My youngest son is seven-years-old and he has made it his mission this year to find out what all those “bad” words are that he’s not supposed to say. When my daughter came to me last year and asked me about them, I knew she was just expressing her curiosity and was mature enough to take in the information and not then go out and use it. My son, on the other hand, would not think twice about immediately putting those words to use if he thought the other boys would think he was funny for using them. So, the approach I have taken with my son on this topic has been very different than the one I took with my daughter.
At least once a week, my son will come home and try to guess at what he’s determined one of those “bad” words to be. And I have decided to agree with him if he comes up with a word that is at least not as bad as what the actual word is. It typically goes like this: “I know what the “s” word is, mommy.” “Really, honey, what is it?” “It’s “stupid”.” “You’re right that’s the “s” word. Now I don’t like to hear you using that word.” Then he promptly dances around the house repeating it with glee, “Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.” After awhile, all of a sudden, he will stop and look at me and say, “That’s not really the “s” word is it?” “No, honey, it’s not, but it’s still not a nice word to say.” The day he decided the word was “sex”, and started singing, “sexy, sexy, sex”, I started questioning what the real “s” word was. Because the idea of him singing his new song on the bus to his friends, seemed to be just as bad as him writing the actual “s” word in marker on the back of a bus seat – like my peers used to do, way back when I was in school.
I have found when he comes upon a word that is not cringe-worthy, my first instinct is to drive it home, “Yes, that’s it. That’s definitely the word.” Which was the case when he decided the “f” word was “Fix”. I’m not sure where he got that from, but I was happy for him to go with that. That is until during the recent past holidays, when we were standing in line to get the kids photo taken with Santa and I tried to pat down my son’s hair before his close-up. My son fidgeted away and said, “Mommy, what are you doing?” I replied, “I’m just trying to fix your hair, sweetie.” With that, his mouth dropped open and his eyes got wide as he said in a whisper, “Mommy, you just said the “f” word in front of Santa.”
So, my son still doesn’t know what the “f” word and the “s” word are, and thank goodness he doesn’t even know to ask what the “c” word is, but I’m thinking the mature thing to do, on my part, is to sit him down and have a truthful conversation about what those words really are and why it’s not appropriate to then go and chant them on the bus. So, that’s what I’m thinking, doesn’t mean I’ve found the courage to do it yet though. But I better do it quick, cause I have a feeling if I don’t, one of his peers will beat me to it – and if that happens the song he comes up with might make “sexy, sexy, sex” sound like a nursery rhyme by comparison.
I was known as “the smart one” in my family. I was accepted early admission into Wellesley College, which was arguably more prestigious than the other schools my two brothers and four sisters went to. I went on to have a successful career in investment banking. So, you could say for the first three and a half decades of my life, my legacy was defined by my family’s title for me “the smart one”.
But then, when I was pregnant with my third child, I “retired”. With three children, one with special needs, it made the most sense to stay “retired”, and devote my full time to raising them. Though one would argue, it does take some intelligence to raise three children, I knew my legacy would no longer point to my being “the smart one”. There are many more mothers in the world than successful businesswomen, so to carve out a unique legacy going forward was going to be a little more difficult. The only upside is that the pool of people, who you are trying to impress with your legacy, is greatly diminished. In reality for the majority of us, once you’re a mother, the only people we really want to look back and have admire us, thirty, forty years from now, are our kids.
I believe it’s never too early to work on one’s legacy. When my kids look at me, whether today or in the future, I want them to be able to point to things I accomplished and to be proud they had me as their mother. Hopefully it’s a given that they see me as a good mom but, I would like them to have more to point to. The eldest were too young to remember me when I was a New York City career woman, so you can throw those 15 odd years out. There was the possibility that maybe they could have still viewed me as “the smart one”, that is until the schools decided to adopt what they call “new math”, which means I can’t even help them add three-digit numbers correctly. So, I needed to build up other areas of “greatness”. Creativity has always been a strong point of mine, so I decided to push forward in that direction.
To that end, here’s how I thought my legacy was shaping up. Let’s start off with I’m a good mother. But I also have created my own web blogs – the experience I share with my kids. I play the piano and the saxophone, filling the house with music, and even write original songs that I dedicate to my children. I throw the most imaginative home-grown birthday parties for them. I fill their weekends with innovative games to play that I create. I am a creative writer and have put photo ficitional-storybooks together for them. I turn the house into a wonderland at holiday times. I am also involved in their schools and have a large group of social friends. I try to stay active and involve the kids in my workouts. I’m thinking, for someone who can’t easily just point to a business role for my kids to define me by, I’m doing a good job in trying to be creative and unique in things my kids can point to that can be thought of as my legacy.
