Tag Archives: Education

Letter to #2 as he leaves for college

Happy Birthday Son:

It’s hard to believe you’re celebrating your birthday away from us. Your birth was the most calming and beautiful I experienced. When people saw you they said out loud “he’s perfect”. From day one I embraced you as my sidekick. You’ve proven you are unique and strong enough to follow your own path. You’ve stayed the same and yet changed so much. That little boy who talked to me about heaven and said: “My heaven will be inside” is now literally jumping out of the house to kayak and climb mountains. Trust me, I didn’t see that coming.

That little boy who was so angry at the day care for not allowing him to be in the “big boy room” with his brother and was subsequently pegged as “angry” is still fighting when he feels there is an injustice. That young man who told me “Mom you have to do something” when he saw the need to help his friends is now making every effort to help others, when and where he is needed. That young man who was defeated during his first year in High School by careless words said by careless adults graduated with a close to 4.0 average (was it 3.93?) and got exactly where he was meant to be.

You know when Jake left I wrote him a letter focusing on the philosophies I wanted him to embrace in life. I don’t need to write those things to you. Seems to me we routinely talk about them. I’ve had the best time sharing and exploring your beliefs and thoughts; because you listened to mine as well and made me feel that you valued the time we shared. Watching how you’ve grown over the years and how your initial observations matured and cemented into your core beliefs has been remarkable for me. I’ve watched a man mature in word and deed

Still, because I’m the mom, I must impart a few thoughts.

Make mistakes – but for goodness’ sake learn from them. There is no failure if there is learning and growth—PERIOD.

You’ll continue to grow and your opinions will change and grow as well. Your strength will be in your ability to awaken people to the benefits of your thoughts. You cannot force them. You CAN inspire them.

Stress is the best and worst thing you can experience. It is good when it motivates you and bad when it rules you. Figure out a way to manage it that works for you. Breathe, walk, listen to music, MAKE LISTS to help you manage your tasks and remember WE can and will carry ANYTHING you might find too heavy to on your own.

You WILL land where you are supposed to land. Making an adjustment in course is what we do to keep the wind moving us forward. Don’t ever think you are failing if you are moving forward. We believe in you, we trust you and we will help you. You are NEVER alone.

Guard your heart. You have a special tenderness and vulnerability that others may exploit in a way that hurts you. Be thoughtful and brave in all things but especially in matters of the heart. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Love is best recognized during the hard times as opposed to the good times.

Nothing you can buy will be as cool as something you can experience and feel. Put your effort toward experiences and capture them with your photography talents. “The business of life is making memories.” Think the “Fun Fund”.

Despite what everyone says – “You can come home”. Home is a place in your heart where you know you are emotionally safe. You were given a great gift that not everyone has; the gift of unbridled love and support by your family. You have and will continue to meet men and women who have struggled to feel the support you have as your foundation. Don’t take that for granted. Build on it in a way that helps you reach higher and stronger every day. You will never be alone when your family is with you…and we will always be with you.

I love you. Your dad and I are SO proud of who you are and are thrilled with your strength to be you. Go out and make a difference with your words and deeds in a way that when you leave a place, people will know “Sammy was here.”

Have a great year my son.

Love

mom

 

 

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I will try to do better

I’m disappointed in myself today.

Yesterday I was up at Bethesda with Benjamin. We went to have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory as a treat. I put money in the meter, we went inside and had a lovely lunch. After we pulled away and were heading home Ben said to me:

“I’m sad we didn’t give that man who was homeless any money.”

“What man?” I asked.

“The man, who was there at the meter.”

“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t see him.”

But then it struck me. I HAD seen him. I had seen a man sitting on a pile of stuff but didn’t take the time to really look at him and see him as a real someone; someone in need. I think I did realize he was homeless but I didn’t process it properly and realize I could do something.

