Hindsight Parenting: What is the Antidote to Meanness?

Mean Girls, At Age 3

To teach my daughter empathy, the ability to anticipate and understand the feelings of others, would ensure, I am certain, that my daughter, our daughters, would be able to build each other up—not tear each other down, would be able to support with the strength of positivity…

“Go home, Ila!” Those three words, said by a three year old no less to my sweet-natured, well behaved, lovely, and special daughter (all right, all right I may be a tad biased…) made me squeeze the life out of my steering wheel from rage as it was relayed to me by that beautiful girl of mine on the way home from a grocery store visit.

I have heard the horror stories and the numerous, in fact incessant, warning from moms of daughters about the epidemic of mean girls and how it would affect someone as passive and innocent as Ila. I have been told to get her ready for it; to ensure that she has developed a strong and battle proof sense of self so that when she is attacked (which is only a matter of time according to the moms in the trenches) it won’t affect her as deeply as it could. I have been told to empower her with the right to stand up for herself; teach her I statements that set clear boundaries. For instance, “I don’t like what you are saying to me!” Or, “I want you to leave me alone.” Or, “I will not be treated this way!” I have been told that building a solid foundation of love and open communication would make it so that my daughter would feel safe divulging hurtful information to us.

And so we have done all that. Hindsight has urged me to take the advice of these mothers-in-the-know and equip Ila with all that is necessary for her to combat this culture of bullying. And me, with my memories of the horrific bullying that my older son experienced…for years…without my knowledge…as well as my own esteem issues and lack of connection with parents who did nothing to help me feel like my feelings were safe with them, made it so that I fiercely vowed to raise a daughter who was prepared beyond a shadow of a doubt for anything that might make her feel less than.

But dear readers, I must confess that I thought I had more time. I thought that I had years to mold and shape this wonderful girl into someone who stood on sturdy metaphorical legs, years to be sure that she and her out of this world essence would stay that way. I thought I had more time.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Special People

Special

When I meet up with those who are disinclined to do what is best for my child, it is probably time to find someone else to do that particular job, or time to find another group in which she can take part because there are many special people out there who are willing to do what right no matter what. And our special daughter deserves those special people in her special life because, after all, she’s so special …to us.

She’s just a girl. Not special. Not any different than any other toddler. She’s infatuated with Princess Sofia and Doc McStuffins. She has a stuffed lamb, Mi Mi, who she can’t be without. She adores her daddy and loves playing school because her mommy is a teacher. She’s a pint size philosopher who packs a punch with wise words that are seemingly beyond MY years. But she isn’t special. She’s just another child in a world of children.

But to us, her father and me, she is everything. She is quite extraordinary and yes…she is special; special in ways that are too numerous to ever recount in a single post let alone a single novel.

But she also has special needs. She needs help making her muscles strong; to get her core to fire, her left thigh to not fail her, her ankles to hold her steady. She needs help getting her fingers to work in a coordinated way so that pulling a sticker off a paper isn’t a monumental marathon-like task. She needs wait time so that her mind can map out a succession of movements. She has needs…special needs.

Over these last few years, I have been awestruck with the humans that we have encountered; professionals whose sole desire is to get her to develop to be her best self. On the way to stronger muscles and more coordinated fingers, they have taught her the satisfaction of persistence, the wonderful feeling of meeting goals, the necessity to pay attention and follow directions and the invaluable knowledge that a desire to work hard even if it is inconvenient or difficult is one of the most important characteristic one could possess. For these humans who have a constant presence in my daughter Ila’s life, I am more grateful than I could ever pen. Our daughter is special, as special to these helping humans as she is to us.

As with most toddlers, she belongs to many different types of groups. Each “group” has a leader. And while many are willing and able participants in our quest provide every opportunity for Ila’s brain to develop new pathways for movement and the processing of that movement, unfortunately, we have also come across humans, adults, who see our daughter’s special needs as a burden; “an extra thing to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: New Siblings and Imaginary Friends

Introducing Jess…

Let me introduce you to Jess. She is 12. She lives outside, loves the color purple and doesn’t want to go to school at all…

So Ila has a sister. Now stop calculating and clutching your chest. I am not and never will be pregnant again. The vasectomy and heart condition has ensured that (And honestly…phew.). And no, no there is no illegitimate child involved. Although, I am sure there are some who live to fuel the small town gossip mill who just read my first line and ran off to shout THAT type of story from the roof top of the very tall ivory tower that serves as the gossip mill’s sturdy structure and meeting place in my community. Nope…there is no sister, but there is.

