Confidence and Kindness

I'm so pleased to see so many anti-bullying campaigns across the nation and across the world. The safety of or children is so important. It seems like, to some extent, the issues have been there for years, but it's a lot more serious now. Especially pertaining to the violence that's happening in schools across the world. I'm so glad that some things are being done about it, but it's easy to feel small. It's easy for you to feel like there's really not much you can do to make a change. The only thing you can do is what you feel is right make that one small change. Let me elaborate. I hate to say we have to blame it on the parent. I'm sorry. But in a way it's true. Stick with me let me explain it to you. You cannot do much about terrorism. You're a parent. You're going to work every day and taking care of your kids. What can you do against terrorism? You're not a politician. Even if there is nothing you could do on a large scale you have to feel helpless. It all starts at home for your small contribution. We can only teach our children to be kind to others. And I'm not asking you to teach your child to be weak or to be a doormat. No. Absolutely not. We need to raise strong, confident children. That is what bullying kills.

Bullying kills confidence.

I want to focus on that for a minute. We might not be able to do much about terrorism, but your parenting can be huge in the aspect of bullying.

I believe that empathy must be taught. Most young children are tiny sweet and caring people, but they don't understand that their actions are causing someone else pain. I can speak about this because I worked in daycare for about three years. It was a great job. It was a messy job. It was a chaotic job, but it was a great job. I worked primarily with ages six weeks to three years. I was working with the little munchkins. When they got to a certain age some of them would become biters or punchers. They didn't understand that this biting caused someone else pain. Now, some people believe that you have to bite them back. It's not necessary. You don't have to teach them by causing them that pain. Show them that the hurt child is crying. Show them. If it's you that they hurt, you can over exaggerate it so that your child will see that their actions cause pain. Then, once they understand that pain, teach your children to be kind.

I truly believe that this must be taught. You might think that it's not necessary to say "You must be kind." It is it is necessary to say out loud. It's fine to say it every day. "Please be kind today."

On their way out the door. "Please be kind to everyone."

What I say to my children is "If you're about to say something, if something is about to come out of your mouth, think for a moment. It only takes a moment. If I say this will it make this person feel bad or make this person feel good? And if you think that your words will make someone feel bad. It's not necessary to say. Just move along. You don't have to lie. If you don't like someone's T shirt. You don't have to say it's a great shirt. You just don't have to say anything ."

I is necessary to teach these things. No matter how sweet you think your child is. Peer pressure is real. It's just a part of growing up. If someone is saying something unkind. There's a good chance, even if your child doesn't feel great about it, they will follow. How many times does a child have to be told that their clothes are ugly before they believe it?

How many times do they have to be told that they are stupid before they believe it?

Some believe that kids need to toughen up because it's a tough world. I find that really hard to follow.

A person that does not engage in negative behavior is not weak. That's what we must teach them. We do not have to engage in negative behavior. It just doesn't have to be done. It's hard in a school setting or an activity setting because they're stuck with the same kids all day. I grew up in a very small school. Everyone knew everyone's mom. There weren't very many students. I switched classes, but it was pretty much everybody just walking to another room. It was hard to not a want to fit in or to walk away from a situation because it followed me all day. Now with social media kids are stuck like glue to each other Twenty four - seven. I didn't say it would be easy, but it must be taught.

So, if your child is being kind, making the decision not to engage in negative talk and negative behavior, how are they going to be strong enough if negative things are being said and done to them? How do we teach a child to rise above when it is difficult even for an adult? It's a hard lesson and it's a hard thing to get through. In order to be have these conversations the first thing you need to do is set up a place of a safe haven and open conversation. If someone's being unkind to your child, you want them to feel comfortable having a conversation with you. Make sure your child feels comfortable that your conversation is going to be exclusive. Start by building them back up.

Try this response:

"Wow. He was really unkind. That was a really mean thing to say. I'm sorry that he doesn't like your shirt. I like your shirt. That is one person's opinion. Try to avoid talking to him."

In the bullying world it seems like the bully will pick one kid and just keep pounding (let's hope only with words) the same kid. If this becomes the case, you have to make a decision. If things become dangerous you will have to proceed to outside sources. Let your child know that a talk with a teacher or parent is necessary to resolve this. Of course some things can never be resolved, but you have to try.

There is more to raising children than keeping them alive. Teach them to be kind and considerate.

We don't all have to be friends, but we all must be kind to one another.

That's the small step that I think we can take. And if we take the step to teach these values, most likely our children will teach these values to their children as well. And generations to come will become a more understanding society. I believe that is what will end bullying.

