Mom Appreciation

When was the first time you appreciated your parent or primary caregiver?

I adored my mother as a child. I thought she was the most beautiful, perfect person there was.

I resisted her as a teenager. I looked to her for guidance, but fought for my independence and space to make my own way.

I moved away from her (figuratively and literally) slowly over time — after I finished school, moved away and eventually got married.

Then I had my son. When I had him home for a few days I had an ‘aha’ moment. So this is what it takes to be a parent. This is work. This is hard. Wow, my mom must have really loved me. She made parenting look easy. She always had a confidence in her parenting skills and I never doubted her ability to do the job. In reflection, I am in awe of her and what she accomplished. Now it was my turn, which got me thinking will I be as good a mom to my boys as she was to me? It’s motivated me to try my best to live up to the bar she set everyday since.

As a mom, I think about my boys and how they view me. Am I adored by them? If I am, they hide it well. 🙂 Are they resisting me? A little, for sure. Are they starting to move away? Thankfully no. But one thing I know — they love me, and I, with every ounce of my being, love them.

Thank you, Mom, for everything, and Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and all the other moms out there.

I will be taking some time off to enjoy time with family and friends and will be back in June.

 

 

It’s Natural

Does your child like nature movies?

Mine are obsessed with Disneynature films. Every time a promotion comes on for an upcoming movie my kids get excited. I love their enthusiasm for wanting to see these films, and have enjoyed seeing each one myself.

We recently went to see Born in China. The film follows several animals for a year with a focus on the cycle of life. I had heard that the movie had a sad part, but wasn’t prepared for it when it came. *** Spoiler Alert — please stop reading if you have not seen the film and do not want to know what happens ***  The mother snow leopard is killed in battle while trying to get food for her young. As a mom I related to the mother snow leopard and her desire to do whatever it takes to feed and protect her young. My heart ached for the cubs she left behind. My mind thinking what will happen to them without her? Will they be okay?  My gut told me they would, but I couldn’t shake the sadness I felt. My oldest turned towards me. “Mom, you’re not crying are you?” he said. He clearly is leaving childhood and entering teen-hood. He would have shared my feelings only a year or two ago and now he was being stoic and acting as though it shouldn’t make anyone cry. He looked over at his younger brother, who seemed to be handling the mother’s death much better than I. He seemed un-phased. My initial reaction was please don’t let him too be growing out of openly feeling his feelings too.  When we got to the car, I asked the kids which parts they liked the most, and which parts they liked the least. My oldest sad he didn’t like it when the snow leopard family was made to leave their initial home by another. I said mine was when the mother died. My youngest chimed in and said, “She died? I just thought she was in a deep sleep.” He became visibly upset and his older brother quickly jumped in, “You’re not going to cry now are you?” To which I replied, “He and I can cry if we want to.” He let it go.

I’m not sure my youngest cried about the mom dying, but it was reassuring to know he was still willing to feel his feelings and not deny them. My oldest is growing up. I will continue to encourage him to feel his feelings, but know he wants to blend in with his peers and appear aloof and un-phased instead of allowing himself to express how he really feels. It’s a challenge to raise emotionally intelligent human beings, but I’m not gonna stop trying.

Disneynature showed a preview for Dolphins which will premiere Earth Day 2018 and there’s a good chance my boys and I will take in the movie. If nothing else for the beauty and intimacy you feel seeing with the animals in their natural environment. The movie may have parts that will make me cry, it may not, but I’ll treasure it either way because I’ll get to see it with my kids.

Where do you see similarities in parenting in nature?

 

Be Easily Forgotten or a Hero?

Have you ever been embarrassed by a sibling or family member?

My oldest has reached an age where he is becoming embarrassed by his younger brother. While he loves his brother, they get along quite well together, he is starting to be influenced by what his friends think.

We were having dinner and my oldest decided he needed to share with us that his friends make fun of his younger brother because he gets excited over little kid things — mind you he’s a few years younger than his brother, so it’s normal for him to be into the things he’s into, but his older brother was embarrassed none-the-less.

My youngest son was at the table, made a frown and said, “that hurts my feelings and kind of makes me feel bad.” I agreed. I was pretty unhappy my oldest had shared his opinion so openly with disregard for how it might make his brother feel.

My husband and I began to talk to our oldest. My husband reminded our son of a  segment we’d listened to on the radio where a man recalled an experience from his childhood where he’d followed an assignment given by the teacher to write down something you like and then asked the kids to give their assignment to a peer to read aloud. The boy hadn’t realized the assignment would be read aloud and immediately became embarrassed when he knew it would. As he suspected, the kids started to laugh at what he’d written. He wanted to disappear, until one of his peers, a girl in the class asked, “What’s the point of this assignment? To embarrass each other?” It stopped the class, it stopped the teacher, it ended the assignment. He never forgot that girl and how she stood up and ended his humiliation. He ends the story by challenging the listener to consider who you want to be in life — one that flies under the radar and is easily forgotten, or be the hero and remembered forever? We challenged our son to think about who he wanted to be — we’d hope he’d want to (and have the courage to) be the hero. “You stand up for your brother. You don’t ever tolerate someone else making fun of him,” I said. I looked at his younger brother and said, “And you do the same for him. You guys both need to look out for one another.”

