Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


New Year’s Eve Celebration

family-time-holidayCelebrating New Year’s in our house is almost as anticipated as Christmas morning. I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when I told her I wanted to go to a friend’s house for New Year’s Eve. She was so disappointed that we all wouldn’t be together to ring in the New Year. So, I remembered this when I had children and decided to make it amazing while we had our time together.

Every year the festivities are something different than the year before and every year we try to top the last. First thing on our list, FOOD! Each person gets to pick whatever they want to be on the menu! ANYTHING! This gets kinda crazy! One year we had macaroni and cheese, shrimp cocktail, bowtie pasta, steak, mussels, a cheese tray and a veggie tray. The kids love going to the grocery and picking whatever they want. Then, we have to have champagne (for the adults) and sparkling grape juice (for the kids) served in wine flutes.

To top it off, we…have…games! I must say that since “Minute-to-Win-it” came out we have had so much fun! Every year we fill up balloons with random things to do at different times during the night and the kids love popping them and going crazy! We always have the TV station on the Rockin’ New Year’s Eve NYC ball drop, and we have dance parties and play board games too. The kids love it! And we “old folk” parents get a kick out of it too. At midnight our tradition is to bang pots and pans outside and yell “Happy New Year!” as loud as we can!

I know the time is coming when my kids won’t want to hang with mom and dad during New Year’s Eve, but for now these memories we have made are amazing! Maybe they will continue on our celebratory traditions with their families, but for now it’s just my favorite part of the year!


Am I Really Listening?

parent-listening

I’ve been reflecting on my previous blog post about wondering if my children are listening to me, and it got me thinking: am I listening to them?

There was a stump in the road
And it became clear
Everyone’s approaching
With lots of fear
How did this happen?
Is everyone okay?
Who will be able
To lift it out of the way?
Cars need to drive through
Are they going to see?
What if someone misses
And hits the piece of tree?
Is the driver aware
Of what he left behind?
Will he be back?
Looking to find?
Assumptions have been made
From what I don’t know
It quickly turns into
Quite a show!
What I learned
About what I didn’t see
Is it’s sometimes important
Not to make-up a story
It made me think hard
And giggle a bit
How many times do I do this
And don’t even realize it
Making assumptions
About what I see
Is this okay
For every story?
It made me reflect
about my beautiful children
And how I owe them
all their explanations
I need to listen
and hear what they say
I need to push my assumptions
out of the way
Allow them to be heard
Explain in their own words
The crucial situations
That actually occurred!
Not the things
I’ve made up in my head
Who knew with this stump
My own understanding would spread?


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Are They Listening?

are-they-listeningI often ask myself, “Are my kids are truly listening and processing when I speak to them?” No, seriously…I’m not trying to be funny! When I speak from the heart and feel like I am saying things that could help them grow, develop and make well thought out decisions, are they really listening? This age span that I have with my four children has me on my toes on a regular basis. I want to make sure when they have questions about the things that are going on in the world right now that I take the time to answer them and that they hear every word! Or, when my three-year-old points out a woman in a wheelchair or my eight-year-old giggles at her own gross burps in public, I need them to listen to me when I respond.

I know they aren’t listening when the very next time we are in the same situation the same things continue to happen. We sit in the car and have in depth conversations about why it’s not polite to stare at the woman in the wheelchair, and yet the very next time we are in public, my daughter’s first reaction to a man with no arm is to loudly ask, “What happened to his arm mommy?” In the car before we even enter a restaurant we go over the basic rules: use your manners, stay in your seat, and keep your voices down. But then my daughter burps so loud that the people at the table next to us can definitely hear. I explain for hours about freedom of speech to my son and how it’s an amazing right to have your own beliefs in our great country, but then he comes home from school talking about how stupid so-and-so is because they keep talking about how they want so-and-so to win the election!

I need to have my children’s full attention so these very critical moments grow into understanding and they can then make their own educated decisions. I need them to keep asking if they don’t understand. And for my part, even if I’ve answered them over and over, I need to stay patient and answer again if that’s what they need.

I have had a session with a school psychologist and during our discussion she enlightened me that children’s brains before and during puberty are like hills and valleys. You can’t be absolutely sure at any point in time if they are on the top of the hill (in the clouds and enjoying the view) or the bottom of the valley (trying hard and focusing on the climb).

