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.

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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.

 

 

 

Two Children and a Headache

There is nothing worse then being home with two kids and a headache.  In the past there have been times I have showed up to work with headaches, bad colds, and just not feeling well.  My co-workers would ask, “Why are you here?”  My reply is always the same, “It’s easier being here then at home.”

The truth is being at home is hard when you are feeling good, when you are sick, it is unbearable.  When you are sick and at work people tend to leave you alone because (1) they know you probably don’t feel very sociable, and (2) they do not want to catch your germs.  But at home there is no lenience, no break, and no timeout.  Your kids still need breakfast, and baths, and running around outside and it really doesn’t matter if you feel like you have been just run over by an 18 wheeler.  Their little minds and legs are still running.

On top of it all even if I do get to veg out a little bit, I quickly guilt ridden myself into getting up and doing something with them because I feel bad.  Last week I was home with them and I had a headache.  I was lying on my bed and the kids were being quiet in Liam’s room (which is never a good sign) and instead of enjoying the couple of moments of quietness I pushed myself to get up and do something with them because I didn’t want them to be bored. It is times like those when I think, “Man I wish I was at work.” I could just type away at my computer and not have to worry about anyone crying, getting hurt, needing anything from me.

And then it happened. Liam asked, “Mommy why are closing your eyes?” I told him my head hurt and I was trying to make it feel better. He climbed on my lap and kissed my forehead. I smiled and melted all over. My head still hurt but I didn’t care anymore.

 

In With the New Out With the (Sniff) Old

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Ava 7 Months old
Liam 16 months old
Liam 16 months old

 

It happens several times a year and it never gets easier for me.  I love watching my kids grow and learn new things.  I am excited to be able to do more and more with them.  But every once and a while there is a sharp reminder that my kids are growing up fast!

I remember the first time I sorted through Liam’s drawers to weed out the clothes that didn’t fit him and I found a newborn onesie among the clothes.  There was a small part of me that could not bear to put it in the give away pile and I held onto for a while longer.

Each and every time I go through this process two things happen; (1) Elicit tears come as I remember certain memories when they were wearing those outfits; and (2) Inevitably some clothes will remain in the drawer because I cannot stomach to part with them yet.

Little after Liam’s first birthday I knew I was pregnant with Ava and for a short period of time this purging of clothes was made easier knowing that there was another baby on the way.  But now my “baby” is 20 months old.  I am so proud of both of my kids.  They are truly little sponges learning, speaking, doing new things every day but a small part of me mourns what has past.  Everyone says enjoy these moments and don’t look too far ahead because it goes fast.  There in lies the problem for me.  I truly did enjoy all the moments leading up today (and I know that will continue) so it is hard for me to let one moment go for another moment.  I know each one will bring an amazing experience for both me and them, but in the still of the night when they are both sleeping I go into their rooms and check on them and think, “Wow they have gotten so big.”

So today I have two bags full of clothes that Liam and Ava have outgrown. Giving them away is the best part of the process. Knowing that someone else who needs them will get to use them and maybe just like me will remember good memories as they fold and put the clothes away.

 

It’s Ok Not to Go to College

So what I am about to say I think is going to anger some of you, but as my kids get older, if appropriate I might say to them, “It’s ok, you don’t have to go to college.”

I want my kids when they become adults to be happy, successful, and do something they enjoy.  With that being said, college might not be the answer.  As I have mentioned many times in the past I value education. However, I do realize not everyone fits in the same box or mold.  Some career choices a four year degree would not be helpful.  For instance, to become a beautician a BS or BA degree would not be beneficial.

