The Role of the Father

Happy belated Father’s Day to all of you Dads out there! Yesterday got me thinking about fathers and just exactly what they do and the role they play in all of our lives from birth and if we’re lucky enough to still have them around, through adulthood. Im still fairly new to social media (although I’ve been told I’m making up for lost time!) so this was the first time I experienced Father’s Day on Facebook. I was so touched by the photos and sentiments by those people who have lost their Dads. SO many people that I know – it made me feel sad for them and it also reminded me more than ever how fortunate I am to still have my amaziing father in my life. It got me thinking about the role my father played in our lives and how that has changed over the years to the role that my husband has played in my own children’s lives. Some things are completely different because of  society and simply the times we live in. Yet some things are exactly the same and more important than ever. What’s changed, at least from my own experiences is that the role of the Dad is much more “hands on” now than it used to and also that the role is often filled by grandfathers who are helping out as well. It is really a wonderful thing to see if you ask me. I think it is so sweet when I open my door at dismissal and there are quite a few grandfathers there that are in charge of picking up and taking the children home. How nice is it for them to be the first one to hear about their grandchild’s day in school? They get that special hug and smile that only a child can give you when they are so happy to see someone they truly love. I have also had the pleasure of getting to know many more Dads over the years that work from home or are “stay at home” Dads – I think this is incredible. When I was growing up in the 70’s, there were not too many  fathers around at school. They were all at work and many of them worked different hours and shifts  as most  were fire fighters and  policemen. Many others, like my own father traveled for business. My Dad traveled the world and was often gone for days to weeks. This obviously left a lot of the responsibility and role of primary care giver to my mother. However, I can’t say she saw this as a burden  per se because  it was her role. Its what she was expected to do AND it is what she herself expected to be doing.  Roles were very clearly defined back then and not too many parents deviated from them. With so many more women in the workforce these days, life and families have changed dramatically. We now have many mothers that are working outside their home (because there is no such thing as a mother that doesn’t work!) and many moms that are persuing their professional careers working from right within their own house. There are also a tremendous amount of mothers that travel for their jobs leaving a big responsibility for someone else to care for the children while they are away – this is where Dad comes in. Roles are being shared much more today. With the pressure and demands that so many people deal with in order to make ends meet , both parents are bearing the responsibility of contributing to the family’s finances. That means  both Mom and Dad are getting up and out the door in the morning, commuting to work , getting home near dinner time, picking up the kids, making dinner, doing homework, baths, bedtime – did I mention sports or after school activities??? You know what I’m talking about – it’s crazy! And we all do it. These roles seem to be shared much more in today’s world and to some degree I think it is a good thing. Parents can understand and appreciate their partner more because you are both doing the same thing while sharing responsibilites. Hopefully you are going about this in a supportive way where you when one of you has a busier work week, the other can pick up the slack. And let’s not forget about the families where one of the parents  is not working in a job outside of their homelife – he or she is a homemaker. A homemaker by definition is ” a person who manages the household of his or her own family, especially as a principal occupation”. I have had the honor and pleasure of being a  homemaker for the better part of 13 years – these were some of the happiest days of my life. In those days my husband traveled frequently to London and Hong Kong leaving me home with four little ones. It was challenging but we always figured it out. In today’s world many of the mothers I know travel as well and the Dads are the ones who are home holding down the fort. These Dads do an amazing job of getting it all done on their own,  They got the child up, fed, dressed, teeth brushed, to school on time AND even attempted the hair! (okay…I’ve had to redo a ponytail or two in my day) and this is all before they even got to work – pretty inpressive if you ask me. The role of the father, as far as I can see  has changed. It is no longer  mainly disciplinarian (“Just WAIT ’til your father gets home!”) and sole provider. It has morphed and evolved  to care giver, tball coach, pancake maker, hair braider, playmate, nurturer, study buddy and BEYOND! There is nothing like a father’s love. Whether your father is here on earth or in heaven above – he has left a footprint on your heart and that – over time – will never change.

