Those Questions

“Hey, Mom…? I’ve been wondering about something.”

We’re in the middle of our bedtime routine. We’ve just climbed into bed, my nine-year-old daughter and me, and it’s the quiet time when she talks.

“Okay,” I say. “What?”

She hesitates. “Am I related to Daddy by blood?”

Of all the things she could ask, that question really catches me off guard. This is the time we normally talk about various dramas at school or her hopes for a sleepover or maybe something she’s thinking about for her birthday. “Of course you are, honey,” I say. I mean…she looks Just Like Him. “He’s your daddy.”

She rolls over, those laser-beam blue eyes trained on me now. “But I came out of your body,” she says. “If I was inside you, how do I have his blood?”

Oooookay. Didn’t see that coming. I scramble, not at all prepared, and end up muttering something about that’s just the way it works. (Lame, lame, I know.)

“So like…his eyes,” she persists. “I don’t understand how I can have his eyes, when I was in your body.”

I scramble some more and heave a huge punt, muttering something about God. My answer satisfies her, but I leave her room realizing I’m living on borrowed time. My little girl is a thinker, and she’s definitely thinking, trying to put all those puzzle pieces together.

I remember when I first learned about the birds and the bees. I grew up on Days of Our Lives. My mom has watched since the first episode, ergo, we watched. And at some point around 1975 Days ran a controversial storyline involving one of my mother’s favorite characters, Doug Williams. Doug was in love with (and married to) Julie, with a housekeeper by the name of Rebecca. And Rebecca longed for a baby. So Doug agreed to father her child, via artificial insemination.

To my young mind (8? 9?), this didn’t make sense. Doug and Julie were married–how could he have a baby with someone else? (My confusion was tantamount to confusion my daughter has expressed when learning of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, since brilliantly, we told her a man and woman have to be married to have a baby. But I digress). So, young me asked my mom how Doug could have a baby with someone other than Julie, and my mother did what any learned librarian would do: she handed me a book. A Doctor Talks to 5-7 Year Olds, it was called, and it was about fish. There were all these pictures of fish swimming around, lady fish laying eggs, men fish spraying something called sperm on therm, etc. And….I was really confused. I mean, what did fish have to do with Doug and Rebecca?

I don’t remember if I actually asked my mom that, and if I did how she answered. Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal to me and I just blew it off. Maybe she told me more, maybe my older sister or someone else did. I really don’t remember. Other than Doug, Rebecca and the fish, my education on the big S wasn’t a big, omigosh-what???, life-altering moment.

And so now here I am, all these years later.

“Sweetie, we’re getting a new foster dog this week!” I tell my daughter.

“Really?!?” she exclaims. “When?”

We’re walking home from school. My mind is working on a plot point, bills to be paid, and dinner. “Tomorrow,” I say. “We’ll pick him up from the clinic after he gets neutered.”

She stops walking. “What’s neutered?”

Crud. It was easy to explain spaying. Girl dogs have babies, you know? So I can say, “when a dog gets spayed it means they can’t have babies.” But boy dogs don’t have babies…

It’s time. I know that. My husband knows that. We’ve talked about it. It needs to happen. Several of her friends know. Have they told her? Who knows? Would she tell me if they had? Would she tell me if she heard something about Santa Claus that conflicted with what we’d told her? Again, who knows.

I’ve talked to friends. I’ve bought books. I’ve jotted notes and rehearsed what I want to say. And yes still I hesitate. And I wonder why. Once upon a time, back when I was growing up, when we had questions, we could ask our parents or our siblings, or the Greatest Mecca Of All: friends with older brothers and sisters. Maybe we picked a little up from TV, but this was back in the Little House on the Prairie days.  Not only was the bedroom door firmly closed, but skin was almost never shown, and lips rarely even touched. We just didn’t have that many options for obtaining information.

But now….wow. Now. We live in the information age. Not only are commercials often far more sexual than any program we witnessed while growing up, but bedroom doors are wide open, and satellite and cable offer endless channels. It’s no longer safe to let your children watch TV without monitoring what’s on. One change of the channel, and there’s no telling what they might witness. (When my daughter was 3, she was known to sing, Viva…..Viagra!)

