Monthly Archives: August 2012

Urging My Kids Not to Fear Failure

My kids fear failure. I’m baffled as to where this phobia came from. Perfectionism is not a trait I possess. My kids see me fail miserably all the time, but I trudge on. I try, try again or let the flop be the outcome. It is what it is.

I make a new recipe and end up scraping the burned contents off the pan. I constantly scramble around my kitchen in a frenzy due to some bombed dinner, but we still eat something.

I attempt a craft with the kids that totally flops—stamps made out of wooden blocks and puffy paint that are too lumpy to make a legible print. “Well that stinks,” I manage as I clean up the mess.

homemade stamp

Homemade stamps made out of puffy paint are actually not FUN!

Sometimes things work out. Sometimes they don’t.

I try to instill this wisdom in my kids, but they’re not buying it. They want immediate satisfaction. I gently push them to try to do their best, to just give it a go even. I’m the least competitive person I know, but sure I want my kids to know their potential. Am I putting pressure on them that I’m not aware of?

Honestly, I hate to see my kid mosey over to the soccer ball like a limp rag doll with all the spunk of a blade of grass. I’m not asking for a goal. I’m not asking for my kid to be the best player. I’d just really prefer that my child not look lifeless.

But I also haven’t mastered that art of parental encouragement. How do other parents get their kids to perform? Is saying, “Try to kick the ball” or “Run” too much? I don’t feel like it’s overbearing.

I find it’s often hard just getting my kids to the “try” stage. My daughter never wants to draw because she thinks the outcome will look terrible. I tell her to practice. How else will she get better?

All summer, my son said he’d dive off the diving board. His dives from the side of the pool looked great. He would do goofy jumps off the diving board but he thought it looked too high to dive from. He was afraid he’d end up doing a belly flop and embarrassing himself. He was afraid to fail.

I tell my kids that everyone fails before they do a good job at something. You never start out at something doing an awesome job at it. It takes time and practice…and failure. That’s not good enough for them.

I constantly set examples. I offered to bring dessert to a friend’s house for dinner: blueberry hand pies. I’ve made them before and they tasted great. I couldn’t believe I made them. When I made them for my friends, one of the pies burst in the oven and the blueberry juice leaked all over the pan, soaking the bottoms of all the pies. These are good friends, so I packed up the pies, took them to their house, and said, “I’m not sure about the pies.” After I tasted them first, I said, “They don’t taste very good.” Everyone politely ate a soggy pie anyway.

blueberry hand pies

A cooking flop you will only see here, oh, and in my kitchen. Had we eaten these at this very moment, they would have been delicious. I just know it.

My son told me at home later they were gross.

I’m just not afraid to fail. I can accept I’m not the best at something, but if it’s important to me, I keep trying until it turns out OK. Maybe my kids are learning from my failures and they don’t want to be a part of it. Maybe they can’t bear the disappointment of soggy desserts and crafts that don’t work.

Of course I must admit one area where I can’t accept failure: parenthood. And I can tell you that I’ve never tried so hard in my life.



Filed under About Mom

Author Uses ‘The Force’ to Inspire Reading, Origami, and More

I’ve tried getting my kids into origami before. A dozen or more steps to create a paper crane just doesn’t excite a boy who likes to line up peculiar plastic creatures and make them yell and knock each other down.

My daughter struggles with the folds. By the time we finish, either she ends up with a seriously misshapen beast or I’ve done the whole thing for her. Heck, then it’s mine. It’s just not that fun for us.

So why for two days was I not able to cut squares of paper fast enough or stock the right folding papers or print directions in a timely manner? My son has found origami that speaks to him, and when it does it uses the voices of his favorite Star Wars characters. “Fold this corner next, you will.”

origami Yoda

The first of many origami Star Wars characters my son has created.

In preparation for the book signing of Tom Angleberger’s latest book in the Origami Yoda series, The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, we were a busy bunch. Each book comes with origami directions for a Star Wars character the book is based on and Angleberger’s site includes even more fun origami directions. My son made them to take to the book signing.

Angleberger did not disappoint. If you didn’t know how to make an origami Yoda when you went, you did when you left. He showed the kids a good time, their way, with drawings and shooting boogers and lots of kids named Larry.

Seeing an author in person inspires kids. They can get lost in a good story, but meeting an author and hearing that he was a weird kid makes him relatable. Kids identify with someone like that. If they’re not the weird kid, they know someone who is. They see he turned out all right and that gives them hope. Maybe it lets them know they’re OK and that one day all of those odd little mushroom men and eraser beings they make and curious things they do have the potential to be something big.

