The Most Important Job in the World

Pot of Sweet Peas

Last night I was so excited about the thought of going to bed early.  The weekend had been filled with such excitement that it threw everyone off schedule. Last night was to be the night that I reset my body and get the rest that it had longed for over the past couple of days. I did my regularly scheduled nightly routines, including preparing Lylo’s bottles, washing the dishes, and preparing myself for the next day.  However, you should know where this is going; things did not work out quite the way that I envisioned.  Shortly after putting Little Lylo to bed, I looked out into the backyard only to see my two boys engaging in a quarrel that I had to interfere in immediately.  Now, I understand that sibling rivalry will happen, however, there are certain activities and behaviors that I will not accept from my children.  I will spare you the details of everything that I witnessed, but let’s just say I thought that the particular behavior that I witnessed warranted a conversation especially between me and my oldest son Papi. Once again, I won’t delve into the ins and outs of all that was said, but the gist of the conversation was that the expectation I have for Papi as an older brother is that he always has his brother’s best interest in mind.  I reminded him that our family is like a team, (I referenced a basketball team in particular, as that is what he is most familiar with) and as a team, we have to make sure our teammates always feel supported and encouraged. An hour and a half later Papi seemed to understand where I was coming from which was a definite positive, but when I looked at the clock it was much later than I wanted to climb into bed.

The next morning, as I sat at my office desk, one of my co-workers inquired about why I was so tired.  After explaining to her in deeper details, the events that took place the night before, she responded, in a genuinely surprised manner I love that you take out the time to really talk to your children.  While I thanked her for her compliment, I replied quickly, in the next breath, “Of course, that’s my job”.  And when I thought more intently about the matter I concluded that no matter what work I’ve done all day or how long my to-do list grows, my most important obligation is to my children and more importantly the most crucial job that I have is to raise children to be grown-ups who have goals, morals, values, and respect for others.  Why is this an important job? Well, because the children I raise today will be the adults that impact society tomorrow.  I understand that everything that I pour into my children will be exactly what comes out of them in the future. Being a parent is serious business and it is a job not to be taken lightly. So no matter how tired I am, I have to take out the time to do my job effectively.  I couldn’t call myself a teacher if I didn’t take advantage of the teachable moments especially when it comes to teaching the students that were given to me for life.

Enjoy!

Share with me: What “teachable moment” conversation have you had with your children? 

To Change or Not to Change

Pot of Sweet Peas

It’s Saturday and once again, in my household there is moaning and groaning from Papi and Munch as I explain to them for the hundredth time,  that they have chores to do before we can begin our activities of the day. They don’t seem to understand the importance of doing chores and rather than getting straight to business, they rather waste twenty minutes trying to dispute why they think they should not have to do chores.  Can I blame them? No, not really. What child actually likes to do chores? But the person I can blame is myself for them being surprised each weekend that they have a job to do.  You see, although my boys are 11 and 8, doing chores for them is a pretty new movement in my household. Since they were younger, my husband wanted the boys to have more responsibilities when it came to the upkeep of the household.  I was the one who thought that children should only be obligated to do well in school and have fun.  Boy, was I wrong.  Thank goodness for a patient husband who waited while I came to my senses. It’s been about a year now since Papi and Munch were given their list of weekly chores and already I see the error of my past ways.

I actually have to laugh at myself for originally resisting the idea of them doing chores.  My mother never thought twice about making me do chores as a child, and I turned out great.  Every weekend, even at the age of 10, I remember having to clean the bathroom, wash dishes, and sweep the house on top of maintaining good grades. Did I like it? Heck no.  But I knew that it was my responsibility and once I completed my duties, then I could go on to have fun.  As parents sometimes when we recall the things from our childhood that our parents did, if we remember that we didn’t enjoy it, then we opt not to repeat the same things with our own children.

However, what I came to realize is that sometimes our parents actually knew what they were doing and because of that, we turned out to be well rounded, strong, responsible adults.  Oftentimes parents change the expectations that they have for their children because they believed that their own parents set super high expectations for them so they try to not to put that same pressure on their children.

