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Sunday, November 28, 2021

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20 lessons from 20 years of Fredericksburg Parent and Family

Thoughts from the publisher

This letter from the publisher was originally written in early 2020 to celebrate the beginning of our 20th year in business. It was put on hold when the pandemic hit, to make room for more urgent pandemic coverage for our readers. A year later, we are finally running it to celebrate the end of our 20th year and the beginning of the 21st. We are emerging stronger in many ways and hope you are too.

In this issue, we also take a peek at two local families affected by heart issues, with a story about heart patient AJ’s amazing community birthday party outside at the YMCA and a shoutout to powerhouse local nonprofit Gwyneth’s Gift, founded by her parents after the death of a local young girl. At least seven lives have been saved already though the free CPR lessons and AED kits provided by the foundation. Our hearts were warmed and we are sure yours will be too. If you want more stories of strength and resilience, see our Stories of Strength and Survival, Fredericksburg during COVID19. Feel free to share your stories of strength with us on our social media or send to chris@fredericksburgparent.net

  1. I’m not sure what’s harder—naming a magazine or naming a baby. When we were building the magazine in the late ‘90s—before the days where every business name had to make immediate sense to a search engine algorithm—cutesy, fun names were much more popular. We launched our first issue in 2000 under the name Nurture. This still embodies our mission for Fredericksburg-area parents, children and families, but the realities of the Internet quickly forced us to re-think that name. We chose Fredericksburg Parent & Family to more precisely reflect the kind of information our audience is looking for.
  2. Parenthood can be lonely, and we need to do something about that. When I had my first daughter, I had quit a career managing publications for national organizations in D.C., and found myself struggling to find the resources I needed as a new mom in the Fredericksburg community. Googling wasn’t a thing yet, and all of my family was out of state. Starting this magazine was a way for me to work through the process of finding community. We are a region with so many military families and others who have recently moved here, and I know that many our readers also feel this struggle. The pandemic has only intensified these feelings of isolation. FredParent exists to help you make meaningful connections in this wonderful community.
  3. Let’s work harder to support the parents of special-needs children. I still second-guess steps I took as I navigated the maze of diagnoses, treatments and specialists necessary to help my special-needs child. Running a parenting magazine has in part been my way of learning more about the community resources I need to help my own family. I am so proud of every single article FredParent has published sharing resources and perspectives from parents and organizations who help those in our community with special needs. Our new support group for parents managing schooling during the pandemic has been a similar adventure.
  4. Stop worrying about everyone else—do your thing. Media is a competitive sport. FredParent has seen its share of competitors and changes in the media landscape over the years. I have learned that the best way to compete is to stay lock-focused on your own product, and to use competition as a way to constantly get better. There are so many challenges during a pandemic, and not enough resources to go around so cooperation and support is better.
  5. Positive feedback is powerful. Early on, a mom wrote me a letter about how she had picked the magazine up at the mall and read it at the stoplights on the way home because she was so excited that this product existed. Letters like that kept me going in the early days.
  6. Engage in your community in ways that aren’t your work. When running a magazine gets stressful, I am so thankful for the organizations I’m involved in that are completely unrelated to my work. Stafford Junction, the Rappahannock Rotary Club and PEO International—which funds scholarships for women—have greatly enriched my life.
  7. Preschool and summer camp signups happen in January and February. Boy, do I wish someone had told me that when my kids were younger. Of course this year, all bets are off.
  8. I can trace my children’s development through the back issues of FredParent because I worked out many of my parenting struggles right here in these pages. From advocating for your child in the medical setting to how to start a Girl Scout troop, many of the topics came from real-life problems I confronted as my children grew.
  9. Should you get your tween an iPhone? I don’t know, but that remains the No. 1 searched topic on FredericksburgParent.net.
  10. Science is important! I started Science Saturdays at Germanna Community College after the Community Foundation’s Women and Girls Fund identified the importance of encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM. The reality is that we need to encourage better STEM education for all of our kids, and to help every child, no matter the obstacles they may face to taking a traditional path through math and science courses.
  11. We live in a great community. The pandemic has shown me how resilient and competent so many of our community institutions are. Mary Washington Hospital, our schools, our community services board, the community foundation, Empowerhouse, our churches have all worked so hard to keep us safe and healthy during an incredibly difficult time.
  12. Consistency is key. Twenty years of publication means 20 years of deadlines and monthly production cycles. It’s a great lesson in the value of consistent hard work. When I started, it was hard to get in the door with potential advertisers. As we have consistently published and been a presence at community events, the FredParent name has developed staying power, and I feel so thankful for the high-quality businesses and service providers who advertise through our print and digital platforms today.The pandemic has tested us as never before, and I’m thankful to say we never stopped printing and distributing and even added an issue, “Stories of strength and Survival during Covid19”
  13. Printed magazines still have a place in our lives. We all need more opportunities to put our phones down. Although, look for our qr code posters if you want to swipe and read.
  14. Let go of perfectionism. Every single month, it’s hard for me and my team to let the issue we have lovingly assembled go out to the printer. There’s always one more thing we could do, one more change we could make. But deadlines are a reality of running a print magazine, and that’s a gift. There will always be another issue, another chance to say what we need to say. Sometimes we all need to remember not to let the endless pursuit of perfection keep us from sharing our work with the world.
  15. The problem with children’s issues is that the parents age out of them before they can see change. Fredericksburg Parent has been a way that our community can sustain interest in and a focus on children’s issues over a longer period of time.
  16. Parents should never feel like they can’t ask questions. Whether it’s at the doctor’s office or in school: Parents, you know your child best. Don’t be shy about asking the questions you need to ask to look out for their interests.
  17. We have so much more information at our fingertips today than we did when we launched our first issue in 2000. The support groups and information you can find online today are a lifesaver for so many people. But we still need a curator to help us find quality information that matches our interests. That’s one of the roles FredParent plays in today’s media landscape.
  18. If you don’t believe in it, it won’t work. Like any media business, we’ve struggled through recessions, digital competition and the changing ways we all consume information. We’ve kept going because our team believes in what we do every month. Since I first had this idea as a new mom trying to navigate her community, I have felt very strongly that this was my mission in life, the thing I was here to do.
  19. There’s more work to do. When we celebrate our 30th year, I hope we can celebrate the fact that we have shone a light on some of the many issues that will affect the health and happiness of today’s children. Those include maternal mortality, poverty and the acute need we have as a state and nation to invest more in education, from our school facilities to teacher pay.
  20. Don’t hesistate. Connect. Our calendar, our Facebook page, our e-newsletters and monthly magazine are here for a reason. We at FredParent want to connect people with the resources they need to survive parenthood and enrich their family lives. I have learned so much over the years from connecting with other parents and organizations here in the Fredericksburg community. Find an event, find a group, and start making your own connections.

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