There's nothing happier than waking up to your kids with a big present in tow. With the help of their dad, Madeleine and Carter bequeathed me with a shiny red tea kettle, yummy knee socks and a journal that made me smile. Today is my 42nd birthday, and I am so happy.
Birthdays are tender times for parents. You spend so much time worrying about your kids--from their own birth days (remember all those books you read and how much you wanted their entrance to the world to be just right?) to their actual parties year after year after year. There's not a mother in America who hasn't agonized over her kid's special day, hoping everything will be just right.
You spend so much time focused on your kids that by the time it is your birthday, it's hard to drum up the energy to make it matter for yourself. Don't get me anything, you want to say. Pleeeaase...do not go to any trouble. But these are requests we make out of the memory of our own effort. We don't want anyone to take on the burdens we take to let others know we love them and that they are special--especially when it comes to us.
But learning how to let the love in and making space for the extra trouble is as nourishing to our kids as all the parties we throw and the extreme measures we take to let them know we care. When we collapse down our opportunities to receive, we also fold up like an accordion their capacity to give. It's important for them to register and understand that they have a part to play in the acknowledgment of our efforts, but more importantly the ways we sacrificially love. They need a chance to say and show and display the ways they see us and recognize the gifts we always bring.
I am feeling blessed today that my kids have a dad who understands this and who is committed to helping them register their love in tangible, thoughtful ways. For those of you who don't, I say this is so important that it's worth teaming up with a friend who will help your kids while you in turn help hers, whenever there's a special day of yours that needs noting.
We need the love as much as our kids do, and when we can admit that and let it in, we're all the better for it.
How about you, Supersister? How do you feel when your birthday rolls around? Are you celebrated in your house? Do you care? Share your experience in the comments below.
Fridays are show and tell at school and Jack is always searching for just the right thing to take. He bounded down the stairs with a carefully crafted diamond made out of Legos.
"Jack, didn't you take a Lego creation last week?" I said.
"What can I say? I'm a Lego geek!" he replied.
"Hey, I'm the Lego guy in this family!" Josiah quickly shot in.
My own childhood started gushing in my head the way it does in certain moments of parenting. Everything you have ever thought or felt as a kid is all right there in a flash of a moment. Sometimes this can be painful and we start doing all kinds of projecting but other times it feels more like an opportunity to educate. If ever there was a teaching moment, this was it.
I told them a story about how when I was little I watched my sisters and whether I realized it or not, I gave everyone a job or a label.
Jennifer was a dynamic writer.
Kristen was the smart, witty one. (and she took amazing pictures)
Katie was the charming baby of family who could do anything really.
I told myself all those jobs were taken and I probably shouldn't even try to do any of those things.
"But mom, you ARE a writer AND you take pictures now!" Josiah said perplexed.
"I know and so are my sisters, but it took me awhile to figure out I could." I said.
The "awhile" part was an understatement, try 10-15 years really. What I discovered was that I came from an entire family of creative writers. While each person has their niche, we are each amazing in our own ways and sometimes those abilities intersect. Oh, how I wish I had known this from the beginning. I wish I had never been so afraid to try. So now I do the work of pulling off the labels.
"So I'm wondering if it's possible that there is more than one Lego expert in this family. We would be like a super Lego family, or maybe we are a big jumble of all kinds of things, artists, thinkers, builders, dreamers, you know?" I proposed.
"Yes! That's it, we can be everything!" Jack said.
I wonder if in an effort to encourage our children's individuality we sometimes shut or close off potential interests. Do you struggle with this as a parent? I know I do. How do you handle the labels flying around your kids? Share with us in the comments.
It's that time of year again; summer is winding down, and we are shifting our focus to all the joys of the upcoming fall. In our house this means apple picking, lots of Halloween costume talk, and starting the big prep for a new school year.
I love how beginnings give us a chance to invite something new into our lives. Here are five ways to help kids start the year off right:
1. Send some lunch box love. This is an oldie but a goodie. Send a note to your child; a little reminder that you're thinking of her the first week. Get a tad more creative and fun, write it in invisible ink and send the special reveal marker with another note to explain the directions.
Attach a small sticker or one of those awesome silly bandz for a special surprise. You can also make a coupon for a park day, or an ice cream date to be cashed in after school.
2. Go large and colorful with your encouragement. You may remember when the Supersisters and friends welcomed the kids back to school with a little sidewalk chalk love. Wake up early and write a message or just leave a sign in front of your door encouraging your child on the first day. You can even make it a family project and do it on the walk to your school for lots of kids. Here are a few messages:
- Have a great first day!
- You look fantastic!
- It's going to be a great year!
3. Do a kindness project together. The good folks at AARP have a lovely site set up called Create The Good telling you exactly how you can gather supplies for kids who are in need. Go to the store together and make up a box to donate, let kids locate and pick the items and then deliver to a school near you. Kindness always brings lots of joy to all involved.
