Sports – it’s good for you

Lately, I feel like we hear more about the down side of sports than the positive. Injuries are problematic, concussions are even worse. Athletes are accused of crimes and often convicted. There are plenty of scandals to find if you look.

But what I know to be true is that sports saved my son.  Sports is the arena that he can excel in, it’s a place where men have stepped in, where his father hasn’t, and have taught him more than the rules of the game.  They’ve shown him how to be fathers, coaches, teachers, and good community members.  Sports, more than his poor, tired, and unsuccessful mama, have taught him the power of discipline, that hard work pays off most of the time, that winning is the best high, and that sometimes you don’t win but you have to get back up and try again.

I went to visit my son last weekend and watch him win (yay) his Divisional championship. The first game of the championship, my son’s team beat the other team badly. The team was losing by over 10 points. It was clear they were going home but despite that those boys played their hearts out. They ran for every ball, they left nothing on the field.  I know they were disapointed when they lined up to shake hands at the end of the day, but all I could think was how proud I was of these boys I didn’t even know. What a great lesson they’d learned and that I knew their were wins in their future.  And then I was proud for my son’s team – who worked hard all season, woke up for 6 AM work outs, missed out on alot of college fun, and then they won.

Not all kids thrive in sports – some love chess or spelling bees or coding. But let me beg you to let them try.

Bedtime – I like it early

lion-1341180_960_720I recently read this article and started a lively discussion on a facebook group I’m on about the importance of early bedtimes. I’m a believer in routines and bedtime and while I frequently fall short in providing that structure, I’m usually spot on about bedtime.  Out of my four kids, I had one great sleeper, one who didn’t sleep through the night until he was three, and the twins are okay sleepers that did well when I provide lots of structure around sleep.  I’m sure there are the rare kids that require less sleep or that have a medical condition that disrupts sleep (my bad sleeper had complicated asthma) but 90% of kids are inside the bell curve of normal sleep.  I don’t say this to make you feel bad if you don’t have a good sleeper – I mean it as encouragement.  It can be fixed!  If your child is sleeping less than the recommended limits, try an earlier bedtime.

Case in point – I sent my well-slept twins to spend the night with their grandparents last week.  They didn’t nap that day and didn’t go to sleep until 10 PM (What what??) They woke up the next morning at 6:30 AM and were miserable.  They took a good nap and still went to bed at 8 PM and woke up at 7 AM, the following day they didn’t nap and slept from 7PM to 7:30 AM.  Sleep begets sleep folks.

I think it’s especially important when we have older kids at home to have time in the evening to spend with the older kids.  When my son was still in high school, I fed the little ones as soon as we got home from daycare and then had a sit down dinner with the grown ups.  It was a good way to connect and no teenager enjoys competing for your attention with cranky toddlers.  And if your teenager isn’t home, I’m pretty confident in saying that you and your spouse/significant other could use some quality time without a little one.

Is sleep an issue at your house?

Single motherhood

retro-1291738_960_720As we approach mother’s day this year, all of us mom’s deserve a big pat on the back. We don’t live in a culture that supports us, regardless of our choices or circumstances.

According to the Pew Research Center, only 46% of American kids live in a household with two married (heterosexual)* parents.  You only have to peruse the news headlines to hear depressing news about the effect this has on our children.  Children living in households headed by a mother are more likely to live in poverty (thanks wage inequality), less likely to graduate from highschool, more likely to suffer from behavioral issues, and on occasion, they link single motherhood to future incarceration.

I argue that we need a revolution in this thinking.  We need a revolution that demands that our society value childhood and the hard work and time required to raise a good human being.  None of these negative outcomes are written in stone and probably have more to do with economics than a lack of two married parents.

It’s not really rocket science to understand how to support families.  We need affordable housing, high quality and affordable childcare, good schools that aren’t tied to the property values of the neighborhood, healthcare that includes mental health, access to healthy foods, and work for parents that allows time for parenting.  I guess the rocket science comes in when you try to implement these things.

Let’s fight the good fight for these big societal level changes, while at the same time, doing what we can do to support families where they are.  If you are a single mom, don’t let any statistics define you or your family.  You can and are raising amazing children in hard circumstances. Keep it up!  I promise one day you’ll spend an afternoon with your grown children and almost burst with pride about what great people you created.

Here are a few ideas about things you can do to support moms (single or not) right now:

If you are a boss, have a conversation with your employees about how you can help them manage their parenting responsibilities. They will be ever so grateful you brought the subject up and I suspect their loyalty and work ethic will improve.

If you are a teacher or school administrator, understand the constraints of working single parents. In my single days, I was once told that if I couldn’t make a 3PM teacher meeting I clearly didn’t care about my child.  I would have been fired if I left work at that time, I cared about keeping my child housed and fed. 

If you live in a neighborhood, engage with the neighborhood kids, help their parents out by keeping an eye on them and letting their parent(s) know what’s going on.  Even better, offer to help out from time to time if you would enjoy kids in your house.

Stop being so afraid of teenagers!  It seems that teenagers aren’t welcome anywhere these days.  Teenagers are great, they need acceptance and they want to be treated like adults even though they still need supervision.

