Teaching My Kids To Quit

Teaching Kids to QuitIn second grade, my son tested into a Center-Based Gifted program after a recommendation from his teacher.  The program was offered by the county and transportation was provided, and it required a lot of shuffling and some sacrifices for our family, but he decided to give it a shot.

Third grade at his new school proved to be a tough transition. It wasn’t the work necessarily, or the school itself, or the other kids, or the teacher. In fact, it was hard to pin point one thing in particular that made him miserable. Even after working hard and making the honor roll, he still wasn’t happy.

Each morning I told him that there are times in our life that are tough. There are obstacles in our way. There are people who are difficult to deal with.  I told him this year would teach him a  valuable lesson in how to overcome challenges.

In September, he gave Center-Based Gifted another try for fourth grade. Each morning the same pep talk: work hard, be tough, don’t give up, you can do it.  And each day he became more miserable than the last.

One morning he looked at me and simply said, “I’m not going.”

And I no longer believed the pep talk.

I laid out his options and let him decide what he wanted to do; a day later we were switching back to his old school.

We value tenacity so much in our culture. We value hard work and perseverance because those qualities are important for success.

But sometimes it’s empowering to quit.  It’s important to know when it’s time to switch tracks and move onto something else.  Sometimes, you have to cut your losses, call it quits and be ready to tackle something else.

Last week he brought home a stack of tests with A’s on them.  But more important than the grades, he has come back to life.  He’s happy again. Immediately after making the switch, it was as if a weight had lifted off his shoulders.

And really, looking at it objectively, the drawbacks were outweighing the benefits.  He saw that.  I didn’t.

So, I guess the lesson here is, never give up… until it’s time to quit.



The Not So Supermom Days

The Supermom moments. I’ve had those. The days where I’ve gotten 5 things done before work, the kids sent off to 2 different schools on time, tackled tasks at work, made great sales at work and established relationships with clients, came home to a gorgeous husband who has cooked dinner for me (or maybe I made it ahead that morning in the crock pot) the children are (relatively) clean and homework is done.  Max and Hudson hide and jump out to “surprise” me and greet me with hugs. We sit together and eat dinner. We cuddle at night while I read them stories and they (eventually) go to sleep.

Flash to this morning.  Somehow we’re all running late. I’m on day 3 with no sleep. Max is recovering from a combination of pink eye, an ear infection and a cold. Hudson who threw up the day before is sluggish.  We’ve missed the bus, I pile the kids in the car and shuttle them to Max’s school only to realize it’s 8:45 and they don’t let any students in until 9.  At this point, I will have no time to get Hudson to school and myself ready for work. We make a quick drive back to the house, I leave the kids in the car as I dash inside to throw some food from the pantry into a lunchbox for Hudson, I grab his tote bag and pull out all the work I never looked at from the day before. There is some kind of newsletter in there. I hope it’s not important. I throw some make up in a bag and take it with me. Back in the car. Max just sneezed and yellow snot pours down his face. Back inside for a tissue. On our way to school. I’m not sure where they typically drop kids off from school but Max instructs me (I have no clue how he knows.) A kind teacher is there to greet him with an umbrella. It’s raining and Max isn’t wearing a coat. He hands me his wad of dirty tissues and waves good-bye. Off to Hudson’s school.  Somehow along the way, perhaps when shoving my pregnant calves into a pair of brown boots the zipper pops leaving a gaping hole exposing my grey striped socks.  I slap some make up on in the parking lot of Hudson’s preschool from the bag I brought, smearing a little lipstick on my cheeks in lieu of blush. I am sure it’s just a little too much. My hair has frizzed out thanks to the rain, my sock is still exposed and I’m not entirely sure that my clothes match.  I struggle with my boot zipper as I’m getting out of the car and helping Hudson into school.
The teacher informs me that she’ll be calling about Hudson’s behavior in class.
I get back in the car. it’s 9:30 and I already want to call it quits.
I remember two things, the boys didn’t get their medicine and I didn’t pack myself a lunch.  Too late now because I’m off to work.  Late.

Things continue to deteriorate from there.

I get phone calls and texts

Jeff is feeling sick.

Hudson cried that it was not me who picked him up from school, he is also sick.

Max has cried because he was not able to play with his friends.

Meanwhile, I faced some of the rudest customers I’ve ever had.

At the end of the day I take the last minute of the work day right after locking the doors to hide in a dressing room to allow myself a few tears before collecting myself and my things and heading home.

I get home at 6:30 and gorgeous husband is asleep, Hudson is just waking up from a late nap and grumpy and Max barely turns from the TV to say hello. My poor exhausted mother-in-law tells me she doesn’t know how I do it before heading out the door.

