Behavior & Discipline, Life in General, Motherhood

Can you get an F in Parenting?

Last week Thursday I got an F in parenting.

Completely and royally failed.

At least that’s how I interpreted the text message I received.

“Your boys are being extremely disrespectful; we need to talk about this.”

Oh.

Another adult was telling me that my boys were disrespectful. I got an F. I failed dismally.

My energetic and sometimes rowdy 8, 10 and 12 year old were being supervised and tested by their teacher who oversees our homeschool program and apparently it wasn’t going well.

They were outdoors in 90 degree weather, at 3pm, doing testing on laptops and as 3 brothers they feed off each other when it comes to all things; good behavior or otherwise.

And here it seemed to be the otherwise.

Is she blaming me?

So what does a mom do when another mom tells her that her kids are being extremely disrespectful and not cooperating?

Like is she really trying to say, you bad mother, you taught your kids to be rude to adults!

Does anyone think that mothers actually want their kids to act that way?

Do I apologize? Apologize for what?

One thing was certain, this adult was extremely frustrated, and as the mom, well I guess it was my fault.

Hence the F.

But here’s what I’ve discovered.

Parenting is not a gumball machine.

Gumball machines are straightforward; put in a coin, get a gumball. Every time. You put in what’s expected and you get what you expect.

I’d say parenting is more like the claw machine.

Y’know, the machine at every arcade place that taunts you and you convince yourself that you are going to beat it. And as it eats up coin after coin, you carefully and steadily maneuver that claw arm, never losing track of it, hyper focused on its every move and slowly lower it, so carefully and delicately aimed at just the item you want. You’re sweating from the intense labor and watch it slowly reaching your desired prize; it slowly grasps a corner, lifts it a fraction of an inch as you watch not breathing, and then drops it, delivering you nothing.

That’s parenting.

You sweat, you toil, you make intentional decisions and mindful choices; you give all you have, you give all that you know how to give … and most likely what you get in return is not what you envisioned.

But different than the claw machine, where you walk away with nothing; in parenting you don’t walk away empty handed.

You always get something beautiful and priceless, if you stop trying to limit the options. 

So my kids were disrespectful. So much so that the adult came complaining, which in my perception was blaming, and vented her frustration to me.

So do I say I’m sorry I’ve raised such rude children?

Do I say I’m sorry I told my kids to be disrespectful?

I chose something more neutral; I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I will speak to them about it.

Am I proud of them?

At that moment, I sure wasn’t.

Should I punish them? Consequences? Retribution? How dare my children behave like that to another adult!

So do I get an F? Is it that easy to fail?

Parenting isn’t a gumball machine but really it’s a lot better than a claw machine.

It’s the ultimate test of self; of patience to allow our children to grow and mature at their pace, through their stages and phases and ups and downs. Of being a guiding light and good example of what’s right and wrong. Of catching them when they fall but not shunning them when they fail. Of allowing each child to grow into their best self, not your version of best. Of loving each child even when another adult is annoyed.

So my fellow Annoyed Adult, I’m annoyed too. And to be honest, I’m sure it’ll happen again. And I’ll watch them grow into their own little people. But my kids are not gumballs and my kids are not my report card. There’s no such thing as an F in parenting.

Parenting is not about helping your kids be the best version of your dreams. It’s about helping them become the best version of themselves. And the path is a bumpy one.

The only F is if you expect it to work like a gumball machine.

Life in General

The things you can accomplish for just $3…

“But you said you’d give it back on the last day of camp!”

“Never said such a thing!” Responds the head counselor, totally disregarding the camper’s wide, innocent eyes as he watches an adult not keep his word.

“I never give things back when I take them away, sorry!” And the head counselor moves on to his many other things he has to do.

Sure, it was only a $3 keychain; nothing of much value. That is, nothing of much value to the head counselor.

But that’s 3 whole dollars to this child, plus his integrity, being tossed in the trash.

It happened the first week of camp; the spunky 10 year old had his $3 keychain with him; the head counselor approached and asked for it and he gave it; that’s when he was informed that it was being taken away.

