What I Want My Kids to Know About Friendship

I’ve posted a lot on my social media about the importance of friendship. In the last few years, I’ve had to learn a lot about its true meaning. I think I am a lot better off but I hope that my kids never have to go through losing friends the way I did, or at all. It’s not a good experience.

Bday dinner

Tyson, Ashley and I at Tyson’s bday dinner, 2019

The Things That Really Matter

  • Who is there when things get really bad. Ashley and Stephanie were at my house as soon as they could be after my calls about Jake. My mom recently fell and broke her shoulder in three places. She’s fine, but Tyson told her to get better because he needed someone to punch people for him. (My mom has a wild sense of humor and he knows this.) Scott almost dragged me out of my house for months. Everyone supported me through therapy. Friends are there for you, even when you’re sobbing your way through a bottle of Fireball, can’t talk after thyroid surgery or when you get diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I want them to find friends that are there through the good and bad times.
  • You can make friends in the weirdest places. Sara wins this award. Neither of us imagined making a new best friend in a funeral home, of all places. I just wanted to make sure Jordan was in decent shape (he wasn’t) and say goodbye to Jake, and POOF! there’s Sara. I imagine Jake is somewhere laughing about this. His brothers were absolutely correct in thinking we would make great friends. Our daughters are best friends. Lily is two years older than Bella, but neither of them cares. I want my kids to be open to meeting people wherever they go, because you never know what might happen.
  • What’s special needs? Thanks to Julian, Cameron, and Lily probably have a great insight into how to treat someone with special needs. They have been taught to care for those that are different and not leave them out. Ironically, Julian’s bestie also has ADHD. Kids with special needs need friends too, and they can teach our kids a lot.
  • Find good friends and hang onto them. I have known Ashley since middle school, Stephanie since junior year of high school, but I have known Tyson the longest. We met as first graders. We got separated due to his moving around afterward but after we met back up in high school, it’s been laughs. Stephanie and I have five kids between us. We were pregnant at the same time- Cameron is two months older than her younger daughter, Angelina. (Bonus- her middle name is Wrae, after me.)
  • Know when to let go. Sometimes friendships can be toxic. Some people can start out great for you but when you grow and change, they can’t handle that. It can be hard to let go, especially if it’s been a long time friend, but it’s better than hanging onto a toxic one. If a friend is spreading rumors, not standing up for you or doing worse things, they aren’t a real friend.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have everything in common. There are some things that I love that my friends don’t. I love true crime podcasts and most of my friends think I’m a bit weird. This is okay. It’s what makes everyone different. The main thread is what you do have in common- for example, Ashley and I love “South Park”, really bad 80s music and Mexican food, just for starters.
  • Real friends want to see you happy. No further explanation needed.
  • A small circle is good. This doesn’t mean you’re not popular or that something is wrong with you. I have a small circle of friends and I am okay with that. It’s easier to trust a few people. Julian is not a fan of people and this is okay. As long as he has a couple of people that he likes to hang out with, things are good.

Friendships are important in every part of life. What lessons about friendship do you want your kids to learn?

Tips for Teaching Kids About Disappointment

Kids learn a lot of lessons- not all of them are fun. They learn that if they don’t listen to us, they can get hurt, in trouble, or just maybe, we were right.

They also have to learn about disappointment. Yikes. This can happen after not being able to go out with a friend, not being picked for a team or even after finding out that the store is out of a toy/DVD/something else they wanted. It’s not fun to see the look on their face, but it’s a part of life, right?

Unhappy

Bouncing Back from Let Down

Learning to bounce back is a skill that kids will need to hang onto for life, so it’s important to learn this lesson early. They need to learn that it is okay to ask others for support, communicate in an appropriate way and stay optimistic. It’s best to start with the basics. Some of the following information is from Parents Magazine

  • Teach your child that some things can be changed and some things cannot be changed.  For example, if a storm ruins a trip to the park, explain to your child that we can’t control the rain, but offer a different solution. Also remind them that a tantrum or other negative actions (like whining, my personal pet peeve) will not get them what they want. If your child sulks, choices can save the day.
  • Instead of rushing to fix an issue, let them try to fix it themselves (depending on the age). This may take some time, but your child will learn that they can fix bad situations on their own.
  • Show some empathy. Your child will see that it’s okay to be sad or upset over unexpected things if they see that you aren’t pleased over canceled plans.
  • Create a network of people that your child can talk to when things are a bit rough. Sometimes your child may want to talk to someone else besides their parents and this helps build resilience.
  • Don’t tell them “You’re being a baby”, “It’s not a big deal”, or anything similar. They are kids, but they also have feelings. These phrases make their feelings seem smaller and that hurts as much, if not more than the situation itself.