4. Make a school wish jar. Cut strips of paper and write your wishes for your child and the school year. Fold them up and drop them in a canning jar or vase. Let your child open a wish every now and then. Wishes can be funny, serious or even deep; it's best to have a mix. This is a great way to show your child you are behind him, even down the road or the middle of the year.
5. Send a little piece of your heart. The beginning of school can be a little overwhelming. So many new things are happening all at the same time. Sometimes we need a little grounding. Cut a little heart out of felt or get a small token of some kind that your child can put in his pocket. Tell him this is a little piece of you he can hold throughout the day when he needs some of your love.
What are your traditions or special ways you send kids off at your house? Tell us in the comments.
I can remember it like it was yesterday. I had a black felted baller hat with a bow, just like Debbie Gibson. I wore it to a concert and felt, so, so cool. Almost as cool as my older sisters who were driving around town listening to Bon Jovi in their Naf-Naf outfits that they bought with their first paychecks working retail at the mall.
Even at my coolest, it was all still so awkward. My body lanky, long, waiting to grow into my forever legs and arms. I was at least six inches taller than most of the boys in my class, which helped as I was still too petrified to even think about a boy liking me. There was so much to navigate, so much to try on to discover who I was. I don't think I realized how important all of it was, especially that hat.
So here I am with my own boy, feeling right back at the start of all things tween. It started with his hair. He told me over a year ago that he was growing out his hair. We did this when he was four so I didn't think too much about it. I forgot I trimmed it then, easing it all into this beautiful shoulder length little boy beauty. This go around there would be no trimming.
No trimming and a LOT more shag. To say this drove me crazy would be an understatement, at one point I even resorted to bribery which still didn't work.
"Josiah, I will give you $20 if you let me take you to the salon to get it trimmed." I begged.
It's pretty horrifying on my part, I know. Everywhere we went he looked a little messier, with that thick mane in his face. Around the same time, it was as if we hit the sweaty, smelly boy stage too. Welcome to the tween years.
"Mom, you gotta let the hair thing go." he said.
"I think he's right. That hair is awesome." Jorge later said in private.
I sighed and knew they were both right. This boy was growing just like the hair, just as thick and crazy, just as awesome. This one small way of trying something different on, even if someone close to you doesn't exactly approve was the perfect way to flex some independence muscles. As he makes his way I learn how to accept, to even embrace knowing there are much more complicated decisions than hair ahead.
While shopping the other day we passed the men's hat section and Josiah wandered over. It was if every hat on the shelf was calling to his head. Not just one but pretty much all 20 looked completely rad with his crazy hair. We were both out of our minds over how cool he looked and I was so proud of all his tween goodness. All I could think of was that Debbie Gibson hat, and the beginning of so much more.
Do you have that one little independence step or decision your kid has made that makes you a little crazy? How have you navigated these new steps and stages? Tell us and all the uptight tween parents everywhere.
Kids are wandering out back without jackets on, windows are being cracked open, the robins are hopping around in melted snow puddles and everyone is happy to see the beautiful signs of spring. Every season change welcomes a new start and I love to anticipate what will be new again and what we will carry over. Here are some ideas to get your spring groove on at your house.
1. Go on a crocus hunt. We all went to walk the dog the other day when Lucy was beside herself with the tiny purple flower coming up out of the ground. She has now become obsessed spotting them and counting how many we can find on our walks around our neighborhood. The daffodils aren't far behind. Oh the magic of something beautiful growing! Don't have anything to grow yet? Why not plan your family garden together? Create a map and decide what and where you will grow your vegetables.
2. Get your family fitness on. Break out the bikes, dust off the trampoline, take a walk. Now is the time to return to outside games of chase and hide and seek. Your kids will be delirious if you suggest it and play with them. Try turning off the TV for a week and see if you find yourself outside breathing in the fresh spring air.
3. Get Juicin'. I don't know about you but oranges are piled to the ceiling at my grocery store. Why not let the kids help you squeeze some fresh juice to remind you of warm days ahead. You could get super crazy and try making a smoothie together? It wont be long before lots of fresh fruits and veggies will be ready for us to pick.
4. Do some Ding Dong Ditchin'. My kids and I are headed out to do some anonymous kindness today. Our local grocery store has daffodils for super cheap so we'll be making tiny bunches, attaching a note and then leaving them on random door steps.
It's super fun and a great way to get out for an adventure.
5. Make an Earth Day plan. What are you going to do this Earth Day to celebrate and care for our earth? Get a big sheet of paper and brainstorm together on what you might like to do together. Google your city and Earth Day to see what is planned locally or come up with your own project.
What are you doing to welcome Spring? Do you have any special family rituals or traditions when certain seasons begin? What do your kids love about this season? Let us know in the comments.
