JM Denyes Newsletter

The New 4-letter word – November 2009

Recently my daughter was sick with a really bad fever. I am not one of those parents who panics and runs to the ER at the first sign of sickness but this fever was bad enough to move her bed into our room and stay awake all night listening to her breathe. I felt like a new mom wracked with anxiety. Why now, after being a mom for the last 7+ years, am I worrying at the first sign of illness? I’m guessing it’s the introduction of a new four-letter word into my world…H1N1! 

Everywhere we turn we are faced with news updates, statistics and fear about so many things. With so much information out there, I rarely feel very well-informed, in fact sometimes I feel even more incompetent for the vast amounts of “knowledge” I have accumulated. Shouldn’t all the internet, newspaper, magazine and volumes of books on every topic make us feel secure in what we know? On the contrary, I find that I begin to worry about every possibly scenario, likely or not. I worry about making the wrong decisions about many things; vaccine or no vaccine, hand sanitizer or soap, sugar or aspartame, cough medicine or no cough medicine, sweat it out or tepid baths, practically-plastic-margarine or fatty-butter, Tylenol or Advil, Baby Einstein or no T.V at all???

There are so many ‘voices’ shouting in my ear that sometimes I miss the sound of my own wisdom. I have a God-given instinct as the mother and protector of my children. I may not always make the perfect decision about everything; I may need to inquire after the experiences of friends, or consider what I read in the news, but ultimately I need to trust my gut and do what I think is right for my kids. They need to know that I am confident and can show them the way.

Kids today are being bombarded daily with information, messages about who they should strive to be, what they should wear and eat. If all these messages are overwhelming to us, how much more to children?

I think it’s important to be informed but to not succumb to panic and anxiety. My kids are watching me to see if I’m scared. I wonder what they see?

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Mom-ism’s – October 2009

It’s been a year since my Mother passed away but sometimes I can still hear her voice. Now before you have me committed, I should clarify…I hear her words, her tone and her opinion out of my own mouth on a regular basis. It’s true, despite my best efforts to distinguish myself from my Mother I have actually turned into her when I wasn’t looking!

“If I can’t see you, you’re not safe!?

“Don’t make me come up there!”

“Decaf coffee is for sissies.”

“I am NOT going to tell you again!”

“If there’s no blood, you’ll live!”

“Because I’m the boss and I say so”

“If it hurts to move it, then stop moving it!”

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep quiet”

So it would appear that I must have found some benefit to the Mom-ism’s she shared with me. And it got me thinking, which of my words would I like my children to remember when they grow up?

“Put others first, be generous and wait your turn”

“Make sure you laugh every day”

“You are not an individual if you look like everyone else”

“Be a good friend, and be sure you choose good friends”

“Use kind words, ALWAYS”

“Think before you act”

“Loving to read will enhance your whole life”

“If I can see your underwear, it’s time to get pants that fit!”

Well, regardless of whether my children absorb anything that I have said or not, I will continue to impart my “wisdom” in hopes that one day they will look at their children and say “I don’t care what [Joey] is allowed to do at his house…in this house I AM THE BOSS!”

Of course, that’s just how I see it from My Corner of the World.

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Finding the Hidden Bonus – June 2009

Sometimes, if you look closely, you can see the hidden blessing in things that are otherwise perceived as negative. With a child who recently spent time sick on the sofa, my mind immediately thinks of illness. Coughing seems to be a bad thing and we always want to suppress it, however coughing is actually good and it helps our lungs to expel things that are making us sick.

As a mother of two, I am closely acquainted with childbirth; most women will tell you that it was painful, stressful and more overwhelming than any other task they have ever had to do before or since. And yet, what a wonderfully fabulous reward that comes with all our gut-wrenching pain (so to speak).

The rainy, dreary days of spring seem to be a bad thing, and yet we always tell our children to be grateful for even the rainy days; b/c flowers need the rain to bloom in summer?

And what of our School? We have come to the end of our proverbial “Old Lady Who lived in a Shoe Year” and we made it! We have successfully manoeuvred the choppy waters of over-crowding and insufficient parking. Though at times it seemed the school was host to a giant slide puzzle, our children made new friends and received excellent academic training, and the halls have been teeming with great teachers and a super-size student body.

As we look ahead to the future I want to draw our attention to the hidden bonuses that await us in the fall.

