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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.

T’was the Night Before Fifth Grade

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This “Back to School Eve”, my 10 year old son, “Munchkin”, made my heart smile. My children, more times than not, do things that impress me. They oftentimes make me proud with the decisions they make and how they navigate themselves in certain circumstances.

However, on the night before the first day of school, I was especially impressed by and proud of my Munchkin.

Normally, the night before the first day of school, I am doing last minute preparations. I am labeling notebooks with names and subjects. I am color coordinating folders to match subjects areas, if that even makes sense: The science folder has to be green because green equals earth and the study of the earth is geology, which is a type of science, right?? Right??
Don’t judge me.
I am usually popping tags off of new shirts that were purchased, and peeling sizing labels off of new pants. You get the picture.
My need to organize all of their things takes me to my happy place and usually leaves my children staring at me, wondering if I sniffed the new bottle of glue or the sharpie marker that I am using to label said bottle of glue.
But this year was totally different. This year I was not in my happy place. This year there was no new glue, no new folders, and definitely not as many tags to pop and labels to peel. This year my household took a financial hit and an unexpected household repair that did not allow for my husband and I to make the purchases that we are normally able to make each year. So that night as I placed my 10 year olds freshly washed backpack from the previous year on the living room sofa, I felt like I had let my children down. All children want to feel prepared for their first day of school and I had failed in helping to make this possible. I was disappointed, my 13 year old Papi was disappointed, and my Munchkin actually said out loud, “we are so unprepared!”
But then something amazing happened….
My Munchkin remembered all of the many notebooks and folders and pencils and erasers that we have stashed down in the basement stationery drawer. Yes, I have a stationery drawer. It’s filled with the overage of notebooks, folders and things that are purchased each school year. I hadn’t thought of that drawer in my “no school supplies funk” because I always expect to buy new things for the new school year. But my Munchkin remembered. He went downstairs and came up with five folders, four notebooks, and a marker. He began labeling his own notebooks and pairing them with folders that he designated for each subject. He did not color coordinate them, but I had to let that go. He was in his own happy place. He smiled from ear to ear as he pieced together his own supplies. “This is for my math class, and oooh, this is my folder for science, and look mom, I found this pencil case so I’m putting all of these erasers and new pencils in here!!” He was so excited. He was in a zone, people!
And slowly but surely, I realized a few things. I realized that I had been demonstrating a lack of faith in believing that everything would work out. I had almost allowed a lack of material items to put a damper on a special milestone day in my life and the lives of my children. And I also realized that my children don’t need me to organize their materials for school anymore. They got this! They no longer need to be spectators as their mom goes “label crazy”. I realized something else that evening, which was probably the biggest epiphany of all: I probably should have stopped being “label crazy” mom a while ago. My boys should have been a part of the folder and notebook designating process from the time they were able to write. Getting ready for school should have never been about my happy place to begin with. It should have always been about their happy place. It should have always been about their growing independence and maturity. My Munchkin made me so proud with his silver lining response to what I saw as a dark cloud. It’s amazing how on the day before school, I was taught a great lesson by my own child.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: How do your children partake in the preparations for the first day of school?

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?

Make a Splash!

On Wednesday evening , just like any other day of the week, I left from work at 5pm to pick up my daughter (we call her “Bean”) from the day care. On this particular day however, I was more exhausted than I remember being in a very long time.  Work that day was quite strenuous. It was one of those days where all the demands of work that suddenly pop up that day stop you from doing the work that you attempted to accomplish that day. One of those days where your supervisor calls you in the office to have a meeting about the meeting that you just had 20 minutes before that meeting. One of those days where you begin the day with 20 things to do and leave with 45 including the original 20.  You get it; one of those days. Then to top it all off, It was a rainy day.  So if a day of being unproductive didn’t have me feeling like a complete failure, a dreary wet day (of frizzy hair) definitely wasn’t going to give me that extra boost of confidence that I needed.
So needless to say, when the clock hit 4:59, I ran out of the office without stopping to say a word to anyone at all.
After a 45-minute bus ride and walk I finally reached the day care and had to apologize for my less than cordial manner, puffy hair and slurred, tired words. I just needed to get home and to my bed as quickly as possible.

However, my Bean had a different idea. As I opened her stroller, stuffed my bags underneath, and lifted her to sit her down, she loudly exclaimed “No, I wanna walk!”  Ever since she turned two years old 1 month ago she has been really taking this independent thang to a whole new level.

