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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?

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!)

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? 

 

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

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

Shifting Gears

Currently my family and I are partial owners of a two family home that we share with my mother.  I know that some of you read that first line and thought “she must be crazy. That’s a recipe for disaster”.  Trust me, I see where it definitely could be, but I also see the bigger picture and it’s a beautiful one (if you tilt your head to the side and maybe squint a little).  No, but really, for me the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.  For one, our boys get to grow up in a multigenerational home where they can see their grandma everyday.  Not to mention, when families put their resources together the results can be quite advantageous for all parties involved. And lastly, my hubby was all about creating this merger, and let me tell you, if your husband agrees to living that close to his in-laws, then that is definitely something special.

So after 10 years of marriage and living in an apartment with just our family, we decided that a family home was the way to go.  Thus far, the experience has been very enjoyable and interesting for the most part but it has also been very eye opening for me as it relates to my thoughts about parenting.

Now that I live so closely to my own mother what I have realized is that there is a shift in the relationship between a parent and child once that child is no longer a child. It’s a shift that my own mother is slowly beginning to realize and one that I hope that I can recognize and adapt to once to my children become adults.
When your children are little, it is the responsibility of a parent to pour all the skills, morals, values and lessons into your child(ren) so that they may be able to thrive in the world as they grow and live a purposeful adult life.  You teach them things that nurture the social, emotional,cognitive, physical, and spiritual aspects of their development. You give them all the tools you think they will need.
Once your child becomes an adult and especially once they become a parent, the role of a “parent” looks a bit different.  A parent who believes that they have given their child all the necessary skills should also feel confident enough to let go and allow their now adult-child to put all those life skills into action.
This realization can be somewhat difficult as it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that your little one is not so little after all. And I’m sure it is equally difficult to see your adult-child struggle, or fall while trying to figure things out on their own.  However, it is a very necessary step.
Always stepping in when your child is in the middle of a situation runs a risk of creating a dependent being who can’t fend for themselves or even more detrimental to the parent child relationship it can create a combative adult who is always try to defend their title as a grown-up.
I realize that I still have little ones who need me for a lot and even that is becoming less and less with my middle schooler. I truly don’t know what it will feel like for me once my boys don’t need me as much. I don’t know if I will become a “helicopter’ mom or if I will be willing to let them go.  I hope it’s the latter as I know that this is what will benefit them most.  Well, I guess it’s a good thing that I blog and record moments like this.  Perhaps once my boys are older and I seem to forget to let go I can look back at my own words and remember that it’s time to cut the apron strings (or at least snip them a bit).

Talk to you soon – Serene

Share with me: What ways do you encourage your children to be more independent? And in what ways are you resisting the need to let go?