Category Archives: Parenting

What Does it Mean to Be a Woman?

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Seems like as soon as Thing 2 could talk, she has said that when she grows up she wants to be a mommy.  Not truck driver. Not doctor. Not female body builder.  Mommy.  I must tell you (and no one who knows us personally will disagree with me) that I am her absolute favorite person on the planet.  I am followed closely by Thing 1 and everyone else is on the B List.  On the other hand, Thing 1 has never said she wants to be a mommy.  Well, maybe once, but it was like a distant 25th to dancer and scientist/fashion designer.  I’ve always thought Thing 2’s desire to be a mommy was cute, but I never gave it much thought since she is only 6-years-old and her interests and life goals will morph several hundred times before she reaches adulthood.

Recently, the girls and I were having a conversation about how a woman’s body naturally goes through different seasons: preparing to reproduce, reproduction years and the end of reproduction.  I was explaining that as a woman in my late 40’s, I am at the end of my reproductive years  – hence, no little brother.  Thing 2 looked up at me and said “But, when we grow up we’re going to have babies because that’s what it means to be a woman, right? That’s what girls do, right momma?”  Suddenly, it wasn’t so cute to me anymore.

Obviously, I like kids. I mean, when we married we already had 3 kids between us yet, we had just had to keep going.  Three was for quitters. However, I do recognize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for raising children.  In fact, I didn’t even realize how much I would enjoy being a mother until I became one.  It doesn’t work that way for everyone.  I looked at my baby girl and said “No, sweetie.  You can be a woman without ever having children and that’s okay.”

She looked a little surprised. Her sister spoke up an said “Auntie,” referring to my sister, “doesn’t have any kids and she’s a woman.”

“True,” I responded “Auntie, is childless by choice, but there are a lot of women who physically can’t have children.  They are still women.”

“Why can’t they have kids?”

“For any number of reasons all too complicated to explain. Regardless of the reason, whether you have children or not does not define you as a person or a woman.”

I felt guilty. Like the life that I have chosen to lead has somehow made my daughters believe that this is the only life to choose.  While I am very happy with the choices that I have made and the life that I live, I know that it isn’t for everyone – including them.  Their lives are only beginning and open to so many exciting possibilities I want them to know that no matter what choices they make about their careers or relationships or decisions to have children or not to have children, I’m there to support them.  And I certainly want them to know that being a woman means so much more than giving birth.

So, I pulled them close and told them that while being a mother is “a very important job that requires a lot of hard work, it is not what makes you a woman. Women are a lot of things.  We are: smart, and strong, and creative, and ambitious, and nurturing, and insightful, and caring and clever, and fast, and agile, and a lot more.  We are: writers, and lawyers, and police officers, and soldiers, and doctors, and teachers, and dancers, and engineers, and, again a lot more. Sometimes we are mommies and something else; and other times we are mommies and nothing else; and sometimes we aren’t mommies at all.  Any combination is fine and that will be your decision when you are older.”

“Yes, much older,” echoed Thing 1.

Thing 2 was looking kind of dazed, so I asked her if she understood what I had said.  She assured me that she did, saying “Yes, being a grown up woman is more than just being a mommy.”

I smiled, “Exactly!”

“And, I get to pick what kind of woman I want to be.”

“You got, sister!”

#girlpower

We Must be Super Sciency

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Audra and science

Today we started a new science module for the summer.  My girls love science, but I was planning to keep it simple. We began by going over some basic terms (observe, analyze, infer, etc.) then we reviewed the scientific method.  They had been asking (every. single. day.) when we were going to get started on the science workbooks that I bought for them, but, if I’m going to keep it really real here, science required more input from me than I was willing to give.  I just wasn’t ready, but eventually I got there and we are easing into it.

A little ways into the lesson Thing 1 excitedly asks “Do we get to take a science test?” Her face looked like she had just asked me if we get to go Disney World.

“Uumm, no, ” I replied, slightly taken aback.  “You want to take a test over science?”  I looked at Thing 2, who was animatedly nodding in agreement and I was suddenly sure that I was being set up for something because this was unnatural.

“YES! I LOVE ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT STUFF I LIKE!” Thing 2 yelled. She yells when she is excited.

