The best way to parent is your own way

Parenting on purpose


The best way to parent is your own way

JAN 30, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Breaking news for parents: The gig is more fun if you do it intentionally.

Please don’t confuse that with becoming a parent on purpose, rather than serendipitously. Sometimes blessings come as a surprise, welcome or otherwise.

But once you find yourself responsible for another human being, there you are. And suddenly, it seems there is so much to know.

A Google search on any parenting-related subject will quickly suggest there are so many wrong ways to go. There are experts on everything.

Then there are the experts who disagree with those experts. Then there are the commentators who point you to the One Right Way in all caps.

So I thought I’d take a moment to tell you there’s no such thing. Contrary to what some might say, or shout, there is no One Right Way.

I’d put that in bold, all caps, if my editor would let me. But there are style rules for newspapers and all caps is not an option, you’re welcome! 

I consider myself a bit of an expert on talking about feelings — yours, mine and the stranger’s on the sidewalk. Seriously.

I know, it’s not everyone’s favorite thing. But, alas, I’m a fan. And whether we like talking about them or not, we all have them. They ripple into all of our interactions, factor into all of our decision making and affect all of our connections with friends, relatives and colleagues — even strangers on the street. 

I mention this because the way we feel about ourselves as parents, and how we evaluate ourselves in that role, colors the way we interact with our children, which plays a significant role in shaping how they view the world, and themselves in relation to it. 

That seems like kind of a big deal. Isn’t there enough to consume our thoughts between the diapers and the diplomas without this kind of existential pondering?

Well, sure. But at the end of the day, how we feel about our contribution to family and community is the measure by which we seem to view their successes.

Of the following, I am certain: Success as a parent doesn’t mean having done all things right all the time. It doesn’t mean raising children who face no problems, challenges or failures. Success in this role, I think, is less about the outcome of our offspring and more about our willingness to love them through, and despite, their difficulties.

The metrics of being a good parent actually come down to some pretty simple things, which is not to say “easy.” It is hard to be loving in the face of opposition and defiance. It is hard to be loving when our kids mortify us. It is hard to be loving when we feel disappointed and angry. 

Being a good parent is not the absence of this entire range of feelings. It is continuing to love our children, and to show up for them, without becoming enablers. It is being relentless in helping them grow into their best selves, no matter how far away that looks today.

You know how I know all of that? Because I went straight to the source. I asked kids of all ages.

I even had friends ask their kids, ages 10 months to 30 years, “What makes someone a good mom? What is a good dad, exactly? What makes you feel loved?”

Their answers overwhelmingly came back like this: Love me anyway. Be there for me. Listen. Notice.

And you know what else? They notice what we do for them. Even when you don’t think that could possibly be true.

My 7-year-old recently told me he wanted to keep forever our copies of “Chronicles of Narnia” and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “By the Shores of Silver Lake.” He wants to read them to his kids, like his dad and I do for him and his brother. 

Then, he said he likes it when I come up for “talking time” and snuggling after I’m done “doing all the things no one notices.” Except, I’m going to go ahead and count that as someone noticing.


Try this at home:

If you’re playing along at home, here’s the first column in this series: A manifesto of one’s own.

Here’s my mind map – essentially a brain dump of all the things that came to mind as I considered which moments I feel most connected to the kind of mom I want to be. Since I started it, I keep adding things as they come up. Turns out it’s a lot of ordinary stuff.

Mind Map Parenting on Purpose


**I made a little reminder poster for you guys. You should be able to download it and print it out on an 8.5 x 11 paper. In theory. Let me know if you try it? **

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Find a need and fill it

By NATHALIE HARDY | September, 2014

Published in the Yamhill-Valley News-Register

Find a need and fill it, page 1Find a need and fill it, page 2

Suicide has been on my mind a lot lately.

No, not like you might think, but I’ve been there too.

Following the self-inflicted death of my classmate, Jennifer Huston, then actor and comedian Robin Williams, and most recently Pink Martini percussionist Derek Rieth, my social media feed is blowing up with friends sharing personal stories about depression.

It’s depressing reading all of this, a friend observed.

No, it’s actually encouraging, I think. And courageous.

In my mind, this adult version of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” is brave. And also? It’s time.

It’s time for us to start saying, “See? There are parts of me that are broken, too. I’ve been there and here’s how I came back.”

The same thing that worked for me might not work for you, but the more we see that depression and recovery can work in as many different ways as there are people suffering with it, the more possible it becomes for people to feel more OK and less alone in their darkness.

I was going to write about my own battle with clinical depression, but instead I decided to share with you how I found a way to light a candle for Jennifer Huston, instead of just continuing to curse the darkness.

After 12 days of desperate searching by family, friends and complete strangers, Jennifer was found. Tragically it was too late to save her from herself.

I wrestled my way through denial and anger. For days, I was stuck in a loop between those first two stage of grief.

