Thursday, May 24, 2012

Expect it from others? Deliver it yourself.

This morning, as I was pounding out pushups during bootcamp, our instructor said something to us that resonated.  "If it's not difficult, if you aren't struggling to finish this set, you're not working hard enough - you're not giving 100%.  It's not okay," he continued, "to be 'good enough' or to say 'it's better than nothing.' What kind of attitude is that?

He went on to give this example: "You order your favorite dish at a restaurant.  When it arrives, the meat is overcooked, the side dishes are luke-warm and the bread is stale.  Would you eat it anyway, and say that 'it's better than nothing'?"

I don't think so.  We expect 100% effort from those around us.  Our employees, our financial advisor, the lawn service, car repair, etc., etc.  Shouldn't we put forth that same effort in ourselves?

'Good enough' never is.

If your child gets a "C" on a test - and you know he didn't study outside of school, would you let him get away with saying 'I passed - that's good enough'?"  What kind of example are you setting for your kids? For those around you?

If you give 100% in everything you do, you'll see results that much faster.  There is a saying that you can only expect out of those you lead, the effort you put forth on your worst day.

That's not to say that you should be competing with the guy next to you.  If that were the case, I wouldn't feel very good about the number of push ups I was able to knock out during that 2-minute set. But, what I do know is that I worked my ass off.  I didn't take the easy way out, I didn't waste time, and I did give 100%.  Doesn't matter how many push ups the girl next to me did.

Let me digress...My oldest just finished his last final this morning.  He has been studying like mad every night.  All the finals were going great - A's and B's.  Then came time for the Math final.  Math is his least favorite subject (gee, wonder where he gets that from), but he spent several hours the night before the test studying with my dad (who reads books like "the history of mathematics" for sport), and then, had me drive him to school an hour early so that he could meet with his math teacher to get some additional, last minute help.  Well... that damn math final still proved to be the hardest test he took this week, and even though he gave it the most effort, it still turned out to earn the lowest score, too.

But herein lies my point... If that child of yours studies hard, practices, gets extra help from the teacher before school and still earns a less-than-stellar grade, then you can and should feel proud of that grade - and his effort.  That's 100%, right there.

Make every day count.  At work, at school, at the gym, at home.  And watch your kids' attitudes slowly change, too.  Remember, they do as you do, not as you say.

(Author's note: Happy Summer!  And Congrats to all three of my kids who made it through a tough, but great year!  I now have a Sophomore, a 7th grader and a 1st grader!)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Parenting since May 18, 1997

Chicken Soup has a call out for stories.  The title of this one is Parenthood.  Sounds like a no-brainer for me, seeing as I've been at it since 1997.  And speaking of 1997, that's the year my first baby was born.  May 18, 1997 to be exact.  Which means that today is that baby's birthday.  Happy 15th Connor!  I know I say this every year, but, seriously!  Where does the time go?  I can NOT believe you are 15!

I remember when...

Age 2

Age 9...with a broken left wrist

Age 15... with a broken left wrist.

But I digress.

At the twice-monthly meeting of the WWWP's this past Wednesday night, we were reminded by oh-so-responsible Sioux that we needed to hurry up already and get our Parenting stories submitted.  How, she wanted to know, would we fall over in fits of laughter all the way through our book tour if all five of us did not submit to the book.  Not once did she say "if all 5 of us don't get published in" the book.  No, the thought didn't even cross her mind!  She of the comfy shoes and quick smile, sidelong glances and scribbled notes of dirty humor on fellow WWWPs' papers.  Hmphh.

A few of us are struggling with this particular submission.  We're all parents.  In fact, each of them has been doing it much longer than I.  Hell, I'm a newbie compared to their "adult children, empty nest" selves.  They must have thousands of stories to tell!  But me... well, I've started a few, but something stopped me about halfway with each of them.  Linda hit it on the head last night when she explained that she just hadn't found the "perfect parent" story to tell.  Oh, geez, if that's a requirement, I'm screwed.  No such perfect stories here.

Let me digress again.  Because I know that most of you would say that it's harder to parent than to write about parenting.  And certainly you would have every right to say so.  And if I think back to my own household last night, I'd be highly inclined to agree with you.  But, it's difficult to write a true story about parenting with a neatly wrapped up ending.  Because the truth is, this parenting thing?  There is no neatly wrapped up ending.  It's an ongoing tug-of-war, of learning, screwing up, praying, hoping, and most of all loving.  What I will try to do is take one moment in time.  One tiny segment of this long journey and tell a story that speaks to all parents.  That reminds us that none of us is perfect.  None of us has written the Parenting Bible (although there are some good books on the topic out there).  Remember when you gazed down at that perfect infant in your arms for the first time? That first smile? That first sleep over, first day of school... The truth is that there are so many moments, so many firsts.  Maybe it's difficult to write a story of parenting in a way that does the role justice.

But I will try.  Because I want to be on that book tour with my fellow WWWPs.  We're a wicked bunch, and God, would we have fun!

But, back to today...

Happy Birthday Connor!  I'm so very proud of the young man you have become, the grown man I envision you becoming - one of great character and quiet strength, with a fantastic, intelligent sense of humor.  Raising you is a privilege and an honor that I will always, always cherish.