I don’t know why, since I’m usually quite attuned to that sort of thing. Maybe it was because of the doctor’s appointment I’d had with my son, or because I’d scraped the car in the parking garage on the way out of the hospital, or because I have been so tired given all the running around or

…..really…WHO CARES WHY…I DIDN’T LOOK AT HIM and I didn’t SEE him.

But my son did.

I think that makes me feel worse in some ways. He saw a man who needed us and his mom didn’t do anything to help him.

I hope today that if I see someone in need I really do SEE him or her and don’t just think about myself.

Thank you son, for opening my eyes and reminding me to look and to see and to realize it is not just about me.

Today I will try to do better.

A letter to my oldest son

My oldest left today for college. One of the boys has a raging fever so I stayed home. Pretty tough to do that but I packed him a surprise box. Sharing the letter I put in there.

You know me…blah, blah…but when I write things I feel like I’m getting them out of me. So read if you care to and drive on if you don’t. This pretty much sums up how I see life…

My dear son:
Today you begin to step away from us. As your dad and I fade into the background of your life I want to tell you what a privilege it’s been to have you as our son. You’ve brought such joy to us in so many ways. Your spirit, your dedication, your integrity; all of that adds up to a future of such potential and such promise for you. A few things I want to impart in black and white because I think they are incredibly important for you to remember:
• People are basically good. That doesn’t mean all of them are but most of them are good. A leader’s strength, I think, is being able to find the goodness and bring it out to shine. If you can do that even when it’s hard you will find the best of what people have to offer.
• There is no finish line in life. Have goals but don’t think of them as the “be all” of what you do. Along the way toward succeeding you have to enjoy the experiences you have, as it will become a part of that success. If you are constantly pushing for the next ending, you’ll end up missing some pretty fantastic beginnings and durings.
• You have lived a life of privilege. That doesn’t mean you have been coddled or that you haven’t done your share when it comes to helping. It means you’ve never had to worry about whether you will be fed, cared for and supported. That is an incredible gift. To honor that gift I ask that you remember to be charitable in word and deed. The only time you should look down at someone is when you are extending a hand to help him or her up. You are young, strong and smart. You can change someone’s life with quiet support. Be someone’s hero. The world certainly needs more of those.
• Keep yourself open to new things but don’t be flippant about the fragility of life and limb. Take care of your body and test its limits. Take chances but I don’t ever want you to risk your health for a dare or a fool hearty adventure. People do exciting things all the time. When you want to do something outside of your experience base – go for it. But research it, find someone who KNOWS how to do it and then learn, practice and step forward with confidence. The best way to arm yourself for success is through knowledge.
• Respect women. This is a big one for me and there will be times that you’ll find women who don’t respect themselves. It is rare that you can change someone with love, so choose wisely as to whom you give your heart. If you find that “love” is causing you to compromise your other values; then examine it closely. Love is when your values align and you can see yourself working hard for the rest of your life to stay with that person. Falling in love is easy. You can fall in love with anyone. Find someone worthy of your love and then put in the work that defines a loving relationship. If someone is worth that effort over and over again, then you are on the right track.
• Never forget son, that YOU are loved for who you are right now. With all your goodness and all of your foibles, you are loved. Rest assured that you are not alone in any challenge you undertake. Our family is strong and regardless of the back and forth squabbles we have at times, we are all here for you as you need support. Don’t give up on the big stuff and don’t sweat the small stuff. Nobody’s shooting at you so it’s going to be okay.
You have been ready for this since you were 2 years old son. Even that young you were ready to run out into the rain and do what needed to be done. Of all my sons, you enjoy the exhilaration of life and living. It makes me happy to see that in you. Run in the rain, dance in the rain, look up to the sky in the rain and laugh as the drops splash against your cheeks. You can withstand any storm. Enjoy the sound of the thunder and when the lightning flashes, let the smile on your face reflect in the light. You will do extraordinary things.
Your dad and I will be there at every turn possible to embrace your successes, support your learning when you make mistakes and provide you a soft place to land when you need it. Home is more than a word, a house, a state or an address. It’s a place in your heart that makes you feel safe and secure.
You got this son and if you need us for anything; we got you too.
Mom

SAHM

Over time I’ve come to realize that some days seem explosively important when you’re in them and turn out to mean nothing. Other days pass unnoticed until you see them in life’s rear view mirror. So after great thought I recognize that the most important day of my life was the day I bought a pair of bright yellow crocs.

