A Parenting Parable in Ink

Here’s an anecdote…

A woman gets a tattoo with her name on it.  There’s a deep symbolic meaning as to why she got it.  (As all tattoos should be!)

Family, Mama, Daughter, Tattoo, Hold Hands, Hands

This woman then proceeds to become a mother three times.  Her body is pulled and stretched in many miraculous directions.  After the birth of her third child, she notices that the ink has also shifted, and her name is no longer legible.  She’s distraught.

While I totally can appreciate the dismay at the lost artwork (I have four tats of my own), I would like to lovingly suggest to remember that you have created works of art in your own right, far more precious than what happened in that parlor next to the stainless steel gauges.

Always the poet, I see another symbolism in the fact that it was her name that got distorted.  Yes, she knows what it was, but it’s changed.

Doesn’t that happen to you when you become a parent?  Yes, you still remember your old self, but once you have children, you are never again the same.  Like that misshapen tattoo, our essential self is indelible.  We retain our essence throughout our lives.  However, our parenting selves cause us to view — and be viewed by — the world in a new way.

So if “Ashley” morphs into “Maybe” or “Michael” is deciphered as “Nipple,” I’d look to the deep metaphor that like a tattoo, our children mark us forever.

Make the #153Promise to celebrate the way your children have changed your ink.

-Kisses! XxXx

 

Thaw Out Your Kids By Lining Up a Summer Job!

Ice, Ice Age, Icicle, Winter, Cold, Snow

Everybody on the East Coast is talking about how flippin’ cold it’s going to be this three day weekend.  Freezing or not, what better time to start thinking about plans for this summer!

Taking on a job or volunteering position is an excellent way to teach responsibility and learn about what possible career topics they are considering; it gets your teenager thinking about their future…. Just at the time they are consider what courses they’ll be taking for next year.  And doing it now — before the mad rush in June — is an excellent lesson in preparing and not procrastinating… not to mention that they’ll have many more choices available to them.

Friends, Summer Camp, Leaders, MentorsIf your child is over 18, then they are an adult and can apply pretty much anywhere, as long as they meet the job description requirements.

If they are under 14, they are generally too young to be getting a “real” job with an actual employer.

But those three years in between get a little tricky.  Every state has their own child labor laws.  Some deal with dangerous situations, like knives.  Some deal with food preparation or the presence of alcohol.  Others regulate manual work, such as pounds required to lift.

Looking for ideas?  Try:

  • The mall- ones stop shopping for tons of options
  • The YMCA- they have a lot of programming and camps
  • The library- a great, safe environment
  • Pools- if they’re a swimmer, there’s time to get a junior life guard certification
  • Babysitting- there’s an online course offered by the Red Cross

 

If you can’t commit to putting your teenager on a set schedule because you want a flexible schedule, volunteering is also a great option…. And if your child is under working age, maybe it’s time to start planning your family vacation!

No matter what you decide, make it your #153Promise to set your child up for an awesome summer. Coffee, Mug, Winter, Drink, Coffee Mug

Goodness knows we need something to get us through the next few months!

-Kisses! XxXx

 

Jesus is a Hugger and a Kite… My Son’s Lesson on Perspective

I thought I’d make a post about why my 3.5 year old son’s been saying about Jesus for the past few months.

Jesus Christ, Cross, Jesus, Faith, Christ, Religion

Almost every night after I pick him up from preschool, we drive past a Catholic cemetery with a giant crucifix prominently light up at night.  Once my son started noticing the statue, he asked who that was.  When I told him, he responded from the back seat with his arms outstretched, proudly saying, “I’m Jesus, too!

Then, just the other week, my son said, “Jesus is giving me a hug!

Wow.  I was raised Catholic.  We went to church every Sunday.  I attended Youth Group.  I even was the Cantor for mass.  In all those years, never ONCE did I ever think Jesus, with his arms outstretched, was giving me a hug; it was always about Jesus’ persecution and sacrifice.

Aviator, Air, Wind KiteA few days ago, my son then added a new perspective on Jesus when he exclaimed, “Jesus looks like a kite.”  Okay… that’s getting waaaay out of the box, but I totally see how he came up with that…  I can only imagine what Jesus is going to do next in the eyes of my son.

