Perfect Parents Aren’t Real!!

by Mary Ann on April 9, 2014

Lots of people, lots of children make for lots of chaos!

Lots of people, lots of children make for lots of chaos!

There Are No Perfect Parents


cousins on a couchI am not a perfect parent! Of course you know that because there is no perfect parent. However, I am always shocked to see what I haven’t changed in my behavior as a parent. I tell you being with children is like being under a personal microscope, where your strengths and flaws are enlarged for you to view. I am not exactly sure why this is true but it is.

That is why trying to be a perfect parent can be rough some days…because you are always under that microscope. It does ease up a bit as you become a grandparent because you just don’t have children 24-7 and when you do have them for longer periods, say overnight, well, you can hold it together pretty well. It’s when you have them for a few days that the microscope turns back on.

That happened to me this weekend. I had four grandchildren that I took to Colorado to spend four days with five other grandchildren. That was a five hour drive one way and then I got to be mom and grandma for four days; mom, because I was specifically in charge of four of the nine and I was visiting my daughter and grandma because that is what I am to all nine.

Most of you may know that I am a recovering rager…recovered for well over 25 years. Now I can be really calm under pretty laughing boysintense pressure even thought I am not a perfect parent.

You may not know that I am also a recovering controller and order fanatic. Try being those things with nine children for four days! As I have aged I have gotten far better at letting go of the need to be in control but I have to admit that the need for order, well, that is a work in progress.

I am confessing all of this because there is a point I want to make, eventually.

Now to cut myself some slack in the experiences I am going to share it would be valuable to know that I had been ill with a cold and sinus infection for three days prior to leaving for Colorado and was not recovered.

Being a NOT Perfect Parent

On the way down we stopped in Price for lunch. At Wendy’s my husband ordered the food and I ordered the children. I had them all seated with spoons, straws, etc. ready to go. Jack wanted to go help grandpa get ketchup and bring the food to the table but I said, “No, he is almost done. Just wait.” Jack looked at me and sweetly asked, “Grandma, why are grandmas and grandpas so bossy? Is it because they are old?” I thought carefully about the answer for a whole second and then laughingly said, “Yup, were old.”

Thursday evening all went well. We had dinner in shifts and then the kids played. We had two six year old boys and one four year old girl, as well as two, two year olds. The three older girls where doing what 10, 11 and 14 year olds do. As for the rest it was Spiderman, Super woman and Ironman to the rescue and believe me rescues are LOUD and last for a few hours.

Then it was baths in shifts; lots of splashing, bubbles, wet towels, floating toys, etc. By ten I was ready for bed and so were they. All were tucked in, kissed, prayers said, etc. Oops, Mary reminded me that they hadn’t brushed their teeth. I replied that we would do it in the morning. Really, 5 hours on the road, four hours of feeding, loud playing and bathing… I just couldn’t get them all up again!

When I was raising seven children I got up in the night…every night and sometimes twice. It was a habit developed when nursing the first one. I would check every bedroom to make sure all was well and everyone was covered. No big deal. For the three nights I had all of the grandkids together I woke up at least six times a night. I guess I just needed to make sure they were still all covered, still breathing and that all was well. I can tell you by Sunday morning I was feeling a bit sleep deprived.

Friday I helped 14 children make sugar eggs. Because I was ill this time around I thought we would just let them go. However, I have been making them every year of the 43 years that I have been married and my grandkids were adamant about wanting to make them. I guess some things just do not get old! It was a lot of fun and I am definitely in my element when working on projects with groups of kids. Want to make some of these with your children. It is really easy and you can find out how right here. (While we are on the subject of Easter here are a couple of terrific Easter reads for your family)


sugar eggs

sugar eggs

We played, cooked and cleaned all day Friday and Saturday. I had a brief moment for a one on one conversation with my ten year old granddaughter Ashley. I never got any private moments with the rest and that was such a bug to me. I also didn’t get any private time with my daughter Marie, although we cooked and cleaned together.

children in glassesIt seemed that no matter how I tried, by the time I got one meal done and cleaned it was time to start another one. Then there were baths and some laundry because they just kept getting wet and dirty.

Being a Really NOT Perfect Parent

Bedtime on Friday evening was pretty difficult. Mary had had a rough and tumble day and she was really tired by about 5. That is when the mini meltdowns began over very small things. By bedtime she was brewing for a big meltdown and sure enough she had one. I am usually able to roll with the punches but I was TIRED. So I picked her up and hauled her into bed. (Don’t feel bad for her, it was almost 9:30) Then I put all the rest of the under 10’s to bed, all over the floor, in bags, and laid down with Benny so that he would stay in bed and go to sleep.

