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Summer Days a’Coming

Two Girls in Swimming PoolThis morning I saw a comment from an acquaintance on Facebook, about the upcoming summer break and having more time with her children. I followed the discussion thread, which got a little heated because of the variety of responses by mothers. A homeschooling mother was looking forward to summer for different reasons than her counterpart whose children go to school. Some mothers didn’t seem to be looking forward to the summer. One admitted there were times when she didn’t necessarily “like” her children, especially when they’re all at home. Another mother responded with, “How can you expect others to like them if you don’t like them?”

Yes, it was a little heated. After all, summer is around the corner.

Last week I did my finals for the semester. Tomorrow is my kids’ last day at school. I spent some time this week just thinking about and trying to plan for summer. Due to the busyness of the semester and other things going on at home and with my family, I feel that I’ve lost ground in my relationship with my children.

One of them has been going through a phase that is lasting longer than I expected. I’m starting to fear that it is turning into a perspective on life rather than a stage. This worries me because it has to do with having a “can’t do” mindset about things.

I know that, as a mother, my first responsibility this summer is to my children … as it always is. If one of them is going through something and it’s coming out through their words and outlook on life, it needs attention.

There are plenty of other things going on. I’m teaching courses for the first time in my life (and for a woman who still struggles with social anxiety, this is a huge thing. I’m shaking in my boots and though excited I’m asking myself, What on earth did I get into?)

As soon as I drove away from campus last Thursday after finals, my mind started racing ahead to everything I can read this summer, everything that I hope to write … and then skipped over to home improvement projects. My sister and her kids moved out this last weekend, so with the kids’ room changes, I have more than a little bit of cleaning and organizing to do.

I had to stop myself. I want the kids to enjoy their summer. A few years ago, I made a comprehensive (and overly ambitious) summer plan. Needless to say, we accomplished maybe one item on it. This summer, although I worked on a schedule of sorts, I tried to leave it a lot more flexible this time around.

I know they’re eager to swim this summer. After all, it’s Fresno and temperatures are already pushing past 100. (And I’m hoping that swimming will make up for my lack of exercise during the first five months of this year.) We’ll have chores and a Bible class before swimming/activity time, which will knock two things off my mental “teach-my-children” list.

Cleaning up after themselves, with the three of them living in the same room over the past year, has slid more than a little bit. Having chore time together will help us begin on the right note.

Bible class time is another thing that drifted to the back burner, during school days and even some weekends. That is one thing I need to keep as a priority. I know what grace and patience and faith my times with God grant me and I want my children to experience something of the same.

That’s the general idea of our schedule, at least the most important things: fun, faith, and family. I have a few other ideas/ projects/ hopes for the summer, but need to wait until I’ve had time to discuss them with the kids and see what they are hoping for.

So overall, if the discussion hadn’t already been so heated, I think I would say I’m looking forward to the summer. I’m excited about spending more time with my kids. I know there will be challenges – sibling disputes, messes left around, uninspired moments – but the prospects far outweigh any difficulties. After all, it’s a whole season of fun and sun and crazy-excited kids with the world ahead of them. What could be better?

What are your plans this summer? Do you go on vacation? Relax at the poolside? Tackle a family project? Please leave your thoughts and input below. We can share ideas about how to make this a great summer for both parents and children.

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Why God Made Children

Great quotes by kids

No Trespassing … Child at Play

Quote on Respecting Children

Happy Mother’s Day!

My Mom at 16

My Mom at 16

Compared to some mothers (my mom, for starters), I’m fairly new to the motherhood game. This is my tenth Mother’s Day as a mom.

It seems the first where recent months have been filled with never-before-faced issues with my children. If you are a parent, the fact that I’ve been at it for roughly ten years has probably clued you in on an important factor: my oldest is a “tween.”

Up until now, I looked back on my teen years and comforted myself with the thought that, “By the time I was 12, I knew what I wanted to do in life. By the time I was 15, I was doing it.” (Never mind the fact that it was over ten years later that I discovered what I REALLY loved doing: writing. The experiences leading to that discovery served and helped me in a thousand great ways … but I’m rabbit trailing.)

In any case, I never went through a horrendous, wrenching “teen stage” and simply assumed the whole teenhood-filled-with-angst was overrated. Something modern culture welcomed with open arms to the detriment of expecting a progressive development of maturity.

But up there on my soapbox, I neglected to clearly glance back at my own tweenhood. It started when I was about nine. I dealt with self-doubt, anxiety, comparing, and questioning. A lot of it went on in my head because I rarely felt comfortable venting negativity about myself, my siblings, and my sorry lot in life. After all, someone might have actually talked some sense into me, and who wants to see clearly when they’re taking a mental mud bath?

