The Rewards of High Self-Esteem

Growing up, I never had a lot of confidence. In fact, during middle school and high school, I was pretty much a social failure. It came down to a lack of self esteem and self confidence. It made it difficult for me to be comfortable in my own skin or do the things I wanted to do.

My kids have the self-esteem that I lacked. It comes from the way we’ve raised them, I guess, in celebrating their individuality. It’s not that my parents did anything wrong; they just came from a different generation when it was all about respecting authority and chasing the American Dream and conforming to society. Dave and I have raised our kids to question everything, think for themselves, and be actively involved in change. We’re outspoken, and so are the kids.

How does this pay off? Well, our kids are comfortable speaking their minds on issues they feel strongly about (even if their opinions differ from ours). It also pays off in ways that allow them a better experience in life. We’ve seen it come to fruition with the older kids, but we’re finally seeing the impact of the effort with the younger kids.

Parker recently tried out for a school play. It required him to get up on stage, sing a solo, do a dance, and read lines. He didn’t get the starring role, but he got a decent part. He was comfortable getting up in front of people and putting himself on the line – the thought of which gives me hives! Anika took part in a dance revue last year that had her on stage, dancing and performing in front of hundreds of people – something I could not have done at her age no matter what the circumstances!

Parker and Anika are strong-willed and somewhat control freaks (much like their parents). While that sometimes means we butt heads and come to the end of the day exhausted, I’m thrilled to know that they will go through life more comfortable in their own skin than I ever was.

Raising Individuals

My kids started school this year looking quite different from the norm. Parker’s hair was “rock star/punk” made messy with gel, cut into wild layers, and dyed blue and green with blond streaks. Anika’s hair, while cut in a simple bob, is pink and purple with a streak of blue in the bangs. Some people think we are too easy on our kids for allowing them to be able to express themselves in such a way at their ages.

I say, hair is one of the least permanent features we have, and it will always grow out if they don’t like it.

I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars for my kids to get their cool styles. We bought a bleach and dye kit and did the work at home. It’s not about money. It’s about allowing our kids to express their individuality and style. By fostering their ability to see themselves as individuals – to not get caught up in the small things like appearance but rather focus on the way they treat others and the choices they make – builds their self-esteem and confidence.

I’m proud of my son’s crazy hair style and the air of confidence he had about himself as he started middle school this year. I love that my daughter is comfortable enough in her own skin to wear wildly striped socks that are totally different colors from each other and from the rest of her outfit. I’m not raising sheep who will weakly follow whatever the fad is; I’m raising unique individuals who can think for themselves.

Birthdays Create a Moment to Reflect

Getting Real With Tiana Green

Another year has come and gone. It is funny how the older you get the more your birthday becomes “just another day.” I recently celebrated my birthday, and while it really is just another day, it does provoke some deep thinking on my part.

One of the first things that I always think of, as I do on many holidays, is my beloved mother. It just seems so unfair that my mother lost her life so early and was taken from all of us by such a dreadful disease. My birthday is a time when I miss my mom so much. She always made such an effort on my birthday to make me feel special. As a mother myself, I can now understand that there is nothing like the bond between a mother and child. I definitely miss hearing my mom call and sing me the happy birthday song. The other great thing she would do when I was younger and still living at home was let me choose what amazing meal I wanted her to make for dinner. She always did such fun things and we had such fun traditions. I hope to pass some of these on to my children.

Aging, in and of itself, has never really bothered me. My birthday is just a reminder of how quickly time flies. It amazes me from one year to the next that yet another year has passed. I also realize this when my children’s birthdays come around. My youngest son will be nine years old at the end of this month. How is that even possible? I have a teenager that is going to be grown up before I know it!! I am just really trying to cherish the time that we have with them at home because in the blink of an eye they will all be grown up and leaving us with an empty nest!

Football!

I will never forget our first day of football tryouts last year. We were starting late and it was our son’s first time playing football. It was actually his first time being in an organized sport at all. As I looked out on the sea of boys that had already been in tryouts for a week, they all seemed to know what was going on as they went from one station to the next doing the various assigned drills. And then there was our Travis. He looked lost. He didn’t know where to go or what to do when he got there. As his mom, it was so hard to sit on the sidelines and watch him find his way on his own. The coaches didn’t realize that it was his first day or first time and the other boys were well into the whole process so there was no specific direction. He had to just get in there and figure things out on his own.

