Mama J on March 31st, 2014

Hello! Just a note that Mama J’s Parenting Posts is on hold while this blogger/author puts her energy toward completing the book, Stepparenting the Grieving Child: Knowledge to improve your stepfamily life right now.  For the latest book and author information, please go to my newly updated website at

I look forward to more parenting and stepparenting posts in celebration of this project’s completion!

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is an avid observer, journalist, and lifelong student of family relationships and dynamics. In Stepparenting the Grieving Child, the views and perspectives she shares come from 20+ years of stepparenting two children who lost their mother to cancer.

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Mama J on January 31st, 2012

It’s not unusual for a parent to notice a surge in their child’s skills in some favorite activity. This is happening right now with my youngest daughter and her competitive swimming ability. As we look to support her while she steps it up, I immediately wonder, “what is my role as a parent of a young athlete?” I did some research and thought I would share my favorite findings. I was relieved to find that I am — more or less — doing what the sports psychologists recommend!

I found some great, general “Role of Parenting” articles at Red Star Soccer and at Competitive Advantage. Here are some highlights from those articles, including one by the late, tennis hall-of-famer Pam Richmond Champagne.


  • 73 percent of children who compete in organized sports quit by age 13. Many drop out because they say the pressure from coaches and parents simply takes all the fun out of playing and competing.
  • “Fewer than 5 percent of children can be called elite athletes.”  (From an 6/7/04 article in U.S. News and World Report.)
  • Fewer than 1 percent of the children participating in organized sports today will qualify for any type of athletic scholarship in college, and even smaller numbers go on to elite competitions like the Olympics, or to professional sports. My swimmer is 12 years old in one of the most competitive age groups around…but the heat sheets for meets reveal a decline in the number of entries in the 13 – 14 age groups.


  • Let our children take the lead in defining their sports commitments. Every six months I sit down with my youngest and ask her about her swimming goals, ask her about the number of practices and meets she is attending, etc. If I don’t hear the equivalent of a solid green light, it’s time for more discussions.
  • Focus on mastery and enjoyment rather than winning. Coaches and parents who instill a life-long love of fitness and sports are the real winners.
  • Make sure your child never feels they must earn your love or approval in the athletic arena. At Competitive Advantage, Dr. Goldberg says, “Your child is not his performance…one of the most tragic and damaging mistakes I see parents continually making is punishing a child for bad performance by withdrawing emotionally from him.” This strategy may decrease the child’s performance and will certainly affect the parent-child relationship.
  • Avoid comparisons to other athletes. Psychological studies prove that athletes succeed best when focused on their own performance, competing against themselves. Respect your child’s individuality.
  • Give the gift of failure. Teach your child how a failure presents a huge lesson and the secrets within for improvement.
  • Honor your family unit. Find a way to have some fun, unstructured time away from the sport. According to Pam Richmond Champagne, the mother of world champion tennis pros Venus and Serena Williams says they never talk tennis away from practice and matches.
  • Build a supportive relationship with your child’s coaches. Don’t step in and do the coaching for them.

Mama J is a Northern Colorado-based writer who enjoys exploring family dynamics and relationships.

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Mama J on January 11th, 2012

eatonphotoOn my mind today are kids and athletics. It’s fairly well-documented that when a child and a sport find a natural match, the child experiences increased self-esteem from performance in the sport. I believe this is not only applicable to sports but can include any interest or activity in which a chlid excels.

But since my youngest is a swimmer (and so was my oldest, and so was I!) I am going to focus a few posts about quandaries in youth athletics. The first two questions are: In the wake of the fairly recent allegations against Jerry Sandusky, how do we keep our children safe during extended exposure to coaches and sporting authority figures? My second burning question is, when a child starts to increase performance in their sport, how do you balance working hard against burning out?

Today I’ll address the safety question, and continue with the performance question in future posts. My goal today is to raise awareness of what you can do to prevent your child from being in a compromising solution AND to go over how to talk to them if it does happen.

Yesterday I took an eye-opening online training class from Praesidium on Athlete Protection. I am an non-athlete member of USA Swimming and to renew my membership I had to pass this course. What frightened me the most is that there are people out there who purposefully seek out relationships with youth in order to become physically close to them. These people “groom” their victims by awarding special attention, praise, and then *BOOM* they apply power and manipulation to corner the kids into some form of sexuality.

Once a child has been compromised then they are stuck…they feel shame, they risk losing the coach’s attention, and they’ve done things they don’t feel they can tell their parents.