When my daughter came home the other day and told me they were doing a project at school on family and that they had to come up with one thing for each family member that they felt most defined each of them, I was excited to hear what she picked for me from the many things I just listed above. For dad, she listed where he worked. For her brothers, she listed the past times that they liked the most. “So, honey, what did you put down for me? My web blogs? My creative parties? Music?”
“Mommy, for you, I put down that you like watching the soap opera “Days of Our Lives“.
That’s my legacy? I like to watch a soap opera. That’s what she chose to share with her class and her teacher and one day perhaps with my grandchildren? My mom, the soap opera watcher. Wow. The scary part is, one of the things I remember my mom the most for – is watching the soap opera “Days of Our Lives“. But my mom didn’t have 1000 channels to choose from like we do now. I watch other things. If the legacy I have been so hard at work on, was going to be debased into just “t.v. watching”, then how about the news, or even an innovative musical show like “Smash”? But a soap opera? Have I come no further, from the generation before me, than that?
Apparently, I have been too subtle with the building of my legacy and have left it up for any willy-nilly interpretation. Perhaps I should put a newsletter together for my family updating them on my current projects. Or put up posters around the house with my picture and the caption “Song Writer” underneath. I could even hand out business cards at dinner with the occupation “party planner” when their birthdays are coming up. And I am not beneath having a neon-lighted sign commissioned that I can hang on the door that blinks “Web Blogger Lives Here”.
But obviously the biggest change must be to eradicate this ridiculous notion that I’m just a soap opera watcher. To that end, the only solution is, I can no longer TIVO my soap opera and watch it in the evening – I’m going to need to watch that show real time – while the kids are at school. No need to leave anything up to needless interpretation…
In case we end up being without power for a number of days, as they are predicting, I just wanted to get a quick post in. They’ve already canceled school for Monday and Tuesday. So, besides making sure we are equipped with emergency supplies and enough food and water for a few days, I’m also being diligent about making sure I have things to keep the kids busy. I always like to have a toy or two hidden in my closest to take out for a rainy day – and I think Hurricane Sandy qualifies for that. Currently those items consist of a new board game and video. The new stuff will be my go-to if the kids get scared during the storm, that always works to get their mind off things. I’m also collecting books, other games, and kid-size flashlights. We may be without power for awhile so I’m also making sure all their hand-held video games and my iPad are fully charged.
They are already getting excited for the “sleep-over” we will have, as I like everyone to sleep in the same room during a big storm – otherwise I’m up all night anyway, checking on them all. I’ve put my youngest son in charge of the compass, in order to calculate which part of the house is in the pathway of the wind direction so that we can determine which room we should occupy, as all our rooms in our house have very large windows. It’s never easy getting through a storm with three young kids but thinking ahead and making sure you add to your preparedness plan some diversionary items in case they get scared and some back-to-basics games, books, and toys to keep them from getting bored, cooped up in a house without electricity for a few days, will be well worth your time now.
To all those in the affected area, stay safe!
Being a stay-at-home mom means you have more opportunities to go on field trips with your children’s classes. That can be a blessing and a curse. I just went to a local working farm today with my youngest son’s second-grade class. We were to meet in the classroom before boarding the bus. As I walked in, I immediately questioned my decision to wake up early to curl my hair, looking around at the group of seven-year-olds and wondering if half of them had even brushed their hair that morning. Apparently they weren’t seeing this trip as the social event that I was – they perhaps get out of the house more than I do. The teacher asked us to all put name tags on our coats – which was fine, but then they didn’t stick, so I had to scotch tape it onto my quilted jacket. It took four pieces of tape, let me tell you, it wasn’t an attractive look.
Next, all the kids had to pair up with a bus partner. My son’s choice had picked someone else. I took one look at him and I knew he was upset. So, I jumped in and said that I would like him to sit with me. Little did I know, that meant sitting where my son wanted us to sit, all the way in the back of the bus. I don’t know when the last time you sat in the back of a school bus was, but what might have seemed fun thirty years ago, is just a miserable experience now. I have to believe there are no shock absorbers back there, then you get thrown around, the noise is deafening, and all-in-all, you just feel completely car sick – how old do I sound? Half-way there, I see it has started to rain – so much for the hair. We finally get off the bus and it is now cold and rainy. Perfect day for a trip to the farm, because who doesn’t love mud – oh, that’s right, I don’t.