And then there’s the computer. And our phones. And tablets. Even children who don’t have technology in the home frequently have access at school. Or through a friend. You can try to protect and guard, but you simply can’t control what they see every minute of the day. And you know, my daughter loves Google. She researches all sorts of stuff:  Which dogs don’t shed? When is the next full moon? How did Halloween start? What really happened to Atlantis? So, omg, what happens if (when?) one day she types, What is sex?

Right now she thinks sex is what she calls dramatic, lethargic kissing. And sexy means pretty. But she’s wondering about things–what happens if she asks Google, what is neutering? or how can I have my father’s eyes?  She might stumble upon clinical answers, or she might land on a demonstrative video.

There’s just no telling, and that’s not a risk I can take.

It needs to be me. I need to explain exactly how it is that she has her father blood, and his eyes.

So I’m preparing myself. And I think I’ve realized my hesitation stems as much from discomfort as from sadness. This conversation means my little girl is growing up. For some reason, for me, giving her this knowledge feels like a loss of innocence, a loss of my little girl. A loss of a beautiful time of our life together which we’ll never get back.

I tell myself I’m being silly. Children grow up. That’s what happens. But these first ten years together have been so staggeringly precious to me. I want to hold on forever, even though I know that change doesn’t always mean bad. Sometimes change is just change.

What’s good before can be good after.

And yet the odd little sense of mourning remains.

 

 

When The Child Becomes the Parent by Sharon Sala

We’re thrilled today to welcome bestselling author Sharon Sala to the blog.

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As parents, we usually focus on our baby’s accomplishments. First laugh, first tooth, first time they roll over, first time they stand up, and the two biggies; learning to talk and walk.

After that, we usually mark the progress of their childhood by holidays and birthdays, and then when they start to school. But while we’re busy raising babies, something is happening that we rarely plan for, and hardly ever see coming until it’s fallen in our laps.

Our parents are aging, and as they do, the emotional regression to childhood is shocking. From petulance, to wanting things done their way, to having an unrelenting need to be heard. After eight years of caring for my 93 year old mother who lives with me, and who has dementia, I have become something of an expert at redirection. That comes when the person your parent has become is verging on a meltdown, and you find a way to redirect the negative energy that is pulling them under.

The good part of me being able to keep my mother at home is a blessing. The bad part is that she still thinks she’s in charge. I am, after all, her child, but she is no longer Mother to me. She has become MY Little Mama. Over the years, I’ve come to realize the one thing that sparks her biggest issues is nearly always fear. She has no short term memory left, so there’s nothing in her head to anchor her as to why she’s in my house. To save my sanity, I had to learn to give up the fact that she is no longer the mother who raised me. The woman she is now has become my baby. I make sure she gets her meds. I cook her favorite things because I want to make her feel secure. I put everything from her old bedroom into the bedroom she uses now, and I got rid of a lot of my furniture and am using hers, so that she would have familiar things around her to make her feel at home. And sometimes that is still not enough. I put my cranky baby down for naps. I redirect her anger by asking a question about something else. There is one plus about the loss of short term memory. She forgets that she was mad. But sometimes I see her watching me, and I suspect that, beyond being the woman who takes care of her, sometimes she’s forgotten who I am.

She’s a sly one though; my Little Mama. She’s amazing at pretending. She’s nearly deaf, so she fakes hearing what’s going on, and fakes remembering why something is about to happen. And like the child she has become, the lie she tells is not really a lie; not in her world. It is what needs to be said to get by.

My babies were also so very precious to me, and now so is she. I have accepted that my mother is gone, but I also accept and rejoice the Little Mama she left behind.

About the author091813i-197x300

It was a job she hated that drove Sharon Sala to put the first page of paper in an old typewriter, but it was the love of the craft that kept her writing. Her first efforts at writing came in 1980 when she began a book that wound up under her bed. A second book followed in 1981 and suffered a similar fate, but she claims the writing bug had bitten hard. However, she let life and the demands of a growing family delay her from continuing until a tragedy struck.

Her father died in May of 1985 after a lingering illness and then only two months later her only sister died unexpectedly, leaving her almost blind with grief. She vowed then and there that she was not going to wind up on her deathbed one day with regrets for not following through on her dreams.

She joined writers groups and attended conferences and slowly learned her way around the written page. By 1989, she decided she had come far enough in her writing to attempt another try at book-length fiction and began a book that would later be entitled SARA’S ANGEL. As fate would have it, the first publisher she sent it to, bought it, and she hasn’t looked back.