How can you prevent your child from being exposed to this type of manipulation? First, talking to your child is the most important. I used the Sandusky story as a tool to walk through this dilemma with my youngest (who is 12). I explained that even authority figures at school need to be treated by her with a bit of reserved judgement. We discussed the question, “What if Coach Julie (not her real name) whom you adore started asking you to come hang out with her after swim practice? Or started touching you inappropriately?”

Secondly, you can be aware that child molesters need three things to achieve abuse: access, privacy, and control. Control is the hardest for you the parent to affect, but you can keep tabs on the amount of access and privacy your chlid and coach have. Volunteer to be a chaperone at away meets, games, or events. Don’t accept a hotel room situation where the athlete shares with the coach. Control the amount of unsupervised private lessons. And so on.

If you suspect any unusual behavior, tell your Head Coach, Board President, and whomever else is in charge of the youth organization. Tell several people because as we know, one may turn a blind eye!

Finally, if your athlete does disclose abuse, it’s a very brave thing they have done.  It’s crucial to support them by following this formula (resist the temptation to be upset at your child):  Listen to what he or she has to say. Reassure him or her that talking about what happened is the right thing to do and that they are brave. Protect your athlete from further contact with the accused. And then report what you’ve been told, using the athlete’s actual words, not your own interpretation.

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a Northern Colorado-based writer who likes exploring family dynamics and youth issues.

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Mama J on December 8th, 2011

When I was six or seven, I had two pet names for my father – Naa and Ego. Although I don’t remember their origin, I suppose I was following suit from seeing the diminutives my parents used for each other on Christmas gift tags and Valentine’s Day cards. (P.B. and E.S., which stood for something sweet and romantic.)

Naa died out quickly but Ego remained. I’m not sure why my father let me call him Ego -he didn’t have a large one and I didn’t know the word’s true meaning.

Now ego has become a caution sign on my road through stepparenting life.  Only by becoming aware of my ego have I been able to move into a phase of life where I mostly accept my evolving relationship with Brianna and Bud.

“But you are their mom,” insist many who learn of our story. It’s not quite that simple. As we’ve learned through this reflection together, their mom is still their mom, living or deceased.  A Thai exchange student whom I supervised on her program in the USA stated it well. “You have to respect your mom. She is the one who gave birth to you.” Thank goodness for the Asian culture of honoring their elders.

The acceptance dance becomes a pretty straightforward dynamic. When I release my ego’s need to be fully accepted by Brianna and Bud, then I accept whatever behavior from them comes my way.  Though lately the behavior is really all quite positive, there have been times…. But when I become angry because, for example, Bud will only go to his Dad for support and reinforcement, then I know my ego has flared.

The ego wants recognition and justice. For any of us who have kids, since when does being a mom net you all those rewards? I can at least protect my ego by reminding myself that my service heart makes me a good mom.  Like the stepparent version of Elliot Ness, I continue headlong into the world of “doing good.”

Mama J writes about family dynamics and relationships from her bay-windowed office in Northern Colorado.

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Mama J on November 2nd, 2011

copy-of-finalist4Most of my blogs this season have been quite cheery. It didn’t seem fair to myself or to you to continue in this vein without expressing at least a little sadness as well.  Overall, our stepfamily has come a long way. To be honest, I only use the “step” words in this blog or other written materials, for the purpose of differentiating stepfamily talk from bio-family talk. So when I say stepfamily, I mean our unit of 5 including two adult stepchildren.

My sadness comes from my inability to establish a meaningful relationship with my 23-year-old stepson. I’ll call him Bud (although he would prefer to be called Bob Dole; I thought that might be confusing smiley1. I know that it takes two to relate, and I think he does make his attempt, but neither of us seem to really relate on the level where I feel we are past the old “stuff.” His Dad is absolutely his primary contact, and I seem somehow cursory to the action…but perhaps I am treating him the same way.

This discomfort came to light recently when he moved back in with us after realizing that he didn’t like his decision to move to Las Vegas. The turmoil actually swelled between Brian and I as I expressed my frustration about lack of planning and how much guidance Brian gives…but on the other hand, Bud is a person who has rarely taken help or advice, ever. A good friend pointed out that the conflict over Bud is probably more of a reflection on some deeper past issues, and perhaps even marital relationship issues that Brian and I have never worked out. Ugh, that felt even worse – a really squirmy, slightly panicky feeling in my stomach. Which means the friend is right.

I’m willing to tackle these issues but I’d really want it to be in a family counseling setting. Brian and I have come to somewhat of a resolution on the current state of things, having an adult child move back in. But for the deeper issues, if we are going to open this up I just want to do it all at once, with everyone. The question remains whether to invite Bud directly (he has ignored the offer of counseling in the recent past), make it a condition of living here, wait it out until he volunteers he is ready, or some other approach. What do you think, dear reader?