For years we had two giant shelves loaded with art supplies in the boys bedroom. Quite often I would hear them digging around, looking for just the right recycled box to paint and become some new part of a very elaborate Lego world. It was organized and seemed to work fine, aside from the occasional mess, but a visit to a creative friend's house made me consider taking it all a step further. She turned a small sun room into a children's art studio and it was pure magic.
My kids were delirious visiting her house and it seemed to ignite a new level of creating love. One weekend later I convinced my husband to give up a barely used sunroom/office to create our own family art studio. There is just something about claiming some territory and honoring creativity in the place where you live and spend so much of your time. The kids have spent hours upon hours since holed up in the little room, creating to their hearts content.
Here is what I have learned so far:
Even the baby will want to participate. It helps to surrender to artsy mess and just let them get messy and into everything. We keep the any toxic or tiny supplies high and in tight containers, but markers, crayons and the like are fair game. Lyra constantly has marker all over her but she is happy.
Use what you already have. Dig through junk drawers and recycle bins. You probably already have most of the supplies you need. It is just a matter of organizing it and laying it out in an accessible and inviting way. If this isn't your strong suit, invite and super clean neat freaky friend over, she'll know exactly what to do. Don't be afraid of getting rid of old stuff to make the clearing for the new space either. Think about why and how you use your current living spaces. Are they being utilized? Is a guest room really necessary? Can a space be shared if you really can't give it entirely over?
Add some love to your space. Hang your children's own framed art work in the space. Put up shelves for sculptures and pottery. Don't forget to add photographs that remind you of beauty and family love. Music is a must have! My son Josiah made the art shown above after we were all sitting in the studio working on our own projects and listening to Yellow Submarine by The Beatles. We sometimes play family DJ and everyone picks a song to add to the playlist. All of it invites togetherness and creativity.
Do you have a small carved out for your art or work? What tips do you have for encouraging art in your home? Tell us in the comments.
If you are a talkative, social parent like myself, it can be hard to know what to make of the one child at your house who can go through his days virtually silent, except for the sound of pages turning. I'm overstating the case, but you know this kid when you see her--quiet, reserved, shy even--that is until you she starts to warm up. How do you connect with this kind of child--especially when your preferred style of relating is active conversation? Here are some tips from my experience with my very introverted son Carter:
Hit the books. If you're like me, introversion can be a bit of a mystery. I needed a better understanding of this personality type before I could fully engage Carter on his terms. You can do your research by reading books such as The Introvert Advantage or engaging quieter friends or family members about what helped them feel connected when they were children. An unexpected visit from a much loved (and rather introverted) aunt was key in helping me understand Carter on a deeper level.
I'll have the regular. Since Carter is less likely to bounce into the kitchen and announce how he's feeling on any given day, it's essential that we have regular time together alone without interruption. For a few years now, we've made it a habit to go to a local pizza parlor together to enjoy a slice. We sit at the same table, facing the same direction, and we order the same thing from the same server. As an introvert, Carter can be easily overstimulated, so the familiarity of this routine makes the space he needs to relax and feel most like himself. Now that we've been doing this for awhile, Carter knows he can ask for "mother/son time" anytime he needs to feel more connected. It's his way of letting me know--without too many words--that's he needs a little extra attention. For those times we can't get to the pizza place, a simple bowl of yogurt by candlelight will fix him up just fine.
Silence is golden. I can not emphasize enough how essential sharing quiet time is for your relationship with your introverted child. It's a phenomenon that I don't quite understand, but Carter totally fills up when he and I are sharing anything in silence together--a car ride, a night time snuggle, a quiet snack. Something about proximity plus tenderness minus conversation equals nurture for my quiet boy. I have learned that some of our most important connecting times happen when no one says a word.
Still waters run deep. Understand that these kids are emotional sponges for every word spoken at your house. I've learned to check-in with Carter whenever there's been a lot of chaos in the house--either due to change in schedule, sibling rivalry or marital unrest. Little questions like "How're you doin', bud?" or "How 'bout a hug?" are sometimes all Carter needs to melt into my arms. Reflective listening is a big connector, too. All I have to say is "Buddy, you look like you might want to cry" and there go the flood gates. Since introverted kids sometimes need time to process their feelings, hugs and kind gestures are great for helping them let go of bottled up emotion.
We get there when we get there. Quiet kids sometimes need more time to make transitions. Change can be draining and use up extra energy, so make sure you have plenty of down time built into the schedule. Carter hates to be rushed and simply shuts down if you apply too much pressure. I've learned that giving him a little bit of space on the onset is all he needs to speed himself up, just in time.
