Category: Parenting

The Golden Girls is All a Mom Needs

Iconic hit series The Golden Girls makes its streaming debut on Hulu February 13, 2017. Four previously married women live together in Miami, sharing their various experiences together and enjoying themselves despite hard times. From left, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) and Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan), shown. (Photo Courtesy of Hulu)

So it has been about two weeks since my last post. Life has been hectic and I have to say this parenting gig is harder than I ever imagined. There are so many meetings, and so many feelings about life lately. I never knew this could be so complicated. Don’t ya just send your kids to school and blink, then they graduate and start a fabulous life? Easy peasy.

Ugh so wrong.

As I am stressing out about life I discover The Golden Girls is on Hulu. Man oh man does this show bring back memories! I was 12 when this show began. I didn’t get half the jokes back then, but it was such a comfort just to watch every week. I could count on Dorothy’s sarcastic whit and Rose’s naivete. No matter where I was in my house, the sound of those first few piano notes sent me running to the TV to watch. Sitcom life is so much easier when all your problems are solved in 30 minutes and end with cheesecake. Now I can count on the wisdom of these best friends every morning as I hop on my treadmill and cue up the next episode. They make me laugh and make me realize how important my mom friends are to me. Especially the ones who love me for me and do not judge me by my kids behaviors. They know I am a dedicated parent doing my best.

This morning I watched the episode where Blanche’s grandson comes to visit. The women put their cumulative knowledge of child rearing together to create a chore schedule and curfew for her belligerent nephew.  In less than 30 minutes he is cured of his bad behavior and is toasting to his new found self esteem. I was jealous. If only it were that easy to cure kids of their melt downs and behaviors. And how awesome would it be to have some seasoned moms in my crew right now. Instead, we wait months or even years to get the positive change we want to see from our kids. I know hubby and I are still waiting for the sensible sevens to kick in so we can experience less drama in our lives.

Just as Blanche’s best friends rallied around her to help set her wayward nephew on the straight and narrow, I realize how lucky I am to have a very small, but tight knit circle of friends who watch out for my kids just like one of their own. The day to day may get stressful, but having friends who see my kids as something wonderful and amazing makes all the hard work seem worth it. It doesn’t help me solve our problems in a half an hour, but it sure does feel good to know that so many of my friends are willing to take the time to understand and offer to help.

No matter what age and stage your kids are in you need a good mom friend to support you. Your relationship may not involve cheesecake, but as long as they are willing to listen without judging and recognize and celebrate your hard work then you have a friend worth more than gold!

Until next week my friends, remember it is OK to do whatever it takes to make it through your day! 🙂 And watch The Golden Girls whenever you can. Those ladies are funny and offer some serious life lessons about parenting!

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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When Your Kid Is a Perfectionist Too

True to my perfectionist character I feel like I have failed if I cannot put out a blog post every week. No one else is saying a word about it, but I put this pressure on myself to have everything outlined and finished by a certain time every week. As you can see I didn’t post anything last week. Sometimes, being in charge of so many humans with their own personalities doesn’t leave room for me to execute my projects and meet my own deadlines. It kills me to stare at a blank page the day after I was due to publish. In the grand scheme I know it doesn’t matter. But I am so hardwired to finish a task in a very specific way. I feel like I let down everyone when I don’t come through.

The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult as a mom. I’ve discovered that my daughter is taking after me with expecting perfection. She is only six years old and already has a very deep need to make things happen the way she has planned. She becomes anxious when she makes a mistake on her homework and now she feels like she just wants to impress her teacher so badly. I have a kid who used to love school suddenly protest leaving the house to attend school. This is just Kindergarten. She is already under so much pressure to perform perfectly.

Seeing her struggle to do her best and feeling crushed when she doesn’t match the expectations of her teacher, or already feels like she let everyone down, is incredibly painful. I want so badly to upload my wisdom to her little brain to help her understand that hinging your self worth on impossible standards is not going to bring her any peace, or happiness. The peace I feel when things are perfect is only fleeting because as a perfectionist nothing is ever good enough. Nothing. I can’t imagine feeling like this at six. I can barely handled it as an adult.

