Category Archives: Parenting

The Gray-Headed Bully

I have decided that there is a good chance bullies in grade school grow up to be bullies as adults if not redirected early in life.  I recently had a maddening encounter with a grown-up bully.  I was at an intersection, stopped about 5 cars back from a red light.  To my right was a small cross street.  Cars at this cross street usually wait until the light at the larger intersection turns green and the traffic clears before safely exiting onto the busier road.  Well, apparently the driver of a brand new Lexus sedan didn’t like that plan.

HONK! HONK HONK HONK!!  HONK HONK HONK HONK!!!  The series of urgent honks from the car got my attention, and I immediately thought something was wrong or he was in trouble.  This was so not the case.  I observed a man in his late-50s urgently motioning for me to back up, in between his fervent honks.  It took me a moment for my brain to register that he actually wanted me to reverse my car so he could cross in front of me and turn left.  Glancing into my rearview mirror I saw two cars closing in on my bumper.  I knew that if I backed up there was a good chance the car immediately behind me would hit me.  I looked at the man, who continued to honk and motion, and held my hands up, then pointed behind me to the approaching cars.  This was obviously not the response he was looking for from me, because suddenly the gray-headed bully came barreling towards me, clearly determined to make his way into the road and force me to back up.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  In that moment,  I realized the car was going to hit me if I didn’t move back.  My instant reaction was to quickly move into reverse as his car wasn’t slowing down.  I braced myself for impact from either the front or rear.  The shocking thing was that this bully apparently decided he had no regard for my situation and selfishly wanted to move through.  I backed up at exactly the same time he literally came whizzing by, barely missing my car.  As he moved past me, I looked directly into his eyes and met the face of an angry person.  He glared back at me as though I had done something wrong.  The nerve of that man.  Thankfully the car behind me was paying attention and slammed on brakes, avoiding my car.

I had to pull into a nearby parking lot to compose myself.  It was difficult to process how someone could be so obnoxious.  So much a bully.  It would have been different if he approached it differently, if he had sincerely been in a hurry for some urgent reason.  I didn’t detect any remorse or emotion that would lead me to believe he had anything going on other than a mean spirit and a bullying energy.

Later in the day, I thought about this incident again.  It struck me that there was a good chance this gray-headed bully started his bullying behavior at a much younger age.  I thought back to other bullies I had known in grade school, as well as those I have observed in schools and other environments with children.  I know of several, and hope many more, that eventually chose a better path as they matured.  I know, sadly, this isn’t the case for all young bullies.

I think it is important to teach our children about bullying behavior at a young age, and continue with this discussion all through adolescence.  Not only is it important for children to recognize when they or people around them are being bullied, but to also recognize if they are, at all, exhibiting bullying behavior.  Nobody wants to believe that “their child” could possibly be a bully, but it happens.  It is the responsible, aware parent that accepts that their child isn’t perfect, and is willing to address it head on in a positive, constructive manner.  Turning a blind eye or making statements like, “boys will be boys” or “girls can just be like that” are poor excuses, in my opinion, for not making the effort to be an effective parent.  There are way too many stories in the news of the horrible affects of bullying.  It must be stopped, the earlier the better.

If you are unsure as to how to address situations, whether your child is on either end of the bullying spectrum, there are many programs, books, and resources you can consult for guidance.  I have included a few for your reference:

http://www.stopbullying.gov

http://www.micheleborba.com (Dr. Borba is an an internationally recognized author, speaker, & educator on parenting, character education and bullying prevention)

http://www.character.org/key-topics/bullying-prevention/

http://www.education.com/topic/school-bullying-teasing/

http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying

Just for girls:

http://www.clubophelia.com

http://www.findingkind.indieflix.com/home/  (Information about the Finding Kind movie and the Kindness Campaign)

http://www.girlcharge.org (in the Piedmont area of NC)

Books for children:

http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/book-list/life-experiences-values/books-about-bullying-grades-1-2

http://www.funwithfreckles.com

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Childrens-Bullies-Issues/zgbs/books/1084222

What we are reading:

Me:  The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

My son:  The Glass Castle:  A Memoir  by Jeanette Walls (school summer reading :))

My daughter:  When The Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little

 

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Filed under Bullying, Parenting, Something to think about

The Changing Leaves

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love the cool, crisp days and the beautiful color that takes over the trees. I particularly love the bright orange leaves of the Maple tree.  One tree in my neighborhood caught my attention this year.  As I noticed the leaves starting to change on a few trees, I saw that this tree only had a few leaves that had changed.  I glanced up at this same tree each day as I traveled in and out of my neighborhood.  Every few days, I saw that a few additional leaves had turned to a beautiful orange, slowly covering the tree with color.

