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.

Small Victories — My Picker Eater

Do you have a picky eater in your family?

My youngest son is a picky eater. If it were up to my son, his diet would consist only of: bread, cheese, macaroni, chocolate, bread and chocolate (yes, I realize I put bread and chocolate in there twice). He will eat vegetables and fruits in very small quantities, but is reluctant to try new foods. We’ve had many discussions around eating foods that give us energy and help us live a long and heathy life, but my son’s not overly concerned (or particularly interested). At his age, I don’t think I was either.  It is common to hear him say, “No, thanks” when you ask him if he’s interested in trying something new, and common to experience a tantrum with him when you require him to try something new — we spend more time dealing with the tantrum – using logic, incenting, and then threatening consequences (and/or taking away privileges) than the actual time is takes him to eat the small portion. It’s very frustrating and can make me feel like a failure as a parent.

Imagine my surprise when we recently went into a local Subway to eat. Normally my son is only interested in their pizzas. If the Subway shop doesn’t carry the pizza, he’s not eating. Yet, on this particular day he did. “Mom, can I try a turkey sandwich?” he asked. “Sure, what changed your mind?” I said, trying to get over my shock. “I don’t know. What (my older son) gets looks good.” I decided not to ask any more questions, and instead ordered the sandwich.

Now, I have to confess that I was a bit concerned that when he got the sandwich, he would change his mind and say he didn’t like it after all, but that’s not what happened. Instead he took a bite and said, “This is AMAZING!” It felt like a small victory. My son was expanding his food universe and actually eating something that was relatively healthy (or healthier than the pizza would have been) and enjoying it. I was elated. As we walked back home from the restaurant he continued to comment on how much he liked the sandwich unprompted by me. “It tastes like the sandwiches grandma from Canada makes,” he said, “It was really, really good.” It made me smile (and I’m guessing it will make his grandmother in Canada smile too).

Maybe we’re turning a corner with our son, maybe now that he’s experienced something new he likes, he’ll be more willing to try new things in the future. Only time will tell, I’ll savor this victory for now.

How do you get your picky eater to try new things?

Competition for 1

With the start of the summer Olympics, I’m reminded how much value we place on competition.

My sons are taking lessons this summer to help strengthen their swimming skills. My oldest shared how nervous he was prior to the first lesson. “Mom, what if I don’t do well and they send me back to the beginners class with the little kids?” I could understand his anxiety, he hadn’t really swam much since the prior summer and needed to re-acclimate himself with being in the pool. His stress waned once he started swimming and he did well enough to stay in the advance class. He wasn’t the most advanced and needed instruction from his teacher on several of the strokes, but he listened and was able to do what his teacher asked.

Before a lesson several weeks later my son once again expressed his concern. “Mom, I’m not as good as the other kids. They’re all better than I am.” I understood how he could feel this way, but thought he might be looking at this all wrong. “This isn’t a competition,” I said, “the only one you are competing with here is yourself. Instead of comparing how good you are against the other swimmers, compare yourself to how you did last week. Did you improve on any of your skills? Were you able to do something better than you did before?” I could tell I had got him thinking. “Thanks, Mom,” he said and headed off to get into the pool.

I wasn’t sure if I had really gotten through to him, or if he was saying thanks to end the conversation. 🙂 Following the lesson we were walking back home when he said, “Mom, I improved on some things today!” He was very excited, and I was too — he actually had taken what I’d said to heart. He shared how he had improved on his kick and how we’d learned how to turn his body so he could stroke and kick at the same time. He was very proud of what he had done, and so was I.

There is much competition in the world. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. We learn this as a child and often cling to it as an adult as a measure of our worth. Talking to my son about this made me rethink how I compare myself to others., and that life really is a competition for one.

How do you deal with competition? How are you helping your child?

 

The Greatest Gift I got from my Dad

What are your best memories of your father?

