Going into the Wild: Volunteering at Your Child’s School

My kids are in elementary and middle school. Over the years, I’ve volunteered as much as my health, career, and schedule have allowed. I’ve gone on numerous field trips, helped with a bunch of class parties and probably more things that I don’t remember as I’m typing this.

Cameron started kindergarten in 2010 and it’s all kind of a blur from there. One of my favorite things was helping at Lily’s Valentine’s Day parties because her birthday is right after.

Julian at the Louisville Bats game- 5th grade

Why do I like volunteering at my kids’ schools?

  • It allows me to get in some quality time with my kids. There’s three of them, one of me, and not nearly enough time in the day. Going on a field trip with them creates fun memories that’s just with us. Cameron still laughs about the bowling field trip in which both of us ended up with migraines. We had a very quiet evening at home afterward.
  • I have fun doing it. I don’t go on all the field trips I am able to- some of them just aren’t my thing. Lily’s class went on a trip to see a play that I knew I would basically fall asleep on so I sat that one out. If I know I can go and have fun doing it, I’ll sign up. Otherwise, nope.
  • It forces me to socialize. When I was in therapy, Rachel had me work on this a bit. I wasn’t a recluse or anything, but I didn’t like being around people very much and I would spend days in my house. Going on a field trip helps break that up a bit. I actually wear something besides sweats.

Heading Into the Wild

There are many ways you can volunteer at your child’s school. I just find field trips and the occasional class party the most fun and easiest way to do so. Some parents love organizing class parties, helping readers, coordinating festivals and so on. I just don’t have the time.

Volunteering is a good way to get to know your child’s teacher a bit. I’ve been able to become a lot more friendly with my kids’ teachers this way- in fact, my boys’ 4th-grade teacher now lives a few houses away from us. We became friends after she taught Julian. She was a special ed teacher for years before going mainstream. She loved working with him and helped us a lot with getting his IEP. Allison is a blast to talk to and we were thrilled to hear she was moving in the neighborhood. Julian won’t admit it, but he thinks it’s cool.

It’s also helped me meet some of my kids’ friends that I might not get to meet otherwise. Lily and her friend Alex don’t see each other much outside school but they are always together in school- I got to meet him on a field trip in which all of us were freezing. He’s a nice kid. He even said he wished his mom could come on field trips.

I’m not a fan of people, but I have made a mom friend while going on field trips over the years. Tiffany’s sons, Jordan and Connor, have been friends with Cameron and Lily. She and I have emailed and hung out with our kids often. She even follows my somewhat unfiltered Twitter. They are moving to a different county after this school year and I will be so sad to see them go. It can be fun to make mom friends, especially if you’re on a not-so-fun field trip or other situation. You might be able to make a stinky situation better.

These ideas were partially from A Life In Balance

Lily field trip pic

Your child might look at you sideways the first few times that you show up. This is okay. They’ll get used to it.

A Word:

My mom worked a lot when I was a kid- usually in the afternoons and/or at night, so she was usually sleeping when I was at school. She didn’t get to go on a lot of my field trips or help out a lot in my classes. She did make it to the big things, so I wanted to be able to do more for my kids. (No worries, Mom. I’m not mad. You did what you needed to do- take care of us.) I have missed a lot of things but my kids get the idea that I had to work, so now that I’m working differently, I’m able to do more. I know not all parents can, and that sucks. Don’t feel bad for what you can’t do, but feel good about what you can do.

If your schedule is a bit wonky, ask your child’s teacher what you can do to help. There is most likely something you can do, even if it’s making copies, making packets, or something else like that. Teachers love volunteers. I have friends that are teachers, and I hear this a lot.

Most school activities are meant to be fun in some capacity. Have all the fun you can and treasure the memories with your child.

Do you volunteer at your child’s school? Why or why not? What kind of experiences have you had?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

A Lesson in Respect for Today’s Kids

Kids have to learn a lot while growing up. One of the biggest lessons is respect- for themselves, us as their parents, and others. This can get a bit difficult, as some feel entitled to everything they lay their eyes on.

I’m not really sure where this begins, but it happens quite often. Sometimes it begins with getting everything you want as a small child and it continues, sometimes it is out of guilt, maybe both. It’s a combination of factors that differ with each family and situation.

Disrespect is not cute, it’s also not funny. It can be a sign of worse things to come. I’m not talking outbursts during arguments with a preteen, because those things happen often (in fact, this happened last night with one of my boys) but if it isn’t handled, laughed off or otherwise ignored, it grows. Kids pick up things very quickly and easily, and when they realize they can get away with being rude and disrespectful to their parents, it can snowball.