Over the course of several weeks, the most vibrant color of orange completely emblazoned this tree.  I thought to myself how this tree and the time it took to change color was a metaphor for children.  One day you start noticing small changes in their maturity or the way they approach or handle a situation.  You might also notice a few small changes in their appearance and voice.  Little by little, they grow and change.  Most of these changes aren’t apparent on a daily basis.  Then, one day you wake up and realize that your children have grown and matured, and are taking on a whole new sense of self.  It is as if you can more clearly begin to see the adult they are becoming.

The hard part for parents, especially this one, is releasing the image of the little child and embracing the maturing adolescent.  Children do grow up so fast, and with that comes the inevitable steps of gradually letting go and allowing them to blossom into the people they are meant to be.

As they grow up, they don’t need us as much, at least not in the same way.  They don’t need us to bathe them, feed them, and get them dressed.  They can keep track of their school work and help around the house.  What they need more now is a mentor, guide, and example for how to be a responsible adult.

Now, as I wipe away a few tears, it is time to embrace this new stage of parenthood and enjoy the scenery as the leaves continue to change.  I know that one day I will  look up, full of pride, and see that my trees have completely changed and are incredibly gorgeous and completely full of vibrant color.

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Filed under Parenting, Something to think about

The Broken Promise

One of the things I love about being a children’s book author is that I have the honor of meeting and speaking to children at schools.  I enjoy interacting with children, sharing information about my life as an author, writing books, and publishing books.  Part of my presentation, naturally, includes tidbits about my family.  Much to my children’s chagrin, my presentations generally include several photos of them along with a few humorous stories.  I always ask the students to never mention that they heard any stories about my children if they ever meet them.  I usually get a few chuckles from this request, and lots of “we promise” statements from the audience.  The truth is, my children are well aware of the stories and photos.  They aren’t thrilled about this fact, but they know it comes with the territory.  This promise was recently put to the test.

I was book shopping with my daughter, equipped with gift cards saved from Christmas and birthday gifts.  We had each gathered a large stack of books to purchase, and in deep discussion about another possible purchase when a young girl approached me.  “Hey, you came to my school.  Do you remember me?” she asked.  I told her she looked familiar then asked her to please remind me which school she attended and her name.  We talked about the visit and a few things that happened that day.  She seemed pleased that I enjoyed visiting her school, and I thought the conversation was over.  Then, the unthinkable happened, at least from my daughter’s perspective.  (Cue the showdown music from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)  The young girl looked at my stack of books, then looked square on at my daughter and asked, “Is this the daughter you talked about in your presentation?”

My daughter’s eyes darted up to me and glared, then moved back to the eye-lock with the young girl.  “Why, yes it is,” I said.  “What grade is she in?” she asked, still looking into my daughter’s eyes.  My daughter just stared, not saying a word.  “She is in the fourth grade.  What grade are you in?” I replied.  “Fourth.”  Oh, no.  Same age.  Not good.

My daughter didn’t say anything about this interaction until we were in the parking lot. Then she said, “You know, stuff like that is happening more and more, Mom.  I guess that is just the way it is going to be the more famous you get.”  First, I was relieved that she wasn’t mad, then touched that she paid me such a sweet compliment.  I love what I do, am passionate about great books for children, and feel honored to be part of the incredible world of creating books for children.  Now to have my daughter add a little stamp of approval… it doesn’t get any better!

What we are reading:

Me:  I’d Listen to My Parents if They Would Just Shut Up:  What to Say and Not Say When Parenting Teens by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D

My son:  Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker

My daughter:  Sophie The Hero by Lara Bergen

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Filed under Life as an author, Parenting

Junior Fashionista on the Scene

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  From the time my nine-year-old daughter was born, I have loved buying clothes for her.  To me, she has always looked like a pink, girly girl.  It was fun to buy things for her that were smocked, monogrammed, pink, and girly, and she never hesitated to let me dress her in them, or later, dress herself in them.  I remember a friend, who had also had a pink, girly girl, mentioning to me that I should be prepared for the day that my daughter rejects all the adorable clothes in favor of a style that just doesn’t make sense.  I didn’t want to believe her.  I do now.