That last line made no sense to you did it? Yet it makes perfect sense to me…and to Ila…who made her sister up. Yup. It’s an imaginary sister. Let me introduce you to Jess. She is 12. She has glasses which she no longer wears. She lives in our garden (We don’t have one and even if we did, it’s buried under two feet of snow.). She has dark hair, loves the color purple and doesn’t want to go to school at all. Somehow, although she is Ila’s sister, she has a completely different mother and father, but they don’t live in the garden with her. Jess has existed for my daughter for quite some time now. She’d show up sporadically. A mention here and there—but lately she has been a fixture in our house and in Ila’s imagination.

You see, even though “Jess” has been around for months, her constant presence showed up after Ila’s father and I had a particularly nasty blowout within ear shot of our daughter (If you knew how difficult it was for me to actually put those words down on paper, you would perhaps be less apt to judge me…maybe not.). But it happened. I am not proud of my behavior. My husband’s behavior was equally reprehensible and because I am UBER sensitive to NOT screwing up as much this time around as a mother, Jess’s appearance coinciding with the shameful argument has plagued me. I blamed myself (shocking!) for the creation of Jess and worried (me worry??) that my daughter was somehow damaged because of my behavior.

In fact, it may be my imagination, but it seemed that lately every time Ila’s father and I have just a normal conversation, Ila begins talking to “Jess” loudly as if to drown us out just in case the fighting takes place again. I could be wrong…maybe not. And true to my nature I have been pretty good at beating myself up about it all, sure that I had psychologically scarred my daughter for the rest of her life. And it is a rare mothering moment for me that I have no Hindsight whatsoever to fall back upon. Imaginary human beings living in my house never happened during the first 19 years of motherhood. I knew nothing about the phenomenon except for the fact that my little sister had an imaginary friend named “Big Friend” who we used to have to set a place for at the dinner table. But since my parents argued incessantly, that knowledge did nothing to quell my guilt.

So I did what any mother in this day and age does when needing information, I poured over everything the internet had ever published about imaginary humans (all right maybe not EVERYTHING. I may be exaggerating…just a tad…maybe not.) According to the doctors that write for BabyCenter.com, having imaginary friends or siblings or even animals is natural and normal for preschoolers. Studies actually show that kids with imaginary humans turn out to be more cooperative, creative, independent, and happy than those without.

This was good news, not only for Ila, but for her weary mother who thought that the presence of “Jess” was proof of my ineptitude. So what now? Well, I am off to play school with Ila…and Jess. Apparently it is Ila’s sister’s turn to be the teacher. I am eager to get started. I wonder what she’ll teach me today. She’s already taught me so much.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.  Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Thomas Tolkien]

Hindsight Parenting: New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

Leaving Stressors Outside the Front Door for the New Year!

January; the month of promises to change, to improve, to start anew. We usually are gung-ho, walkin’ that treadmill, drinking those smoothies, foregoing those nasty cigarettes for…well…awhile. But let’s be honest, Hindsight tells us that we rarely CHANGE…I mean REALLY CHANGE. Pretty soon that treadmill is collecting laundry that hasn’t quite dried, those smoothies are impossible to drink because the blender is broken and what starts as just one cigarette while out with friends goes right back to a pack a day habit (Yes, my dear friend whom I love to pieces…I am talking about YOU and those blasted cigarettes. I want you to live a long life…so sue me!)… Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Should GMO Food Be Labeled?

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

Studies show that more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

What are your thoughts on genetically engineered food? Are you comfortable feeding food that has been genetically modified to your kids? Do you think it should be labeled?

  • Faye Adamsyes writes, “GM food is synthetic, gross and not nutritious. Label it please.”
  • Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “I don’t have kids, but if/when I do, I will definitely avoid it – I try not to feed it to myself, either. I know little about the science behind it (unfortunately), but common sense tells me that real food is better for you. Why mess with something that already works so well?!
  • Jennifer Lee Wildermuth writes, “We do our best to not feed it, but because we’re just learning everything that has been GM’d it should be labeled. It would save us a lot of time researching what is safe.”
  • Heather Fletcher writes, “It should definitely be labeled! I avoid it at all costs. Bodies know how to digest real food, not food altered in a lab. Pollen from GMO foods can infect natural crops, effects the soil, water, meat that is fed it. I wonder if this is partially the reason for an increase in food allergies. Get rid of GMO-mother nature is perfect lets not mess with it!  Avoid non-organic corn & soy ad those are 2 big crops that are genetically modified.”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “In truth, most of our foods have been modified at some point to bring out the best traits (taste, hardiness, etc..) going all the way back to Mendel and his pea gene experiments! Point being it is so hard to avoid… Grocery shopping has become a research project with conflicting data, poor funding, and high costs (to our pockets and our lives!). I know I spend much more time at the store now from reading almost every label in my cart!”
  • Carrie Cranston writes, “GMO. Fancy name for lab facilitated rapid selective breeding. No, don’t fear them. It took hundreds of years to get ears of corn with more than 20 Kernels. I’m glad to have eggs with higher Omega-3′s now instead of in another 100 years when selective breeding would have been able to bring it to fruition. GMO brought us insulin too. Ask any diabetic how they feel about that. Plus is had brought us and crops that are pest and disease resistant, reducing the use of pesticides and other crop treatments.”
  • Lilly Jeffs Lombard writes, “Wow, Carrie, what faith you place in profit-driven biotechnology and a government that is supposed to ensure food safety but that is massively controlled by agribusiness giants like Monsanto.”
  • Leah Nero Carrasquillo writes, “A lot of the pesticides and chemicals that GMO products are created to withstand are not so benign: How Chemicals Affect Us.
  • Jess Kuttner writes, “I want to find out more about GMO food. I am highly suspicious and think it definitely should be labeled.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Tomer Arazy]

