The Pressure of Mother’s Day

mothers-day

It may seem strange but Mother’s Day has been one of my least favorite holidays since my kids were born. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a Mom and I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything.

Before I had kids of my own it was great to bring my Mom flowers and have lunch with her. However, when I listen to her talk about Mother’s day as I was growing up I think she had the same opinion of Mother’s Day as I do.  She recounts tales of endless Mother’s Day outings to McDonald’s, her least favorite restaurant.  She ate the burgers that she detested for her children. Really? It was MOTHER’S Day! Right?

Fast forward 25 years and there’s a older version of me. Exhausted after having 3 children in 2 years and wanting some peace on Mother’s Day.  My husband tried to get everyone to cooperate but it ended with him trying too hard and everything exploding in chaos.

I decided to go shopping for the day. And every Mother’s Day after that for the next 10 years. From that day forward I decided that Mother’s Day was for me as I desperately needed that day to recharge.

Alone.

As I shopped I noticed families seeming to enjoy themselves, but meltdown after meltdown seemed to land square on Mom’s shoulders and I could tell that she needed a break too.

It seems that Mother’s Day puts so much pressure on one day. Shouldn’t mothers be appreciated every day.

This is what I want my kids to learn about appreciating mom’s everywhere.

  • Appreciate those around you every day.

  • Make mom feel celebrated each day by your actions and your generosity.

  • Stopping to open the door for a woman juggling two kids and a bag of groceries may just make their day.

  • Giving a smile of reassurance and a kind word to the mom whose child is having a meltdown.

  • Talking to the child in the cart in line at the store may just help that mom get five more minutes peace.

  • Respect when mom says she needs time to herself.

  • Hold Mom’s hand when she’s on the phone to let her know you need her attention instead of saying “Mom, Mom, Mom”

8 Ways to Keep the Family Connected During the Holiday Season

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We pull them here. We take them there. We ask them to shake hands, make conversation and be on their best behavior.

For many kids, the holiday season is very stressful. Their routine is upset and it can turn a kid’s world upside down.  While we are taking them out and asking them to do their best they may be somersaulting internally.

So how can parents enjoy the holiday hoopla while keeping the kids content?

  1. Open a Book – Wrap a holiday or favorite book (old or new) for every day from December 1 – December 31. Each day a child chooses a book for the family to read together at a designated time. Traveling… bring the books with and keep the routine going.
  2. Let them wear comfortable clothes. Yes, the frilly dresses and ties look cute but it’s hard to feel at ease when you are in stiff clothes.
  3. Bring along some of their favorite snacks. Not every kid likes lutefisk and lefse and when you are hungry it is hard to be on your best behavior.
  4. Try to maintain a consistent bedtime. If you know it’s going to be a late night it might be a good time to call a babysitter.
  5. Keep it simple. Many kids are overwhelmed by all of the gifts and expectations of the holiday season.
  6.  Bake cookies together. Baking can be a great learning experience and a fun way to connect.
  7. Have a family movie night. For ideas of fun family movies check out this list.
  8. Try to remember the things you enjoyed as a kid about the holiday season and share them with your kids.

 

Staying Involved

staying involved

One of our jobs as parents is to raise independent, productive members of society.

When they are small they are totally dependent on you. As they get older, slowly, that dependency decreases. Does that mean our job is over?

No Way!

Another part of parenting is making sure our children have an appropriate education and attending Parent-Teacher conferences is a great way to make sure that is happening.

Parent-Teacher conferences can be such a joy to attend when kids are young.

You walk in to the welcoming classroom adorned by bright and creative artwork. You are approached by the teacher who comes with a smile on their face and an outstretched hand. They show you a folder of your child’s accomplishments and you leave with a feeling of pride. Even if they say your child moves around too much or talks too much, they can still find positive things to say.

Fast forward to the secondary years. You move from teacher to teacher in a crowded gymnasium (or hallway) to see how your child is doing. Are they missing assignments, can they handle the course load? You leave feeling overwhelmed but optimistic that things will improve now that you have been given the tools needed for your child to succeed.

Many parents decide that conferences are not as important once kids reach the secondary years. However, what that student needs to see is that they have a support system. They need to see that they have parents and teachers who care about their education.

As they get older they may not want to attend conferences with you. So why should you bring the sullen grumpy teen that would rather be with their friends or watching Netflix?

  • It’s so valuable to see how your child speaks to an adult on their own behalf.
  • A teacher gains a different perspective by watching the parent / student dynamic.