Say that one more time. During our mother/son outings, I've made it a point to introduce Carter to the art of conversation. Since some introverts struggle with making small talk on the fly, I want to give Carter the skills he needs to feel comfortable later in life. When Carter was very young, I asked simple questions like "What's your favorite animal?" or "What's your favorite color?" in order to keep the conversation going. Doing this at every outing helped him learn the rhythm of conversation; he's now a very reciprocating and pleasant conversation partner. I know that learning how to chat has been a confidence-builder for Carter, and a skill he can use now without reservation.
These are just a few suggestions from one extroverted mom who's needed to learn a lot about introversion living in this particular household. Are you an introvert? Are your kids? I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
I'm always torn by New Year resolutions. On the one hand, it seems like the natural time to work on something in your life and on the other they always seem to be some sort of set up for personal failure. I went back and forth in my parenting mind if I should even bring the subject up with the kids who completely live in the moment anyway but Jorge unintentionally decided for me at dinner the other night.
"So guys, do you think our family should have any New Year's resolutions this year?" he said.
"What's a New Year's revolution?" Jack replied.
We both laughed and Jorge went on to explain. Instead of the usual set up for personal development he framed it a little differently by asking the kids if there was anything new they think we should try together, or anything different they wanted to be part of our family life. I was sure someone would insist we should get another dog and I would be toast but surprisingly they got the whole concept.
"I think we should be outside more, that should be our revolution. " Jack said.
"That's perfect because we just ordered the new trampoline today that Marmie and Opa gave you for Christmas." I returned.
"And I want to ride bikes with papa now that his knee is better." Josiah piped in.
So right there at the dinner table, we crafted a plan for our Salgado family outdoor "revolution". Here are few things I learned in the process.
Keep it positive. I think I would have just said, "We should exercise more, don't you think?" Jorge's approach to "enhance" our life instead of "fix" it made the invitation/goal feel more positive and attainable.
Brainstorm together. Letting the kids direct the idea gave them ownership and investment in its success. It also leaves the door open for further development down the road if this plan doesn't really work and we need to come back to the drawing board.
Keep it simple. Being outside together is pretty general, there are about a million things to do outside. This leaves our options wide open and makes it easy to add to our everyday lives.
Create a visual. Get a large roll of paper and markers. Write or draw pictures of all the ideas or things you want to try in creating your revolution. Hang it on the back of a door you open and close a lot in your house to remind you of all that is possible.
We'll see how it works out over here, I promise to let you know if our resolution turns into a totally (as Jack says) revolutionary idea. What do you think about kids and resolutions? Do you do them for yourself? Do you think they are a teaching opportunity or a waste of time?
Let us know in the comments.
We arrived at our family doctor yesterday for a regular check-up only to find people and small children waiting outside the door. The office was so packed with sick kids, the receptionist asked me to wait in my car and she would call me when they were ready. Yowsers! I felt for all involved. The staff was patient but looked a little haggard, the parents had wrinkled brows and the kids just wanted to be held.
"It seems like winter came early this year." Our pediatrician said. With all this flu talk and sickness going around, it might be good to have a few things in our parenting back pocket for such a time.
Here are a few ideas for your trip to the doctor:
1. Keep kids busy. Put tiny journals and color pencils in your bag for the office visit wait. Bubbles, stickers and tiny plastic animals can distract a worried mind. Play thumb wars and twenty questions with older kids.
2. Turn off the TV. The news can be quite scary for kids, heck, for me too. H1N1 news is a hot topic but little ears can be spared from the latest statistic. Information can pour in even when kids don't appear to be listening.
3. Talk straight, but be positive. Let your kids know what is going to happen (depends on the age/personality about how much information), and then remind them of your presence and support.
4. Let your child have as much control as possible. Let your child ask their own questions to your care provider. Introduce them to all staff that will be caring for them. Tiny decisions like what color band-aid they want and what you should do/play after the experience can help when they are feeling so powerless.
Do you have any tips for helping kids deal with the doctor, shots or general anxiety about medical care? Let us know in the comments.
Check out Sid The Science Kid too! He has a new episode about getting shots. This is also an awesome guide to how to talk to your child about going to the doctor and dentist.
The babies have always stayed close to me, really close. Jorge took them to snuggle on his chest, change a diaper, or hold in the crook off his arm but I was still their primary source of nurture and nutrition. Around the age of one, the parenting worlds start to shift and the guy who was just around making goofy smiles becomes the parent of choice.
We went apple picking last weekend and I watched it happen before me. Lyra sat in his lap eating apples and playing flirty games all day. Her back stiffens and eyes light up when he walks through the door at the end of the day. She makes her way to him with a book in tow insisting that he reads the same page over and over because she keeps turning the pages back. He is thrilled to be coming in to his time, the time when she is now a papa's girl.
Nothing is more charming than a man and his baby. And I watch all the love and chant in my mind, "No more babies, no more babies, no more babies..."