Just then her sister, Thing 2, chimed in, laughing and grinning while waving her arms in the air, and said “Well, not a test, but a experiment! YES! YES!”

By now they both were on their feet jumping around dancing and skipping.  I tell you it was straight out of some weird sci-fi movie and I was s-c-a-r-e-d.

“We could do something splatuous and all explodey!!!” Thing 2, continued.

Huh???

“YES, IT DEFINITELY MUST EXPLODE!!!”  Thing 1 was yelling again.

“Then there will be all of this smoke and dust around.” Thing 2 was lost in this wistful gaze that I can only describe as , well, weird.

As they continued creating their science experiment fantasy, I sat there with my cup of iced coffee wondering if anyone else’s kids are as freaking crazy as my own.  No, probably not.  Obviously, somehow I was straddling the line between reality and an alternate universe.  One where kids like science, vegetables, clean bedrooms and brushing their teeth.  I don’t even know what “splatuous” means.  I googled it and even Google hasn’t heard of it. She’s using words that even Google doesn’t know.  I was dazed and confused for a bit, but when I heard mention of pink lab coats with their names embroidered in silver stitching, I knew that I had to regain control of the situation.

“Girls. Girls! GIRLS!”

They stopped twirling and looked at me. I think that I must have looked stupid, not sharing in the merriment, and all.

“I really just want the two of you to complete the first page in the workbook.”

They sat down, opened the books and stared.  Then Thing 2 turned to me and said “This is it?  This is soooo easy.”

They were disappointed, but they finished the page, excused themselves and left me there to wallow in my inadequacies.

Never in my life did I think that I would be judged  so harshly for my ability (or lack thereof) to provide a stimulating and entertaining science experience over summer vacation.  And what kind of comeback was there for me to use? “Do you ungrateful brats know how lucky you are to have a mother that even buys you science workbooks for the summer?”  Doesn’t work does it?

However, I am determined to rebound from this temporary setback.  This Mom Fail, if you will.  I will dig deep to create a summer science module that will satisfy even these two crazy girls in their quest to be “super sciency” – sans pink lab coats with silvery embroidery, of course. Yes, I will include an experiment or two, although I seriously doubt that it will be “splatuous” and “explodey”.  But first, I’m going to go to bed and then I’m going to get up and drink coffee…and then I’m going to pray.

Reflections on Potty Training – Some Things You’re Grateful to Forget

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If only there were a potty training boot camp.

If only there were a potty training boot camp.

 

There are things in life that are so traumatic and stressful that you really don’t need to ever remember them again. Like the pain of child-birth, breaking up with your first love; or going to Starbucks and finding out that the espresso machine is broken.  Then there’s potty training. Potty training definitely falls into this category.  In fact, until recently I hadn’t thought about that stage in my kid’s lives in like…well, I can’t tell you when because I prefer never to think about it.  Truthfully, it is my least favorite aspect of child rearing.  I promise that I would rather handle teenagers and sex,drugs and rock and roll than potty training. For real.

While waiting to go into church on Mother’s Day,  I was standing next to 2 young moms comparing notes about the best way to potty train their little ones.  Oh, the memories that conversation conjured up for me. I was amused and laughed along with their stories. Mostly, I was grateful that I will not be partaking in that particular activity ever again.  I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking that I will one day have grandchildren and I may need to help out in that area.  I’ve already thought of that and decided that I will tell their parents (my kids) to keep them at home until that whole potty training thing is over.  You think that sounds mean but, trust me, I know my limitations.

When my son was approaching his first birthday my mother insisted that I begin potty training because ALL of her children were potty trained by 18 – months old.  I refused, much to her irritation, and later found out that, in fact, all of her kids were not potty trained by 18 months. So either this was a figment of her imagination or  it was she who was trained to get the kid to the potty on time.  Finally I gave in and started potty training him around 18 months.  This turned out to be a colossal fail because he wanted no part of this whole process and only really enjoyed sitting on his potty to listen to me read a story. He never did his business there, but as soon as the story was over, he’d get up and streak across the house butt naked and giggle until he was breathless.  I have no idea when or how he was actually potty trained.  All I can say is thank goodness for his day care, because who knows how long that could have gone on.

