Parenting · School

Snowplow Parent: Failing to Prepare Kids for the Real World

It’s been a while since I wrote a parenting post (writer’s block maybe?), but reading a very interesting article in the New York Times made me think, and rethink: Am I preparing my kids for the real world?

The article calls our kids age the “everyone-gets-a-trophy generation” which is absolutely true and frustrating. See it started in kindergarten sports day, there is no winner or loser. You think it’s ok, they are just kids and who wants to deal with 20+ temper tantrums on a day that’s supposed to be fun for the kids?

Then it slowly, without realizing it, started creeping to the older kids. See in our school we have houses with different colors. These four houses compete against each other on sports day and the winning house gets a reward like a pizza party or something. Three years ago it was the blue house (not my kids team), two years ago it was the reds (yay our team!), but last year and this year .. there were no winners. It wasn’t like announced that it’s not a real competition and ‘everyone wins’, but the lack of winners/losers seemed to make everyone happy.
failureisnolongeranoption

And it’s not only that. Last week we had the IT fair in our school. There were 15+ teams showing their robots that they created. Some were better than others but at the end, every single team won. Every team was called up on stage and given a certificate and a medal. They had different categories like: most creative, most innovative, best looking robot .. etc. I feel bad for the person who had to come up with 15+ different categories, just so everyone could ‘win’.

I asked one of the judging teachers and she said that they had to do that because of the amount of angry complaints from parents they get each year.

I for one don’t like the everyone wins policy and kind of felt like the school was a pushover for giving into parents complaints .. until I saw for myself first hand how ruthless it can be.

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Just three days after having that conversation with the teacher, my daughter took part in the awaited Battle of the Books. Each year, our librarian chooses a list of 20 books for the grade to read. Five students from each class are chose to compete (this is done by student voting in class). These five students have to read the list of 20 books between themselves, so each student reads four books (you can read more if you like) in almost two months. (My daughter read Pippi Longstocking, Loser, Mostly Ghostly: Have you met my Ghoulfriend?, Holes, and Hatchet).

So anyways, we moms were excited as this is the first year we get to participate (only grades 4 and 5 have it). We created a booklet with questions so they can summarize their books in, took them to Starbucks so they can have book discussions and so on. It was so much fun and in the end, all we wanted is to build a love of reading in our kids.

Fast forward to the morning of the battle, my girl was very nervous. I told her it doesn’t matter if she wins or loses because in my eyes she is already a winner as she did a great job in reading and summarizing all those books. And I’m proud of her for stepping in and helping her friends when they couldn’t finish reading all their books. So as a reward for all her efforts, I am taking her out and buying her a gift, no matter what the outcome of the battle is.

I really really wanted my daughter’s team to win. They hot a couple of questions wrong, and it was nerve wracking but did end up winning in the end. What surprised me was the amount of temper tantrums/crying the other teams had (keep in mind they are 9 – 10 years old). What surprised me even more was the amount of temper tantrums the moms had!

The amount of abuse the organizing teacher got was ridiculous! He put the effort from his personal time (he has twin babies btw so I’m sure he could’ve spent this time in many other ways) to organize the competition, come up with the questions, and host it, all to provide the kids with an enjoyable event and to promote reading. And what did he get in return?! Screaming, angry parents accusing him of cheating, neglect, and being reckless with kids emotions. Looking at all their angry faces I don’t think they realize how ridiculous they look!

So we took out the winning team to dinner and on the way there I had a talk with my daughter about what happened. I asked her to think about what happened and how Mr. S must’ve felt. And I told her if she participates again next year, if her team doesn’t win, I want her to be an example for the rest and congratulate the winning team and lift the spirits of her own team. As for me, I promised to take her out next year to celebrate as long as she finishes her four books and summarizes them, because I reward effort and not just medals.
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So, what are we teaching our kids by bulldozing all obstacles they face? I know it’s hard to see your kids fail, not win, be disappointed, but shouldn’t we teach them how to deal with these emotions? Shouldn’t we model behavior instead of screaming at a teacher? If a child sees his mom doing it, what will stop them from doing it and disrespecting their teachers in the future?