I started to lift her again, hoping that she would just see the desperate look in my eyes that cried ” I need my bed NOW!” but she was too busy preparing for a tantrum to notice my plea. She was prepared to fight for her right to walk and I had no fight left in me after this very long day.
As I walked out of the building, I was very grateful that the rain had stopped and that at least it wasn’t freezing outside.   But the question then lingered “how was this 7 block walk going to happen quickly with this little girl sight seeing the entire time?”

And then it happened, while her eyes were occupied, she accidentally stepped in a puddle. As she looked down, her face went from shock to confusion. And as I gave her the new vocabulary word “puddle” to explain to her what she had literally just stumbled upon, the smile spread so widely across her face as she lifted her leg and made the biggest splash that that little could puddle could have produced.
And at that moment I took off my tired mommy lenses and saw the world through her eyes. She didn’t know how hard my day was. She didn’t know that my staff made me absolutely crazy that afternoon. All she knew is that her little feet had the power to make water fly in the air. The smile on her face made time stand still for a moment and caused my heart to smile.
It made me smile even wider as people walked by staring at me as if I was crazy to let her shoes and pants get all wet.  It’s not my fault that they forgot what it was like to be a kid! 
As my Bean became a “puddle finder”, my ten minute walk became a 30 minute walk but when her dad opened the door and she happily shouted “I stepped on puddles!!”, I knew it was 30 minutes well spent.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me: What is one of your fondest childhood memories?  

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!)

Stuck In The Middle

A couple of weeks ago people across the nation celebrated National Middle Child Day.  Usually, I don’t pay much mind to all the many “National” Holidays cause there are just so darn many. I am way too busy trying to remember what day of the week it is to add anything new to the calendar.

But on Wednesday, August 12, I thought that it would be fun to acknowledge National Middle Child day as we have our very own middle child, my “Munchkin” who is definitely worth celebrating.

Almost two years ago he became a middle child when we welcomed our little girl “Bean” into the family. Until then, I had heard all of these horror stories about what having a middle child would mean. According to friends and family, the middle child goes through something called “Middle Child Syndrome”. I was forewarned that my youngest son would become weird, awkward, and be the blacksheep of the family.
Because of all the warnings, I was determined to not let that happen. There was no way I was going to let my baby boy become the forgotten one just because his sister was born. I was determined to give him just as much attention as I did before child number 3.
And then she was born…And I totally understood why “Middle Child Syndrome” becomes a thing.

Parents are all to blame! In my household I am partly to blame. My husband is the other part, but until he realizes it, we will just focus on my shortcomings. He’ll just have to get his own blog to work out his issues.

According to the urban dictionary, middle child syndrome happens because the oldest child is usually the overachiever, the attention hog. The middle child is the less demanding one, that just goes with the flow, making it easy to become the “forgotten one”, and then there’s the baby, which comes with his or her own set of needs that babies require. Well, darn you urban dictionary, it’s all true. Well, partially true. I can’t actually say that my oldest son Papi is an overachiever. Being a pre-teen, he’s simply overly annoying (not on purpose, just by default). But he definitely is and has always been an attention hog. His first words may have been “look at me”. First born, first grandchild, it comes with the territory. Then number two was born and while we were so very excited and blessed to add him to our family, there was definitely a different tone in how I responded to meeting his needs. With the first child, every little cry caught my attention. If a person simply looked at him and caused him to cry, that person was banished and never to return until my baby felt comfortable. With my second son, I got over all of that real quick, cause, ain’t nobody got time for that! While I understood that he too was precious cargo, I also understood at this point in motherhood, that he wasn’t fragile fine china. He was not going to break if I let him cry a bit. I didn’t have to walk around with him strapped on my chest to be considered a good and attentive mother. And while this behavior of mine did not make him “a forgotten child”, it did contribute to him becoming a more “go-with the flow” kid. He learned to entertain himself if I was busy. He learned to be patient until his needs were met and as he became older, he learned to meet some of his own needs much quicker than his older brother did at his age. And then he had his big brother to hang out with so he wasn’t right under me like Papi was for the first 3 years of his life. Fast forward to 2013 when baby girl was born. She is our first girl, the first granddaughter, and the last baby that I plan to have. Plus, she has two big brothers who are giving her anything and everything, which is actually just fueling a little high maintenance monster (but in a cute sort of way).

