The Sneeze… please cover your mouth!

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Right when you’re unsure of how your kid is going to do, he steps up to the plate and delivers. We both knew he should pass his yellow belt test, but you’re never sure how these kinds of things are going to go.

Not only did he pass, but he had the best focus during the entire testing that I’ve ever seen. The entire testย was comprised of different kids going for different belts and it took about an hour. Jonah’s testing process was smooth and his instructor sincerely told him afterward how proud he was of him and I know that he has seen the huge change in Jonah that we have. Jonah was able to sit still and quite throughout the entire process and watched all of the other students intently. I’m so proud of that kid!!! And he and his yellow belt are inseparable!

In celebration, we went to Red Robin after his test. Both kids were starving and ate like I’d not fed them for days. They were also intently watching and waiting for the balloon guy (a man who walks around tables and makes balloon creations for tips) to come to our table. I wasn’t paying attention, but my dear daughter who was sitting beside me, was hanging over our booth and into the booth behind us while she watched the balloon man’s every move. And then it happened… She sneezed… All over the lady in the booth behind us and probably over her plate of food. The man sitting across from the lady sternly and very irritated said, ‘Excuse me. Please turn around and sit in your own booth. You just sneezed all over my friend and her dinner.’

Why must children be so darn embarrassing?!! I didn’t turn around to apologize. I figured he’d made his point by scolding my daughter. But I did back him up and she quickly slumped as far down into her seat as was possible for a small child. She would have been a puddle on the floor if I’d let her. She just lay there, still and very embarrassed. I sternly scolded her and told her that I’d already been talking about that very exact thing with her (sneezing on me and things and food and the cat and anything else that happens to be in her presence when she sneezes and she sneezes a lot).

And then, as I looked at my puddle of a child, I softened and came to an understanding of how she probably felt. I understood this because I’ve felt that way hundreds of times at the mercy of a condescending adult, nasty peer or just my own stupidity and ignorance. I understand now that the feelings of embarrassment and guilt associated with a mistake are normal and healthy. Those feelings help us learn and grow and process our actions. But I also understand that a child cannot process those reactions and grow from them unless those feelings are validated.

She made a mistake, she was scolded and corrected and she feels mortified. Now what? Do we just leave it at that? I know that’s how it was for me and I remember so many specific mistakes and the feelings associated with them that it makes me sick. Things that have taken me years to get past because I still carry the feelings of guilt and embarrassment because no one ever taught me how to process that junk and learn from it and move on. Well, I have learned, but it’s taken me a long time.

So, I validated her. I asked her how she felt. She didn’t know how to put it into words so I named it what it was… being embarrassed and feeling ashamed about her mistake. Then I told her it was okay to feel that way. That was normal. She understood, but stayed low in her seat. I then told her that I forgave her and that it was okay to move on. I explained that was why I’d been trying to teach her to cover her mouth and turn away when she sneezed and also why we keep personal boundaries.

I’m not saying this made it all better, but it at least got her to process what had happened. She will very likely remember that moment when she is a young adult and may never speak of it because of how it affected her. She did however recover quickly after our short chat, but was afraid to watch the balloon man because it would require her to turn around. So, I gave her the option to sit across from me and later on the other side of me and she gladly took the opportunity to turn a bad situation into a good one and we had a smooth night after that.

We are told ‘everyone makes mistakes’ throughout our lives and that is a true statement, but are we then told how to process what comes along with those mistakes? Guilt, anger, blame, low self esteem, resentment, fear, sadness… it goes on and on. Children are blank slates. Learning every single day how to react and interact socially. Remembering that they do not have the same experience and skills as an adult is so crucial in how we choose to treat them. I want my children to grow into confident, well spoken people and that starts with acceptance and teaching them how to process their thoughts and emotions.

It is valuable to correct a child and just as valuable to teach them how to move past the bad and strive for the good. For Mickey, it was tying the understanding from me teaching her to cover her mouth and move away from someone before you sneeze to her fulfilling the nightmare and doing it in a very inappropriate way. She has been covering and turning away since then and she’s proud of herself for choosing to do so ๐Ÿ™‚

I try to parent my children with love and an open ear. I want to hear their thoughts and help guide those thoughts into positive actions and ideas. We verbalize a lot in our household because if you cannot communicate what you are feeling you have no choice but to bottle things up and that leads to no good. My kids have a voice and they learn from their mistakes. Maybe more so the girl than that boy, but my daughter is so much like me that I know she internalizes everything and holds it in to process it silently.

