Do Needles Always Hurt?

This past Wednesday I took my 3-year old daughter, “Beanie” to the doctor for her annual physical. It is that time of year again when doctor forms have to filled out and immunizations have to be given. Side bar: Thank God for her school reminding me when her medical form is about to expire. I would never remember when these types of things are due.
Either way, I was fortunate enough to get an appointment in the evening so I didn’t have to miss a day of work. So that morning, my daughter and I began with our regular morning routine. As usual, I began by letting her know what the plans for the day were going to be.

I explained to her that after school, we were going to visit the doctor for Dr. D to give her a check up.

As she brushed her teeth, she just nodded as if to say “Got it, sounds like a plan”.  When she finished brushing her teeth, she gave me a rundown of questions as she tried to get an idea of what her visit was going to entail “Is the doctor going to look at my eyes?” “Yes, I’m sure she will”, I responded.  “And my nose?”, “Yes”, “And my ears?”, “Yup, everything. She is going to make sure that your whole body is healthy”  She smiled, jumped down from standing on the toilet seat and we continued to head out the door.

After school let out, I picked her up and we were off to the doctor.  At Dr. D’s office Beanie was her usual quiet and observant self which she becomes in settings that she is not very familiar with. Occasionally, she asked me questions, pointing to the equipment hanging on the walls. “What’s that mama? Is that to check my mouth?”  I explained as much as I could, hoping that I got it right.  Ophthalmoscope, Otoscope, Stethescope. They all scope something!

After her check up, we were sent to the lab for bloodwork, so I explained to her where we were headed next. She looked at me quizzically, as if to ask, “what do you mean?”

So I went on to explain that she is going to have a chance to see her blood go through a really long tube and into a long glass container. “They are going to take your blood to make sure that your blood is healthy” She simply replied “oh”, and we continued on to the lab.

When we got there, the lab technician immediately informed us that she was ready for us, so we went straight to the back. “Mom, you need to sit here and put baby on your lap” the lab tech instructed me, “Then I will need you to place your arm around her body like this” she demonstrated, holding my arm gently. As she prepared her tools, Beanie watched quietly. I also watched quietly as I held her in what felt more like a soft embrace than a restraint.

Just as the tech moved the needle towards Beanies arm, I said “Okay, now you are going to see your blood go through this tube right here.

What color do you think it’s going to be?” “Red!”, she replied with a smile. “Do you think so?”, I said smiling back at her, “Let’s see!”

As the blood flowed through the tube, she watched it, mesmerized to the point of salivation, then she broke from her trance and said excitedly, “I told ya it was gonna be red!”  “Yup, you were right!”, I gave her a big squeeze as the tech took out the bandaid.

“Wow”, said the tech as she placed the bandaid on Beanie’s arm “You were so good with that needle.” Then the tech looked at me and said, “I have never seen this before.  She didn’t even flinch!”

Then my child actually said grinning from ear to ear, “I like needles!”.  While I found that reaction to be a bit awkward, I couldn’t help to also acknowledge that she had a huge smile on her face, which was the total opposite of what was obviously  the norm in that lab.  And guess what people? They didn’t even give her a sticker OR a lollipop. She was genuinely happy because of her amazing experience.

My technique may have encouraged a little bit of a strange reaction but it worked to prevent a flood of tears.
The nurses acknowledgment of my big girl’s casual behavior made me realize that none of my children have ever cried over receiving any needles. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some very important things that I DONT do and other things that I always make sure to do, which definitely contribute to a calm, cool, and collective visit to the doctor:

I always let my children know that we are going to the doctor on the day of their appointment. Knowing what to expect helps one to prepare in whatever way they need to.

I am very careful with the answers to the questions that my children ask. As my children got older, sometimes they would even ask, “Am I getting a needle today?” My answer would usually be “I am not sure” because the truth is I never really did know. However,
there was no point in answering definitively, which could lead to disappointment and mistrust or unnecessary anxiousness.

And, I also never ever answer the question “Is it going to hurt?” with any definitive answer, because the truth is what’s painful for one person is not necessarily painful for another.