While I am on the topic of what kids pick up…

Manners

They’re Watching Us

Kids watch us from day one, even when we don’t think they are. They pick up on how we feel about them and the rest of the world. They can develop their worldview from ours- they also learn how the world sees them.

One way to teach respect is to give it to your children. Listening to them, actively listening, is the best thing you can do. This makes them feel important, valued and loved. They might be telling you something that is huge to them, and not-so-huge to you, but still, want you to know. This means looking into their eyes and asking questions- they can read your interest by these actions. Try not to interrupt unless you need to.

Try not to brush off their feelings and emotions. This can make your child feel a lot worse than they already do- if they can’t find the words, help them figure it out. This encourages honesty and open communication.

This one is huge at my house- respect boundaries. If your child asks you to knock before coming into their bedroom, do so. If you have a kid who hates hugs or other forms of physical affection, find other ways to show affection. Julian doesn’t do hugs, but he will give a high-five or fist bump.

Of course, I’d rather have the hug, but it makes him terribly uncomfortable, so I’ll take the high-five. If you respect the smaller boundaries, chances are, your child will learn to respect you and the rules you set.

Let them be who they are. We may not always like what our kids choose to like- I can’t stand half the things my sons watch but they like them and they’re not harmful. One kid may be extremely artistic, but the other can barely draw a stick figure. This is okay. Each child is different, with their own personality and talents. Don’t try to mold your child into who you want them to be- this usually backfires.

Let them see you being respectful. This can be a small act, as thanking a waitress or someone in a store. It does matter, because, again, your child is watching. The more they see you doing things like that, the more they will want to do it. Some kids will need a bit of prompting, and this is okay.

Own your mistakes. Parents make mistakes- lots of them. If you mess up, apologize and move forward. Kids need to learn to accept responsibility for their actions and apologizing. This can be hard but is a necessary lesson.

Find the cause. If there is a pattern of disrespect, find the cause. Is your child angry about something? School? Something at home? Friends? Talk to your child and see what is going on. The need can be addressed minus disrespect.

Behavior quote

Teens can be a challenge when it comes to disrespect- what are your tips/ideas for this topic? Leave a comment!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

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Information courtesy of Parenting For Brain

A Fine Parent

Survival of the Fittest: Parenting Through Puberty

I live in the middle of smelly socks, messy rooms, and so much pettiness that I’m contemplating creating a YouTube channel for the shenanigans that go on at my house daily. There are Gatorade bottles all over my boys’ room and Lily’s room still looks like an episode of “Hoarders”. It most likely will until she moves out, but I haven’t quite accepted this yet.

Teens on waterslide

The Yucky List

This is one of many things Matthew and I did not think out when we had kids- we seem to be getting through this unscathed, for the most part. There have been a few rough moments with Cameron, the most easy-going of the three. He gets mad, yells, might even cry a bit, but then he’s done and that’s it. He will be 14 in a few weeks- I’m still stuck on him turning 4.

The other two? Julian and Lily both have issues with emotional regulation thanks to their diagnoses (Lily’s is still unknown, we are waiting for results as this is being written) so that plus puberty, in which hormones are everywhere, this can get messy.

All three kids, however, eat everything we bring into the house and right now, the boys have some form of man colds and think they are dying so, yes, I’d say puberty is kicking right in. If you read my other post To Puberty and Beyond you may be able to get a sense of how things have progressed. (Spoiler: Cameron still takes naps.)

Upset teens

The Middle School Battlefield

Middle school can be rough. I’ve been lucky in this area, the boys haven’t had many issues, but Lily will be there next year and I worry my luck may run out. Girls can be cruel- picking on other girls about their weight, looks, interests, issues with boys, and so on.

Sometimes things are great with your daughter and her friends then POOF! She’s entirely left out of the group- no more sleepovers, hangouts, everything is gone. This can happen to boys, but it’s more common with girls because they tend to form closer relationships.

How can you help your child?

  • Validate their feelings. They need to know that what they feel is real, that you understand, and that it’s okay to be upset about what’s going on.
  • Listen. It may be hard to not instantly fix the problem for your child, but it may be better to let them talk, cry, or both.
  • Empower your child. Give him/her ideas on how to deal with the situation, like staying away from the person/people who is/are bothering them, eliminating them on social media, staying calm, ignoring, etc.
  • Look for signs of worsening issues. Kids can cover things up well and when depression, anxiety and other emotional issues are hidden, it can lead to more serious things, like substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide. This has become a major issue in our country.

