Tag Archives: parenting

Teach Them Well

9 Aug

I’ve been trying to come to terms with the unsettling fact that I cannot shield my children from the wrongs of the world – nor can I keep them from contributing to them. I’m worrying I’m not doing enough to make sure they make the right decision or react the best way when mom and dad aren’t around or watching.

Recently, two things happened to Nate that hurt his heart. Other kids caused the pain. One involved a group of kids surrounding him while repeatedly calling him a word that should not have a negative feeling/meaning attached to it but obviously they’ve been guided to think that way. We do not think that way and Nate and Nia both know that. Nate was overwhelmed and didn’t know how to respond. The other situation was because he likes a little girl who one child said wasn’t Nate’s “type.” The child said that to Nate because the girl has darker skin than Nate. Apparently, the child’s parents made him write sentences for liking a girl who wasn’t his “type.” (!) This made Nate sad. (Heck yeah it should!) He didn’t understand. I told him we don’t think that way. “Is your girl friend nice to you?” I asked him. “That’s what matters to mommy and daddy. Not what a person looks like. You like the person you want to like. Don’t worry what others say. We do not judge whether we are going to like someone because of skin color or hair color or size or teeth or …” He told me he knew and then went on to be happy about this little girlie who makes him feel special.

These are 7-year-olds. They are taught this. I can only hope our teachings speak louder to Nia and Nate than what others are taught (or not taught for that matter).

I want them to remember to be kind, caring and considerate. Protect those who need it. Consider how their words or actions affect others. Have a helping heart. To instinctively know how to react when they witness – or are the target of – a hurtful act. Don’t turn to anger first as a solution. Think through their thoughts and be smarter than the pain and hate. Apologize with an excuse. Forgive without conditions attached.

Among the kindness, I want them to be strong and stand their ground when they know it’s the right thing to do. Fight back when absolutely necessary. Make mistakes and work to fix them or do better next time. Don’t let a fear of failing – or not being 100% at something – keep them from trying. Make the best/most of things. Find the bright spot through the darkness. Don’t be bored. Savor the still moments among the adventures and appreciate the challenges and tough times because they are blessings too. Be grateful.

I think through all those hopes for them and then realize – that stuff is hard for me to do as an adult and I want my kids to remember do it? I can hardly control my own responses to things. How can I control theirs? They are going to mess up. I know I’ve had many selfish and road rage moments of regret. All I can do is teach them well and hope they hear the guidance over all the wrongs.

I will try to remember too.

Parenting: Contents Under Pressure

21 May

“I am so happy when I just think about kid stuff!” The comment seem to dance around the living room by a little girl struggling lately with a range of different thoughts and emotions making her feel confused and worried.

WarningIt’s been an interesting (read challenging and stressful) few days for us. I couldn’t agree more with her exclamation. However, I sadly understand and pointed out to her that the other (less fun) stuff is indeed still “kid” stuff as well. Just growing up kid stuff.

From what I remember about puberty, it was different from all this business I’m hearing about from our oldest baby. Maybe because I blocked out the awkward? Maybe because I don’t remember such specific thoughts? Maybe because I wasn’t a parent on the other side?

I know one thing for sure – I certainly did not tell my parents everything Nia tells us. I’m sure I will miss her openness when she stops sharing her thoughts with me. I just think it would be better for all of us if she didn’t share quite so much. Some thoughts should stay private. I don’t even want people to know everything I think. I could be in big trouble if I told someone my thoughts when I thought them. I told her that so she knows she’s not the only one who thinks things she doesn’t want to or understand. I told her the thoughts are normal. It’s ok to have them. It’s the choosing not to act on them that matters. I stress to her that she’s a kind, caring little girl. She worries she has a “bad” part. Don’t we all?

It’s just tough to teach a child who wants so much to do the right thing that she doesn’t need to tattle on herself for every little hiccup of growing up. We’ve talked about it and talked about it (and talked about it some more) and I’m hoping we can find a way for her to best manage her feelings without feeling like she needs to confess or seek reassurance for all things. It’s a tricky thing to balance because I tell her I’m always here to talk about her concerns but then I say – we just don’t need to talk about all things. I’ve tried to tell her she’ll soon be able to distinguish between the harmless (although maybe a bit uneasy) thoughts that she’s a-ok to keep private and the thoughts/experiences she feels that could hurt her or others. Those are shareable.