And that’s also when the camper remembers being told that he would get it back on the last day of camp, and the head counselor doesn’t remember anything of the sort. Truthfully, why would he; considering the millions of things he’s dealt with between the first week and the last.

The child comes home from camp; he’s had an amazing experience filled with trips, activities, swimming, games sports and more. But what’s the first thing that he says?

“He took my keychain and wouldn’t give it back! Even though he said he would! And it was $3!!”

A broken promise from an adult.

After much deliberation, the child’s father reaches out to the (young) head counselor and tries to bring him into the bigger picture; the harm in adults failing kids and breaking their trust, and asks the head counselor to replace the keychain. It’s not about the $3, it’s about the lifelong lesson of adults keeping their word when they make promises to children. The father says he will send him the $3; please show him you take him seriously. He is convinced you told him he’d get it back.

“Sure,” agrees the head counselor, understanding that it’s about more than the $3. He doesn’t have the keychain, of course, but it’s easily available to replace.

“He’s going to send you the keychain,” the father tells his son; the look of his eyes lighting up, of his integrity and trust being restored, is hard to miss.

A week passes, followed by the father receiving a message from the HC: “I changed my mind, I’m not sending it. I don’t give back things that I take away from campers.”

Huh? What?

All conversation cease to exist; he has made up his mind and does not respond to any follow up conversation.

And this trusting 10 year old is trusting no more.

“I don’t give back things that I take away!”

How is that a thing?

Who is right? Did he say it or didn’t he? Is the 10 year-old remembering correctly or is the head counselor? At this point, it’s not relevant, because there’s something bigger going on.

There’s a great saying I came across – Mean what you say, say what you mean; but don’t be mean.

A kid is using something inappropriately or at the wrong time? By all means, take it away. 

But the purpose of taking away should be for the purpose of the respect and discipline needed at the time; not for the gratification of showing a child that you and your stuff is worthless, so I will toss it. Too bad.

$3.00. An insignificant amount to an adult.

$3.00. Sometimes it’s that cheap and easy to teach trust and respect; the principle of keeping your word. $3.00 to show I respect you as a human.

And $3.00 to destroy it too.

Don’t forget the big picture.

Life in General

CSLW – it’s a Thing

How does a thing become a Thing?

Seems that if something is not a Thing then it’s not worth doing.

Because we can’t just merely be mothers doing things, we need to be moms who do Things; and in order for a thing to be a Thing it has to have memes backing it. And most importantly, promoted on Instagram.

I don’t know when it became a Thing, but just when I thought I knew what I needed to know about babies and food, after weaning baby 10, I discovered I don’t know everything and there is Thing called BLW. 

Baby Led Weaning.

I can’t say I follow the whole dissertation on it, but I’ve seen enough memes to know that it’s really a Thing. And I’m sure I don’t fully understand it because to me it seems to teach kids they can eat whatever they like – which in my opinion seems to translate into teaching them that they are entitled to chips, soda or candy whenever they want to, as soon as they are old and wise enough to carry along the same principle. After all, its taste, texture, color and smell is quite appealing!

And that’s why I want to introduce you to a new weaning theory.

CSLW.

Common Sense Led Weaning.

The memes are in print, but not available just yet.

It works like this:

  1. Baby is ready for solids. Or mom is ready for baby to have solids.
  2. Baby doesn’t have many teeth.
  3. Baby can’t chew much.
  4. Soft food is in order.
  5. Purées are safe with no teeth.
  6. Baby can’t manage the container-to-mouth spoon movement so adult fills in.
  7. Adult puts spoon of food in baby’s mouth.

And here there’s two options for what happens next:

  1. Baby swallows and babbles and cooes and you know the food is a winner.
  2. Baby spits the food back in your face and you know that you need to try something else.

Baby gets some teeth. Cut up soft foods into small pieces. Baby either eats or tosses the food across the room. This will tell you what food baby likes.

And the more teeth, the more food the baby can safely eat. And baby learns that we eat all different types of food, and some we like more than others.

And there you have it. CSLW.

Common Sense Led Weaning.