Then there is the other side of it. In today’s high pressure for children to succeed we have forgotten one important thing, not all kids are built for college.  In recent years we have begun to put unrealistic expectations on our children.  Not only does not every profession require a college education, but not every child is built for it.  Today’s standard for education is quite frankly unattainable for some.  In some ways I feel as though we are setting up our children to fail.  To make every child feel like he must go to college when maybe that is an unrealistic road for him to take is not right.  I think it’s very important to push our kids to try hard, however we have lost sight on the fact that not all kid’s definition of success means college.  In doing this, we have set our children up for failure and disappointment instead of finding an appropriate avenue for them that they can achieve at.  Furthermore, we have created a feeling that may reside in our children if they do not go to college it is shameful

I read an article recently that said the freshman college dropout/flunk out rate in the last 10 years has gone up 30%.  Part of it I believe  has to do with social promotion (which is a discussion for another day) but the other part has to do with the fact that nowadays it’s assumed that everyone goes to college whether equipped for it or not. As parents I think part of our job is to help our kids focus on an attainable goal for them. Just as not every kid likes the color red, or likes chocolate cake, not every kid is meant to be a doctor. That in part is what makes the world go around. Our differences are how we learn new things and develop new ideas. If we were all meant to do the same thing then not only would this world be a very boring place but there would be no individual. We need to embrace these differences and help our children achieve what is best for them.

It’s the Little Things That Count

On a daily basis, multiple times a day, I hear Liam say, “Mommy (or Daddy) can I tell you something?”  Our answer is always yes.  Sometimes he tImageells us he is hungry, other times it’s to ask if he can watch a show, and other times it’s to tell us a story.  Regardless we always listen.  Here’s the thing, if our kids know we are listening now they can trust us eventually when they get older and the issues turn from watching Thomas to being tempted to try to smoke.  The things they tell us now may seem small but it isn’t to them and they need to know we care.  I always encourage Liam to talk to me not just because I like to know what he is thinking but because if he gets comfortable doing it now there is a greater chance he will come to me later on when the big issues are happening.

All too often I see parents on their cell phones while with they’re completely ignoring them.  My husband is always saying, “You are missing it.”  You are missing those moments that you can never get back.  Ten years from now it will not matter what level of Candy Crush you got to or who said what on Facebook but it will matter what your kids are thinking and saying.  In today’s technology filled society we all do it.  We all check our emails, update our Facebook statuses, etc. but if you can put down your phone for a minute and see what your kids are up to, you might just learn something.

It’s like creating the foundation and the framework of a house.  If you create a solid foundation and a strong framework, the house will be able to weather the storm.  So often in our busy days listening gets brushed aside, but trust me give them the time.  Not only will you find out entertaining and fascinating things about your kids now, but you are doing the homework for the final exam later on.

 

When parent’s pressure to achieve becomes too much

About a month ago I saw a news segment about a father who pushed his son down a skateboarding ramp because he was taking too long.  The boy was six and the ramp was high and he was scared.  As a parent there are times that we need to gently nudge our children, whether its coaxing them to practice a little more piano or letting go of the bike as a kid learns to ride.  Regardless, there is a line that seems to be crossed more times than not that the coaxing turns nasty and it isn’t fun anymore.

Now I never have skateboarded, I know nothing about it.  However, if I saw my kid was scared, I would have never just pushed him down (this child ultimately fell off the skateboard and hit the bottom on his knees).  I know instead I would have cheered him on saying, “You can do it.”  But at the  end of the day, if he didn’t want to go down I would have never forced him down.  How is pressuring your children and pushing them to the point of being uncomfortable going to establish a trusting relationship, let alone create an eager environment to try that task again?

I can’t help but wonder if these pushy to the point of destructive parents aren’t living vicariously through their children.  They had their chance to be kids and whether it was all of what they wished it to be or not, it’s not their turn anymore.  Now the focus should be on the betterment of their children.  These parents also need to realize that their children’s interests may be similar to theirs or it may be very different.  We need to embrace and encourage those new interests because it really doesn’t matter what you are interested in, its what’s interesting to them, what will motivate them forward.  It’s like the “Little Engine That Could”, if we can teach our kids the “I think I can. I think I can,” mantra, you and the child will be better off than the lesser known but often taught, “I’m scared but I better do it.” mantra.

Three Going on Eight

Every mom has those moments. Those moments when you see something that is upsetting your child and you want to swoop in and make it better. It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it takes everything in my power to stop and wait. The most recent moment happened this past weekend. We went to the Warwick Valley Winery (Happy Mother’s Day to me) and there were kids everywhere running around. Liam naturally wanted to join in but instead of nearing the group of kids that looked his age he went over to the kids 4 or 5 years older than him. I heard him say, “Come on friends let’s play.” The children were nice but their play was way too sophisticated for Liam and soon he was left in the dust. Sadly he went to a corner and asked to be left alone. It broke my heart at the time, and to be honest as I am typing this the tears are welling in my eyes. The logical part of me knows that there is really nothing wrong here. The truth of the matter is 8 year olds play much differently than 3 year olds; however seeing him so dejected killed me.

