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The Garden that Grew Guilty Flowers

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“I wonder what is at the root of your guilt… Serene?”

That was the question that was posed to me one Monday morning during an hour long conversation with a woman at my job. It was an impromptu conversation that came about from me just passing her office to say “good morning”. This woman happens to be a mom and a very spiritual person, so I always enjoy my encounters with her. However, this particular morning, my brief hello turned into an insightful conversation that left me in tears, with a new life-changing question to reflect upon: “I wonder what’s at the root of your guilt…Serene?”. I don’t even know how we got to the point where the conversation took such a thought provoking turn, but before I knew it, we were discussing our outlook on motherhood, work, and self care. It may have begun with the question, “How was your weekend?”, my simple response of “Oh, we went to church and I did the usual: Laundry, food shopping, etc”, somehow led to us both discussing the “Sunday Night Mommy Monster” that was all too familiar to us both. That monster, she came out each weekend due to the anxiety of only having two days to reset our homes for the week to come.

Until this conversation, I thought that I was the only one who transformed into that green creature with the purple ripped shorts around 6pm every Sunday.

I thought I was the only one whose family feel victim to the “Hulk Smash”, once she realized that she was not going to accomplish everything on her weekend-to-do-list. I thought I was the only one who single-handedly destroyed any trace of a great weekend, as I complained about failing to accomplish the goals of the weekend. I wasn’t the only one and this Monday morning conversation opened my eyes to that.

Then our conversation took another turn and, I was telling her about my insane need to sit at my desk all day at work, to complete a daily to do list that was longer than any human, or small team of humans could complete in a 7 hour work day. I revealed to her how hard it was for me to take a lunch break each day because I felt bad about abandoning my work for something as trivial as eating. She shared with me the struggle she once had with leaving the office on time to get home to her family. This made me realize that if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to pick my little girl up from the day care at 5:45pm each day, I probably would stay at work until the building closed. She explained how well she understood my struggles, because she had once battled with similar issues, but she went on to share how she had taken a stand against being a slave to her work and that she had even kicked the habit of coming to work on the weekends. She even shared how she had come to realize that it was so important to take care of herself and do the things that she enjoyed. She explained how by doing those things she had discovered a peace of mind that she had not known before.

I stood there looking at her with admiration, as my mind entertained all the things in life that I would love to do just for the sheer enjoyment.

I thought about how wonderful it would be to leave work while it was still light outside. I thought about how wonderful it would be to eat lunch without worrying about getting spaghetti sauce on the keyboard as I answered my work emails. I thought about watching a movie on a Sunday night with my family so that we can all feel relaxed before the new week begins.

Just as I started to feel comforted by all these thoughts, this awful feeling from the pit of my stomach began to rise up and dampen my whole mood. “I would feel so guilty doing many of the things that I would like to do because I would feel like I’m abandoning my responsibilities” I told her.

Her response was a sympathetic tilt of her head, as she looked at me and asked, “I wonder what’s at the root of that guilt? That’s the real question, Serene”.

She said those words to me.
We exchanged a few more words, she passed me a tissue for my tears, she gave me a few words of inspiration to meditate upon, and I went on to start my day of work. But that entire day, that entire night, that entire week I kept replaying that question over and over in my mind. What was at the root of my guilt? The funny thing about that question is that I actually knew the answer. Deep, deep, down inside I always knew the answer, but the voice was so small that as it whispered the answer, I always drowned it out by constantly keeping myself busy. Now that I was actually thinking about the question, the answer seemed to grow louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it.

At the root of my guilt, there was my idea of perfection. My idea that a perfect mom makes sure that the kids have everything they need and most of the things they want, a perfect wife gives her husband the time, the attention, the affection, the support that he needs at all times, the perfect daughter fits the mold that her mom intended for her to be. The perfect director runs her program in a way that pleases all her staff, all the parents, and keeps the company CEO pleased at all times with her work. The perfect friend calls her girlfriend multiple times a week to laugh and cry about life. And the perfect Christian woman never complains while achieving all of these goals. That was at the root of my everyday belief. I believed it because I thought this was how I was suppose to operate based on the responsibilities that were given to me.
However, the thing that stemmed from that root was disappointment in myself for falling short of that belief. At times, my children would want something that I couldn’t give them and on those occasions, I’d think: I failed them. At times my husband would want intimate time with me but I’d be striving to be the perfect director, so I’d be doing work in our bed, all the while thinking: I failed my husband. At work, teachers would complain, budgets would go off track, and I’d think, I’m not working hard enough: I failed as a director. My mother and I would argue over the simplest things and I’d think: I failed as a daughter. I’m not hanging out with my friends cause I can’t find the time: I failed as a friend. Then to top it all off, many days as I worked to achieve this perfection, I’d grow tired and weary, I’d complain and I’d think: AND I failed as a Christian.

