The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

A Private Matter: Why You Should Avoid Public Parenting

shame7n-6-web

“Praise your children openly, reprehend them secretly.” – W. Cecil

Among the many controversial elements of social media is one I call public parenting. Public parenting is when we as parents litter our social media with updates on how and why we are disciplining our children. These updates often come in the form of videos showing parents berating their kids or engaging in a form of punishment that can only be described as shaming.

Some examples of shaming include children holding signs detailing their previous transgressions, kids being forced to engage in an act of penance for their wrongdoing, or, in the worst cases, parents physically disciplining children for all the world to see.

I would like to believe that such acts are done for the sole purpose of changing a child’s behavior, and that the end goal is a repentant kid who has learned his or her lesson and will never again repeat the act that got them in trouble in the first place.

But knowing what I know of social media and the way humans have so far responded to it, I honestly do not believe this is why parents engage in public parenting. Instead, I am convinced that public parenting is done for two reasons:

1. Parents want everyone else to know that they are good parents who swiftly and sternly deal with their child’s negative behavior. What better way to show it than via public parenting?

2. Parents, like all other humans, desire attention. Surely you have stopped scrolling down your Facebook feed upon seeing a loud and emotionally expressive parent laying into their kid.

While I fully support letting our online friends and family know all about our kids’ positive achievements, I do not think it is in our children’s best interest to publicly display their shortcomings or our reactions to their behavior. The negative effects include breaking the bond of trust between you and your child, putting your child at risk of bullying from outside sources, and taking the attention off your child’s misbehavior and putting it on your punishment.

For these reasons, I strongly suggest doing your parenting – both the positive and negative parts of it – in private.

Heavenly Summer 7: A List of 7 Perfect Songs for Summer

Summer

Summer is finally here. As George Harrison wrote, it’s been a “long cold lonely winter,” but now we get to celebrate our favorite season, the time when the sun warms our skin and all feels right in the world.

To celebrate this very welcome season, I’ve compiled a list of 7 songs that I feel best capture the feel-good vibes of summer. Click on the links to hear these tunes that I hope will warm your heart as much as the suddenly present summer sun. 

“Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts (1972)

Perhaps the most perfect sound of summer is harmony-driven folk-pop, and this 1972 classic totally captures everything good and pure about that genre. It doesn’t even matter that we have no idea what Jim Seals and Dash Crofts meant when they referenced the “jasmine in my mind.” It all sounds chill and perfectly crafted for those warm summer nights. 

“Cruel Summer” by Bananarama (1983)

If you are a fan of The Karate Kid, you are familiar with this funky 1983 hit that played while Ralph Macchio’s character Daniel LaRusso epically failed to fit in at his new high school. Based on its key placement on the soundtrack to The Karate Kid, “Cruel Summer” instantly established itself as a symbol of summer’s dog days, the ones when nothing goes right for you and nobody is there to help. 

“Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone (1969)

A smooth classic from the tumultuous year of 1969, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” was the welcome handiwork of funksters Sly and the Family Stone. The song was released mere months after the band’s legendary performance at Woodstock. Its happy-go-lucky melody blended perfectly with Sly Stone’s soulful vocal, creating a tune that is still capable of bringing all the good vibes we associate with summer.  

“School’s Out” by Alice Cooper (1972)

Alice Cooper and his band of rough and ready renegades perfectly captured the excitement and raw energy of the last day of school before summer break. “School’s Out” still makes those of us far removed from our school days feel frisky, as if anything can happen during the crazy days of summer. 

“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys (1966)

The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” somehow captures the simple feel-good vibes of summer while featuring odd key shifts, complicated harmonies, and unconventional instrumentation. If the beach were to have a sound, it would be this 1966 masterpiece. Regardless of the season, “Good Vibrations” is undoubtedly a classic piece of songwriting, as evidenced by the fact that it landed at No. 6 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves (1985)

You have no choice. When “Walking on Sunshine” comes on, your body will react. You will sing. You will dance. You will clap. While Katrina and the Waves’ 1985 hit isn’t actually about summer, it does embody every good feeling that comes with the arrival of the sun, the surf, and the sand. 

