The A&P Life Blog

April 17, 2013
by admin

Just Do It?

An old friend and her husband have a six year old son who was diagnosed with “moderate to severe” ADHD.   Recently I was sharing with them my experience with my own children’s development.  We commiserated over the notion that as far as attention spans are concerned, they can always seem to find the will to focus on something that they want to be doing, but if their interest isn’t already piqued, then they won’t stay motivated enough to complete a task.

My friend’s husband reiterated something I myself have said many times, “I want him to learn that life is not all just about doing what you want to do.  You have to do things you don’t want to do sometimes as well.”  When he said it, a light bulb went off for me.  I realized we are asking our children to operate under a set of emotional skills associated with doing something that they like but we’re expecting them to apply those same skills to something that they DON’T like.  We think that they should “just do it” even if it’s not something they want to do.  But actually, there is a completely different set of skills involved with facing up to and doing something that we don’t want to do.  It involves dealing with the discomfort, fear, resistance, and whatever else comes up, on TOP of doing the thing we don’t want to do.

For instance, because the NY State tests are approaching, my children are coming home daily with test prep as a part of their homework.  It’s no secret that homework time is viewed with disdain in my household.  However, daily I buckle down with them, encouraging, supporting, coercing, threatening, whatever works to get it done.  Last night Isabel came home with an assignment that included reading a passage and then writing a short essay in response.  A combination of variables, including hunger, tiredness, resistance to homework, concern about the upcoming tests and an uncertainty of how to do the assignment all added up to one major blowup that ended in getting to bed late and angry, with the assignment crumpled in a corner — still not complete.

This morning as I sat with her at breakfast, I approached the topic again.  Since writing is usually Isabel’s forte, I tried to get to the bottom of why she didn’t want to do the assignment.  Telling her to “just do it” had already proven ineffective.  I thought back to the conversation I had with my friend and her husband.  It isn’t just that the homework itself is hard; it’s figuring out how to handle all the emotions that come first –the anger, the resistance, the fear, and the frustration.   My intention is that by identifying what exactly is difficult about it, she can remember and learn for future experiences.

Another interesting component is that while trying to pinpoint what she found difficult about completing the assignment, I said to her, “I KNOW we can do the assignment.  I KNOW that you can get it done and we can work it out together.”  So, in essence, I was assuring her success.  But even with that knowledge, she still had resistance, which tells me, it’s not so much about the assignment as a process or finished product, it’s about dealing with the emotions that are coming up right now.

The essay itself was by Jerry Spinelli, the bestselling children’s book author.  He tells a story of his childhood where he was on the baseball field and missed a grounder when the bases were loaded.  Instead of running after it to keep it in play, he threw a hissy fit on the field, causing the opposite team to score three runs.  At the end of the inning, the coach reprimanded him by saying, “You’ll make lots of errors while playing.  What matters isn’t that you made the error, but what you do afterwards.  You have to chase down the ball and do something good with it.”  From this experience he concludes that in life it doesn’t matter what mistakes he makes, as long as he chases them down and does something good with them afterwards.  There’s another part to this story that Mr. Spinelli doesn’t address, which is that in order to “chase them down and do something good with them afterwards” he has to be able to handle the disappointment, anger, frustration, embarrassment and a host of other emotions that arise in the moment that the mistake occurs, so that he can face up to the task at hand.

I asked Isabel what she was going to write to describe what lesson he learned.  She considered it for a moment, and then said, “You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.”


I’m curious to know if you have any tips or processes that help you get past the resistance and negative emotions that often accompany a hard task.  Please feel free to share them in the comments!

Fear is one of the emotions that can slow you down when you are faced with a daunting task.  However, not all fear is created equal.  Some fears debilitate us, while other fears can provide personal motivation.  “Becoming Fearless” will teach you about distinguishing between different types of fear and how to change your perspective surrounding those fears in order to turn them into positive action. This complimentary A&P Life seminar will be held on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at Ripley Grier Studios in New York City.  For more details, and to RSVP, click here

April 10, 2013
by lzwolfe

The Consequences of Prosperity

Years ago in New York, it was common to see people handing out flyers in the subway.   En route to work each morning, I would often see one particular group who offered commuters bright orange flyers.  The evangelists would scatter themselves along the corridors in groups of twos and threes, such that I would have to weave in between them to avoid their outstretched hands. I had my approach down to a science – a slightly lowered gaze, tightly gripped purse, along with a short, terse shake of the head – to indicate that I was not interested.  Still, the next person down the line would insistently shove the paper toward me, forcing me to repeat the same gesture until I was out of the minefield.

As I continued on my journey, I would begin to see spots of bright orange littering the ground.  Walking further, the orange spots seemed to canvas more and more of the platform.  Evidently the people who had taken them decided they weren’t interested either, and for whatever reason discarded them before reaching a garbage can. Continue Reading →

March 22, 2013
by lzwolfe

What makes a good school?