Yet, with all that said, there is something beautiful to be said about my little middle child.

Something that I think is overlooked when people think of middle children. Middle children have an advantage in their birth order. They are the only people in the family with someone to look up to and someone to look up to them. They naturally become a teacher and a student amongst their siblings. They also tend to pick up some other great traits because of their birth order. My munchkin is the most compassionate and cooperative one out of the bunch. He is also the most observant one. He studies his big brother carefully to see the choices he makes and decides whether he wants to follow suit or make a different choice and he tries very hard to be a great influence for his little sister.
One National Middle Day, I asked him how it feels to be in the middle. He explained to me that it’s hard because he has to do what his big brother tells him to do (not true , but you see what lies his big brother feeds him), and then he has to share with his little sister even when he doesn’t want to (also not true, but he falls for her tears and just gives in to her all the time). He couldn’t see why or how being the middle child was a good thing even worth celebrating. We sat talking about the great things he is able to do, not because he is a middle child, but strictly because he’s just an awesome kid.  By the end of the night, he was grinning from ear to ear as I explained to him that just like an Oreo cookie, a Peanut Butter and Jelly, and a set of bookends, all the good stuff is in the middle. I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He’s my favorite middle child!

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me: Do you think that birth order plays a part in the formation of personality? Where do you fall in birth order of your siblings? Are you an only child? What role do you think that played in who you are?

 

Fist Bumps and Hugs

This summer we were fortunate enough to get our eldest son enrolled in a Summer Camp that is completely dedicated to traveling.  Each day our son, along with about 100 other pre-teens and teens travel to a new location.  These trips can range from visiting a museum or an amusement park to hiking in the Adirondacks or white water rafting.  Everyday presents a new adventure which is perfect for my son, who loves to always be on the go.

So on the first day of camp, I was just as excited as he was for this great opportunity. My excitement was probably more visible, because as you know, according to the “Teen Code”, showing any sign of excitement over anything is totally lame.  But I knew he was excited because for the entire month leading up to camp, he could not stop looking at the itinerary.

But either way, as we drove to the meeting grounds, I gave him the rundown of my expectations of him and all the regular “overprotective” mom speeches:

“ Stay with your group when you are in large places”, “Make sure you listen for instructions when your group leader speaks”, and so on and so on. 

As he nodded on with each point, we pulled up to the front of the building and I began to scan the area for parking.  The car hadn’t come to a full stop before my son says, “Okay mom, bye.” “Umm, sorry mister,”I had to quickly burst his bubble,” It’s the first day of camp. I’d like to meet the counselors, perhaps see who some of the campers are, and perhaps just show my face to let them know that there is some type of parental unit attached to the camper.”   You would have thought that I told him that I’d like to go with him and be his trip buddy, holding hands and everything. “Fine”, he said, slumping back in his seat.

After parking the car we entered the camp main building and walked towards the large cluster of people standing in the lobby, which actually turned out to be two separate groups.  There was a group of teens in one huddle and then pressed along side the wall on the other side of the room was a small group of parents who were obviously asked to keep their distance as if they needed to be quarantined.  My son quickly noticed the separation and very nicely requested that I stand amongst the other parents.

“Mom, there are no parents over in this area” he said speaking from the side of his mouth and looking straight ahead because God forbid we look like we are actually together. 

I assured him that I wouldn’t linger too long, that I just wanted to find out a few more things.  I proceeded to get the answers I was seeking from the director of the program, and he informed me that the buses to transport the campers to their first destination was about 15 minutes away.  I decided that since my son was making a conscious effort to keep his distance from me, that I too would follow his lead and join this covert op.  I moved like a ninja to his side watching over my shoulder to make sure that no other teen could see me speaking to the child that has the same exact face as mine.  I faced my back to his back and whispered to him that his bus would be arriving at 0800 and that when he arrived back to the camp building, I would be placed inconspicuously  around the corner, slumped down in the drivers seat so that we could make a fast break later on that evening.  He quickly understood my message and gave a head nod while also surveying the area.  He then turned his body halfway to face me and gave me what could only be considered a hug of some sort.  It was so quick, by the time I realized what had happened, he had already slipped through the crowd and sat down to wait for his bus.  I watched from a distance, careful not to let him see me watching him.

