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What I’ll Teach My Kids This Summer (It Won’t Be Math Facts)

This summer, I will not complete summer math packets.

I will not practice math facts with my kids or even touch a flashcard. I will not sit my kids in front of a computer to “play math games” or even utter the letters IXL.

I will not look at a reading log. I will not keep track of reading minutes, and I will not keep a tally of books read.

I will not purchase any of the big ass first grade or second grade reading or writing workbooks that are currently on display at Costco.

I will not force my kids to practice their handwriting.

I will not spend one goddamn second even thinking about the summer slide.

Because as far as I’m concerned, there is a whole lot of equally (or more) important stuff that slides during the school year.

Instead of focusing on all that stuff, I will do this:

I will take my kids to the library. I will encourage them to check out books. And if they choose to check out books (they will — they always do), I will read them to my kids. Or with my kids. Or I will let them read to me.

And I SWEAR TO GOD, this summer we will return all of our books on time. *crosses fingers and holds breath*

I will teach my children about the importance of down time. Of rest for your body, and rest for your brain.

I will encourage spontaneity, and do my best not to overschedule.

I will devote time to teaching the kids.

I will teach all of them how to operate the washing machine and the dryer, the dishwasher, and the vacuum. Even the five year old. Most of them know how. But not all of them. Not yet.

I will teach my kids how to plant seeds and then take care of them.

And then I will devote time to training them. Not training them how to have perfect penmanship.

I will train them all on how to load a dishwasher (efficiently enough so that I don’t fell compelled to rearrange it), how to empty the litter box, how to replace the bag in the garbage can, how to clean a toilet and how to fold a fitted sheet.

Okay, just kidding about folding the fitted sheets. I fucking hate those things.

But I pledge to devote my teaching and training time not to worksheets, packets, math facts and reading logs, but to developing better organizational skills and encouraging self discipline, responsibility and accountability.

I pledge to hold regular, weekly family meetings so that we all feel we have a voice and a duty regarding what goes on in our home.

I will encourage my kids to spend as much time as possible outside and live by the principle, the dirtier you are by the end of the day, the better. And I will get dirty with my kids.

Maybe I’ll teach them all how to make one fairly healthy meal from start to finish.

But I’ll also have them take most of their “baths” in the pool and feed them way too many hot dogs.

I’ll let them stay up too late and I’ll let them sleep in whenever they can.

By the time September rolls around, they may not remember what 7 x 9 is in less than .12 seconds.

But they’ll hopefully be more rested, more responsible, more proactive, and more self-sufficient than they were in June.

And that’s what matters most not only to me, but to the greater good.

So this summer, that’s what I’ll be devoting my time to.

All those packets and logs and unfinished workbooks?

Between you and me, they make pretty good firestarters. And making s’mores is also on my summer syllabus.

So I think we’ll use them for that.

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Could You Go 24 Hours Without Saying No To Your Kids?

Gymboree Sale On Now!

How many times do you think you say NO to your kids every day?

Five times? Twenty times? A hundred times?

I bet if I kept track, it would be in the triple digits. Easily.

Sometimes I say no to them before they can even finish a complete sentence.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

Because Number 6 is giving me a serious run for my money lately.

He’s super defiant, and I find myself embroiled in power struggles with him way more often than I’d like to be.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint the source of the issues I’ve been having with him. I believe there are a few main reasons he’s such a challenge right now.

And one of them isn’t that he’s being a tool.

It’s the way I’m talking to him.

I tried to be very conscious of this yesterday. I paid attention to our interactions.

Mommy, can I ride in the car without a booster seat?

NO.

Mommy, can I have some orange juice?

NO.

Mommy, can I have two granola bars?

NO.

Mommy, can I play on the iPad?

NO.

Mommy, can I stay home instead of going to the Y?

NO.

Mommy, can I have one of those juice boxes?

NO.

Mommy, can I –

NO.

Yikes.

These are just a few of the times I said no to Number 6 yesterday.

Forget about all the rest of my kids.

Between all of them, I very, very easily say no hundreds of times a day.

So when I ask my kids to do something, or, more accurately, when I tell them to do something and they automatically say no, why am I surprised?

I mean, it only takes one time for you to let a shit! or a fuck! slip out for your kids to memorize that word and use it at every embarrassing and inopportune time possible.

So what are we to expect when they hear us saying no hundreds of times a day?

I have become what Positive Discipline would refer to as a no monster.

I am no-ing my kids to death.

And that immediately builds the foundation for a power struggle. And power struggles are exhausting and infuriating.

Obviously we can’t say yes to every single question our kids ask.  We need to set limits and boundaries.

But how can that be done without saying no?

Well, I am going to focus on the following three things:

First, I’m going to do my best to stop with the demands. 

I’m getting better at this.

What do you need to do to be ready to get on the bus? has been MUCH more effective for me than progressing from:

Go get your shoes.

to

I said go get your shoes!

to

Didn’t I just ask you to get your shoes?

to

Why are your shoes still not on?

to

HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO GET YOUR SHOES???