You know the shoes; crocs? Those much maligned much cajoled, much defiled boat like foot coverings that scream middle age. I know what you’re thinking. In a world filled with Prada, Gucci, and Fendi, why would anyone, especially a woman with some modicum of self-respect, choose to walk around in big pieces of rubber. The answer to that defines the importance of the day.

Yesterday or what seems like yesterday; I graduated college and embarked on my life as a young, professional woman. My mantra at the time was that I could do anything. I rebelled against the traditional roles I had associated with my wonderful stay-at-home mother and vowed I would not have children immediately, would not look to marry quickly, and would certainly never be dependant on anyone for my lifestyle. I’d come to believe that being anything short of an independent, professional, high salaried position was falling short of what I owed women-kind at large. What an ego.

I dressed meticulously to fit the demands of the day. Strings were cut from clothing, shoes were cleaned and shined, buttons and hair always in place. For many years I pushed myself physically, mentally, and emotionally to become a leader and mentor in my field. As time passed I developed a very positive reputation within my profession. And you know what? I loved it.

I loved the work and the people I worked with. I was intellectually and emotionally stimulated, and honestly couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling way to live my life. Then something happened during the last five years of my 20 years at my job. Well, actually four “somethings” happened. My husband and I had a family. In those last five years we were blessed with four little boys. Even with everything we’d done professionally, we recognized our four children would provide a greater impact on the next generation than anything we could accomplish at work. With the birth of our youngest, Danny, and after four years of managing daycares and nannies, laundry, and work, I knew I could no longer serve two masters. My children demanded as much as I had to give; so I left my go-to-work world and became a stay-at-home mom. Of course, I was still very much a working mom but at home my bosses were much more demanding.

To me my choice was best captured by a poster I admired of a world-class athlete. The caption beneath her photo read, “All it takes is everything you’ve got”. THAT, to me, was motherhood. I could see that perfectly toned, tanned and muscled athlete being replaced by a woman in a long baggy t-shirt, stretch pants, shadowed eyes and unmanaged hair. With a bottle in one hand and a diaper in the other, my poster child was readying herself for a sleepless marathon. As my new life unfurled, I could best explain some aspects of my days as drudgery. How many times a day could I mop up a spilled sippy cup? How many loads of laundry did I need to do in order to have a onesie with no stains when I needed it? And how many potties did I need to clean before one of my potty training boys would actually hit the toilet. There were days when I LONGED for my professional freedom. My memories of enjoying a meal sitting down rather than standing at the sink swallowing a child’s leftovers, or dressing in the morning in clean, starched clothes vice throwing something on with baby burp stains and nursing flaps; those memories were like forgotten lovers calling my name to come back. I was so overwhelmed I found myself coveting the lost luxury of being able to use the bathroom without four little heads peeking through the door.

Don’t get me wrong there were tons of sublime moments when my heart filled with joy and pride at the little men I knew I was so positively impacting. I cherished the feeling of having them snuggle beside me to watch their favorite children’s show, even if it meant I had to sing along with a big purple guy for 30 minutes. I daydreamed in the sweet scent of the backs of their little necks and loved the way they smiled involuntarily when the wind blew in their faces. But ashamedly, I was unsettled.

