5 Things I Want My Children To Know & Believe, Part Deux

The other day, I received an email from someone who told me they enjoyed reading the post I’m about to re-publish here. In truth, I’d completely forgotten about it, but think now would be a perfect time to revisit it seeing as I need a parenting status check. I’ve been — um — challenged by my daughters lately and it’s important that I remember my “mom mission statement,” which is, in short: don’t eff them up too bad.

 

I wrote today’s post awhile ago, in fact it was one of my first on San Diego Momma. In looking at it now, I realize that I still believe it as strongly as I did almost three years ago.

 

Also, and finally, and in summation, I want to offer a PROMPTuesday based on this rehashed post: What five things do you want your children to know and believe?

 

*****************************************************************

 

DSC_0007.JPG

 

1) Popularity isn’t worth it.

If I have any regret in my life, it’s that I spent so much time and worked so hard to be popular. It consumed me. In fact, I have a whole section in my adolescent diary devoted to “How to Be Popular.” (An especially lame, but earnest tip was “Take Shower Every Day.”) This goal was informed by the Sweet Valley High book series, and once I realized the dream and it was just as I imagined (parties! football games! Prom court!) I didn’t see until much later, that I’d wasted the opportunity to nurture the other things in my life. I lost time with my family. I didn’t pursue my interests, I didn’t personally develop. So many of my “other” interests – writing, for one, sat in the back seat while I focused on which Esprit outfit I’d wear to the Friday night dance. Truth be told, I still have and cherish several of my high school friends, but I wish popularity hadn’t been everything to me. It stilted my development. I didn’t become all I could be. I was too busy shopping.

 

Most likely, my girls will feel the pull to be popular. I wish with all my heart that they’d know it just doesn’t matter, that what you’re left with is yourself. So work on that instead.

 

And as an addendum to this point: Be fully yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else because you think it will get you liked, or admired, or laid. Really kids, It’s a waste of time to be anyone but you. Use that time to grow into yourself.

 

2) Everything always works out.

We play “Three Little Birds” at home a lot. Its key message – “everything little thing is gonna be allright” – is something I want to burrow into my kids’ brains. Because not everything is going to feel allright. But it is all part of the path – even death – and when you’re in the flow of life, you know you’re right where you need to be. I want my kids to truly believe that everything that happens to them are pieces of the mosaic they are becoming, and to know: Every little thing is going to be all right. (Doesn’t mean it won’t hurt sometimes though.)

 

3) That loving feeling in your heart? That’s God.

Don’t you love how it feels when you’re on the couch, with one kid snuggling next to you, the other curled up to your husband/partner/dog/cat, whose feet/socks/paws you’re touching with your own? That feeling is holy and sacred. I want to teach my kids to nurture that feeling, share it, make other people feel it. That’s God in the everyday. I want my kids to recognize that feeling. Trust in it. Rest in it. Share it.

 

4) The hard things are worth doing. So are the easy things.

I want to be a writer. But it’s hard – (there’s all the writing, for instance). Writing needs to be done everyday to grow the craft. But what’s the alternative? Wishing, hoping, waiting, regretting? Now that’s hard. So do what you want to do. Work at it. It ain’t gonna be easy. But either is regret.

 

Then there’s the easy things. Some people are just lovely to be around. Some wonderful things are effortless – maybe writing comes easy to you? (If so, please just shut up about it. Go write your book.) If any of these things give you the happy, peaceful feeling inside, do them. It’s worth it.

 

5) It’s OK to ask for help.

This is my observation: there’s a shortage of community these days. The connection to church, extended family, neighbors, is frayed. Support networks are hard to find. We can often feel alone with our anxiety, depression, fears. Sometimes it’s even hard to find someone with whom to share our happiness.

 

So, I search support out. I want my kids to do the same. I want them to know they can always talk to mommy, but if they feel they can’t, I want them to find a pastor, a supportive teacher, a friend’s mother. Someone they can trust.

