Let Them Go- A Pep Talk for Parents

It’s the first day of the first week of September. Which, in many places, means kids have gone back to school for the first time this fall. For others, this is their first day of school ever.  Or their first day of high school, first day of college, first day of university or tech school.

In our house, this is the FIRST time in 17 years I have only one kid in secondary school. We are now  a household of 3 graduated kids. That really did come faster than I imagined it 20 years ago. The days are so so SO long when the kids are in school but the years start to fly by when they all hit junior high.

We are also rookie parents of a college kid.  Our 3rd born, the one who just graduated in June, is starting school in BC today. We are so excited for her and her journey. EXCITED, not nervous, not stressed, not sad, not lamenting the years that have flown by….just excited.

Listen moms(and dads), I get it. These precious ones are your babies. You nurtured them and held them when they were sick. But the day they were born you KNEW you’d have to let them go at some point.  You knew it because you’ve lived it yourself. No one wants to be their mama’s baby forever.  No one wants to be coddled and hovered over for life.  Our babies were born to live. And living means they HAVE to grow.

None of us are really living if we’re not growing.

So ya, I get it, your little muffin let go of your fingers today and ran straight through the doors of that brick and concrete building today and a part of you thinks you’re not ready. But you were BORN READY.  You can do this.

We had a couple of weeks to say goodbye to our daughter who we knew was going to drive herself through 3 provinces to a new city, new surroundings and new school.  But I wasn’t really prepared for the shock, sometimes horror that people shared with us when we told them our 18 year old daughter was going to drive by herself in her little car.  People couldn’t wrap their heads around how we could ” let her” do that.

Pardon me if I’m a little confused but didn’t we just invest 18 years of teaching, molding, encouraging and preparing her to do just that? We have always taught our kids to be self-confident; able to trouble shoot and make wise decisions. I’m so happy each of our 4 kids have oodles of confidence. We have done a lot of things wrong but we have managed to get that right. It didn’t occur to us that she couldn’t. It didn’t occur to her that she couldn’t. Was she nervous? A little. But she was mostly excited. On Friday, a few hours before I knew she needed to get to sleep so she was fresh on Saturday morning, I quietly asked her if she was scared to drive that whole way (1600km) by herself? She said she wasn’t. She said she just really wanted to get going. So I didn’t press the issue. If I would have- If I would have said ” it’s going to be scary”  or “you’ve never driven in the mountains- I don’t know if you can handle it” ….I would have been planting within her the seed of doubt. And we all know that one tiny seed of doubt will triple in size before you get your feet off the ground.

 

She drove herself. The first day was hard- she said mostly because it was so boring. The second day, the one we were all a little worried about, was easier because it was all new. All new, all beautiful, all exciting. She had to stay focused. She stopped when she needed to and let us know where she was. She paid attention to signs, didn’t fall  into the trap of speeding like so many others were. She let them pass her, drove what was comfortable for her and got to her destination before sunset. That was the goal. Yes, she did admit the last 3 hours were hard as the highway was difficult. But you know what? She did it!  My dad said that was the best thing for her. It’s the true pioneer spirit of our forefathers. You go, you do what you have to do and you don’t worry about the details.

Speaking of my dad, he was 15 when he left home. Took a bus and then a train to the far north to work hard, hard long days.  Very little to eat. He was FIFTEEN. No cell phones. No phone to call home. He wrote letters to his mom. He was homesick. He was so young. And it made him into a self-reliant, self-confident, trouble-shooting, capable, reliable adult.

I feel often that we as parents are holding our kids back from their natural, God-given abilities. They are meant to grow and thrive. When a baby begins to walk, they don’t worry about falling down…they keep going. When they are pre-schoolers who want to read they inquire and pretend until they begin to learn and develop a life-long skill of reading language. How marvelous and miraculous is that? It’s really amazing!

When we walk our little ones to the gate of the school on the first day, we willingly let them go into a classroom FULL OF STRANGERS for hours and hours every day and week! Guys! Think about this! We have been doing hard things as parents for all the years since that first pregnancy test came back positive! WE have been letting go.

We as parents are hard-wired to let go. It may not always be easy.  The first drive with a rookie driver is a little bit of white-knuckling, hold your tongue, try not to scream tension.But then, 3 weeks later we are sitting there on our phone scrolling through FB memes because our kid has this and we’re just a passenger.

