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No matter what your experience or lack of experience has been when it comes to race, there is no denying that your personal experience impacts what you believe and how you behave. As adults, it also affects what and how you teach your children about race. Additionally, it informs how you respond to others who may not look or act like your children do.

In the midst of protests happening across the country, people are speaking out about injustice, specifically toward black people. If you havent already, now is a really good time to develop a plan of action for intentionally teaching your children that every black person has value and dignity. In a perfect world, we would know that all are created equal. At this moment in time however, there is a major focus on how black people are treated.

A great place to start is with yourself.

Even if you never actually say what you think, how you think about black people will be the basis for how you teach your children to think about and treat them. They are taking in your conversations and watching your every move—even when you think they aren’t paying any attention. If you are comfortable around black people, they will most likely be comfortable. If you are uncomfortable, they will follow suit.

Ideally, teaching your kids about race starts when they are young, although it is never too late. Here are 8 things you can do to teach your children about race.

  1. Be intentional about creating opportunities for your children to be around and befriend children who are different from them. For example, one mother was looking for a preschool for her son, and she realized that her son would be the only black child there. At her second choice, no white children were present. In her mind, neither of these preschools were viable options because there was no diversity. She wanted her son to see at an early age that not all people are alike and that even though they look different, they can still be friends.
  2. Teach your child about character and respect. Make sure they understand how to behave respectfully toward those who are respectful and how to respond kindly to those who are not. 
  3. Model what it looks like to be treated with respect and hold them accountable for treating others in that manner to reinforce what you are trying to teach.
  4. Make it a point to be friends with families of different ethnicities. At the heart of understanding others is being in relationship with them. Engaging in someone’s world that is different than yours can help your child understand what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. Having empathy for others is powerful.
  5. Don’t tolerate prejudice. When you see it, say and do something to address it. Teach your children how to productively use their voice when they see injustice.
  6. Be an askable parent. So often, we don’t talk about racial issues because we are afraid or it’s uncomfortable. Silence and assumptions are not helpful in the effort to end racism.
  7. Watch movies like “Remember the Titans” or read books that open the door for discussion about racism.
  8. Instead of trying to convince your child that we are all alike, celebrate how we are different, and how those differences contribute unique things to our world. A young white boy asked his black friend about getting a perm to make his hair curly. The black boy told him he didn’t get a perm, that his hair was that way when he was born. While their moms got a good laugh, it was also a teachable moment.

To end racism, we must have a continuous conversation and a commitment to be part of the solution. In doing so, we have the potential to leave a legacy that future generations can appreciate.

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VIDEO: Watch as Julie Baumgardner and Reggie Madison talk about the 9 keys to having great conversations with your children about race.

Chattanooga is home to a ton of fun events, activities, and experiences for kids of all ages!! Explore the rich history of the city, enjoy all the animals (from penguins to the average house cat), get your creative juices flowing, and more with these unique, Chattanooga local mother-daughter date ideas!

BONUS: Want to download this list of Chattanooga mother-daughter dates? Click HERE!

Local Chattanooga:

  • Polly Claire’s Tea Room This quaint, historic tea room is the perfect place for your next mother-daughter experience! Enjoy a cup of tea and your daughters company for an experience she won’t forget.
  • Pottery Painting (The Pottery Place or River City Pottery) Grab a brush, some paint, a pice of pottery, and create a masterpiece! Your daughter will love this creative experience.
  • ArtsyU Painting Studio Similar to painting pottery, why not take a painting class together? You and your daughter can create a beautiful piece of art while being instructed by a professional.
  • Chattanooga Zoo Experience wild peacocks, exotic animals, fun events, more at the Chattanooga Zoo! You can even book a wild encounter to get a behind-the-scenes look at the animals, how to care for them, and why they’re at the zoo!
  • TN Aquarium Who doesn’t love river otters, penguins, butterflies, lemurs, stingrays… the list just keeps going! Be sure to reserve a full day to get the most of all the aquarium has to offer.
  • High Point Climbing Center Don’t worry, you don’t have to climb the wall with her if you don’t want to! She’ll have a great time feeling strong and capable while getting some of that energy out!
  • Naughty Cat Cafe Any cat lovers in the room? Take a trip to Chattanooga’s first and only Cat Cafe! Enjoy a complimentary drink and snack while cuddling with kitties!
  • Chattanooga Lookouts You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy a night with The Lookouts! Their season typically ranges from April to September.

