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Guilt

The Big Ass Circle of Truth in Parenting

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The Big Ass Circle of Truth in Parenting

At some point I felt confident. I knew the consequences I was dishing out to my child made sense.  My intentions are the same every time. I want my kids to learn. I want them to grow from their decisions, no matter what they are.  I want them to have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t work.  Isn’t that what we all want?

Yet I keep finding myself in these moments, feeling unsure of my convictions, and remembering just how challenging this gig is.

My daughter is officially a teenager.  Since her birth, I’ve dreaded this time of her life. “Stay little,” I’ve pleaded.  “Stop growing,” I’ve demanded.  Neither children obey my commands.

My girl is months away from being taller than me. Hell, it could even be tomorrow.  I just know it’s close. Dangerously close. She is already more confident than I was at her age.  More self-aware, self-assured, self-loving. She is kind, respectful, and sensitive, yet with a thicker skin she’s developed for protection after a few experiences encouraged her to grow it.

Overall, she’s well rounded and a person I genuinely enjoy being around.  I am proud to be her mother.

So what’s my issue?

The mood swings, the attitude, the typical adolescent poor decisions, the uncertainty of my creating long term damage with my responses to them. My own personal desire to want to get it right the first time…you know, fear.  Fear that I’ll say something to hurt her. Fear that she’ll feel neglected or rejected. Fear that I won’t be able to combat her natural inclination to feel like she’s not good enough…despite intellectually knowing I can’t actually do that.

So when I do upset her and I know how angry she is at me, I have to take a big step back and look at myself and my own insecurities as a parent.  I look at my desire to create the mother/daughter bond I didn’t have. I look at my interest in wanting her to trust me like I do my own father.  I want her to want to spend time with me and ask for my help.  And in that moment, when she wants nothing to do with me, I have to remember that I’m making decisions to support all of those things, even if they look like they will push her away.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in the past year with my children is that as they grow and my desire to stay connected to them increases, my approach has had to change as well.  I found myself hitting a wall with my daughter and she didn’t want to open up with me.  I realized that if I wanted her to let me in, I’d have to do the same.  I told her about my fears of her aging. I told her I knew I had no control over her and how letting go of the small belief that I do is a big piece for me to accept. I told her how the only way we were going to comfortably get through the next few years is for her to not shut me out and for me to trust that she will make decisions that will support her instead of hurt her…and that in the end, everything is going to be okay.

And in these moments of questioning myself, I find that my insecurity always comes back to the same concern…my own wanting to be more than enough for them. I think we refer to this as the big ass circle of truth.  I may have just made that up, but hopefully you see where I’m going with this. I fear for her what I’ve felt myself; feeling like I am good enough. I want to protect her from what it’s taken me my lifetime to work through and understand. And all I can do is trust myself to offer the best of what I’ve got.

In my circle of truth I see it. I know that what I’m creating is to help us both.  When I trust myself, I teach my kids to trust themselves. When I am honest about my fears and flaws, they are more open to share their own.  If I allow myself to be authentic and true to myself, they will observe this and ideally be inspired to do the same, on their terms, in their timing.

This practice of trusting is ongoing.  For everyone. I know that.  But when it comes to parenting, I’ve yet to discover anything more powerful than trusting my instincts, trusting what I teach my kids is in their best interest, and trusting that they will make decisions that are beneficial for them. Most days, my sense of trust IS the best I’ve got.

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Paging Super Mom

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Paging Super Mom

These days my life is filled with moments of content, peace and continuous excitement. My thoughts are many, but flowing with ease.  Balance is a word no longer foreign in meaning. I am living in the skin I was born with and it feels comfortable and form fitting. In short, its quite nice.

Many days I hear myself saying “I have arrived.” Quiet whispers of joy and gratitude- filled with dreams I know are coming to life. I wait for birds to sing me a Welcome Home lullaby…But instead as I sit quietly in my moment of bliss, I hear “Mommmmm! Mommmm!” shouting from the other room.

“Mommmmm!”

