Elusive Family Joy: Big Plans, Snarky Kids

I used to anticipate “family joy” with giddiness as we embarked on a hike, outing, vacation, or dinner out together as a five-pack. It wasn’t too far into our parenting journey that I learned how my expectations, hopes and agendas could turn special time together into a slog.

We had been waiting to have full family day of skiing. As innkeepers, one of us would usually have to serve the guests at Pierce’s Inn while the other parent took the kids skiing. It was also rare for the NH weather and snow conditions to align enough to make a family day of skiing tolerable. Then there is the fact that the reality of taking little kids skiing isn’t as fun as it is in theory. One forgotten ski pole, glove or neck warmer is a recipe for a horrible day of negotiating unsatisfactory replacements patched together from our own ski bags and those of friends.

When our kids were five, seven and nine, they had all become capable enough skiers to bomb around with us at the Dartmouth Skiway. The miraculous combination of a free weekend at the Inn and a beautiful February day with new snow and a perfect temperature seemed to park Family Joy on our doorstep.

Then the packing battle began. Despite my misguided declaration of rules for gear storage, the kids’ gloves, helmets and water bottles were nowhere to be found. We bumped into each other scrambling to find our stuff creating a frantic vibe. I unraveled in a sweaty snarl as the clock ticked and kept up my solid pace of joyless nagging. Nine year-old Zander stared out the window in a Zen state while standing in a wreath of unpacked items unfazed by encouragement from every direction. I was too far down the rabbit hole to recognize the need to slow down and be in the moment as he had always been able to do.

Bruce was barking directions while he fumbled to gather his morning cup of coffee and pack a significant collection of coffee-making equipment to bring along to the Skiway. He was so lost in his own coffee obsession and organizational challenges that he was not able to help find missing items amidst our clutter. Gloating Sadie was stomping around in all her gear and ski boots bragging about how she was the only one ready. Colter was in a full protest lay-down yelling, “You’re not the boss of me!” to each person who instructed him on how to help move our big jolly plan forward.

After a solid twenty minutes of hustling in and out of the house, stuffing skis and bags in the minivan, and fierce, irritable door slamming, the five of us were in the car. Bruce backed out of the driveway while the four of us stared out of our windows with sour expressions on our faces. There was lingering resentment and tension in the air even for Zen-like Zander whose moment has been disrupted.

After Bruce drove for about a quarter mile down the road, he slowed the car to a stop. He adjusted the rearview mirror to make eye contact with the kids. “Hey people!” he said with a big grin. No response from his salty passengers. “Hey people, guess what? (pause) These are the good old days!” Bruce’s odd angle of humor took Zander and me by surprise, and we started chuckling. The other two were slow to get it, but they caught onto the release of our laughter and joined in. As the truth of his statement settled in the car, we were all smiling and more laughter filled the van. Bruce took a sip of his coffee, reached over to hold my hand and hit the accelerator. Onward we went with a new lens into a new day.

I have surrendered to the idea that planning family joy is impossible. Keeping the bar low allows for family joy to sneak in and pop up in random ten-minute windows. By staying receptive to the unexpected conversation, observation, question, or silence together, we eventually find a slice or two of joy. Sometimes it happens on an outing, but family joy has a way of showing up in the middle of mundane moments. I no longer wait for it, expect it, or force it, but when it slips in to shine on our family, I aim for the the presence of mind to bask in it while it lasts.

LIBRARY JOURNAL review of SEXPLOITATION: HELPING KIDS DEVELOP HEALTHY SEXUALITY IN A PORN-DRIVEN WORLD

My book  SEXPLOITATION: HELPING KIDS DEVELOP HEALTHY SEXUALITY IN A PORN-DRIVEN WORLD got a great review incindy-pierce-sexploitation the LIBRARY JOURNAL.

“Pierce, Cindy. Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World. Bibliomotion. Oct. 2015. 224p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781629560892. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781629560908. CHILD REARING

Leading social sexuality educator Pierce maintains that what today’s kids need more than screen time are conversations with parents about values, beliefs, friendships, sexuality, and a host of other topics. In talking to their kids, parents are in a position to help them find their inner compass by unplugging and avoiding the trap of digital multitasking. Pierce cites a wide range of problematic media-driven issues for kids (e.g., hypersexualized female body images, violent masculinity) and urges parents to enter into the dialog to give their children alternative ways to behave and think.

Verdict While Pierce points out seemingly insurmountable pressures on today’s youth, she devises a workable plan for guiding them toward healthy life choices.—Deborah Bigelow, director emerita, Leonia P.L., NJ”

Link to original review:
http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2015/08/books/nonfic/nonfiction-19th-century-crime-world-hunger-robotics-greek-philosophy-butterflies-more-xpress-reviews/

Mike Birbiglia’s School of Driving

Teaching my kids to drive sets fire to just about every one of my worst traits. I am really not cut out for the job. If it weren’t for Mike Birbiglia’s comedy CDs, my kids would never acquire the driving hours needed to get a driver’s license.

