Category Archives: Patience

Oops. Sorry.

“Oops, sorry,” And “uh-oh” seem to be two very common words in a child’s vocabulary. In fact, “uh-oh” was in the “top ten” of first words spoken for each of my children. It was my nephew’s first word, which he mastered at only eight months.

I thought it interesting how children are so aware of when they make mistakes and blunders—which are such a common part of childhood. Children strongly sense our acceptance and approval because it is a need for them to feel accepted and loved; they also recognize the lack of those, especially when they make mistakes.

It’s easy to get frustrated when the same child has made the same mistake, yet again! However, we have to understand that our reactions to their mistakes will develop into their reactions at their mistakes. If we view childish blunders as “the end of the world”, or respond sharply or angrily, they will learn to fear mistakes, and will grow with a mistaken view of that state called “mistake”.

When we do something wrong, we usually hope no one noticed, and we jump at the chance to start again and do it right the next time around. How much more so should we give our kids the chance to try again, without judgment or labeling?

As a child, I was freaked out about making mistakes and screwing things up. I remember one summer when we went for a weekend camping trip. We were at a table with some friends we had made in a room with 50+ other tables, all full of vacationers. I knocked over my glass of orange juice and it spilled on my new friend’s plate of food. No one even reacted strongly or harshly but I was so mortified that I began to cry and it took me a few minutes to compose myself. I can’t remember how I first developed such a fear of mistakes, but it was deeply ingrained. As a teen, my perception slowly changed and grew into the fact that mistakes can be learning experiences and failures can be stepping stones to greater things.

When I became a mother, I hoped my children would never have that same fear of “failure”, but would have a healthier perception of it. I tried to encourage them and adopted a simple saying in our household of, “It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”

We had visitors over for dinner one evening when the inevitable happened. My daughter, who was four at the time, spilled her cup of water. She was stunned and looked up at me. I jumped up for a towel without saying a word. By the time I got back from the kitchen, our guest quipped a few words to try to liven the situation. It had the opposite effect and I saw the tears forming in my daughter’s eyes. I remembered that moment of mortification from years back and wished I could save her from it.

“Could you help me wipe the floor?” I asked her, giving her something to do. “You’re real good at cleaning the floor.”

She smiled and got off her chair. “It’s okay. We all make mistakes,” I whispered as we cleaned the mess together. The rest of the dinner proceeded without incident.

The next day, when I spilled some water in the classroom, my daughter was quick to say, “It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”

We do, and we always will. When we realize that and treat mistakes as such, we help our children gain a positive outlook on “failure” and give them the power to try again.

(A “repost” from 2011)

Self Do It

Pretty much every child goes through the “all-by-myself” phase. Depending on the age of the child during the phase, they can also term it “self” or “self-do-it”. For some kids, it is a quickly passing phase, and they soon go back to their usual “I can’t do it” attitude, where they want you to do every single thing for them. The other kids, though, remain in this stage pretty much permanently, as it is part of their nature. Toddler Walking

At times it can be exasperating: your two-year-old son wants to button his nice shirt “all by myself” when you are already late for a dinner engagement. It is easy to usher them along and quickly button their shirt, saying something like, “I can do it more quickly. Don’t worry; you can do it next time.” Or even (let’s hope not), “You’re taking so long! Can’t you go any faster?” For a child who is entering the stage of trying to figure out things, solve problems and find solutions, a reaction such as the above can hurt a child’s desire to try and find solutions or work things out for themselves. At that age, anything is possible, and it is our reactions that determine whether this can-do attitude remains or it degrades into a can’t-do frame of mind.

I have noticed it is sometimes the oldest who has more of a “I can’t do it” mindset. However, younger children need to see their older sibling (or siblings) accomplishing and succeeding; then they see it can be done. What is more, their reaction is often, “I want to do it too!”

Helping your child (and importantly, your oldest child, if you have more than one) build a positive attitude about their abilities will build confidence not only for that child, but the younger one/s to follow.

Case in point, I am the fifth of the six “kids” in my family. When I observed my older sisters or brother mastering a skill or undertaking a new challenge, I wanted to do it too. When my brother began to memorize his times tables, I started to do it as well, even though I was not yet officially “learning” it in my schoolbooks. When my sisters took typing in high school, I pulled out my mom’s typing book (from the ‘70s) and used her archaic typewriter (as in, you make a mistake, you pull out whiteout to fix it) and began to teach myself touch typing.

