Swiper the Fox

So for some time now my son has had a little nickname that we have given him of Swiper.  This derived from a character on Dora the Explorer who takes things from people.  Liam on a somewhat regular basis tries to swipe any lingering desserts on the table.  Ava has fell victim to this many times as she doesn’t eat them as quickly as he does.

A few nights ago in the madness of what I call dinnertime I was cleaning up in the kitchen when Liam said, ” Look Ava I am having the last bite of ice cream,” as he scooped up the last bite and put it in his mouth.  Irritated I slammed my hand down on the counter and yelled, “Liam!”  I couldn’t believe he did it again.  He stole Ava’s last bite of ice cream and was taunting her about it again.  Liam froze, his eyes bulging out at me.  He finally in a shaky voice replied, “Mommy this was my ice cream.”  Now I froze completely stunned.  I quickly replayed in my head the last five minutes of dinner and to my horror realized Ava had an ice pop and Liam had ice cream, he indeed did not steal her dessert.  Complete and utter remorse and self-deprecation washed over me.  At this point Liam’s lower lip was quivering and I felt horrible.  I quickly rushed to him and scooped him up in my lap.  I apologized profusely to him and tried to explain to him why I jumped to the conclusion I had.  As he calmed down in my arms a heavy albatross grew around my neck.

A little while later while Will and I were finishing cleaning up the kitchen I was discussing my plans for our garden and how we needed to go to Lowes the next day to pick up some materials.  Liam interjected into the conversation how he wanted to be with me tomorrow and just me for some mommy and Liam time.  My heart melted and I felt a little better about what had passed thinking that he had forgiven me.  Will and I quickly came up with an idea that when we got to Lowes we would split up, so Will would take Ava and I would take Liam to pick up the items.

The next day Liam, Ava, and I got in the car to meet Will at Lowes after he got out of school.  As we were pulling out of the driveway Liam said, “Now remember Ava you will go with daddy and I am going to go with mommy.”  Ava said, “No why don’t we all go together.”  Liam said, “No we can’t. I have to make mommy feel better about her mistake.” That is when my ears perked up.  Mistake, what mistake?  Today had been a relatively low conflict day.  “Liam what mistake did I make?” I asked.  “Remember yesterday mommy when you yelled at me because you thought I stole Ava’s dessert.  I knew you felt bad and you were hurting so I wanted to make it better.”

12305814_10208286065415264_490324964_nI could not believe what I was hearing.  For a moment I was completely shocked, but I had to shake myself out of that as we were driving down the road.  I was in awe on how insightful and thoughtful and empathetic Liam had been.  Even now as I type this out it astonishes me how forgiving and loving he was.  It’s unbelievable how sometimes the littlest actions, the simplest words can have the most profound impact.  Liam in that split second reminded me on how as wonderful and great, grand gestures are sometimes, it’s the purest, smallest moments that can have the lasting effect.

 

 

 

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Mommy Is Going to Get a Bookbag

For some time now I have debated about going back to school.  My husband and I have had many talks about it, but in the end I have always decided not to go back.  Primarily because I was…am….too afraid of missing something with my kids.  Even so, there has been this gnawing ache in me to go back.  Quite frankly I have wanted to go back since I graduated.  Now twelve years later nothing has changed except that I am older.

I look at my sister-in-law and my cousin who are both young mothers and are in school.  They amaze me how they juggle it and make it work.  The funny thing is I think no matter what, if you really want something, you make it work, and you find the time.   I know it isn’t going to be easy.  I am not going to be able to snap my fingers and poof have more time, but I do think if it is important to make it happen.  I know that there have been times I missed things with my kids.  I didn’t get to see Liam give his first love in preschool the handmade card he made for her (but I did sit with him the night before while he made it).  I did not get to see Ava at her dress rehearsal for her recital last year (but I took her to every class, picture, and was there for the day of the recital).   I will always have time for the extra hug before I run out the door in the morning.  I will always be late to work to miss my kid’s holiday performance at school.   In the end the important thing is that I am always there for them.  Every night my husband and I end the night with our kids saying how much we love them and no matter what we will always love them.