BEST End of the Year Gift for Every Teacher

Gift cards, candles, scented lotion, flowers, jewelry, gift baskets, personalized items and SO much more. So very  generous and so very thoughtful! Many parents give gifts at the end of the year to thank their child’s teacher for all of their efforts and everything that their teacher has done for them throughout the year. But what many parents may not know is that there is something that every teacher wants and many will never get – a hand written note. A card. Thoughts, and reflections of the year. This is not a trumpet blowing ‘YOU’RE THE BEST TEACHER MY KID HAS EVER HAD” note. For me, it is closure and truthfully… a confirmation and/or affirmation that the parents were happy. That the children were successful. THAT I DID MY JOB. You see, my job is not what most people call “a job”. This is personal – at least to me it is. Do you realize how much time we spend together or what we share? Parents, if you get lucky, you’ll get a teacher where the realtionship goes way beyond teacher/student. If you’re really lucky you’ll get educator/child, caregiver/child, surrogate parent /child, therapist/child, nurse/child, reading specialist/child, arts and craft coordinator/child, referee on the playground/child, love your kid no matter what/child. Of course whenever I receive a gift from a student, I open the card first (exactly as my mother instructed me to do so 40 years ago) And then…if I’m lucky enough to get one of those cards – you know, the ones with the handwritten, skewed grown-up script that takes up at least one side of a card- then I’m in heaven. I can’t even wait to slowly read each and every line, every sentiment or thought that this parent has kindly taken the time to sit down and write – FOR ME. I know everyone’s time is precious and more valuable than anything that you can buy in any store. This is why I appreciate it so much. Some people don’t have time or money to get their child’s teacher a gift but they gave up what they DID have, a few minutes… to put into words what the year meant to them. THAT to me…is the greatest gift of all and for that…I thank YOU – the parents.

Thank you!!!

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What an amazing night at Shaw’s Book Shop in Westwood, NJ! The Wine and Cheese book signing for my new book “Lessons Learned: The Kindergarten Survival Guide For Parents” was a night I will never forget. Sharing it with so many friends and family members made it even more memorable. Thanks for all of the love and support- enjoy your “Lessons”!
The book is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the iStore!

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten….

*** SIDE NOTE – PLEASE GO TO MY “ABOUT PAGE” first and scroll ALL THE WAY down to the bottom. Type in your email where its says “Follow blog via email” so that I can connect with you and learn who is reading my blog! Thank you! And now for my newest post…

One of my absolute favorite poems in the entire world is the famous poem written by Robert Fulgham, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. I have loved this poem for years, even before I stepped foot as a teacher into a kindergarten classroom. There are a few different versions of the poem but here’s the one I generally like the most (although the variations are minor):
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.
Wash your hands before you eat.
FLUSH.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life – learn some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
BE AWARE OF WONDER.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? We are taught all of these things in Kindergarten yet why do we as adults forget to live by them? Think about each and every line and how they could possibly apply to your life as an adult or as a parent. “Say your sorry when you hurt someone???” You mean that lunatic that had it coming anyway because they cut you off on the highway so you just had to play a thirty second game of “Road Rage” just to show them who is boss? Or how about that parent that you judged at pick up at school because they never look at you or say hello because in truth they are painfully shy and you thought they just had an attitude problem – do you owe them an apology? You may not need to say it out loud because they never knew you thought this from the beginning but you could feel a little remorse and put yourself out there to try to connect with them.
How about the line that says “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together”? Stick together!!! I love this. Listen, life is hard enough, why try to go at it alone? I am as guilty as this as the next person. I have always had trouble accepting help from others but if YOU need help? Well, I’m your girl! First in line. It has taken me years (and truthfully four kids) to realize that not only can I NOT do it alone, I don’t have to! It’s not always easy accepting help from others because after all, what does that say about me? That I’m weak? No, all it says is that I have finally realized my limitaions as a human being and that I am surrounded by countless amazing people in my life that love me and care for me when I need them!
“Be aware of wonder”… that’s a great line. You know what wonder I’M aware of and marvel every day at? The children in my class. These kids are five and six years old. Think about that – they have only gotten here five or six years ago. Like… on the earth! I have sweaters, boots and coats older than that. And in five or six years these kids have learned unconditional love – no matter what I say or do, these kids think I’m the greatest- why??? Because their view of the world around them is so pure and innocent and unaffected by outside influences that they can only see life this way. Even the children that have endured hardship, separation or loss, are still able to marvel and wonder at our butterflies emerging from their butterfly garden in class or even something as simple as watching our beta fish eat his breakfast every morning and jump out of the water to get his food. These children hurt eachother’s feelings and leave eachother out sometimes coming to me in tears, reporting the crime committed. When they are told to talk it out and one says,”I’m sorry I did that to you” and the other one looks them in the eyes and says “I forgive you”, guess who is aware of the wonder…ME. I am. I am in awe and wonder-and for that…I consider myself the luckiest person on the planet to do what I get to do every, single day.