I’m sure these parents don’t mean to do wrong towards their kids and their parenting. On the contrary, they believe by doing this, they are protecting their kids and always ensure they have a leg up on anything they want to accomplish. But by doing that, they rob their kids of experiencing failure.

The NY Times article points out that failure teaches kids to “solve problems, take risks, and overcome frustration.” These are “crucial life skills” that kids need to build up in order to face the real world. The article goes on to list examples of students who got accepted to top universities like Stanford but dropped out after the first semester because they didn’t have the tools to cope by themselves.

My oldest is just 10 years old and I still feel new to all this and trying my best to figure it all out. I’m sure I made a million mistakes on the way that I really hope doesn’t mess my kids up forever. But I am happy, after reading this article, that I didn’t send my daughter’s math book to school when she forgot it at home after doing her improper fractions homework. I told her a million times she is responsible for her books and schoolbag. Now she will always remember to put her homework back in her bag and I’m glad I didn’t bail her out (even though I thought about it). This might seem like a small thing but hopefully, it’s a correct mindset and heading towards the right direction in a world where everyone-gets-a-trophy.

I am writing this post after just coming back from my niece and nephew’s birthday party. My daughter won the book “Oh the Places you’ll Go!” What a fitting book to end my discussion with her, and to end my post too.

So will conclude this with the wittier of the cleverest.. Dr. Suess:

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best                                                                   Wherever you go, you will top all the rest                                                                            Except when you don’t                                                                                                          Because, sometimes, you won’t                                                                                                      I’m sorry to say so                                                                                                                            but, sadly, it’s true                                                                                                                           that Bang-ups                                                                                                                                    and Hang-ups                                                                                                                                    can happen to you …

But on you will go                                                                                                                      though the weather be foul                                                                                                             On you will go                                                                                                                             though your enemies prowl …

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

Here’s to hoping all our kids will move their awaiting mountain, and we just be proud parents with as little meddling as possible.

Because just as we should be proud of our achievements, they should be proud of theirs too!

Adulting · Life · Parenting

Failure

I feel like a total failure…

You see my DD came home today with an assignment to write about a role model from her family. I was honestly secretly wishing it was me. Then I saw the questions she has to fill out: the person’s gifts/talents, the person’s accomplishments…

And I half joked to my husband, I don’t think DD should choose me, what talents or accomplishments do a stay at home mom like me have? He said: maybe how fast you can finish a McDonalds large fries haha..

I get that it’s a joke, and I get that I was asking the question while laughing so he didn’t know the insecurities behind that question, but it honestly got to me.

What did I accomplish in the last 10 years?

How many projects did I try to start and never actually finished?

Wanted to lose weight? Nope didn’t, gave up and made a Nutella sandwich instead.

Joined a gym? Went 3 times only.

I don’t even remember how many business plans I thought of and wrote down but never did anything about or saw anything through.

Started a blog? Don’t remember the last time I posted.

Started a journey to read a 100 books? Couldn’t even reach number 20 and I love reading books!

Today is just one of those days ..

Hopefully tomorrow I can see my 4 kids smiling faces and know what I accomplished

Hopefully, when I see my son’s teacher and when she tells me how polite and nice and helpful he is I know what I accomplished

Hopefully, when I see my oldest daughter, who turned into a beautiful young lady, reading quietly in her reading spot I know what I accomplished

Hopefully, when I see how articulate and smart my two year old daughter is I know what I accomplished

Hopefully, when I see my healthy baby crawling all around and laughing .. I will know what I accomplished

But not tonight .. tonight I will allow myself to mourn all those unfished business .. all the times I said I can when obviously I couldn’t ..

Tonight .. I feel like a complete and utter failure..

Parenting

Am I Crazy?

The other day, we had a big family lunch at my mother’s house. My older brother and mother were casually talking about a distant relative who just graduated university.

Bro: I can’t believe how attached he is to his parents. Every time I see him he is either out with them in a coffee shop or out to dinner .. with his parents.

Mom: I find it cute. Not like you when you were his age.

Bro: Oh when I was his age I couldn’t wait to get away from you .. haha. I just wanted to go out with my friends and explore everything.