Are girls easier to train than boys, they wondered?  I know the answer to that – no, not really.  Both of my girls turned it into a mind game and for a minute, I really thought they had a good chance at winning. Thing 1 wanted the pretty, big girl underwear, but she just didn’t want to commit to actually peeing on the potty.  We bought her a cute little miniature (pink) potty to sit next to the big one in our bathroom. She would saunter in and look at it with, at best, mild interest and at worst, disdain.  I had a new baby to look after (Thing 2); I was tired and didn’t have much fight in me. Thing 1 would want to put on her pretty underwear and promise me that she wouldn’t pee her pants.  Lies.  Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  I said to her that she wasn’t even trying and I wasn’t going to allow her to put the big girl undies on anymore if she insisted on doing her business in her pants.  She turned to me with a look of pity and said. “Come on, Lisa. Be happy don’t be mean.”  No. Joke. My 2 and a half-year old called me Lisa.  What she didn’t realize was that she had just thrown down the gauntlet.  It was about to go down!  First of all I told her that I was Mommy, not Lisa.  Then, I took her pants away and told her that she would be without bottoms until she figured out how to use the bathroom.  She was confused and a little frustrated, but two days later, she was potty trained.  Mommy for the win!

After that, I thought I had it all figured out. I didn’t. Thing 2 should have been a breeze. She wasn’t.  Well, actually, initially she was.  She potty trained very quickly, but then out of nowhere she decided that she preferred the diaper.  Total regression except, as soon as she peed or pooped in her diaper, she would remove it and bring a new one for me to put on her.  That was a little much for me to handle.  Seriously, if she could do all of that she might as well have changed her own diaper.   I tried getting her the pretty,  big girl underwear, but she didn’t care. Then I took away her pants and left her bottom naked, but she just screamed then went upstairs to her room, got her own pull-up and pants and put them on.  I gave in and let her do her own thing.  I just didn’t have the strength or patience to fight any longer.  I bought pull-ups big enough to fit her (I honestly didn’t know that they made them in that size) and just followed her lead.  Then one day, I stopped off to pick up a new box of pull-ups and I just couldn’t do it.  They’re expensive, take up too much room in the closet and messy; and I was just done! DONE! This girl could carry on a better conversation than most grown people I knew.  Therefore, I could see no real reason for us to be in this situation.  I wheeled her out of the store, back to the car and strapped her into the seat.  Then I looked into those beautiful brown eyes and said “Sweetie, I’m not buying anymore pull-ups.  You have to wear big girl underwear and use the big potty from now on.  Okay?”

“Okay, Mommy.”

And that was that.  From that moment on she used the potty, which let me know that the past few months were really just a test to see how far she could push me. Thing 2 for the win!

Now, looking back, this all sounds like good times, but then not so much.  I really don’t know how anyone ever survives those potty training days.  One of the women talking saw me laughing and asked if I have children and if I had been through this already.  I replied that indeed I have and all of my kids are well past that stage. Then she asked if I had any tips on what works.  I thought about it carefully, replaying my adventures in my head.  Finally, I replied “I got nothing.”

 

 

A Prayer for Grown Ups

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I may be a little quiet this week because it’s Spring Break and I’m spending some much needed down time with my family.  Big Poppa has promised me…PROMISED ME!!!… that there will be no phone conferences, emails to respond to or any other work distractions to attend to what so ever!  Trust me, if and when he breaks this promise, I will be tweeting about it.  So, I will be around, just maybe not as active over on my Facebook and Twitter accounts although, you may want to keep an eye out on my Instagram feed (http://instagram.com/mysocalledglamorouslife). Any time I’m with my kids for an extended length of time, silliness ensues.

In the mean time, I want to leave you with some thoughts from a conversation that I had this evening with my seven-ear-old.  Children have the most amazing ability of cutting through all of the messiness of life and getting straight to the core of the issue.

Thing 1: “Why are there orphans?”

Me:  “Well, because some children’s parents are dead or for whatever reason can’t take care of them.”

Thing 1: “Like what reason that they can’t take care of them?”

Me:  “Well, there are a number of reasons.  They may have problems with drugs or alcohol.  They may be in prison. They may suffer from mental illness.  There are lots of reasons.”

Thing 1:  “My friend told me that some parents just don’t want their kids anymore. Sometimes they beat them and then the police take them away to live with another family or to an orphanage.  Is that true?”

