Tag Archives: Relationships

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

 

 

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.

“Why Me” (A Thanksgiving Reminder)

“Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, “Why me?”, then a voice answers “Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.”
Charlie Brown

We all get overwhelmed. We go to places that make us wonder what we’ve done to bring such challenges to our lives and question how in the world we’re supposed to cope when so many things are going wrong. The voice that tells you “Nothing personal…” is only slightly satisfying. I really believe you, and me, and everyone else, needs to look at the things in our lives that ARE working and that are, in fact, going better than we could ever have hoped for. When those things come to mind, we need to be just as diligent and ask:

“Why Me?”

When we are facing a challenge and friends rush to our sides to assist us:

“Why Me?”

When we suffer a serious accident, and somehow survive:

“Why Me?”

When we have a child who is struggling with school, and we have teachers who join with us to assist in moving them to success:

“Why Me?”

If we focus solely on the things that are challenges, we just don’t realize how each day brings positives we will miss when our head is down and shaking in dismay. We miss our opportunities to be thankful for today. I am not a Pollyanna, I have suffered many hardships in my life. As I’ve grown through them I’ve come to realize they were a gift that brought focus to the good times in my life. They provided clarity to my thoughts about “the routine” and sharp edges to what is really hard and what is just nonsense. They’ve helped me put into perspective how fleeting time really is.

Now when my sons, rush off the bus, jackets flying and backpacks bumping up and down; when they rush up the driveway in a full out race, laughing and fussing about cheating and head starts; all the time with their eyes smiling. I’ve come to understand that I am witness to the morning of their lives. That’s when I ask:

“Why Me?”

and that’s when I say thank you for all the moments that have shaped me and brought me to this place.

Imperfect Parenting

A friend recently told me she likes to read what I write. I let parents look at my imperfections. They get to read about about the things I’ve done right and wrong and they often identify with it.

I do make a lot of mistakes.

I remember taking the boys on a journey to New Jersey when they were very young. Danny was still in a stroller, just an infant as I recall. We stopped to go into a break area and there was a pond at the top of an inclined walkway that lead to the rest stop entrance. The pond was filled with goldfish so I stopped with the boys to gaze into the water. Cool right?

As the boys and I leaned over the edge of the pond, I heard a woman call to me:

“Ma’am, your baby.”

I looked around and saw to my horror that the stroller with Danny in it was rolling down the hill, about to hit a curb and jump into the road of the parking area.

What do you do at that moment?

What exactly do you do?

I had three toddlers by a pool of water, and an infant in a stroller; a stroller that was rolling into a parking lot.

I couldn’t catch the stroller. It had gone too far and was picking up speed. In those seconds that passed, I held my breath.

Literally, I held my breath and stood there paralyzed for what seemed like hours.

As the stroller picked up speed and rolled toward the road, God,

(I don’t often mention God actually taking the time to touch my life. I know it’s happened, probably more than I realize, but I don’t think he’s there waiting for me to screw up as a parent and come to my rescue)

at that moment God, sent me two guardian angels. Almost like it was choreographed those two angels stepped from behind the building and stopped the stroller.

They stopped it. It was kind of like they were waiting for that moment to do something amazing and stopping my baby from going into the road was that amazing thing they were there to do.

It was like going from panic to a perfectly normal moment in the blink of an eye;

in the blink of an eye.

Okay moms, then what do you do?

You get the little guys off the pond’s edge and you run, YOU RUN, down the hill and try to manage your mixture of relief, joy, and embarrassment. Relief that a moment of impending disaster has changed to a moment filled with tears, thank you’s, and joy.

“Thank God” drips from your mouth and little beads of sweat finally have the nerve to show themselves and run down your face.

Then, you feel the embarrassment.

You just did something SO FREAKING STUPID that you can’t believe that you’ve actually been entrusted with these four incredible, little lives.

SO FREAKING STUPID when you realize that, ONCE AGAIN, you screwed up.

Embarrassment since people are now shaking their heads at you:

“That’s why there’s a break on it lady.”

“Why’d she have that many kids so close together anyway?”

“Can you believe that she didn’t move?”

When you start to breathe again, you take your little boys and walk into the rest area.

You take them into the women’s bathroom with you and go into a stall telling them to stand

“RIGHT THERE!”,

watching their little feet under the door stall.

