Let’s Go Camping

When you think of summer what comes to mind? Playing on a Slip ‘n Slide, spending lots of time in the pool, going swimming in a lake, fishing, making homemade ice cream or something else?

My boys and I have never camped in the summer, but that’s going to change this year. We’ve camped before (see blogs on our camping trips in the past) but also in cooler months. I can remember camping as a kid and it was almost always in the summer months. Memories of bugs, relentless heat, and sweat come to mind. It’s probably why I’ve avoided it up to this point. Instead of doing traditional camping (and by that, I mean getting in the car and driving to a camping site) we’re going to camp in our own backyard. I realize this isn’t a unique idea, but it’s a first for us. Not having to drive anywhere and still being able to use all of your camping gear is appealing. And if the bugs bite, we’ve got a quick escape (either come inside or I can run to the store and pick up some bug spray). I know, I know…what fun is it, if you don’t have all the hardships that can come with a good old fashioned camping trip? Lots, I’d say. My boys are really excited about the backyard campout, and can’t wait to figure out how to convert of backyard so it is more ‘camp-like’ (I can’t wait to see what they come up with).

I’m reminded of my own upbringing and how the simple things: watching (and sometimes catching) lightning bugs, running through the sprinkler, going to a BBQ and just relaxing with people I loved holds a special place in my heart. These things were fun, relaxing, and created a moment that forced me to pause to appreciate how good it felt to be right where I was, without a care in the world.

When have you experienced those moments? How are you and your family enjoying the summer?

 

Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever

What is the best Mother’s Day present you received? What is the best Mother’s Day gift you ever gave?

Growing up, I recall giving my mother various gifts throughout the years: artwork, small inexpensive trinkets, and as I got older flowers. There never really seemed an appropriate gift, and it never really occurred to me ask my mom what she might like (nor did she offer up what she might like from us). The best gift I ever gave was done collectively with my sisters help. We worked together to decorate my mom’s chair at the table with beads, a crown and banner that read “Best Mom Ever” — we were very proud of our work, and our mom was very surprised that we choose to honor her in this way. I’ve reflected on that over the years and don’t think we ever topped that Mother’s Day no matter what gifts we bought her. The sentiment was from the heart, it was simple, pure and full of love.

As a mother, there’s nothing I want or need anyone to buy for me. A hug, kiss, letter or drawing are great; extra time to sleep and breakfast in bed–a treat; offering to clean the house–a thrill. Any sentiment from the heart–be it simple, pure and full of love–not sure I could ask for anything more.

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day? When have you felt most loved? When have you made your Mom feel most loved?

Happy Mother’s Day.

Parenting is a Team Sport

Have you ever felt like parenting is a competition?

It’s a topic I often cover when speaking to parenting groups–being a parent can feel like many things including a rite of passage to see how we (as parents) can out do each other, or how our kids can. It starts when our child is very young — whose sleeping better through the night, eating better, rolling over first, standing up, walking, etc. We are proud of our child hitting a developmental milestone, and want to believe their success is largely due to our parenting skills, but in reality it is more a mixture of our child’s innate capabilities and disposition, which may or may not have been influenced by us.

While we may feel like competition is only between other parents, a topic that isn’t often spoken of is competition between the parents themselves. Competition between parents can be just as common, and is not limited to couples who are divorced. Competition between a couple can be more subtle in how it shows up: a child feels they can confide in one parent more than they can another and the parent who is left out feels sadness the child doesn’t have (or maybe want) to have the same relationship with them, or competition can arise when one parent connects/relates easily with their child, while the other struggles. There are many different ways the feeling of competition can arise, but parenting is not a competition; it’s about doing what’s right for our child, not us. This can be hard to keep front and center when we have our competitive juices flowing.

My husband took our oldest to his flag football game over the weekend. My younger son and I were going to meet them there closer to game time and were just about to head out the door when my husband called and said, “Don’t go anywhere, we’re coming home.” When they got home I asked what happened. I found out that our son was getting frustrated with what the coach was asking him to do. He was struggling to do the practice drill and was showing his frustration. Instead of being respectful to the coach and listening to what the coach was saying, he was getting more and more angry, and talking back. My husband told my son to calm down and be respectful, or we’re going home. My son jumped at the chance and said, “Fine, let’s go home.” I could tell by the look in my husband’s eyes when he told me that he hadn’t thought his threat would turn out the way it did. He had thought our son would calm down, and listen to the coach, because he wanted to play in the game. But he was stuck, like many of us when we may threats and are kids call us on it (anyone have to leave the restaurant or theatre — places you wanted to go, and then your child starts misbehaving or act up, and you threaten you’ll leave if they don’t calm down and they say basically indicate they never wanted to be there in the first place? Ugh!). I said, “Oh no, you are going to the game. That’s not fair to your team, but you’re not playing. You have to earn the right to play and you lost that right in the way you acted.  You are going to go there and support them — you are going to be their #1 cheerleader today, and you’re going to apologize to the coach for your behavior.” My son looked at me like he couldn’t believe this hadn’t happened earlier, and said, “Okay.” We got in the car and went to the field. He didn’t play, he did cheer and he apologized to the coach — not once, but twice. My hope was that he would understand you can never walk away when things get tough, you can’t let your actions let down a larger group (your team), and there are consequences, sometimes uncomfortable ones like apologizing to a coach, when you behave a certain way.