I have received many needles in my lifetime and none of them ever hurt to me so, from my perspective, the answer is “No, they don’t hurt (me)”.  But I know some adults who cry at the thought of a needle for one reason or another, in which case, from their perspective, needles hurt a lot. Either way, as parents, we must be mindful of projecting our own fears of things onto our children.

And last, but certainly not least, I don’t make sad and nervous looking faces at the idea of a needle. I like to keep a “nuetral” face, which looks rather blank. Children can read faces and they look to us more often than most people realize to determine how to react to a situation. Therefore, it’s important to avoid misleading them based on an experience that is very personal to you as an individual. It’s best to let them come to their own conclusion about and based on their own experiences.

Talk to you soon!

-Serene “Sweetpea”

Share with Me: Are there any experiences that you and your child react to in very different manners?

 

Laugh at Yourself

Tuesday morning started the way pretty much every morning begins in my home. The iPad alarm went off at 5:30am. I hit snooze repeatedly until I eventually dragged myself out of bed at 6:15am, reminding myself that I have to go to bed earlier the night before.

Doing loads of laundry, a sink full of dishes, preparing dinner, putting a toddler to bed, looking over a few work documents, paying a couple of bills, and checking homework all in the evening somehow never add up to me going to bed at 10pm like I aspire to do.

Either way, I dragged myself out of bed, walked in the room to make sure the boys were awake, then I shuffled back to my room to get myself dressed. At 7am I made my way into my Beanie’s room. She was already sitting up on her bed ready to start the day. Seeing her little 3-year old “just-woke up smile” always takes the place of a cup of coffee, which works for me, since I don’t drink coffee. I just love that little face! As I begin to pull out her clothing for the day, her smile grows wider as she notices that I picked a new dress that she has never worn before. She loves her tights and dresses. As I help her to dress herself, she can hardly speak clearly because her excitement over her dress is just too big. But from what I could make out, she is speaking of her plans to show Daddy her brand new dress. Once she is fully clothed, I then attempt to put her school shirt on her. It’s a cute little blue number that the children are required to wear everyday. Well, she is not with this plan at all! She does not want me to cover her dress. She grabs the shirt as if it is attacking her and screams “NOooo!!, I want to wear my dress”. I start to engage her in a conversation to explain that technically speaking, she will still be wearing her dress if I put the shirt over it, but then I think, it would probably be best not to get into this power struggle with her. It’s just too early for that.

So I decide to just pack the shirt and persuade her to wear it once we get to her school. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.

As she runs out of her room to show Daddy and “her boys” (as she likes to call her brothers), I brush my teeth, pack my lunch, and grab some last minute things to pack for the office. I throw on my coat, I put baby girl’s coat on her, and we are out the door.

When we arrive at her school, I immediately remember that she has to put on her uniform shirt. I begin searching through my many bags. No shirt. Under the stroller? No shirt. Her book-bag? No shirt. I search those same places once again, hoping that somehow the shirt would manifest in round 2. No shirt.

What the heck!! I just know that I packed that shirt!
My daughter’s teacher watches as I look frantically around for the shirt and after a few moments, she explains to me that it is fine and not to worry about it. “Just have her wear it tomorrow, mom.” her teacher says to me with a gentle smile. While I appreciate her understanding, I can not find peace within myself because I just know I packed that darn shirt! But either way, I have a bus to catch, so I kiss my Beanie and I head on to the bus stop, all the while, scratching my head about this shirt situation.
When I arrive to my office, I remove my jacket, say my good mornings to my teaching staff and head to the main office to check my mailbox.
As I enter the main office, which is not yet filled with all it’s staff or the hustle and bustle of the many guest that visit on a daily basis, I reach into my mailbox, pull out a stack of mail, and step back on what I immediately recognize is not the hard floor that I had been walking on all this time.

I look down and discover what I am stepping on. It’s none other than my daughter’s uniform shirt!! What in the world!!?

