Family, Work

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What shall we do with our middle son?  What should he lose?

I had been returning to my desk when the hubs asked the above in a plaintive voice.  It took me a few minutes for the questions to register as I swiveled in my chair to face him.    That is the million dollar question that I ask myself, day-after-day.

How do you self-motivate?

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I regurgitate the information I am gleaning from my current parenting book read, The Dolphin Way by Dr. Shimi Kang.  The dolphin metaphor isn’t doing it for me, but the author has cogent points that I absorb like a sponge.   And last eve, I had arrived to the chapter about self-motivation; particularly for our children.  In this age of helicopter parenting and tiger moms words like crispies (kids burnt out by overscheduling) and tea cups (overprotected kids whose parents hope to bubble wrap them and shelter them from the real world) have sadly entered into child psychology.  Extrinsic factors are motivators.   Rewards.  Material Things.  Accolades.

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I can  clearly remember when our bookclub read Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  The discussion was non-existent amidst our group of ten.  But the pool moms chattered and argued amongst one another for a week as I read excerpts from the book aloud on the bleachers.  Why?  In hindsight I see it.  WE were those tigers.

Kids are too busy and distracted to discover how to self-motivate from within.  When parents do everything or constantly dangle carrots to entice; why would a child want to do something, just because.  What’s in it for them?

When the hubs asked our sons to help within the shop; the middle son refused.  Earning money nor video gaming time were not motivating factors.  And so the hubs considers what this son will lose for not choosing to help.  Should this kid have to help?    Why did the other two immediately acquiesce without having to earn money or play time?  What motivates our children?  Heck!  What motivates me?

As the thought formed in my mind I stopped typing.  I was multi-tasking between windows; pinning online articles about swimming for exercise.  I am not a swimmer but I must change my fitness routine, often, to remain consistent.   And so I search, pushing myself to try new things…

…and found myself taking online quizzes; pondering my level of motivation.  I allocate myself an hour, each day, to do something I really don’t want to do.  Currently, that entails a project of wading through twenty-five years of paperwork generated from our small manufacturing company.  Surely, producing nuts and bolts doesn’t require THIS much paperwork?  The whir of our shredder is my constant office companion this summer.

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In order to function we must always have proper nutrition, enough sleep and consistent exercise.   To attempt to do our best each and every single day; these needs must be met.  The Eggo waffles for lunch, the late hour gaming matches and Internet surfing tendencies are not optimal ways to produce contributing members to my household.  Nor is the extra tutoring, private lessons and time consuming enrichment activities able to produce “well-rounded” kids for the betterment of society.

There is a school of thought that kids have to want to do things, intrinsically.  But what if they don’t want to do anything?  How far do you bribe, cajole, push and pull your child to make them efficient and productive denizens of society?  What is the tipping point or motivating factor for the child to want to self-improve and contribute?

If you have the answer, please let me know.  The answers to my husband’s query elude me.

It is hard to find the balance amidst our twenty-first century world.  A majority of US states are implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to teach our children to be competitive in a global world economy, to critically think and problem solve, to become innovators.  There are multiple correct answers to a problem; as long as there is proof to back them.  One needs to be able to communicate ideas and extra kudos for those who can do  this with panache.  How does one juggle staying competitive, discover the cure to the Ebola virus or proliferating squamous cancer cells, find world peace in the Middle East, eat, sleep well and exercise?  Is there really enough time in the day?

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It is these questions that taunt me as I seek my inner Zen and stoke my inner fire.  On the yin and yang symbol  I walk the fine, curvy line.  It seems easier to walk around the circle in the periphery.  Maybe this is what my middle child is doing.  It is easier to disengage, to lower expectations.  You won’t be critiqued or judged.  You will just be.  So very Zen.

