I’m Not Lucky

I was talking to a mother the other day about bedtimes and how my kids go to bed without a fuss.  She said to me, “You are so lucky.”  Later on that day I started to think about our conversation and how “lucky” I was.  That is when I came to the conclusion, I’m not lucky.  It was not by some random stroke of luck that this occurs.  I didn’t pick some numbers and win the lottery.  As I have written in the past one of the things my husband and I decided early on was that we would dictate bedtimes, schedules, etc., not the children.  It is not by luck at all that my kids go to bed without a fight.

In any schedule, rule, or manner, that we wanted our children to maintain it took a lot of patience, time, and sometimes tears to accomplish it.  It was hard at times and my husband and I sometimes would have to take turns to give the other person a break.  There were moments when one of us was on the brink of giving in.  I questioned myself and fought internally debating whether we were doing the right thing.  No there was no luck about it, it was work.

parenting LuckLike any good parent I have doubted myself in my methods, read numerous articles regarding whatever particular topic we were trying to hurdle, and surveyed other parents to get feedback on what they did.  I asked my pediatrician and read books on parenting.   No it was definitely not luck, it took a lot of studying and research.

I admit there were times that we headed down a path and realized it was not working.  We were not getting the results we wanted.  The kids were not responding in the way we thought they would.  We had to go back to square one, decide what we needed to tweak or change altogether, and start all over again.  I made my mistakes and I will continue to make them, but as the bumps come up we will iron them out.  No it was not luck, it was perseverance.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that it was not by some small miracle that my kids are acting in a way that you admire.  And believe me they do act up.  They are not perfect, my husband and I are not perfect, but it was not by luck they behave they way they do good and bad.  It was work and I am so proud of it.

 

 

 

The Art of Roughhousing

In the last couple of weeks the new game Liam and Ava like to play with daddy specifically, is wrestling. My husband roughhouses with them and they giggle, laugh, and eventually they tire out (which is key). It’s funny that they inherently know to go to daddy for this interaction.   They have never approached me and asked me to wrestle them. Although some people might warn that someone could get hurt I think that this is a very important process to go through.

Let’s face it when you are roughhousing every once in a while someone is going to get hurt. However, I can’t help but think that this might make them a little more resilient. Although there are times that I worry that it is getting too rough (and that is why they pick daddy over mommy) for the most part it teaches them to bounce back. Will is careful in his play and the kids always come back for more. Even though, this physical play can cause a few playoff-payoffbruises now and then, I think it outweighs the alternative of them being less active.

I also believe that roughhousing can help sharpen reflects. Kids have to think fast as they are rolling, pillow fighting, wrestling with dad. They are constantly changing their approach on how to defeat dad. Of course this is all done in good natured fun, but it still does take some problem solving skills to overcome him. This kind of play also teaches boundaries of what behavior is acceptable and not acceptable.

I am not a worthy competitor. Routinely as part of the game my husband drops the kids on their beds and they giggle with delight. The truth is I have tried to do this and my height on dropping the kids onto their bed is not as exciting as dad, who can lift them over his head. Daddy takes chances that either I would not do or physically are unable to do. Sometimes it is good to push pass the limit of normal active play just a little bit to be challenging and entertaining.

My husband is very involved in all aspects of Liam and Ava’s lives; however this is one specific activity that he just does with them. I think it is important that both Liam and Ava feel a bond between themselves and their father. In creating this bond, Liam and Ava will recognize that they each have a distinct relationship with their father in which it can develop into a very special parent-child connection.

I guess in short, if you are one of the many mothers who anxiously watch as a bystander as your kids and husband roll around and wonder is this ok? Consider what your kids might be getting out of it besides a few laughs and a good time with dad.

 

A Letter of Love

Dear Liam, Ava, and All Children,

I have three wishes for my dear children and really all children.  Be curious, passionate, and loving.

Liam and the Catepillar Be curious about the world around you.  Don’t shy away from things that are new and different.  Be willing to give these ideas a chance.  Step out of your comfort zone once in awhile, it will be worth a memory or at least a laugh in a few years.  Never stop asking questions.  Try new things and experiment with new ideas.  In exploration you not only find out new and exciting things, but you will find out new things about yourself.  With that learn who you are and love yourself for that.  Do not make excuses for the person you are.  You are wonderful and gifted in your own specific way.  It is hard to always feel comfortable with yourself.  However, if you can find peace and happiness with yourself, trust me you will know contentment that many others around only dream of.

