Life Is Short; Forgive Your Family Members

Something About Nothing published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of September 25, 2017

The best career I have had in my lifetime is that of a mother. There will never be anything I do which will equal my feelings about being a mother.

I wasn’t always the best mother. We don’t have experience when we start, we gain it as we go and unfortunately for our children, at times, they are the testers for our parenting skills.

I have fought with my kids if I saw them making mistakes, especially if they were the same mistakes I made. I wanted to spare them the pain. They have fought with me when they thought I wasn’t doing the right thing in their lives or mine. That’s what families do, they love, they fight and they come together in good times or bad.

I didn’t understand when I was younger why my mother worried about me so much, or why we had to fight about certain things when I was a teenager or even a young adult. But I do now. As a parent and grandparent, if she were alive today I would ask her forgiveness for our fights and tell her I understand it was because of love.

As I get older I miss our kids. It isn’t because we don’t see them or they don’t share their lives with us, but because as a mother I still to this day at times have empty nest syndrome. I would love to be a part of their daily lives again. We live close — a couple of hours away, but we can’t have the day-to-day interaction, and it isn’t easy to go to all of my grandchildren’s activities and I miss that.

Because they are so busy with work and kids’ activities, they don’t get home very often. But the other night, my son shared a picture of him and his son engaging in a father-son activity. I realized while looking at that picture that now is their time together. My children are building their relationship with their children, just like my husband and I did with ours. They are making memories. It is the way it should be. They include us when we can’t be there by texting pictures and updates when they are at activities. I am thankful for new technology, but now is their time.

My heart was sad this week when I thought of some of my friends and relatives who are estranged from their children and grandchildren. For whatever reason, their children have cut them out of their lives and their grandchildren are growing up without knowing their grandparents and feeling their love. I saw the tears of hurt from one friend and my heart broke for her.

So, this column is for those children. As parents, we really don’t know everything, even though we pretend to. We are not always that brave person we appear to be. We get scared, too. We feel lonely. We make mistakes. We don’t always feel well and sometimes we whine. We give advice when it’s not wanted. We might not have agreed with your choices and maybe we voiced that too much. But right or wrong, as a parent we do that.

My friends and family members who are missing their children might or might not know why you no longer call them, come home or don’t bring their grandchildren to see them. That makes me sad. You might think you are different than your parents and you don’t want their influence on your children, but what are you teaching them about love and family? Will they ever feel if they do something wrong you will cut them out of your life, too?

In my own family, not my immediate family but my childhood family, there was a feud. Brothers and sisters didn’t talk to each other for years. After many years I don’t think any of them knew what they were fighting about, but they still held the harsh words they said to one another in their hearts until a few weeks before one of them died. They put their feud aside and spent the last week visiting. I felt sad at all the years they could have had.

As a parent, we don’t always wear our love for our children on our sleeves. We all say things in the heat of anger that we don’t mean, but it stays and festers and causes rifts in relationships. If you are estranged from your parents or Grandma and Grandpa is just a name on a card or a word that is never spoken in your household, ask yourself if it is worth it. There may come a day when you want to hear their voice but their place of residence is now an urn or place in a cemetery.

Look at your children and ask yourself if the same thing could happen between you and them. How would it feel? And then as you are telling yourself it could never happen, remember your parents said the same thing.

Life is short. I saw the love for you from my friends and family, which you were given when you grew up. I saw the happiness you exhibited when you were with your family. I can’t believe you don’t remember that love.

I feel blessed our children and grandchildren are a part of our lives because I know, being the opinionated person I am, that I have committed some doozies, and yet they overlook my faults. I love the quote by Byant H. McGill, “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”

What will you choose?

How Did We Survive Our Childhood?

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And this isn’t dangerous? Mall of Ameria.

It’s amazing my children grew up. It’s amazing I grew up. After all, my kids played with toys and had experiences that now would be considered unsafe. I grew up with toys that were much more hazardous to my health than children’s toys today and yet, here I am.

Recently I read an article that said Grandparents were a detriment to their grandchildren. In fact, there are classes for grandparents to teach us the new rules of parenting and taking care of children when we are sitting with our grandkids.

I don’t dispute we need to know the new rules for feeding and I learned no talcum powder on their little bodies. When my grandkids were born I remember having no idea what a diaper genie was, and I wondered how in the world I heard my kids without baby monitors. Some of these new gadgets are wonderful.

This week there was news which I thought was a little over-the-top. First I heard about the bus driver who always took the busload of kids to the Dairy Queen for a treat on the last day of school but this year a parent complained.

Another news item caught my attention at the same time. It was a note a teacher sent home to a mother chastising her because they didn’t approve of the packed lunch for the child. The teacher felt the treat the mother sent with the lunch was not an appropriate food choice because it was full of sugar, the offending food item is an Oreo cookie.

The final news story which caught my eye was an article about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending no fruit juice for children under one year of age. The reason—it will cause obesity and cavities in children.

In regards to the bus driver and ice cream— apparently, the bus driver’s job and the yearly tradition of taking kids to Dairy Queen on the last day of school by the bus drivers is now in danger. Bob Collins of MPR News addressed the problem with this statement: “This might be a tradition best left to die in a changed world. Thanks to the creeps among us, school bus drivers can no longer be trusted with kids.” That is a harsh statement in my estimation. If the bus driver was known to the community and trusted the entire year to drive those kids, and he didn’t take any of the kids alone but in a group then he should be trusted to take the kids to Dairy Queen. Don’t stop the treat, just change the communication and let parents sign a release for their kids to have a treat. It was an act of kindness made into a something the kids now might think of as a scary option on the last day of school. Don’t judge all because of a few Mr. Collins. We need to not parent out of fear.