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It is a fine line we walk, as parents, to guide our kids.  But in order to guide them, we must model the behavior for them.  During the hubs’ afternoon lull, I wheeled his chair to my desk to take the online self-motivation quiz.  Thankfully, both he and I fall into the same category; within two points of one another.  In our marriage we are complementary; the hubs is more of the critical thinker and innovator.  I am the collaborator and communicator.  We can push each other to be our best because we excel at different things.  Yin and yang.

Upon returning from the golf course, this afternoon, the hubs was disgusted.  All our sons could talk about, on the green, was online games instead of concentrating on the game of golf.  For the remainder of the afternoon bedrooms were in disarray when, hark; our eldest son’s closet organizer finally was installed.  It has only taken up space in our garage for over three years, but the hubs finally found his motivation. The younger boys were tasked with tackling the endless shelves of children’s books and unwanted clothes in closets.  They did not have any choice in the matter,  whatsoever.

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Meanwhile my parenting book urges dolphin parents to allow their children to play.  To have some free time and to explore things that interest them, just because.  Sadly, I think our children do not know what to explore without a purpose in mind (unless it is gaming).  My sons have not had days where they sat making mud pies or were left to explore the great outdoors.  Their childhoods have been filled with structured activities, lessons and sports.  The car was their homework space as we shuttled to and fro.

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Rosalind Wiseman, the author of Masterminds & Wingmen recently blogged an interesting point of view.  She had been speaking to a room of middle schoolers and was, unexpectedly, asked by a student what gaming console she preferred.  A mother of boys, herself, she realized she was given more clout because she could immerse herself into their gaming world and reply.  She wasn’t the typical adult who espoused video games as societal evils.  She could relate to the tweeners in the audience by discussing various games that virtually represented life situations of: bullying, racism, bartering and working communally.

Wiseman urged parents that being knowledgeable and empathetic to characters and games, could actually improve relations with those children who live and breathe: FIFA Soccer, Minecraft,  League of Legends, or DotA 2 24/7.  I happily noted she did not endorse inappropriate games such as Grand Theft Auto (GTA).   The take home; taking an active interest in what your child is into can be a way to communicate in their language.

Though I have no desire to create an online Steam account I have been spending my days looking up the games my boys currently play.  I share the idea with the hubs; who already has an online account and plays alongside my sons.  I suppose it is fair that if I make my boys understand why I make them do things they don’t want; that I should also understand why they do the things I really don’t want for them.

I must immerse myself in their world to relate.  It goes both ways.

It is my hope that what, ultimately, will motivate my children is to contribute; to give back.  I am hoping my transparency, as I also search internally and give up external factors as motivation, will also help them find themselves.  I must continue to search.  To serve.  To communicate and collaborate ideas.   My thinking cap is on; to arrive at possible answers and create new ways to reach my sons.  To be authentic.  To be true, to you.

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Family, friendships

the treasure of entropy

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Bruno Mars’ song, “Treasure” remains on repeat on the stereo as I attempt to organize the chaos of life this past week and this weekend. My goal is always to keep things simple.  Funny how it NEVER works that way.

en·tro·py. noun ; symbol: S. 1. Physics. a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system. 2.lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.  Definition from Google.com

“I want to live with a sense of abundance in the here and now, knowing that what we have is exactly enough.  Instead of wishing that my sons could be somehow other than they are, I want to remind myself to see, every day, what is already good in each of them and to love that.”~ Katrina Kenison The Gift of An Ordinary Day.

I always fight to clean, organize, label.  It’s inherent in my type A personality; to attempt to control my life and those who inhabit it with me.  It seems Saturday is the day I can process my week; this one being particularly busy.  Juggling work, home and anything else has really tested my mettle and each evening, even throughout my weekend, I do not have time to decompress.  To sit silently; still.  Entropy begins the minute I input events on my smartphone’s calendar as I attempt to account for my hours.  My internal chi (my thermal energy) cannot convert into productivity; work on organizing, cleaning and labeling my life. This is a work-in-progress; balancing order and disarray.  Being present, now amongst the randomness of every day life.
 