Why? Why? I am now yelling in my head.

And then I hear “Whattt!??” in a tone coming out of my mouth I recognize as frustration and irritability. Ewww…I am really no better than them.

More shouting “I was on my Ipod (for the past 2 hours and you didn’t notice) minding my own business and she just walked by and kicked me!”

“I did not!” She screeches. Then tears, then more yelling, then – silence.  Okay, the silence was mine. Maybe if I ignore them and act like I don’t hear them they will go away.

But they don’t go away. Now I hear heavy footsteps- heavy because they are pounding on the floor as they develop their 2 person frantic search party to see who can get to me first to tell their side of the story the loudest and most visibly upset.

My choice catch phrases start pouring out…”You need to figure this out, preferably in a way that doesn’t involve fists and feet. Don’t hit your brother. Don’t hit your sister. How does it feel when you spit those angry words out of your mouth? You might want to find another way to communicate how you are feeling. This isn’t working.”

Yet they continue their whiny rants.

The counselor in me searches for meaning, understanding, reason and peaceful resolution. The angry human in me wants to scream “Shut the hell up and go away!” and the mother in me is feeling guilt that I can’t fix their problems quickly enough to make sure no one is feeling pain. Especially me. Its so painful- and annoying-and maddening.

So as I stare at them- wondering who will come out of me, I page Super Mom, the combo of the three. Super Mom, the voice that shows respect, but the words that come out sensible and loving. She exudes wisdom and insight they can not deny or debate.  She speaks in matter of fact tones and does not raise her voice, but lowers it to show the seriousness and validity of the words. And when they attempt to interrupt, she quiets them in her, “No, you are here to listen and accept the help you’ve asked for” tone. Damn, that Super Mom is good.

And then I hear her clear her throat to begin…

“Seriously, how many times do I have to tell you to keep your hands and feet to yourself? I am NOT your referee. Figure it out. Until then, go to your rooms and leave me alone!!” she barks.

Hmmm…Super Mom? Sorry, she’s not available. She lost her patience at “Mommmm”. Please leave a message at the beep.

In reality, I am here to be their referee, their cheerleader and coach. I am here to be their counselor and their emotional punching bag, often at the same time. I am also here to tell them exactly what doesn’t work for them and offer suggestions for what does- even when they don’t ask for it.

If the expectation is to be Jack of All Trades- and it is- I will do it to the best of my ability, but they may not always like my ability, my humanness, my limits, but that is what I am able to offer. I am Super Mom, in her truest form.

Even when all else is flowing beautifully in my life, my role of mother keeps me grounded and rooted in reality. The reality that life is awesome, but there are moments of frustration and anger, of sadness and worry and setbacks. Lots of setbacks. But even within those setbacks comes opportunity to regroup and rebuild and understand the various parts of myself.  The calm, the loving and the imperfect.

And that Super Mom, is where it’s at.

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Parenting In the Midst of Personal Chaos

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Parenting In the Midst of Personal Chaos

What I like about writing my blog is the ability to share my perspective, both personal and professional.  The professional piece is what I know to be true and the personal piece is what I think to be true.

Ever notice how easy it is to feel confident when making decisions in your professional life that you know are well founded based on experience or what feels like common sense? Or how easy it is to look at a friend’s situation and see the obvious conflict or problem and solution when they can’t seem to wrap themselves around it?

And yet when it comes to our own lives, our own personal decisions, which impact our children and those we love the most, our emotional investment seems to let the clouds roll in blocking the sun which once illuminated all we thought we knew.

Frustrating isn’t it?

I’m at one of those points in life.  A place of discontent, sadness, anxiety, and confusion.  It sucks.  And yes, I realize it now feels like one of those Facebook posts where someone says “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” leaving you hanging, wondering what’s up, and then annoyed that you have to wait to find out what’s wrong, just to satisfy your curiosity. I get it. That drives me nuts. But the why right now isn’t as important as It Just Is.  And I’m betting you can relate.

