Tag Archives: parent

My 8-Year-Old Daughter Defines “Utopia”

LostHorizon1937_thumb2For the most part, I make a big effort not to tell “cute things my daughter said” stories to anyone but the grandparents. I have a list of topics that are often boring to other people, and this subject definitely has a place there.

But I simply can’t resist telling these two connected stories.

Every Sunday night, we have “Movie Night,” when we watch a family movie. A few weeks ago, I chose the 1937 movie “Lost Horizon” (a great movie if you haven’t seen it).

My eight-year-old daughter was so delighted with the movie and the idea of Shangri-La that she was inspired to write  a sequel, about what happens when Robert Conway returns to that magical land. “I’m going to call it ‘Lost Horizon: Everyday Life in Utopia,’” she told me. Everyday life in Utopia! I love that phrase so much. It’s my new motto for my happiness projects.

I’d told her about the word “utopia” and what it meant. Some days later, I was reading aloud to her from Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I explained that Camazotz, in the book,  was a “dystopia,” and gave a little lecture about how that was the opposite of a utopia. My daughter listened patiently.

About a week later, as we continued with A Wrinkle in Time, I asked in a teacherly voice, “Now do you remember the word for the opposite of utopia?”

“Metopia,” she said, without missing a beat. It took me a moment to get the joke.

Everyday life in Utopia and Metopia!

* * *

Are you reading Happier at Home or The Happiness Project in a book group? Email me if you’d like the one-page discussion guide. Or if you’re reading it in a spirituality book club, a Bible study group, or the like, email me for the spirituality one-page discussion guide.

Should Parents Allow Their Kids on Social Media?

By Mallika Chopra

Before we began “Perfectly Imperfect Parents“, I emailed my mommy friends and posted a question on Facebook, Twitter and Intentblog:

What parenting topics are most important to you today? What should we be talking about on this show?

By far, the number one response that I got back was friends asking us to discuss how parents should deal with social media. And most of the responses expressed fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about how to control their kids.

I’m sure parents of every generation feel they are dealing with trends that are ahead of what they understand or even know about, and they are overwhelmed with uncertainty. And with each generation perhaps we feel we live in more difficult times than those before us.

Social media seems to be the big theme amongst my fellow parents. Questions like: When should they get a phone? Are they on Instagram? What about Snap Chat? What are the other apps and sites out there?

Here is what’s going on in my house:

My elder daughter, Tara, is eleven years old. She has had email for a few years but is not really into it. We set it up so that she can keep in touch with her grandparents. She can only use it to email cousins, grandparents and her close friends.

She uses a computer for most of her homework already, and is more adept at searching for information and using Dropbox to download and upload her homework assignments. She already types faster than me, does better Powerpoint presentations and makes iMovies.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.11.25 PM
16-year-old YouTuber, Audrey Whitby, on “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”

She does not have a cell phone – perhaps half of her friends do have phones. She uses a “family” phone when she is at a non-school event alone (not at play dates, other peoples homes or classes). Every wish, every ask, is for a cell phone.

She is not allowed Instagram (the social media platform most of her friends are on), let alone Snap Chat – which I don’t think she even knows about yet. (Snap Chat really freaks me out.)

Her school says no students are allowed on Facebook or Twitter. I haven’t heard of any of her friends on those platforms.

So far, while we have proven to be a bit more conservative when it comes to social media, it hasn’t become a huge issue yet as I think half of her social circle has similar rules in their houses. But, I know we are months away from that all changing.

Sixth grade seems to be a turning point, with middle school the point of no return when it comes to social media. I have to admit when it comes to my kids, social media has been ensconced in a general aura of fear. It’s the unknown that promises to expose my kids to too much information, too much access, too many opportunities to interact with people I don’t want them to interact with.

But something happened last month (after we shot our social media episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”) that started to take the fear away.

My husband and I were in Munich for a conference and the girls were in Washington DC with my parents for the presidential inauguration. Tara had the “family” phone and we began to text each other throughout the day.

What unfolded was an entirely new, and absolutely amazing, form of communication with my daughter. Her texts were funny, insightful, moving. My husband and I would wait to get her messages, and smile all day long as we read them. She texted us the moment President Obama took the stage at the inauguration – we could experience and share her emotions through her limited characters and words and laugh as we saw her snap and text photos of her and Leela
smiling in the freezing cold. We felt connected, engaged, so incredibly happy that we had this amazing tool to be in touch.