I recently noticed something: though I am grown now, it is still my nature. When I see someone doing something interesting, or something I don’t know how to do, the two-year-old inside me says, “self do it” and I find myself a tutorial or simply jump in and begin to figure it out. From computer skills to graphic design, from photography to writing, from teaching to cooking—my range of interests run wide and I love to master new skills.

Back to your two-year-old who is still working on his buttons. Stop for a minute, take a deep breath, and then cheer him on. You have a wonder child in the making; or didn’t he tell you yet?—nothing is impossible.

So Close, Yet So Far

the gift of childrenThe 2014-15 school year hasn’t been the easiest for my children, especially the older two. The number of afternoons they came home without homework was definitely in the minority. And the number of times they ended up with detention due to incomplete goals was higher than all their previous school years combined.

It probably didn’t help that my schedule was busier than usual this year, juggling a full class load, teaching part-time in two locations, and working from home as a freelance editor.

This is their last week of school. When I picked them up from school yesterday afternoon, all three of them had homework. On the way home, I tried to encourage them with, “It’s the last day you’ll be bringing homework home this school year! Tomorrow and the next day you’ll have tests, so you won’t have homework. Isn’t that exciting?”

They weren’t as jazzed as I was.

At 8:30, the older two were still slogging through their homework. I washed dishes as they sat at the dining room table.

“Mom,” my daughter said, “do you ever feel like you are so close to something and you still have so far to go? I mean, I know it’s my last math book, but it’s so hard and it’s taking me forever!”

Do I ever feel like that? Earlier this month I completed the fourth draft of my current work-in-progress, and I feel like I’m further than ever from finishing the book. A few weeks ago, I was enthusiastic and eager; this week I’ve been struggling to write a single paragraph.

“Yes, Jessica,” I answered. “I actually feel that way right now.”

“About what?” she asked.

“Dishes?” Allen added.

“About finishing my book.”

“Oh.” My daughter didn’t need to ask for more information. Nearly every night for months now, without my asking, she’s prayed for my writing, and for the people who read my book to like it.

I have to finish the book first. But I appreciate the prayers. I appreciate my daughter’s faith in me and in my ability to finish strong. I think she might have more faith in me than I have in myself as my mental self-gauge pendulum swings between incapable and clueless.

But then I thought, Maybe that’s what my kids need from me as well. Faith in them. In their ability to finish strong. Yesterday evening it was finishing their homework. Today and tomorrow, it’s finishing their tests, and their respective grades. In a few months, another school year will begin with more tests and assignments. Between now and then, life itself will be sure to serve up a random sampling of challenges.

Or maybe it’s not so random.

Maybe the challenges are chosen. The dates. The timings. The methods. Like a school with personalized lessons and grades and testing, administered by the Author of Life and all good things.

Maybe the difficulties and tests He allows to come our way are a sign of His love for us and His confidence in us. That we will look to Him and find strength and courage to keep at it another day. One day at a time.

So that we will finish strong.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My mom reading to my daughterI just enjoyed a Mother’s Day lunch with my two sisters. My mom had reserved a table for the four of us at one of her favorite restaurants. But this morning, when I texted her “Happy Mother’s Day,” she let me know she was on her way to a birth and wouldn’t make it for lunch. My mom is a midwife, and a terrific one at that. Only Heaven knows how many lives she has touched with her presence during such an important time in parents’ lives — the birth of their child.

But on Mother’s Day? I felt bad, for me, for my sisters, and for my mom. Going to lunch without her felt like throwing a party without the guest of honor. It was great to visit with my oldest sister, whom I haven’t seen since last year, and have time to chat with my sisters without being interrupted by our children every 2.5 minutes (as much as we love them). But it also felt like something was missing. Someone.

I realized, though, that mom is doing what she does best, being there for others when they need her. Just like she was always there for me.For all of us.

Some evenings, I struggle to make sure my kids have finished their homework. My mom home-schooled six of us and I never heard her complain or remark about how much work we all were. Actually, when my older siblings started going to high school, she would be happy to call in sick for them when needed, because it would mean they would be home and she would have more time with her kids. She just loved being a mom.

All week I’ve been thinking about writing a post here for Mother’s Day, wondering what to write about my mom. I have enough precious memories to fill a book, but somehow nothing I could formulate into words seemed “enough.” It’s funny how the people who mean the most to you, and who have done the most for you, are the same people you feel most incapable of appreciating and thanking, and telling them just how much you love them. But I guess we still have to try.