 
Treasure, that is what you are
Honey, you’re my golden star
You know you can make my wish come true
If you let me treasure you
If you let me treasure you ~ Bruno Mars
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I keep the above song on repeat to remind me of the flurry of activity yesterday.  Something that both the hubs and I discovered about ourselves is that we both retain information with music in the background.  When committing pre-flight procedures to memory the hubs would play classical music through headphones; the background noise helping him to focus and indelibly imprint his oral checklist into his brain.  For myself, a song can  bring me back to a specific moment in time with all the emotions associated with it.  When combined with a visual stimulus such as a picture; the feelings physically wash over me as if I am presently inhabiting that moment in time.  And so I want to remember the brief moment that flew by;  the media center full of adolescents observing a middle school rally.  The Renaissance kids dancing and acting out skits.  The band playing as kids marched around; high-fives up in the air.  My son feeling the sense of accomplishment that hard work and practice brings.  The hubs was amazed at the creativity of these junior high kids and their enthusiasm; their pride in being rewarded.  Parents who think adolescents are just raging hormones are sorely mistaken.  They have great potential as they attempt to discover who they are apart from Mom and Dad. The fact that this rally was put-on by students, with adult guidance, is a testimony that they can do more than we give them credit for.  It’s what we want for our kids; the confidence that they can maneuver life on their own; their presence having worth, creating a better space.  Making the world a better place.  The days of tantrums, yelling matches and battle of wills disappear.  It is this picture that stays in my heart; my inner chi.  For all the randomness of my days I will accept the chaos for this one fleeting moment in time. #jr. high rallies.
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The hubs and I sat in my coffeehouse adorned in plaid.  He knows this is my fabric of choice and as the fashion cycle returns to the more classic tartan-look I revel in glory.  I was surprised to find him wearing his shirt as he walked from home to meet me in the coffeehouse parking lot.  Upon my arrival at 8:05 AM I was frazzled.  I had already dropped the eldest at jr. high and made two trips to the elementary school before the bell rang yesterday; the middle son forgetting items at home after I had dropped him off at school.  The weekend will be spent packing for his week long sixth grade camp as he organizes his clothes and looks for last minute items.   He is excited to be with his peers learning about science and nature in our local mountains and has hounded me for weeks.  When do I go to camp?  Now that the week has almost arrived he checks off items on his list with a large grin.  Finally!  It’s here.  The washing machine whirs as the bag waits to be packed. The yarn on this suitcase remains from when the older son left for camp two years prior.  Time has flown by.  The song repeats and I sing the above lyrics aloud.   When the middle son rolls his eyes at me I tell him that I loooooooove this song..that it’s my fave.  When it had played at the Renaissance rally yesterday it was all I could to not to jump up and dance with the middle schoolers.  This son reminds me that all songs that I play on repeat are my favorite and so I sing the lyrics louder and dance and he laughs.  He, too, is my treasure.   He flips his hair back and stands next to me, eye-to-eye.  I am taller than you Mom.  And sadly, I think he may be right.  So I tell him to stop growing.  Yep.  I count my gift that I am still, today, slightly taller than my middle son.   I can exert my intimidating Mom-like presence for one more day. #still taller than middle son.
 