Coming to an End

As the school year comes to an end, I start to worry if my students will remember this beautiful and amazing year we’ve just spent together. I mean…they ARE only 5 and 6 years old. What will stay with them over the years? I love when former students come back into my classroom to see me- they always look around in amazement at how small the chairs are and start to have flashbacks of certain things they remember. I remember the playground, the fact that the teacher had the coolest white patent leather zip up “go-go” boots ( it was the 70’s!) awesome red hair that was styled exactly like Marlo Thomas from the show “That Girl” (I’m showing my age) and that my Aunt Jean brought in the milk containers every day and waved to me. I also remember planting marigold seeds in one of those milk containers with dirt after we cut the top part off. What do YOU remember about kindergarten? I would really love to know. Please share anything and everything you’ve got. Can’t wait to hear from you!!!

Life Gets in the Way

I know…. I said I would write…. And I will!!!! But the Rangers are in overtime and I’m at LBI w/my family! Seriously…. How awesome is this???? Here’s my Kindergarten lesson- there is not a single thing we could learn in school about the importance and the privilege of being with your family and loved ones. Enjoy have a great weekend God bless America! I am the daughter of former Marine who guarded Pres. Eisenhower and I could not be more proud of our country!

Kindergarten Graduation, High School Graduation… Same Sentiments, Different Decade

If you know me as a mother, teacher, friend, family member or in any other capacity – you will know that I am a sentimental fool who is good for a solid cry daily – at the very least, tears in the eyes. Just the other day as I was driving to school with my two youngest children in the car (ages13 and 9)  my 13 year old says (in disgust I might add) “Mom??? Are you CRYING?” Crying? Uh , yeah. Sobbing would have been more like it if I had been alone – you try listening to Stevie Nicks sing “Landslide” as your first born is finishing his last week of high school and moving away from home in 99 days. Throw into the mix that my own Kindergarten class will be graduating in 19 days and I will never have this time with them again – ever. Nothing will ever be the same – not with my son and not with these 21 amazing little people that I have secretly adopted and loved as my own since September. Ugh…change is not my strong suit. I have to force myself and practice every day that change is good and this is how we grow. Someone once said that your life does not get better by chance – it gets better by change. I know this. I work really hard at accepting this – so why is it so difficult? Why is it so hard for me to see these children that I have just spent roughly 1,170 hours   with since September, go on to be exactly where they should be going? Why does it seem impossible that my baby – now an incredible 18 year old young MAN is going to college? ( and yes…I am crying as I am typing this very sentence) I’ll tell you why. Because in the midst of raising a family, having babies, food shopping, cleaning, carpooling, sports and activites, work, sickness, commuting, marriage, parenthhood – time never stood still. Neither the calendar nor the clock ever offered to give me an extra day, nevermind a minute or two. Time just goes by and it goes by so quickly. I have often said that I never really feel the passing of time except for when one of my kids has a birthday – then I’m a mush for a solid week as I recount the last year and my mind plays flashbacks of their lives like a movie clip. It happens to me every year and with the four of them, it happens four times a year. So here’s what I want to say to all of you parents especially to the parents of little ones – take it all in. Be there when you can. Let them make a mess. Let them have a friend or two over even when you’re not in the mood. Ask them before bed about the best part and worst part of their day. Let them see you cry. Let them hear you say you’re sorry. Remind them that YOUR family always says “I love you” and kisses eachother goodbye. Say prayers together. Take lots and lots and lots of pictures. Save any card or letter they’ve ever written because before you know it, things will be changing. Like I said, change is not my strong suit – but I’m trying every day. I’m told, this is how we grow.