Moms….let go. Have a coffee with a friend, go to the bookstore, go to the fabric store. Clean out that closet you don’t want the kids to see so they won’t know all the stuff of theirs you’re throwing out. Just go do something. Your kids are okay. They’re doing what they were born to do.  They’re living.

Mama birds don’t mess around- the baby birds get pushed right out of the nest and they’ll fall or they’ll fly. But they were born to fly so they will fly.

Your kids were born to run, to grow, to learn to live.  You’ve done your part. Now let them go.

Happy first day of school everyone.  I just blogged for the first time in 18 months. So basically….I’m winning on this first Tuesday of September.

 

 

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Surviving a move with teens and tweens

Have you noticed the for sale signs going up in your neighborhood? It’s spring, and that means moving season.

In fact, it was exactly three years ago this week that we packed up and moved from Canada to The Woodlands, Texas. All of us, especially the kids, had mixed emotions about our big move. But, I really had no idea how difficult the transition was going to be.

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It all hit home the day my middle daughter had a complete meltdown walking home from school. We’d been here just a few weeks and the weather was already a sweltering 95 degrees (35 C). She dropped her backpack on the sidewalk, tore at the neck of her sweat-soaked shirt and shouted through tears, “I want to move back to Canada…where the weather is perfect!” Hahahaha…tell that to most Canadians!!

I hadn’t realized just how lonely she was feeling at school. She was missing her friends back home and didn’t feel like part of her new class. When all the kids were exchanging yearbooks, she didn’t have one. And, she wasn’t pictured in any of the year end slideshows. To a kid, that stuff matters.

It was a long, hot summer. Where was everybody?? No bikes, no soccer balls, no laughing children in the cul-de-sac. I finally figured out they were all seeking refuge in their air-conditioned homes!!

As my youngest happily cooled off in our backyard pool, my oldest started having mysterious stomach pains. Initially, I thought she’d come down with a stomach bug from the water park, but when it persisted for weeks, I finally took her to the doctor. There was no “official” diagnosis, but the doctor suggested she might be having anxiety related to the move, the loss of her social network and fear of starting a new school in the fall. Everything that was familiar to her…was gone.

She spent hours texting, Facetiming and Skyping friends back home, and I worried that maybe it was too much. Wasn’t it time to move on? For a while, it seemed like she was focusing on her old friends at the expense of making new ones. Was it a good idea for her to go back and visit, or bring her friends here? We tried everything, but only with time…and patience, did she find her new normal. I’m happy to say she still has close connections with her old friends thanks to social media.

It took a full year for The Woodlands to begin to feel like home and now we love it here. But seeing the for sale signs reminds me of all the change – good and bad – a family must go through when relocating. I’ve compiled a list of what I hope are helpful tips to ease the transition:

  • Talk to your children, stressing the positives of the move and the new location. It’s important to be honest with them, and acknowledge their fears, but always try to remain upbeat about the new experience. Your kids will feed off of your emotions.
  • Pre-move visit – it helps for kids to see where they are moving. Let them check out the neighborhood, local parks, etc. so they can visualize themselves in their new surroundings. Involve them in the house-hunting process, just be careful they don’t get their heart set on a house in case the real estate deal falls through.
  • Phone a friend – if possible, try to connect with other moms who are already living there. For me, the advice I received from the wife of my husband’s co-worker was invaluable. I find you will always get the “real deal” from other moms.
  • The internet is your friend – use it to research schools, doctors, dentists, dance studios, swim clubs, or hockey teams. It can sometimes be hard to find a doctor or pediatrician accepting new patients, so get on those lists early. Same goes for pre-schools and private schools. Once there, go for a visit and talk to the staff to make sure what you read on the internet is true.
  • Get documents in order – most schools require birth certificates (now you need the long-form version), vaccination records, transcripts and report cards. You may also need your marriage certificate and marriage license. It’s so much easier to gather this stuff ahead of time, rather than trying to track it down during the middle of packing and un-packing.
  • Be prepared for tutoring – moving to a different province, state or even school district may come with different standards and curriculum expectations. And that’s ok. Be open to any extra support or tutoring the school may recommend. It doesn’t mean your child is “behind”, it just means they are behind where this particular school district wants them to be.
  • Talk to your kids’ teachers ahead of time. Let them know a little about your child’s personality, and what he/she may need during those first few weeks. Also, ask if there is a “buddy” who could be paired with your child to show them around the school. My daughter is still good friends with the class ambassador who be-friended her on the first day.
  • Sign up for kids’ activities sooner, rather than later – getting kids involved early on can minimize their feelings of loss and loneliness. It’s a great place for them to meet new friends and gets them back to doing what they love
  • Be the host – it’s likely that for the first few months, you may have to be the host of play dates, outings and eventually sleepovers. You might even offer to host a neighbourhood or class party. No one knows your child, so what better way to break the ice?
  • Join something fun – give yourself permission to join a gym, book club, take dance lessons or volunteer. Try to get out and mingle. Not everyone handles change well and moving can be a trigger for depression; it’s important to stay active and engaged with others. After all, you need friends too!
  • Don’t feel guilty — expect that your kids will complain, but don’t let them make you feel guilty for “ruining their life.” They are kids, they will adjust, and it will be harder for teens than young ones. I honestly believe that moving teaches kids some great life skills – how to make friends, be easy-going and adapt to all of the curve balls life is going to throw at them.
  • Relationship TLC – moving is busy and stressful. The extent of conversation with your spouse may be limited to “Did the cable guy come yet?” and the ever so innocent…”Wow, those boxes aren’t unpacked yet??” Make time to just set all the moving stuff aside, pour yourselves a glass of wine and talk. If you can sneak a night out, then go for it, especially once you find a great babysitter.

