Showing posts with label personal development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal development. Show all posts

Can We Have Anything Other Than Our Parents' Marriages?

Courtesy of

I often wonder if we are doomed to repeat our parents.  I mean, yes, we literally repeat them sometimes when we say things like, “Because I said so,” but when it comes to our marriages, is there any way to do it differently than what we saw done as kids?

Both my husband and I have divorced parents.  Worse than that, is that both our parents stayed married for far too long.  We both lived in very dysfunctional homes and both our parents split up in very volatile ways when we were young adults.  Both of us wound up being supports for our wounded parents during this time.  Perhaps this is what drew us to one another.

When our relationship started it could not have been any more different than what we witnessed from our parents growing up, but as time flew by we were pushed into more traditional roles and I can sometimes see us slipping right into those old faulty patterns I had hoped to never see again.  At these times I do not recognize us at all.  It’s almost surreal, like an LSD trip.  My husband will say something and I literally have no idea who he is.  Worse, sometimes I have no idea who I am or how I got here.  I think, “Is this really me?  Is this really my house? Is this really my life? How in the world did this happen?”  Because all I see is a re-run.  We are just doing a play of our parents when they were at this stage in their lives.

Sometimes I think about this in terms of a journey.  My parents walked this path and their parents before them.  So many generations walked this same path that it has become very smooth and very deep.  So many couples have cried on this path that it has become muddy.  Now instead of walking we easily just slide right on down.

For a while my husband and I stayed off this road entirely but we had no choice but to stay close by because we didn’t know anything else.  We used all of our focus in the beginning to watch every step we took so that we did not accidentally step on that road.  But then life got busy and it got hard and one or the other of us tripped and fell and landed on that mud slide and dragged the other one right down with us.
It takes no effort whatsoever to slide down into this pit, but it takes every ounce of concentration we have to try and stop ourselves and pull ourselves out.  To make it even more complicated, it also takes cooperation.  We either both get out or nobody does so we have to work together.  We have to find some twig or rock to grab onto and use all the energy we have to go against this current and climb up and out of this very deep mud slide.  Then we have to have our machetes ready to cut our own path into the unknown and hopefully this new one will be a better path for our kids to take someday and their kids.  Then maybe the mudslide will dry out, fill up, and allow growth again.

Marriage is difficult even if you have every advantage going in.  It takes work, even when you feel like the work should be over.  After all, when you have jobs, kids, and house projects, who wants to have to add another thing to their to-do list?  But, if you don’t work on the marriage and make time for it you’ll shift into automatic pilot mode and if you come from a dysfunctional home your auto pilot is not pretty.  If you come from a great family, your autopilot will be lackluster, disingenuous, and boring and that’s the best you can hope for with autopilot.

I have devised some ways over the years to stop mudsliding and get out of the pit.  One is to remember that if my spouse or I do or say something hurtful it is only because we are hurting.  If someone were to wave a magic wand to show us the truth of what is happening we’d see each other as children and in pain.  We are simply reenacting something that hurt and confused us long ago in an attempt to finally heal, or to have the power we never had as children but desperately needed. Another way is through prayer or meditation.  Removing myself from what I see as something false and full of errors and connecting instead to something true and unchanging can literally become that branch I need to pull myself up.  I do NOT talk to people who will “validate” me by telling me that I am right and my spouse is wrong.  It might make me feel better in the short term but it only makes me slide faster down the slope.  I also try to steer clear from trying to be right.  Trying to be right means you are making someone else wrong and all this is is an argument.  An argument means there is no cooperation and no cooperation means you’re not getting out of this pit.  The same goes for getting revenge, being passive aggressive, or trying to smother one another in guilt.  All these things do is make the path that much deeper.

Marriage is not easy, but it is a commitment for better or for worse.  I truly believe that when you stick with it and give it your all that it can be a teacher and a healer for you.  I see my husband and my children as my gurus.  I think we are here together to teach one another lessons and those lessons do not always come easily or even without pain.  However, the love we have for one another is enough to get us through these times and the love we have is what gives me the faith to know that even if my husband and I slip into old childhood patterns we’ll make it out again, together.

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The Homeschool Socialization Myth

image courtesy of (edited by me)

I've only been homeschooling for a year, and I am already sick and tired of hearing the socialization argument.  In fact, I am sick and tired of the word socialization at this point.  It's like the go-to word for those against homeschooling.  I often wonder if this argument has even been thought through.  I would really like to finally dispel this myth that homeschooled kids are anti-social and put the whole issue to bed.

