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Potential – What’s your maximum?

She has so much potential.  He’s not living up to his potential.  With work they can reach their maximum potential.  All common in the vernacular of our current world.  I heard it (and said it) in my work life as a manager.  And I hear it in the context of my children all the time.  Adjudicators at dance say it.  Avi’s choir director says it.  It’s something people say frequently to either indicate that someone is not doing as well as expected but could improve with work (this is usually meant to be encouraging), or to indicate that they are doing as well as could possibly be expected, (usually with a negative connotation in that the expectations are kind of low).

Potential is defined by Cambridge as:

1. possible when the necessary conditions exist

2. someone’s or something’s ability to develop, achieve, or succeed.

When I think about potential of a human (or lack thereof), I like to combine these two.  Someone’s or something’s ability to develop, achieve, or succeed is possible when the necessary conditions exist.  Take Berrik for example.  (I know, I always take Berrik for example). The more I learn about Berrik and put the necessary conditions in place, his ability to develop, achieve AND succeed increases.  This can be applied to any human, neurotypical, learning disabled, physically disabled, cognitively disabled or otherwise. Incredibly gifted athletes make the Olympics because they and their parents sacrifice many other things to create the ‘necessary conditions’ in the form of diet, training, etc. For some the ‘necessary conditions’ may be more complex than others, but generally speaking, this is how it works.  For all of us.  Even bacteria or viruses develop and succeed when the necessary conditions are in place.  Remove those ‘conditions’ either through medication, diet, or other means, and the bacteria or viruses fail to thrive.  Mold…another good example.  My sourdough bread develops and succeeds if I put the necessary conditions in place.  I could go on.  (and I usually do.)

If you google “quotes about potential” you will find a large number of quotes referring to ‘maximum potential’.  I don’t care for these quotes.  I would argue that there is no such thing as maximum potential, because that suggests there is a limit, and that somehow we can predict it.  Having a child with learning disabilities magnifies this idea of ‘maximum potential’ and the risks associated with putting a limit on potential.  More than once in Berrik’s short school career, someone has put a limit on his potential, either verbally or in writing.  I believe that labels contribute to this tendency toward predicting and limiting potential.  It’s not the only factor, but it can provide a catalyst in a system that is not well resourced for kids who don’t have an easy time in a classroom environment.

Nothing makes me more frustrated than someone assuming a child (particularly MY child) has limited potential.  And if I worried about Berrik’s potential in the past, I worry much less now.  The gains he has made this past 10 months have been mind blowing. I wouldn’t have expected so much growth in such a short amount of time.  And despite a major shift in my own expectations, he continues to surprise me.  And I continue to shift my expectations upward.  Most importantly, I believe his potential has no limits.

Sir Winston Churchill once said:

Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.

I love this quote.  I love that it doesn’t talk about maximums.  I love that it reminds us that success (however that looks for each individual) takes continuous effort.

As I type this, Berrik is writing a story and is on his third page.  In January he started ‘journal writing’ with one simple sentence.  Today he is using a planning template to plan a story using topic sentences, details, transitional language and powerful endings, and is writing; willingly, albeit slowly at times.  I believed we would get to this point eventually.  In January I would not have believed we’d be here already in April.

img_8508So often, particularly with kids with differently wired brains, learning disabilities, or any other disability, we are quick to focus on what they cannot do.  Often teachers/therapists will talk about strengths, but the system (and sometimes the imposed limitations on perceived potential) result in lack of ability or desire to truly build on those strengths.  I have said this so frequently I feel like a broken record, but despite the fact that we have had many positive (and negative) experiences with teachers, speech therapists etc., the people at Sound Connections are the first to truly believe that there is no limit to Berrik’s potential.  There is no discussion of labels.  It’s not relevant.  Each week we look at where Berrik is at and then we move forward based on that.  I am frequently consulted on what I think Berrik needs.  And Annette uses her considerable experience and expertise to determine what to do next, how fast to go, when to circle back.  Having had years and years of experience working with 100s and 100s, possibly 1000s of kids, she knows that ALL children have potential.  She believes it and you can see it in her program, in her approach.  As a mom who believes this of her child, I can’t tell you how critical it has been to know that someone else believes it too.  Sound Connections, homeschooling, diet, exercise….these are some of the ‘necessary conditions’ that I am putting in place so Berrik can continue to develop, achieve and succeed.  And that has been potentially (see what I did there?) life changing.