Under $20 or Free:

  • Coolidge Park The next sunny day, be sure to stop by Coolidge Park for a great time with your daughter! From riding the carousel (only $1!) to having a picnic by the water.
  • Creative Discovery Museum (Second Thursday of Every Month) Family Night at The Creative Discovery Museum is fun for kids of all ages! Plus, it’s free!
  • International Towing & Recovery Museum Okay, this one might not sound as exciting, but it’s still a ton of fun! Explore a piece of Chattanooga history with your daughter while learning something new!
  • Chattanooga Market You don’t even have to buy anything (although popcorn is a plus!) to enjoy The Chattanooga Market. Typical season is from April through December.
  • Visit an animal shelter (McKamey or Humane Society) If you can have enough will-power to keep from adopting all the adorable dogs and cats, the animal shelter is a fun place for both you and your daughter!

Near Chattanooga:

  • Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater Although this movie theater only runs during the warm months of the year, she’ll never forget the experience she had! Plus, it’s only 20 minutes from downtown! Bring cash though, they don’t accept cards!
  • Lake Winepesaukah Also best during the summer months, this local amusement point is a great choice for a full day of fun! From roller coasters to water slides, Lake Winnie is one of Chattanooga’s best attractions!
  • See Rock City If you’ve ever driven on I-24, you’ve seen the signs, the barns, and the billboards. But have you seen Rock City? Your daughter will love a full day exploring the beauty of Lookout Mountain and beyond!
  • Raccoon Mountain Caverns Take an adventure like never before and explore the caverns of Raccoon Mountain together! This guided tour will teach your daughter all about caves, the creatures that live in them, and how she can help protect their beauty!
  • White Water Rafting on The Ocoee River This activity is not for the faint of heart! If your daughter loves daring adventures, she’ll love the experience of racing through the rapids!
  • Hidden Hills Farm & Saddle Club Take a trail ride on a horse together or enjoy one of the many events on the farm at one of Chattanooga’s hidden gems! Be sure to schedule your ride in advance (and wear your best cowgirl outfit!)

Outdoor Adventures:

  • Chester Frost Park Want a trip to the beach but don’t have time to hop over to Florida? This man-made beach on Dallas Bay has great playgrounds, picnic areas, and so much more!
  • Enterprise South Nature Park Not your average park! Follow these walking trails for an up-close look at part of Chattanooga history: the location of ammunition bunkers for World War II. Although they’re empty now, it’s still a neat sight to see!
  • Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center Book a guided canoe trip, do some birdwatching, or enjoy a peaceful walk on one of their many trails! You’ll both feel reenergized and reconnected with nature by the end of your trip!
  • TN Riverpark From the Chickamauga Dam, through Downtown, and on to Historic Saint Elmo, this 10-mile paved trail has plenty of opportunity for a bike ride, a picnic, or a fun time by the Tennessee River!
  • Sculpture Fields at Montague Park One of Chattanooga’s most recent additions, Sculpture Fields features 33 acres full of sculptures from around the world!
  • Warner Park Pool and Spray and Play For $2-$3 (depending on age), you and your daughter can enjoy a full day by the poolside! This public pool is close to downtown and open to the public for some summer fun!
  • Chickamauga Dam Recreation Area Featuring one of Chattanooga’s best playgrounds, this beautiful recreation area has enough for a full day of fun! Enjoy a splash in the water, grill some lunch, and explore the walking trails!

Want more parenting resources? Click here!

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As a mom of two young girls, I struggle with the idea of being present vs. perfect. But I had this idea. A fun, whimsical baking sesh with my uber-helpful daughter, Jackie, baking a beautiful, homemade, delicious, vegan Frozen-themed cake for her 4th birthday party. I was determined to make it happen. I was going for “super mom” status as I prepared for a small family get together that became an elaborate Frozen-themed birthday extravaganza. I’d already sent out the FB event invite. This was Jackie’s “un-FOUR-gettable” birthday. It was too late. I had to make it unforgettable.

So the pressure was on. The ingredients splayed on the counter, complete with sifter and spatula. We went to work. Now, I have to admit, I’ve tried baking before. With okay results. Nothing too horrible. But when you’re a mom and you’re working with a limited time frame, and multiple kids running around, constantly needing something (water, milk, snack, attention!!) an easy recipe to follow suddenly becomes a daunting, time-consuming luxury you just don’t have. Or is that just me? 