Now, every time I see Jesus on the cross, I think of how much Jesus loved us and wants us to have a relationship with God.  (No matter what faith you are, Jesus’ teachings are clearly documented.)

And I now also associate Jesus with soaring freely, knowing that God’s love will support me in flight, but also keep me firmly grounded throughout my life.

Pretty deep lesson from a three year old.

I would have lost all of that if I did not Listen to what my son said, Observed what he saw, Validated his perspective and Empathized with his point of view so I could find the metaphors.

Make it your #153Promise today to approach your day-to-day activities with a fresh perspective… maybe from your own children’s.

Sometimes, you just need to look at the world through different lenses to see things more clearly.

-Kisses! XxXx

Cursing Cupid- Shoot an Arrow through Expectations

Love, Valentine'S Day, Pose, HeartT minus four days and counting…  The “holiday” that gets men in a panic and parents in a bind.

The internet is bursting with last minute ideas for “romantic” gifts.  Dollar stores (thank God!) still have boxes of cards on their shelves.  And adults everywhere are cursing Cupid.

But I’m kwel as a Kit Kat.  Why?

Because I have no expectations.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

I tend to think that the more someone “needs” someone else to make a big deal over these special days, the more likely it is that that person has been ignored all year.

I’m not into a bipolar, feast or famine type of situation.  I just want to feel appreciated on a daily basis.  No need for fancy cards, flowers, or dinner to get my motor running.  Know what turns me on?  Coming home after a busy day to an empty sink and some folded laundry.  Oh, yeah…  Bow chick-a wow wow.

I was a Twelve-Stepper for a spell when I was working on my codependency issues, and I learned a great saying:

Expectations are just premeditated resentments.

It pretty much blew my mind.  If I expect a certain person to act a certain way or do a certain thing, then I’m just setting myself up to be disappointed.  However, I think the word “Passive” needs to be added at the start of the sentence.

Passive expectations are just premeditated resentments.

If I expect somebody to do something, but I don’t actively express to them my desires, I don’t think it’s fair to hold them hostage when they fail to read my mind.

Heart, Love, Romance, Valentine

So if you want to go out for dinner, tell your spouse.  If you want your children to set the table, tell them.  Then, after a while, they’ll do it on their own without you asking because they see how darn happy it makes you.

The same applies with my children. I’d rather them experience true happiness on a daily basis, rather than getting all worked up into a lather a few times a year.  It says to me that they feel special every day.

Lorenz Hart (ironically) wrote “My Funny Valentine,” and his lyrics express this sentiment perfectly:

Your looks are laughable; unphotograph-able…

Yet you’re my favorite work of art….

Each day is Valentines’ Day.

Make it your #153Promise this Valentines’ Day to have low expectations and to actively express them.

Shoot an arrow right through the hype.

-Kisses! XxXx

 

 

I *AM* An Expert, Dagnabbit!

Classroom, Old, One-Room, School, Education, ClassI had a phone conference with my publisher a little over a week ago and he said something that really stuck in my craw- he questioned that I am a legitimate expert regarding kids’ issues.

Really???

Yeah…” he continued, “being a teacher doesn’t make you an expert.  I mean, when was the last time a parent goes into a school and asks to see a really good teacher because their kids won’t eat their vegetables?  They go to a doctor.  You’re just not an authority in that arena.

That’s when I heard that giant record scratch, the music stops, and it’s about to get really intense.

Mind you, this man does not have children; he’s never had to go to anybody about ANY children’s issues.  That’s when I should have just let it go in one ear and out the other.  But I tend to be a little — what’s the word — obsessive about certain issues, so I stewed.  I mulled.  I percolated.