 

Dairy-free Sugar-free ‘Ice Cream’

My kids like ice cream. Don’t all kids? But in a no sugar, low dairy household, ice cream or any of its non-dairy substitutes are not workable. I’m not the first person to make a frozen dessert from bananas, so no accolades for originality here. That said, the version we make is beyond delicious so I wanted to share.

Ingredients 

Frozen ripe banana chunks. (Whenever you have overripe bananas, peel and cut into 2.5cm pieces and then freeze)  Approximately 1.5-2 bananas per serving.

1 tbsp peanut butter (or any nut/seed butter) for every 2 bananas

1tsp vanilla (optional)

1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Directions

Throw all ingredients into a high speed blender and blend until smooth.

Scrape the deliciousness into a bowl (I prefer stainless steel) and put in freezer for an hour or two until it is the consistency of ice cream.

Scoop into a bowl and top with whatever toppings you like. We used chocolate sauce made from my chocolate recipe, poured it on and sprinkled with crushed peanuts.

 

I gotta wear shades…

On January 7 of this year, it was exactly one year since Berrik stopped eating all refined sugar, and wheat.  Technically the first 4-5 months were no sugar and no grains as we battled yeast (and won!), and then there was 4 painful weeks of wheat added back in, in order to test for celiac disease, and then back to no wheat, but reintroducing all other grains.  With the exception of one weekend where Berrik was away from home for one night and he was given a cinnamon bun and some other wheat and sugar filled snacks, he has been essentially free of refined sugar and wheat.  (As an aside, when he returned home after his treat filled night away, he was miserable for 3-4 days.  While I was frustrated that he was given all of that junk, I was more upset about what it did to him.  His quality of life – and mine – was horrible.  For DAYS.  Not worth it.)

People tell me all the time that there is no way their kid could do that, or that they couldn’t do it.  Truth is, if you really want to, you can.  It’s super hard and requires a lot of time, effort and organization. But it can be done.  Interestingly, Berrik is a considerably better eater now than he was prior.  Less fussy.  More willing to try new things.  At this point he makes absolutely no comment about having to bring his own ‘cake’ to birthday parties, or not being allowed to have candy at Halloween (he negotiated a trade of candy bag for Wii U game).

A couple of my thoughts on why this has been so successful:

  1. He noticed within two weeks of diet change that he felt better.  He said (and I quote), “My brain doesn’t feel crazy anymore.”
  2. It wasn’t optional.  There were no ‘exceptions’.  When we did it, I explained why (as best I could) and then we just did it.  Cold turkey.  And we didn’t let up.  No time off at Christmas.  No free pass on his birthday.  I learned to make treats that he could have (that incidentally, my other kids also love), so we use those for special occasions when others are having treats, and the rest of the time we just go about eating real food.  It sounds easy when I read over what I just wrote.  Let me be clear.  It was not easy.  The first 6 months of this diet change I was working full time, busy with all three kids’ activities, away for work, away for dance competitions (my own and McKenna’s) etc.  It was a change for all of us.  Kevin was picking up all my slack as I was in the kitchen every night baking until 10pm.  Everyone was hesitant to feed Berrik anything in case he wasn’t allowed to have it.  There was no such thing as convenience foods – not in the sense that most of us see it anyways.  I almost had a complete breakdown.  I was exhausted and overwhelmed.  I think it was the most difficult thing I have ever done.  But it was worth it, and I knew it was worth it, so I kept at it.  Convenience food to us now is fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds.  Not really rocket science.  If there are apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, cucumbers, and peppers around the house, then there are plenty of snacks. We’ve learned to make extra meat for dinner so that Berrik can eat the leftovers for lunches along with his fruit and veggies.  School lunches were hard.  And avoiding the never ending junk food that is handed out at school – birthday cupcakes (or ‘healthy’ muffins, that are basically cake for all the sugar in them), lollipops, granola bars, and on and on – was a huge challenge.  Homeschooling has made that considerably easier.  Even so, at his homeschool board classes, they do a lot of baking and cooking with the kids (which I think is fantastic) but of course, sometimes they baked cookies or other wheat/sugar items.  The teacher in charge of that was wonderful at asking me what they could do to make it possible for Berrik to eat the stuff…which ultimately I just asked to be notified when they were doing it, and I’d send a treat for Berrik to enjoy instead.  It worked ok.  Berrik was a good sport about it and would bring the cookie or treat home for his sisters or dad to enjoy.  (He offered them to me, but truth be told, the thought of all those kids’ hands in the batter, after wherever else those hands had been, made me not that interested in the fruits of their labours…. Yuck.  😉
  3. The support of my family.  Kevin and the girls were all in on this little adventure.  I can’t say enough about how much Kevin did to help, especially in those rough first few months.  I’m sure he thought I had gone off the deep end, but luckily he has always been quite patient with my shenanigans, and this particular shenanigan, he could see as well as I could what a difference it was making.  My mom and dad are also so amazingly supportive.  The kids go to Oyen every summer for a couple of weeks, and despite the fact that Berrik’s diet makes hosting him for 2 weeks a bit of a PIA , Mom was all in, making it so easy for me. Considering my mom is a nurse who worked at the bedside for over 40 years (and is still working!), one might not expect her to be supportive of our decisions that are at times a little outside of mainstream medicine, but in fact, it has been just the opposite.   Dad likely wouldn’t tell me if he disagreed with me… he’s always been quietly supportive and non judgmental that way, even when I was a kid.  Mom, however, is more like me (or I am like her) and she would tell me if she thought I was nuts.  But all I have ever heard from her on this journey with Berrik is her telling me I’m a good mom.  I’m sure I don’t need to explain how that makes me feel.

When I started this blog, I was planning to talk briefly about how this year has gone for us.  Clearly the ‘briefly’ ship has now sailed.  Sorry about that.

In June I left work for one year to see if I could help Berrik get a better foothold academically.  He had struggled so much in Grade 1, and I knew I had to intervene or the trajectory we were on was going to lead us to further heartache, pain, and who knows what else. As I have mentioned repeatedly, we started Sound Connections in June, the Monday after I left work.  We continue to work with them and their program, which has been life changing.  After a couple of months of working with Sound Connections, I realized that being home with Berrik and homeschooling him one on one was the best way to help get him on the right path.  We went through many ups and downs, and I made changes to supplements, and tweaked his diet, altered how I taught him, and just kept moving forward.  It has been quite a ride.  I have read so much research about what happens in the brain with regard to speech, executive function, attention, working memory, learning disabilities and theories about why, and what we could try, that my head sometimes feels as if it will explode.  The research is relatively young, but there is a lot of it going on these days, so the next 20 years will be very interesting.  Whether it is the changes I’ve made for Berrik, or just the fact that he’s maturing, I can’t say. But there has been significant growth for him in all areas.  His working memory is better.  His speech has improved again dramatically…a veritable explosion of not only vocabulary, but increased ability to express himself clearly. He is reading and learning phonics and even journaling with increased skill and speed.  He’s proving to be a math whiz, and surprises me daily with some new thought or observation that he expresses.  I am not sure if he had those thoughts before and just couldn’t fully express them or if his interpretation of the world around him is getting more sophisticated.  Likely a bit of both.  I don’t even have the words to express how proud I am of his persistence and tenacity.  He’s an inspiration.