Then I started to pray about what I could do to be helpful instead of feeling so desperately useless. What, if any, silver lining could come of this?

Was there a way to show Jennifer’s devastated husband and children that they were not alone? Was there a tangible way to show we cared for them despite, or even more so because of, the sad conclusion of our search efforts?

And God said, actually, yes. Yes, there is. You can fill their pantry with gluten-free and dairy-free food to accommodate their son’s food allergies and ease the burden of this transition on Kallen.

But I can’t afford to do that, I reminded God.

And He said, “But you can make it happen.” And I was like: “Uh, no. I’m not good at that kind of thing. And I don’t have the time. Good idea, though.”

But God promised people would step in and step up. All I needed to do was be willing to see it through.

You guys!

In the 10 days following my announcement of the Pantry Project, we filled 11 bags and boxes full of gluten- and dairy-free foods, plus a huge box of freezer items and gift cards for local restaurants. We were able to deliver all of that, along with $1,000 in cash for the family to spend as needed. And we did it one dollar and one bag of brown rice noodles at a time.

The platform was a Facebook page created by my friend, Donny Lehmann.

He was inspired to create the Newberg-Dundee Citizen Info Group in honor of three family members murdered in the ultimate act of domestic violence by Randall Engels in 2012. Today, that page has more than 5,700 members, and has bridged our modern social media culture with our old school roots of neighbors looking out for each other.

Through this site, we spread the word quickly. For 10 days, every time I came home, I found a new package of food on my porch. Every time I looked, there were a few dollar bills under the mat or a check in the mail.

This small town’s simple mission to feed an entirely different kind of hunger brought people together with a simple purpose, and it gave those of us who wished there was something we could do that something.

The project didn’t just help the family, it helped all of us who participated. That’s kind of how this business of living in service of one another works, right?

My heart still breaks for Jennifer, and those who loved her, but it is also filled with hope — hope for today, for tomorrow and for what can happen when we show up to say, “Yes, I can help.”

Nathan Schrader, owner of the Blue Dolphin Car Wash, summed it up best when he said he wanted Kallen and his kids to know they weren’t forgotten and weren’t alone. “Every time they drive by, I hope they remember this community stands beside them,” he said.

Schrader and his wife, Crystal, hosted a benefit car wash. Including their own donation, they netted $400. Then their employees, on their own volition, chose to contribute the $200 they had received in tip money.

The rest was collected in dollar bills and checks from people as far away as North Carolina and as close as friends standing in my driveway.

What does all this have to do with a column about parenting? Well, I’m glad you asked.

One concept I’m trying to consciously impart to my boys is the habit of identifying a need and then meeting it.

In other words, don’t be the guy standing there with his hands in his pockets. Don’t be the guy sitting on the couch asking “What can I do to help?”

Instead, figure it out. Then go do it.

And the best way to teach is by showing, not telling.

As I drove home after delivering everything with a group of friends, I realized what we just pulled off was the epitome of Margaret Mead’s eloquent reminder: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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From yours truly

[Editor's note: I posted this after creating my own handwriting font, thinking I was so clever. I was eager to share it, and my love of handwriting with you all. Then I traveled across the country and got super sick. I returned to the land of the living to find Susan Branch, yes THE Susan Branch, commented  on this post asking if the handwriting I was so sure posted perhaps didn't. Even though I saw it on my computer ... because, duh! Your computers don't come with the Nathalie's Notes font. Shocking, I know. I'll add it to my list of things to figure out someday.]

  I LOVE handwriting! Many of my favorite books include the author’s handwriting in them: SARK, Sabrina Ward Harrison, Susan Branch to name a few. I think I love it so much because it’s personal. And I’ve always thought personal is meaningful. One of my favorite memories from my wedding season was when, at my bridal shower, my girlfriends each wrote some advice on a paper my Maid of Honor, Amy, prepared. They were anonymous. But I knew every single person’s handwriting by sight. Loved that.

All that is to say … this is my handwriting. How cool is that?! I used to create a font using my own handwriting. [[(Er... see above note).  [[[[

I’d love to say it was in honor of National Handwriting Day last week – but that’s just a coincidence. I’m considering using this for my posts but am not about  the .readability. Let me know your thoughts.

It just seems like a natural way for me to use this medium to communicate personal things as I work on developing my new class for Big Picture Classes, The Art of Self Preservation because … I got the gig!

The editors at Big Picture Classes accepted my proposal and I actually get to teach a class about the very thing I’m most passionate about. Online as many of you requested when I was doing it locally.

I am over.the.moon excited!

I hope you guys will consider joining me on that journey and taking the class with me!

So much more to say, but I just finished my TheraFlu and the alarm is set for 4 a.m. for a crazy-fun adventure. More on that later, too.

Nothin’ much


What have I been up to? Oh, you know, not much … just applying for my dream job!

