A Free-Range Helicopter Parent

Pot of Sweet Peas

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?

Boxes, Doors, and Windows

Pot of Sweet Peas

On Sunday, I worked in my basement, attempting to once again unpack boxes that came from the old apartment over a year ago. It seems as if the boxes multiply over the week because I could have sworn there were not this many boxes when I was down there last weekend. As I pulled out items that I knew were garbage-bound, I looked around and suddenly became overwhelmed. It was my goal to have the “My Sweetpea and Me” program up and running by September 2014 but now as I looked around, and it dawned on me that it was way past September 2014, the thought that this may not happen any time soon washed over me. Then I looked to left of me. Was that a leak in the wall? Yep, it sure was.

I stood up,throwing an item of clothing that neither of my boys can fit anymore back into the box, placed my hands on my hips and just looked around.
I’m not at all the kind of person who gives up easily or backs down when faced with adversities but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how this was going to come to pass. Then I began thinking about the supplies that I would need to make this vision come to pass. Chairs, a rug for children to sit on, play equipment, shelving units. The list seemed to go on and on and as it grew, so did my discouragement. All I could do was look to the heavens and ask “How?” Feeling a bit defeated, I decided to just leave the basement and focus my attention on something else.
The next day while at work, I was sitting at my desk half present mentally. All of sudden I get a phone call on my personal phone. The voice was a familiar one that I had not heard in about a year. It was a former teacher that I use to supervise who was also a friend and mentor to me. For the sake of confidentiality, let’s call her Robin. Robin was someone who I really grew to admire for her sound advice and insight into oh so many things. After our time of working together, she went on to build her own early childhood program. She and I lost touch for a bit so while I was happy to hear her voice, I couldn’t understand what would warrant a call from her. Funny enough, just like my mom, Robin also calls me “sweet pea”, and what she was about to say to me was so pivotal to my present day journey. “Hello there”, she says and we begin our small talk, “I am calling because the school (name not needed) is not working out and me and my partners are going our separate ways. We have a ton of supplies, and I was wondering if you had a need for them?” Now, I know she said some other things after that, but my dropped jaw must have also hindered my hearing. When I came back around, in disbelief, I asked her, “what kinds of supplies are you getting rid of?” She began her list, “a rug, some chairs, some dramatic play furniture that includes a practically new kitchen set, some toys, some blocks and some other things that you are free to just look through. Take what you want and toss what you don’t need” she said. At that moment, I became so overwhelmed with emotion. It did not matter that I was I work. I wept like a small child and became so filled with thankfulness. Needless to say, I thanked Robin over and over again and explained to her what I had been going through mentally. She told me that she was glad that she could help and we made plans for me to retrieve the items.
After I hung up with her I took a moment to reflect and I had to kick myself for ever doubting for a moment. What I am finding out is that with a little bit of faith, a lot of prayer, a bunch a perseverance and an ultimate goal, ALL things are possible. This situation, amongst others was another reminder that this vision that I have can and will happen. I have to just continue to move forward. Every door that looks closed is not necessarily so, and every closed window may not stay shut forever.

Talk to you soon,

Share with me: What’s your ultimate dream?

We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

Pot of Sweet Peas

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon!

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


Just a Mom

Pot of Sweet Peas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon!

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

Completing a Puzzle

Pot of Sweet Peas

The decision to move from the classroom to an office was a really tough one for me to make. I had worked so many years hands- on with the little ones that I didn’t think that I could be happy sitting behind a desk pushing papers; even if the papers did relate to programming details.  

After turning down an opportunity to work as an Education Director twice, I finally excepted the offer on the third go round.  I had completed my Masters Degree and although I was going to really miss my summers off (one of the perks of being a teacher), I decided to make the transition after a very insightful conversation with my hubby.  

One night in a moment of panic, while I was trying to decide whether or not to say yes to the offer, my husband asked me why it was so hard to decide. “what if I miss the classroom? What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m just meant to be a teacher and not a director? I had so many “what ifs”.  My husband sat me down and reminded me that I had been the very same person who other teachers had already came to with questions about their own teaching strategies and practices. I had been the one who had researched and planned curriculums for not only my class but also the classes of others. He was right. Then he said words that I will never ever forget. He said ..

“You are a teacher and you are great at what you do. You have been making a big impact on your students for years. But now it’s time for you become a teacher to teachers so that you can make a greater impact.  You have to affect the masses. It is your calling”.  

Those words made the light bulb click on. I had my ah-ha moment.  And I knew that I had to say yes.

3 years later, I am enjoying every minute of being an education director, no regrets whatsoever. Lesson learned

In life, there are things that we are good at and then there are things that we are great at.  Usually those things come so naturally to us that we are surprised when others look at us with admiration while we are doing those things.    When we discover, or in my case, someone reveals to us,  what that thing is , we may have actually found our life’s purpose. Some may call it our “talent”.  But it can’t be ignored and it can’t be avoided. And once you step out on faith and answer the calling on your life, everything begins to fall into place and it’s like finding another missing piece to a puzzle.  

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: Are you fighting against your purpose? Why?