Category: parenting (page 1 of 30)

Simple Summer with Big Steps

In the mornings, we often go out. We ride bikes, stop at a playground, kick a ball around. And in the afternoon, we play and build and invent and imagine in the air conditioned comfort of our apartment. It’s simple and nice and pure and pretty much perfect—even though it fights a little bit against my idea of what summer should be. I mean, shouldn’t we be camping? Shouldn’t we be at the beach all day every day? Shouldn’t we be traveling and seeing the world?


But then again. Shouldn’t we be climbing trees (or playground structures, as the case may be)? Shouldn’t we be creating ziplines for our stuffed animals in our bedroom? Shouldn’t we be reading all the Magic Treehouse books and then imagining that we get to play soccer at bottom of the tallest oak tree in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania? Shouldn’t we be wearing capes as we run around the park with our friends?


Yes. Yes we should.

I worry sometimes about these city kids I’m raising. No trees of our own to scamper up, no backyard to build forts in. Playground rules state that I can’t even send them there by themselves. In some ways, I feel like the gatekeeper of their childhood adventures—which seems to squash the very idea of childhood adventures just a bit. But despite that, childhood seems to be finding a way. It may not be as far flung or un-accompanied as some other childhoods, but it’s happening. They are making their own adventures, learning to do handstands and cartwheels and to ride their bikes with one hand.


What more could a mom ask for? Especially this mom, this summer. To see them experimenting and taking risks, trying new things and making adjustments as I am on the cusp of launching my podcast—doing the exact same thing on a completely different level—well, it’s pretty great. It gives me a little courage.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

After all, we’re all learning with what we have—and maybe what we have isn’t the ideal. We’re all just making it up as we go along. And maybe we start these new endeavors a little awkwardly, a little unsure, a little cautiously. But I’ve seen Manchild go from hardly being able to scootch halfway up a pole to making it look easy to adding little challenges to himself in just a matter of weeks. I’ve seen Squish “accidentally” learn to ride his bike one-handed. And I’ve also seen Little Miss climb a little too high and need a little bit of help getting down without getting hurt.


So if, in this new podcasting endeavor, we (meaning my team) are a little bit awkward and clunky at first, it’s fine. If we have a few hiccups, I’m not worried. And if we happen to get ourselves in too deep, I’m trusting our audience to bear with us while we figure things out.

I am really, really, really happy and excited about that we have done so far. I’m proud to put things out into the world. But I also know that we’re going to get better at it. We may be climbing playground structures now, but we have our eyes on bigger things.


ps You can listen to the Cocoon Stories trailer at the website, or on iTunes. Take a listen, share, and subscribe!

Never Gets Old

We are home from our 3 week summer vacation to the west—land of mountains and space and infernal temperatures without the infernal humidity.

poolkidAlso, land of lightning. Not that we don’t see lightning here in Brooklyn, but as we drove from northern Utah to southern Arizona we could see, from the safety of our rental car, lightning storms practically surrounding us. And each strike was cause for oohs and aahs, for a bit of disappointment from those who missed it, for hope that the next would be bigger and brighter than the last.

It never got old.

And neither did hearing the kids wow over it.

It got me thinking, of course, about all the lightning strikes we get in life—the things that we can, at times, anticipate and look forward to and that are fresh and surprising and awesome every single time. They leave you feeling both big and small, both full of life and love—and wanting more.


My brother finished his first triathlon while we were in Utah. We cheered him on through the finish.

Things like a baby laughing.

Or seeing your child’s excitement about her birthday.

Watching a little boy stand and stare in awe as a freight train grumbles by.

Or the first snowfall of winter and the sight of the first blossoms of spring.

Witnessing an act of kindness among strangers.

Receiving encouragement from a stranger.

The feeling, at the end of a run, that you did something today.

Watching someone do something hard, and struggle, and succeed.

Creating something—anything—that is beautiful.

hugthewallWhat did I miss? What are those moments that fill you with wonder and awe every time they happen?

And After 17.4 Miles, I’m a Person Again


The fantasy I’ve had since age 5 came true at Exchange 32 on Saturday morning when, for one brief moment, I got to be Ariel.

