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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?

My New Chapter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon,

Serene

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

Pot of Sweet Peas

All’s Fair in Love and Basketball

“You are off the team!” I shouted through clenched teeth. That was the last thing I said before he walked out the door. Well, technically the last thing I said was “I love you” because you should never depart from a loved one without saying you love them. But right before that, “You are off the team!”, was what I said to my 12 year old son “Papi” as he raced out of the door 15 minutes late. Although he had gotten up on time, the flow of the morning routine came to a screeching halt when Papi remembered that he had an assignment that was due in class that morning. And although he had done the assignment, he had not printed it out yet nor did he know where his USB was located In order to print out the assignment. But the icing on the cake was that this was a Monday morning so he had all weekend to ensure that his work was printed and ready to go. But no, that’s not how that went down AT ALL.

As I stood there watching him trying to place blame on everyone else for why he would not have his work turned in, I could no longer contain my disappointment, and so it erupted in five words, “You-Are-Off-The-Team!”

And in that instant the look in his eyes told me that I had just ruined his entire world. My son, the self-declared future NBA player who eats, sleeps, breathes basketball was beyond through with me. But in the interest of time, I ushered him out of the house, told him I loved him and closed the door behind him.
And then I cried.

But only for a minute. You see, I didn’t want to pull him off the team but it had to be done. For 4 months I watched as Papi religiously practiced jump shots, lay-ups, and drills. I listened as he told me the stats on all the latest NBA players, and I swelled with pride as he suited up in uniform and walked onto the court, game after game, to do what I think he is amazing at doing. But for those same 4 months I also watched as he is presented sub-par homework to his teachers, I listened as he gave me excuse after excuse as to why he accidentally left in his homework assignment in his school locker, and I hung my head in disappointment as his teachers explained to my hubby and I that Papi was more than capable but just not willing to apply himself. So yes, I did cry. But only for a minute, because while I don’t want to rob him of his happiness, I also have been charged with the responsibility of being his parent. And as his parent, one of my jobs is to prepare him for life, while of course, nurturing all of the things that I see inside of him. I also have to help him understand the concept of priorities.
I’ve never played college basketball a day in my life, but I have heard that in college, if you don’t stay on top of your grades, then you don’t play ball. Now, I don’t know how true that is (I’m sure I could easily research that), but I am going to go with that concept and consider myself to be one of his “coaches” (his dad being the other, of course). He didn’t produce the grades so I had to bench him. Not forever, but until he puts forth the same effort academically as he does in the area of sports.
And I am happy to report that all of this took place over a month ago and already the change in Papi’s work habits have changed drastically. He wants to get back on that team so he is doing what I knew he could do all along. He’s still not happy with me at all and he tells me every chance he gets. But hey, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

So do I regret my decision to pull him off the team?? Heck no!
“You are off the team!” Yup that’s right, I said it. But let’s not forget that I also said “I love you” and I truly do, cause if it were not for love, I would not have done what I had to do.

Talk to you soon-Serene

Share with me: Can you recall a time that you as a parent OR when your own parent had to go to what seemed like “drastic measures” to teach a lesson. Do you think it was worth it?

Pot of Sweet Peas

To Change or Not to Change

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon-Serene

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