Love. Respect. Work Ethic.

In my first year of being a principal, I learned so much…by making a tremendous amount of mistakes and dealing with a variety of students, parents, and teachers.  As student after student entered my office, parent after parent sat across from my desk, and teacher after teacher came in and out, I realized that most problems with students, parents, and teachers came down to two things.  Respect and Work Ethic.

As parents, our kids know that we love them.  We say it and we show it.  We do not claim to love perfectly.  Actually, our imperfect loving makes us more real than pretending we know it all.  Our girls have grown up with us apologizing for our mistakes, growing in our parenting, and being real and honest.  We hope to have provided them with a place to make mistakes and be who they have been created to be.  But many parents do not think that discipline is a part of love and we believe it is.

There is not an easy formula to parenting.  Parenting is THE HARDEST job that I have ever had.  Teaching is not easy but one of my strengths is taking a goal and breaking it into the smallest steps so that the goal is obtainable.  How could my husband and I raise two very different daughters to be loving, compassionate and independent?  As much as we love them, we want them to be self-sufficient, hardworking, and caring people that can take their place in whatever or wherever they choose to go.

As a mom, I looked at my parenting and decided to keep my expectations fairly simple.  I had been majoring in the minors A LOT…because when stress comes in I like to hold on to control the best that I can.  Since I am constantly evaluating myself in every role, I knew I needed to stop majoring in the minors and be very clear in my expectations with our daughters.

We sat the girls down and basically told them that there were two no- negotiables in our house.   These expectations were communicated with love and an established relationship.  Respect and Work Ethic.  Those two items are our only rules.

Respect Became a Non-Negotiable

We established “first-time obedience” in pre-school.  There was a day that my youngest (the one that we thought we would send to Military Pre-School) refused to hold my hand and ran out in a parking lot ONLY for the car to stop 6 inches from her.  In retrospect, I knew that I needed them to listen the first time I said something.  Not 3 times.  Not twice.  The first time.  Every moment is a teaching moment.  Whether it teaches you or your children.  They needed to learn respect now.  There wasn’t time to wait.  Just like myself, we would work on one or two of these at a time based on their developmental stages.

What it looked like:

  • First-time obedience means I do not repeat myself.
  • No means no. No matter how much you cry or throw yourself on the ground.
  • Take care of your things and appreciate them.
  • Manners matter. Yes ma’am.  No sir.    Thank you.  Always.
  • It is not what you say. It is HOW you say it.
  • Eye rolls and talking back are not allowed. Use your words and tone respectfully to disagree.  If not, I can think of many creative consequences.

Questions I use to get them to think about it:

  • Would you like to rewind and try saying it in a respectful way?
  • Was what you just said respectfully said to your sister? Could you say it again in a more respectful way? Thank you. (And if they couldn’t there would be consequences.)

 

In Caroline’s words:

“My mom and dad have always drawn the line with two things; work ethic and respect. At the same time, they have always expected those two things at all times. Nothing has changed. To me, respect is in a way, a type of appreciation for anyone. For example, in the Bowers household we are taught to use our manners.  We say Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am, Yes Sir, and No Sir.  My parents say it, too.  So far, respect has taken me a pretty long way in life including; in school, in the arts, and at home. One time I had so much going on inside of my head and I had no clue how to say it out loud to my mom. There wasn’t a way that I could’ve done it and she wouldn’t be mad. (So I thought) Finally, I just said it. But it came out with respect, and I just told my mom and she wasn’t angry with me. She was glad that I told her, but not only that, she was glad that I said it to her in a respectful way. From then on, we both have grown to respect each other every day, and yes we are not perfect, yes we don’t always have the best attitude, and yes we mess up sometimes, but at the end of the day, what really matters is our love for each other, our moments that we celebrate when we accomplish something, and what we do for each other.”

Work Ethic Became a Non-Negotiable

I am a mom that knows that she MUST prepare her children for the real world. I have seen so many kids fail at life because they just DO NOT KNOW HOW TO WORK.  Parents tend to their every need and do everything for them.  The key is that we were consistent and followed through every time.  We would also allow natural consequences to take place.

What it looked like:

  • They do their homework.
  • They make their beds.
  • They complete all projects.
  • They finish their job and I would call them back to do it.
  • They do it right or they do it again. (at age appropriate expectations)
  • I taught them how to study for their learning style.
  • Work hard then play hard.
  • They did not get an allowance. Everyone participates in our family. (They get paid when they get jobs outside of our house.)
  • Their responsibilities were not mine. (putting folder in book bag, putting things away, etc.)
  • If they were old enough to do it, they could do it. (draw their own bath, laundry, dishes, packing their own lunch)
  • Complaining about what is expected equals more work to do. You can work with a joyful heart or a mad one but you will still work.

Questions I would ask to get them to think about their work ethic:

  • How could you exceed expectations?
  • Look around, did you finish your job?
  • What do you think needs to be completed first?
  • How much time do you think this should take to be completed?
  • Should we set the timer? (to stay on task)
  • Would you like to rewind and respond differently to what I asked you to do? Thank you.
  • What are YOUR goals? How do you plan to meet those goals?

