Today I Feel Like a Failure as a Mom

Why do we, as moms, take so much on ourselves?

Right now, I’m looking at my kids’ standardized test scores with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Both of them have downward trending math scores over the past year. My gut is telling me that I could have done something to prevent this. And I probably could have. I could have worked diligently on keeping up with our math skills over this past summer as I had the summer before. But, for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

My kids are awesome and smart and funny and kind. Last summer, I just wanted to appreciate them for what they are and not fight with them to achieve things (even those those things are easily achievable if I just fight with them a little). I wanted to love and enjoy my children. That is not to say that we didn’t work on reading and art and music and math over the summer. It just wasn’t a regimented daily schedule.

Don’t get me wrong, math is super important to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my fair share of calculus problems (and by enjoy, I earnestly mean I enjoyed working my way through Calculus I and II in college). But I don’t want my job as a mom to be that of ‘sit down and do some rote work because you will be tested on it.’ I want my job to be a supporter of my child. I want my children to look to me for guidance and safety, for love, and, yes, for help with their homework.

I’m disappointed that I feel that I again have to assume the role of ‘rote-work assigner’ so they can climb back up to where they were before I assumed a bit more of a laissez-faire attitude. I’m also disappointed that I’m disappointed.

At this point, I have to mention that my daughter was chosen to be the one in her class that will meet and greet new students. She was chosen based on the kindness that she exhibits throughout her normal day. I find it pretty sad, however, that I waited until the 6th paragraph to bring it up. Instead of sitting here with a smile on my face, satisfied that I have done something right in creating such a kind and caring daughter, I am lamenting my abject failure as a mom for letting my kids’ math skills slide.

In any event, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach persists as I plan how to incorporate practicing more math skills into our daily schedule.

NB: I feel like I have to explain that I’m not upset over what their scores are. Rather, I am disturbed by the downward trend. This could signify loss of focus, forgetting what has previously been taught, etc.

Not Anymore

This year, we have received many compliments from friends, neighbors, and teachers about how our children behave. We are told that they are kind, they listen, they are creative and thoughtful, they are calm and patient. Compliments like this fill my heart to overflowing and I’m so appreciative of people who go out of their way to make me feel good about my parenting skills.

I have to say this about how we go about our lives. We, as parents, make sure that kindness, thoughtfulness, and creativity are the foundations upon which we build everything else.

But also, as parents, we make sure we don’t put up with any behavior which affronts our standards or doesn’t meet the mark of what we would expect of a common, decent human being. I am convinced that our unwavering strictness when it comes to a common, decent standard has made our children the wonderful people they are turning out to be.

That being said, we find it very hard (impossible) to tolerate the behavior of adults that falls below what we would expect of our own children.

For me to stand down in the face of behavior that falls far below any common, decent standard, is tantamount to going against every fiber of what I believe to be true, and right, and good.

My children are a product of my husband and me. And if my kids are valued and appreciated for exceeding expectations, then I and my husband need to be equally valued for our approach to parenting, and life in general.

We are a family of strong people. I’m proud of the strong family that we’ve created. I’m proud to stand up for myself. I’m proud to stand up for my children. I’m proud to stand up for anyone who feels that they don’t have a voice. I’ve been that voiceless person.

Not anymore.

Teaching Children to Help in Emergency Situations

Fun Shopping Trip Turns Traumatic

So today, my daughter and I took a trip to Goodwill. She wanted to look for electronic items that she could take apart to see what they looked like inside. We were browsing the electronic section when we heard the crash of glass breaking. As always, we (and others) looked around for the source of the sound. We found it to be a woman in the same aisle as us that accidentally knocked a vase down off of a shelf. A Goodwill employee walked over and then went off to, I assumed, get a broom.

Ok, that’s taken care of, I thought to myself.

After a while, I noticed that the woman was still standing in the same spot holding on to her shopping cart with one hand and holding her foot with the other. “Did she cut herself?” I asked my daughter. We agreed that she had and I searched my purse for a band-aid. I couldn’t find one (great mom I am). As the woman was still standing alone with her cart holding her foot, I took my daughter over to her and asked if she needed help. I noticed that she was bleeding quite profusely. In fact, there was blood dripping all over the floor. I told her I’d go to the front and see if they had a first aid kit.