Ideas of perfection at the root, thinking I failed everything at the stem. All that blossoms from this kind of plant is GUILT! And there it was!!!

My epiphany!! I discovered the root, I had figured out why my guilt had grown and why it was choking me so much. I had allowed the garden, that is my mind, to be inhabited by weeds. I had watered roots that needed to be pulled before they had a chance to flourish. Then the thought that I failed as a gardener started to cross my mind as well, until I quickly recognized what was happening again. I snapped that thought out my head. I told myself, I must be thankful for the revelation that I finally received and now I had to do something about. It was time to take back the garden of my mind. I declared from that day moving forward, I was going to pull every single weed that disguised itself as a precious flower.
And this is where I am in my life right now. I’m gardening. I’m detecting the weeds of my mind. I’m discovering that some of them are so big, they are so hard to pull, but I’m pulling. I’m clawing at them. It’s a messy job, but I know that I must do this. Not for my family, not for my friends, not for my job, not for my mother, not for husband. FOR MYSELF!!

Talk to you soon,
Serene “Sweetpea” Stevens

Share with me: What’s growing in the garden that is your mind? How are you nurturing it each day?


 

My New Chapter

(This particular blog is dedicated to a woman who inspired me to see the many chapters that we go through in this book called “Life”, and to the man who told me that I have a story to tell).

I woke up frustrated this morning.  I woke up tired this morning. I woke up frustrated because of why I was tired this morning. 

You see, last night I spent the hours of 9pm through 4am defending my parenting style to a group of people.  Particularly, my parenting style as it relates to my preteen/teenager.  Usually, I like a healthy conversation. I even like to engage in a healthy debate every now and then.  But I usually never like to have conversations where I have to DEFEND myself. It’s exhausting and by the time it ends, depending on who I am conversing with, my point or my perspective is never acknowledged or justified anyway, so essentially it is a waste of time.  (Hence, frustration!).

As of late, I feel like I have been having one too many conversations where I am defending my parenting style.  And while I would like to stop right here and just set the record straight by saying, I am open to much advice! I love advice.  It’s feedback and feedback helps improvement. In fact, I like feedback and advice so much that I seek it, but only from those who have been through a similar experience as what I am seeking advice for, which is not the same group of people who I am having these conversations with as of late.

So with that said, I am not that person who is getting all these interventions from these experts right now and I am just having a tantrum because what I really am is just oblivious to the needs of my children.  That’s not what this is.

And what I am definitely not as well, is an EXPERT on raising a pre-teen/teen.  Why am I not an expert? Well, because I am smack in the middle of still raising a pre-teen who is about to be a teenager. And it is my belief that one can not be an expert on something until they have EXPERienced that particular something and come out on the other end of it successfully and even then, it could be argued, that they are still just an expert from a very small perspective in the grand scheme of things.  Multiple experiences would truly determine mastership over that area and thus expertise.  Perhaps, that’s just my opinion (shoulder shrug).

And, so with that said, today, through my tiredness and slowly declining frustration as I write, I have found my next new venture, or rather my new chapter.

And that chapter is called, “Writing a Book”.  The purpose  of this book will be to capture my journey through trying to become a preteen/teenage expert. Not for every preteen/teenager, but, for the one that matters the most to me right now: mine.

As he embarks on this third year of middle school, I have also learned many lessons in the first two years that will dictate how I help him to navigate through this year, both academically and socially, at home and at school.  I have discovered, sometimes through the help of outside influences, and sometimes just from my own observations, the need to change my approach to dealing with him in certain areas.  I have also discovered that I still have far to go. This discovery has also come from both some outside influences, and from my own observations. Either way, with some pushing, I have decided, that it is time for me to document this journey in the hopes that I will come out in the end as an expert on dealing with MY 12/13 year old, which will be determined by his success through the rest of middle school and start of high school.