15 minutes later all campers were told to line up outside as the buses had now arrived.  I followed the group, noting the bus number, and the driver behind the wheel.  But I especially noted the confidence with which my son moved along the line as he prepared for his first traveling camp adventure with a group that he’s never been with.  I noted that I have a child who is no longer a baby although he will always be my baby.  And I noted that as he is growing, I am also growing, and growth is good.

As he got closer and closer to the entrance of the bus, I had a sudden urge to run, grab him and hug him like I did when he was little.  But I fought the urge, cause I knew that he would “never” forgive me for that one.  So instead, I walked in his direction as if I were walking pass him. And just as he was about step on the bus, I stuck out my fist. He noticed me immediately and did the same.  As our fists bumped, I mouth the words, “I love you”. And though he didn’t say it back, the small smile that came to the corner of his mouth said everything that my heart needed to hear.  And I walked away proud of myself, knowing that I am a pretty awesome mom to a pretty cool pre-teen. And thus begins my own journey into the world of teenagers.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me: When did you first realize that it might be time to let go just a little bit? 

 

Pot of Sweet Peas

Homework Personalities

When my eldest son, Papi became a 2nd grader, it was my first introduction into the world of being a parent of a kid who now had homework. I don’t know when it happened exactly but somewhere around the time that I had two school aged children with homework, I actually became as sick of homework as my boys were. Between their work load and the need for me to be the “homework police”, monitoring the assignments and ensuring their completion, there was a time when I felt like homework became a bigger burden on me than it was helpful for them and furthermore, it started to become more stressful than anything, which was not the experience that I wanted for any of us.

One evening, last year while helping the boys do homework, I found myself losing my last bit of patience. Instead of working, the boys were talking to each other, losing all kinds of focus. No one could find a pencil although I purchased over 150 pencils at the beginning of the school year. And my youngest son kept shifting in his chair because he just “couldn’t get comfortable”. All the while, I was preparing dinner, watching the time slowly move into the hour that baths were suppose to begin and it looked like no one was close to finishing homework because they just couldn’t get it together.

That night I became angry with my children which manifested into me turning into the HULK, banging on the table and yelling “GET IT TOGETHER! HOMEWORK TIME IS SERIOUS TIME!” and a few additional threats to cease all fun activities in the home for the next 2 months.

This resulted in my then 5 year old, crying and not being able to focus anyway. I then became angry with every teacher who ever assigned homework, including myself in my classroom days. “Don’t teachers know that parents can’t spend ALL NIGHT dealing with homework? What is wrong with them!!” Of course, I know that this was not rationale thinking but I had to be angry at someone at that moment. I can’t remember how that night even ended or if homework even got completed but I know that that evening was pivotal for me.
Since that night, I had to figure out a way to take some of the stress off the homework process for everyone’s sake.
Though in theory it seemed like a good idea to have both of the boys at the dining room table, close to me in the kitchen while they worked, it was not conducive for them to be next to one another. So the first plan of action was to separate them. Each child in his own space of choice to work. Then I had to accept the fact that my youngest son was uncomfortable in the chairs and did not work best sitting with his butt in the chair, feet on the floor, facing forward , which I thought was key to creating a studious little intellect. When I took out the time to listen to what he needed, I realized that it worked better for him to lay belly down in the middle of a room with his books and papers lying beside him. He just thinks better that way and still does 4 years later. Now, figuring out exactly what my oldest son needed to work best was not a challenge for me as much as accepting what he needed was. I grew up learning that your work space should be quiet so that you could focus and tune out distractions, which is why to this very day, I can’t stay focused if any noise enters my work space. So when my son asked to play music while doing homework, I couldn’t fathom how he was going to also concentrate so I fought the idea for awhile. But he kept insisting “Mom, I can’t think while its this quiet!”, he’d say. I just couldn’t wrap my head around that. But finally one day, I did and let him work with his music of choice. And surprisingly he was able to remain seated and quiet for the whole hour plus that he worked on his homework.
Now I am not saying that all of these homework changes made homework time a breeze in my household, but coupling these “newfound” practices with a pre-homework snack and at least an hour to unwind before beginning homework definitely makes for a less tense home during the week.
My lesson in all of this: Sometimes your children’s methods of doing things are not your own nor are their methods how you envision things being able to work out, but sometimes for the sake of learning something new and making life a bit easier, parents should listen to what their children are asking for. They might just know what they need for themselves.

Talk to you soon,
Serene

Share with me: What are/were some of your best homework time practices in your household?

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?