First of all, do you remember your kids before they were school aged?  Remember when they would happily talk to just about anyone and made friends with other toddlers in an instant regardless of their age, size, race, or religion?  I remember this in my children.  They were born naturally sociable, so much so that I was sometimes afraid they might run off with a stranger! They did not need school to make them socialize.  School, in fact, caused my formerly outgoing daughter to become more shy and self-conscious.  After being laughed at, insulted, picked apart, and turned on by friends and teachers at school, kids can become more withdrawn and less trusting.  I am not saying that everyone who goes to school will have these negative experiences or interpret them the same way, but it can happen that school makes one less social.  I have certainly never seen any evidence that it makes people more social.  I am a naturally shy person and going to school did not make me more outgoing!  The bottom line here is that human beings are social animals.  We live in families, commuinities, tribes.  It's in our biology and has been long before the public school system was invented.

Another point I would like to make is that kids do not get to spend much time socializing in school anyway.  As early as preschool, my daughter was not allowed to sit near her friend, not even on the bus when they had a field trip.  The teachers avoid letting friends sit together to keep the classroom quiet.  Recess is a mere twenty minutes.  Lunch is also twenty minutes and less if you have to stand on a lunch line and wait for your food.  I don't know how other schools run but in my daughter's former elementary school she was not allowed to sit with friends from other classes at lunch (so when she wound up in a class with none of her friends she was out of luck) and she would often tell me the lunch aids made them be quiet.  So sure, you meet people in school and you are in the same room with them and it gives you the opportunity to reach out to the people to socialize with outside of school.  However, actually socializing within school happens for 40 minutes at best.  Rarely do you find a teacher and classroom that focuses much on "getting to know you" activities or social skills.  The common attitude is that socializing is for after school and school is for learning.

Here is another enligtening fact: Most homeschoolers are rarely home!  Homeschool moms do just as much running and shuffeling around as public school moms, or more!  Most of the homeschool families I have met do co-ops (places where you have classes with other homeschool kids), music lessons, sports, foreign language classes, museum days, field trips, art and sewing classes, AND MORE!!!  These kids are out and about.  More than that, they are gaining experiences in many different environments and with many different people.

Finally, let's think about where our social skills actually come from.  Where do we find the social experiences that shape us for the rest of our lives?  Do we tend to marry someone who reminds us of our first grade teacher or someone who reminds us of our dad?  Do we wind up re-enacting experiences we witnessed on the playground or experiences we witnessed at home?  Home and family are where socialization comes from.  When you have a secure view of the world based on your home life you will be more social unless some outside trauma interrupts this.  You will learn how to have relationships from your family.  When you have good family relations it sets the tone for the rest of your life.  Working on this at home is the best thing you can do.  I am not saying everyone should homeschool.  In fact, I have a child in public school.  I am just saying that if your child is never home and spending time with you that will be the thing affects him socially.  Shipping him off to school and camp will not replace what he needs to get from his family.  The bottom line here is that the home life shapes future relationships more than school does.

At school, kids learn to blend in.  As they get older they see that there are a few categories (jocks, skaters, nerds, etc) and they have to choose one.  Then they try to make sure they fit into that mold.  They learn quickly that being different gets you negative feedback.  In some ways, this helps one to assimilate to the culture.  In other ways, it is terribly oppressive.  It prevents kids from truly realizing all that they are.  Then, they wind up spending their 20's (and sometimes their whole lives) trying to rediscover themselves.  What kind of social relationships are you having when you have to change in order to be accepted?  In my experience so far, I have found that homeschooled kids seem to have more freedom to be themselves.  They don't have to grow up faster than they want to or pretend to like things they don't really care for.  When they enter into the world of college and work, I think they will have a good sense of themselves and a firm foundation that won't be easily shaken.

In the end, I will say that my homeschooled daughter leads a very active social life.  She has sleepovers just about every weekend with kids from the neighborhood or her extra curricular activities.  She has people over and goes places with her friends.  She is also a member of many organizations and teams like scouts, swimming, band, a library group, and more.  She calls and texts her friends daily and her calendar often has overlap where she needs to miss things because she is so busy being an "unsocialized homeschooler."

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The Iowa Test, Visual Processing Disorder, and My Ego

"Answer Sheet" by nongpimmy

If you took the Iowa test as a kid, I'm here to tell you that it hasn't changed.  Students are still filling in circles with a number two pencil.  I thought maybe they would have developed a better system; it seems like there is so much room for error this way.  For example, you can accidentally fill in the answer on the wrong line or you can smudge the pencil and be marked wrong, but this is still the way the test happens.

Not many people take the Iowa anymore.  Most states take other tests based on the common core.  Even Iowa doesn't take the Iowa test from what I've been told.  I actually called the company and tried to find out who does take the Iowa test outside of homeschoolers and private school students, but I could not get a straight answer.  They gave me the names of a few states but when I looked those states up, I found that it was untrue.  I don't think the operator I spoke with knew what she was talking about.