Me: “Unfortunately, yes, sometimes that is true.”

Thing 1:  Why do they not want them any more?”

Me:  “I don’t know.  I wish I could answer that.”

Thing 1: “Didn’t they know before they [the baby] were born if they wanted it or not?”

Me: “Well, I think it’s more complicated than that. I think sometimes grown ups really don’t know how much work it is to take care of children. Some grown ups, like Daddy and I, find it fun and wonderful, but some others aren’t quite ready for it.”

Thing 1: “So, then there are children who have no love.”

Me: “Yes, it’s sad but it’s true. But, we can pray that they find a family to love them.”

Thing 1: “And how about we pray for grown ups to be more responsible and to THINK before they have children.”

And there it is.

Those "Things" I love

Those “Things” I love

Parents, We Need to Talk About This

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As a parent who has raised three teenagers, it doesn’t surprise me that there is senior in high school in New Jersey (or anywhere else ) that would expect that her parents owe her absolutely everything, including college tuition.  It doesn’t surprise me that she feels that they are obligated in some way to continue her education at a private school while her obligation to them is absolutely nothing. This is the world that we are living in with this entitled generation that we are raising.  A while back I wrote a post entitled What Are We Doing to Our Children  that speaks to this very thing. The pampering and coddling of our youth that turns them into spoiled, demanding brats that sue their parents when things don’t go their way.  No, this teen’s actions while extreme, do not surprise me at all.  However, what does surprise me are the actions of the parents of the classmate that this girl is living with while this all plays out in court. This, parents, is what I want to talk to you about.

Parenting is a hard job.  A really hard job. We (parents) do things differently.  We approach things from different perspectives and we use different solutions depending on the needs of our family.  And, I’m just going to be honest, parenting during the teen years can be absolute hell  challenging.  Every teenager that I know tests the boundaries (some more than others) and it can push us all to our absolute limits.  In the spirit of keeping things really, really real, Big Poppa and I often fantasized about the day that our older children would leave home.  We were so over all of the drama and teen angst.  They thought that they were the ones who couldn’t wait to get out of our house and away from our rules, but we were just as excited to see them go.  In fact, I packed for them.  Would we miss them?  Probably, but we really wanted the opportunity to find out.  The thing is, it is our job as parents to establish rules that not only provide protection for the well-being of our families but also, the sanctity of our own homes.  We set the bar when it comes to respecting our authority.  It is complete negligence on our part if we don’t at least attempt to establish some ground rules for living in our home and carry out the consequences when the rules are broken.  A child who is not required to show respect for his or her parents will not respect anyone else.

Tell me, if a friend of your son or daughter comes to you in need of a place to stay because their parents are allegedly physically and verbally abusive and have thrown them out of their house; do you call the police or, ultimately hire a lawyer (paid for by you) to sue her parents for living expenses?   Enter, the classmates parents who are funding not only this girl living with them but also her attorney’s fees in her lawsuit against her parents.  Big Poppa and I were just floored!  Let me be clear, I’m all for offering a kid shelter when they need it.  Things happen and sometimes people need a cooling off period before they can see clearly.  However, providing the retainer fees for the lawyer probably did not encourage any cooling off.  On the contrary, it just fanned the flames. Shouldn’t the goal have been reconciliation?  Isn’t it usually the case that the that the truth lies in the middle?  Are we really sure that this is the path we want to encourage our young people to take? I can not for the life of me comprehend what made these people think that this would be a good idea.

Never mind that the presumed friendship between the two sets of parents is irrevocably destroyed but, more importantly, the relationship between the parents and their daughter may never be the same again.  I watched on the news as her parents sat in court, her mother with silent tears streaming down her face and her father looking like a deer in the headlights. What parent ever thinks that they will ever be in this position?  None. But with the assistance of “well-meaning” adults?  Well, that’s just unconscionable.  The truth is that we’re in this together, people. We are parenting warriors!  We’re all out here trying to raise our kids to the best of our ability and it’s hard enough without being undermined by fellow warriors.  Whether we recognize it or not, we need each other to exchange ideas; as a source of information; to establish a network.  We are each other’s village.  So, if you ever hear that one of my kids is sick of living under my unreasonable rules and is looking for somewhere to stay, please keep your money in your pocket, give them a good talking to with a cup of hot chocolate and send their butt home.