For example, a potential negative on our minds these days is that our children will be losing a lot of beloved teachers and friends when the “new schools” are built next year. And yet, the hidden bonus? The school openings are delayed so we will still get to see our friends around the JM community, a sort of trial separation if you will.

Another potential negative? PL Robertson will not be opening it’s freshly painted doors on September 8th. The hidden bonus? The teachers and students get to begin their year and get-to-know-each-other-time on familiar turf, surrounded by the JM teachers and friends with whom they’ve spent at least the last 10 months.

Let’s embrace the exciting changes in our school community bolstered by the successful and exciting year that is coming to a close. 

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Perspective – May 2009

Yesterday as my 4 year old princess sat on the floor of the ballet studio defiantly refusing to rehearse the recital routine; I was reminded that, less than 20 hours previously, I had been frantically searching the neighbourhood for her. While playing outside, Her Highness decided to come in and sneak upstairs to watch t.v, without telling anyone. It wasn’t until 30+ people had fanned out to search for her did we finally hear a quiet giggle from the upstairs window, and discover that she was not lost, but rather hiding.

If you have ever experienced the terror that accompanies momentarily losing a child, then you know the overwhelming relief as you hold them tightly, showering them with tear-stained kisses while sternly warning them to never scare you like that again. These incidents have always served to put things in perspective for me, they remind me that I have been blessed with two amazing children; this is the perspective that stabilized me in the ballet studio yesterday.

Our children are so valuable, personally I couldn’t live without them, and yet they drive me crazy on a daily basis! How is it possible that the same small creatures that scrunch their noses up at the meals we slave over and spend hours whining and bickering about everything under the sun with their siblings, can grip our hearts so intensely?

I believe the scary times as a parent are a gift designed to help me through the inevitable trying times. In my life I count 2 miscarriages, weeks in the neo-natal intensive care, falls down the stairs, disappearing acts and inexplicable high fevers among my “perspective-building” experiences. Memories of those times are what I draw on when I find the dog hog-tied or every stitch of clothing on the bedroom floor. It’s what I think about when I hear stomping up the stairs and the spiteful retort “You’re the Meanest Mommy EVER!”

It’s good to have perspective sometimes…

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Super Mom’s Unite! – February 2009 

I wonder sometimes if anyone else shares my psychotic compulsion to be the Perfect Mom? Is it just my issue, or are there other Mom’s desperately trying to endear themselves to their children with ballet classes, lunchables and building lock towers?

I was thinking, what does the Perfect Mother look like? Does she even exist? And why do we always feel like were less than stellar compared to other Mom’s on the playground?  Or on the flip side, why do we judge the mothers we see in our minds if their parenting style differs from our own? Where do the evaluation requirements come from? Our own Mothers’s?  Mothers we have known in our lifetime? Television? How do we decide what we need to do to be a Great Mom? 

When I was young (and knew everything), I based most of my decisions on what my mother did when I was young, then I would reactively choose opposite. I was convinced that this was the best way to handle each choice. I also read every parenting magazine ever printed from the time I got married until…well…my subscription runs out next fall. 

I’ve come to the realization that as I mother I am always trying to be better than the mother I had and better than every mother who ever walked the earth and more often than not I fall short of my goal.  No matter how many cookies I bake, books I read or how many hours I spend in the school; I still manage to forget gym clothes and popcorn money, I still lose my temper when the children fight, and inevitably step on and crush the tiny polly pocket pieces. And yet, my children still love me and they still manage to function (most of the time) in society with all the other children being raised by less than perfect mothers. 

I think it’s time for parents to throw off the chains of unfulfilled expectations and leave the shackles imposed by child-rearing gurus everywhere! We are doing the best we can with what we have been given, and no amount of peer pressure, academic rhetoric or playground discussion will dampen our spirits as we go about the business or raising our children to the best of our ability.

At least that’s how I view it from My Corner of the World.

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Can You Hear Me Now? – January 2009

Sometimes I cringe at the sound of my own voice….I mean it, I really can’t stand hearing the words that I speak again and again.

“Finish eating so we can get ready for school”

“Turn off the tv and get your shoes on”

“Get in the car and put your seatbelt on”

“Walk faster or you’re going to be late”

“Pick the toys up off the floor!”

“If I have to tell you ONE MORE TIME”

As each word flows from my mouth I am reminded of all the times I swore that I would never nag my kids and I would never repeat myself. Oh no, I was going to be the mother whose children listened the first time she said ANYTHING!