So here I am in my place of confusion and sadness which has been slowly taking over my life.  The stress is beating on me and I’ve allowed it.  I am now taking the turn towards giving myself permission to just be freaking sad and get on with it.  Hear the hint of frustration there? I have such little patience for misery and yet, I KNOW in order to get past it, I have to FEEL it all so I can move on.  Turns out, its not easy, even when you know how to take care of yourself, take the steps to do so, continually search for the positives and still your heart is saying, “uh, still hurting here.” Yeah, I know, can we just move on already??

In the meantime, I have these beautiful children who need me and watch my every move. They look to me for support and are gauging how to feel by what I show them.  In the beginning, I felt compelled to show them only my strengths, my happy moments, that everything is okay.  But everything is not okay.  At least not right now. And life can be hard…very, very hard.  And that is a truth that they are learning and will continue to learn.  And I want to be the influence that shows them the truth in a way that protects them and exposes them at the same time.

I made a decision to teach them what Living while managing personal pain looks like.  Some days I cry, some days I keep to myself, some days I make their favorite meals, and other days I ask them cook for themselves.  Some days I give them extra hugs and some days I don’t want anyone near me. But every single day, I tell them I love them.  We talk about how our transition feels. We problem solve getting through it.  We identify our emotions and we apologize if we sense we’ve overstepped our limits.  Are we doing it right? Yes, for us, we are. Is it text book? Nope. But it’s still right – for us.

My kids are learning personal boundaries, ways to cope, how to express themselves and what unconditional love looks like.  Through our pain and sadness, it’s a life lesson supported by hope…hope that we will get through it, come out stronger and learn something amazing about ourselves when we reach the other side.

As a professional I know which techniques work and which ones don’t work, but I don’t know which will work for each kid and each family.  It’s all trial and error.  Parenting too, is trial and error and after the various trials and accompanying doubt and guilt have subsided, sometimes Faith that we are doing it well is all we really have.  Today I have Faith that this mother is loving her children the best way she knows how. And that my friends, feels good.

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Q&A My Perspective: The Thumb Sucking Controversy

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Q&A My Perspective: The Thumb Sucking Controversy

QUESTION

I have a wonderful, energetic, fun spirited, social, loving 3 year old daughter. She has been sucking her thumb since infancy. She only does so when she is tired or nervous.  I’ve read various ways to encourage her to refrain from sucking her thumb without any success. Others are quick to share their insight and horror stories (mine didn’t stop till she was 9….my doctor says that he has to stop by 3 otherwise his permanent teeth will be affected…mine stopped when she was made fun of at school) and try not to get discouraged knowing that eventually she will stop however I want to provide support and help for her to stop.

 

MY PERSPECTIVE

I have to admit, I am such a non alarmist when it comes to this stuff.  I actually have a deformed thumb due to chronic thumb sucking as a kid and the only downside it has seemed to give me is the inability to ever have been a hand model…which is a shame because I have really nice hands otherwise.

But really, it always comes down to behavior and why the behavior is occurring.  Right now, her thumb sucking is habitually filling a need.  It sounds like it calms her and it works for her.  Until she feels that this behavior no longer serves its purpose, she will continue to suck her thumb.

So what can you do?  If you are concerned with long term impacts, help her identify when and why she sucks her thumb and come up with some replacement behaviors.  If she instinctually sucks her thumb at night time, maybe offer her a new sippy cup filled with water to replace the thumb to take “relaxing sips” to help with the oral fixation.  Or a different replacement item that she chooses.

If she sucks her thumb in social situations where she is uncomfortable, have some comfort items available to distract her from her normal patterns if you don’t want her sucking her thumb, but explain to her why so she understands.  You are really just replacing one habit for another at this point, until she is old enough to understand how to make the switch on her own, but developmentally, she may not be there, so you will have to help her come up with the alternatives.

