Laughter & Lessons: Parenting with Humor
Today, we have the delight of speaking with Chaya Topas, a mom of three, who has taken her parenting journey and transformed it into a creative and humorous path of self-discovery. With a background in communications and a newly found passion for writing, Chaya has authored the whimsical and reflective children's book "WHEN WE VISIT YOU," which explores every parent's revenge fantasy in a lighthearted manner. Her approach to parenting – emphasizing laughter, giving kids autonomy, and embracing the unpredictability of raising children – offers a fresh perspective in our tech-centric times.
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Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, the podcast where we delve into the unique challenges and opportunities of raising children in today's fast-paced tech-driven world. Each episode features conversations with experts and thought leaders who provide actionable insights and practical guidance for navigating life as modern parents. Today, we have the delight of speaking with Chaya Topas, a mother of three who's taken her parenting journey and transformed it into a creative and humorous path of self-discovery.
With a background in communications and a newly found passion for writing, Chaya has authored the whimsical and reflective children's book, When We Visit You, which explores every parent's revenge fantasy in a lighthearted manner. Her approach to parenting, emphasizing laughter, giving kids autonomy and embracing the unpredictability of raising children offers a fresh perspective in our tech centric times.
Hi, welcome to the show. Please share with our listeners what you do and what you're passionate about.
Chaya Topas (00:06.825)
Okay, I'm so happy to do that. Thank you for having me on the show. So I'm a mom. I have three girls and kind of my big story is that I was working doing branding and marketing and communications and things related to that field. And at the same time, I was hitting my forties. I was, you know, I turned 40 already and I was looking down the barrel of 41 and
I realized I don't have a passion. And I thought, I looked all around me. I looked at what other people were doing for a living. And, you know, a lot of them seemed really happy with what they were doing. And I thought, well, I'm good at what I'm doing, but am I happy? No, definitely didn't feel happy. Didn't feel that like inner sense of fulfillment from what I was doing. And it really bothered me. And I asked everybody around me about it. I said, do you have a passion?
like what's your passion? What do you love? Like what's driving you? And I knew that I definitely had a passion like for bringing up my kids to be decent adults, but I didn't feel like I had a passion when it came to my work life. And I kind of prayed on it a lot. And I said, God, what is it besides parenting that I'm meant to be doing with my life? And the answer came in a really funny way. And that is,
I know you have kids and that probably a lot of people listening to this show have kids. So when your kids do something that makes you absolutely crazy and you ask them to stop, you know full well it's not going to stop and they're going to do it tomorrow and they're going to do it the day after that and you could tell them until you are blue in the face to stop whatever that activity is. So like one that drives my husband totally insane is that all three of my girls are gymnasts.
And what they love to do in our house is take a running leap at our sofa and flip over the back of it. Like little tiny insane acrobats, okay? And every day he says, stop flipping over the back of the sofa. And every day they take a running leap at the sofa and flip over the back of it. And so my husband and I came up with this joke, and I think a lot of parents actually use this to kind of diffuse tension. We say to them whenever they do these things,
Chaya Topas (02:32.657)
One day, when you're all grown up, we're going to visit you in your house and we're going to do all these same things. We're going to flip over the back of your sofa and we're going to take our muddy shoes into your house and we're going to wipe our hands on the walls and we're going to eat with our food just falling out of our mouths. Like all that stuff that just makes you crazy. And my husband, we always had that joke to diffuse the tension and one day my husband said like, you should write a book about that. That would be so funny.
funny. And I realized that because of my background and branding and marketing and graphics, I had all the skills I needed to write a book. And so I did. I wrote a book about adult parents who visit their grownup children and kind of wreck the same havoc that our kids wreck in our homes now. And it's kind of a, it's a really cute, funny book. And it's a lesson to the kids. Like, you know, maybe stop doing these things.
Maybe you don't want your parents to visit you when you're in college and wake you up at 5 a.m. and demand that you play with them, you know what I mean? And during the course of writing this book, I realized that's my passion. I love to write, I love to create illustrations, and so I've been doing that.
And that's wonderful. And I think you're not alone there. Many people have that realization. Maybe it's around 40, but I'm sure it's different for everyone is that, am I really living my purpose? Am I really living my passion? And what, you know, you start questioning things, you know, what is it that I'm supposed to be doing? Am I supposed to be doing something, right? So well done on taking that leap and taking action and finding your passion and at least asking those questions.