I had to let my writing here slip for a bit to put a couple other things at the top of my list, so sorry for  that! I’ve got my fingers crossed about the job and will share more when I know either way. Just the process of believing in the possibility of my dream coming true and working towards that end is exciting.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt (She had it going on, huh?)

I’ll be on deadline tomorrow but hope to check in with week 3 of Project Life. I’ll be back soon with some of the things that are helping me stay on top of the project.

Having a “deadline” even if I’m the only one who cares, is helpful. I would NOT have made time tonight to finish my week if I didn’t have that.

Probably the most helpful thing is recognizing when I’m being a perfectionist and overriding that urge. So, for example, tonight I opened my album and realized I was missing Saturday’s picture and didn’t have any of the journaling cards done. I almost quit before I started knowing there was no way I’d get that picture tomorrow and therefore, it wouldn’t be “complete” so why bother?!

And then I overruled She-Who-Holds-Me-Back with the whole perfectionism thing and just dove in. I had notes in my Moleskine for each day so that was easy. I had most of the pictures I’d picked up here and there on errands over the week. I have my basic approach* that I rarely deviate from because it works for me,  I had the packaging to make my CARS consumer journaling  … and just like that, done. For now. Love. This. Project.

This picture at the top is a funny pictorial of my life.

It’s my column about meditating through the mayhem of motherhood. It was on my desk waiting to be put in my clipbook. It got into my youngest Master of Mayhem’s hands … and that’s what happened.

A picture that says it all …


*Happy to share that basic approach if it’s helpful.

Put down the bat



A couple weeks ago I wrote about the importance of keeping our eyes on our own paper when it comes to comparing ourselves, our work, our lives with the highlight reels of others.

Becky Higgins posted on the same topic that same day and generously linked to my post which is how I got to connect with so many of you. (Yay!)

I felt like the message was well received and hit home for a lot of us. Which validated my belief that we are experiencing an esteem epidemic among women in our country. (This may be true for men, and other  countries but I can only speak to that which I know for sure.)

Further proof that this is so was found in comments and posts responding to encouragement to keep things simple if that is what works for you. Somehow, this got translated for some to feeling like a pass to mock, criticize and put down others for approaching Project Life in a more embellished fashion. That was never my intent. My point, and I know this is true for Becky as well, was—and is—that how someone else does something is not a reflection or commentary on YOU, your process or your end product.

One comment that stood out to me in particular said something about being bothered by all the stuff Becky was posting as inspiration because this person didn’t like being made to feel inferior.

Made to feel inferior.

It feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it?

Until you realize that Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous words, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” are true to the core.

But you have to be willing to recognize the truth in that and invest in yourself to the point where you are grounded enough in your own sense of self to master (and override) the part your brain that allows you to think someone else is in control of any part of you.

Does that make sense?

It’s possible. I promise. And I’m at this very moment developing a class to help guide anyone who is interested along that journey to personal emotional empowerment.

(Partly because I’m an expert in a lot of ways not to be mentally healthy! While I don’t have it all figured out, the good news is I understand clearly “all figured out” was never the point.)

If the person who made that comment, or felt that way is reading this, I mean no disrespect. I totally get that feeling. I totally get thinking other people are making me feel a certain way.

There was a time I rolled around judging other people by how their looks made me feel about mine. (Not proud to admit that but it’s the truth.) It took me a long time to realize that’s what I was doing. And longer still to change the pattern in my brain. But my life is more peaceful because of it.

Another example that I realized only this morning (!):

Talking to a good girlfriend last night I mentioned that the perfect analogy for a particular relationship in my life is the Whac-a-Mole game, remember that? Where you had a bat and you’d beat the mole down every time it popped up?

“I feel like every time I forgive, rally and agree to move forward – whack! I’m the mole!” I told her. I prayed about this relationship before going to sleep, asking for peace in my heart, guidance and clarity.

This morning I woke up with this sentence on my mind: Yes, you are the mole. You are also holding the bat.

I’ll leave you with that, for now.

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Note: for anyone who’d like it, you may copy, save and/or print the quote card I made at the top of this post. I made it for you. If you need me to email it to you, let me know!

{what’s working – courage}

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

- mary anne radmacher


A week ago today, one of my most immediate stresses was that I’d forgotten to take out the garbage and missed the garbage truck. I can’t hardly believe it’s only been a week since that morning. The events of last week, starting with the sudden death of one of our favorite people and ending with the near-implosion of all that I thought mattered most* … well, let’s just say it put the whole garbage fiasco into perspective.

Meanwhile … while so much feels like it is so not working, this awesome quote from one of my favorite artists sums up what is: trying again tomorrow.

*we are all going to be fine. Better than fine, eventually.

Also what's working is staying steady with my 300 words a day ... I'm ready to say it: I'm finishing my novel!

Courage is ...

I love it when I get little messages from unexpected places - like tea bags and labels for instance. This quote was on the inside label of my "Honest Tea" Pomegranate white tea with something I can't pronounce - acai?

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." - Ambrose Redmoon