A flood of memories come pouring back in each Father’s Day. I can see my dad rooting me on when I played a sport, I can remember him teaching me skills I needed to be independent, I  can recall watching many a college football game together. There are many, many wonderful memories. While my father gave me many gifts, there was one in particular I hold above most others, he gave me the gift of knowing myself. There are moments in time, when he would help show me what I have to offer (to another person, to a sport, to myself or to the world) simply by telling me what he’d observed. It made me feel recognized, valued and appreciated. Too often in life, you can think no one is paying attention. My dad ensured I knew that wasn’t the case. It’s the greatest gift he’s ever given me. I don’t think he realizes the impact those conversations have had. I’m grown now, but still cherish these talks when we have them and I’ll miss them desperately when he’s gone. In my eyes, while not a perfect man, he’s the perfect dad.

As you raise your child, what special memories are you creating that they’ll remember future Father’s Days from now? What’s your most treasured memories from your own dad.

Happy Father’s Day!

Spring Forward

Do you ever wish you could stop time, or at least, slow it down?

Daylight Savings starts today, and it reminds me how quickly time is moving forward. It seems like the year just started and we’re already almost a quarter of the way done. My kids complain about how slow time goes. I can remember when I felt like that. Time dragged on as a kid. I thought the school year lasted forever.

A friend recently shared a photograph of a group of us, from a trip we’d all taken ten years ago. My oldest was a baby in the picture. When I looked at the picture I had two thoughts: 1) I can’t believe how fast time is gone, and 2) wow, look how young I look.   There’s a lot that goes into ten years of time, and while to my son it may feel like time is going slow, to me it feels like it’s going faster and faster. I wish there were a way I could slow it down. If I spring forward another ten years, he’ll be off on his own. Gulp. I’m not sure I’m ready to think about that just yet.

How do you experience time? How does your child?

 

Where the Wild Things Are

How did you pass the time when you were sent to your room as a child?

Oh, how I hated being bored as a kid. What I hated more was being sent to my room and being bored. You were trapped without having access to most of things you love (TV, music, etc.). When I was sent to my room as a child, I would move between lying on my bed seething at my parents and how I thought they’d wronged me, and then figure out what I could do to kill the time — read a book, write something down, play with some of my toys, etc.

I recently took my kids to a local production of Where the Wild Things Are, a story about a boy, Max, who gets in trouble for misbehaving and the wonderful journey his imagination takes him on. In the production we watched, Max was sent to his room without supper. This is where his adventure began. As I watched the show I thought, Wow, I wish I had this kind ability to create a new world when I was his age. It never even occurred to me to dream up a new world to escape those times I was ‘captive’ in my own room. It felt like I’d missed an opportunity (using my creativity, spending my time in a more enjoyable fashion, etc.) by not following in the main character’s footsteps. I was both inspired by the character and disappointed in myself. It made me think about how my children spend their time when they’ve been sent to their room. I’ve got to believe some of their time is spent lying on their bed seething at how I, or their father, have done them wrong, but then what comes next?

On the way home, we talked about the play, and how creative Max was. We talked about using our imagination to create new worlds, and how fun it can be dreaming up something on your own. I don’t know if my children were inspired by what they saw, and if they’ll follow in Max’s footsteps when they are bored or have been sent to their room, but I hope they will. Sometimes our imagination and the idea of what’s possible or ideal can be exactly what you need to get you through a hard time.

What does your child do when they are bored? How do they fill the time?

 

 

Mom, please!

Have you ever embarrassed your child in public? When did your parent embarrass you as a child? How did it affect you?