Now kids must find this book absolutely hilarious because I'm like, I love just reading the summary of the book, if you like. And can you share maybe how humor and lightheartedness can be effective tools in parenting? You obviously use this in the way that you bring up your three daughters. How can it be a tool in parenting?
Chaya Topas (04:37.789)
It is really, I think, one of the best tools in our arsenal to be able to laugh at ourselves in these situations, but mostly really to laugh at them. And I'll tell you why, because when they're involved in these activities that make us so upset, we have a choice. We can get really upset and scream at them, and I'm not gonna lie. It will definitely trigger me. I will definitely wanna scream at them, and sometimes I do.
But I have that like few seconds where I can choose to just laugh at it. And it diffuses the situation and then I don't yell at them. And if I don't yell at them, then everybody, it doesn't start that spiral of everybody being upset. Because if they do something I don't like and I yell, then I'm upset. And now they're upset. And we're all just upset at each other. And it doesn't really resolve the situation. But if I can take a step back and you know, if any parent can take that like
few seconds to take that step back and see the humor in the situation. Like, is it kind of funny that they do these things? Yeah, it's kind of funny. And if we're able to just see that humor, even for a moment, we can diffuse the tension of that situation and control our reaction.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So what advice then would you give to parents? I'll come back to the book in a sec. Who was struggling to find their passion because I think like we always talk about parenting on these podcasts. That's what that's what we're about. But there's no doubt parents listening right now who are going, yeah, maybe I don't hate, you know, you might have triggered something that thought, you know, maybe they haven't found what it is that their passion is in life or their purpose in life. They feel that way. You found yours. Pardon me. You found yours. What advice would you have to parents? Maybe.
Chaya Topas (06:04.792)
going through that similar process.
Chaya Topas (06:24.713)
My advice would be to be really patient with yourself in finding that passion and try out a lot of different things. Take a pottery class, you know, take a painting class, go to yoga, whatever you have to do to try new things that you haven't done before, make that time for yourself because you need that fulfillment. It can't all come from your kids. They're going to grow up.
and they're gonna move out and you're gonna need something that gives you fulfillment besides them. So really take that time to discover what your passion is.
Yeah, yeah, good advice actually. So how do you then navigate the balance between guiding your children and giving them the freedom to make their own decisions? It's something even I still struggle with to this day. I've got four kids of my own. I've got one granddaughter and one on the way. So you have a very busy family. But how do you navigate the balance specifically between guiding your children or telling them what to do but then giving them the freedom to make their own choices and figure things out?
Chaya Topas (07:31.453)
It's such a hard line because my instinct is always to be protective. And I have to really force myself in certain situations to pull back and say, you know, the only way they're going to learn is if I let them go. And so my daughter was invited to a basketball game tonight and the game is going to go past her bedtime. And my instinct is to say, absolutely not. You can't go.
But if she doesn't have these opportunities to experience new things, I'm limiting her growth potential. So I really do have to fight my natural instincts to control every aspect of their lives and say, okay, you can try something new, even if it means that you're not doing something that I would prefer. That's hard.
And it is hard, and it's one of the cool things about modern parenting is that, you know, the kids that are growing up differently and as parents, we want to expose our kids to more experiences. And many of them are finding their passions earlier. You know, many young, young adults are finding passions earlier than perhaps we did at our age or certainly my age. You know, we were sort of grown or like, speaking about my own upbringing to sort
fit into a box and you went to school, you went to uni, you got a job and then you died. And that was kind of, you got married and the kids, of course, somewhere in the middle there, but it was kind of a vanilla existence for many. Well, that's what we were told to do. And we're now, we have this wonderful gift of exposing our kids to all this stuff. I suppose that balance between giving your children the freedom and then, guiding them and telling them what to do.
I laughed at myself the other day because I'm doing this mental risk assessment with my granddaughter, right? She's going down the stairs, she's two years old, it looked a little bit tricky and I'm kind of going, well, okay, my instinct was to go and pick her up and walk her down the stairs, right? Or at least hold her hand. I'm like, no, what's the worst that's gonna happen? She's gonna bump her head and she'll cry. And I think this is a risk that we can probably have in this situation so they can discover things. I don't know, what do you reckon?