As I approached the registers, the employee that originally checked on the broken glass was walking out with a broom and a couple of bandaids. I said, “Oh good, you have band-aids.”

When we went back to the woman she was still bleeding, dripping blood on the floor. The man started sweeping up the glass. And I gave her an antiseptic wipe to clean her wound. The cut was deep and still bleeding. She needed help.

Full ER Mode

I ditched my purse and gave her another wipe to apply pressure to her wound. The employee looked at me for direction as to what to do next. I spoke up. “Can we get her a chair so she can sit? I noticed some plastic ones over there.” He brought back a white plastic lawn chair and the woman sat down.

Her foot was still dripping blood. “Do you have latex gloves and a wrap?” I asked the employee. “Gloves and a wrap,” he repeated back to me and ran off. I left my daughter with the woman and went to get another chair so we could elevate her foot.

Foot elevated and pressure applied, the blood flow was starting to ebb. The employee returned with some blue latex gloves, more antiseptic wipes, some gauze, and some large band-aids.

This whole time my daughter was watching, whispering in my ear, “Good thing you’re a doctor, mommy.” (For more on my experience in medical education click here.) She had my purse hanging across her shoulders and was attempting to open another package of wipes for me.

We ended up with a nice gauze pad to apply pressure and improvised a string of band-aids to wrap around the wound and the gauze pad.

Helping Feels Awesome

When all was said and done, the woman thanked me. The employee thanked me. I wrapped the bloody wipes and failed band-aid attempts inside the glove as I snapped it off my hand inside out. I left the woman with a promise that she would go to an immediate care. “Yes,” she said and thanked me again.

I then retrieved my purse from my daughter. And said, “Do you want to go look and see if they have any nice shorts?”

“Sure,” she answered.

I couldn’t have asked for a better adventure with my daughter. Instead of telling her (as I quite often do) that she should help people, I had the opportunity to show her. Additionally, I did it without getting anything in return but a thank you. And that’s quite enough. I hope that this experience will have made a deep impression on her as she travels through life and through an America that has been empowered to step on the downtrodden to get ahead.

What Can You Do?

If you’re still reading this, you care about other people. So here is a quick mnemonic from firstaidforfree.com to help if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:

SEEP

  1. Sit or lie the victim down
  2. Examine the wound
  3. Elevate the extremity
  4. Pressure on the wound

 

“On Children” from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Sometimes you just need a good quote get refocused on doing this whole parenting thing in a meaningful way:

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

—Kahlil Gibran, “On Childrenfrom The Prophet

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Book Review (Gr 1-4): The Youngest Marcher

I believe the children are our future. Sounds like a funny reference to an 80s hit song, but it’s true. I really do believe that what we teach our children now can make or break the future. Apparently Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did too.

If you click on a recommended book link and purchase, I will get a percentage as an Amazon Affiliate.

I had never heard of the 1963 Children’s March before reading The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

This children’s book (Grades 1-4) tells the compelling story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, an African-American elementary school student who volunteers to go to jail in an effort to answer MLK’s call to ‘fill the jails’ in Birmingham so no more civil rights protesters could be arrested.

After the adults had failed to answer the call, Reverend James Bevel came up with the idea that children could make a difference and proposed the Children’s March. From May 2-7, 1963, between 3,000 and 4,000 children marched and were arrested. Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest known marcher and was sent to juvenile hall for 7 days, during which time the jails were successfully filled, which allowed change to take place in the city of Birmingham.

This book is inspirational and really touches a nerve, for parents and children alike. Not only did young Audrey exhibit much bravery in her decision to fight for what was right, but so did her parents. I’m not sure that I would be brave enough to allow my child to do the same, even in the face of such serious injustice.

Children are powerful. And it’s very important to me that my children know that and feel that. This book highlights the power of one very brave little girl.