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I handed the book I am currently reading, Masterminds & Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman to my eldest, to choose my parenting profile.  He looked a bit dubious but quickly became absorbed in the descriptions.  Which one do you think describes me?  I had just begun reading the Your Parenting Profile chapter and read the first description called the believer and within the first minute the son tells me that I am this profile.  I cringe.  It is not very flattering.  I urge him to continue to read but he already has, quickly turning the pages as his eyes scan over the words.  A few minutes later he hands the book back, informing me that I am a combination of two profiles: the believer and the rock.  He gives me one last long look and shakes his head to affirm his choices.  Mom, you are the believer.  Remember the incident when (blah, blah, blah).  But the other half of you is the rock.   I shouldn’t have been surprised at his brutal honesty but I had to sit on this for a moment.  I continued to read in the chapter; more unflattering parenting profiles emerging.  Oh boy.  By the time I arrived at the rock I wondered what parenting profile could be left.  Ms. Wiseman nailed a lot of things on the head to make us, parents, check our baggage.  I was surprised after reading the description of the rock.  It is what we should aspire to be and a tear rolled down my face.  I am grateful that this son can articulate these things to me.  This book is a continuing conversation between the older boys and I, of the infrastructure of social heirarchies in pre-teen and teenage boys.   He and I had both arrived, independently, at his social role in his group of friends.  If you are a parent of an adolescent I highly encourage you to have this conversation.   It gives our children the opportunity to call us out; to tell us how they see us and what they really want and need.  But, you, the parent, need to be willing to hear these things.
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We sat at bookclub, last evening, discussing the book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day.  Nine of the ten members of our group were present with various quotes highlighted.  We pondered in-depth questions about change.  Do we resist it?  Seek it?  A few of us are in the season of parenting that the author, Katrina Kenison, was in when she penned her memoir; parenting adolescent boys.  It is no surprise that this book struck a chord with all of us; giving us a sneak peek of possible challenges we now face or will be facing with our own children.  As parents we do not have a lot of time to be introspective; to dwell on the whys as we shuttle children, to and fro and hustle them through their day.  Homework assignments, projects, sports, performances all fill our calendar boxes; creating havoc with the search for simplicity.  We all think we want to know what kind of parent we are; how we are perceived.  But in our discussion we came to the realization that some people really don’t want to know. In the Mastermind book, Ms. Wiseman talks of parents getting to know the parents of their kids’ friends to glean information about the pieces of their children’s lives we really don’t see; when they exist solely amongst peers.  One of the girls shared about a Mom that told her she always wanted to know if there were any issues with her daughter.  My girlfriend discovered what she really meant was she only wanted to hear the positive things. When confronted with negative feedback their relationship changed; the parent not acknowledging the issues.
 
We considered our definitions of success and our agendas for our kids.  Is it the child’s desire to be involved in the activities he/she is involved with or is it the parent’s hidden agenda to add these activities for transcripts to put on the college application?  If left to their own devices, our children would choose the lowest energy state, entropy…the randomness and unscheduled days to be lost in video gaming and social networking bliss.   If not practicing for sports or in dance rehearsals what would our children choose to do?  Should they be allowed to be couch potatoes in finger-flying text mode on Kik?  To read literature books versus posting on Facebook?  To draw pictures versus taking pictures on Instagram?  What magical concoction is the recipe for success for our children?  How, as the parent, am I supposed to find the balance when each and every day I fight the chaos to create structure?  I have the big “S” on my forehead…the symbol used in physics for entropy. The struggle between simplicity and organization versus productivity and chaos is ongoing.  Maybe I should just mix myself a drink and let the buzz bring me there, BIG LOL?  #black currant juice and whipped cream Smirnoff.  Yum.
 
The youngest sits across my lap, begging to be scratched.  He wiggles to the beat claiming he does not know how to dance as “Treasure” continues to play.   I’ve decided to take a break from the computer, unable to contain myself as I dance around while my son wiggles his scrawny behind.  These are the moments I love best; unscheduled time.  The papers are still strewn across my desk as the buzzer to my dryer goes off downstairs.  My house is in total disarray and I continually work on letting go of my compulsive desire to have things clean and put in its place.  I have to learn to live in the chaos, to stop trying to make it conform and instead, put myself in its flow and let go.  That’s really what life is all about…learning to gracefully let go.  To give up the control to something higher (aka God), to birth kids, guide them and allow them to leave us.  To forget the definitions of success and material trappings and to finally leave this Earth knowing that our presence here had purpose.   To love, expecting nothing in return.  I am appreciating the treasures in my messy, ordinary day, unscheduled moments. #Treasure- Bruno Mars.