Now, I have never written a book before so I don’t know exactly what it entails but what I do know is that every book begins with a story to tell, and I have that at least.  So without further adieu, here I go… Wish me luck!!

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me: Any advice that you have about publishing a book.  I am going to need it. (See how I ask for advice when I need it. HA!)

Pot of Sweet Peas

Completing a Puzzle

The decision to move from the classroom to an office was a really tough one for me to make. I had worked so many years hands- on with the little ones that I didn’t think that I could be happy sitting behind a desk pushing papers; even if the papers did relate to programming details.  

After turning down an opportunity to work as an Education Director twice, I finally excepted the offer on the third go round.  I had completed my Masters Degree and although I was going to really miss my summers off (one of the perks of being a teacher), I decided to make the transition after a very insightful conversation with my hubby.  

One night in a moment of panic, while I was trying to decide whether or not to say yes to the offer, my husband asked me why it was so hard to decide. “what if I miss the classroom? What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m just meant to be a teacher and not a director? I had so many “what ifs”.  My husband sat me down and reminded me that I had been the very same person who other teachers had already came to with questions about their own teaching strategies and practices. I had been the one who had researched and planned curriculums for not only my class but also the classes of others. He was right. Then he said words that I will never ever forget. He said ..

“You are a teacher and you are great at what you do. You have been making a big impact on your students for years. But now it’s time for you become a teacher to teachers so that you can make a greater impact.  You have to affect the masses. It is your calling”.  

Those words made the light bulb click on. I had my ah-ha moment.  And I knew that I had to say yes.

3 years later, I am enjoying every minute of being an education director, no regrets whatsoever. Lesson learned

In life, there are things that we are good at and then there are things that we are great at.  Usually those things come so naturally to us that we are surprised when others look at us with admiration while we are doing those things.    When we discover, or in my case, someone reveals to us,  what that thing is , we may have actually found our life’s purpose. Some may call it our “talent”.  But it can’t be ignored and it can’t be avoided. And once you step out on faith and answer the calling on your life, everything begins to fall into place and it’s like finding another missing piece to a puzzle.  

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: Are you fighting against your purpose? Why? 

Pot of Sweet Peas

Introduction: Bridging the Gap one Word at a Time

In everything that we do, we should have a purpose.  If not, we tend to lose focus because we never had a clear vision of why we began the task in the first place.

When I first began teaching, I knew that I wanted to open up the eyes of young children to see the world as an exciting place full of possibilities and adventure.  When I became an Education Director, I knew that I wanted to teach teachers to look at the world through the eyes of young children.  As a mother, I know that my purpose is to raise my sons to be leaders and innovative, independent thinkers.

And now as I embark on my blogging journey, I know that my purpose is to bridge a gap that sadly exists to this very day. 

For 13 years of my teaching career I worked in a location where I taught children who came from moderate to highly affluent homes.  Children who would visit their country houses on the weekends, and had accumulated more frequent flyer mileage by the age of 4 than I may ever accumulate in my lifetime.  While there is nothing at all wrong with that, this privileged lifestyle was also reflected in the education that children in this area receive.

I taught in this type of environment for years and I loved every minute of it.  However, at the end of each day, I commuted back home to a specific area in the Bronx where, although it was 40 minutes away from my place of work, the education system was light years away from what I knew to be the most beneficial for the children who are (cliche or not), our future.

Day after day, I had to ask myself WHY?  Why are the young children in my neighborhood allowed to walk through the streets late at nigh unaccompanied by adults?  Why do the parents think its okay to call the children names using profanity?   At first I had convinced myself that the families in my neighborhood just didn’t want better for themselves and that’s why the children are not doing better. But after a closer look at myself, which is what we should all do every now and then, I realized that my first thought was not entirely true.  It’s deeper than that and it definitely doesn’t apply to all people in this area.

For the most part ALL people want to do better than what they are doing.  They just don’t possess any keys to unlock the doors to doing better AND they don’t even know that they can pick the lock to open doors.   Either way, the lack is what causes people to become content or complacent with doing absolutely nothing. Parents become complacent so children do nothing.  Teachers become frustrated so the students suffer, funding becomes low so people become discouraged.  These may be all excuses but even the weakest excuse can have the strongest impact.  And while we are sitting around playing the blame game, our children are growing up to be fractions of what they can be.