In Grace’s words:

“Work ethic is a steady trait that remains beneficial throughout all areas of life academically, personally, and athletically. Growing up with the expectation of a solid work ethic pushed me to not make excuses when faced with tough situations, but rather to suck it up and do the things I don’t want to do. Academically a strong work ethic pays off by completing homework and seeking extra help if needed, allowing positive test results. Athletically, a powerful work ethic pushes me to become stronger and better every time I step into the weight room or on the field. A strong work ethic carries you far in life and is easier to learn and apply if learned at a young age.  Developing it in small doses as I grew has helped me pace my work now that I am older.  I take my goals and work on them day by day and that hard work has paid off in school, at home, and on the field.”

Writing this blog has been very fun as we dissected and laughed over motivational moments that have grown and shaped them.  We use questions to get them to think about what and why they are doing something and give them a chance to go back and correct it so they learn to do it well.  Love, respect, and work ethic build upon one another but are so closely related.  We are still in the thick of learning these lessons but the foundation has been laid.  We are now “gradually releasing responsibility” to them…. and that will need to be another blog for later.

 

 

My Kid Is Not Great

 

I thought it was bad when I was 16 and was learning to teach swim lessons.  A parent said to me after their child refused to sit on the wall, swim, or stay at the pool, “We never say no to our child.  It is not a nice word.”

I thought it was bad when I was asked to change a grade from an F to a D during my first year of teaching because we didn’t give “F”’s even though the child did nothing.

I thought it was bad when a sophomore got her feelings hurt when I was coaching volleyball when I said, “They do not pay me enough to shag your volleyballs….hustle.”  The parent said I was OBVIOUSLY in it for the money.

But no…it has become worse.  Much worse.  Look around…do we really think this behavior is acceptable?  Parents…we are to blame.

We Reward Mediocrity

I cannot tell you how many times parents came into my office when I was a principal and told me how smart their child is because they can download an app.  No.  Your child is not smart because they can push buttons…so just stop.

Yay!  You did a chore. Reward.  Yay!  You were well behaved.  Reward.  Yay!  You participated.  Reward.

We are limiting our kids because we reward everything.  What happened to knowing you did your best just because it was expected?  What happened to internal motivation?

There Isn’t Any Delay of Gratification

There is nothing to look forward to or aspire to in childhood.  Kids get to do everything now.  All stars in minor league?  Yep.  Three teams of all stars?  Yep.  Eighth grade formal…let’s act like it is prom.  Kindergarten graduation?  Let’s dress them in robes and celebrate that they know their letters!

We have bought into the idea that kids have to have everything now and when they do, why would they have to work for it?  If you get to experience everything, what do you get to day dream about or work towards?

Kids Lie…Stop Believing Everything They Say

Kids will do whatever it takes to get out of trouble and work.  Be aware that your child is VERY capable of lying.  It is not always the other person. Kids are manipulative.  Very manipulative.

The World Does Not Revolve Around You

In the big bad world of adults…

  • You get your feelings hurt.
  • You do things that are not fun. Most of your day is not fun.
  • You do things that are gross.
  • You do things that require work with nobody giving you a sticker…it is just your job…so you do it.
  • Nothing is free.
  • You are responsible for you.  Don’t blame others.
  • Own your mistakes.
  • Fail forward.
  • Life is boring and mundane.
  • Details matter.
  • You have to finish your job.
  • You are not in control.
  • There are MANY THINGS YOU DO NOT KNOW!!!
  • You have to start at the bottom. Every single time.

What are we doing now to prepare our kids for this?  There shouldn’t be a new flash at the age of 23 because that is what is happening and they do not have ANY COPING skills to deal with this.

And here is the BIG NEWS FLASH:

STOP EXPECTING SCHOOLS TO DO THIS!!!!!  IT IS YOUR JOB AS A PARENT!!!!!!! 

My kids are not great.  They are average.  They have talents and they have AT TIMES been big fish in small ponds.  Not anymore.  Both girls know that anyone can be a middle school super star, but work ethic, hustle, and personal responsibility get you where you need to be in life.  AND…there is always someone better working just as hard.

Scenario 1:

Daughter: “Mom…I do not understand my Math.”

Me: ”I wasn’t in class.  That is your job.  I have my degrees and I got them by myself.   How can you figure it out?” (Besides she has passed me with math.)

Daughter: “It is hard.  I can’t do this… The teacher…. I am not good at this….”  Insert sobs, kicking of feet, etc.

Me: “Pity Parties are fine for about 20 minutes MAX.  Then, get over yourself and be a problem solver.  Let me know how it goes.”

Drops mic.

She gets on Kahn Academy…..teaches herself….does not get F.

Scenario 2:

Daughter at 12: “I want to play midfield.  I do not want to play defense.”

Me: “Play defense. You do not get to choose where you play.  Learn to play defense the best. You are not consistent as a midfielder.  You have to work harder and get better.”

Daughter crying: “But, it is hard.  I deserve to be a mid fielder.”