I am trying to focus more on helping her learn how to be OK without perfection. It’s hard to put my perfectionist out look into the head space of a six year old, but I am going to try. I am going to give myself some slack that I am not going to find the perfect solution for her. But I am going to do my best. Then I am going to cut myself some slack when I let a post or two go while I am figuring this all out. This parenting thing. Man. It’s hard! Letting go of perfection is hard too.

Thank you for reading and hanging in there with me from week to week! I appreciate all of you! If you have any advice on how to get a Kindergartner to lighten up I’d love to hear it! Anyone else ever have a kid put so much pressure on themselves to be perfect? Feel free to comment below or drop me a line at whatevmom@gmail.com.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer toHudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Stuck on the Track of Perfection

The other day I saw a video clip in my Facebook news feed of a car stuck on the snowy railroad tracks with a train coming toward it. Some good citizens abandoned their cars to assist the driver in the disabled car. I noticed the driver was determined to stay in the car, not give up and just kept driving until they moved forward. But it was with great assistance that they got off that track before the train passed where they were seconds later. I thought that is such a perfect metaphor for life. Especially for me, being a recovering perfectionist.

I can’t tell you how often I get stuck on my own track, completely focused on my own expectations, trying to force a particular outcome. I am determined to stick to that singular path before me. Whether it is pushing the kids to get ready for school on time, or finding a solution to a new parenting challenge. It can feel like life is that train barreling toward me and I am just stuck. When I am really lucky a friend, or neighbor will help steer me in a new direction before I am pummeled. Sometimes it is just a kind word, or even a blunt question that can snap me out of my one track thinking.

Life with kids moves at a quick pace and I don’t always take time to slow down and really appreciate that my hard work counts for something. Being a perfectionist I often discount my efforts, or second guess my parenting skills. It is so much easier to tear myself down than it is to build myself up. Sometimes it is easier to stay “stuck” than it is to persevere and move forward. I often think there is only way to be a good parent, but that mindset is so limiting. I am actually good at many different parts of parenting, but I am not a perfect parent.

So what do you do when you feel stuck on a one way track to perfection?

Take a break. This doesn’t always have to include a sandy beach and little umbrella drinks (though that is awesome), sometimes simple quick things can get you off the track in front of you. Read a chapter of a new book, take deep breaths, go for a walk, just get yourself away from that stressful sticking point. Sometimes I find better solutions when I hop off that one way track. I can stop worrying about my struggles for a little bit and find a new perspective.

Remember what you are good at. Maybe you can make any situation funny. Or maybe you are really good at caring for your kids, or keeping everyone wrangled. Maybe you are good at loving your kids through their really horrible moments. You may not be perfect at every part of parenting, but celebrate the parts you are really good at. I know I am really good at seeing the best in my kids even during a meltdown. That does nothing to keep my house organized, but it is one thing I am good at!

Cut yourself some slack. So you forgot to pack lunch the night before and there are dishes still in the sink before breakfast, but everyone has clean socks today! Perhaps you forgot there was soccer practice right after school today, but you remembered to grab a granola bar and bottled water for kid snacks from the store on your way! Giving yourself options keeps you from feeling like you just got pummeled by that train. I am getting much better at giving myself credit for the things I did do right in my day.

Talk to another parent. I always find the best parents to talk to are the ones who have already been down my road. They can offer practical advice that worked for them, and share a sympathetic ear. Sometimes it’s just good to know you are not the only one who struggles with parenting (and perfection). Join a group online, in person or talk to parenting friends at work. I am really lucky to be surrounded by so many people ready to guide me.

I hope this is a good time to remind you that you are a great parent just as you are! No one is winning a prize for having themselves more put together than you. No one else is putting pressure on you to give more than you can. No one else works as hard for your kid(s) as you do. So, take a deep breath and don’t let perfection keep you from moving forward.

Have a great week everyone!

 

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer toHudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Friday Favorites – Queen Girls Collection

I am always on the hunt for books that will help empower my girls to believe they are capable of anything. They can grow up to be anything they want to be, but I have a hard time finding books that portray females modeling that. I am often discouraged by the books where girls fight to find true love, or they are princesses obsessed with pretty things, or the female needs to be saved by her prince. These are all romantic ideas, but not necessarily the imagery and beliefs I want my girls to carry for themselves. I need my girls to see characters who believe in their dreams and put in the hard work it takes to make those dreams come true!