In the meantime, it will be helpful to start teaching her self soothing techniques that relax her mind. I am a huge fan of guided meditation CDs for kids that teach them positive affirmations, muscle relaxation and little stories of how to handle challenging emotions.  Plus they always knocked me out when I listened with them…

But in the long run, as you stated, she won’t suck her thumb forever.   Just like they eventually stop peeing their pants and move on from the binky, it happens.  Something will trigger her to change it up and move on.  And if you support her in finding that trigger, go for it, but try not to beat yourself up when you recognize that just like everything else, she’ll change her own behavior when she’s good and ready.

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Q&A My Perspective: Healing the Parent/Child Relationship

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Q&A My Perspective: Healing the Parent/Child Relationship

QUESTION

As I sit here and try to think of the best way to convey my question, my heart is in anguish with tears pouring down my face. About a year and half ago I became addicted to pain medication that I was prescribed for a back injury I sustained in a car accident. It spiraled out of control last February ending with a protective order being filed so I couldn’t contact my 12 year old son’s mother or him and I ended up choosing to go into a 9 month substance abuse program that helped veterans. This was clearly my fault. Up until this point in time his mother and I had never really disagreed on anything and we haven’t been together since he was 2. We had never been to court. We just agreed on visitation and child support. I paid her child support every week and I pretty much got him whenever I wanted. We were VERY close. I coached his little league teams from when he was 4 until he was 9. I was always very active in his life. Well, long story short I graduated the program and got a court order to get some visitation back. I have not been able to have any contact with him for a year now and have not been able to see him at all.  My question is…I have supervised visitations starting next week and while I’m ecstatic that I am finally going to get to see him, I am very nervous and I don’t even know what to say to him. I know the number one thing is being honest. I just want to make sure I do everything right. I know it is going to take a lot of time and a lot of consistency to earn his trust and respect again. I’m just hoping you may have some helpful advice to give me going into this.

 

MY PERSPECTIVE

First of all, you have already done the hard work.  You recognized that you chose a behavior that was not working for you and made the decision to change it.  It doesn’t matter why or how, it only matters that you did.  Blaming yourself for your wrong doings is only helpful to get you to the point where you are now…in the process of recognizing that change needs to take place in order to heal yourself.  Its time to let the blame go.  It no long serves any positive use in your life.  You are where you are by choice and the more you choose forgiveness and acceptance for where you are now, the more you will heal, and the joy and purpose in your life will grow with you.

The changes that you have made and will continue to make will not only be the greatest gift to you, but also to your son.  You are teaching him that even our heroes and the people we look up to make mistakes, that it’s okay to be human.  But more importantly, you are teaching him that when you recognize you choose behaviors that don’t help you, you dig in and find the strength to change those behaviors into ones that DO work…there is no greater lesson than to teach by example.  It is equally important for us to know what doesn’t work as it does to know what does so we know the difference.  By choosing to change you are teaching him a lesson he wouldn’t learn anywhere else. What a true gift for you both!

From what you have described, you have built a foundation of love and respect with your son, followed by a painful period of transition.  What is most important is that you built that foundation together and the love that you have for him and that he has for you still remains strong, it just needs to be revitalized…and it will be.  It has already begun by you reaching out to him.

Of course there are mixed emotions between the two of you and you can speculate how he feels, but the bottom line is that people innately want to love and be loved and you both have that desire.  He wants his father just as much as you want your son.  If you both have the same goal, the obstacles between you will dissipate as your hearts reunite.  Does this mean he won’t be hurt and angry still? Absolutely not.  He needs to work through his own confusion, distrust and insecurity, but the more you prove to both of you that you are in this for the long haul, his feelings will slowly, but steadily change.

You mentioned that being honest is the best thing and that is true. It will be good to speak from the heart as much as you can, but that does not mean you have to use words to do this.  Say what you feel you have to say, but only that.  Your presence, the hug you give him, the look on your face, will be communication enough without the need to fill the space with words.  When you speak from your heart, you will speak your truth and he will know that you mean it, in spite of any lingering discomfort he feels.

