Out of the mouth of babes

I can’t believe how much time has passed since my last post – as much as I am enjoying writing to you all, life often gets crazy busy and gets in the way. Fortunately for me, part of that busyness was a wonderful trip with my husband to Key West, Florida to celebrate our anniversary. It’s amazing to realize how disconnected you can get from each other during the day to day tasks of parenting and life, so I was really thankful to have that time to reconnect with him and hope you all take time for yourselves and your marriage throughout your parenting journey. In that vein, I thought I would share a few nuggets of humor with you on this Friday, in the hopes that it will refresh you at the end of your week.

One of the things I love about spending time with children is enjoying the many fun and entertaining things they say on a daily basis. Fortunately, I have recorded a few of the best things my own children have said over the years, but I know that I have missed recording the majority of them (sadly). One of my favorite apps is called Little Hoots, because it makes it so easy to record your child’s various wise and wonderful words on the fly. They also send out a weekly email called “Hoots of the Week” that share the posts that generate the most response on FaceBook each week (within the app you have the option to share your posts on your social media page). It is so much fun to read that email each week and I almost always find at least one nugget that makes me laugh out loud.

Some of the best ones I’ve read recently include:

When a 6 year old and his mom were stuck behind a street sweeper going about 8 miles per hour, the child exclaimed, “This is Great! We get to be the first car to drive on a clean street.” I think the reason this struck me so funny is because I was fairly certain that wasn’t what the mom was thinking. What fun it is to imagine the levity that this sweet, positive outlook provided for the mom that day.

A 7-year old and 11-year old were arguing about who could push the elevator buttons. The older child said, “I never get to push the buttons” and the younger one replied, “You’re pushing my buttons right now!” (do I need to add that the younger one was a girl?) As a parent, I can so visualize the dynamics of arguing over privileges like pushing elevator buttons, and yet the sass of her answer just makes me chuckle.

Lastly, one of my daughters funniest quotes is from when she was 4 years old and we were at church on Palm Sunday. When she got her palm leaf, she began waving it around and asked me, “Mom, do we whack people with it?” Clearly, the Palm Sunday story hadn’t taken root yet, but humor at church is the best and worst kind because you are trying to hold in your laughter which just makes whatever sparked your amusement seem even funnier.

I hope you enjoyed some laughter as you were reading and have a fabulous weekend!

How much authority is the right amount?

Let’s talk for a minute about what our job is as a parent. I think that we would all agree that keeping our kids safe is an essential part of that job. But let’s look at the bigger picture. Most of us anticipate a very short 18 years to teach, train, and model healthy behaviors until our little birds are launched from the nest into adulthood. I can say short because I have 2 of my 4 who have crossed that threshold and it’s very short from this side of parenting – but not to worry, I’m still deep in the trenches of the other side of parenting with a 9 and 14 year old, so I know it’s doesn’t feel short when you are slogging through it day after day.

So how do we not get bogged down in the day to day chores of life and keep our focus on the end goal, of happy, healthy, successful adults? It’s important to recognize that helping our kids reach that end goal doesn’t mean abdicating our role as their parent and expecting them to make adult decisions as a 4, 7, 10 or even 16 year old. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying don’t let them make any decisions, just don’t let them make all of them, or place some healthy parameters around their choices. For example, clothing seems to become a battleground very early on in our kids’ lives, probably because it’s something they recognize that they can exert some control over. How many of us have taken a costumed child out to run errands because they pitch a fit about taking the costume off? It’s definitely important to choose your battles, but it’s also important for your child’s health that their clothing be weather appropriate. One way to allow them some autonomy when it comes to their clothes is to offer them choices, or at the very least keep the off-season clothes inaccessible (a high shelf in the closet, a box in the attic, or a dresser in the guest room are some suggestions for how to do this). Then they can begin to make decisions about their clothes each day within the parameters of staying safe and healthy – and if the princess dress is over warm clothes in the winter, enjoy the smile on your little princess’s face as she travels with you throughout your day.