“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles (1969)

In his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, George Harrison details how he wrote “Here Comes the Sun” in Eric Clapton’s garden while anxiously awaiting the end of an exceptionally brutal winter. Decades have passed and the surviving Beatles are now approaching the winters of their lives, but we will always have their music. Luckily, every time the clouds start to give way to the warmth of the sun’s rays, we will hear “Here Comes the Sun” in our heads. 

Spend Time with Your Kids Now, Be in Their Memories Later

involved-dad

Spend time with your kids today. Be a positive memory tomorrow.

“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.”               – Barbara Johnson

If you were fortunate enough to be a child whose parents were fully engaged in your life, you probably now realize just how important their time and attention were. And you very likely have extremely positive memories of them, some of which jump out at you at the most random of times. If you’re like me, you wouldn’t trade these stirring recollections for anything in the world.

It is no coincidence that you remember with fondness your childhood and the times spent with your parents. They were actively involved in your life, always there for the big and small events of your younger days. As a result, they gently forced themselves into your memory, making themselves key characters in a treasure trove of memories.

Perhaps those memories include a certain place that reminds you of time spent together. Or maybe it’s a song you remember hearing while with them. It could even be an old television show or movie that you watched with your parents. On its own, it may or may not have been an especially important time, place, or event at the time, but it meant the world to you.

We can all agree that our kids deserve to carry with them such golden memories, so go ahead and spend as much time as you can with them now. By doing so, you are building wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. And in those memories, you will be a central, all-important character.

 

We Believe, They Achieve: The Power of Believing in Our Children

Child

You believe in your children, but do they know it?

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: he believed in me.” ― Jim Valvano

When we prove to our kids that we believe in them, we give them most of what they need to get through many of the obstacles they will face later in life. The confidence that comes from being an independent and self-sufficient teenager and young adult typically does not form on its own. Seeds of confidence are planted during childhood, and are nurtured by both our actions and our words.

Never underestimate the power of your belief in your children. Your positive feedback regarding their skills, talents, and abilities can inspire them for years. I strongly suggest that we, as parents, never withhold words of encouragement when they are appropriate.

I don’t mean that we should shower our kids with empty praises based on non-accomplishments. The “everyone gets a trophy” approach to parenting has likely hurt young people more than it has helped them. Instead, let’s actively seek opportunities to celebrate the times when our children display mastery of certain skills, reveal fortitude in times of trial, and perform kind and caring acts towards others.

Not only do your children want to hear that you genuinely believe in them, they need to hear it. Our children will encounter plenty of naysayers and skeptics throughout their life, so it is of the utmost importance that we lay a solid foundation for their hopes and dreams by explicitly stating our confidence that they do indeed have what it takes to succeed. It very well might end up being the greatest gift we give them.

 

The Music as Messenger

music-is-emotion.jpg

No words are necessary when the music hits the right notes.

“Music expresses that which cannot be said.” – Victor Hugo

For the musician, the search for the right words can be an exhausting struggle. Frustration can mount as you, the proficient songwriter who supposedly has a gift for putting together words, fight to find the lyrics that perfectly capture how you feel. Sometimes they simply do not come.

It is during these times of lyrical desolation that the wise musician lets the music do the talking. Rather than force the issue by writing line after line that leads to nothing, it is often best to speak less. Popular music has a long history of notes and chords that perfectly capture that which cannot be said.

Think of the inspired ending of Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” filled with wonderfully simple piano and guitar melodies that summon a lifetime’s worth of nostalgia. Or the heavenly synthesizers that gradually climb and inspire in the introduction to U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Finally, is there a more melancholic vibe than the one created by the strings on Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U?”

What these song parts have in common is that they don’t require vocals to convey a feeling. They are proof that music, on its own, has the power to both express and stir deep and strongly held emotions. If you are a songwriter who sometimes struggles to find the perfect words, I recommend occasionally letting the music do the talking.

