-“ All kids need is a little help, a little hope and someone who believes in them.”
~ Magic Johnson
I can remember it vividly like it was yesterday. After a very difficult labour, emergency c-section and a week in the hospital, I was deemed “ready” to be released into the world of full-time motherhood. Terrified, my husband and I looked at each other as I was being discharged from the hospital thinking how are they even letting us leave with our son? Don’t they see that we are nowhere near “ready?” We don’t have the first clue about what we are doing and we are so terribly nervous! Plagued by insecurities and fears, we had no choice but to meet this challenge head on, as from here on out, we had a precious little guy counting on us for absolutely everything. No pressure! I cannot lie. It was a tremendous learning curve and it wasn’t easy, but Tyler survived and so has Shannon despite the fact that we had so much to learn and still do about this crazy thing called parenthood. I do not claim to have all the answers, yet through the highs and lows of this lifelong adventure, I have come to find out that there are really four key things that all kids need to thrive and be successful. Somehow I wish someone had enlightened me on this a bit sooner, yet looking at my kids today, I guess we didn’t do too bad at this parenting thing. So let’s take a look at what important things kids really need today.
The first important thing that all kids need is attention. When they are babies they obviously need constant attention to their every need, yet as they grow they become more independent. Although they are more independent, they still need our attention in different ways. They want to feel that they matter and that we can put aside our busy agendas and focus on just them. It is crucial to carve out quality time that involves them in the spotlight so we can nurture our relationships further and let them know they are a priority. Years ago I saw a commercial where a mom was headed to the beach with her family and she got an important phone call. She went on to explain to her disappointed family that she would not be joining them after all, as she had to meet with a client instead. At the height of frustration, her three year old daughter says “Mom, when do I get to be a client?” Ouch! We all have busy lives and work, stress and other obligations can dominate a lot of our time, yet I cannot tell you how critical it is to make time for your kids and their interests to emphasize to them how much they matter to you.
The next important thing kids need is affection. Kids not only need to be shown affection through such things as meaningful touch, acts of service, or receiving gifts, but they need to hear how much we love them from our lips often. Just like with our spouses, it is not enough to think that people already now we love them, we need to tell them too. The time they often most need to hear it too is when they have acted out, disobeyed or caused stress in the family. They need to know that our love for them is unconditional and we will stand by them. My mom used to have a little gesture she would do with us that involved hand squeezing. She would often grab our hands lovingly and give them three squeezes standing for “I love you.” It was a creative way of showing love and I have done this with my kids as well.
Kids also need affirmation. They need to hear what it is about them that makes you crazy about them and why you appreciate them. Compliment your children often. Let them know that you are extremely proud of them and proud to call them your son or daughter. Recognize when they have used good judgment. Encourage them when they are discouraged. Help them to see that mistakes in life are great learning opportunities and you believe that they have the skills to be successful in life. Let them know that there is no problem too big that you cannot solve together. Knowing that others believe in them is so crucial. It is often the very thing kids need to step out of the boat and take a risk. Children need to know we are in their corner and we are ready to cheer them on!
Finally kids need unconditional acceptance. They need to know that we love them just because of who they are, not because of anything they have or have not done. I have counseled many adults who are still carrying scars from their past regarding how they were constantly trying to win the approval of their parents, yet sadly always fell short some how. When kids know they are accepted as they are, mistakes and all, they will feel free to come to us when they fail or desire some much needed advice. Kids need to know in no uncertain terms that there is nothing they could do that would make us love them any less or any more. They are loved and accepted as they are simply because they are ours.
God is the ultimate Father. He exemplifies all these attributes with perfection. He loves us with an everlasting love and sees beyond our faults and imperfections. Despite our shortcomings and problems, He desires to have a relationship with us and will forgive us over and over again as a good parent should. Many people have said to me when I actually straighten around my life a bit, then I might see what God can do. This is actually the wrong approach as God takes us as we are and helps us transform into all we have imagined we could ever be if we are willing to let him be our loving Heavenly Father.
You may be reading this and be feeling quite confident. You may feel like despite some mistakes along that way that you have done quite well in these areas of parenting. If that is you, that is wonderful and please keep up the good work. On the contrary you may read this and feel defeated as you reflect on how you need to improve as a parent. If you are feeling this way, please know there are no perfect parents and we all can do better in this area. It is never too late to start over with your children and to strive to be a better parent. Admitting our mistakes to our children and setting goals to do better is very liberating. Change is possible and very worthwhile. Our children and our relationships with them are one of God’s most precious gifts He had given us. Let’s give them the attention, affection, affirmation and acceptance they need and so deserve. Trust me there is no greater investment!