Next, I’m going to try really, REALLY hard to ask questions that can’t be answered with yes or no. Those just invite the power struggles.

Instead of Can you help me bring something in from the car?

I’m going to try something more along the lines of What do you want to carry inside? Your swim bag or a bag of groceries?

That gives Number 6 a choice so he has some control and it also gives hime an opportunity to make decisions.

Finally, I’m giving myself this challenge. I’m going to try not to say no for a whole day.

Yep. For a whole day.

I will find a way to either give him choices, or to say yes.

Before you lose your shit about the saying yes thing, hold on.

First, as far as the choices go, instead of saying “Get ready to go to practice” I’m going to try:

“It’s time to get ready to leave. What do you want to do first? Pack your swim bag or eat your snack?”

When it’s time to get out of the car, (one of the things that drives me f&%$ing insane because he takes like five million years to get out) rather than barking, “Hurry up and get out of the car!!!!”

I’m going to try, “How many seconds do you think it’s going to take you to get from the car to the front door?”

We’ll see if we can make it fun instead of turning it into a battle.

Now back to that saying yes thing. I don’t mean I’m just going to give up and let the kids do whatever the hell they want.

When I tell Number 6 it’s time to get ready for bed and he says,  “NO! I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED!”

I’m going to try “Yes, I can understand you want to stay up, but it’s time for bed! Now what do you want to do first? Brush your teeth or put your pajamas on?”

That’s a whole lot different than saying, “GO UPSTAIRS AND GO TO BED.”

If your kids are giving you a hard time in the defiance department, take a look at how you are talking to them.

How many times do you say no to them every day? It might be more than you think!  You might be unknowingly inviting the responses and behavior.

If you find you are in the same boat as me, maybe you can take the just say no to saying no challenge with me.

Think you can make it through a whole day without saying no?

I don’t know if I can, but for my sake and Number 6’s sake, I’m sure gonna try.

 

 

Gymboree Sale On Now!

 

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What I Learned Over Spring Break

Last week was our spring break. It was the first spring break in about five years that we haven’t had major money problems.

Where we weren’t in danger of losing our house, where the Man from CL&P wasn’t coming to knock on our door on an almost monthly basis, where we weren’t on food stamps, where we didn’t have to return cans and bottles or hold a tag sale in order to pay for groceries.

We aren’t anywhere near rolling around in bags of money. We aren’t in the position to do whatever we want whenever we want. We are nowhere near that. We still have to be frugal and cut the fat wherever we can.

But we aren’t destitute.

Being in a terrible financial black hole for years had put me into the mindset that I couldn’t relax. That I had to spend just about every second of every day working or trying to find ways to make money. And so for the past four of five spring breaks and Christmas vacations and summer vacations, I have basically ignored the kids.

Going away anywhere was clearly not an option. But I had also convinced myself that taking time to do just about anything with them wasn’t possible. Or allowed.

It’s hard to get out of that mindset.

For me, anyway.

So this spring break, I made the conscious decision to be much more available to the kids.

I did this for a number of reasons.

First, Number 7 is five years old.

Five years old!!!

How did that happen so fast?

There are phases of life that have passed us for good.

We are done with diapers and highchairs and strollers and carrying kids. I find myself feeling nostalgic for some of these things that are long gone sometimes.

Although I appreciate where we are now. I am enjoying the kids having more independence. I am enjoying relating to them on a different level.

But damn is it going by fast!!!

I definitely have regrets. And I’ll see an occasional video show up on Facebook from five years ago and it’s scary how quickly I forget. I forget what the kids looked like and what they smelled like and what they sounded like. I know that happens.  But has it happened more for me because I’ve been letting so many opportunities with the kids pass me by?

I spend a lot of time with my kids. I mean, I’m the one who is usually home with them.

But I feel like I’ve been absent for a lot of that time.

I’m in the same place as them, but I’m not really present.

You know, like the stereotypical husband sitting across the table from the wife, reading the newspaper, and not listening to a thing she ways and just uh-huh-ing her without even looking up from the paper or actually listening to a word she says.

So there was that realization.

Then there is the fact that some of the kids are having issues with behavior. They happen to be the kids I spend the least amount of time with.

Maybe it’s just coincidental, but I don’t think so.

I am certain there is a direct correlation between kids behavior and the amount of or quality of interaction between them and their parents.

My kids need my attention. My focused, undivided attention. They don’t necessarily need hours and hours of it.

But they sure as shit need more than they’ve been getting.

So for the first time in years, I made the conscious decision to spend a significant amount of quality time with my kids while they were home last week.

And something ironic happened.

I didn’t get sick of them. I didn’t find myself getting pissed and annoyed and short on patience.

Don’t get me wrong. They did stupid and infuriating stuff. They still tried to annoy the shit out of each other and me. The are kids. That’s what they do sometimes.

But they started doing it less and less.