With all of these things realized, I felt as if I could no longer be content with going to work in my upscale neighborhood, all the while judging what I didn’t understand at first.  The late, famous entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “if you don’t like how things are, change it! Your’e not a tree”.  As an educator, I don’t like the inequality that is ever present in our school system and as a parent I don’t like that other parents who want the best for their children have to jump so many hurdles just to scrape the bottom of the barrel. And as a parent who is an educator, I don’t like that people don’t realize that all of it starts at home.  I don’t like it, any of it, and because I am not tree, but a person with a voice, I would not be living up to my potential if I didn’t attempt to turn this system on its head and share what I know.  And that’s where this blog comes in.

Through my experiences, I have picked up a few tricks and practices that have become instrumental in shaping my views and even managing my household as it relates to children.  My sons have had exposure to things that will contribute to the purposeful mission that my husband and I have for their lives. And I have obtained a wealth of knowledge that has opened my mind to all the possibilities for our children.  And what good is wealth, if you can’t share it? The main purpose of this site is to begin a dialogue with parents and educators as we navigate through the most important jobs ever. On “My Sweet Pea and Me”, guest can expect to find:

  • Developmentally appropriate activities for parents and caregivers to do with young children.
  • My thoughts on many child-related issues and trends that exist today in society.
  • A glance into my life as a parent and how I handle certain situation.
  • Tips and advice for families that inspire togetherness, and communication.
  • And last, but certainly not least, my process and progress as I work to make “My Sweet Pea and Me” go from a blog to an actual preschool/ Mommy and Me program based in the Bronx.

I am so excited to share with you.

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What kinds of things would you like to read about on a blog about family, children, and entrepreneurship?  

Welcome to My Sweet Pea and Me

  • Hello All,

I would like to welcome you to My Sweet Pea and Me.  This blog has mentally been in the works for quite some time and I am very excited to finally put “pen to paper” (so to speak) and make the vision become a reality.

My name is Serene and although my name means “calm”, my life is anything but. I am a mom of 3, a wife for almost 11 years, a full-time Early Childhood Education Director, and an aspiring business owner. So why did I decide to add the role of blogger to my many titles? It’s definitely not because I’m bored.  Well, the simple answer is that the demands of my many roles have birthed a need for an outlet.

The longer answer goes a little something like this:

Since as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher.  I was that girl who lined up her stuffed animals in chairs and hung a piece of paper on the wall to pretend that I had my very own classroom.  When my younger brother, who is six years younger than I am, was of school age, I was that sister who talked him into turning off the television to make him be my real life student.  As he sat next to my cabbage patch kids, and Magic nursery dolls, he was forced to learn arithmetic, biology and how to format a perfect essay although he was only 7.  He was probably the only 2nd grader in his class that knew the pythagorean theorem.  I just had to teach!!!

Fortunately, I knew from an early age what I wanted to be when I grew up so it made my schooling decisions after high school very easy to make.  I went on to complete my Associates Degree in Early Childhood, my Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education and then finally my Master’s Degree once again in Early Childhood Education.  I currently hold my teaching certification in both Early Childhood and Elementary education.  In my career, I have tutored Bi-lingual Elementary students, taught in toddler and parent programs, created curriculums for Nursery  classes, and held the title of Education Director for a few Early Childhood Programs.

While on this road that I have been traveling, I have picked up some tips that have aided me in my field, as well as in my parenting. In fact, I have found that the two roles heavily influence one another.  As a teacher, I have discovered a voice within in myself that would like to teach all that I know to those who care to learn from me. And thus, my idea for a blog was born.

My experience as a mom and an educator definitely does not make me an expert on children but it does give me a story to tell and knowledge to share. This blog probably won’t be the parent manual that we are all looking for, but it is my hopes that it will serve as a few of the chapters of said manual. This blog is intended for parents, educators, wives, and dreamers,  as I am all those things and would love to share the many pieces of me with all of you.

Once again, I welcome you to “My Sweet Pea and Me”. I hope that as I fill the pages of this blog that it will fill the pages of the manual for your own children.

 So once again, I welcome you and yours to My Sweet Pea and Me.

Talk to you soon!