There was a period of time when I was a calm cat sitting in the passenger seat with one of my kids backing up and turning around the car in the driveway. Driving on the road changed everything. By the time Zander was ready to drive to a place more than one hundred yards from our house, I was so at ease that I didn’t even give him too many tips on how to do it. Plus, we live in a rural area. Two hundred yards down the road, I was launched into a crazed state. My right calf was fully cramped because I stomped on the imaginary brake, I had a grip on the “oh shit handle,” and my backside was off the seat in fully coiled fear-flex.

Decades ago, I did some therapy to help me manage my catastrophic thoughts. Fear of the dark was an obstacle for me, but I used the strategies and breathing techniques in all areas of my life. None of this work converts to the kid learning to drive gig.

The speedometer read 20 MPH, but it felt like 50 MPH. I warned him that we were heading into the ditch in a strong tone. He overcompensated by crossing the yellow line. I practically screamed at him to move back over. When I heard sticks crackling on the edge of the ditch, I lost it, “PULL OVER. PULL OVER!!”
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Leadership Workshop for Moms and Daughters

Leadership Workshop for Moms and Daughters

These workshops are for girls in the Upper Valley who are currently in 7th grade and 8th grade. Cindy Pierce and Brook Raney will co-facilitate the workshops.

What: We will be hosting three workshops this fall for girls and their mothers. Each workshop will be its own topic, therefore you may sign up for one, two or all three depending on your schedule and interest.

Where: We are working on an Upper Valley location and will notify you as soon as we settle on a place that fits our final number of participants.

Cost:  Each workshop costs $50/mom and daughter team

How: Email Cindy to reserve a spot for you and your daughter. Space is limited. cpdoorbell@gmail.com     Makes checks payable to: Cindy Pierce

After you email Cindy, send  your check to: Cindy Pierce 261 Dogford Rd., Etna, NH 03750

When:

Sunday, October 20th – 3:00-5:00 PM

“The Mirror” – The focus of this workshop will be to unpack the messages that media sends us on a daily basis, understand and combat societal pressures to look and act a certain way, and learn to build and maintain a healthy self-image for ourselves and encourage the same in others.

Sunday, November 3rd –  3:00-5:00 PM

“Choices (online, offline, and out of line!)” –  The exercises and stories included in this workshop will emphasis centering our inner compass and managing our time, morals, relationships, and overall life. A spotlight will be placed on digital citizenship, and how we monitor our time and behavior online.

Sunday, November 17th – 3:00-5:00 PM

“Pressure Cooker” – activities aimed to help mothers and daughters identify external pressures to say and do certain things, and define whether these pressures are positive or negative influences, will be the core of this workshop.  An emphasis will be placed on recognizing positive people to be a part of one’s “healthy crew”.

Brooklyn Raney is currently the Assistant Dean of Students at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, NH. She graduated from Colgate University in 2007 where she played on the women’s ice hockey team. Following Colgate, she completed her master’s degree in Educational Theater at New York University. Through this program she built and developed interactive workshops and seminars on leadership and life skills for adolescents. She loves to take these programs all over the country, and the world, and work with youth to set goals to be successful and respectable leaders in their homes, schools, and communities. She is also the Director of the Girls’ Leadership Camp at Kimball Union Academy. Brooklyn is married to her husband Bill, and they live in Meriden, NH with their son Landen, and dog Tuukka.

Cindy Pierce attended the University of New Hampshire where she majored in Theater with a focus on Education and Gender Studies. She was a member of the Women’s Alpine Ski Team as well as the Women’s Soccer Team. After several years of teaching and coaching at ski academies, Cindy became an elementary school teacher. She taught at Thetford Elementary School for one year and at Marion Cross School for six years. Currently, Cindy and her husband, Bruce live in Etna, NH where they own and run Pierce’s Inn. They have three children. Cindy has been entertaining and educating a wide variety of audiences since 2004. Combining comic storytelling and years of research, she is able to engage audiences with her message about healthy choices and navigating cultural pressures. Cindy emphasizes the social aspects of sexual health education. You can learn more about Cindy’s work at www.cindy-pierce.com

The Great Madness of Ski Racing

That is our guy on the left in the green tee-shirt

Being a parent of ski racers could blow your mind if you let it. When our kids were too young to know any better, I was actively steering them away from ski racing, even though my husband and I were both ski racers. They caught the ski bug anyway. Then I started to reflect on my life as a ski racer and realized there are so many wonderful life lessons that came out of the racing experience. I supported my kids’ passion for the sport.