I realized that like the generations before us, we as parents will ultimately figure it out with our kids. There will be bumps along the road no doubt, but hopefully and optimistically we will find ourselves more connected because of technology.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”, as well as how you deal with social media in your family. We are all very eager to learn from each other!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss next week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents”!

Can Birth Be a Spiritual Experience?

Pain, bloating, and nausea aside, birth can be a truly spiritual experience. For those who have witnessed the phenomenon, or been present in the precious moments after, the experience may rank in the holiest, most magical moments of their lives. Sure, for some it may include fear, anxiety, pain and adrenaline, but the cry of new life can usually dispel even the sharpest of concerns.

In this week’s episode of “Holy Facts” on The Chopra Well, Gotham Chopra explores the spiritual sides to birthing, from fertility rituals, to belly dancing, to placenta burial. With fertility rites and deities dating back to ancient times, reproduction has likely played a prominent role in religious traditions throughout human history.

Before the wisdom of midwives and modern science became the mainstream, pregnancy and birth were nothing short of miracles, explained only by the mystery of the universe. This same mystery made the sun rise, the rain fall, and the earth bear food to sustain life. But even knowing how the sperm fertilizes the egg, the fetus grows, and eventually the cervix dilates and the baby is born, does it change the magical quality of birth?

Harshitha...my angel..i love you...Many mothers, partners, midwives and other birth workers speak of the sacred atmosphere of the birthing room. For an unmedicated mother, the high levels of oxytocin and endorphins naturally secreted during labor can induce an almost ecstatic high (evolutionarily crafted, of course, to help her withstand the strain of contractions.) And for all in the room, regardless of medical intervention, witnessing a tiny human where previously there was only a big belly…well it’s something you just have to experience.

It is no wonder people have developed such elaborate rituals surrounding birth. Gotham describes some particularly interesting ones in the episode. Did you know belly dancing originated as a method for women to ease the pain of labor? That’s right, it wasn’t intended to be a sexy dance women do in front of men… Kind of puts things into perspective. And cultures around the world find fascinating uses for the placenta, or “afterbirth”, believed by many to hold both spiritual and nutritional properties. Some bury the placenta with a fruit tree, while others grind it up and put it in capsules as post-labor supplements for the mother. Do you know what your parents did with your placenta?

They don’t call it “the miracle of life” for nothing, and clichéd at it may sound, we heartily agree with the sentiment. The human body can do some extraordinary things, and birth and reproduction certainly rank at the top of the list.

Was your child’s birth a holy experience? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well for more “Holy Facts” every Monday!

Reach Out: The Communal Side to Parenting

God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.There’s no class on parenting, no university degree in child-rearing. Yet for those who decide to become parents, it is a lifelong, 24/7 job that no amount of babysitting or book reading can fully prepare you for. So you dive in headfirst; you improvise, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes and adjust as time goes on. It may be some consolation to know that billions of people before you have survived the trials and joys of parenthood and that thousands of your neighbors right now are on the journey alongside you. And if questions arise? All you have to do is ask.

This week, The Chopra Well YouTube channel launches a new show entirely dedicated to conscious parenting. “Perfectly Imperfect Parents” features three Los Angeles mothers (a pediatrician, an entrepreneur and a comic) in a roundtable discussion on their challenges, successes and failures as they strive to raise balanced, happy children. They share stories and compare notes on some of the biggest issues parents face with their kids, including bullying, social media, healthy living, sex and body image.

Mallika Chopra, author and founder of Intent.com, hosts the show, alongside her friends, Dr. Cara Natterson and Dani Klein Modisett. Cara is a pediatrician who has authored several medical and parenting books, including the best-selling American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You. Dani is a writer, actress, and comedienne who created the live show “Afterbirth,” which has been running in Los Angeles for eight years.

Perfectly Imperfect Parents” reminds us of the resources at our disposal through our friends, colleagues, siblings, and our own parents. There’s no science to being a parent, but anyone who’s been down that road before may have some useful tips to share about the journey. Mallika, Cara and Dani come together every week to discuss a different topic, bringing to the table a certain set of experiences and methods. But each of them walks away with a richer understanding of the issue and even some new tricks to try out, proving, as Dr. Cara says, that it’s never too late to try something new as a parent.