I look around the empty office to see who could have placed this there to mock me about the confusing morning that I had just had. Who placed that shirt behind me on the floor? But there is no one in the office. I’m standing there alone.
As I reach down to pick up the shirt, the entire memory of my steps from this morning come flooding back to me all of a sudden. I remember exactly what happened this morning. It all make sense to me now.

I hadn’t lost my mind. I did pack that shirt. I just didn’t pack it where most people would have normally packed a shirt.

It wasn’t in my bag, it wasn’t under the stroller, it wasn’t in my daughter’s bag. I had “packed” her shirt under my arm!! Yup. You read it correctly. In my effort to multitask this morning and keep my hands free, I had shoved her shirt in my arm pit. This was a practice that I had done many times before since becoming a mother of three because well, you don’t get another set of hands when you have more than two children,which is just not fair. And while this is something that I truly don’t understand, I have to just become more creative to move from point A to point B. And so, like some kind of winged bird, I tucked the shirt under my arm, threw my sweater on, and kept it moving. With that shirt nestled in a safe place, that morning, I brushed my teeth, my daughter’s teeth, packed lunch, opened a stroller, and put on my coat all without that shirt budging from between my armpit and my sweater.

Yes, this morning, I had displayed a special set of skills that had helped me to maneuver through my morning and avoid the tantrum of a three year old. The only problem is… I had forgotten.

As I picked the shirt up off the office floor and interestingly enough, tucked it back under my arm so that I could carry my mail in my hands, I was thankful that the office was empty at that moment, because the laughter that erupted from inside of me would have surely concerned any staff member that was sitting there. I could not stop laughing at myself! As I walked back to my office, I replayed the morning over and over in my head and amused myself at how many things I had done with this shirt under my arm. Do you know how tightly I had to be holding that thing there while popping open a stroller and not allowing it to budge one bit? Come on, that’s skills!!!
This situation had absolutely made my morning. For the rest of the day, every time I thought about it, I smiled at the thought that as a mother and wife, who is also a full time director of two schools, sometimes I just have to juggle. I do what it takes to make sure that I don’t drop not one ball. However, sometimes in the process, I’m finding, I might occasionally lose a marble. And when that happens, I just have to laugh at myself. After all, it’s better than crying over a misplaced shirt, that will eventually turn up one way or another.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: Tell me a time that you had to laugh at yourself.

My Mom: The Village Fashionista

My mother is all about appearances: your house must look good, your clothes must look clean, your teeth must look white, your hair must look groomed, your bed must look neat. Until recently, I thought she was incredibly superficial, only concerned about the surface of things. “Where’s the depth?” I wondered “And what if under the surface of these good looking things, everything is in shambles. I mean, really, what if your teeth looked white but the bleaching agents you were using were wreaking havoc in your body? What if your hair looked groomed, but the relaxer used was eating away at your scalp? What if your bed looked neat and made, but you had bed bugs? I know, that’s drastic, but you get my point.

I could never understand that aspect of my mother.I couldn’t understand her point of view. Our difference of opinions with this topic was usually the basis of all of our arguments.

And moreover, I became very frustrated by her need to throw these superficial ideals on my children. One of my biggest fears is having children who are so obsessed with superficial images that they become shallow individuals who can’t see past the look of a person to their heart, so instead they become judgmental about everything that doesn’t look a certain way and so they begin turning their nose up to anything that doesn’t fit their standard. Not saying that my mother is one of those individuals because she truly is not; but when I have a fear of something it usually is way more dramatic than the average person could imagine (hence the bed bug reference earlier). But this was my thought every time my mother gave my children an instruction that called for them to tend to something that would only impact the look of themselves or something else. And many times, I’d voice my opposition to what I thought was so shallow.

However…..

It’s funny how a point of view could change after a little self reflection.