Time For Processing

Many kids sit in the sadness for a day or so, depending on the situation. We don’t like seeing our kids sad and a bit heartbroken, but this time may give them an opportunity to think things out and come up with an idea of what to do next, how to improve, etc.

They may not even need us to help them. Even if they don’t ask, check in with them to see if they need a listening ear and/or an idea or two on how to move forward. Remind them that you still love them, no matter what. You may get brushed off but it’s probably what they need to hear most.

Listen to your child and validate their feelings. They need you to help them deal with their thoughts. If they need a bit of encouragement, give it. This isn’t the time to demean them or their attempt at making a team, getting into college, etc. Being disappointed is a part of life and part of being a parent is helping them through the rough patches.

Unhappy

Pics courtesy of unsplash

How well do your kids handle disappointment? Do you have a story to share when your child handled it well? Please share in the comments.

 

Homeschooling: Is It Right for Your Family?

Homeschooling is a topic that has been debated for years. Studies have been done to determine how well those who have completed school in this way have functioned in society emotionally and academically.

Parents choose this for a number of reasons- they may have children with special needs that aren’t reasonably accommodated by the school system near them, bullying, religious, not liking the school system near them, along with other reasons.

A Friendly Story

I happen to have a friend that homeschools. Madonna (yes, everyone, that is her real name, but these days she goes by Dawn) has five kids. FIVE. She’s a stay a home mom and homeschools all five of her kids, which has to earn her some sort of medal.

Her kids vary in age from 15 to 4 and even the youngest is in school. She decided to homeschool after she decided that she didn’t like the school system of the county that she lived in (at one point she lived in a different county than me, and now we live in the same county, but she still homeschools).

Her oldest did attend public school for kindergarten but both she and her daughter absolutely hated it. One of her kids had leukemia a few years later, so her oldest was placed in private school while Dawn cared for the son that had leukemia. I’m happy to say that he’s in remission.

Once he was better, everyone went back to homeschool. Her kids are happy and doing well in school. They have been involved in outside activities so that they are able to meet other kids their age- her oldest daughter was heavily involved in cheerleading until ankle injuries stopped her. In fact, our kids get along pretty well. Our boys are very happy playing video games and riding bikes together and Lily loves her younger girls.

The point of this story is that homeschooling can be great if it is done correctly. Dawn is part of a whole community of families that homeschool. Per Kentucky law, she had to write a letter to the county’s board of education stating her intent to homeschool. She then had to create a curriculum, which she goes by very closely.

Benefits and Drawbacks

This information is from Education Corner

There are many benefits to homeschooling. Some of them include:

  • Strengthening the bond between you and your child.
  • Flexible scheduling for education. For example, Dawn and her kids went to Florida to visit a family friend right after my kids went back to school after Winter Break. There isn’t a strict timeline for their education.
  • The ability to streamline their child’s education to their needs- this can come in handy with special needs.
  • Developing special talents- musical, artistic, or other areas.
  • Parents can touch on controversial topics in their own time and in their own way with their children.

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • My personal struggle- the patience factor. Being around your kids all day and trying to educate them? That’s a lot.
  • Explaining your choice to homeschool to people who don’t understand and/or approve
  • The cost of materials, books, etc.
  • The social factor- trying to find other kids for your child to socialize with, especially if you move around a lot or live in a rural area. This can be easier if, like myself and Dawn, you live in a city.
  • Constantly having to adapt to new teaching methods

What Do I Think?

I’m a very open-minded person. Every parent has the right to choose how to educate their kids. If you want to homeschool, go for it. It’s not my thing and my kids are sitting in a public school as I type. I don’t have the patience to teach my kids. I would entirely lose it.

Public schools aren’t perfect, especially not in Kentucky. I live in Louisville, home of the biggest school district in the state. There’s a lot of changes that our school district could make.