I know that I’m not really a real person to my kids. Not yet. They can’t really fathom my life outside of cooking and cleaning and telling them their shirts are on backward. Certainly they see me talking to other people, but my conversations hold little interest for them. They know I like to run and to write and—according to the Mother’s Day book Squish’s made—to read Green Eggs and Ham, which is all true enough, but I don’t think they understand that I like to do those things as a person and not necessarily as a mom. (And yes, I’ve learned a lot from Dr. Seuss’s writing style through multiple readings of his masterworks.) It is more amusing than anything to me at this point. I assume they will slowly realize that Mom is a person too as they grow up.

But sometimes I don’t feel like a real person to me either. And that is a problem. One that needs to be fixed. Possibly by not being the mom for a day or so and instead running around Cape Cod with vans full of other people seeking the thrill of handing off a slap bracelet at 1am to their teammate, then collapsing on the floor of the local high school gym for 3 hours of poor sleep before getting back in the van for the next leg of the relay race.


Only good things come from running by still waters.

At least that is what I did last weekend in running the Ragnar Relay around Cape Cod as part of the Chowdah Legs team. It’s been over a year since I ran a race, which is probably a real shame. I know I was pretty burned out last year after running Boston, but I didn’t know that I would take such a long time away from the racing scene. It was good to be back. Micah and I joined some neighbors and friends and friends of neighbors and neighbors of friends of friends to cover the 192 miles from Hull, MA to Provincetown. And what a good time it was.

It was fun to run without a stroller. It was great to push myself to go fast again. It was awesome to be silly/crazy/stupid/brave enough to run through the mist at 1am. And you know I loved to count how many people I passed (or, in the parlance, “killed”) as I ran my legs of the race. (More than 20 over 3 legs, in case you were curious.)


Chowdah Legs Van 2. BFFs. Or at least for the 29 hours we were stuck in a van together.

And of course sitting in a van with 4 or 5 other sweaty, anxious, excited runners for more than 24 hours is always a good time, too. Instant friends forever, obviously.

Our team did a darn good job, coming in 10 minutes ahead of our projected time. It’s always a good feeling to defy expectations, right? We crossed the line together, had some chowder and then went back to our people and beds and showers at the beach house, where my kids were busy playing in the sand and not knowing or caring that their parents just spent a day running and laughing and napping and talking and driving with their pals simply because that is what brings them joy as human beings.

They’ll figure it out some day. And when they do—and can put their shirts on forward the first time—I’ll let them run on my relay team.

Leave No Man Behind

Competition is inevitable. And it is true that we have encouraged it. “Who can get their pajamas on first?” and other such nonsense. You know, for our mental health, if not the health of their relationship. (Priorities!)

But you know, sometimes it backfires. Like when Squish ends up in tears every afternoon on the way home from school because his legs are not as long as his brothers and he comes in second in their daily race down the ramp. (Little Miss is just happy being able to run at all.) 

We’ve tried to encourage Manchild to go easy on his brother, to ease up and let him win every now and then. See how nice it feels to make someone else feel good? Even better than winning! (He didn’t buy it.)

Last week, though, suddenly and strangely, something shifted. Suddenly I’m hearing: “Partners?” “Partners!” I’m hearing them cheer each other on. I’m hearing teamwork. 

And I’m seeing this:   


Holding hands. Climbing the slide together. Leaving no man behind.

This development struck me especially hard last weekend when I heard a story about a couple of brothers who got themselves in a tight spot climbing a cliff and life was literally on the line. Micah and I couldn’t breathe for a few moments while we imagined our own offspring in the place of those boys. Gah! What would they do? Would one of them fall to his death? Would the other have to watch his brother die?

And suddenly, it seemed as though we could, perhaps, do a little better at encouraging cooperation instead of competition. We’re not in this to beat each other or come in first, right? Even if we do our best, isn’t it better to finish together than to be alone at the line? (Well, maybe not in an actual race, but you know, in life.)

The question now, then, is how to keep it going. Make sure we’re on the same team. A six-legged race, with each of us tied to the other. The victory is not in winning, but in learning to run together, to pick each other up when we inevitably stumble, and, eventually, to make it to the finish line in tact. 

