Tag Archives: Family

Reclaim Your Family Time (the great homework debate)

I seethed as I listened to my son list the amount of school work he needed to complete before Monday.

“Tell me again,” I said. “Was this work you were supposed to do during the week?”

“No, mom,” he assured me with a look of anguish. “This was assigned for the weekend.”

For the weekend.

I thought about how just one week before, I sat in a faculty meeting listening as our principal talked about his need for down time.

“I’d appreciate if you all didn’t send emails and/or texts during the weekend,” he reprimanded with an annoyed tone. “We all need time to breathe. Our lives should not revolve around a job. Our lives should be about our families, our home, God.”

As I recalled that “sermon,” I grew angry. Why was my child’s time not as important as his?

Do our children not deserve the same amount of down time we get?

Is his relationship to home, family and God not just as important?

It was then and there that I fired off an email I don’t regret:

“To Whom It May Concern,” I began. “Our children will no longer be participating in nightly or weekend work.”

Because I’m a teacher at the school my children attend, I received more than a few looks the next day, but I didn’t care.

I’d long ago stopped giving my own students homework. Why?

For starters, they’re at school for 8-9 hours a day. Most of them leave school and head straight to some kind of practice, whether for sports, music, or both.

When they get home, they need to eat. They need to shower and spend time watching television with family or reading a good book of their choice. They need to text friends that they didn’t get to have a decent conversation with throughout the day because they were driven to be doing, going and being.

What they don’t need is more school work.

I’m an adult, and when I get home from work, I want work to be over. Even so, I have house chores to complete and so do my children. I want them to participate in helping out around the house. If they’re given homework, their entire day is now revolving around a single focus.

What are we teaching them?

I’ve decided to reclaim my family time.

I made out a list of boundaries, and I have to tell you, it was absolutely freeing.

Here is where I started with my working boundary list:

1.Goals

What kind of life am I trying to achieve? What am I hoping to gain?

I want to have peace. I want to have a clean, beautiful home. I want a well-kept yard, a good dinner, and time with my family spent laughing and revisiting the day.

None of that will happen if my life revolves around my career 24/7. The same goes for my children.

2. Time

How do I want to spend my time? How will I parse my schedule?

I decided that during my work hours, I will go all in. During the time I’m at school, my day will be about school.

I will allow myself two exceptions: during break and lunch. That will be my time, and unless it’s absolutely necessary, I will give it to myself with no guilt.

When I am done with school, I am done with school.

The minute I get into my car, school is done and my home life begins. I have no guilt splitting the two and no stress worrying about a divided mind.

3. Work and Chores

Getting to the nitty gritty of my schedule has helped tremendously with not feeling guilty.

I set my work goals every morning and I decide what chores I’ll do when I get home.

I get busy doing the things I need to be doing, so that I can do the things I want to be doing.

My children set the same goals for themselves. They figure out what work needs to be done at school and what chores will be completed before or after practice.

4. Rest

We can’t just worry about work and chores. We must also worry about resting.

Rest doesn’t only apply to your sleeping. You must find periods of rest in your waking hours as well.

I’ve found that my life functions a lot like the seasons.

In late fall, winter and early spring, I’m reflective. I tend to think more about where I am and where I’m going.

In late spring, summer and early fall, I’m project-oriented. I want to thrive, accomplish, and win.

Likewise, I’m more reflective on weekends and Mondays. Tuesday through Friday I get my best work done.

Morning and evening also are different. I’m much more eager to rise and work. At night, I’m ready to rest and relax.

When I figured out what I wanted, I was able to set clear boundaries for my family. In addition to no homework, I also don’t take work-related emails or phone calls.

I’ve also grown better at respecting my coworkers’ boundaries. None of us is perfect, but we’re doing better.

My child has had some outside work, too, but he now knows it’s okay to say no.

For anyone who disagrees with my no homework policy, I’ll leave you with a final thought.

This child, the one with too much work. I’ll be honest, school really isn’t his thing.

He makes good grades and he’s a good kid. But I’ll never forget a profound question he asked me out of the blue one day when we were heading to school.

