Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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Cutting Through the Noise

holidays-together

The holiday catalog from a popular retailer arrived in the mail recently, and our two sons had a great time looking through the pages and finding countless items they wanted to play with. With every page turn came exclamations of “That’s my favorite!” and “That is just like, so awesome!” They tore, cut, and glued their “most favorite” photos to paper as we talked about what they’d like to do with these new toys. When the excitement died down, my mom brain took over.

“These prices are crazy! Where is all of this stuff supposed to go? Don’t we already have something like this?”

This time of year can be overwhelming! One of my roles as a parent is to make the most of the fun by managing expectations and what is realistically possible. While it would be exciting in the moment to buy everything their hearts desire and watch the joy on their faces as they open everything, it is not at all realistic. And really, where is all of this stuff supposed to go?

Our children are inundated with so much information on a daily basis, through TV commercials, catalogs, and/or peers. Honestly, we as adults are flooded too! It can be challenging to cut through all of the noise. As parents, my husband and I look for strategies for our family to focus on each other instead of focusing on things.

A few years ago, I came across the Something you want, Something you need, Something you wear, and Something you read strategy for gift giving. We’ve done this for the past two holiday seasons, and it has really helped to focus us on being thoughtful and specific with gift giving. We’re also able to talk about wants versus needs, and the boys aren’t nearly as overwhelmed by stuff and can fully enjoy discovering their gifts. This allows us to all enjoy each other a bit more, and is much easier to organize! How will you and your family cut through the noise?


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What Does This Season Mean for Your Family?

holiday-magic

Every family has their own idea of what traditions the holiday season should hold. After having children, my wife and I have discussed traditions and the societal influence of the holiday season. Imagine if the only thing that you knew about Christmas was what you saw on television or in the movies. You might imagine a snowman, elves, and jolly man in a red suit with white beard racing on a polar express train to get to Kevin who is home alone before a green grumpy Grinch steals all of this year’s most popular toys, only to be saved by a red-nosed reindeer.

My wife and I come from different backgrounds. She grew up with a vision of a commercial Christmas with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents and special foods. I have a Christian connection to Christmas with a baby being born, along with fitting in some of those same traditions of a tree and presents. How do we as a family unit celebrate and teach our children about the holidays? How do we learn about the holidays, specifically Christmas, for our family?

Working together and having open communication has been extremely important. We have chosen a traditional approach that focuses on our religious beliefs while embracing some of the popular cultural practices. We put up a tree together as a family and have pictures taken with Santa Claus. We spend time visiting a live nativity depicting the birth of Jesus. We will attend our church for a night of music and performance that is very family-friendly. We will be making Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes with grandma. We will exchange presents with family and friends, but we focus on the people and not the gifts. (Although the box was the largest, best toy last year and I’m sure it will be again this year.) We have begun to do random acts of kindness for some people we know and others that we don’t. We will read the story of the first Christmas in the Bible and talk about the blessings we have to be thankful for. We have also begun to plan a trip to have a new experience and memory to celebrate.

We don’t have everything figured out as parents, but we are doing our best to provide as many positive experiences that our children will remember. That is what a tradition for the holiday has become for our family. My son already says Merry Christmas and we greet others with a smile.

We realize that everyone has their traditions, including not celebrating the holidays at all. We want our children to grow up and respect that this season is different for different families, and when they have their own families they can even make their own traditions! I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday season, or Delightful December.


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Honoring the Memory of My Grandparents

grandparentThere are so many things that remind me of the past. Music, food, people, sounds, smells and experiences often have a connection to our ancestors. As a child I was blessed to know three of my great-grandmothers and both sides of grandparents.

  • My grandfather (mom’s dad) was a very charismatic, outgoing, jovial man. From an early age, he taught me how to cook and shared his love of food through traveling during summers, cooking at festivals all over Ohio. He also helped me through many stages of my Eagle Scout project which is still an important accomplishment for me.
  • One great-grandmother (dad’s grandmother) was the wife of a preacher, keeper of the family bible, and was very instrumental in the faith and belief of God throughout our large family tree.
  • My granny (mom’s grandmother) was a selfless volunteer who loved the outdoors and had a creative mind. We would often go out to the Masonic Home to help and visit with people. She taught my mom to sew, who in turn taught me.

I have many fond memories of doing things with my grandparents; they were so supportive in whatever I attempted. All showed me love beyond measure, respect and empathy for others, and made a huge impact on the man that I became. They spoiled me in the best of ways—especially with time.

I want my children to have similar memories and experiences with grandparents, family and close friends. Experiences lead to adventures and real life learning. We have some worry however, because our family is very spread out. My father passed long ago and our children’s other grandfather lives halfway around the world. It is very difficult to travel with two young children—especially when it’s far away. My mom visits her grandchildren regularly. They explore the outdoors, listen, talk and read together. Their aunt Deb (very close friend) dotes on both of our children, especially our son. She has made so much effort to be part of their lives. My son’s first sleep over was at her house. She sends cards, surprises and visits when she can. We realize that our children are young, but these early memories in their childhood last a lifetime.

There are many different perspectives of raising children, but we feel it takes a village to raise a child. We look for surrogate relationships that will make those memories and experiences for our children. As we look back to our past, we want to plant the seeds for our children’s past in the present. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” We are our children’s first teachers and will have to fill their lives with memories of our parents and grandparents. I can think of nothing better to honor my late family members than to pass down the lessons that I learned from them.


Technology Guilt

tech

I can’t be the only parent who has felt the proverbial “short fall” to my initial plans for my children. Have you ever said, “When I’m a parent, I’ll never…”? For me, one of my big “I’ll never…” struggles has been TV. Allowing them a little TV show once in awhile to get a shower or complete a meal seemed so harmless. Over the years,  TV eventually turned into tablets and smart phones and before I knew it, I realized that sometimes I look up and everyone in the room is on some sort of device. When it comes to technology, it’s a daily struggle with me, whether I am making the right choices for my children. Even just the process of purchasing a smart item for them to gain access to more screen time is overwhelming.  Am I helping or hurting their development? Are they going to become smarter than me and be able to get around all the parental control passwords we set up? How dangerous it could be is an entirely different topic!

There are different stages that I have gone through with technology guilt:

Stage one: Guilt. This is where I am in complete denial of technology.

Stage two: Understanding.I feel okay with minimal uses of technology.

Stage three: Acceptance. Maybe getting a little too comfortable and allowing overuse of technology.

Stage four: Happy medium. Allowing use of technology, but being clear about limitations such as time constraints and parental controls to keep them from seeing things they shouldn’t.

We also make time to use technology together. My children thrive in the world of technology. They share what they learn with me, and teach others as well! As it was beautifully said, “We can’t prepare our kids for the world they will inhabit as adults by dragging them back to the world we lived in as kids.”


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.