It’s Tuesday, I’m Freezing and We Have a Winner

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Why, hello there!  How are y’all feeling?  Me?  I’m feeling cold!  Yes, the polar vortex is bearing down on south Texas again and I am freezing. While the girls and I walked to school this morning our faces were stinging, my ears were numb (they had on ear muffs) and our noses resembled Rudolph’s.  There’s another winter weather advisory in effect through mid-morning tomorrow which means the possibility of another “No Snow Day”! Just no.  This stopped being amusing a long time ago.

At any rate, I wanted to share something with you.  It’s one of those parenting lessons that one can only fully appreciate when you’re parenting from the rear view mirror like me.  This time around I am fully embracing letting my girls be fully and unapologetically themselves.  As a first time mom there was so much that I wanted to teach show Mr. C.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but I think that I may have had the approach wrong. I had his education, activities, well, pretty much life planned before he was even born.  In part, I think that I was over compensating for him not living with his dad and also, in part because I am a control freak.  I can admit that and I’m okay with it.  You may not be, but I am.  Whatever the reason, in some ways it has served me well, but in other ways it’s been somewhat stifling for him.  So, here I am so many years later with his little sisters and well, let’s just say that with their help (insistence) I have a new attitude.

Anyway, this all brings me to today.  Today is the first day of Read Across America Week commemorating the birthday of everyone’s favorite doctor, Dr. Seuss. The school invited every student to pick their favorite Dr. Seuss character from one of his books and make a stand-up replica or picture to be displayed in the library for the week. Thing 1 immediately asked me to draw her character (Marvin K. Mooney from Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now) and she would take care of the decorating. I did as she asked.

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However, Thing 2 immediately took to planning out her version of the Cat in the Hat. I listened and initially tried to get her to go along with the flow and do something similar to her sister.  But, she had a vision and she was insistent saying to me “It may not work, but at least just let me try.”  Who says no to that?I  So, she cut and she colored and she glued ALL ON HER OWN and this is what she came up with.

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Isn’t that the coolest ever?! And she’s only six-years-old!  Needless to say, her father and I are beyond proud of her and she was proud of herself.  That is, right up until it was time to take it to school.  Then fear and self-doubt over took her and she refused to take it with her this morning.  Big Poppa and I were so disappointed and tried (unsuccessfully) to convince her that no one would laugh at her or think it was terrible.  No.  She refused.  Now it lies on my kitchen counter where it will stay for a long while as a reminder of how important it is for parents to allow their children to just do their own thing. Their thing may not always be the best or the prettiest, but it will be uniquely their own.  Also, it is a reminder to parents for the constant need to build up your children  – their courage and self-confidence.  It’s not a done deal since she can always take it in later in the week.  Big Poppa and I are still encouraging her to do so.  Please feel free to leave any words of encouragement for her in the comments and just maybe we can get this awesome Cat in the Hat to school this week.

And now, on to other business…

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The winner of the 2014 Black History Month Book Parade Giveaway is Kimberly M.  Yay, you!!! Kim, just post a comment with the name of the book from the parade that you would like to receive and I will send it out to you right away.  Thank you all so much for following along this year and I can’t wait to do it again in 2015.  🙂

Respectfully Raising Boys and Girls

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There has been a lot written on the internet and social media recently regarding gender bias and issues that pertain to raising well-rounded children. As parents sometimes we get so caught up in our daily lives that we become numb to the constant bombardment of subliminal and not so subliminal messages filtering through to our children.  What’s worse, often we are the ones to perpetuate the gender stereotypes.

I have been blessed with two boys (both in their 20’s) and three girls (one 23 and the others 7 and 6).  I wish that I could tell you that I have this all figured out and that I have all of the answers, but that would not be the truth.  Twenty three years into this and my husband and I are still learning.  However, there are some things that I can tell you that we have observed to be true for each gender of our children.  What makes this even more compelling is the fact that we are a blended family therefore, not all of our children have the same two biological parents. Yet, the similarities are consistent.  Big Poppa and I both agree on these three things:  1) all of our girls are better critical thinkers than our boys; 2) our boys tend to be just as sensitive, if not more so, as our girls; and 3) our boys have always been far less interested in issues dealing with the social hierarchy of friendship than our girls. They are much more capable of resolving and moving past issues with friends (read “a lot less social drama”) than our girls.  We have no idea what to attribute any of this to, They’re just our observations.  Maybe you have some to add?   I say all of this to say that some things (not all,  but some) really are inherent to gender and we, as parents, need to respect and enjoy the differences.