I am so excited that Queen Girls Publications reached out to me not only to share their new collection of Queen Girl books, but also to partner up in giving away some fantastic books for your kiddos! I am running a giveaway for copies of e-books right now on my Facebook page!

Read below why this collection is so amazing, and why you have not heard of it yet! It is so brand new the official printed copies will be ready in March! The kick starter campaign runs through this Sunday and you can pre-order your own copies! After these go to print they will begin showing up on door steps and in book stores in March. THIS IS YOUR SNEAK PEEK!! But you could win an e-copy set to arrive in February!

Queens are the New Princesses!

Queen Girls is a collection of stories of real women turned into fairy tales. Their mission is to inspire young girls to follow their dreams and envision them as possible.

‘Often times, classic stories highlight the strength, courage and skills of men while female characters are often stereotyped or one-dimensional. Did you know that 57% of children’s books have male protagonists, while 31% are female? We believe that we should be telling different stories to our children, especially at this stage when they begin to create perspectives and beliefs they will hold for the rest of their lives’

They also believe in giving back to the community and this is why they stand on a One for One model.  Every time you purchase a book, another will be donated to local and international organizations that are empowering girls and fighting illiteracy.

The Collection

Books are available in English and Spanish at the moment and geared for 4-8-year-olds.

The first fairy tale, ‘Bessie, Queen of the Sky’ is inspired by the story of Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to hold a pilot’s license.

‘When Bessie was growing up, no one could have imagined that a she would make it out of the cotton fields and become a pilot, but she used her determination and courage to make it happen’

Future Queens include

  • “Isadora, the Rebel Queen!” Inspired by the story of Isadora Duncan, a ballerina who danced away from rigid ballet technique and defied conventionalist minds by creating what today we refer to as Modern Dance or “Barefoot Style.”
  • Savi, Queen of Education!” Inspired by the story of Savitribhai Phule, a woman poet, an educationalist and a social reformer who defied all odds to become the first female teacher at the first women’s school founded by her and her family.

This is a completely new twist on the fairy tale format! Stories of real women who accomplish extraordinary things for themselves! It may seem like these books are made specifically to empower girls, which they are, but lets not leave the boys out. Offering up strong female heroes in books helps encourage young boys to see their friends, sisters and future partners as equals and capable of great things. This is such a powerful concept! I am sharing below the video of the book creators telling their own story and how Queen Girls became their dream come true.

 

Amazing right? Want to know more about getting your own copy? Visit the Kick Start project page to find out how to pre-order! When you order a book for yourself, another one is donated to an organization focused on literacy and empowerment. It’s a win-win and you are backing a mission that inspires strength and courage for the next generation. #queengirls #bebessie

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer toHudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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I Fear My Kids Will Be Terrible People

I confess that I often feel like nothing I say has any significant impact on my kids. I can’t stop them from fighting and rough housing turns into shoving matches. I am always breaking them up and shouting a line from the movie, Rush Hour, “do you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth?!”  I feel like I say the same things over and and over again. I am always lecturing my kids on how they need to grow up to be respectful, appreciative humans. I worry if they will ever get along and if they’ll ever learn to be kind.

On one particularly difficult morning of too much chaos I commanded the girls to get in the car. “Every body in, we’re going to the store!”

My daughter asks me, “Will Michael be there mama?”

“I don’t know we’ll have to look around when we get inside.”

“Oh I hope he’s here! He is SO funny!”

Michael is the man that we see every time we shop at our local club store. He is one of the employees that hands out food samples. Both of my daughters love to visit him during our shopping trips to get their free snacks and a good laugh. Michael has a quick wit and ease when talking to little kids. I think they enjoy how he talks directly to them and not just about them to me. I told my kids that Michael is my friend and someone I used to work with. I was also the maid of honor at his wedding and I even introduced him to his wife. Which is all true.

