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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.

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!)

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?

Batteries Not Included

Batteries Not Included

The months of March, April and May are very busy for me in my professional life. As a Prekindergarten Director, during this time, parents begin touring my school to potentially enroll their children. Every year I look forward to meeting new families and seeing the faces of little 3 year olds who will blossom and transform into big boys and girls in a matter of ten months. But there is one thing that I never ever look forward to although it happens every year for the past 5 years, at least. And when it happens, cause it always does, I have to smile through it and never let on to show how I’m really feeling. It never fails that a parent or two comes in and says,

“I hope the children in your school don’t just play all day. My 3 year old is so smart. He can read, he knows how to count to 100 and he knows how to do everything on my iPad. In fact he knows how to work this device better than I do”.

Then I have to sit through a five minute demonstration as their child sits there tapping on the screen, unlocking hidden levels and sliding shapes they can barely pronounce from one side to another. And while I am staring with a painted smile across my face, totally unimpressed, in my heart I am hoping that this parent picks my school so that I can allow this child to have a different kind of learning experience. One that does not involve batteries or a charger.

As I begin my tour of each classroom one of the first things I like to point out to my device-toting parents is the sand table. As I stand there giving my spiel on the benefits of a sand table, what I really want to say if it wouldn’t come off so offensive is how I have noticed that parents have forgotten the value of play that engages all the senses. Sure, your child can touch a device and control items with one finger but have we forgotten how beneficial it is to experience different textures with a whole hand? How important it is to taste something (even if it is sand) , just to experience it and come to the conclusion that maybe sand should not be eaten.

These are concrete experiences that can not be created from a device and because of the lack of exposure, children are becoming sensory deprived and a sensory seeking.

But I don’t say all that because some parents are not ready to hear that, so we just continue on with the tour.

On my next stop of touring the classroom, I like to show parents the huge block areas that I have in my classrooms. This is the area that usually impresses them the most when I explain to them that children learn mathematics and science in this area when they build, measure, calculate and problem solve. Parents’ ears perk up when they hear all of the academics that can come out of this area. But if I had more time during my tour, I would explain to these parents how block building is much more beneficial than meets the eye. Allowing children to build with blocks teaches them something that rarely comes from playing on a mobile device 24-7. It teaches patience, trial and error, and coping with frustration. When a child plays on a device, with a click of a button or a flick of the wrist, things just begin to happen the way they are suppose to happen. There is instant gratification. All is well with the world. But in a world of blocks, structures fall over, big blocks don’t balance well on small blocks and sometimes the structure that was imagined doesn’t quite pan out the way it was expected to. How frustrating is that, especially when you are 3 years old?! But it’s just the right amount of frustration to get the child to realize that the world is not about instant gratification and things don’t just happen when a button is pressed and that when things don’t work out, we should try something different. That’s what I would say to these parents, if there was more time on my tour.
After I show this parent the rest of my site from the dramatic play areas to the paint easels, I then walk back to my office and use this time for any questions that they may have before we go our separate ways. They usually ask 1 or 2 more questions and then say goodbye, but not before telling their child over and over again to look up to “say good bye to Mrs. Serene”. Usually that child is too busy to pull himself away from the device to acknowledge me. He can’t even take a second to make eye contact. But I’m not offended. I just smile and nod all the while telling myself, “No eye contact. Just another downfall in the life of 3 year old with a mobile device”.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: What do you think about children and mobile-devices? What age should children start using these devices?

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

How Are You Really Feeling?

I love my kids! Let me just start by saying that,so once you read on, you don’t think otherwise.

So with that out of the way, let me just ask: is it wrong for me to tell me children to “Please get out of my room”?, is it mean for me to say, “Hey, I would love to hear your (very long) story but I’m just so tired right now?”, or am I a bad mom for occasionally wishing that I could change my name from “mom” to something that they can’t pronounce so easily? Well, let me answer that for you. No, it’s not wrong, No, I’m not mean and No, I’m definitely not a bad mom. I know these things now, but if a mom would have asked me those same questions a few years ago I would have given her the side-eye all the while dailing the number for Child Services. So what has changed my mind? Reality and an inability to lie (most of the time) to my children about how I am really feeling.
When I was a child, I never knew how my mom did it. How’d she raise us as a single parent, work full-time, put herself through nursing school and never ever grow tired? She came from a school of thought where you “never let them see you sweat” and she didn’t let us see it, AT ALL! My brother and I never knew how our mom was feeling unless she was in pain and couldn’t hide it. It was like living with Robo-Mom. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. There are definite benefits to having a Super-Mom. My mom was and still is the strongest role model that I have.
But imagine how I felt being a mom of two at the time, raising my children in a two parent household, going to school, working full-time, but actually being tired some days. There were days where I would come home and want nothing more than to climb in bed and cover my head. I rarely did it, but I did feel like it often.