We ended the conversation after getting the boys to confirm they understood us and would work to stand up for each other, even in uncomfortable situations. I’m hoping to raise heroes, not those easily forgotten.

How are you raising your child to stand up for their siblings or peers? How are you teaching them to be someone’s hero?

Cutting Your Own Path

What reminds you that winter is over?

For me, it’s when the tulips and daffodils finally bloom. They are at full peak where I live and are a constant reminder that warmer weather is coming. This winter was bitter cold and gray. The sun and blooming colors is doing all of us well. There is nothing better than walking down a path or street that’s bursting with different colors. It’s quite glorious.

My sons know that winter is over when we go outside more, and this year the occasion was marked with their bike riding. My youngest has finally learned how to ride his bike to where he can really enjoy it. It was a struggle for him to learn — getting started was what tripped him up.  Getting started with any new task we are learning can trip us up, right?

I was talking to a friend who is going through a career change. She has struggled with cutting her own path (I think something many of us can relate to). It reminded me of how my son struggled to learn to ride. He convinced himself the path he needed to take to learn to ride was too unfamiliar, would take skills he didn’t have and couldn’t master. He was struggling with unfamiliar domain. I shared with her my passion for teaching my boys how to make their own way in the world and help show them how to cut their own path. It had made me think about how when you navigate something new, it’s like looking at an overgrown path littered with brush that you have to cut away. At first, hacking at the brush can be tough, unfamiliar and even scary, but after a while, you figure out how to do it and start getting better at making a clearing you can pass through.  When you emerge into the clearing you appreciate the path you’ve made and the place you’ve arrived. I’m not planning to take my children to the jungle or give them a machete to clear brush, but I do want them to know that they have it in them to get from the can’t (ride my bike) to the can (I did it!). Much like the seasons. You sometimes have to make your way through until you make it to the other side. It’s worth it, the scenery at the end is incredible.

How are you teaching your child to make their own way?

Kids and War

How do you explain war to your child?

My knee jerk reaction is to try to shield them from the horror. There is nothing pretty about war. What is going on in Syria is unbelievably sad, and angering. To see people suffer, lose there homes and have to flee their countries in order to survive is unfathomable. Seeing innocent people killed, particularly the children by chemical weapons is devastating.

My boys have been wondering what is going on in Syria and why. It’s hard to explain. It’s ultimately about people not being able to get along and resorting to violence instead of finding peaceful solutions. I get that solving these types of problems aren’t easy, but I really want my boys to know that war is not the answer and never will be.

My youngest son got some exposure to war recently in his social studies class.  The class was studying Native Americans and their struggle to maintain control of their native land from the settlers.  Each class member was assigned a position — you either were a Native American tribe member or a member of the American military. My son was part of a tribe. The class was given different situations and asked how they wanted to handle it. In one situation, both groups wanted a piece of land and neither was willing to give the land to the other. Their choice was to 1) sign a treaty that allowed them to share the land, or 2) decide to fight the other for the land. My son said, “Mom, I signed the treaty, but others kids in the tribe decided they wanted to fight.” “What happened? ” I asked. “Well, I lived,” said my son, “those who fought died.” Wow, I thought, this is a pretty good lesson he’s learning. The next challenge the class was faced with was 1) stay on the Reservation and be safe, or 2) fight and have to get your land back. “What did you choose?” I asked my son. “Well, I was going to go back to the Reservation because I wanted to be safe, but got accidentally shot by one of my classmates who thought I was trying to leave the Reservation,” he said. The idea that my son got ‘shot’ by friendly fire didn’t go unnoticed. Seems  this class activity was a little more realistic than I would have thought. “What did the lesson teach you?” I inquired. “Well, fighting almost always results in death. You might as well find a way to make peace.” Wow. Nine years old and he’s already figured this out. I wish some of our world leaders could.

How do you talk to your child about war? How do you help them understand unexplainable things?

No Foolin’

Have you ever had someone play a prank on you?

Up to this point, my sons have cared very little about April Fools Day. April 1st has come and gone for 11 years without ever a mention. But this year, it was different. My oldest decided that he wanted to play a prank on his brother and convince him that Saturday wasn’t Saturday but a school day and asked my husband and I if we would play along. He gave us instructions: “Don’t mention it’s Friday when it’s Friday.” “Dad, since you get up early on the weekends, wake us up at the normal time and have us get ready.” I’m not sure how far he thought his brother would believe it was really a school day, but he was committed to trying. His plan started to come apart when his brother on Friday, March 31st started singing on the way to school “It’s Friday. It’s Friday. It’s Friday.” My husband and I just looked at each other. None of us had said anything about what day it was, but of course he knew it was Friday. This was going to be harder to pull off than my oldest expected.