Either way, I welcomed Jackie’s help in combining the cake ingredients.

She helped sift the flour, held the measuring cups and poured the contents in the mixing bowl. It was a slow, imperfect process, full of spills and extra time allowing a 3 (almost 4) year-old to “do it all by my own.” There were so many moments where I had to remind myself that the time we spent together baking this cake was more important than the mess we’d have to clean up or the extra time it took with more cooks in the kitchen. Present vs. perfect.

I even had to re-envision my idea of a “fun, whimsical baking sesh.” The truth is, life is MESSY. And kids require A LOT of patience. To think we could bake a cake together in 30 minutes was downright laughable… it took roughly an hour and a half to finally pop that pan into the oven. By then my patience proved tested over and over. I revised my idea of a mother-daughter bonding time multiple times. I modified my expectations of perfection greatly.

Perfection…

It’s this elusive idea that parents know is actually impossible, yet continually strive for and are sorely disappointed when any factor detracts from their path to it (i.e. a crying child who wanted to use the small spatula, NOT the big spatula). We snap photos of a perfect smile, hoping we can mask the reality of tears, emotion, frustration, and impatience with a clever #unfourgettablebakingsesh! But the truth is, it doesn’t matter if it took more time to bake the cake, and it doesn’t matter that the cake didn’t even… ahem… turn out good (more on that later*).

What matters is that I took the time to include my daughter in helping to make her own birthday cake. It was special mother-daughter time, even if it didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to go in my head. Even though it wasn’t perfect. I was present. She was present.

The time we spent together is what made it unforgettable. 

*I’ve come to accept that I’m clearly NOT a baker. I’ll gladly pay $45 for a delicious bakery cake. I’ve learned that I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it. And I don’t have the time, or energy, or desire to improve my baking skills. Although I followed the directions to a T… somehow the cake didn’t bake evenly and the middle ended up being a sunken pile of goo, albeit tasty goo. 

Although I felt embarrassed and slightly ashamed to serve the cake at Jackie’s birthday party, I did it anyway. I warned people that the middle miiiight not have baked fully and that it wouldn’t offend me if they didn’t eat it. And while the adults all took some bites and shook their heads with a sympathetic “Mmmm hmmm” as they reached the goo-filled middle, I’m happy to report that all the kids loved it. 

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The YMCAs and Planet Fitnesses in town and all the other gyms are packed full this week with all those who made New Year’s resolutions to lose some pounds, to better their physiques, and to get healthier. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Did you set some goals for this year? I hope they weren’t all about diet and exercise! Did you make some Relationship Resolutions?

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It’s here—that season when you throw sanity out the window and with wild abandon throw yourself full throttle into the holidays. I mean, there are things to do, people to see, and places to go. Not to mention there’s only a certain amount of time to make things happen. Right?

For the most part, we’re really good at our to-do lists. We get the coveted gifts for our family, hopefully at the prices we want to pay. We plan holiday gatherings and assign tasks to our guests. Plus, we ferociously clean and shop and wrap and eat. Then, if we’re honest, we often complain either inwardly or outwardly about how we try to make the season merry and bright for the ones we love. When that’s the case, we look a lot less like Santa and a lot more like the Grinch.

Maybe you gave up aiming for the “perfect” holiday, but you’re still stressed about all you want to pack into the month. Even if you’ve opted for simpler moments of peace and quiet, you may find yourself wrestling with everybody else’s expectations.

The holiday season is full of opportunities for us to really be there for our friends, family, and even strangers.

It may be tempting to rush through it all and complete our to-do list with as little financial and emotional damage as possible. However, this season has the unique potential to create a new mindshift going forward.

A couple of years ago, a holiday to-do list went viral, probably for a lot of reasons. But perhaps the most important reason is that in spite of how “connected” we say we are, people are longing for the presence of people in their lives. The list is a great reminder of ways we can be present during the holidays and in the lives of others.

Keeping this list in mind can set the tone for how you give what you give during the holidays and beyond. It’s kind of amazing that the most meaningful gift we can give doesn’t require us to spend money. But in our minds, it may be the most costly present—because we can’t be completely present with someone while focusing on something else at the same time. Perhaps the best present is to be present during the holidays. Time is the one thing that once you spend it, you can’t get it back.