It’s important to see the role that parental authority plays as a slope, from total authority and responsibility for them as infants to no real authority as they reach their mid-20’s and are living independently and self-sufficient. Each time they reach a developmental milestone along the way, they are gaining a little bit of responsibility for themselves and we need to create an environment that encourages those baby steps to adulthood all along the way. As I mentioned above, offering choices is one way to do that. Another is to ask for their assistance in age appropriate ways with household chores. There are a plethora of articles and resources on the internet for what is age-appropriate when it comes to chores, but you are the best judge of what your children are capable of at any given age. Often when a discussion of chores comes up, it goes hand-in-hand with the question of allowance. For me, I think it’s important for your children to help with chores because they are part of the family and you all work together to take care of yourselves, each other, and your belongings. If you choose to pay your children an allowance, let that be the flip side of working together, that you not only share the work but the money because you are family rather than tying it to specific chores/jobs. That way your children can experience the personal gratification of a job well done without expecting to always receive an extrinsic reward, a.k.a. money, for everything they do.

I think parental authority is a tricky subject for many of us, depending on the level of authority we were raised with. Particularly when parents are dictatorial, their children often grow-up to be more permissive parents. It’s important to be able to find a balance, for the sake of our children and our society as a whole. Don’t be afraid to set limits for your children, because that actually helps them to feel safe and loved.

Gratitude

I’ve been thinking about gratitude all week – beginning with the message in church last weekend. It’s so easy to get caught in the busyness and challenges of day-to-day life and forget all that we have to be grateful for. For me, my gratefulness centers around the people in my life. First and foremost are my kids – it’s hard to believe that my oldest will be 28 in a few months, so I’ve been parenting for almost 28 years, but it is truly the highlight of my life. I’m also grateful for my husband and my extended family, especially as my parents have been facing some health challenges in the last few months. Lastly, I’m grateful for a handful of friends who have truly invested in my life and come alongside me as partners and mentors. It is such a special relationship to meet someone and have your friendship grow to the point that they are like family to you, but I have been so blessed to experience that several times in my life.

I was very fortunate to meet one of those special people when she was expecting her 5th child and I was fairly newly married with no children yet. We lived across the street from each other for about 9 years, but during that time I had my 2 oldest children and was able to learn so much from her about parenting as we spent time together and built our friendship. As I’ve gotten older, I have always wished to have someone that I could mentor in the same way that I was mentored by her. Luckily for me, I do have the opportunity to build into my staff and the families at the preschool, which is one of my favorite parts of my job as a preschool director.

So how can we teach our children to focus on gratitude, especially in this climate of entitlement? Some of the tools I’ve used through the years include teaching them to say please and thank you (when they say thank you, not only is it polite but it helps turn their mind towards recognizing and appreciating the things others do for them rather than taking it for granted); saying one think they are thankful for each night at bedtime; during the month of November we write/say one thing we are thankful for each night at dinner – this allows us to express our gratitude for one another and also go beyond the bigger things we are typically grateful for like family and friends and consider the breadth of the things we have to be thankful for, and writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts. If your child enjoys writing or drawing, give them a gratitude journal to write/draw what they are thankful for. If they are more active, maybe play charades with things they are thankful for. Obviously, the key is just to provide a lot of opportunities to be mindful of all of the blessings they have and expressing their gratitude for them.

To that end, I am so thankful for all of you and the positive comments you’ve left for me, and the time you take out of your day to read my thoughts and experiences about parenting. Don’t forget to tell your children that you are thankful for them today!

Is there a right way to parent?

I remember when I adopted my youngest, how happy I felt to have another chance to try to “get it right” with parenting. Parenting in your 40’s is so different than parenting in your 20’s. While I definitely believe that I know much more now than I did the first time around, each child is so unique that it’s like starting from scratch every time. I also feel that I have more patience, but definitely less energy. I think it boils down to an even trade – I’m not a better or worse parent with my youngest than I was with my first child, just different.