And us parents who take our kids to see inspiring authors like Angleberger, we have to remember that too. Every little thing our kids do, read, watch, build, play, or draw could inspire them in hundreds of ways we’ll never know. Today’s strange little creatures could be tomorrow’s movie or book or sculpture or song. Hey, a mother can hope too.

Darth Paper origami

Your mother doesn’t want you to join the Dark Side.


Filed under Boy Stories

My Back-to-School Struggles Aren’t What You Think

I have less than a week left of summer with my kids. For some parents, the school bell can’t ring fast enough. For others, creek days, learning to dive, and making papier-mâché crafts still wait to be crossed off summer’s to-do list.

In six days two kids in my house get dragged out of bed by their toes, driven six miles to school, and put into someone else’s hands. I’ll wait 180 days to have my turn with them again. Which parent am I? You do the math.

I’m guest posting today at Triad Moms on Main. Come read about my annual back-to-school struggle. Pretty please?


Filed under About Mom

A School Supply Rant

When I was a kid, one of the few things that took the sting out of going back to school every fall was getting to pick out new school supplies. Finally getting to use markers in fourth grade was the epitome of excitement until I found out they would only be used to diagram sentences.

And for my kids, this tradition of choosing a special notebook to scrawl their math work in is no different. So when we get the list of supplies, buy them, and fill and label a bag of supplies for each kid every August, I expect my kid to use what I bought.

school supplies

School supplies for my kids. Some were carefully chosen.

Every June I get a little miffed when my kids bring home what they’ve used all year and it wasn’t what I paid for. It wasn’t the special Tinkerbell notebook my daughter picked out. Some other kid got that. And look, that’s not the red folder I bought because scratched out in the tattered bottom corner is some kid’s name from the previous year.

Our school tries to encourage pooling supplies like crayons, glue, markers, and pencils. You buy it and bring it in and the teachers divvy it up for the kids. It’s a system that “works best.”

I can certainly understand that not every family can afford to buy school supplies. I’m OK with buying extras, contributing to a fund, anything. But if I splurge and spend a few extra dollars on a white three-ring binder that won’t fall apart the first month of school and Susie So-and-So gets hers from the dollar store, guess who ends up with the cheap binder and who gets my nicer one? If I put my kids’ supplies in a bag with their name on it, why don’t they end up with it? Do little elves decide who gets what? Do they run around the room and pick an item from Susie’s bag and put it on Johnny’s desk? Would Johnny like a Tinkerbell notebook? It’s like those Christmas swaps. You spend the $10 limit on a gift and end up with the gift someone grabbed from her yard sale bin, where it should have stayed.

As for the pooling, for half of kindergarten my son had only orange, brown, and gold crayons. I’m certain I bought him an entire box with a rainbow of colors. Why could he only draw muddy pictures? I volunteer in the classrooms. Pencils are never sharpened and are strewn across the floor. Glue sticks are always empty. The kids don’t care about those supplies because they aren’t theirs. But their scissors are labeled with their names, and I’ve seen kids panic when they misplace those for more than twenty seconds. So doesn’t keeping up with their own things make them take care of them better?

Kids can’t take ownership and responsibility if they aren’t required to keep up with their own things. When I was in school, we had our own bins filled with our own supplies. We had to keep things neat and in control. We learned organization. A pooling system doesn’t encourage that kind of responsibility. I’m sure it’s supposed to encourage sharing, but kids can share their own supplies. I’ve seen that in action.

Next week we take in our bags of brand-new supplies, ready for someone else’s child to get. I hope they like the notebooks my kids spent an hour picking out.


Filed under About Mom

A Mother’s Hope

Throughout her children’s lives, a mother hopes…

her baby will be born healthy

the baby will go to sleep

the baby will stop crying

the fever will go down

her doctor is wrong

physical therapy will fix it

she won’t miss her child’s first steps

she can handle two kids under three

she can survive the terrible twos…twice

she can learn patience

her two children love one another

her firstborn knows he isn’t replaced

she can survive the first day of kindergarten…twice

her daughter will try new foods

her son isn’t too old for hugs in second grade

her daughter’s spirit won’t be crushed by mean girls

her kids find themselves a lot quicker and easier than she did

she can handle their disappointments

she can make the pain go away

she doesn’t try to fight their fights for them

the car pulls up in the driveway every night

she can show them how to be the bigger person

a late-night phone call has her child’s voice on the other end and not bad news

she teaches her kids to laugh at themselves

she can send them to college without bawling, even though she’s been crying about it for years

her children find their place in this world

her kids remember everything she taught themrelay for hope 2012

I’m participating in Melanie Crutchfield’s Blog Relay for Hope. Mary at A Teachable Mom handed me the baton. Be sure to check them out.