The show kicks off with a discussion on one of the hot button issues of parenting: bullying. This topic has come to the fore of public discourse recently, particularly with Amanda Todd’s tragic suicide in October of 2012 and with media coverage from celebrities like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Garner.

Join us on Thursday, February 7 at The Chopra Well for Episode 1 of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents.” And be sure to subscribe to the channel to stay updated on our latest videos!

photo by: legends2k

Find Inspiration in Unlikely Places: 5 Articles from Around the Web

Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely places if we just take the time to look around. Sometimes it’s counter-intuitive advice that packs the truest wisdom. Sometimes it’s a parent making the most thoughtful and unexpected sacrifice for a child. Enjoy these articles, and may you have a quirky and inspired day!

The Duchess of Alba puts us all to shame with her floral bikini and rockin’ 86-year-old body. Talk about woman pride! Ready to hit the beach?

If 86-Year-Old Duchess Isn’t Afraid To Rock A Bikini, Neither Should You (Blisstree)

Those who have spent time around animals may not find this article “unlikely”… Animals can be truly wise. And, when we let them, they can bring out the best in us.

7 Life Lessons from a Horse (Positively Positive)

Your son comes to and says he only wants to wear dresses and skirts, here on out. What do you do? This dad chose an unexpected and beautiful course of action.

The Sweetest Photo You’ll See Today: Dad Wears Skirt (Care2)

Looking for inspiration and creativity? Try being wrong. Really, try it. You won’t be dissatisfied.

Why Being Wrong Is the Best Thing for You (MindBodyGreen)

And for a look at the lengths people will go for one another…

Maine Woman Gives Birth to Own Grandson (Yahoo! Shine)

photo by: jillyspoon

Conscious Parents Don’t Have to be Perfect Parents

Many parents fear that if they claim to be Conscious, Spiritual or even just Positive parents they will then be held to a standard that is impossible to achieve.  They feel like they are taking on a role in which mistakes are not allowed. Even worse, a role in which they are under the scrutiny of others with the consequences being humiliation for claiming to be something they are not. 

 Parents need not be so hard on themselves – we have enough burdens without judging ourselves when we are parenting from our hearts. That’s really what Conscious Parenting is, parenting from a place of awareness. Conscious Parents are aware of their motivations and seek to help their children live lives that are balanced mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. But no, they are not perfect, nor should they feel the need to be. In fact, you cannot be a Conscious Parent without making a few mistakes for it’s in those errors that we learn so much about what works for our family and what does not.

 Why this topic today?  Well, I’m writing as I try to remember that my son lost a tooth this morning and the Tooth Fairy needs to make an appearance tonight.  For most parents this minor interruption in daily life is no big deal.  In our house, it’s an enormous and complicated undertaking.  I mean, once, my son diligently put his tooth under the pillow four nights in a row, and finally on the last morning we stuffed the money down the side of his bed after he woke up to another fruitless night’s sleep. We had to send him back to look for the money after he was up and eating breakfast. We told him he rolls around a lot at night (which is true) and the money probably moved.  Why was the tooth left behind? We told him the tooth was left behind because it was too heavy for the Tooth Fairy due to the bracket from his braces still attached to it.  We didn’t have a much better track record with our older daughter either.  I was relieved that she was already in on the "secret" and I could just hand her the $2 for losing her last tooth.  Whew — no dropped balls on that one.

 In general, I see myself as a pretty competent and attentive parent.  I teach Conscious Parenting classes and advise countless parents on how to raise their children with self awareness.  Here’s my dirty secret.. . I can’t remember to take the tooth from under the pillow, and at this point, I don’t remember which container full of teeth in my jewelry box is my son’s and which one is my daughter’s.  Want some more dirt?  Sometimes we eat cereal for dinner.

 Parents, give yourself a break.   As Conscious Parents we are teaching our children that they are a spiritual beings having a human experience.  A Conscious Parent is still a human being!  So we lose track of time and miss pick-up by 20 minutes (or sometimes altogether, thank goodness for friends), we don’t serve veggies at every meal, we make our kids clean their rooms, and some of us forget to let the Tooth Fairy in.  We also love our children, we respect ourselves, we set loving boundaries, we let our children find their uniqueness, we celebrate our differences and embrace our similarities and we teach our children to take responsibility for the energy they bring to this planet.

