Smart Mouth

When I was a little girl I loved helping my Dad fix things around the house. The tool box came out, I came running. I knew all the tool names and if I didn’t know I made them up. Like a nurse in an operating room; when a tool was called it was my job to slap it into Dad’s hand, handle in – mechanics out, ready for business. As long as the job was going smoothly my presence and help was welcome. The moment things started going south my Dad would send me to hang out with my Mother. As I got older I came to understand that he was protecting my little ears from a barrage of profanity, my Dad was the best at it! I overheard him once and could not believe the colourful string of emphatic, dramatic, punctuated, explicative words that flowed from his mouth; like Longfellow meets Eminem. I was impressed and could hardly wait to be that grown up. I also knew that no matter how old I grew up to be, if my Dad ever heard me using such language that was exactly how old I was going to live to be.

It never fails to leave me in total shock when I hear kids swearing. Teenagers yes, I half expect that out of earshot and beyond my reach there is some experimentation with expression taking place (I could have given Eminem a good run for his money myself in my prime adolescent years). But little kids? I mean little kids! Last week a seven year old, in the course of a normal conversation, said to me “….that guy just PI**ED me off, so I rammed him right into the EFFIN……” I must have been busy picking my jaw up off of the ground because I missed the rest of the story, I’m not sure how it ended, I got as far as the first ‘F-bomb’ and I was mentally running for my bar of soap, or is it hot sauce now? maybe it is tactical ‘I’ messages and rational conversation. It doesn’t matter, whatever the appropriate response was I was rendered incapable of action, comment or response. I was dumfounded!

Language I understand is becoming ever more accepted and overlooked, I get that and hear it when the kids are playing out on the street, the most outrageous words fly from the smallest of mouths and are greeted in retort by stronger more vulgar words. Words they do not even possess the exposure or maturity to comprehend the meaning of. Words that I would be embarrassed to use myself. Words I could not believe my ears to hear a seven year old saying to a grown up just like please and thank you.

Have we come to this? What an amazing display of people willing to take the easy road. There are More than 247,000 words in the English language and our kids are falling back on a mitt-full of four letter ones to make their point? The same ones we used growing up, the same ones our parents used but didn’t want us to hear growing up. Does that show a lack of creativity, a lack of intelligence or a lack of caring? Are we evolving in all other aspects of life except creative expression and ‘Pi**off-ed-ness’?

If we told our kids that swearing is a sign of small intelligence could we encourage them to think outside of the box? There are so many fabulous words we could be using to achieve the upper-hand in any given situation and the beauty is that because mostly we are only using the four letter easy words, there are even more to choose from. If you throw out the word ‘fastidious’ in the middle of a debate, you are going to win; by default if not by wit…nobody knows what ‘fastidious’ means anymore. (Troglodyte was a good word we used to use as an example in our house for a while but I looked it up, it has a new Urban Dictionary meaning now, the example is no longer great – don’t use it.)

Evidently as demonstrated by the word (or words) on the street lately and given my recent encounter with a very colourful seven year old, the profanity train is not about to derail. I’m guilty myself on occasion of blurting them out and I am not nearly as diligent as my father was with sending my kids out of the room before it happens. I think however we are going to begin posting “big words to stump your small minded friends and end an argument” on our chalkboard in our house. Maybe we can start a trend whereby the next generation will end up using words like reprehensible, incorrigible, and unregenerate.

Something’s got to give. We either have to stand up and be part of the solution or prepare for our grand-kids to high-five us as they rocket through the door and lay a ‘How the F*** are ya Gran?” on us. If that happens I’m going to need an extra set of pacemaker batteries and a tanker of red wine.

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Children and Anxiety

For far too many years than I care to count, I suffered from anxiety. (There’s a trending phrase for you!) It kept me from enjoying a great deal of my childhood; it robbed me of some really fabulous adolescent experiences. It turned our early years of marriage and parenthood into a minefield of emotional uncertainty. My story if you care to read it can be found on The Space Between Raindrops. I don’t want to use up word count with it here; I want you to hear my son’s story. Maybe it is your child’s story, maybe we can help each other.