Last night Berrik had his first official sleepover with other kids at someone else’s house. He has had one sleepover with kids (other than cousins) at our house, and of course many sleepovers at Grandparents’ houses or with Riza (our former nanny), but there hasn’t been much opportunity for ‘friends’ sleepovers.  Part of this is because in school he just didn’t have many friends, so there were no invites.  This past year, sleepovers away from the house would have been a huge challenge.  Who wants to host the kid who is a bit socially immature and can’t eat any of the ‘normal’ foods that most families eat?  But last night Berrik was invited to the birthday party of his best friend, who is also conveniently our next door neighbor.  This was the perfect opportunity.  The birthday boy’s mom knows Berrik very well, and I trust her with my baby.  So that helps.  She is also super laid back, and was totally open to me bringing Berrik his own pizza and cake for dinner, and was happy to make sure the movie snacks were things Berrik could eat.  I also knew that if Berrik had any issues, she would be able to help him out, or would text me to come get him if it came to that.   When your kid has been bullied and felt like he was not worthy of friends, you so desperately hope for success in this ‘typical’ kid situation.  And guess what?  SUCCESS.  There were around 8 or 9 boys in the house for the sleepover (did I mention she is a super laid back mom!?) and they all played and had a great time, were all asleep by 10 and slept until 8am.  Berrik is tired today but he says he had the best time and can’t wait for his next sleepover.  It’s yet another milestone in every kids life…and maybe 8 years old is a bit late to hit that milestone, but we are pretty pumped about it.  Now that he knows he can do it, and I know he can do it, I see more sleepovers in our future.

There have been times where I have thought about the future for Berrik and felt stress, heartache, and worry.  My wise cousin and friend says, “He will find his place.”  She is right.  And in those moments I envied how sure she was.  But looking back on this past year, and looking at my brave, empathetic, funny, tenacious little boy, I now share her sureness.  He will find his place.  He will do amazing things.  The world is better because he is here.  I am better because he is here.

This year has gone by in a blink…but in so many ways it feels like an eternity.  I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.  As Dire Straits has pointed out, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!”

Sweet potato fries – gluten free, grain free, and full of flavor!

I wanted  an alternative to regular potatoes that the whole family would enjoy and that would be good for us.  I had a few sweet potatoes so decided to attempt to make some ‘fries’ for dinner tonight.  Usually before I try something new, I will at least google a similar recipe for some ideas, but today I was under a bit of time pressure, so I just threw this together without much planning.

Ingredients:

Organic sweet potatoes

Almond flour

Coconut oil

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Cumin

Sea salt

Milk (I used coconut milk, but any dairy or non-dairy milk will work)

Directions:

Peel and slice sweet potatoes into ‘fry’ shaped slices.  Generously grease a cookie sheet with coconut oil.

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In a bowl, put a ratio of 1 cup almond flour, 1.5 tsp of garlic powder, 1.5 tsp onion powder, and a sprinkle of cumin.  Depending on how many sweet potato fries you are making you may need more or less of this.  I filled one full cookie sheet using the above amounts.

Pour some milk into another bowl.  Dip the fries into the milk and then dredge through the almond flour mixture and place on a cookie sheet until all ‘fries’ are on the cookie sheet.

Place into the oven at 375F and bake until the almond flour ‘crust’ starts to brown and the sweet potatoes begin to look slightly wilted.

Serve and enjoy.  I made a garlic aioli using mayo, pureed garlic and some hot sauce for dipping.  YUM.img_7479

 

Holiday treats – Free of Dairy, Sugar, and Wheat!

 

At this time of year in particular, sugar and wheat filled treats are EVERYWHERE.  It makes everything a challenge for those of us who have kids who are sugar and wheat free.  A visit to Santa means a dye and sugar filled candy cane, or a sugar, wheat and dye filled iced cookie.  Any holiday event at school, with friends, with family, all involve treats of some kind.  Gluten-free is easy enough these days, as there are many commercial options for the gluten intolerant.  But not so much for the gluten AND sugar free.  At Halloween I made chocolate ‘bars’ for Berrik so that he wouldn’t feel left out.  He loved them!  However, they are very dark and bitter chocolates as I prefer to keep any sweetener to a minimum, regardless of what type I am using.  But I know that a lot of people, especially kids, prefer the milder, sweeter ‘milk chocolate’.  Because my kids were dairy free by necessity, they grew up eating very dark chocolate so have a taste for it.  Most kids, not so much.  I decided to experiment a little today, to see if I could create a dairy, sugar and wheat free chocolate treat, that would satisfy even the most diehard milk chocolate vs. dark chocolate fan.