I vented to my husband yesterday for, like, the eight thousandth time, listing all the point that DO indeed qualify me to be an authority in parenting.  He patiently listened (bless him!) to which he finally said, “You should write them all down and use that for your promotions.”  He’s right!  At the risk of sounding pompous, I DO need to build a case for why I am a good person to listen to when it comes to raising a child.  Just suppose I get successful enough that people start to notice me.  Critics love to tear people a new one.  I better get working on my best game play.  In the spirit of an good offense being the strongest defense, I offer to you why I AM an expert, dagnabbit:

  1. I’m a mother of two great kids.  My daughter is a sweet, sensitive ten year old who’s compliant and has never been in trouble at school.  She gets good grades and excels at gymnastics.  My three and a half year old is a happy, social butterfly.  He’s very well adjusted and his emotions are well regulated.  I must be doing something right.
  2. I had a rough childhood.  When I say not to do something because it will hurt the child emotionally, believe it.
  3. I’ve done the work.  Yes, I was scarred.  I had a nervous breakdown at 17.  I had panic attacks.  I made bad choices when I was younger.  I’ve been in and out of therapy.  I know the different approaches to take for wellness because I either was taught the tools by another expert, or I learned them doing my own research.
  4. I read.  I always look to others to learn more about a topic.  If I have a theory about something, I can find and document the literature to back me up.
  5. I’ve been a coach.  I’ve run with middle schoolers as they do their distance perimeters around our school.  I’ve pushed them to excel as they cross the finish line.
  6. I’ve been a musical director.  You want a challenge?  Try getting thirty kids on stage, singing and dancing their hearts out.
  7. I have a degree in Education.  The training includes psychology, educational theory, child/adolescent development and behavior/classroom management.
  8. I have observed thousands of students.  Not must my own students, but I must observe an entire building to monitor the safety of our school.  I keep a watchful eye.  I notice trends.  I see what parents do not see, in a variety of settings: classroom, hallway, cafeteria…  I can tell you who’s changing their outfits after getting out of a parent’s car.  I know what they eat for lunch.  Who just broke up with whom.  If they use potty mouth.  The walls have ears, and they’re attached to my head.
  9. I have observed at least double that amount of parents.  With all my classes over sixteen years, track teams, and theatre productions, that’s easily over 10,00 parents I’ve interacted with.  I see what’s been working… and what’s been not working.  I’ve even asked parents who have great kids what’s their secret.
  10. As a teacher, I document success and failure.  After meticulously recording data in order to track progress and ultimately assigning a grade, I must then analyze it all to identify trends and adjust my approach to reach more students.  It’s what good educators do.  I can tell when students are not applying themselves.  I know when a kid is not happy.  Or tired.  Or high.  We are trained to spot warning signs and instructed how to get at risk students help.

School Class, School, Children, Bali, Indonesia, PupilsSo yeah… I think being a teacher makes me an expert.

My district has parent teacher conferences this week.  Make it your #153Promise this week to touch base with your children’s teachers and ask them how your kid is doing and how you can support them to achieve their best.  Trust that the teachers have your kids’ best interests at heart.  And believe them.

After all, we are experts.

-Kisses! XxXx

If Your Kid Went Viral…

I found this Youtube video on my Facebook this morning.

Super cute, right????

But there’s a lesson embedded in there.  That animated little girl just didn’t wake up one morning with those expressions; she’s mimicking something.  Apparently, someone at home is on the phone.  A lot.children-593313_1920

What do your children see or hear you do?  How would you be represented if your kids started imitating you?  Are your actions worthy of repetition?

Be kind.  Check your anger and your language.  Everything you say and do can and will be repeated by your children.

What would people think of you if a video of your kid went viral?

Make it your #153Promise for the day to continue to be a positive role model.

Kisses! XxXx

And “E” is for…

Empathize!

At first, one may think it’s the same as Validate, but not so.

  • To Validate, one must ask, “How do they feel?”
  • To Empathize, one must ask, “How would feel?”
  • To Validate, one must wonder, “What are their emotions?”
  • To Empathize, one must wonder, “Why are they having those emotions?”
  • To Validate, you let them know that you understand their perspective, even if you don’t agree.
  • To Empathize, you have to force yourself to know why they must be feeling that way.

Forest Path, Girl, Forest, Nature, PathI like to think of it this way… Do you know that famous saying adopted from the Native American culture, “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes”?  Well, I am a very literal person, so that means that I STOLE their shoes!  (Also meaning it’s impossible to know 100% what ANOTHER person must feel.) Instead, I like to think of it as:

“Walk down the PATH they’ve walked; then see how YOU feel.”