I often wondered why I found it such a challenge to handle the responsibilities and stress of staying at home with my own children. Women like my mom had done this for years. Yet this incredibly wonderful, incredibly frustrating and maddeningly sleepless reality of being a stay at home mom seemed to be kicking my butt. How in the WORLD did my mom do it? In a surprising moment of clarity I asked her. Her answer was simple: she decided to do it and to love it.

My mom decided to love the job of raising her children. Things were just as frustrating for her. She had four children, very little money and never learned to drive due to significant problems with her eyesight. She had a husband who was demanding, a house to keep clean, laundry to stay ahead of and meals to make…but she’d decided to make her life one of joy and fulfillment by accepting her decisions and living them with gusto. I, on the other hand, was so busy trying to be recognized as a working mom who was staying home that I’d lost how important it was to love my new endeavor. During a rare, very, very, rare shopping trip with just my husband, I decided to stop the madness and be a mom who didn’t make excuses for choices I’d made.

That day my husband and I went shopping was the day I bought my bright yellow crocs. That day I began to live my decision to stay home with the joy and commitment my mother showed me. I stopped thinking about what people might think of me and what people might think about my choices. I bought the crocs because they felt good on my feet. I bought them because I could run in them to catch one or more children making a break for the candy isle at Wal-Mart or making a dash across a busy street. I bought them because I could stand all day moving from one corner of the house to the next and not go to be with swollen aching feet and legs. My crocs were my statement that I was a stay at home mom filling probably the greatest leadership role I’d ever undertaken.

I’ve found that as the boys have grown I LOVE the freedom that being a stay-at-home mom gives me to support my children’s lives. I love being involved in their schools and in our community. I love taking those skills I’d used in the workplace to help others and make my boys’ entrée into life the best possible experience. When I show up at a school activity with all the boys in tow and people hear me squeaking down the hallway I feel good that they know our family’s team is coming. When someone asks at a PTO event “who’s in charge” and I hear them directed to “that woman over there in the yellow crocs” I am lifted that my description is a lighthearted one. Yes I am crazy with fatigue, frustration and the fabulous joys of motherhood but I routinely relish the fact that I am a leader and mentor to my children and that I am able to support others I might not have known if I hadn’t stepped out of one comfort zone and created a new one. The day I decided to buy those crocs was the day I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and making a great difference in the lives of my family and others. Sometimes I wonder why my revelations took me so long, and how in the world my mom got so smart.

To see what I’m up to now like me at Girl Smarts LLC on Facebook

Parenting: You must be present to win!

Were I to settle upon one point of success reference this whole parenting thing; I’d have to say it is something that must be done in person. That doesn’t mean you have to be a stay at home parent. I’ve got friends whom I admire completely because they have raised such amazing children; and both are working parents or in some cases they are single parents raising their child. In all of those cases however, the parents have been involved actively, ever step of the way. That means they were involved in their child’s life in a routine way that allowed their child to feel accountable to someone who is vested in their lives.

My hubby and I went to our middle school open house for our 6th and 8th grader. It was interesting to see how the population of parents dwindle from elementary school to middle school. I do get it. By middle school we think they’re set in their paths and moving along. Given our “present to win” philosophy however, it was important for us to attend. My husband ran through my 6th graders schedule and I went through my 8th graders class schedule. Just ahead of my husband in line to speak to the homeroom teacher, a mom’s first sentence to the homeroom teacher went something like this:

“I’m (so and so’s mom). Would you mind telling me why my son had lunch detention on his BIRTHDAY the first week of school.”

Wow, there’s a way to introduce rapport with a teacher huh? Now a few things strike me. If you are approaching a teacher, in whom I hope you want to establish some authority for your child, why would you be so confrontational? Hello Mom…communicating is something the LISTENER does. If you shut her down up front you have a tremendous task ahead of you to get some sort of appropriate relationship established so you can build your child’s educational experience. Also, why in the world, if you are this upset, would you wait till the third week of school to approach the teacher (in a large group, inappropriate setting, surrounded by strangers)? Perhaps you thought the teacher would cloud over and say:

“Oh my gosh, your right. Little Johnny did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and THAT’S why he got lunch detention.”