I want her to grow up to be a self confidant woman who is fearless to be herself. That’s one true thing that I regret growing up. I was a pawn to many and tossed aside often and my self esteem often plummeted to the depths because I based my self worth on what my peers thought or didn’t bother to think of me. I want my daughter to base her inner strength on her strong character and not on the stupidity of those who judge her. By finding confidence in ourselves we will grow confidence in others. Again, this is something that has taken me almost all of my life to understand, but I am finally at that point in my life where I am confidant with who I am and strong enough to determine my path, take accountability for my actions and choose to love myself when others judge me as something less than I am.

My continued goal in parenting is to get my kids grown in a safe, fun and responsible way. For now it’s messy and sticky and loud, but it is not without self expression. I’m raising my kids to know who they are and stand firm on their decisions. So far, so good. They are growing and expressing and slowly learning to be accountable for their actions and I’m forever proud of them. Their small successes make my heart happy and I look forward to many more heart to hearts and well deserved accomplishments! Yay to parenthood! Now time for a nap ๐Ÿ˜‰


The Test

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I find myself on the eve of my son’s black belt test. Just a few short hours from now we will know if he will have it in him to concentrate and remember what he’s learned these past few months, or if he will chuck it all for daydreaming and lack of focus. Black belt?! Did I say black belt? Ah! No! I mean his YELLOW belt! What I believe I meant to say was that my son’s testing for his yellow belt (only one step up from his white) is as stressful for this mommy as if he were testing for his black belt! And to think I have so many more testings to go through before I get used to the butterflies and anxiousness I have been feeling during his past few weeks of training.

I had always wondered why my mother was such a nervous wreck during my many horse shows as a child. There were times when the only thing that held her watching (and holding her breath) in the stands were he fingers wrapped around the metal bleachers. There was always a sense of relief after any big show that I never understood. I usually took the shows in stride. Did my best and tried to have ‘fun’ like I was taught. Winning was great, but coming out of the experience enjoying it was supposed to be the point of it all right?

Now I’m living the other side. The parent side. Not only have I invested endless money and time into this child’s Karate classes, but I’ve also gotten a taste of my child’s success. I’ve watched him practice at home, seen him improve in class and in school and am so darn proud of that little boy for how far he’s come! Now the pressure is on and I want him to know it!

Jonah knows how important advancing to yellow belt is as well. He knows because he’s had a taste of what he can accomplish and I believe he feels the push to finalize this part of his training. Moving on to a yellow belt opens up a whole new world of training and discipline that he loves so much. To fail and stay a white belt for a month longer would be frustrating and disappointing. I know he feels this and I know he is aware of what is at stake and I believe he will raise to the occasion and pass this darn test!

Last week in Karate class the kids who were eligible to test for a new belt were put through pre-testing to check for readiness. This just happened to be the day that Jonah had had very little sleep the previous night and I also found out the following day that he had eaten next to nothing the entire day! He was lazy, distracted and had very poor technique. His instructor was noticeably frustrated with him and I felt like burying my head under my chair until it was all over. I wonder how many moms run screaming out of the room because their kid is doing horrible during a pre-test?! I choose to stay put. Good choice ๐Ÿ˜‰

We all knew he could do much better including himself and he did not qualify to test for his yellow belt that afternoon. That mini failure sparked all sorts of feelings in his father and myself, but we harnessed our reaction of dismay and disappointment and turned it into a teaching moment. We explained the importance of that entire class to which Jonah replied, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that class was so important?’ And that was the point at which he began to take on ownership of something that was his. He realized through that moment that he was in control of his success or his failure. He’s never had that responsibility before.

We worked the next two days on respect, being sharp in his moves and talked a lot about focusing on his instructor. The thought passed through my mind so many times of how difficult it must be for such a distractible little boy to be reminded over and over to focus and pay attention when in class. And this is what happened.

Due to the holiday weekend, we had to take him to a Friday afternoon class that was not his normal time. It was a small class with mostly white belts and my kid was on fire. He listened to every instruction, moved quickly, had good technique and got to re-test for his readiness to test for his yellow belt. He did so much better and got the okay to test!!! But even better… as class was finishing up, the instructor pulled out a handful of medals and proceeded to tell the class that because of their excellent focus and discipline that afternoon, that he was awarding them each with a medal of discipline! Jonah’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor!