What the heck was wrong with me? Had I not inherited the “Invincible” gene?

After having our third child, I realized that while it would be nice to have the “Super” title, what’s even nicer is to be honest with myself and my children. And the honest truth is I’m human. I get tired, I have headaches, and I even cry. I don’t mind letting my children see me sweat cause guess what, people sweat! As a matter of fact, people sweat when they are working hard. I want my children to know that parenting is hard work. Working a full time job is hard work, and being an adult is hard work. They are all things that I love about my life but they ain’t easy. I want my children to see that things don’t just come so easy.
So do I just sit there whining to my children about the struggles in life? No, of course not. At this stage in their lives they don’t need to know all the hardships that come with being a grown-up. Some things they will have to discover on their own once their time comes. But when they hit a bump in life, I need for them to be able to acknowledge the bump, patch it up and keep moving. When they are feeling tired I want them to be able to say “hey, I’m tired. I need rest” and then they actually rest. I need for them to recognize when they need their own personal space to recharge their batteries. I want them to cry if they need to, but then wipe their tears and push through to victory. And the only way they are going to be able to know that all of these feelings are okay is if they see it at home. Genuine feelings, genuine emotions, genuine perseverance.
Our strength is not defined by our ability to carry the weight of the world. It is defined by our ability to live life to is fullest despite the weight of the world.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: Do you think parents should share their feelings and emotions with their children? Why or why not? 

Pot of Sweet Peas

Oh Well!!

This world is full of standards.  The New Oxford Dictionary defines standards as “A level of quality or attainment”.

There are standards for how one should conduct themselves at their place of business. These are listed in one’s job description. There are standards for what a child should be doing by a certain age. Depending on the setting these can be called milestones, benchmarks, or if you work in a New York City public school, Common Core Standards.  There are even standards for how much you should eat as per the suggested serving size on any given food item.  The list goes on.  And then there are unwritten standards that we place upon ourselves in our daily lives. My house must look a certain way, my children must be in a certain amount of activities, I have to look a certain way, or wear a particular type or brand of clothing, or this is the bar that I’ve set for my spouse or the person that I am dating.  All of these standards.

Now before I go on, I don’t want anyone to think that I am “Anti-Standards”, if there is such a word. After all, I do recognize that “If you ‘stand’ for nothing you will fall for anything”, which to me,  can mean that if you don’t set a level of expectations, then anything goes, which also means you may end up with no job, a house full of children that have no goals and aspirations, and a spouse or partner who just does whatever because there’s never been a conversation about expectations.  Those type of standards are not quite the issue I’m having at this particular time.  The standards that I’m having a problem with are the standards that we set for ourselves, that we almost kill ourselves and hurt others to achieve. The standards that make us feel intense pressure and threaten to crumble our worlds if they are not reached. The standards that make us feel like we are complete failures or not worthy of our titles if somehow we drop the ball.  The standards that we punish ourselves for not achieving by depriving ourselves of sleep, hanging out with friends, and spending quality time with our mates all because we didn’t finish doing something that has no impact on anyone or anything whether it is achieved or not.

And where do these standards come from? Well, I can’t answer that for anyone but myself.  For me, they come from outside influences that sneak into my thoughts and whisper things like, “you don’t know how to ‘keep house’ if you go to sleep with dishes in the sink”, “your children won’t be well-rounded if you don’t put them in piano, soccer, pottery, karate, and Spanish lessons all while making sure they are on the path to the honor roll in school”, and the best one that knocks any ounce of self esteem that you have post-pregnancy is the voice that says “you have to hurry and get back to your pre-pregnancy weight quickly and it doesn’t matter that you just got home from the delivery room two weeks ago.

