I Have a Dream

What are your dreams for your child?

I’m inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream for his:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a teenager I questioned my parents on why they had had kids — the world is a tough place, why would you want to bring someone into it?  My dad said, “To leave the world a better place. You want your children to do better than you did.” I got it.  Wanting your child to be a better person, a better contributor to the world than you are is a lofty goal.  It is my dad’s dream for his own children, and I’m hoping to achieve it with my own.

It got me thinking about what my dreams are for my own children. I want them to be a better person than I am. I want them to contribute in a more meaningful way. But my dreams going even further. I too want them to live in a country where they are not judged by their outward appearance (and not judge others by their’s), but by the content of their character. I want them to appreciate the beauty all around them, even in the most common places; to care for others, to be empathic, understanding and giving; and to experience as much joy in their life as possible.

As a parent, I have to evaluate what I’m doing to make the dreams I have for my boys a reality. I can be open about my dreams with my children, and try to get them to see the benefit of the dreams I have for them, but ultimately they will have to decide which of my dreams they want adopt and make their reality.

What dreams to you have for your child?

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr., for your inspiring words.

Bad Dreams

My oldest is nine. He is starting to want to branch out and watch TV programs on channels other than Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. He understand that the ratings on a TV show are a good guide to help him understand if my husband and I will be okay with him watching it’s content. He asked me to sit with him while he watched a show about the history or legends of strange places. I wasn’t keen on him watching the show, as I felt it could be confusing and potentially give him nightmares, but knew that I couldn’t shield him from such show forever. I sat down with him and proceeded to watch the show.

Part of the episode included a gangster getting killed by other gangsters who were trying to free him. The show did a good job of showing minimal carnage, but you got the idea of what happened: there were Tommy guns, and spatters of blood with people lying on the ground. I told my son we needed to find something else to watch. Later that night after my son had gone to bed, he got up and told me he couldn’t sleep. I knew this would happen, I thought, ugh! I told him to sit down and talk to me about what was keeping him awake. “I can’t get the image out of my head. I keep thinking someone is going to come out of nowhere and shoot me,” he shared. My first attempt to make him feel better was based on facts: gangsters are something we mainly see on TV, not in real life. I proceeded to detail when gangsters were at their height and why gangsters were dangerous. He thought about this for a minute and said, “Thanks, but that doesn’t really help.” Okay, what else can I try? I thought about the technique I use when I get scary images in my head, I try to turn them into something less threatening or scary. I try to turn them into something silly or ridiculous. It’s hard to be afraid when the image makes you smile or laugh. I shared my idea with my son, “what if we could make what’s scary you into something funny?” He smiled at the thought. I said, “What if instead of bullets coming out of the gun, tickets, like you win at the Family Fun Center, came out of the gun; and it made a ding-ding-ding sound instead of a bang-bang-bang sound?” I had him now, he was grinning from ear to ear. “Or what if, instead of pulling a gun out of his coat, he pulled out a butterfly?” my son added with a laugh. “I love it! That’s really good,” I said. I could tell my son was feeling better and had a strategy that was helping him.

It turned out the TV show provided an opportunity to connect with my son and allowed me to give him a tool he could use; it felt good.

How have you helped your child work through a nightmare? What unexpected places provided an opportunity for you to teach, or connect with, your child?

And…..Action!

Has your child ever asked you to do something you didn’t know how to do, or aren’t sure how to teach them?

There are things I want to teach my children and expose them to, and some things I realize I don’t know how to do or probably wouldn’t be the best teacher (e.g. skiing or snowboarding!), but I also know I can go to a ski resort and pay for them to get a lesson with a skilled instructor. What do you do when you’re not sure who can help?

My boys love stop motion video. It doesn’t matter what format—clay, cutout, graphic, puppet or Lego. You can see stop motion in greater abundance than I did as a kid. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other holiday classics encompassed my exposure to stop motion. My children’s experience has been different. My oldest was able to participate in an iPad Animation class after school one semester. I wasn’t sure how the course would work at first—would they be using clay? Or something else? I soon learned Lego was the format of choice, and the class provided (just for the class itself) the iPads for the kids to use. Every week when I’d pick up my son from class he couldn’t wait to show me how many frames he had shot and what the video action looked like. My husband and I were struck with advancements in technology. Star Wars came to theaters when we were our son’s age, and now our children had tools to make their own movie. Amazing! The iPad Animation class has long since ended and my boys have continued to seek it out. We came across Lego animation both professionally (Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menance) which my kids love, and amateur videos on YouTube. When my children saw that other kids were making Lego videos, they wanted to make them too. The only problem, my husband and I didn’t know how to help—we weren’t familiar with what software the teacher had used with my son’s animation class and weren’t sure if we could figure it out. Because neither my husband nor I were familiar with what we needed to do next, we did what any parent would do. We stalled.

My oldest son began asking, almost daily, to make a Lego movie. “One day,” I replied early on. So he adjusted his question, “Can we make a Lego video one day?” to which I’d reply, “Yes, one day.” It was clear to me that the line of questioning and my response were not making me comfortable. I want to expose my children to different things and certainly want to encourage any interests or passions they have, particularly if they help them explore their creativity or capabilities. I was resistant to allow my sons to make videos because I didn’t know how to help. After a few weeks of stalling I finally told myself enough! I decided it was time to do some digging around the iPad/iPhone App Store to see what was out there. I tried video animation first and got some hits, but not what I was hoping for. I tried again this time typing in the key words Stop Motion Animation. I got a match and found a tool my kids could use. The app is called Stop Motion Animation (go figure!) and is really easy to use. My sons and even my niece started using the software right away, navigated it easily and have made numerous movies since. They love it.

