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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

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Parenting with Passion

Uploaded: Oct 8, 2013
My husband and I have been parenting in Palo Alto for over two decades. We have children in the public elementary, middle and high school, as well as a daughter in college and a son who is a recent college graduate. Our empty nester friends are surprised to remember we are still chaperoning field trips, carpooling and watching AYSO soccer. When I am at the elementary school, the other parents mistake me for the grandma because many parents are closer in age to my older offspring than they are to me, and I wear sensible shoes. For the most part, I relish the opportunity to parent a fourth and fifth time, even at my advanced age. There is a lot less anxiety, more appreciation for how fleeting this time is, and we now know for absolutely certain that we will miss them when they leave. Besides, kids are very helpful as technology tutors, although keeping track of what they are doing on their own online is getting more challenging. I only wish they were as innovative and helpful with laundry and dishes!

Being a parent for so long in this community gives me some historical perspective, and with still many years to go, has led me to have strong opinions about anything to do with our public schools or kids. My kids, who often witness my passionate rants, tell me in a slightly condescending tone that blogging will be a good outlet for me.

I hope blogging will be another way to form a parent community for sharing concerns, survival strategies, and funny stories about ourselves and our families. I am indebted to the friends I've made through schools, sports, scouts, church, playgroups and bookclubs. I appreciate all the friends who have listened, laughed, given advice and encouragement, made a meal for my family, driven my kids, and joined me in an early morning dish walk. Parenting can be isolating, but connecting with others and benefitting from their support can make all the difference.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Maria, a resident of University South,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 7:04 pm

The community will benefit from your experiences, thank you for sharing!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Thank you, Maria! I appreciate the encouragement!

Posted by Francie, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Sally, would love to hear what books you enjoy reading about parenting, or about simply growing as a person.

Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm

CherylBac is a registered user.

Great post! I can't wait to hear about all of your survival strategies. I'm sure that they will come in very handy in the years to come.

Posted by Mary, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Excellent topic for a blog. I'm looking forward to your perspectives

Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I haven\'t picked it up for a few years, but whenever one of my kids\' behaviors had me totally stymied and frustrated, I used to re-read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. My kids caught on after a while. Whenever I stopped shouting and started patiently using the "reflective listening" techniques from the book, the kids would ask me, "Are you reading that book again, Mom?", and then we would all laugh, which usually helped! BTW, these techniques also work with husbands, co-workers and mothers- in - law.

The Hurried Child by David Elkind was revised in the 80s (pre-internet!), but he presents compelling reasons to let kids be kids and not push them to grow up too fast. Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn is about establishing the relationship we want with our kids. I found Wendy Mogel\'s books, the Blessing of a Skin Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus helpful.

Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison helps me appreciate the ordinary.

I picked up some helpful organizing strategies from Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield, and try to incorporate ideas from The Happiness Project from Gretchen Rubin, and The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal.

I love reading anything by Annie Lamott.

What have you enjoyed reading?

Posted by Former Paly parent, a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 8:09 am

Looking forward to hearing more of your experiences and opinions Sally! A wealth of topics to explore.

You mentioned the challenges of technology. I'd be interested in your approach to technology in your household, and your advice to other parents (and kids). What kinds of restrictions or monitoring do you recommend at what ages? When should kids be given cell phones? What have you learned about successfully guiding your kids towards responsible digital citizenship? How have the challenges increased in the past 10 or so years? How do you help your kids create a good balance in their lives?

Your thoughts on these and other topics will be a great service to the community. Thanks for doing this Sally!

Posted by Debbie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

I look forward to reading your posts! Your wealth of experience with the joys and challenges of raising kids in Palo Alto will be valuable to many.

Posted by Debbie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 9:18 am

Love the title of your blog !

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.


Thanks for starting the blog. I bet lots of readers will find it a helpful place to share and learn.


Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Hi Debbie and Steve,
Thank you for your support! I am looking forward to the sharing and learning, too!

Hi Former Paly parent,
Thanks so much for your comment and questions, and a great idea for my next blog post! I'll try to post it in the next day or two. The challenges have increased enormously in the last 10 years and I'm happy to share what has worked and what hasn't for us. It is one of the toughest parenting issues for me, so it will be great to hear other parents' ideas.

Hi Francie,
Would love to hear your go-to reads for parenting or personal growth!

Posted by Selina, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Two decades and counting, with children spanning elementary school through college, surely provides a lot of learning experiences, perspective, and stories! I know the community looks forward to reading your blog and hearing your thoughts on all kinds of kid/family topics. What a great idea!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Thanks for you kind words, Selina!

Posted by Shara, a resident of another community,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 12:06 am

I have had exactly the same experience with my kids in REreading the Faber/Mazlisch books. Those books have been life savers for my sanity. I look forward to hearing more Sally!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 5:56 am

Thanks for your comment, Shara! Let me know if you have other sanity saver reads to recommend!

Posted by Laura, a resident of another community,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted! The fun and challenges don't end when they head to college or graduate. It will be wonderful to have Sally's years of experience and wisdom shared with the community. Looking forward to reading more.

Posted by Colleen, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 9:20 am

Sally, it is so fabulous to have a trusted and smart mentor who is a chapter ahead of me on the parenting journey! I love your perspective and can't wait to hear more from you!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 11:54 am

Thank you Laura and Colleen for your comments! I hope I can inspire you to share some of your joys, challenges and survival strategies!

Posted by Kirsten, a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Sally, looking forward to hearing your advice and be present for all the moments you reference. I would like to hear about learning to let go as your older children leave.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Hi Kirsten,
Thanks for the comment and for suggesting the great blog topic. The hanging on is a lot easier for me than the letting go, so I will enjoy pondering and posting on that, and hopefully getting some perspectives from other readers, too.

Posted by Nancy, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Oct 13, 2013 at 9:47 am

Hi Sally - I love this idea and I look forward to reading your posts and benefiting from your wisdom! I just started reading the How to Talk so your kids will listen book and almost laughed out loud at how much opportunity for improvement I had in my interactions. And yes, I Love Mitten Strings too.

So we are about to welcome a puppy into our home and I've been working with the kids on getting ready for this. Sounds like you have a passion for children and dogs so if you have any advice on parenting, pets and kids I would love to hear it.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 13, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Nancy,
Thanks for you comment and enthusiasm!
A new puppy, how exciting. Dogs are a wonderful addition to a family!
I have three pieces of advice. Prepare your kids for the reality of a puppy and how it behaves. My youngest was in kindergarten when we brought our puppy home. She was so excited before, but she had been imaging a furry stuffed animal that would cuddle quietly in her lap, not a hyper, nippy, chewing puppy that took way too much of Mom's time (and displaced her as the "baby"). The kindergarten aide told me she was telling her classmates she wanted to send the puppy back. Fortunately, she adores him now, but it took a while.
Second, crate train, it is a sanity saver with kids and puppies. Lastly, ask around and find a trainer to work with, either in a class or individually, and do as much training as possible. Include the kids if possible.
Good luck and keep us posted!

Posted by Reena Burton, a resident of another community,
on Oct 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Wonderful Sally! You have much wisdom to share.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Reena! So nice of you to read and comment! I hope all is well.

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