All the Pretty Princesses

One of my sisters went through a phase in which she was not, as we had all been led to believe, Sarah, but was instead “101 Dalmatians” or sometimes “Little Bear” or possibly “Baby Rabbit.” It was never the same from day to day or even hour to hour. Two-year-olds are like that.

Including my two-year-old. She is (of course) a princess, a girl, NOT a sister, NOT a toddler, a bird, a kitten, a magic magic princess, a baby, NOT a baby and possibly several other things that are currently slipping my mind. 

My instinct is to tell her that she’s not a princess but to just go with everything else, for the fun and/or truthfulness of it. (Clearly some of these are easier to just go with than others . . . .)

On further thought, however, why not a princess? My hesitation is, obviously, that she wants to wear a pretty dress all day and tell people what to do. And also that every other little girl wants to be a princess and since my little girl is special, she can’t be like every other little girl and hence, cannot be a princess. 

But then again, her princesses are different from my princesses. (Her princesses are also different from all the other girls’ princesses, because my princess, er, daughter, is special.) My princesses were the sitting in the tower waiting to be rescued type. Her princesses are as follows: There’s Little Miss Princess (of Little Miss books fame), who tries (with mediocre results) to help people. (Having never been forced to do anything on her own, she makes a mess of a shopping trip for Mr. Bump, who broke his leg, and finds that if nothing else, she’s good at giving orders—even if it is over the phone, for pizza.)

Also, Princess Nausicaa. It is true that she might not remember much from Squish’s Nausicaa obsession of summer 2014, and yet it is possible that something stuck. Princess Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind flies around on a glider through the Toxic Jungle trying to find ways to save her people from its spread. She defends her dying father, negotiates with invaders, and eventually sacrifices herself to the insects. (Don’t worry, she’s a Christ figure. She gets resurrected. Oops, my bad. SPOILER ALERT!)

And then Princess/Queen Elsa. She has powers! She . . . has powers! So there’s that. No waiting in the tower, exactly. But, well, whatever. 

Now that I think of it, however, I’m not convinced that my little girl actually knows what a princess is. It sounds nice. People respond to it. I respond to it: “You’re a princess? Since when?” 


So she doesn’t know what a princess is. It’s a girl. A special girl. She wants to be special. She is special. She climbs and she races and she knows where the chocolate is and when to offer her mom some. She knows her style: pajamas, leggings, kitty nightgowns, monster underwear. She is determined to learn to cook, if only so she has first dibs on all the batter/dough in the bowl.  

So I guess it is up to me to teach her what a princess is and what a princess does. Which is this: climbing and racing. Finding the best chocolate and sharing it with her favorite people. Knowing her season and making it work. And, like a good little witch

  testing her brew before serving her guests.

 Don’t tell her, but she’s my favorite little princess.

ps More on my new project later. If you’re curious.

Behold, the Underminer!

“Who’s on your list of best friends?” I asked Little Miss a few weeks ago. We were just joking around. It was all in good fun. She walked over to the entertainment cupboard, pulled out Super Mario Galaxy and showed me all of her best friends: lumas of vaious colors, Princess Peach, and Mario himself.

I wasn’t quite satisfied. “Who else? Anyone else on your list of best friends?” And as I awaited her answer, I heard the ridiculousness of the situation. And also the stupidity. 

List of best friends? Is that what I wanted to teach my daughter? To make lists of people she likes? And then what about the rest? They don’t matter? (Not that we don’t all have several of those lists in our lives . . . .)

But seriously. I sense some self-sabotage going on here. “We love everyone! We are kind to everyone!” I say because I want to raise kids who are kind and loving and accepting. And then I say, “Yeah, but what I really want to know is: who are your favorites? Am I one of them? (Please please please please?)”

It kind of reminds me of that time I took Squish to the doctor and he got some shots. Back at home I asked him to tell Micah how brave he had been. Tears ensued. Accompanied by the explanation: “But I wasn’t brave! I cried!”

He seemed unconvinced by our insistence that bravery and tears are not mutually exclusive. And upon further reflection, I could think of half a dozen reasons why he might think that. Starting with every time he falls and we exclaim, “Be brave! Don’t cry!”


