Sunday, November 28, 2010

Near and far

My dad once told me he never thought I'd still be living in New York. He thought after college I would get married and move away to some other part of the United States. I don't know if it was a hint or something. Maybe he wanted me to move so he'd have an excuse to go somewhere on vacation. Actually, I thought it would be the other way around. He always said he wanted to move somewhere warm after my sister and I finished high school. Then my little sister had to finish school (She's 26 now Dad, I think she's done). But, now I have kids so that might be what's keeping him here. Sometimes I feel boring. I was born in New York (Albany, to be exact) and lived in this state my entire life. I grew up in Yonkers, went to school in New Paltz and now live here in Dutchess County. When I was a kid, I rarely met someone from another place. Being from somewhere outside of Yonkers meant, like, Hastings or something. Now, I meet people all the time who are from other places. Usually, in this area, it's because a job at IBM brought them here, but there are lots of people here for other reasons too. I'm always interested in hearing where people are from and what exactly brought them here. My mom grew up in England. When she came to America, she lived in Connecticut. How do you get from England to marrying a Yonkers kid? My in-laws are from Cuba. Why did they pick New York instead of Miami? Some people are happy to stay in one place their entire lives. Heck, my uncle is in his 60s and still lives in the same apartment he was born in! Some people don't mind moving from one town to the next. It's like an adventure. Sure, I like visiting other places, but I don't know if I could up and move somewhere else and just start my life over. You've got to be a special sort of brave for all that. I think if I were to live anywhere else, it would be Chicago - that is one great city. But, I'm glad I live here. And I'm glad my kids live here. Sometimes, I take it for granted that my immediate family is all within an hour's drive. I see all of my friends talking about how they just got home from their parents' house and have to remember that for many of them, that meant a plane trip or 8 hours in the car with two children! I'm blessed to have my parents nearby. My dad came over today to celebrate Thanksgiving and I love when he is here. I love watching him interact with my kids and wonder if he felt the same way when he saw me with his dad. It made me think about how busy everyone gets and blames that for not being in touch with people more often. I mean, with the technological advances we have, there is no excuse for not staying in touch. You can text, call, e-mail, instant chat, post your status, tweet, whatever. It's not like you have to sit down and write a letter! Heaven forbid! Or, worse yet, spend an hour "visiting" with someone on just a regular non-holiday day. My goodness, please don't raise your kids to think that taking the time to share your life with someone you love is a chore - something you need to pencil in or carve out time for in your busy day!

Friday, November 26, 2010


Why? It's a question children seem to ask a million times a day. I thought it was only 2- and 3-year-olds who asked "why" over and over and over and over. Nope. Eight-year-olds do it too. At least mine does. My mom keeps telling her she's going to be a lawyer. It's possible. And if she becomes one, I'd had to be sitting there for her cross examination. All she does is ask questions all day long. It's a good thing. She's very inquisitive. I'm glad that she wants to get information and understand things. But sometimes I wish she would just not care. Like, we're watching The Wizard of Oz and she wants to know why the Tin Man has teeth. Valid question, sure. I think the reason that I get so exasperated is because I just have no answers to some of her questions. And she wants answers. She isn't really satisfied with me not knowing something. She wants me to find out. But, sometimes when I tell her the answer, she doesn't even believe me! I can't win. She's one of those people that asks questions throughout an entire movie. She'll ask questions from the moment she wakes up in the morning and on an hour-long drive. I've got to start doing more research, I guess, just to keep up with the demand. You know what my dad used to say to me when I asked Why? He'd say "Z" and that was the end of that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not always a winner