Speaking Of Hormones…

It’s a well-known fact that girls go through a lot during these years, hormonally, but what about boys? I think they might get ignored a bit. I don’t have brothers, so I didn’t get a day-to-day look at how boys operated when I was younger. I’ve got two older sisters. They have hormonal things going on, too. It just shows a bit differently.

Boys get upset, just like girls do. They cry. They yell, and might even slam a door. I’m not sure how my kids’ bedroom doors are still on their hinges. They get a bit spacey.

Me: “Cameron, restart the towels in the dryer, please and thanks.”

*fifteen minutes later, after he has made a sandwich and is sitting at the table*

Me: “Dude. The towels.”

Cameron: “Oh, crap. Sorry, Mom.” *runs to the basement*

This leads me to:

  • Make requests clear. If you need a teen to do something, you might want to revert back a few years and be clear in your directions. Remember when your kid was seven and still needed reminders on what they needed to do to clean their room? That. That’s what they need. Slightly exhausting, but otherwise those towels aren’t getting done.
  • Laugh. This should be a tip from day one until your kid moves out, but it’s definitely needed at this point in parenting. Your kid will do a lot of funny things- most of it on purpose. My house is full of laughs. There’s a lot of fart jokes, a few prank calls from their grandmother’s cell phones, and other weird things.
  • Encourage them. These are some hard years. School is long and sometimes “boring”, you’re trying to figure out who you are, make friends and just want to fit in. Plus your parents still want to know everything about your life? Ew. Your face and body are changing- maybe not in ways you like. YUCK to all of this. The best thing we can do is encourage our kids. Let them know things do get better. They do get easier, those pimples go away, they will get taller. Help them find something they enjoy. This can boost their self-esteem a bit.
  • Be straight-forward. Thanks to my battles with drinking, this has been an important theme with my kids. There are some details they really don’t need to know, but I’m fairly certain they understand the perils of drinking and using other substances. Matthew and I are straight-forward about most other topics because there really isn’t a point in sugar-coating things for the kids at their ages.

Elephant fight

Caution: Bad Attitudes Ahead

Lily is the Queen of Eyerolls at ten years old. She still has about two months before her 11th birthday. She rolls her eyes at almost anything she doesn’t like- food, being told no, having to clean her room, leaving her cousin Cheyenne’s house (they have been besties since birth)- the list goes on for a while.

Sometimes Matthew and I are the best people on the planet, sometimes we are just..ugh.

It’s hard to not take this personally, and I have to remind myself that Lily doesn’t really hate us. Julian really doesn’t want to live with either of his grandmothers (preferably Matthew’s mom because she has better WiFi and she lets them do basically whatever they want) and Cameron really isn’t going to stay in bed forever because he’s mad.

What do you do when your kid throws attitude at you?

  • Think of how you are reacting to the situation. Check your feelings- are you frustrated, angry or even super tired? These can affect how you deal with the situation. Take a break if you need to and come back to the discussion later.
  • Are you part of the problem or the solution? Are you helping your child through the issue or are you making it worse?
  • Is there a deeper issue that I am not seeing? When a teen is upset about something, it can come out in many ways. We may not be able to see the deeper issue unless we poke around a little but it is well worth the work. He or she might be showing one emotion but holding in an entirely different one.
  • Remind them of what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. Your child may need a reminder of this depending on their behavior and/or language towards you. It is acceptable to be angry, upset, etc, but not acceptable to be flat out disrespectful.

I hope I can get through these years and not need to eat humongous amounts of cheese cubes. Do you have tips to share for raising teens? I would love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments, social media or email (use my contact form).

Pictures courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of Inspiring Life Dreams

Phase 2 Parenting

Thriving on Ordinary

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Small Steps to Self-Sufficiency

At the Top of My List

On the list of things to do as a parent is to teach your child to take care of themselves. I am a fan of this on many levels- I don’t want my kids to go to college or move out barely able to take care of themselves.

Matthew didn’t do his own laundry until then, and I was like, “Wait, what?” I had been doing my own laundry since I was about 12 or 13. I’m not a great cook, as we all know, but my mom attempted many times throughout my childhood. For the record, my mom is an amazing cook.