Then you vomit. You vomit everything you’ve ever eaten in your life. You vomit until your sides are sore and your stomach is squeezed in spasms and then, you wipe the puke off your face, and the tears out of your eyes and you go back out to those four little boys and smile and ask:

“Who wants a milkshake?”

There you have it. My parenting guide:

“Imperfect Parenting”: How to do a million things wrong, and still raise pretty good kids.”

That’s what I’m good at.

Making lots of mistakes, messing up the experts advice,

(most of whom have NEVER been stay at home moms or dads, and actually dealt with the day in and day out parenting realities most of us face),

and still raising children who are grounded, responsible and pretty darn cool.

Last night I found a little girl wandering away from the middle school where I was picking up my son. She was cute as a button. She had long pig tails, dressed real sweet, and just walking like she owned the road ahead of her.

Problem was she was way out of anyone’s sight and I didn’t see anyone near her. I knew she’d slipped away.

I jumped out of my car, walked quickly to her, and talked to her.

“I can’t find my mommy.” She said. She was four.

We started walking back toward the school together and after I got a pretty good distance toward the door of the school I hear from way over at the baseball field:

“Skyler, Skyler; What are you doing?”

We looked and there was Skyler’s daddy running full speed toward us. I started walking toward him and Skyler and I did “knuckles”.

“Thank you SO MUCH.” her father called to me and little Miss Pigtails went running toward a very important discussion with her father.

“No problem dad.”

“I’ve been there.” I yelled as she closed the gap between her and her dad.

Phew, I thought.

Guardian Angels – 2

Imperfect Parenting – 2

As long as it stays a tie; we win.

Real Parenting

I had a hard time with my eleven year old last night. The trouble started when we went to his brother’s basketball game.

Now Sam HATES to unwrap himself from his computer games. He’s also not a big sports guy. I understand computer games are his passion right now and while we set limits to it, I try not to mess with his “on” time. When we have a game though, I like to have us all go and root for the brothers playing. We usually have fun ribbing and joking with one another while we’re watching the game but last night he was having NONE of it.

He was surly, angry and just unpleasant to both his brother and me. Eventually he moved to the other side of the bench and his younger brother Dan, decided he too could be rude to momma. Dan said a couple of unpleasant things and scooted over as well.

That was it. I was done. I was NOT going to be treated rudely by people whom I loved and cared about and act like it was okay. I stood up, motioned to his father that we were leaving and walked out. The two boys came running after me.

“No momma, we’re sorry; we’re sorry.” they cried after me.
Sammy was so upset he started crying saying

“I want to fix this. Let’s go inside and I’ll change my attitude mom. I promise.”

It took everything I had not to hug him up and tell him it was okay. That I understood and that I’d be happy to act as if nothing had happened.

But I didn’t.

I wanted him to know and understand that I have feelings too. That he and his brother couldn’t treat me poorly and expect everything would be okay as soon as they said they were sorry. I didn’t yell, I didn’t fuss; I just left. When we got home I went upstairs to my room and didn’t speak to them again.

I laid down that night with the youngest and explained to him that you cannot treat people you love rudely and expect them to automatically forgive you. I told him it hurt my feelings and that I didn’t particularly want to be around him when I got home which is why I went upstairs.
Of course he was sad, and he apologized. I told him I loved him and said goodnight.

Then Sam came in to say goodnight (I’d actually gone up to bed). He was breathing deeply like he does when he is stressed. I said goodnight and hugged him and told him I loved him. It wasn’t until this morning that we talked about what happened.

“Do you know why I was so upset last night Sam?”

“Yes mom.” he said.

“I won’t be treated poorly by you or anyone else Sammy. Do you understand that?” I asked.

“I do.” he said quietly.

As he left this morning I hugged him and said;

“I missed you last night Sam.”

“I missed you too mom.” he said.

So no funny stories for this one; just wanted to share some reality and say that as hard as it was and is, I think it is really important to teach your kids how to treat you. Some things are not okay and unless you set that standard with them I don’t think anyone else will teach them.

I shared this story with my exercise partner this morning. She told me that her nephew was complaining that his mom called him every day and he fussed at his mom somewhat rudely, saying sons don’t talk every day with their mothers.

“That’s a daughter thing.” he said.

“Do you love your mom?” my friend asked her nephew.