Mom: Oh don’t remind me! At that time, there were no mobile phones or anything. I had to look for you from one place to the other just to check that you were safe and ok. See these grey hairs? You’re responsible for more than half of them.

Then I started to think. And the more time I spent thinking, the more I panicked. What am I going to do when my son wants to go and “explore everything”?!

My husband also went through crazy teen years. What if its a gene? OH GOD my son must of got the strong gene from both my bro and DH! Yes now they are responsible adults but not when they were 17 .. Noooo they were anything but responsible. Oh God what am I going to do!

We reached home and DH could see there was something troubling me. He asked me what’s wrong and I told him. He looked at me like a crazy person.

DH: You do realize our son is 5 1/2 years old.

Me: Yes I do. Don’t look at me like that. My concerns are legit.

DH: (laughing) Don’t worry, I don’t think there are any drug dealers in the 1st grade.

Me: (thinking of “Bid Daddy” scene where Sandler was questioning kids in the playground)

DH: So forget about it, we will deal with it when the time comes.

But I couldn’t forget about it.

The next day, my son saw me lying down on the couch as I wasn’t feeling very well. He covered me with my favorite blanket and sat on my lap and asked: Are you ok, my love? (yes my 5 year old son melts my heart and calls me his love).

Me: Yes as long as you’re with me I’m ok.

DS: I will always be with you mama don’t worry.

Me: Always remember that. Even when you’re older and have your drivers license ..

I can see my husband staring at me like a crazy person but I ignored ..

Me: and you go out with your friends .. when you see me calling please pick up your phone and just let me know you’re ok and having fun.

DS: Of course mama! If you want me I will tell my friends to go home and take you out to a restaurant instead.

Me: (wishing that statement will still be true when he is 17) I love you so much .. you’re the best boy in the world!

My husband then hands me his phone with a Google search open. It has the numbers of all psychologists and psychiatrists in the region.

I’m not crazy .. Am I?

Parenting · Pregnancy

Summer is Over

Hallelujah!

Some of the moms in our mommy group actually don’t want summer to be over (gasp!) They complain about school drop offs and homework and afterschool activities .. Ohhh not me!

I couldn’t wait till the summer was done … I mean I love spending time with my kids and everything but being their main source of entertainment 24/7 was exhausting…

And that’s another main theme of this summer in particular: exhaustion!

What did I do you might ask?

I did not write one blog post all summer (hi .. miss me?) .. I didn’t read one sentence of any book let alone finish a page. I didn’t even go out on dinner dates with my husband because I was exhausted all the time!

I did though successfully entertain my kids (most of the time) .. stopped them from killing each other (they fight about every single thing) .. took them to swimming lessons (they can both dive in the deep now .. yay!) .. went to morning summer camp, rock climbing, indoor sky diving, a staycation, and so many other things I hope they cherish forever.

But again I was always tired .. all the time. Not normal tired, like hit by a bus tired. So I decided to do a blood test .. maybe my iron levels are low.

Results are in: congratulations! Your iron level is very good .. oh and your pregnant!

Wait .. what?!

How can I be pregnant? I am breastfeeding and I am on the mini pill. I didn’t skip a day and try to take it everyday at the same time. I didn’t even get my period since I gave birth.. how can I be pregnant?

Went to my gyno, she was laughing at how chocked I was. Apparently I was on antibiotics before summer starts and that makes the pill less effective.. especially if it’s the mini pill.

Wait .. come again? I was on antibiotics before summer started.

Yup, you guessed it. I was already 12 weeks pregnant. How can I not know!! It’s not like this is my first. I should’ve known. And I was taking the mini pill the entire time during my baby’s first trimester.. not folic acid, not multivitamins .. the mini pill.

I feel like the worst mom ever! Hope it doesn’t affect my baby. Now I have to wrap my head around having a newborn soon, while my one year old is still sleeping in my bed.

 

Wish me luck .. this is going to be a long year!

Life · Parenting

The Gift of Health

My son was sick for an entire month.

 He had a stubborn fever that would not go away. At the beginning, he had a bit of a cough and runny nose, but after that, he didn’t show any other symptom except for the fever.