Anyway, I would have loved to have A take the NJ Ask so that I could compare her last year's scores with this year's and so that I could see how she was doing compared to the kids in the public school system. I would have gladly paid money and done whatever I had to do to let her take that test.  The thing is, I'm not allowed to. Nobody is unless you are a public school student.

I have a bone to pick with that.  If we are constantly looking to improve education, wouldn't it be beneficial to get a sampling from students in all different educational settings? For instance, if the kids in the Montessori schools were blowing all the other kids away in Language Arts, maybe the public schools would be able to incorporate what they were doing to make education better for all.  If all the homeschooled children were doing poorly in math, then those parents would be able to get together and come up with a way to improve in that area, learning from the curriculums that prove to be the most successful.  If we all pooled our information and took the best parts of everything, we could really learn a lot and advance the country's education.

If the powers that be in public education are against homeschooling and believe they are superior, why not prove it by letting us take the same test and comparing the results??  Is that a challenge?  YES!!

I know homeschool parents typically want to be left alone.  In NJ they seem to be content in the fact that nobody checks up on us or tells us how to do things.  I like that, too, now that I have a year in.  Truth be told, in the beginning I would have welcomed the guidance and the checks and balances, just to make sure I was on track.  I was nervous about not "getting it right."  Now I know I got it right so I'm okay with all of our freedom, but sometimes I wish I could show some people in the field what we have accomplished this year, how hard A has worked, and how she overcame actual disabilities.  Maybe I want to show off....  But then again, I'd also welcome feedback and tips from people more educated and experienced than myself.

Mostly, I'd just really like to be able to have A take the NJ Ask so I could compare the numbers.  Since that wasn't going to happen, I did the only thing we could do, the Iowa.  Thank goodness I did, too, because I found out that if I want to put her back into school, I'll need this to help to ensure they put her back in the proper grade!  When I consulted lawyers who specialize in homeschool law in NJ I was told that the schools had to place her in the grade she belonged in and then if there were issues they would test.  Apparently, this is not the case.  We have to show work and tests, particularly standardized tests.  Fortunately, this has been the one area in my life that I have remained organized and kept EVERYTHING.  I have files and files on every subject, plus Time 4 Learning has everything we did online in a PDF document for us.

But I digress....

I'm more nervous about the Iowa test than A.  I honestly feel like it is me being tested.  I feel like this is going to be MY grade for how well I taught for the year.  I know intellectually that this is wrong, that it's not about me,  and that these tests really equate to nothing, but try telling that to my ego!  My ego, the one that was bruised and battered from all the nay-sayers, my ego that is dying to feel validated and prove once and for all that I made the right choice...

I bought and administered the practice test at home.  Those only had a few questions in each area and they were pretty easy. I think they were just to get a feel for how to take the test.  But one thing I saw was that on two or three sections in Language Arts the students have to pick which line of text has a mistake like a misspelled word or a missing period.  A, who is a language arts wizard, did terrible on this.  Why?  Because as we found on her eval last summer, she has a visual processing disorder in addition to her auditory processing disorder.  This makes it confusing to do those IQ tests where you have to figure out how to fit shapes together.  It also affects her reading.  When she is reading she will actually fill in words or replace them with other words that fit.  Basically, it's like her brain has auto-correct and she is unaware of when she is using it.  This does not affect her comprehension at all, just affects what she sees as she reads.

So let's say you reading this sentence.  Did you notice I just left out the word "are" in the previous sentence?  Or did your brain automatically fill it in?  A's automatically fills it in.

So, on those sections she does not think she did very well.  Since she scored at a level 16 on Language Arts when they evaluated her last year I am not too worried.  I decided to think more about how she is going to do on math and see how much she improves there.  So, when I asked her how she thought she did on the math sections she said, "I don't know."

I then asked, "Did you use your scrap paper?"

She said, "No we weren't allowed to."

Gulp.  I asked if there were long division problems and two or three digit multiplication problems.  She said there were.  Double gulp.  I said, "Well, how did you figure it out?"

She said, "The test said to 'compute.'" 

I explained that this does not mean you can't use scrap paper.  She said she visualized it in her head to solve it and that she was not allowed to use scrap.  I know she could have used it!  The practice test lets you use it!  Once again, the auditory processing may have messed up what she heard when she was being given instructions....

I am trying not to stress about this. 

I suppose this can be a lesson to that ego of mine: These tests, and what other people think, don't matter.  I know A learned.  A knows she learned.  We bonded this year.  She feels better this year.  I dare say, she is thriving.  The test means nothing.