These are the standards that I am sick of!  These are the standards that cause me to miss out on the real things that matter cause I am so busy trying to achieve a 48 hour job in 24 hours all the while complaining that there are not enough hours in the day!! These are the standards that create tension because hey, do you know how hard it was to rub every grass stain out of your football jersey to prepare it for your game tomorrow!! NO ONE NOTICES ANYTHING AROUND HERE!

So today I’m making a stand of my own.  Today I am setting a new Standard for myself and it’s called “OH WELL!!!”

Under the OH WELL standard I will set a goal, I will attempt to achieve that goal and just when I feel like the attainment of that goal is going to almost kill me or at least exhaust me and drain me of all strength and energy I am going to say OH WELL!! I am going to be satisfied with knowing that I gave it my all. I’m going to realize that I am only one person and I can’t do it all.  I am going to understand that I operate under a higher power but I, myself AM NOT that higher power.  I am going to sleep when my body needs it, I’m going to postpone some extracurricular activities for my children when I feel like we are coming and going as if our home had a revolving door.  And I am going to leave a cup or two (or three) in the sink over night and trust that the dishwashing liquid will still be there in the morning.

And when that little voice comes around to say “Hey, that’s not what you are suppose to do!!”, I’m going to stand up tall (as tall as someone 4’11” can be), I’m going to place my hands on my hips, squint my eyes and shout “OH WELL!!! You are not the boss of me!”

Talk to you soon – Serene

Share with me: What are some standards that you aim to achieve on a daily basis?

Pot of Sweet Peas

A Healthy Balance

As a mom it’s very easy to have a one track mind and I’m definitely not referring to sex cause let’s face it, usually when you have little ones running around, sex is the last thing that you can focus on.  But, back to the topic at hand. As a mom it’s really easy to become so absorbed in the daily “have to’s” that you develop a tunnel vision and can only see the things you have to do. I have to pull out dinner for tonight.  I have to cook dinner for tonight. I have to sign trip permission slips.  I have to make sure these bills are paid. I have to wash laundry so that clothes are ready for basketball practice.  And the list goes on…and on.

Too often this chant becomes so embedded in us that we forget one of the important “have to’s”, which is ” I have to find a healthy balance or I just may lose my mind!!”.

For me, that realization didn’t occur until child number 3.  Prior to her arrival, I tried to be superwoman and as a result I suffered from panic attacks and overall mommy burn out. But now I have come to realize that Mommys are people too (who knew!!?) and with that comes a need for a balancing act. So what are the keys to a healthy balance? I’m glad you asked:

Here are my top five absolute necessary keys to being a healthy and happy mommy.

  1. Spiritual health: For me this is key. Without the strength from my higher power, I don’t have the patience, determination, and sometimes the will to do any of the other much needed things.
  2. Mental health: Every now and then I have to assess the situation at hand and come to a conclusion of whether I want to tackle it or leave it be. This applies to many things from dealing with a loved one to dealing with a load of laundry. Every situation does not have to be handled by me at that exact moment.  Knowing that AND accepting it is great for the mind.
  3. Physical health: Every morning I wake up 45 minutes before anyone else in the house. For those 45 minutes I take out the time JUST FOR ME!! I spend 20 minutes doing a workout focusing on whatever area of my body that I want to for that day.  Then the last 20/25 minutes is spent getting dressed and primping in the mirror. (Physical health is as much about looking good as it is feeling good).  For those 45 minutes, it actually feels like pre-children days. Then 6 o’clock hits and mommy duties call.  Back to reality!
  4. Social/emotional health: Once I became a mom I quickly learned why it’s great to have a best friend. Someone you can vent to, cry with and have an adult conversation with. Having children will make you forget that you have a well developed vocabulary. Thank God for friends.
  5. Cognitive health:

It’s so very important for me to be a student forever. In this world there is always something new to learn and there is always room for growth. I challenge myself often to learn something new. Right now I am in the process of trying to perfect my Spanish. I can speak the language but I aspire to read and write it. Lucky for me… There’s an app for that!!

Stay healthy moms, your babies depend on you. – Serene

Share with me: What do you do for your healthy balancing act?