I’m super careful not to talk bad about my body, I try to keep an open conversation about all kinds of important but uncomfortable topics, I make a sometimes Herculean effort to do good deeds. 

But now I have to wonder: in what ways have I/will I/do I undermine my carefully considered plans in unguarded moments? It’s a shame I won’t know until I hear myself begging my two-year old to tell tell me that I am as cool as  Mario and Princess Peach. 

Good Grief: guest post by Heather Cosby

A few months ago, my friend Heather posted some thoughts on her blog about grief and motherhood. It really resonated with me and over several weeks the topic kept finding its way into my conversations with other friends. I finally asked Heather if she wouldn’t mind sharing it here on MotherRunner, and she graciously agreed. Without further ado, here’s Heather.


As I sat nursing my baby, Emily, this morning, I saw my phone sitting on the ottoman at my feet. I thought of a funny text I could send to my husband, Sam, but I knew if I picked up my phone I’d end up fiddling around on it till Emily was done eating. Knowing this was one of my rare moments of peace during the day with my son at preschool, I resisted and instead shut my eyes and tried to focus on the weight and warmth of Emily’s body against mine, her hand brushing my skin, her contented little mmm’s as she ate.

Eventually, my thoughts turned to my son, Levi, as they often had lately. We always seemed to be battling one another and we were both exhausted by it. And though I was trying not to wrestle with his formidable will, the other ways I tried to connect with and motivate him weren’t working, so we almost always resorted to threats to get things done. This of course left him feeling angry and me feeling guilty.

Though recently, I had started reading, “Parenting Without Power Struggles” by Susan Stiffelman and it gave me plenty of parenting wisdom to ponder on this quiet morning. Stiffelman suggests that at times when your child won’t be getting his way, you should approach them as if they were grieving. After all, they’re experiencing a loss of something important to them. As she detailed the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression or sadness, and acceptance—I realized these were exactly the emotions and tactics my son was experiencing several times a day.

levi copyOur job as parents, Stiffelman says, is to walk our children through those emotions more quickly and as allies. That way they then come to accept the situation on their own, without our forcing it on them. Instead of wading through the refusals, bargaining, yelling, running away, whining, crying, and resentfully cooperating, you give your child the freedom to mourn their loss. You’re on their side as you tell them how sorry you are to see them sad, and they feel supported as they come to understand they’re not going to get their way. So far, it had worked with Levi. He finally felt like someone was listening to him, and I was more compassionate towards him as I saw him grieving.

My thoughts then slid, as thoughts do, to what my life would look like in the context of grief. In the past several years I’ve dealt with anger, depression, and nearly constant change. I thought maybe moving too often—seven times in eight years—was the source of pain, but I’ve loved the adventure. I’ve seriously considered going back to school or work, but when it came down to it, I knew I would regret not staying home when the kids were small and we had the resources to make it possible. I’ve struggled with medications and injuries. But in the last year and a half, all that has gone away and I still get flashes of deep sadness or feeling adrift or feeling like something is missing.

As I sat with my eyes closed, snuggling my tiny baby, I finally asked myself, “Is there something you’re grieving or mourning?” Without knowing how, it was like a weight was removed from my heart. It’s not that I don’t love my life or my family. It’s not that I regret the choices I’ve made, because when I look back they really are indicative of my true desires. It’s that as a young woman I had expectations for my life and myself that have not been realized, and I am mourning them.

I had expected to be more involved in my community through a career or intense volunteering. I had thought running would always be a part of my life. I thought I’d be as healthy as I’d ever been. I thought I’d be an energetic and creative mother. I thought I’d have new friendships as deep and lasting as my old ones had been. I thought I’d be the person others needed rather than needing other people so often.emilyandlevi copy

In the same way that it was hard to say goodbye to my grandmother and grandfather who I loved and admired deeply and who gave me hope, I was finding it hard to say goodbye to the woman I thought I would be, a woman who is strong and smart and fit and kind and capable and seems to be all of those things all of the time. I’m mourning the loss of her possibility.