Because I don’t want to mess this whole parenting thing up, I’m planning to get guidance on how I can best handle my responses and direct her feelings the safest way. I guess that’s what Nia does when she shares with me. From one confessing, worried soul to another, this situation is fragile.

Made With Love … by Daddy

24 Feb

It seemed like a simple enough wish to help bring to life for Nia. “I want to make a Princess Leia sock doll and an Anakin doll for Nate.” Sure. Why not? After all, I just helped her a few months ago when she wanted to make a sock doll of Baby Peach (from the Mario Bros. game). However, (and it’s ok to laugh) here’s the doll I helped create:

Princess Peach Doll - made by Nia and Mom

Princess Peach Doll – made by Nia and Mom

Yes, those are yarn arms and an old Barbie dress. If I can do that, surely I can help with the new dolls. Besides, Nia loves her Peach. Even if she can’t cuddle with her because one of the crumbled papers that serve as hair may detach. (Have I ever told you I’m not the craftiest and I don’t know how to sew? I’m sure it’s obvious now!)

We got to Michaels craft store and started brainstorming the pieces we would need to create. Nia knew she wanted buttons for eyes and yarn for hair. Then, my suggestions started flying.

“How about a Styrofoam ball for a head?”
“Pipe cleaner for a mouth?”
“Felt for clothes.”
“We can just use some cotton balls for stuffing.”

Nia seemed pleased with these ideas. We loaded our basket as Andrew and Nate decided on a Star Wars model spaceship to build. At some point during our shopping, Andrew grabbed a bag of stuffing for dolls. It was almost like he knew he would have a bigger part in this project. In fact, he’s the reason the dolls came to life as wonderfully as they did.

My contribution? I stuffed a Styrofoam ball in one of the socks. That ball didn’t make the final cut though. It was replaced (rightly so) with cuddly stuffing.

Sewing Machine Daddy

Sewing Machine Daddy

I went to the grocery store and when I came home an excited Nia greeted me at the door holding a stuffed sock with sewn on arms and legs. It was a real sock doll. I came upstairs and saw Andrew sitting at the table focused on the sewing machine (with a beer beside it). “Shut up!” I said to him in shock and praise. He laughed. I was amazed.

He worked on the Leia and Anakin sock dolls for several hours over two days. The kids stuffed the dolls and gave guidance on how they wanted the hair and clothes. Nia also helped by making Leia’s belt. I helped by shouting compliments and joyful words like, “Unbelievable!” “Wow!” and “Those are the best sock dolls ever!”

Toward the end, sewing machine daddy scoffed at me when I asked if he was going to use a pipe cleaner for a mouth. “I’m going to sew it.” Know what else he sewed? The dolls’ yarn hair and the scar near Anakin’s eye. Incredible.

Made with love … by daddy. Something the kids will treasure for always.

The Creation of Andrew's Leia and Anakin Sock Dolls

The Creation of Andrew’s Leia and Anakin Sock Dolls

Loves her Princess Leia

Loves her Princess Leia

Loves his Anakin

Loves his Anakin

Room to Grow

14 Dec

A few weeks ago, I started writing an unfinished blog about how it’s been tough for me to give my kids room to grow. I’ve been worried that I’m suffocating their free spirits by not letting them play outside by themselves more – or stay over more friends’ houses – or let them walk the block to the bus stop without supervision. I see children playing outside in our neighborhood with other kids, no adult in sight. It looks as though they run this place. Confident and carefree, growing into their own. My kids, meanwhile, are sheltered.

It’s not that I don’t trust my children. I don’t trust others and situations outside of my watch. It’s been like that even for sleepovers at friends’ houses. Nia just had her first “alone” sleepover at a friend’s this year and I was worried the whole time. I woke up in the middle of the night. I checked my phone. She was fine and I felt like a mess. What’s my problem? I played outside until the street lights came on or until I heard the yell from home base. I had sleepovers and adventures sans adults. It’s just so tough for me to let them walk barefoot in the grass because I feel like when I do, they get stung by a bee.