This morning I was standing at the front door in my dress pants and air drying hair with tiny arms wrapped around my waist and tears soaking through my blouse. Today was a rough day, we haven’t had a bad day in a long time, usually they are just trying. This morning however I choked back my own tears from falling into my son’s hair and all I could think was “Why this? Of all the things he could have inherited from me, why this? Why anxiety? Why this struggle?”

I sat him on the trunk and we began talking through it. He is ten years old and we have been doing this for a long time. In the beginning he couldn’t do this, we couldn’t talk through to a calm, rational place. What he could do was throw up and go to bed. He was about six years old when he started getting migraines; they were always emotionally triggered, severe and predictable. Upset and worry would lead to visual disturbances, migraine pain, and vomiting followed by twelve hours of sleep. The triggers were simple; mention death, destruction, playground conflict, a French, math or spelling test, talk about going to spend the weekend away from Mom and Dad or a sleepover and we were in for the full experience.

We spent a great amount of time close to home, coming home early, missing school, missing work, missing birthday parties and sleepovers. We saw doctors and ruled out physical causes. He was following right in my footsteps. This was probably a good thing. I knew first hand that we weren’t dealing with garden variety childhood worry; we had that with our two older children. I knew exactly where he was coming from and exactly where he was heading and I knew that we could stop it, or at the very least bring it out into the light where we could give him power over it. I wonder on our bad days how parents who don’t suffer themselves, find the patience to cope.

Slowly we went from not having any control over the fears to talking through so that we only got as far as the headache. Then we could get it before the headache started. For a good amount of time now he has been able to self-talk on his own when panic first grabs him, quieting his mind before it gets the better of him. I am always completely and thoroughly amazed when he does this. He has, at ten years old mastered something I could not even attempt until well into my thirties. It gives me hope.

Hope, that there will be fewer days like today, when I am reminded that this will always be a part of him. This is a struggle that may always lie just below the surface, there will be days when he might not be stronger than his fears and on those days I cry. I cry with him, for him, we cry together. Then we get bigger than the panic together. We take our time, we call in late, we have a rest, we take a walk, we play music and talk about feelings emotional and physical, we rate them 1-10 so we can measure our strength growing. We do all of that and we step back into line, your life still needs you.

Why am I sharing this heart ramble with you? I’m not sure exactly except to say that kids deserve everything we can give them, except to say that little people have feelings and emotions larger that your imagination can imagine. I want you to know that the fears of your child should never be dismissed or belittled no matter how foolish they seem to you. They should be given names and brought into the light, talked about. I want to encourage you to learn how to identify feelings and talk about them openly, to not be afraid to ask for help for your child, for yourself.
Today was a very bad day. I need to acknowledge that, as far as we have come they still happen. Mostly I want you to know that if this is your story, you are not alone. Even though I know it can feel like you are.

I want you to know there are great days too and that nothing will fill you heart with more hope than seeing your child replace more and more of their anxiety with adventure. Keep going, get help, talk and know that it is okay to cry.

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Teaching Gratitude

Another school year is drawing to a close, filled with miniature graduation ceremonies for kindies and grade schoolers off to middle school. There are field trips, playdays and volunteer breakfasts. Something else looms in those last days of June…The Teacher Gift.

The internet is clogged with ideas for you… I’m in.

Should you is the first question? Absolutely! This poor creature teacher has spent the better part of ten months trapped in a room with your child. Could you do it? You tip your hairdresser for less sanctuary than a teacher provides you.

So yes, in my opinion, absolutely! Even if you think you could have done a better job you have to acknowledge their mental capacity to not only survive your child but 29 others as well.

Deciding what would be a great gift takes a bit of thinking, it is the thought that counts right. Write a list of possibles. Now scratch off the first five items. I promise you no teacher wants candles, soaps or knick-knacks, most are allergic to flowers and chocolates will only melt in the car while they enjoy their last day of school pint with their colleagues at that elusive watering hole that only teachers know about. (Have you ever noticed that you never see your child’s teacher outside of school? Never at a restaurant, grocery store or medical clinic).

Get creative; nobody wants to be the parent that equated their child’s year of education to a wooden folk art apple that says #1 teacher. Show them you’ve been a good student, that you were paying attention. Ask your child what their teacher likes to do when they are not at school. Think about conversations you have had with your teacher. Pick something meaningful and unique and turn it into a gift that will disappear.

