Dear Pinterest, Maybe we should break up

Someone recently told me that magazines today cost about nine dollars. Could that be true? When was the last time I even bought a magazine? I made it a point the next time I was standing in line at a grocery store to check.

There was a time when I read magazines. I even had a few subscriptions in my life. As an adolescent, I read Seventeen where I learned to apply make-up and chuckled at reader’s most embarrassing moments. In college, Cosmopolitan explained everything I needed to know about the opposite sex and gave me fashion tips. I used to get Cooking Light when I was newly married, and after the first baby, Parents Magazine faithfully arrived every month.

I remember my mother always having a stack of magazines lying around. Back issues of Shape would be piled high in a basket next to her bed. As a single mother of two, I don’t think she got to read much of them. And while reading is an important part of my life, (I am an English teacher after all) at the end of the day, I’d rather lose myself in a novel-escaping a little from my everyday life-than thumb through a magazine where I’ll be forced to compare myself to skinny models, enticed to buy products I don’t need, and too tempted to put it down when my husband turns on the television.

Yet while magazines have exited my life, Pinterest has entered it. I enjoy Pinterest. I’ve gotten great recipes and lots of DIY project ideas off of it; however, I’m starting to realize that I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest.

I’m a compulsive person. I’m a perfectionist. I’m a list-maker. While I can lose myself, and time, scrolling through Pinterest feeds, when I am finished I end up with more on my to-do list than before. As a full-time working mother of two, there is enough to do every day. But now, not only have I wasted thirty minutes where I could have been doing laundry or grading papers, I’ve just added three more things to my list: I’ve got a new recipe to try with another trip to Safeway to buy the needed ingredients, a project to do with the kids, and a scheme to make over some part of my house previously thought to not need renovating.

That might not be so bad though. I’ve created some pretty neat things thanks to Pinterest, but what really gets me is the way it makes me feel about myself as a parent.

While I used to compare myself to girls in magazines, I now find comparison in the hordes of stay-at-home mothers on Pinterest.

A half-hour spent on Pinterest leaves me questioning: Do I fail as a mother because I didn’t make my daughter a bento box for lunch? I didn’t cut out shapes from watermelon and organic cheese slices. Instead, I shoved a frozen Uncrustable and a drinkable yogurt in her lunch tote at 6:45 A.M. I don’t have a list of 100 things to do this summer neatly written on a homemade chalkboard in my kitchen or a theme for every day of the week. I’ve never blogged about 25 things to do with your toddler either. If I tried, I would probably get stuck after number 3 or 4, and number 5 would certainly be “put them down for a nap and pray that it lasts at least two hours.”

Years ago, I remember watching an episode of Oprah where this mother had died of stage-four lung cancer. She had two children: a daughter and a son. While she was ill, they went to Disneyland, Palm Springs, and Vail. It was like a family bucket list of sorts. In the end, Oprah asked the daughter what she remembered most about those last months with her mother. The girl replied that it was sharing a bowl of Cheerios at two in the morning. Not Disney. Not Palm Springs. Not Vail. A late-night bowl of cereal.

pexels-photo-135525

A forgettable moment becomes the one we cling to.

So I wonder: with all the projects to do with the kids, the indestructible super-sized bubbles and homemade Kool-Aid Play-Doh, what will they actually remember? All the time spent planning, organizing, buying supplies and documenting the experiences, is this what they will recall as being most special about their childhood?

My kids are the happiest when we’ve stayed in our pajamas way longer than usual and snuggled in bed, when we’ve sat on the floor and played Candyland, when hotdogs and beans is what’s for dinner, when we spontaneously take a bike ride around the block.

Driving down the road the other day, I saw a license plate frame that read, “Yes, I am Super-mom.” If being super-mom is so important, surely there are other roles that aren’t being fulfilled. Isn’t Super-mom going to be super lonely when her Super-kids are grown up and no longer need her to make their lunches or when they are no longer interested in doing the 31 activities of October?

I believe that my mother was one of the best mothers a girl could have, but she didn’t cater to me or my sister. She had a job and hobbies of her own. She did things with us and she did things without us. She was not trying to be Super-mom, but she was a super mom.