But what my daughters don’t know about Michael is that he is categorized as “Intellectually Impaired.” I met him during my last career as a case manager. I worked for the agency that provides him with services like job coaching and residential assistance. I was part of the staff that came to his home to help him pay his bills, balance his check book and made sure his needs were being taken care of. Michael and his wife are capable of living on their own with support, and together they are like any typical couple managing their apartment and caring for their small dog.

I have never shared with my girls Michael’s diagnosis because I don’t want that to be the first thing they think of when they see him. Right now they enjoy sharing jokes with him and asking him for samples. To them Michael is a funny guy and a good friend. Too often folks living in the “disabled” community are made to feel less than and struggle to fit in seamlessly with their peers. Society often sees people with disabilities as incapable of advocating for themselves, or having little power to sustain a productive life. I don’t believe those are true. Michael and his wife have certainly proven those ideas wrong. If I describe Micheal as disabled (I prefer the term differently-abled because everyone has abilities) I basically hand my children a distorted lens in which to view people. I want them to look at people through a singular lens that shows everyone as a human being.

We arrive at the store and my girls are delighted to find Michael at his station. (And I am delighted they finally stop bickering).

“Hi Michael!” They both shout in unison.

“Hey girls!!” he replied. “It’s so nice to see you here!”

Today’s samples are snack bars. He hands them the little cups and asks how they like school, and they share with him the newest set of knock-knock jokes they just memorized. He laughs a very genuine laugh and reminds them to listen to their parents. Nothing about this interaction is “special.” We talk to Michael the same way we do any of our friends. In a world where people receive praise for showing kindness to persons with a disability, my children get no recognition. I ask them if the are happy to see Michael today and thank them for remembering their manners. As they say goodbye to their friend I realize my children will grow up to be OK. My kids are kind and they are genuine.

My girls still knock each other down and argue over petty things. At age six they are not good listeners, or follow directions. But they are doers, and one day they will grow up to do ordinary things. Like treat (other) people equally and with respect.

 

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer toHudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Taking Over Christmas Like A Dad

A few weekends ago I wrote a post on Facebook that went like this:

 

It just seems like my husband has things a little easier. The weekends are less hectic which equals less demands for racing through breakfast and less drama. He often gets to sleep in because he is up early during the week (I am too, but I apparently exist in the shadows). I envy both of those things- less drama and more sleeping.

On weekend mornings my husband doesn’t get up with a to-do list on his mind and go right to work. Seconds after his feet hit the floor he b-lines it to the shower. No one stops him to ask a million questions, nor does he stop to ask anyone else questions. He needs a shower, he takes a shower. I can not figure out how to make this work for myself. As soon as my feet hit the floor I’ve been had, “MOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!! What’s for breakfast?!”

“Nothing I’m taking a shower!”

“Awe but I’m hungry!”

“Eat your sister!”

We had a bad snow storm on Saturday which left me trapped inside by snow, two kids and a stomach bug while my husband went to work. I laid in bed fuming that when hubby is sick he gets to stay in bed and make zero breakfasts. No one talks to him, looks at him or even goes near the door to his room. When I get sick, “mom can I have a snack?” “mom will you open this?” “mom can I have water” “mom are you breathing?” I decided not this day. I am too sick and exhausted to even move right now. I have been vomiting for several hours and I am in NO MOOD for demands. The kids will learn to survive this day or starve. (Thankfully they survived and there’s a future post on that).

The weekend flies by and I wake up Monday morning with a lengthy to-do list and a minor headache left from too much “sleeping in” over the weekend. I count five different stores to shop through. “I’ll never make them all in time!”

But then, something miraculous happens when I stepped into Target. I decide, today is the day I just wanna be a dad. Now if your husband, is anything like mine, he may have a broken give-a-shit-meter. My husband hasn’t given one shit about the gifting process in the last decade + we’ve been together. Today, I didn’t either. I grab a cart, crumple my list and toss it to the floor before I take the aisles by storm with a determined pace. I walk through the men’s department and grab stuff off of wracks and toss into my cart, “yep! this will do!” I swing by the wrapping department to pick up some fun Holiday Crackers to give to the kids at Christmas Eve dinner. When I flip over the box I see these things open with TNT (as in dynamite) and the grand prize is a nail clipper. “Who gives a shit? Not me! I’m dad today!! Ahahahaha!” I throw them in the cart. I throw more things in the cart that I could get at other stores for less, but why the hell make an extra trip just to save a few dollars? I can’t believe how easy this is! It is so freeing to just not care! No worries! No regrets! How have I been living my life all these  years?!