As long as you’re homeschooling the way your state designates, then I’m okay with it. Kids need to be educated to be able to make it on their own as adults, and this can be done in various ways.

Education is the key to the future- kids need the tools we give them to succeed.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling? Leave them in the comments!

Tips for Parenting from Baby to Middle School

Opinions are everywhere.

So are your kid’s toys, the cat’s litter and the contents of your purse.

Or is that just me?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a weird world that we live in- everyone has something to say. Some of us feel the need to live up to expectations that aren’t exactly healthy.

I am not one of those parents.

I was many moons ago, and there’s a post to tell that story.

The Baby and Toddler Stage.. Take A Deep Breath

Babies are adorable. They’re all soft, cuddly and you just want to hold them forever.

wp-1549471429047..jpg

Avery, my little buddy.

Until that first blowout diaper. I’m here to tell you, it’s one of the many gross things you will witness as a parent. Once you see that diaper, you will want to cry and throw the whole day away. As in hit the restart button and pause right before your baby created that horrible mess.

They sleep about as much as cats, at least for a while. Once they sleep all night, life becomes somewhat decent again. Then comes the solid food stage, in which they insist on smearing everywhere. It makes for great pictures but horrible cleanup. Babies also become mobile, and that’s when the real fun begins. It’s when we stop being able to have nice things.

Toddlers are known to be tiny terrors. They can destroy your home in about 15 seconds or less if given the opportunity. They also have the capacity to be the cutest little people you will ever lay eyes on. “Oh, wait, I have a voice and it gets loud? Wait, hold my sippy cup while I scream because Mom changed the channel.”

My friend Melanie had a hashtag #ReasonsWhyMyToddlerIsCrying while her son Elliott was a toddler and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. My kids threw wild tantrums and I am glad I lived through this phase.. barely. I went through three toddlers in a short amount of time.

How can you survive this phase?

  • Sleep. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Sleep the best you can at night. Try for some sort of schedule if you can, you will thank yourself later. My kids still have a sleep schedule and they’re much older.
  • Breathe. Take lots of deep breaths. Meditate if you need to. It helps keep you calm.
  • Humor. You will need this when your two-year-old has discovered what a Sharpie is.
  • Backup. Backup needs to be a thing from day one. You will need it until your child moves out, or so it seems.
  • Learn about your child. Every child is different and they change over time. This will help greatly when people start giving advice you really don’t need.
  • Self-care. This should be a priority. Forever.

The Preschool Life

This stage is kind of fun. Kids at this age want to learn about everything. They ask a million and two questions before lunch, and they’re learning to express themselves. This might be about the time they learn to dress. That can be a lot of fun- I had a blast with Lily’s outfits. They’re also learning to interact with others outside their family.

Snowball pic

Lily and the snowball

I didn’t think about how expensive preschool was until both boys were in it together. YIKES. It’s not getting any cheaper, so if that’s your thing, you might want to start looking into it when your child is an infant if they aren’t already in daycare.

My kids never went to daycare. Their grandmothers watched them while I worked and finished school then went straight to preschool. Julian had a rough time in preschool, but Cameron and Lily did great. Lily’s road to preschool was not an easy one thanks to her delays. We almost didn’t get her potty trained in time.

Speaking of potty training…

How do you get through this phase?

  • Lots of patience. Potty training does not happen in one day. I do not care what book you read. If you have potty trained a child in one day, please email me. I’d love to know what you did. Julian broke his foot while he was being potty trained and had a cast almost up to his knee. I cannot express how much fun that was. He had a boot on, but it still impeded his speed in getting to the potty. We started late with Lily due to the therapies for her delays and she continued to have accidents well after her fourth birthday. It was not easy. Patience is required in all aspects of parenting but potty training will wear a parent out!
  • Humor. Preschoolers do a lot of funny things. They also say even funnier things.
  • Have a camera. Thanks to smartphones, this is super easy. You will want to take a million pics during this time. They’re always into something. It’s just the question of what.
  • What’s a clean house? If everyone living in it is clean, then the rest is a bonus.
  • Routine is good. Bonus if it actually gets followed daily. We try very hard.
  • Grow an extra set of eyes in the back of your head. Preschoolers are into everything. They want to learn about the world around them and sometimes that means a little bit of adventure. It can also mean doing things they know they probably shouldn’t. Since we can’t really grow eyes in the back of our heads, backup is a good idea.
  • Self- care. These little people take a lot out of us and we need to recharge.