Which brings me to the question, is there a right way to parent? While I have some strong opinions about parenting, I’ll try not to jump on my soapbox this early in my blogging journey . . . but overall, I don’t believe there is one “right” way to parent which would make everything else “wrong”. The most important thing is to get to know each child well enough to adjust your parenting to fit their individual personalities. For example, my oldest was VERY strong-willed from the very beginning. As I tell her now, our first battle was when she was about 8 months old – I did everything wrong to prevent her from touching the buttons on the television and each time, she laughed at me and went right back to it. As with a lot of my parenting journey, if I only knew then what I know now.

In contrast, my youngest is very sensitive and a perfectionist and I have to be careful with the tone I use to correct her, as she is devastated when she thinks she has disappointed me. Obviously, these 2 diametrically opposite personality types need very different parenting techniques. One fun side note is that my grandson is so much like my oldest and is giving her quite the run for her money, but I’ve been able to use my 20/20 hindsight to offer my daughter some pointers that have been very well received.

I have read many parenting books throughout my 27+ years of parenting, and while I have learned something from each one, I have a couple of favorites that have significantly impacted my parenting over the years. The three that I would recommend to anyone who asks are:

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay

1, 2, 3 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan, PhD

Permission to Parent by Robin Berman, MD

I think all 3 help parents to set loving boundaries for their children that the whole family can benefit from and then empower the parents to enforce these limits with consistency. While that may look different for each child, for me it is the foundation and essence of what it means to be a parent.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so respond to this post or tell me about one of your favorite parenting books and I’ll enter you into a drawing for a copy of one of my 3 favorites mentioned above.

Who Knew???

As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a parent. I played with dolls, dreamed of the day that I would be old enough to babysit, majored in elementary education, and hoped and prayed that one day I would achieve my ultimate goal of being a mother. When my first child was born, I knew that it was the happiest day of my life. But all that experience with children aside, I had no idea what I was getting in to or how many ups, downs and unexpected detours parenting would offer. It’s been almost 28 years, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it, but I am still learning every day and realized a long time ago that it’s impossible to perfect this parenting gig and the sooner you realize that, the more you will enjoy “the hardest job you will ever love”. And by the way, there is no finish line, end zone, or touchdown dance, so hunker down and prepare, because this is a marathon, not a sprint.

I remember when I was a pre-teen and 2 amusement parks opened within an hour of my home the same summer. Of course, they both had signature roller coasters, the Rebel Yell and the Loch Ness Monster. I used to love to ride the roller coasters and the combination of terror and fun that went along with them. I would have never guessed that parenting would provide many of those same feelings on a daily basis. I think mothers are often their worst critics, with the possible exception of their kids. There is nothing like a preschooler, pre-teen, or teenager to keep you humble and tell you exactly where you stand.

I assure you that I am not an expert in parenting, but am happy to share what little I have learned, sometimes at the expense of my kids. I currently have a 27 year old daughter, 25 year old son, 14 year old son, and 9 year old daughter. They are a combination of biological, step and adopted but I love them all, and am thrilled to be their mom. When my oldest was around 11 years old, she began begging for another sibling (I was divorced at the time, with no plans to add to our family). I told her that I had a son and a daughter which offered me a complete parenting experience. She calmly and logically told me that I did not have the full experience because “You don’t have twins, yet”. Needless to say, it was that one 3-letter word that brought the most laughter, because she was clearly convinced that it was only a matter of time. Well, I still don’t have twins and think that ship has sailed, but I have added step-parenting and adoptive parenting to my repertoire – which just means that I have that much more to learn, and my kids are happy to be my best teachers.

All that to say, I hope you’ll follow along with me as I share the best and worst moments in my parenting journey and what I learned along the way.

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