I will try repeating this daily.

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A had her first day of Iowa testing today.  It took place in a church with a bunch of other homeschooled kids.  I helped out as an assistant proctor.  The kids were so great that they inspired this Facebook status:

"Helping to supervise the Iowa Test,  Homeschooled children continue to dazzle me with their good behavior and excellent manners."

I've dealt with kids all my life.  I always liked them and wanted to work with them.  As a teen I babysat, nannied, and worked in a daycare.  When I got older I was a youth counselor.  When A was a baby and toddler I helped head up a playgroup and those little ones were great.

Then school started.

Volunteering in classrooms, scouts,  and seeing some classmates outside of school gave me a different perspective on kids.  I wasn't really sure I generally liked kids anymore.  I now liked only some kids.

I honestly feel disrespected by most children these days.  When I state a rule or request a behavior I get snickers or disobedience.  I am not talking about from my own kids, this is from other people's kids!  When I lead an activity, I get eye rolling and insubordination.  This is not from everyone, but there are always one or two (or three).

I remember one time A's kindergarten teacher asked me to watch the class while she had a meeting.  There were kids standing up on their desks and throwing paper.  Yes, it was a little funny and, yes, I got them under control, but it just shows you how much times have changed!  I would not have dared to do the things I see kids do today!

In the public school preschool a kid hit the teacher and was shipped off to "behavior school."  First grade was peppered with stories of daily meltdowns and tantrums.  By second and third grade there were fist fights and violent threats.

At school functions if a tray of snacks was placed on a table a few kids would run up and fill their hands with all the food so that nobody else could have any.  Once at an elementary school dance, I had to stop some kids from jumping out of the bathroom window (it was the first floor- but still).  Kids have come to my home and stolen things or rummaged through my cabinets and drawers as if they own this house.  Other people's kids expect me to take them places and buy them things with some sort of strange sense of entitlement.

No, I was not sure I liked kids anymore.  I only liked certain kids.

However, this year reminded me that I do still like children.  Seeing the good behavior of the kids in the homeschool band, even the younger siblings who have nothing to do but wait quietly, gives me new found faith in child-kind.  Observing friendly children at park meetups warms my heart.  Today at Iowa testing to have kids listen, sit quietly, and speak with perfect manners, solidified the rediscovery of my love of children.  Every kid I talked to today had engaging stories, unique interests, and a good heart to share.  All the students had books with them and every book was age appropriate.  Nobody argued or tried to manipulate to take a break when it was not break time.  Nobody whined or fussed.  When they were let out for a breather they all returned on time with no big scenes or destruction in the hallways.  I was truly amazed.

Some people think of homeschoolers as being overly religious and unsocialized.  Well, if that is the case then sign me up for ten more years because their results are much better than the alternative.

Again, not saying all schooled kids are bad.  As I said, there are always just a few that seem to ruin things for the others.  But the keyword here is always.

While the kids were taking their tests I pondered why the homeschoolers were so different.  I also thought about what was different today from when I was a kid that seems to have made schooled kids display more issues.

What I came up with was this:

1) There are more families where both parents work which means less family time for kids.  A lot of children go to before and after care plus school and often they are in daycare from a really early age as well. When they do get home there is not much time before bed and in that time parents are usually bogged down with things to do or with technology.  Without that family interaction maybe certain social graces come up empty.  Think about it.  Where are you going to become better socialized:  A) In an institutional like setting where you are one among many wild children being shuffled from place to place and told what to do, where you have to fight for your share and for your turn, or B) At home working one on one with a parent with the freedom to be yourself?  At home you're being guided by an elder, having conversations where you are fully listened to, learning from example, feeling always loved and cherished.  There is also no fear of bullies or feelings of injustice at home (usually). 

2) Technology is probably the biggest difference in childhoods when comparing past to present.  I did watch a lot of TV as a kid, but I also have a lot of memories of being outside in the woods, riding my bike, and exploring nature.  Outside you connect to something real.  You find creatures, you feel mud under your nails, you build bridges across creeks, and you attempt to climb trees.  These experiences affect specific parts of the developing brain.  Using a tablet and a DS affect different parts.  My kids do both of these things.  I have to say that I see a decline in mood and behavior when they play too much Minecraft or watch too much TV. They get edgy and then I ban them from screens for a while.  My personal,  un self-educated opinion is that if kids are spending more time connected to a computer or game than to people and nature, then they are going to behave differently, maybe have less empathy, maybe think differently, maybe feel more disconnected.