My daughter has slowly, over the last year, moved away from the cute, girly look, to one that is, well, I’m not sure. I believe she is striving to be more fashionable.  I noticed this summer as we went through her clothes in anticipation for the fall, that her taste had changed.  Many outfits she had selected a year or so ago, no longer held the same appeal.  The problem for me was that these outfits still fit.  I strongly encouraged her to keep them in her closet, and make a point to wear them since they looked great on her.  Her response?  An eye roll, sigh, and a “maybe.”

I know this is a normal part of growing up.  I realize that she has a mind of her own that is working to express her authentic self as it develops.  She pays close attention to what other girls wear: her peers, older girls and girls in the media.  Sometimes I think she is trying to grow up too fast.  She steers as far away as possible from anything she thinks makes her look like, in her words, a “baby.”  She knows that it is important to always be appropriate for her age, but that doesn’t stop her from asking to buy things that she knows pushes the envelope. She also cares a great deal what her older brother thinks about her clothes, and often asks him what he thinks about her outfit for the day.  Even a slight look of question from him will lead her right back to her closet.  She has told me that he knows more about what is “cool” to wear.

I know this is but another stage for my daughter.  My son also went through this same stage.  He wore gym shorts and t-shirts for the last several years almost every day, much to my chagrin.  He wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing khakis and polo shirts, unless he had to “dress up” for an occasion.  Recently, however, I have seen a change in him.  He has worn, without prompting from me, polo shirts and khakis to school several days during the week.  I am happy to see the nicer attire, and see that yes, it does come full circle in time.

Maybe the turn-around will be sooner for my daughter.  Just this morning I encouraged her to take a look at one of the outfits she said she would “maybe” wear.  She decided to wear it, only with her Target brand Ugg-like boots…  she had to make sure the look was fashionable!  A nice compromise.  A start.

What we are reading:

Me: The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green

My son: Alex Rider: Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz

My daughter:  Frankly Frannie by A.J. Stern

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Filed under Great Books for Children, Parenting

The Eerily Quiet Nest… A Preview of the Future?

My children left for a week of summer camp on Sunday.  Days leading up to their departure consisted of washing clothes, encouraging them to pack (they are old enough to take care of this task on their own–they even washed half of the clothes),  running last-minute errands getting little things that were on the camp packing list, and managing the anxiety from my daughter– it was her first year going to camp.   All this to say that the house was full of activity and excitement, with a little dash of nerves.  Such a stark contrast to what my husband and I met on Sunday afternoon.

After lunch on Sunday, we both looked at each other and said it felt weird thinking that they would be gone for the entire week.  The house already felt different.  Now it was quiet.  Really quiet.  It was only us and the dog.   I believe it was then that I realized they had both never been gone at the same time for more than one night.

The next morning was also strange.  I didn’t hear the normal sounds of morning in the house, realizing that most of them usually came compliments of my children.  Even our dog wandered around as though she was lo0king for her two-legged siblings.

That evening I caught my husband talking to our dog about something in a teaching tone of voice.  He sounded like he was sharing a teachable moment with her in lieu of our children being here.  To her credit, she sat very attentive and took in his every word.  She is a good dog.  I asked him if this is a sign of things to come in the future…

My husband and I realized that this is what our house will feel like when we have an empty nest for real.  Now, we do have several years ahead of us before that becomes a reality, but this week of having an eerily quiet nest has served as somewhat of a preview for us.  My husband mentioned to a colleague, that happened to be an empty nester,  that we had an empty nest for a week.  He responded that having an empty nest sounds like it is going to be great, but then you look in your children’s rooms and they aren’t there.  You realize then that it isn’t as great as you thought it was going to be.

I have never been one to rush my children into the next stage of life.  After this week, I definitely will not rush anything, but rather enjoy where they are each step of the way.  I think I really do like a house full with energy and noises that only come with children.  I am looking forward to seeing my children return on Saturday, and having a full nest once again!

 

What We’re Reading…

Me:  NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  Check out their website at www.nurtureshock.com.  Interesting reading!

My son and daughter:  Will update when they return from camp!