That reward could not have come at a better time. It was a direct correlation between an award and Jonah’s attentive behavior and obvious change in attitude and focus that caused him to earn something very, very special. And he knows this. That’s the best part. He apologized to me later for having poor focus previously and I explained to him that had he not learned what poor focus was he would have never been rewarded for proper focus. Lesson learned and rewarded!

We started Jonah in Karate right before spring break in March of 2014. He had been asking to start for about six months prior to that and after collecting enough funds from our tax return, he was able to begin. He loved it as soon as he slipped on his oversized uniform. He carried an ear to ear grin the entire time during first few lessons and is still the kid with the loudest kiaps and ‘yes sir’s’. Concentration is not his strong point, but there has been great improvement there as well.

Jonah has been able to push his body and his mind in class and because of the success and self esteem he’s achieved in Karate, his school life has also improved remarkably. I came into Jonah’s classroom mid April, shortly after class had begun, to drop something off and his teacher greeted me with a look of surprise and wonder. She told me, ‘Jonah has decided to sit at a group table. He made that choice on his own. I’ve been trying to encourage him to sit with his group all year!’ This was HUGE! At the beginning of the school year, Jonah was too overwhelmed socially, that he opted to sit in his own chair at his own desk, segregated from the other kids. His level of interacting with them included fighting with them, pushing and shoving them and watching them from the outside. He didn’t know kid’s names and didn’t really care to. The day he choose to sit at his group table he started making connections with his classmates. He now remembers the majority of his classmates names! Plays with a few of them at recess and carries on normal kid conversations! Are you kidding me?? My heart is full to see these changes! I no longer get reports from his teacher about Jonah’s playground mishaps with other kids. I don’t hear from any teachers about Jonah’s poor choices. Now, I do have to admit that there are a handful of circumstances and people that have been instrumental in these changes in my son. These things I intend to elaborate on when I have time to collect more thoughts, but the start of it all began with his involvement in karate and I know in my heart that it has and will develop skills in him that will carry him far into his future.

There is no magic trick that will help every kid in the same way. Kids like Jonah need something to latch on to. It’s different for every one of them because every one of them is different. Karate works for Jonah. It’s the first real thing he’s ever had to ‘own’ all by himself. It’s his level of commitment and discipline that allows him to advance and as he advances he becomes more and more driven to succeed. And when we are driven to succeed, we figure out how to get to where we want to be the fastest way possible. To see this skill developing in Jonah blows me away. I have doubted so many, many times in his short life if he would ever really succeed. If he’d ever connect socially or emotionally with others. And here we are, at the end of his 1st grade school year, after a lot of patience and tears and notes from the school. Here I am seeing the fruit of our labor and loving the positive change.

Yes, he will succeed at something. He will succeed at many things. And I am ever so thankful for the handful of people who have sacrificed themselves to look into Jonah’s world and learn Jonah’s language. We are already able to steer him in a direction that is leading to abundant life. Will he earn his yellow belt when he tests on Friday? I believe he will. And I promise to sit and suffer in quiet agony and breath a silent sigh of relief when it’s over ๐Ÿ˜‰


Filthy Hands and Snake Holes

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We took a quick trip to Lowes this afternoon. Well, as quick a trip as possible with children involved. It was late, approaching bedtime and my kids were wired for crazy. They invented a new form of floor skating using speed and flip flops. Fortunately, the store was pretty empty because keeping them under control was nearly impossible.

Amazingly, an employee asked us if we needed any help and she quickly escorted my husband to the aisle containing the side paneling he needed to patch up the hole he had to tear into the side of the bathroom cabinet the other morning before work. Now why would a sane man do something like that just before heading to work? To remove the snake who had wedged himself between the wall and the cabinet of course!

And while we looked at cabinet panels my children proceeded to skid their hands and bodies across the store flooring coming up with filthy dirt laden hands which my daughter proceeded to lick off!!!! Can you say insta vomit?! YUCK!!

And that’s when the store employee expressed her relief that her girls were gladly grown and out of her house and that she couldn’t wait for the moment of them leaving to come while she was raising them.

I started to agree with her and then I had a reality check and stopped. That was NOT my take on childhood. Not at all. My kids drive me crazy. Insane. To tears. But I in no way am in any hurry to rush them to grow up and get out. And that is what I told her. That they are my littles and that I only get them little once and for even in the midst of flip flop floor skating, tool tag in Lowes and licking filth covered hands, I am in no hurry to leave this world of raising small children behind.