On the bright side, Bud was really pleasant to be around at Brianna’s wedding, natural and relaxed, which is a tribute to him during an emotional event at which his natural mother should have been present were it possible. I was proud to have him escort me down the aisle to my seat. Shadows continue to exist only where there is sun!

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a freelance writer who enjoys exploring family relationships and dynamics. She is still writing from her Northern Colorado, bay-window office (a space which she offered to her husband but he has so far declined).

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Mama J on September 28th, 2011

Last Saturday our oldest daughter, my stepdaughter, was the first of our kids to get married! Click here to read part 1 of my post.

I promised more details about the ways the wedding ceremony balanced honor and acceptance. First of all, Brianna’s aunt (who is Brianna’s mom’s sister and was her best friend) attended the wedding. She was the only one of Brianna’s mom’s family physically well enough to fly out from the Northeast, and we are so grateful that she did. The ceremony would just not have been complete without someone who had been close to Brianna’s mom.

We placed her mom’s picture on a high, small table nestled to the right of the wedding arch (Cheers to Earle’s Florist in Loveland, CO for that magnificent arch!). Next to the picture Brianna  placed a candle in a hurricane lamp. When Brianna’s aunt was escorted down the aisle by Brianna’s brother (my stepson), they lit the candle together, and then sat down. It remained lit for the duration of the ceremony.

The chaplain told the story of the influences of love in Brianna’s life. The love story began with Brianna’s mom and dad, and it continued with my arrival on the scene as a new parent. The groom grew up in a more traditional family, and the chaplain commented on his story as well.

The bride and groom designed their wedding’s overall theme around how their love together was a reflection of the love they had each experienced in their families of origin. We were all made a part of that. I had an even better view of the community who supports the couple at the reception — phenomenal! So many walks of life together in one room. Not to mention, the night before at the rehearsal dinner I met many members of the groom’s family, widening the circle of connection that much more.

Although I’m relieved to move ahead now on other projects (like getting back to more regular blogging!), I deeply treasure the opportunity to help Brianna plan her wedding. I had heard from other stepmoms that the wedding can be a natural time of reuniting, and it was, indeed. Very sweet.

Mama J (Diane Fromme) writes about family relationships and dynamics from her bay-window office in Northern Colorado. She is considering offering the office to her husband, however, who somehow manages to run his business from the open spaces of the living room. Stay tuned!

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Mama J on September 23rd, 2011

I was waiting for the actual “big day” to tell you about it!  Our oldest child and daughter (my stepdaughter) got married this past Saturday! What a special day, and YES, we love her husband. This is an event that I always knew would raise questions of balance between past and present in our family, since Brianna* was only six when she lost her natural mother.

Her mom’s family has always lived in the Northeast; we are in Colorado. Who from Brianna’s mom’s family would attend?  How would the wedding ceremony provide integration between past and present? What would my role be in the wedding? How would I quell the small voice that kept fretting, “will I be included?”

The great news is that all these questions worked out their answers quite naturally. I have the good fortune of  living just up the road from Brianna,  and she turned to me as her main wedding planner. At the ceremony itself, her aunt on her mom’s side and the wedding officiant made sure to honor Brianna’s mom both visually and in the context of the story of Brianna’s life.

I attribute the smooth outcomes to several dynamics:

–Sometimes I overthink things. Most things in life do work out, given time.

— Brianna and I have been working for several years at developing a better relationship. We don’t overtly  call it “work” but we’ve each made more effort to respect the other.

— Brianna handled everything about this wedding with maturity and without bitterness.

A nice coincidence about the date of her wedding is that it was held over the annual National Stepfamily Day weekend. National Stepfamily Day (September 16) was put in place to recognize the beauty and unity of stepfamilies. I would have to say that this wedding was symbolic of Brianna’s natural family and her stepfamily coming together to make up the story that is hers alone.

I promised not to make any one blog post too long, so for details of the ceremony tune in to part 2 of my wedding story no later than next Wednesday.

*Names have been altered.

Mama J (Diane Fromme) writes about family and stepfamily dynamics from her bay-window office in Northern Colorado.

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Mama J on August 24th, 2011

Every so often I throw in a travel blog. Today I feel compelled to write about a great little camping spot here in Northern Colorado: Inlet Bay at Horsetooth Reservoir. This is part of Larimer County Parks.