Parents don’t introduce their children to specific spiritual practices because they remember how much they hated going to church when they were younger. Parents choose not to firmly discipline their children because they remember their feelings being so hurt when their parents reprimanded them. Parents give their children EVERYTHING they whine for because they remember how it made them feel when their parents told them “no”.  Parenting styles are changing more and more because of the emotional scarring that people believe they will give their children if they “lay down the law” or “put their foot down”. More and more people are forgetting that what worked to contribute to shaping them is what can work to help shape their children. Of course, hearing “no” hurts. Of course having chores and responsibilities can suck. And you’re darn right, being put on punishment can feel like you have the most unfair parents in the world,  but all of these things are necessary if you are trying to raise up a certain kind of child.  If you believe that you turned out pretty good, yet you completely abandon the methods of child-rearing that you were raised with, you run the risk of two things: 1. Raising children who can’t cope in the real world because you painted some pseudo-reality of what they can expect to see out there once they get older and most importantly, 2. you end up raising children that don’t have the same values as you do because you did not pour into them the same things that were poured into you.

Now I feel as if I should insert a disclaimer right about now.  Of course, this does not apply to everything or everyone.  Change is not only good, but also necessary if you were raised in a household with abuse, negligence or even some “my way or the highway” views.  Those cycles should be broken and naturally, there is not just one way to get a positive result. However, in instances that are like my own where my mother was stern and set standards for her children, it would be counterproductive for me to drastically change my way of parenting when I am thankful for the way that I turned out.  It means she did something right.  And while, through my experiences and educational background,  I have acquired new ways of doing some things, there are some practices in my household that are parallel to the way I was raised and I would not have it any other way.

Talk to you soon-Serene

Share with me: What practices did you adapt from your childhood to influence how you raise your children? What practices did you leave behind? If you don’t have children, what practice would you keep and which would you leave behind?

The Writing’s on the Wall

Pot of Sweet Peas

When my boys were very little, they loved to write on everything besides the paper I provided them with.  No matter how many times I stressed to them that we only write on paper, I would find stray marker scribbles on the wall.  I remember speaking to many parents and discovering that I was not the only one with this issue.  Different parents came from different schools of thought.  There was the parent that refused to give their children writing utensils while they were in the house.  Those parents left writing opportunities for mommy and me classes, and the mess could be avoided at home. Then there was the mom far on the other end of the spectrum, who just threw her hands up, saying “Who cares if they write on the walls. We will just cover it with paint…one day”.  I’ve actually visited that mom’s home and literally, there was art on the actual walls like the living room was one big canvas.  Then of course, there was the mom right in the middle of the spectrum who purchased an easel and was committed to repeatedly reminding her child to only draw on the paper. 

While there is nothing wrong with any of these approaches, I decided to add another option to the list for my boys.  I decided that two can play this game. 

If it was going to be inevitable that they write on the walls, then I was going to make sure that the walls were covered with paper.  This way, we both win.  

I purchased a big roll of butcher paper which can be found at an art store or even a hardware store.  Then in the hallway of our apartment, I taped a long sheet of paper on each side of the wall. So there was 6 feet of paper to the left and to right of us when we walked down the hall.  Then I placed all crayons and markers in a bucket on the floor and let the boys go to work.  They absolutely loved it!! I also had an appreciation for their art work, which is why I left the papers hanging in the hall for a week or two at a time.  Also, I found that they would come back to the papers throughout the week and add to it.  There was so much paper for them to cover, it always kept them busy. 

Clean up was easy as pie.  When we were going to have adult company that we actually wanted to impress (yeah right), we would simply peel the paper off the walls, roll it up and put it to the side and Viola!! Clean walls. 

Happy Children, Happy Mom. 

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What battles have you given up fighting with your children and just decided to meet them halfway? 