What’s ironic is that the things that my husband and I have observed to be inherent gender traits are directly opposite of what tends to be socially acceptable behavior by both sexes.

Girls are better critical thinkers than boys? Sure, as long as she’s thinking about what color to wear to  the school game on Friday night!

Boys characterized as sensitive?  Nonsense! Real men are not sensitive.  Man Up!

Society has decided what  are the social norms and in large part ignored natural personality or gender traits among children.  And in doing so we are crippling them by forcing them to be something that they are not.  These messages can be very subtle, for instance, I took my girls to the dentist the other day and at the end of the visit they were given little tooth-brush kits to take home.  Each of them got to choose their own tooth-brush from either Disney Princess or characters from Cars 2.  My girls chose princesses.  Then after they got their floss and timers, they were given a bag to put it all in.  The girls’ bags were pink, while the boys got blue bags.  Pretty cliché don’t you think?  Why couldn’t the children choose from generic primary colored tooth brushes and supplies then everyone receive white bags?  Of course, given the opportunity my girls will choose the princess themed tooth brushes and my boys, at that age, would have chosen the Cars 2 themed tooth brushes.  However, had they not been given the opportunity to make those choices, I seriously doubt that they would have cared.  Those offerings are adult decisions and play directly into gender stereotypes.    It may sound harmless enough, but combine that with all of the times that little girls  and boys are offered gender  themed stickers at the doctor’s office, receive the gender appropriate toy from McDonald’s or even get to choose from Disney Princess or Captain America themed hand soap, and it reinforces what’s expected from them in their gender roles.  Girls are princesses and boys are big and strong.  Girls are soft and like softer colors while boys are bold and aggressive, like their color choices.  Girls need protecting and boys are their protectors.

Unfortunately, parents and other family members unknowingly add to this gender stereotyping in some of the most hurtful ways.  Once while we were at swim lessons my then 5-year-old  daughter and another kid in her class, a boy, were told to swim out to the ring that the instructor had placed in the water.  The first one there was to dive down, pick it up and swim back.  Ready…set…go!  They swam, my daughter reached it first and swam back as instructed.  Two things that you should know here: 1) My daughter is a fish; and 2) The little boy was hesitant.  He had been somewhat fearful of the water for a while, but his dad was not very sympathetic.  At the completion of that exercise I watched his father completely lose his mind.  He called his son over to the side of the pool and told him to “get his s#$t together!” Not kidding.  Remember, these kids were 5-years-old.  During his talk, the father took the time to point out to the boy that there “was no way that he should have lost to that girl,” and with that he stormed out of the pool area to wait in the hall.  My heart ached for that little boy.  He didn’t cry, of course, because boys don’t cry, right? But, I sure wanted to.

The thing is, not all boys are athletic.  In fact, some boys don’t even like sports, just like some girls don’t even like princesses.  I have one of those.  One of my sons never liked sports and never found them interesting. While he was growing up it became obvious that he was much more of a tech kid (a gamer) very early on. He liked science and loved to read. By the way, this didn’t make him less of a boy, just a boy with different interests. However, because I think exercise is a good thing and playing  on a team can be beneficial in many ways, I forced him to play a sport for a few years.  He tried softball and soccer and later, in middle school he was on the wrestling team, but nothing ever captured his attention because it really wasn’t his thing.  Ironically, his father is a HUGE sports fan, a fact not lost on my son.  Unfortunately, this led to a rather unpleasant Christmas many years ago when my son was about 8 or 9 – years – old. His dad gifted him with sports equipment for soccer, basketball and football that included a book. He left it in the living room floor for my son to find when he came home from school.  Clearly my son didn’t ask for it nor did he want it.   Angry and hurt, he stepped over it without speaking, and went to his room.  The look on his face said it all, so I picked up the gifts and put them away.  About a week later I asked him if he would at least like to read the book about the different sports to which he replied  “no” and reiterated that he didn’t like nor was he interested in sports and everyone knew that,  including his father.  Then he said something that has stayed with me for about 15 years.  He said, “He bought those things because he likes them, not me.  He must not like me for me.”     I assured him that it wasn’t the case, but agreed that it was disrespectful. No doubt that his dad had the best intentions and didn’t realize that his actions would insult his son.   We never spoke about it again until about a week ago when I asked him if could I write about it.