Chaya Topas (09:45.261)
I mean, I think you're right. I think you're right. It really is about holding ourselves back. It really is because they can't move forward as much if we're constantly holding their hands. But I think that's one of the most difficult parts of parenting is that letting go, even when they're so tiny, going up the stairs and letting them.
experience that and experience what's going to happen as a result of that. You know that at some point they will fall and that will be scary and they might get a bruise but they're not going to learn how to go up the stairs until they do that and I don't I have to agree with you that's very difficult.
And one of the things that I tend to keep in my mind is our children are always more capable than we allow them to be. And often we tend to, you know, protectively, look, we're hardwired to protect our kids. It's survival of the human race, right? But we have to sometimes extend that trust to an extent so that they can be capable beyond what we think that they can be capable of.
There, I'm getting deep there. Okay, so what role, let's get back to storytelling for a minute. What role do you think books and storytelling play in a child's development, particularly in today's digital landscape?
Chaya Topas (11:04.669)
I talk about this all the time because it's so near and dear to my heart. I feel like kids now Must be exposed to books early before Technology gets a hold of them because technology is such a bright shiny Glittery tool that they're so drawn to that if we don't give them this love of books now they may never get it and the more
We can distance themselves from technology while they're little and introduce them to books and to a love of reading and a love of The written word and things that are simple The better chance they have of holding on to that as adults and i'm sure Most people listening here and i'm sure you love reading And it's such an important skill to have to be able to open a book and to read it and to have that concentration to
to do that. You need that attention span to just focus on the book and not be looking around. And reading books teaches kids about having an attention span. So this is something we can do now that will benefit them the rest of their lives.
Yeah. And you were talking there and it reminded me of something that I read recently about, we're almost unable to become bored anymore. We're always feeling these moments of otherwise bored and with technology. Like, and I do it myself. Like I'll be sitting here for five minutes. My mind wanders. I pick up the phone, I start scrolling. And so, you know, books are a great way to, you know, help balance.
that I call it an addiction with technology that the kids have. In your book, when we visit you, you have this wonderful storyline where parents almost enacting their revenge fantasy in their grown children's homes. How do you think this playful perspective can help parents understand their kids better or help the kids understand their parents better?
Chaya Topas (13:08.857)
That's such a good question. How does it help parents? I think it helps parents because they can see how humor can diffuse, you know, a tense situation. But the feedback that I've gotten from all the parents who have bought my book is so incredible and that the kids get it. They really get it, especially between the ages of like five and eight. They read the book and they're like, Oh, these things really bother you. I, they get it.
And they kind of pull back from doing these things after they read the book. A couple of parents said, my kid started flushing the toilet after he read your book, or my kid hasn't been waking me up as early ever since we read your book. And so I think that because it's introduced in this humorous way, where kids normally they're hearing it from their parents like, stop doing that, that is so annoying, God damn it, stop it. And they're getting it in this like kind of
backdoor way that with humor, it's kind of reaching them a little bit better than it would have otherwise. The message is getting through.
And it really can help to strengthen the parent and child relationship. If they understand each other a little more and they've moved a little closer to understanding one another, then surely their relationship must be improved in the process. So your book's making a tremendous impact there, Chaya. So what are your, okay, what are some thoughts then as an author on the future of children's literature and the context of digital advancements? Should...
Chaya Topas (14:34.841)
I don't know, are books going to change? Are you writing augmented reality books or is it just, you know, hardcover, softcover type paper stuff? I don't know, like, do you think it's changing? Like, I see kids now reading books on digital tablets and I think, you know, at least they're reading, I suppose, but I don't know, what are your thoughts on literature in the context of digital advancement?
Chaya Topas (15:08.313)
So I agree, I see people reading books on their devices and children even reading books on their devices and I think it's a loss. I really do, I really believe in the power of paper and the power of just holding a book in your hands and not needing something that has to be recharged and can give you a real enjoyment in life and a means of escape without technology.
I'm very against books becoming digital. I really believe that, you know, there's something very special about being able to hold something in your hands that's so simple, yet so powerful.
What's been the most surprising challenge of living your purpose or becoming an author and doing something a little different?