Later that afternoon we met a little girl named Willow who was three years old however Liam wanted nothing to do with her. This isn’t the first time I have seen this happen either. For whatever reason, Liam prefers to be around older kids. In the long run I know this isn’t a big deal but right now it seems very much so. I wonder if I waited too long to introduce him to kids his own again. He is always around adults and it wasn’t until this past March that he began school. Liam is a very social child but his wanting to be around older kids concerns me now because he will inevitable be rejected by the older children and have no interest being with the children of his age.

Then there is the other possibility. Liam is perfectly content and happy the way things are. Maybe I am being too sensitive over this. I in no way want to have my feelings influence his behavior. It might be quite possible that Liam’s tendency to want to be around older children will help him in the future.

For now I guess I need to just take a step back and congratulate myself on the fact that I have raised a three year old that is brave and eager to make friends and not worry about the age. After all age is just a number.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the awesome Moms out there. Some of us do it with a partner, others do it alone, but regardless we do it everyday. We hug and kiss our kids, we make and clean up after meals, and make sure all of their daily needs are met. We do the best we can and we do it selflessly. We get excited in seeing our kids grow and accomplish things and we are more thrilled about doing things for them then for ourselves. We work hard and play hard with them. We don’t often think about it but we are truly molding the future.  We encourage our children to try new things and we motivate them not to give up.

I am truly blessed as I have two amazing grandmothers, one outstanding mother, and a wonderful mother-in-law.  I have learned so much about being a mother from these women.  Our first lesson in love comes from the love of a mother.  Celebrate today and enjoy. Happy Mother’s Day!!!

Mothers-Day

The Helicopter Parent the New Species of Parents

Helicopter Parents: Are they helping or hurting our children? By definition this is a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.   Having seen it first hand prior to ever having children I hoped and prayed that I would not become one of those parents.  I remember vividly watching one mother scoot around her kid as he spun in circles to make sure he would not fall.  In my head I remember thinking this is crazy.  Now I would in no way want that child, my child, or any child to get hurt, however there is an important lesson that is being skipped over if we never let them fall.  We are not teaching our kids how to pick themselves back up.  Sure there are tears and moments to comfort but if we never let our kids fall then they never learn how to cope and move on.  I feel as kids get older this snowballs into bigger issues then just falling down and getting hurt.

We all want the best for our kids and for them to be happy. No one would ever intentionally put their children in harms way. However, when we remove all conflict from our young children’s lives we are also stripping them from valuable problem solving skills.  Kids no longer know how to take responsibility for anything.  I remember this becoming a new discussion when I was in college as a professor once retold a story of a parent calling him to excuse their son from the paper that was due because their son was not feeling well.  It seems ridiculous but it happens all the time.  When our children are not given the chance to be held to a certain standard they do not know how to stand on their own two feet.  This is quite concerning to me. As a society we are grooming children who someday will become adults and who have no accountability.  How are these children every going to become successful?  I believe it’s quite true that failure spurs success.  Without ever failing there is nothing to motivate you to move forward.  There needs to be conflict at times in our lives so that we can strive for something better.

I also think that when we are too overprotective of our children we are taking away a small part of pride for them. Deep down we all want to do well. When we become so involved with our children’s life that they are never given the chance to struggle with something, they can never feel pride in accomplishing anything. Liam loves to do puzzles and at times he gets very frustrated.   When he has a hard time putting it together, I simply offer some encouragement for him to continue trying and he finishes it on his own. The smile of success on his face says it all. This might seem small but it all builds up. Small problems as children will translate to big problems as adults. Small accomplishments as kids equal big payouts as adults. Allowing our kids to work it out not only helps them internally but also someday working it out with people. I am not suggesting never lending a hand or letting our children get into danger but the next time your son or daughter is struggling. Take a step back and let them work at it. Your not only helping them now but also for their future.