Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gentle Parenting?

Every mother has probably gone through some sort of "crisis" at some point and has probably questioned her parenting methods, communication skills, conflict resolution techniques, etc... I'm obviously the first to admit that having kids is a difficult job and that most days I don't have the answers to many of my kids' questions, or even my own questions for all I know! LOL!
There are mad days in our house, when my kids are fighting and being obnoxious for no reason; days I seriously question my decision about having kids and giving up my "freedom" to raise brats (thankfully, those feelings usually go away pretty quickly, but they do happen)
I used to be the "reward and punishment" kind of mother, one that would say "IF you don't do this....THEN you won't get this...", but that got exhausting pretty fast and it just didn't work out.  My kids started obeying me out of fear rather than respect and that's never a nice thing! (for me, anyways!)
While I certainly don't want to be my kids' "friend", I would like to be their confidant and the one person they trust for all their needs... I don't want to be a tyrant parent who abuses her power and authority; our family works as a "team" and my goal is to make sure my girls understand their place in that team, while respecting the position of their mom and dad. 
First we need to understand the difference between Authoritative and Authoritarian parenting. 
Authoritative parenting "is a style characterized by parents who are responsive and nurturing, but still hold high expectations for behavior.  These parents encourage children to express themselves and share their opinions. While these parents want their children to develop a sense of independence, they still have limits and consequences."
Authoritarian Parenting: "these parents have high expectations of their children and have very strict rules that they expect to be followed unconditionally. People with this parenting style, often utilize punishment rather than discipline, but are not willing or able to explain the reasoning behind their rules."

Once I realized what kind of parent I wanted to be, I decided to get informed and start grabbing those concepts that sounded most appealing to me! Even if I parent my kids in an "eclectic" fashion, I want to make sure that I'm always trying my best to nurture them and show them this overwhelming love I feel for them. 
To me, "gentle parenting" is the way to go; I will admit that now I don't believe in punishment and rewards, and I think they are rather detrimental to a child's emotional health.  According to many concepts such as "Love and Logic" and "AHA Parenting", punishment just doesn't work and it's not considered a form of discipline. Most young children are simply unable to connect their actions to the punishment or even the rewards they receive.   When you punish a child, you take away the discipline aspect of it because there often isn't a logical explanation attached to it; children don't need to be punished...they need to be loved and validated.  
I am in no way saying that you should let your child walk all over you, but instead of taking away a toy, or putting him in time out chair, I think a conversation that involves a brief analysis of the consequences of his actions, is MUCH better than making him waste precious childhood time "paying the price" of a mistake. As adults, we are encouraged to learn from our mistakes, so why aren't children treated the same way?  I've never seen an adult sitting in time out, or missing out on his favorite activity after making a mistake (although some adults practice self-punishment), so I definitely dont' believe we should do it to kids.
I also don't believe we should reward children for doing what they are expected to do.  Why give them a prize when they do good in school?  Aren't they supposed to be getting good grades?  Why give them a token when they make their bed and clean up after themselves?  Isn't that expected of them?

Ever since I started practicing these concepts, my kids' behavior has improved significantly; they have become more aware of the consequences of their actions and responsibilities, they are more verbal and self-confident and most importantly they trust me and respect me more.  I am no longer the mother that punishes them and gets mad at them, but rather the person that validates their feelings and helps them grow as individuals who can take responsibility for their actions.  I now take the time to say "why did you do that?", "do you think it's right?", "why is it not right?", "how can we change it?", "what would happen if you did this", "are you sure that's the correct decision"? and many more questions that encourage them to take a look at themselves and move forward instead of moping over a mistake.
Here's an example:

And even though this parenting style might not be appealing to everyone, I can attest to its effectiveness by describing the great impact it has had on our family and our children.  Kids are smarter and way more capable of reasoning that we make them out to be, and it is important to be aware of this as a parent and an educator.  We need to make every effort to raise emotionally healthy children, who will be mature enough to make the right choices in life and assume the consequences of their mistakes. 