 

The Sock Bag

Pot of Sweet Peas

My children, like many others, are not very good at keeping their socks together.  I lay out a matching pair of socks for them, they put on a matching pair of socks, and at bath time they take off a pair of matching socks. But somewhere between them taking off the matching pair of socks and the socks being dried after washing, a pair of socks becomes a single sock with no match.  I have told my children countless times that it is important that they put their socks together after they take them off.   I’ve taken out the time to show them how to roll the socks together once they have taken them off and I’ve even threatened to use their own money to purchase their own socks because I was just so fed up with the depletion of socks and money for socks.  But alas, all my efforts have been to no avail.  I buy a pack of six socks (that’s 12 socks total), and by the end of the month we end up with…….well….. less than 12 socks total. It’s always an odd number of socks.  I know that I am not the only one… 

So when life gives you wash cycles of single socks, make a sock bag!

I came up with the idea of the sock bag a few years back and it has revolutionized the single sock epidemic. Here’s how it works: After a load of laundry is complete and the pairs of socks are put together, there are ALWAYS socks without a match.  Those single socks are placed in the sock bag. Then when I wash another load in a week or so, when there are single socks remaining once again, I then put those in the sock bag.  After a few rounds of laundry, eventually what happens when I glance in the sock bag is that the once single sock and it’s match are reunited and it feels so good.  But what about the socks that never finds their match again, you ask? Well… those particular socks become house socks which are great for my children who hate to wear slippers in the house during the winter months. Whenever the house gets a little cool I tell them to go in the sock bag and put on some socks. Sure, they are wearing socks that don’t match but who cares! Their feet are warm, I don’t have to keep saying “put your slippers on!”, and the socks get some use even if it’s not quite the way the manufacturer intended. 

Oh well, it works for us *smiles and shrugs shoulders.

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What creative ways have to you turned a negative into a positive as it relates to dealing with your children?  

 

We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

Pot of Sweet Peas

Tomorrow my children start summer camp.  They are not new to summer camp at all but this particular summer camp is new to them.  In the past they have always attended summer camp where both my husband and I have worked.  If they needed us we were always no less than 5 minutes away.   However, this year they are beginning an all new summer camp which is VERY different from what they are use to.  My babies are going to be traveling an hour away from the city, going upstate New York every single day for the next 4 weeks!  Talk about an adjustment! And not just for them, but for me as well.  I’m scared y’all.  They have never ever been that far away from me unless it was with family.   

As I was saying goodnight to them this evening, they expressed to me that they too are a bit frightened of this new experience.  “How am I going to make new friends?, Are you going to be able to come with us mom?, and What are we going to do if we need help and there are no counselors around?” These were all the questions that I was hit with this evening.  Now, I usually try to make it a rule of being honest with my children so I told them the truth about how I am feeling as well. I shared with them that I too am a bit nervous about them going so far from me.  But I also explained to them that because we are all scared, this is the main reason that they have to go.  They have to go so we can all face our fears and see that there is nothing to fear at all.  

As parents, sometimes our fears and reservations can lead to us not allowing our children to explore the things that they may be curious about exploring. 

We must always remember that we are our children’s first teachers and if we always project our emotions and thoughts about every little and big thing on our children, we run the risk of them not coming to their own conclusions about the world. 

We can also discourage them from seeing things that may benefit them in the long run.  This whole camp thing is one of the many things that I know I have to just say a prayer about and leave it in God’s hands.  I have to trust that my babies will be better than fine and they will have their best summer yet. I went to summer camp far from home as a young child and it was a time in my life that I will never forget.  So why should I hold them back? I shouldn’t and I won’t.  

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What personal fears, dislikes, concerns, or worries do you have that you have made it your business to NOT pass on to your child OR What dislikes, fears, concerns, worries have you projected on your child?

 

Just a Mom

Pot of Sweet Peas

My decision to have a third child was definitely not a choice that I made on my own.  T and I had talked about having a third child, but it was only talk.  My husband comes from a big family so having more children was always an option for him.  Me being one of two, I always thought two was enough.  I began entertaining the thought of having a third child when I got the desire to have a little girl.  Sure, I love my Papi and Munchkin, but there is something very different about a mother-daughter relationship.  So the urge was tugging at me.  But it was only TALK!!