Coach a sport, teach a kids class, volunteer to tutor at your local school. Kids need other adults in their lives. You may never know the deep and profound ways you may change a child’s life but I promise you will.  Be a role model so that kids can see there are different ways to live and be in this world. More importantly, let kids know that adults care and are trustworthy.  Kids do better with bigger support systems. One parent, two parents, grandparents, family friends – the more the better.

What are your ideas about making our society more family friendly, better for kids and parents (single or not)? How can we support macro and micro changes?

 

 

 

 

 

Fewer than half of U.S. kids today live in a ‘traditional’ family

When you child moves far away

Sending your child off to college is sort of the penultimate of parenting.  You’ve done your job, your child has succeeded well enough to live on his own and pursue a level of education many people never have a chance to experience.  Parenting isn’t over, but it’s different. For many of us there are still bills to pay for them, summers to house them, and plenty of worry. It’s also a time to step back and say I literally created this human from my own flesh* and I’ve raised a good person, may he go in peace.

And then they get hurt (in my case) or maybe sick (in your case) but suddenly you feel as protective as the mom of the toddler who got pushed down in the sandbox and for the first time, you aren’t there for them.

Saturday, I was watching a live stream of son #2’s Lacrosse game in Utah while I was at a five-year-olds birthday party (talk about parenting at both ends!).  This technology is a gift so that parents and loved ones can continue to watch their child play but it’s also not perfect and difficult to tell who is who.  I saw a player go down behind the goal and somehow I just knew it was my kid.  I couldn’t get confirmation, watched the rest of the game, texted my son after the game and yep it was him, and yep it was an old injury that’s still a problem…maybe a big one.

Then he’s at an urgent care without me, getting X-rays, figuring out his insurance information.  All important steps, things that help you grow up.  But, I just want to be there. I want to make sure he keeps ice on it, takes his anti-inflammatories, rests, and everything else I’m pretty sure he’s not doing without a mama bear making it happen.

So what I’ve realized is that when I sent my grown sons off to college, I knew they had many lessons to learn. What I didn’t realize is how many lessons I still needed to learn. Lessons about letting go, loving from afar, and finding my place that is no longer at the center of his universe…as it should be.

*I’m speaking to my experience here, if you became a parent or grew to love a child that was not created out of your flesh, I honor your experience and understand that giving birth to a child does not make you a parent, showing up every day does.

 

Who gets the shaft?

ducklings

How do you manage to meet everyone’s needs when you have a large family and when the ages are so spread out. I know I worried about this a lot when contemplating having another child (before I knew I was having two other children!). So here’s the truth – everyone gets the shaft.  The trick is figuring out who needs the attention and when.  My oldest son graduated from high school in a very busy month, that included my grandmother passing away and me hosting the post-funeral reception and lots of work travel.  But you know what, he was my first kid to graduate from high school and so I threw him a big party and gathered my family (minus the twins who were about 8 months old) and attended graduation and a big family dinner and enjoyed every second.  The twins get tons of attention but this was his night.  So the twins got the shaft.  May of 2012,  they spent more time than I would have liked with their nanny, some paid babysitters, and my inlaws.  Four years later I’m glad to report, that they haven’t need counseling yet.  One hundred percent the teenagers got the shaft for the first three months of the twins lives. I honestly can’t tell you how they got to school, if they had important tests, or how they navigated life without a functioning mother.  They did, it taught them a lot about personal responsibility and they love their little sisters. Most importantly, it didn’t incite a life long competition between them.  Parents needs probably get the shaft the most and that’s a shame.  We are just getting back into a semi-regular date night.  I still find myself putting off exercising for another family members needs.  Sometimes I realize I need to be at a PTA meeting, work later, and spend quality time with the little ones, but I always really want to meet up with my girlfriends, drink beer, and eat tacos.  Every now and then it’s okay to give the rest of the family the shaft and relax.  We should all try it a little more.

Why Little Yellow Flowers?

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Circa 2008 I had a really busy life.  I’d been a single mom for a long time.  I got a masters degree while working full time, my job was demanding.  I spent weekends with my kids at sports events.  Life was busy and full and I had the good fortune to have met a man who wanted to join me in this craziness.  We got married in 2009 and after a long process, we were thrilled to have our twins in 2011 (though the twin part was a big surprise!).

I treasured every second of the very generous four months of maternity leave I took.  My parents came over almost daily, friends visited and brought dinner, the teenagers helped out.  I knew from doing this before how slowly a day home with small children could pass, but I also knew how quickly babies turned into grown-ups. As Gretchen Ruben taught me – “the days are long but the years are short.”

What I  discovered walking crying babies up and down the street and later meandering the neighborhood with toddlers is that almost everywhere are….little yellow flowers.

To me, little yellow flowers are about slowing down, understanding that great things emerge slowly, that long days turn into your favorite memories, and most importantly – you will never regret the time you spend with your children and you’ll often be rewarded with a bouquet of little, yellow flowers.

 

About Me

Hi – I’m Julie. I’m a mom of four kids – two in college and twins in preschool.  I find a lot of us these days have families at both ends, both big and little.  We come to these families through blended families, new loves, moments of tenderness, surprise, and sometimes trepidation.  Whatever the reason, the result is a lot of love and maybe even more chaos.  I started this blog to share my experiences parenting at both ends and would love to hear yours.