“Mama, do you think God is mad at us?”

I didn’t have a clue what he was asking so I told him to explain.

“We put children in buildings all day behind desks. We aren’t outside in the trees or looking at the sky. Will he be mad?”

Wow. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about that since he asked.

From the mouths of babes. Makes you think.

How do you achieve balance in your work and home life? I’d love to hear from you.

Approval Is A Powerful Drug

Learn How to Avoid Needing It

I first became aware of my need for approval around the second grade.

A girl at my school had a pair of crisp white shoes with a blue label on the back. I noticed another girl owned them, and another. I soon realized many of the girls at my school wore these shoes.

My shoes looked similar to theirs, but they didn’t have the same, I don’t know, sturdiness, maybe? They looked…I didn’t know the word then… but, they looked…well…

My shoes looked cheap.

And that’s because they were. My shoes had come from the Fred’s Dollar Store. Their shoes were Keds.

This was my entry into the world of approval, and at seven years old, I’d already failed.

So by fifth grade, I did what any normal, second-grade girl who desperately needed approval would do: I got my mom to purchase me a random pair of Keds at a thrift store (which were way too big, by the way), and I tore the label off and hot- glued them to the back of my Fred’s shoes.

And honestly thought I could fool people. (Oh, fifth-grade me. Bless you.)

I was seeking the approval–and the acceptance–of my peers.

I didn’t know how powerful and necessary it was to enjoy the acceptance of others at that age. While any school full of children around the same age breeds a Darwin-like form of natural selection, a large, public school in a suburb of a capitol city is like Darwin times 1000. Nothing prepares you for the real world quite like being singled out for your name, your clothing, your trashy family, your house…You name it; at public school, they will find any flaw you have and pick it apart like a pack of dogs licking a bone clean.

I love my family, and over many years and through a lot of therapy, I’ve come to appreciate what God gave me. But let’s just say that neither my mom nor my dad had a care in the world for what other families in our town thought about them. Of course, as an adult, I now understand why, but back then?

I couldn’t for the life of me get why my parents didn’t try harder to make us fit in.

Fortunately for me, I had an older brother, who, unfortunately for him, was picked on mercilessly. So I learned really quick what got you bullied and what people my age were willing to let go.

Not the nicest house? Meh. They’d overlook that. But stick your mom out on the front porch in a flannel shirt and bandanna, chain-smoking Marlboro 100s? They were gonna say something.

Clothing from a department store that wasn’t designer? You’d pass. Clothing from Walmart? You were done for.

Not exactly select-sports team good but played at least something? They might let you by. Spent your Saturday mornings playing outside or watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Oh, man. You were gonna be destroyed come Monday.

It didn’t take me too long to figure out that the only way I was going to make it in school was to use a tiny bit of attractiveness I had and a whole lot of fearlessness when it came to doing any and everything I wasn’t supposed to do at that age.

I learned a couple of super valuable lessons in my years spent attending kindergarten through twelfth grade:

  • The kids didn’t make the rules. What I witnessed by the time I got to high school and blatantly noticed the way teachers, the “good” parents and others in the community treated me compared to my better-off peers made it obvious that my fellow classmates had learned how to treat each other by watching the adults around them. They’d formed an ignorant dog-eat-dog mentality by listening to and studying the behavior of grown-ups. Don’t be fooled, future mamas and daddies. Teachers play favorites. (Sorry, teachers, but I’m one, too, and we do.) Most teachers, especially in elementary, love the bow-heads and Polo-wearers, the kids from “normal” families, and the children who don’t come to school dragging loads of emotional baggage behind them. I get it. And other parents don’t want their kids around the ones who will most likely go down the “bad road,” which I never understood, because, speaking of bad behavior…
  • The rules didn’t apply to everyone. By the time I was in tenth grade, I was already beginning to understand that certain people at my school could get away with absolutely anything. If I drank on a Friday night, the entire school heard about it by Saturday morning and it was talked about at length. (There was even a time I purposely didn’t drink and still was accused of being drunk by Monday, but that’s a story for another day and has a whole lot of “birds of a feather” vibes attached to it.) The “good” girls (meaning the ones who dressed right, came from money, and had a “stable” family–in my town, “stable” meant well-known) could do whatever they wanted to. If they told their friends to zip the lip, nothing was said, and even if it was discussed, there was no judgment, stigma or label slapped on their foreheads. It was that easy.