As a farmer’s daughter and then for many years a farmer’s wife, Sharon escaped the drudgeries of life through the pages of books, and now as a writer, she finds herself often living out her dreams. Through traveling and speaking and the countless thousands of fan letters she has received, Sharon has touched many lives. One faithful reader has crowned her the “Reba of Romance” while others claim she’s a magician with words.

Her stories are often dark, dealing with the realities of this world, and yet she’s able to weave hope and love within the words for the readers who clamor for her latest works.

Always an optimist in the face of bad times, many of the stories she writes come to her in dreams, but there’s nothing fanciful about her work. She puts her faith in God, still trusts in love and the belief that, no matter what, everything comes full circle.

Her books, written under her name and under her pen name, Dinah McCall, repeatedly make the big lists, including The New York Times, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly and Waldenbooks Mass market fiction.

Sharon Sala.

A woman with a vision.

Sharon’s next release will be on shelves in February!

Time for Exercise

We hear it all the time. We need to exercise and to eat healthy. It’s way easier said than done. I’m not just saying that. I know it from experience. I especially know how hard it is to eat healthy. I am more of an “I’ll-eat-what-I-want-so-there” kind of person than a eat a little of everything in moderation kind of person.

I do much better with exercise, but this wasn’t always the case. When I first had Baby Galen, I didn’t think I’d ever exercise again. Anyone feel that way right now? Anyone think they will never have the time or energy to walk a mile much less run one? I’m not saying I always have the energy to do it, but I have found the time. I’m going to tell you what I do, not because I think you should do it, but because it’s worked for me.

I go to a fitness bootcamp at the local YMCA 3 days a week from 5-6. Yes, that’s a.m. Why? Because there’s nothing else I have to do from 5-6, so no excuses. Because it’s a little cooler before the sun rises in Houston. Because my husband is almost always home and my daughter is almost always asleep at that hour, so I’m inconveniencing no one (but me).

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Like I said, this isn’t for everyone. Most of the time, I feel like just making it to bootcamp is half the battle. But I’ve been doing it for 2 years, and here’s what I’ve learned about how to make exercise work if you’re a mom.

1) If you can, do it independently of your child or husband. That way if the kid is sick or tired or cranky or the husband is sick or tired or cranky, it doesn’t mean you can’t go work out. A lot of moms work out after school drop off. I have to work during that time, or it would be a great solution for me.

2) Get some accountability, like a trainer or a partner. If you know someone is waiting for you to show up, you’ll think twice about skipping.

3) Go in the morning. Okay, I know you may not be a morning person, but studies show people who exercise in the morning stick to their routines and are more successful than those who exercise at another time.

4) Do something you like. I hate being stuck in the gym. I am always bored to death on a treadmill. I like to be outside, so I do a bootcamp that takes place outside and where the workouts change every time I go.

5) Set a goal. I find if I set a goal, it keeps me motivated. It doesn’t have to be a weight loss goal, it can be something like work out three times a week for a month or run 5 miles by the end of 8 weeks or something like that. Then, when you make your goal, celebrate!

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Do you have any tips for making exercise work for busy moms?

Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a three-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? www.shanagalen.com

Raising My Boys Not To Be Biff by Kimberly Smith

GUEST POST:  Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a wonderful writer, blogger, friend, neighbor, mother, wife, and all around person, Kimberly Smith. Not only does Kimberly run the terrific children’s book blog COOL KIDS READ, she works full-time as an advertising creative director and is the author of 3 children’s books. Wise, savvy, and not one to pull punches, Kim is joining us to start a conversation we all need to have.

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Picture this scene from the 1985 film BACK TO THE FUTURE. Marty McFly has traveled back in time to 1955, and is taking his mother (as a teenager) to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance so that she can fall in love with Marty’s father and set the future right again (all to ensure his own existence). Biff, the bully, hijacks them in the school parking lot and pushes Marty’s mother back into the car, crawling up her skirts as he tells her “you know you want it, Lorraine.”

It’s an uncomfortable scene to watch for any woman who’s ever been in that position — and since 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime (George Mason University, Worldwide Sexual Assault Statistics, 2005), that’s a lot of women.

I guess this scene has been on my mind because it’s Homecoming season, and the proliferation of stories in the news like Maryville. It seemed like a good time to discuss the subject with my high school sophomore.

Honestly, I expected the conversation to go like this: “Yeah, I know, Mom, don’t worry.” Instead, his response shocked me.

