Monday, April 20, 2009

Balance

Wow! I got lots of private emails about my last post. I'm afraid that my poor attempt at self-effacing humor in the exaggerated style of Erma Bombeck when I referred to myself as a burnt-out-shell-geriatric mom fell a little flat for some readers.

It's not that the pendulum has swung, and I've gone from supermom to slacker mom! I'm not burnt out when it comes to my children. I love being a mom, and I think that after nearly twenty-six years of motherhood, I've finally managed to find the right balance. I'm enjoying this stage of my life more than any other time, and I'm enjoying my kids more than ever. I'm just a slacker mom when it comes to attempting to please everyone, volunteer for everything, participate in every activity, worry about what everyone thinks and set my goals so high they are unattainable.

There are definitely things I no longer do. I no longer participate in activities just because others try to convince me that I should. I'm no longer the most active music mom or soccer mom or church mom. We no longer attend every homeschool group field trip and function. I've learned to say no when I feel like the time spent at home together as a family is more beneficial than the activity.

I no longer feel like I have to do everything. My children need me to be a good mom, not a perfect mom. Perfect mom is too hard on the children. I have used disposable diapers for quite awhile now. I still enjoy baking bread, canning and smocking dresses, but I do those things when I have time as an enjoyable hobby. Those things are no longer an obligation. I no longer feel like the kids have to have homemade bread every morning and a closetful of handmade clothes.

Some days I feel badly that the younger children aren't involved in music or sports, but then I remember the hours upon hours of commuting and hanging out in the car with bored and cranky babies and toddlers waiting for lessons or orchestra rehearsals for the older children to end, and I don't miss that. I have decided our time together as a family is more important than the skills they are missing. Life is more laid back and fun. We're not spending each day meeting schedules, rushing around hunting for lost shoes, sitting in traffic and stressed out.

I simply placed too many demands on myself when I was a young mother. Many of those demands were in my pursuit to be the best mother I could be, but I have to admit that some of those self-imposed demands were because of my worry about what other people thought about my parenting ability. Now I'm not so concerned about what other people think. I'm more comfortable in my own skin.

I've also learned that it's not always best for my children for me to be in their faces twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes I'm a better mom after giving myself a little break by popping in a video for my kids while I read a book, take a long bath or play on the computer.

I think with age and experience, I have better learned what is important and what is just a time killer and frustration creator. I don't try to potty train or teach the children to read or drill them on their multiplication tables before they are physically or mentally ready. Otherwise it's just a lesson in futility.

When I first started homeschooling, I used some poor curriculum that required way too much teacher preparation time, was too time intensive for the benefit gained, or the kids and I simply hated. There was not so much curriculum available back in the 1980's, but also if I spent the money on a book I didn't like, I felt I couldn't waste it by throwing the book away. Since that time I have found that my time and the kids' time is too precious to waste on anything but the best materials, and it can be more effective to cut our losses and start over. I have now found homeschool curriculum that I love, the kids love, has minimal preparation time and is simply more efficient. That way I can teach more effectively, and our school days are no longer so long.

After more than twenty years of homeschooling, I have learned to pare things down to what is important and to quit sweating the small stuff that won't matter a year from now, much less twenty years from now. I have also learned tricks to overcome learning bumps in the road, and I have learned when to push and when to back off. That learning curve when I first started homeschooling was stressful. I wasn't confident in my skills. Now I can see the results in my grown children and am more confident ... and less stressed.

I've learned that some days we just need to take a break. Maybe I'm in a bad mood or the kids are tired and school just isn't clicking. Maybe we need an hour to chill; maybe we need to take the rest of the day off. Maybe I'm trying to teach them a skill they just aren't ready for, and we need to put that book back on the shelf for a week ... or a month ... or a year. Maybe the book that worked like a dream for big sister just isn't right for little brother.