I have been in the middle of a well thought out, prepared speech that makes so many great points, and they’ve looked up at me and said, “What?” as if they had not been listening to a single word. That’s when they are on top of that hill! But that moment when you actually stimulate conversations, questions and even examples they are at the bottom of that valley working hard to get up! They get it!

Bottom line, I have to keep teaching them. I have to laugh now and say this is why Dora the Explorer is so popular! She repeats and repeats a lot of things several times over. My kids roll their eyes and get irritated when I repeat myself on a regular basis, but if they only knew my gratitude when those eyes roll and I know then that they’ve heard what I said…finally.


Homework Can Be Stressful for Parents, Too!

homeworkHave you heard about the no homework letter one teacher sent home at the beginning of the school year? The letter was first shared on Facebook by Samantha Gallagher, whose daughter is in Mrs. Young’s class, and it quickly went viral. The response to this letter has been overwhelmingly positive. Parents everywhere have shared comments agreeing that student success is less reliant on nightly homework and more dependent on children spending their evenings playing, eating dinner and reading as a family and going to bed early.

As a mom of school-age children this letter really hit home for me. My children are now in sixth, third and second grades.

I often find myself resenting homework. My children are at school roughly 7.5 hours a day. My husband and I are at work between 7-9 hours a day. At the end of the day I want our family to have the freedom to decompress from the day’s events, relax, and enjoy time talking, watching TV together or going for a walk. The National Education Association recommends the “10 minute rule,” 10 minutes per grade level per night. That translates into 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school. According to CNN Health, a recent study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy found students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended.

My sixth grader spends 1.5 to 2 hours on homework almost every night. My second grader’s homework includes 20 minutes of reading, 10 minutes of math facts practice, and completing one sheet in his homework packet. That is about 30-40 minutes of homework a night.

I’m not saying that my children should never have homework. I believe that homework can help students develop and strengthen responsibility and time management skills. It also helps parents to see what their student is learning. I am saying that homework can be good or it can be bad depending on the volume and the quality of the assignment.

What can parents do to lessen the stress that homework can create on the family?

I have found that having regular communication with your child’s teacher is helpful for school success. Most of the time they don’t realize until you talk to them that the amount of homework is overwhelming and causing continued family stress. Work together to come up with a plan that will work best for your child and family while respecting the teacher’s needs. Most of the time my children’s teachers’ homework expectations were the right fit. So far this year we are struggling, but I am hopeful that with the teacher’s help we will find the right balance.

What do you think of the no homework letter? Do you feel your child has too much homework? Too little? Just the right amount? What are some things you have tried to lessen the stress homework can create?


Missing Out

missing-outHave you heard of FOMO, or the fear of missing out? Being a mother of four brings me to this feeling quite frequently! I always imagined being that “perfect” parent that never allowed the TV to become the babysitter, or electronics to outweigh the importance of books and one-on-one time. I wanted to ensure my children had every opportunity possible to expand their interests and I wanted to be that inspiration for each of them. I wanted to know what was going on all the time with everyone so I could coach them if they needed it, or simply be in the know. What I am finding is that I am missing out!

More often than not I find myself wishing I could go back and walk these steps with them that they are making all on their own. I spend more time trying to catch-up than I do helping to create these memories. Part of me feels proud that they can all carry on independently and be successful, but the mom side of me quietly sobs when I hear things like, “Mom, I entered a poetry contest and won!” And I so eloquently say, “You write poems? Since when? What was it about?” They are successful, they are all doing well, but I still ache for a little bit of satisfaction by being a part of every decision.

When they were small, I encouraged them to crawl, walk and then run! I guided their every choice and decision. Now, they are all living their lives and making decisions that I may never get to know about. Having four makes me feel like I am spread too thin, like just maybe if I had extra time I could be a part of everything. However, I know (I just don’t want to accept) it’s not that at all. My babies are all making these decisions and learning on their own not because I am not a part of each one, but because I have (we have, my husband and myself) given them the encouragement at such a young age to run! I may not be able to witness every little thing in person, but I am just extra blessed getting to see each of their successes everyday with or without me.


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What I Learned When I Returned to Work

boys being sillyYears ago, after a failed attempt to negotiate a work from home deal with my job, our child care provider resigning to raise a family of her own, and many evenings spent discussing future plans and expenses with my husband, this second time mom-to-be made the decision to leave the professional world behind for awhile and take on a new title as stay-at-home mom.

