The Blog

Duluth for the blogMy guests have fun on the talk show. The reason is simple. I hang on their every word. It’s my job.

Think about it. When’s the last time you started talking, and someone pulled up a chair to listen more intently? When he didn’t pull out his phone or interrupt you or give you the impression he’d rather be somewhere else?

Attention is intoxicating. It costs nothing, and it’s priceless.

On our way back from Colorado one summer when Katie was little we needed an oil change. The lounge where we were waiting was okay, but hardly dreamy from a kid’s perspective. “How can I make this time fun for her?” I asked myself the way I always did. And as usual the first answer was, “I have no idea.” Not good enough. So I asked myself what a friend of ours would do, and I got the idea to ask Kate if she wanted to be my waitress. Did she! By the time she finished fetching coffee, napkins, a magazine -- and more coffee -- for the demanding customer I pretended to be, the car was ready.

And yes, of course the friend got this report.

You won’t always know what to do. But someone would. Maybe even a better, more creative version of yourself. Have a pretend conversation with that person.


Ever thought about asking your kids how Mom or Dad can make the family better? I just sort of ooze that question through every pore -- the Mom part, anyway -- as Katie will attest. But Dr. Harriet Lerner, who joined us on the show recently, amused me with the report she hears from children: “Say it shorter.”

“Tell us what you want,” the kids seem to be saying to their parents. “What you really, really want.” Then stop talking! Silence is golden. The person who said that first was probably a teenager who couldn’t get out from under the fifty-paragraph explanation of what might be growing under the piles in his bedroom.

The Far Side said it best, I think: “Eventually, Billy came to dread his father’s lectures over all other forms of punishment.”

Are you sorry?
April 10, 2017

I recently heard about a book called Why Won’t You Apologize? And I thought, “Really? Does the world really need a whole book on that subject?”

Yes. Yes, it does.

I’m as loathe as the next person to admit I’ve messed up, but you can ask my sweethearts. Once I realize it, there will be no doubt in your mind I’m sorry. I’m the person who at least considers the possibility whatever bad just happened is at least partly if not totally my fault.

So why does it make me uncomfortable when I’m on the receiving end of an apology? Because I don’t want to put anyone else through that discomfort, and forgiving someone for a so-called transgression feels like I’m playing God. No, thanks.

But bad things do happen, and repairs are sometimes in order. The book I just mentioned, by Dr. Harriet Lerner, will help you make those repairs. It’s worth the price just for what she says about the word “but.” Want a hint? When you add “but” to an apology -- “I’m sorry I lost my temper, but I'm only human” -- you’ve wasted your time. You cancel yourself out.

Read this book. You won’t be sorry!

rosesIf you’re of a certain gender it’s possible you apologize out of habit. You know, just in case. Maybe it’s a social salve, maybe it’s a verbal tic. Whatever it is, stop it! Don’t apologize when you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s distracting.

I’m sorry to say (really, I am) that I used to do it. Katie pointed it out, I thanked her for noticing, and I fixed it. You can ask her. I don’t even apologize when I apologize accidentally.

Of anything Kate brags to her friends about, this almost always makes the list. It makes her feel good that I’m so open to her polishing.

In case you’re wondering how I broke the habit, I inserted a few seconds of silence before speaking. Can you imagine how much that’s helped in general? “Think before you speak,” as the saying goes. Insert three seconds of silence before you say the next thing. You might find, as I have, nothing bad happens for having done that!

Babies aren’t deceptive. They don’t have ulterior motives. They’re babies.

So says Dr. Darcia Narvaez, pyschology professor at the University of Notre Dame. She suggests you ignore the advice to let your baby “cry it out.”

If you don’t respond to your baby’s cries, Darcia says, you’re teaching her to give up hope. Is that what you want? Do you want her to give up trying to get through to you, to stop trusting herself that what she needs is okay? Does that sound like the blueprint for anything good?

Many years ago I happened to catch a Mad About You episode about this, and it broke my heart.

I don’t know how much time you spend worrying about what might go wrong -- but if you’re anything like me, it’s not…zero.

The other day I realized there’s no law that says you have to fret about the worst possible scenario. If you’re going to waste time, why not waste it in a way that leaves you in a better mood?

Why not worry about how to find the right person to help you manage your millions, find the right gown for the gala, or keep the seven-acre lawn on your estate manicured if having a seven-acre lawn and an estate is your thing?

I don’t know if it’ll help. But I’m pretty sure it won’t hurt!

When Katie was four she wanted two treats at the grocery store, but we’d made a deal. One treat. She started crying.

“Please, Mom, please?”

I wanted to give her both. I wanted to so badly! It’s been almost eighteen years, and I still get this pain in my chest just thinking about it. But you know how it goes. Give in, and two treats become three and then four -- and pretty soon you’re filling care packages (once a month!) to send your college kid with more presents than some people get on their birthdays.

Okay, fine. But for a while, when Katie was little, I showed enough restraint to show her how to deal with constraints.

She got one treat that day. I let her cry, I hugged her, and I agreed with how unfair life can feel sometimes.

It was good practice. Not so much for her, but for me. I learned that watching someone hurt will always be part of the deal. It’s more difficult now that Katie’s in college, because I can’t always give her a hug the same day something bad -- or at least, disappointing -- happens.

But before I can register that, she swoops in with reassurance that (1) it’s great practice for handling the next disappointment, and (2) she hasn’t forgotten it’s against the backdrop of an amazing life.

I don’t know where people get the idea they raise children. Darrell and I kept Katie fed and changed and played with those first couple of years. But ever since, it seems, she’s been showing us how it’s done.