Today, my little girl came home and told me how happy she was for her friends at school for winning the coloring contest. "They were really neat," she said as she showed me her turkey picture. She told me hers was pretty neat too and that she didn't color outside the lines too much. Hold the phones. Are you telling me your teacher is awarding children for coloring inside the lines??? I'm about to get all hippie and lose it. Why are you going to stymie my child's creativity? Why put her in a box and not let her express herself? Why award the little Stepford kids who do it just so? Hmm. Am I regressing? Am I remembering the Flag Day contest from so many years ago where a child from each grade won a prize if they colored the best American flag? I'm sure I never won that one! What is wrong with me? I'm a huge fan of coloring inside the lines. I don't like messy papers, that is for sure. So why am I getting so upset? Here is my five-year-old showing me such grace and telling me how wonderful it is that her friends won that day even though she didn't. My heart is breaking! When is my daughter going to win the contest? When will she be student of the week or the school star or whatever they get these days??!! I should be seeing the good in this situation, right? I should be appreciating the fact that my daughter is not a sore loser and praising her for her wonderful attitude and her beautiful picture, but all I can think about is Why not her? Well, because not everyone can be a winner all the time. We've been programmed to thinking that every kid gets a trophy. There are no outs. Everyone gets up to bat. No one ever loses. That's not how life is, so why are we teaching our children this? Should we let them go through life thinking that they will never lose anything and then let the harsh reality smack them in the face once they get out of elementary school? I'm glad I held my tongue and didn't say anything about the coloring contest. Turns out, the teacher doesn't choose the best by who stays inside the lines. She picks the kids' names out of a hat! As Billie Jean said, Fair is Fair.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good, better, best

Do we really know what is "best" for our children? This week, I learned two lessons on getting the best. The first was pretty basic. During a Girl Scout tour at Hannaford, we learned that the store gives stars based on nutritional quality - one star for good, two for better and three for best. Now, you'd think all fruits or veggies were three stars, but they aren't. The ones you like the most might have one star and the rutabaga, parsnips and cauliflower have three. It's the same with life. That fact was cemented at church when pastor talked about time management and how many people do things that are good, but don't always do what is best for themselves or their families. It may be good to volunteer at school and go to soccer and karate and gymnastics. It may be good to work out every morning and have a guys night and watch football on Sunday. It may be good to work extra hours or spend your savings on a new car. But, what is best? What is the best thing for your family? Are you the kind of parent that stretches herself to the limit, constantly doing things for others? Are you the room mom for your third grader and the chair of the fundraising committee and the coach of a soccer team and the one that makes the fancy cupcakes for the holiday party? While all that is good, do you really know why you are doing it and who you are doing it for? Are you making your children happy? Are you making yourself happy? Wouldn't your kids still think you are great even if you didn't stay up until 2 in the morning icing cookies? Recently, I had something taken away from me - something that makes it nearly impossible for me to live my life the way I did before. It forced me to give up things that I didn't want to let go of. I felt like I was letting a lot of people down. But, I realized that for a very long time, I was stretching myself so thin. I was making a ton of sacrifices and giving myself to everyone and everything and people were letting me. I was doing all of these good things, but I didn't stop to think about what was best. Your kids might not tell you what is best for them. You have to be able to read it in them. You have to be able to see that they are tired or stressed or over-scheduled. You have to know that they might be acting out because all they really want from you is not fancy cupcakes but to snuggle on the couch. You have to see that even though it's great for you to spend time helping out at school, they would rather have you spend time sitting with them while they do their homework. God can help you see what's best for you and for Him and for your family. You just need to stop thinking you know what's best. I hope you take some time today or this week or this month to think about what is best for your life and make the changes you need - no matter how hard they might be - to get to that best!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Raising a moral child

