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As I helped my 4 year old son with his homework on a recent evening, I kept on insisting that he “stay within the lines” as he colored in his assignment.  This scene repeated itself for several minutes, as we both grew increasingly frustrated with each other.  My son could not understand why I did not acknowledge how beautiful he thought his coloring was, all I seemed to see were the “mistakes.”  I finally caught myself and realized what I was doing.

Sometimes we do the same thing when we think of our lives.  I’m sure there are moments when “staying within the lines” is important; take for instance respecting the limits that laws place on our behavior or even just staying in our lanes when we drive.  Moving beyond these sometimes literal ways of “staying within the lines,” what happens when we live our entire life that way?  Always focusing on what is wrong?  Or never reaching out for more because we can’t see beyond the limits we place on ourselves?  We miss out on how beautiful life can be when we don’t take chances and when we can’t see a lesson in what may seem like a mistake or failure.  I learned from that short moment with my son that our lives don’t have to be perfect to be good.  What we perceive as an imperfection may be what makes our lives that much more beautiful.

So, this is a reminder to focus on the good, savor your life, and don’t be afraid to try something new.  You’ll hold up your picture one day and be surprised at how beautiful it is.

Stephanie Perez is in her final year at CUNY SPS, majoring in Sociology. When she is not busy joining her four year old son on his daily adventures, she likes to spend her time reading, cooking, and dancing to her favorite music. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in human rights law and advocacy.

To all my new moms: kids cursing is pretty much a regular stage that all kids go through. One of my favorite movie moments of all time is from “A Christmas Story” when Peter Billingsley’s character Ralphie gets busted saying the “f dash, dash, dash word.” His father who regularly curses around the house turns to him and asks him where he heard that and he gives up the name of a friend. Later on as his mom tells the other boys’ mom what he supposedly taught Ralphie, you can hear him getting his butt whipped over the telephone. Classic, hilarious.

From the post, Kids and CursingTimes have changed. Most every parent I know will squarely place the blame on themselves, even if they try very hard not to slip up around their preschoolers. As it happened, my two older boys started it and ‘ended it’ in preschool, that is to say I gather that one of them never really stopped but he was savvy enough to know when and where to do it without getting caught. The toddler, preschooler form sounds like parroting entire phrases picked up from parents. Stuff like “oh shit!”, “stupid bitch!” and “shut up, asshole!” (What, that’s only in my house? Eh.)

The trick is to not make too big a deal out of it because it can be such an attention getter that they want to do it over and over for a reaction. A mild, “That’s enough Sean. If I continue to hear you use those bad words you’ll have to go to bed early.” Generally they get it pretty quickly and voila, they move on to the next stage where they stop cursing, but every time they catch you doing it, they say things like “Ooooh mommy, that’s a bad word! Stop using bad words in front of me, I’m a child.”

I thought I had pretty much escaped that whole thing with my youngest, he never got in trouble (read caught) cursing until he was six, which I thought was a little old to start. And even then, he didn’t get busted in the traditional way but it was more the fact that I’m one of the worlds’ nosiest moms and modern technology. I was relishing the fact that he and his god-sister & best friend were old enough to hang out in the backyard unsupervised when I noticed that it seemed kind of quiet. No basketball bouncing, no screaming, chasing etc., just a regular conversation. Weird. I snuck over to the window which was open about five inches, bent down and began listening to the conversation.

J.: “I curse. We could be out here cursing and no one could even hear us.” Of course as soon as I heard that, I whipped out my iPhone, turned on the camera to video, and eased it out the window. I didn’t get too much of a visual with the fire escape blocking it, but I caught classic first grade chit chat.

J.: “I can curse. I curse all the time. I can say ass.”
Khev: “Oooooooh! You’ll get in trouble! I can say ass too. ‘Ass’. See? I just said it. I can just say it.”
Ess: “So what. Anyone can say ‘ass’. Ass, ass, ass, ass. It’s not even that big of a deal: ass.”

The three of them proceed to chant ‘ass’ a few more times and then forget about it and moved on to something else. Meanwhile I’m laying on the kitchen floor laughing my ass off with the dog jumping around me wondering what the hell I’m doing. Still, I felt it needed to be addressed so later on that evening when Khev and I were alone, I told him, “I heard you guys in the backyard saying ‘ass’ this afternoon and I think you know better. Please no more cursing, ok?” What happened next was way more shocking and disappointing to me than his casual foray into bad language.