Mary tantrumed for about 8-10 minutes. Sigh. I just told her that I couldn’t talk to her until she got hold of herself and then we waited it out. In retrospect I should have done something different. I should have cuddled her and the waiting it out would have been shorter, but I was tired and I wanted her to get a grip and frankly, I had let it become a “who is going to win” thing.

When she ran out of steam I cuddled her just like I should have in the beginning and she went to sleep and we were friends but…now boy in aviation gogglesBenny and Maggie were both wide awake and 30 minutes later were still wide awake. I knew I couldn’t lay on the floor even one more minute so I hauled them both out to the living room and Don held Ben and I held Maggie until 11:30 when they both fell asleep. This was my payback for letting the tantrum become a contest. Really, I am perfectly aware that this is NOT what you do as an adult. This was not being a perfect parent!

Sunday morning I had everything packed and we were ready to go. Mary had two small tantrums. I in my “no nonsense” energy expected her to just get with the program. At one point I got upset with her. My husband said, “Lets get in the car and try not to have intense voices.” Yikes! My daughter in her “lets help people feel good” energy talked Mary and Jack through the mini meltdowns. They didn’t want to go to the bathroom and of course, I said “just go do it”. My daughter said, “Hey lets go see if the pee is hiding”. Mary wanted to wear the new (used) winter coat that Marie had given her. It was packed, on the bottom, and so I, in my practical way said, “No, put on your jacket. The coat is packed. We can get it out when we get home”. Marie said, “Mary it is going to be so cool to keep the jacket hidden and surprise your mom”. Sigh! You would think that 42 years of parenting and working with thousands of kids would have helped me become the “fun” parent! You know, just the perfect parent! I sat in the bathroom while everyone was waiting in the car and cried because some of the things that bugged me, that I did as a parent of seven, I still do as a grandparent of 11. I haven’t “improved” everything about myself yet!

Before I could get all the kids buckled into the car and we pulled out of the driveway Mary had eaten her treat and downed an entire pint of juice. Needless to say by the time we got to the first pit stop she had fallen asleep and then wet her pants and the car seat. I dumped out the laundry sack and padded the car seat with plastic. This stop was for lunch and diaper changes and pottying. It took an hour to feed Maggie. We got Jack and Mary out to go to the bathroom at the beginning. At the end I asked if anyone had to go. Nope, no one, fifteen minutes later Mary had to poop!

girls and boys playing air hockeyAuggggggh. I turned around and said, “Mary I am feeling so mad about this”. Jack looked at me and asked, “Grandma why does that make you mad?” Bless his heart. It caused me to stop and think and then say…”because we just left the gas station where we have been for over an hour and now we have to stop in the col d (the wind was whipping and freezing!)and poop on the side of the road and really Jack it makes me tired”. Mary did her business and then laughed and said that her poop looked just like a dog poop. She was right and it wasn’t very big. She could have held that right!

Less than 30 minutes down the road I heard this from the very back. “Grandma I have to poop but I haven’t been complaining.” Gotta love it! The timing was impeccable because we had just gotten to the last gas station for miles and miles and the wind was still whipping and cold.

By the time Mary was done with her business I had taken Jacks question to heart, “Grandma why does that make you mad?” and made a serious attitude adjustment. We were going to have to pee on the side of the road a few more times. I wasn’t going to get a nap without being woken a dozen times by the sound of “Grandma….” I was going to have to keep turning around and finding dropped straws, pick up spilled treats and retrieve Maggie’s upended Ipad. That is how it was going to be. Might as well smile and enjoy the ride!

So what is the point of this whole long story? I am not a perfect parent and neither are you. I am not always as fun as I should be. Sometimes I forget to be the grownup. Sometimes I forget to take breaks and I get too tired. Often I forget to ask for help with the load.

But this morning bright and early, both Mary and Jack were at my door for hugs and kisses and to see what was happening in my end of the world. We are still friends. They think I am a perfect parent (grandparent in this case). I am not a terrible mother or grandmother. I am just a mother and grandmother doing my best.

As I said, parenting is like being under a big microscope and seeing all your strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately we tend to see the weaknesses much more clearly than we see the strengths.

I had had a great conversation with my granddaughter. I cooked and cleaned with my daughter. I did a super craft with my grandchildren and their friends. I made sure they were safe and fed and dressed and cleaned and yes, even hugged and kissed. I read a good night story. I apologized for forgetting to be the grown up. I was willing to take them on a trip. My grandchildren aren’t afraid to ask hard questions. They aren’t afraid to say they have to go to the bathroom for the umpteenth time. Yup, I have a lot of strengths and I shouldn’t sit in the bathroom and beat myself up over the weaknesses but instead remember that anything can be changed, that I am still alive and that means there is still time and that while I am working on whatever isn’t quite right yet…I need to celebrate what is. And so do you!! Doing that one small thing will ultimately move you forward toward being a more perfect parent!