Now before anyone thinks this is the bitter blog post of a girl who hasn’t gotten over her bullying, let me say that I actually don’t consider myself to have been “bullied.” When I was younger, did people make comments about my family, my home, my outfits, my smell (aka, the Marlboro 100s)? Sure they did. But I also took dance lessons from the same school as the “good” girls, which helped me fit in. And by the time I was older, I’d learned so much about etiquette, behavior and how to fake the good life, I passed for popular. I had to completely disgust myself in order to do it, but I did.

I called it survival.

What research has shown is that peer approval is actually hard-wired into our brains, making it more biological than a form of consciousness. Take this study done on binge drinking, as discussed in this edweek.com article:

In a study of binge drinking, Mr. King found adolescents who are deciding to drink weigh negative effects such as having a hangover or getting in a fight less than they weigh perceived social benefits, such as increased confidence and the ability to speak with others.

edweek.com

To get real “sciency” with it, the article, “Need for Approval and Children’s Well-Being,” published on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, says:

Prominent early (Cooley, 1902Mead, 1934) and contemporary (Cole, Jacquez, & Maschman, 2001Harter, 1998) developmental theories suggest that children’s sense of self-worth emerges from an internalization of the views of significant others. Yet, as children begin to develop a more coherent and stable sense of self over the course of development, individual differences likely arise in the extent to which children’s self-worth remains contingent on approval from others (Harter, Stocker, & Robinson, 1996). The present research examined the emotional and social correlates of these individual differences in need for approval. More specifically, this research evaluated the hypothesis that a heightened need for approval has trade-offs for children’s well-being.

Now that I have children of my own, I realize that there are some children who don’t really care whether they are “popular” or not, and that a lot of worry over popularity follows interest. I have two children who were pretty “mainstream” for public school, meaning they liked sports, cheer, etc. But I also have two other children, just as well-liked as the previous two, who were into anime and manga and all things “nerd.” All four of my children had their separate struggles, yes, but they started school much differently than I did because they had loving, stable parents who made a decent income and were able to give them the “leg-up” needed to survive public school.

I’ve since learned that not having those things is what probably made me hyper-focused on noticing that others around me did have those things.

The lack in my life made me notice the abundance in others.

I hope if you’re reading this, you’ll forgive yourself.

If you’re a parent who put a high price tag on popularity, forgive yourself for caring so much about these things. We are human, and biologically we are wired for survival of the fittest. Most parents do not want to see their children hurt, and sometimes we tend to focus on what we think we can control, like how our child appears to others. It takes awareness to pull us in the other direction and teach our children to be kind to everyone.

If you’re a parent who didn’t care enough or for whatever reason, couldn’t seem to do or give the things your child needed to “succeed” in public school, forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know. If, like me, you’re a little of both, forgive yourself for that, too. I tried so hard with my first two children, forcing them into all the things I thought would make them popular. And some things did, but many activities were not their desire or their passion, and it caused a great deal of stress in our home. By the time I had baby number four, I was old enough to understand how people become “popular,” and what I realized was that people who are popular are popular because they’re popular. It’s a whole chicken and egg thing, and it’s not something that can be created or forced. It just is.

If you’re a person who was bullied, forgive yourself–and those around you, including teachers, parents and peers–for not having the tools necessary to not be bullied. Oftentimes we take our adult brains and try to place them on our childhood-selves. We have to remember that a twelve year old doesn’t think like a forty year old. We know things now that we didn’t know then, but even now, we’re still just doing the very best we can with what we know.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, forgive yourself for not understanding that you did absolutely nothing other than hit the biological “jackpot.” Understand that you’re not any better or worse than anyone else. And if you happened to bully someone, forgive yourself for that, as well. (If you’re still attached to that bully mentality, get out of high school and get some help.)