I have to admit I’m not a big fan of being pranked or tricked, or being made to look like an April Fool, but I can remember that I was curious as a kid — was April Fools fun for everyone and I was missing out on it?  Should I try to play a trick on someone?  Remembering that I am a terrible liar helped me make my decision. No pranks for me, thank you very much.

I can appreciate my son’s curiosity. So much of life is about trying new things, testing boundaries, finding out what is enjoyable and what isn’t. I don’t know what would have happened if his brother had taken the bait and believed it really was a Friday. I’m guessing he would have thought it was funny for a while, and then probably regretted it once his brother let him know he didn’t enjoy the trick. Thankfully the prank didn’t go very far and my husband built in a trip to the doughnut store for my son being a good sport about the whole thing. Allowing your child to explore new things — particularly ones you aren’t crazy about — isn’t easy. No foolin’.

How do you help your child navigate the unfamiliar? How do you help them try new things and test boundaries?

 

And Now for the Latest News…Potty Talk

Does your child think potty talk is hilarious?

Mine do. As much as I was hoping to avoid this phase, it’s not happening. My sons think it is hilarious to talk about passing gas. I happened to catch a segment on one of the late shows that highlighted a young boy who ‘crashed’ a newscaster who was trying to cover the weather and traffic. The boy (I’m guessing one of the news crew’s sons) entered the picture unexpectedly. The reporter tried to go along with it (and did so valiantly, in my opinion). After realizing the boy wasn’t going to leave without being extracted by another adult, the reporter asked him if he wanted to help him with the weather to which he said, “sure” and promptly turned around and said, “It looks like there are farts over here, and a bunch of toots.” I couldn’t help but laugh. This little boy was the mirror image of what my sons think is hilarious. Thankfully I was watching a recording of the show, so I had my boys watch it, and asked them if any of it looked familiar. They were in stiches. They just loved that this kid had gone on screen and done this.

I have to admit, it was hard not to laugh and see the silliness of it all. I’m still not sure why my boys (like most kids) find normal bodily functions funny, but they do. I’m still not crazy about my kids and their love of potty talk, but I am a fan of seeing them giggling and having fun.

What makes your child laugh?

No Sugar Coating

When I sat down to write this, I intended to write something light-hearted, maybe even something inspired by the newly released Beauty and the Beast movie, but I couldn’t after my son shared a story about his friend experiencing racism.

It’s not an easy topic to discuss, but the conversation I’ve had with my son has stayed with me since we had it, and I need to get this out.

Have you talked to your child about racism?

I’ve never felt equipped to talk about racism to my children because I’ve experienced very little racism myself.  Gender inequality and sexism I can speak volumes to, but I’m no expert on racism. I can remember when my oldest son first learned about Rosa Parks in kindergarten and became obsessed with understanding why African-Americans were treated so unfairly. “Why did black people have to sit in the back of the bus in the first place?” he asked. I’d respond with something along the lines of “People were small minded”, “People were ignorant”, or “It’s complicated, but know that it was wrong and horribly unfair.”

Both my boys have questioned racism over the years, particularly anytime they’ve overheard a news report. “Why did the police officer shoot that man who was running away from him?” “What’s going on in Ferguson?” “Why don’t some people like Obama?” Each time, my husband and I have attempted to answer their questions, but I’ve never felt like we gave adequate responses. For me, the hardest thing I’ve had to try to explain to my children as their parent is why adults behave badly. And when I hear (or see) another adult being visibly racist its the epitome of adults behaving badly in my book. Children learn from adults, so as teachers of our children we are all responsible for racism continuing (whether we are the ones perpetrating it or standing by and letting it happen). Now, I know there are many reasons why many of us aren’t more vocal or willing to take action when we see it: we fear retaliation, we think it’s none of our business, or because we’re complacent and/or complicit; but what does that teach our kids?

Earlier this week, my son came home from school and asked “why are people still so racist?” I asked him what he was talking about, as he was clearly upset. “Shawn (who is a black friend of his) told me he was playing outside with his brothers over the weekend and a neighbor called the cops of them. They weren’t doing anything wrong, they were just playing. Why would someone do that?” he asked, then added, “He was pretty scared, but thankfully the cop told him that he wasn’t doing anything wrong and he wasn’t going to be arrested and not to worry about it.” I was stunned, and saddened. The only “crime” Shawn was guilty of was being black in a predominantly white part of town. I live in a liberal-minded, highly diverse city, and foolishly thought things like this didn’t still happen here. But it did. If my son had been doing the same thing his friend had, no one would have called the cops on him. I moved from sad to mad. I wanted to do something about it, but was at a loss. I had no idea who called the police. I couldn’t confront them. All I knew to do was talk to my son about what happened. I shared his anger in what happened, we talked about what Shawn must have gone through and how scary that must have been; and that what happened wasn’t right. I felt good that we acknowledged the injustice, but felt helpless to right this wrong.