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Children Learn Best When They Are Interested

by Mary Ann on March 31, 2014

Children Learn Best When they are Interested

Benny LOVES learning about tools!

Benny is 2 and he loves knowing how things work! Yesterday as I came upstairs I saw him working really hard on the vent on the wall, with a screw driver. He was trying to put the blade of the screwdriver into the slot on the screw head. Of course he doesn’t have fine enough motor skills yet to manage it. Then there would be the issue of being strong enough to turn the screw driver. He didn’t seem to be perturbed or discouraged about what he couldn’t do. He was totally immersed in learning about it to his level.

I said, “Benny, what are you doing?” He replied, “Take off.” When his motor skills catch up with his desire to “work” with tools we had all better look out!!!

I am thinking about Benny today because of what happened this morning. I have been tied to my computer for a few days working on a project. This morning he climbed onto my lap and watched for a short time. Then he said, “What this”, while pointing to the cord that connects my computer to the source of electricity.

I responded that this cord brought electricity to the computer and that a computer had to have electricity to work. He repeated, “Electricity”.

He then pointed to the printer cord and said, “What that?” “It is a cord to the printer Benny. It lets the computer tell the printer to go toChildren Learn Best When they are Interested work”. I pointed out the cursor and then hit the printer icon. Then we watched the page print.

Then he pointed to the cord that connects the mouse to the computer. “What that?” “That is the mouse Benny. See when I move it this little cursor moves on the screen and lets me pick what I want.” He repeated, “Cursor.” He was fascinated by this.

Then he pointed to the thumb drive that I was using for my project. “What that?” I told him it was a thumb drive and that it had some pictures on it. He said, “Thumb drive”. Then I moved the mouse, pointed out the cursor on the screen and he watched while I opened the device and then the file with the pictures. We took a moment or two and scrolled through the pictures while he named off the people.

Children learn best when they are interested!

When we were done looking at the pictures he pointed to the thumb drive and wanted to start over again! Children learn best when they are interested.

Children learn best when they are interestedThis is a perfect example of what happens when we listen to children and respond to what they are currently interested in. I was listening and I ‘heard” his interest and I responded and then we had a familiar conversation and he began to learn.  It was so tempting to say, “Benny, I can’t play right now, I am working.” But who knows when he will come again to ask about the computer.

And since when does a 2 year old sit still and learn about something way above his level to understand for about 5 minutes! Anytime he is really interested. And that is the key to real learning. When a child is interested in something, they want to know more. So it is important to resist the temptation to put off what we could do now, until later, when it is more convenient.

Really, children learn best when they are interested!

We can’t always respond right now but we should really try whenever we can; the younger the child, the more fleeting the interest and the teaching moments.

Benny won’t remember the terms that I said today and of course he has no idea how any of it really works. Here is what he will remember, Grandma loves him and is interested in what he is interested in. Learning is fun. And he is never too young to learn anything.

We can scale down any topic to fit the age. We need to listen to children, hear what they say, watch for Sparks and then respond as soon as we can.

I gained some great enjoyment from helping Benny learn more about the computer today and it went a long way to increasing his confidence to ask. Children learn best when they are interested! 

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Book Discussions and Children

by Mary Ann on March 1, 2014



Reading to Children


Reading to childrenSunday is the birthday of Dr. Seuss and in honor of that Maggie’s school had an assembly and kicked of a month long reading contest. I was there and here is what I noticed. Everyone wants to win the contest. Maggie’s class won last year and they want to win this year. Yesterday her class had five books read to them by participating adults. Some readers were very interesting and some read in a monotone and were soooooo boring. Some readers obviously liked what they were reading and some felt uncomfortable. Some were good readers and some adults stumbled while reading all those rhymy words. The children were glad to have the books read to them even if the readers weren’t comfortable or if they were a bit boring.

But here is what I noticed the most. There was virtually no interaction between the reader and the children, about the content of the books. A couple of the readers said something like this: isn’t that funny, wouldn’t you be scared, or what do you think of that. But these were rhetorical questions because time wasn’t given to the children to answer. If a child did try to answer they were asked to not interrupt so that the reading could go on. This is how most of us are reading to children.

A Better Way When Reading to Children

But there is a better way when we are reading to children! So many great discussions can be had even with tiny tots.summer Lets take the Story of  The Little Red Hen for example. What if you asked questions like this to a four or five year old as you read the story: Are you ever like the cat when someone wants you to help them? How do you think The Little Red Hen felt when no one would help her? When the little Red Hen just went ahead and made the bread by herself what do you think her chicks thought? What was the mommy hen showing them?