The other night I came across a Pin for miniature pancakes on lollipop sticks and I was outraged. Of all the stupid ideas in the world, this one belonged on the list. What a waste of time, energy, and sticks! How many pancake lollipops would one child have to eat to equal a satisfying breakfast? Wouldn’t they all be cold by the time they were ready to be served? I’m certain that if the mother making those pancakes poured a bowl of cereal instead and then spent the rest of that time she would have been standing at the griddle  either reading a book with her children or taking them outside to play, they would like that a whole lot more. And yet, even though I know all this, on some level, I still feel the need to compete.

As parents, we try not to compare our children to each other. Every child reaches developmental milestones at their own pace. As our children grow, we encourage them to be individuals, to not conform to their peers—yet as an adult, I have difficulty doing the same for myself.

Years ago, my life was simplified when I quit Facebook. There were times that I missed it, but whenever I considered returning, the cons outweighed the pros. Sometimes I wonder if breaking up with Pinterest wouldn’t be the right thing to do too. When I don’t have Super-moms to compare myself to, I feel like I am doing a pretty good job raising my children.

Not every moment has to be perfect or planned. For in the end, it’s the bowls of Cheerios that matter most.

Enablers

My friend/colleague was venting to me the other day. We were in the final days of the school year and a parent had contacted her “very concerned” about her son’s grade. It’s always fun to get those emails which make it seem like the child’s grade has come as a complete surprise. While that may have been the case many years ago (like, when I was in high school and teachers had paper grade books), today there is an abundance of communication and transparency when it comes to grades in school.

Grade books are electronic and when a teacher enters a grade, it immediately shows up on the parent’s portal. These portals can be accessed through the computer, or through an app. Parents can get notifications the exact second an assignment is entered as missing. Report cards are mailed home four times a year, and progress reports are mailed home at the mid-way point of each report card. And that’s only the start of it. Most teachers have websites and use communication devices that send text message updates and notifications to students and parents alike. If a parent doesn’t know what is going on with their child’s grades, it’s because they don’t want to know, not that the information has been covertly hidden from them.

Even so, that wasn’t what really irked my friend. Her complaint was that through emailing back and forth with this mother, she had outlined all the ways that this boy could raise his grade; the mother seemed grateful for this information, but then, not a few hours later, when she had the boy in class, his mother calls the school and gets him released early because the boy didn’t feel like staying in school for the whole day. He had texted his mom and said that they weren’t doing anything important…And she believed him.

So your kid is failing a class, but you allow him to leave the class and go home early? Hmmmmmm.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-time phenomenon.

This year, I had a girl in my class who struggled. She suffered from anxiety issues which affected her attendance, but in an honors course, these attendance issues made it difficult for her to maintain a passing grade. At the end of the first semester, her mother and I had a lengthy conversation about moving her into a regular English class. The mother told me that she wanted her daughter to stay in the honors class and that she would not allow her stay home from school any more…And I believed her.

Fast-forward to second semester.

In addition to her anxiety issues, this girl now also had “stomach issues” which is interesting seeing as how when she arrived late to class, she was almost always toting a super-sized soft drink from a fast-food restaurant. I’m going to assume she didn’t just buy a soda there either. I really enjoy the part where coming to school on time is so trifling that it’s ok to stop for a beverage en route. I guess she’s of that mindset that late is late. And just to clarify, we aren’t talking about five minutes late either. In classes that are one hour and forty minutes long, she usually strolled in during the last half hour. This semester, she was absent thirteen times, and tardy nine. That might not sound like a lot, but with classes that only meet every other day, there are about 45 classes per semester, and she missed instruction in half of them.

My favorite part though was when we had off for school for two weeks for spring break, and after we returned, she informed me that she would be missing an entire week because her family hadn’t been able to go on vacation over spring break. [Sigh]

It’s especially discouraging when I call home on a student and the parent says, “I don’t know what to do. Maybe you can help him.”

Um, hello? I was calling YOU for help!

I’m a reality television junkie. Recently, I found myself watching Family Therapy with Doctor Jenn. If you have ever watched Couples Therapy, it is the same premise, but with, well,  families. This introductory season showcased some familiar names like Dina and Michael Lohan and Tiffany Pollard, better known as “New York” from the reality show I Love New York, along with Bam Margera from the famed Jackass series.

Family Therapy highlighted Bam’s mother, April, learning how she had been enabling her son for all these years which kept him from growing up. While he was mostly detoxing from his drug and alcohol addiction on the show, they talked about how he never learned from his mistakes because his parents were always there to clean up after him. He would trash hotel rooms, but his parents got the bill and the damages were paid out of an account that Bam had no knowledge about since he wasn’t sober enough to handle his own finances. Bam argued that having to face the consequences of his drunken actions may have proved to be a sobering experience.