I started changing my teaching style (backing off) when Ben went into private practice, and I had to manage the business aspect of the practice. It was no longer possible to do everything I had been doing with the kids, and I found out that the kids kept right on learning even though I was no longer breathing down their necks ... and they were having more fun. On days that I was busy billing and couldn't get to school, I would find the kids reading a novel, writing a story or pulling out the field guides reading about a really cool bug they found on the windowsill. They might be reading the baby a book, playing school with the dog, learning how to program the calculator, or playing an educational computer game. Our house was suddenly filled with art projects, Lego creations, building projects and science experiments. The children were learning to teach themselves, and they were pretty darn good at it!

That's not to say that every day is a party. Math facts have to be memorized, long division has to be learned, and the Krebs cycle has to be understood. But if history can be learned with an interesting novel, why use a boring textbook? Why not study chemistry by blowing up something rather than reading about chemical reactions?

In the long run I think the younger children will be every bit as successful in school if not more so because they enjoy learning just for the sake of learning. Many nights I find the eleven year old hiding under the covers finishing up her history novel because she can't wait to find out how it ends. The six and seven year olds beg for us to let them read us just one more library book. With the older kids, I pushed them many times past the point where it was fun. I've learned with the younger kids you leave them always wanting more.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Perfection?

What's the perfect mom?

When I was a twenty-something mom with my older children, I was the ubermom I've referred to in earlier posts. My kids not only took music lessons starting at three or four years old at Vanderbilt, but they were the top students. They practiced a couple of hours each day, showed up for every group class, every orchestra rehearsal, and every performance. They were the perfect music students, and I agreed to every request, even if it meant blowing a day of homeschooling just so the kids could perform at the luncheon of some minor fundraiser. In the summers I took the kids to music camps from Chicago to Memphis to New York. My older kids grew up to be principal cellists of our city youth orchestras, won regional competitions, and received substantial college scholarships for both music and academics to top private universities and Ivy League colleges.

Besides music, they played soccer, which involved practices and games up to five times a week.
They never missed a game or a practice. In addition the boys were super involved in Boy Scouts. They earned the rank of Eagle by the age of thirteen, and our oldest was one of only a handful of boys in the nation who earned every single merit badge.

Our homeschooling went the same way. I was teaching the kids phonics at the same time I was potty training them, so they were reading and wearing big kid panties by the time they were two years old. I used every available moment as a teachable moment. The kids did hours of hardcore school each day. They worked several years above grade level, and we spent all our vacation time visiting museums and taking advantage of educational opportunities.

I was very vigilant. No junk food or sugar, no TV, and no videos other than G or the occasional PG movie. I pre-read all the books before the kids read them. I censored all their music.

On the downside, the kids were overly scheduled, we spent all our days commuting to Nashville and hanging out in the van while waiting through lesson times and rehearsals, and I was a pretty stressed-out and not-too-fun mother. I used every available moment to teach the kids rather than ever simply enjoying them. There was no downtime.

Our older kids are now adults, and I think they are pretty well adjusted. They still enjoy their music, they were successful college students, and they are successful adults. We have a good relationship, and I talk with them several times a week.

Now I'm a forty-something mom. None of the kids are taking music lessons because I'm totally burnt out driving to Nashville, fighting the traffic and fighting for a parking space, much less practicing with them several hours a day. I no longer jump when someone wants me to volunteer for something. None of the kids are involved in sports. The kids' sports program includes a swing set, a basketball goal and a trampoline, (which the older children weren't allowed to own). The kids participate in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but Ben is no longer an assistant scoutmaster. We drop everyone off now and grocery shop during our free evening.

We now potty train our kids as late as three years old rather than at eighteen months. Ephraim is twenty months old and is walking around sucking on a bottle. I would never have allowed our older kids to do that. Our older kids had scheduled meal, nap and bedtimes. Ephraim takes his nap on my shoulder, thinks his crib is poison before nine o'clock at night and grazes for meals. He starts out the night in his own bed but ends up between Ben and me before morning.