Parents in other sports and even parents of ski racers are befuddled by the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn to travel to a ski area where you spend the whole day, no matter how cold and heinous the weather. If the weather is nice, parents have the joy skiing on our own. If the weather is stinky, we chat with other fun parents in the lodge or get some work done with access to hot tea and bathrooms. Kids rally for the cold because that is what it takes to enjoy whizzing down a hill through gates, trying new tricks in the terrain park and spending a day hooting and jamming with their buddies. Continue reading

Duct Tape Parenting – THE BOOK

Duct Tape Parenting: A Less is More Approach to Raising RESPECTFUL, RESPONSIBLE, & RESILIENT Kids
By Vicki Hoefle
(Published by Bibliomotion, 2012)

Vicki Hoefle’s book is out! I am thrilled to have her message in book form that fits in my purse. I can take it anywhere and soak up her parenting wisdom bombs. The anecdotes and solutions are a reminder of the triggers in our family that cause us to derail with regularity. Having the book is helping us get back on track more easily. As Vicki says, “It is a process that doesn’t end. I periodically start from the beginning with five grown children.” Any expert who admits to setbacks and challenges appeals to the way I live my life as a righteous imperfectionist. There is no shame in falling on our face and trying again, especially if what you are trying is helpful

Despite the fact that we are always restarting, re-remembering and getting way off track, our family dynamic has improved dramatically in the last few years. The connections we have with each of our kids are more genuine and healthy. Parenting On Track and Duct Tape Parenting has changed all of our lives for the better. Now that we have taken the time to teach our kids to help with the household tasks, the result has been that the parents sleep more and have brain space for other things. My husband sums it up as feeling less frustrated with the kids and having fewer reasons to get into frustrating scenarios. Parenting joy has increased, and our kids are reflecting the joy back to us. Continue reading

The June Kid Scramble

We are in the birth canal of summer. Before the last days of school and spring sports season, it is a whirlwind of details with kids. Since we started Parenting On Track, we have taken ourselves out of a lot of equations of our kids’ responsibilities, but spring seems to bring us into the heart of almost every aspect of their lives. Deadlines are fierce at this time of year. Both inn keeping and speaking keep my own head swirling enough on their own, but every year this is the month I break into a dragon slaying madwoman of my own making. Continue reading

Blinded by the Love of Chimps

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be Jane Goodall. Back in the day, we could only get two channels in Etna, NH. Once a year, National Geographic’s Jane Goodall; My Life with Chimpanzees would air on one of our channels on a random Saturday afternoon. I was always captivated by the close-up footage of these human-like apes, and how Jane Goodall connected with them. Hours of my childhood days were spent imagining studying chimps in Africa or having a chimpanzee as a pet. My parents did their best to convince me that having a captive chimpanzee was not what Jane Goodall was hoping for. They suggested I learn more about Jane Goodall’s career and follow in her footsteps. I had stuffed chimpanzees. I read about chimpanzees. I did my fifth grade animal project on chimpanzees. I was on my way. My yearly viewing of this show kept my obsession strong until it faded to a reasonable level of appreciation as an adult. Continue reading

The Double Life of Boy Culture

It has always concerned me how boys and men live a double life. I have also contributed to this by keeping the secrets of my guy friends since I was ten-years old. My dual citizenship earned on sports teams with boys has enabled me to talk freely with guys throughout my life. To this day, I have been a trusted sister-like figure to many guys in need of support. I keep their secrets because the cost of being emotionally vulnerable for boys and men is too great. Our culture encourages boys to develop a public and private self. It is also accepted that what a guy says with his teammates and fraternity brothers is often very different than how he presents himself to women, professors, parents and others outside of his support network. As a college speaker represented by CAMPUSPEAK, I travel around the country talking about sex and healthy choices to and with college students. It is evident that there is still limited opportunity or demand for open discussion about the emotional expectations on young men in this culture and on most college campuses. Continue reading

Hanover High Graduation Speech

Before I begin, for those of you who have heard me speak in public, rest assured I have other things to say.

Congratulations to the class of 2007. I know quite a few members of this class personally from my time as a first grade teacher at the Marion Cross School. My husband, Bruce and I are innkeepers at Pierce’s Inn where some of the graduates have chopped vegetables, served guests, and cleaned dishes with us. I feel honored to be chosen to help send you off into this amazing world of adulthood.

When I was a senior at Hanover High School, the editors of the INDE wrote predictions about each senior. “Cindy Pierce: runs off and joins the circus.” It didn’t resonate at the time, but instead of joining, I created a circus of a life. Bruce and I have three children. We run a funky off-the-radar inn out in Etna where I grew up. We do almost all the work ourselves from cooking the meals to plowing the driveway. I perform a one-woman show around New England, and now I am co-authoring a book based on the concepts of my show. People wonder how I got the skills to do all these things. That’s really the thing…who needs skills when you have courage? Continue reading