 Come to think of it, Conscious Parents are about as close to perfect as you can get–here on earth anyway!



Obesity in Children: Who’s to blame?

I don’t have children.  I’m not sure when I will have children, but I do know that when I do, health, both mental and physical, will be an important part of my raising them and teaching them about life. 

This morning, I had an interesting dialogue with my family about legal action and laws around childhood obesity.  Across the US, there are numerous strategies being implemented or being considered to address childhood obesity head-on.  Some programs take a preventative approach by offering healthy options in the school cafeteria, while others take a more aggressive approach by disceminating BMI (Body Mass Index) Report Cards to parents when their children have either too low or too high of a BMI score; and others, take an even more drastic approach of accusing parents of child abuse and neglect.

I have to wonder, what approach is most effective?  Do we wake up parents to the urgency of the situation by placing the blame on them?  Do we humiliate children to get them to understand that they are at risk for being overweight as adults?  Do we risk causing eating disorders and lifelong self-esteem issues among children and teens by negatively exposing them and their problem?  Or do we hope with all of our might that the cafeteria’s lunch offerings will be enough for them to learn?  There isn’t really a perfect answer, as every individual responds to things differently, and children, even more so.  So what do we do?  How do we attack an increasing epidemic?

For the most part, I believe that parents are most responsible for their children’s health.  Assuming a parent is an active participant in their child’s life, it is safe to say that from the time a child is born up until the time they go to school, parents are the most influential in teaching them right from wrong, good from bad, healthy from unhealthy.  If a solid foundation is laid, there is a good chance that children will make the right decisions when they leave the nest.  That said, if a child doesn’t get that education at home, I do believe that parents need to be counseled, warned and maybe even fined if a child has an ongoing problem.  They are their caretakers and guardians, and they need to be held responsible. 

But how can you hold someone responsible, when they don’t even understand the problem themselves? 

First off, with 66% of American adults overweight or obese, there is a good chance that many obese children have parents who are overweight as well.  Secondly, many parents have a truly distorted view of their child’s weight problems.  In a survey conducted in 2007 exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, it was shown that only 13% of parents with obese children ages 6 to 11 rated their child as being “very overweight” while over 40% of the parents rated their children’s weight status as “about right.”  40%!  Parents of older children (12 – 17), however, seemed to have greater awareness with 31% of parents of obese children saying their children are "very overweight," 56% saying "slightly overweight" and 11% saying "about the right weight." 

Parents have to take action and responsibility early on, not just for their children, but for themselves as well.  If they can’t lead by example, then children are only going to perpetuate their parents’ unhealthy habits.  Further, parents need to face the reality of the situation, and admit that their children may have a problem and may be at high risk for early onset medical issues, such as asthma and heart disease.  More and more children, as well as adults, are becoming less and less active.  We can thank media, video games and the internet for that.   Children have enough growing pains as it is, it isn’t right for parents to subject them to ridicule, possible physical health issues and even worse, mental health issues.  Children need role models…and yes, that in my mind, starts with the parents.

Lessons My Father Taught Me (And What I

My dad likes old cars, albeit tuned up with tires full for optimal performance. He can’t pass a sock sale without buying five pairs, although he has drawers full of them. And he recently discovered Sam’s Club, where he likes to buy my children lots of plastic toys made in China.

But when I was a kid, things were different. Although my dad grew up in a white-bread family and a small midwestern town, as an adult he was adopted as a blood brother to the patriarch of a Lakota Sioux clan. In the late ‘60s, he started teaching the novels and poetry of Native American writers to students in his English classes; eventually he co-founded the Native American Studies Program at UCLA. When I was five, he caravanned a group of these students from California to North Dakota, meeting Native American writers and elders along the way. I remember a Monarch butterfly that landed on my finger at Sitting Bull’s gravesite and stayed that way for the next two hundred miles.

So as an adult, I never thought of my dad as much of an environmentalist. But then I started looking at the ways my life has changed in the last few years, and I realize that much of the inspiration comes directly from him.