As parents we do have to show our children respect by getting to know who they are.  Sure, over the years as they grow, they will go in and out of phases, discover new likes and dislikes, but it’s our job to stay tuned in to them.  We can give our opinions, give advice and surely exercise parental authority, but, and I want you to listen to me very closely…you do not have control over their personality!  Some things are truly their own and deserve your encouragement, support, guidance and yes, respect. When possible introduce them to activities that are gender neutral.  Girls do play sports and some of them don’t give a toot about fashion.  By the same token, some boys want to go into the arts. Not being a jock doesn’t cancel your man card.  We have to drop all of these crazy preconceived notions about who or what girls and boys must be and just let them be themselves.

It Wasn’t Really the Job That I Loved…

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Today’s writing prompt over at Champagne to Crayons:  28 Days of Celebrating Thanks is Day 12: A Job That I Am Thankful for. I am going to be honest with you, I almost had to skip this one. I don’t mind working but, I can’t say that I’ve had a job that I just couldn’t wait to get to every morning.  Granted, different jobs had their high points, but over all, they were not what I was interested in doing.  Looking back, I don’t think that I really knew what I was interested in doing.  After my son was born I quickly realized that I needed a good paying job with medical and dental benefits that I could afford, so I randomly chose to pursue a career as a paralegal.  I do mean random, because although I was a Journalism major, jobs in that particular field are hard to come by and I had no idea how to go about doing so.  At the time I was living with my sister and her husband, who were both lawyers and after seeing a television commercial for paralegal training, I thought, “I could do that!”  That was it.  I took out a loan,  went back to school and spent the next 15 or so years bored out of my mind.  However, I did manage to earn a decent living, I had good benefits and I created a fairly comfortable life for me and my son. Additionally, I gained  an invaluable skill set (research anyone?) and I met some of the most amazing people, some of which I am fortunate enough to still call friends. Since having a personally fulfilling career wasn’t something that I felt was important, it was all good.

However, after some thought, I realized that I was over looking the obvious.  I do have a job that I love more than any other, that of a Domestic Engineer (i.e., SAHM, house wife, homemaker…whatever you want to call it). Make no mistake, this is a job. Whether you do it full – time or part-time, it is a job.  At times it is as emotionally draining as it is emotionally fulfilling.  Sometimes at  night when I finally make it to bed after homework and cooking…and girl scouts…and dance…and laundry…and errands…and PTA stuff…and whatever else there was, I can’t remember a time when I was more physically exhausted.  I love it!  I even love those mornings, at 3:30 a.m., when I realize that it’s Thursday and their class shirts are not clean so, I jump out of bed to put the load of laundry in knowing that I will never be able to fall back to sleep. Big Poppa doesn’t even notice that I’m missing, but it’s okay.  It just provides me with another opportunity to do some internet shopping.  It’s best that he be kept in the dark.  I love it when my grown children ask for advice then ignore it.  Only to later, begrudgingly admit that I could have had a point. Or the way that they ask for new bed pillows as if Target won’t allow them to purchase one with money of their own.  

Some have even tried to put a monetary value on the role of Domestic Engineers (http://www.businessinsider.com/value-of-stay-at-home-moms-2013-5) and while I think that it’s a great tool in bolstering the validity of the role of a SAHM, I think that the whole debate is ridiculous.  Really, there is no way of placing a real dollar value on what parents do because so much of it is intangible. It’s priceless, really.   No paralegal position has ever given me a moment more memorable than seeing my daughter’s smiles when I come to volunteer in their class rooms.  Or, more satisfaction than I felt when every single Barbie clothing item, shoe, and accessory was finally organized and put away.  Or, when I fix a meal that EVERYONE likes (hardly ever happens). Or when I manage to get everything done on the list for the day, plus a few extras…SCORE!  No, nothing that I have ever done during my career out side of the home could ever be more important to me or more fulfilling than what happens in my home with my spouse and children.  Yes. This. This right here is a job that I am truly thankful for.