I have a friend whose daughter goes to a competitive middle school on the UWS.  Since her daughter and my son are in the same grade, we sometimes commiserate about our experiences with our children, school and homework.  Yesterday she came to me especially frustrated by her daughter, who has ADHD, and their homework situation.  She had no way of knowing what the homework was because her daughter doesn’t know, and my friend is not allowed to email the teachers to ask – in fact she doesn’t even have access to their email addresses. Continue Reading →

March 16, 2013
by lzwolfe

Capris or flood pants?

When I anticipated motherhood, I only pictured two phases of their childhood – baby through Kindergarten, and when they were off to college.  Somehow I never visualized the gangly stage that my son is in during his 7th grade year.  While he doesn’t seem to eat very much, he’s still growing at a rapid rate, and has almost reached my height.

One of the ways that I measure his growth is by how much sock I can see between the bottom of his pants and the top of his shoes.  At the beginning of the school year, I bought him all new pants that definitely touched his shoes, and now there’s an inch or maybe two of space to spare.  Occasionally he wears white socks with his black pants, and I grimace as I watch him approach the breakfast table.  When I deride him for not putting on dark socks so as to minimize the effect of his short pants, he usually retorts, “No one is looking at my feet, Mom!” Continue Reading →

February 20, 2013
by lzwolfe

To Thine Own Self Be True

I have two older sisters – two brilliant, creative, beautiful, expressive and overshadowing older sisters.  As the youngest, I came up behind them in school and had many of the same teachers.  I endured them calling on me in class by “Jennifer” and “Ruth Anne” or being constantly compared to their talents, their schoolwork, and their grades.

This impacted my upbringing so much that for my college admissions essay I wrote about an interaction that my friend had: Continue Reading →

February 6, 2013
by lzwolfe

Is That a Leader or a Follower?

Thinking back to my youth, I can definitively say that 7th grade was the worst ever.  I attended a small town “junior high school” that consisted of just 7th and 8th grade.  The main form of entertainment at recess for my group of friends was to stand in the far corner of a blacktop lot and smoke cigarettes.  I don’t ever remember a single teacher coming over to check on us or to break it up. In fact, the space where we stood was clearly visible from the school and anyone could easily see the billows of smoke rising above us.  I remember being much more concerned about how I was being accepted in social circles than I ever was about getting good grades, since that was, if not “uncool”, at least not cool. Continue Reading →

January 28, 2013
by lzwolfe

Even in the Face of Evidence (Lessons Learned from Sheep Farming)

Growing up, my father, two sisters, and I took many road trips to visit relatives for summer vacations.  I remember spending long hours in the car reading, singing, playing or just looking out the window as the cornfields went by.  Because of these fond memories, I looked forward to having children of my own, packing up, and hitting the road on some adventures.

One husband and two children later, I have had a few fun road trips with them, though they don’t quite look as I imagined them to be.  For one thing, while my children are avid readers, they expect that on a trip of any length that they will be watching DVDs.  As a result, not a lot of scenery watching happens.  Also, it occurs to me that perhaps they are not quite as enamored with the journey as the ultimate destination. Continue Reading →

January 21, 2013
by lzwolfe

New Year’s Resolutions: Friend or Foe?

When I was a child, we had a family friend who we would often visit on Saturdays.  They had a wonderful big old house, and being scholarly types, had bookshelves full of books.  There weren’t many there that were kid friendly, but one day I came upon a hardbound collection of Wonder Woman comics.  I would spend hours poring over the stories of this amazing and heroic woman.  In later years, when Lynda Carter starred as Wonder Woman in a TV series, I felt like I knew her personally.

Wonder Woman had many special powers, including being “as beautiful as Aphrodite, strong as Hercules, wise as Athena, and swift as Mercury,” but the one that I remember most was her ability to ward off bullets using steel bands on her wrists.  No matter the speed with which they flew toward her, she was able to divert them in midair (this was a skill that she later used to her advantage once she came to America and needed a way to earn money, as she would star in Las Vegas type shows.) Continue Reading →

January 9, 2013
by lzwolfe

Sweet Success: Carrying on a Family Tradition

There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of getting something done that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  Like many people, I’ve been leveraging the impetus of the New Year to rearrange some items in my life, in particular purchasing a treadmill for under my desk and rearranging furniture in my office.  I love the fresh feel of seeing my world in a new way.

For years, I’ve wanted to make my Aunt Elisa’s Christmas cookies.  Elisa was my grandmother’s older sister and everyone’s favorite great-aunt.  She and my Uncle Manny never had any children, and so all of the nieces and nephews were smothered with their love, often in the form of food.  Of all my close relatives, Aunt Elisa and Uncle Manny were the only couple that stayed together.  I think we all clung to the ideal of the joy and love they shared as much as anything else. Continue Reading →

December 29, 2012
by lzwolfe

It’s Always Something

My mother used to say, “It’s always something.”

I’ve been looking forward to going upstate for quite a while. Jon and I both took extra measures to prepare for the trip so that things would go smoothly and we could make that oft sought after early departure. As a self-admitted “time optimist” I’ve historically been caught running around, crazed and harried, while tensions mount between me and my family members. I was bound and determined to break from this historical experience today. Continue Reading →