I enjoy my children. I treasure them. And it pains me to know that I will never have an infant or a toddler or even a four year old again in my life. Yes, there will be granbabies I’m sure it will be great, but my children are my little people and they are literally growing up in front of me every single day. I treasure them and I miss them when I think about the future when they are gone.

I am not capable of enjoying every moment with my children. I recently read a blog post releasing mothers of the guilt of not enjoying every moment of their children’s lives. I know some people are wired to love it all. And those people have 20 kids and drive them around in a bus and never travel because they are paying too much gas money to drive the kids around in that bus. That is just not me. I’m a 2 kid max type of mom. The thought of another makes me want to run screaming for the hills! But I am well suited to the ones I have. As crazy as they are and as hectic as my little boogers make my life, I cannot imagine a day without them. And I struggle daily knowing that time is moving very fast.

I just enrolled Mickey into Kindergarten and Jonah will be moving on to 2nd grade next year!ย  Where or where has all of the time gone?! Just a few short years ago almost to the day, (May 1st 2006) I told my husband that we were expecting our first. And now look at where we are. In only 3 short years I’ll have a child in the double digits! That’s just not fair.

It was obvious that I had to develop a coping mechanism for the grief that I experience when I quietly think about my children and how soon they will be children no more. And so, I am slowly coming to terms with reality.

I first tell myself that this life they live belongs to them and much like myself, growing up and becoming myself was glorious. I in no way want to hold my children back from their futures. They are happy to grow older. They embrace the change and for their sakes, I will embrace the change as well.

I have also decided that as they get older and their interests change, so will my traditions with them. My kids probably have 3 maybe 4 Christmas mornings left where they will actually want to receive toys for presents. The wonder on their little faces on Christmas morning will soon change from excitement to knowledgeable expectation and their desire for noisy toys will be replaced with Ipods and phones that make noise and gift certificates to their favorite stores. And to that I choose to cope by allowing them to enjoy their gadgets just as they enjoyed their toys not too long ago. And as they change, I hope to instill new traditions that fit their age and maturity such as volunteering to help a needy family or selling trinkets at a Holiday Bazaar. Christmas as I know it will be different, but it can grow into a more meaningful and rich experience. Change is so hard, but it has purpose.

I believe another way that I have learned to cope with my kiddos growing older has been to discover what fulfills me. I cannot spend my days living vicariously through the lives of anyone, let alone my children. I think so often, parents get so wrapped up into what their kids are doing that they feel lost when it comes to themselves personally. Fortunately, I have an artistic nature that is too stubborn to stay locked away. Regardless of the hectic chaos that I call my life, I have managed to develop and run a booming business that thrives off of my talent and creativity. Daily, I am able to express my artistic side in my job and because of that, I feel fulfilled. My work is separate from being a mom. It is all me and my business has been very successful, which has given me a confidence in myself that was not there before. When I’m creating, I am more than a mom or a wife or a housekeeper. I am an artist and an individual. And that sense of who I am is crucial for me to exist independently of my children.

The hardest part of change is… change. It’s uncomfortable and with children it happens so quickly that it rips your heart out, but at the same time fills it back up with more joy. The joy of seeing my little boy mature and hold friendships and the joy of seeing my little girl spend the day at school instead of clutched to my side. I do not change easily. I like the same burger every time I go to Jaspers, the same type of jeans that fit comphey, the same routine.

But change is inevitable and necessary and no one can stop time.

Mickey has told me a few times, ‘Mommy, you’re going to be so much happier when Jonah and I grow up and leave your house. It will be quiet and not messy and you can sleep in more.” And my response to her has always been a chuckle, and then a reality check. “No Mickey, I don’t want you to grow up too fast. I am going to miss you being little so much when you are older. I want to enjoy you for a little longer if that’s okay with you.”

Raising children is hard. I suppose I do give off the impression that I can handle no more and I do often ask for quiet time. But that’s an expression of the moment. I would not change being the mom of Jonah and Mickey for anything and I would gladly slow time to spend more moments with them when they are small. I have found that if I keep looking at my children as who they are right now, and don’t focus too much on who they were and what I’ve lost, I am able to smile and be content with what I’ve gained and enjoy what is to come.