So I’m remembering those tween days and looking with increasing trepidation upon my children entering that very stage. (My oldest is now nine.) Considering the moodiness, sullenness, and downright contrariness I have been facing regularly, I’m wondering if it’s too late to have second thoughts about this stage of parenting. (Are other options available?)

As my mom drove me to a book sale last week, I talked to her about some of my parenting concerns. She listened, gave me a bit of advice and insight on what my kids might be thinking. She brought up considerations I hadn’t thought of. And she listened some more. Because that’s just what moms do.

I looked over at her. She survived those years. Looking at some of the things she faced with the six of us, she passed with flying colors! Then, after acing her motherhood career, she began a new career that is remarkable in every way.

My Mom, at a birthMy mother is now a home-birth midwife. I don’t know how many babies she has “caught” over the past fifteen years, but I know that her love, concern, and prayers have blessed scores of mommies, babies, and dads  in countless ways.

I’ve got the world’s best mom. I know that for a fact. I also know that with her faith and prayers, this parenting thing will turn out okay. Yes, even parenting tweens. And beyond that, teens. And beyond that …

Okay, I’ll try not to get ahead of myself.

Today is today … and it’s Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day! To my terrific mom, and to all you awesome mothers, of babies, kids, tweens, teens, or adults. They’ll always be your children. And your love for them is unconditional.

Because that’s just what moms do.

Mother’s Day Writing Contest Winners

Mother’s Day Writing Contest Winner

Congratulations to our winners: Gaby (73 likes), Helen (72 likes), and Charlotte (71 likes)! It was so close! I wish everyone could have won something because every story is so special. Every memory. Every moment.

Every mother!

I so enjoyed reading these memories and reflections on mothers and memories from childhood that I’m thinking about writing some posts with memories of my childhood.

The idea also developed with an assignment from my photography class. For the final assignment, my professor said we can choose one subject and take 20 photos on that theme. My immediate choice (naturally) was my children. Then I began to wonder, “What kind of pictures should I take?”

The concept began to form: take pictures that coincide with my own childhood memories. Images began flooding into my mind. Eating ice cream while sitting on the back of a station wagon with my siblings, running through sprinklers, playing shadow tag, moving the lawn with a push-mower, pillow fights and raking leaves, fishing, jumping on a trampoline. So many iconic flashes. I hope I can capture them all.

More than that, I hope that my children are developing images of their own. I pray that special memories are forming in their minds, things they can carry with them always. To remind them of being loved.

Because no matter what else I might have to offer, or might not have … one thing I can unequivocally give my children, one thing we can all offer our children, is love.

The love of a parent. Imperfect, yes. But somehow unconditional. Somehow transcendent and beautiful and enduring. Even if it’s all we have to offer our children … it is enough.

Heartstrings Tugging Home

Curtis Story Pin

Read the full story here

The First Day of Preschool – Mother’s Day Contest Entry

Sharada's DaughterThe First Day of Preschool

By Sharada

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.

[Like this story on our Facebook page to help the author win Positive Parenting’s Mother’s Day Writing Contest! (You’re welcome to “like” it here too! :)]

What My Three Year Old Taught Me about Serving Others – Mother’s Day Contest Entry

PaigeWhat My Three Year Old Taught Me about Serving Others

By Michelle

I’ve almost always been involved in some sort of community service through my life.  It’s something that I really love. I kind of find it addicting.  I love to do service projects with my kids.  I think it’s important to involve them while they are young.  Unintentionally, I thought it would be me doing the teaching, but recently, I was surprised when my toddler taught me to be more giving.

I told Paige about how sometimes kids get scared when policemen and firemen are called to help them; they can give the kids a toy to make them feel better if they have one.  We decided to donate some of her gently used stuffed animals.  She really seemed to understand and she was excited to help.

I dumped out our overflowing tub of stuffed animals.  I quickly put my favorites, her favorites and the “not-so-gently-used” animals back in the bin, leaving the rest for Paige to pick from.  This left a small pile, but the tub was still overflowing.  Paige decided to give away all but one of the toys I offered to her, but then she went back to the bin and started reaching for the ones I didn’t offer to add to the “giveaway box.”

I quickly said, no, that those weren’t ones we could give away, but as soon as the words left my mouth, I realized how selfish I was being. They weren’t even my toys; why did it matter to me?

I realized it was lunch time and that we would revisit the toy situation later.  A few days later we went back to the toy room to gather the stuffed animals.  I decided I was being selfish and if Paige wanted to help more kids, then I needed to let her.  I once again dumped out the toy bin and offered her all of the toys that were in acceptable condition.  She then added almost all of those toys into our donation bags.  She even added some of her favorite stuffed animals that she loved to play with.