With the encouragement of my husband, I stayed where I was at sending all the love and encouragement his way that I could. While he floundered around at first getting his bearings with this new process, I sat by realizing that what was once my “baby” was making his first steps into becoming a young adolescent. What better way than on the football field, right?

This process was truly one of the best experiences that I could have ever asked for, not only for our son, but for us as a family. We were so lucky with our coaching staff and it really could not have been a better introduction to team sports. Travis grew so much through this entire process and having such a great first experience has just fueled his drive to want more. So, on we go to season two!

Tweens Growing Up

In this day and age, the years before children even reach the actual teen years they are faced with so many difficult situations and choices. Commonly referred to as tweens, the years leading up to the teen years can often be more difficult for children than their mid to late teens. Children are growing up so fast these days. Between the situations they are exposed to in movies and on television, there are also a lot more mature situations that they are forced to go through within their own lives. Sometimes this is often times due to situations out of their control within their families and communities.

Within my own family my children have been exposed to so much more than I had ever thought their little minds and hearts should have to go through. While I am not directly responsible for what they have seen and experienced, it is because of some of my choices that they were able to be put in these situations at all. I have tried to protect them as best as I possibly can but the things that they have seen cannot be erased from their little minds. It is circumstances such as these that contribute to our children maturing so early and growing up faster than we would like.

The tween years used to be full of carefree fun and friends. For a lot of children, hopefully they still are. For children that have had to mature before their time, I hope that as parents we can provide them the guidance and love that they need and continue to provide as many opportunities as possible for kids to be kids. Finding activities and things they can do that encourage them to just have fun and enjoy being kids without the worries they will too soon have to face as adults, is one of the best gifts we can give our children.

Sex Talk for Breakfast

Talking about sex is not how I envision starting my morning. Well, talking about sex with my 10-year old son is not how I envision the start of the day, anyway. And yet…

It was an idyllic morning. The coffee was particularly strong and delicious, the sleep the night before had been adequately restful. I was sitting at the dining room table and my darling husband Dave was going to the trouble of making me a yummy cheese omelet for breakfast.

Parker, our 10-year old son, came into the dining room and said good morning, giving us both big hugs and actually smiling. It couldn’t have been a more Leave-It-To-Beaver moment.

He sat down at the table across from me and said, “Mommy, what’s an orgasm?”

[Insert sounds of idyllic morning screeching to a halt here!]

This was not just a how do you make babies question. This was a, “How do I tiptoe around this” question if ever there was one. I looked across the dining room and into the kitchen to Dave for help, only to discover he was trying seriously not to laugh while focusing diligently on beating eggs.

“Well, Parker…” I start hesitantly, wondering first, why he wants to know this and second, how I failed as a parent so badly that at 10 he cares already.

“It has to do with sex,” I begin.

“I know all about sex, Mom. I just don’t know what the word orgasm means,” replies Parker, totally confident in his knowledge.

Well now I am just wondering how much he knows, who told him, and where I can go to get the gag order.

I settle on what I hope is an acceptable answer that will not scar him too badly. “It’s the part of sex that makes people want to do it. It means that it feels good.”

I cram in before I lose his attention, “But sex isn’t something you should be thinking about until you are much older and in love and emotionally capable of – ”

“Mom! It’s ok. I’m not doing THAT. I just heard the word, that’s all,” Parker says as he tries to keep me from going Brady Bunch on him and turning a simple question into a moment.

Moment over. Parker heads on his merry way, singing and drumming as he goes. With hand trembling, I take a sip of my coffee. Dave comes over with the omelet and a look of amusement I’m tempted to wipe off his face with my freshly buttered piece of toast.

Ten years old!!  My baby boy is 10 years old and wants to know about stuff like that!

But – he asked me. He talked to me. He was comfortable bringing home what he was hearing at school and finding out what he needed to know. And no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, I’ll keep answering his questions and keep fostering that open communication and keep letting him know that home is where you come when you need to know what it’s all about.

For now, though, I’m just relieved to have survived the discussion, even though I know it won’t be the last.

Oh – and no 10 year olds were harmed in the creation of this blog post. I got Parker’s permission to share the incident. If you’re having trouble talking to your kids about sex, think about this: if you don’t, you might be a grandparent earlier than you expected!