Can you see just how interesting and educational even the simplest story could be if the reader took the time to engage with those they were reading to. When it comes to reading to children it isn’t ever really about how many books we read. It is all about the questions we ask, the ideas we ponder, the principles we see and how the knowledge we gain is transferred to our lives.

Great Tutorial for Reading to Children?

When you are reading to younger children, it has been my experience that it isn’t at all hard to get them to think about what is happening and how they would feel and it isn’t very hard to get them to talk to you about it. However, as children begin learning to read and become more self conscious among others it may take a bit more work to get them to discuss a book. Here is a great tutorial from Audrey Rindlisbacher  at the Tenboom Institute about getting children ages 10-12 to engage with you and the books they are reading.

Reading to a child or with a child is wonderful but helping a child to think and talk about what they are reading…well that is a magnificent thing to do!

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Living a Happier Life with Less Emotional Weight

by Mary Ann on February 27, 2014

You can live a happier life.

You can live a happier life.

What does your bathroom have to do with living a happier life?

I LOVE to clean. I know, I know, that makes me a super nerd. But it’s true, I do love to clean. And frankly I am really good at it. I can see things other people don’t see. I am efficient and I know how to do the job in far less time than most.

messy_bath2But right now I have a really messy bathroom. For over three months (yes, three months!) I have been telling myself I have to get that bathroom clean. Now it isn’t that I mind cleaning bathrooms. I don’t have a squeamish bone in my body and I like cleaning the bathroom. The problem is that it is a room no one sees. In my apartment the whole rest of the house, except the bedroom, is just one big room. So when I set out to clean my home I begin with the whole house, which remember, is one big room. Then I do the bedroom because it opens into the living room and the door is always open and people can see in. Then it’s the bathrooms turn. The problem is that for at least the last three months I have run out of energy or time before I even get to the bathroom. So there it sits waiting for me to get to it.

I am telling you that bathroom has been a BIG emotional weight to carry. And this is what we all do in different areas of our lives. We take care of the parts of our lives that others can see, keep putting off what can’t be seen and then carry the emotional weight. Crazy, because it doesn’t have to be this way and it keeps us from living a happier life.

Let me share a secret with you that anyone who is really good at cleaning knows. You don’t have to clean the whole room for it to appear, feel and actually be cleaner. You don’t have to clean the whole room in order to lift the emotional weight.

Let’s take that really disgustingly dirty bathroom that is hidden in the back side of my house. When I took my shower last night I thought again, “man you really need to get this bathroom clean!” I sat on the toilet and observed the piles of hair in all the corners, the grunge on the sink, the stain around the toilet. I know this is a really gross conversation but there is a point.

Then I stepped into the shower and I noticed that the bottom fourth of the shower curtain was grey-orange. You know exactly what I emotional weightam talking about. You may think it is age, body oil or soap scum. Here is what it is, bacteria. Yup those little guys that grow in moist, warm places. I have been watching this colony grow, as I said, for a few months and every time I take a shower I say to myself, “you have got to clean this bathroom!” Then I remember all the things I have to do, what it is going to take to get it done and the slight sense of overwhelm descends and I pick up that emotional weight I mentioned.

Well not last night. Last night I did what I know perfectly well works but I had just not done. I took a step, one step and it was enough to allow me to lay down that emotional weight and go to bed feeling pretty happy with myself. I stepped out of the shower dripping wet, grabbed the bleach cleaner which sits behind the toilet and I sprayed the heck out of the bottom fourth of my shower curtain.

This is what I knew I would find this morning, a perfectly white, clean shower curtain. The colony was gone! I just picked one small thing in my bathroom and I took care of it. I stopped waiting until I had time to clean the whole BIG mess. I just picked one thing that I knew would make a difference and I did it.

One Key to a Happier Life – Let Go of Emotional Weight


Take care of the BIG issues one step at a time

This is a key to taking care of all the Big issues in life. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about our relationships, our money problems, our need for more education, the need to learn to care for ourselves, getting control of our thoughts and emotions, overcoming an addiction…it doesn’t matter. The process works. You have to choose something and then do it. It doesn’t have to be the biggest thing in your messy room, just something that will make a difference, help you feel better and give you hope that yes, in time, you will have the whole room clean.

It is easy to leave the back rooms of our lives in a mess because no one sees them and we can more easily hide the mess but you will always carry a huge emotional weight until you decide to begin working on the mess.

So think about what in your life is causing you to feel overwhelmed, less than, out of control and choose just one small thing that you can do to make a difference in how you feel. One small thing that will give you hope that you can clean this mess.

Look, my whole bathroom really needs to be cleaned but I feel pretty proud of that shower curtain and it is going to carry me through the day!

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