Unexpected Last Days of Summer Play

Running on Empty

He runs—five to ten miles per day with his cross country team. He jumps-before and after cross country practice-on a super charged pogo stick. He flips-on a trampoline before sunrise and way after sunset. He skates, scats skedaddles—up and down the street and around the block on a skate board, on a long board, on a bike, on two feet. He never stops; not even to fuel all that movement with food or drink.

It’s a typical summer scenario. Gannan, the quintessential boy, wakes up at the crack of dawn to soak up every single second of play time that he can wring out of a sweltering sunny day. Breakfast, if eaten at all, is usually a piece of fruit or a granola bar that he can shove down his throat as he’s whipping open the backdoor (only to throw the wrapper on the lawn as the back gate slams.) At lunch time, I scream my voice hoarse trying to locate my Prince-of-Playtime. He comes reluctantly, shoulders slumped, smelling of sweat and dirt and grass, but will stubbornly stay out on the front porch until the food is absolutely ready–not wanting to let one second of fresh air miss his awaiting nose. Somehow it is as if all that playing has caused his legs to forget how to bend him to a seated position. So he stands…and bounces…up and down… and wolfs a half a sandwich in one bite. He runs toward the front door. I yell “Halt” and hand him an 8 ounce glass of milk. Foot tapping, he drinks half and then those tapping feet bolt him out through the portal-of-play. Dinner is much the same. Even though I require that he must spend at least ten minutes at the family dinner table, he still will eat a half of a hot dog in a great big chomp and shovel a handful of fries into his mouth so that they stick out like the whiskers of the Energizer Bunny. Feigning a stomach ache he says he can eat no more and then bounces his right leg up and down, keeping the engine revving, looking at the clock, sighing with head in hand, blowing his long bangs out of his eyes, doing whatever it is so that he can get away from that table and back out to paradise. As he bolts once more, I again demand he drink “at least SOMETHING!” He dramatically takes in a gulp of milk and dashes off to greener pastures with his mother smiling after him, marveling at his energy.

Okay, so to some of you this description of a boy and his love for summer will conjure some smiles and make you wistful for the days of Andy and Opie walking to the “crick” with their fishing poles slung over their shoulders. However, after what happened this week, the description makes me feel ashamed. Yes. That’s right. I said ashamed. Not sunny. Not whistly. Not reminiscent of days gone by….nope. Ashamed. Here’s why.

Last Saturday, I awoke to a very ghostly looking boy standing at the foot of my bed asking me where the thermometer was. His arms were holding his comforter tightly around him, pathetically and weakly whispering, “I don’t think I feel good.” Since this is not a phrase that typically is spoken by Gannan because he knows it is one that would seal his fate INSIDE for the day, I immediately pop the thermometer in his mouth. It reads 103 degrees, and so I begin all the “mom” things that we do when we have a sick kid. Get him set up on the couch, ply him with Advil, coo and coddle. I suggest to him that he sip a little ginger ale and I wait for the protest. But to my surprise, he doesn’t. Instead he asks for water, and I give him water; glass after glass after glass. It seems as if he is a bottomless pit and can’t get enough H2O. That’s not the only thing that is unusual. He practically begs for food. I question my husband….”What’s that saying? Feed a cold-starve a fever. Or is it–starve a cold and feed a fever?” No matter. He wanted food; an egg and cheese sandwich to be exact, and then a bowl of cereal, and then a strawberry milkshake, and then another. All eaten in the span of two hours. He was ravenous. He was severely parched, very odd behavior for a sick kid. Or was it?

Read the rest of this entry »

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