Mariana Sanford Maynard

Parenting, Crying and Connection


“ We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen and honoring vulnerability.” -Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto, Brené Brown

May was a tough month for me- I kept thinking how I wanted to write and post about it. Then May turned into June, then July and here I find myself almost at the halfway mark of August!

I normally would beat myself up over that and snowball those thoughts with  all the other millions of things I did not do, should have done or forgot to do. BUT…it’s August , and from May to August I rumbled, reckoned and was able to rise again. HINT: those are all terms near and dear to my heart that I have recently dived deep into, from the great Brené Brown! So back to May..

My baby boy turned 15 and my baby girl graduated from High School, 3 weeks apart. Two days after graduation I was driving with her to her future institute of higher learning for Freshman Orientation. Talk about whirlwind! And though it had been lovely to watch the unfurling of my daughter from a young girl to a young woman, exploring the world and stepping into her interests, strengths and skills- I was trembling like a leaf ; emotionally. Did I give her the skills she needs to deal with the big bad ugly aspects of the world we like to think we somehow protect our kids from; by  being around them? What if it all got too difficult? What if she got hurt? What if… and it went on and also looped in her younger brother -“ what if he gets sick of being the only kid at home? “ .It wasn’t only questions, there was the hair trigger crying at silly commercials, comments my kids made-unkind or sweet- making mental countdowns to how many trips we might still make to Trader Joe’s together, etc. . It was bad, it went beyond my “I cry and I feel things” motto I changed up from Tyrion’s “ I drink and I know things” in Game of Thrones. All that caused me to feel unbalanced, tired and a touch cranky ( ok ; a lot, which would  be confirmed by my boyfriend). And all the while I kept plowing ahead  to get thru to the other side as if somehow I had this sense that if I stopped and let myself feel for more than 15 minutes, I would not get back up from the curled up position on the floor- ever!

There were moments that it got too much and I cried openly at things not connected to me, but that must have resonated. So grateful for kind non judgmental( or polite) people in my life!  I recently learned of the expression “ tears are water for the soul” ( thank you , Dawn Hedgepeth). My soul must have been dehydrated !

May turned into June and I seemed to be doing a great job when I sent my son off for a 2 week trip to another country with friends and parents I had only sort of known. Again I was happy to witness the growth and independence my son exhibited and was even mildly amused at his lack of interest in having FaceTime calls with his mother. Then a week after he returned I took him to sleep away camp. After helping him make his bed in his room, he said good-bye to me. He basically told me to leave. So I did, and decided to call his father and let him know our baby boy had been safely dropped off. It was meant to be a verbal post-it  note- friendly and quick. Instead I blubbered my way thru the message, probably making not one drop of sense and continued crying even after hanging up. And of course I was entertaining all the usual suspects/ ” what ifs..”dancing around in my head. Yes, I was entertaining all the what ifs related to a child who would be about 40 minutes from home, after spending 2 weeks 5 thousand miles from home and lived to tell the tale.

In mid July it was my time to go away- and to a training near and dear to my heart. I was accepted into the Daring Way Certification Training , based on the work of Brené Brown.  I did the pre-work, read the books , sat 12 feet from Brené herself as she gave us an opening pep talk and met a variety of amazing brave women I know that after 3 days together- we are connected and unquestionably there for each other. And they have seen my ugly cry face! This was all well and so special.  BUT it was in my journey coming home that I experienced not only the importance of ; but proof of , the power of connection.

My training was in Texas. My body did not appreciate the change in temperatures between the air conditioned inside and Summer in Texas; outside. So heading to the airport in a cab I listened to my driver share about how much he likes Brené Brown’s work as I realize I was  not feeling well. Normally, I would keep quiet. I didn’t ,and blurted out” I feel like I am going to pass out’. The driver pulled over and told me to come sit up front; he would point the vents right at me- the heat of Texas takes getting used to. I did that and we started up again en route to the airport. The driver ( I regret forgetting his name) chatted and talked about living and growing up in San Antonio. He made friendly polite conversation and every once in a while would ask how I was feeling. At first I just listened, nodded and kept hoping I would not throw up or pass out in this nice man’s vehicle. I started feeling better and shared this. He replied,”Of course you are- you have the power of the universe with you. We were meant to meet”. I was scared, not feeling well and the kindness of and connection with a stranger got me through this moment. And as I waited in the airport – as needed,  I would mutter to myself “ you have the power of the universe with you” as my healing mantra.