3) There is less religion/ spirituality (at least around here, I hear other parts of the US are different).  I am not as religious as most other homeschoolers I know, but I am very spiritual.  I raise my kids Catholic as I was raised, but teach them about all religions and try to instill some meditation, some lessons in karma, some nature loving, and more as we go.  I also tell them what is right and what is wrong.  I praise them for doing nice things and helping others and I correct them when I see them act selfish or rude.

I know when I worked with people in recovery that I was taught that they simply had to have a higher power.  It wasn't an option.  They would not be able to get through life and maintain a better lifestyle without this.  It did not matter what the higher power was, there just had to be one.  I believe this, too, not just for recovery but for life in general.  Nobody can go around thinking that they themselves are the end all and be all to everything.  The world does not revolve around us and we aren't that special.  This does not have to be a dog eat dog world where everyone is out for themselves.  It should be a world of kindness and sharing.  Somehow that perspective has to get across.  When I was a kid, everyone in school had a religion.  We'd talk about it and compare. Nobody would have dared to say that they did not believe at all, at least not in elementary school. That would have been shocking!  Of course, when we got older it was different.  Older kids question and have conflicts over their faith and the moral codes instilled in them.  I think that is healthy and all part of the process, but I believe it's necessary to have something there in the first place to even be questioned and reevaluated.  Without any sense of right or wrong and a respect for something bigger than yourself all you have is a sense of "how to get what I want." Sadly, I hear a lot of kids today say that they do not believe in anything.  Not God, not Allah, not the Universe, not a Higher Consciousness, just nothing.  I see their parents always pushing them to "hurry up and get in the front of the line."  "Hurry and get over there and make sure you get your goodie bag, snack, or free gift."  They're saying, "Screw everyone else, you just make sure YOU get YOURS."

I guess most people's higher power these days is money: Money to buy stuff and all kids want "stuff," mine included.  The media does this to them and maybe we do to if we use bribery certain kinds of reward systems. But it's our job to tell them that things are not what they really want, that things are not the way to happiness or peace.  It's our job to instill in them a higher purpose than "making a lot of money someday."  School is not going to do this. There is even brand messaging showing up in tests and curriculum now!  Why do we even tell kids they should go to school?  I think many of us make the same mistake: Instead of saying, "So you can make the world a better place." or "So, you can enrich your life," we say, "So you can go to college and get a good job and make a lot of money someday."  I know I'm guilty of this!

"Okay time's up!  Put down your pencils and close your test booklet."

I'll have to ponder more another time....

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"I Don't Like You!"

It perplexes me when kids say they do not like someone.  My family and I, we do not dislike anyone unless someone has done something to hurt us.  Our default setting is that we like you and it takes a lot of reprogramming to change that.

I know in high school and, sadly, well beyond people begin to judge others by things like what they look like or imagined slights, but I feel like it is so strange for young kids to have it in them to dislike someone for no reason at all.

I am bringing this up because of a situation with my daughter.  She has a good friend that she has been close to since pre-school.  This friend also has someone in her neighborhood that she plays with.  So when my daughter goes over there, they all play together.  Therefore, my daughter considers this other girl her friend also.  We see this girl around sometimes at different activities in town.  She ran in a fun run with my son and my daughter cheered her on.  She has been at events at the library and my daughter has played with her.  She has been at girl scout parties and dances and my daughter will ask her to come over and play with her and her troop.

So, recently my daughter’s BFF informed her that this other girl said she does not like her.  I guess my daughter asked the girl if this was true the next time she saw her and the girl bluntly replied that, “Yes, I don’t like you.”

A rolled with it. She went back to her friends and had a good time.  She told me about the incident very nonchalantly.  But still, OUCH!  I mean, that hurts when someone says that, especially if you did nothing to deserve it!

Then there are other scenarios like with certain groups of friends that she has where the girls like to gang up and leave one person out all the time.  The person who gets left out usually varies.  One person will not be invited and the rest of the girls will talk badly about that girl while she is not there.  I do not allow this.  If A is having a sleepover or playdate she is to invite them all so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings.  If it is not possible to have them all, then she only has one of them and will invite the others one at a time at other times.  Leaving just one person out is not an option.  I also correct the kids if I hear them talking badly about a friend, so now they usually whisper as if I do not know what they are doing.  Thankfully I do not hear my daughter participate in this.  The most I have heard her say is “Wow that’s mean,” or “Oh my goodness,” as a response to the gossip.  

Last year my daughter was the one who was usually left out.  The other 3 or 4 girls would traipse off and go have sleepovers, openly talking about in front of my kid. Sometimes they would leave her standing alone at an event and go whisper together.  Again, A never expressed that she was upset by this and she never commented on it, but it made me hurt for her.  

