family · life

Not BJ’s

There are so many jobs for parents. Think about it from the time they are born until the time they move out of your house (and beyond) your job is to keep this person alive, that in itself is huge! But that is not the job I’m going to talk about today. Today I’m thinking about the job of parents to teach children to learn to laugh at themselves.

Yep, it’s part of my job to get my sons to see that life isn’t always perfect and when you step back at some of those imperfect times you will see that life is pretty odd and funny.

One way we do this in our house all the time is with pronouncing words. When the boys were little there were a few phrases that we loved and didn’t want to fix, but now that they are 9 and 11 we tend to point out these mistakes. I’m not doing it to be mean, but you can’t go to school saying things wrong. It’s just not a good idea. Often times they mispronounce words that they’ve read, but didn’t necessarily hear it spoken. Some words we can understand the mistake like mispronouncing countries on in the the former Soviet Union or Africa or some of the smaller countries even in South America. These are words that people do not go around using in their everyday life.

Many times when they say something wrong it takes me a beat of two to figure out what in the world they were trying to say, and then I’ll say… did you mean “________”. Or if I know the word right away I’ll just fill in the word and let the story go on.

Ok so this sounds like typical parenting, but there are times when we just have to laugh at it and those time tend to stick for a while in our family.

I’ll give you a funny story from the past that has stuck. One day Richard was making breakfast for dinner and Blake asked to help. Richard told Blake to get out the bacon. Blake went to the pantry and then asked where the bacon was. Richard responded by saying “In the cold section”. Well, Blake couldn’t figure this out so Colby chimed in and said that would be the fridge or the freezer, there is no cold section IN the pantry. Well to this day we occasionally refer to the fridge as the cold part of the pantry.

At the time, Blake didn’t think this was funny, but over the months and now years he has learned to find this story about him amusing.

I mentioned in my post yesterday about calling Costco “not BJ’s. Here is how that came about. When we lived in Orlando, we went to BJ’s Warehouse all the time, actually almost weekly. Well when we moved to PA, they don’t have BJ’s near us so we got a membership to Costco. Ok, fine, well and good…. so now we go to Costco, but for some reason I keep calling it BJ’s when we talk about making lists and items we need. The first time I did this the boys said “It’s NOT BJ’s” and without missing a beat I said… ok so what do we need at “Not BJ’s”. This annoyed them and they kept saying it’s not BJ”s it’s Costco. I would say yes it’s Not BJ’s. So now we often refer to going to Costco as going to Not BJ”s. There are still times when this annoys Blake (in his book things are right or wrong and calling it Not BJ’s is wrong), but we joke about it.

I want my boys to see that yes life is busy. Yes life is hard. And, yes you should strive to do things correctly, but when you don’t… it’s not worth getting upset about. it’s not worth stressing over. and more times than not later on you’ll look back and laugh.

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family · life

The child not the path

I find it interesting when I read about parenting and changes in parenting. I’ve always thought of myself as an old school parent. I try very hard not to shelter my boys. We have conversations about topics the bring up. We have talked about everything from sports, politics, education, conservation and so much more. Richard and I believe that we need to provide them the tools for adulthood.

As the boys get older, we are trusting them more and more to do things on their own. We are allowing them to make their own mistakes and not fixing them for them. We guide, we may even direct, but we can’t do for them. Our job as parents is to help them become adults.

No automatic alt text available.I recently read an article talking about the difference between parenting when I was a child, and before that compared to parenting these days. (Sorry I can’t provide a link because I’m not sure where I read the article, it has just been bouncing around in my brain) It asked the question of why did those parents feel comfortable providing the freedom that many parents today do not. The freedom to go as well as the freedom to fail. The articles answer struck me… it is not the faith or trust in the children that has changed as much as the parents feelings about parenting. Too often today parents blame themselves for the shortcoming and failures of the child. This probably contributes to the fact that many parents do not want to see fault in their child, because then they are in essence admitting failure in themselves.

In many ways this hit me and hit me hard. I often blame myself for the shortcoming of my sons. Just the other day we were yet again supervising cleaning of the basement. Richard was getting frustrated because he felt the boys needed to show more respect for the items they have, which I totally understand. But, my gut reaction was that I didn’t doImage may contain: text my job as a stay-at-home mom when they were younger. I didn’t instill this respect for property, I didn’t foster the desire for a clean living space, I wasn’t able to provide them with the routine of cleaning up that stuck through this phase of life. It is easy to slip into this I failed mode. I was the one who was home with them. If I only did x, y, z better then, my kids would do what they were supposed to do. But, wait they are. Kids are perfect. They will makes mistakes. Tweens and teens are notorious for being messy and not taking care of their space. Is it that I didn’t do my job as a parent, or it is that my kids are… kids?