In thinking about the function of the village in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, I really had to reflect upon my small village and all of its inhabitants. My mother is definitely a part of my village. This I have known since the day I had my first child and she carried him back to his crib after I cried myself to sleep while nursing him. Sleep deprivation and postpartum blues had me a total wreck. But my mom literally detached him from my breast and placed him in his bed, then came back two hours later and latched him on again for his next feeding. But until recently I didn’t realize what an integral part of my village my mom plays in ALL of her roles. During a moment of reflection, I realized that I can’t acknowledge the value of my village and at the same time, discredit the value of the individual villagers. Amongst many other roles she plays, my mother is THE VILLAGE FASHIONISTA, which makes total sense when I put many things that I know about her together: she was a model in her younger days, she majored in photography back in high school, she used to like to perform at every block party when she was a child (she would STILL like to perform at every block party as an adult, if she could find a block party going down somewhere).

She has always been about the lights, camera, show of everything.

Its been embedded in her since she could walk, or so I’ve heard from her siblings. It’s woven into the fibers of her DNA to always be camera-ready. And now that I’ve connected the dots, I understand that my super, image conscience mama has an important role in my life and in my village.

Appearance IS a very important thing to consider. There are people out there who will judge a book by its cover and won’t even pick that book up if the cover is raggedy. They won’t walk in your home, or sit comfortably in it, if it looks messy. They won’t want to be in public with you if your hair is not brushed. From my mother, my children will learn to have a crisp book cover (even if the pages are tattered and torn). From my mother, they will learn the art of faking it until you make it, to not look like what you are going through, to look like a million bucks even if you only have fifteen cents. After all, wasn’t that what Vaseline on patent leather shoes all about? (Some of you wont catch that reference, sorry).

Until now, I never saw the value in these lessons. My theory was if you are going to judge me based on the surface, then I am better off without you. If you are going to judge the home of two full-time working parents, then perhaps you shouldn’t visit; I don’t like company too much anyhow. But I realize, sometimes the overall appearance of a person can be the difference between getting the job and not getting the job. Yes, this is a fact that I still find to be a little shallow, but at times, it is the way of the world and so, these are in fact great values for my children to possess. I am not sure if I can make a total 180 about an ideal that I am not 100% in agreement with, but that’s the great thing about a village: Everyone in the village does not have to focus on the same things. They just have to focus on the same children. If all the villagers focused on the clean roads in the village, who’d focus on the houses in the village, or the markets in the village? The most important thing is that all the villagers know and understand their role and do their best not to judge or criticize the neighbor whose carrying out the duties that they have been charged with doing. And if you see that neighbor not quite doing their job as effectively as you think they should be either lend them a hand, shut up and keep doing your job, or abandon post and exit the village.

Once we learn to accept one another’s differences, we can work cohesively towards the same common goal: To raise a child.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Are you a part of someone’s village? What role do you play?

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?


 

Time-Released Lessons

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The other morning, my 13 year old Papi ran out the door to catch his 7:20am train to get to school on time. Like always, I locked the door behind him and turned to continue with my morning routines to prepare myself to go into the office. I hadn’t even stepped into my bedroom before I heard a rapid knocking on the window and the doorbell rang repeatedly. Whoever was out there clearly had an urgent matter. As I ran back to the door and peered out the window, I quickly opened the door for Papi who had returned for some reason. “I forgot to put lotion on. My hands are extra dry” he blurted out as he ran by me, then he yelled,  “Sorry!”, as he remembered that he had run in the house still wearing his sneakers, which is not allowed in our home. Normally, I would have given him an earful for wearing his shoes in the house, but as he retrieved a handful of lotion and ran back past me and out the door again, I stood there frozen for a brief second before snapping out of my trance and closing the door again.

My son had just run back in the house for lotion! Now to some this may not be a big deal, but this is a milestone in our home.

No one except for the people that live in this home could know the lengths to which I have gone to ensure that my children keep their skin moisturized. Not just because it’s good, healthy practice, but also because it keeps ones skin from looking dry, and “ashy” (a term some may not be familiar with, as it seems to be used predominantly in the black community). Yes ya’ll, I have my superficial moments where the sheer look of things can bother me, and ashy skin is one of my pet peeves. No one knows the countless number of times that my family and I have been out together and I turned to look at Papi’s hands and they look like he has just dipped both hands in a bag of flour. No one knows the annoyance I have felt as my son smiled proudly at his ability to scratch his name into his own hand as if he was some kind of human chalkboard. No one knows how many bottles of lotion I’ve purchased only to find full bottles behind the bed, in the clothing hamper, and other strange places that just don’t make sense.