The decision was both exciting and scary. It had always been a desire of mine to stay home with my children during their early years and to have the opportunity to make it a reality was a gift. The troublesome part wasn’t the overwhelming amount of physical and emotional energy that comes with being a constant caregiver for small children, that realization came later, the cons on my list were concerns of lost time building professional work experience.

I had only just begun building a career and wondered what it would be like re-entering that world after years of absence. Still, the pros of being there for all the moments of my children’s first years of life outweighed the cons and I happily accepted my new title as stay-at-home mom.

I enjoyed (and cursed, on the particularly tiresome days) that title for 6 years; I even expanded my team and went from managing two to three with the birth of our third child.  But the time had come for me to make my comeback into the workforce and face the many challenges that came along with that.

  1. Resume and References

I remember looking at my resume and wondering if I could add household CEO and list teacher, nurse, chef, housekeeper, event planner as titles to describe the work I had been most recently performing. I joked with my friends that I was going to add the children as references and attach their drawings and “world’s best mommy” notes as reference letters.  Seriously though when I left the working world Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were not popular yet so maintaining a connection to past co-workers wasn’t easy. Luckily I managed to reconnect with a few former colleagues to use as references and I refreshed my resume making sure to be straightforward about the reason for the gap in time.

  1. Interviews

I got a call for an interview very quickly after submitting my resume and enthusiastically agreed to meet the next day. It had been many years since I had been on an interview and made a classic mom mistake by being so concerned with the children’s needs that I left no time for myself to prepare. I hadn’t thought about my professional experiences in years and couldn’t for the life of me come up with any examples. At that moment my mind was filled with the crying 3-year-old I just left and whether or not I had told grandma what time to the get the 1st-grader off the bus. Needless to say the interview did go that well. I chalked it up as a learning experience and made sure to give myself some prep time for the next interview. My sister even helped me prepare by doing a mock interview with me.  The next couple of interviews went very well and it wasn’t long before I was back to work.

  1. Emotional Adjustment

For years I played a major role in my children’s daily lives.  Even when the oldest was in school, I was there to get her off the bus and hear about her day. Going back to work meant finding new ways to keep that connection strong and it took some getting used to.

  1. Feeling Left Behind

Once you get hired and start back down the career path it’s tough to resist the urge to compare yourself to others who have gained valuable professional experience while you were at home raising a family.  At times I’ve felt frustrated when others talk about opportunities they’ve had and I’ve felt a pang of regret thinking about how much fuller my resume could be if I had made a different choice.  But ultimately I know I made the right choice for me and I am thankful for the valuable experiences I had, even if they could never be explained on a resume.


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What Tragedy Teaches Us

Cute girl resting her head on her mother's shoulder

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”  — Robert Kennedy

It is our nature to try to make sense out of tragic situations—especially when the tragedy harms those that are helpless. Certainly there is wisdom that can be gained in the aftermath of most tragedies. We can dissect the event, identify who was harmed and figure out new precautions that can be put in place. Yet we cannot go backwards. We cannot undo what was done—and it is this helpless that causes us such woe.

The times in my life when I have experienced loss or tragedy, I have anxiously sought answers. Why did this happen or what could I have done? I begin creating the long list of everything I should’ve or could’ve done differently. Because obviously in replaying the past I can come up with everything that would’ve been different. But at some point I have to ask—to what end? How does blaming myself or others alleviate the helplessness or sadness I feel? It doesn’t.

I wonder what the outcome would be if, when tragedy strikes, we let our hearts take the lead? If instead of thinking and blaming we allow our sadness and compassion to come forth. And if we did that, what would the tragedy teach us and teach our children?

I think the answer to this question is simple. If we express our sadness and compassion then the lesson of the tragedy becomes one of unity. By honoring what was lost and responding with genuine kindness, then the tragedy teaches that we can comfort each other, that we are not helpless and that each of us can make a difference. And if we can show compassion and sadness following a tragedy, then our children also learn how powerful compassion can be.

I think of compassion as engaging with another, acknowledging their feelings and reacting from a place of genuine kindness. When being compassionate I am present in the moment. I am listening to the needs of the other person and putting aside my own desires. Children learn to act compassionately by observing the actions of adults—especially their parents. Teach compassion by tending to the needs of others. When you encounter a person who needs help, stop what you are doing and show that they come first. When frustrated, use words that show respect and empathy.  As a family seek opportunities to make a difference and give back to those that are there for you.

It is certain that we will all experience loss. Though a tragic event may teach us about what went wrong—I believe the deeper wisdom comes from the power of our compassion. Compassion that our children learn from us.