Tag Archives: Kids

How Dads Matter

Gerald R. Ford and Son (Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-US Gov't)

Gerald R. Ford and Son (Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-US Gov’t)

A pet peeve of mine is hearing people suggest that fathers are not important.  Or that fathers are the bumbling idiots you see on tv sitcoms.

Here is a video about the importance of dads.  Feminism is nice for equal rights and all, but let’s not forget that mothers are mothers and fathers are fathers.  The video is 15 minutes, but worth watching.  If that’s too long (or not), check out the two articles below from Psychology Today:

Here’s an article about the difference between a father being there and not being there.

Don’t skip this one even though it’s last.  Here are some really powerful statistics that will make you want to go hug your husband and thank your dad.

Thanks, Dad.

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Happiness: The Greatest is Love

Happiness

Happiness

When I saw The Daily Post‘s weekly writing challenge, this picture came to my mind and I couldn’t wait to write about it.  The challenge is to present a photo that shows true happiness.

I believe happiness is deeper than a sparkle in your eye.  It is not joy or fun or peace.  It is a mixture of joy, peace, contentment, satisfaction, and love.  And the greatest of these is love.

This picture of my children is that mixture.  The joy of a sunny day.  The peace of nature.  The contentment of free time.  The satisfaction of wandering off to explore.  The love of family and best friend.

You don’t even need to see the expressions on their faces to know.

This is Happiness.

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Mommy and Me Road Rage

How do I get there?  Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-US Government

How do I get there? Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-US Government

I was driving near an urban mall just a few days before Christmas. Traffic was crawling at about one block per half hour. My Pre-K son started making unhappy noises.  I don’t mean crying, I mean random noises, like “AAAAH” and “OOOOH” to relieve boredom or frustration.  I failed to identify the sentiment as bored or frustrated, though.  I interpreted it as uncooperative and annoying.

To escape traffic, I chose a longer route.  No escape.  Now I was on the longer route, traveling at one block per half hour.  My son kept making noise.  Annoyed, I kept asking him to be quiet.  Both of us kept raising our voices, trying to win.  Eventually, I was screaming myself hoarse, hoping that eventually, he would give up or get scared or gain a solemn respect for me.  But instead, he matched me decibel for decibel.  If decibels were drinks, we both would have been under the table.  Oh, and also, I had a pounding headache.

Over the years, we went through many variations on this theme.  Son pulls daughter’s hair while mom screams for him to stop.  Or, father drives, son kicks mom’s seat, mom grabs son’s foot, daughter is crying.

Car troubles are definitely worse when the child’s tantrum triggers a mom-tantrum.  For kids, a tantrum can be a last-ditch effort to control a situation when they don’t know what else to do.  This is the same for moms.  At least for me.  It’s when I’m at my wits’ end that I yell and threaten.  It’s when I feel stuck or overwhelmed and can’t think of anything else to do.

It took years for us to get to the point of consistently good drives (I’m a slow learner).  I used to look for the magic phrase to say, or the magic time-out technique.  Now, I’ve recognized that my demeanor is more important than my technique.  Of course, recognizing is only the first step.  Practicing takes longer.  Years later, my kids still make unhappy noises.  I still yell sometimes.  I even found an effective technique, but it only works when I am calm.  Actually, the technique helps me stay calm, because I have a plan.

The technique is this.  I won’t drive angry.  If I feel like I’m getting angry, I pull over.  Then, I sit quietly while the kids fuss or whatever.  Eventually, one will ask, “Can we go now?”  My answer is that we can go when they have been still and quiet for two minutes.  Early on, it could take up to an hour to achieve two minutes in a row of quiet.  My point is to let them learn to quiet themselves.  If son is hurting daughter, I will let daughter sit up front with me while we wait for calm in our parking space.  After the quiet time, we move on.  We talk about what caused the disagreement, and what each party could have done to de-escalate it.  Sometimes we talk as we drive on, or if it has been a particularly difficult time, we talk before we drive on.  The waits have gotten shorter and less frequent.