Mommy and Me

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My youngest daughter, Thing 2, fancies herself to be an artist.  She loves to draw, color, paint and she’s actually pretty good.  I’m being totally objective.  Her paintings usually involve lots of flowers and colorful rainbows, but her favorite subject is me.  The drawing below is my absolute most favorite to date.

Thing 2's "Mommy & Me"

Thing 2’s “Mommy & Me”

And it’s not just because I have crazy long eye lashes and I’m super skinny.  It’s because we are so happy!  The sun is shining, those artsy butterflies are flying about, the grass is green and the flowers are blooming.  Look how close together we are standing in relation to everything else in the drawing.  In her interpretation, when we are together, all is right with the world.  That is huge!  There are some days when I think I’m getting this parenting thing all wrong.  When she accuses me of being mean because I make her eat veggies.  I’m sometimes impatient.  I yell too much.  I blog too much.  I rush too much.  I convince myself that I need to be better.  Then she gives me this and somehow it’s enough to let me know that things are not as bad as I think they are.  I actually might be enough.

Right now her artwork is on my bedside table.  I look at it when I wake up in the morning and just before I go to bed.  It’s a reminder that, at least for Thing 2, I’m getting something right.  I can only hope that this phase doesn’t pass too quickly because I love being her muse.

*This post is in response to the writing prompt, Day 11: A Photo You Are Thankful For, 28 Days of Celebrating Thanks on Champagne to Crayons. To read posts by my fellow bloggers, click here.

Quiet Strength

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Strength

Over my past 23 years of parenting, I have had many occasions to dig deep inside of myself to find a source of strength to sustain me. Unfortunately, there have been more nights spent in a hospital with one child or another than I care to remember.  My husband and I have each gone through the loss of a parent and together, we have suffered the loss of a child.  Like any married person, our marriage has suffered through its ups and downs.  SURPRISE! We do have disagreements (you’re probably not so surprised – we all do).  Our children don’t always do as we tell them and yes, there are consequences, many of which we no longer control.  It gets uncomfortable and we want to rush in and play Miss Fix-it to spare our loved one’s any hurt.  Unfortunately, life isn’t like that.    We can’t control, comfort, direct and dictate everything. Not for those that we love and often not even for ourselves.

One very simple, yet powerful lesson that I have learned in my life is that sometimes the mightiest show of strength is to remain very quiet.  Seems counter intuitive, I know.  After all, when body builders lift weights there’s all of the loud grunting and bulging biceps, right?  When stepping into a situation where you want to protect your loved ones, every instinct says that you need to step forward and take charge.  Loud and forceful! Are you a Momma Bear?  If so, then you know that Momma Bears are rarely quiet.  However, often the best approach to make it through some of the toughest times is to remain silent.

I think that this became particularly apparent as my older kids reached adulthood.   Most young adults are itching to get out on their own and, trust me, you are pretty ready for them to leave your house, too!  However, you know what life has in store for them and you know that it’s a lot harder than it looks.  Now, they’re adults.  They really don’t have to listen to you yet, you hope that they do.  You pray that they make wise choices about their finances, careers, friendships and love interests.  They are too grown up for you to control,  but too young to really appreciate all of the complexities of living life on their own. I gave them my advice, I said my piece and made sure that they knew that I loved them.  Then I remained silent, which was by far one of the hardest things I have ever done.  There have been some successes where they outperformed anything that I could have expected.  There have also been some tough times and Big Poppa and I still remained quiet because our decisions had been made and our position established.  It was our grown children that had to bear the consequences.  As a parent, that’s hard to watch but, it’s often strongest stand that you can take for the benefit of your family. Believe it or not, in the end, it makes them stronger, too.

No, it’s not always the best thing to do to barge in and (at least, attempt) to take charge.  Sometimes your strongest statement is made when you simply remain silent.

This post is in response to the prompt ” Day 2: A Time When You Were Strong”  on the blog link up  “28 Days of Celebrating Thanks” hosted by Nicole over at Champagne to Crayons.  You can read the other posts by my fellow bloggers here.