Fellow moms, we are tired enough without having to so many Things! Maybe we can just do things even if it’s not a Thing, and still have successful results. And still be good-enough mothers. Maybe.

All memes welcome.

Life in General

Dear head counselors and staff,

“YOU IN THE BLUE CAP, GET OUT OF THE SHUL RIGHT NOW!” bellows the head counselor; pointing at the boy in the blue cap who dared whisper to his friend 5 minutes into camp.

What goes through the mind of a head counselor as he publicly humiliates the child with the blue cap, I’ll never know. Is it to make an example out of him?  To assert his authority? 

What I do know is – this age-old method has got to stop.

Did he choose the right kid – is this indeed the camp troublemaker, or did the head counselor actually just give this boy a title that he will now live up to?

This is a typical scene that every boy who has gone to camp is familiar with; but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

Shaming. Humiliating.

Two ingredients that create a defiant and daring camper. 

Dear head counselors, counselors and all staff members,

As you get ready for an amazing summer, devoting every waking hour – and there are many since you don’t sleep much –  to kids of all ages and types, pause and realize this mission you are being entrusted with. 

We are dishing out thousands and thousands of dollars and entrusting you with our precious children. We are so grateful to each of you who agree to undertake this tremendous task of giving our children the best summer possible.

That kid in the blue cap that ends up being used as a korban;

He is someone’s precious child. There’s a mother and father out there trusting you to take care of their treasure. To build and not break. To influence and not destroy. To inspire and not shame. To empower and not put down.

Long after you leave camp and have caught up on sleep, this child will either be soothing their scars or flying on clouds of inspiration.

Camp is invaluable; there’s endless tales of campers recounting the life changing experiences that overnight camp has brought into their lives.

But let’s talk about another group of kids. Who came to camp for a fresh start and repeatedly get shamed and yelled at. Publicly humiliated. Sent out repeatedly.

And surprisingly enough, the more they are screamed at, the more they act out.

Wouldn’t you if you were trying to save face?

And instead of realizing that the staff themselves have created this monster, they blame the camper for his behavior. Of course responsibility and accountability are integral for each camper; but the staff need to be the adults in the room.

In a conversation with a counselor of a particular camper who was causing a lot of havoc, the father of the child spoke to the counselor about some different strategies to reach the child, and then suggested that the counselor call a particular respected mentor who has experience dealing with challenging campers.

The response from the counselor: ”I can’t be bothered.”

This is a true story.

And so to the dedicated staff, head counselors and counselors, I want to share with you; to be in your position is signing up to “be bothered.”

It’s part of the package.

Children are often delightful and enthusiastic, but can often be, well, bothersome.

And it’s up to you; how will you be treating each camper? No, not the easy campers who look in their Siddur all davening, who don’t talk after lights out and always show up on time, getting more and more points, prizes and Rebbe pictures.

What about the other 80%? 

Screaming, shaming, embarrassing and humiliating doesn’t fly anymore.

A good measuring stick to keep in mind is that if you can’t say it with love, don’t say it.

I’ll leave the particular discipline systems to the professionals; but when you look at that kid in the blue cap who dared to talk/smirk/make faces/whistle/put his feet up and you are ready to attack him, pause and remember that he is someone’s child. He is someone’s most valuable possession. And he wants to have a fantastic summer just like you do.

Proceed with caution; not everything can be easily undone.

Wishing every one a happy and successful summer!

Signed,

A mother of multiple kids who are heading to camp for a great summer!

Life in General

Good Advice…or is it?

“Wow, I’m the best mother ever! I’ve really got it all figured out!”

Said no mother, ever.

That’s just how it works; part of the gift of motherhood is the gift of doubt, guilt and second guessing.

And that’s where good advice comes in. The remedy for all this is good advice.

But not all advice is good, even if it has good intentions.

My personal two least favorite and least productive pieces of advice are these goodies;

“The days are long, but the years are short; before you blink they’ll be grown up, hold onto these times!”

“Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems!”

I don’t know if they’re meant as cliches or advice, but I do know what they actually are; when delivered, it’s just another form of the big bad G – GUILT – albeit with fancy wrapping paper.

Continue reading “Good Advice…or is it?”