By disappear I mean choose something that gets used up, spent or given away or eaten. Math quiz; if you taught grade two for thirty years and received a trinket from each of your students, with an average class size of twenty five…how big of a room would you need to keep them all in? Give them something that isn’t meant to be held on to.

Gift cards are good. A card to a local smoothie stop or gas to get them to the beach with a little note that says ‘road trip on us’. Perhaps a card to a school supply store, teachers buy most of what you see in their classrooms out of pocket, help is nice. There is the standard coffee gift card which is great if they are coffee fanatics but wouldn’t a gift certificate for a pedicure or bookstore be nicer?

Give away gifts are better. At Christmas time we make donations to a local food bank in our teacher’s honour. You can choose any charity close to their heart and donate you gift there. (You know what it is because you’ve been paying attention right?) A nice packet of artisan thank you notes are a great idea too, teachers write a lot of thank you notes over the course of a year. If you can find some with personal significance or a charitable association even better.

Gifts of your time are best. Take the time to write a note that reflects your personal appreciation, mention specific accounts or impact they have had on your child, wish them a relaxing summer (remember they have earned the opportunity to recharge) Have you child write a note too, draw a picture or include a snap shot of them together. Teachers love scrapbooks, give them something touching to paste into theirs. Attach your sentiment to a bag of gourmet bakery treats, a magazine reflective of their hobby or a jar of homemade strawberry jam.

Bottom line is that teachers do one of the hardest jobs on earth then most go home to the very hardest job on earth; parenting their own children. They deserve to know that they are appreciated with a token more clever than an apple shaped candle that smells like happy hour at the nursing home, unless of course they like that sort of thing.

Enjoy these last frantic days of the school year, there is a long glorious summer ahead!

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Expect One Thing

There is a lot of buzz right now about the movie “What to Expect When You are Expecting.” On date night we will be bypassing the blockbuster in favour of the Avengers. I subjected my poor husband to more than enough ‘what to expect’ when I hung a month to month pregnancy calendar on the wall behind the toilet tank. (Don’t judge, deliver the material to a captive audience I say) besides I can sum up in a single word what to expect…

Swelling.

From the moment of conception it begins. First your breasts start to swell, much to your husband’s delight until he discovers they are off limits due to tenderness. Your belly swells, although it won’t happen fast enough really for anyone to tell if you are pregnant, bloated or just over indulging in pastries.

By the time your belly does swell to evident pregnancy, your breast tenderness will subside (full bosom fun for all husbands and gawkers alike). This is a good time to remove your wedding band and other rings; it won’t be long before your fingers turn into cute little sausages. Or, leave them on and stare at your husband with tear filled eyes as he readies the wire cutters month seven. Don’t back out now… you still have ankle and foot swelling to enjoy. If you happen to be pregnant in the summer you are really in for a treat! Once, I took my shoes off in the grocery store and stayed that way until I landed the very first ugly-as-heck flip flops I could squeeze my piggies into. Yes, if you are pregnant you can pretty much expect that for nine months you will experience swelling in every part of your body, except your arse… that’s just fat.

Beyond your swelling pregnant body, around 38 ½ weeks you will very likely observe your husband swell with terror as he suddenly realizes you are having a baby.

Then the day arrives…delivery! What to Expect? (Insert delivery room swelling details) nope sorry I won’t – find out or relive that moment for yourself.

Pregnancy and delivery behind you, post-partum swelling of hands, feet and ankles is going to make you look like the Michelin Man and wondering if your skin can safely hold that much fluid. You will miss pre-delivery swelling. Especially in the upper realm of ‘breast-land’ oh those glorious days of tenderness were heaven compared to full on engorgement swelling. If I were starting over I would get myself ‘pre-pregnancy’ microscopic tattoos over each nipple. They would say ‘don’t touch’ …that way when they inevitably swelled up like printed birthday balloons I would have something to laugh about and my husband would know I mean business.

I want to tell you that you can expect the swelling to disappear postpartum, but in reality you are just getting started. In those first months your head will be swollen as you accomplish tremendous feats of motherhood like feeding the baby and texting while folding teeny tiny face cloths. Your eyes are going to swell with tears of exhaustion. Your toe will swell post 3am stubbing.