My sons are good kids, far from perfect, but good kids. Do I think Richard and I are bad parents… HELL NO! Do I think we are/were perfect parents… NOPE! But, do the shortcoming of our sons need to reflect on us as humans, never mind as parents? No. One can not raise perfect beings… it isn’t possible. We model the behaviors expected. We helped them see the errors of their ways and fix their mistakes. We foster an understanding of differences and an acceptance of others choices and opinions. We can guild our children, we can foster their interests and gently guide. We can show them the safe way to proceed with caution when needed, as well as allowing them to throw caution the wind when life allows. We will be there when they fall, but we can not fix the path for them. I do not know what lies ahead in the road for my sons, I can only hope that we have given them the tools to deal with each choice they make. When they succeed and excel we will be there cheering them on. Just as when the stumble and fall we will be there to help them dust themselves off and try again.

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family · life

Blog post based on a blog post

I was just reading the blog post To Pick Me Up, Or Put Me Down on Dolly Mamma. This blog is written by Ester, she has recently become a grandmother and is the mom to 4 grown children. I enjoy reading Ester’s blog knowing that she has traveled the path so many of us are on now, but also reading the adventures she has that I will never have. That’s life

Her post today, discussed how no matter what stage of parenting you are in you are always going back to the same dilemma you had when your child was an infant… do I pick him up and soothe him or put him down (not pick him up) and let him self soothe/ fix it on his own.  She asked what our thoughts are on this subject. I started writing this as a reply and it got long and wordy… so instead my reply is a post.

Please go to Dolly Mamma’s site and read her post. It really is written well and will help you see where my thoughts and reflections are bouncing off from…

There are so many situations in parenting that need to be dealt with as a situation and not necessarily as a pattern. Just because I pick up the baby and soothe him once doesn’t mean I need to do it every time and vice versa. I think you need to assess both the needs of the child at that moment with your own emotional needs and then figure it out. Ok… you have 0.002 seconds to make that determination of what is right and what is wrong… go! That’s what it feels like, but often times that isn’t really what it is. I learned early on that I needed to that whole 2-5 seconds or even minutes to really assess the situation. Am I doing this because I feel it is right for my child or because I feel it is right for me. It’s hard to see your child scream, fall, fail, or figuratively crash and burn, but are we helping them if they NEVER do any of these things?

I also think a lot depends on the child. I have parented my two sons totally differently since they were born. We have the same rules and expectations, but how we deal with them is different…. because they are different. their needs are different. I think this in itself has helped me see so clearly that we can’t judge other parents.We can’t judge others choices. Just looking at them as tiny babies. Blake needed more of the cry it out time. If you coddled him he was calm, but that didn’t help him settle for sleep. Unless you let him fall asleep in your arms he would just cry again. When I started letting him “cry it out” it took almost no time for this process to work. He learned to settle himself and within a few days the time it took decreased quickly. I learned that with him I could go in and just rub his back or talk calmly to him and it was enough, he quieted down. I provided him a sleeping routine early on and he still uses it to this day. Then Colby came along and we tried what worked for Blake and this crashed and burned. It took Colby longer to settle. He needed to physical contact to calm himself. You could hold him and then put him down and he would settle, but you couldn’t just put him down. It took longer for this process to work for him. I can remember many nights laying on the floor next to his crib with just my hand inside trying to ween him off my presence in his room. It worked. To this day Colby struggles to settle down to sleep and needs a bit of extra one-on-one time before bed.

Was I better parent for Blake because he can now just lay down and go to sleep? Or was I a mean parent because I made him cry at night? Was I a better parent for Colby because I didn’t let him cry as much? Or was I a worse parent because he still struggles to fall asleep now? Or were my parenting choices both correct because my sons aren’t the same? Who has the right to judge??