Specifically in regards to Maryville, he whole-heartedly agreed that these boys were wrong, but he was quick to add that he felt the girls held some responsibility too — that by getting drunk, they also made bad choices. In his eyes, the situation would not have taken place at all if the girls hadn’t made themselves vulnerable in the first place.

This elicited a knee jerk response from me and I went off on him. THAT, I lectured, is exactly the kind of thinking that perpetuates our rape culture. Luckily, I caught myself and stopped ranting before he completely shut down on me. Because I wanted to know how this sweet young man could feel this way. I believed I’d taught him to respect women. His wonderful father models this respect. What he told me opened my eyes.

Wisely, he began by saying no matter what state of mind someone is in, it’s not right to take advantage of them. Under any circumstances. He reiterated that those boys did not do the right thing, but he didn’t understand why nobody thought the girls’ weren’t responsible, too. Not in a “if you dress like that you deserve what you get” kind of responsible, but in a take responsibility for yourself way. “Nobody forced those girls to get drunk, did they?” he asked.

It was a loaded question. And an argument I didn’t want to have. I was leery that putting any kind of responsibility on the girl’s shoulders was a slippery slope. I am adamantly against slut shaming. Wasn’t that what his point of view did?

As we talked further, I realized there was another way of looking at this — the side I saw in my son’s answer.

Maybe our culture does more than perpetuate a “boys will be boys” attitude. Maybe it also tells girls you’re not fun unless you’re drunk. That boys only pay attention to fun girls. Lacing a drink to purposefully drug someone seems a world away from pressuring a girl to “chug” a beer – or six. But is it, really?

From a parenting perspective, how much do you tell your children about the mistakes you made when you were their age? We are pretty open with our kids, but I hadn’t shared this particular story with my son. I wondered if he would feel the same if he knew that his mother was that girl, many years ago? The one who made “bad choices” and put herself in a vulnerable position? The one who drank too much because that’s what you did at a party. The one who said “no”, but didn’t have control enough over her body or the situation to fight back when “no” was countered with “c’mon, you know you want it.” The one who never told. The one who still lived with the guilt and shame.

As I saw the situation through my son’s eyes, and not just through the filter of my own experience, I had to agree with him. If I hadn’t had so much to drink that night, would it have happened? Probably not. There was a reason why I felt guilty. I didn’t need public shaming. I did that to myself.

I don’t have daughters, so I can’t tell them to protect themselves by refusing to give in to pressures to get wasted. I can’t warn them about the secondary dangers that come with being over-served. But I can be the mother who teaches her sons not to be Biff, but also not to turn away from a girl putting herself in a vulnerable situation. I can teach them to take action, to get her out of that situation, to find her friends so she can go home, to stop other boys from taking advantage.

I can talk to my boys about the difference between saying “yes” and respecting “no” in any form. I can help them understand and combat the pressures of society and of the party atmosphere.

Do we live in a rape culture? I believe we do. But I believe rapes will continue if we don’t fight it from both sides. It’s not okay to tell a girl she has no responsibility for what happens to her. To make her feel powerless. To say it’s okay for her to give in to society’s pressures about anything – including how she behaves at a party.

Just like the boys, girls need to know that being drunk does not make you immune from responsibility. It makes you a target. And that’s something they can control. Assuming boys will do the right thing relinquishes control. Assume the opposite. Stay in control. Don’t hand the keys to your future over someone handing you a red Solo cup.

My son argued that those boys were no doubt influenced by alcohol as well. In his eyes, people who might not normally make bad choices, might when they’re drunk. I am glad he saw it that way. And he’s right. While there’s a big difference between being too drunk to remain conscious and so drunk that you ignore your moral compass, “I was drunk” is not an excuse for either side.

Was telling my son about what happened to me the right thing to do? I think so. I hope by showing him my mistake, and bringing home the girls’ side of the story, it made him see things differently. Not that his viewpoints would change, necessarily, but to realize such a thing could happen to anyone. Even someone he respects.

None of this goes to say that boys who choose to take advantage of a drunk girl shouldn’t bear full responsibility of the law for their actions. Preying on someone in a weaker state is a choice, and make no mistake, it is rape. But as parents, we need to teach our girls they don’t have to give up control to be accepted – and teach our boys to help them learn this.

 

Holiday Grouch?