Couple of thoughts for a successful year:

-Teachers hold trump. Tell little Johnny that at school, the teacher is in charge just as much as you are in charge at home. Kids have to learn to follow the rules in order to shape their behaviors in a way that will lead them to a successful relationship with society. If you fight with the teacher about behavior you do not witness, then you’ve set your teacher and your child up for failure. A popular saying here is “if you believe half of what they say about me; I’ll believe half of what they say about you.”

-If there is an issue where you believe the process was mishandled, set up a private time/place for you to discuss the issue with the teacher as soon as possible. An immediate response is important especially if you are not in sync with the teacher’s approach. If, after a private meeting where you handle yourself in a professional way, holding onto your emotions (if it even goes there); if you still cannot wrap your mind around the teacher’s approach and depending on the severity of the issue, take a deep breath and step back; not too far back but let’s get past this and move on.

Now the teacher knows your “present to win” and will understand you are both are track with your approach. If you don’t think he or she gets that, tell her that!

“I want to be on track with you this year because I want it to be a great year for my son/daughter.”

Tell your child that while you may not competely understand the teacher’s approach, you do believe that she/he is in the school to educate your him and you will support the teacher in doing so. Then document the issue, date, time of the exchange, what your points were and what you understood the teacher’s points to be. If there is another issue of similar disagreement, you can step the process up (after once again discussing with the teacher) and move to an administrator if you are still dissatisfied and cannot come to an agreement with the teacher. Do this again, in a professional manner that will allow your child’s success be the center of the conversation

I received a call once reference my second son. Apparently he’d pushed a child down who was attacking one of his best friends. The assistance principal explained that regardless of the circumstances, a physical response couldn’t be accepted within the student body. I agreed that was the County’s policy, and my son accepted his punishment. At home we applauded Ben for his personal decision to not just stand by when a friend was being bullied. While Ben’s response didn’t fit in a system of zero tolerance (which I have issues with personally) his response WAS an example of a value we as a family support. I understood the AP’s bigger issue and we discussed it with Ben, but also made clear that we supported him (as did many of the folks at the school-but the school, of course, had to enforce the rules).

We all think our children are amazing; and, in fact, all of our children ARE amazing. But really, they all make mistakes. My kindergarten son lasted a whole 13 days before he was sent to the front office. Sweet Danny, sweet social, chatty, heartwarming Danny, recently came home with two yellows in a row. I trust the teacher (whom I’ve had for another child) and understood she was setting the standard for behavior for the year. I did however, exchange several emails with her for these rather minor transgressions to ensure Danny knew his teacher and I were on the same sheet of music.

“Danny” I told him, “don’t push the boundaries; set the standard.”

That is now our mantra as he gets on the bus. He’ll mess up again. I know and it’s okay. This isn’t a zero tolerance game. You learn by making mistakes and boy oh boy, I’d rather they learn them now when everyone around them wants them to succeed than when they are out there in the “real world”.

After having children involved in the public education system here in Stafford for a total of 18 school years spread over the four boys, I have never met an educator who wasn’t open to and almost pleading for a relationship with me that would foster my children’s success. You see it is also their success.

So be present to win, and learn to communicate in a way that moves an issue to resolution. No time for show boating, right fighting, or “showing that teacher”; blah, blah, blah. Be present in mind, in spirit and in physical being and you will win the prize! A healthy, educated child who will learn to make the most out of his situations in life.

Have a brilliant day!

d

Parenting Tip: Start your children with alarm clocks early in their education and make them responsible for their wake up time. It’s a small but important step toward them “growing away from you”. Don’t even TELL them about the snooze button.

For the Teachers

I wrote this for some boards I visit.  Thought I’d share at the holidays for you to share as you care too.  My work is copywrited but if you think this will make your teacher smile, please share and enjoy!