These aren’t perfect but they are unbelievably delicious, and will do the trick in this house. Berrik won’t feel left out at all, as I think these might be better than most of the treats we will come across over the holidays.  Except my mom’s lemon tarts. Those are the best.  But I digress.  Our biggest issue will be keeping enough chocolate in the house to last, as my girls and even my dessert avoiding husband can’t keep their hands off this chocolate!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup cocoa

all the full fat cream from a can of coconut milk (discard the watery stuff, or save for another recipe… I just added it to a smoothie)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

sweetener of choice, to taste.

I use stevia and just add a couple drops at a time until it gets to the desired sweetness (5 drops or so seemed to work).  Other really good and tasty options are pure maple syrup, raw local honey, coconut sugar, xylitol derived from birch, or even just plain old sugar if you aren’t limiting sugar.  I would guess at about 1/8-1/4 cup of these sweeteners, but I would recommend to start low and add a bit at a time, tasting after each addition (best part of the process!!).

Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally. When ingredients are mixed, smooth, and starting to bubble, continue to heat for about 2 minutes, stirring the entire time.  Pour into chocolate molds, or small muffin cups and freeze for a couple of hours.

OPTIONAL:

  • add a couple tbsp of nut or seed butter for a yummy nutty taste!  Chunky peanut butter is pretty amazing in this.
  • add gluten free pretzels, nuts, coconut, dried berries or red pepper flakes to each mold or muffin paper before pouring in the chocolate or sprinkle flakes of pink Himalayan sea salt on top

We added pretzels to ours as that is Berrik’s favorite.  These chocolates become soft quite quickly so should be served directly from the freezer.  They are creamy and fudge-like in texture and in flavor. Enjoy!!

 

Let go of my tail! I’m getting dizzy.

To fear is one thing.  To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.  ~Katherine Paterson, Jacob Have I Loved

This past week, Kevin and I went on a 5 day trip to NYC to celebrate our 15th anniversary. I love to travel.  L. O. V. E.  it. I like the experience of being out of the comfort zone of home – not that NYC is very extreme in that regard… but still.  I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit, and often without the kids.  This time, something felt VERY different.

Ever since the ‘flying’ incident way back in October 2004 – it is a long story, however, the short version is that for several long minutes, I was pretty sure the plane would crash, and by the looks of the hyperventilating flight attendant, he also thought we were going to crash – I have been a bit tense on planes.  My level of tension and anxiety has improved dramatically over the years (ask my cousins Kyle, Jennifer and Auntie Marylou about the return trip from Vegas, where I was a total disaster through a turbulent landing, made more humorous for cousin Jennifer as I was sitting in the emergency exit row and would clearly be of NO assistance in an emergency).  I can handle take offs, landings, and even minor turbulence without much notice now.  Major turbulence gets my attention, but I haven’t cried on a plane in years now…  🙂   But I digress.  Last Thursday, Kevin and I were on the plane taxiing down the runway.  I was quite suddenly and unexpectedly gripped by an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.  Nausea reminiscent of the unrelenting morning sickness of my early pregnancies caused me to break out in a cold sweat, and I felt like I may lose my breakfast.  But this time, it wasn’t flying that made feel this way.

My fear was about Berrik.  Well, it was about Berrik if something should happen to me.  It hit me like a sucker punch to the gut (not that I have ever been sucker punched in the gut…but I have a good imagination). Now, I have often had anxious thoughts about all three kids and how it would impact them if I was to die while off on a trip somewhere.  But it was more feelings of sadness for them that they would grow up without a mother, and for myself having to miss all those milestones that parents look forward to.  Some anxiety for the girls navigating puberty and those confusing teen years with only Dad to help them (not that Dad isn’t wonderful… but he’s just not Mom).  This time though, it was different.  It was this cold-sweat inducing fear for what would happen to Berrik if I was not there to advocate for him, to make sure he accesses all the resources he needs, to make sure he is learning in a way that works for him, to make sure no one writes him off as ‘not smart enough’.  We have been making great progress, but we have much more progress to make.  I felt completely selfish and guilty that I was on a plane flying away from my kids when Berrik (and the girls too) are at such critical points in their lives.  I know intellectually that driving my car on Deerfoot is more dangerous than flying to NYC for the weekend, but this was an emotional response, not an intellectual one.