#EverymomConfession

Join me in sharing my parenting confessions with the Everymom community. Use the hashtag #EverymomConfession on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I'm going to share occasions when I've "dropped the ball" as a parent. Not for humiliation, but to admit it, forgive myself and move on. Here's an example:

Exhausted this morning. Fed my kids brownies for breakfast. #EverymomConfession

 If you see an #EverymomConfession that you relate to, please let that parent know that they're not alone. Please be kind! Keep scrolling if you think that your criticism will be anything but constructive. 

Join the fun and don't leave me hanging out there all alone!

Mom Guilt

Mom guilt. We've all suffered from it at one time or another. So I spent a lot of time thinking about it. And here's what I've come up with - this parenting thing is a learning process. Just because you became a parent - you did not become an expert. As humans we continue to learn and grow until we die. So please move on from whatever is weighing you down and start fresh. Don't hang on to that guilt. I've decided that we can only do the best with what we know. If you made a decision and you just did your best-  and each day there's a different scale for what is your best. Sometimes you're tired and you just say something to your kid that makes you cringe, but as long as you thought it through and you did the best with what you knew at the time, you have no reason for guilt.

I'm going to give you a couple examples to help you work through some guilt if you're holding on to it. I'm going to call my mom out here!

I really slather my kids with sun block. My kids go to a summer day camp every day and they're playing outside for most of the summer day.

My mom said to me one day, "You know, when you were growing up you and your sister never wore sun block and I really feel guilty about that now."

The first thing I said to her was, "If I have skin problems It's not going to be because you didn't put sun block on me as a kid. It's going to be because when I was a teenager I was going to the tanning bed all the time." (This may or may not be true, but I feel like that is going to come back to me at some point or another.)

Then I said to her, "Back in those days the research wasn't out about the harmful effects of the sun. You did the best with what you knew."

Some days are better than others. This whole parenting thing is a learning process. If you made a decision you're not proud of - tomorrow you'll do better. Children are unpredictable. So sometimes we make quick decisions and then we feel bad about it later. I'm asking you to feel bad about it for about five minutes, then forgive yourself, move on and have a better day tomorrow

Overwhelm

There is a lot of talk of overwhelm in parenting. But it tends to be in a positive way as if you're doing something right. Honestly, at the time, I didn't even realize that I was overwhelmed. People were telling me that I was. They would say, "I just don't understand how you keep up with that schedule. I don't know how you manage it." And I was actually proud of that. I took it as a compliment in some way. I kind of pictured myself in some "cartoon" as that mom who was juggling things on my fingers and my toes- having it all under control. The truth is that I didn't even realize that I was deteriorating. I mean in every way - emotionally, physically, and mentally. Everything was falling apart and it came to a point where I said, "No More!" I literally lived only doing the mandatory. I was just done. I was in survival mode.

Understandthat if you if you've got a million things on your plate and you can handle it- Wonderful! That's great. Everybody has a different threshold. My threshold is different from yours. The key is recognizing that threshold so that you can live and feel healthy. That's the goal.

My story starts about a year ago when I found out about a vacation that I just had to take. It was my dream vacation. I really needed to make it happen. (It truly was a dream vacation. I did end up going. I did what it took to be able to go. As a matter of fact it was so great that it was beyond what I had dreamed it was going to be.) Like all dream vacations it was going to be incredibly expensive. It just seemed impossible. I thought to myself, I don't want to miss out on this because of money. It just seemed ridiculous to me. I did what I thought made sense and being the entrepreneur that I am I took another job as an independent contractor. The numbers would fit with this contract. I would actually make more money than I needed for this trip. So I signed the contract. Let me tell you what the contract entailed.

1. Me getting up seven days a week at 3:40 A.M.

My alarm literally went off at 3:40! If I was a person that had no children and no other job(s) and I was able to go to bed every night at 7 P.M. this wouldn't be a crazy thought. But that's not my case. I have a lot going on.

2. It was a huge workload. I was getting very little sleep, but to me, I could handle it because I had a goal. I thought it was fine.

I told myself it was fine, but that was when the migraines started. I have not found one migraine medicine that works. I have been to the doctor. I found that the only migraine medicine is sleep. And even if you're getting eight hours of sleep, but you have too much on your plate, you are going to shut down in some way. I thought I had a hormone imbalance. I couldn't recognize that I had too much on my plate. I had to see it for myself. Sometimes lessons have to be learned through experience.

I needed to rest and do some soul searching. I needed to really focus on what I was doing to myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I started fresh. I changed my job(s,) my kids' activities, and my household expenses. 

This lifestyle change is a work in progress, but my family and I are already feeling the benefits. The rewards certainly outweigh the scarifies.