My parents are loving people. Growing up they were strict, but loving. Spanking was used to discipline in our house. The threat of a possible spanking typically kept me in line, so thankfully, I cannot remember my parents embarrassing me in a your-going-to-get-a-spanking kind of way in public. Instead, they would let me know a spanking was coming in more private settings (away from others, in the car or house). It was a warning and I had a choice to make—straighten up or get spanked. My decision was easy to make (I would do just about anything to avoid being spanked). I noticed other parents weren’t as considerate and would embarrass their children in front of others. While I hated getting spanked, I was grateful my parents were different. I realized my parents could embarrass me in a different way as I grew older—when they’d brag about me in front of others. I hated it because 1) as a teen I was very self-conscious (aren’t we all?) and I was mortified when attention was put on me, 2) I didn’t feel like the things my parents were sharing were worth bragging about, and 3) I felt utterly unable to stop my parents from what they were doing in fear of embarrassing them (I knew how much I didn’t like it, and assumed they wouldn’t like it either). I definitely didn’t just stand there and take what was happening in these situations. I would attempt to stop my parents mid-sentence. “Mom, please.” “Mom, really. Please stop.” I’d even try the eye roll, and try to make eye contact with my parents friend in an attempt to communicate I’m so sorry, but it never seemed to work.

Now that I have my own children, I’ve been faced with the same challenges my parent went through. We don’t spank in our house, so my boys have never had to fear that as a punishment, however, it makes motivating them to behave that much more challenging. Taking away privileges or a stern talking to works sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t. I feel very challenged in these moments. There is a part of me that would like to vent my frustration at their resistance to adhere to what I’m asking them to do, and I have to catch myself sometimes from not doing this in public (it’s not easy) when they’re acting out around others. A “get in the car NOW” seems to do the trick, they know I’m unhappy with their behavior and it will be better for them to get into the car than not. Still, it’s a challenge.

My boys were in a concert at school. They would be singing a few songs with their classmates. My youngest was eager to participate. My oldest was mortified. “I’m not going,” he said, “and you can’t make me.” At first, my husband and I responded, “Oh yes we can. Don’t you tell us what you are or are not going to do.” That just seemed to make my son dig his heels in deeper. “Nope, I’m not going to do it.” My husband tried reasoning with him. “You’re part of your class…a team. You’re going to let your classmates down if you don’t participate, and that’s going to be embarrassing.” My son simply replied, “No it won’t. Half of them aren’t here anyway, no one is going to notice.” He was right, it was a volunteer concert (not mandatory) so many of his classmates weren’t there. Ugh. The show was going to start soon, and we were nearing the end of our attempts to prompt our son to participate. My husband and I felt strongly he couldn’t “opt-out” of participating, because often in life you can’t do that–you’ll lose a job, or a friend, or an opportunity. My mind was spinning, what else could we do?  And then it occurred to me. “You are going to go up and sing with your class. We are only asking you to go up there to try your best. No one expects perfection.” My son was getting ready to say, “No again” when I cut him off. “If you don’t go, I was pull you up there kicking and screaming if I have to, and that will be embarrassing not only for you, but for me. No one is going to forget that.” He gave me a ‘you wouldn’t’ and then a ‘how could you!’ face, then got up and went with his classmates calmly to the stage. I hated that it had resorted to this, but was glad he was motivated to participate. As his class sang, we could see that our son was enjoying it, he even gave us a ‘thumbs up’ from the stage at one point. Afterwards, he came back to us and in a ‘you-were-right-but-I-hate-admitting-it’ tone shared, “I was so nervous, but I think I did pretty good.”  My husband and I smiled, “You did great.” I shared, “I loved that one song, can we sing it now?” My son looked at me and said, “Mom, please!” I didn’t, of course, (though I was tempted to) but it was fun to see the moment come full circle.

How do you prompt your child to action without embarrassing them?

 

 

 

 

Need a little Christmas…

Is there anyone else out there that is already exhausted? Anyone who needs a little holiday cheer to help boost their spirit and energy level?

This year has been one of the most busy and stressful years of my professional career. I feel like I’ve done pretty good getting through this year, but have to admit I am nearing full burn-out. I’m in need of an energy boost. I need rest. I need….a vacation.