As a chaperone, you play a fine line – trying to keep the kids from misbehaving while not embarrassing your own child. So, the trick is, you talk sternly to the errant student, saying “Tommy (names here have been changed to protect the innocent or not so innocent), don’t try to pull that feather out of the chicken,” but then when “Tommy” turns and looks at you like “who do you think you are, you’re neither my mother, nor my teacher”, the key is just to smile. That way, you confuse him – did she really just yell at me or was I just imagining it – and while this thought process is going on in his head, I have successfully distracted him from the feather pulling, while not having my son think I’m being mean to his friend.
As I’m wondering if the teacher thinks I’m just doing a fabulous job as chaperone, though I’m pretty sure she hasn’t even noticed how great I am at it, one of those moments happen that you’re hoping actually goes unnoticed. We were in a barn, listening to our guide, Vicky, who, by the way, got annoyed when the kids asked questions – what’s that about – but anyway, that’s when the moment happened. I am standing next to my son and one of his little girl classmates, when all of a sudden a barn swallow flies right at my head. All I hear is the rapid fluttering of the wings. Now, I’m sorry, but to me when you hear something like that, you just go into survival mode. Being a mother, luckily you never lose your inherent instinct to keep your child safe, even when your own safety is in jeopardy, but apparently that doesn’t hold true with someone else’s kid. Feeling that bird descend on me, I immediately panicked, stepped in front of my child while grabbing the other student, pulling her towards me, as I attempted to use her as a human shield. The threat passed almost as quickly as it appeared, and no harm was done to either myself or to the little girl who I hid behind, but she whipped around and glared at me like what the heck was I doing. Once again, I thought it best to use my diversionary tactic and smiled back at her. She just shook her head – so much for thinking I was going to go down as one of the best chaperones ever.
My feet are now freezing, my scotch-taped name tag has fallen off, I believe my mascara has run a little in the rain, and let’s not even talk about the state of my hair. Just as I think about my working-mom friends who are warmly sitting at their office desks, hair neatly coifed, my son comes up to me and puts his hand in mine, as he excitedly wants to show me the piglets. This is the blessing part. A blessing, even as I have to watch the other boys think it’s cool to purposely step in a big pile of fresh cow manure. The same boys, on the return trip to school, I will have to sit next to in the back of the bus. And by the way, as soon as the trip was over and the bus pulled into the school yard, of course, the sun came out.
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I don’t know about you, I can talk a good game but when it comes down to it, it’s easy to get in my own way. I come up with an idea. I expand it and then I stuff it with more. Then, I proudly declare my intentions and seek out feedback. But all the while, I’m expecting the feedback I receive will really just prove that my subconscious doubts are actually justified. Whatever my aspirations, I’m inherently waiting to be talked out of it. Why? Because it’s that age-old, if you don’t try, you don’t fail. You sort of lose sight of the fact, if you don’t try, you never succeed either. It’s the constant struggle of wanting to be strong, wanting to believe in yourself and your ideas, but then constantly worrying if you have the courage to go through with it, and risk not being good enough. Like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of OZ:
Cowardly Lion: “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”
Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow: “What’s that?”
Cowardly Lion: “Talk me out of it!”
Over the last few years, I’ve started a few novels, written a few songs, come up with a few product ideas. Through all my start-up initiatives, instead of building on the momentum of the encouragement I received, I would drop the idea for the first person who wanted to talk me out of it. I sat on the idea for this blog for a year, only sharing my thoughts with a select few. One day I would be full of confidence, but then the next I would start to doubt myself and want to quit. But then, one afternoon, I was talking about my blog to a random acquaintance and she was very encouraging. Maybe it was because I felt she wasn’t obligated to be nice, or maybe I was finally ready to accept it, but things changed for me that day. I started building courage from encouragement, instead of dismissing it.