Chaya Topas (16:01.325)
The challenge really, you know, it's twofold. One is that it's difficult to find. Like if you don't know what your passion is, finding it is difficult and it will take some time and it needs patience and it needs support. And that's the second problem is, you know, you wanna go out there and you wanna take classes and you wanna rediscover yourself, but you also have kids at home. Well, how is that gonna work?
And so it's having, you know, spousal support or support from friends and family to enable you to kind of go on this journey. And I was lucky that I had the support of my husband and who was willing to support us while I kind of went out to discover what it was I wanted to do with my life. And I know that we don't all have that kind of support. And so you might have to get really creative to look for, you know, your passion while still maintaining your work life and your home life.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And are you working on any other books at the moment?
Chaya Topas (17:03.285)
Well, I have two books published. I have, when we visit you, as well as a very cute book for toddlers, it's called Go Away Bad Dreams. And then I have two more books that are gonna be coming out this year. One is also for toddlers, it's called Someday Sunday. And one is gonna be a school book that comes with a curriculum and it's for middle schoolers and it's about drug addiction and it's called I Feel Bad. So a lot of exciting things in the works.
Fantastic. And the book for middle schoolers on drugs or drug addiction, where was it inspired? Is there something that made you passionate to write about that? Like, where does that come from after writing these three books? It's almost completely different, right? To some extent.
Chaya Topas (17:37.765)
Chaya Topas (17:50.113)
Yeah, it's very different and the book is a tribute to my brother Moshe. He dried up he died of a drug overdose five years ago and yeah, yeah it was really devastating. Everybody knew it was coming. He had been fighting a drug addiction for I don't know at that point close to 20 years and he died without
Sorry to hear that.
Chaya Topas (18:17.821)
my having really understood the disease. And I have a lot of guilt about that, that I never really understood what he was going through and I was so frustrated with him. And that's like being frustrated with somebody who has cancer. Like, can't you just stop having cancer? No, you can't. They don't have any control. And I did not understand that about addiction at the time of his death. And it took me a while to really fully understand it. And now that I do, I wanna give other people...
Chaya Topas (18:47.849)
some insight and I also feel like middle school is when addiction can start to take hold and that's the age where we really want to educate our young people to be the best advocates for themselves and for their friends in the war against drugs to say you're feeling these things this is what you should do and if you notice that your friends are feeling these things or your friends are behaving in a certain way
Chaya Topas (19:14.893)
Here's how you can respond in the most helpful way to prevent addiction from taking hold of their lives.
I'm sure Moshe will be very proud of that book. And you know, that's a legacy thing. So well done for taking that step and sharing your story. Maybe we can come back again after the book's released and maybe have a, that's a whole other podcast in and of itself that would be great for parents to hear and talk about the book. So keep that in mind, let's stay in touch. How can parents get your book? So go away, bad dreams and.
Chaya Topas (19:32.453)
Chaya Topas (19:52.973)
when we visit you, both books are available on Amazon and on barnesandnoble.com.
when we visit you.
Super, and if people want to get in touch with you or stay connected with you, social media, do you have any channels or?
Chaya Topas (20:05.517)
I am so easy to get a hold of. You can just Google my name and I'm on Instagram and Facebook and X and threads and LinkedIn. Just everything is at Chaya Topaz.
Fantastic, you are everywhere. Hi, thank you so much for your time and generosity today. Wonderful chat, some good outtakes for our parents listening today. Let's keep in contact, because I'd love to get back to you and circle back on your new book release. But other than that, oh, one question, I've got to ask the question. We always ask this question of our guests. If we had a time machine and you could go back to your 12 year old younger self.
What would Chaya say to her youngest 12 year old self? What's one piece of advice you'd give to yourself?
Chaya Topas (20:48.485)
Stay in school. Don't just graduate college and get your first job. Stay a little longer. I would say those years were so wonderful. And yeah, I wish that I had given a master's degree a chance. So I would tell my 12 year old self, stay in school. Oh, I would also tell my 12 year old self in two years.
That's a great piece of advice.
That's great motherly advice, well done. Yes.
Chaya Topas (21:19.336)
Stay away from boys.
Great advice, a great motherly advice there, Chaya. Thank you so much for your time and generosity. Great to chat to you and look forward to crossing paths again soon. Cheers and bye for now.
Chaya Topas (21:30.405)
that was great. Thank you, Jamie.