But most of all…

You are empowering them by standing by their side and letting them lead the conversation. You are creating an advocate in your child by letting them make decisions in their education.

Thank you for being an involved parent and making the extra time to attend conferences with you child. They may not thank you today but it will leave a lasting impact on them.

The Missed Opportunity

carnationMothers Day came and went this year. It started like a usual day. I woke everyone and made sure everyone had what they needed to get their day going.

I left early with a sleepy teen to coach her morning soccer game. At the end of the game I reminded each of the girls on the team to take good care of their mom’s that day and everyday.

That’s when the first of my children realized they forgot Mother’s Day.

We moved from the first game to watch the oldest teen play another soccer game (this is a tournament weekend, of course). It should have been ideal. Sitting with my younger two teens and watching the oldest. Husband with all of us. A friend leaned over and asked if we had big plans for Mother’s day. She said her family had taken good care of her that morning with breakfast and a lovely gift.

That’s when the next child realized he forgot Mother’s Day.

After an exciting game we were on our way home when the first child told the oldest that it was Mother’s Day.

And that’s when the last child realized he forgot Mother’s Day.

I’d like to think I am a good Mom. I make sure that they are well taken care of. I am strict much of the time but that doesn’t stop us from having great, honest, loving conversations. They know they have a Mom that loves them because they see and feel it everyday.

I’d like to think that in their middle teenage years they can take the initiative to plan Mother’s Day. In the past I have given them money for Father’s Day and told them to buy a gift or plan something themselves. It’s been nice to see what they came up with. Last year they ordered Dad’s favorite pizza and had it delivered. It was nice to see them want to do for someone else.

A card, a coupon book (like they gave me when they were little), a cup of coffee, something to show they care. I am not a materialistic person at all and find my kids are very similar in that regard.

I’d like to think that I’ve taught them that sometimes an action means more than any gift they can give and is often the gift itself.

So I’ll wallow in self pity. And see that this was an opportunity lost and hope my kids see it as the same.

Next year maybe I’ll rent a hotel room for myself and get away.

To My Favorite Teacher

Teacher Appreciation

To you, the teacher that made a difference in my life, I thank you today during Teacher Appreciation week.

You were there for me and my classmates as our beloved school closed and we moved to a new school outside of our neighborhood. You chose to loop with our class and taught third grade at one school and fourth at the next.

You didn’t know that the years that you were my teacher my parents had separated and you were my constant.

I loved coming into your classroom.

You taught me more than reading, math and science. You taught me that there are people out there beyond my family who truly care for me.

Always there for a hug with a smile on your face. You taught me that that place I wanted to be was making a difference in the lives of kids. You instilled in me a lifelong love of learning.

Never underestimate the impact one person can have on the world.

Earth Day everyday?

Earth day blog

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

But how do we make sure that they are getting out into nature and having the experiences that we had?

There has been a lot of recent conversation around Free Range Kids lately. Part of the Free Rangeness is giving kids the freedoms to explore and step more into nature.

It seems that with the growth of technology many kids are not experiencing the outdoor adventures that we did as kids because they are inside on the computer or watching tv.

So how do we get them off the couch and outside?

PARENT!

We are the ones to set the limits. We also set the examples. Want to get your kids to go out and climb trees? Explore with them when they are young and as they grow they will return to the outdoors you have taught them to love and appreciate.

For a few years I worried about how much one of my kids was getting outside. Sure, he played outdoor sports but after that seemed to come home and lie around.  I made sure that he was outside doing something each day. There were many days he was not happy with me as I turned down his requests to play video games. However, now that he is more independent and can drive he and his friends love to go out and explore state parks.

He still loves to climb and explore.

Our kids are products of our parenting and the world around us. If we show them how wonderful the outdoors can be we are giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.

How You Play the Game

Basketball

Last night, my husband and I breathed a sigh of relief as the final buzzer of the last game of the season ended. In our opinion it had been a long season of watching our son’s team beaten by 20-30 points each game.

As we watched the boys gather together for their post game talk another picture emerged. A sister of one of the boys walked over holding a poster she had made with the team name and each of the boys’ names. They looked so proud.

It was obvious that my competitive ideals did not match up with that of the tight group of boys in the hall. They were all smiles. They felt proud of what they had accomplished and how they played the game. We walked out of the school listening to the boys tell each other “Good Game” with smiles on their faces.