When I found out that I was 5 weeks pregnant, you talk about being speechless!  I cried so much on the day I found out, and then I cried a bit more for the next two weeks to follow.  I was so unhappy.  In a matter of weeks my entire future flashed before my eyes and the headline, in neon lights read, “You are destined to forever be JUST A MOM”.  Now don’t get me wrong, the job of mom is definitely an important one that I love very much (most days), but when you have children who are already becoming more self-sufficient and able to entertain themselves for hours and hours, the thought of bringing another helpless, dependent, little life in the house can be very daunting. My family of four had already established our rhythm. Our days had become predictable in their unpredictability.  I had mastered life with two children and had just began to feel comfortable with the idea of doing more things for myself.  Now with the thought of a baby coming, I heard the cell door slamming and the judge saying “you are now sentenced to another 18 years of motherhood”. Man, I didn’t even finish serving the first two sentences! Now I know all of this sounds harsh, especially coming from a woman whose life and career surrounds around children, but that’s how I truly felt. Let’s blame it on the hormones.

Anyhow, after a few nights of talking with the hubby and other mentors, I finally realized why I felt so sad about what was meant to be a joyous occasion.  I had many dreams for myself as an individual.  In my career, I wanted to open my own school. In my marriage, I wanted to be able to take out the time to enjoy my hubby the way I did before the children came along, and as an adult, I wanted to be able to go out and enjoy the company of other adults.  As the boys were getting bigger, all of these things were coming closer into view.  But as my belly grew larger, not only did my feet disappear, but so did any ideas of reclaiming back my life… or so I thought.

Around 20 weeks of pregnancy, I had a heart to heart conversation with my hubby who felt like he could not enjoy this pregnancy as much as he wanted to because I was so down in the dumps.  He really wanted to know why I felt this way and what he could do to help.  I explained to him all of the things that I wanted out of life and aspired to become.  His answer was so simple that it made me kind of upset that I didn’t think of it myself. He said “Why can’t you still be those things?” What!!!! I thought, how can I have all these complex feelings and he comes up with this simple answer? It didn’t seem right. But he went on to explain that none of these things should be put on hold just because we are having a third baby. Of course, a new baby would mean that a little more effort has to be put forth in order to make these things come to fruition, but to put them on the back burner would be nonsensical if they are things that I really want.

Sometimes the answer could be that easy but it could be so hard to see when you are flooded with emotions and fear. To this day, I still struggle with doing things for myself versus solely focusing on the demands of motherhood, but every now and then I have to reassure myself that taking out the time for me is not sinful, and it is also vital in order for me to be the best mom that I can be.  It’s all about a healthy balance.

Baby number 3 turned out to be a girl, our little Lylo, and I know one of the many things I want to teach her is that we are much more than how society portrays us as women and how we even portray ourselves.

Yes I am a mom. But I’m not just a mom.  I’m also a wife, a lover (that’s an extension of being wife), an educator, an entrepreneur, a daughter, a friend, an advisor, a spiritual leader, and now a darn good multi-tasker.

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What have you done for yourself lately?

Unexpectedly Expecting

Pot of Sweet Peas

Two days ago I received some very surprising news.  Despite all of my planning and prevention methods, my husband and I are expecting!! Oh…My….Goodness (Jaw still dropping).  The news came in the form of an email as that is how my doctor reveals all blood-work results.  To say that I was shocked is an understatement. There were tears of all kinds of emotions but mostly of astonishment.  We’ve talked about it in the past, having a third child, but my hubby and I have always had slightly opposing views about it.  He comes from a big family so the thought of more children is always welcomed by him.  And I, being one of two children always figured “hey, I have two eyes, two ears, two hands, why not just two children.  With a 7 and a 10 year old, we have all finally gotten into our rhythm and routines.  We know pretty much what to expect from each child. Everyone has his own place in the family and all seems well with the world.  I guess God has other plans.  

I know that we are only in the month of April but this year so far has been a life lesson for me that I have now for the first time truly learned:  No matter how much planning we do in life, we are not and can not be in control of everything!!  Sometimes things happen because they are just meant to happen.  Some call it fate, others call it destiny.  I like to call them miracles and blessings.  

I am still in shock and it will take a minute for me to truly process this news.  But I can now say from the bottom of my heart that I am excited!  Sometimes we just have to let go and let God.  He has never left us thus far and I know He definitely won’t leave us now that He has blessed us with another bundle of joy.  

Talk to you soon!