Be passionate.  Find something or many things that drive and excite you.  Don’t let others Ava all smilestell you it’s not important or silly.  Whatever it is that lights you up, go for it and enjoy it.  Passions give us purpose, and drive us to work hard towards a goal.  Passions also make us feel that we have purpose in our lives. Being passionate isn’t just about knowing – it’s also about feeling. That’s what makes passions so important; they give us hope for a happy and exciting future.  Don’t hold back on your emotions.  Get excited.  Being passionate is a risk, but even if it doesn’t work out you will feel fulfilled.

And of course be loving.  Love with all of your might.  First learn to love yourself fully.  Once you can do this you will be able to give and receive love from others.  There will be different forms of love in your love.  Love of family, friends, a significant SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESother, but love these people entirely for who they are too.  Do not hold onto those who do not love you back in the same way.  You will be hurt at times from those you love.  Forgive and let go.  Don’t let those bad experiences ruin future opportunities to love.  To love is to be alive.  Do not be ashamed of your love.  To give love to someone is the sincerest gift you can give.  Love is what heals wounds and overcomes differences.

I love you both dearly and wish you both a lifetime of curiosity, passion, and love.

 

Love always,

Mom

The Phenomena of the Housewife

Desperate Housewives and all versions of the Real Housewives of Orange County, New York City, Miami, etc., created a new look on the housewife.  These shows could almost be deemed acceptable if they had stayed on our television screens and never seeped into our society.  Unfortunately, it has infiltrated our social norms.  Growing up as a child of a stay at home mother, my idea of a housewife was exhausting.  The stay at home mom was the caregiver, the cook, the tutor, the chauffeur, the maid, the seamstress, the dog walker, and too many other busy titles to list here.  However, somehow in the last 15 years the housewife has become a title for a woman who has perfectly manicured nails, a personal trainer, and more often than not a laissez-faire approach to raising her children.  Moreover somehow this new breed of housewife, has turned her children to an accessory right alongside the designer handbag.  This is not to say by any means this is by definition all housewives, however it seems to becoming increasingly popular.

This past weekend my husband and I took our children to the park. When we arrived there, there were three girls and two mothers.  The girls ranged in age from 8-10 and they were running about.  The two mothers were sitting at picnic tables on the other side of the park in the pavilion engaged in a deep conversation.  I had this moment of self-reflection as I looked at them.  They were so well put together, I was envious.  Even on a good day my hair and makeup never looked so pristine.  How did these moms manage it? Nearby the mothers was a water fountain that Liam asked me to lift him up to get some water.  I overheard them busily chatting about a dinner party one was planning and what the chef was going to cook.  I walked out the pavilion and toward the playground, ready to push Liam and Ava on the swings.

As we approached the swings the three girls yelled to Liam and Ava, “The babies are here.  You can’t play here.”  I felt a surge of anger at this but I quickly quenched it.  The girls continued to point and yell at Liam and Ava as they got on the swings, calling them babies and telling them they could not play.  Just then two other cars pulled into the parking lot and families with young children (younger than Liam) came out of the car.  The girls then carried on to say, “Look more babies.  They can’t come here.”  I glanced over to the two mothers who were now looking at their phones, unaware of what was going on.  As the families approached the playground two of the young children began climbing the jungle gym.  One of the girls quickly scooted in and intervened in front of the young children and said, “You can’t climb this.  You are just a baby.”  Staring at the two mothers who were oblivious to what was going on, the father shot back in a very loud and stern voice, “I don’t know where your parents are, but this playground is for everyone. Please get out of my children’s way, and play nicely.  You are being fresh.”  The mothers then looked up and called their daughters over.

There were many things about that whole interaction that shocked me.  When I was their age I was eager to be a mother’s helper and someday a babysitter.  This blatant superiority complex in such young children was unnerving to me.  On top of that, to see two mothers so disengaged with their children that they had no idea what was going on, seemed very irresponsible.  I understand as children get older they do not need their parents hovering over them.  But these mothers were so out of tune to what was going on they were completely clueless to how rude their daughters were behaving.  Now I am not insinuating that every well-manicured mother raises ill-behaved children, but it was Liam in Ava in their mud puddleevident that these mothers had fallen victim to the Housewifitis that has fallen over this country.  Designer handbags and expensive nights out on the town don’t translate to meaningful experiences for children.  It’s spending quality time with them, whether it is reading a book to them every night before they go to bed or running around in the backyard.  Our children are truly a reflection on ourselves.  I see it all that all the time with my kids.  The good and the not so good habits they have picked up from me.  They are only in each phase for so long before they move onto the next stage.  Although, I miss each one of the stages as they grow out of it, I continue to enjoy the new one they go into.  I couldn’t help but think that these mothers were missing all of that as I have a hard time believing involved and engaged parents would allow such behavior.  Money can’t buy happiness, nor will it buy you memories or manners.