Take the garden, for example. As a child growing up in the canyons of Los Angeles, we planted corn, tomatoes, salad and squash; even when he lived in a condominium, my father had edible plants growing on the balcony.

And he doesn’t just grow them to eat: My dad believes in the power of plants. If you cut your finger, he’ll offer you an aloe vera leaf. Feeling under the weather? He’ll brew up some foul-smelling concoction of Chinese herbs. On important days—my wedding day, and the first time he met each of his three grandchildren—my dad will sprinkle our heads with corn pollen as he says a prayer to the four directions.

But most importantly, my father taught me that plants—and all living things, really—deserve our respect. That when you cut a flower or an herb you should give the plant some water or food in return, and thank the plant for what it gave you. And he helps me pass these lessons on to my children.

There are some childhood habits that die hard, however. My father now buys organic milk when we come to visit, but he still likes his meat bought in bulk and eaten daily. He does not believe that my Green Wash Ball can actually get his clothes clean. He stocks up on antibacterial soap and scoffs at my inspection of shampoo labels when he sends my kids to shower at his house. And regardless of how many times I talk with him about the dangers of chemicals in cleaning products and fertilizer, he still cleans his tub with Tilex and douses his weeds with Round-Up.

But hopefully, just as his lessons changed my life, mine might change his someday.

Thanks, Dad.

Ban the Crackberry! Mommy Greenest Checks Out

Last weekend I packed up the chemical-free bug spray (gotta love that citronella scent), zinc oxide sunscreen and four reusable shopping bags full of organic food and set off on a camping trip with six other families from my kids’ school. “Camping” is really a euphemism—the cabins we booked were more like hotel rooms, with refrigerators, full bathrooms and daily maid service—although we did cook over a campfire, scared away some skunks and endured nightly visits from inquisitive mice.

We’re all pretty tuned-in parents, so my eco offerings didn’t raise any eyebrows—though I was a little dismayed to find that even the families who packed their kids’ school lunchboxes with BPA-free, stainless steel reusable water bottles stocked up on cases of eight-ounce plastic water bottles for the trip. As I was filling up my glass as the tap in another family’s cabin, one of their kids pointed to the plastic and told me, “There’s clean water over there.” It drove home the point that most kids see tap water as “dirty” and bottled water as “clean,” when the reality is just the opposite. What ever happened to the good old-fashioned canteen?

But I digress. My goal for this camping trip was to tune out of work and tune into my family. Because although I write about sustainability for a living, the truth is that lately my life hasn’t been all that balanced. I work from home, so I can take my kids to school and throw in a load of laundry while still managing to meet my deadlines. But I’ve gotten so overwhelmed these days that I can’t seem to turn off the work part. I leave my office door open so I can pop in and check my email while my girls are in the bath. I bring my mobile phone downstairs to text with an editor while I’m making the pasta. I put the kids to bed, then write copy until midnight.

And I check email. It’s the first thing I do in the morning, and the last thing I do at night. I check email in the car, on a walk, after yoga. I check email while talking to people. I check email while texting.
I noticed a few days ago that whenever I meet friends for lunch these days, we all put our phones on the tables so we can glance over as the messages come rolling in, and deal with whatever’s urgent. But what’s really so urgent that it can’t wait an hour?

So after interviewing Mariel Hemingway a few weeks ago and listening to her talk about “showing up” in our lives, I started looking at the amount of email checking I was doing. I thought about how many times my husband has begged me to just turn off the phone when we go away for a weekend. And I realized that our luxury camping trip provided the perfect opportunity.

On Friday morning, I cut the cord.

I gave myself some back up, of course. An auto reply included my cell phone number, should anyone need to reach me. And I did keep my phone on, though email free. But you know what? I didn’t miss it, and nobody missed me. I spent three days just hanging out with the Barnacle (read: baby) and the rest of the family and relaxing.

I came back to 200 emails, which I waded through for two hours on Sunday night. But nothing fell through the cracks. And this week, so far, I’m continuing to manage the addiction. The email function on my phone isn’t working, and I’ve decided not to fix it. I ate breakfast, took a shower, made lunches and read the paper before I checked my messages this morning.

I guess this stuff isn’t so urgent, after all.

What do you do to check out? Tell me about it.

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