Khev: “No I didn’t!”
Me: “You did I heard you. The kitchen window was open and I was standing right next to it listening to you guys talk. I didn’t say anything at the time because I figured I would talk to you about it later.”
Khev: “I didn’t though. I swear I didn’t curse, it wasn’t me.” We went back and forth for a while and I grew increasing frustrated and pissed off until finally I told him I had it on my phone and if he didn’t just fess up, say sorry it won’t happen again, I was going to punish him for lying. He insisted he hadn’t said it so I played the video for him where each of them is clearly heard saying the word multiple times and not that quietly either. He was speechless.

And then I sent him to his room to lay on his bed for twenty minutes for lying, not cursing. He still occasionally lies, it wasn’t some magic cure all, but he certainly thinks it through better!

Cheryl is a student at The CUNY School of Professional Studies and the mother of three boys.  A former office manager, she currently writes a blog about her adventures in parenting called UrbanMommys.com.  In her spare time she likes to check out fun new places and things to do with children for her readers. Cheryl is also actively looking for a full time job that is both challenging and satisfying.

Parenting is an energy consuming challenge in the best of times. This past year I haven’t been employed outside my home, giving me a chance to spend a year as a stay-at-home mom for the first time since my 18 year old was a baby. It was eye opening to say the least.

I had so many preconceived notions about stay at home moms, how my job search would go and how many different things I would get done. Saying it didn’t all go according to plan would be an understatement. For instance, I figured my apartment would finally be spotless. And it was. A couple of times in the first couple of months. My kids were annoyed at my attempts to keep it that way and to avoid a lot of yelling and exasperation, I gave up and kept it at least cleaner than it had been when I had been holding down a full time day job. Ok, ok, I have to admit that in the beginning, daytime TV was very distracting but I think I can justify it because I’m now so knowledgeable, I could charge a consulting fee on how to win any case in small claims court. My back room still isn’t painted and I haven’t gotten to the Guggenheim, but I chalk that up to pure laziness. Admitting you have a problem is the first step in combating it!

Blogger Cheryl Atwell's ChildrenOne plus was the time I was able to give to my kids and their studies. I was able to attend every school trip that my first grader went on and it was great to be able to pick him up from school everyday and do his homework with him. Being home also meant being able to follow a dream and start a blog about parenting and kids, something I’d wanted to do for years but hadn’t had the time or energy. Thank goodness for YouTube tutorials, it’s where I learned everything about WordPress and how to format my blog. I had no clue how much work that aspect of it was going to be.

I also took the opportunity to pick up four classes at my college, the CUNY School of Professional Studies. I am so glad I found that program. It gives me the option to take all my classes online eliminating travel time and allowing me to see lectures and take tests anytime, day or night. My sons think it’s cool that I’m back in school. When the television is off and they are studying, I’m studying too and they’re inspired to work harder knowing how much I do. Next semester I’m so psyched to be taking beginning Chinese which my oldest took last semester and he’s promised to help me out, then we’ll finally be able to say things again that Khev, my 7 year old can’t understand. (He’s been able to figure out everything we’re spelling for two years, what a drag.)

I’ve challenged my teens to a ‘grade-off’, we are going to see who can get the best GPA. I’m determined to win. That way when they’re rolling their teenage eyes at my advice and thinking I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll be able to shove my grades in their faces and say things like, if you know so much, how come my grades are better than yours? Just (mostly) kidding. A good technology class is a must for me so I can stay on top of what my boys know and to help me stay competitive in the virtual world. My physical energy may be in short supply but I don’t need anyone to tell me that it will all be worth it, I’m already in now or never mode. I’m undaunted by the challenges I’m facing because I want to improve my family’s standard of living. By returning to school and earning high grades, I’m proactively creating my destiny. Feels great to have so much control.

Cheryl is a student at CUNY School of Professional Studies and the mother of three boys.  A former office manager, she currently writes a blog about her adventures in parenting called UrbanMommys.com.  In her spare time she likes to check out fun new places and things to do with children for her readers.