Grandma's Pearls

I would like to invite you to join me on a journey. On November 1st, 2003, my mother died of pancreatic cancer. Her passing meant not just that I had lost a cherished family member, or that our community had lost a compassionate human being, but as a grandma she had a plethora of "pearls" on nearly any topic of child rearing, and these were gone with her as well. When I became a pediatrician in 1988, I would tap into her common-sense knowledge on a regular basis. Through the years, I found that many of my pediatric patients' grandparents enjoyed sharing their words of wisdom with me in my office, and I found these pearls especially valuable when I started my own family over ten years ago.

The journey I'm proposing is a shared attempt to capture this vast collection of accumulated wisdom on my blog. "Grandma's Pearl's" will celebrate a very special group of individuals who deserve to have a forum for sharing their hard-earned life lessons with others. It will be a compilation of advice from grandparents from all walks of life...capturing the insights of the grandparent-next-door, to the still-out-in-the workforce grandparent, to more.

My hope is that "Grandma's Pearls" will be a ray of inspiration for both new parents and experienced parents alike. Not a "how-to" manual on baby care, but rather a collection of practical, no-nonsense tips on how to raise good kids. You can share a couple of sentences, a paragraph, or a full-blown story if you'd like. I welcome you to share your pearls of wisdom and wit with the world!

Questions (these are suggestions only)....substitute in "dad, grandfather," etc. where appropriate:

  1. What tips do you (or passed down from your mother, mother-in-law, or grandmother) have on raising caring, happy, responsible, and well-adjusted kids?

  2. What did you (or your mom) do right, and/or what could have been done better?

  3. Was there a transforming moment in your (or your mom's) life that served as a guide in raising children? As a result of this moment, is there a "pearl" to pass on?

  4. Do you have a favorite "grandmotherly" quote that has helped you in parenting your children?

To submit a "pearl" click on:



Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Value of Setbacks

Dr. Robert Brooks is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and is a highly respected author, lecturer, and psychologist. He is also the proud grandfather of four. Dr. Brooks writes monthly articles for his website: In his September 2009 article, he wrote a message to his four grandchildren. There were many pearls in that article, and I'm pleased to share one of them with you:

"Appreciate that setbacks are a natural part of one’s journey in life. Years ago when I first began to write about the concept of self-esteem, I emphasized a couple of points, especially in response to some well-intentioned people who possessed misguided thoughts that boosting the self-esteem of children involved protecting them from failure and placing them on a pedestal. First, I advanced the belief that genuine self-esteem is predicated on realistic accomplishment and the unconditional love displayed by significant others; I argued that children were wise enough to know when they were given false praise or when love was conditional. The second point I highlighted was that during our lives we all experience mistakes or hardships or setbacks, but what is most important is the ways in which we understand and cope with such events. Resilient children are those who appreciate that setbacks can serve as a significant source of knowledge and strength for subsequent success, but only if one seeks to learn from the setback and consider alternative approaches in the future.

I have become increasingly concerned with the number of children who view setbacks as unalterable and who entertain little hope or optimism for future success. Believing they cannot learn from mistakes they recruit coping strategies that serve only to exacerbate the situation. They do not confront the challenge but instead they may quit or make excuses for their difficulties, sometimes casting the blame on others. Or, they may blame themselves as one of my teenage patients did when he described himself as having a “personality flaw.” The adults in the lives of children must insure that they model and convey the message that setbacks are to be expected and can serve as opportunities for emotional growth.

I thought of this message listening to the very eloquent, moving eulogy offered by Senator Kennedy’s oldest son, Ted Kennedy, Jr. who observed:

When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with bone cancer, and a few months after I lost my leg there was a heavy snowfall over my childhood home outside of Washington, D.C. My father went to the garage to get the old Flexible Flyer and asked me if I wanted to go sledding down the steep driveway. . . . I slipped and fell on the ice and started to cry and I said, “I can’t do this.” I said, “I’ll never be able to climb that hill.” And he lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I’ll never forget. He said, “I know you can do it; there is nothing you can’t do. We’re going to climb that hill together, even if it takes all day.” As I climbed on his back and we flew down the hill that day, I knew he was right. I knew I was going to be okay. You see, my father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable. And it is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event, that is one of my father’s greatest lessons.

What an incredible, life-transforming lesson Senator Kennedy taught his son, not only about overcoming obstacles but literally and figuratively drawing upon the strength of an adult to conquer one’s fears and doubts and establish a more hopeful, resilient outlook."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Passing of a Legend

News has broken that John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach of UCLA, has just passed away at the age of 99. I am honored to say that Coach Wooden was the first official contributor to "Grandma's Pearls" (January 19, 2007). He was college basketball's most successful coach (10 national championships during a 12-season stretch), yet he was most respected by his players as a wise, scholarly, and humble man. Coach Wooden has imparted his life lessons to younger generations through his many books and speeches. His famous "Pyramid of Success" has been the foundation of his teachings. Last night's New York Times article stated that he always carried a piece of paper with a message from his father:

“Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in the New York Times in 2000, “To lead the way Coach Wooden led takes a tremendous amount of faith. He was almost mystical in his approach, yet that approach only strengthened our confidence. Coach Wooden enjoyed winning, but he did not put winning above everything. He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings, that we earned our degrees, that we learned to make the right choices as adults and as parents.

“In essence,” Abdul-Jabbar said, “he was preparing us for life.”