Me: “No. No you do not.  You are not the coach.  Play where you are put.  Complaining isn’t going to make you better, working hard is, so suck it up and stop being a pussy (yes, I said that, notice mom of the year trophy doesn’t exist).  You do not get your way just because you want it.  AND EVEN WHEN YOU WORK AT IT DOESN’T MEAN SOMEONE IS NOT BETTER THAN YOU!!!”

I hope I am not the only mom having these conversations.  I know people are doing it better than me and more articulate.  After working with kids from the ages of 3-Early 30’s over the course of 20 years, I can guarantee one thing…..my kids will not be spoiled brats.  I love them too much to allow that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Emotionally Strong Girls

Raising emotionally strong girls is an ongoing process.  We are not there yet.  Not at all.  I do not have all the answers, but I have used several strategies in the classroom, my principal’s office, and my home that have helped girls grow emotionally.  These strategies are not always celebrated in our “child first society”, but they are effective in a loving environment.  Growing strong girls is not easy, but life isn’t easy.  We need to prepare them to be able to respond to what life throws at them and we need to be patient with the messy process.

Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

My girls were really “lucky” to have their mom as the principal.  I had a key that opened every door in the building.  Anytime they forgot something we rushed back to school so they could get it.  NO….SORRY….THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN.  They could use the key once during the school year.  I think they used it twice over a course of years.  Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

When one daughter in fifth grade chose to wait until the last minute to complete a project the night before, I stayed up with her and helped her finish.  NO…SORRY…THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN EITHER.  I went to bed.  I had a job, she had hers.  She got a C.  She learned more lessons that night about life than if I would have helped her.  Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.  Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

I could rush in and save my daughters most of the time, but I do not.  I let them struggle.  The struggle helps the lessons we learn to stick.

Are you being a problem solver?

“Hey Mom!  I can’t figure out this problem!”

“How have you tried to solve it?”

“I haven’t.”

“Come back when you have tried it two different ways.”

I am not lazy.  I can help them after I have seen an effort on their part of solving the problem.  I do this a couple ways.  When they were younger, I would give them a couple ways they could solve a problem and then they could choose which way.  As they grew older, I would ask them how they solved the problem before coming to me.  This was with homework, each other, social situations, etc. and now, as they are older, they usually tell me the problem and how they are going to attempt to solve the problem.

A conversation when they tattled on each other would look like this:

“Mom, Grace will not give me a turn.”

“Mom, but she…”

“Girls, would you like to figure out how to solve this or do you want me to solve this?  If I solve this, I will take the toy and nobody will be allowed to play with it for a long time.  If you solve the problem, you can still play with it.  Here are some ways that you can solve it.”  And I would give them options.  Now, at 13 and 15, I will simply ask, “Would you like me to step in?” and their answer is usually, “No.”

As a professional that has worked with children through college, I can see that problem-solving skills are very important at every age level.  We, as parents, have to give them opportunities to be problem solvers in all situations at home and school.  As they get better at it, their confidence grows in this skill area.  There is always a time that you may need to step in, but we should allow them the opportunity to work through it first. I never get upset when they have tried to solve it and it fails.   I love complimenting their creative problem-solving skills.  You will often here our girls say, “Hey!  I was trying to be a problem solver.” Even if the fire trucks show up.

Give them the space and grace to grow.

I have a daughter that has struggled with anxiety since she was eight.  It is a fine line to allow her to struggle, give her the tools to deal with it, and the opportunities to overcome it.  It is not easy.  I get anxiety through it because I hate seeing my daughters hurt or struggle.  I have learned that the struggle teaches them so much more than me trying to fix everything.  In my heart, I hate to watch it, but because she has struggled, she has so much empathy for others and she has learned so many valuable tools to deal with it.

Recently, she had to make a decision about saying yes to be on a team or not.  She was obsessing over all of the possibilities socially, academically, etc. and then she said to me, “I think I may be overthinking this!  I am just going to say yes and see what happens!”  Yay!!!   She didn’t have paralysis of analysis.  She recognized it, worked it out, and made a decision!  GROWTH!!!!!!

We have a tendency to suffocate our children.  I can be guilty of this.  I have learned that giving them enough space to make decisions, independence to try new things, and welcoming arms to fail into is an amazing growth opportunity.

Allow them to feel pain and disappointment and help them process it.

My husband didn’t make Little League his first year.  I sat the bench my entire freshman year in softball.  I actually had a real splinter in my butt because I couldn’t sit still on the bench.  Those moments fueled a fire in us to get better.

Being left out is okay.  My daughter was not invited to many parties in elementary/middle school.  The kids would tell her because her mom was the principal and I might not approve.  Or maybe they didn’t like her.  We really do not know.  Many tears were shed, but she learned many lessons through that.  She learned what a real friend is and her value isn’t based on the acceptance of her peers.  This was a VERY hard, but valuable lesson.

Small and big disappointments help us grow.  Low grade on a test?  Not making a team? Not playing a position you want?  This is life.  We have to let them experience this.

