I LOVE MONDAYS Tip of the Week
It is the complaint of mothers everywhere: "Why can't my child just pick up his/her stuff and put it away after playing with it?" We think, "I'm not picking up crap anymore. I refuse!" But then we do it because we can't stand looking at it.
Well, I came up with a new system that I'm digging. Instead of nagging my child to put her stuff away, I just pick it up each day and dump it in the door frame of her bedroom, so that 1) she can't ignore it without tripping), 2) it's annoying to her, and 3) it's in her room and not the rest of the house.
I can't say it's taught her yet to put her stuff away when we she's done but I believe that habit will kick in eventually. Most importantly, my frustration and nagging has come way down.
I LOVE MONDAYS Tip of the Week
Found (and loved) this illustration by UnearthedComics.com on the "Epic Parenting" FB page. This year, there are three weeks at the end of summer when just about every camp is finished, no new programs are starting, and working moms are scrambling to line up some kind of, just about any kind of, child coverage.
Here's something I tried out last year that worked well if you can swing it. Run a makeshift day camp with your kid's friends where a parent of each child is camp director for one day on a rotating basis. So, for instance, I took off from work ONE day of the week instead of five and took a group of girls to downtown Boston for the day, where we walked through parks, window shopped, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and explored hotels where we pretended we were either a) tourists from another country with fabulous accents, or b) worked as part of the hotel staff. It was actually a fun day once I let go of my worries about work piling up; it helped remembering I'd get back on track the next day when I took off my director hat and handed it over to the next parent.
When my daughter Risa entered third grade this year, several moms with daughters older than mine warned me about the ugly social politics about to kick in, which would arrive by spring. Boy, were they right. Around April, I started noticing an uptick in Risa's stories about girls in class hurting each other's feelings intentionally. I'm not talking about bullying, mind you, but the sophisticated passive-aggressive techniques girls have used for decades (centuries?) to make their peers doubt themselves.
There is the "friend" who will ask Risa for her "opinion" on a specific matter and then delight when Risa is wrong, even bringing teachers over to provide proof. There is another "friend" who is happy to play with Risa but will literally walk away the second a better friend comes along, leaving Risa stranded and perplexed on the playground. Oh, and then there's the "friend" who announced over email repeatedly that she was having tons of fun with a mutual friend during a sleepover. (Does she really need to take time out of her sleepover to broadcast this?) I also don't know if Risa is entirely innocent of these social crimes, which is why I always try to make these moments teachable lessons. I want her to know this type of behavior is unacceptable, while giving her various ways to stand up for herself.
Flash to a few weeks ago when a school mom told me -- on the playground no less -- that she would be traveling internationally with her family for several weeks this summer. Wow, I replied, that's impressive. I asked her how it tends to go when they travel for so long together as a unit of three. "Oh it's easy," she responded, "we all do really well together." I told her, truthfully, that if my husband and daughter and I went away for several weeks, one or more of us would quite possibly run away. I find when vacationing as a threesome, someone in the family always feels a little out; it's the nature of three. She shrugged her shoulders and gave a look that seemed to say "Oh, that's sad."
I told a couple of my close friends that story later in the day, spelling out detail by detail like I was back in third grade; this wasn't the first time I got caught in this woman's web of bragging. Yes, yes, I knew she was likely trying to mask something because nobody in the world (not even moms on strong meds) thinks vacationing for weeks as a family without any break is easy. But even knowing that, I felt pissed off; here I was offering a little vulnerable piece of myself and she used it to make me feel dumb. That's not cool. We all need to open up about parenting hurdles and offer support and possibly strategies, not shrugs and looks of pity.
So I was grateful when my friends said the only thing that I wanted to hear in that moment: "How rude!" They didn't try to walk me through the situation or explain what I could have done differently or make me drum up empathy for this woman. They knew that at this particular second I needed to hear that this mom was being a jerk. The next day, I was over it and even did experience a little empathy pang for this woman because it feels crappy to always pretend that everything is peachy.
I'm going to try to remember this the next time that Risa comes home telling me how some girl at camp snubbed her or made a mean comment about her kickball abilities or tried to steal her close friend during swim lessons. Instead of diving into the solutions, I will say "Man, that must have felt horrible" or "That stinks!" and give her a hug. Teasing out learning lessons, as important as that is, can wait. The empathy and validation of our child's feelings should come first.
I know, I know, it's the end of the school year and having our kids dress up in kooky outfits for a week is a way to let 'em blow off steam and have some fun. But for most of the parents I know, including myself, the whole week is kind of a big fat nightmare.