The thing was, his mom was so sweet on the show. She didn’t think she was enabling him. She thought she was just being a good mother. She would mother all the members of the cast, making them smoothies and bringing them out to the pool for everyone. What she didn’t realize- at least not right away- was that for every time she did something “motherly” for her son (buying his deodorant, making his lunch, washing his dirty laundry) she afforded him a free pass to not do it for himself.

It reminded me of how I kept putting lotion on my eldest daughter after she got out of the bath long after she was capable of doing it herself. How I wouldn’t force her to make her bed because it was so much quicker when I did it myself, and anyway, when she did it, it was always sloppy.

That shit needed to stop.

Last Sunday we decided we were all going to do housework. My husband was in charge of the lawn and I was attacking the bathrooms. I made my eldest vacuum and my youngest dust. My eight year-old started with her own bedroom.

“I’m done!” she yelled. I walked in and looked down at the dog hair that still lay on the floor. A giant dust bunny hopped out from behind her door.

“No you’re not. Look.” I pointed it out, then I walked back to the toilet bowl and kept scrubbing.

Eventually, she got the house vacuumed to the best of her ability. I’m not saying it was easy. Easy would have been sending her outside to jump on the trampoline while I vacuumed the house myself in half the time and with all the dust bunnies slaughtered. But easy would not have benefitted her. Easy would have enabled her.

DSC00536

One of my favorite parenting experts is John Rosemond. He has a traditional, no-nonsense approach to raising children. Not befriending them. Not entitling them. Raising them. I was turned on to his philosophies by my mother and step-father who read his weekly column. They always agreed with what Rosemond advocated for, which often was in stark contrast to the parenting they observed in the world around them, but which resembled the parenting they themselves had done and the parenting that their parents had done.

Rosemond has a pretty straight-forward viewpoint on chores. Children should do them, and they should not be paid to do them. To summarize, he believes that chores allow children to contribute to the family. He likens this to when there were agricultural families and everyone pitched in to keep the farm running. Today, chores help children to learn responsibility, it keeps them accountable, as well as it grows their self-esteem.

While I agree on all fronts, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s still a struggle. That was one of the first things I realized when I became a parent and had to start disciplining my child. Parenting is tough. Good parenting is even tougher. It’s a lot easier to be a bad parent than a good one. It’s a lot easier to give in to your kids and let them win. It’s way more fun to be celebrated as “the best mom ever” for buying McDonalds than forcing them to eat the dinner you served them which consists of things they might not like, but are good for them…like vegetables.

I want to be a cool mom, but as a high school teacher who witnesses the result of that style of parenting on a daily basis, I know how harmful that can be in the long run. In reality, I think I’d rather have my teenage children say, “oh my God, my mom is such a bitch.”  There were often times I wasn’t fond of my mother when I was a teen, but as an adult, I am so thankful for everything she did for me. But even more thankful for all those things she didn’t do for me.

Nowadays, when my daughter is complaining that her skin is itchy or she breaks out in a rash, I remind her why she should put lotion on, but I’m not slathering it on her after ever shower. She’ll learn. And even though my house might not be as neat as it would be if I had cleaned it all myself, we’ll live with it.

After all, the goal is to raise children who one day can move out, right?

I’m sure there are other ways I still enable my kids though that (like Bam’s mother) I’m not even aware of, especially with my oldest. She was my first baby, and sometimes I don’t realize that she’s not my baby anymore. But every time I give her an opportunity to do something for herself-making her own scrambled eggs for breakfast, for example- I’m reminded why I need to do that more often. I birthed a perfectly capable human being. And when I ask her how her eggs are, she cracks a gigantic smile and tells me they are delicious.

What about you? Are you an enabler? As a parent, how do you find ways to stop enabling and start empowering?

Be the Village

This winter, my district called a snow day when it wasn’t really necessary. As a result, teachers ended up having to spend a glorious day of professional development on June 10th. It was our make-up day. A day we otherwise would have been off, sleeping in, and nursing our first hangover of the summer. Instead, we were back at work, after we’d submitted our final grades, painfully attending six morning workshops on 21st century learning and then an afternoon session attributed to Social and Emotional Learning, otherwise known as SEL. You can imagine how excited we all were.