For the record, Mom … Thanks. I love you and admire you more than words could say. Thanks for always dreaming of being a mom, because you are the best one ever! Thanks for following your calling to be a midwife, because so many more people than just me — mommies and babies and daddies too — need the blessing of your concern and care. Thanks for living your dreams, because it shows me that I can live mine too. And thanks for being an awesome mom, because it inspires me to try to be the same for my kids.

Happy Mother’s Day!

School Spirit Week

My Little PrincessToday is the last day of “spirit week” at my kids’ school. Each day they could dress up in a different theme.

Tuesday was Superhero or Disney.

Wednesday was Hillbilly

Thursday was Favorite Book Character

Friday, today, is Senior Citizen

We got the information slip last week and I took the kids shopping on Sunday afternoon. Why I even though that I would be able to find full, ready-made costumes nowhere near Halloween, I had no idea, but we were hopeful as we went from store to store. I found accessories – a hat, some hair ties – and a couple of backpacks on sale for their next school year, but no outfits.

“We’ll find something at home,” I assured them, promising myself that I would make it a priority and not wait until last-minute to help them find costumes.

Then there I was, Tuesday morning, tearing through the kids’ closet to find that last princessy dress that still fit my daughter. I mixed and matched a few ideas for Allen (he wanted to dress up as Wyatt from Super Why); he declined. “I’ll just go in my normal school uniform,” he told me.

I felt like a failure, especially when I saw the picture that the school principal posted of the kids, all in amazing costumes, and my son was absent from the photo.

He’s probably going to feel bad about it, I thought to myself. I better tell my husband to give him some extra attention this afternoon and evening. I was attending classes until after their bedtime. I only remember to ask how Allen was at about 11:30 that night.

“He seemed fine,” my husband said.

The next morning, we found some hillbilly outfits. Well, more like cowboy outfits. These had been the only costumes we had worked out from the previous week, and somehow this morning they weren’t good enough.

“My teacher said we’re supposed to wear things that are full of patches,” my daughter said.

“I’m sure she just was trying to give you ideas if you didn’t have anything to wear already,” I answered.

She pulled her face, that face that means she totally doesn’t agree and wants to make that fact very apparent without saying a word.

My husband walked into the kitchen. I fumed to him, “Suddenly everything everyone else says is the Gospel truth and anything I say has to pass some litmus test.”

He laughed. “I’ll help them get dressed.”

By the time I had finished making their lunches, they were in costume – the ones we had picked out last week – and they were both happy.

The next day, Jessica was Violet from the Boxcar series (how easy is that? Pull out everything violet that you own and wear it.) Allen decided to dress up as Christopher Robin, complete with the Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear that he had gotten from a friend last year.

This morning, I took a deep breath before going into the kids’ room to wake them up. I knew what I had in mind that they could wear, but I realized that didn’t mean they would want to wear it.

“I don’t want to dress up today,” Allen told me as soon as he rolled over and opened his eyes.

Oh no, I thought, someone teased him about his costume yesterday. I gently inquired why not. Everything seemed okay. He just didn’t want to dress up.

Jessica readily agreed with the outfit I suggested to her. It took a while to get her hair done up in bun complete with baby-powder grey, but it looked good. I was happy with myself, and with her. I was happy with Allen too, even if he didn’t want to dress up.

I said goodbye to an old woman and a little boy, on their way to school. So my son won’t be in the picture with the rest of his class in costume. That’s okay. Every kid is different; and every one of them is precious. I couldn’t imagine loving them more.

And I’m thankful Spirit Week only happens once a year. I think I just found a grey hair … and it’s not baby powder.

The Sweetest Compliment

perfume bottleI walked into my bedroom one evening, preoccupied with the usual “big people” concerns. A strong fragrance hit the olfactory nerves and registered in my brain as an overpowering scent of … my favorite perfume? Pervading the room?

“Oh no,” was my initial reaction. One of the kids must have dropped my perfume bottle. How did they get ahold of it?

I was ready to blow up at someone once I found the guilty party.

“Where’s my perfume bottle?” I began looking around for shards of glass or a big puddle of liquid. I couldn’t find anything, though.

I walked to the bathroom to take a look there. There, in one piece (albeit at a much lower level) was my perfume bottle.

Intact!