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Filed under Parenting, Something to think about

Dad’s Failure Inspires Junior Chef

My daughter has been obsessed with cooking lately.  While she has always enjoyed helping me cook, her interest has grown to a whole new level.  I am thinking that my husband’s recent failed attempt at making biscuits (see post from July 9, 2011, Guest Post From Perfectionist Biscuit Maker) has something to do with this desire to cook more.  She commented that she could cook better than Dad, and wanted to prove it.  A week after the failed biscuits were served, she asked if she could use the same recipe that Dad tried, and make some “good” biscuits.  She experienced great success!

Superior Biscuits!

Now most mornings she comes downstairs and announces that she is making breakfast.  Then she scours the fridge and cabinets for inspiration.  On occasion she has asked for a little help, but generally she just calls us to the table when breakfast is ready.  Pretty impressive for a 9-year-old!

Added to her breakfast regimen is now a desire to prepare dinner.  Not just help with dinner, but prepare ALL of dinner, several times a week.  Just last night she prepared a delicious Roma tomato, fresh basil, and parmesan egg noodle pasta, complete with olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. She beamed as she served her meal.  We all beamed as we ate it!

I love that she has the interest, independence, and confidence to stretch her culinary skills.  It is interesting to me that she was seemingly inspired by her Dad’s “epic failure” with the biscuits.  Or could it be that she has an inherited competitive streak?  Most likely it is a combination of the two.  Whatever the reason(s), she is excited to cook, loves the challenge, and is having fun.  Isn’t that what learning is all about?

ADDED FEATURE:

At the end of each blog post, I have decided to share a list of what books my children and I are currently reading, as well as a link to the author’s website so you can learn more about him/her.  I am hoping that this feature will provide book ideas for your children, as well as grown-up books for you to check out.  I would love to hear what your family is reading as well! I always love new book suggestions, and don’t think you can spread good news about good books too often!

What We’re Reading…

Me:  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Great book!  Check out her website at www.thehappinessproject.com.

My son (12):  The Big Field by Mike Lupica.  This is at least the third time he has read this book.  Check out Lupica’s website at www.mikelupicabooks.com .

My daughter (9):  Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary.  Check out Cleary’s website at www.beverlycleary.com .

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Filed under Cooking, Great Books for Children, Parenting

New Cell Phone Bumps up Maturity Level… Who Knew?

My twelve year old son has been begging for a cell phone for well over a year now.  He tried every possible angle to convince us that he should have one.  He even told us that everyone in his middle school (52 kids– he goes to a small school) had one except for him.  He later corrected himself and said that he wasn’t the only one, he just felt like the only one.

Many friends encouraged me to hold out as long as possible.  I just couldn’t imagine who he needed to stay in contact with so much, especially since he saw so many of his friends at school each day.  He got an email address a year or so ago, and that seemed to satisfy his need to stay in touch with friends outside of the school day.  However, it seems that as things go with youth these days, email is apparently a dinosaur, and texting is now the way to stay in touch.

My sister-in-law actually changed my perspective on the situation a few months back.  She told me that it was actually a good sign that he wanted a phone to stay in touch with his friends.  She said that it was normal for his age, and that I should worry if he didn’t want to pull away from us and connect more with his friends.  The more I thought about her comment, the more it made sense.

Finally, we decided he was ready to have one.  He understood that it came with a few stipulations, most important, a $10 a month bill (he also paid for half of the phone itself).  He has to be reasonable with how many texts he sends each day, and the phone can’t be a permanent appendage (after a reasonable time for him to enjoy the “newness”), but he also needs to figure out how to manage his first monthly bill.  He is confident that he can manage this responsibility.  He is volunteering to help with plants and mail for vacationing neighbors, and is doing additional jobs around the house.  He appears receptive to requests to do laundry and dishes, whereas weeks ago there would be a lot of grumbling before accepting the duty.  All in all, his level of maturity seems to have bumped up a level.  I have also noticed him being more respectful and attentive to his family.

Is this change due to the fear of losing his new phone if expectations aren’t met, or is it due to the his sense that we felt he was responsible and ready for this move up the social ladder?  I know that most of the time children rise to expectations, and they respond to being treated more maturely.  It is undoubtedly a change for us all, but one that, so far, has the makings of all things positive!

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Filed under Parenting, Something to think about