This was a tough year too. I won’t get into all the particulars, but I will say that the morale at my school is at an all-time low, which is pretty bad since our morale hasn’t ever been that good to begin with. Teachers just aren’t feeling supported or appreciated. And we work really hard, so that sucks.

A few of my work friends and I went out for lunch in between sessions and one of my friends asked each of us what was something we would have liked to have been acknowledged for. We each took a turn saying the thing we had worked hard at that year that went completely unrecognized by our administration. At least we had each other.

0fa30039ea7158c439a142ea5b06695a

Then we returned to school for the afternoon session hoping that the time would go by quickly so we could start our well-earned vacations.

I actually was interested in learning more about SEL. After all, I’m expected to teach it now, there are standards for it, but no one has told me how to teach it or trained me in it, so I was eager to hear what our speaker would have to say.

One of the last units I taught this year, I thought, tied in nicely with SEL and my content standards, but was not appreciated by everyone. I started by having my students read, annotate, and respond to an article about a gender-neutral bathroom in the LA Unified School District. The article discussed how students had petitioned to get the bathroom, but then it was protested by a local church and fights broke out as a result. Next, my students performed a close-reading of an essay called “A Clack of Tiny Sparks: Remembrances of a Gay Boyhood.” In this essay, the writer discusses how he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality during his teenage years. Lastly, we watched a TED Talks called “Love, No Matter What.” The speaker, Andrew Solomon, does address homosexuality, but he also talks about the deaf community, dwarfism, those with Down’s Syndrome, and even the parents of the Columbine shooters. The big idea behind his talk is acceptance. My students practiced non-linear note-taking, writing objective group summaries, and answering text-based questions. Everything we were doing tied into Common Core standards, as well as the SEL standards of my district.

Still, I knew that there would most likely be a phone call or an email from a parent who didn’t like what I was doing. And I was correct. I had to have a “parent meeting” which was fine, really. The mom got to say what she felt, and I got to smile and nod. She said she had an uncle who was gay; they liked him and he was allowed to come over to dinner, but they did not approve of his lifestyle. She was concerned that this particular unit took two weeks to teach, but she failed to see that it was only five classes (because we are on block schedule, we only meet every other day.) Her big argument was that two weeks is a long time for a student to come to class every day feeling uncomfortable. Meanwhile…many students spend every day of their lives coming to school feeling uncomfortable, but who was I to knit-pick these points?

Did I mention this mom is also a history teacher? I wondered if she would cut her unit on the Holocaust short if there were Jewish kids in her class, or refrain from teaching about the KKK if she had students bothered by that content.

Aside from this one parent though, none of my students openly complained. Yet a few did write about it in their end-of-year reflection letters to me. There was one student who said homosexuality is tied too closely to religion and since we aren’t supposed to “teach” religion in school, they felt I shouldn’t be “teaching” about homosexuality. I had a few others who expressed their displeasure, but the thing is, for every student who didn’t like it, there were others who were thanking me.

At the end of the year, my students had to write a personal essay on one of their beliefs and also do a presentation on it. I really feel that the unit on acceptance helped them to be a little more tolerant of their peers as they stood in front of the class and talked about things like religion and atheism, self-love and suicide. There were some deep topics addressed and tears were shed. But what touched me the most, was the way that my students listened to and supported one another, even if they didn’t necessarily share the same belief.

Still, I didn’t know if this is what I was supposed to be doing as far as SEL goes. And if it was, how much of this was I expected to do? None of these questions have been answered, and I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, I’d get some clarification at this training.

I didn’t. But that’s not to say it was a total loss.

Firstly, the presenter began by acknowledging that he totally understood where we were at, as teachers, sitting in a training, on the last…..day…..of…..the…..school…..year.

Thank you. I like you already.

He talked about how important it is for students to learn how to give a good handshake, look people in the eye, and introduce themselves—a skill that is being lost in a world where we are always virtually connected, but not always present in. He mentioned the importance of learning how to be active listeners, a skill he claimed was an investment in our relationships. He discussed how students needed to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable, and he used the quote, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem becomes a nail.” And he stressed how important it was for people to know how to apologize.