Despite what has been done to her, we continue to not do the same to others.  I have heard some of her “friends” be downright cruel to her at times.  There are certain ones who are really sweet and others who just insult everyone and say things like “You’re an idiot!”  I have seen my daughter tell her friend that she really has to use the bathroom and then watch her friend run into the bathroom ahead of her just to cause her suffering.  Yet still I remind myself that these are children and they know not what they do.  We don’t want to cause them pain.  They must already have some pain inside to lash out this way.  Even the kids who disrespect me and refuse to follow my rules, I still do not leave them out.

This is partially why I think it was so difficult for A to excel in school.  She thought of everyone as her friend, but some days she would come home crying because she got picked on, insulted, or ignored.  I am not saying my kid is perfect by any means, but I honestly do not think she ever tries to hurt anyone on purpose.

I think this bothers me so much because it triggers memories of my own childhood.  It was probably later for me, junior high or so, when random girls who I did not even know would decide for no reason that they disliked me.  They’d say to me, “I don’t like you.”  They’d insult my clothes, make fun of how I walked or played sports, and call me names.  Like Abs, I was dyspraxic.  I was too much in my own head and had little control over my body.  This gave other kids a lot of material.  Inside I was so upset, pathetically wondering what I had done to deserve this.  But on the outside I closed myself off from everyone.  I also withdrew from most activities so I would never stand out and be on display to be scrutinized.  I was a straight A, super smart student and I dropped out of taking honors classes so I could no longer be called a nerd.  Eventually, my friends and I, we who had been hurt at home and at school, sort of dropped out of everything altogether and made a conscious decision to stop caring about anything.   We became party girls,we laughed at everything and we stopped trying.  This took the pain away.

If I had been taken out of school and homeschooled my life would have been so different.  I could have concentrated on my work and continued to excel.  I would have wound up in college early and I would have been a success.  I don’t have any regrets because I love my family, I love my life, but I sure don’t want my kids to have to experience what I did.

The thing is, I never thought A would experience this.  She is so friendly and outgoing.  I was shy and awkward, a glutton for punishment.  I let things bother me, I cried a lot.  A genuinely likes everyone and if someone is mean to her she just moves on until that person gets over it.  She goes out of her way to talk to people if they are alone, even when it is uncomfortable to do so.  She makes sure to keep in contact with all of her friends, even those she meets on vacations who live far away.  She just is a natural at friendship.  For me, it was always hard because I was always so afraid to trust and put myself out there.

I just do not understand how kids can be so mean to one another or why their parents allow it.  Their parents know full well when their kids are excluding someone and talking badly about them and they somehow give this a stamp of approval.  They even participate by not inviting the other child!  Why?  Probably because they do the same thing to the other moms, too.

I guess if you get a high from putting us down and treating us poorly and if that is what makes you feel good about yourself, all I can say is, “Fine, glad to be of service.”  I suppose you are doing me a service as well for bringing these painful memories to the surface to be dealt with.  Personally, I do not like your brand of fun, and maybe, finally, I am going to feel okay about us saying, “We don’t like you either.”
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Combating Consumerism in Kids

Photo by Stuart Miles

Something that I see in my kids that really bothers me is their endless desire for “stuff.” There is always something they want, some item. My son usually wants a video game or a character for a video game like a Skylander, Disney Infinity figure, or an Angry Bird telepod. My daughter almost always has her eye on a doll- American Girl, Lala Loopsy, Ever After High, you name it. They always seem to be stuck on whatever item they’re craving. It’s all they talk about or ask for. It sort of creates an identity- you are what you have and you are what you want. It has even gotten to the point where if we ask them if they would like to go somewhere such as an arcade, a movie, or an indoor water park, they will ask if they can get a toy instead! If we do get them the toy, which is rare, they are only satisfied for about 24 hours at best before they start asking for the next toy. 

Our desire for material items is just like any other addiction. Every new toy just feeds the beast, that empty hole inside us that cries for more. This hole can never be filled because its very nature is to be empty and to desire more. It used to be that we did not get to know this terrible beast until we were adults handling money, but through advertising it has been awakened in even the youngest children. 

Toy manufacturers know all about this and so there are not just a few dolls in any line, there are tons of them. When my daughter was into Monster High, not only was there a doll for every character, but there were lots of dolls of every character. You’d have the Picture Day line, the Paris line, the Dead Tired line it never ends! Just look how many versions of Barbie there are. You can’t just get a Barbie doll and be done with it. No- you NEED all the different kinds of Barbies. What happened to getting one doll and treasuring it? 