I see parents on a daily basis orchestrating their kids’ lives so that there is constant success.  Everyone is an all-star.  Everyone gets a prize.  Everyone makes the team.  Parents make excuses.  Parents tell their kids how great they are and that they are the best.  What does this do?  This creates a trap of complacency in our kids.  We tell them, “You are the exception!  You are great!”  This helps our kids slide into the habits of excuse making and doing just enough to get by.

When my daughters do not make a team or a show, I tell them to get better.  We have a pity party with chocolate and I listen to their disappointments and frustrations.  They cry.  They sulk.  Then, I say, “How will you get better?  What is your plan?”  Disappointment and failure prepare them for life and make them resilient.  They need practice working through this with me before they go into the real world.

There have been so many situations where I see adults, including me, just wanting to tell kids what to do because it is fast and easy.  However, the process of learning is so much more complex than that.  Parenting is truly being our child’s first teacher in more areas than academic.  Their emotional growth depends on our responses, opportunities to grow them, and the way we view success.   I do not view success as reaching a certain goal.  I view success as hard work, decision making, good risk taking, failure, and learning.   In the long run, this creates young adults that realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them, creative problem solvers that exceed expectations, and confidence in what they are created to be.  Sit back, mom and dad, and allow your child to truly grow.  The long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term struggle.

 

 

How I Am Raising Girls To Love Their Strong Bodies

This isn’t a lecture to all moms.  This is written from a woman that suffered from an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and anxiety.  I now have two girls to raise to be healthier than I ever was.  I cannot prevent anything, but I can give them tools to see themselves in a different light than I ever did.  Since children do not come with a manual, I have learned much through failure and I have compiled successful things that we have done to grow our girls to see their bodies as strong.   We are not finished yet, but we are on the right track.

When I was in second grade, I looked down at my thighs and I thought they were fat.  When I had girls I knew I was going to have to be proactive in this area as the media, society, and moms have a strong influence on young girls’ body images.  As a mom, I have to model good habits.  I have to be growing in this area as well.  They need to see what the process looks like of loving our bodies at every stage.

Before Puberty:

  • I did not get magazines that came to the house.
  • I limited TV, commercials, and ads. TV also included the Disney channel until we could watch it together and then I pointed out the way they portrayed girls.
  • They played with American Girls, not Barbies. Barbie is just unrealistic.
  • I never went on a diet, talked about diet, or even complained about my body out loud.
  • I did not give food as a reward or when they were bored.
  • They ate what we ate at dinner. I was not a short order cook.
  • We ate goldfish, waffles, and lunch meat.
  • We also ate chicken, fish, eggs, and whatever John killed while hunting.
  • We rarely did fast food except for Chic Fil A…I think they put crack in their chicken.
  • We ate dinner together every night and never in front of the TV.
  • We celebrated what our bodies did and their growth.

During Puberty:

  • We talked about how girls will gain about 20-25% of their body weight during this time.
  • When they gained or grew, we did not say much, just went and bought things that fit nicely.
  • One grew first and is now gaining. One gained and is now growing.  This was really, really, hard.
  • Since they were so different, we shopped separately for them.
  • We looked at how every person’s body is different and that is okay. Be okay where you are now. This is hard, but we have to keep trying.
  • We did physical things together. We had fun doing it.
  • We do not always eat our feelings, but sometimes chocolate is the best. This is a term we say while we laugh.  We do understand the power of chocolate.  We know chocolate can help some things…sometimes you just shove chocolate at them and walk away.  This is how we survive puberty.
  • We squat. We lift.  We get really excited about the barbell numbers going up.
  • We do not compare.
  • We eat doughnuts…just not every day.
  • We do not weigh ourselves. Scales and jean sizes do not matter.
  • I show them how women’s clothes vary depending on size and cut. We talk about how stupid it is if we let a designer make us feel bad because we are strong.
  • We have learned to dress the body we have with class.
  • I model how our bodies are in constant transformation depending what kind of training we do, what we are asking our bodies to do and they are starting to see that and celebrate it.
  • I count my macros and they see me at the end of the day usually trying to figure out how to eat more.
  • We do not overeat….except when we eat pizza and ice cream. I always finish mine and theirs.
  • We are learning to listen to our bodies.
  • I have one daughter that eats like a horse. One that does not.  It took years for them to appreciate the differences.  I think we are getting there.
  • We have good days and bad days. It is what it is.
  • We look for the good things we like about ourselves. Eyes and hair we have going for us.  We MAY be related to Sasquatch.
  • We pop pimples. This makes us laugh and we laugh at the weird things our bodies do.  WE REALLY CELEBRATE ALL THE WEIRD THINGS….and all the things that happen during puberty and menopause.  Seriously, just think about that….
  • We also talk about sex, and sex, and more sex. I answer every question they have no matter what.  This has helped them see their bodies as a gift that it is. (These discussions should be videotaped…they are quite…comical and informative.)

I have a 15 year old and a 13 year old and my time is going quick.  We say that we are “wonderfully and fearfully” made.  When we say that, we need to show them the process of loving their bodies no matter where they are in the process of growing, changing, and developing.   We do that by showing them how WE (as moms) love our bodies.  If they can learn that at an early age, the foundation can help to carry them through seeing their body as a tool to accomplish things.  It needs to be taken care of and treated well, just like their hearts.  And as moms, we are just the people to lead them through it by the use of modeling, wisdom, honesty, and laughter….lots and lots of laughter.

