It was another day. For some reason, “another day” no longer held the magic and excitement it had once held. My life and circumstances had changed and there didn’t seem to be much to be inspired about. Days were slowly merging together into something I vowed I would never have—a weary and dreary sense of existence. There was cleaning, cooking and kids, day after day—and not much else, it seemed. One morning, I attempted to figure out what was wrong. Every day should have a bit of magic sprinkled throughout it, I pondered. Where was the magic?
I needed to get the house cleaned that morning, so I let the kids know they had the morning free from school. They were excited and ran to find something to do. That was when they found the box. It was an empty box, nothing special inside it—nothing at all inside it. It was a plain box—no painting, no markings, no decorations. I was soon to find out that this not-so-special box was, in fact, quite special indeed.
At first, it was a train coach, carrying them to a far-off and much-anticipated destination. Then it was a boat, keeping them safe through a giant storm. Afterwards, it was an easel, where each one of them could decorate and draw to their heart’s content. Again and again it morphed, from house to airplane to hiding place. The entire morning passed quickly for them in their magical box. As I watched them laughing and pretending as they climbed in and out of that worn, old box, I realized the magic had been there all along; no, not in the box—in the minds and hearts of my children, and in the many things they found exciting, amusing, and wonderful. It must be there in my own heart as well, I thought.
Magic was in every corner of the house—with its potential for imagination to take wings. It hid in the garden, the front yard and beyond—each place a chance for new discovery and experiences. It waited in the stories I read to them and made up for them—that would inspire their minds, encourage their spirits, speak to their hearts.
And yes, magic was in a big, plain box on its way to the recycling bin, a box that was just waiting for its chance to become a source of joy for three young children.
I looked around. There was still a lot of cleaning and more of the “same ol’ same ol’”, but it would have to wait. It was time to experience some magic, and, this time around, I knew just where it was hiding.
Just as there is a great variety in adults, there are many different kinds of children. There seems to be a marked difference between some children in how they think, act, and react. It is obvious in some that they do things from their heart. This is the little boy who will see another child crying, and offer the child his favorite toy to make him smile, not realizing until later that he no longer has the toy. This kind of child is fully consumed at the moment with the other person, and the fact that they wanted to make that person happy.
Other children are more “mind” oriented—calculating the pros and cons of their actions or requests that they are given. These ones are more often than not, a bit more self centered—not completely selfish, but they do think something through in relation to how it will affect them and their surroundings and even belongings. This is the one who will see another child crying and look around for something else to give, or run to his parent/caretaker to mention the problem.
Some children, though, are very self-focused, to the point that their needs and desires are all they see and consider when making a request or when thinking about their options. They see how something will affect themselves, and only themselves—not anyone else who might also be affected by the action. This is the child who will grab that last piece of pie, although it is his second and he knows that little sister hasn’t had her first yet. This is also the child who, if this tendency is not guided and reshaped, will grow into the adult who will stop at nothing to get their own way and climb to the top, even to the hurt of others. “Me first” is a natural human tendency, yet some seem to have it much stronger than others, even as a child.
Every child needs to feel loved and understood; every child wants that assurance that someone is there completely for him/her and will not neglect them and their needs. How do you help those children who seem to have more of an analytical nature to do things more from the heart? It is great that a child can think something through before acting, but it can become a hindrance if after thinking it through, they back out of something they can or should do because they deem it “not worth it”.
It is vitally important to help a child to see how their decisions and actions affect others. This can be accomplished with a question like, “Honey, did you notice that there was only one piece of pie for each person? You have already had a piece, and little Jenny hasn’t had hers yet.”
Usually a child will understand that, because pretty much every child has an inborn sense of fairness. If they are a stronger character though, they might just say, “I want it anyway.” How do you encourage a child to think more about others than oneself?
I think we have all heard the Golden Rule: treat others the way we would want to be treated. This is an easy concept for even a young child to understand. Bring up the “how would you feel” aspect of it. We can ask, “How would you feel if you came to get your pie and Jenny had already eaten it?”
A question such as this one will appeal to their inborn sense of fairness, and eventually it can grow to become a thing of the heart, where a child automatically puts himself in the other’s shoes before acting or reacting.
I think this is the hope that all parents share: to raise our children to both think and feel—to be solution oriented and yet empathic, to think “outside the box” and yet still be aware of the effects their actions have on others—and to choose to always treat others the way they want to be treated.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I would surf the internet for information on babies and children and what to expect from motherhood. I came across an interesting article that explained that the importance of early learning especially for infants and had flash cards for numeracy and reading skills. I was thrilled to come upon this information and started building high hopes and expectations of what I was going to do for my child. I was going to be this super mom, who would do flash cards right from infancy, never use disposable diapers, only feed her organic homemade food and basically be a perfect, flawless parent – creating a perfect, flawless babyhood and childhood for my soon-to-be-born baby.
Enter reality with childbirth and all my high aspirations went flying out of the window. My determination to not use disposable diapers didn’t last more than a few days. I couldn’t remember where the flash cards were, and used that as an excuse to not do them. And although my daughter’s first solid meals were all homemade, I relied on store-bought baby food later. I had settled to what I thought was mediocre parenting.
Then came the biggest and most painful decision of my life; I had to go back to work, leaving my nine-month-old baby at daycare. My ambitions for a perfect motherhood were crushed. What was worse was that those aspirations, dreams, and ambitions lingered in my mind and heart as failures. Although my beautiful daughter was friendly and cheerful and adjusted very quickly to daycare and the kids there, I constantly battled motherhood with feelings of incapacity, inadequacy and failure.
Two years passed and my little girl was ready to join preschool. I was confident that she would have no problems going to a new place and meeting new kids. She was always friendly and excited to see new people and never really showed separation anxiety. On the big day, in her new uniform and school bag and school shoes, her dad and I proudly walked with her to the new school.