 Hours later , up in the sky trying to get to Chicago for my connecting flight I experienced near death turbulence for the first time. There were people praying out loud in; multiple languages, babies wailing and grown up screaming. I grasped for and held hands with the stranger next to me, who would look me in the eye when I screamed or swore and asked me about my day and told me about his business. I don’t know if he was as terrified, but I know I felt better knowing I was not alone. Again , kindness from a stranger and – CONNECTION got me through a  scary rough patch. 

I realized that underneath all my tears and fears expressed in the “ what ifs” about my children was the anticipated grief of lost connection with my “babies”. Now , with time and distance I can accept and adjust to the natural shift in connection, that happens in Life. Yet,  all the changes that May brought about and which my psyche snowballed , made it feel like a termination. I see that now. In my overwhelming need to cry, to push through to the other side, I shut myself off from connection nor did I seek it from those special people around me who have earned my trust to be vulnerable with.

 “ Oversharing is not vulnerability. In fact, it often results in disconnection, distrust and disengagement”  Brené Brown, Daring Greatly.  Am I oversharing here? I hope is not my intent. My intent is to be brave and courageous- and an example to my kids . Also, illustrating to them the value placed on and how I honor,  connection. Especially ours. I had a hard patch recently and sharing this is very courageous for me; truly. Parenting is hard and lovely. Celebrate ,rely on and seek out your connections. And be kind to yourself.

Tips for Mealtime Battles & Feeding Concerns

What are mealtime battles?

It’s lunch time, your kid is deep in play. When you tell them that it’s time to come eat, you get the response, “I don’t want to eat!” And from there it feels like an uphill battle to give your kid the nutrients they need! From demanding special meals, engaging in arguments, or just refusing to eat, these can all be classified as mealtime battles

Are you experiencing trouble with mealtime battles with the kids, or other feeding concerns? Below is a video with tips and steps I’ve compiled to make mealtimes a little bit easier!

2 Tips


Try to give your kids a variety of foods, from crunchy to grainy or chewy. Offering them a variety of textures and flavors is a great way to expose your kids to new foods, and help you figure out what foods your children enjoy.

Portion Size

Start with small portions, and if they eat everything on there, add more! It’s common to start out with portions that are too big

Still struggling?

It may be time to consider an appointment with a speech-language pathologist or an occupational therapist. These professionals can do wonders with minor suggestions!


Tried all of this and still looking for solutions? Let’s chat further to help identify your needs and create a plan. I can suggest professionals in the Needham, MA surrounding areas such as OTs or SLPs, and help you develop a plan to work out your mealtime battles. Contact me to today to book a 15 minute intro call to discuss how I can help support you, the supporter!

Mariana & Tony V

In the first episode of my series “Conversations on Connection”, I interview comedian Tony Viveiros on how he makes connections with his kids and family through humor. Tony Viveiros is a stand up comic and actor who has been dubbed “a Boston treasure” by the Boston Globe. Some of his roles were in movies such as “The Town”, “The Heat”, and “Pretty Like Me.”  Tony discusses how he uses comedy in his home to make connections with his kids, how they check in with each other, and plenty more.

Are you having trouble making those connections with your kids, or letting loose with them every once in a while? Let’s schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how I can help you as the Supporter.

Click here to book a call today.

Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook, but take a look at some of my recent Parent Education blog posts for some resources.

You can find out more about Tony and his work on his website, 

The idea of Family Support (in the form of therapy) often times conjures up images or ideas that seem complicated, painful or even scary. Let’s take a moment to break down some of these misconceptions:


Why & when to seek out Family Therapy?

A family is made up of separate individuals who have a connection to one another. And together they create a group that can be a source of loving, supportive, caring, and enjoyable energy that feeds our spirits. The personalities and energies of everyone in that group contribute to the overall feeling of the group. Like the spokes of a bicycle wheel – their collective strength help maintain the shape and function of the wheel.

Yet, what happens when one of the spokes loosens, gets warped or breaks off altogether? The wheel keeps turning, sure. But the other spokes are stressed, and the entire wheel looks well worn and needing repair. The other spokes quickly show wear and tear and soon a trip to the bicycle shop is needed for a tune up.