Filling the Cup of Silence: A Comparison of Music and Wine

wine_music

“Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.” ― Robert Fripp

Silence definitely has its place in our hectic everyday lives. Sometimes, though, much like an empty cup filled with our favorite wine, nothing fills that vacant space in our lives better than the right musical notes. Below are just a few of the ways in which wine and music are perfect partners for those of us who consider ourselves aficionados of both.

Much like wine, music can relax you. It can provide a soothing comfort that is the perfect way to end a crazy day. That warm, relaxed feeling that comes from your favorite glass of red or white wine can also be found within several genres of music, including jazz, folk, and classical.

Music, like wine, can be sweet, and it can be bitter. The distinct flavors associated with wine can also be found in music. Sometimes during the happier moments in life, the more saccharine songs are what we want to hear. In contrast, during the more somber times, it feels perfectly right to dive into bitter tunes that are filled with sadness and melancholy.

As nutritionists are now discovering, there are many health benefits to drinking a glass of wine each day. Likewise, we can enjoy several mental, emotional, and even spiritual benefits by pouring ourselves a glass of our favorite music. Music provides healing. It offers a new sense of appreciation for those people and places we have lost. Finally, music inspires us to do that which we deemed unlikely, if not impossible.

Regardless of your preferred flavor of music, I suggest you take some time each day to sip from the cup of your best-loved songs. Perhaps you should do so while also tasting from the glass of your favorite wine.

Mimicking Mom: A Life Well-Lived Is the Ultimate Mother’s Day Gift

mother-daughter-shrug

One of the best gifts we can give our mother is the knowledge that we want a legacy similar to hers.

Mother’s Day is a time to look back, an opportunity to reflect on how caring and supportive our moms have been. As it should be, Mother’s Day is a day for showing appreciation for the countless ways in which mothers have positively impacted our lives. It is the one day of the year when we consciously shower our moms with affection and honor. While we spend time with our mothers in the here and now, our thoughts are often focused on the past as we recall our childhood and all the times our mom was there for us.

For me, however, this year’s Mother’s Day feels different. As the holiday approaches, memories of my beloved mother have me anxiously looking ahead, rather than reflecting on the past. Inspired by all that my mother did for me while growing up, I am increasingly concerned with how I will be remembered by my children. I am overwhelmed by a strong desire to live up to my mother’s example. In short, I want to be to my children everything my mother was to me.

I hope that my children remember me as a caring, loving, and supportive mother and friend to others. I pray that my children think of me in a positive light, even when I had to discipline them and teach them the difficult lessons of life. I wish for my children to someday realize that they have always been the most important thing to me, and that I consider them my greatest achievement. This is how my mother made me feel as a child and beyond, and I so desperately want my kids to feel the same.

Flowers, gift cards, and jewelry can reflect a certain amount of our love and appreciation for Mom. At a time when we all feel pressure to buy the perfect Mother’s Day gift, perhaps our moms would most appreciate knowing that all we want as parents is to be remembered as we remember them. That all we want is to live the type of life they have lived.

This year I feel as though one of the best gifts I could give my mother is the knowledge that I am determined to live a life that leads to a legacy similar to hers. I am confident that my children will be fortunate if I succeed.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours!

 

Live, Love, and Learn (5/17/16)

kid and gift

Time will tell that you are the greatest gift your kids will ever receive.

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” – Jesse Jackson

As parents, we experience a seemingly endless urge to give stuff to our kids. There is something inherently thrilling about watching their eyes light up as they tear open their new birthday or Christmas gift.

If you’re like me, you always have one eye open for possible gift ideas, anticipating a sweet and thoughtful present for your child. But it is important to remember that being there for our kids is infinitely more important than getting them things. They need (and subconsciously want) our time and attention.

Excuse the play on words, but we can give to our kids no more meaningful presents than our presence.

Live, Love, and Learn (5/2/16)

Baby imitating mom

Even at this age, kids are masters of imitation. Listening, not so much. 