Just before school started I stole my youngest away for a last night of camping. It had to be during the week — the weekends were booked — and it had to be pretty close to our house since I had some work obligations the next day. The Inlet Bay camping sites run side-by-side along a finger extension of Horsetooth Reservoir just South of Inlet Bay Marina. No matter which site you pick, you back to the inlet. During a busy time you’ll have two side neighbors, but this time we only had a neighbor to our north. We got lucky and were able to reserve a site with a shelter. The covered table area came in handy during the one spate of rain around 6:30 p.m.

Being close to home proved expedient when we opened up the tent packet and the tent stakes were no where to be found. The camp store at the South Bay did not have tent stakes for sale, although maybe they do by now since I was more than vocal that tent stakes would be a wise addition to their inventory. So yes, I drove home for the tent stakes and we had camp up by about 7:30 p. m.

In addition to its proximity to Fort Collins, what I like most about Inlet Bay is that so far every time I’ve camped there it has been peaceful and mosquito free. The latter is a complete mystery, as the sites are along the water. I might even ask a ranger about the mosquito breeding cycles up there. But the peacefulness is a welcome change from some campgrounds. I think the inlet “catches” some of the people noise and of course it helps not to have other campers behind you or in front. My daughter and I made a campfire and watched an almost-full moon rise above the ridge that separates the inlet from the reservoir. Aaaaahhhhhhhhh.

Finally, if you like boating or fishing, Horsetooth Reservoir is a handy place to try both. If you don’t prefer motorized craft, the Marina has one canoe that it rents for $20 for two hours, along with kayaks which are a bit more expensive at $40 for two hours. We spent a leisurely two hours kayaking around the inlet and a little bit of the main reservoir. Last year we canoed it — either craft will do the job nicely.

Though camping season will draw to a close soon, put Inlet Bay on your list for a little Indian Summer getaway or for the future. I don’t get a kickback from Larimer County Parks…I just think that you won’t regret it!

Mama J (Diane Fromme) writes about family dynamics and other family-related topics from her bay-window office in Northern Colorado.

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Mama J on July 13th, 2011

I started to tell you last time that I had my daughter “sign her life away” to get her cell phone. Here are most of the terms and conditions we put in the agreement, in case it would be helpful to any of you.

  • I, (child’s name), understand that my phone is a privilege given to me by my parents. I will respect my parents’ decisions about the use of the phone. I understand that they may take the phone away (temporarily or for longer) as a consequence for any inappropriate behavior of mine. I also understand that they may reward me when I am using the phone responsibly.
  • I understand that for now, my parents will put some time and contacts restrictions on the phone. As I get older and I show that I use the phone responsibly, my parents will lighten the restrictions and update this agreement.
  • I understand that while I am learning to use the phone responsibly, my parents will pay for the basic monthly service. When I am given more freedom with the phone, my parents may ask me to to contribute to the cost of the service, especially if/when I want to add features.
  • I understand that for my safety, my parents will sometimes be checking my text messages.
  • I will tell my parents if someone is texting inappropriate messages to my phone because this behavior could put me or my family in danger.
  • I will not bring my phone into my bedroom when I go to sleep at night.
  • During the school day or while I am focused on studying or an after-school activity, I will not use my phone.
  • I will follow other rules of cell phone etiquette as discussed by my family, for example no texting during family meals, or no texting while with friends who are not on their phones, etc.

Can you think of anything I left out?

Mama J is a writer, parent, and stepparent in Northern Colorado. She enjoys discussing family dynamics, relationships, and issues.

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Mama J on June 29th, 2011

In my post of June 8, “To Cell Phone or Not to Cell Phone,” I struggled over my decision about whether and when to activate a cell phone for my 11-year-old daughter. I’ve completed my research and made a decision: yes.

The bottom line for my decision: my comfort. My daughter has started babysitting and her main client is a single mother of twins who forwards her home phone to her cell phone while my daughter is babysitting. So, while my kid can call out from the home phone, I can’t call in. That made me nervous. If I wanted to deliver any kind of message I had to drive over to the house.

Here is how we worked the cell phone: we are Verizon customers. We found a phone my daughter liked for $18.87 at Sam’s Club, and we added her line to our existing Verizon plan for $9.99/month. My friend found another very good option for cell phones called Kajeet. She purchased a refurbished phone for her daughter for $65 and the Kajeet plan is also $9.99/month.

At our house, big decisions come with written and signed agreements. I’ll share that agreement in the next post. Also, I still have some homework to do: comparing the cost of replacing a lost or stolen phone with the cost of insuring it. More soon!

Mama J writes from her bay-window-facing office in Northern Colorado. She enjoys sharing insights about parenting, stepparenting, and family dynamics.

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