Not all of us our courageous innately. For instance, one morning I spent a good hour on top of the center island counter in our kitchen having a stare down with a mouse who kept peeking his head out of the pantry – neither one of us willing to make the first move. So, where do we get our courage from when we aren’t feeling brave enough to believe in our own talents? The Wizard of Oz didn’t give the Cowardly Lion a magic potion to drink, he gave him a medal. He gave him a symbol of encouragement. He was saying that he believed the lion had it in him. And instead of the Lion questioning why getting a medal on the end of a ribbon would all of a sudden make him have courage, he chose to accept that the Wizard really saw him as being brave.
So, on your journey of rediscovering your self and your inner passions, you have to open yourself up to building your courage from the encouragement you receive from your friends, family and peers. Hear the words when someone is complimenting you or what you’re doing, and instead of seeking out the naysayer, tune them out. Allow your friends to help build you up, but then you need to believe that “medal of courage” means you really are “brave”. The Cowardly Lion didn’t need the Wizard to remind him every day in his belief in him. He took the Wizard’s encouragement and built it into a belief in himself. So now, I bestow on you, you’re own medal of courage. And I repeat the words the Wizard of Oz proclaimed to the Cowardly Lion, “You are now a member of the legion of courage”. Now build on that and go out and become your own “king of the forest – not queen, not duke, not prince.”
(Image and quotes from Warner Bros. Pictures)
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My youngest son came home from school today and boldly proclaimed, “That’s it! I am no longer buying lunch at school.” Now, it’s not like he buys lunch that often, but it is nice not to have to smell chicken nuggets cooking first thing in the morning, at least every once in a while, so, this news was a little disappointing to hear. But to take such a dramatic stance, I figured something big must have gone down. Was there pushing in line? Had the cookies run out? Did he drop his tray and cause a scene? I waited with bated breath to hear…
“What’s gotten you so upset, pumpkin?” I cautiously broached the subject. “Mrs. Obama!” he cried. “Huh? Come again, sweetie?” I questioned, as this was not the direction I was expecting. “Mrs. Obama, I said,” he repeated looking at me as if I didn’t have a brain in my head. “Well, of course you were talking about the first lady of the United States ruining your lunch, baby doll. Just curious, as to how that came about.” “Well,” he said with a pout, “Mrs. Obama has said that whenever you buy lunch now, you have to take a fruit and a vegetable with it.” “Oh, O.K., now I see. So, what’s wrong with that? It is a good idea. But you know you can take it, try it, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.” ” Yes, you do,” he continued to complain. “She said you have to take a fruit and a vegetable AND you HAVE TO eat it.” I do have to say, I found a little comfort in the knowledge that the wife of the President was having just as much trouble as I was, getting my six-year-old son to eat healthy. But it did bring the dilemma of my children’s poor eating habits back into light once again. I try, believe me I do. I cook the vegetables, I buy the produce, but after half-a-dozen, heart-felt rounds of begging, I give up and forget about it for a while – apparently until someone in the oval office or a relation of such a person, makes me face the situation again – and let me tell you, as a mother, I don’t come out looking so good.
Not only do I have trouble getting them to eat what’s good for them, they also overload on the bad stuff. I understand we do live in a world of excess now. Everything is super-sized. Even the squirrels in my yard have gone crazy with that. I took this picture of a certain squirrel, on my patio, carrying not one but three nuts in his mouth at one time – there are a plethora of jokes I could insert here but I’m sure you’ll appreciate my refraining from doing so. With my kids, they start off with asking for one cookie, but then they come back and ask for two more. But it doesn’t stop there, they follow you, from room to room, “just one more, just one more, just one more”. Eventually, I hate to say it, but you give in – just to get the voices to stop. I call it temporary insanity and it just might be. I know it’s not right. I’m in charge here – that’s the mantra that I chant to myself in the mirror every day. And as soon as I start believing that, we might actually get this problem solved.
We all remember, when we were younger, you ate what was given to you, brussel sprouts and all, and you weren’t allowed to get up until you were finished. If I had to go through that, why don’t my kids feel the same obligation? But I guess the answer to that question is a blog in itself. So, I am still faced with the fact that the closest my kids get to eating vegetables is a potato, and as far as my household is concerned chicken nuggets could be designated as their own food group. So, maybe, instead of once again allowing my children to make their own rules, I should instead use this opportunity that Mrs. Obama has so graciously given to us. Maybe the tact I should be taking is, when the First Lady of the United States of America tells you do something, you better do it. She is married to the Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces, after all, so if she says you need to take a fruit and a vegetable AND you HAVE TO eat it, maybe, son, you better think twice about not doing it.
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