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Controlling Our Kids: Why Less is More

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Controlling Our Kids: Why Less is More

My favorite meal is breakfast. I am a big lover of food and nothing beats a hearty breakfast of eggs, turkey sausage, toast and some fruit for good measure.  So when my 6 year old son wanted to learn how to cook eggs, how could I resist giving him the opportunity to make me my favorite meal?

I’ll tell you how.  The idea of allowing him to use the stove with its dangers while fully understanding how to crack the eggs and not spread potential germs and then cook the eggs to “perfection” felt like a tall order. Honestly,  I wasn’t sure if I was up to the challenge.  Every bit of the controlling part of me said no and it’s easier to do it myself than to teach it to him kicked in.  I felt it, I absorbed and then I heard myself say, “Okay, you can do it.”

What? Had I lost my mind? Nope.  Just practicing what I preach. Our kids don’t grow unless we allow them to and neither do we.

So my little boy practiced how to use the stove, the frying pan, crack the eggs and not spread germs and in a much shorter time than I expected, perfected the over easy egg.

I commented recently to my daughter how impressed I was with his skill at making eggs at age six and she said, “Maybe because you’re the mom who allows him to make them at age six. How else will he get good?” Damn, she’s smart…and she’s right.

Had I held on to my control of his experiences and not allowed him to try, he wouldn’t learn to how to make eggs, nor would he practice enough to get them coming out quite so good.  And they are good. Really, really good.

In our quest to protect our children and ourselves, we so often rely on our need and desire to control what our children are doing, saying and thinking and work hard to craft their world in the way we feel they should see it.  Our sense of control of them makes us feel safe, confident, powerful and stable for the moment.  But when they don’t follow our leadership and suggestions, the sense of safety turns quickly.  When things feel like they are out of our control, we tend to panic and problem solve in an effort to get things back “on track” aka “within our control.”

And here’s what we miss- every – single- time:

The more effort we exert to control another’s world, the more out of control we will begin to feel.  The key to truly feeling safe, confident, powerful and stable is not actually what we do for them, but what we don’t do for them and allow them to do for themselves.

I know, it sounds like I may have been touched with a bit of salmonella poisoning after all, but hear me out.

The more we try to micromanage, the more anxious and controlling we become as we try to manipulate every aspect of our world.  But when we let go of our perception of control of others and allow them to take responsibility for themselves, we give them the gift of independence and ourselves the gift of freedom.

As we begin to release our perception of control of our external environment, the more in control we will become to feel and accept whatever happens next.  The missing link is Faith.  The more we believe that we can accept and handle what comes next, the more in control we actually are.

Faith is not a hope, it is a belief. And believing is a practice, that requires A LOT of reiteration. It doesn’t come natural to the majority of us, but it does benefit all of us when we allow it a prestigious place in our lives.

Had I controlled my son’s interest (and don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I do and must control to keep them safe and healthy), I would not be enjoying the benefits of a little man making me breakfast every day.  He is so good to his mama….Nor would I acknowledge the insight of my 9 year old daughter who often points out what’s right in front of my face.

And the best part…the gift of responsibility and growth to them is the greatest gift to me.

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The Curse of Mother’s Guilt

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The Curse of Mother’s Guilt

“If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”

There are hundreds and hundreds of pregnancy and baby books which guide you through the trials of pregnancy and living with a newborn, giving you every scenario of the excitement of your growing baby and the intense fear of everything that could go wrong. They cover every aspect of prenatal health and the postnatal care down to learning how to teach your muscles how to support your bladder for long term comfort and deciphering what every coo stands for in your newborn cherub. There’s advice on breastfeeding, post partum blues, twelve different forms of diaper rash and survival tips for living sleep deprived and feeling like mush. Yet the one fact that we are kept sheltered from is the warm introduction to our new lifelong companion, Mother’s Guilt.

