Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Can't Never Did Anything

A common phrase tossed around social media, teacher's lounges and the pool is helicopter parenting.  Sometimes the phrase becomes lawnmower parents or bulldozer parents.  We have all heard the phrase, the reference to parenting styles today.  We are often quick to say, "When I was a kid, my mom just had me drink from a hose and gave me a bologna sandwich on white bread".  Right... who hasn't heard the tales of how parents in the 70's or 80's parented?  Like it is a golden elixir to what ails the parenting world today. If we could just turn back time, today's parents would see the amazing parenting styles of the parents of yesteryear (insert sarcastic eye roll here!).

I am a child born in the 70's and I did drink from a hose and ate LOTS of bologna on white bread with Hellman's mayonnaise.  I stayed out until the streetlights came on, got dirty, went on adventures and rode my bike a million miles a day.  It was a great childhood!  Was my mom doing anything different than any other mom?  No, everyone in my small town did the same thing.

I have children of the new  Millenium who have not had the same childhood experiences that I have had.  They don't stay out until the streetlights come on or the fire station blows the whistle. Why not?  Mainly because it is a different time and place.  We live in an era where kids have easy access to electronics that were not around when I was their age.  They are presented with a million different options for everything.  I mean Saturday morning cartoons are not a big thing for kids today, they have cartoons 24/7.  They will never know the excitement I felt to get up on Saturday and watch the cartoons with my dad.

Did my mom let me learn somethings for myself? Absolutely! Did she help with school work? Absolutely... she was an elementary school teacher and her projects were always better than mine! She struck a balance between doing everything for me and allowing me to figure it out.  I have tried to do that with my kids... help when needed but allow them to fail.  Without failure, they will not learn anything. I think that is the hardest concept for parents to not only understand but to follow through on.  We all want what is best for our kids, we want them to have a great life.. better than ours.  When they cry or are angry it feels like a direct hit to the heart, we want to scoop them up and make it better.  At some point we have to allow them to feel things, to experience what it is like to fail, to learn a lesson, and to pick yourself back up and move on.  Bulldozing, helicoptering or lawnmowing... whatever you want to call it.... will not help the kids in the long run.  Will it be easier in the moment?  Absolutely!  When they go to college and can't write a paper? Not so much!   Can we offer our kids help? Absolutely!  Should we do the work for them, or micromanage their every word? Not so much!

I have a sign hanging above my kitchen door, it is a quote attributed to many professional athletes so I can't give credit to who said it, but it says, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take".  Without trying something on your own, without failing and learning from your mistakes, you can not grow into the person you are destined to be.  As my mom said (at least four billion times!), "Chrissy, can't never did anything."

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Parenting Boat

Parenting is like being in a small boat amidst a powerful storm.  You have to be a strong seaman to navigate the parenting waters.  The waters are always choppy, seldom calm and shark-infested.  At times, the life vest is deflated or missing from your proverbial boat. The winds whip and the rain falls in one breath and in another it is a beautiful, sunny day.  It takes all of your effort to keep the boat afloat and all the members in your small boat alive.  As the captain or co-captain, you realize that with each passing storm another storm will soon be on the horizon.  Such a tough job.... the constant change, the constant struggle, the days of calm seas followed by the hurricane-force winds. 

It is a relentless pursuit of ensuring the well being of the members of your boat, who often question your every move.  Should we be doing that? Wouldn't it be better if we did this? Why are we doing this? Or present their facts and ideas on the best course of action for your small vessel, acting as if your years of being a captain and seaman are irrelevant.  I think we should do this because....., or the current facts are.......  or my personal favorite.... when I am in charge we will do it this way (Don't you really want to say...go ahead get your own boat and see how you do?).

The people in your boat have emotions that rival the storms your boat encounters.  One minute they are as calm as the sea, the next their emotions rival the storm around you.  (Maybe they are the cause of the storms?? ) Just when you believe that your boat has passed the worst of the storm, the clouds grow and a new storm approaches... just like the emotions of the people in your boat. You, as captain, can never quite get a handle on the storms as they change with the wind, come from all directions and threaten to sink your boat at any time. 

Being captain is a tough job. You do not receive any formal training for navigating these waters, you learn as you go.  Some days, you are a great captain. Others, your boat barely stays afloat.  The rewards, like sunshine after a storm, are breathtaking and leave you with a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of the sea.  Likewise, when the storm is bad,  you bail water out of your boat as quickly as you can with your eyes on the storm and you hope that it is a small squall and not a hurricane.

Eventually, your boat will be smaller with less responsibility.  We all know that.  We know the storms will pass, the waters will calm and the sharks will move on to greater pursuits.  But while navigating the waters with a full boat, it is hard to see past the storm, to look for the sun amidst the clouds. So, my fellow captains... hold tight to your life vest, keep rowing towards the sun, there are brighter days ahead.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

I Told You So....

As a small recap to an ongoing saga of home gym assembly, my youngest son's gym closed in late March due to Covid -19.  We had an unassembled home gym hidden in a storage closet in the basement.  My husband, being the good father he is (insert eye roll here!), told my youngest about the gym and said we could put it together.  Two weekends later, a gazillion trips to Ace Hardware and the machine was not finished.  We were all exhausted, agitated and at a loss.... the machine was winning the battle. 