All our married lives (twenty years now!), my husband and I have struggled to find balance during the holidays. I love the holidays. For me, there is no over the top. For me, if it stands still during the holiday season, I decorate it. You know those women in ridiculous Christmas tress sweaters with actual ornaments hanging off? That’s me. Those women with fake candy corns in her hair? That’s me. Easter egg necklace? Also me.

My husband on the other hand … well, he is perfect in so many ways. He’s handy. He can cook. He’s a good provider. I couldn’t ask for a better husband. But when it comes to holiday cheer? Well, it’s just dismal. He’s like the black hole of holiday cheer. His mere presence actually sucks it out the room.

But an interesting thing has happened around Halloween the past few years. He’s had … well, not holiday spirit, but Halloween spirit. It started when my daughter was three and he wore a Prince Charming T-shirt we’d made him. It’s been slowly escalating ever since. He’s because devoted to pumpkin carving (and uses serious tools!) This year, he’s spent all week working on the boy’s costume. He’s going as a character from a video game and let me tell you, this costume is going to be amazing. I’m delighted by this sudden show of holiday spirit.

But I’m also a little baffled. And distressed.

I came to the marriage pre-loaded with Christmas and Easter traditions. In my family, the holidays are a big deal. At Easter, you die eggs. Lots of them. At Christmas you open presents. Lots of them. And the TV is not on in the background no matter how long it takes. When it comes to holiday traditions in our family, I kind of put my foot down. It seemed like a no-brainer. I love the holidays. He didn’t seem to have an opinion. Therefore we should do it my way.

Now, seeing his newfound love of Halloween, I wonder if he saw my way as my family’s way. Not our family’s way. I wonder if he’s grumpy around the holidays because he doesn’t like the holidays or because he feels like his opinion about them doesn’t matter.

It makes me sad to think he might feel that way. And frankly, I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t mean to be inflexible, but … well, there are things I’m inflexible about. I’m not okay with Duck Dynasty playing in the background while we open presents. I’m not okay handing our kids a hundred bucks and telling them to buy something they want. But this year, I’m going to try to include The Geek more in the planning and execution of the holidays. I’m going to encourage him to play more. Because they are his holidays, too.

But, seriously. No Duck Dynasty.

How do you celebrate the holidays?

I Shall Not Live in Vain

Today’s my last post on Peanut Butter on the Keyboard as a regular contributor, and I’m feeling bittersweet.

Have you ever had a tangle of necklaces on your counter that you’re trying to sort out? Attempting to figure out why I’m leaving this place of grace  is something like that. Eventually, those chains–each representing a passion, duty, or unmet goal–separate unto themselves and you see clearly again.if-i-can-stop-one-heart-from-breaking-i-shall-not-live-in-vain4

Ultimately, all my reasons for leaving come down to this: I sense a need for a change in direction. Hanging out here is such a pleasure. But as I age, as my children grow up, I want to continue to grow, too. I want to keep moving. Looking ahead. Evolving.

Yet it’s hard–because the years I’ve spent as a mother with children in the house have been the best years of my life. I’m scared of what comes next. I still have a couple years to go before the nest is empty, but I’m ready to start contemplating that change. It will require feeling out, slowing down. Expressing gratitude along the way.

I think the first blog post I ever did here–or darned near the first–was about poetry. Emily Dickinson never had children, but she understood what it means to be a mother. I love how her poem, “If I Can Stop,” [see below] celebrates the concept of nurturing, of mothering the world. You can be a guy and show maternal grace. You can be childless. Blast it all, you can be a soldier or nurse or admin person and mother your troops, your patients, or your boss and your clients!

Emily says in a simple, beautiful way everything I long to say about being a mother. By golly, I know I haven’t lived in vain.

At the soul level, we all long to feel we’ve made a difference, right? Our children are gifts to the world. Let’s celebrate that fact! And let’s remember that every day brings new opportunities to lift a baby bird into its nest again–or dare I say, push it out when it needs to go (smile).

To Emily, Shana, Jennifer, Robyn, and Maisey, thank you so much for including me in this wonderful undertaking to create a space where moms can come to find understanding and support. I’ll be following along and chiming in occasionally. Big hugs to you and to all our readers. You’ve enriched my life beyond measure.

