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Do you ever feel like you’re good at something but then have that feeling that someone, somewhere will call you on it? Like, “Omg, she thinks she’s such a good ________ but she seriously sucks”, or something similar. This is a normal thought for me, no matter what it is: writing, acting, mom, wife, whatever. My therapist calls it Impostor Syndrome and it has a lot to do with one’s childhood, thinking that you’re never good enough. I think it also comes from seeing people who do have an inflated opinion of themselves and not wanting to be like that. In short, I am constantly, silently, sometimes desperately, looking for real validation while trying not to seem foolish, occasionally to the annoyance of those around me. For that I apologize, which is something else my therapist says I need to stop doing. I apparently can’t win.

Ah, well, such is life. Do you ever feel like an impostor? Comment below.

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Besides being a mom of three boys, I’m also a middle school teacher. And while I am of the persuasion that kids are precious and still learning and all of that, they can also be incredibly and deliberately cruel to one another. I hear it every day: taunts about weight, skin color, ancestry, hair, financial status. You name it, a middle school student has heard it either directed to them or to someone else. It’s really disturbing, sometimes, to hear what kids can say to each other. Girls are routinely called whores or bitches, boys are called pussies or girls as insults. Even eight- and nine-year-olds say these things. My school is a 4-8 and it still shocks me to hear a tiny 8-year-old tell another one to “shut the f- up.” This is even with all of the anti-bullying programs out there. By the way, this isn’t exclusive to my school, I’ve heard this my entire teaching career, including while subbing, at many different schools.

How we as adults deal with this behavior is really important. The thing is, a lot of times, when a child is subjected to these kinds of insults, adults either tell them to just ignore it or they turn the responsibility on the kid who was the target of the mean comment or action. They’re told to suck it up, “be a man” if they’re a boy (I absolutely DESPISE that term) instead of properly dealing with the situation. This sends the wrong message. I’ve heard boys say absolutely vile things to girls and when I’m confronting the boy, the girl will tell me that it’s okay, not wanting me to do something about it. The boy learns that he can get away with it and the girl learns to just let it happen. This teaches kids to not only expect but to tolerate verbal abuse, to accept it as a normal part of growing up when we should be teaching them to not say those things at all.

I’ve never been okay with that. When my boys would deliberately say or do something hurtful to one another, all most kids do, I tried my best to get them to understand exactly what they were doing, how words, especially, can hurt and for a very long time. I remember a lot of things said to me as a kid (as I’ve mentioned before, I was kind of an odd child by society standards) and I still feel a twinge of pain when I think of them. I wanted them to know that what they say in the heat of the moment can cut deeply. I wanted them to think before they spoke, to make a choice about what to do before repeating what someone else is passing around, and to put themselves in another’s position. Did it always work out in the real world? Honestly, I don’t know because I wasn’t with them 24/7 while they were at school or activities, but I do know that that kind of thing wasn’t tolerated in our house. I hope they remembered what we taught and what we tried to show them, even to this day.

I try to do the same thing when I hear students say these things. I pull them aside, if I can, one-on-one, and talk to them about what they said. Why did they say that? Do they even know what those words mean? Would they say that in front of their parents? (In some cases, the answer to that question is a heartbreaking, “Yes”.) What if someone said that to them? To their mother, father, siblings? In other words, I try to not only hold them accountable for their actions, but to do it in a way to make them think about why and to help them understand that there are consequences for their actions. Their brains are still growing and kids do dumb things when their bodies are changing and the hormones are flowing but that doesn’t mean that we can’t plant the seeds of being kind. It also means that we shouldn’t just dismiss it as “kids being kids” or, even worse, “boys being boys”. Shudder. And don’t be fooled, girls can be just as abusive, especially to each other, unfortunately.