Something else you might expect is that your child is going to swell too! Everywhere and anywhere in my experience…Swollen gums, glands, lips, nose, eyes, fingers, toes, bellybutton; you will get used to it.

You will have to. Swelling won’t go away.

Over the course of motherhood you will swell with pride, you will swell up with anger, you will puff up in defense and your stomach acid will swell into your throat. There will be days that will swell with laughter and days that will make you believe that your brain might expand to explode with frustration. It won’t.

I’m sure that if you are already reading the books, going to the classes and watching reality TV. I probably haven’t told you anything you weren’t already expecting. Maybe at best if you are standing in line at the theatre I just scored you bonus points with hubby by opting for the Avengers ticket.

There is one thing you should know. Something that no movie, book, website or talk show will prepare you to expect; how much your heart can swell, expand, contain, grow and love. That, I promise, will catch you by surprise every single day from now until forever.

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Fair is a Four Letter Word

The list of ‘bad’ words in our house just grew by one. Words already on the list; Stupid, shut-up, idiot, liar and the requisite four letter curse words that you can hear on T.V. but not use in church. The new word I’ve made room for on the top of the list this week is FAIR.

I’ve already made the announcement verbally but I think I will follow up with a memo…

Dear Family (and by family, I mean kids):

The word FAIR has hereby been added to the ‘not-in-our-house’ language list. The decision has been made in light of recent extreme over use of the term. For clarification; Life is not Fair.

It would be in your best interest to embrace this concept as soon as possible; life will be easier for you. Understand that we will always like your sister better than you, your brother will always get new stuff; toys, clothes, candy treats. It is your job to do everything around here while the rest of us enjoy computer time and go out with our friends. Do not look for us to pick you up and drop you off anywhere, we spent our discretionary mileage on your sister last night driving her to and from the movies (By the way, did I tell you we stopped for ice cream on the way home?). There will always be more homework for you; we actually requested it at the beginning of the school year. Curfew is an elastic thing for your sister but we can’t have three kids coming and going as they please so you will need to be home when the street lights come on. Yes, your brother gets to do all kinds of stuff at ten that you were never allowed to do, thank you for breaking us in. Somebody is going to eat all the cookies before you get even one. That is just how it is. I told you… life is not fair.

There will always be somebody getting more attention, more stuff, more freedom, more time in the bathroom, more space on the couch, more privilege. It is not your imagination. I might as well tell you now while we are on the subject; not fair is not a concept exclusive to our home. By now you are probably realizing that things are not fair at school and in your friendships. You will soon discover that not fair exists in the work place and in society in general. Those same people getting more, having more, losing less and getting lucky will follow you all the days of your lives.

I would love to change this for you but in all honesty I am just too tired, I haven’t slept in seventeen years. The best I can do is kindly request that we cease the use of the word FAIR, it has become synonymous with a stabbing pain in my cerebral cortex.

Your co-operation in this matter is greatly appreciated.

I would also like to suggest that the word equal may be used in place of Fair. Because, while it is very very true that life is not fair it is not fair to all of us in equal proportion. That makes us equal. Every person you encounter is equal to you in Fair. People changing the world and people with the weight of the world on their shoulders are equal in fair. Where they differ is in attitude.

Get over it and Get on with it.

Love,
Mom

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Five Ways to be a Happier Mom

Someone asked me the other day; If you had to name five things you do every day that keep you sane as a Mom, what would they be? Wow, good question! I fought the urge to answer with the expected, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet and (for emergencies) Double Distilled. This really was a good question; I figured it deserved a real answer.

The first thing I do is that I get up one hour before the rest of the house. Yes, that means I get up at the insane time of 5am. I don’t make lunches or get things ready for the day…I drink coffee and chat online with my sister, I write or catch up on reading. This is MY time and it leads to many less moments throughout the day where I am screaming in my head for five minutes of peace and quiet.

The second thing I do is eliminate the need to think. I park in the same area of the parking lot at work, the grocery store, the mall; I never have to think about where I parked. I clip my keys to my purse when not in use, eliminating the frantic search when we are already running behind. I buy toilet paper every week whether we need it or not, we never run out and I never have to think “do we need toilet paper?” The more things I can do to live life by rote, the better!

