- I believe in the magical powers of cheese.
- I believe a good night’s sleep trumps getting up early to exercise. But I also begrudgingly believe that one helps the other.
- I believe we all should listen more and assume less.
- I believe that bagpipes are the devil’s instrument. Much like country music.
- I believe in silliness.
- I passionately believe that every gun-related death is preventable and that more can and must be done to reduce gun violence. I believe Congress must pass the latest proposed bill on background checks.
- I believe that colors, flowers and Stevie Wonder can positively change your mood.
- I believe my son could be a future Conan O’Brien and my daughter may well become a tattooed drummer in an all-girl punk rock band — and that’s cool with me. I think.
- I believe in optimism and dancing; both are good for the soul.
- I believe I alone am responsible for my destiny and my happiness. (Cheese helps.)
- I believe Olivia Pope and I are BFFs. She just hasn’t realized it yet.
All posts in category optimism
Posted by samanthamcgarry on March 20, 2015
“Your focus needs more focus” is a quote from the Karate Kids that we cite over and over and over to our kids. And over.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about focus issues in our family. My son, he’s a happy, joyous kid. He wants to be the life and soul of every situation: the goofball in the classroom. He’s confident, he’s kind, he’s funny. He also often speaks out of turn. His enthusiasm and assertiveness can come across as bossy and opinionated. He is also very easily distracted. Doodling, making origami, side conversations. Distraction management is a constant challenge. Bottom line: my son has the attention span of a newt. He’s never been “diagnosed” per se but all the signs are there. Put this all together and what do you get: a poor report card from school.
I was discussing this today with his pediatrician, someone who understands my son and always been an advocate for his effusiveness and character. He’s also someone who’s not quick to medicate to “cure” attention issues, something I value as I’m not convinced drugs are the complete answer.
So, as is the norm, G was goofing around during his annual checkup today and I asked him to quit it. My son turned to the doctor and asked: “Is this a serious conversation.” Dr McKenzie replied in the affirmative and G sat up straight, “Oh, in that case, I’ll pay attention.”
We picked up on this topic a few minutes later after some other questions about his diet, health and some prodding, and what Dr McKenzie said next really hit the mark.
“What you said before,” he explained to my son, “really showed me that you are mature enough to make a choice to be focused.”
We discussed how G is old enough to understand the situations in which he needs to be focused (in class, at karate, getting ready for school) and be aware of the triggers that draw his attention away (squirrel!)
“It’s not going to be easy, but the first step is first to make the choice to be focused when it matters most. Then you need to recognize the moment when you become distracted and become mindful of that feeling. Then remember your choice to be focused,” he continued.
This discussion was a game-changer for me. But more than that, it really resonated with my son. The fact that he was told that he is now mature enough to take charge of his own attention challenges. That the doctor believed he could do it, if he really wanted to.
We often talk with our kids about how happiness is a choice. We frequently address the topic of the right “time and place” for certain behaviors.
Now, we are adding “intentional focus” to this list.
Posted by samanthamcgarry on February 18, 2015
I may or may not have done – or be currently doing – all or some of the items below. Let’s get real:
- No bra, no makeup. Often no clothes. (But note: clothing is recommended when going outside to shovel)
- Lifted all restrictions on the kids’ screen and TV time
- Shaken your fist in rage at Mother Nature
- Threatened children with cookies/toys/violence should they utter a word during your conference calls or break their bones while jumping up and down on a creaky bed upstairs and directly over your work area
- Mandatory slippers
- Excessive Facebooking and Twittering
- Realized you’ve been sitting at your desk for 4 hours straight, jumped up (creakily) to do squats and a plank. Then sat back down for another 4 hours straight
- All day snacking (no meals)
- Worn headphones to drown out sounds of the children talking/fighting/playing/asking for lunch
- Banished kids outside in sub-freezing temperatures armed with shovels and snowballs
- Amateur homeschooling efforts
- Nervously and obsessively tracking weather.com to see when the snow will come to an end
- Pining for your colleagues’ faces
- Taking conference calls from your bathroom while hiding from children
- Jumping every time you get a text or a call for fear it’s the school announcing that tomorrow is another snow day (nooooooooooooo!)
- Lacing your hot cocoa while chanting repeatedly “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”
Good luck fellow parents; may the force be with you.
Posted by samanthamcgarry on February 9, 2015
I’m a big Taylor fan and not just for her toons. Mostly because “Shake It Off” has become the most awesomest parenting tool.
Her popular song has helped me reinforce some key messages with my kids. Stuff parents have said throughout the ages – but somehow now, with the Taylor seal of approval, now the kids are listening.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” still rings true but telling a kid to “shake it off” when other kids say mean stuff seems to resonate more.