Kieran XOXO

If I can stop

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
–Emily Dickinson


Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 24 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job. My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a senior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college junior; and my youngest, Dragon, is in tenth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy. www.kierankramerbooks.com

A Frog and A Pond

Many moons ago, back before kids and when I still did the 8-to-Whenever corporate thing, I attended a seminar on Emotional Intelligence. I’d been to many workshops over the years, but that one resonated with me on a deeper level, and all these years later, two main messages stick with me.

There was this frog—Fred. Fred was a great little frog, born with all the promise that comes with every new wiggly little tadpole. He spent his early days playing, like most good frogs do, learning the world and testing his limits. But with time Fred began to act differently, and soon it became apparent he was sick. Poor Fred was removed from his pond, taken to a rehabilitation center and cared for 24/7. He was watched closely. He was given every chance to not only survive, but thrive. And he did. With time Fred perked right back up, returning to his happy, healthy frog self. Problem solved, Fred was returned to his pond.

A few days later he was dead.

The problem wasn’t Fred. The problem was the pond. You could remove Fred from the pond over and over, you could fully rehabilitate him, but unless you did something about that icky, stagnant, grungy, polluted pond, poor little Fred never stood a chance.

We live in ponds, too; and our ponds can get pretty polluted, as well. So what do you do? How do you clean your pond?

In the seminar, the presenter talked about thermometers and thermostats. Thermometers reflect the world around them. They tell you what is. Thermostats, however, CHANGE the world around them. If you’re too hot, you turn down the thermostat. If you’re too cold, you turn it up. Thermostats have power.

We have power, too. We can be a thermometer, reflecting the pond around us; or we can be a thermostat, changing the pond. Maybe you can’t change your entire pond. Maybe it’s just your little corner of the pond, where your family lives. But all change has to start somewhere, and as your corner of the pond begins to thrive, the folks in the rest of the pond begin to take notice.

All these years later, that message has stayed with me, and I’ve come to see the simple beauty of its truth. There are some difficult people in this world. We all know them. They don’t act the way we wish we they did. They’re hard to be around. Maybe we’d like to avoid them, but we can’t. They’re family members or work associates, neighbors and friends (because yes, just because someone is difficult doesn’t mean they aren’t loveable!) And one thing I’ve noticed is how easy it is to slip into thermometer mode and treat these people as they treat me. To reflect them. And yet, when I do that, I invariably find myself unhappy, because that’s not who I am. I’ve realized I’m much happier in thermostat mode, acting in a way that’s true to my heart…and hoping that maybe it makes a dent in theirs.  And a lot of times it does.

Be the change you wish to see in this world. This quote attributed to Mahatma Ghandi has long been one of my favorites, but after some fact checking, it seems there’s no evidence he ever said that. He did say this, however:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Different words, same message: Be a thermostat. And then there’s this, which I heard on a commercial the other day, and it stopped me so cold I rewound to hear it again, then physically wrote the words down.

Be the person you want your child to become.

Whoa. That’s powerful, and so much more actionable than being the change for the whole world. Be the change for your child. The thermostat. Be mindful of the example you’re setting. Because they’re watching. And absorbing. Everything. As my daughter nears ten, she has many friends whom we have known since they were babies or toddlers, and it’s stunning (and sometimes funny, sometimes sad) to realize, now, how much these children reflect (thermometer) their parents.  My daughter is so much a mirror of me, the good, the not so good, and all that’s in between.

But here’s the deal. Whereas children start out as thermometers, we’re their thermostats.

If you want your child to be polite, then you must be polite.

If you want them to pay attention, then you need to pay attention. Look at them. Make eye contact. Be in the moment. (It was unbelievably sobering when my son began answering my summons with “hang on!” and I realized that’s what I, all too often, said to him.)

If you want your child to trust, or be honest, or respectful then you must trust, and be honest, respectful.

If you want your child to roll with the punches, then yup, you gotta do some rolling, too.

If you want them to laugh….

To be generous….

To be compassionate…

To love.

Loving is easy for me, but saying what’s in my heart, how I feel, never has been. (Great irony for a writer, right?) There’s an incredible vulnerability to say what’s inside, and I hate the way I stumble when it matters most. Growing up, our family just wasn’t like that. But I have a choice now. I can continue to model what was modeled for me, or I can be a thermostat and make a change for my kids.  I can tell them I love them. I can admit when I screw up. I can tell them I’m sorry.  And hopefully, in doing so, I’m being the person I hope my kids to become…

To be the change I wish to see in this world…

By being a thermostat.