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What a huge learning curve we all went through during that first year. Of course, there were so many great memories too – seeing my first magnolia tree, having our first Blue Bell ice cream (before the listeria outbreak, of course!) and meeting great neighbours who’ve become dear friends.

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Getting used to “y’all” took a little time. I’m still having trouble with “all y’all’s” as a plural possessive?! We drank a lot of “sweet tea” that summer and I quickly got up to speed on Tex Mex lingo. Now if I go to a potluck, I know what pico and queso are!

When moving, it’s so easy to focus on what you don’t have anymore, but in the end, you have all you need ~ each other!

Please comment below if you’d like to share your moving experience, or if you have any other advice for moms who are getting ready for this big transition.

I’d like to thank my friend and real estate agent Wendy Kelman for contributing to this post.

Making our children STAAR students

Ok, just have to vent today about the STAAR tests being taken this week by students in Texas.

No, no, it’s not just “any other” test. The STAAR test is a phenomenon down in these parts.  And from what I can tell, not even Texans like it!!

It stands for the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.  And it would be similar (though much harder, in my opinion) to the PAT (Provincial Achievement Tests) given to students in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada. A key difference here though, is that it is a pass or fail test, which means…if your child doesn’t pass the STAAR, they do not pass the grade.

The pressure being heaped upon our kids to perform is like something I’ve never seen before.

The school is a closed campus this week  – no visitors, no birthday treats, no outdoor recess for any grade. Testing is in progress. The children are also being asked to wear brain stimulating colors  – purple for Reading, blue for Math and green for Science. I’m serious.

We, as parents, as being persuaded to get up extra early (at my house anyway) and make a protein-packed breakfast…bacon and eggs anyone??  Yesterday, they told us to pack a “note of encouragement” in our kids’ lunch boxes! And this one prompted me to write this blog – I got a teacher text (which I normally enjoy) that said “May the Scores Be With You!” Ha, ha…Star Wars, I get it.

But that’s what it’s all about – the scores. I really like my children’s school and teachers, I have a lot of respect for them. But when it comes to STAAR testing, I get annoyed. Isn’t this test supposed to be a reflection of what they’ve learned throughout the year. If the teacher is doing her job, and my child is doing classwork, homework and studying all year long…won’t she do just fine?

I guess not! I did some research which found that educators have determined the STAAR tests are written in a language beyond the child’s grade level. So, even though they may understand the subject matter, they may not understand the question because of the language used. How sad.

I’m not fully up to speed on how the STAAR results and school funding are connected, but clearly there is a link. Each school is striving for the best test scores and the teachers too, as I’ve heard there are hirings and firings based on STAAR class results.

My daughter came home the other day and told me that she thinks she has Test Anxiety. Really, I ask, surprised of where she heard that term??  Then, she hands me a sheet the teacher gave out listing all the symptoms and ways to avoid test anxiety.  She did not sleep well last night –  she was up at least twice, upset that she could not fall asleep,  despite the fact her teacher told her she MUST get a good night’s rest.

Wow…I just don’t get it. I sent her out the door this morning  with a kiss, a hug, and said good luck because to me…the STAAR is just any other test.