Mother’s Guilt is one of the most powerful emotions you will ever experience which follows you around like your first boyfriend who just seemingly hit puberty. And not normal guilt like you did something wrong and were aware of it; useless guilt for not being in the same room when your baby opened their eyes alone or when they still seem hungry after they ate and you were ill prepared to meet their momentary whim. Guilt that you have to work to keep clothes on their back and a roof over their head. Guilt that you stay home with them and don’t love every minute of it. Guilt that they cry when you are not around and guilt that they do cry when you are around and you can’t soothe them. Useless, unnecessary guilt that grows stronger and more pronounced as they do.

When I first had my babies, I rarely left the house outside of work. I felt like I couldn’t leave them because no one could care for them as well as I could. Plus, I worked and oh the guilt that came with that—wow! I felt I had to compensate for my absence by filling our time together with meaningful activities and joyous outings. My time spent with friends was usually limited to play dates. My life was not my own; it was theirs. I was a slave to making sure they had everything I thought they needed. My husband regularly encouraged me to get out more, but I rarely took his advice. Instead, I built up resentment towards him because he seemed to live his life so freely and I was holding on to my guilt of not being everything for my children and slowly losing my identity of who I thought I was.

I am well aware of the fact that in order to effectively take care of someone else, you must first take care of yourself. I have offered that knowledge to others and meant it. But it wasn’t until I started living it myself that I discovered it really is true.

I started to take care of myself by learning to trust that my children would be okay without my watchful eye and acknowledging that I was not the end all be all for them. I began to attend “Book Club,” and “Ladies Night” and added in regular dinner dates with friends. It was time for me to be me and relinquish my role as mommy for a few moments to role of woman who has a brain and interests outside of managing every aspect of my child’s wellbeing. And an amazing thing occurred, I was re introduced to a friend I forgot how much I once liked and respected, ME!

As our child’s primary educators in life we are teaching them the importance of taking care of ourselves by our example and the satisfaction that comes with it. We need to train them and ourselves that the word “selfish” does not have to come with a negative connotation. We are teaching our children our values within our absence. When I go to the gym, my kids learn that I value health and wellness. When I go out with my friends, they learn the value of maintaining friendships and the necessity of tending to their growth. When I go to work, they learn the value of getting an education which allows me to work in a job that I enjoy. If we want our children to grow up to be individuals we must teach them that we too are individuals AND be okay with it.

Now my Mother’s Guilt has me playing legos for longer than I’d like and having a picnic dinner on the living room floor because its “fun,” but it feels much more manageable since I have found its natural remedies which are following my personal values and Mother’s Intuition to know when I am doing what is best for my child. I am still the greatest mother in the world to them because I want to be there and I want to take care of them, which makes balance that much easier.

As our children grow, so do their problems and our insecurities on how to handle them. We will always have questions on how to solve these problems, as we should. How do we know if we are doing it right unless we’ve done it wrong? Let go of the guilt and hold on to the faith that together, you will get it right.

This is a re-post from when I first started my blog and one I needed to re-read as a reminder.  Guilt is annoying, isn’t it?

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Overscheduling Our Children: How do you know when Enough is Enough?

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Overscheduling Our Children: How do you know when Enough is Enough?

My favorite part of summer is how relaxed our days are.  There is no homework to look over, or paperwork to sign or commitments that take up our afternoons when we’d rather be hanging out doing nothing after work and school all day.  We are free to just Be.

I have such great memories of childhood play.  Spending hours each day with the kids in the neighborhood building forts, playing games on the swing set where we couldn’t put our feet on the ground because it was a pit of lava, riding our bikes all throughout the neighborhood (without helmets-gasp!) and playing Ghost in the Graveyard well into the darkness of the day.  These memories shape the way I choose to parent my children now, longing for the days of a simpler life and yet, competing with an era where life is not so simple and carefree for kids.

Working with teenagers, I see the strain our culture puts on them to stay in the game.  The pressure is on to be a top scholar, join a bunch of different clubs and activities to be “well rounded,” play sports, but play one in particular really well and commit to it year round if you want to get ahead.  And the purpose? It could be a variety of things.