Time for School!

wp-1549471281755..jpg

Thanksgiving 2015

I may joke about it now, but I was sad about sending my kids to school. I cried a little when Lily went to her first day of kindergarten because she’s my youngest and I realized my 5 lb, 12 oz baby wasn’t really a baby anymore. It was a little crushing. She’s now months away from middle school. I may or may not cry at her 5th-grade graduation.

Some kids do not do well with the kindergarten adjustment. Julian was one of those kids. He was diagnosed later that year and that helped somewhat. Kindergarten is a big change- the building, more adults, kids, the routine, and more. Julian is not a fan of big changes, so this was not on his list of fun things to do. He did better in the other years.

Kids in this stage grow so quickly! I sent Cameron to elementary school in 2010 and he finished in 2015 almost as tall as me! They learn a lot, make friends and lots of things in the middle.

How do you get through your baby not being a baby anymore?

  • Let them be who they are. My kids have tried different things to see if they liked them or not, and this is fine. Lily tried playing the trumpet but didn’t like having to play in front of others. Julian ran cross country in 5th grade because he’s always been a fast runner. Cameron loves basketball and plays whenever he can. He won’t try out for a team, (I think) because he’s afraid to mess with his heart (he has SVT and is cleared to play by his cardiologist).
  • Watch them form their own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. You may be surprised at what they have learned from you. Be proud of yourself for teaching them well.
  • Let them make their own friends. Of course, step in if there’s something dangerous going on. Kids like to hang out with who they like, not who Mom picks.
  • Let them solve their own problems as they get older. This isn’t meant for a kindergartner, but fifth graders can figure out some things.
  • Take all the pictures they will allow. Pretty soon, you will hear “Mom. Stop taking pictures. It’s annoying.”
  • Humor. Humor is a parenting requirement.

The Parenting Struggle…The Middle School Edition

If you’ve seen my Instagram page, this is one of my often-used hashtags. Middle school is a struggle, for parents and kids. Kids are trying to figure out who they are, what their bodies are doing, and as parents, we’re just trying to make sure they’re okay and keeping them fed.

If you have boys, the last one can be a challenge. I have two- I don’t know where the food goes but the wrappers are everywhere.

Kids are smarter than we realize. They, for the most part, are more accepting than many adults are. I think it is a combination of not caring and how they are taught. I’ve done my best to teach my kids to accept others for who they are and not what they look like or what their racial makeup is. I’ve been the kid left out because I was biracial and that is damaging. I would never let my kids do that to someone else.

20180702_120903.jpg

Julian and the Gorilla

The struggles? There are many- smelly feet, testosterone, explaining racism and other injustices, discussing drugs and alcohol (especially when you are 2 years sober), homework, grades in general and lots more.

This is the age in which kids start learning from their friends and not asking Mom or Dad about everything- Cameron learned about bisexuality from a friend of his. I guess when you’re 14, this is on the list of things you don’t ask Mom about.

How does this phase work?

  • Talk to your child. I cannot stress this enough. I don’t mean sit them down and interrogate them but just casual talk is good. They need to know you are there for them and that you care.
  • Boundaries. Let them know what you will and will not tolerate. We’re parents, not their besties.
  • Let them come to you if they have a problem. No judgment allowed. If you judge, they won’t confide in you.
  • Remind them of the importance of good grades, enforce homework rules, etc.
  • Give them space. They need it.
  • Knock before entering. You will regret this the one time you don’t.
  • Humor. Teens are funny and humor helps in almost all situations.
  • Let them be who they are. They are figuring out who they are. This takes a while.

Parenting is an adventure. It is not meant to be easy. We are, however, meant to have the children that we were given. I didn’t realize this until Julian was diagnosed.

I thought I had completely messed up as a mom and maybe even as a person, but no, I was given Julian to become a stronger person and much better mom. Enjoy the ride- our kids only get one childhood!

Do you have any tips to get through these stages of childhood? Leave a comment!