 

3 Ways To Thrive In Middle School

Dear Sweet Middle School Girls,

Words cannot describe the transitions you will go through in middle school.  You will grow physically, academically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  During this time, you will be outside of your comfort zone often, but this is where you will grow and change the most.  Your focus is to change for good and you will need to answer the question, “What does that look like for me?”

Only you and God can define that because he has a purpose for you that you are only beginning to discover.  He has made you wonderfully and you are in the process of finding what makes you wonderful.

My daughters and I brainstormed 3 things for you to ponder as you begin a year in middle school.

1. Focus on your lane.

In this picture, “What do you see?”

FullSizeRender (11)

We see Michael Phelps, a gold medal winner.  The winner is looking ahead, focused on his goal.  He is not looking and comparing himself to anyone.  He knows what he is about and he is going for it.  The other swimmer, Chad le Clos, is looking and comparing himself.  He is more worried about what other people are doing than swimming his race.

We can easily get distracted in middle school wishing we were taller, shorter, smarter, faster, etc.  Look at who YOU were created to be and learn to do that.  This lesson is an ongoing lesson in life.  Keeping your focus on your lane helps you grow to be the best you can be.

2. Your friends matter.

In our house, we always say, “Be kind to everyone, but keep your circle small.”

Jesus had 12 disciples, but in those 12 disciples, he was closer to Peter, John, and James.  I have used this example many times with my daughters when we had friend issues.  Jesus had 3 close friends.  How many close friends do we really have or need?

Friends in middle school will be challenging because EVERYONE is LEARNING to “swim” and figure out life.  Many people will be learning to just keep their head above water.  Some people will be hanging on the side afraid to let go. Some people will be tired of swimming and they will complain the entire time.  Some people will be good at backstroke, but really bad at freestyle.  And many kids (including YOU) will not be sure of which lane to even get in let alone stay in.  Everyone is at a different level with different needs.  Sometimes it will be hard to be a good friend and have good friends.  Remember this.  Forgive quickly and move on.  Every person you come in contact is going through the same learning process, they just will be going about it in a different way.

This is from Caroline, my 13 year old daughter:

“Last year, I was tempted to go with the “popular” group, even though they were really mean to other people, and would talk about them behind their backs. I struggled with this because I wanted to be part of a group that seemed to get everyone’s attention. My other friend and I were talking about this and I realized something. I didn’t want to be the people that they were, just plain mean. Then it hit me, do I want to be the person that puts other people down or who brings them back up? I decided, to be the person who brings people back up. It took me a while to find a good group of friends. Eventually, I found like two or three people that were there. It is OK to just have one or two people that have the qualities. Those are the ones that will last.”

3. Finish Your Job….Everywhere You Go.

This is from all the moms, teachers, and adults in the world.

Did you see any of the Olympic athletes quit?  No.  Successful athletes do not quit and they finish what they start whether they win or lose.  When they fail or fall, they learn and grow.

Put away your things.  Complete your homework.  Put it in your folder.  Turn in your homework.  Put your cups in the dishwasher.  Pick your clothes off of your floor and into the laundry.  You get the gist.

This will make your life easier in SOOOOO many ways.  Just trust us on this one.

The girls and I will be writing letters to you throughout the year.  Start out well and stay in your lane!!!

Love,

Nikki, Grace, & Caroline

Every Woman Needs A Team of Friends

When I was hired as a first year teacher in 1995, I was the youngest teacher in the school.  The average age of the teachers in the school was 40.  These women took me under their wing and it was very hard to do that.  I had a lot of energy and passion. I once rode the overhead cart down the hall like a skateboard and almost hit one of the more experienced teachers with it.  She was smashed up against the wall, eyes as big as saucers, and when I expected a dirty look and reprimand, she began to laugh.  I wanted to be like these women.

Twenty three years have passed since then, but I learned so much from those ladies and so many women that were older and wiser.  I learned about teaching, life, and friendship.  I remember thinking, “I want to be like them when I grow up!” and I know that I have.  Strong women and men have made an impact on my life.  I celebrate my friendships with all kinds of people, but the common thread that always stands out is that these people are always strong.  Strong can come in all kinds of ways, but dedication, grace, redemption, and courage always shine through our experiences and interactions.

I do not look at my friends as a tribe, but as a team. Sometimes, my friends are guys.  Yes, I have always had a supportive “guy” group throughout my life.  Guys can see things differently than women.    We have a goal to not just survive life, but thrive throughout it no matter what situation we are in at the time.  My teammates have different strengths, values, and play different roles, but we are all focused on the same thing…growing to be the best we can be.

