A few weeks before my daughter's first birthday, my husband and I looked at the milestone checklists for a one-year-old.  We already knew she was behind physically (rolling everywhere instead of crawling, for example, which we planned to address with her pediatrician at the upcoming appointment) but we figured she'd be on target in every other way.  

When we looked at the checklist of language and cognitive milestones, though, we were in for an unpleasant surprise.  Our daughter was able to do a fair number of the items, but certainly not all of them.


The Terrors of Temperament

You might have heard this one before:

Parents have a child.  That child is fantastic in every way, and the parents congratulate themselves on their fine parenting.  They have another child.  If they're honest with themselves, it's not going so great this time around.  No matter what they do, it feels wrong.  The kid's a holy terror.  They think, "We must be terrible parents."

The truth?


Acceptance Versus Change

People are often better at one than the other.  So I guess that means our strength is also our weakness, our Achilles' heel.  Me, I'm a good changer. I can get a surge of energy and switch things up.

But place me in a situation where the variables are less under my control...  That's another story.

It also happens to be the story of motherhood.


Missing Pieces

There's a couple I worked with for over a year.  Recently, he made the decision to end their marriage.  He didn't seem to have made this lightly; rather, it was after much soul searching and individual therapy.  His wife was understandably angry.  They'd been together since they were in high school, and have kids.

She pointed out that he had made a lifelong commitment, that he's supposed to keep working at it even when it's hard.  He responded that it was too hard--everything was a struggle, he was constantly setting aside his personal happiness, and fighting irritability because of it.  He felt they both deserved better than that state of affairs.  Which of them is right?


Top Ten Things I Learned As A New Mom

Since we're mere hours from the new year, I thought I'd count down the life lessons from my first year as a mother.

Being a marriage and family therapist as well as a new mom, there were lots of things I knew intellectually.  I've worked with women experiencing postpartum depression, and with couples and new families under stress.  But this year, I learned the difference between knowing and knowing.

For my Top Ten List--a la Dick Clark, or David Letterman, if you prefer--read on!


How to Be Heard

Last week, I was meeting with a couple fresh off a really damaging fight.  She had gotten angry and threatening; he had shut down; she had continued to escalate in the hopes of getting a response.  The escalation had led to some ugly comments, from which they were still recovering.

It's a fairly common pattern.  When we want to be heard, it seems logical to speak louder, maybe even to yell.  But I've found in my therapy practice and in my life that speaking softly, from the deepest emotion, is what works.


Merry Christmas, Baby!

My baby is approaching one year old, so this is her first Christmas out of utero.  That meant her first Christmas party, this past Saturday night.  Being out at night, falling asleep in a strange environment--I wasn't sure how it would all come together.  Once you're a parent, you really know what happens to the best-laid plans.

My husband and I gathered all sorts of objects intended for play and soothing and sleep, hoping my daughter would let us have these few hours.  On some level, I was thinking, How do I enjoy myself at this party of adults despite being a mother?

That's an aspect of parenthood that I still feel we're not supposed to acknowledge in polite company.  That it can be a drain.  That it can be boring.  That it can be, simply, not what we feel like doing.  We do not feel like taking care of a baby tonight.  We feel like being our old selves.  We feel like partying.


The Problem with Monsters

We teach children not to fear monsters.  "Look," we say, "I'll show you there's no one hiding in your closet or under your bed."  But as adults, after collectively witnessing something like the Sandy Hook tragedy, we might find that we believe in monsters, too.

Here's the problem with that: Some people do commit monstrous acts.  But if we simply dismiss people as monsters, we might miss the opportunity to give them treatment.  We...


Secure Attachment as Violence Prevention

Since the Newtown shootings, I've been thinking a lot about violence, and how to prevent it.  I've been thinking about why some people become enraged to the point of harming others.  I'm not talking about only the Newtown shootings, but about smaller, seemingly more comprehensible acts of violence.  Why do some people have self-control, even when they're in great personal pain, and other don't?


Too Many Guns, Not Enough Mental Health Treatment

I don't think anyone could hear about the elementary school shooting without feeling shock and horror.  That's the first response, and it'll probably be the second and third and fourth as more information unfolds in the coming days.

But once that begins to subside, hopefully it won't be replaced by despair, or worse, numbness.  I hope that it will be replaced by a collective sense of resolve.  Because we, as Americans, need to recognize that there are ways that our society is broken.  We need to think about how to begin to fix it.