Is it because they feel the need to stand out to prospective colleges? Is it because their parents wanted them to try everything they didn’t get to do? Is it because they want to spend every one of their waking hours proving their self worth to….???? It’s different for each of them.  Either way, the pressure is on both internally and externally to do everything they can and do it all well.

And I wonder, when do they ever get to play?

Recently, I made the decision to not allow my 9 year old daughter to play on a premier soccer team in addition to our town’s travel team.  I struggled with this one for a while.  Since she began doing activities at age 3, I’ve always said she could do one activity each season, and the rest of the time, she was expected to enjoy free play.  But now, at age 9, they play soccer each season, just as you can play most sports each season.  It’s great if you know that soccer is your thing and you just want to play that sport, but what if you don’t know?

What if you, like my daughter, has had limited exposure to other sports because your mother only allowed you to do one activity per season and you chose soccer because it’s the one you know and like?  What if you just think it’s your favorite activity, but then you discover tennis later in life and find you are the top dog in the town, but you missed years of developing your swing? What if your neurotic mother lies awake at night trying to decide if this is the right move for you?  Hmm…and I wonder why I have a What If Child.

At the end of the day, or the long night I kept thinking about it, I decided that she needed to be exposed to more sports or activities, but she wouldn’t have to give up soccer, I’d allow her to do both. However, that meant she could only choose one soccer team to play on and pick up something additional.  Yet, another example of how our parenting theories shift and re-balance based on the decision of the hour. First, introducing nitrate laden hotdogs and now, adding more activities. What will be next?

But seriously, I just want my kids to play.  I want them to get off the school bus, jump on their bike or play games in the yard.  I want them to play “don’t touch the lava with your feet or you’ll melt” on the swing set and Ghost in the Graveyard into dark.  I want them to be kids and just Be.

Group and individual activities are great.  They allow them exposure to their different strengths, how to follow instructions, how to communicate well with others, and how practicing a skill makes them better at it.  They also teach the importance of commitment to the community of those who share their interest.

But free play is equally valuable.  It allows them to use their imagination and to problem solve.  It teaches them how to communicate with others, but also how to sit comfortably on their own.  It awards them space to find their strengths without instruction and investigate what works for them.

The strive for balance is universal.  The way to achieve it is individual.

When it comes to making decisions for our children, which we still get to while they live in our house and use our resources, it’s helpful to look at the short term and long term goals of what’s important to us and to them.  What we teach them now is the foundation of what they will expect from themselves and from others as they grow and develop into their individuality.  No pressure….

Except there is pressure and it’s everywhere.  The key is to ask yourself where the pressure is coming from and how you want to handle it.  What is the end goal you are shooting for when offering opportunities to your children?  And are you both enjoying the ride?  When you can answer these questions comfortably, you know you are on your way to balancing what works for you and your child.

In the meantime, get outside and kick the ball around, catch fireflies at dusk and maybe even start up a game of freeze tag.  The value of play never decreases and never gets old.

Do you think kids are over scheduled these days and what do you do to avoid over scheduling your own?

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To Work or Not to Work? That is the Question

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To Work or Not to Work? That is the Question

This felt like a timely re-post since I just began my summer break and nostalgia kicked in.  Summer rocks.

To work or not to work, that is the question.

As I write this, I am blissfully sitting with my children on the beach of my town’s lake, listening to happy children splash in the water with the sun shining brightly and the smell of lathered sunscreen everywhere.  I love summer and I love not working.

Now yesterday, when I was up at 6:00 a.m., out for a run, two loads of laundry deep, traveling to the dentist, grocery store, farm stand and then on to pick strawberries, build a lemonade stand and prepare for a low key end of the year party at my house in the evening, I wondered if this is the life for me.  By the end of the day, my “real” job seemed relaxing and stress free.

First, I have to admit, I am incredibly lucky to not work in the summer.  However, I also have to say, I chose much of my luck. I knew before children I would want to be with them as much as I could, so choosing a counseling profession where I had the same school hours as them made sense.  And this profession required 7 years of full time college, so hard work and sacrifice also came into play.

