Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Our family lost a friend yesterday. And the grieving is continuing. Who was our friend? She was truly TBDE (The Best Dog Ever). She was my first dog, and at 38 years old, I wasn't sure I had the capacity to love any dog. But at the time, the begging of my four children combined with the sentimental stories of my husband's childhood dog had gotten the best of me.
With the kids in tow, I headed out to visit a shelter that had reached out to me about a candidate that might fill our needs. The kids had been briefed that this did not GUARANTEE we were coming home with a dog, and sure enough, when we arrived we discovered that the dog we had come to meet was already spoken for. Disappointment was shared all around, but we decided to just look at the other dogs in the cages in the back room. I was not expecting to be interested in any one of these dogs, who had already been "screened and not deemed appropriate for our needs". As we walked through the aisles, my anxiety level was high...because I was not a true dog person. The barking and sadness was quite overwhelming to me, and frankly, I wanted to finish our look/see with my kids and head home. But there near the end of the chaotic noisy aisle, sat a golden dog. She sat so quietly, with her deep, puddles of brown staring earnestly into my heart. It felt like slow motion as I reached my hand towards her and she quietly and gracefully raised her face and gently licked my hand, as if to say, "I choose you".
When my brain took back my thoughts from my hijacked heart, I realized that she was a bedraggled looking creature; ribs visible, scar over her right eye, nothing really attractive about her but those earnestly loving eyes and soft pink tongue. We took it to the next step, allowed her to interact with the children and then called my husband at work. "We have found our dog!" I exclaimed. "You need to drive out here and meet her before the shelter will allow the adoption." My husband made the 30 mile drive from his office and had one question "Are you sure THIS is the dog you want?" he asked. He was skeptical given her somewhat forlorn look, but he could feel that in my heart the decision had already been made. So against his better judgement, even against what most rational people would decide...he acquiesced and it was decided that she would be our dog.
And what a dog she was. With our family's love and attention, she blossomed. Her golden coat grew in thick and soft. Her body filled out and became strong and healthy. She would run like the breeze, prance delicately through the snow, and curl up gently by a fire. She was quiet, and never relied upon her bark to communicate. Her presence was enough. She was a loving, gentle soul who always preferred children to adults and had a grace and elegance about her that I found irresistible. She of course had her moments, like when she climbed on the kitchen table one day to eat the kid's sandwiches, or squeezed through the slats of the lake house deck to join us down on the beach, or found a porcupine and took quills to the chin on a late night romp with my sister's dog and her friend, Casey.
But she taught me many lessons. I never knew what it was like to love a dog. I never knew what it felt like to have a four legged friend who was always happy to see you. Her calmness calmed me. Her gentleness and loving nature was a gift to our whole family. When someone was having a bad day they could always find some peace and comfort by petting her and just being near her.
Yesterday, we lost TBDE. She lived a long life. Our vet said that she was his oldest patient. And even in the end, she was helping us realize it was time to say goodbye. Today there is an absence. No paws following me into the kitchen, no brown puddle eyes to greet me, no golden soft fur to stroke but a head full of memories about the dog who changed our lives for good.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
As a teacher and a mom, I have an understanding about what it feels like to view the school year from both vantage points. I am acutely aware of how intensely powerful it is to hand your beloved child over to a relative stranger for a large part of the day. It causes every parent to reflect on the influence both good and bad that teachers can have on a child's life experience.
Conversely, I have also heard too many stories about how great teachers have become burned out--not of their love of children and teaching, but because the parental piece of their jobs became overwhelming. This is a tragedy. We need good, kind, dedicated, child-loving teachers, and our job as parents is not to bully them out of their profession because we feel the need to push our and our child's agenda down their throats.
I also think it is helpful to keep in mind that it is highly unlikely that your child will love every single one of his/her teachers. When your child is faced with a teacher that he/she is not fond of, look at it as a learning experience and a situation which will allow your child to grow.
The five following promises will help you, as a parent, be mindful of your role in your child's education:
1. I Promise to attend school conferences and other important parental meetings in an effort to keep myself informed and build important relationships for the benefit of my child's education.
2. I Promise to always investigate my child's claims through other sources rather than immediately react to situations that arise based solely on the immature perceptions of my child. That is not to say I don't trust him/her but understand that a child's understanding of a situation may not be the same as an adult's perception of the same circumstances.
3. I Promise to refrain from "bad mouthing" the teacher and other teachers and administrators in the presence of my child or any children who attend the school, as I realize this behavior does not cast me in a favorable light, and does not help my child in any way. In fact, I will make an effort to speak positively about teachers and school in general around my child.
4. I Promise that if an issue develops, I will contact my child's teacher first and discuss the issue as an adult. If I am uncomfortable with this, I will ask that we meet with an objective third party, such as another teacher or administrator that I trust.