MEME.jpgI know I can give myself the easy out on why not to go back to school and it would it be a valid excuse.  But here in lies the problem.  I want my kids to see their mom as a happy, fulfilled, ambitious, hardworking mom.   It took me a long time career wise to be in a place that I can say I am happy.  And while everyone’s definition is different on what fulfills them and drives them, for me it’s going to back to school.  So this momma in the next year besides writing in her blog, selling her Avon, going to work, and soaking up every moment with my kids and husband, will also be studying for the GRE’s.   No more excuses.  It’s time to hit the books.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Summertime With the Kids

I remember my mother telling me about waiting on the playground on the last day of elementary school.  She would hear a few mothers moaning about how they had to “deal” with their kids for the whole summer.  I remember my mother telling me how she did not understand these mothers, as she was excited about what she was going to do with us for the summer.  And it’s true; my mother did a lot with us.  She took us to the library, trips to the city, friends’ houses, swimming lessons and the list goes on.  I never really understood exactly what she meant until today.  I knew she enjoyed her time with us, but I never understood how annoying those other mothers were until now.

I went to pick up pizza at our local pizzeria and there were two women ahead of me waiting for their orders.  It was obvious that these women knew each other.  I overheard the one woman say to the other, “Julie is in camp till the end of July.  Thank God.  I have no idea what I am going to do with her in August.”  That was followed by an exasperated sigh.  The other woman was nodding in agreement and replied, “I know exactly what you mean.”

Family Fun Times
Family Fun Times

The problem is I do not know what they mean.  Without fail everyday Liam and Ava try my patience, they get into fights with each other, and have standoffs with my husband and I; and yet I would not trade it for the world.  I go back to work in a week and half and I am half looking forward to it and half not.  Since my husband is home for the summer (he is a teacher) we have been jam packing our days with family “funness” before I have to go back.   I don’t understand these women’s sentiments especially since I have been accused (and rightfully so) of jam packing our days too much.  I just want to do so much with them and I feel like there is not enough time.

I am not trying to be preachy or anything like that.  I know I am not perfect by any means.  I guess it comes from one fear that I have, which is when I look back in twenty years I don’t want to say I wish I had ….but instead say I’m glad I did.

Need Versus Want

I took Liam and Ava to the grocery store the other day as our afternoon outing. I actually really love going to the grocery store as it is a time where they have my undivided attention and I have theirs. This trip however ended up to be quite the life lesson for my kids.

When we arrived at the grocery store we entered in at the produce section. Ava excitedly pointed to the grapes and Liam asked for bananas. I then got some tomatoes and moved over to the deli counter. We were the next in line and while we waited I listed to Liam and Ava all of the other items we needed. Next to us were a mother and daughter talking quietly to each other. Our number was called and I placed my order. I then realized the daughter was now yelling at her mother. It was unclear at this point what the issue was, but she did say to her mother, “You have to. You owe me this.” I was stunned.

You have to. You owe me this. For so many reasons this statement struck a chord with me. First of all there is no please, or thank you. No showing of appreciation. It wasn’t requested it was demanded. Second of all, last time I looked a mother, parent or quite frankly anyone was never required to do anything. This sense of entitlement this young woman had was astonishing. Liam then in his innocent but loud way asked, “Why are they yelling?” Nervously I told Liam they were having a disagreement. At this point, the mother and daughter got their order and walked away still in their heated argument.

downloadNow Liam is all about why. Why were they yelling? Why was the daughter upset? I tried to explain to him it is my job to provide and make sure his needs are being met; to feed, clothe, and keep him warm and safe. Anything beyond that isn’t something he needed but wanted. It’s always nice to get a special treat or a new train but it is not something I needed to do. I then said to Liam if mommy or daddy does decide to do something special you should always be appreciative and say thank you.

I came to find out (we stood behind them on the checkout line) that the daughter’s phone broke and she Needed a new IPhone. Now I will be the first one to admit I am quite dependent on my phone and when mine broke it was a little unnerving how upset I got. I understand the want of it, but I didn’t need a new one, no more than this young girl needed a new one. On top of that, her demanding demeanor and assumption that it was due to her just as much as anything else rang true that I don’t think in general we are teaching our children the difference between need and want. On top of that, there is also a huge lack of appreciation we are not conveying to our children that is rather disconcerting. How do we ever expect our children to grow into hardworking, thankful adults who do not expect everything to be handed to them if we do not demand that from them now? Now do not get me wrong we all need help and asking for something in no means is implying that someone is not a hardworking person. But there seems to be a growing trend of teenagers and young adults that do not understand that they have to put in a little elbow grease to get what they want. If we start with our children at a young age to work towards goals and not get everything that is requested the moment they ask for it, I think we might all be a little surprised at the young adults they will become.

 

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.

 

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.