This is no different among family members. One member being sick, not involved, stressed or leaving can affect everyone else in the family. And often, not in obvious or direct ways. For example:

  • Exhibiting  symptoms of a problem a sibling is experiencing.
  • Becoming more aggressive at school while parents go through a divorce.
  • Regressing developmentally in anticipation of the birth of a younger sibling.
  • Adult in the family may start having anxiety, overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for young children and aging parents.
  • Teens/Parents are drinking or using prescription or recreational drugs in excess.

All of these behaviors are symptoms and signals that the family’s own ability to heal itself , may need a boost.

Seeking Help

A family psychologist, social worker, clergy person, licensed mental health clinician are some of the options to seek out for support. The experience varies but often involves group and individual sessions. Treatment can be short term. Whatever the identified reason for seeking out support for your family, the therapist’s role after listening to scenarios and symptoms presented is to work on developing specific changes  that can support the family while resolving concerns and issues – such as aggression, establishing a routine, specialized resource identification.

Working with a specialist to support your family is a great way to strengthen and heal the connections that make your family, yours. Your family can be,  an incredible source of strength to all its members.

For further reading:

Misconceptions about Family Therapy

When Do I Need a Family Counselor

Featured on: We Turned Out Okay

Throwback Thursday!

Mariana was featured on We Turned Out Okay with Karen Lock Kolp, M.Ed

In this episode of Karen’s podcast, she and Mariana discuss handling parenting challenges with early childhood.

Karen is an expert in child development, and helps parents understand their young kids with the We Turned Out Okay podcast.

Listen to a quick clip of the podcast below:

To hear the rest, go to Karen’s site, “We Turned Out Okay” for the full episode.

Lets face it, as parents we can be our own worst enemies. We feel guilty and worry about everything and anything in between. There are often questions, worries, and doubt that play across our minds. Like a parade that takes place in your brain.

Think of each worry and concern that comes up for you like a parade float that beckons your attention. It’s hard to ignore, you stop and notice each one before going on. And in a parent’s case, these parades can pop up anywhere. But rather than the fun you have at a Carnaval parade in Rio De Janeiro, these floats don’t inspire joy. They bring about anxiety, insomnia, and much more. It’s time to take control of these concerns.

Transforming Concerns to Buildable Steps

We can transform the concerns into steps that will support and reward ourselves for doing the difficult, exciting and rewarding work of being parents. Lets diminish the weight of worry so we can  parent by being present, connecting with and caring about, our children.  We need to remind ourselves of that often!  Guilt and worry do not support us in being kind to ourselves. I used to teach my preschool students how to pat themselves on their shoulders and say” I did a good job!”. I’m now telling you to do the same.

I’m not going to even suggest getting rid of guilt and worry, that’s just impossible. But instead, I suggest taking steps to reward yourselves through doing the work of being parents.

We have to try! And as I’ve been told by my teachers and colleagues: baby steps count!


Your Simple Steps:


Write it down! Grab a journal, a piece of paper or even colorful Post-It notes. When the parade pops up, stop and ” watch”. Write it all down. Notice what comes up, what you feel. Sometimes just naming it can provide you with some release.


You can also use your notes as a physical representation of your worries, doubts, and guilt to make connections and recognize themes . For example, if your “parade floats” include: “Child not eating vegetables” and “Dinnertime…UGH!” Then you can combine two floats into one, for example, “Mealtimes.”

Notice any physical reactions you may have when the float goes by: tightness in your chest, a pit in your stomach, your jaw tightens? Observe it.


It doesn’t matter how many floats your parade has, try and prioritize them. Lighten the load. What feels pressing? Does one float feel larger than another? Try and find information, support and solutions for that float first. You might find once you get going on this one concern, you can take on the other floats with greater ease and energy.

Using these steps, you can slowly take control of your concerns with actionable steps.

Here to help you name your parade floats and to find solutions to minimize parade pop ups! If you’d like to discuss solutions further, please contact me!

With Hope, Truth, & Mirth!



One of my favorite books is “The  Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown. My love of her message, work, and books is a topic for another or several other blog posts. I mention this book because it is a great read and helpful in letting expectations, go! If you aren’t familiar with her or her books, check this out:

Brené’s Site

The Gifts of Imperfection