I pointed to one point in the pulley system and repeatedly....seriously like a million times.... told "the boys" that this was our issue.  I just could not understand the logic of the design and could see that it visually did not go there. I showed them pictures, I backtracked on the directions, I hypothesized that the missing inches we needed to connect the last piece were lost in that one section.  Well... no one believed me or to be fair, no one cared enough at this point to listen.  So, we threw in the towel and walked away. 

Fast forward two days... I am upstairs meeting virtually with my fourth-grade team and hear sounds coming from the front room where the gym is located. Sorta like the clang of metal together, what could that be I wonder.  The sounds are faint but I can just make out the noises of exertion, of murmured voices and then what sounds like something going up and down.  All of this is happening while I am behind closed doors, trying desperately to concentrate on my team all while trying to determine what the sounds are.  Stupid teacher ears.... we hear everything!  Now I am so distracted by these new noises and miss parts of what is being said.  I force myself to focus on the team, figuring that the call will end quicker if I actually pay attention!

Finally, the call is over.  I close my laptop with vigor, make a mental note of the things that I still need to accomplish today and open my bedroom door.  Sure enough, the sounds are louder.  It is definitely coming from the front room and it is definitely the sound of something being pulled up and down.  I quickly descend the first half of the staircase, make the turn towards the second half of the stairs and get a clear view of the front room.  Sure enough, they have finished the machine and it works! 

I pause about halfway down the second set of stairs and survey the situation.  The boys pause and await my reaction.  I ask them what the issue was and how did they fix it.  They sheepishly reply that it was the pulley area I said didn't work... not in those exact words but it was my idea after all.  Being the fantastic mom I am, I broke out in an I was right dance that lasted a few minutes.  The dance was complete with song, lots of shaking, and lots of I was right.  My boys just looked at each other and said, "I told you she would do this!"  Momma is always right!!

Seriously, the gym has been a great solace for my teenagers.  My husband has joined in the workouts too and the gym has provided another layer of bonding.  The whole experience was long, painful at times but well worth it.  After all.... I was right!! 😜

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Phantom Pain

Phantom pain is a phrase that came to me during my early morning workout.  Phantom pain the kind you get from missing something that should be there.  You hear of people who have lost a limb remark that they still feel pain in the missing limb.  This pain is the mind getting used to the absence of something that should be there. The pain is real, not imagined.  This pain is felt in the soul of the person experiencing it.

Websters defines the word phantom as a ghost or something that is imagined.  Phantom pain is defined as pain, that was once believed to be imagined, generating from a missing limb or organ.  Science has since proven that this pain is generated by the brain and/or spinal cord as a result of rewiring the neurons.

Phantom pain.... missing something that is not there.  A rewiring of the brain so that the brain grows accustomed to its new normal.  To me, this sounds like what educators and students are feeling now.  A pain, a soul-deep pain, over a loss of what should be. We are all struggling to find the source of the pain, to force the brain to grow accustomed to its new normal.  Many of us, educators, parents, and students, are struggling to ease the pain, to work through our new normal. To find normalcy in the unnormal.

 A phantom pain.... a rewiring of the brain......an acceptance of what is now normal. Events are moving so quickly, our brains.... our hearts.... our souls can not keep up.  We are left with unease, worry, pain.  Our minds are in overdrive trying to reconcile all the images, the feelings, and all the information.... trying to find the source of the pain and determining our new normal.  The magical thing is our brains will accept the new normal, our souls will recover and our hearts will expand.  We will find joy in simplicity, find the silver lining in our storm clouds.  We will adapt and grow stronger.

*** I feel as if I need a disclaimer... in no way was I trivializing the loss of a limb.  That is far worse than the temporary loss we are all experiencing. I was just borrowing the phrase!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Empty Classroom

Yesterday, we got the news that school would be closed for the remainder of this year.  Closed for the remainder of the year.... I had a feeling that those words were coming, yet when they were said I was still shocked.  Flabbergasted, heartbroken, devastated, lost.... all emotions that I experienced in a span of minutes.  It is one thing to think something is going to happen and another for it to happen.

I had to take the night to process the depth of my emotions and how to move forward with purpose and positivity.  See, that is what I do... I am a one foot in front of the other kind of person.  I have experienced great loss, both my parents and last year my sister in law, and I put one foot in front of the other and came out the other side with lessons learned.  I just needed a minute to get my bearings, to allow myself to feel the loss, to have a good old fashioned cry.

I have taken my minute and I am putting one for in front of the other.  I believe the loss is so profound this time because it involved 51 nine and ten-year-olds who I love dearly.  These kids make me smile, laugh until I have tears rolling down my face and give the best hugs.  They always seem to know when I needed a break, or a joke or a riddle...they love riddles.  They are silly and smart and at times drove me CRAZY.  But I would love to be back together again. We had so many things that we were going to do, so many things that we still needed to learn.  Just so many things....

Although I won't see their smiling faces in my classroom anymore or hear their giggles or see them choosing kindness, their legacy will be felt in years to come.  I will look out into my classroom and remember the good times that we had, the silly times and of course, the times that were not so great and I will find comfort in it.  I will tell stories to the next group of fourth graders and reminisce with this group when I see them in the hall.  We will forever be tied together by this shared experience and I can not think of a more perfect group to be associated with.

This is it...

 Wow! I don't think a person realizes how quickly time moves until you are taking note of the days.  I completed a burpee challenge in F...