Before bed I was talking with my son. He told me how his team was the best team he had ever played on. This caught me by surprise and I asked him to explain why. He told me that “there are no stars. Everyone is equal and treats each other that way.”  I had to stop and think of how proud I am of this 14 yr old who values relationships over winning the game.

Each year the basketball association asks for parent volunteers. Often, the parents who step up are doing this, not because they have knowledge or love for the game, but because they want to do what’s best for the kids. The coach that we had watched from the sideline and we wondered what he was doing may not have taught my son the technical side of the game but was sending a much bigger message. Sportsmanship, self-confidence and the value of friendship.

The lesson on and off the court (for both players and fans): It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.

Who’s Watching Minecraft?

Who's Watching

My kids are basically techie kids. They are all at different levels and each really love their technology.  Nine years ago my oldest asked my to help him purchase a beta game from the Netherlands called Minecraft.  I hadn’t heard of it but after some research it looked like something to invest $15 in. It reminded me of the very basic computer games that I played in school when we got our first computers. It was no Oregon Trail but I thought we’d give it a try.

From that day on Minecraft became the go to game. It was like the favorite pair of footie pajamas passed down from sibling to sibling. When one felt they were getting too old to play a younger sibling would take over.

The kids have gotten older and over the past months there’s a growing trend that I have noticed. The kids aren’t at the computer playing the game anymore. They are gathered around their devices watching Minecraft videos on YouTube.

As a parent there are major differences that I see in this transition between game play and watching game play. Kids tend to have their favorite YouTubers. Some of these people are intentionally creating family friendly content and others are teens/young adults just having fun and playing the game. I try to listen when my kids are watching the videos and live streams. There are times when I have heard language that I don’t approve of and have the kids switch to a different YouTuber.  I encourage parents to monitor their child’s YouTube usage.

Here’s a blog that describes some of the Minecraft YouTubers that are recommended for children.  http://learningworksforkids.com/2015/03/minecraft-videos-watch/

I love listening to the kids all laugh along with their YouTubers. They seem to have formed a community around Minecraft. They have their own language and cultural norms. They know when their favorite YouTuber’s birthday is and where they live.

It’s such a different generation of kids that are tuned into technology in a way I never expected.

I have a lot to learn.

Just Average

Just Average

When I was in high school I remember a lot of kids who were “A” honor roll students. I also remember many who got B’s. But a large majority of the kids were pretty average and got a lot of C’s.

These kids weren’t in danger of failing out.

They were the majority of the kids in the school.

They were your average high school student – “C” students.

Fast forward to now. When a student is getting C’s people start to worry about them.

“Surely they can do better.”

But maybe not.

When I was a senior in high school in 1991 I took Algebra 2. Now, there are 8th graders taking these classes. The 8th graders in 1991 were content working on their pre-algebra. Pre-algebra has now shifted to elementary schools. Those same 8th graders are now taking Pre-ACT tests. That was not even on my radar at that age.

So what has changed?

I’d like to think that kids now are much smarter than I was. However, I don’t think that’s the case.

Should a “C” student feel shamed when they are doing their best work. Students are like babies. Some are more advanced and do things earlier while others make their way along slower.

Will we go back to how it was? I doubt it. I just hope that as kids are encouraged to succeed at a younger and younger age that there are people out there who remember that not everyone can be that “A” student and even “C” students can end up doing fabulous things and being successful people.

As parents it our jobs to advocate for our kids when they can’t and teach them to advocate for themselves. Regardless of their achievement level they all need someone in their corner.

 

The Power of the Meal

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Dinner. At my house it may not taste good but it’s important that you are there.

Dinner at my house growing up consisted of our family and Pat Sajak. We tried to solve the puzzles each day on the 6″ tv that was in our kitchen.

Were we connecting as a family?  My first thought is no, however, we were all interacting with the same program towards the same cause of solving the puzzle.

Fast forward 30 years and there isn’t a tv on during dinnertime in my kitchen.  We have always played word games with the kids at the table. Something as simple as “Things that start with the letter B”. Even my youngest child could participate.

While the words may be nonsensical, the laughter that ensues carries us through. The laughter and time spent at that round table connect us.

As the kids have gotten older the games at the table have changed. We may not eat together each night but we still make sure that we are all there three to four nights a week. Ipods and phones are not allowed at the table either. Their friends can wait 30 minutes.  Having teens makes me realize that I don’t have them there for very much longer and I want to make sure I take advantage of every opportunity I have to be with them.

They won’t remember what they ate but hopefully they will remember time spent at the small round table in our kitchen.