It’s the same thing with the boy toys as with the girl ones. There are lots of versions of the same Ninja Turtle action figures: Battle Shell, Stealth Tech, Throw and Battle, the list goes on. If you get a Skylander you can also get the same character in different colors or as special collector editions. 

It was not always this way with my kids. They used to know true joy and didn’t have to try and seek it out in overpriced plastic. I blame myself because this is a direct effect of my not overseeing them enough for the last year. I know what has to be done and I decided to publish this list in case anyone else is looking for similar solutions. 

1) TV is the Enemy. I have analyzed this to death and it is 100% dead on. The more kids watch TV, the more they want “stuff.” The commercials brainwash them. I have taught my kids about this and they can see and identify advertising tactics, yet it does not stop these tactics from working. Some advertisers hire anthropologists who specialize in child behavior to help them sell to kids. There are all kinds of focus groups and such going on at any given time so that companies know exactly what will make a child want something. Advertisers know exactly what they are doing and they do their jobs (too) well. Whether it’s a pillow pet, a slushie maker, or a plastic bat cave my kids want it. They also want the sugar coated colorful foods they see on TV. Take away the TV and you take away most of the consumerism in one fell swoop. Over the summer, I was working a lot, more than I should have been, and my kids were watching a lot of television. They would have been outside if I had been able to be more attentive. Instead, they spent most of their time watching TV and took short breaks from TV throughout the day to go outside. It should have been the other way around! Since school started they still have been watching too much. After school and activities they wind up in front of the screen again. Personally, I want to cancel cable. If they must watch a little TV, they can use Netflix or watch PBS. What I used to do when I was a better mom was limit TV to the weekends. This made TV fun again because it wasn’t always on. 

2) Internet is the Other Enemy. The web might even be worse than the TV at this point. With the Internet, ads are targeted right at your particular kid. They watch your kid, they see where she goes online and what she searches for, and they advertise accordingly. All around any webpage are ads in the form of pictures and videos dancing around, begging to be clicked. This is not just the case with the computer- it’s also the iPod, the cell phone, and the tablet, too. Even a game of Angry Birds is littered with commercials. Limit “screen time” in the form of games and Internet to an hour a day (or less) of supervised use. By supervised, I mean I want to know what you are doing with your electronics and I want to be in the room with you if possible while you are using them. 

3) Friends and Envy. I don’t know what to do about this one, but another cause of consumerism in kids is seeing what their friends have. If a friend has a new toy, my kids want it now, too. Petitioning other parents not to buy their kids anything new probably isn’t an option, so I think the best thing to do is to pay attention to what the kids do and talk about with their friends. Some friends are more about playing games and having fun while others like to compare stuff and talk about their next purchases. When they are with other “consuming” kids, it might be a good idea to plan something fun for them to do to get them out of shopping mode and back into playing. 

4) Keep Reinforcing Values. Whether it is religious beliefs, living an environmentally conscious lifestyle, or doing charity work, kids need to know there is more to life than just shopping and acquiring material things. They need to connect to something bigger than toys and dollars. They need to know that there are more important things in life and bigger problems to tackle than just coming up with the money for another game. This does not typically work as much or as fast as shutting off the television, but this tactic is for the long haul. This builds a foundation for the future and begins to replace some of the faulty values. Recommendations:, Church, volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House and the animal shelter, raising money for causes. 

5) Learn to Have Fun Again. Buying new stuff is a high, one that doesn’t last very long and leaves you wanting more. Real fun gives a natural and long lasting euphoria with wonderful memories that last a lifetime. Hiking, indoor rock climbing, cooking together, going to a ceramics class, sports, board games, and science experiments are all great ways to replace getting something with doing something. This has been one of the hardest things for me in the last year or so because I have gotten busier and it is just so easy at the end of a long day to “veg” with the kids watching a movie. Even on the weekends, it is simple to stroll through the mall or go to a movie, both of which are the worst things to do when trying to combat consumerism! I know when I push myself to play a board game or take the kids on a bike ride I feel better. It is just getting through that initial feeling of being tired that is the hard part. 

6) Be the Example. Like my hero Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We have to be what we want our children to become. If all we do is browse catalogs, discuss our next purchases, and try to keep up with the Joneses, it will be impossible for our children to do anything differently. We are victims of advertising as much as our kids are and many of us have become so busy and tired that when we are home with our families we are glued to the couch watching TV. Going out with the family is often spent running errands which usually equates to shopping. We need to rediscover for ourselves what we find fun in life and we need to reevaluate our own priorities and live accordingly. For me, I need to spend less time online. My husband and I spend a lot of time on the computer both for work and for entertainment. How can we expect our kids not the do the same if we are not displaying any other options for them? I can honestly say I am not much of a consumer, unless you count food shopping, but I think (worry) about money more than I should. Money should take a backseat in all of our lives. Our kids will be happier as a result. 