Intent, Words, & Action – What It All Means

Actions speak louder than words. Liam the other day was in full out tantrum.  In the midst of it he told me to go away and that he didn’t want me.  He then further went on to shout that he wished daddy was there (And to be honest so did I).  I left him alone and a little while later he crawled into my lap unprovoked and hugged me.  His words said one thing but his actions said something totally different.  In the end he explained to me why he was upset and we worked through it. Even though Liam said that he wanted me to go away and he didn’t want me, at the end he was in my lap cuddling me. It was his actions that spoke louder and had a more lasting affect on me than his words, and this goes the same for adults.

On the contrary Ava this morning threw her water cup on the kitchen floor.    I made her pick it up and told her if she did it again, she would have to sit in timeout.  She then walked off into the living room.  I heard a thud and when I walked into the room there was the cup lying on the floor with her standing next to it smiling.  Her intent and action were very clear to me.  She was testing me.  She served her timeout, picked up her cup, and we ended it with a hug.

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.” – Pablo Picasso   Nowadays whenever someone gets into trouble their first response is, “I never intended to be offensive”, “I never intended to hurt you”, “I never intended to cheat on you.” These simple statements are suppose to wash away the wrongdoing of the action and in doing so never taking responsibility for what the wrongdoer did.  Intention is not an apology.  Just because you did not intend to hurt someone doesn’t mean that you didn’t.  Apologize.

This whole ideology infuriates me and it happens all the time.  From celebrities to sports figures to people we know, it’s the get out of jail for free statement.  “I did not intend to hurt you.” There are two parts of this statement the really irks me.  One being that by saying that, the person is never truly taking responsibility for what they have done and the impact of their actions and/or words.  Two it comes across at times, as the hurt person is overreacting to what the wrongdoer has done and in a way diminishes their feelings.

We want our children to take responsibility, own their mistakes, and apologize when they are wrong, whether it was by accident or not.  But why should they when the people that they look up to are not?  When was it that the adults stop living up to the standards that they want their children to be at? We are always modeling to our children good and bad behavior. If we want our children to become responsible, apologetic, and forgiving adults we need to show them how to do so.

Actions speak louder than words and intention as well.   In the end we can give a lot of lip service on trying to explain why we do things, but it is our actions that have the lasting affect. No one is perfect (I have said this many times) but if you want to move on from whatever event that took place we need to face our problems and wrongdoings head on. If we can take responsibility for our actions and become apologetic for them, our children will be more apt to do the same as well.

Forgivness of a Toddler

mistakes-forgiveness-peace

The other day Liam and I were wrestling with each other. In the middle of our rough housing I gave Liam a light push and he fell down. He scrambled to his feet very quickly, came up to me, shook his finger, and said, “Mommy you don’t push me.” I blinked a couple times in surprise, but then looked at him and said, “You’re right Liam. I’m sorry. Mommy was playing and she got a little too rough.” Liam gave me a big hug around my neck, kissed me, and said I forgive you. He then went back to tickling me.

If adults forgave like toddlers there would be no grudges, no resentment, and I truly believe that world peace could be obtained. Unfortunately, as adults even when we forgive we don’t forget. For some conflicts it may even be impossible to forget, but moving on without holding onto it, is key. By keeping a tally of all the wrongdoings someone has done to you, it only causes bitterness in your life. It weighs you down and whatever issue it was has won. For Liam the minute he forgave me it was in the past. I know he will not bring it up again when future problems arise as something to count against me. As adults even if we say we forgive, we hold onto it. We don’t let it go. We either bring it up in a future fight with a spouse as ammunition or use it as a reason to push away a friend. Regardless we are always looking for a way for the wrongdoer to “earn” their way back into our good graces.

The beauty of forgiveness, true forgiveness is the freedom you achieve from it. If you can’t forgive the wrongdoing because you are still hurt, try forgiving just for your own peace at mind and let those negative feelings go. One of the biggest problems with adult forgiveness is that we are too busy thinking about how we have been wronged and never try to see it from the other person’s point of view. When our children misbehave part of the lesson is to teach them what they did was wrong and how it affects other people. Ava took Liam’s toy. Liam got mad and hit her. Ava cried. It is important for Liam to realize that although Ava shouldn’t have taken his toy, hitting her was wrong and now she is sad too. How come we spend so much time teaching our kids to see how their actions affect others but we refuse to do it with our own problems?

