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Do Needles Always Hurt?

This past Wednesday I took my 3-year old daughter, “Beanie” to the doctor for her annual physical. It is that time of year again when doctor forms have to filled out and immunizations have to be given. Side bar: Thank God for her school reminding me when her medical form is about to expire. I would never remember when these types of things are due.
Either way, I was fortunate enough to get an appointment in the evening so I didn’t have to miss a day of work. So that morning, my daughter and I began with our regular morning routine. As usual, I began by letting her know what the plans for the day were going to be.

I explained to her that after school, we were going to visit the doctor for Dr. D to give her a check up.

As she brushed her teeth, she just nodded as if to say “Got it, sounds like a plan”.  When she finished brushing her teeth, she gave me a rundown of questions as she tried to get an idea of what her visit was going to entail “Is the doctor going to look at my eyes?” “Yes, I’m sure she will”, I responded.  “And my nose?”, “Yes”, “And my ears?”, “Yup, everything. She is going to make sure that your whole body is healthy”  She smiled, jumped down from standing on the toilet seat and we continued to head out the door.

After school let out, I picked her up and we were off to the doctor.  At Dr. D’s office Beanie was her usual quiet and observant self which she becomes in settings that she is not very familiar with. Occasionally, she asked me questions, pointing to the equipment hanging on the walls. “What’s that mama? Is that to check my mouth?”  I explained as much as I could, hoping that I got it right.  Ophthalmoscope, Otoscope, Stethescope. They all scope something!

After her check up, we were sent to the lab for bloodwork, so I explained to her where we were headed next. She looked at me quizzically, as if to ask, “what do you mean?”

So I went on to explain that she is going to have a chance to see her blood go through a really long tube and into a long glass container. “They are going to take your blood to make sure that your blood is healthy” She simply replied “oh”, and we continued on to the lab.

When we got there, the lab technician immediately informed us that she was ready for us, so we went straight to the back. “Mom, you need to sit here and put baby on your lap” the lab tech instructed me, “Then I will need you to place your arm around her body like this” she demonstrated, holding my arm gently. As she prepared her tools, Beanie watched quietly. I also watched quietly as I held her in what felt more like a soft embrace than a restraint.

Just as the tech moved the needle towards Beanies arm, I said “Okay, now you are going to see your blood go through this tube right here.

What color do you think it’s going to be?” “Red!”, she replied with a smile. “Do you think so?”, I said smiling back at her, “Let’s see!”

As the blood flowed through the tube, she watched it, mesmerized to the point of salivation, then she broke from her trance and said excitedly, “I told ya it was gonna be red!”  “Yup, you were right!”, I gave her a big squeeze as the tech took out the bandaid.

“Wow”, said the tech as she placed the bandaid on Beanie’s arm “You were so good with that needle.” Then the tech looked at me and said, “I have never seen this before.  She didn’t even flinch!”

Then my child actually said grinning from ear to ear, “I like needles!”.  While I found that reaction to be a bit awkward, I couldn’t help to also acknowledge that she had a huge smile on her face, which was the total opposite of what was obviously  the norm in that lab.  And guess what people? They didn’t even give her a sticker OR a lollipop. She was genuinely happy because of her amazing experience.

My technique may have encouraged a little bit of a strange reaction but it worked to prevent a flood of tears.
The nurses acknowledgment of my big girl’s casual behavior made me realize that none of my children have ever cried over receiving any needles. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some very important things that I DONT do and other things that I always make sure to do, which definitely contribute to a calm, cool, and collective visit to the doctor:

I always let my children know that we are going to the doctor on the day of their appointment. Knowing what to expect helps one to prepare in whatever way they need to.

I am very careful with the answers to the questions that my children ask. As my children got older, sometimes they would even ask, “Am I getting a needle today?” My answer would usually be “I am not sure” because the truth is I never really did know. However,
there was no point in answering definitively, which could lead to disappointment and mistrust or unnecessary anxiousness.

And, I also never ever answer the question “Is it going to hurt?” with any definitive answer, because the truth is what’s painful for one person is not necessarily painful for another.

I have received many needles in my lifetime and none of them ever hurt to me so, from my perspective, the answer is “No, they don’t hurt (me)”.  But I know some adults who cry at the thought of a needle for one reason or another, in which case, from their perspective, needles hurt a lot. Either way, as parents, we must be mindful of projecting our own fears of things onto our children.

And last, but certainly not least, I don’t make sad and nervous looking faces at the idea of a needle. I like to keep a “nuetral” face, which looks rather blank. Children can read faces and they look to us more often than most people realize to determine how to react to a situation. Therefore, it’s important to avoid misleading them based on an experience that is very personal to you as an individual. It’s best to let them come to their own conclusion about and based on their own experiences.