Free PDF BookTips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture

Kids and Commercialism
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Hard Lessons, But Lessons All the Same

Well first, today is A's birthday!  Happy birthday, Princess.  You're ten.  It's been a decade since you made me a mommy and changed my life for the better in every, single way.

I started off being the perfect mom, but got derailed along the way.  Nobody is or can be perfect.  I hope I have not failed you.  I hope the decisions I have made have been right.  I hope you know how much I love you.

Today is A's birthday.  We are not schooling, but we are not having fun either.  We had her family party this weekend and we noticed our 12 year old golden retriever, Milhouse, was not moving too much.  By Monday, his back end had become completely paralyzed.  He had to spend the night at the vet (and we had to spend money we do not have) only to find out that they couldn't find anything out.  He has to get an MRI now for $2000.  Vets, who claim to love animals, will let your animal die if you do not have the money upfront, so while we are busy begging, borrowing, and stealing to save Milhouse's life, he is back home with us and we have become a sort of doggie nursing home.

So, A has spent her birthday so far helping me try to lift our 85 lb dog so we can try to help him move and clean him up.  She has fed him and medicated him.  We've been trying to see if we can discover a good deal on a doggie wheelchair and attempting to find the best deal on a doggie MRI.  Earlier, it looked like Milhouse was having a seizure, so A sat by his side while he twitched and convulsed.  It is not at all what I had planned for her birthday.  We were going to do school, as usual, but I was thinking of finishing early and heading to Build a Bear and to lunch if we could.  I also had had some fun lesson plans in store.

Truthfully, I am just so tired.  I slept but I feel like I didn't.  I'm hungry but I don't want to eat.  I feel dirty from cleaning up the dog.  I'm trying to be happy and concentrate on her birthday, but I am not sure how well I am pulling that off.

So far, she is not complaining.

She is learning about death and decline today.  She is learning about sickness and care taking.  Mostly, she is learning about family and what that really means.  These are the lessons that you don't get in school, but they're the lessons that matter most in life.

Dying is such a dreadful thing.  It's much worse than death.  I think we imagine dying as simply falling asleep and not waking up again.  In reality, few go out that way.  Dying can be long, even years long, of suffering and struggling.  It's one lesson we try to protect our kids from, and would rather not learn ourselves.

So, now I am off to clean myself up and try to have some birthday fun.  Kids are such a blessing.  I thank God that when things are gloomy in life that I have no choice but to keep moving and to keep smiling for my kids.  They keep me focused and on the right path.  My children are my gurus.

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"A Bird Pooped on My Mom's Shirt" (Public School Joys)

As I have previously mentioned, this is the first year I am homeschooling at all.  I homeschool my fourth grade daughter.  My son goes to public kindergarten.

Upon picking up said son from school this afternoon, I was told that he wrote a story about me in class today.  Now being that he is in kindergarten, they are not expected to know how to spell everything.  They are just supposed to stretch the words and do the best they can.  Still, I was touched that he had decided to write about me, his mommy. 

After piling into the car, belting in, and commencing driving, I asked C what he had written about exactly.  He said, "I wrote, 'I went to the boardwalk with my family and a bird pooped on my mom's shirt."  He and my daughter then laughed hysterically for the rest of the ride home.

My first question was, "Did your teacher know what it said?"  I figured there was a chance that, since they are on their own with trying to sound out the words, nobody would know what it meant. 

He said, "She didn't know until I read it aloud to the whole class. Oh also, I made a picture so she could see it."

Next question: "What did she say when you read it aloud and showed her the picture?"

Answer: "She, and the whole class, laughed."

Okay, well laughing is good, I guess.  I'm glad my bird poop misfortune has brought joy to the students and staff.  At least he's not in trouble.

"Wait, C, one more thing.  It's not hanging up in the hallway or anything, right?"


"Phew, okay.  So, can I see it then?"

"No, Mrs. B said she is going to show it to a special teacher."

A special teacher?  Uh oh!  My first thought was, "OMG, he's in trouble!"  But after more questioning it sounded like all the kids' papers are going to the special teacher so I am thinking (hoping) maybe it is to look at where they are with their writing.  Still, of all the things to be passed around and analyzed why oh why did it have to be this one?

Another, often overlooked, benefit to homeschooling is definitely PRIVACY!

(The picture above is not the original picture he made since that is with "the special teacher."  This one he made just moments ago to show off to me what he had done in school.  He is very, very amused by the whole situation and loves how he made the whole class laugh.  I only hope this does not encourage him further- the kid definitely has a lot of dirt on me...)
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