My son came running up to me. “Doesn’t it smell nice, Mommy?”

“What did you do?” I asked, peering at the tiny amount of liquid in the glass bottle.

“I wanted it to smell nice,” he said simply, “like you.”

I smiled and gave him a kiss. Of course, he also smelled like an overwhelming amount of the perfume that he had apparently sprayed throughout the whole house.

I felt guilty that my automatic reaction was irritation and disappointment, when in reality, my son’s motives were simple and sweet.

My perfume bottle might not last nearly as long as it otherwise would have, but I don’t mind. I couldn’t think of a more sincere compliment from my son than wanting the house to “smell nice … like you.”

Maybe I’ll wear that fragrance more often.

Fun and Food on the Fourth

I glanced at the clock.

10:00 am

Guests would be coming somewhere between two and three in the afternoon, for swimming and celebrating July 4th. In the meantime, I needed to clean the house and prepare the food.

My daughter had volunteered to help with the dusting, so after we read a story together, I told her where the dusting cloths were as I headed to the kitchen.

Nine peeled potatoes later, I went to check on her.

She reclined on the couch, an open book in her hands.

“Did you dust yet?” I asked, completely aware of her response.

She looked up at me, a little worried. “No.”

I clenched my teeth, trying not to get annoyed. Doesn’t she realize we don’t have all day?

“What are you waiting for?”

“You.” She smiled.

“I’m not dusting with you. I’m working in the kitchen. I have food to prepare.”

She sat forward. Her eyes lit up. “You are?”

I groaned inwardly. I had been planning to do some baking with my daughter over the summer, but not today.

Today I was on a deadline.

Today the food needed to taste good.

It just wasn’t the opportune time to be cooking with a child.

Hold on! What on earth was I thinking?

What’s more important? To make the perfect dinner, or to enjoy creating something with my daughter?Jessica making potato salad

The answer was obvious.

“I was in the middle of making potato salad. It needs to get in the fridge early so it can get cold before the afternoon. Want to help?”

“Sure!” She jumped up, forgetting about her book for the moment as she eagerly followed me into the kitchen.

We finished making the potato salad together.

“Is there anything else to do?”

I had been hemming and hawing about whether or not to attempt a dessert. Why not?

“You want to make a pie with me?”

“Really?” When seeing the excitement in her eyes at such a simple thing, I wondered why I hadn’t done this earlier.

After placing the pie in the fridge, she went on to dust while I washed the dishes. She even asked me for Windex and started washing the glass door leading to the balcony.

By the way, the food wasn’t just good. It was perfect.

It had been created with love – the most important ingredient for anything in life.Jessica making lemon tart fruit pie

Cherished and Loved

cute toddlerAs usual, at the end of the day, I prayed for the night with my kids and ended the prayer with, “Thank You for my sweet and happy kids.”

My daughter asked me, once the prayer was over, “Are we really sweet and happy?”

I said yes, of course, and wondered to myself why she asked. After I kissed them good night, I thought back over the events of the day. I soon realized why she had asked me that question, and I felt guilty. It wasn’t that my kids had acted up a lot that day. They are kids though, after all, and there were the usual blunders, antics, and yes, even broken glass.

That wasn’t the problem though.

The problem was my reactions to them just being kids.

Had I been patient? Not exactly.

Longsuffering? Don’t think so.

Meek? Far from it.

I had committed the cardinal parenting no-no: Don’t let a child’s behavior, no matter how disappointing or frustrating, cause your reactions to be overly negative.

Had my reactions caused my daughter to think that I was no longer thankful for her? If so, my reactions were definitely worse than their behavior.

I gave them an extra kiss and vowed to try better the next day

to take a deep breath and smile a bit more often

to sing some songs with them

to read a story or two

to laugh at their jokes

to remember that they are only this young once and that it is a time that should be enjoyed and treasured, every moment, whines, accidents and all.

I am raising the hope of the future after all, and they deserve to know they are cherished and loved, more than anything else.

As A Mother

smiling girlThen there are the days where you wake up wishing there was a third button on the alarm clock, one in between the “stop” button and the “snooze” button, a button that states: “Go back in time seven hours.”

On mornings like that, the day seems to progress along the same path.

The youngest has a shorter nap than usual, and states in no uncertain terms that he wants to stay awake now. His temperament, on the other hand, screams: “Put me to sleep.”

The middle child is extra moody and even sports a few classic meltdowns.