When we kissed her and said bye she began to … CRY! We tried telling her about the fun things she would do and the new friends she would make. She calmed down a little but was still clearly upset. I couldn’t believe it and was heartbroken. The teacher asked us to say bye again and leave calmly so we did. As miserable as I was leaving her at daycare, I had a tiny consolation that she wasn’t going through separation anxiety and was happy. Now that she was upset and crying made it all the more difficult and painful for me.
But as I walked out of the gates, something happened. Seeing my daughter cry on her first day of preschool pushed something in me to be strong, not just for her but myself too. I realized this was life. I cannot predict or control everything. I could go to work feeling worried and upset for her, or I could go to work praying for her and feeling proud that my daughter has entered preschool. I could choose to be strong and positive instead of weak and sad.
That one change in thought brought a whole new outlook to my parenting and my view of me as a mother. I might not have had the opportunity to be with her at home fulfilling all those super mom dreams. But I made the most I could with every minute I had with her. I wasn’t able to do flash cards or other great early learning programs, but I managed to read to my baby every night. I taught her colors, numbers, shapes and the alphabet while juggling a full-time job and housework. I might not have taught my child to read by age two but I did imbibe in her an important love for learning. I did not have quantity but I did give her quality.
That day, as I walked out of the gates of that pre-school I realized I was a supermom! I just had to let myself feel it!
P.S. Six months after starting preschool, my daughter is well adjusted and happy!
About Sharada: I am a mother of a three-and-a-half year old girl. I am married to a caring and loving man and live in the UAE. I work as a Teaching Assistant in an American school and I love my job, but I love being a mom the most.
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My Mother’s Love is Priceless
By Surunda Franklin
Someone special to me is my mother. I am the firstborn of six siblings. My mother told me that she wanted two children and my father wanted four; they both got what they asked for.
When I was eleven years old, I began having excruciating headaches. She took me to see many doctors trying to get me help but no one knew what was wrong with me. Some said, “Maybe it is her eyes,” and others said, “It might be her menstrual cycle beginning.” One doctor suggested seeing a neurologist at Semmes Murphy Clinic. The doctor ran many tests and found nothing.
He told my mother there was one other test he could do but it was life threatening. My mother and father discussed the situation and spoke to a minister. They took his words and had the procedure done.
When the doctor received the results, he told my parents that I had a pituitary tumor and it was mandatory that I have surgery. During the surgery, part of my pituitary had to be removed. The operation went fine; afterward, I had many doctor visits and cobalt radiation treatments.
On one of my doctor visits to remove my stitches, my mother mentioned to the nurse that it looks like she missed a stitch. The nurse told her it was only the scar of healing skin. My mother continued to watch the area on my head and noticed it was not healing and that it was sore to the touch. She immediately took me back to the doctor.
The doctor examined my head and said that a stitch had been left and it was under the skin and need to be removed. A nurse came in and proceeded to remove the stitch. It was so very painful, I could hardly keep still.
My mother held my hand and I squeezed hers. The stitch was out before I knew it.
Months passed and it was time for another checkup. When the doctor was examining my head, he noticed the place where the stitch was had still not healed. Many procedures were done to examine my head. When the doctor got the results back, he told my mother that I would have to have surgery to remove the bone from my head because it had become infected.
My mother came to me and said, “Your father and I love you. It is going to be okay.” I held onto those words as I went through another surgery and the bone on the left side of my forehead was removed. A metal plate was put in place of the missing bone. It was defected and not long afterward, I had to have surgery again.
Through these frightening and life-threatening issues, my mother was with me every day. She told me many times, “I love you and I will not leave you.”
After going through many surgeries and treatments, I am alive today thanks to GOD and my mother loving me and determining to keep me alive. That is why my mother’s love is priceless.
About Surunda Franklin: I am a devoted homemaker with four beautiful stepchildren and a great husband. I live in Jackson, TN, and have lived here all my life. I am five feet, with light brown skin, and long black hair. I got married for the first time in February of 2013 and I am enjoying life.
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Before becoming a parent, when picturing a family, we tend to visualize a “perfect” family scenario, with us as the perfect parent—ever patient, full of exciting ideas, bubbling over with love, never raising our voice or losing our temper. I think we confuse positive parenting with perfect parenting and then become overwhelmed when we can’t keep up with that unrealistic image.
A positive parent is not a perfect parent, because there is no such thing.
A positive parent is a happy parent, who takes each day as it comes. Maybe you don’t wake your child with a song each morning or remember to give him a balanced breakfast every single day, kiss his forehead and pray with him as you send him off to school with a healthy lunch, pick him up right on time (arriving five minutes early of course), smile at his daily rundown on how his day was (commenting on each thing he tells you) joyously wash his muddy laundry, pick up after him, and then put on your spotless apron so you can bake with your son and welcome daddy home with fresh chocolate chip cookies.
Perhaps instead, your kids wake you up on some days, and you groan because you really just need another five minutes of shut-eye. Maybe you snap at him for spilling his milk and you forget to put the fruit in his lunch bag. Maybe he’s the last one waiting to be picked up because you just had to take a nap. And you decide to order out because you can’t stand to see the kitchen for at least another 72 hours. Are you a complete failure at the whole parenting thing?
Of course not. Spread out a blanket and have a picnic on the living room floor, or let your child decide if he wants to eat outside. Relax and enjoy your time together, even if you must consciously push away the thoughts of everything being left undone at the moment.
Although we often tend to confuse perfect parenting with positive parenting, I don’t think our children hold us up to those same mental standards that we set for ourselves. Just try to enjoy being a parent – the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows, the fails and the wins – and your child will enjoy it too.