When they were babies, I’d bathe my children every night, rub them down with lotion, ensuring to cover every nook and cranny. There wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t have someone tell me how smooth and healthy my child’s skin appeared: “His skin has such a glow.”, “Wow, such beautiful skin, what do you use?” While those comments and compliments were never my driving force to keep doing what I was doing, they definitely served as confirmation that my efforts were paying off, as his skin was healthy, moisturized, and it was evident that he was being well-cared for.

Then he grew up.

Around the age of 7, he took his bathing into his own hands, and supposedly all the things that come with that territory. I would just make sure the house was stocked with all the things he needed to get the job done. However, what I quickly began to notice is that he wouldn’t use the things that were given to him. I never expected him to be as thorough as I was. That would just be silly. I was super anal about those things, and I don’t think anyone should be that crazy. But I did expect him to care a little more than he did. But he didn’t ya’ll, he just didn’t! Until the other morning. As I closed that door behind him, I was a proud mom. I had given him the tools from a very young age.

Over the years, I had purchased endless amounts of lotion, oil and cream. And though he never took the initiative to use his little dry hands to pick up any of those items, on this morning he finally did it!! He didn’t have to be told. I didn’t have to warn him that he was pouring too much or too little. He did it all by himself, people! All by himself! It was at that moment that I made a note to self. As moms, sometimes we teach our children lessons and we want instant gratification. We want them to show us that we taught them. Sometimes we even want them to do it to prove to others that we taught them well, that they have good “home-training”. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t work like that.

Sometimes we have to find comfort in the fact that we guided them, that we showed them the way, that we exposed them to the means. We have to trust that some day, one day, those lessons will show themselves.

In the case of the lotion he may have come back because on his walk to the train station, one glance at his cracked and peeling hands made a light bulb go off. Being in middle school, perhaps the day before, a classmate may have made fun of his dry, “ashy” skin and he didn’t want to be the center of a joke the next day. Or perhaps, being 13, there is a little girl who has caught his eye and he wants to show her that he can be well-groomed. Whatever the reason is, as his mom I can breathe easier knowing that I equipped him with what he needs and one day when he decides that he needs to use the tools that he’s been given, they will be in his utility belt because I put them there. And that’s enough for me.

Talk to you soon, Serene

Share with me: What are those lessons that you are teaching your child(ren) that you hope will manifest themselves one day?

Little Packages, Big Gifts

Children are a blessing or so the saying goes, but have you ever stopped to think about why they are such a blessing? How exactly can something that takes so much energy, time, not to mention, money from you add so much value to your life? Well, during a moment of reflection I had a revelation of why my children are a blessing to me and why I am so very grateful for them. Sure, they bring me happiness (the majority of the time). The laughter of my two year old daughter “Bean” makes the very depths of my heart smile. And my boys (Papi,13 and Munchkin, 10) make me proud as I watch them grow to be intellectual and kind-hearted young men.

But it wasn’t until I looked at myself B.C (Before Children) and compared it to the present day Serene, that I understood that these three little people have helped shaped me to be the woman that I am and am still becoming, and it is because they are, that I am.

As I mold myself around who they are and who they need me to be, day by day I understand and accept my transformation that was meant to happen. All 3 of them were uniquely designed like special keys to unlock doors that lead to me fulfilling my life’s purpose. I am thankful for my big gifts in these little packages and while at times, they make me want to run for the hills, waving my white flag, I know that there is no “return to sender” and I am fortunate to be the recipient.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me:

Do you have a story to share of how your particular child (children) transformed your life, your mindset, and/or purpose? I’d love to feature your story in my new Sweetpeame.com series: When the Student Becomes the Teacher.