Where do they learn it? It’s very simple. Us. The adults in their lives, either in their own homes or in the media, especially social media. Have you ever read the comments section? It’s a freaking scary place. Kids are left to roam online, unmonitored, uncensored, exposed to every racist, sexist, misogynistic thought out there. They are exposed to racism, porn of all kinds, not to mention incels and extremists. The internet is not a babysitter, but a lot of parents treat it that way. You don’t think your kid has seen anything? Don’t fool yourself. They’ve seen and heard more than you know. Even with the protections we took, our kids still managed to stumble on some crazy stuff. This is a scary time to be a parent.

What to do about it? Talk to your children. Learn about what’s going on their lives, who their friends are. Know where they’re going, not only physically, but online. Hold them accountable for their actions, teach them consequences without berating them and be consistent. Above all else, teach them to be kind and to treat others with respect in any situation and not just by telling them, by demonstrating it yourself. Treat others with kindness and respect and make sure your children see you do it, even if the waiter/waitress/customer service rep seems to be having a bad day and gets something wrong or the food is late. Don’t make disparaging remarks about women, men, other races or religions. Change your behavior if necessary and talk to your kids about it. Showing your kids that you can change is incredibly powerful. Be a good example.

Parenting is really difficult sometimes and most of us do the best we can, but we can always learn and grow. Parents are the most important example and influence in their child’s life. They imitate us, whether they realize it or not. The culture won’t change until we do.

Let’s raise kids to be good humans.

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“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Image result for free snow pictures

 

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When I was a kid, I had a Magnus Chord organ (look it up) that used to be my mom’s. I loved that thing. It had a short keyboard to be played with the right hand, I can’t remember how many keys, and buttons that produced accompanying chords that were played with the left hand. The minor chords were my favorite. There were music books written specifically for the Magnus Chord organ and I played it all the time, especially between the ages of 7-10 or so.

One of my favorite types of music to play, and sing, was Christmas music. Like, in the summertime. Also in the spring, the fall, and in the long winter months after Christmas. I also listened to year-round Christmas music on my record player. Gene Autry, Burl Ives, The Carpenters. When we got the Avon Christmas tape, I was in heaven. I adored the melodies. the words, the sacred feel of it all. I still do. Of course, I was allowed to listen to it in my room, but playing it in the living room or in the car was taboo until Thanksgiving Day when Santa was given the key to the City of Detroit during the Thanksgiving Parade.

I still pretty much do that, the only exception is when we begin to practice Christmas choir music in October. The difference is that now, I don’t sing or play Christmas music on my own throughout the year like I used to. What changed? I’m not sure, but the best guess I can muster is that it just started to feel less special. I noticed myself getting sick of Christmas music by the time the holiday actually got here and that made me sad. I wanted Christmas to feel special again. Plus, now, it just doesn’t feel right until it gets closer and colder outside. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel special, then. The feeling has to be just right.

This year, two radio stations that I normally listen to began playing Christmas music on November 1. I’m not upset about it, but I won’t be listening to them again until Thanksgiving. It’ll be great then; Nat King Cole can sing “The Christmas Song” and “The First Noel” 500 times in those four weeks and I’ll happily sing along at the top of my lungs. (Not Mariah Carey, though. I WILL change the station when she comes on.)

Again, I LOVE Christmas music and I have nothing against anyone who wants to start early, I just need it to be closer to actual Christmas.

Enjoy the holiday season, everyone!

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“It was November, the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.”

~L.M. Montgomery

Anne Of Green Gables

I don’t care what anyone says, I love the spirituality of November.

 

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We all have weird stuff that we hate to do. For example, I hate packing lunches. I always have and it doesn’t matter if it’s my own or for someone else, even for my kids. Seriously, I loathe it.

I also hate opening a new bottle of wine, although I thoroughly enjoy the result.

These make no sense, both of these activities take only a few minutes, but I really dread doing them.