“Of course I do”, he replied, “I’d die for that woman.”

“Vince”, she said, “She’s not asking you to die for her; she’s just asking you to call her.”

Later that night she saw Vince heading upstairs with his cell phone.

“I’m going to call my mom” he said to my friend.

She smiled.

I guess it is never too late to learn a good lesson.

Have a brilliant day!

Lessons

When the boys ask me why I rest my hand on their father’s leg when he’s driving, I think about all the miles my family would travel in the car on summer vacations.  I remember looking to the front and she’d be sitting there with her hand resting on daddy’s leg.  They didn’t speak too much but occasionally they’d look at each other and smile.  When I touch my husband’s leg, or reach over and hold his hand in the car I tell the boys:

My momma taught me that. 

When I come down in the evening in my PJs and the boys come rushing over to sit by me, Sam will raise his head and say:

 “Ohhh….you have on that perfume don’t you?”

 I think about hugging my mom over the years; burying my head into her neck and smelling her perfume.  I remember it warmed me and made me feel safe and loved.  So when the boys snuggle down next to me taking in long breaths of whatever perfumed lotion I’ve slathered on, I think:

My momma taught me that.

When I give a stranger a couple of dollars  I remember watching my mom reach into her pocket book and pull out money at the grocery store.  She’d help the person in front of us if they were a little short.  I’d walk away from the register holding her hand, looking up at that beautiful face, and feeling so proud.   Charity is one of the things she taught me.

When I start to put together a meal, I think about all the meals that she made in our kitchen.  Meals weren’t just something you ate, meals were an event.  Meals were cornbread and pinto beans, collard greens with ham hocks and sausage gravy and biscuits.  Saturday dinner was a steak, always a steak, sometimes in the kitchen or sometimes in the dining room where you “dressed” for dinner and ate by candlelight.  The kitchen table was a place of ritual and family, sometimes heated discussions and always good food.  When people ask me where I learned to cook I tell them:

My momma taught me that.

When I stand on the porch and wave goodbye to family and visitors pulling down the driveway and I take a moment to say a little prayer for their safe journey, I remember all the times I left my home on May Avenue, watching momma wave to me as I pulled away.  I know how important that last wave is and I think:

My momma taught me that. 

Even as mom started her slow journey from us, even when she didn’t always know who I was or where she was, even then she’d hug me and tell me she loved me.  That was her nature. 

I wonder if I would want to live the last years of my life as my momma did.  I can’t help but think about how much comfort and joy she brought us by being there for us to visit, to touch and hug.  We’d sit and share a cup of coffee, maybe watch a cooking show or take trip out to the garden.  Sometimes we were strangers, sometimes we were her daughters but always her gentle nature recognized us as friends. 

She gave so much and continued to ask for so little.  I’d want to do that for my boys as well.  She allowed us to let her go slowly and when it came time to say goodbye, we did.  My sister was there when she left us.  As gently as my momma lived, she died.   

Many years ago, right after my grandmother died, I found my mom in her bedroom writing down her thoughts.

Through her tears she said:

“You can read this when I’m done.”

She wrote pages about the things her momma did that made her world so full of love.  

If you wonder why I thought it important to write these things down now,

through my tears I can only tell you:

My momma taught me that.

                                                            Janice Irene Austin (Barrett)

                                               October 17, 1923 to November 7, 2009

                                             Every good thing I am; is rooted in you!

 

There’s a Booger on my Lampshade

There’s a booger on my lampshade;

 a bunch sticking near my bed.

I’ve got quite a good collection

by the pillow near my head.

I don’t want my mom to find them

‘cause she fusses all the time;

about my picking and my digging

“It’s like you worked inside a mine”.

Sometimes I like to flick them;

they go clear across the room,

but I have to do it quickly cause

my mom could walk in soon.

“Don’t do that” she will holler;

first she’ll gag and then she’ll wretch.

Then she’ll rub my nose clean off

with some stupid, pink Kleenex.

I just can’t seem to help it,

there’s some in there I can tell.

 I love to clean them out but,

“No tissues near…oh well.”

There’ll be boogers on my lampshade;

and some tucked beside the couch.

A few flicked on the doggies;

maybe one inside my mouth.

But what’s a kid to do,

it brings me so much joy;

I simply must continue digging

after all, I am a boy!