Happy Mother’s Day!

There are SO many ways to be a mother to our children. Some of us have given birth, some have adopted children, some have fostered them. We are step moms, mother-in-laws, grandmothers, aunts, sisters…am I forgetting anyone? I truly hope not. The role women play as mother is one that affects the lives of others FOREVER. What we say and do, how we treat our children, the examples we show, the love we give will essentially influence our sons and daughters future roles as parents and partners throughout their lives. Don’t be afraid to show your love! And not just with hugs and kisses but with rules and boundries as well. Motherhood in any form is a funny thing – It’s pretty much the MOST important role any of us will ever have in our entire lives and we don’t even go to school to learn how to do it! We don’t get a manual when we are handed our new baby or child and there is no online course to take. Nope – we simply use what we have learned in our own lives, the good and the not so good and we decide what who we want to be from there.I learned from my mom and my grandmothers. I’ve also had the tremendous blessing of learning from my two sisters. I want to thank all of them today for all that I have learned from them. I also have to thank another special group of women – my friends. Thank you for the times that you mothered my children – when you watched them for me, picked them up for me, welcomed them into your home as one of your own, taught them right from wrong and so much more. Thank you to my friends for also mothering me when I needed it – when I needed another mom’s opinion on how to handle a situtation with one of my children, when I needed comfort after making a parenting mistake or headed into unchartered terroitory and had to make some big decisions – thank you. I am blessed and I am a better Mom because of all of you. Happy Mother’s Day!!! xo

I’m sorry…But I need to vent

Please know that what I am about to say is in NO way meant to be judgemental – I promise you. We are at that time of the year where most children are already placed in the grade they are going to be in for the upcoming year…did you hear me???? They are “placed” in their grade for the upcoming year – not …they have just naturally progressed to the next grade. What has happened people???? I will tell you what has happened. Some where, some way, some how – some one got the idea to inform  parents that if their child was born on a certain day or in a certain month, or worse…”small” – they should “repeat” a grade, be “held back” or be given the option to put them where they wanted them in school. So, you know what has happened? You have 4 year olds who will be turning 5 very soon, in class with ALMOST 6 1/2 year olds. When did it become okay to play with the chemistry and make-up of an entire grade? Which then in turn stays with these kids over the years – meaning that you will also have a freshman or sophmore in high school driving your “4 year old” home from school! You get the idea. But here’s my real point – why and WHEN did we ever become so afraid to see our kids not be perfect, not be number one, not be the BEST in school or in sports?? When did size or birthdate become the criteria for which your child’s path and life should begin? I sadly feel that WE, as parents, have become so over involved and truthfully- controlling, that we have forgotten to let nature take it’s course. Personally, out of my 4 kids – I have a July birthday (early) and a November birthday (late). I never held either back and guess what? They both survived. In fact , they are both doing GREAT!!!! Perfect? Of course not! Just really, really good. They are where they should be , doing what they should be doing. I think they are both incredibly happy and healthy and some days are better than other but guess what…that’s life!  All of this “red-shirting” is sending an incredibly detrimental message to our children – We’re not sure you can do it next year so in an effort to “protect” you, we’ll give you every insurance policy possible and only let you surround yourself with people we know FOR SURE you’re bigger than, better than and for sure… older than. This way, you can be 100% sure that you don’t have to show the world what you are capable of. You don’t ever have to worry that you will fail because you’re way ahead of the game. But I forgot to tell you about all of the amazing things you learn about yourself when you do fall down or have a set back – you find out who you are, you rely on YOURSELF, you go through life without excuses, you figure out that we ALL make mistakes and that is the only way we learn! You learn at age 5 to be ACCOUNTABLE and to know it’s okay to need forgivenes as well as to give it. And soooooo much more. I know. I didn’t tell you all what you wanted to hear. I may have offended some – that was not my intention.  But I started by telling you that I was sorry. And I needed to vent.