 After the second course of antibiotics, the fever came back and his pediatrician said we should do a blood test just to make sure, so we can rule out the “big and bad” diseases.

 After the torture of taking blood from a child and tears from both of us, we went to the Doc’s office to double check everything. Throat, ears are ok .. chest ok .. bodily functions ok .. no rashes .. no inflamed nodes.

“So, Doc, why this fever without any symptoms?”

“Well, the symptoms can be inside and we can’t see them. That’s why we did a blood test so it can tell us if there is anything going on that we can’t see.”

“What are these ‘big and bad’ diseases we want to rule out?”

I regretted asking the question the moment he started to answer. After hearing a couple of big names thrown around, I felt like the room was spinning.

The Doc seeing me like that said: You know his chances of getting these things are just like any other healthy kid walking around so don’t worry.

Nope, didn’t really help. I still felt like I wanted to throw up. I think he felt sorry for me and told me to wait here for a sec he will run down to the lab and grab the first numbers, they will give us a better picture.

After what seemed like an eternity, he came back and said: I have good news. His blood count is in the normal range, white blood cells good, no sign of inflammation or bacterial infection. He’s fine, looks like it’s just a stubborn virus. The rest of the results will take at least 3 – 4 hours to come out. You can go home now and I will let you know the rest of the results later. But till now, all the results I can see are great!

I felt like a huge rock was lifted from my chest and I could finally breathe. At that second, I thought about the moms who were in my place and didn’t get the results they wanted to hear. Those moms who couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief and I prayed for them. I still pray for them every day.

I hugged my son so tight and left the hospital.

 Sometimes we forget the important things in life. We worry about grades and homework, money and bills, work and so on and we forget the one most important blessing God gave us: good health.

So thank you God for giving me three healthy babies. Thank you for giving me the strength to raise them. Thank you God for giving me the chance of watching them grow. And thank you God, a million thank you, for making it just a virus and nothing else. You have blessed me with so much already, and I am forever grateful for you love, kindness, and generosity.

I’ll just end this with a prayer to all mom’s out there. Hope whatever is worrying you is just the never ending laundry baskets and bills, and nothing else.

God bless.

Parenting · School

I refuse to Force him to Write between the Lines

I don’t get it.

My son is 5 years old. He is an energetic, inquisitive, happy boy in kindergarten.

Why does he have to write exactly between the lines .. I just don’t get.

Do you remember kindergarten back in the days? A time of making friends and learning how to play, a time full of outdoors adventure and laughter, a time to get acquainted with school and start your education journey on the right foot: with a passion full of wonder and fondness of school.

Yeah, these days, not so much.

Kindergarten open house, I got a huge fat packet full of guidelines, assessment criteria, and a long list of sight words. Turns out, they not only need to recognize those words, they also have to know how to write them. As in spell them, in their weekly dictation.

I looked around, are you sure this is the kindergarten open house? Not grade 1? And why aren’t the other moms as shocked as I am?

Before going on, you have to know something about my son, he is the most amazing boy ever (of course I believe that I am his mom). The first time he was assessed, he got a stomach ache and they called me to pick him up. I quickly figured out there is nothing wrong so I asked, “What’s wrong sweetie? Is your tummy ok now?”

DS: “If I tell you the truth will you send me back?”

Me: “No don’t worry, we are already close to home. What’s wrong, is everything ok?”

DS: “My tummy is ok now, but I wasn’t ok in school.”

Me: “Why? Did you want to go to the toilet and didn’t?”

DS: No. Ms. S. was asking us about all the letters and their sounds and I forgot some and I got so scared then my tummy started to hurt.”

What kind of pressure is my baby under that he has a stomach ache because of being stressed out?!!

Me: “It’s ok baby. You shouldn’t be worried or scared. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s how you learn. Even your mom and dad make mistakes. It’ ok.”

DS: “Only you say that mom. But Ms. S. won’t.”

Me: “Of course she will! Do you want me to ask her tomorrow?”

DS: “Yes please! Can you mom?”

Of course I went home and sent Ms. S. a long email expressing, not very shyly, my honest concerns about their ways and how stressful the environment is. I took my son next day and she explained that it was absolutely ok to make mistakes. He was happy, I wasn’t.