Realizing this, that I had seen the long, slow fading of a remarkable woman who had long been my companion, tears came to my eyes. I was filled with compassion for myself. I sometimes feel so torn inside and feeling like there’s no reason for it just adds to the pain and shame of it. But stepping back and seeing myself in grief and mourning lets me be kinder and gentler. It lets me sit with the pain, quietly, and let myself say goodbye again, as many times as I need to.

When I was baptized into my church, I promised God I would be “willing to mourn with those that mourn… and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” We are able to do this because each of us knows sorrow in our own way. Life never happens the way we expect, and when that woman who seems to be all the things we want to be holds our hand, or cries with us, or sits in silence with us, we know that she too has mourned her own losses and dreams.

Somehow, through that sisterhood, and through our quiet hours grieving with and comforting our own broken selves, we are slowly reborn. As we say goodbye to the person we thought we’d become, the person we are becomes more real, more true. Like a new child, we are small, fragile, and tender, but the weight of our hands and the warmth of our touch are undeniable.

A Different Kind of Watchfulness

I haven’t changed a diaper in weeks. In my mind, this was always a long way off. Diapers were, I suppose, the last vestige of babyhood, and my babies were never going to grow up. We were never really bottle people. Sippy cups were always short-lived. Cribs and highchairs became superfluous long ago. But diapers were eternal.

Until a few weeks ago when Little Miss refused to wear one any more and very suddenly developed the motivation to use the toilet.

She’s not perfect at it, of course. We still have to watch her, still have to look for the potty dance and be in tune with her liquid input/output ratio. We’re not always great at reading the signs, which is why the other night, when she woke up with the strangest cry I thought she just wanted me to lie down and cuddle with her for a minute. It wasn’t until we were both lying in a puddle that I realized that cuddling was not her most urgent need.

But really, I’m not here to talk about pee.

It’s more about the watchfulness. Watching for Little Miss’s dance, listening for her distress, yes. But her particular milestone is probably the most obvious thing to watch for these days. Her needs are still so physical, her emotions roll around on the floor and jump upandupandupandup. There’s no hiding them, and it’s easier to address them.

The boys, however, are growing too. I no longer feel like I need to watch them so closely on the train platforms. I don’t always need to hold their hands as we cross streets. They spend so much time at school and then do homework and read and eat dinner and go to bed, it almost feels as though I don’t need to watch them at all.

But then again. They are away from me so much of the day. There is so much I don’t see or hear about. It’s not so much that I don’t need to watch them as much as it is that I need to watch them differently. It’s not their physical safety that preoccupies me like it did when they were younger and more impulsive. They—especially Manchild—are old enough to hide their feelings, to downplay the things that are most important, to feel it keenly if I don’t attend or respond as they’d hoped.

So I try to watch for the subtle smiles and blushes of pleasure, the quick blinking of downcast eyes, the dragging feet or involuntary bouncing. Their emotions don’t always roll and roil, bubble up and spill over like they used to. But that is, I believe, because they are felt more deeply. To not see them, or acknowledge them, would be to draw a curtain between us, one that could blind me and prevent me from warning my kids of dangers I could have protected them from—dangers that could leave scrapes and scars and bruises and burns that no one, not even they, can see.

They’re such good kids. I say that often, because it is true and because I want them to know it and because I need to remind myself of it. But I hope that by saying it so much I don’t let it become a shield or blinder against more urgent issues—and leave us all lying in a puddle of shame and regret.(null)

My Girl

She and I, well, we fight. She points at me from across the room and says, “Don’t talk. Don’t talk, Mommy. Don’t. Talk.”

I tell her I’m not saying anything, but she gives me a look, or yells all the louder, “DON’T TAAAALLLKKKKK!!!”

She likes her space. And she’ll tell me that, too, just like that: “Get out of my space!” or, “No, Mommy, sit over there!”

Sometimes, she will look me straight in the eye as she does exactly what I told her not to do. Classic.