Approval is powerful and often, we don’t outgrow our need for it.

Sometimes I’m saddened by the heavy burden we still carry around on our backs because of what was said and done for a very short twelve years. We should never base our beliefs in ourselves on external conditions, and yet, many of us are carrying the hurt of words said so long ago when we were so young.

Words are strong, even more powerful than our need for approval. Used incorrectly, the tongue can unleash a pain that sears the heart for decades to come.

If I could tell little second grade me anything, it would be that in twenty years, no one will remember that I had Fred’s Dollar Store shoes, and if they do, it says more about them than it does about me.

And I would tell myself that the thing I should focus on most for the next few years is not how others should love me, but how I should love myself. And how, in accepting who I am and where I come from, my peace would emanate as love to others.

In what ways did you seek approval as a child? Are you still seeking approval? I’d love to hear from you.

emoji blowing a kiss

Why I Decided to Get Healthy at 40

When a gal steps onto the cold, steely platform known as a bathroom scale, the last thing she should hear in her head is the voice of Dr. Dre.

Well, I’m peepin’ and I’m creepin’ and I’m creepin‘…

But that’s what happens every time I lug my body onto that tiny square and watch the scale creep, the way it’s been doing since the beginning of the 21st century, when I gave birth to Baby Number One.

As with all things I’d like to change, I sigh, roll my eyes and vow to “start on Monday.”

How many times have you failed at sticking to a diet?

How many times have you vowed that Sunday would be the last day you gorged on fast food and ice cream, donuts and movie theater candy?

How many times have you made it to Wednesday, only to fall off the wagon again?

This is the year for wagon falling, amiright?

I mean, if ever we were going to latch onto something for comfort and escape, 2021 would be the time. The big 2-0 sent us reeling.

I don’t even have to use the word most to quantify that statement, because if you were alive in 2020, then one way or another, you were reeling.

Maybe a job was lost. Maybe a loved one died, or you caught THE illness that shall not be named on this website.

Maybe schools closed and you not only had to teach your own children, but the children in your classroom, as well.

For me? It was all of the above.

The year started innocently enough. Sure, I was aware that I would turn 40 in August. That wouldn’t be fun.

I dreaded turning 40, to be quite honest, because I was continuously replaying all the coulda, shoulda, wouldas in my head like a scratched record that wouldn’t catch the next beat.

My first baby of four, Baby Haehae, we’ve always called him, would be graduating.

My second baby, my daughter Ry, would be skipping into senior year after the summer, and it seemed like only yesterday I’d dropped her off at pre-k. She, too, would soon leave the nest.

My other kiddos, another son and daughter, Bear and Nims, would be heading to middle school. I knew from experience just how fast those years would fly.

But it was January and I wouldn’t think of those things until I had to. They were part of life. The great circle. The way it was meant to be.

2020 Was the Year from Hell

Then, in March, while vacationing at the beach, we were suddenly asked to leave.

An illness, the hotel said, was spreading quickly in the United States, one we’d heard about only peripherally in the months before.

We came home to my principal telling us to hang out for a week. It might soon blow over and we’d be back at school. But one week turned into two, then three, then four.

A month into the pan, my husband, Clayford, lost his job. He didn’t just lose it, but lost it without a paycheck or severance, thanks to the cutting of the WARN ACT in California, where his company was located.

My son’s senior year? Ruined.

Our plans for renovating our house? Over.

My school year? Online teaching was a disaster from hell.

Our first dog died. A loyal collie named Mollie. Our beloved family pet of 15 years.

After the dreaded turn of 40 that followed Mollie’s passing, I hoped life might return to normal.

Along the way there had been some bright spots.

Our family had grown closer. We’d spent hours watching movies, going on walks, playing games.

We were not just coping, but happy.

The Earth seemed happier, too.