 

Also, don’t forget that friends can be a gift. I love my book club, my mom’s group, my small circle of longtime girlfriends to who I can tell anything. You need to tell everything sometimes. And things won’t feel so bad.

 

Because very little thing really is gonna be all right.

 

*****************************************************************

 

Also…I was inspired to re-post this by the current SITS Girls “Back to Blogging” event, where they encouraged folks to re-publish the first post they’d ever written. Read more about the weeklong event here.

 

5 3 Things I Can Do Now to Be a Better Mom

Oh, I talk a good game. In conversations with friends, teachers, and family, I focus on the wholesome, positive things I do as a mom, but the truth is, I can do better.

 

This isn’t a putdown. It’s the truth.

 

I know I’m not doing my best. As my daughter told me the other day, “Whenever I ask you something, it’s “in a minute, in a minute, in a minute!” (sung to the tune of “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”). And she’s right: often I’m so focused on what I’m doing that I don’t want to interrupt it, even for a kid who has to go to the bathroom. I’m embarrassed to admit it: but I put myself first a lot. If I’m too tired, the kids don’t go to the park that day. If I want a glass of wine and some adult conversation at a party, I’ll semi-ignore my children and leave them on a couch to watch The Incredibles for an incredibly long time.

 

I’m not going to get this time back. So, I thought I’d really brainstorm how I can be a better mom, getting more quality time with my kids in the process. (Without completely giving up the occasional glass of wine and conversations with complete sentences.)

 

So here’s my list. It’s OK: ignore it. I’ve proved I’m no expert. Or that I’m a drunk.

 

1) Focus, Focus, Focus: My kids don’t have my full attention. For one, I’m on the computer way too much (like now, for instance). It’s painful to admit, but I constantly put my kids’ needs off with the aforementioned resounding chorus of “in a minute.” I’m making more of an effort to put down the mouse, but I have a LONG way to go in this department. As a kid, I remember often trying to get my dad’s attention anywhere there were other people, and being (in my child’s view) constantly ignored. My dad was very social, and loved to entertain, joke and chat. This provided me with some wonderful role modeling, but it also sent me the message that whatever conversation he was in at the moment, was more important than me.

 

I see myself doing the same thing with my kids. My daughters have taken to crawling on my lap when I’m online, in a futile attempt to connect with me when I’ve distanced myself on the computer.

 

I’m trying now to focus on them — with my eyes and full attention — when they ask me a question, need something or just want to play.

 

2) Slow Down: We’re always rushing somewhere. Constantly in a hurry and on the verge of being late. As a result, I’m usually frantically pulling the kids’ coats on, tying their shoes and admonishing them to “get a move on.” Kids can pick up on moods quickly; they also absorb them. So, if I’m crabby and anxious trying to get out the door, they’ll mirror that with their own grumpiness. I said to someone the other day, “You’ll often find me yelling at my kids to stop yelling.” The irony is not lost on me.

 

Better planning is the key for me. If I budget my time (maybe for instance, by getting off the computer five minutes earlier than I do), I can optimize the getting ready period and avoid the rush. And if I do find myself rushing, I can watch my tone and not whip the kids into a frenzy to match my own. Kids do as they’re shown. I want to show them a better way of coping with stress of any kind, including that brought on by running late. Or better yet, show them the benefits of organization and planning, resulting in not being late in the first place.

 

3) Validate Their Feelings: Oh how many times my daughter’s lost it and I immediately stick her in a time out. The other day, we were at the park and completely out of character, she yelled several times at a playmate. Then, she threw sand in her friend’s eyes. I scooped her up pronto and took her home, kicking and screaming.

 

I believe in boundaries and consequences, but I also think that there’s something “beneath the underneath” that causes children to act out. Perhaps if I asked her why she were so crabby or probed her feelings a bit more, she’d feel relief at expressing them to a mom who cared, and the temper tantrum would cease.

 

Maybe not. I don’t know. But I’m working on spending a little time encouraging her to tell me how she feels and why. Rather than telling her first to “not do something” or “stop being grumpy,” I want to show her that I care about her feelings and that she has a right to them. Then, I want to share ways to positively express them. Because a feeling may not be right or wrong, but what you do with that feeling is another matter.