I found myself in a very difficult situation, trying to balance the school’s requirement, with what I felt appropriate for my son. I wanted him to love learning and education. I wanted him to love reading and exploring. I didn’t want him to hate school and didn’t want homework to be a daily battle.

So we practiced phonics playing I spy. We practiced reading CVC words playing the frog in the pond game. And we practiced recognizing sight words by hanging a word on the fridge and making it the ‘passcode’ for opening the fridge. I tried the best I can to make it fun for him.

The day came to attend the parent-teacher conference. They will discuss his performance so far. I was worried and was ready for a heated conversation. Then she said:

“Your boy is very special. He has a sense of maturity that I don’t see in the grade 2 and grade 3 boys. He is very polite, eager to learn, and gets along with everyone. But… “

I didn’t really care what came after the ‘but’. I almost cried there in front of everyone. I did it! I always knew my son was amazing but lets face it, every mom thinks that of their child. Hearing it from his teacher, even when I knew academically he wasn’t on par with his fellow students, gave me the validation that I needed. My hard work and sacrifice has all been worth it. Even through my many mistakes and self doubt, I didn’t fail him and helped mold him into an amazing boy.

“But … he still doesn’t know a lot of the sight words and can’t spell most of them. He also has trouble spelling phonetically and constructing sentences. And he needs lots of work on his handwriting.”

I don’t really care. My boy is everything I hoped and wished him to be, even when I am not around to watch. That, I am so very proud of, and is harder to teach than any sight word or phonic.

Me: “Does he do the work assigned to him in class and listen properly?”

Ms. S.: Yes.

Me: “Do you believe he is doing his best?”

Ms. S.: Yes.

Me: Do you see any improvements since last month?”

Ms. S.: Yes. But the assessment criteria…

Me: I don’t really care what it says. I don’t compare him with what they say he should be doing or even with his classmates. My benchmark is his work the month before and if I see an improvement and feel he is doing his best, I am happy. I think you should do the same.”

The parent teacher conference was in December. He now knows most of his sight words, knows how to spell some, can construct a sentence though still has a bit of trouble spelling phonetically. He can read CVC words easily, except for the e and u sounds he takes his time with.

Yes I am proud of all his work and what he has done so far. I am also proud of what he will do till the end of the year. But I am mostly proud that together, we created a fun learning experience and I am happy to say he loves school, and he and his sister fight over who will do homework with me first.

DS: “Mom, I’m going to grade one next year.”

Me: “Yes you are! That’s so exciting! New playground, new classes, and maybe even new friends. I’m sure you will have so much fun!”

DS: “Can you please ask my grade 1 teacher if its ok to make mistakes, just like you asked Ms. S?”

This boy … his wife will be the luckiest girl in the world!

Parenting

Why I don’t Read Parenting Books

My eldest was born in 2009. I was terrified. But I was determined to not fail my baby. I prepared myself mentally for the sleep deprivation, constant crying, and even lack of outings.

 What I wasn’t prepared for though was the constant judgement and what I like to call “bullying using fear.”

After going through a scary emergency C-section (my baby’s heartrate went dangerously down), trying to work through the guilt of that, and having hormones all over the place, I wasn’t ready at all to face these constant criticisms. And they started straight away.

  • Why isn’t she latching properly? Are you sure you are holding her right?
  • She lost a lot of weight, are you sure she is getting enough?
  • She is choking! The milk is coming out of her nose! You are not burping her correctly. You should hold her upright after a feed.
  • Don’t leave her in her crib by herself, you won’t know when it will happen again, and she won’t be able to breathe.
  • Don’t hold her long while she sleeps, her bones will grow out crooked.
  • Don’t pick her up every time she cries, she is just manipulating you and you’ll give her the wrong message.
  • She is one year old and still not walking?
  • OMG, you taught her how to suck her thumb?
  • Are you sure you want to keep breastfeeding your daughter while pregnant? You do realize that all the nutrients will go to your milk, and none will be left for your unborn child?
  • Don’t you think it’s gross that your breastfeeding your daughter and she can walk and talk? Will you do that to your son also? Don’t you think he will remember? And forever have an unhealthy relationship with breasts, or women in general?