So what happened? Why is it that my children don’t seem to hear my instructions? Why do I need to raise the volume to “yell” before I see results? Is it just me? Do other mothers find themselves rambling and repeating the same things every day? I wonder if it’s a reflection of me as a person or of my mothering skills that my children are incapable of obeying my instructions.

Of course the truth is that many mothers have similar struggles, we just seem to be isolated in our moments of true craziness, because we are alone in our hallway trying to move our children towards a timely exit. But, more than likely at that very instant there are hundreds of thousands of mothers in other locations hollering to their sleeping children that they “better get out of bed right now if they want breakfast”, and probably just down the street a mother is reminding her child to put a clean shirt on and warning him to change his dirty socks before his feet stink permanently.

Just this afternoon, I heard a mother on the playground hollering out for her young son to stop playing and start walking with her to the car. I had to check myself for a minute because I could have sworn that the voice was my own. Although that same scenario plays out almost on a daily basis in that very playground, this time it really was another mother whose child shares the same name as my son.

 I guess I’m not the only one after all…. 

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When Mom Gets Sick – December 2008 

In the life of a mother there just never seems to be enough hours in the day for all the responsibilities associated with the title “Mom”.  How could 24 hours be enough time for groceries, banking, entertaining the children, homework, supervising chores, tidying the house, meals, dishes, bath time, night-time, laundry…the list is endless!

Somehow, we manage not only to do all those things for our families, but if we’re lucky we find the time for ourselves. And then the unthinkable happens…Mom gets sick!

Although most people rest when they are sick, it is more difficult for Moms. There is no resting when you are a mother. Although Dad and Grandma will lend a hand, there’s just no substitute. The house often doesn’t run properly if Mom isn’t at the helm.

So as I sit here on my sofa on week 2 of my bout with pneumonia, contemplating what to make for dinner and why there’s so much laundry to do, I realize that something has to give. My long “to-do” list will not get done today. I only have so much energy so I have no choice but to prioritize my day. What absolutely MUST get done, what SHOULD get done, and what jobs can I leave until tomorrow or later in the week?

So, the children will get lunch, I will read books with my son for homework and I will snuggle with my daughter before naptime because the laundry can wait until tomorrow.

 At least, that’s how I view it from my corner of the world. 

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Teaching them to Take a Moment – November 2008 

A line in the famous poem, “In Flander’s Fields” says: “…We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow…” And it has brought to my mind what a great responsibility we have to teach our children through everyday experiences to “live, feel and see” life to the fullest.

In the last month, my children learned about the privilege of voting as they accompanied me to the federal ballot box and watched a U.S presidential acceptance speech make history in real time on CNN. We spent hours mired in cardboard attempting to create the perfect halloween costume, and taught the kids to cover perfectly healthy apples in caramel and candy. We have also struggled to teach our son the art of saving his allowance in order to buy that expensive toy he wants, knowing that he will enjoy it so much the better for having achieved his goal.

I am increasingly grateful for the opportunity to pour into my children, to positively impact the kind of people they will one day be. If I don’t encourage them to appreciate how blessed they are, who will? Will they learn civic duty and racial tolerance from Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers? Will their peers help them realize their dreams no matter how many rolls of duct tape it takes? No I’ve come to the conclusion that It’s my job as a parent to do all that I can to help my children take a moment and watch the “sunset glow”.

At least, that’s how I view it from my corner of the world. 

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Overcrowded – October 2008

Remember The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe? Well this year, life at JM Denyes Public School is reminiscent of that story. Think about it, teaching a class in the library, the travelling music room, 2 kindergarden classes occupying the same room, it’s like the school is shrinking!  But within this time of upheaval and seeming chaos, is a school full of dedicated administrators, resilient children and a staff of teachers who roll with the punches. 

As parents we need to encourage tolerance and patience in our children, after all that’s what they will need in the real world right? Traffic is often slow due to unanticipated construction, working conditions are often less than ideal, we don’t always love our neighbours and yet we have to find a way to get along and live at peace with everyone around us. So until things get sorted out at our school lets try to be patient with the changes, considerate to staff and volunteers, compassionate to those around us and grateful for the fact that our children are getting a great education as well as being prepared for life in the real world.

At least, that’s how I view it from my corner of the world.

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