What I need to remember is that the bee is really out of my control. I didn’t see it there as I sat and read my book. The kids didn’t see it there as they giggled and chased each other. Moments of bliss, interrupted with pain and tears. Mom and dad are there to make it better though. Scoop them up with hugs and kisses – medicine and a bandage. Don’t forget the ice cream. Still, we are able to be the protectors. Always the protectors. But what happens when you can’t be there to protect or comfort?

The heartbreaking tragedy that happened in Connecticut today captures that fear for me. Each day, we send our children on their merry – or cranky (depending on their mood that morning) – way to school and we head off to work or to whatever routine we have on the schedule. “Love you! Have a great day!” Words of caring we exchange to each other as they walk toward the bus or building. “See you later.” Because that’s what’s supposed to happen. See you later.

Sometimes, the hurt that happens when they are away from us isn’t permanent like the violence of today. Hurt feelings or worry in their hearts because of bullies, a fight with a friend or boys saying rude and inappropriate things. (That last one happened to Nia today.) For the most part, that hurt can be healed with an end of the day hug and talk with mom and dad. They feel better. They have some options on how to handle things if it happens again. They know teachers will be there to help because mom and dad talked with them. But still, I couldn’t keep them protected at the moment of their pain and I need to absorb that I never will be able to do that. They are not hurt-proof. None of us are. Mere mortals. Breakable. Perishable. Fragile.

Thinking about what happened in Connecticut today, my heart hurts for all those facing “What now?” and it hoards fear about “What if?” I am telling myself to allow my children to savor more barefoot in the grass and sleepover moments – especially for all those innocent little ones who now cannot.

Bye-bye Barbie Bike, Hello Tiptoe Tall Ride

18 Mar

Of course, the time was going to come. Signs were all around me every day (and continue to be).

The questions they ask. The things they know. The inches they grow, marked with higher and higher marks on the wall. The ability to wash their hands at the kitchen sink or brush their teeth at the bathroom sink without a stool. Child car seats with only seat belts and not five-point harnesses. Bigger bicycles.

For some sentimental reason, that last one recently did me in. As I watched them push and ride their first two-wheel bikes to trade them in for bigger ones at the store, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

Bye-bye, First Bikes

Nia’s first bike was a rad Barbie one that had a place for Barbie to ride her bike, too.

Bean's First Bike - 2008

Nate’s was Spiderman all the way.

Nate's First Bike - 2009

As we steered the two pieces of childhood memories to customer service, I started to doubt our decision. “We could keep them and the new ones.” I tried to reason with Andrew. “That way, smaller cousins and friends will have bikes to ride when they visit.” We don’t have the physical space for a shopping aisle of bikes in our garage. The decision stood.

Aside from being sad about saying goodbye to that time of growing up, I think I just didn’t like the thought of their childhood memories being recycled in a heap of scrap metal, instead of recycled and cherished by another child.

The kids didn’t think twice about it the exchange though. They parked their old rides and immediately turned their backs and bee-lined for the new spokes.

Their smiles helped me shake off the sadness. Especially when we got home and I watched as Nia worked with her daddy to build her bigger bike and then looked so not-little while she pedaled around the cul-de-sac.

Growing up is good. Sniff.

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Daddy’s Got a Gun

11 Feb

And he knows how to use it.

Ok, ok, ok. Before I begin, I must make a few things clear.

  • I do not consider myself a perfect parent. I make mistakes. A lot. I also will be the first to admit I don’t know what I’m doing. Who in the world really “knows” how to be a parent anyway?
  • I am not anti-gun. If you want to own a gun, you own that gun. I may or may not own a gun. That’s for me and a would-be burglar or the end of the world zombie to find out. Whether I know how to use it or not, well, I may or may not have a gun.

Back to the dad and his gun. If you don’t know what I’m talking about I promise I won’t laugh at you for being out of the social media loop this past week. (I actually might be jealous of you because you haven’t been exposed to the excitement around the video. And now, I will ruin that for you.)