I reach into a bag and pull out a cold hamburger I had delivered to work at 3:00 after scraping together some cash (since the boys doctors appointment and medicines left my bank account with $90 to be desired). I had not gotten a chance to eat it until now.
Today (and yesterday, and the day before) was not a Supermom day. Tomorrow may also not be a Supermom day. In fact, I feel like this week will probably be a wash when it comes to Supermom days.
But that’s alright.

I suppose I could pretend like today didn’t happen, focus this blog and my attention more on the Supermom days…

But we’ve all had some version of this day. Or at least, I like to think we do. In fact, I have had many.

And despite my miserable failure of a day, (or week as it may be) as I sit and eat a mushy burger (which was probably delicious at 3) I remind myself that it’s not about either the super or the not-so-super days.

Despite my failings (and I have many) I’ve got a couple of little people who want nothing more than my love and attention. I have a beautiful (albeit small and frequently messy) house and that is more than some. A cold burger to eat and clean water to drink.  And a husband who has a good enough sense of humor to love me.

So tonight I sleep (hopefully all night) and tomorrow I give it another go.

Maybe we’ll even make the bus.

When the going gets tough… enjoy the little things.

Okay… so that’s not how it goes…

I realize things have been pretty quiet here at the MotherBlog. I worried this would happen.  While our family balances work and family time like most families, there’s an additional complication in the mix: theatre.

These days I am knee-deep in  Richmond Shakespeare‘s King Lear playing Regan (there I am on the left looking all Regan-y)

Photo by Eric Dobbs

While I love being a part of King Lear, it means much less family time. I work from 9-6 five days a week and rehearse 6:30-10:30 five days a week. several days may go by where I don’t see Max or Hudson awake.

It’s not easy. And while I think it’s something that is important for me to do for myself, I can’t say it makes me a better parent.

One thing I can take away from it, is that when life gets incredibly hectic, I learn not to take the precious hours (or minutes) at home for granted. If Hudson asks me to blow bubbles, I need to stop what I’m doing and go. It’s not practical, but the dishes can wait. When Max wants me to watch a movie with him. I do. It takes an incredible amount of energy but often, after blowing bubbles or cuddling with Max, I feel refreshed and refocused as if they somehow know what’s better for me than I do.

I have a choice, I can be mad or annoyed or frustrated that I don’t get to see my kids. Or nest in my new house. But I learned quickly that it’s not helpful and only ends up tainting the moments where I do get to be home. Besides, the truth is, This is the life I signed up for.

So that has been my overall focus in the past two weeks.  Taking the small moments and making them big moments.

I have some plans for a reupholster project this weekend I am very excited about I just need to find an awesome fabric!

Tell me. What do small changes do you make when things get really busy? What grounds you and keeps you going?

The eclipsed child.

“I just need a lot of your attention” Max told me when snapped at him after he interrupted me for the 4th time while I was trying to hold a conversation with a friend.  Max likes to play, but it’s only interesting to him if I am watching him narrate his entire game and providing occasional commentary.  If Max wants your attention he demands it. And he demands it a lot, whether it’s ‘watch me play with dinosaurs’ or ‘ what are you guys talking about’ when Max is in the room he’s a part of what is going on. It’s delightful and frustrating all at the same time.

But I have another son.

One who, when the spotlight is on his brother tends to retreat into his own games and toys.  The one who can count to 10 in 3 languages, loves to learn new things, can do 4 puzzles at once, can stack a perfect tower taller than himself, has never once held a pencil incorrectly, and can jump higher and father than his brother.  An empathetic child who sits with his brother when his brother who is supposed to be in time out, who says “it’s ok, don’t cry” when people are upset. A complete and utter goofball on the occasions where he does hold the spotlight, clever and silly. Little Hudson, who will ask you to color with him or to build a tower with him or sit with him but will be fine to go do something else if you are too busy.

It’s not about loving one any more than the other or favorites, but when you’re balancing 4 careers between two people, a busy life and two kids, the one who demands your attention gets in the way of time with the one who asks politely.

I had the realization this past weekend that when it comes to my little Hudson I need to adjust my parenting style. I’ve always felt confident on how to parent Max because he’s a lot like me.  There is no mystery to Max in my mind, I know what he’s going to say  or do before he says it.  Hudson is different from all three of us. Not better, not worse, just different.  If you want to go all zodiac about it you’ve got 3 fire signs (Me: Aries, Jeff and Max: Leo) and here comes Hudson, the Aquarius who leaves us all a bit mystified.  There’s so much we can learn from Hudson and discover about him, but we have to slow down and pay attention.

I haven’t been as good of a parent to Hudson as I could have been because I’ve been waiting for him to tell me what he needs as loudly as his brother does.  I need to listen closer. So it’s time to adjust our focus. Max will get his attention regardless.  Hudson needs to get the focus and attention now and since he won’t demand it, it’s up to us.  This is, in fact, dawning of the age of Aquarius (sorry, couldn’t resist).  Jeff and I need to change tactics and get more involved, after all, he needs a lot of our attention too.