Older women mentor younger women…naturally.  Women need women of all ages in their lives to support them, encourage them, laugh with them, and grow them.  I have been blessed with women that have gone before me to guide me.  Recently, I have remembered one teacher in particular in that first school.  Her husband had cancer and she was his caretaker.  She had to walk through my room to get to her room, and every morning, she smiled, joked, laughed, and pushed through the realities of life. She would wear bright red Reeboks on Friday and she enjoyed the life she had been given by not majoring in the minors.  I have drawn on her strength and example from 20 years ago these past months.  I think of her often and I am blessed to have witnessed that strength and dignity. She had an impact.

Friendships with people of the same age are indispensable!!!!  We are in the trenches together.  Whether it is diapers, toddlerhood, adolescence, or rookie drivers….we need a strong support group that can laugh and mourn these moments with you.  I am selective about these people because time is not something I have to spare, so these friendships must be authentic and fierce.  When I think of this group of friends I have in my life, I do not just smile…I laugh out loud.  Our conversations are brutal, honest, sarcastic, and blunt.  We do not apologize for who we are and we do not hide behind any masks.  They are truth tellers.  Sometimes their honesty might surprise you, but when you walk away from them, you feel better than when you came.  They make an impact.

I also love having friends younger than me.  They keep me young.  I see myself in them.  I am glad I am not in my twenties or thirties anymore.  I look at their lives and the brightness that their futures hold.  I laugh with them.  Sometimes, I lecture them.  I like to listen to them!   I celebrate where they are right now and give them a blessing of where they will be one day.  I want them to enjoy the process, but they can not see that yet, just like I couldn’t.  I love celebrating the chapters they are starting and I encourage them through the chapters they are closing.  These friendships are important to me and I value these amazing young women that have so much in front of them.  Their youth and energy leave an impact.

These friends do their thing and do not compete with one another.  They are amazingly interesting and genuine.  Their “thing” is what they are passionate about and as a team, we celebrate it!  One friend is a bodybuilder.  I have NO idea how she can do that, but she is determined and dedicated.  I respect that.  One friend picked up a mountain bike and can not be stopped.  I would have to be shot if I was on a bike longer than a mile, but I celebrate her “thing”!  She was willing to be a beginner and her passion has grown her in so many ways!  I have other friends that scrapbook, cook, run marathons, play tennis, dance, knit….you name it, they do it!  Our differences do not divide us, but draw us close, celebrating the accomplishments of one another.

I model these kind of friendships for my daughters.  They see their importance.  They are working on choosing their friends wisely.  So much is caught than taught.

I would not have survived the last 2 years without my friendships.  My friends have held me up more than they realize.  Their prayers, time, hilarious texts, support, and acceptance saved me in so many ways.  And just like the best teammates, when I was stranded on third base, someone would step up to the plate and knock one out of the park sending me home with a smile on my face. Every woman needs a team of friends to play this game we call “life”, skilled in grace, courage, perseverance, and humor.  And every true friend becomes an “impact” player no matter what the timing or how they enter your life.

 

 

 

National Make Your Daughter Cry Day

Warning:  This blog is totally sarcastic.

When the girls were little, I could tell what was wrong by their cry.  If they were hungry, they had a whiny sound and they would move their heads back and forth.  When they were tired, they would arch their back and turn.  When they were down right mad they would just wail.

You get a break from the crying around the age of 3 until about…puberty.  Out of nowhere, it happens…the tears start and you do not know why.  You have to learn a complete crying language all over again.  And this time it is much MUCH more complicated.

There are many times that Caroline lives on Caroline Street, Grace lives on Grace Street, and John lives on Johnny Street.  I drive along their streets just dropping everybody off at their destination and picking them up as needed.  Since John can drive, he just shows up when he is not working.  Soooooo, when the street goes to two ways, it can get a little complicated.  When adolescent girls are reminded that the world DOES not revolve around them, it can be an eye opening experience!!!!  Guess what happens?  Tears= National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

Then, I am the bubble popper.  You have to pop the bubble that they float around in thinking about themselves.  Ummmm, excuse me, but let me set you straight.  One, until you pay the bills, your phone is mine.  Two, I am not your uber driver because you do not pay me any money to drive you.  Do not assume I can take you anywhere anytime.  It does not work that way.  Three, we have four schedules in our house and you are responsible for yours and the work that it takes to prepare for your day.  I will pick you up, Dad will pick you up, someone will pick you up….sometime.  Be patient.  We may be late because we have lives, jobs, and commitments. The realization on a daily basis that the world does not revolve around you= National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

Finally, the “Do Hard Things” speech can be delivered in a variety of ways.  It can be delivered gently at the end of the day when nobody has cried and mom is calm and has not been sucked dry by all of the people in the world.  The speech can be delivered in a “you can do it” cheerleader attitude with a glass of wine in hand making dinner or probably just ordering pizza.  Another method could be before coffee in the morning, when you are standing in front of me crying because you forgot a project that is due today and didn’t do your job….that speech will result in yelling, crying, and gnashing of teeth…mine and yours.  “Do Hard Things” Speech +Timing=National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

As I sit here tonight, glass of wine in hand, interpreting the language of adolescent tears…I declare every day National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.  I do not think we have had a day this summer that tears have not been shed.  I am making it a national freaking holiday.  And if you have an adolescent girl, you are welcome to join in the festivities.  Tears….I mean CHEERS!!!