And another big BIRTHDAY SHOUT OUT to my dear friend, Rose, who begins the last year of her thirties today.  I cherish this friendship of ours that goes back 34 years.  May this year be your best yet.  I love you!

Whether you're a writer or not... I'm sure you've got stories of your own.  And if you're a parent, why not try writing one down and submitting it to this Chicken Soup for the Soul book?  Click for more info.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Three Cheers for the corner table by the window

I met two dear friends for dinner this past Friday night.  Nothing untoward about that.  And normally I wouldn't write a blog post about it.  But, something happened at that little establishment that was so out of the ordinary, so... unheard of these days, that I felt it earned a spot on my blog this month.

Pull up a chair.

I walked in to meet KM & KT (not their real names) and spotted them at - you guessed it - the corner table by the window.  There they were, sitting across from each other, smiling, talking, laughing.  Dare I say...holding hands.  Nothing outlandish there either.  Anyway, I greeted them with big hugs, sat next to KM and was immediately approached by a darling waiter from whom I kindly ordered a pomegranate martini, please (thank you very much).

They were just finishing their dinner and so we ordered a (delicious) dessert and continued with our conversation.  When finally the waiter came over to drop off the check, he stopped and said to us, "I just have to tell you guys how awesome you were." (umm, yes, we know, but...huh?)

He proceeded to tell us that he loved waiting on us because we talked to each other, laughed...basically were engaged, rather than texting, talking, posting and/or tweeting on our respective phones.  Wow.  This guy must see a lot of that.  Sad.

It could be that he was just gunning for a good tip (he got one), but I think he meant it.

I am thankful for great friends, silent phones at restaurants...and good service : )

Have a fabulous weekend all.  And Happy Mother's Day to all us Mamas!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Raising Jackson: The Talk

Jack has always been a "lady's man."  Let me tell you a little story.

When Jack was three years old, he attended a darling, little preschool called Love N Laughter, an old house converted into a school many years ago.  At that time, I happened to be working at the school, teaching the two-year olds.  It was a warm, spring day and the kids were headed outside to play.  As I led my little ones out to the playground, I saw Jack standing in the middle of the yard, transfixed on something in the near distance.  I called to him once.  Twice.  Nothing.  I walked towards him, following his line of sight to an "older" four year old girl.  Long blond hair, blue-green eyes, wearing a summer dress over which was a jean jacket, the collar turned up, like she was a "Pink Lady" in training.  As she walked from the swing set to the slide, she pulled a tube of chap stick out of her pocket, applied it to her little, bow-shaped mouth, smiled at my little Romeo and kept walking.

I cleared my throat.  "Jack?"

"Mooooooomm," Jack sighed as she passed him, "did you see those lips?"

True story.

One night, when Jack was in the fourth grade, we were driving (just he and I) in the car and got on the subject of girls.  He wanted to know if it was okay to kiss them.  The great thing about Jack is that he really will talk about it with me. He might be uncomfortable, he might roll his eyes or sigh, but he will talk with me.  A good sign.  So we talked.  And decided that maybe he wasn't quite ready for that.  Yet.

Last night, the subject of girls came up again (definitely one of Jack's favorite topics).  Now, at 12 1/2 years old, Jack is finishing up his first year of middle school.  So, the talk is changing.  His older brother, just days away from his 15th birthday, was in the room, too.  Anyway, Jack told me that he and his friends saw "a used condom" on the parking lot outside of school.  Oh, Dear Lord.  At the middle school?  Are you kidding me?  Should I take some comfort in the fact that at the very least there was a condom?  Ugh.

(Author's 1st side note: Can you understand that this single mom has much to impart to her two wonderful boys, and that she needs to tread carefully?  And that these two boys still require different conversations as it relates to this topic?)

I've always told Jack that he should treat a girl just like he would want a future boyfriend to treat his little sister.  And last night, I added two ideas to that:

#1 Any girl he dates is someone's sister.  Someone's daughter.  And someday, she is going to be someone else's husband.  Respect that.

and #2  Somewhere out there is Jack's future wife.  And until he meets her, she will date other boys.  How does he want those guys to treat HIS future wife?  Something to think about.

Jack looked at me and said "I know mom.  Keep it in the fireplace."  This is what they were taught in PSR - that sex is an act of intimacy between a husband and a wife.  Meant for them alone.  His older brother and I both nodded, liking Jack's analogy.

After his brother left the room, I told Jack that he is most likely going to hear different information from different sources - namely his peers.  And that if he has any questions, he should just ask me.  He might be embarrassed, I said, but I'll be a little embarrassed, too.  And that's okay, we'll just be embarrassed together.  At least we'll be talking, and he'll get the right information.  He promptly informed me that he'd just ask  his brother.  Oh, Geez.  Please, Jack, I said to him, just ask me.

"Okay," he said.  Then, he smiled and added, "I'm gonna go on Facebook and tell my friends that you just attempted to have 'the talk' with me."   (Geez, is nothing sacred?)

(Author's 2nd side note:  I then gave Jack the really bad news:  We're not done.  This is an ongoing conversation.  Like, ongoing for the next six years.  Good times!)