I tell my sons I won’t rescue you… if they forget their lunch, their homework, don’t get onto the team, fail a test…. I won’t rescue you, but I will support you. I will guide you. I will help you. But I won’t make life easy for you… life isn’t easy. it just isn’t. my job isn’t to make sure you are happy. My job is to help you become the best adult version of yourself you can be. My job is to guide you in learning to make choices that are best for not just you, but also those around you, in your life and the world we live in. If children do not learn to deal with failure (of any kind), diversity, conflict, animosity, and so many other factions of life as children when are they going to learn? No one is going to be there for you in a boardroom when someone says they don’t like your presentation. When they question the decisions you made for the product you are working on. No one is going to rescue you when you get pulled over by the police. You won’t get a participation trophy for showing up to work and doing what you are expected to do. You won’t keep your job if you do the bare minimum or if you do you won’t advance.

What are we teaching our children when we blame the school for grades? When we blame other children when I own child is the one who did something stupid? What are we teaching our children when we cover up their choices? When we do their homework? When we hand pick their classes and friends? When we complain because they didn’t make the team or get enough playing time?

Who are we trying to soothe… our child or ourselves? Who are we trying to “make look good”?

We need to look and see is this choice of my child’s worth me stepping in or not? And remember that just because I do this time doesn’t mean I have to every time. Am I setting my child up for success or failure as an adult? Lets look at the big picture. Stop judging each other as parents. Stop making life so competitive that we feel that if we don’t fix these things then our child is behind or not as good as the others. Stop making competition where there doesn’t need to be one.

 

— side note, Richard and I made/make/will continue to make all of our parenting decisions together. I wrote this post from my point of view, but one thing you need to know is he is right there in all the decisions. Richard is now and always will be my sounding board. We work together to help our sons grow into men. I often feel like the parenting choices seem to be one sided, but in this family they are not. Together we made the decisions on how to deal with the boys sleeping habits when they were young. Together we decided when to stop stepping in as much with friendships and school problems. Together we talk to the boys about behavioral issues and overall life changes. While I wrote this post in my voice looking at these choices as how people will judge me, I know that the decisions made were best for our family as a whole at the time because of the conversations had with Richard.

family · life

Come home when the street lights come on

Today felt like spring. I saw 51F at one point in the day. When we lived in FL, if I said it was 51F outside we would be bundled up and hating life. But, here in PA, nope… 51 is down right balmy outside.

The boys decided to go out on their bikes after school and ride down to the playground. I love that they are now old enough to just go. They know to stay together. They know to go where they told me they’d go and no where else without checking in first.

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They left the house around 4:20pm. My sons, unlike many of their peers, do not have cell phones. They also don’t wear watches. Colby is notorious for losing or breaking his, and Blake doesn’t like to wear one. So what did I do, I told them to come home when the street lights come on. Ok well the house lights. We don’t have street lights in our neighborhood, but each house as a couch light that has a light sensor so it comes on when it gets dark.

I remember this was the cue we had as kids to go home as well. In the summer, we’d be home for dinner and then go back out until the street lights came on. It was the sign that said time for bed pretty much. So it just seemed right today to give that as the cue to my sons to come home. And they did! So that Mom Trick still works!

How’s the weather in your part of the world? Did you have to come home when the street lights came on as a kid?

family · life

“That phone call”

I’m so glad that today is finally Friday. This week has felt like a week and a half at least. I know we had a busy weekend, and then Monday was very busy too. With me not feeling well at the beginning of the week that played a big roll in the week feeling long.

Yesterday, … ugh yesterday was one of those days you just want to forget. The ugh feeling of the day started with getting a phone call from the school. Yes, you know that dreaded moment when you look at the phone and see it is your child’s school calling. You go through the gamete of what could it be. Did someone get sick? Did someone get hurt? Please don’t let it be that someone got in trouble.  But, that is what the call was! And, it was a call from the assistant principal. Yep that makes it worse, but hey lets see what they have to say.

So after getting the story from the assistant principal as to why my son was in trouble, now my day is filled with… time to let Richard know, formulate in my head what I’m going to say when he gets home from school, what will my reaction be?, what is the proper punishment? do I deal with it as soon as he gets home or wait and deal with it when Richard and I are together? So many whats and hows going in my brain.

I did decide to go downstairs and work on the puzzle we have going in the basement in hopes of shutting down for a bit.

I will say that I do know that the school is good with dealing with tween kids. The school only has 4th-6th grade students. They know that this age student is a testing age. They aren’t little kids anymore, but they aren’t teens either. They are trying to figure out how they fit in the world. They are testing all the adults around them. They are testing their peers. They are testing themselves. But, at the same time they still want the approval of the adults around them. They still want the approval of ALL their peers. They want to figure themselves out… and testing is how they do it.