Woodlands friends, I would love for you to share your knowledge and experience with STAAR testing. 

We Don’t Live in Walnut Grove Anymore {The Social Media Generation}

If I talk to you about social media, what do you instantly think of? Facebook? Twitter?

I’m guessing most of you think of Facebook exclusively when it comes to your kids. But you would be wrong. In fact, a lot of kids are leaving Facebook and checking out SnapChat and in rapidly increasing numbers, Instagram.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I would like you to read this article from Hollee Actman Becker. She has absolutely nailed it when it comes to Instagram and our kids- especially tweens and teens.  Do You Think You’re Smarter than Your Fifth Grader? 

 

Did you read it?? Go. Now. Read it. The rest of this isn’t going to make sense unless you read it and I’m not dictating it for you. Go. 

 

Okay, so, now that you’re panic-stricken and mortified, let’s talk about this.

 

Unless you plan on moving to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee or the back woods of the Boreal Forest in Northern Saskatchewan, social media is not going away and it’s now a part of your life, like it or not.  Sure, you can ban your kids from ever touching a computer or cell phone. You can take away their iTouch and their iPads.  You can turn off the wi-fi in your house at 8 pm  and you can hold their hand through life.  OR you could talk to them and teach them about the proper use of social media.

Last week I got an iPhone after much prodding and peer pressure from my 18 year old son. Oh , he’s quite the salesman I tell ya. What got me convinced is the inter-connectivity between my two oldest who have iPhones, my husband and his iPad(he has since upgraded to an iPhone too) and my two younger daughters who each have an iTouch. If you’re not familiar, an iTouch is a glorified iPod which you might think is just for listening to music and watching videos but it actually has all the capabilities of an iPhone without being a phone. So anywhere there is a wifi connection, the holder of an iTouch is able to be on the internet, add apps like any iPhone user would and it also has a camera/video camera.  Very cool but for kids, definitely needs monitoring.   Now, I know my girls have been using Instagram for the past few months. Many of my friends also share  their instagram photos on Facebook and Twitter and I have to admit, I was a little sad when I learned that you have to have an Apple product to use that particular app. I have looked at my girls’ photos and I realized a couple of months ago that there is a lot more going on on Instagram than what I had previously thought. I too, thought it was simply a photo sharing application but with the ability to follow and comment, I realized it really is just another social media outlet.

Our rules on Facebook are as follows:

  • If you’re going to be on Facebook, you must have your parents as friends or you can’t have an account. (They have all figured out that they can customize statuses and posts to exclude us because we were “so annoying” commenting on things.)
  • At any time I can look at their friend list and suggest/demand deletion. We have had to do this a few times particularly with some “friends” who they don’t know well or who have potty-mouths and regularly post offensive comments, statuses or links.
  • At any time I can go into their inbox to see who they’re chatting with and what they’re chatting about.  I did this a lot in the early days and the threat of it now has kept everyone behaving(I think).  I do believe our teens need a certain level of anonymity and privacy. I had diaries and there were some things I wanted to vent about that I would never want my mom to hear or read. Growing up is a working through of emotions and thoughts and it’s okay for our kids to have someplace to do that. But I caution my girls that everything they type can be cut, pasted, shared, taken out of context for all the world to see so tread carefully.
  • Absolutely no bashing friends, acquaintances, family or teachers on Facebook or any other social media. I will not put up with cyber-bullying  or openly slandering another person.
  • Facebook is a privilege, not a right. At any moment it can be gone. And we have suspended accounts for several months at a time. Parents, be parents. Consequences for inappropriate behaviour must be followed through.
  • Anyone who you “friend” on Facebook must be someone you know personally, have an in-person relationship with and who is someone that you would not hesitate to have over in our home for dinner or sitting in our living room with the whole family.  If any one of these criteria does not line up then you cannot be friends on Facebook.  Facebook is an extension of our home and your life. It is a virtual living room. Therefore, we regularly check friend lists and purge as necessary. If someone is a FB stalker(they’re on but you never hear from them) then they’re gone.  If someone takes things you post and shares them with others not on your friend list or not on FB, they’re gone.  If someone makes any one of your friends feel uncomfortable or is chatting privately with you about what someone else said or posted, they’re gone.