Dr. Suess said, “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” There will always be things to buy, but the moments when we give our best selves to people are what make lasting memories.

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A CBS piece shared the story of Dale Schroeder, a humble man from Iowa. He worked as a carpenter at the same company for 67 years. He never married and had no children.

Since he had no living relatives, he approached his lawyer about a plan for his money after he passed away. His lawyer asked him how much he was talking about, and Schroeder said, “A little shy of $3 million.” The lawyer said he almost fell out of his chair when Schroeder told him the amount.

Schroeder never had the opportunity to attend college himself. However, he wanted to help kids from Iowa who otherwise would not have the opportunity to receive a college education. Schroeder passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on.

In all, Schroeder provided college tuition for 33 people. They call themselves “Dale’s Kids.” They’re now teachers, therapists, and doctors, among other professions. None of them have any college debt—thanks to Schroeder. While they can’t thank Schroeder personally, they can show generosity by passing his generosity on to others.

Certainly, giving financially to a worthy cause is one way to be generous, but that’s not the only way. You can also show generosity by giving your time or lending a listening ear.

For example, a 90-year-old woman sent a note to her next-door neighbor. She said she was lonely, scared, and had no friends. Then, she asked the neighbor if she’d consider spending some time with her. Sometimes just your presence is an incredibly generous gift.

However you choose to be generous, here’s the really cool thing: not only does it benefit the person you are helping; it also benefits you.

“Helping is love made visible in acts of generosity small and large,” says best-selling author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, speaker and Stony Brook professor, Stephen G. Post.

Post says that showing generosity is good for our self-esteem and well-being.

In a study of people over the age of 65, those who volunteered in the past scored higher in life satisfaction and had fewer symptoms of sickness. Those who did not volunteer proved to be sicker and unable to give to others. Post believes that feeling happy and connected to others are fundamental components to overall health, and that being generous with others forms bonds that are meaningful which then increases our happiness. Being a generous giver actually makes us want to be more giving in the future.

Post also finds that showing generosity is empowering. It inspires others to be compassionate and pay it forward.

“When the happiness and security of others is as meaningful to you as your own, you are a person of love and you will flourish,” Post says.

Being generous is contagious. 

When someone else is generous to you, it encourages you to show generosity to others, too. Giving of your time and resources can really feel good, and it has the potential to create a ripple effect of kindness in your home and community. Giving to others is powerful and makes for happier, healthier people.

Think about the many ways you have experienced blessings from others and the chance you have to bless people you know, as well as perfect strangers. The good news is, you don’t have to have saved $3 million dollars in order to be generous.

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Being a parent makes life better. Let me tell you why.

I’m currently writing this while sitting at a coffee shop on a rainy afternoon, and there is a table of three very chatty, obnoxious, silly, giggly 12-year-old girls directly hovering over cinnamon rolls and muffins directly in my line of sight. 

One of them – the slender redhead with clear blue eyes – is my oldest daughter. The other two, her friends, will be coming over later for a sleepover that I’m sure will be much of the same behavior. 

As I peer over toward them from time to time (trying to remain undetected), I can’t help but think quickly through a play-by-play of my daughter’s life, starting with our first introduction to her in the hospital: sleeping in my arms, the tiniest, most vulnerable thing. And I remember thinking,Does life get any better than this?

Fast forward not too many weeks: middle of the night, trying my best to change a diaper in less-than-optimal lighting, taking on a less-than-optimal aroma as she fights through her cries and tears because all she really wants to do is go back to sleep. And I remember thinking, Doesn’t life get better than this?” 

Then there’s the memory of coming alongside her as she served a Thanksgiving dinner to the visitors of our community’s homeless shelter: watching her smile and bright blue eyes brighten the day for some folks who desperately need a bright day. And I thought, Man, life just doesn’t get any better than this.” 

Of course, growing up is hard and learning lessons can be even harder.

Like the time I caught her in a lie about what she was looking at on her cell phone: That was a tough discussion, and my heart and my brain were at odds with what exactly to do. Tough love won out in the end and she was grounded from her phone for a time as well as from attending the big school rivalry football game the next night. She went to bed distraught and in tears; I went to bed with my own tears, thinking, Surely life is going to get better than this.” 

And back to today: I look on that blue-eyed redhead as she talks and laughs with her friends (still trying not to be detected), seeing the joy on her face, and I think, Wow – I don’t think life can get better than this.” 

