotated in and out of circulation regularly. These parents might prefer that you give the toys directly to them to put into circulation gradually rather than the children receiving a bundle of new toys at once; in this case, it’s less about what you’re giving the children than how you’re giving it. But the what can be important too; some children have learning and/or sensory needs to take into consideration. And there’s always the issue of duplicates; this year, my daughter received four xylophones for her birthday.

Although on the surface the act of gift giving seems straightforward, it’s actually quite complicated and should be given the consideration it deserves. I urge you to have the conversation and ask questions to understand motives. A little compromise might be necessary, but ultimately, the end result will be happy children, parents and grandparents.

5. If conflict arises, seek professional advice. The transitions of becoming parents and grandparents are challenging — life altering — although as a society we don’t always honor them the way we should. They can be incredibly triggering for people, particularly those who haven’t adequately dealt with experiences and emotions from the past. For instance, a woman sees her new role as grandmother as an opportunity to make up for how she raised her own children; she wants to undo what she perceives as her previous shortcomings and prove her worth as a mother and grandmother. Or in another situation, a young man wants his parents involved in the lives of his children, but he’s resentful and angry towards them about his own upbringing; he subconsciously uses the new power dynamic as a way to punish his parents and make them feel inadequate as grandparents. Or a mom who exerts extreme control over her children — their schedules, diets, toys and their relationship with their grandparents — because her own childhood was chaotic and unpredictable; she wants her children to feel safe and structured because she never did.

Situations like these are complicated and bound to generate extreme emotional responses from everyone involved, even over seemingly trivial conflicts. Until the underlying feelings — inadequacy, guilt, anger, resentment — are resolved, each interaction will carry a painful memory and an unspoken significance as old wounds are reopened and new ones are formed. If you or other family members are struggling to resolve issues, I strongly encourage you to see a therapist. Healing and forgiveness can end cycles of family conflict and help create healthy environments for children. Do it for yourself and for the generations to come.

The early days of parenthood: All I See is You

The following poem on parenthood is one of the most beautiful, raw literary pieces I’ve come across. It’s an excerpt from the All I See is You poetry book by Jessica Urlichs. I’ve returned to it often over the past couple of years, and it makes me sob every single time. For me, nothing has felt more tender than those early days with a new baby, when you both feel so fragile and your whole heart is blown wide open. Jessica captures it so perfectly.


I can’t see past you right now, I’m so small and everything’s a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I’m here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren’t lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re making it look easy to me. Even though we’re still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

When you think some nights you’ll never get sleep again, you will. We both will. But I’m scared right now. I promise I’m not manipulating you. I just need your smell and comfort. Do you feel that tug in your heart when we’re apart? I do too.

I miss you.

When you feel as if you’ve achieved nothing, please know, my cup has never been so full. The days that get away on you will be some of my best memories of us playing together on the ground.

I love you.

When you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore, when you turn away from the mirror. That face will be the one I look to when I achieve something, the one I search for in a crowd. The reason for my first smile.

You’re perfect to me.

When you feel like the weight of it all is heavy in your heart, please know I’ve never felt lighter. Can I lay here with you a little longer? I won’t always need you like this.

But I need you right now.

When you feel as if you have nothing left to give, when I see your hands outstretched at me, pleading. When we’re both crying. I wish I could talk, but I can’t. If I could I would tell you,

There’s a reason I chose you.

I can’t see past you right now mama, because you are my world. It will get bigger, soon enough.

But for now,

All I see is you.”