Here is a picture that sums up my thoughts on punishment vs. discipline..

Also, here are some book recommendations for anyone who is interested in learning more about "gentle parenting"
  • "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn
  • "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn
  • "Peaceful Parent, HAPPY KIDS" by Laura Markham
  • "Parenting with Love and Logic" by Foster W. Cline
Thanks for reading! Happy Parenting!...and Happy Blogging!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Photo Dump

Lots of fun stuff happening lately, not nearly enough time to write about it...
So, here's a photo dump! :)

My new godson Gabriel James!

Happy blogging! I'll be back to more writing this week! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My blog is 5 years old!!

5 years ago today this blog was born!  It started as a way for me to share our family anecdotes with friends and family and it quickly turned into a platform to express opinions and ideas and to share some parenting advice with fellow mothers (and fathers!)

Anyone who blogs is aware of how hard it is too keep a blog and how committed someone has to be in order to find the time to invest in such personal project; so it is a HUGE deal for me to reach this milestone!

So many things have happened in the past 5 years, so many smiles, happy tears, kids starting school, growing out of diapers and beds and learning how life really works... I am so lucky to be able to share all these things on my blog, and even luckier to find people who can relate to my family and I.

If you are a follower, I thank you so much for taking the time to read some of my stories.  If you're a sporadic visitor, I thank you too.... If you're a new follower, I hope you stick around and share this blog with your friends!

And remember, this "Happy Mom" is always around, ready to blog about the next interesting thing!

Happy blogging! :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

On becoming a "stay at home mom"...

First off I'm going to say that the term "stay at home mom" really makes me laugh, because whether they are working or non-working, moms are often so busy that the last thing they do is stay home!  A mother is never still and always on the run.. so it's really never dull! Having kids is the most rewarding experience in the world, but also the hardest job ever!
I have been a working mom for the past 6 years; my job was stressful and busy and with the passing of each day, it got harder and harder (I've had the same job for 8+years).  A few months ago, the challenges of my job started to seem unbearable to me and I felt like I was being somewhat "neglectful" towards my children; I was often tired, cranky and even job didn't allow me to be the best mother and wife I could be and that made me really sad. 

One day, not too long ago, I happened to come across a little diary that Olivia has been keeping (this isn't private so don't think I was "violating" her privacy).  She usually writes things within categories that she makes up and one of the categories was titled "My dreams".  Under that category she wrote: "I dream of the day my mommy doesn't have to work, so she will have time to play with me".. on a separate page she wrote something like "my mommy never has time for me!" While I know she doesn't mean it literally (because I do spend a lot of time with her and she acknowledges it), that little phrase made me realize that maybe I wasn't giving her all the time she needed, that maybe that little person was craving more attention, maybe she just needed to feel like nothing else is more important than she is...and I felt....guilty!

That's when I started to really think about quitting my job and investing all my time on my children and my marriage.  It suddenly hit me that in less than 10 years, my kids will no longer "need" me because they only stay little for so long and that I have probably been missing so many things because of my job. I realized that every extra minute that I put into my work, was time that I was taking away from my family..and I felt... guilty again!

So, after much praying, thinking and consideration, I decided to take the leap and quit my job! While I know many people don't understand why, I will say that this has been the hardest decision I've ever had to make.  I completely LOVE the idea of being available for my kids 24/7, but I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy having a career and bringing home an income. Additionally, I know staying home is hard, and exhausting, and very challenging!
I also realize that I am so blessed to be able to quit my job without fears, confident that my husband's income will suffice, however, this isn't about our financial capacity or whatever limitation we may have, this is about leaving behind the life I have known for the past 8+ years, the "family" I made at work, the professional accomplishments that I achieved, and so on...needless to say, today was a bittersweet day!
I will be honest and say that I never pictured the day I would quit my job and officially become a "stay at home mom"... I always said that "wasn't for me" and feared that I would never find joy in making such decision.. (boy was I wrong!)...

It has been amusing to hear people say "oh, you're gonna be a full time mom?", does that mean I wasn't a "full time mom" before? Come on, people... whether somebody works or not, you're always a "full time mom" when you have children! Ha!