I’d like to invite Five Uninterrupted Minutes, Ice Scream Mama, Cozzi’s Corner, Welcome to Grace, and Fortyteen Candles to write a post about hope. If you’re interested, just link up to me and the bloggers you plan to recruit.

Melanie Crutchfield will be holding “Closing Ceremonies” around August 10 and will gather up little bits from people who wrote about hope, so link back to her.


Filed under About Mom

My Saturday Night: a Slumber Party, Detectives, and Too Much Sugar

Since when did the slumber party even involve the parents? Besides throwing some food on a table, I don’t recall my mom being around. If she came near us, I’d shoo her out of the room. I know I certainly didn’t seek her out for fun, as the entertainment of the evening, yet here I sit with three giggling girls sneaking up on me every 30 seconds. They try so hard not to breathe heavy, breathe at all, lose control of the laughter bubbling up inside, and then I have to go and do something silly like scratch my back and they erupt like a shaken soda. Girls with too much sugar in their systems—who on earth would do such a thing?

I turned on the sprinkler. I fed them dinner. I snapped too many pictures. I set out bowls of metallic beads so they could string bracelets. Then I punched out shapes and let them make flowers with pipe cleaner stems. Finally, I let them loose so they could play and I sighed with relief that my part of the evening was done.

Only evidently it wasn’t. Now I keep turning around to a trio of girls clad in dark sunglasses who think they are stealth enough to sneak up on me, loud whispers echo behind me after thunderous footsteps and a chorus of giggles announce their arrival. “She doesn’t even know we’re here.”

I keep thinking that if I ignore them, they’ll go away. They keep coming back. “Go play,” I sing. “OK,” they promise. Darn it all if they don’t keep coming back. Didn’t they all bring dolls to play with?

Purses slung on shoulders, they sneak into the room behind me and wedge themselves behind furniture. I think they’re taking notes. Detectives. Someone bumps into a bell. The cover’s blown, kids. “Why don’t you play with your dolls?”

If it were my own kids, I would have finally made threats that I’m selling their toys, anything for just five minutes of peace. What is so funny about boring old me sitting in this chair? This game got old twenty minutes ago.

Up and down the stairs they go. My word, here they come again for the hundredth time. Give me patience. I won’t move. I’ll just sit here until they leave. I’ll ignore the snickering and throat clearing.

Oh. They’re ready to watch a movie. Now that sounds like a good idea.


Filed under About Mom

The Tough Job of Being an Olympics Spectator

I find it ironic that I sit in front of the TV every night for hours, much longer than normal, indulging in a fattening treat and watching athletes give it their best. As I veg, muscular swimmers propel lean bodies through a pool ten times the length I have the energy to cross. As I stuff my face with evening snacks, flexible gymnasts contort themselves in more ways on a balance beam than I can getting comfortable in my corner of the cushy couch. Just seeing the fluid pace of the rowers makes my thighs ache. They deserve a good rubbing for the stiffness they get from long periods of sitting in one position on the sofa.

Meanwhile, my daughter tries to nail a perfect toe to head combination on her belly every night before bed, nearly landing in tears when she doesn’t make the cut. Her daddy gently coaches, “Practice.”

And the kids have found inspiration in a pile of beanbags and our couch, which is off-limits for mid-air flips. Though my son seems to be getting pretty good at a single tuck when he thinks I’m not looking.

Frankly, my behind is sore. I’m tired from staying up so late. These amazing athletes put me to shame. I need to get up and do something. I get too emotional watching these young people’s dreams soar or crash. And my kids keep getting too many crazy ideas. I think they’re trying to get new sports into the Olympic Games. Today they tried to walk a tightrope—lengths of yarn tied from doorknob to doorknob. I didn’t stick around to see the outcome, which just proves I’m too stinking tired to do my mothering job properly.

I’m starting to fade. The Olympics exhaust me. I don’t have the stamina to even be a spectator. Looks like I better start training for Rio. My kids already are.


Filed under Everyday Life