Basically, a teenage daughter vents on facebook about her parents and the chores she has to do using bad words and typical teen angst. She apparently has been punished for this before so the dad, understandably, has had it. He reads her facebook vent to the camera and then shoots her laptop eight times so that she will now have to earn back her privileges. To see the whole thing for yourself:


I am fine with the fact that he is upset and wants to punish her. I just feel like I’m in the minority of those who may not support the way he went about it – or their “way to go/great parenting” spirit. Again, I’m not targeting the gun – for me, it’s more about the destruction and the possible public embarrassment to his daughter that he created. Sure, he may have felt upset and embarrassed by her vent but he is the adult. How is what he did better than what she did? What example did he set? Have a problem? Destroy it. I’ve seen people comment that he should have donated the laptop. I agree. That shows respect and consideration of others. Seems like a good teaching lesson.

My other issue is it must be challenging to parent in today’s social media world. I am so grateful I didn’t have facebook when I was teen. The things I wrote in my diary were awful. I vented a lot. And now I have a wonderful relationship with my parents. If they acted like this father did should they happen to read my vents, I don’t think I would regret my writings, but resent my parents for crushing me like that. I was a teen. TEEN. Not an adult. There’s supposed to be a difference there, right?

My last concern with this whole thing is my conspiracy theory mind can’t help but think this dad is doing this all for publicity for his book and his company. (His facebook page is quite a popular place and it was really easy for me to find his book on Amazon.)

Yeah, I said it was my conspiracy theory mind.

I suppose I just needed to vent myself. Some of you may agree but I have a feeling many more of you will not – I just hope any of you who disagree keep my laptop out of your sights.

Thankful for Lady Gaga

24 Jan

She is nice to him and he bashfully describes her as pretty. She stole his heart on a day near Halloween when she walked in his class dressed up as a Kindergarten (G-rated) Lady Gaga.

Nate was so enamored with Little Gaga that he announced to the class during a Thanksgiving lesson that he is most thankful for her. (His teacher emailed me about the sweetness.)

Turns out, the feeling is mutual. Her mom tells me that she “just loves Nate” and that she recently put him as no. 89 in her “Favorite 100 Things” book because there are 89 different reasons she likes him. She also saves every drawing Nate gives her and has them hanging in her room. This one was the first:

image

Nate will reassure us that they are not boyfriend and girlfriend. “I’m too young for that,” he maturely states and then turns his head down to the side to hide his grin.

I smile too, remembering a note to her that said, “I love you because you are nice to me.” So pure. So important. Such a beautiful reason to love someone. I hope he always thinks about that when it comes to his future “real” girlfriends. Loving the inside as much as the Lady Gaga.

Travel Teachings

22 Jan

I see them every day but it took eight days of traveling together over Thanksgiving week to learn some new things about my children.

  • As soon as Nate wakes up, as in the first sliver of an eye-opening, he whispers a song about counting by two’s. That mixed with a few sweet yawns and my heart melted.
  • Nate gets really freaked out when his foot, leg, arm or hand falls asleep. We were driving at the time and he woke up in a fit of fear and fury that I’ve never seen from him. We had no idea what to do for him other than tell him it will be over soon. That feeling must be so weird and scary for a little kid. I know I hate it.
  • Nia is finally feeling the woes of big sisterdom. There was a point in our travels when Nia and Nate were playing air hockey and I heard her scream at him, “You are just stupid!” (If you know us pretty well, you know that “s” word is gasped at like it is one of the biggie bad words.) I made her leave the game and sit out for some time. When she was finally calm enough to talk to me, she said with tears in her eyes, “He just kept bragging about doing good and I couldn’t take it anymore.” I know I should’ve stayed in discipline mom-mode but I ended up sympathizing with her – after not being able to hide my smile. She sounded so grown up in that moment. Just trying to figure out how to handle things. We talked more about other ways to deal with frustrating situations and then she and Nate hugged and apologized to each other. I will never forget her face though. Full of drama and seriousness. Confused but also feeling justified in her reaction. Growing up is tough, kid. We’re all figuring it out.
  • This learning is not pretty – that’s a warning – but I was still impressed by what I witnessed. Nate is very courteous when he vomits. He felt sick as we were just taking off on our trip and he told us in enough time that we were able to pull over for him to exit the car. He then leaned far over to make sure he didn’t get any on his clothes or shoes. I didn’t get grossed out because I was so amazed by how he handled himself through that experience. I would have been crying and probably would’ve lost it in the car. Maybe it was luck and not skill but what I witnessed that day needed noted.
  • Nia loves laser tag. Nate does not. Nia went back for another round. Nate ran out of the first round in tears. (Poor buddy.)
  • My little girl showed me her tough side during a nature walk one afternoon. She picked up a stick and then acted like a “warrior princess” and totally whipped up on some leaves and trees. It was intensely fun.