One of the most important things we can teach our kids is to have morals and virtues. But, here is the kicker. We can't keep nagging them and reminding them to do the right thing. We've got to put it in their hearts so that they know to do the right thing and they do it even if they think no one is looking. It doesn't really count if you have to tell your child to give up his toy. That way, he's doing it because you told him to not because he thinks he should. If a child makes the good decision on his own, that means you have instilled that value in him. As our world continues to deteriorate, it's more important than ever to teach our children the right way to be. They've got to go to church. They've got to see us being good wives and husbands. They've got to see us making good choices in politicians. They've got to know that the reason we don't let them listen to pop radio is because the music on there is provactive and filled with sexual innuendo. And the reason they can't watch certain television shows is because it's really not comedy when a child is sassy and rude and talks back to adults and calls other people a 'nub'. Seriously, we can't keep letting our kids dance like Beyonce because "it's so cute when she does it". It's not cute. What is wrong with our society? We keep blaming all the problems of the world on everyone else but refuse to take any responsibility. There is nothing wrong with saying NO to your child. Sure, maybe they will throw a tantrum when you won't let them watch the particular show or listen to the song or buy the shirt. But that's okay. It's okay for a child to be disappointed or upset. We need to shape our children to be a joy to others. We need to have communities where it's okay to tell a kid that they are exhibiting bad behavior and not give in to every whim because we are afraid of litiginous parents who criticize and complain and fly off the handle. It's not an easy process. It takes time and patience and diligence. And it is a process. Baby steps.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Part of the problem

I've always been one of those people who thinks if you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Do you notice when people just like to vent their drama and never want to hear any answers? They want to know why their life is so screwed up and why their kids don't behave and why their job is so crummy and why they never have enough money and why their husband isn't more attentive and why their neighbors don't mow the lawn. I guess some people just like to complain. They like to keep their lives in this constant state of worry and negativity. I've got to admit, I'm that person sometimes. I guess sometimes I'd rather not fix the problem and just whine about it. But, once you get older and have kids and see all the issues that they have to face, do you wonder why moms can't just figure out that their worries should be more about the future generation and less about gossip and catty behavior? I met a young man this week who runs dance residencies and classes for elementary school children. His mission is to change the world. And he's doing it one kid at a time. He said there is so much intolerance in the world and that people judge each other because of their insecurities. His insight was refreshing. His ambition to help children learn to like themselves and accept and appreciate others was moving. Seriously - can you just stop whatever it is you're doing right now. Is there something or someone that has been bothering you? how do you react to that person/situation? Remember, your children see what you do and hear what you say. You are their model for behavior. if you can't handle a woman you don't really care for without saying nasty things about her to your friends, can you really expect your daughter to treat other girls at school in a different way? We can't keep blaming other people or "society" for the way kids are today. We've got to stop this vicious cycle. We have got to teach civility and manners and discipline. We got to stop this whole idea that no one ever loses and every kid gets a hit and wins a trophy. And, as parents, we've got to stop looking down our noses at other people and their children. No one is perfect - not even close. Let's all stop being part of the problem.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Changing minds

Isn't there a saying that a woman has a right to change her mind? Should that rule apply to girls? And, if so, how often should they be allowed to change their minds? For Halloween, my oldest daughter wanted to be a crayon. Well, not just a crayon. She wanted to be a purple crayon inside a box of crayons. I remember her planning it with my sister. I remember them talking about it and even drawing a picture of what it should look like. I don't remember my sister or my darling child asking me to make the costume - I think they just assumed. So, the night before her class party, I told my child that if I made the costume, she would have to wear it. Yes, I waited until the night before to make the costume and I'm glad I did. Because as soon as she realized the cumbersome outfit she would have to wear, she said she would just be a crayon. Forget the box. Great. Less work for me. So, then she wanted purple face paint. Sure, why not. She brought the paint to school, put it on, realized how uncomfortable it was after about five minutes and then it was gone. Later that night, it was another Halloween party. Guess what? She didn't want to wear the crayon anymore. I think she had on some halloween-y type tights or something. The next day, there was no dressing up. It's embarrassing, she said. By Halloween, the crayon was sitting by the front door - all alone with no kid to wear it. She decided no more crayon. Now she was on to wearing a blond wig. She had on capri pants and legwarmers. Somehow, she turned into a rock star. She was a rock star last year too. I actually like that costume. It's easy. I don't have to buy anything. We can just fashion it out of stuff we have at home. I wish she would just get to that conclusion sooner. I realize we have to let our children make mistakes so they can learn from them. I realize they have to learn how to make good decisions. Next year, though, I hope those decisions don't come an hour before trick or treating begins!