From one parent to another,
Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Little Lesson Learned: Being the best parent you can be is one of the best goals you can set in life.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
- Mother Teresa
Well our eighteen year old son Tyler graduated from high school last week and I am still in shock! The time goes by so quickly! I feel like I blinked and there he was walking across the stage in his cap and gown. He left the next morning for a father - son trip with my husband and some friends of his to Chicago. It was an incredible time of fun, fellowship and “testosterone filled” male bonding. While they were off on their exciting adventure, it left my daughter Shannon and I home for a fun girl’s weekend. I cannot tell a lie and no offense to my husband and son, but it was absolutely wonderful. School had just wrapped up and Shannon and I slept in, went out for lunch, and dinner, went bowling, went to the mall, took in a chick flick movie (for the second time) and spent some time just chilling and gabbing in the hot tub. A great time for just the two of us to reconnect, laugh, and relax. The end of the school year gets so busy, that it seemed some quality time was truly long overdue. I am blessed to have two wonderful kids who have both grown up into two amazing human beings in spite of my ups and downs as their mom along the way! I am extremely proud of them both and I do really enjoy their company.
What I do really treasure as mentioned is that exceptional occasion where I can spend time with each alone. This is where I can truly focus on only that child and have more meaningful interactions. This is where the most meaningful dialogue takes place. My husband and I both try to make a conscious effort to spend time with each individually to strengthen our relationships. I remember especially when they were little how nice this would be. To have two little ones to take everywhere could get very complicated, but it was amazing how much easier and enjoyable it seemed to just have one with me some days. I feel very blessed that my kids feel they can talk to me about what is on their hearts and they will let me know when they need to talk. My husband and I find it funny that it is often at midnight that they feel the need to bare their souls, but as a parent you have to take it when it comes. Apparently I was the same way according to my dad. My parents would have been asleep for hours, and I would just barge in and start babbling on about something important, trivial or exciting in my life. No matter what, they would always listen. God bless them because in hindsight, I think I did this often not being very considerate of them!
It is so great to have these times though as it opens opportunities to let our loved ones know how much they mean to us. Those closest to us need to hear it. It is not enough to assume they know, but we need to tell them! It is like that with great friends too. I have some amazing friends in the teaching profession. Sadly several of them retired this June. Although I am so excited for them entering this new chapter of their lives, I will miss them so much. Not seeing their friendly and enthusiastic personalities in the hallways in September will be very difficult for sure. I knew the last day would be very emotional for me. It always is anyways, but even more so this year with my friends leaving. Trying to keep it together, was not easy I assure you. I must admit as the day went on, I was struggling. I had prepared a little musical number for the retirees with my class, yet did not know if I could pull it off emotionally. Later I came to realize though that tears or no tears, the show must go on and we were doing it. Well as expected I was an emotional wreck throughout the song, but I explained to the kids that it was because these teachers meant so much to me. I explained that when people are special to you, it may make you cry as you will really miss them. Several kids were crying too, but it was a powerful tribute to these teachers who everyone adored. Those friends came and told me later how much that meant to them. I am so glad I did it, as I knew this was my last chance to honour them in this small, but touching way. I said what I needed to say through a song and a little speech and I have no regrets. Interestingly right after my class presented, the next class came in and we all joined in with a spontaneous dance and sing along of the “Happy” song so that definitely lightened up the mood a bit.
I am sure there are many special people in your life, whether friends or family. I encourage you to let people know how you appreciate and love them. Lately there have been so many tragedies it seems. There are so many stories of people gone too soon often very unexpectedly. It is very heart breaking. We do not want to live with regret. Send a text, write a letter, fire off an email, or make a phone call. The person may seem a bit surprised, yet will be touched by your kindness.
My students are the best for that. They are so honest and sincere. They tell me they love me and that I am a great teacher often. I never take it for granted and it never gets old. I remember one particular day was rather difficult for me and a student came in and said right away “I just wanted to let you know how much I love school and I am so happy you are my teacher.” Those simple words made a very powerful difference for me that day! They model for me the power of showing appreciation spontaneously and in many ways I strive to be more like them.