We even managed a drive from Ohio to Texas.  The kids started arguing before we got through Ohio.  I told them, “No arguing until we get to Arkansas.  Then, you are allowed to have a great big blowout.  But not before then.”  I guess this seemed weird enough to surprise them into behaving — all the way to Arkansas!  We were actually in Arkansas when they started arguing again.  “It’s ok to argue now,” I told them.  “You waited until Arkansas, and now you can have a big fight.”  They paused. “But do you want to fight?” I asked.  Amazingly, they stopped right then and there.  We made it all the way to Texas with no fighting.  Holy sigh of relief, Batman!

The big lesson for me is that when I am more calm, the kids are more calm.  When I am overwhelmed, they are overwhelmed.  The better I learn to handle my own tantrums, the better the kids handle theirs.  Drive on, mom!

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Haiku: What’s on YOUR Car’s Back Seat?

Pennies, bottle caps

Scissors, acorns, stuck candy

On my car’s back seat

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Mom with Failure-phobia, aka Perfectionism

By MeekMark (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Measuring Up

I have never been an alcoholic.  So, I was surprised at how well I could relate to Sandra Bullock’s alcoholic character when I watched the movie, “28 Days.”  I went straight to the computer and stayed up way too late researching addiction to figure out my connection.  That’s when I stumbled upon the concept of perfectionism.  I was surprised to find out what it meant.

I thought that a perfectionist felt driven to do everything perfectly, and probably looked perfect and had a very neat home.  That was definitely not me.  But apparently, there is much more to it.  A perfectionist is afraid of not being perfect.  A perfectionist, oh, just for example, might not pursue her love of writing for decades because she is afraid she might not be good enough.  Or, a perfectionist might be anxious about how she measures up as a mother.  For a perfectionist, “perfect” is the minimum that you are supposed to achieve.  Anything else feels Not Good Enough.

The day after I watched “28 Days,” I wanted to find a book about perfectionism right away at the library.  There were none available in the regular adult section, so I got one from the children’s section, “Too Perfect,” by Trudy Ludwig.  I started reading it as I stood there.  Soon I had to shut the book and fight back tears, because I saw myself in the little girl who couldn’t be happy.

This fear of failure is a powerful motivator.  It drives us to do well, but sucks the pleasure out of the process.  It paralyzes us when we consider trying something new.  Unfortunately, I thought I needed my children to be perfect in order to feel good enough as a mother.  Naturally, by this standard, I was never good enough, and neither were they.  I pushed, I nitpicked, I corrected.  I did it to myself, my kids, and my surroundings.

Even worse, I discovered that this fear of not being good enough had already infected my kids.  Within a week of discovering perfectionism, I heard my daughter asking to quit ballet because she wasn’t good enough.  My son was feeling the same about gymnastics.  I knew I had to get it under control in myself so that I could model it for them.  There are a few things I did:

  • Read about perfectionism online.  A couple of pages I liked are linked below.
  • Tried to catch myself and stop myself from being critical.
  • Tried not to get upset about making mistakes or having problems.
  • Tried to let the kids see me not getting upset about making mistakes or having problems.
  • Talked to the kids about enjoying their activities and not just doing them for the sake of achievement.
  • Did a fun little exercise of choosing one thing to do imperfectly on purpose.  This was in a book, and I am sorry I can’t remember what one.  I chose measuring cooking ingredients.  I did this carelessly, rather than my usual way of filling the tablespoon, leveling, adding a little more, removing a little.  It sort of made me cringe, but lo and behold, the recipe came out fine!
  • Accepted that it is ok to fail at things.  This is part of living and learning.
  • Worked on accepting the kids and myself as just fine who we are.

The funny thing is, the less anxious I was about how clean the house was, the cleaner the house actually became.  The less worried I was about the kids’ schoolwork, the better they performed.  I think we are better balanced and more successful when we can relax a little and enjoy what we are doing.

Links I like:

http://www.counselingcenter.illinois.edu/?page_id=113

http://stress.about.com/od/understandingstress/a/perfectionist.htm

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