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all are in the wrong at times. “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Liam and Ava are constant lessons to me about the important things in life, such as forgiveness.  If we could walk into situations with a clean slate with people we might actually be able to enjoy things better and coexists in a better place. At the risk of breaking into song, I think Idina Menzel sung it best, “Let it go, let it go.”

Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery

A couple of days ago while waiting for Will to get home from work Liam said, “When daddy gets home I am going to do yard work with him.” When Will arrived home he mowed the lawn and Liam was right next to him pushing his plastic Fisher Price mower. It was so precious to watch. After Will was done he went into the garage to put the chain back on his chainsaw. Liam went inside to get his toolbox and alongside Will “helped” him fixed it. It was so heartwarming and touching to watch.

Ava just recently got a new doll in which I noticed at various times during the day she had the doll sitting right next to her, wrapped up in blanket for a nap, and sitting with her during breakfast to eat. It is so cute and funny how quick kids begin imitation play. This kind of reenactment is important for children’s development as this is a part of the learning process of how things work and how things are done.

This all brings me to yesterday in which I read an article about two children suspended for the rest of the school year (3 days) because they turned rulers into play guns. On one hand I can understand the school’s thinking on this. Considering since the Sandy Hook shooting there have been 74 more school shootings, the zero tolerance method needs to be put in place. As I mentioned above children learn things through imitation and it is not just from parents but from their peers and television. I am sure these young children were just playing and had no intention of ill will towards anyone, however I also doubt these children truly grasped the idea what pointing those rulers and yelling bang bang at each other meant (the kids were in first grade). I am not pinning all school shootings on children pretending to play with guns because I believe there is much bigger problem at hand (mental illness, etc) however there needs to be some responsibility on our part. Sadly kids do not realize the true impact of their actions or how grave the consequences can be.

On the other hand I don’t believe “giving detention to the whole class when only a few kids were misbehaving,” is an ok approach either. “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” I remember vividly when I was in fourth grade I was suppose to go on a class trip the circus. Two days before the class trip we had a substitute and several kids misbehaved. When the teacher came back the day before the class trip she canceled our trip as punishment for the bad behavior. More recently at work our HR department has come up with a lot of stringent rules regarding our dress code, cell phone usage, Internet usage, how long are breaks can be, because some people have a hard time deciphering what is appropriate and not appropriate. I’m so tired of being lumped in with all the bad kids.

The key is responsibility. If parents are responsible and behave properly they will teach children the correct way of behaving. The kids will automatically imitate the responsible and good behavior. I grew up in a household that had guns and to this day I would not know how to gain access to it. My father was extremely responsible and respectful in knowing the gravity of what the power guns can possess. I used firearms as an example for this post however; my intention was more to use it as an illustration and less of political statement. Just recently I noticed Liam shaking his finger at me when he got really upset and I realize he got that from me. I love watching Liam and Ava as they get older and learn new things. But it’s also fun to see how they try to be like my husband and I. I know we are not perfect by any means. I’m sure they will pick up some bad habits along the way. But if we can at least instill some sense of responsibility in them that is one thing I will be very comfortable with then imitating.

To Swear or Not to Swear

Liam the other day had built his Thomas track on our couch having one half of the side hanging off (this was to reenact a Thomas episode he saw where the train was hanging off a cliff).  As he pushed Thomas along the track, the track broke, and Thomas fell to the ground.  Liam’s first reaction was to say, “What the heck happened.”  I was taken back by him saying that and then immediately knew where he got it from.  Me.  Although there is nothing terrible about him saying that, it made me slightly uneasy and was a quick reminder how much he is always listening and remembering.

I remember several years ago a person retelling a “funny” story to me in which it ended with her child’s first word being sh*t.  At the time I didn’t think this story was too funny and today I still don’t.  I never found it amusing, but more appalling for little children to use curse words (and sometimes with hand gestures).  Here is my problem with it.  Most likely a three year old who is cursing, is only imitating what he/she has heard.  However a three year old does not grasp (1) what it means, and (2) when it is an appropriate time to use it.  The other problem is I find expletives to be rude.  A lot of times using those words have strong connotations and if not used in front of an appropriate audience you can come across as being impolite.

I in general do not swear a lot however a year ago I was cutting potato on a mandolin.  One of the slices got stuck and as I was trying to pull it out, my one finger ran across the blade and took off the tip of it.  In sheer pain I said, “Oh Sh*t!”  All the way to the emergency room while my husband was driving and I was trying not to pass out, I could hear Liam repeating that over and over again.  Thankful by the time grandma and grandpa got there he had forgotten about it and has not said it since then (nor has he heard it).