Other weird dislikes? Driving, talking on the phone, making dinner decisions, planning lessons, and grading papers. Well, maybe the last two aren’t too difficult to understand…

So, what’s your weird dislike? Spill it here, preferably, or on Facebook and Twitter. I want to know that I’m not crazy all alone!

Spill it!

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I got a new tattoo a couple of days ago, an early birthday present to myself. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have been adding to my collection over the last five years.

I’m up to 6 now, including the one I had covered up two years ago, and I love, love, love, my body art; it’s an expression of me and who I am. I went back to a shop where I went two years ago that had been recommended by friends. The artist who did my cover-up then was super awesome and I wanted to have him do this new one. Unfortunately, what I wanted wasn’t his style so he referred to another artist in the shop. After viewing the new guy’s work on Instagram, I felt comfortable that he would get it right and set up an appointment.

The tattoo turned out fabulous, just what I wanted, but it was the conversation we had that has been sitting on my brain for the past two days. I won’t tell you all of it, but the gist was that his family had not been supportive of his art when he was growing up. As with a lot of families, though, his family didn’t consider anything having to do with art as a “real” job. Now, this guy is talented. I wouldn’t have let him put his art on my body if he wasn’t. He loves what he’s doing, but I wonder what would have happened if his family had supported his dream, if they had encouraged him to follow his passion rather than quash it. He’s making his own art now, not in the way he originally wanted to, but it fits him at the moment. Still, he has “what-if” moments.

I immediately identified with what he went through. In my first year of college, it was made very clear to me that my aspirations of going into theatre would not be supported and financial assistance was withdrawn. I eventually took the safe route, managed college myself, and got a “real” job, but I often think about how my life would be different if I had been allowed to pursue my dream. Now, I think that Marty and I would still have met and we would have had the same kids because we were meant to, but I might have been happier, less prone to the bouts of depression due to work frustration. I might not have been wishing my life away every year, counting the days until my next break. Is this a grass-is-greener situation? Maybe. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I had majored in theatre and gone to New York like I had planned. I might not have made it very far in that world, but I would have at least tried. I wasn’t confident enough to really strike out on my own so I put my energy into getting a safe job. Plainly put, I was too afraid to try it by myself. I wish I had been braver.

Now, Youngest Child wants to be a jazz musician. He’s excellent, really, a very good musician, and that’s not just mom-bias talking. I see me-as-the-artist in him, except he’s more confident in his abilities, more proactive in following his path. We are supporting his decision. He’s making contacts that will help him in the future, taking as many private lessons as we can comfortably provide for, and I’m driving him all over the metro area. Is it a lot? Sometimes, but you know what? When I pick him up from a performance or a lesson, he’s happy. He’s doing what he loves to do, he’s challenged, and he’s driven. As a mom, that’s the best outcome I can hope for. Will he make it professionally? I hope so, but if not, at least he will have had the chances and opportunities. (I have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll do well, though.) We made it clear that he will have to support himself as an adult, but he’ll figure it out. We’ll be here for advice if he needs it.

Society tends to look down on kids who want to go into the arts, but, ironically, we pay billions of dollars into the entertainment industry every year. The arts are so important: music, theatre, painting, sculpting, these things all take an enormous amount of talent, yet parents discourage their kids from going into them full-time. I get it, it’s hard to get insurance or job security in the early days, not to mention a retirement plan, when one is paying their dues, but is that more important than being happy with life? Some people are willing to work a job that isn’t their passion and deal with it fine and then there are the rest of us who find it difficult to fit into that mold.

What is the point of all of this? If you have a kid who is interested in going into the arts, let them try. If they’re terrible at it, that will be evident soon enough and they’ll try something else. Relax and be supportive of their dreams even if you don’t think they have a snowball’s chance in hell of making a living at it. Don’t make them wonder, “what if?” later on because you squelched their ambition. They may not get there, but they will have the memory that you supported them and believed in what they wanted to do and that, my friends, is worth a whole lot more. You might be surprised at what happens next.

 

 

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