And it’s happened more than once that she has run the length of the subway car, with me hot on her heels, saying, “No Mommy, stay over there! I don’t like you!”Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

It is, most of the time, hilarious. I have to keep myself from smiling or laughing out loud. I have to remind myself that this is real, that she isn’t joking, that she is sincerely upset. But when our arguments are about things like our hard-and-fast rule about wearing underwear at the dinner table, or whether or not she can have a potty treat, it is probably about as endearing as it is exasperating. How can I be truly mad at her when she’s buck naked and/or stuffing forbidden chocolate in her mouth?

But it’s hard not to imagine what this will look like in 10 years or so, when stakes are higher, when emotions are higher, when I can’t distract her and win her heart back with a couple of chocolate chips or gather her in my arms and kiss her little face and hold her until we are playing instead of fighting.

That prospect scares me. Just a little bit. I worry that I’ll get tired of fighting, that she’ll find her own space that I don’t even know about, that I won’t be able to keep up as she runs away. I worry that it is starting right now and that she really means it when she tells me to not talk and to sit over there.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetThen again. At the end of the day, when she’s tired and just can’t sleep and she’s lying on the floor in front of her door, her voice echoing out from the gap, who is she calling for?

“Mommy! Mommy! Mama Heiselt! I need you. I need you Mommy.”

When she’s fallen off a chair for the third time this week, who does she reach for?

“Mommy! Mooooommmmmmyyyyyyy!”

And what do I hear when Micah comes to her rescue in the middle of the night after she has wet the bed and is naked and crying, waiting for someone to help her find some new jammas?


And that’s how I know that even though we fight, and she yells, and she tells me that she doesn’t like me, she is also looking to me to teach her how to be—that for all the cries to “Get out of my space!” she really wants me close.

She sits on the counter and finds a way to help me cook dinner. She hands me my mascara after my shower (and insists I brush some on her lashes too). She climbs into my lap at dinner time, and story time, and nap time and  prayer time. She is usually the first to recommend that maybe we should have just a small taste of chocolate.

She’s my girl. I’m holding on tight. And I’m staying right here.Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

The Complexities of Holding Hands with a 7-Year-Old

We were getting off the train. It was a couple of months ago. It’s crazy, after school sometimes. So many people. My kids trying to wiggle their little bums into any exposed piece of bench, no matter how narrow the space between passengers. Me, trying to listen, trying to see, trying to make sure my dreamer (Manchild) and my slowpoke (Squish) and my Little-Miss-Contrary all get on before the doors close, and trying to make sure my little people don’t annoy any/all of the other passengers.

Can I be forgiven, then, for almost missing our stop? It was a frazzled moment when I stuck my hands out to my kids sitting on the bench and said, “Hands! Let’s go!” And it was another frazzled moment when Manchild was the first to grab my hand and I said, “Not you!” and dropped his hand and grabbed his sister’s. She was, after all, the one I was most worried about getting lost in the crowd.

We did make it out of the train on time, but boy oh boy if I didn’t make an enemy of my eldest child in the process. Manchild was not happy. All, “Humph!”s and teary eyes as we made our way up the staircases and the escalator to wait for the next train. And as we got on the train. And off at our stop. And down the ramp and across the street to our building. And up the elevator. And into our apartment.

“I didn’t mean I didn’t want to hold your hand!” I told him as we made our winding way to our apartment. “I knew I could trust you to get off the train!” I told him. I went on and on about how he’s more responsible, he listens better, he knows the stops. Plus, I only have two hands! The other kids, they might get lost if they’re not holding on to me.

He didn’t buy it. Or maybe he did, but it didn’t ease the hurt of having his mom throw his hand back in his face like a dirty rag. My guts were sufficiently wrenched when the frazzle-panic died down and I realized what I’d done.

I’d forgotten that he’s still a kid. That he still needs closeness. That even if he is inquisitive and precocious and determined to be independent, he still needs help tightening the elastics on his adjustable-waist pants.

He may always be in his head, where he morphs stuffed animals into magical creatures and flies around in inventions powered by magnets and laughs loudly as he relives the favorite parts of the comic strip books he doesn’t understand. And I don’t get to go there with him. But even while he’s soaring through the clouds in his imagination, physically he still needs my hand to hold onto. He’ll let go when he’s ready.


(And until then I’ll have to work on growing a third hand.)

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