Next stop Kohl’s! Hubby hoarded a small bank roll in Kohl’s cash that I was able to guilt him into convince him to let me have. I really need a few shirts for myself and thought I should pick up an extra pair of pajamas for him to feel cozy in during his weekend sleep retreats. Normally I am so indecisive about clothes. It can get really stressful picking out the most flattering colors and fabrics. I have to be concerned with what’s in fashion, what season it is. But not today! Today I am the dad! I care nothing of colors and seasons and I grab a fist full of the same damned shirts! And yep, I still don’t give a shit!

Now I am about to slam dunk this shopping trip in just two stores! I’ve come to the section of the program where I need to select hubby’s new fashionable sleepwear. What is his favorite color? Does he like flannel, or cotton better? To hell with personal preferences you are getting those tacky Christmas pants on a hanger from over there and the Merry Christmas Darth Vader t-shirt wadded up on top of a pile from over here. I don’t care if they aren’t coordinated, or even match. Who needs fancy buttons and comfortable fabrics?

I am done!!

In record time!!

The. Crowd. Goes. Wild!

The cashier high fives me and says, “no charge today m’am! What you’ve accomplished here today is payment enough!!” Then she sheds a tear while bagging my free items.

Ah. It really does feel good to be the dad now and then. To not live so trapped inside my head with details. Not having to waste time obsessing over things like a healthy breakfast and worrying if your gifts are perfect. Those things just power the meter and wear you out. Nah, this thinking things through and making things magical is just dumb. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to grab a shower and take care of a few stray chin hairs.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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There’s No Crying in Christmas

It is no secret I struggle with perfection all the time.  Perfection sneaks up on me when I least expect it. Like when my family wants to decorate the Christmas tree. Anyone else out there ever have a melt down over a Christmas tree? It seems we all have our own idea on what the tree should look like, but we all want the same thing- to enjoy sitting in front of the twinkling lights. This year I am giving myself a pat on the back and celebrating the first time in a long time I did NOT absolutely lose it over a tree.

CHRISTMAS PAST

I typically drag the giant fake tree up the stairs from the basement by myself, set it up in the corner and spend an hour defending it from my kids while I hastily spiral the lights around the tree. I tend to skip the garland because I am so annoyed and go right into freaking out about the cluster of 20 ornaments my kids place on the same branch. Then I have to wait for hubby to come home and put the star on top because, even with a ladder, I am too short. Then we take turns arguing fussing over the placement of ornaments.

It isn’t hard to understand why hubby and I end up battling over the way the tree goes up. As a perfectionist I have a vision and I want to recreate it in exact detail and with precision. My husband, being methodical and highly logical will have a completely separate (convoluted) idea of how the tree should look.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT

This year I witnessed a small miracle when hubby put the tree up without being asked ten times. The kids kept a reasonable distance from the tree so there was no one to step on (or cry about being stepped on). And I didn’t offer “suggestions” about fluffing the artificial branches to look real, nor did I follow behind him reworking every strand of lights he put up. [Insert choir of angels] Everything felt pretty sensational until my husband mentioned stringing the beaded garlands on the tree. I froze. “That’s OK we don’t need them this year,” I offered nervously.

You have to understand that I brought these beaded garlands into our marriage from my childhood home. My family and I hung them a specific way, the same way, year after year. Now he is about to ruin my tradition of perfectly balanced symmetry by hanging them haphazardly in non-conforming variations.

“I know let’s alternate the silver AND the gold strands!” he replied with enthusiasm. I felt my right eye twitching as I visualized both silver AND gold decorations on the tree. This goes completely against tradition and good taste.

I might have had a small aneurysm.

He must have sensed my spiraling panic when he suggested, “why don’t you sit down and relax”  and handed me a rum and eggnog. That helped.