The moment I start doing that with my students, I develop a much better relationship with them.  A kid doesn’t have their homework because they got home late from a swim meet and they were tired?  I get it….  I now have a ten year old and I am now walking the walk.  Sometimes, it just doesn’t get done.

It’s easier to do that to someone else’s kid because there’s the distance factor…  But it’s really easy so say to our own family members, “I AM walking that path.

But are you???

Arapaho, Moccasins, Shoes, Bata, ShoeWhen was the last time you were smaller than everybody else?  When was the last time you had almost ZERO control over your circumstances?  When was the last time someone ELSE paid your rent/mortgage and held it against you?  Or chose what you had to eat?  Or wear?

Hmmmm…. kind of sounds like prison, right?

My point is not to start indulging our kids all the time; but maybe we should stop some times and try to feel their angst.  Their pain.  Their fear and frustration.  Maybe then, we’ll be less likely to judge their actions if we understand what motivates them.

THEN, we can Validate them and work to find some common ground.

Make the #153Promise to Walk their Path.

-Kisses!  XxXx

“V” is for Validate

In order to begin to write this post, I “Googled” the word:ValidateIf Google gives an example using healthy families, I must be onto something.

Approval, Female, Gesture, Hand, Happy, Isolated

I started to use validation as key to getting along with my very opinionated three year old son, and it’s made him so much happier.  Me, too!  Here’s just one example: vending machines at the YMCA.  Kids like to slide quarters into those machines like my 91 year old aunt in Atlantic City.  Almost every time I take him to the gym, I’ll get a, “I want-” with his current obsession- pretzels, animal crackers, chocolate wafers…

Instead of me saying, “No,” which logically would set him up to reply, “But, I WANT it,” I say, “Wow!  They do look really tasty.  I can see why you like them.  I’d like some, too.  Right now, I don’t have any quarters.  But we do have them at home.  How about I give you a snack of pretzels after we leave here… in about five minutes.  Can you be a good boy and be patient to wait until then?”  He always agrees to be a good boy.  I make good on my promise.  He now trusts me to validate his feelings… and they have never escalated since validating him.

It’s really an amazing shift to observe.

It’s tied in very closely to the “L” of Love, “Listen.”

Kids — and people in general — just want to know that they are being heard and valued.  That’s it.  It’s why wives resent it when their husbands try to fix their problems, when all they wanted was a sympathetic ear.  It’s why tweens resort to whining.  It’s why customer service stinks half the time.  We just want to be validated that we have a right to our feelings.

Make the #153Promise to validate your children’s feelings.  Let them know that even if you’re not willing to buy that outfit at the mall, you understand why they want it.  And then work together to find an acceptable alternative to both sides, rather than just saying, “No… because I SAY so!”  The last thing you want to do is shut them down.  They’ll only resort to either being sneaky or going to someone else instead who “Gets” them.

Try it this weekend.  Make the #153Promise to validate each one of your children at least once when you catch yourself wanting to say “No” and watch what happens.

Then validate ME by coming back and posting a comment about how it went!

-Kisses! XxXx

 

 

“O” is for Observe

Quick Quiz:

What is the U.S. of A.’s national symbol?

Can you imagine if “B” were the symbol of the U.S. Military? There’s a reason one of the world’s Super Powers’ wants to be associated with keen eye sight.  It keeps us protected.

Observation is a powerful tool.

Eyes, See, Point Of View, Window, Sensation, CharmAs a teacher, I have to report students’ observable behavior to case managers and guidance counselors all the time.  It’s called “Progress Monitoring.”

Santa sees children when they are both sleeping and awake.

We, as a society, are under surveillance everywhere we go.  Kind of creepy, until you become a victim of a crime and law enforcement can pull up video to catch a suspect.

How observant are you regarding your own children?Ostrich, Eyes, Animals, Portrait, Observe, Green, Head

  • Can you tell when he or she is sick, tired, or had a bad day at school?
  • When was the last time you went through their backpack?
  • Their room or the things in it?
  • Their cell phone?
  • How about any prescription drugs in the house?

I’ll admit, there seems to be a fine line between observing and spying.  But your children are under your charge.  They are minors living under your roof and you do NOT need a warrant in order to seize and search the items you pay for.

I think there’s a right and a wrong way to do it, though.