This is not an exclusive rule list and it’s always changing. Social media has changed a ton in the six years that I have been on. An open dialogue is essential with your kids. Use it as a teaching tool. Someday your kids will be on their own and they need to have a good foundation for what is acceptable on the internet and what is not.  If you don’t teach them, they’ll learn on their own or from someone else. This is why, for the life of me, I cannot understand some parents who are NOT on Facebook but allow their children to be. You cannot monitor that which you do not see. And you cannot see that which you do not understand or where you are not present. Be present in your child’s life~everywhere.

 

So, back to Instagram. We had an episode a month ago. Potentially a scary episode. My youngest(who will be 13 next week) was having problems and I knew that but she wasn’t sharing much. I will not give all the details but I received a phone call from her friend’s mom on a Saturday morning. She was worried about my daughter because she read an inbox message from her, to her daughter. The word suicide came up. I was alarmed but I was more curious. I took my daughter out on a shopping trip and lunch. We talked about school and friends and all kinds of things. She didn’t give me any indication of a problem and her marks have been good. I had to tell her about the call and she immediately burst into tears. Instagram. Instagram had made her feel awkward and uncomfortable and vulnerable. Even though she didn’t say those words, that’s what it was.  A boy at youth group had liked a photo of her on instagram and her friends had blown it up into a big deal. Why? Because when you “like” something on Instagram it pops up as a heart. So here was her picture with a heart and this boy’s name.  It’s one of those moments in grade 7 when you are SO EMBARRASSED you just want to die.  You know what I mean , moms? You want to die. And that’s what this innocent little  inbox message had said.

When I was in grade 7 and I liked a boy, I didn’t tell anyone. It was my secret with myself. I told my daughter that as much as she loves her friends and they love her, teasing will always happen to the extent where you want to crawl into a hole and never come out. That’s why diaries are great. And that’s why, when I was in grade 7, I could run home, close the bedroom door, cry into my pillow and stress for a day and a night and by the next morning the girls were teasing someone else at school and the boys were just being boys.

Here’s the thing parents, we don’t live in Walnut Grove anymore(did you have to Google that to figure out what I meant?).  Nelly is still on the playground, but she’s carrying an iPhone and she’s using everything your little Laura says and does against her. She’s video taping and photographing and texting.  Albert and Willie have phones now too.  And they don’t mean any harm but they get caught up in the moment.  So what are you going to tell your Laura, your Mary, your Carrie?  What do you do? Do you pack them up in the wagon? Do you tell Pa to get his shotgun and show those kids who’s boss?

Nellie Olson still exists ~she just has an iPhone now.

No.  We live in 2013 and computers and cell phones and social media are a part of our lives. We have to teach our kids to protect themselves. We have to show them how to be friends but how to still keep their private life private. We need to be their safe place and their fountain of knowledge. But we can’t do that if we don’t know what they’re talking about. We can’t help them if we don’t even understand what “tbh” and “lms” mean. It’s time to get with the program.  Be a parent and be there for our kids.

Needless to say, we ‘ve adjusted privacy settings on Instagram for the girls. And now that I’m on, I can see what’s being posted and what’s being said. 95% of it is innocent. But the conversation is an open and evolving one. I’m not going to be the mom who says, “I didn’t know” .

 

 

Instinct, Expectations and Picking Your Battles

I was reading a thread on Facebook today from a well-known author/blogger/speaker.  She had simply stated last night some tough love for her son who wasted time playing a video game even though she asked if he had homework and then “suddenly remembered” at bedtime.  She sent him to bed and told him the consequences were a zero, staying in at recess and reaping the rewards of his forgetfulness.  I did a little cyber *high-five* because that’s pretty much how I parent.  But what followed was nearly 300+ comments from her followers about how she handled it wrong, her son was going to be a delinquent, he was learning to be rewarded for bad behaviour, he was likely to fail in life and a whole host of *advice* about how she could have dealt with it differently.

I am mortified.

First of all, she has 5 kids and this is nothing new to her. It was a small insight into her life which she didn’t need to share but she does regularly because she’s a regular mom like the rest of us, with kids who challenge and she chooses not to enter the battle field sometimes.  A lot of the comments were offensive and most of them were out of line. Continue reading

Lesson #1: Breathe {from Darlene}

So now I’m thinking about interesting memories in Adventures in Motherhood.

My lesson on “Get The Facts First, Panic If Required Later” involves my daughter Laura, who just made it under the wire for turning 5 and attending Kindergarten.  Her birthday is late December, so she was the youngest in her class.  I was endlessly worried about those Big Bad Boys Who Turned Five In January who might bully or influence my precious little one. Continue reading