Once I saw how easy the application worked and how much joy my children got from it, I asked myself why did it take you so long to make this happen? I determined not knowing what to do next was what inhibited me from taking action. And isn’t that something we all incur as parents from time to time? Part of my role as a parent is to teach my children things. Getting out of my comfort zone to do something new, even if its simply finding out a way to help my children make stop motion Lego videos, is good for me. I want my children to push themselves to see what they are capable of doing, and it’s good for me to do that too. I’m reminded of the cue given when a scene is being shot in a movie or show…and…ACTION!  When the director says “action” the actors start the scene. They may make mistakes and have to do multiple takes to get the scene right, but hesitation to start doesn’t serve the project or any of the people involved well. Instead of pausing or stalling when faced with a can-we-make-a-video or other situation where I’m not sure what exactly I need to do next in the future, I’ll be less hesitant to jump in and start figuring it out (and….action!). It might not be easy or comfortable for me, but will get easier if I take action.

What prevents you from taking action when your child wants to try something you’re not familiar or comfortable teaching them? What tools do you employ to help to help you take action?

Survive and Advance

ESPN’s 30 for 30 is currently airing “Survive and Advance.” It is the story of Coach Jim Valvano and his 1983 NC State Wolfpack team who won the highly coveted NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship against all odds. It’s a gripping story about a coach who had an amazing gift for connecting and teaching others lessons that transcend the game of basketball and applied to how to live your life. Jim Valvano, also known as Jimmy V, received a diagnosis of cancer and sadly passed away in 1993. Twenty years later he continues to inspire.

The title of this documentary is perfect. Coach Valvano and his team survived many close games, often coming back from behind right at the very end, to advance to the next round towards their ultimate goal—a championship.  Its clear in the documentary that while luck may have played a part, there was a lot more to it and that was Coach V. Coach Valvano believed in his team with a passion, he believed that he would win a championship and that his team would win a championship. He had this dream, and felt so strongly about it he had his team practice cutting down the nets so they would know what it felt like. He shares that he knew how difficult it would be to win a championship, but that his father had given him a great gift—a  belief in him that he could do anything. Wow, I thought, what an amazing gift. When the diagnosis of cancer came, he fought it with the same belief that he could do anything, he would beat this. He went to great lengths to survive and advance (live) every possible day. Towards the end of his battle the Jimmy V Foundation was set-up to raise money to beat (cure) Cancer.  The motto of the Jimmy V Foundation is “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

This story really spoke to me as a parent. When our child is born, we go into survival mode. It can sometimes feel like a struggle to make it to the next day.  But over time as we get more comfortable with our abilities we advance, and are given the awesome task of shaping our child into an amazing, capable human being.  We can inspire our children, get them to dream, and give them confidence in themselves by showing them we believe in them. We can support them as they grow, teach them and guide them to never ever give up, on their dreams or themselves.

Thank you Coach Valvano for being such an inspiration.

How do you inspire? How do you dream? How do you survive and advance?

And the Winner is…

My oldest son recently entered a drawing contest that was being held at my husband’s office. He drew a picture depicting what he thought my husband and his co-workers did each day. Last week we found out our son had been awarded the 1st place prize for his submission.  When my husband told our son the good news, our son showed a mixture of surprise and disbelief (I won?), and then the biggest smile came across his face. Cheers and hugs followed. We were very proud and excited he was acknowledged for his work.

Seeing my son’s reaction to winning the contest reminded me of the Oscars, and watching the winner take the stage to accept their statue exhibiting surprise and glee. The Oscars will be held later today and many of us will be eagerly watching to see who wins one of these prestigious awards. It’s easy to get taken in by the Oscars, the clothes, the jewelry, the glitter and celebrity. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

I think about the commitment, sacrifice and choices each actor has made to be nominated. Prior to having children, I would have told you I could dedicate myself and make any sacrifices needed for my career. After having children I could not say the same. I think regardless of the sacrifice and dedication we have for a job, be it a professional job, being a parent, volunteering, etc., we ultimately desire recognition for our work. We crave being told we’re doing a good job. It makes us feel good, it reinforces all the hard work we’ve done, and also helps inspire us to go on (Keep up the good work!).

While I wish I had the talent for acting that the nominees have, I realize that I don’t, and my chances of going to the Oscars are very low. I do, however, see parallels between the actors and me. We both have worked hard, and both hope to be recognized for our work.

In lieu of an Oscar, I’ll take a hug or an “I love you” from my kids as a job well done. As a parent, it’s all the recognition I need.

What makes you feel like you’ve won?

Gingerbread Dream House

Every year I am amazed at the creativity and great lengths people go to for the holidays. Homes and yards I didn’t pay much mind to before, are now filled with lights and decorations and have my full attention. I love how it brings the streets to life giving off that warm feeling you normally only experience inside someone’s home.

While we decorate our home for the holidays, we don’t hold a candle to some of our neighbors (note: we truly appreciate our neighbors decorations, it gives us a great reason to look out our front windows).  Since meeting my husband the art of making, or more accurately decorating, gingerbread houses has become a tradition for our family.  This was a tradition in his family and we incorporated it into ours.

Decorating a gingerbread house is all about how you envision it in its final state. It’s about making (baking), constructing and adding the final touches. It’s about sugar, lots of sugar; colors, the more the better; and details, a great house has a lot of fine detail like a cat in the window or a wreath on the door.

It’s fun to work on a gingerbread house. There is no judgment or expected perfection. It’s about trial and error, being together as a family and building something together.

I’ve thought about what a real dream home might look like for my family in the future. And while I may fantasize about increased square footage, and the number of bedrooms or baths it may have, I’m reminded I need look no further than my family’s gingerbread house, it’s more like our home than I realized. Each year it never changes in size but does in appearance, and most importantly it always brings us together as a family.  I think it’s the perfect dream house.

What holiday traditions do you have that brings your family together?