I’m hate racism (the irony of this statement is not lost on me).  There’s no way to sugar coat this. It’s ugly. I don’t see the benefit in breaking each other down and holding each other back. How do we get through the hate (or fear or whatever is allowing this to continue) and get to the other side of understanding and acceptance? How do we become a culture that wants to help each other not hurt each other. I feel ill-equipped to address this beyond my family. But starting at home is exactly where it should begin, right? It starts with me as my kids’ parent. It starts with you.

How are you teaching your child to accept and care for others that are different from them?

March Madness

What does March Madness make you think of?

Basketball right? I would agree with that, up until I a few years ago when I realized March is the month where a culmination of things come together: the first flowers of Spring start to bloom, time change (Spring forward), St. Patrick’s Day, and, the NCAA basketball tournaments.

As a parent, this month always seems to go by in a flash. My boys and I were just admiring the first crocuses and daffodils of the season. Every year it seems these flowers come earlier than we expect. We braced ourselves for losing an hour of the day (and how that always seems to throw off our sleep cycle for a week) when the clock jumped an hour forward last night. The kids are excited about it being St. Patrick’s Day later this week. Always a fun day for our family to wear green, dance, be silly (by doing silly dancing in our house), and hope for good luck. And last, but certainly not least, there is the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments. It’s not a family affair yet, more of something I like to watch, but my son’s are starting to show some interest in so there is hope it will become one in future years.

Before I know it, March will be over and we’ll be into April with another flurry of events: Easter, Spring Break and dreams of summer will begin.

I’m doing my best to enjoy the ‘madness’ and not let it pass me by. Smell the flowers. Check. Spring forward. Check (I had no choice). 🙂 Dance a silly jig with my kids on St. Patty’s Day. Looking forward to it. And enjoy watching the basketball tournament — Bounce. Bounce. Check.

How are you enjoying March ‘madness’?  What family activities make up your March?

 

 

Stressed Out

Have you ever seen your child stressed out?

My boys participate in their school play. One acts in the play, the other is in stage crew. Both want to do a good job each year, all the kids do. Mistakes always happen — sometimes ones you can easily recover from (e.g. someone walks out on stage at the wrong time, but quickly gets themselves back off), some not (e.g. someone says the wrong long line and it throws everyone else off — the kids struggle with whether they should pick up at the new spot or try to get the scene restarted where it should have). For the kids it is stressful. For the parents, it’s hard to notice (because you aren’t as aware of every single line, object placement and timing of everything like those participating are), and hard to console once you’ve realized it happens (e.g. upset kids after the show).  You try saying, “You did a great job!” and “You made a mistake? Well, no one noticed” which is often times true, but to the kids, they feel embarrassed, disappointed, sad, and/or angry. I’ve had mild success in getting them to acknowledge that performing and supporting the cast, regardless of mistakes, takes guts; and that the experience is supposed to be something they enjoy not fret over. They appease me with mumble’s of “okay, Mom” or “yea, we get it,” but it’s not convincing. Once the play is over, the stress disappears replaced by relief which is interesting to tangibly see — smiles on their faces, bodies less tense, more willing to engage — it got me thinking about my husband and I and our own stresses and how that must come across to our kids.

I sometimes think I didn’t know what stress was until I became a parent — the kids are not the cause; I am. I want to be present with my kids, teach them things, have fun and enjoy parenthood. At the same time, juggling a job and the increase in household responsibilities (meals, cleaning, carpooling, etc.) requires energy which gets depleted with so many things needing to get done. Being a parent can sometimes feel like a performance too. We are moving things (much like a stage crew) and do our own ‘acting’ when we put on a brave or ‘everything’s fine’ face in front of others when we are in fact tired, strained, and stressed.  Throw on what’s going on in our country politically, and the stress can feel overwhelming. When I force myself to relax I notice that I hold my shoulders high and my jaw tensed. Amazing that I don’t realize this or feel it until I’m forced to take a few deep breaths and lower my shoulders and loosen my jaw. I wonder what that looks like to my kids seeing Mom more relaxed, more easily smiling and more willing to engage then just trying to get through to what’s next. My guess is they prefer it to stressed out Mom, who is more snippy and less present.

My kids have once again reminded me of things I need to work on. Step 1) Notice stress, Step 2) Let it go. I’m much happier (not to mention more pleasant to be around) when I do this.

How do you handle stress? How do you help your child handle theirs?