 

 

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

I look around in the news and on my Facebook feed of kids destroying Lego displays, kids breaking museum exhibits, and talking back to parents as the public laughs and laughs.  Then, yesterday, because I try to stay away from the 24 hour news, I see that an ex-Stanford swimmer rapes an unconscious girl.

I am not sure whether to cry in despair, get sick to my stomach, or to just cut my family off from society.  I know we live in a sinful world, but, I am often overwhelmed at the thought of growing girls in a world that wrong is now right and right is now wrong.  It is not a job for the cowardly.  It is a constant job that is the most important job of all.  But, that is the problem.  America…we, as parents are not doing our job.

I have worn the hat of teacher, principal, and parent in the educational systems of America.  I have taught in public school and private school.  We continue to hold teachers at such a high accountable standard with unrealistic expectations to solve all the world’s problems, but the problem is parents.  How can we solve problems that parents are responsible for?  Parents….do your job!

Hold Your Kids Accountable

From the beginning, you teach your kids about the world.  You teach them how to love, you teach them respect, and you teach them the rules of the world.  (I speak this as a mom of 2 girls that do not have a disability, that is a completely different approach)  When your toddler throws himself on the floor, hold the line.  If you do not, you are teaching them that if you cry and throw yourself on the floor long enough, you get your way.  If you think a toddler temper tantrum is bad, it only gets worse.  And when you give in, you say, “You are in charge of the house.”

Our oldest daughter was VERY stubborn.  She would throw 2 hour throw yourself down on the floor temper tantrums at 2.5 when she did not get her way.  She even did it at her birthday party when she did not want ANYONE touching her swing set.  The birthday ended early, she went to her room and screamed.  I know psychologists might say, “Well, she was trying to tell you something.”  No, she was trying to get her way.  And I refuse to raise spoiled brats.  This daughter is still stubborn, we have focused her determination in many ways.  She is independent and determined when she sets a goal.  This was a process that happened over time as we held her accountable for her actions.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

My youngest daughter’s first sentence was “No means no.”  Even though she did not listen and we thought we were going to have to create a Military Pre-School for her, we kept saying it.   Even at 13, we still have to say it.  “No means no.  I do not care how much you whine, complain, or sulk, the answer will still be no.”  We do not have to teach kids how to manipulate.   We do not have to teach kids to lie.  We do not have to teach kids to be selfish.

We do have to teach them how to be kind, how to be honest, and how to be giving.  We do this by modeling it ourselves.  We also do this by following through what we say we are going to do.  I often see parents give empty threats.  “If you do this, we are going to leave.”  But, the parents never leave.  The kids keep doing it and they learn quickly that mom and dad do not mean what they say.

Think before you threaten, but make sure you follow through.  A conversation might go like this:

“I am giving you a warning right now to get yourself to stop __________ .  If you can not do that, we will __________________.  Do you understand?”

The next time it happened, I did exactly what I said I would do.  It did not take them long to understand that I say what I mean and I mean what I say.  Now, at age 13 or 14, I look them in the eye and say, “Try me.”  And they know.  They still try me and I still follow through.

Build a Relationship With Your Kids and That Means NOT Being Their Best Friend

My daughter was five when she looked at me and said, “You know my favorite part about getting in trouble?  When you take me in your arms and tell me what I did wrong, how much you love me, and what I can do to make it better.”

Discipline means teaching your kids.  I say this over and over to them, “I love you too much to allow you to act like this.  My job is to grow you to be the best you can be and that means that not allowing you to act like this.”  Over the course of time they know that loving them means growing them.  I give them the grace to grow, but when they do not improve themselves, I need to step in with boundaries.

I need to raise my kids to be able to step into this world, take their place in it, work hard and be independent.  They do not get there by me making excuses for them, keeping consequences from them, and keeping them happy.  Life is hard.  My job is to help them deal with life by growing their self control, responsibilities, and respect.  That process is draining as a parent.  This is a 24/7 job that will suck the life out of you.  Sometimes what you do will work and sometimes you will fail immensely.  This is how I show them the process.  I say to them, “You are not perfect.  I am not perfect.  Life is not perfect.  You are growing as a kid and I am growing as a parent.  We will not always get it right, but there is nothing you can do that will make me love you less and there is nothing you can do that will make me love you more.”  And by then, they know I say what I mean and mean what I say.

 

 

I Do Not Want My Kids To Be Happy

I just came back from the doctor.  Let’s have a moment of silence because I have begun menopause. (Insert silence…sigh…more silence)  I live with 2 teenage daughters that on any given day can have as many as 50 personalities BEFORE we get to school.  (Another moment of silence…and glass of wine)  A husband that could be on the show, “House” with his mystery illness. (Pour another glass) A senior citizen dog that has dementia, and a young dog that has pride issues and gives me looks that say, “Go ahead…make my day.” (The older dog actually drinks wine because of this.)  Sound familiar?  Does it sound like your house?  Maybe a little different context, but you get the gist.  This is life.  Life is hard.  Life is funny.  Life is unfair.  Life has left me asking myself, “But, what about the happily ever…?”  Nope.