And yes, accidents happen, but if you can “shake it off”, child, then we can all learn and move on.
And so on.
I put Taylor’s words of wisdom to work recently with my daughter. We were selecting boxes of Valentine’s cards for her classmates. Now my kid’s a tomboy (and I love it) and in the past, she’s rushed to pick out Transformers or Star Wars-themed cards. But this year, she hesitated and instead, picked out a Hello Kitty box. Because, she claimed that her classmates don’t think it’s cool that she “likes boy stuff.”
Well, this made me mad. And so it begins, the peer pressure that makes kids feel they have to fit in rather than stand out. I get it, I really do. At their age, non-conformance is abhorrent. But I want my kids to be true to themselves and their passions. To stand up for their beliefs, have conviction. Even if that belief is that Transformers are cool. (They are.)
But how to instill in them that it’s OK to follow their hearts and be different? The kid and I had a serious chat. With tears welling in her eyes, she explained that she was embarrassed when the other girls told her it wasn’t cool to like boy’s stuff.
I looked her in the eye and asked, what would Taylor Swift do?
Shake it off, she responded, knowingly, her head held a little higher.
Thank you, Taylor.
Posted by samanthamcgarry on January 30, 2015
This all happened much sooner than I had anticipated. I thought I’d have at least one more year, till my oldest would be in fifth grade. But over the past few months, my kids – independent of one another – started asking questions. My son had read stuff about DNA in one of his science books and was curious (“Look it’s so cool, the woman’s DNA is in an egg and it mixes with a man’s DNA which is in sperms.”) My daughter had overheard discussions about young teenagers becoming mothers (“Mama, can girls have babies?”) and also wanted the nitty-gritty details about how dogs breed (“But how do they mix the two dog breeds? I mean how?”) I’d done a fairly good job up until this point deflecting their questions or giving them just enough information to be satisfied with the answer but not enough to spark further curiosity.
But based on the frequency of their questions, it felt like the time had come to reveal all.
My kids are now armed with new knowledge and vocabulary. To all my parent friends, my kids’ teachers, their classmates and classmates’ parents, I apologize should you hear words – like scrotum – uttered by my otherwise sweet seven year-old. For some reason, she has latched on to the word scrotum. Go figure.
It’s not that I was trying to keep any of this a secret. It’s just once you breach this milestone, there’s no turning back. Not that it’s a bad thing to equip them with this information. But while you are filling in the gory details about how babies are made and how they come out, you may as well open the kimono on Santa, the tooth fairy and all that. Suddenly, all that is magical evaporates replaced with science and biology. Where’s the fun in that?
Anyway, I decided to buy books. I ordered two different books and read them cover to cover before handing them over to the kids, ever so casual. “Hey, you’ve been wondering so here’s something to read, and papa and I can answer any questions you might have.” No biggie, right? (“JUST DON’T DO THIS UNTIL YOU ARE AT LEAST 30, my brain screamed.”)
For the seven year-old, I selected the book It’s Not The Stork. All the basics are there, presented in very accessible cartoon format. She dug right in and has enjoyed it as much as reading her Magic Tree House or Pokemon books. No questions asked.
For the ten year-old, I bought It’s Perfectly Normal. To say it’s comprehensive is an understatement. The book covers a lot of territory, much of which makes little sense right now to him (sexting, gender identity, birth control … etc.) What I appreciated most about this book was how everything was presented in the context of acceptance, love and respect.
When I first gave him the book, he was mortified. he sat on the floor, head in his hands and said “I can’t believe you gave me a book about sex: it’s so inappropriate!” So I explained he could treat it like a reference book, dip into it every now and then whenever he had questions. I told him it wouldn’t all make sense now and that was OK. Needless to say, he has actually read it cover to cover. Also no questions have been asked though we have made it very clear that if and when he wants to talk, we are here.
Whether or not I’ve handled this right, I have no clue. It’s part and parcel of the whole operating without a handbook thing. And we are only at the beginning of this journey.
Still, there have been several hysterical moments. My daughter apparently lectured her grandparents over breakfast one morning about the two different ways babies are born. I’m not sure if they were horrified or amused. She also recently used the phrase “pretend he just sucked his testicles in” while her Hero Factory/Chima Lego creatures were play-battling in the back seat of the car. I almost drove off the road. She was also overheard explaining to her best friend about how a girl’s private parts are inside, while a boy’s hang out. Which, I guess, is correct. Not sure how that came up in their conversation.
And then there was the evening when I was telling the kids about how on that very night, 14 years earlier, their papa and I had met on our first date. I thought it was going to be a sweet conversation about falling in love and romance and all that.