Please email me at 123sweetpeaandme@gmail.com
All entries are due by April 1st and stories will be posted throughout the month of April.

 

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!)

Girl World

Being Confident in “Girl World”

A few weeks ago I asked my friends on Facebook for inspiration for my next blog topic.  I love writing about my own experiences but I thought it would be different to write about a requested topic.  One particular response that came from a friend of mine was to write about boosting confidence in young girls. I loved the idea of that topic. After all, I am a “girl”, I’ve taught girls, and I have a daughter. Piece of cake, I thought. Boy, was I wrong. I sat in front of that computer and my mind went blank. What was wrong with me? I usually have no problems writing about topics that I’m passionate about it. But this was just not coming to me. Although I have a little girl, I realized that trying to boost her confidence was not something I had begun to think about.  After all, she’s only 15 months so this was something that really didn’t need to be on my radar yet, or so I thought.  A week or so after my “brain fart” and non-existent promised blog post, I had an experience that made me realize I had better start thinking about this, and quick:

While over at a friend’s for a fun Friday night gathering, my daughter sat on the floor with another little girl who was around the age of 3.  As the girl sat coloring with a marker, a huge bag of at least 70 additional markers sat next to her. Being curious, my little Bean tottled over and  reached in the bag to pull out a marker, when the 3 year old snapped out of her drawing trance and with squinted eyes, yelled, “Hey! stop I’m using those!” Immediately, I switched into my teacher voice, hoping to diffuse the situation, “Sweetie, you have a lot of markers. Can you please let her use one and when she’s done, she’ll give it back to you?”  That ought to do the trick right? NOPE, it didn’t.  The little girl just stared at me and responded just as snappy as before, “No, I’m using them! I don’t like her!” Wow, I did not see that coming.  Naturally, all my teacher instincts went out the window.  And as I pictured myself snatching the bag of markers from the little girl and perhaps bumping her slightly with my bottom, I looked at my daughter who had already moved on to the next thing, totally unfazed by the whole situation.

And it was at that exact moment that it occurred to me that I am the mother of a little girl and having been a little girl myself, I know that “girl world” is a heck of a lot different from what I was use to when raising the boys.  I had to start thinking about building her confidence much sooner than I thought.

I had an epiphany that evening and I realized that it has to be one of my many goals to make sure that I raise a little girl that is so confident, she will be able to walk away, unfazed, moving on to the next thing if someone else says “No, I don’t like you”.  But how? Where do I begin?

When it comes to raising a girl, it’s so common to hear people say, “make sure you tell her she’s beautiful” so that she can be confident.  But somehow, I don’t think that’s enough.  Sure, this has to be one part of building her self –esteem.  Girls, people, and the world can be cruel and judgmental when deciding what look is “in” and what features are favorable.  My little girl will definitely need to know that she is wonderfully made both inside and out.  And though I think that this is a small part of creating a confident little girl,  it is going to take something big from me. I have to first understand that I am her first example of what she will aspire to be. With that said, I have to show her what it looks like to love myself, flaws and all.  I have to continue to embrace my natural hair so that she can embrace hers. I have to love all 4 foot 11 inches of me no matter how tall everyone else stands around me.  I have to resist the urge to show signs of self-loathing, realizing that every time I critique my cellulite, and inability to acquire the perfect hourglass figure that my Bean is watching and she will criticize those same things on herself.  I will have to tell myself that I am beautiful and show her that we are beautiful.

But this is not enough. One day my daughter may encounter someone else who tells her “You can’t use my markers”, “You can’t come to my party”, “You can’t be my friend” “I don’t like you”.  Her knowing that she is beautiful won’t help her to walk away unfazed.  The only way that she is going to be able to keep it moving, head held high, when she is rejected is if she understands that people who didn’t make you don’t have the power to break you.  She will also need to understand that she can move on to the next thing and that there is something out there made especially for her.  As her mom, I’ve been charged with the job of truly seeing my daughter for her talents and skills and I must nurture those things so that she can grow to understand how special she is.  If her eyes are bright and focused on the goals that she and I set for her, then she will be too busy in her own world to care that someone has rejected her from theirs.