Number three; I shut the door. When the kids were very little I used to keep their rooms for them, when they got a little older I would help them keep their rooms. When they became old enough to do it themselves without help, I shut the doors. Looking at the chaos of their untidiness makes me crazy and the nagging at them to improve their housekeeping skills makes it even worse. A very bizarre side effect of this tactic – the less you care, the more they do.

The fourth thing is that I shut the door. Yes I know that was number three, same rule, different door. I shut my door. By this I mean that I make a point of making my life not all about my kids and being a mom. I make it about my adult relationships too. I enjoy time with my friends, I enjoy time with my husband. I nurture those relationships and it makes me a better Mom, more fulfilled, more full of patience, more supported with a richer life that I can pass along to my kids.

My fifth and favourite thing is to reconnect the family every day. For us this means eating together. We share our day, argue and help each other find solutions to problems. We laugh, cry and occasionally hurl insults and peas, but we are together. This is when we keep each other in the loop, celebrate our successes and encourage one another to reach for our goals. Something else we do is to express our gratitude; we don’t skip a day or a person.

So while I might joke that the most effective coping strategy I have is a dark room and a glass of red, it really is not entirely accurate. Oh, there are days that drive me to that place and you can be certain that I have everything I need to get me right again but that’s not really how we do it, is it? The truth is that being a parent is the hardest job on the planet. It is also the only job that you can screw up every day and not get fired from. You can’t quit either, you have to do the best you can which means you have to keep those tactics in place that make you the very best at the job in front of you. For me that means less sleep, a closet full of toilet paper, hinge oil, escape and the occasional food fight.

Now I’m going to pass this question on to you…What are the five most important things you do every day that keep you sane as a parent?

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Wear Your Helmet: Make it a No-Brainer

Recent events in our home have prompted me to address a post this week about brain injuries. The air is warming up and kids are jumping on everything with wheels; bikes, skateboards, scooters, long-boards, tricycles and big wheels. I did a quick count at one point on our street this past weekend and I counted the following observance; 14 kids busy on some mode of wheeled transport, 14 kids who had increased their risk of personal injury by 100%. 1 of those 14 children was sporting a helmet. ONE!

There was also one child sitting on the curb wishing he could be wheeling around on something. That child was my son. He has been banned from all risky activity for a minimum of three weeks. He has a concussion and the doctor has benched him. Benched him because his brain is injured just like a sprained ankle or a broken leg, it needs time to heal and another blow before it has recovered could put an end to more than skateboarding.

He is suffering from headaches, poor sleep, bad dreams, nausea, mood swings, increased frustration and disappointment. He missed playing in his year end hockey tournament, has been removed from gym class participation, missed move-a-thon at school and has another 2 weeks of sitting on the curb.

If his accident had been predictable, if there had been a way to protect him from the injury you can bet I would have made sure he was equipped. Unfortunately you cannot predict an out of control burpee, a street hockey slap-shot, clumsy, bizarre or ‘how the heck did that happen?” or a compilation of the above that resulted in a whopper of an injury.

I grew up like most parents today, with parents and doctors who believed that kids bounce before they break. I fear however that far too many of us did get dropped on our heads and have suffered long term damage. Think I’m kidding? Want proof? The proof is in all of those kids riding around helmetless today. With all of the advancements in medical technology with all the research, understanding and awareness parent after parent allows their children to free wheel around without a second thought. Take a look at your kids, are they wearing helmets? Why not?

I want to challenge you to make this the year of the ‘No Brainer’ – enforce the rule. Be the parent asking where the helmets are. Ask your own kids, ask the neighbour’s kids, ask the neighbours kid’s parents. Take your kid’s wheels away when they break the rule. I dare you to be the Mom or Dad that sucks.

Put up with the complaints, the whining and the tears. Be cognizant of the dangers your kids are having too much fun to give a second thought to. Accidents happen in a second, without warning and are usually avoidable or at the very least the damage can be minimized.

Your kids only get one brain, use yours to protect it. I promise you will be grateful when they crash, that you did. They will get over the big meeny bit.

***coolness tip*** it restores you coolness factor if you are wearing your helmet because you were told to not because you chose to. Moms, Dads …yell out HELMET! for all the kids to hear so they know your kid is wearing a lid not by choice. Who cares how you get them to put one on as long as they do it. Oh and if you get the chance, lead by example.