Starting conversations of this nature can seem awkward at times, especially if you haven’t done it lately. Pray for wisdom on what to say and God will direct your conversation. You will feel great because you let someone know how much he or she is appreciated and believe me the person on the receiving end will feel like a million bucks! Don’t delay! Say what you need to say!
Proverbs 16:24: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Little Lessons Learned: Life is too short. Take the opportunity to show the people closest to you how much they mean to you!
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak,
but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa
Packing lunches! This is not my favourite parenting task! Trying to keep it interesting, healthy and tasty is no easy feat at times, but I certainly do try to do my best. I remember when I was in public school, my mom would always try to provide myself and my siblings with a little encouragement to help us with our day. We would always pray together before going to school and another way she did this was to write little love notes in our lunchbox. Sometimes it was a short phrase, a word of encouragement or a cute joke or riddle. It was often written on a napkin, and was something I really looked forward to each day. Not only did I enjoy it, but this simple ritual gained a lot of attention in my elementary classroom. Kids, lunch monitors and adult lunch aides would often eagerly gather around to see what I received each day. Proudly I would share openly grinning from ear to ear just what my wonderful mom had written. Looking back on that now, it has occurred to me that although kids were curious about what my clever mom had to say each day, I wonder if they were a little bit envious as well? Not to say that they didn’t have good parents, but what little kid wouldn’t want an encouraging note in his or her lunch each day if you asked him or her? Let’s face it being a kid can be rough at times and we as their parents need to recognize that and lift their spirits whenever we can.
I would sometimes carry on the lunchbox love note tradition with my kids when they were younger. I felt like the best mother out there and was so proud to continue this special little ritual my mom had started. This window of opportunity for this type of thing is much smaller than it seemed though. There comes a time when they get older when this type of parenting can become a source of embarrassment for them. I found out the hard way when my son came home at quite a young age much to my dismay very upset. He said that a student who knew about the notes, snatched my love note out of his lunchbox and read it aloud sarcastically to the whole class. My son was mortified and thus sadly the special lunchbox notes came to a screeching halt. As the kids get older your communication methods change. Now I find texting them very effective. It may be with encouragement for a test, or regarding a struggle they may be experiencing, or just to let them know I am thinking of them. It also is a simple yet powerful way to feel connected to them. Sometimes I need to make a conscious effort to engage in meaningful conversation with each of my kids. They are so busy with their teenage lives and although we are in the same household, I can sometimes feel that a really meaningful conversation session is long overdue. Sometimes this needs to be scheduled like I will go for a walk with my daughter and chat, or I might take my son out for coffee to visit. Sometimes it may come at the most inconvenient time like let’s say 12:30 at night when I am completely exhausted and just need to crash! I have learned to be open to these times however, as tired as I may be as some of the best talks I have ever had with my kids have come up then. An unexpected moment, but still very meaningful. Apparently according to my dad I was also famous for these late night, endless, soul bearing chitchat fests so I guess my kids are just following suit! Oh well, I am grateful because as my kids grow, we have deeper conversations and I am so happy they feel they can openly talk to me about anything on their hearts.
This has happened at school with my students as well. Sometimes they will come up to me in class or walk alongside with me when I am on yard duty and share very special aspects of their lives with me. They will convey their hopes, dreams, struggles and interests. In these times we chat more as friends and I feel blessed that they trust me enough to share openly with me in this manner.
Sometimes we think we have to take the time to have a lengthy conversation to provide encouragement. Never underestimate the power of small, meaningful phrases that can provide really big comfort. Try these for example: “I am proud of you!” “You got this!” “Good for you!” “You are really improving!” “Keep up the good work!” “This is your forte!” “That’s my girl!” “That’s my boy!” You get the picture. One of the most powerful short phrases a teacher ever said to me when I was unsure about a difficult project was “I am leaving this is your very capable hands!” I admired this teacher so much and I felt if he believed in me and my abilities, then I guess I should too.
The Bible says to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Sometimes it is good to pray and ask God for wisdom about what our kids need to hear from us. They may be going through things that we are not even aware of and God can reveal this to us when we pray for them. The most important thing to remember is to keep the communication lines open no matter what your kids are going through. Let them know they can come to you with anything regardless, even if it is difficult, disappointing or embarrassing. That is what we as parents are there for. Keep the encouragement flowing. They need it. Being a kid or teenager can be very challenging some days and it is easy for us to forget that sometimes. Letting your kids know that you are in their corner, and you believe in them is so crucial. So put a note in their lunch, send a loving text, set a special outing on the calendar, or write them a card. Whatever works for you and your kids, just do it! It will help your relationship grow and it will help your child more than you could ever know!