But even that may not be enough.  One day, with her knowing that she is beautiful and having a goal in mind, she may be told that she still can’t do something just because she is a girl.  Well for that, I simply say, thankfully she has two big brothers to run side by side with.  She already tries to keep up with them and they have already proven to be her biggest supporters.

I don’t know if this is the perfect formula for raising a confident girl.  I’ve never raised one before but I’m thinking that with beauty, drive and strength my baby girl will also have the courage and determination to walk tall (no matter how tiny she may be), and proud as she navigates her way through “Girl World”.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

 

Share with me: Where does your confidence come from? Who helped you to gain that confidence? What did they do?

Pot of Sweet Peas

A Free-Range Helicopter Parent

Recently on Nightline, there was a story about Free Range Parenting. Now, if you are anything like me, who had never heard of this term, then you’re probably saying, “What the heck is Free Range Parenting!? When I think of free range, I think of chickens”. But Free Range Parenting is exactly that same concept.

 Free Range Parents allow their children to roam freely outdoors without adult supervision.

In the Nightline segment this freedom was given to child who was six years old allowed to travel for over a mile with her 10 year old brother . The thinking behind this practice is that it fosters a sense of independence and encourages children to problem solve, thus building self-esteem.

This parenting style is looked at as being the polar opposite of another parenting style known as Helicopter Parenting.

A Helicopter Parent is on who hovers over their child constantly, watching their every move. Helicopter Parents are overly-involved in every experience that their child has from their successes to their failures.

After watching this news segment, I began to reflect upon my own parenting style. What kind of parent am I exactly? Both of my boys who are now 12 and 9 have traveled together through the streets without adult supervision. They have been given permission to go to the store without my husband or I being present starting as young as 8 years old. But I don’t know if that would make me a Free Range Parent. Each time they were about to go on these small journeys by themselves, I was always the one with my nails digging in the furniture and my heart leaping out of my chest. And it was always my hubby saying “They have to experience these things or they will never learn”. So maybe I’m just married to a Free Range Parent. But every time he says it, I know he’s right. As someone who studied child development, I know that there is something to creating these experiences for young children. In school I learned all about the great psychologist Erik Erikson who became well known for his pyschosocial stages of development in children, with one of those stages being Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt which begins in children as young as 18 months. Children who are given a sense of autonomy gain a sense of confidence, while children on the opposite end feel a sense of shame for their shortcomings and they doubt their ability to succeed at tasks.

So I know that letting my boys travel by themselves is just another one of those things that they have to experience if they are to gain more self-confidence.

So is it so bad if I follow them down the block hiding behind bushes so they never see me following them to the store and back? So what if I get the number to the store beforehand and call to make sure my child reached the destination and left so I could begin timing when they will walk back in the house. And so what, I have beads of sweat running down my neck when my 12 year confidently asks, “Mom, can I go to the store? I need a snack”. What matters is that I don’t show them the panic inside. What matters is that I teach them the dangers that are out their and give them guidance on how to avoid those situations from carefully crossing the street to not speaking to that creepy person on the corner. If I show them my fear, they too will be fearful and fear has never made anyone productive in life.
You see, we are raising children who have to be in school without us and they have to navigate around the school yard and cafeteria without us. And they have to take tests without us and they have to encounter bullies without us. And through all these experiences they will have to make quick decisions without us. I don’t want to give them a false sense of security that makes them think that T and I will always be right there by their sides through all their experiences. Sure, once they are back reunited with us, we will talk about their day and give advice on how to handle some of the things they face. We will even question how they handled a specific situation; and not to judge them on their choices but to gauge their thought process. But at the end of the day, though it makes me sad to say, my children will not be with me forever and they won’t be little forever either. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot”. I need my children to feel strong, confident and courageous.