 

A Secular Easter for the Restivus

It it always important to remember that not everyone celebrates the same holidays in the same ways. There is always someone out there that does something different. And different is ok. Teaching our children this as we celebrate our holidays is an integral way to move us toward a more tolerant and accepting society. This post is how our family celebrated Easter this year, starting with learning about the history of this holiday.

Before the Christian religion co-opted Easter as its own holiday, the Anglo-Saxons celebrated the goddess of fertility and spring, Eostre. The symbolism surrounding modern-day Easter can easily be explained by exploring how the Anglo-Saxons celebrated: Eostre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit and, quite obviously, eggs are symbols of fertility.

As I reflect on this, I cannot help but notice the switch from celebrating a woman for her life-giving power to celebrating something quite the opposite. In any event, our family set out to commemorate Eostre, do some science, and enjoy a lovely spring day.

First, we started a little science experiment to make an egg that bounces. The experiment is still in progress. But we did the first step:

  1. Place egg in bowl and cover with vinegar.
  2. Wait 3 days for the completion of a chemical reaction between the calcium carbonate of the eggshell and the acetic acid in the vinegar. (You can see some bubbles of carbon dioxide forming on the egg below.)

We’ll see if it works.

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Next, we dyed eggs experimenting with natural materials. The materials we chose were beets, purple sweet potatoes, spinach, and turmeric.

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To make the dye, we placed a generous amount of each into their own pot of boiling water along with 2 tablespoons of vinegar and simmered for 30 minutes.

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After straining the natural materials from the dye mixtures, we let them cool for a bit before placing the already hard-boiled eggs in them to soak up the dye. Natural dyes are not as intense as the dyes from the store, but they are beautiful.

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And you get mashed purple sweet potatoes!

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We finished up our family secular Easter for the Restivus with mud puddles and shooting hoops. Fun!

UPDATE: After 4 days, we removed our eggs from the vinegar and, sure enough, they bounced!

My son shot this video as he instructed his sister to bounce it higher.

She didn’t, so he bounced his higher. This is what happened:

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Teaching Kids Why Facts Matter

The other day, I found myself explaining to my very curious children what the definition of fact was and why facts are so important.

First, I asked them “What is a fact?”

My daughter offered that a fact is something that’s real. Ok, I can accept that.

My son said that a fact is something that can’t change. Oops, not true.

I took that opportunity to provide them with examples of facts that can change. The weather, for instance. A simple fact is: It’s not snowing now. But if it starts snowing that fact becomes a falsehood.

My son went on to explain that he was talking about the word fact in math terms. It’s pretty absolute that if you take one number and add another number to it, you get an unchanging fact. True. 

So we all agreed that 2+2 was 4. That is a verifiable fact.

But we couldn’t stop there in our exploration of facts. (Especially not with ex-presidents using their camera/microwaves to spy on current ones and those horrible calamities in Sweden and Bowling Green.)

I then went on to explain to my children that some people in very powerful positions are making up their own ideas of reality and calling them facts these days. And many people are believing them.

I asked the kids if they could see why that would be a problem. Well, they answered, everyone can believe what they want to believe. Hmmmmm. It seems I’ve taught them the value of coexisting with others that don’t share your beliefs. Which makes me a somewhat successful mommy, but doesn’t help when it comes to the importance of discerning reality from its alternative.

So I asked them what would happen if Mommy insisted that 2+2 was 86?

They said they would tell me to use my calculator or my fingers to prove the fact that 2+2 was not 86. Fair enough.

So I asked, what if Mommy was the powerful Queen of the World. And I say that whoever says 2+2 is NOT 86 has to go to jail. Ooooh, they said. They could immediately see this was a problem.

As you can see, I tend to teach with oversimplification and hyperbole. But it gets the point across. The ultimate point it is this: There is really no defense against a person, or group of people, to whom facts don’t matter.

What the American president, the whole executive branch, and the Republicans in Congress are doing right now is manipulating the truth in the attempt to gain more power at the expense of, literally, innocent people’s lives. We cannot let them get away with this. And we cannot let any of their followers get away with it either.

For insight and information on how you can help dam the flood of untruths see How to Communicate Facts in the Age of Trump and 4 Things I Learned Engaging with Trump Supporters.