Defining Success

“Success is different for everyone. Keep a proper perspective and do your personal best." - Natalie Coughlin

I looked up the definition of success in the Oxford dictionary feeling skeptical because I was sure that I would be annoyed with what I would find. Let me guess. Achieving the highest of goals, or reaching full potential. I was pleasantly surprised to read that the Oxford dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Exactly. I like it. Why did I expect to read something that would confirm my prior belief that overachieving was the only path to success? I didn't grow up with parents who pressured me to achieve more than I thought was possible. That's not it. I'd like to blame the media for all the years I spent trying to do more, be more. But, I hesitate to do so because I think that it's only partly true. As a society or perhaps as Americans we seem to never be okay with just okay. If someone tells us that they drive a 2014 Cadillac we want to say that our luxury vehicle is a 2015 (I'm obviously not a car person.) And if we don't own a that 2015 Cadillac we tend to feel somewhat inadequate. Successful people have the best of the best. The huge house, the fancy car, and a fat bank account. Right? I used to think so, but something happened to me about three years ago. I became exhausted. No only because I was working crazy hours, but also because I was mentally and emotionally drained. I just wanted to feel fulfilled and energetic again. I decided to give up on success and just settle for what I had and who I was. Oh well. A funny thing happened when I stopped trying to overachieve. After a few months of depression and spiritual searching I realized that without a mansion or a Cadillac I was only a few steps away from being able to call myself successful. Because I don't care if anyone else thinks I'm successful. I set my own goals. I decide what's worth celebrating.

Now that I've come to this realization and I agree with Oxford's definition of success, all that's left is to decide what my aim or purpose is at this point. I say at this point because our lives are constantly changing. What I'm aiming for today might not be the same next year. Life is lived in moments. Baby steps are okay and in my experience, lessen anxiety.

So, what is my aim? Well, I feel like that's a broad question, but ultimately I just want to be happy. I want to feel fulfilled. What do I need to be happy and fulfilled? A huge house and a fancy car? Not necessarily. It could be fun, but I mean, seriously who's going to clean that big house? I guess if you can afford the huge house you could probably afford a maid, but I digress. I decided to isolate the important aspects of my life and think about how each of them make me feel happy and fulfilled.

Relationships

When I really thought about the different relationships in my life I decided that I needed to declutter. I needed to take focus off negative relationships so that I could put that energy into important relationships. Yes. I had to let some people go or at least spend less time and energy on them. Believe me, if you don't feel good when you're spending time with someone it really feels better to spend less or even no time with the person or persons.

Positive relationships

Stable, happy marriage = Success.

Kids hug me without being forced = Success.

Happily talk to my parents everyday (almost) = Success.

These relationships make me feel happy and fulfilled. And that is my definition of successful relationships. I would even call my relationships with my sister and my best friend successful, but I would like to get them on the phone and see them more often. I'm working on it.

Finances

I honestly would have loved to omit this category from my success analyzation. But there's no way around it. I still don't believe that you need to have a lot of money to be successful, but you do need to have a healthy relationship with money.

My household expenses are paid. = Success.

My family takes an annual vacation. = Success.

Occasionally I treat myself. = Success.

I'm saving as much as possible. = Success.

As I mentioned in the relationships category, you may need to cut out some unnecessary expenses to be able to afford the necessary ones.   

Career

This one was tough for me. My income comes from small businesses. But I couldn't call any of them my career. What is my career? Do I have one? Is my career motherhood? What happens when my kids are grown up? Am I retired at that point? I made the decision that writing would be my career. I never would have said that 15 years ago. Back then it was the same as saying "I'm going to be a movie star!"

But now in the age of the internet I'm a writer.

My pieces are published on JessNWheeler.com. = Success.

Motherhood is an amazing career. The expiration date makes me nervous. Motherhood will always be the most important and fulfilling thing I will ever do, but I've decided to not make it my career.

Parenting

I've decided that motherhood was not my career, but when it comes down to it, more than anything I want to be a successful parent.

Kids are healthy. = Success.

Kids are happy (in general.) = Success.

Kids are receiving a good education. = Success.

Kids live in a safe neighborhood. = Success.

Kids are well fed. = Success.

Kids are loved by friends and family. = Success.

If you are taking the time to read parenting articles and you are listening to parenting podcasts I have a feeling that you are a successful parent. You care enough to give your best effort.

After all of this animalization I have decided that I can call myself successful. If my relationships are fulfilling me, my finances are in order, and I'm happy in my work then I am successful. But more importantly my children must be happy for me to be successful. There's a saying that her mother is only as happy as her saddest child. You may decide that your successes are completely different. This is my point: It's personal.

What will I teach my children about success?

We decide what's worth celebrating. Again, life is lived in moments. We're going to do that potty dance. We're going to get that ice cream after the swimmingmeet or an A+ on a difficult test. I don't want to teach them that success is a huge scale. I want my children to know that we should feel successful and proud of big and small accomplishments.

Jessica's definition of success

Happiness and fulfillment. Peace of mind.