5. I Promise to support my child's education by providing structure and encouragement when it comes to grades and homework assignments. I will emphasize to my child that homework and grades are important and must reflect their best effort at all times.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
As a parenting author, blogger, preschool teacher, and mom of four, I believe that moderation is the key to all things parenting related. Parents need to be able to discipline their children, and love them. But too much discipline creates an abuser, and too much love results in a helicopter, over-involved parent. Parents need to be able to set limits on things like screen time and sweets, and also indulge their kids with attention and support. A parent is responsible for the health and safety of their child but being too anxious about everything causes stress to the child, yet having no worries about the safety of your child is reckless and neglectful. In my book, too much of anything is never a good idea.
I am interested to see what the new parenting show, Extreme Parenting on Bravo can teach us about becoming effective parents. I hope that the show does not merely feature parents who are more interested in achieving a few minutes of fame, at the expense of exploiting their children, but offers an intelligent look at differing parenting styles and creates an opportunity for all parents to reflect on the job we are doing and its impact on our children.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
It is not an easy job to raise kids! They require so much time and attention and just when things seem to be going smoothly, they enter a new phase, or we parents begin to get complacent about things and BOOM it blows up in our face. We watch our children struggle with sleep issues, or adjusting to a new teacher, or finding friends and these struggles can feel so overwhelming at times. I am here to assure you that you are not alone. All parents feel overwhelmed at times, but by the following these six simple parenting steps you can rest assured that you are on the right track.
1. Use the Voice That Works: Kids have an uncanny knack of tuning out a yelling parent. They simply don't care as much as you do and when you are worked up they don't feel the same emotional charge that you do. So use a calm, clear and firm voice to deliver directions to them. And if they don't respond, follow up with an appropriate consequence. Over time, this communication pattern is what kids respond to the best.
2. Affirm More and Criticize Less: Children want your attention and they want to please you. But if they don't get your attention through pleasing you, they will find other means to get it. Make sure you give them praise and affirmation when they are doing things well. Don't let a day go by that didn't include some affirmation.
3. Chores Are Part of Being a Family: Children need chores as part of being a member of your family. Teaching children that they have certain tasks to take care of each and everyday, is a means to training them about life in the real world. And as a parent, that is your ultimate job.
4. Your Words are Your Parenting Treasure: What you say and then how you behave provides the basis which your children learn to trust you. If you don't live up to your own words, you are teaching your children to ignore you. If you tell them to behave in certain ways, and they observe you doing the opposite, they will learn not to put too much stock in what you say. Here is a simple example, if you tell your kids not to swear but curse all the time, your kids will curse. And you are devaluing what your words mean to them. Be conscious of the value in your words!
5. Kids Understand Schedules: Communicate with your children what their day and week will be like. This helps them to understand their world and also gives them a feeling of confidence in the fact that they know what to expect. Chaos breeds chaos.
6. Hold High Expectations: Children will live up (or down) to the expectations you hold of them. It is somewhat of a self fulfilling prophesy. A child who knows that his parents require him/her to do well in school, and care enough to check on his/her grades and progress will perform better than a child who's parents don't care. A child who knows that his/her family places a high priority on family time, will participate in family activities more than a child who's parents don't communicate that expectation. Examine your priorities for your children. And then clearly communicate your expectations.
These six steps offer a way to set your parenting on the path to a bright future for the benefit you and your children.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
In the United States, the Fourth of July is the major summer holiday. The nation celebrates with parades, picnics, fireworks and celebrations from small towns to big cities. Our family has certain traditions established years ago that only seem to grow stronger as the years pass. We have breakfast with friends, neighbors, and family members. Then we walk down and all watch our hometown parade. Later in the day, as a family, we drive to my sister's house for a fun, multi-generational neighborhood picnic and end the day huddled together on blankets enjoying the fireworks display. It is a day filled with simple pleasures; donuts at breakfast, a hometown parade shared with friends and family, playing soccer or wiffle ball in Aunt Jodi's yard, a picnic dinner, fireworks on a blanket by the lake. Simply the joy of spending time together.
This simple chain of events seems to have taken on more meaning as the years go by. My husband and I look forward to spending precious family time together with our four grown children. It doesn't happen very easily these days, and so when we are all together it is cause for celebration. The funny thing is that my children often refer to this holiday as their favorite; out pacing even materialistic Christmas or (at their age) alcohol fueled New Year's Eve!
So why do they love this holiday so much? I have a theory. They love our family and our family traditions. Even if one of them misses our Fourth of July, as they have over the years, they find comfort in the fact that it still goes on as always, and they will be able to experience it the next year if they are able. They have been raised to appreciate our time together in the company of our family and friends, and not take it for granted. And family traditions offer comfort and stability to them in our fast paced, ever so stimulating world.
What family traditions do you have? If none come to mind, take the time to start some. Pattern a celebration in a certain way each holiday and recognize what a gift you will be giving your children. The gift of quality time, quality memories and simple family pleasures. There are a lot of summer nights remaining. Get busy planning some days and nights to remember!