I sat down and watched (painfully) as he and the children worked to get the decorations on the tree. It took a lot of work inside my soul to not straighten out every crooked line of garland, or to recalibrate every mismeasured strand. I had to dig really deep to keep my cool when he got to the very top of the tree and had 4 ft. of left over garland. Note: This is why you start at the top of the tree so you can ditch the extra strands on a bottom branch in the back of the tree! But I didn’t say that. I put my head between my knees and took more deep breaths because I couldn’t watch him wrap the excess around the tippy top of the tree at the base of our star. When he was through I sat upright to catch my barrings and I waited for the branches to give way under the weight. Thankfully, I was wrong. It even looked OK.

It was time to hang the ornaments. Per our history together, this is where the magic dies. I hate all the ugly handmade ornaments my husband has had since Kindergarten that he insists on hanging up every year. He is a grown man hanging mangled glitter on my tree. As much as I try to hide them every year he finds them. Now I have actual Kindergartners hanging their mangled glitter on my tree and they can tell if one is missing! So there is no hiding of ornaments, or throwing them away. I am completely out numbered. But I tell myself to let it go. (I’d say this rum is really working).

This year, I turned a blind eye to the mishmosh and let the ornaments fall where they may. Yoga breaths helped ease the escalating hysteria in my mind as the children began hanging several decorations on the same branch. [Inhale] “In with the joy!” [Exhale] “Out with the control!” Just as I was patting myself on the back for not taking over the decorating, my daughter said, “this feels like good times.”

CHRISTMAS FUTURE

As we took a step back to admire the tree I realized that by letting go of my idea of perfect decorations, our tree turned out pretty perfect after all. There was no yelling, no crying and no trauma for my children to share with future therapists.  The tree has an eclectic vibe, but everyone has their favorite ornament on the tree where they can see it. I actually love our tree this year because watching my family experience this tradition with joy makes me happy. Who knew all it takes is me giving up my need to control things (and a little rum) to make lasting family memories.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Celebrate the Holidays Free of These Gift-Giving Problems

 

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Naturally, the holidays are high-stress and jam-packed with events and gatherings. As they approach, I think of the movie “Four Christmases” and how they juggled four events in one single day. With so many events, the couple agrees to using “mistletoe” as a signal that it is time to leave. At one point, Vince Vaughn’s character, Brad, silently cries in anguish, “Mistletoe!  Mistletoe!” as his overactive adult brothers wrestle him to the ground in a headlock.

Sometimes, thinking of the holidays puts us in a headlock with these biggest holiday gift-giving boundary issues.

Problem: Family Doesn’t Respect Your Rules

It takes a village to raise children, and when some of your village is undermining you with inappropriate gifts (like a mature video game or clothes that are too revealing) it can be frustrating. Most likely, they are not purposefully disrespecting you, however it still requires some parental maneuvering.

Solution: Communicate With Your Kids

Throughout the year, have discussions about gracious way to accept unwanted gifts or gifts that are not allowed. The best way to do this is to explain to your children your reasoning. You can say, “I know that Uncle Paul plays some intense games that we don’t allow you to have.  We really feel that those games aren’t good for you.  If Uncle Paul gives you a game at Christmas that’s rated as Mature, you need to know that we will have to exchange it for a more appropriate game.”

It’s also important your child knows how to accept these gifts without making a scene, lying, or making the gift-giver feel bad.  You can coach your child to say something like, “Wow!  I don’t have this one yet!” or “Thank you for taking the time to think of me.”

Problem: Value Inequality

It happens all the time at gatherings and it is easily one  of the quickest ways to alienate adults. Someone buys very extravagant gifts, making other family members feel inferior. What if Aunt Laura brings in a new American Girl doll with all of the accessories, but Aunt Britney can only afford a few Shopkins?  

I spoke to a dear friend who explained it like this:  “I know that giving nice gifts sometimes bothers others in my family, but I don’t actually do it to show off.  I do it because I remember how it felt as a kid to see my parents fail to plan for the holidays.  I was so embarrassed to exchange a last-minute bag of holiday cookies from Kroger with someone who had obviously put a lot of thought and care into a gift for me.”  