Alone with My Own Thoughts

"Sometimes, you need to be alone. Not to be lonely, but to enjoy your free time being yourself." - Unknown

I recently gave up a business that required me to be out the door by 4:15 am seven days a week. No need to re-read. 4:15 am. Seven days a week. No lie. Aside from the obvious cons there were many pros. I was home by 6:30 am - just in time for my husband to leave for work. Most days I was walking in the front door as he was walking out the back door. This meant that one of my children's parents were home at all hours of the day. When anyone asked me how I could possibly handle this schedule my answer was always "For two hours everyday I am alone with my own thoughts." That was the biggest pro.

Whether you are a parent or not it is so difficult to find time to be alone. We live in a fast paced world. We work, socialize and take care of pressing responsibilities everyday.

I am not suggesting that you begin starting your day at 4 am. As a matter of fact unless you can manage to get yourself to sleep at 8 pm,  please don't. I gave that business up mainly because my health suffered due to the sleep deprivation. It was the right decision, but I still miss that guaranteed alone time.

While I really did enjoy that time alone that fact is that I was working. I've learned that that time didn't even really count as alone time at all. My opinion is that work, errands and grocery shopping absolutely do not count as alone time.Busy "grown ups" must learn to prioritize. It's not easy. It seems like everyone around me needs something from me. In the case of my children their needs are my responsibility. But if I don't take care of myself there is no way that I can give them or anyone else my very best. I've come up with a few things that steal me at least ten minutes alone with my own thoughts.

GIVE IT TO 'EM STRAIGHT

Look your partner straight in the face and let him or her know that it is an absolute necessity for you to have a few minutes alone. If you are a single parent drive to a trusted adult's house and let them know. Most often my seriousness is convincing enough for my husband to agree.

Now that your kids are under someone else's care for the time being, here is what's next:

DON'T OVERTHINK IT

While I'm all for a spa day and visiting the movie theater alone is really nice, you don't have to take it that far. Try taking a quick walk. If you really don't have the energy for physical exertion go sit in the car if the weather permits. Your house (even if it's small) has alone time potential. Lock your bedroom door, or my personal favorite door to lock is the bathroom. My children will probably grow up thinking that I have digestive issues.

MAKE IT A HABIT

Now that you've discovered one or more ways to steal a few minutes alone, don't become a stranger to it. You might not be able to work these minutes into everyday, but find what works best for you and never get up on it completely.

Time alone gives you the opportunity to rest and recharge. Self care is not selfish. Your family deserves to have you at your best and a you're better when you're happy.

Rolling with the Punches

“I think it's an amazing quality to be able to roll with the punches and not be totally ruined as a person because life's been rough for you. That's a really admirable way to go through your life.” - Anna Paquin

Is it possible to "over plan?" In my experience I've found that any task or series of tasks run smoother if each step has been carefully planned and subsequently executed. This realization has made me a bit obsessive. I make a detailed plan for each day. I estimate how much time each stop in my day will take factoring in drive time of course. In a perfect world all of my fretting and planning would result in a calm productive day. Most often it's the exact opposite because we all know that this is not a perfect world. We walk out the door twenty minutes late because my son knocked over a lamp and now there's glass all over the floor. Once it's cleaned up my daughter has to go to the bathroom. Why does twenty minutes matter so much? Leaving twenty minutes later than the plan means that we get home twenty minutes late for lunch. Hungry children (and adults) break down. So I'm panicking at 9 am about the tantrum I think will happen at 12:10 pm. My anxiety makes me irritable so I'm rushing everyone and creating an uncomfortable atmosphere which leads to a stressful day.

Yes. I admit it. I can't roll with the punches.

The phrase roll with the punches is an American idiom that means to be able to deal with unexpected difficulties. The phrase originated in the early 20th century when referring to boxers angling themselves in certain ways to help soften the impact of incoming blows.

I would love to be that calm person who handles chaos with grace and rationality. I am not. But I'm really working on it. When my son breaks the doorknob and locks himself in the bedroom I try to convince myself that if I don't laugh I'll cry. So I'll take a deep breath and figure out how in the world I'm going to get him out of there before he shatters another lamp. Progress. But I still have a long way to go. I'm learning that you simply cannot plan for the unexpected problems that may arise in an ordinary day. Kids (especially toddlers) are exploring their world. Often this exploration leads to broken lamps and locked doors. To be honest writing this makes me smile because I'm so fortunate to have a healthy child. For many people rolling with the punches means staying positive through another major health set back. I think that the best way to roll with the punches is to practice gratitude. Obviously trying to plan away mishaps is not working. Instead of panicking because the day has gone off course try to remember who is important and how happy I am to have them in my life. Or at the very least remember that it could so totally be worse.