The challenge for me, as for so many parents, is to not look at this time and start questioning my choices. Richard and I talk about this all the time. We are not our sons friends. We are not raising boys. We are not here to make their lives simple. We are here to guide, listen, suggest. We will praise and/or punish as needed. We do a lot of talking about choices and consequences because that is what life is about.

 

We decided on the course of action and went forward. We sat down and talked. We talk to our sons the same way we would talk to an adult. This is what you did, this is why it’s wrong, this is what you need to do next time and this is the consequence to your choice.

We talk about trust, respect, honesty and choices. We give examples from our own lives. We talk, we listen, and we move on.

As a parent we can only hope that we are doing what is necessary to help our children grow into honest, respectful, caring, truthful and hardworking adults. We hope that they grow up to see that their choices have consequences be it good or bad. We hope that they see that they are no better than any other person walking down the street. That they need to learn to listen more than talk, give more than receive and that respect and trust is earned.

So today I take the time to relax and know that I’m doing the best I can to be the best mother I can. To step back and remember that I lead by example. I have the same choices that my sons do in life. And I choose to move forward.

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Parenting is tough enough without your opinion!

I always find it interesting when people think it is ok to tell people how to or not to parent.

Over the years I have had my share of people telling me that what I’m doing with my boys is right, or more annoying… wrong.

Well, yesterday a person I’m friends with on Facebook said that she was tired of people telling her she was in essence a mean mother. I shot her a message right away. While I don’t know her in person I know that no one has a right to tell another mother that they are doing it wrong. She is a mother of little boys and wants them to learn to take responsibility for their actions and understand that actions have consequences.

As we got chatting I realized that she is dealing with many of the same issues I have dealt with over the years. We are living in a time where so many people think that being a parent means making life easy for their children. That a parent should be friends with their child and protect their child from upset and/or disappointment. Well let me tell you that is not the world I want to live in.

I do not smooth the road for my sons. I force them to figure out life. I am here if they want to talk, need suggestions or if things get beyond their ability/developmental level, but I will not make life easy for them. I am raising men not boys. I want my sons to make mistakes now so that they learn that when you mess up, you fess up.. then you fix it! Life isn’t fair, life isn’t perfect, why should childhood?

What are we saying to our children if we fight all their battles? What are we saying to our children if we don’t force them to stand up for themselves? What are we saying to our children if they don’t learn to take care of day to day life?

I was glad to be able to chat back and forth with this mom. To let her know that just as the kids need to learn, life isn’t fair. That you have to learn to ignore the ignorant and that when people try putting you down, they are probably questioning their own choices.

In my chat with her I shared some of the things I have said to my own sons over the years:

  • It is because I love you that I’m upset with this choice, if I didn’t love you I wouldn’t care
  • I will always love you, but I won’t always like your choices.
  • All actions have consequences, you choose if they are positive or negative.
  • I’m here to help you, but I won’t fix it for you.

If you parent the same way as me, or think I’m totally crazy… I don’t care. As long as a parent isn’t hurting their child; as long as a parent isn’t doing lasting damage; as long as the things a parent does is out of love… .then who are you to say it is right or wrong?

I know how about we worry about being the best parent we can be, and stop worrying about others parenting the same way. Each child is different, each parent is different, each family is different, each situation is different….. lets embrace these differences instead of putting them down!

 

 

family

I can’t fix, but I can guide

As a mother, it is hard to see your child hurting. It doesn’t matter if this hurt is physical, emotional or other. As a parent we want to “fix” what is wrong, but this isn’t always possible. We also need to learn that the best way to fix things is to do nothing. Well not nothing nothing, but nothing. We need to be there when they want to talk. We need to support and give advice. But, we can’t fix things for them, they need to learn to do this on their own.

The older my sons get the more I realize that the best parenting moves involve me giving suggestions and then backing up. We need to let them figure things out on their own. I will never be a helicopter parent. I won’t do that disservice to my sons. I’m not saying that there aren’t times when I step in, but these are fewer and fewer. I want my sons to know that I’m there for them, but that I trust them to stand on their own two feet.

So, I will keep listening. I will keep discussing. I will send them to their father for help. I will guide, but I will not fix… they can do that themselves.