 

And now, you know what? I’m going to finish this later. I’ve got two little girls in the living room waiting for me to practice being a better mother right now.

 

p.s. Next two items on the list to flesh out when the kids are napping:

4) Think Before I Speak

 

and

5) Love Their Daddy

 

5 Ways I Encourage Creativity in My Kids

Creativity is a value in my home. I foster, nurture, and develop the creative urge in my children every day (quite possibly to ward off any chance that they will languish uncreatively in soulless jobs as I many people I know have done.)

 

I firmly believe that we are all creative. I also believe that if the embers of creativity are allowed to burn out, or are never coaxed into flame in the first place, it can die. Although luckily, it’s resurrectable (A word I made up. Because I like to think that I’m creative).

 

As I’ve personally found, creativity requires freedom to be yourself. To break from judgment, personal criticism and any thought of “can’t.” My mom encouraged my writing, because she wanted to be a writer herself, but discouraged me from other things (when I wanted to try out for my grade school musical, she said, “but you can’t sing.” And I still believe to this day that I can’t sing. Of course, I can’t, but you get the picture?). “Can’t” kills creativity because it makes you afraid to try.

 

Anyway, I’m just a hack mom, but I wanted to share my creativity encouragers, because maybe you’ll like them*. (*Note: Check back later for a more creative close than “maybe you’ll like them”).

 

1) Make Up Words to Songs: My daughter asks me every day to sing “a scary lullaby.” (Let’s dissect the psychological ramifications of that later.) By complying with her silly, but possibly disturbing, request, I’m showing her that thinking up nonsense on the fly is fun, funny, and most importantly, doable. Involve your child in the making-up-words process and soon, she’ll gain enough confidence to create a scary lullaby all on her own. I usually take a well-known melody and substitute my own lyrics (i.e. “Sleep, little monster, don’t say a word, momma’s gonna buy you a spooky bird. And if that spooky bird don’t tweet, momma’s gonna buy you some werewolf feet.”) Stupid: Of course. Fun? Yeah, baby! Which is the whole point.

 

2) Prompt Your Child to Tell You Why She Likes a Book, a Painting, a Song, Etc.: By encouraging your child to think about what she likes in an art form, you’re helping her think in creative terms. I like to think that I’m “turning on” the neurons that fire creativity. (If such things exist. And if they did, what would they be called?) Which brings me to point #…

 

3) Foster Nonsensing: This is similar to point #1, but more encompassing…Don’t just make songs up, make everything up! Remember Sniglets? (defined as “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should,” for example, “Milkdudes” are Two Milk Duds stuck together in the box).
Do that. Often. Ask your child to make up a word for something, much like my kid did here. This, in my humble opinion, develops out of the box thinking, a prereq for creativity.

 

4) Practice Undirected Play: Let your kid play! Give them play starters such as “Barbie walked in on Ken and Skipper making peanut butter sandwiches in the kitchen…then what?…” Allow your child to complete the play sequence any way they want, without you orchestrating the next step. (And if your child has Barbie throw a tumbler of Scotch at Skipper, slap Ken across the face, and storm out for a Nordstrom shopping spree on Ken’s dime, don’t fight it. Lifetime TV pays their writers handsomely.)

 

5) Don’t Say Can’t: I know I already said this, but don’t do it. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It’s a simple, yet powerful word. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re saying it, as in “No, Suzie Q, you can’t say “Ex-squeeze me? A-baking powder?” instead of, “Excuse me, I beg your pardon?”
In the case of my mom and the musical referenced above, I will remember her saying, “but you can’t sing!” for the rest of my life. It cut deep. It made me doubt. It undermined my confidence. It made me think I couldn’t.
(But. I did anyway. And ended up as a lead. Albeit a non-singing lead…).
So, don’t say “can’t.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather my kid have a sense of humor, than an oppressive sense of propriety.

 

Propriety. Now that’s a real creativity killer.