I love getting to spend devoted time like that with the kids. It may not be all laughs and sweet moments, but they are still special and important glimpses into their personalities. “I just couldn’t take it anymore.” I’m sure we’re going to hear that more in the coming years.

I used to write a sex column…

17 Jul

so why am I such a prude and conservative when it comes to certain things? Those things all involve the upbringing of children in the areas of sex and violence.

Let’s start with what sells – sex. It’s fantastic, right? Talking about it, thinking about it, watching it, having it. Great stuff, that sex. I just am finding it difficult to deal with how even the most common children’s cartoons demonstrate sexual attraction. What Nate is learning by watching these cartoons is that when he sees a pretty lady he’s supposed to call her hot, whistle, pop his eyes out of his head, make that arooga noise and pant. I know male cartoon characters have been portrayed like that since before our parents were kids but I find it, well, STUPID. I can tell Nate, it’s not the best idea to act that way when you see a beautiful girl but if popular culture says it’s ok, does my small voice matter?

The same is true for violence or how anger is handled on tv, movies, music or even during a skit at a baseball game. Someone make you mad? Give ’em a knuckle sandwich, push them down, kick ’em where it counts, play a nasty trick on them and call them names the whole time. I counter with a, “That’s not nice, is it? Here’s what you should do instead…” But again, how long will my voice win over what they continually see as acceptable behavior? Heck, sometimes the fighting is cheered. Yay! Go get ’em!

I find myself even having to correct commercials now. For example, it’s not nice to stick your tongue out at people. Right? This mom says so and it took some time for us to get that through to Nate. When we finally did, what do we see? A mini-van commercial where a little boy outsmarts some other kids then sticks his tongue out at them. That little tongue-sticker-outer is the “good” kid. Great.

It is my responsibility to raise my children to the best of my ability. I take that on wholeheartedly. I do not expect movies, cartoons, commercials or songs to teach my children proper behavior and I don’t want to shelter my children from them. I just wish they didn’t contradict me all the time. I guess my cartoon would be pretty boring.

Daddy Day

20 Jun

He could go golfing. He could watch ESPN all day. He could nap. He could do anything he wants on his day off but he chooses, he wants, to make it daddy day.

Andrew started a new schedule at work that allows him to work 80 hours in 9 days instead of 10 days. That means one day devoted to daddy and the kiddos.

He takes them to the pool.

After Swim Snack

He doesn’t send them away from the area if he has a home project to work on, like our new patio furniture.  He lets them help if they want and patiently answers all their questions about what he’s doing. (What’s this piece for? And this piece? And this piece? Why does that go there? …)

Relaxing After Hard Work

He catches the kids’ favorite tv shows with them – Phineas and Ferb, SpongeBob SquarePants and Kick Buttowksi.

TV Time (aka Tuckered Out Time)

He lets them mess up the house in all their fun and is so courteous to let me see that fun scattered on the floor and overflowing from their rooms when I come home from work. (Just kidding! It’s only a little bit a fun aftermath.)

Daddy day is really so much more than just the time mommy is at work though.

He has a special way of fixing small boo-boos when they happen. Me, I just kiss them to make them feel better. Him? Well, if they scrape their knee, he lifts their arm and checks under it. He looks in their ears. He tells them to do something silly that turns their tears into a fit of giggles.

He loves to cook for them any chance he gets. Daddy’s chicken. Daddy’s smiley face pancakes. Daddy’s waffles with peanut butter. Sometimes, they get sad if daddy isn’t the chef.

He always makes it a point to bring them souvenirs from his work trips. A giant pencil that had San Antonio facts written all over it was especially cherished.

He once ran the length of the house and jumped a flight of split level steps because he heard Nate yelling for help as his fingers slipped from a monkey bar. He made it there in time to catch the little man. Awesome.

He is so very appreciated. He is so very loved. Happy Father’s Day, Andrew. You are our favorite.

Happy for Daddy Day

With Love

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