Posts

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

image
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?

The Garden that Grew Guilty Flowers

image

 

 

“I wonder what is at the root of your guilt… Serene?”

That was the question that was posed to me one Monday morning during an hour long conversation with a woman at my job. It was an impromptu conversation that came about from me just passing her office to say “good morning”. This woman happens to be a mom and a very spiritual person, so I always enjoy my encounters with her. However, this particular morning, my brief hello turned into an insightful conversation that left me in tears, with a new life-changing question to reflect upon: “I wonder what’s at the root of your guilt…Serene?”. I don’t even know how we got to the point where the conversation took such a thought provoking turn, but before I knew it, we were discussing our outlook on motherhood, work, and self care. It may have begun with the question, “How was your weekend?”, my simple response of “Oh, we went to church and I did the usual: Laundry, food shopping, etc”, somehow led to us both discussing the “Sunday Night Mommy Monster” that was all too familiar to us both. That monster, she came out each weekend due to the anxiety of only having two days to reset our homes for the week to come.

Until this conversation, I thought that I was the only one who transformed into that green creature with the purple ripped shorts around 6pm every Sunday.

I thought I was the only one whose family feel victim to the “Hulk Smash”, once she realized that she was not going to accomplish everything on her weekend-to-do-list. I thought I was the only one who single-handedly destroyed any trace of a great weekend, as I complained about failing to accomplish the goals of the weekend. I wasn’t the only one and this Monday morning conversation opened my eyes to that.

Then our conversation took another turn and, I was telling her about my insane need to sit at my desk all day at work, to complete a daily to do list that was longer than any human, or small team of humans could complete in a 7 hour work day. I revealed to her how hard it was for me to take a lunch break each day because I felt bad about abandoning my work for something as trivial as eating. She shared with me the struggle she once had with leaving the office on time to get home to her family. This made me realize that if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to pick my little girl up from the day care at 5:45pm each day, I probably would stay at work until the building closed. She explained how well she understood my struggles, because she had once battled with similar issues, but she went on to share how she had taken a stand against being a slave to her work and that she had even kicked the habit of coming to work on the weekends. She even shared how she had come to realize that it was so important to take care of herself and do the things that she enjoyed. She explained how by doing those things she had discovered a peace of mind that she had not known before.

I stood there looking at her with admiration, as my mind entertained all the things in life that I would love to do just for the sheer enjoyment.

I thought about how wonderful it would be to leave work while it was still light outside. I thought about how wonderful it would be to eat lunch without worrying about getting spaghetti sauce on the keyboard as I answered my work emails. I thought about watching a movie on a Sunday night with my family so that we can all feel relaxed before the new week begins.

Just as I started to feel comforted by all these thoughts, this awful feeling from the pit of my stomach began to rise up and dampen my whole mood. “I would feel so guilty doing many of the things that I would like to do because I would feel like I’m abandoning my responsibilities” I told her.

Her response was a sympathetic tilt of her head, as she looked at me and asked, “I wonder what’s at the root of that guilt? That’s the real question, Serene”.

She said those words to me.
We exchanged a few more words, she passed me a tissue for my tears, she gave me a few words of inspiration to meditate upon, and I went on to start my day of work. But that entire day, that entire night, that entire week I kept replaying that question over and over in my mind. What was at the root of my guilt? The funny thing about that question is that I actually knew the answer. Deep, deep, down inside I always knew the answer, but the voice was so small that as it whispered the answer, I always drowned it out by constantly keeping myself busy. Now that I was actually thinking about the question, the answer seemed to grow louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it.

At the root of my guilt, there was my idea of perfection. My idea that a perfect mom makes sure that the kids have everything they need and most of the things they want, a perfect wife gives her husband the time, the attention, the affection, the support that he needs at all times, the perfect daughter fits the mold that her mom intended for her to be. The perfect director runs her program in a way that pleases all her staff, all the parents, and keeps the company CEO pleased at all times with her work. The perfect friend calls her girlfriend multiple times a week to laugh and cry about life. And the perfect Christian woman never complains while achieving all of these goals. That was at the root of my everyday belief. I believed it because I thought this was how I was suppose to operate based on the responsibilities that were given to me.
However, the thing that stemmed from that root was disappointment in myself for falling short of that belief. At times, my children would want something that I couldn’t give them and on those occasions, I’d think: I failed them. At times my husband would want intimate time with me but I’d be striving to be the perfect director, so I’d be doing work in our bed, all the while thinking: I failed my husband. At work, teachers would complain, budgets would go off track, and I’d think, I’m not working hard enough: I failed as a director. My mother and I would argue over the simplest things and I’d think: I failed as a daughter. I’m not hanging out with my friends cause I can’t find the time: I failed as a friend. Then to top it all off, many days as I worked to achieve this perfection, I’d grow tired and weary, I’d complain and I’d think: AND I failed as a Christian.

Ideas of perfection at the root, thinking I failed everything at the stem. All that blossoms from this kind of plant is GUILT! And there it was!!!

My epiphany!! I discovered the root, I had figured out why my guilt had grown and why it was choking me so much. I had allowed the garden, that is my mind, to be inhabited by weeds. I had watered roots that needed to be pulled before they had a chance to flourish. Then the thought that I failed as a gardener started to cross my mind as well, until I quickly recognized what was happening again. I snapped that thought out my head. I told myself, I must be thankful for the revelation that I finally received and now I had to do something about. It was time to take back the garden of my mind. I declared from that day moving forward, I was going to pull every single weed that disguised itself as a precious flower.
And this is where I am in my life right now. I’m gardening. I’m detecting the weeds of my mind. I’m discovering that some of them are so big, they are so hard to pull, but I’m pulling. I’m clawing at them. It’s a messy job, but I know that I must do this. Not for my family, not for my friends, not for my job, not for my mother, not for husband. FOR MYSELF!!

Talk to you soon,
Serene “Sweetpea” Stevens

Share with me: What’s growing in the garden that is your mind? How are you nurturing it each day?


 

Little Packages, Big Gifts

Children are a blessing or so the saying goes, but have you ever stopped to think about why they are such a blessing? How exactly can something that takes so much energy, time, not to mention, money from you add so much value to your life? Well, during a moment of reflection I had a revelation of why my children are a blessing to me and why I am so very grateful for them. Sure, they bring me happiness (the majority of the time). The laughter of my two year old daughter “Bean” makes the very depths of my heart smile. And my boys (Papi,13 and Munchkin, 10) make me proud as I watch them grow to be intellectual and kind-hearted young men.

But it wasn’t until I looked at myself B.C (Before Children) and compared it to the present day Serene, that I understood that these three little people have helped shaped me to be the woman that I am and am still becoming, and it is because they are, that I am.

As I mold myself around who they are and who they need me to be, day by day I understand and accept my transformation that was meant to happen. All 3 of them were uniquely designed like special keys to unlock doors that lead to me fulfilling my life’s purpose. I am thankful for my big gifts in these little packages and while at times, they make me want to run for the hills, waving my white flag, I know that there is no “return to sender” and I am fortunate to be the recipient.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me:

Do you have a story to share of how your particular child (children) transformed your life, your mindset, and/or purpose? I’d love to feature your story in my new Sweetpeame.com series: When the Student Becomes the Teacher.

Please email me at 123sweetpeaandme@gmail.com
All entries are due by April 1st and stories will be posted throughout the month of April.

 

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? 

 

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?