The Pressure of Mother’s Day

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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”

How was your day?

 

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The front door closes and the kids start to go about their afternoon rituals. Snacks, talking to friends, homework and maybe an evening activity.

But have you taken the time to see how their day was? Not just “How was your day?”

There are many different ways to find out more about school and learn more about your child at the same time.

Ask questions that are open ended. Anytime you ask a yes or no question you have to be prepared to get only one word back.

Try one of these questions afterschool today:

  1. What is the new song that you are learning in choir/band right now? Which part is your favorite of the song?
  2. What was the best thing that happened at school today?
  3. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  4. What would you pick for school lunch if you could have anything you wanted?
  5. Are there any changes that you would want to make at your school?
  6. Who is your favorite teacher and what do you like about them?
  7. If you could be Principal for the day what is the first thing that you would do?
  8. Which rule was hardest to follow today?
  9. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you choose? Why?
  10. On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your day? Why?

 

 

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.

Unwinding the Cord

DOGI have such clear memories of stretching the cord on the family telephone and trying to go as far as it would take me to get some privacy while talking to friends when I was growing up.

Is there an equivalent of this today?

How about the teen who goes in their room, closes the door and texts their friends.

Most of the conversations I’m sure are very similar to the ones I had as a teen.

However, that’s where the similarities end.

Here are some reasons why:

1. Sarcasm and other emotions are not recognized by the words in a text. Emoticons can’t convey everything.

2. With the depersonalization of texting it is much more likely that teens would share highly personal information (many times too personal) than if they had to speak on the phone.

3. Teens are not learning the art of conversation by texting. They choose to text instead of talk. However, the real world will catch up and those conversational skills will be needed for the rest of their lives.

The important point to remember is that successful relationships need to build intimacy, moving through texting and other less-direct forms of communication to more direct connections. Many of us use technology to distance ourselves from each other, so that the more connectivity we have, the less connected we actually are. It’s a double edge sword. Challenge your teen to pick up the phone and call a friend. Give Grandma a call and ask her how her bridge game was.

The sooner teens develop active communication skills with their peers, family and community the more likely they are to flourish in the social world around them. It’s not that they need to drop texting but build a balance to have their technology and use it wisely.

As parents we need to be there to guide them and to model those skills for them.

Though the phones are now cordless the message is still the same.

Communication is essential.

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.

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.

 

Rolling on down the road (or not)

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I never thought that I would be the parent of a teen driver. Not that I didn’t expect my kids to get older, but I really hadn’t thought that far in advance. It seems that yesterday they were in grade school.

After passing the drivers test many parents have a set of keys ready to give their new driver.

I had the keys.

I had a lanyard like the kids at the high school hang their keys on.

I gave them to him.

I feel like a new parent. Where’s the manual for parenting a teenage driver?

Fast forward almost one month and he slides on the ice and hits a tree.

Airbags deploy on the rusty minivan. The van is totaled but all I can think is how bad it could have been. This privilege that he was given could have killed him. He was ok; Not hurt at all.

So now it feels like there’s second chance to get it right.  Start slow with a bit of fear (on both of our parts).  More practice.

Remind him that he is 16 and he doesn’t know it all. Remind myself that even though I am an adult that I also have so much more to learn.

The manual has yet to be written.

 

 

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.

Why sometimes its best to go slow

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I was so excited to present my family with a gift… a kitten.  They were so excited to have the new little puffball enter our lives. Well, almost all of them.

But what about when one family member doesn’t agree with how the others in the family live. Yes, we already have a cat and a dog – I can see where this does seem like excess to you. You live very minimally and do not put much value into material items. You see the holiday season how many outside the U.S. see our holiday season. A season of excess.

As a fellow minimalist, I can see how having more than one of something seem like too much.

Is a kitten a material thing? I guess that’s the question. You have always been the kid with so much caring and love for your family.  I’ve been so proud that you are an individual and don’t feel the need to follow the crowd. You see things very differently than others your age and many times have an older, wiser perspective.

So, we will introduce you to the new little kitty slowly and I know that the caring and sensitive person you are will end up loving that little ball of fur more than you do your computer games.

 

Bubbles

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At some point I know that I have to let my teenager out of the bubble that I have tried so hard to keep him in. It’s doing him no good for me to keep him there. 

He’s going to a day long concert. I know he will be exposed to the familiar, the unfamiliar and so many things I have tried to shield him from. I have to trust that when I let him out of the bubble he will take what he’s been given at home and make smart choices.

So what if those choices are less that stellar? That’s what I ask myself all day long.

However….  Am I doing him any good keeping him in the bubble just because I still see him as my baby? 

No.

Time to let go a little and have faith. Faith in the boy that is quickly turning into a man.  Faith that he will make good choices and if he doesn’t that he will accept the consequences.

Bubbles can’t last forever.  Once they are gone what remains is the wide expanse of the world.