I spent more quality time with the kids than I have in a long, long time. And instead of me getting to the end of our vacation and feeling exhausted and exasperated and desperate for a break, I felt kind of sad that the break was over. I could have used a couple more days.

What the fuck?

I have never, ever felt that way.

I have spent every vacation for the last couple years desperate for the kids to go back to school so I could have a break.

And the kids (who are usually at least a little bit excited to go back to school and see their friends) were bummed, too.

Number 4 had no desire to go back to school. That’s never happened before.

At least ten times last week, she just looked at me — not in response to going on one of our adventures or in an effort to get something but just out of the blue — and she said, I love you, Mom.

Whoa.

I guess I am having one of Oprah’s proverbial light bulb moments.

I’m not going to stop working, drop everything I want to do, start homeschooling and construct a huge family bed.

But it’s clear that my priorities need to shift. Or at least the way I structure my time does.

Last week the kids and I had one of the best weeks we’ve ever had together. Possibly, the best week we’ve ever had.

I know we did some fun things. But it wasn’t really the fun things that made the break so great.

It was the fact that we did them together.

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One Great Catch Can Be A Game Changer

You know how a kid can totally suck at baseball and make like ten errors in one game and start to feel completely hopeless and dejected, but then out of nowhere he can make an amazing catch that no one ever thought was possible? And even with all those errors in one game, that one awesome catch has him riding a high and feeling like there is hope for him as a baseball player after all?

This past Friday I was that sucky baseball player, but in the mom department. I made a thousand errors. I couldn’t do anything right. I was feeling like a complete failure.

And then this afternoon, I finally made a really good play.

And I am still riding that high.

There is something I’ve been trying SO HARD for my kids to “get”.

But they have not been getting it.

I know I’m not the only parent whose kids are constantly bugging the shit out of each other.

It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. The kids just needling each other until someone eventually explodes.

Then they are either screaming at each other or beating the crap out of each other, and it pretty much always ends in tears.

It drives me insane.

And I have been working very, VERY hard to teach the kids how to resolve this issue without my help.

Because when I intervene, they don’t learn how to solve these problems themselves, and I put myself in the position to always be the referee.

It’s infuriating and exhausting. And it’s monotonous and boring.

This happens very often when the kids are in the kitchen.

We have a counter/bar area where the kids eat most of their meals.

And inevitably the kids are looking at each other or touching each other or chewing the wrong way or doing any other number of things that annoy the living crap out of each other. This turns into them yelling at each other and then them  pleading for me to make the other person stop.

So I’ve really been working to teach them that you can’t make anyone else do anything.

You can politely ask them to stop doing whatever it is, but you can’t make anyone other than yourself start or stop doing anything.

The kids very often get so frustrated with each other that after they ask whoever is bugging the crap out of them to stop in as civil a way as possible. When they refuse, the next move is to yell at them, and then when they reach the boiling point, they will progress to a push/shove/smack/whatever.

That’s the thing that pushes me over the edge.

Their response is typically, “BUT HE’S JUST SO ANNOYING!!!”

I assure them I feel the same way very often each day, but if I hit someone every time they annoyed me, I’d be throwing punches all day long. Plus, when you’re a grown up and do that stuff you go to jail.

So we’ve been working on solutions to this problem.

As I explained earlier, the kids usually eat in close proximity to each other at the counter in the kitchen.

The dining room is right around the corner from the kitchen. And there is a nice table in there at which to eat.

We have talked about alternatives to the arguing/bickering/fighting.

We have talked about how even though it’s frustrating and annoying, it’s your job to either accept the situation and ignore the behavior or remove yourself from the situation when you’ve politely said something but the other person refuses to stop and/or change.

This afternoon at lunch, the bickering began.

I felt myself getting extremely agitated.

I took a deep breath, clenched my teeth, and prepared to ask the kids what they thought would be a good solution to the problem, and before I even opened my mouth, Number 6 stood up, pushed in his seat, picked up his plate, silently left the kitchen and sat down at the dining room table.

YAAAAASSSSSSSSSS!

HE GOT IT!!!

And I didn’t have to say a word.

I couldn’t believe it.

I didn’t feel like I had just made an amazing catch. I felt like I had won the whole damn World Series!!!

I know this doesn’t mean everything has clicked permanently, but my six-year-old son is learning how to regulate his emotion and how to keep his cool, and I didn’t have to intervene at all.

He did it all by himself. And he didn’t learn it by being punished, by having something held over his head, by having a carrot dangled in front of him, by being threatened, or by being singled out.

He learned it because we’ve been practicing, we’ve been talking, and I’ve been consistent.

That is a major life skill, and he’s getting it at six years old.

Yes.

YES. YES. YES.

I ran into the dining room and high fived him.

I yelled “GOOD JOB NUMBER 6!!!” and gave him a hug.

He squeezed me back, looked straight up at me, and he said,

Mommy? I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

It wasn’t just a great play today in the parenting department.

To me, it was more like a grand slam.

 

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