The trees whispered, “thank you.” Their lime leaves, with the bright bursts of white and pink flowers attached, sent sweet fragrances dancing to and fro as I walked on windy days.

The sky appeared as blue as it had ever been.

It was as if our temporary home had needed the break just as much as we did.

words of chief seattle

Clayford eventually got a new job, an even better one than before.

We were able to venture into public places again by summer.

We’d made it through a rough eight months but we were all still here, and we were thankful. We hadn’t lost our home, cars or each other. Many people couldn’t say the same.

We realized the irony of life, that some have showers while others see the sun. We were grateful that for this season, we’d gotten the latter more than the former.

We started school that fall, excited we could attend. There would be staunch mask rules and constant temp checks, but we’d manage and some normalcy could return.

How wonderful it was to spend Thanksgiving with extended family! We were careful.

Around the table we said we really felt like 2021 would be the turning point, a light at the end of a long tunnel.

We enjoyed Christmas in Disney World.

I lamented that it would probably be the last we’d spend as a family of six. I knew that once Baby Haehae started college he wouldn’t be dying to make these trips.

We had a good time, even if the atmosphere was off. It wasn’t quite the Happiest Place on Earth.

I wrote in my journal while we were there that I didn’t feel we were out of the woods.

“I don’t know why I feel as if I left a burner on or the fireplace going,” I wrote, “but I know something isn’t right. Something is yet to come.”

Strength was the word that kept popping into my thoughts.

And over and over again, every time I’d open my Bible, listen to a sermon, read a book or clean to a podcast, that word would appear.

Our family tiptoed carefully into the new year. We weren’t who we used to be. Another piece of innocence had chipped away from our once strong shoulders.

Our caution was smart. No sooner had January come than all hell broke loose.

Why 2021 Was Harder than 2020

A family friend passed away, a man every person loved to be around. He was larger than life, and his passing shocked his community.

Not a week later, a former classmate, a woman my age, with two small kids and no known issues, was next.

Later, our school staff and students began dropping like flies.

The illness had hit our doorstep.

On a Tuesday in late January I got a headache. Next came a cough.

By Saturday I had high fever, and on Sunday, the diagnosis came.

The afternoon of my diagnosis, our family received the news that my beloved nephew died by suicide, leaving behind two little ones.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that the light of hope I’d carried into the new year was greatly diminished, maybe even completely snuffed.

If it hadn’t been for that word, strength, that had continuously stood tall in the back of my brain, I might have crumbled.

I did hit some bumps along the way.

Whereas I’d prided myself through 2020 on how well I’d been able to handle my drinking, a thorn in the flesh that had dogged me throughout the years, by 2021 my problems with having “just one glass” had blown through the roof.

Since ninth grade, I’d abused my body in times of crippling anxiety with substances like food and alcohol, trying to fill holes that could not be filled by me.

After a particularly rough night, I let my anxiety get the better of me. I awoke the next morning, laid in my bed and cried.

Getting Healthy at 40

It was then that the idea of celebrating my strong months suddenly popped into my head. It was almost like an afterthought, an I should have been thinking this way all along” type of thing.

Why didn’t I have a marker to cherish each month I’d been good to myself? A way to remember where I’d come from and where I was going?

I’d long believed that life was not about the destination.

Life was the journey that made us who we were. It was the places we traveled, the people we met, the parts of our hearts we opened.

What if there was a visible way to celebrate that?

Month to Milestones

I love writing. Years ago, I enjoyed keeping up a successful blog. I’ve written for newspapers, magazines. I even pen novels for fun.

Creating anything of value is special.

Words and art are snippets of our hidden souls that we share with an outside world.

And so, it was in my bed on a morning that I should have been wallowing in utter self-condemnation, that instead I set out to make my dreams a reality.

Month to Milestones is the culmination of that dream.

Join me as I travel this road of health and happiness, celebrating my milestones, as well as yours.

Though I’ve only just begun– and maybe you have, too– I already know, it won’t be the destination that makes our feet stay the path.

It’s the strength we’ll discover in ourselves along the way.

I hope you’ll join me, too.