Proverbs 16:24: Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Little Lesson Learned: Being a kid can be hard sometimes. Let your kids know you remember that, you care and you got their backs.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
A mother holds her children’s hands for a while, but their hearts forever.”
Update: Tyler is now 18 and he has graduated! He is off to University of Windsor in the fall! Where has the time gone?
The other night I was sitting down with our 17 year old son Tyler and helping him examine options for university next year. As he was trying to make wise decisions about his career path, I couldn’t help but think where has the time gone? It is very unbelievable to me that I am actually helping MY
child select a post secondary course of study! Wasn’t it just yesterday that he was clinging to my leg at Montessori school, not wanting to go? Now here we are and I am the one clinging to him, not wanting him to go! I don’t feel ready, yet I have had all these years to prepare! It’s funny how some things in life feel like they have caught you off guard, but really we just were too busy to really see them coming. I remember years ago thinking when will they grow up? They are so needy right now. I wondered when will I EVER have some quality alone time? I even wrote a poem about it and it was the first thing I ever had published. It was called “Someday” and it was published in the Salvation Army women’s magazine called Catherine. I am happy to know that even then in all the ups and downs of
parenting little ones, I recognized there were many things that I would greatly miss about that season of my life. Here is the poem. I read it now with much nostalgia and it is the things I miss that take a front seat in my reflections.
Someday it will be so nice when I can
- Shower without an audience
- Tidy the house and it actually stays tidy
- Do errands without an entourage of little feet, car seats and diaper bags
- Go grocery shopping without a list containing diapers, wipes, baby food,
- Have quiet conversation with my husband at dinner
- Linger at a restaurant and actually say “yes” to that much desired coffee
- Have uninterrupted sleep
- Dine at fine establishments
- Only have myself to get ready to go somewhere
- Be free of packing a diaper bag that resembles a suitcase filled with every
possible item I may need
- Nap anytime I please
- Talk on the phone without worrying about what is going on in another room
- Actually get something out of a church service
- Hear myself think
- Watch Oprah instead of Barney
- Not have to change diapers and wipe noses on a continuous basis
- Walk through the house without tripping over toys
- Curl up in a chair and read a book
- Have a bowl of ice cream and not have to share
However when that day comes there will be
- No hugs and kisses from little angels
- No gleeful baby giggles
- No funny expressions and sayings that bring a smile to my face
- No dancing in the kitchen to our many theme songs
- No looking for little things on walks like doggies, flags and school
- No seeing the world through a child’s eyes
- No cuddling on the couch with little snugglers
- No chance to burst with pride as someone compliments me on my beautiful
- No opportunity to pass around baby pictures
- No feeling that even the simplest outing is being perceived as the greatest
field trip of a lifetime
- No curling up in our favourite chair and having my three year old “read” to
me his favourite stories
- No more prayers for Goliath or the Teletubbies
- No little helpers who enjoy assisting with even the most mundane chores
- No puppet shows, children’s birthday parties or days at the park
- No Timbit runs to Tim Hortons
- No more tea parties with “Mr. Jones”
- No little people who think I can do not wrong
- No little friends to share my life with
- No unexplainable comfort of knowing that my children are safe and loved all
- No thrills at watching them change, grow, and accomplish new things
- No little ones that need me quite like they used to
It is then that I will realize, as everyone says, “This too shall pass,” when it comes to the frustrating aspects of parenting little ones, that so will the great things. At that time I will see the “big picture” and fully realize that I wish that “someday” had never come!
Hmmm… Well here I am fourteen years later and I do feel that way so much! I remember the day that both my kids were old enough to each take a hand and walk side by side with me. I felt the significance of that moment even then as I knew they were really growing up. My mom used to say as we were growing at different stages “I miss my little people.” At the time I did not get it, but I sure do now! I miss my “little people” too, but I am also so proud of the “big people” they are becoming.
I am excited to see what the future holds for both my kids, yet a little sad that it all went too fast. Whatever stage you are at with your kids my friends, enjoy it! Before you know it, it will be over so quickly so take a deep breath, say a little prayer and just relax! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
Copyright: littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2013