For some great information on helmets and how to use them properly visit Safe Kids Canada.

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Stop the World! I want to get off!

Not forever, Just for two hours. Just long enough to catch a movie or go out to dinner to a restaurant where ‘red’ is a beverage not the colour of this week’s toy. Two hours to be in my kitchen baking a pie or trying one of the 8,000 recipes I’ve been collecting would be divine.

No?

I’ll settle for ninety minutes. That is plenty of time to read a magazine at the coffee shop, take a bath or start my next craft project. With ninety minutes I could put some really good thoughts to paper, or even begin organizing my pictures.

No dice?

Sixty minutes then. I can grab a catnap or research that vacation we want to take. Sixty minutes is enough time to catch up with my sister. Sixty minutes is just enough time to clean out my email and reconnect with my social network.

Still no!

Okay, how about 30 minutes? Long enough to colour my hair or paint my toe nails a funky fresh colour for spring, that would be sweet. Maybe fit in some time on the elliptical or watch the episode of Whitney I missed driving my daughter to her boyfriend’s house. How about that?

No, huh?

10 minutes then, just long enough to finish a cup of coffee while it’s hot or crack the spine on that novel that has been collecting dust on the bedside table. Before I do that I should probably finish the last chapter from the book I managed to start 6 months ago, that will take 10 minutes.

Really? No?

Can we just slow the ride down a bit then? I’ll settle for that. That will have to do. I could hit the drive through, send a text, brush my hair, take the stairs, write a grocery list, send a picture to my sister so that she knows I’m still alive. I could dust that book or Google the trailers for movies so I understand what people are buzzing about.

Seriously…we can’t even slow it down?

Throw me a chocolate bar, that will have to do. I’ll eat it in the car while I wait for my daughter to come out of work. I promise to eat it fast and hide the evidence so that my kids don’t find out that I squeezed 45 seconds of ‘me’ time into my day.

That’s my go to when life gets way to busy and way too about making everyone else’s world go around.

What is your ’45 second break from reality’? I could use some new ones, all those chocolate bars are catching up with me!

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

Preparing your Kids to be Home Alone

As your last child attains milestones they close the gates of passage behind them. For parents this is always a time of reflection. When I packed up those receiving blankets for the last time I cried, when I changed my last diaper I did a happy dance. Recently we’ve been closing a great many gates. Most notably we now have a house full of people old enough, and occasionally mature enough, to stay home alone. This is a very big deal and every child or rather every parent reaches the moment in their own time.

How do you know if your child is ready and capable? Beyond the legal requirements of age ask yourself this simple question; can your child make cereal? I promise you that the first thing your child will do when you lock the front door is eat. If the idea of your child preparing a bowl of cereal provokes images that scare the living bejeebers out of you, neither one of you is ready.

In seriousness though, once you decide that your precious dependant can weather some alone time, there are some very serious lessons and tools that need to be discussed and made available.

• Make sure your child knows emergency basics. This sounds like a no brainer but think it through. Little things get missed. I failed to talk to my kids about the smell of natural gas and what to do if they smelled it, until the day they had to deal with it and they said “nobody told me!” Go room by room together, look for dangers and talk them through.

• Know the ‘NOs’. No Door, No Phone, No friends, No heat, No water. Door bells that ring go unanswered. Phones get answered with an excuse that you are napping or showering. Little friends are not privilege to the information that your child is home alone; loose lips sink ships. Now is also not the time for stoves, toasters, baths or showers.

• List the list. Know who is home in the neighbourhood. Know what family members or friends are available in case of emergency. Go over the list with your kids every time before you walk out the door. Don’t forget to give your list the heads up that you are heading out. Make sure all phone numbers are out and ready.

• Let them in on the details. You want your kids to tell you now (and when they are teenagers) where they will be and what time they will be home. Lead by example, return the respect; give them the details – Don’t forget to call if you are going to be later than you said.

• Start small in the daylight hours. A 15 minute trip to fuel the car or pick up some milk eases children into the process. Don’t start in the dark; darkness increases the fear factor by 150%. It takes some very confident kids a very long time to be comfortable home alone at night.