Just days prior, I had witnessed this inability to apologize occur not once, but twice, in my classes. The first time was when this girl had borrowed another student’s notes to copy, but despite the lender giving her detailed instructions on where to find him to return the notebook, it was not returned. The lender was annoyed he’d not had his notes, which he needed to prepare for the final. I watched as the borrower offered up, not an apology, but excuses.

The second incident was only a few days later when I had to speak to a student who had turned in plagiarized material for his last essay of the school year. As I addressed this with him in the hall, he tried to explain all the reasons he turned in the web-essay, but he could not seem to utter up the words, “I’m sorry.”

These incidents replayed through my head as our presenter asked how much better our world would be if our students learned just one of those skills. I was reminded of a recent movie I watched. The title character, Ashby, tells the teenage boy he’s befriended to “don’t just say you’re sorry, make amends.” I was reminded how heartfelt apologies had benefitted every relationship I’d ever been in, and times when the lack of one seriously hurt them. And I was reminded of how much time I spend- as a parent- teaching my children when and how to say they are sorry, and why it is important.

As we were pairing up for an activity, a colleague commented how SEL is the job of the parents, but the presenter also said that many families today are missing two healthy parents who are actively rearing their children.

It takes a village to raise a child, and schools today have become the village.

As teachers, we can cross our arms and say “that’s not my job,” but as members of society who witness tragedies occur and who know that mental health issues are not being properly addressed, it is our civic responsibility to do everything we can. If teaching SEL addresses mental health issues, then I’m on board.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The presenter reiterated this point time and time again. Social and Emotional Learning is, as he put it, “mental health first aid.” And here’s how: we create our thoughts, which create our emotions. Our emotions create our actions, which create our impact on the world. If we can teach our children to change their thoughts, it will change their emotions, which will change their behavior, which will change the world.

It will change the world.

sunset-hands-love-woman-medium

In the wake of what occurred in Orlando, it makes one think.

While I may not have left that training with the answers I was looking for, I did leave with some confirmation. I am going to continue to teach acceptance in my classroom, even if that means presenting students with texts that showcase the perspectives of people whose beliefs they disagree with, even at the risk of momentary discomfort. I am going to continue to look for teachable moments where I can tell a student: stop making excuses, and say you’re sorry. I’m going to continue treating my students as “my kids” and acting in loco parentis, because unlike my children, they may not be getting the parenting they need at home.

I am willing to be a part of the village so that my own children can live in a world where, hopefully, things like Columbine and Orlando happen less and less.

 

 

 

 

 

Kindness and Karate

When you become parents, you set some guidelines for how you are going to raise your children. I don’t remember ever sitting down and having these talks with my husband before we got married, as some people suggest, but thankfully, my husband and I have agreed on most points of parenting.

One of the many decisions we made early on was not to have our children involved in too many activities at one time. We didn’t want to be that family that spent every night of the week shuttling our kids from one event to the next, grabbing dinners at a fast-food drive-thru, and having our children half-ass their homework at nine o’clock at night.

For a long time, this wasn’t a problem since our older daughter never really got interested in many activities. We had her try dance, take swim lessons, do gymnastics…each one at a time. She’d enjoy the activity to some degree, but ultimately, she wasn’t too passionate about any of them. When she stopped taking dance, my mother asked her if she missed it. “Nah, I’m over it,” was her response. She was five.

I asked her if she wanted to try soccer, volleyball, softball, or basketball, but she insisted that when she came home from school, what she really wanted to do was play with her baby sister.

While I thought this was sweet, and definitely saved us time and money, I worried that she would grow up not having found her niche. I thought that by the time she realized what she wanted to do, her friends would already have cultivated their talents and she would be left behind. Being involved in sports or clubs helps grow friendships; they teach confidence and skills like teamwork and leadership. As a teacher, I know that the students who are involved in extra-curricular activities tend to do better academically. Yet at the same time, I never wanted to push her into an activity that she didn’t genuinely have an interest in. I didn’t want her to be a cheerleader just because I was, or have her play softball just because her dad played baseball. And honestly, I was the same way when I was a kid, so I could see where she got it.

So I waited, and continued to ask her if there was anything she wanted to do, hoping one day she’d say yes.

At the start of second grade, she expressed an interest in Girl Scouts. While I was happy to sign her up, I still wanted her to do a more physical activity. In our state, PE is not required at the elementary level. While most schools offer PE, it is funded primarily through the PTOs at each individual school site. And PE once a week does not equate to teaching my child how to live a healthy and active lifestyle. While some might argue that kids run around every day at their multiple recesses, I’ve also seen kids sit picking at the grass, so I wanted to make sure that my daughter got some exercise outside of her normal school day.