I was under strict surveillance growing up.  I think it was too much.  I had no voice at home (more on that later) and everything I did was criticized.  I wasn’t a bad kid; my dad was paranoid.  As a result, ironically, it backfired and I did and hid things just to have some part of my life that wasn’t under their thumb.

My father’s observation was unwarranted (figuratively!) so it was a major source of stress in my life.  He also was sneaky about it and didn’t just keep a watchful parental eye over my life- he snooped.  So did my mother.  As a result, I felt very violated.  And I did the only thing I could think of: I rebelled… but I had to in a very passive aggressive way, or I’d get in BIG trouble.  That’s not the tactic to take when observing.

Rather, you set up the parameters and boundaries AHEAD of time.  You articulate consequences BEFORE infractions.  And you let them know that if you ever suspect something concerning, you will TELL them what you OBSERVED and then request to observe more data to either dispel or confirm your fears that they may be doing something that is putting them in harm’s way.  And, of course, you say it in a kind — rather than threatening — tone.

It’s called transparency.

If you children think that you can see right through them, your conscience will guide them when you are not physically around.

How are they behaving in school?  Who are their friends and what are they texting?  Are they are where they say they are?  Do they eat their lunch you pack?

Make it your #153Promise to be an eagle; not an ostrich.

-Kisses!  XxXx

*I did the research, and technically, their heads are in sand a lot to check on their eggs… which are buried in the sand.  So you still get a gold star for the day.  I was focusing on the popularly accepted metaphor.  (Just in case some ornithologist is reading my post!)

 

“L” is for Listen…

I made a post a while back on my acronym for LOVE.  It’s such an important concept that I thought each letter deserves its own day.

Mila Repa, Buddha, Bodhisattva, Esoteric, Right Hand“Listen” is the first word that spells out how to love (according to me).  If you don’t listen to someone, communication and trust breaks down, and it’s pretty difficult (if not impossible) for them to believe anything you say to them.

My daughter gave me the perfect example last night.

We were all eating dinner last night- my husband, our ten year old daughter, our three year old son, and me.  My daughter is from a two-household situation, so she’s with us Mondays, Tuesdays and every other weekend.  It stinks, but we manage.  Of the time she’s with us, Mondays and Fridays are gymnastics, and my husband works on Fridays and Saturdays.  Therefore, Tuesday nights are the only time we can have an extended dinner together.  Again, it stinks, but we make the most of the time, being thankful that we make that part of the week a priority.

Picture the table: I’m talkative and love to reflect on my day.  Our son is a ball of white lighting and can easily dominate.  My husband, when he speaks, usually says something of deep import.  And then there’s our daughter.

She’s does have her chatty moments, but in general, she’s a monosyllabic girl.  When I ask her how her day went, “Fine” is usually what I get.  Such was the case last night.  But a few minutes later, in between second helpings of rice and chili, and our son’s random musings, I managed to hear “I cried in school today…

She then proceeded to unravel a convoluted thread of fifth grade drama involving a group project, conflicting ideas, allegations of copying, and bruised egos.  It clearly was important to her.  I listened to her and gave her my full attention.  I asked her if she’s okay now (she said she was) and she said, “I guess it’s just been an emotional week for me, with…” and then she emoted even more.  About being from a divorce situation; her great grandmother dying this week; course selection for middle school… I offered to contact her teacher on her behalf and reassured her that we’re there for her.

Imagine if, when she first said about her crying, I hadn’t listened to her.  What if I had just said, “Okay, Honey” and went on with my business?  It would have destroyed her.  Or what if we never made time to talk as a family?

Silhouette, Father And Son, Sundown, Chat, Advice

Make the #153Promise to connect with your children on a daily basis to ask them about their day and really listen.  It doesn’t have to be at a sit-down dinner; you can set the stage for “ear time” by:

  • having a “no electronics” rule in the car and use the taxi time to debrief each other about important issues
  • still “tuck them in at night” so they can have some one-on-one time with you
  • making breakfast a “sharing time” as everyone is getting ready in the morning (if lunches and backpacks are already packed, clothes are picked out the night before, and healthy breakfasts are available, it frees up a lot of important time)

Listening is the first step to let your children know they are loved.

-Kisses!  XxXx