Solution: Be Empathetic

Consider that Aunt Laura may have reasons for her extravagance other than showing off:  desire to please, fear of rejection, insecurity, or even a heartfelt desire to show her thanks and love with the nicest gift she can afford.  Changing your mindset and understanding other reasoning helps you accept this other person’s gifts without tying in your own feelings of worth.

If you notice an offended gifter, talk with them privately and say something like, “I know Laura always seems to bring these huge gifts, but I want you to know that it says nothing about how much you love us or we love you.  Gifts are just a token, but the real treasure is having you in our lives.”

Problem: Present Inequality

There’s always the perfect gift giver – the one person who always has the right gift picked out for your child, leaving your child unimpressed by their other gifts.  If Granny gives your child a new Paw Patrol set, but Nana brings a bag of organic wooden blocks, there’s bound to be a wildly different response from your kids.  

Solution: Gratitude Coaching

Preparing your children ahead of time is key.  Explain to your children that they will most likely get some amazing gifts and some mediocre gifts. Talk about this scenario in reverse, emphasizing gratitude for the intent instead of the actual gift:  “What if you spent hours making Nana a beautiful painting and she merely responded, ‘Thanks’ but then she gushed over a new car that I bought her?  You’d feel pretty sad, right?”  This encourages your child to graciously accept every gift he or she receives.

Be sure to discuss duplicate gifts, as well. Often kids will receive the same gift and blurt out, “I already have this!” Encouraging gratitude for the intent will save your children from offending other family members.

The holidays are stressful enough without adding in the dilemmas that gift giving and receiving can cause. Communication will be your saving grace.

Celeste CoffmanCeleste Coffman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of the Quiet Mind Collective. Read her blog for more tips on managing stress and anxiety, or become a registered member to access videos, resources, and more detailed articles. Sign up for her next course Parenting Anxious Kids.

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Moms, This Christmas Season Take a Day Off

www-thewhatevermom-com-2

You may have noticed I missed my usual Friday Favorites post. I’ll save that post for later. Right now I want to tell you about my weekend.

I didn’t get to post anything on Friday because I was so rushed trying to make too many things happen. I wanted to surprise my kids with some special elves, I was finishing up a power point presentation and delivering collection boxes for Christmas cards for my card charity. Plus, I had the usual list of household demands to finish up. I was completely overwhelmed by baking cookies for my kids birthday (twins in two different classrooms = double the birthday treats), piecing together costumes for dress up day, meal planning, blog planning and figuring out who needed clean socks. Life.

I decided to take a day off. I needed to breathe.

My husband can’t read my mind and recognize when I’m on overload and my thoughts are spinning over and and over, obsessing about how to make it all work. I have to say out loud, “I need a day off.” I declared Sunday as my day. No cooking, cleaning, planning or prepping. I enjoyed doing things I like. I am a Christmas fool. I love, love, love everything about this season. But, having to plan things with the kids who just (by nature) complain, or melt down, or cry because our activity didn’t meet their expectations really makes my holiday feel a less joyful.

Instead of shoving everyone into winter coats and mittens and loading into the car to go caroling at a local nursing home, I went by myself. I love to sing carols and be among the sea of voices bringing cheer to life. Last year it was a debacle with kids crying because it was too loud, it was too crowded. They were fighting over the instruments and every half hour one or both of them needed to use the bathroom. This year was fabulous. I got to hold cute babies who were excited to see me. I finished entire songs and most importantly I got to feel recharged by joy. It was wonderful!

After caroling I stopped by Starbucks to grab a peppermint hot chocolate and a Christmas cookie. Oh. My. Word. Do these things just taste so much better without a kid climbing on me, or screaming in my ear?!! YES! I love sharing cookies and cocoa with my kids, but it is hard to enjoy all of it when it is a chore to get through.

My day ended with an aerial yoga class and dinner with my dear friend (and now famous) Erica. Spending time doing something fun with a friend and talking about life, not just mom life, was exactly what I needed. Taking time to relax in a hectically paced season helps me appreciate the small moments that happen in a day. The sweetness of a cookie, the warmth of cocoa and the light of friendship. Not to mention all the laughter while trying to get myself into a hanging yoga position. All joy filled things to help me slow down and cherish life one moment at a time.