We now start homeschooling the kids in kindergarten, not at preschool age, and those first years involve shorter hours and are more laid back and child led than in the past. We now have school four mornings a week instead of all day for as much as six days a week. If we get engrossed in a really good novel, we read it non-stop for a couple of days, and that's the extent of our school for those days. We count science projects, storytime at the library, and the time we spend studying a really cool bug for school days. When we reach the mandated 180 days for the year, we stop. The kids are at or above grade level, but they definitely aren't going to be going to college at sixteen like the older kids.

Nowadays we have three-day weekends every week, and we party! The younger kids know who Ronald McDonald is, and they've had banana splits for supper too many times to count. The older kids didn't own a video game, but the little guys are pros on our Wii. Our six and seven year olds can sing all the words to Guitar Hero and Rock Band songs; our older guys were only allowed to listen to the Christian or the classical station. We still don't watch network or cable TV, but we subscribe to Netflix, and we've been known to hit up a Redbox. We spend our weekends swimming in the river and fishing rather than providing non-stop educational moments at cultural events. As a family we now enjoy an Adam Sandler flick instead of a nature or travel film. I am no longer the uptight b*tch I used to be.

What's the perfect parenting technique? I've been a mom for twenty-six years, and I don't have a clue. I've seen the results of the ubermom days, and that produced some well-balanced, talented and successful adults but a stressed-out and unhappy mom. Now I'm the burnt-out-shell-geriatric mom who is simply ready to enjoy her children's fleeting childhoods. I'm having fun, but how will these late-in-life kids turn out? I wish I had the answers.

Spring



You Are Kids Playing



You are a free spirited soul. More than anything else, you are often just happy to be alive.

You are always laid back and cheerful. You enjoy whatever happens to come your way

You are spontaneous and zany. You're the kind of adult who still runs through the sprinklers.

You don't take life too seriously. You try to have fun at all times, even when you're working.

Referral Picture

Referral Picture

Adoption Timeline

  • 2006
  • November 8 - Application Mailed
  • November 22 - Accepted
  • November 24 - I-600A Mailed
  • November 27 - Delivery Confirmed
  • November 28 - Receipt of I-600A
  • November 30 - Fingerprint Notice
  • December 15 - Home Study Update
  • December 21 - Stacey Fingerprinted
  • December 28 - Added to List (#116)
  • 2007
  • January 24 - Home Study Mailed
  • January 25 - Ben Fingerprinted
  • February 8 - Waiting List (#111)
  • February 20 - Waiting List (#109)
  • February 27 - Waiting List (#105)
  • March 8 - Waiting List (#101)
  • March 22 - Waiting List (#99)
  • April 19 - Waiting List (#98)
  • April 25 - Dossier Authentication
  • May 2 - Delivery Confirmed
  • May 2 - Added to SN Wait List
  • May 3 - Waiting List (#97)
  • June 7 - Waiting List (#86)
  • June 25 - Dossier Translated
  • June 28 - On Waiting List Six months
  • July 9 - Waiting List (#81)
  • August 6 - Waiting List (#4 SN)
  • August 8 - Waiting List (#76)
  • September 7 - Waiting List (#70)
  • October 8 - Waiting List (#67)
  • October 22 - Waiting child -- OURS!!
  • October 23 - Official Referral Date
  • October 25 - Letter #1 Submitted
  • October 29 - Referral Receipt - CHI
  • 2008
  • February 5 - Fingerprint Request
  • February 7 - Proof of Delivery
  • March 1 - All Fingerprinted
  • March 3 - I-600 Application Mailed
  • March 5 - I-600 Acknowledgement
  • April 17 - I-600 Approval!
  • May 2 - Original G & R Date
  • May 3 - Fly to Ho Chi Minh City
  • May 5 - MEET EPHRAIM!
  • May 6 - Drive to Kien Giang
  • May 7 - G & R Ceremony
  • May 8 - Medical, Apply for Passport
  • May 12 - Fly to Hanoi
  • May 13 - Visa appointment at USCIS
  • May 14 - Pick Up Visa, Fly Home
  • May 15 - Arrive in Nashville!
  • May 23 - Certificate of Citizenship
  • June 12 - Re-Adoption Filed by Court
  • July 3 - Tennessee Birth Certificate

G & R Day

G & R Day