Around January, I asked my daughter if she wanted to try karate. To my surprise, she said yes. It’s funny, but when she was a toddler, she used to tell me and my husband that she was doing Thai-Chi and she would do some movements that looked pretty close to what I imagine Thai-Chi to be. Who knows where she got it. Probably Ni Hao Kai-Lan. Regardless, I am happy to say we signed her up, and since then, karate has been the best experience we have had with any organized activity to date.

I LOVE my daughter’s karate school. While it costs a little more than some other programs, they allow their students to attend as many classes a week as they want. On average, my daughter attends karate three times a week. Aside from the instructors knowing every student by name on the very first day and making the classes both instructional and fun, the martial arts academy that she attends teaches respect, integrity, self-discipline, and focus. They make the students articulate what those things mean. They also make the students practice at home in order to move on. It’s helped our daughter to learn about dedication and setting-goals. As she has earned her new belts, she has felt a sense of pride that I never saw in her when she had a dance recital or got a star for mastering a skill at gymnastics.

Currently, my daughter is working towards her green belt. In addition to her boxing and kicking, for one of her components of this next belt, she had to complete ten acts of kindness and write them down. While we always try to teach our children to be nice, this presented an opportunity to talk to our daughter more about what it means to be kind, to brainstorm with her different acts of kindness, to point out to her moments in her daily life where she perhaps overlooked an opportunity to be kind, and to watch her do things that made her, and us, feel really good inside.

It also proved to be a more difficult task than I initially anticipated. Our daughter can be shy at times, and children also tend to be very self-centered, so getting her to consider when she was doing something for others versus doing something for herself was a challenge. Like the day she said, “I let Eileen cut me in line at lunch.” But when I asked her why she did that, she said, “so I could sit by her.” She wasn’t doing something to benefit Eileen, she was doing something to benefit herself.

For the past month, a common question in addition to “how was school?” and “what did you learn today?” was “did you do anything kind today?”

After several consecutive days of her responding, “good,” “I don’t remember,” and “no,” I was starting to feel a little discouraged.

You went a whole day and you didn’t do anything kind?

But it made me think: Did I do anything kind that day? If someone asked me the same question, how would I respond?

As an adult, I probably would be better at coming up with an answer, but did I set out each day with the intention of doing kind deeds? Not really.

I needed to start modeling. I would purposefully stop to bring Starbucks to my daycare lady when I went to pick up my youngest and point out to my eldest that I didn’t have to do that, but I wanted to and I knew it would be a nice surprise. I looked for opportunities within our community to volunteer or make a donation.

And my husband started modeling too. He made a tool for picking up litter and when he walked to pick up our daughter from school, they- along with help from our little one-filled up three bags worth of trash on the walk home.

IMG_1975 (1)

What started as something for our daughter to complete, became something the whole family was participating in.

Pretty soon, I found myself asking her before her day even started to look for opportunities to do kind things that day at school, listing a few examples, and by the end of the day, she’d have done something. Like the day she held the door open for three classes to walk out to recess. While it may not seem like a big deal, for her to have thought of it and found the opportunity on her own and to have acted upon it, it was huge.

As my daughter neared the end of her list, we reminded her that she didn’t have to stop doing acts of kindness just because she had fulfilled her requirement for her green belt; we should be doing kind acts as often as we can.

When we signed up for karate, I wasn’t sure what we were getting ourselves into. Was it going to be another activity that my daughter would participate in for a few months and then get bored of?

DSC00479

Six months later, she talks about the day she gets her black belt and I believe that one day, she will. But what we have gotten out of karate has been the biggest surprise. It has given us the opportunity for conversations that we might not have otherwise had with our daughter. It has helped us to shape her into a better human being, and for that, I am ever thankful.

Imagine if everyone had a list of ten kind acts to complete, wouldn’t the world be a better place as a result?

Stop and think: What’s the last kind thing you’ve intentionally done? Where can you find opportunities to be kind tomorrow?