Talk to you soon!

-Serene “Sweetpea”

Share with Me: Are there any experiences that you and your child react to in very different manners?

 

Pot of Sweet Peas

Homework Personalities

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon,
Serene

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

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?

Mom Folder

The Mom Folder

The idea of a “Mom Folder” was definitely not one that I came up with, so I can’t take the credit. The concept was passed down to me from a fellow coworker and mom, but once I learned about it, I took it and ran with it. And now I pass it down to you 🙂

If you have school aged children then you know what it’s like to get a ton of paperwork sent home constantly!

There’s always a permission slip to be signed, or a new movement from the Parent Committee that we should be so interested in or a school function coming up.  I mean really, like something that must be reviewed every…single…night! Who is photocopying all these papers at schools?Sheesh! Either way, because of all the papers, there are always lots of deadlines. In the evening when the boys are doing their homework and simultaneously shoving documents in my face, telling me what I have to look over, the Mom Folder has been very instrumental in helping me not lose my mind  the papers. My Mom Folder has a pocket on each side; one is labeled “To Be Reviewed” and the other is labeled “Reviewed/ To Be Filed Away”. Once the children are in bed, I can take a look at all things and figure out how I need to deal with each document. My folder has also been helpful for organizing my bills, and housing little to-do notes that I jot down throughout the day. It travels with me to work which allows for me to switch hats and get into mommy mode for a moment during my lunch break. As I cross things off of my to do list, make very necessary phone calls, and shift papers from one side of the folder to the next, I feel productive and pretty darn proud. And that, my friends, is another way that I try to get a handle on this beautiful thing called motherhood.

Share with me: How do you organize all of the paperwork that comes with the territory of being a parent?

Pot of Sweet Peas

To Spank or Not to Spank

“It’s time to start popping her hands” a family member said to me as they watched my one-year old, Bean, walking around touching everything she could reach. My response, which is my go-to response when I don’t agree with a suggestion, was to stay completely silent. But in mind, an entire monologue was beginning to form.

Why, I thought, should I begin popping her hands because she is exploring a world she has never seen? Why should I begin to physically inflict pain on her or just “shock her slightly” because her curiosity is at an all time high? Then I began to think about the reasons that parents “pop, spank, hit, beat” their children. The reasons that I was at the receiving end of a spanking when I was a child, the reasons why my own children have gotten popped, and the reasons why I have seen other children be hit by their parents.

What internal feeling triggered that response? Was there an internal feeling at all or was it all impulse?

(And before we move on, I must clarify that I am not talking about hitting and leaving a mark. I’m not talking about anything that’s equivalent to a story on the channel 11 news. Those situations have a category of their own and I’m not going to go there right now). But moving on….

I have spoken to many parents and it’s very interesting to hear the different reasons that parents use to justify the implementation of spanking. The reasons span from “to show my child that I am in charge”, “because my child made me upset”, “to teach my child a lesson”, “to make sure my child listens”, “because I got hit as a child and I turned out great” and my favorite, “ain’t nobody got time for all that talking!” There are many reasons that people have for this parenting method and while I don’t judge anyone’s decision, I do have to play devil’s advocate for a second when I ask, “what’s the message that a parent is conveying when they spank their child?” When you pop your child out of anger, does it say that when you are feeling angry, you can inflict pain? When you hit to show dominance, does it convey the message that a child should stay in a submissive state? When a parent hits to make a child listen, is that showing the most effective way of “speaking”? And when you do it because it was how you were raised, what is it saying for our ability to evolve? I am definitely not saying that spanking is wrong and I’m also not saying that it’s right. As I said before, there is no judgement attached. But as an educator, I’ve always found it interesting that I could control a classroom of 18- 4 year olds who I am in charge of for 8 hours a day and I never ever think to lay a hand on them. And believe me they are not always compliant. So I have always struggled with the justification of hitting my own children who I’ve been responsible for  since conception.

As an African-American mother the concept of spanking my children seems to be something that is suppose to be hard-wired into my DNA. It’s “Spare the rod, spoil the child”, right?