However my son looked at me with a knowing look on his face: “Oh, I’ve read all about dates,” he said, eyeing me suspiciously. “And love. And penises.”
Ah well. This should be fun.
Posted by samanthamcgarry on January 25, 2015
I’m sure you’ll agree that this is not what you want to hear on an already-nutty school day morning. Yet, it happens with shocking regularity when, for some reason, yours truly hasn’t kept laundry-doing apace with children’s general daily dirtiness. Oy.
The answer they usually get from me is: “You’ll have to fish yesterday’s out of the hamper and turn them inside out.” Gross though it may be, it’s either that or free-breezing as there’s certainly not enough time on a week day to get a laundry cycle done before it’s time to take the little darlings to school.
This morning, a conversation with my 7 year-old revealed part of the problem.
“Mama, this is my last pair of socks,” she pointed out while getting dressed.
“Well then, what does that mean?” I inquired, hoping the she’d realize the obvious.
“It means that there must be clean, folded clothes downstairs that need bringing upstairs.”
Ah, there’s the problem.
My children believe that somehow the dirty laundry that they deposit into the hamper upstairs magically transports itself downstairs, into the washing machine and drier, and is then neatly folded by the laundry fairies.
Today this changes. Today, starts the beginning of a new chapter in the Annals of My Children’s Laundry. Henceforth, the onus is on them to do the following:
- Pay attention to when they are running low on key clothing items. Low is the keyword here. This is surprisingly challenging for them.
- Bring the laundry hamper downstairs. Bonus points for no eye rolling or dramatic sighing. Or fighting over who does it.
- Put dirty clothes into washing machine. Bonus points for actually adding detergent and switching it on (which I taught them today.)
If items 1-3 are performed dutifully, regularly and with the appropriate attitude, then there’s a strong chance that I may actually see the laundry through the conclusion, even folding their dry, clean clothes for them. (Because, ssshhhh, I secretly enjoy doing the laundry but don’t tell the little people.)
However, if items 1-3 are not performed, then it’ll be back to fishing yesterday’s smelly socks or skivvies out of the hamper.
Posted by samanthamcgarry on October 4, 2014
My favorite part of back to school – other than, you know, the obvious – is prepping all their supplies and backing them into fresh, crisp, clean new backpacks. Pencils have been deftly sharpened. Labels have been lovingly affixed. Everything is neat and organized.
For now. Because we all know that these backpacks will only stay fresh, crisp and clean for a few days. They will soon enough transform into disorganized, sticky receptacles that you are scared to dip your hands into for fear of yuck.
But today, I smile. Because they look like this. Ready to accompany my little darlings back into the land of academics, structure and the inevitable social nirvana/angst.
Now, this wouldn’t be a self-respecting back to school blog post without some photos of the little darlings, heading off to seize the day. I’ve used the Shuttersong app to embed their voices into the images and really capture and save the memories of their enthusiasm for school at ages 7 and 9!
You can check them out here:
Happy Back to School!
Posted by samanthamcgarry on August 27, 2014
See that smiling woman cuddling her kids, you don’t see her anxiety and her battle every day with post-partum depression.
You don’t imagine the insecurity that business woman faces as she addresses a meeting.
You can’t fathom the self-loathing of that young woman who’s fighting bulimia and can’t wait to stick her fingers down her throat.
That homeless man was once a father with a regular job.
You don’t realize that you’re talking with a confident Asian woman who actually wishes she were white.
The car that’s driving slowly or erratically in front of you, annoying you – you’re unaware that a Mom is dealing with a screaming kid.
Your friend who’s always smiling and composed, maybe she’s hiding verbal abuse or an addiction to pain meds?
That kid you think is a bully, you don’t see how shy he really is. Or maybe he’s just hungry?
Maybe that rude individual talking loudly on the phone is dealing with a family emergency?
A distracted, grumpy colleague? She just broke up with her boyfriend.
That person who’s in such a rush to end a conversation with you probably needs to pee really badly.
Your girlfriend who doesn’t want to split the restaurant bill four ways might be worrying about how to make her next credit card payment.
What about the call service rep who sounds disinterested? This could be the only job he could find and he hates it. But it’s a job. A paying job.
The fact is, there’s an awful lot we don’t, won’t or can’t see. But we are oh-so-quick to assume and judge. Myself included.
What you don’t see about me is the constant burning and itching on my forehead, the invisible remnants of shingles from a little over a year ago. I’m not complaining. In fact, I even appreciate it. This burning-you-can’t-see is my daily reminder not to assume things about the people I know and the strangers I don’t.
And it’s also a persistent reminder of my duty to teach my kids to also be thoughtful and respectful of all the people they encounter and all the stuff they are dealing with that we can’t see.
Posted by samanthamcgarry on August 22, 2014