     

Removing Doubt 

The spirit was ready for the birthday ahead;
But something was nagging, “Someone’s working” he said.

But how could that be, it was late Christmas Eve;
was there someone below him who didn’t believe?

He looked to the snow, when the glow came to reach her;
it lit up the worry, an overworked teacher.

“Dear teacher”, he whispered, (she thought she was dreaming).
“It’s me” he said calmly, “Are you no longer believing?”

She smiled a bit, “I was thinking of you,”
“Got a moment to chat?” “For a teacher I do.”

“I worry” she said, “that as hard as I teach them”
“So many to help, are you sure that I reach them?”

“Dear teacher,” he smiled “If you only knew”
“Yes you reach them” he whispered, “I’ve made sure you do.”

“With your lessons of history, world wonders and joy”
“You open the minds of each girl and boy”.

“But how do I know…how can I be sure
Sometimes the doubt’s just too hard to endure.”

He continued and told her “ bear no doubt on your sleeve;
As you’ve already said-and I know-you believe.”

“Trust me “ said God; “long before you were here
my children were searching” then he wiped off a tear.

“They needed the selflesness, talent, the caring
They needed the heart you so freely are sharing”.

“The prayed every night for the lessons they missed
One Christmas I answered, a teacher, their gift.”

So go home to your family, your presents and mirth
Know teacher your work is the purest on earth.”

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting Tip of the Day:

Establishing traditions is such a cool thing to do  this time of the year.  Think about wihch ones you have and let your children know what they are.  We always do a big countdown the first time we plug in the lights we’ve hung on the house.  It’s goofy but we’ve been doing it for years and so now it is a “Flett Family Tradition”.

 

 

 

 

Yes, Virginia…ummm…Jacob

“Mom, can I ask you something?” it was his 11th Christmas.

“Sure hon.” she replied; knowing, sadly, what was coming.

“Mom is Santa real?” he said, seeming almost afraid to speak the words.

“Why do you ask sweetheart?” she delayed while she tried to gather her thoughts. This conversation had played out many times in her head and as often as she Googled it, none of the answers she read fit the approach she wanted.

“Well, most of the kids in school say that you and daddy buy the presents and that Santa isn’t real.” he mouthed, although he couldn’t look her in the eye.

“Hon, I’m going to tell you something.” she began.

“You have to understand that as long as you believe in Santa, he’ll come. If you stop believing in Santa, you’ll still get presents, they’ll just come from mom and dad. That’s how it works.”

“When I was your age,” she continued, “I stopped believing in Santa, and all my gifts were still there on Christmas morning, but they were wrapped under the tree. They were still gifts, but they weren’t magical anymore.”

“But can’t you just tell me mom?” he said, looking for the facts; as kids his age are so prone to do.

“Jake, I’m your mom. It’s my job to make sure you DO believe in Santa. It’s my job to make sure that you always have a place where the impossible is real; where rainbows are chased just to find the gold at the end, where love can happen at first site and marriage means happily ever after. It’s my job to give you guardian angels, leprechauns and tooth fairies. I cannot tell you there is no Santa, and I never will. I can only tell you that as long as you believe, he’ll be here on Christmas morning.”

“Do you understand Jake?” she asked.

“No, not really.” he replied looking confused.

“Do you want a cookie son; maybe some candy or something?” she tried even though it was only 10 in the morning.

“Oh sure mom, that’d be great thanks.” he said as he raced to the kitchen.

“Not a problem son.” She said with a relieved smile; yet another mommy crisis solved by food.

Parenting Tip of the Day:
It is a terrific idea to limit the number of toys Santa brings when the children are younger. My number was five, my friend’s only one. My children knew that was the limit when they wrote their letters to Santa each year. As they get older, the cost of the “Santa” gifts becomes much greater and buying the electronic stuff can become a budget breaker. It also helps keep a child’s expectations in check.