Later that night my husband and I were talking about what happened. Without discussing it, we easily could have been filed this incident in the competition file, where one parent did the “right” thing and the other did the “wrong” thing (one is a better parent than the other — see how easy situations can have that competitive feel?)…but that’s not the way we viewed it. Instead, one of us experienced, with the best intentions, a misstep and the other helped them recover. We are a team, and need each other’s help. Parenting is a team sport, not an individual one. We have certainly had scenarios where my husband helped bail me out of a misfired threat. We learn each time we experience this together, and allow ourselves the chance to discuss, reflect, and think about how we would handle the situation differently in the future. We get better together.

Have you ever felt like you were competing with another parent or your spouse? How do you parent as a team, versus as an individual?

Go Team!

The Great Outdoors

What is your favorite part of being in the great outdoors?

Growing up I loved swimming in the pool, riding bikes and swinging on our swing set. The times that stay with me about being outdoors are the times when I did something different: having a water balloon fight; or playing baseball on a diamond that sat upon freshly mowed grass; or running through a rain storm to get back to our house after school–it was a bit of miserable (from getting wet) and exhilarating (can we get home before the real downpour hits?).

In honor of Earth Day, we took our boys to help do some weeding and planting in a community garden. It was the first time, in a long time, I had done ‘real’ gardening, outside of clipping back some branches and doing light weeding at home. It was fun to do it with our boys. They, along with the other kids who participated, loved finding earth worms, centipedes, and daddy long-leg spiders all around. Our youngest, who along with another boy, even found a forgotten potato patch in the overgrown garden. They were thrilled every time they found something new: potato, bug, broken piece of pottery or piece of wood. The particular patch of Earth we worked on was ideal — the soil was mainly soft and we someone were lucky enough to be in the shade. It made for hard, yet very comfortable and satisfying work.

What surprised me most while gardening was how far the weeds went down. Several times, I would find a little sprout of the green invasive species that had taken over our patch, and give it a light tug, thinking the roots could only go so deep. But they almost always went deeper, and deeper and deeper. An inch of green above ground could turn into several feet of root underneath. It was amazing. I was also struck with how good the weeds were at hiding. If a wooden board was in place to help separate the sections of the garden, the weeds were almost always thicker, deeper and stronger near that piece of wood. It reminded me of how many of us have our own personal weeds, and how we only like to show so much of ourselves ‘above ground’ (to most), and do whatever we can to protect the weeds or hide we really are beneath the surface. This realization helped me appreciate another benefit of the great outdoors — there are analogies all around in nature for how we live our lives, and how we can (I like the idea of my life being weeded out or weed-free).

We might think we were giving back to the Earth that Saturday, but the Earth was giving my family and I more in return.

What has the great outdoors given to you?

Holiday Cards

Dear Friend,

I hope this card finds you well. Another year has flown by again…

Holiday cards are nice to receive, right? I love getting cards from friends. I really enjoy getting holiday cards from friends, particularly those I haven’t seen in a while or do not speak to on a regular basis, that include details about what they’ve been up to the last year. It seems like getting details lessens every year.

I can certainly appreciate how busy everyone is. There always seems to be something to do: get your child some place, get yourself some place, pick up something, drop off something, make something, do something. The list of ‘to-dos’ seems endless. Getting holiday cards done can seem like one more ‘to-do’ on a very long list.

I appreciate the effort and the thought of being included on friend’s mailing list, but oh, how I miss details of what is going on in our friends lives when they are not included. I know there are many reasons why people don’t do this:

  • They don’t want to be seen as bragging (most letters include highlights vs. low lights — you see more “we took a trip to Hawaii” vs. “Jimmy’s failing math and we’re super stressed about it.” right?),
  • They don’t think others are that interested in what’s going on with them (we are, we really are), or
  • They don’t have the energy to sit down to write the letter–there is just too much to get done, and this isn’t high on the list (we can all relate to this).

Writing a letter, for my husband and I, is a good way for us to pause and reflect on the past 12 months. We are often in awe of all that has occurred–good and bad, and what we look forward to in the New Year. It feels like by capturing our experiences on paper, we’re somehow permanently entering them into our family time capsule (which is made up solely of our memory, and what we capture in pictures, and on paper). The letter is a brief snapshot in time of our family history, that without writing down on paper, we’d too easily forget. When we finish our letter, I normally experience a range of emotions from grateful to sad: grateful we made it through another year and we are all healthy, and sad that precious time has passed.

A friend, this year, sent a simple fold out card with pictures of her kids and family. While it could have stopped there, she made the card even more special by adding text over each child’s picture with what everyone was grateful for. It gave me a quick sense of what the kids were into (grateful for certain toys, or their pets, friends, etc.), and that they were doing okay (when you share that you are grateful, it tells me that things must be pretty okay…it’s difficult to be grateful when you are in a low spot or something terrible has happened).

She shared those details I crave. I really appreciated it.

How do you stay connected with others? What types of cards do you like to send, and receive?

I want to wish everyone safe and happy holidays. I will be taking time off and will return in January.