I do not strive for happy.  I do strive for contentment.  There is a huge difference.  I strive to be content in all situations in life and it has not only changed my perception of life, it has changed me.  I am teaching my daughters to do the same.

1. Stop Comparing

This is a game changer.  I once knew a college student that had worked so hard in the off season to compete in the hurdles.  She worked out in all kind of weather.  She had a goal and she was not going to let ANYTHING stop her.  She was amazing and ready.  During the race, she had to keep focused, but she didn’t.  She looked to the side.  She looked at her opponent and when she did, she fell.  She lost the race.  Comparison robs you of contentment.

2. Enjoy the Process…

I recently asked our girls, “Do you spend more time practicing or playing games?  Do you spend more time preparing for a show or actually performing the show?”  Their response was the same.  “We spend more time preparing.”   My reply was, “If we spend most of the time in the process, why do we not enjoy it more?”  We have to be intentional in enjoying the process.  It is messy, full of failure, and hard. It is filled with temporary feelings that pass.  And if we are not careful, we will only be longing for the future and not enjoying the now.  If we can enjoy that, hard life moments will be easier to embrace.

3. The best memories are when things go wrong….

I love to hear the girls tell stories.  They never say, “Remember that one time, when everything was perfect and we just laughed and had fun.”  I know there have been times like that, but if you get them telling stories, it is usually funny stories when things went terribly wrong.    “Remember the 14 foot tree that you HAD to have for Christmas and it fell on dad twice…and he made you hold it while he went to Lowe’s?”  Those moments are when we grow…learn to laugh and let go of what it is supposed to be in your head.  It will never measure up.

I hear parents say, “I just want my kids to be happy.”  Nope. I am not the happy wagon.  I want my kids to learn to be content in all situations. I want my kids to feel the feelings and own them.  Angry? Yep.  Disappointed?  Yep.  Feeling inferior?  Yep.  Gritchy (that is a word co-workers and I made up.  It is between grumpy and b*&(#y)  It Happens.   Feelings come and go, how we choose to respond to them and the situations in our lives shows our true character.  Contentment is learned and we need to teach it.

An Open Letter From Your Crazy Mom

An open letter to my 13 and 14 year old daughter’s on Mother’s Day 2016

Dear Girls,

I am a hot mess.  I have not tried to hide this from you…ever.  I have an addictive personality and on the day you were born, I was committed to love you in a way that you would never doubt my love for you and never have to recover from your childhood.  This made me very, very scared.  Your dad believed in me when we brought Grace home and I looked at him and asked, “Now what?” I knew that it was going to be an adventure.  And even though I may have spanked the wrong child before (social workers can’t come and get me…the statute of limitations is over) and I warn you when I am about to turn into the Wicked Witch of the West, you know I love you.  You also know that mistakes are expected and embraced in our house. I am not June Cleaver.  I am not Mrs. Brady.  I am your crazy mom that rides her skateboard and does gymnastics at the age of 44.  And when we are together, Daddy says we are like three little old ladies.  But, there are certain truths that I need you to begin practicing at this age.

Be Strong.

Strong doesn’t happen overnight.  It is a process that is learned in every moment.  You fail a test?  You learn from it and study harder the next time.  That makes you strong.  You want to quit?  But, you do not, you stick with it until you get it. (Bowers girls do not quit.)  That makes you strong.  Your knees are shaking, but you stand for something nobody else does.  That makes you strong.  Becoming strong means that you will do hard things over and over.  Doing hard things will make you mentally, physically, and emotionally strong and that journey will never end.

Take Risks.

You know right from wrong.  Take risks that will put you out of your comfort zone because that is where you grow.  Go for it.  Compete.  Take the shot.  Go Big.  You will never regret any chance that you take, whether it is good or bad.  If it works out, it was worth it.  If it doesn’t, you learn and try again.  YOU WILL MAKE HUGE MISTAKES!!!  It is in your DNA.  (Look at your mom’s learning style…oh that’s NOT how it was supposed to go…)  Own it.  Own every part of it and move on.  There are always other opportunities if you have the reputation of being a hard worker and are respectful.

Fail Forward.

I have no regrets.  Bad boyfriends.  I learned what I didn’t want in a husband.  Eating Disorder.  I wouldn’t have compassion for broken people today if I didn’t endure that.  Car Accidents.  Well, I am working on that.  I am a work in progress and so are you.  Let’s celebrate the physical, academic, spiritual, and emotional growth you have made and let’s strive to continue to grow.

Out Work Everyone and Be Respectful.

This is the non-negotiable in our house.  Nothing else needs to be said.

You are going through some tough years.  I will be your biggest fan and your biggest truth teller.  I am learning not to lecture, I am TRYING to get off my soap box, and TRYING to just listen.  There is nothing that you can do to make me love you more and there is nothing you can do to make me love you less.  I am giving you the grace to grow.

Happy Mother’s Day 2016! It is an honor to be your mom.

XOXO and BIG SMOOCHES,

Mom…because you do not call me Mommy anymore.