Completing a Puzzle

Pot of Sweet Peas

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? 

There is Power in a Name

Pot of Sweet Peas

From as far back as I can remember I have always been my mother’s “Sweet Pea”.  It is a name that I was given very early on and even now at the age of 33, no matter who is present, if my mother is in the room, I am “Sweet Pea”.  There was a time in my life, probably around my teenage years, that I wished my mom did not refer to me as “Sweet Pea”.  She would do it in front of my friends and it would embarrass me to no end.  Now, since I’ve become a mom I realize that it is a name given to me by someone who really loves me.  So I embrace my Sweet Pea-ness (hence the blog name). 

Names are a funny thing.  Whether it’s the name that is on your birth certificate that carries a meaning, for example, my actual name Serene, means calm and tranquil or the names that you were given as you walked through life, names hold a lot weight. And they hold even more weight depending on who is calling you the name. 

So imagine my shock when I hear people call children names like, “Bad”, and “Idiot”, and those are the light versions that I’ve heard.  I have actually heard on more than one occasion, a mom call her daughter a b-tch.  Seems crazy, doesn’t? Imagine my surprise witnessing it firsthand.  

What would warrant such a name? Even more importantly, what impact will a name like that and others have on the child on the receiving end? You see, it has been my experience that the name given sets the bar for the expectations that you have for your child.  And children, because they have a desire to please, tend to live up to the names that they are called, especially when the name is being said with laughter, as I have also heard them be said as well. 

When a 2 year old says “NO” and throws a tantrum on the floor, are they really being “Bad”? Let’s take a further step back and define BAD (not the Michael Jackson version, but the one with the negative connotation).  The Webster Dictionary’s definition of “bad” is failing to reach an acceptable standard, inadequate or unsuited to a purpose.  

So now let us revisit that tantrum-having 2-year old and let’s also set the record straight.  I am NOT by any means a fan of tantrums.  They cause scenes, interrupt the moment, and most of all, make us as parents and caregivers look like we don’t have things under control.  I know that I had all kinds of thoughts and feelings when my boys fell out on the floor wailing in the store over a darn box of cereal (they pick the best times, don’t they?).  But I knew that it was age appropriate and more importantly, I knew that THE BEHAVIOR was bad, not the child.  The BEHAVIOR did not reach my standards, THE BEHAVIOR was inadequate and unsuited for the purpose that I have for my children.  

What we need to realize is many of the behaviors that children display are either age appropriate, a sign of a need, or imitated behavior.

When a child repeats the  behavior or the same patterns of behavior over and over, it’s usually because there has been no reaction performed to stop that behavior or they are simply living up to what was expected. 

Only two things can come from negative name calling.  You end up having a child who fulfills your prophesy of the name you have given them OR you end up having a child who resents you when they grow up and realize that the name you had once given them was not at all who they are.  

As the adults we are the ones who set the bar.  High standards birth great expectations and great expectations birth great children.  We have to give our children great names to show them that we expect great things.  

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What names do you call your child? Do the names line up with your expectations? 

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Children Learn What They Live

When it comes to raising our children, we always try to keep in mind that whatever we expose them to will have long lasting effects on them and it will shape who they become as adults.  The job of parent is one of the most important jobs in the entire world.  Just think about it:

Many of us are products of what our parents did and did not do or did and did not give us. 

And because there are so many different types of parents, our world is full of many many types of people (I know that you know a few who you can only sigh and shake your head when you think of them).  

More food for thought: Think about your own childhood and how it relates to who you have become. Think about the things that shaped you.   Pretty deep, right?  Parenting carries A LOT of weight.

When I first had my children something that always stood out to me was the poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. titled, “Children Learn What They Live”.  Because this poem meant so much to me, I printed it out and it hangs framed in my living room.  And now I would love to share it with you: 

Children Learn What They Live

  • If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
  • If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
  • If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
  • If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
  • If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
  • If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
  • If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
  • If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
  • If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
  • If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
  • If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
  • If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
  • If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
  • If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
  • If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
  • If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
  • If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
  • If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
  • If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What kinds of things do you make sure your children live with and what do you hope they will learn from it?