So if you are stressing out about how to get everything done right now, press the pause button. Take time to recharge. Take the day off and spend it the way you want to, or ask a friend to watch the kids while you grab a coffee and walk through the most expensive stores with the most fragile, beautiful things. I promise everything will be waiting for you when you get back! The earth will still be spinning if you don’t finish your to-do list. If you are a new mom, take time. If you are a seasoned mom, take time. You are worth it!

How do you find joy for yourself during the holiday (rush) season?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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3 Simple Christmas Traditions for Young Families

Christmas can be such a stressful time of year for most folks. But add to that sleepless nights, colds, teething, temper tantrums and just trying to keep your kid from knocking over the Christmas tree you worked so hard to put up, and you’ve got the perfect storm for a holiday that isn’t any fun.  Well, since I started reading The Whatever Mom (Roxanne is my mama spirit animal), I’ve come to the conclusion that often less is more. My main goal with motherhood is to keep my sanity and have kids who are happy and healthy.  Here are 3 things we do at our house to simplify Christmas with our 17 month old, while still making it memorable and fun for our family, and something we can look back on fondly.

Holiday Traditions

For our family, the easiest way to guarantee fun each year and make the holiday special is to start a family tradition (or two). It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.  We use a fun little Christmas plate for meals starting the day after Thanksgiving and we break out the advent calendar.  Not a lot of work to grab these two out of our attic and they’re so cute in pictures each day.  Here’s one of our banana and pancake breakfast this morning!  

lukes-breakfast

You can find similar plates just about anywhere.  I believe we got this one from the dollar section at Target, but if you shop online you can have it shipped directly to you and you don’t even have to leave your house. (See shopping links below).

We also like to use an advent calendar to count down until Christmas.  It makes for a fun little daily tradition and cute pictures too! Here’s one from Pottery Barn, which holds up great, but if that’s not in your budget this year, you can make a paper chain or coloring chart, or look for one that’s half off at the end of the season!

advent-calendar-pottery-barn-kids

No Fuss Decorations

When you have young kids, they want to touch and hold and play with e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. So put away the $100 crystal ornament you inherited from your great grandmother; and the sentimental (breakable) ornaments you got the first year you were married. Instead, fill in those spaces with some fun ornaments your kids help you make.  It will give them hours (or at least several minutes) of fun and they will have keepsakes they can take with them some day.  Most craft stores have little wooden ones for a dollar or two that can be colored-in with markers.  If you’re really brave, you can even get out the paint!

wood-ornaments

Plan Ahead

Making a plan may sound like work, but it can actually give you peace and sanity this time of year.  Talk with your husband (or co-parent) and your kids (if they’re old enough) about what activities are most important to them.  Then, make a list of 3-4 activities that you know are doable, and make a plan to do just those activities.  You might be surprised what means the most to you and your family.   

Our list typically looks something like this:

  1. Set up Christmas Decoration
  2. Take Family Photos for Christmas Cards
  3. Visit the trains at the mall (They have an Amazing electric train display at our mall, that our little guy LOVE to go see).
  4. Make cookies
  5. Go look at Christmas lights

The great thing about planning ahead, is now we don’t have to think about what we want to do and no one is left feeling like they didn’t get to do what they wanted.  As an added bonus, if things don’t go exactly as planned, it’s OK!  Didn’t get a chance to make cookies? That’s OK! We’ll buy some festive ones from the store or local bakery.  Our little guy got sick last year during the week of Christmas and we opted not to take him out to look at Christmas lights, but we’re hoping to this year!

Spending time with each other is the most important thing this time of year so make sure to carve out a little time to relax, drink some cocoa, enjoy some wrestle snuggle time and watch a Christmas movie or two.  You’ll be glad you didn’t overwhelm yourself with a huge to-do list this year!

peter-and-rosieRosie Bynum is a boy mom and owner of The Dinosaur Clothing Boutique. Her son Luke and husband Peter help her run the family business. Check out all the adorable creations on her website, Facebook and Instagram.


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