Tired mom

I also realize that I won’t be around forever- this became super real to me after my stroke in 2013. Yikes. Since that stroke, I have struggled with migraines and now rheumatoid arthritis. The migraines have gotten better in the last few months, but they are a permanent risk. I will be on medications (pretty much) forever to prevent them.

I was diagnosed with RA last year, but I’m not sure how long I had symptoms. I’m not the best at tracking these things, plus I’ve been on medications in the past that cause joint pain, fatigue, and a few other issues. (Thanks, Depakote.)

I’ve written about having RA in RA and Me Unlike my grandfather and many others, I have been lucky enough to get a diagnosis early so that my joints have a chance at not getting entirely destroyed. My grandfather died in 2016 at 83, and his hands were a major problem. He couldn’t write for years before he died because his fingers were curled up due to severe joint malformations.

These medical issues are less than fun and some days, it’s a struggle to get out of bed, much less wash clothes, cook and other things. Kids are pretty demanding. My post Chronic Conditions and Mommimg discusses this in more detail. I didn’t like the idea at first, but I’ve had to ask my kids to help out a lot more. Both boys can do laundry, cook (somewhat), wash dishes, and other things. Lily has been a bit more of a challenge, which leads me to the next topic.

Dishes pic

Kids Need a Bit of Encouragement

Some kids don’t need a lot of words- just tell them what to do and let them be. Lily is not one of these kids. She gets overwhelmed very easily and we have to break chores down for her- I have to make a list of what to clean up in her room. It takes less than five minutes to do and even though she moves at a snail’s pace, her room does get cleaned.

I stopped cleaning it months ago. It’s time-consuming, she’s old enough to do it on her own and honestly, I have other things to do with my day. Every kid is different and that needs to be taken into consideration.

Playing alone with legos

Tips for encouraging your child to do more on their own:

  • Take a couple of steps backward. Sometimes we tend to stand right in our kids’ way when they are trying to do something on their own. Let them try the task, resist the urge to correct or change what your child has done and praise their work. They need to hear that you think they did great, even if there were a couple of hiccups. Perfection is less important than you think it may be.
  • Break down the task. I do this often for Julian and Lily. They have different needs and this is a way to make things a lot easier. There are fewer tears on their end and less frustration on mine. Don’t hesitate to walk them through the task if needed and then back away, slowly letting them gain a skill.
  • Time limits can help build confidence. Get your child started on a task, then let them work on it for a certain amount of time on their own.
  • Give them a clue, not the whole answer. This can be very helpful with homework. A small clue towards the answer may be all they need to get the answer on their own. If they can’t find something, give them a hint on where it might be or the next step in a process.
  • Make a list of things that your child can do for themselves. You and/or your child may not realize what they can do. A list may allow your child to say what he/she feels they can do on their own and what they still need assistance with.

What About the “I Can’t Do It” Kid?

Some kids have anxiety about getting chores or other tasks done because they are afraid they can’t do it right, which they don’t want to show to anyone, sometimes leading to defiant/avoidant behaviors.

The main focus on fixing this issue is to find out what is making your child so anxious- are they worried they will take too long, they don’t know how to complete the task, it’s too overwhelming, etc. There are invisible factors but yet they can be a large roadblock.

  • Try talking to your child. He or she may open up about their worries and you may be able to find a solution. If they don’t, try small questions at first. This may help.
  • Offer to help get the task (ex. cleaning bedroom) started. A small nudge may help a lot, especially at the beginning of trying something alone. A kid’s room can be a big space to clean if they’re scared they can’t do it alone.
  • Remind them that perfection is not the goal. I used to be a perfectionist, but I just don’t see it as a thing anymore. (My former therapist helped a lot with this idea.) They don’t need to make their bed perfectly the first, tenth or even fiftieth time they make it. Learning a new life skill and the effort is a lot more important. For example, Cameron put three laundry pods into one of his first unsupervised loads of laundry. He thought I would be mad, but I told him that his and Julian’s clothes would be super clean and smell wonderful.
  • Remind them that everyone makes mistakes and they are still growing. Kids tend to forget that they are still growing and that they will mess up. It’s okay.
  • Encourage them to take a break if things get too frustrating. This can be useful for almost anything, but kids need to know this is an option. This might be a relief.

Relax pic

Think of helping your child become more self- sufficient as beneficial for everyone: you, the parent, get a few extra minutes in your day and your kids learn a lesson. It’s a plus for the family.

Do you have tips to add? Do you have a kid who refuses to do anything for themselves? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or find me on social media.