And creating a healthy corner in my pond…

Facilitating happy, healthy, thriving little frogs.

Funny the circles life makes. Never in a million years could I have realized at that long ago afternoon seminar, that all these years later, I’d still thinking about Fred.

The Psychology Behind Being Naughty

And no, moms, I’m not talking about Fifty Shades of Grey. This isn’t that kind of naughty post. I’m talking about when your child is naughty/misbehaving.

Maybe it’s because I have a degree in psychology that I tend to analyze why Baby Galen misbehaves. I didn’t do it much when she was 2 and younger. I think at those ages kids are testing their limits, and it’s more trial and error/cause and effect than anything else. I don’t really consider tantrums as being naughty either. Those are usually the result of immaturity as far as dealing with emotions.

Baby Galen is 4 now and has moved past the tantrum stage. She’s moved past the cause and effect/testing limits stage. She’s moved into the deliberately misbehaving stage. By that I mean, she will do things she knows without question are wrong.

I was never a kid who misbehaved much. I didn’t like to get in trouble. I didn’t like to do anything wrong. I wanted to be as perfect as I could be (maybe not the best thing for a kid to aspire to, but the consequences of that mindset are another blog).

So when Baby Galen misbehaves, especially after weeks of great behavior, I have to ask myself why. When the answer is not 1) she’s tired, 2) she’s hungry, or 3) she’s hungry and tired, the answer is usually she’s looking for security.

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This is not the way adults think. If I want security in a relationship, I’m not going to treat the other person horribly. I’m going to be a good friend and show him or her that I’m worthy of the relationship. I don’t think kids think like that—or at least not mine. I think she acts badly initially because it’s funny or she doesn’t want to follow the rule and then it turns into will you still love me even if I’m THIS bad?

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The answer, of course, is yes. She may not know consciously that her behavior begs that question, but I answer it for her anyway—yes, I love you even when you are acting naughty. Nothing you can ever do will make me not love you. You will always be my daughter, and even when I am angry with you or punishing you, I love you just as much as always.

Have you told your kids that? I don’t remember my mom or dad telling me that. Maybe they did or maybe it was implied, but I think it’s so important to make sure out kids know it explicitly.

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What do you think? Have you found security to be the reason your kids misbehave? For moms of older kids, do the reasons change?

Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a three-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? www.shanagalen.com

Tedious tasks

clothesThere are plenty of things we do as moms and caretakers that are less than exciting. Like I could really do without clipping my girls’ finger & toenails. It’s not really that big deal, but it seems like I have to do it so often and they complain and whine and it’s just annoying. But I do it because I’m the mom and that’s my job. Another such task seems to be happening a lot lately – going through the girls’ clothes. I’m glad they’re growing, they’re strong and active and I love to get them new clothes, but when the laundry baskets overflow and the drawers are too full, then it’s time to sit down amidst the pile of clothes and sort.

Needless to say it’s that time again and I swear I just did this three weeks ago! Last night I went through all of Babybee’s clothes and pulled out all her 2T’s. The super cute stuff I’ll send to my sister-in-law for my little niece, the rest I’ll donate. Going through her clothes makes me sad because it’s over – with her stuff, I just get rid of it. It’s a little easier with Busybee because I get to save her stuff for Babybee. Still the whole process is tedious and time consumer and ug, I seriously just did this!

In general, I find their small clothes difficult to deal with. It works best to fold, but it’s little so it’s difficult to fold at times. And then they just dig in their drawers and unfold all my hard work. ACK! I started something recently that’s working well for us. I got these hanging shoe holders for their closet, it hangs low so they can reach it. On Sunday I go through and pick out a week’s worth of outfits for them and tuck them in different cubbies. This way the girls get to pick what they’re wearing, but from pre-approved outfits so that I don’t have to explain why they can’t wear polka-dot pants with a flowered shirt.

So how about you? What are the mommy tasks that you find tedious? What are your favorite tips for little clothes? 

Why God Made Moms

My mom sent this to me this morning.I thought we could all use a smile 🙂

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:
Why did God make mothers?
1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.
How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.
What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.
Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We’re related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s mom like me.
What kind of a little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.
What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?
Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.
Who’s the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.
What’s the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work. (this kid is after my own heart!)
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.
What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don’t do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.
What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.
If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.
2. I’d make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it not me.

3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.