 As I close this chapter and embark on my new journey, I want to reassure every mommy I know that they are doing an awesome job! Whether you're staying home with your kids or juggling the responsibilities of work and parenting, I have the utmost respect for every woman who dedicates her life to the benefits of her children and strives every day to be a better mother. 

On my last day, some of my wonderful co-workers (who happen to be amazing mothers too) took me out to lunch. We spent a few hours telling stories, giving each other advise and yes, crying a little bit. I will always remember my years with the company; it was a wonderful run!
I thank God every day for putting this exemplary people in my path, and for allowing me to spend so many years close to such compassionate humans and delightful friends!

Happy blogging! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Harvest

Living in South Florida often means sacrificing the nicer weather to live in a constant, and sometimes unbearable, heat! We don't get to see any snow, or any flower blossoming or leafs changing.  We do, however, get to go to the beach every day if we want and walk in flip flops at large!
That doesn't mean that we don't enjoy the fun things that come along with every season and even dress in typical colors...and now it's time for Fall!
So, last week we went to our local pumpkin patch to enjoy hay rides and pumpkin painting.  Yes, it was 90+ degrees (that's our "fall" weather) and we were sweating like pigs, but it was still fun and picturesque...
The girls picked out little pumpkins and enjoyed some arts and crafts along with all the other fun Fall activities...
I love our Florida Fall!
Here are some pictures... 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The painful loss of our cat Lily..

It has been two days since we lost our sweet cat Lily and I keep wondering when this pain will go away!
I'm sure anyone who has ever loved a pet can easily relate to this feeling of emptiness and sadness that I am experiencing right now.  Losing a pet is like losing a member of our family (I am in no way comparing an animal to a human!); it's like losing a friend and feeling as if someone has left a void in our hearts...
When my neighbor knocked on my door on Monday morning I knew "something" was up, considering the fact that daily interactions with him are usually limited to "good morning" or "good afternoon".  He said to me "your cat is laying dead on my driveway" heart sank and then I said "which cat?" (we have 3 cats)... and he said "it has a pink collar" heart sank again.. I knew it was our sweet Lily, who had been cuddling with us the night before and playing with the girls that morning before they left for school.  The awful news came just an hour after I had seen Lily for the last time.
I immediately stepped outside to check on my kitty, and there she was, laying lifeless on the street.. her eyes were popped out as if someone or something had hit her right on the head, we presume she was hit by a car and died instantly...It was so painful to see my adorable and sweet kitty whom we had just adopted 4 short months ago laying there, like a thing...
The girls didn't take it well! We decided to tell them the truth and they were naturally very sad and heart broken.  Thankfully, kids don't stay sad for long; so even though they still miss Lily, they are back to their happy selves and will always cherish the beautiful memories they made with their kitty.

Lily was the best cat ever! She was sweet, playful, cuddly and acted like a little doggie following us around the house...I used to call her the "purr machine", she made this awesome purring sound whenever she was around.  She loved watching TV with us and was very good at expressing her love for us.  The kids LOVED playing with Lily and she was so gentle with them; there was never a dull moment with her, and even though she was only with us for 4 months, she sure captivated our hearts and made us love her more and more each day...

We were so blessed to have Lily with us for that time and I will always remember her as the sweet kitty she was.  I know she crossed the Rainbow Bridge and is happy playing and jumping around with other happy pets, but I just wish this pain went away!  I haven't cried this much in years...

Here are some pictures of our sweet Lily Mae.

Olivia wrote this sweet note when I broke the news to her... She was really sad and cried her eyes out...

Our next step in this healing process will probably include adopting another kitten and giving him the opportunity to be part of our family.  Adopting cats has always been part of my life and I will continue to house as many pets as I can. 
I am so thankful for all the support messages that I have received regarding the loss of our pet.  It means the world for me to know that I have so many wonderful friends that understand my pain and support me as I mourn the painful loss of our sweet Lily!
Thank you all!