Information courtesy of: Developing Minds

Today’s Parent

Parenting

Pictures courtesy of: Unsplash

 

DIY Daddy

Parenting Without a Manual: What Am I Doing?

Parenting is an extreme sport – only there’s no training, it’s never-ending and even when you get injured or sick, there’s no time off. As of writing this post, I’ve been sick for four days. The laundry piled up, along with the dishes. Not much got cooked, but nobody starved. I guess it’s a good thing these kids are somewhat self-sufficient because otherwise, the house might have crumbled. This isn’t saying my husband doesn’t do anything- he’s at work most of the day.

We’re All in This Together

There are a lot of “sancti-mommies” out there, you might even know a couple. These are the moms that think they are better moms than everyone else and don’t mind making you feel like crap about your parenting.

They believe their kids are perfect (most of the time, they’re your worst nightmare) and if you don’t think the same way they do, well, you are not welcome in their circle. Think of it as the mom version of “Mean Girls”.

What those moms forget is that we’re all in this together. Every parent wants their child to be happy, healthy and to have a good life. How they get there is a bit different for everyone. Most of the time, we could use tips from other parents to figure things out. It helps to get other opinions and get resources from others. You feel less alone in the huge world of parenting.

There’s a lot to think about these days, from prenatal care, childbirth, bottle vs. breastfeeding, and it only gets more intense as your child grows. What should you look for in a preschool? Should you hold your child back a year from kindergarten because of their July birthday? (This is a thing, and some parents are doing it.) What about going online?

A lot of my friends are parents, and we try to help each other out. The ages of our kids are very spread out- some have babies and toddlers and a few have kids older than mine.

I even have my small tribe of autism parents. If you have a child with special needs, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of finding support in other parents. This circle of friends can be so important- they can celebrate and cry with you.

Where is My Handbook?

We all know parenting does not come with a manual. There are a lot of parenting books- thanks to Julian, I’ve read quite a few. Most of those were on explosive children, autism, and other similar topics. I don’t read nearly as much on this topic now, but with him going into puberty, I think it might be time.

As of yet, I have not found one specific book on how to raise a child, start to finish, birth to 18. If you find one, please send me an email or leave a comment, because I’d love to read it!

I don’t know all the answers- I wish I did. I’ve had to do some unpleasant things as a parent- explain why we had to put Tiger to sleep, explain death, racism, bullying, divorce, watch Julian get his arm X-rayed and listen to his screaming, learn about and deal with Cameron’s SVT (please read 5 Facts About SVT if you want to learn more about this) and a lot more.

I’ve also done some great things as a parent- watching my kids walk and talk for the first time, dropped Julian off at a friend’s house and for the first time didn’t freak out about it, watched them stare at the Atlantic Ocean, along with so many other things.

But yet, still no handbook. Where is this handbook? How do you parent when you don’t know all the answers? I simply roll out of bed and hope for the best. I can only hope I am doing my best as a mom because one day I’ll be out of time to teach my kids how to be decent people. They will be on their own. I’ll still be able to guide them as adults, but their choices will be on them. There’s a lot of doubt involved, which I try to dodge as much as possible. It makes me incredibly anxious.

I do struggle with not having answers. Cameron, by far, has been my easiest kid to raise. Julian and Lily have been a bit more of a challenge- I still don’t know what is going on with Lily.

I finally got an evaluation scheduled for her and I am counting the days until it is completed. I don’t know how to help her- I can’t help her if I don’t know what is going on. Hopefully, this evaluation points us in the right direction and things will get a bit easier with her. The issues have been going on for a while and I know it’s hard on her.

The Teenage Chapter

As Cameron puts it, being the mom of two preteens and one teenager is “a whole struggle”. I didn’t think these kids could eat so much food! I know there’s three of them, but wow. We have joked that Cameron’s getting a job the minute he turns 15 because we might have to take out a second mortgage just for groceries. He is already 5’4″ and weighs around 130 lbs, and he’s not close to being done growing yet.

My boys’ room stinks of feet. Lily’s bedroom floor is covered in clothes, shoes and who knows what else. I’m afraid to look, honestly, because I might get lost.

The attitudes around this house are ever-changing, depending on who says what to who. I don’t know who told my boys that their room is a wrestling ring, but I tell them at least twice a day that it’s not one.

How do kids work? How does this teenage thing work? How do I adjust my brain to the fact that my babies aren’t babies anymore? *sigh*

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Not Just the 3 of Us