The holidays could easily create additional stress for me, but not this year. I’m really looking forward to them. I look forward to seeing my children’s anticipation grow as they anxiously await the arrival of Christmas Day, I look forward to spending time with friends at holiday gatherings, and having that much needed time off just to rest and relax. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

How are you preparing yourself for the holidays? What about the holidays puts a smile on your face?

So Very Thankful

As Thanksgiving day arrives, and you reflect on the good things in your life, what comes to mind?

We have a practice in our home where at dinner, we say grace. It mainly consists of saying what we’re thankful for. It’s a daily tradition we all enjoy. For my boys, it’s an opportunity for them to share with us what’s top of mind (sometimes they are most thankful for what is in their field of vision — a napkin on the table, a food on their plate they are grateful is being served for dinner, or a toy or book left on the table. Other times its memories from the day — things like doing well on a math test, playing well in a game or playing with a friend), or what’s in their heart (sometimes they surprise us with the most amazing comments — thankful for people in their lives, or for nature, or acts of kindness they witnessed from others). For my husband and I, it’s an opportunity for us to share what we’re grateful for, and keeps what we consider blessings–healthy kids, our own health, good friends and family who care about us, jobs and a safe, warm place to rest our heads each night–front and center.  There is much to be thankful for, and it feels really good acknowledging it every day.

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time of year we remember what we are thankful for. It’s a day with friends and family, where you appreciate all the good things in your life. It’s special and I’m thankful for it.

What practices of gratitude do you and your family practice? What makes your Thanksgiving special?

I’ll be spending time with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving.

Re-present-ing

Has your child ever asked for a gift that didn’t seem to “fit” their gender, and if so, how did you respond?

My boys have recently celebrated birthdays. One son was very interested in Minecraft, Pokémon, Yo-kai, and other popular games for kids his age. My other son wanted the Anki Overdrive starter kit *and* the Barbie Dream House. My first thought was, wow, my kid has expensive taste. My second was, hmmm, I loved the Barbie Dream House when I was a kid. I literally begged my parents, I wrote what I thought was a compelling letter to Santa, and prayed to God and anyone else who would listen to my plea until it arrived one year, but was I okay getting this (or another Barbie product that was actually within our budget) for my son? As open-minded as I’d like to think I am, his request gave me pause. Personally, I could care less if he has the Barbie Dream House and all the Barbie’s he wants (though I have no idea where it would fit in our house), but what would people say?  Would they make fun of him?  I felt really conflicted. I want to support him and his interests and don’t want to try to steer him away from something he wants towards something I’m more comfortable with. It’s not right or fair to him.

My son helped me with the issue. We were riding to a car museum for his birthday party (he also loves old-fashioned cars and has recently taken a real liking to NASCAR), and had his two best friends in the car, Carly and Dan. My son had found the Target holiday magazine (darn you, Target, and your compelling marketing devices!) and brought it to share with his friends on the ride down. As they flipped the pages they each called out what they hoped to get. “I want this robot,” one shared. “Look at the Paw Patroller, how cool,” said the other. My son got to the Barbie section and confidently said, “I want the Barbie Dream House. I know it’s a lot of money, but I really, really, really want it.” Dan broke out into innocent laughter thinking my son was kidding, and said, “but that’s a girl toy!” His reaction was exactly what I had feared. My son turned to Dan and quickly and confidently responded, “Don’t make fun of me. I like it. There’s nothing funny about it.” Dan stopped, and within seconds it was like the entire conversation had never happened. They just flipped the page and kept going. My son brought up the Dream House again later and there were no giggles or additional words. My son seems to know who he is and what he likes, and he’s not going to let anyone tell him otherwise. I was impressed. I don’t think I had that level of self-confidence when I was his age.

My hesitancy to get my son a ‘girl’ gift is fading. I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable, but I’ll continue to work to be so over time. My son deserves that. After all, he’s representing himself very well, and I owe him my support and encouragement to help him continue to be comfortable with who he is.

How do handle situations when your child asks for something you’re not comfortable getting them?  How do you help them be comfortable with who they are?