Monday was "Pajama Day" and Risa and I argued about the fact that her nightgown was going to be WAY too hot to wear all day long. Then there was the nightgown that was way too short, followed by Risa complaining that she doesn't have any cute pajama tops. She left for school in a t-shirt and shorts. That was day one.
Tuesday was "Cartoon Character" day. Risa decided to be Elmo. She worked for over an hour making a fishbowl with "Dorothy" in it for extra effect, and then accidentally left this prop in the upstairs bathroom before taking off for school. Bad news.
Today is "Favorite Sports Team" day. Easy, right? Not for our family who doesn't follow any actual sport and may be the only family in the entire Boston-area who doesn't own a Red Sox t-shirt. We're probably violating a state law with this one. So we sent her off, feeling a little sheepish, in a stained, pink, shirt that says "soccer" on it.
We still have Thursday and Friday to go. I can't bare to look at what torment is next on the list. You know what is going to lift my spirits? This weekend...when the hysteria of finding the exact right outfit each day of the week is over and done with. Rah.
I LOVE MONDAY Tip of the Week
Last Friday, I had the privilege of teaching breakout sessions at the Worcester Women's Leadership Conference. Part of what made the day so inspiring and educational for me was a lunchtime panel about the pragmatics of girls and women getting ahead in the work world, a la Lean In.
Mamas, here is one simple thing we can do for our girls, right now, whatever age they are: Teach your daughter that when someone compliments her, the answer, the ONLY answer is:
I have noticed with my eight year old, that when I tell her she is really good at math or did a wonderful job with the details on her art project, she already has started "giving the compliment away" with a "No, I'm not really good at math" or "Jen is better than me at drawing. You should see her picture..." I have been, and will continue. drilling it into her to say "thank you" instead. If she rolls her eyes or looks annoyed, that won't stop me; this is about habit building. Someday when the president (or her factory boss) tells her she did a fabulous job revolutionizing the world (or keeping her cupcake factory in tip-top shape), my girl will know how to say, "Thank you" and own that compliment rather than replying, "I know, I am lucky to have such a hard-working team."
As Victoria Budson, Executive Director at the Women's Public Policy Program from the Harvard Kennedy School, taught me during that panel, if you tell a supervisor that your team did all the excellent work (and not you), he/she will believe you. Another option: one can also say, "Thank you for recognizing that I led my amazing team to meet the goal." See? You can own a compliment and still be generous.
If I were a famous photographer, I could sell this piece of important eco-art for thousands of dollars and blather on about my man-vs-nature statement. But because I'm not a photographer, it's just a loony picture taken by a mom too tired to get up. Still, maybe I'll call the MFA when I wake up...
I LOVE MONDAYS Tip of the Week
If you’re like most working moms, you feel fantastic and energized after getting together with a close friend. Probably you ask yourself afterwards, “Why don’t I do this more happen? It feels so good hanging out with her!” But it’s hard to sustain the vision because we then get bogged down once again with work deadlines, our child's class graduation, summer-camp scheduling, and on and on. Before we know it, it’s been weeks since we’ve seen a close friend.
Or does this sound familiar: you're on the phone with a friend who you haven’t seen in a while. After doing your best to catch-up while dealing with numerous life interruptions, you throw in “Hey, we should really get together.” And you mean it, but you also kind of know that’s not going to lead to an actual get-together. Before you hang up, suggest to your friend that you pick your next outing right then and mark it IN RED on your calendar.
Once you have a date, go. Make it happen. Do not call it off or otherwise renege because you’re stressed out, unmotivated, overworked (it will still be there tomorrow!) or are feeling the urge to zone out in front of the television, if given the chance. Treat your friend date as seriously as you would your monthly staff meeting or your child’s doctor’s appointment—attendance mandatory. Afterward, take stock of how rejuvenating it felt to be with a supportive friend, whether you initially felt tired, stressed, or not. Be mindful of how it improved your overall well-being, and remember this the next time you’re toying with the idea of bagging out. Once you get into the rhythm, you’ll never look back.
I like what Ann Pietrangelo, a regular contributor on health issues for the site care2.com, has to say: “We all need to feel part of something meaningful, and we owe it to ourselves to make an effort to connect and reconnect with our fellow human beings. Our health and well-being depends on it.”
So go ahead and pick up that phone today...and nail down a date!
I am a journalist, filmmaker, author, wife, and mom to an 8-year-old daughter. My most recent project is I Love Mondays: And other confessions from devoted working moms. Other projects explore raising only children, happily ever after, raising strong girls, and hot topics for Jewish women.
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