Young children who curse and do not realize what they are saying or the impact of their words could unintentionally offend someone.  A simple statement of expression that one might think is harmless and use in the privacy of their home (What the f**k?) could be quite offensive to someone else. With children not understanding the effect of their words, feelings could be hurt.  On the other hand, how a child behaves and how they speak is considered a direct reflection on the parents.  When someone hears a young child swearing besides finding it jarring, many tend to look at the parents as immature and not at all classy. With the parents not creating the proper impression for their children they are unintentionally creating the implication that the children have poor behavior. Excessive swearing can come across as a lack of vocabulary and uneducated.  If the parent had more of an extensive vocabulary he/she could better express themselves instead of using four -five lettered words.

With all this being said, what does it boil down to?  Think before you speak.  Children are listening and ready to repeat.  If you are not comfortable with your children using expletives in the company of others, you shouldn’t be either.

 

 

 

 

I Hate the Word Hate

I read an article this morning regarding the Westboro Baptist Church holding a protest at the Wilson High School in Washington DC regarding the new principal being gay.  As I read the article and looked at the pictures that went along with it many thoughts came to mind for me.

First of all, no matter what side you stand on in this issue there is something extremely upsetting about children holding signs that use the word hate in it.  HATE.  The Merriam-Webster defines the word hate as:

a :  intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

b:  extreme dislike or antipathy :  loathing <had a great hate of hard work>

Do kids really hate?  Or do we teach them to hate things?  Liam doesn’t have in his vocabulary the word hate.  I do not use that word nor do I like that word.  However he has told me he doesn’t like tomatoes .  He came to this on his own by trying it (an educated opinion).  On the other hand Liam has also told me he doesn’t like pork chops (which I have never made because I do not like them).  Since Liam has never tried it before I have to assume his aversion to them is because he heard me say I do not like them (a bias opinion).  I can’t help but wonder if these children “hate” a certain sect of people or is it because that is what they have heard so much.  There is something to be said in regards to the saying, “Little pitchers have big ears.”  So much of our children’s reactions and feelings about things are learned from watching how we respond to things.

I really really dislike snakes.  I am scared of them.  However, I have run into the situation twice now while on walks that we came across one.  I don’t want to teach Liam and Ava this fear, so as calmly as I could muster I let Liam and Ava take a look.  We are shaped by our surroundings and the experiences we have.  Without getting into a religious debate because that is not the point of this post, I can’t help but come to the conclusion hate is learned and is that not the opposite of what any religion would want?

I guess my whole point to this is we really need to be cognizant of the message that we are sending our children.  Without throwing out too many cliché lines, our future is based on the children of today and I for one would rather live in a future of tolerance and love than prejudice and hatred.

 

 

Parenting Through His Eyes

I will never forget the day that Will and I witnessed a child being slapped.  My body was frozen unable to react to what was unfolding before me.  Somehow I rallied and finally was able to calm my then boyfriend now husband down enough to take a deep breath.

First let me explain we were at the West Point annual 1812 concert.  It is a wonderful event full of great music and fireworks.  A couple of blankets in front of us sat a family; mom, dad, and son.  As we sat on our blanket enjoying the beautiful summer day, we were people watching when by chance our eyes landed in the same area.  I have no idea what transpired prior to it, but the father’s reaction was a full force smack across the little boy’s face.

I think I might have literally gasped out loud, however I quickly realized Will was already on his feet; his gut reaction taking over and wanting to do something.  I quickly rose myself and pulled Will’s arm, in the opposite direction to take a small walk.  It was in that very moment I knew exactly what kind of dad Will would be.

From the very beginning I knew Will was good with kids.  In college he was a lifeguard and spent much of his time playing with the children at the local park.  I have to be honest that was one of the things I fell in love with.  It came so naturally and unforced for him.  But now here in that moment at West Point I knew something else very important about him, no matter what he would never hit our child.

A lot of people have different views on what is acceptable discipline for their children; however an act of violence should never be one.  I never understood the theology of getting a child to behave through hitting.  It isn’t respect you are establishing through that, it is fear.  Your child might not do something again but it isn’t because they understand, it is because they are scared.  Some people do not care about the reason as long as the end result is the child does not act up again.  To me it is more important that my child understands why instead of living in fear.

It still haunts me today about that little boy. Was that an isolated incident (I tend not to think so since it was done so publicly)? Should we have done something? I myself at the time was scared to get involved and maybe we should have. I am no perfect parent by any means. I lose my patience and at times have to leave the room to calm down, but I know I will never ever strike my child to get them to listen, understand, or learn. The only lesson a child will learn from hitting is fear and I promise that is not a lesson you want your kids to live with.