 

 

 

Goodbye Children…Hello Hawaii

A few weeks ago we told our friends about our upcoming vacation to Hawaii for our ten-year wedding anniversary. It will be our first vacation without our children. In eight years, we have spent no more than one night at a time away from them. There was one night in Tahoe, one night at Lake Topaz, and one night at a local hotel when my parents were in town and could watch the kids for us, but other than that, any time we’ve gone away, our children have been with us. So when we told our friends, who are also married with two children, that we would be spending seven nights in Maui sans kids, they were in awe.

“What are you going to do?” they asked, wrapping their heads around the concept. As they took turns soothing their four-month old, they suggested we spend the first three days of our vacation sleeping. Remembering what it was like with an infant, I totally understood that suggestion. However, since our kids are a bit older, we do get a little more sleep these days…not much, but a little. Even so, the idea of sleeping in each day is attractive. I’m not going to lie.

The reason we don’t travel without our children is not that we have any fears about leaving them. Quite contrarily, I think it is healthy for parents to get away from their kids as often as possible. Date nights give you an opportunity to reconnect and share a meal that doesn’t involve cutting someone else’s food or farts at the dinner table. Spending the night at a hotel reminds you what it is like to wake up without your four year-old climbing into your bed at 5:30 and announcing that it is morning or questioning where your pants are when you’ve only slept in underwear.

My husband and I high-five when we get in the car after leaving the babysitter in charge for a few hours. But since all of our children’s grandparents live across the country from us, the opportunity to take a longer break from our kids hasn’t presented itself until now. Being married for a decade seemed like reason enough for my folks to volunteer to fly out and spend the week with my kids while we went to Hawaii. I’m pretty sure a full-on chest bump might be in order.

sea-sunset-beach-couple

Recently I was talking with a friend of mine who is married but who does not plan on having any children…Ever. She was going to spend some time in Arizona visiting her aunt, and her husband was not joining her. She said she was excited to go on a vacation and not have to wake up every morning to his boner. She mentioned how every year, they usually go away together to Mexico for a week, and she knows when they go, she’ll have to have sex every day.

Let’s review this again. She’ll have to have sex every day.

If you’re reading this, and you have children, I know what you’re thinking. It’s like “first-world problems” for the childless. Poor Baby.  You’ll have to have sex every day. Let me tell you about the last time I had sex, right after I dust the cobwebs out of my crotch.

Or maybe you’re still hung up on the idea that they go away together…alone…every year…to Mexico. Their vacations aren’t to Disneyland, Lego Land, Sesame Place, Six Flags, or the zoo. They don’t have to pack sippy-cups and favorite blankets and coloring books and fruit snacks and thicker-than-paste-sunscreen. I’m sure she’s always well-rested too. I mean, aside from the times she’s awakened by her husband’s you-know-what poking her in the back.

There are so many things I’m looking forward to about our trip, but I know that while I will appreciate spending a week without my kids, I will also miss them immensely. For every sacrifice that having children requires, my life is equally enriched by them.

I may not get to sleep in, but having their little, warm bodies in my bed on a Sunday morning, giggling and being silly with them, is not something I would trade for all the world.

I may not have sex-filled vacations, but seeing the world through my children’s eyes when we travel fills my heart in a whole different way.

My blog, like my life, is all about balance. You can’t have children and make your whole world about your children. (Well, I guess you can, but I don’t recommend it.) You need to also have time for you– and time for you and your husband together. When people say that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, I disagree. You can have children and still enjoy some time away, remembering what it was like before they entered your life. Whether it is for a few hours, one night, or a week–getting away is crucial to your sanity.

Sometimes I’ll tell my husband I am going to Target. He always asks, “What do you need?” My answer: Nothing. I just need to go to Target.

Translation: I need an hour to myself, away from the kids and the chaos of whatever is happening in the house. An hour to mindlessly walk the aisles, pushing a cart, sipping on a Starbucks if I really want to spoil myself, and searching through the clearance racks.

Getting away allows you to return. Having some childless moments allows you to appreciate your children more. Having one-on-one time with your husband allows you to remember why you made your children in the first place.

We all know that being a parent is a full-time job, but like any job, you are allowed a fifteen-minute break, you deserve a lunch-hour, and you earn your annual vacation. I propose that in this job, the vacation policy be “use it, or lose it.”

Whether you use it in increments—getting a pedicure, trying a new restaurant with your hubby, or spending a long weekend at a B&B while someone else takes care of the kids—or whether you cash it in all at once for that week in Maui you’ve been dreaming about ever since your honeymoon: Don’t let your vacation time go to waste. After all, you’ve earned it.