And it goes on and on and on. It’s like every decision I made was not only second guessed, but I was told, unintentionally (I hope), that I am doomed to mess up my kids forever.

So here is my story.

My dear daughter (DD) did not latch for the first three weeks. I was devastated! I had a lot of milk but I can’t even give it to my own baby. I must be a terrible mom! I pumped and gave it to her in a bottle. Before every bottle, I would try unsuccessfully to latch her onto my breast. I HATED pumping (still do and cringe every time I see a pump). After three very long weeks, and no sleep at all, I gave up. I sent my dear husband (DH) to buy formula. He quickly came back with the wrong one. DH, it clearly says stage 2 on the front how can you not see that?! But before he went to return it, by the grace of God, DD finally latched. And we didn’t stop until she was 2 ½ years old.

The reason I love breastfeeding (you’d think I will say because of its nutrients and all these things) is that it is easy for me. Personal preference as I am a germ freak when it comes to my newborns and always scared things are not clean enough. No washing bottles, no sterilizing, no heating water, no waiting for the right temperature, no fumbling with measuring spoons and cups in the middle of the night. It was always there, always sterile, always the right temperature.

Now if a mom chose not to breastfeed, if she chose bottle instead, who am I to judge?

 I hate crying. I can’t stand to listen to it (funny coming from a mom of 3). Do you know how people cringe when someone runs their nails on a blackboard? Yeah that’s exactly how I feel about crying. Maybe that’s why I snap at my older kids and ask them as nice as I can to use their words and not their tears. That is the exact reason why I could not and did not use the cry it out method. The economist in me will say there is always an opportunity cost to every decision. You have to decide: sleep deprivation vs. baby crying. I choose sleep deprivation.

 But if a mom chooses to use the cry it out method or any baby sleeping methods for many a reason, who am I to judge?

never judge

I like routine, a flexible one. I can’t follow a rigid schedule or timeframe for the life of me. The other day I had to attend a function at my DS’ school at 10 a.m. sharp, I was already in full panic mode at 8 a.m. so I can’t really follow a strict hourly routine with my kids. We do have a normal flow to our day, though we mostly go with the flow.

But if a mom chooses to have a neat schedule for herself and her kids, who am I to judge?

I never gave my kids pacifiers, mainly because of my germ phobia. I don’t know if its clean enough or how many times I have to sterilize it. But if a mom uses pacifiers, even at an “unacceptable pacifier age”, who am I to judge?

Who are you to judge? Or Mr. Fancy Doctor? Or Ms. Parenting Expert? Or Mr. Parenting Author? Who are you all to judge?

 Moms, I can only say this now because I have three kids and heard it all.

Breastfeeding? Congratulations! Here is a study that proves breastfeeding increases intelligence. Both breast and bottle? Congratulations! Here is a study that shows breastfed babies need a bottle of formula for the vitamin D. Formula? Congratulations! Here is a study showing that the benefits of breastfeeding are exaggerated.

stats

 Co-sleeping? Congratulations! Here is a study that shows co-sleeping reduces stress and anxiety, and increases quiet sleep. Choose not to co sleep? Congratulations! Here is a study that suggests the dangers of co-sleeping.

 Sleep training? Congratulations! Here is a study that proves it is safe and effective, improves baby’s sleep, and reduces maternal depression. Not sleep training? Congratulations! Any book on attachment parenting will show you are on the right track.

And just like the list of mommy criticisms can go on and on, so can the list of scientific studies that prove one point is correct, or the other.

So moms, it doesn’t matter what the parenting book you read is saying. It doesn’t matter what the “put together mom” on social media is doing. It doesn’t matter what your best friend or sister are doing. What really matters is you, your baby, and your family.

You are the only one who knows your mental state and your needs. You are the only one who knows your husband/partner’s needs and schedule. You are the only one who knows your baby and your other kid’s needs if you have any. And YOU are the only one who can best balance all these needs. No one else knows the entire picture.

 Even if it feels like a juggling act, even if a ball or two slips from time to time, trust your judgement, trust your heart, and confidently move forward.

 And always remember to “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” We are all trying our best. And at the end of the day, who are we to judge?