• Check for training. There are home alone programs in every area, offered by community groups, schools, police services, and the same organizations that offer babysitting courses. The piece of mind is worth investing in.
Lastly…
• Clean your closets. Do not overlook this important step….

True story: The very first time we left our youngest daughter home without us she was not really alone, she was in the capable care of her sister, a one year veteran of the home alone group. We were only gone to the grocery store; you could see it from our house. We were only gone 27 minutes. In those 27 minutes our youngest daughter managed to convince her big sister that the boogie man was indeed in our house. In those 27 minutes they deemed the situation an emergency, left the house and ran to the neighbour’s for help. The neighbour being a parent and a logical person calmed the girls, brought them home and checked the house for them. Yes, every closet, under every bed, the basement, the garage even under the dining room table. Any housekeeping indiscretions I had kept successfully hidden from my neighbourhood were launched into the daylight.

Note: If this happens to you, the very best you can manage is to call your neighbour, thank them profusely and offer to buy their silence.
Our last little one is preparing close the Home Alone gate behind him. After carefully reflecting on our errors the first two times around we have begun the training and the testing. We have also begun purging closets, organizing cupboards and sweeping out under the beds. You can never be too careful!

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

To Pay or Not to Pay?

How do you feel about paying your kids? Are you for the practice or against? We have a pretty hard line in our home – Nobody gets paid. It is a rule based on fairness. Families are a team effort and while most often the parents carry the team everybody has a position to play. Everybody does something to make the house run. When the kids were little I used to put socks on their hands and charge them with dusting anything below my kneecaps. Did they like it? Maybe not, but kids that age will do anything if you sing it. For almost 8 years nobody talked in our house, we sang. Everything… ‘Who will set the table?”… “I will, I will… lalalala” and so on. Things got done because we made it fun. That works when the kids are little because their currency is ‘fun’.

By the time they get into school they come to appreciate actual currency, the paper kind that can be traded for goods, services and candy. They want money! They want it and the internal struggle begins. Do you pay kids for helping out around the house? Is allowance a good thing? Should allowance be connected to performance? I go to work every day and I get paid for doing a job. If I ask my kids to do a job for me shouldn’t they be fairly compensated? Perhaps, but I get paid to do jobs for people I don’t live with (much to their relief) I do not get paid to work at home. At last count in our home I currently hold 6 full-time positions, 23 part-time ones and a host of special consultation gigs. I know my family pretty well, there is no way they can afford me, so I work pro bono (Oh but if they could afford me…imagine.. ChaChing!)

We have deemed in our home that most things you do because they are required as part of caring for yourself, and being respectful of the people you live with, chores are the requirement of holding a position on the team. Rooms get cleaned and laundry gets washed, dishes get put in the dishwasher (on occasion) because you cannot live in filth or smell like gym socks and paper and plastic are environmentally irresponsible. The reciprocal effects of your efforts are having room to entertain your friends, friends who want to share your fresh scented company and an absence of salmonella and listeria.

For everything else my kids go to the bank of Mom. Yes, sorry to all those parents who claim not to be a bank; you are. Might as well think like one… If you want money from me, there had better be some in your account or you better have good credit.

My kids fill up their mom accounts with extra courtesies. Maybe you folded a load a laundry or watched your brother after school; deposits to the Mom bank. Maybe you want to go to the movies on Saturday night or want to join your little friends on a run to the corner store for neon green and blue slushies; withdrawals from the Mom bank. Help goes in, privileges come out.

It all works pretty well; the kids get to earn some privileges without my actually paying for their efforts to keep the house running smoothly. As far as cash money, they earn a respectable amount through birthdays, babysitting gigs, and odd jobs for people they don’t live with. Our son is the very best at saving up his cash money for big purchases. It is funny just how quickly they figure out that Mom and Dad are not shelling out for any item that could cause bodily injury.

I am sure that there are better, simpler approaches to the allowance dilemma, some work, some don’t, we have tried most on and one thing is certain; you have to use what works with your values and family. What really works for our family right now is the kids starting to get real life jobs; jobs with schedules and pay stubs, bosses and responsibilities. Jobs that encourage their own spending and improve the healthy bottom line of the Mom Bank. Now I’m not so much credit manager as I am financial advisor. If I do this new job right they might just be able to pay me for my pro bono work someday!

You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

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Candace also blogs for
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