The oldest gets home from school in time for the four of you to go on a nice, long walk. You finally begin to feel a bit better about the day. At least you got to fit in some exercise.

You get home and then she remembers about her homework, more than she’s ever brought home before. You wish that you could have granted her the chance to stay up a half-hour past bedtime for a more inspiring reason than that sinister thing called “homework.” And still she doesn’t finish it.

The two other children decide that they should keep their sister company and so they also don’t go to sleep until she’s in bed.

Finally, the oldest ones are asleep and you turn to the youngest. I thought he was tired, as he got up early from his nap, yet he seems to be thinking that tonight would be a great night to see the sun rise. He bounces from the pillow on my lap, to reclining against my side, and back again, as I sit on the floor against a pillow and try to get a bit of work done on my laptop.

He asks for water and I get up to get it. I get back and he’s there, lying flat on the pillow pretending to snore. “Honk-shhh” he says.

I ask, “What are you doing?”

“Naughty, naughty,” he replies, with a silly smile on his face.

I soon figured out why he was saying, “naughty.” He didn’t want the water for himself, but for his car, Sally. I quickly put an end to that idea.

He lies down one more time as I sit down, exasperated. He kisses my cheek and gives me a big hug, then sits back with a huge and cheesy grin on his face—the one he always sports when he’s trying to get me to smile. I acquiesce.

It takes a few more rounds to get him to lie down for good. By now, it’s 10:30 and my eyes—which have been hurting all day from sleep deficit—flatly refuse to focus on anything remotely resembling work. It’s time for bed.

Tomorrow will be another day, with the ups and downs and trials and victories of life…as a mother.

Am I looking forward to it? You bet! Every day is a chance to learn something new, an opportunity to be a better mother, and the priceless privilege of raising wonderful kids, because every child deserves the best!

The Best Teachers

My three young children had been quite ill for over a week. Allen got an upset tummy from something he had eaten; he was just recovering when the viral fever then came around, putting him back in bed for the next few days.

Over the weekend, their health was picking up, and by the start of the new week, I thought we could start out slowly with some school, just to get back in the groove a bit. Usually school time begins around 10:00am for them; today it was noon before we opened the school books. I tried to keep in mind that it had been over a week since their last lesson and might take a bit of time before a couple young kids would “get into it” again.Father and Son Washing Dishes

Still, it was difficult to keep from becoming frustrated, as Allen spent most of the morning either staring off into space, or crying at absolutely-nothing-in-particular. It was quite a departure from my usually happy little boy.

Jessica, on the other hand, had decided that she needed to do the whole last week’s worth of school in one day because she had been sick, and kept insisting on it, so much so that she was accomplishing absolutely nothing. I assured her that we could go at her pace today.

Needless to say, it was not the most productive school day we had experienced.

As a home-schooling mother, it isn’t always easy to find the right balance between school and life. There are some inspired and wonderful teachers and parents who turn every moment in life into an educational experience for a child, without the child even realizing that they are “learning”. Life is just one great experience after another and the parent manifests that in every moment of the day. They just make learning fun, exciting, and an unforgettable experience on a daily basis.

It is great when a parent, especially a home schooling one, can make education fun for children. Especially when they are young, they need a bit more excitement, interaction and inspiration. I have been blessed to have some of these folks teach my kids classes and songs from time to time. I often feel I can’t measure up to this class of teacher. I have borrowed a few of their ideas and tips to make learning fun. Other than that, I tell myself it takes all kinds, and as long as I am dedicated and manifest patience and love, my children will learn that which is most important.

A few tips, for those of us who need them…

Start each school day with something special. It can be as simple as a bug you found in the garden that morning, or a funny song on youtube, or a sketch of the child.

Have a “star system” of some kind, for good behavior, or great performance, or completing something in school. Be consistent and fair with the reward system and children and students will look forward to it.

Be spontaneous. You do have goals and requirements, but at the same time, a dull and uninspired child will work slowly and perform poorly. If you notice they are slowing down or lacking inspirational, introduce a new idea, or a fun break, a live class, or something to bring new vision into their day.

Most of all, strive to be inspired and happy yourself, as well as calm and patient, and every day can be a wonderful learning experience—not only for your children, but you as well. Kids are often the best teachers we have, and their exuberance and wonder can rub off on anyone, of any age. Pretty fair trade, I’d say.

 

Image by © Tim Pannell/Corbis