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James Baldwin

It is quite possible that the eyes are far greater tools for learning than the ears. At least it seems that way when I notice that our children are much more likely to do what we do, rather than what we say. Very often our actions carry greater weight than our words, so let’s remain aware of what we are doing while our kids’ eyes are upon us. They will, at some point, imitate what they see. That might seem like a cause for concern, but in reality, it is not. We are fortunate to be the ones who have a golden opportunity to positively influence our children’s actions by carefully monitoring our own.

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, It’s Missing from Society

Steen_Argument_over_a_Card_Game

Social media forums have replaced the public square, but the challenge remains the same: Be respectful to those with whom we disagree. 

It doesn’t take much effort to notice that we live in divisive times. With politicians foaming at the mouth to pit people against each other and with new hot-button issues forming nearly every day, these are the days of sharply contrasting differences. Everyone seems to have an opinion on everything – and thanks to social media, they can easily find someone with a differing opinion. In short, there now seems to be much more that divides us than there is that unites us.

I am not nearly naive enough to believe that we can suddenly start agreeing with each other on society’s most divisive issues. In fact, I believe that difference of opinion and competition between ideas is actually a good thing – if we handle them the right way. But much of what we see in the form of public discourse is not what I consider the right way. There is certainly no shortage of passion, but there is a clear lack of respect.

If we are going to maintain a safe and civil society (something we all want), we must begin showing respect to those with whom we disagree. Name-calling and mocking are not signs of civility. They are signs of disrespect and desperation. Not only do they create an atmosphere of hostility, they also undermine our message and our legitimacy as messengers.

Perhaps flippant disrespect is so rampant in public discourse because it is infinitely easier than reasonable persuasion. It takes far less effort and skill to call someone a bad name via Facebook or Twitter than it does to lay out a detailed and convincing ideology that represents one’s personal thoughts and beliefs. It might be more challenging, but I strongly believe that we are all better off if each of us takes the time to think about what we want to say in public forums before we say it.

The key to a positive and productive society is respectful and thoughtful discussion and yes, disagreement, on the important issues that affect us all. I know I can be more graceful in how I respond to those with whom I strongly disagree. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions as to how we can promote a more respectful society when there are so many opposing views held by so many people?

Live, Love, and Learn (5/12/16)

headphone-girl.jpg

Sometimes nothing soothes an aching soul like the warm embrace of your favorite song.

“People haven’t always been there for me, but music has.” ― Taylor Swift

Most everyone in my life has been there when I needed them. I’ve been fortunate in that regard. But I’d be lying if I said that every single person has been there every single time. There have been times when I couldn’t find a friend. During those times, I’ve been blessed to have music that comforts me.

My favorite songs by my most cherished artists have often filled my ears with words of solace. Modern technology makes it easier to hear these songs of consolation, so I am able to hear those old familiar voices wherever  I go. I am often reminded of the days when we would have to wait to hear our favorite songs on the radio, so the instant access associated with today’s technology is a godsend. When the sweet strains of nostalgia are needed, I can simply dial up my old musical friends and let them sing and play to my heart’s content.

I have spent countless hours talking with friends and family, often finding refuge in their company and attention. Nothing can ever fully replace the human element, as we will always need to see familiar faces and hear friendly voices. But I have come to realize that sometimes nothing soothes an aching soul like the warm embrace of your favorite song.

Live, Love, and Learn (4/25/16)

angry-child

Are you a good parent? If so, your kids will eventually be angry with you.

“If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.” – Bette Davis

At some point, you will make a decision that is in the best interest of your child and that he or she completely disagrees with. Hence, your child will be extremely displeased with you. In fact, that displeasure might even turn into a form of hatred. But fear not: The hatred is temporary, and our kids are better off if we are more interested in doing what’s best for them than pleasing them. It is far easier in the short run for your kids to never be angry with you. In the long run, however, they will benefit by your willingness to occasionally tick them off.