So am I Free Range Parent? I don’t know. Mentally I know it’s the right thing for building character and a sense of responsibility. Emotionally, I’m scared out of my mind because, hey, I watch the news everyday. So how would I classify my parent parenting style? Well, simply put, I have the mind of Free Range Parent with the heart of Helicopter Mom. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Share with me: What kind of parent are you? What kind of parent would you like to be? What kind of parent were you raised by?

Pot of Sweet Peas

To Spank or Not to Spank

“It’s time to start popping her hands” a family member said to me as they watched my one-year old, Bean, walking around touching everything she could reach. My response, which is my go-to response when I don’t agree with a suggestion, was to stay completely silent. But in mind, an entire monologue was beginning to form.

Why, I thought, should I begin popping her hands because she is exploring a world she has never seen? Why should I begin to physically inflict pain on her or just “shock her slightly” because her curiosity is at an all time high? Then I began to think about the reasons that parents “pop, spank, hit, beat” their children. The reasons that I was at the receiving end of a spanking when I was a child, the reasons why my own children have gotten popped, and the reasons why I have seen other children be hit by their parents.

What internal feeling triggered that response? Was there an internal feeling at all or was it all impulse?

(And before we move on, I must clarify that I am not talking about hitting and leaving a mark. I’m not talking about anything that’s equivalent to a story on the channel 11 news. Those situations have a category of their own and I’m not going to go there right now). But moving on….

I have spoken to many parents and it’s very interesting to hear the different reasons that parents use to justify the implementation of spanking. The reasons span from “to show my child that I am in charge”, “because my child made me upset”, “to teach my child a lesson”, “to make sure my child listens”, “because I got hit as a child and I turned out great” and my favorite, “ain’t nobody got time for all that talking!” There are many reasons that people have for this parenting method and while I don’t judge anyone’s decision, I do have to play devil’s advocate for a second when I ask, “what’s the message that a parent is conveying when they spank their child?” When you pop your child out of anger, does it say that when you are feeling angry, you can inflict pain? When you hit to show dominance, does it convey the message that a child should stay in a submissive state? When a parent hits to make a child listen, is that showing the most effective way of “speaking”? And when you do it because it was how you were raised, what is it saying for our ability to evolve? I am definitely not saying that spanking is wrong and I’m also not saying that it’s right. As I said before, there is no judgement attached. But as an educator, I’ve always found it interesting that I could control a classroom of 18- 4 year olds who I am in charge of for 8 hours a day and I never ever think to lay a hand on them. And believe me they are not always compliant. So I have always struggled with the justification of hitting my own children who I’ve been responsible for  since conception.

As an African-American mother the concept of spanking my children seems to be something that is suppose to be hard-wired into my DNA. It’s “Spare the rod, spoil the child”, right?

I’ve been in the presence of family members who have looked at me like I should turn in my “black card” when I did not opt to hit my children for wrongdoing. And they look at me as if to say “poor, naive Serene. You’ll be sorry you didn’t pop his behind”.
Sure, I know that popping would get the trick done real quick. After all, it is much more time consuming for me to tell my one-year old that the stove is “hot” with a stern voice as I move her away. It does take more time to have a conversation with my pre-teen about the expectations of greatness that we have for him, because we know his full potential, although his grades for the marking period are sub par. And when my 9 year old yells, “I hate you” to his older brother mid-argument, instead of me slapping him in the mouth for using such a horrible word, it is definitely more time consuming to explain to him the true meaning of the word “hate” and teach him other words that he could use to express how his “pain in the butt” brother is making him feel at that moment.
I know all of these things take up more time, but isn’t that what parenting is? Teaching your child acceptable behavior? Teaching them about the dangers in life and why to avoid them? Teaching them why they should strive for greatness and teaching them how to effectively express themselves so that they are understood?
Does a spanking achieve these goals? I am not sure. We are still in the process of raising our children and can’t yet determine if our parenting methods will result in “perfect children” or totally mess them up as adults. I guess that’s also what parenting is all about. Giving it your all, adjusting and readjusting your parenting methods in the hopes that your children will turn out to the best adults that they can be.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me: What message do you think spanking sends? Can that same message be sent in another way?