When I had my first baby, I loved her beyond measure and agonized over the idea of returning to work. Even though nature and proactive planning allowed me four months of maternity leave, it did not lessen my working mother’s guilt an ounce.

Yet, I went back to work, stressing over daycare costs and feeling the need to spend every moment with my child.  Even though she was happy, well adjusted and would go to just about anyone, I worried.  It was completely my issue.  But we needed the money and couldn’t possibly survive on one income.  Until we did.

My husband unexpectedly lost his job when my son was 1 and my daughter 4.  Due to the loss of income, we opted to have him stay home with the children.  And by the way, he was an AWESOME stay at home dad or Daddy Daycare, as he preferred.  He even became our friends back up childcare in times of need.  But we had done the math prior to the job loss and it would never work. But work we made it, for two full years.

Making it work was not easy.  We debated and number crunched.  We looked at both long term and short term goals.  We knew we’d give up salary potential, as well as retirement investments to make the decision to stay home.  The debates were not balanced and neither were the sacrifices.  Making it work included both of us working part time jobs for extra income and getting rid of our extra cable channels,  land line telephone and any other “unnecessary” expenses we could think of.  The two years my husband stayed home with the children were years he could not get back, with a job or with the children.  We had to decide which years were more important to lose. In the end, the children won, their years were precious and their development fast paced.

My husband relished in his time home with kids. He grew a bond with his children he may have never experienced otherwise.  They had their own jokes and rituals and TV shows they shared.  Although when I came home to my 5 year daughter singing the theme song to “The Nanny” and “The Golden Girls,” I did seriously question calling around town for daycare openings.  But the truth was, they loved it.  And I loved knowing they were home with their Dad.  Those two years flew by and once my daughter began full time school, my husband began full time work, and the craziness began again.

The decision to work when you have kids can be a tough one.  Or not tough at all when you are a single parent.  But none the less, both jobs are a challenge!  Personally, I feel like I get the best of both worlds.  I love getting paid to help people, truly love it. I also love adult conversation and friends laughing at my dumb, yet highly intellectual jokes…actually I need it!  I love getting a paycheck to help pay for my home and the clothes on our backs and internet on my phone, I simply can’t go back!

I also love being home and bringing my kids to the lake, the playground,  local farms, museums and picnicking as often as possible.  And now that they are well out of diapers and can pack their own bags, I appreciate it even more!

When I’m home full time with my children, I greatly appreciate that I know what they are thinking, how they are feeling and what is influencing their day.  It’s always strange to me when they start school and begin a new life on their own without me. I am left with holding on to faith that all will be well.

Each job has its challenges.  During the school year I agonize over bills, not enough time with the kids and when I will have a few minutes or an hour to myself.  When I’m not working, I agonize over my kids arguing, having too much time with them, wondering what “productive” feels like, and when I will have a few minutes or an hour to myself.

But the good news, no matter what, it always works out.  This is a natural fact and one we can hold on to.  It doesn’t mean that life doesn’t get hard, but it does mean that we can always make it better depending on the choices we make for ourselves and the way we view a situation.  My husband was devastated when he lost his job, but we chose to make it work to our advantage and created a positive experience for our family.  We took a gamble, won all our money back and made enough for a pizza on a Friday night.   Most often, it really all boils down to perspective and how we adapt to change.  And let’s face it, life is one big transition day after day!

So to work or not to work?  The real question is how will you make it work for you?

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Why It’s Good To Ignore Children (For Real)

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Why It’s Good To Ignore Children (For Real)

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to ignore them.

Sound harsh?

Maybe, but I mean it.

Recently, my six-year-old son stayed home from school sick. Not a lay on the couch all day sick, but a hang out quietly and relax sick.

It gave me an opportunity to catch up on some work and some writing, which for him meant, Mom is distracted and I’m on my own.

My son knows me well enough to tell when I’m distracted “In a minute,” means another 30-60 minutes from now, so you may want to reconsider your needs.

Continue Reading at Green Eggs and Moms.

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