Once we got to the fire station, she was holding a dog that she originally said she wanted to donate.  We handed the bags to the fireman and I asked her if she still wanted to give the dog to the fireman for the kids.  She said yes, but the fireman told her she could keep it since it was so cute. Paige insisted that she wanted to give it away.  I don’t know if I can ever forget that moment and hearing her sweet Apraxic voice saying, “I want to give it away.” (Apraxia is a neurological disorder that mostly affects her speech.)

It touched me.

I was and am still so impressed with her giving attitude.  She could have easily kept just one of the stuffed animals and still helped so many kids.  But that wasn’t good enough for her; she wanted to give all that she could to help others.  It may have been a simple act on her part, but it made a lasting impression on me.

MichellesPhotoFrom now on, I will do better to give my all to others.  I’m not perfect, and probably never will be, but I will be better.  Less selfish.  We live in such a self-focused world (which isn’t necessarily all bad) that I found it refreshing to see a toddler, someone at a stage often labeled as “the selfish stage,” give so much of what she loved.  If someone at this age can do it, I can too.

My sweet, three-year-old daughter helped 15 kids without thinking twice.  I’m so proud of her.  Who says one person can’t make a difference?

(Originally posted at www.trustmeimamom.com)

About Michelle: I am a mom of two young daughters (one with special needs).  Although it’s challenging, I am so grateful I get to be a mom to these two girls!  I love to blog about our experiences together at trustmeimamom.com

[Like this story on our Facebook page to help the author win Positive Parenting’s Mother’s Day Writing Contest! (You’re welcome to “like” it here too! :)]

Snapshot – Mother’s Day Contest Entry

Franklin Kids 2011 School PicSnapshot

By Lindsay Franklin

July, 2011.

I ease my Honda Pilot into a parking space at the local YMCA. Ten minutes until the kids’ swim lessons start. Plenty of time to return a text message I received while driving. I pull out my phone but leave the air conditioning running. It’s mid-morning on a hot summer day in the inland suburbs of San Diego. Even my two-minute text would leave the kids and me sticky and flushed by the time we opened the car doors.

Three-year-old Keira unbuckles her car seat and slithers to the back seat air controls. She plops down in front of the vents and turns the knob to the highest setting.

“Keira!” Six-year-old Jared frowns at his sister and adjusts the air conditioning back to low. “Don’t do that. It uses gas which makes pollution, and that’s bad for the environment.”

An idealist.

Ten-year-old Shane chimes in from his place on the back bench. “Yeah, plus gas costs a lot of money. You’re wasting money.”

A pragmatist.

Keira stares at her big brothers’ faces and, without a word, cranks the knob full-blast.

An independent.

Every once in a while, God gives me a special moment in the midst of the mundane. This two-minute pause in a YMCA parking lot on a hot summer morning was just such a moment. There couldn’t have been a more perfect, distinct snapshot into the unique personalities of my three children.

These moments tend to make me reflective. This particular occurrence first incited giggles because my daughter is unendingly sassy, and sometimes it seems as if she was put on the planet for the sole purpose of foiling her brothers.

But then I was struck with awe that these little people—each with the same biological parents and raised in the same environment—has been distinctively crafted by a Master Craftsman. They all have their own strengths and challenges that filter down to me and their dad as parenting challenges. But mostly, this realization reinforces my belief that these three people were chosen specifically for me to raise. As they are uniquely crafted, I’m uniquely equipped to mold them into the people they’re meant to become.

About Lindsay Franklin: I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of three by day, a YA fantasy and contemporary novelist by night. I moonlight as Senior Operations Manager for Splickety Publishing Group. Needs: more sleep, less backtalk.

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A Reflection of My Mother – Mother’s Day Contest Entry

bphotoart-mother-daugher-walkA Reflection of My Mother

By Betsy

From birth, I was loved, unconditionally.
My mother held me in her arms,
keeping me safe from an unknown world.
As a child, my desire for and pursuit of
independence challenged her, but
ultimately she learned to let go and trust.

She prayed over me before I was born.
While I was growing, she trusted my
future to God – my life in his hands.
Faithful in prayer, she never stopped
lifting me up, whispering her hopes and dreams,
letting them go as I pursued the path
of my own choosing.

Even into my own journey of motherhood,
my mother has been there for me.
Supporting, encouraging, inspiring,
Continuing to plant in me a firm foundation
for my journey through life.

I see things differently now, through the
lens of motherhood. My mother’s actions
no longer seem so strange and unexplainable.
I can appreciate her patience, her selflessness.
Always overextending herself to make sure
her family is taken care of, nourished, loved.

I see in myself a reflection of her — different, but
echoes of the same. I am my own person,
redefined by motherhood – but defined, in part,
by the love of the mother who raised me.
she always gave freely…and she still does today.

 

About Betsy: I’m a photographer, artist, and mother. I love all things creative, and I’m always interested in learning something new. I like knowing, at the end of the day, that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life.

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