As far as packing a school lunch is concerned, notes like this seem to pop up all over the country. Since when have parents lost the right to package a lunch and include a sweet treat? I would take offense at the school deciding what I can feed my child. I would rather my child ate something for lunch instead of throwing it in the trash because they didn’t like it.

The fruit juice recommendation threw me a little. Fruit juice, cereal and more were all healthy recommendations in the “olden days” for our toddlers. Fruit juice used to be healthy and now it is a detriment to those young children’s health right up there with candy.

I may be one of those grandparents who need a grandparent class to learn how to raise kids in 2017 so I can keep my grandkids safe.  I will admit that I did get hurt growing up and so did my kids.

I will share one instance with you. I had a tin wire tower for marbles. It wasn’t fancy like they are today. I decided to see if my fingers fit in the holes of the tower. And what did I find? They fit but they wouldn’t come out. The tower had to be cut apart with tin snips so my parents could get my fingers out. Did they call the toy manufacturer because it was a dangerous toy? No! They told me I should never do that again. Were they bad parents for this accident happening? No, it was an accident made by a silly decision of a kid.

All of this news made me anxious and thankful I don’t have any more kids to raise. It would be stressful trying to remember all these rules so I wouldn’t get in trouble as a parent. It seems we have thrown out good old-fashioned common sense when raising children.

My advice is to love your children. Make sure they know you love them. And use common sense when keeping them safe and in how you take care of them. The news and recommendations will change tomorrow. What you do today will be wrong tomorrow. And you know how we all dislike being wrong?

 

Kindergarten Ain’t What It Used To Be

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 1, 2017

Kindergarten — I still remember my kindergarten years. Mrs. Lewis was my teacher, and kindergarten in those days was half days. You either were assigned to morning or afternoon kindergarten.

Since I was only 5 at the time, I don’t remember what we had to know before we started that phase of our school life. I probably knew my colors and could count to maybe 100 or not. I don’t remember, but if I did know those things it was because of my mother, being a former teacher, took the time to teach me the basics. But it wasn’t close to anything those entering kindergartens have to know today.

A friend of mine who works in an area school recently showed me the list of desirable skills the kindergarten students of next year need to know before entering kindergarten. She attended school somewhere around the time I did, maybe a few years later, and was astounded at what needed to happen before these tiny little people could enter school.

I would assume today’s young parents know what D’Nealian handwriting is, because a child needs to know how to print their name in D’Nealian handwriting. I had to look it up. D’Nealian is a style of writing and teaching cursive, print and block handwriting, derived from the Palmer Method. How many of you know what the Palmer Method is?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not protesting all of the skills a child needs. Some on the list were: Recognize difference between upper and lowercase letters, shows an interest in learning, can attend to one activity for 10 to 15 minutes independently, has a working understanding of basic vocabulary words, can draw simple figures, can color within a given space, can grip a pencil correctly, stays in own space, can get along with a group, able to express a thought in words, and there are more stipulations. It is quite a list.

I know I did not know all of those things before I went to school. I have a feeling our list was quite short. The one thing I do remember is the rug we had to bring for our naps. Kindergarten was fun. When we first got there it was play time. Then we settled down and had a story. Some days we had show and tell. We did have teaching time but it wasn’t too long. Then we had a snack and a nap. It was a time of learning how to get along with others and learning basics to get us ready for first grade. And it was only three hours. I would say in my day and age the most basic function it served was for us to learn how to interact with each other.

There was no preschool in my day. We were kids. We played outside and played with friends or kids in the neighborhood. Our day was not scheduled with learning. We did learn while playing. We played house. We played cops and robbers. We played school. We had fun with no stress.

I wonder at the importance of coloring within a given space. To me, that says color inside the lines. Coloring inside the lines caused me great stress because I am not a color-inside-the-lines person. Why is it important to learn to color inside the lines in kindergarten? They should be exploring their child creativity, and it shouldn’t be wrong at that age to forget about the lines.

I don’t know if I still know how to hold a pencil correctly. As a parent, would I know how to teach my child to correctly hold a pencil, or would I have to ask someone for help? They probably taught me that in kindergarten, but in the scheme of life it wasn’t important enough to retain that knowledge.

A pre-requisite for attending kindergarten seems to be preschool or early childhood education. Because we didn’t have that in my day, did it hamper our learning experiences in elementary, grade school, high school and college? Were we dumbed down because we didn’t have this advance learning experience?

In spite of all the advances in education, we here in the United States seem to be lagging other countries when it comes to education. According to Pew Research, the United State ranks in the middle of the pack in education, behind many other industrialized nations.

There is a push going on in the Legislature to provide vouchers so children can go to private schools and attend more early childhood education programs so no child is left out. It doesn’t seem to be working to send our kids to school earlier and earlier. Will it work to provide vouchers to families to send more kids to early childhood education or preschool or to make private schools available to those with poor economic status?

I don’t know the answer, but in the rankings, the nations that rank the highest have public education. They pour government money into the public schools to educate all. The schools aren’t funded according to neighborhoods or school districts. They have quality schools and education for all. Perhaps, instead of lowering the age and qualification of what children need to know, or providing vouchers that still might discriminate because of parental choice on seeking them out, it might be better to funnel that money into our public education system and treat all schools equally, no matter where they sit in a geographical area. Perhaps we should put our money toward paying quality teachers who have the future of our children in their hands.

That is just my opinion based on an old person’s view of what could be important for our children. But what do I know? I am not sure how to hold a pencil, and I color outside of the lines and I didn’t know what D’nealian is. It must be because I only had kindergarten three hours a day and then I took naps.