A friend of a friend of mine was once asked what parenthood was like for him, and I think his response is the best description I’ve ever heard: “It’s just… more. It’s more ups, more downs. It’s more joys, more tears. More money spent, more stuff on the floor, more to plan for birthdays and holidays and weekends and vacations. It’s more laughter, more struggles, more trying to just figure things out, more seeing great things happen despite us. More pride as a parent, more hard lessons learned, more hope for the future. 

If you are a parent and you’re in one of these (or other) phases of “more,” know that you’re not alone. All us parents are in the “more,” but one thing is for certain – when life as a parent doesn’t seem like it could be much better, days are still to come when life just can’t get any better. 

Take notice of the times when you see your kids showing signs of growth. This is hard for a parent sometimes because a part of us doesn’t want to see our kids grow up. You have to intentionally experience joy when we see the little milestones of maturity – like when they’re enjoying time with friends at a coffee shop over cinnamon rolls. It means they’re one more step closer to being the adults we are working so hard for them to become. 

Life is good in the “more” – even when more is a lot more than we thought it would be. As a matter of fact, it can’t get any better – until maybe tomorrow. 

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

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I don’t have any kids, so maybe I can’t be the one to suggest parenting skills. I can’t relate to you parents out there, but I can definitely relate to your teenage daughter. I’m 22 years old, and I vividly remember high school. I remember being that overly-dramatic teenager. I remember having those awkward and insecure moments as a teen. I remember what it felt like to want to be different, but sometimes conforming to peer pressure so I could fit in. High school is HARD.

I get it, raising teenage girls can be challenging, too.

They are in the midst of understanding who they are in this world. They are exploring their individuality, becoming familiar with their sexuality, starting to pay more and more attention to boys, and puberty is hitting heavy.

On top of all of their daily challenges, the internet decided to throw in social media, which can make the most secure teenager feel like they aren’t good enough. Then to top off everything with a big fat cherry, Mother Nature decides she wants to drop into their lives once a month for forever. How do you work around all of this, use effective punishment, but still try to be there for your teenager?

First, the more open you are with your teen, the more open they will be with you. Being relatable is so beneficial because it lets them know, “OK, my parent understands what it is like to be here.” Most teens fear being misunderstood by their parent, so when your teen does not completely trust you with their personal life, they will do anything to build a wall between you.

My next one is big, so pay real close attention.

You know what your daughter needs the most from you? I know some of you are not going to like this one, but just hear me out. Sometimes your daughter just needs… a friend. Social media is at the tip of their fingertips and it is so hard to feel big in such a HUGE digital world.

It’s made middle and high school even worse than it used to be. You get on Instagram and see Tiffany get 1,000 likes while you’re stuck on 103. One day you have a best friend, and then the next day you see that your “best friend” just posted a picture with your guy! Everybody looks like they are living their best life, and you’re literally struggling to keep your sanity, or at least that is what it feels like for your teen.

To be a friend, listen to your daughter and pass no judgment. Just listen.

Gossip with your daughter and let her tell you about Macy stealing Anna’s boyfriend. Get your nails done together; go play basketball with her; talk to her about boys, PLEASE. Let her be open to you about them, and what she is going through without you looking at her crazy or telling her “I told you so.” Give her guidance and still be her parent, but reassure her that everything is going to be okay, and if she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to, she always has you.

Hey, dads! You play a key piece, too.

Be there for her even when you think that’s “her Mom’s job.” She needs you just as much. You speak identity into her, you show her what a man is supposed to be like, and you have a huge impact on her self-esteem. I know you can’t relate as much to some of the girlie stuff, but man, you’re such an important factor for her.

We know as adults that high school is not even the best part of their life. We all know that the girls she gets into drama with won’t even matter after she walks across that stage, but she’s not there yet. Right now, high school is the best part of her life, and there are already enough challenges. Yes, I know, teenage girls can be a handful. But they are just trying to figure out how they navigate in this world.

So the next time you’re ready to throw in the towel with your teen, think back to your own awkward high school days. You didn’t have social media, #relationshipgoals, and Snapchat filters. But you could bring up some relatable stories to share that would bring the two of you closer together.

So what does your daughter really need from you? Let’s do a quick recap…

She needs you to:

  1. Be open and relatable
  2. Listen without judgment
  3. Understand the impact of social media
  4. Give guidance and reassurance

And ultimately? To love her.

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