I’ve been in the presence of family members who have looked at me like I should turn in my “black card” when I did not opt to hit my children for wrongdoing. And they look at me as if to say “poor, naive Serene. You’ll be sorry you didn’t pop his behind”.
Sure, I know that popping would get the trick done real quick. After all, it is much more time consuming for me to tell my one-year old that the stove is “hot” with a stern voice as I move her away. It does take more time to have a conversation with my pre-teen about the expectations of greatness that we have for him, because we know his full potential, although his grades for the marking period are sub par. And when my 9 year old yells, “I hate you” to his older brother mid-argument, instead of me slapping him in the mouth for using such a horrible word, it is definitely more time consuming to explain to him the true meaning of the word “hate” and teach him other words that he could use to express how his “pain in the butt” brother is making him feel at that moment.
I know all of these things take up more time, but isn’t that what parenting is? Teaching your child acceptable behavior? Teaching them about the dangers in life and why to avoid them? Teaching them why they should strive for greatness and teaching them how to effectively express themselves so that they are understood?
Does a spanking achieve these goals? I am not sure. We are still in the process of raising our children and can’t yet determine if our parenting methods will result in “perfect children” or totally mess them up as adults. I guess that’s also what parenting is all about. Giving it your all, adjusting and readjusting your parenting methods in the hopes that your children will turn out to the best adults that they can be.

Talk to you soon,

Serene

Share with me: What message do you think spanking sends? Can that same message be sent in another way?

Pot of Sweet Peas

All’s Fair in Love and Basketball

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon-Serene

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

Pot of Sweet Peas

The Writing’s on the Wall

When my boys were very little, they loved to write on everything besides the paper I provided them with.  No matter how many times I stressed to them that we only write on paper, I would find stray marker scribbles on the wall.  I remember speaking to many parents and discovering that I was not the only one with this issue.  Different parents came from different schools of thought.  There was the parent that refused to give their children writing utensils while they were in the house.  Those parents left writing opportunities for mommy and me classes, and the mess could be avoided at home. Then there was the mom far on the other end of the spectrum, who just threw her hands up, saying “Who cares if they write on the walls. We will just cover it with paint…one day”.  I’ve actually visited that mom’s home and literally, there was art on the actual walls like the living room was one big canvas.  Then of course, there was the mom right in the middle of the spectrum who purchased an easel and was committed to repeatedly reminding her child to only draw on the paper. 

While there is nothing wrong with any of these approaches, I decided to add another option to the list for my boys.  I decided that two can play this game. 

If it was going to be inevitable that they write on the walls, then I was going to make sure that the walls were covered with paper.  This way, we both win.  

I purchased a big roll of butcher paper which can be found at an art store or even a hardware store.  Then in the hallway of our apartment, I taped a long sheet of paper on each side of the wall. So there was 6 feet of paper to the left and to right of us when we walked down the hall.  Then I placed all crayons and markers in a bucket on the floor and let the boys go to work.  They absolutely loved it!! I also had an appreciation for their art work, which is why I left the papers hanging in the hall for a week or two at a time.  Also, I found that they would come back to the papers throughout the week and add to it.  There was so much paper for them to cover, it always kept them busy. 

Clean up was easy as pie.  When we were going to have adult company that we actually wanted to impress (yeah right), we would simply peel the paper off the walls, roll it up and put it to the side and Viola!! Clean walls. 

Happy Children, Happy Mom. 

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What battles have you given up fighting with your children and just decided to meet them halfway? 

 

Pot of Sweet Peas

The Sock Bag

My children, like many others, are not very good at keeping their socks together.  I lay out a matching pair of socks for them, they put on a matching pair of socks, and at bath time they take off a pair of matching socks. But somewhere between them taking off the matching pair of socks and the socks being dried after washing, a pair of socks becomes a single sock with no match.  I have told my children countless times that it is important that they put their socks together after they take them off.   I’ve taken out the time to show them how to roll the socks together once they have taken them off and I’ve even threatened to use their own money to purchase their own socks because I was just so fed up with the depletion of socks and money for socks.  But alas, all my efforts have been to no avail.  I buy a pack of six socks (that’s 12 socks total), and by the end of the month we end up with…….well….. less than 12 socks total. It’s always an odd number of socks.  I know that I am not the only one… 

So when life gives you wash cycles of single socks, make a sock bag!

I came up with the idea of the sock bag a few years back and it has revolutionized the single sock epidemic. Here’s how it works: After a load of laundry is complete and the pairs of socks are put together, there are ALWAYS socks without a match.  Those single socks are placed in the sock bag. Then when I wash another load in a week or so, when there are single socks remaining once again, I then put those in the sock bag.  After a few rounds of laundry, eventually what happens when I glance in the sock bag is that the once single sock and it’s match are reunited and it feels so good.  But what about the socks that never finds their match again, you ask? Well… those particular socks become house socks which are great for my children who hate to wear slippers in the house during the winter months. Whenever the house gets a little cool I tell them to go in the sock bag and put on some socks. Sure, they are wearing socks that don’t match but who cares! Their feet are warm, I don’t have to keep saying “put your slippers on!”, and the socks get some use even if it’s not quite the way the manufacturer intended. 

Oh well, it works for us *smiles and shrugs shoulders.

Talk to you soon!

Share with me: What creative ways have to you turned a negative into a positive as it relates to dealing with your children?