Now that I am home and everyone is safe and sound, I wonder if all parents of kids with special needs feel this fear of leaving their kids more acutely than other parents? These past few months have been really telling for me in terms of how much a difference I can make for Berrik by spending this time with him. It’s this knowledge that I believe has instigated the fear I was feeling on the plane.  Based on past experience, it is scary for me to imagine what would happen to him if I was not here to advocate for him.  And it’s not just because I think I am SO good at teaching him or helping him.  It’s really not that at all.  It’s because at this moment in time, I am the one who has the time, and who has arguably the most vested interest in his success.  I know his learning needs best right now.  Could someone else figure this all out, just as I did? Quite probably.  But still.

I am comforted though, by how amazing my parents were this weekend with all three kids.  Berrik continued his studies and made excellent progress with Grandma’s tutoring and encouragement.  McKenna made it to all her dance classes, and got her homework done, Avi made it to choir rehearsal, sewing club, and practiced her piano AND the kids had a great time, AND they had homemade buns and homemade cookies (AND suckered Grandpa into 2 pizza nights!!).  I am fortunate that my parents are young, and also young for their age, with a ton of energy and so much love for my kids that they will do anything for them.  I know that if I was unable, for any reason, my parents would step in as much as they could to ensure all three kids got what they needed.

Would it be the same? Obviously not.  Would my kids be fine in the end.  Very likely.  Will I stop worrying about this?  Sigh.  Nope.  But I’m glad to be able to look at this from an intellectual perspective, now that the emotional response has diminished some.

As an aside, about 1/2 way through the flight we encountered some pretty intense turbulence for about 20 minutes.  I didn’t cry, but in light of the extra anxiety at the beginning of the flight, and my PTSD reactions to turbulence, I did bury my face in Kevin’s shoulder and squeeze the blood out of his hand until his fingers were numb, all the while making silent bargains with whomever could pick up on my brainwaves to please keep me safe and alive for a few more minutes, days, months,  years so I could make sure Berrik had everything he needed, McKenna continued to have her biggest cheerleader at her dance competitions, and so I could bask in the pride of watching Avi sing with such joy as part of her outstanding choir.  So far so good. Let’s hope my luck holds.

Overparenting, or “Oh crap, I’m totally guilty of doing this!”

Can you hear the hum of the helicopter hovering over my children?  Sigh.  I can.  And I’m driving the helicopter.

I have often waxed on about how we are overparenting our children and creating anxious, entitled, confused young adults who can barely keep themselves alive, let alone make good decisions and problem solve through bad ones.  While our society makes it challenging to avoid some of the overparenting that happens – anyone with kids likely has judged, or been judged regarding young children walking to and from school alone, or walking to the park alone or with other young friends or siblings – that is just one small part of the epidemic of overparenting that is happening all around us.  We can use that as our excuse if we are super happy with burying our heads in the sand.  But if you picture yourself with your head stuck in the sand, what body part is now most prominent?  If you can’t picture this, ask your spouse or a good friend to demonstrate it… you’ll get the point, and if you’re organized and quick about it, you’ll probably get a good photo to post on Instagram.

So, enlightened parent that I am, I was pretty sure I was doing a semi-reasonable job of NOT overparenting. <insert head in sand photo, or just a dramatic eye roll here>  But the truth is that I am overparenting with the best of them. I read this article today:  Overparenting is Doing More Harm Than Good  And as I read it, I actually said a couple bad words out loud.  Nothing like finding out that you are guilty of EVERY SINGLE item listed to describe overparenting.  Let me summarize for you:

  1. Scheduling play dates instead of letting kids just go outside and find some friends to play with.  Granted, because we are all overparenting, there aren’t always a bunch of kids running around outside to play with, but still.  I do this for Berrik, and I sadly also do this for McKenna and Avi and they are 13 & 11!!!!  Good grief.  #fail
  2. Go to every game or practice.  I have  3 kids so I don’t get to every single game or practice.  But a LOT of them.  And I wouldn’t miss a dance performance, choir performance, piano recital, karate parent night, ball game etc. unless I absolutely could not avoid it.  I thought this was me supporting my kids, and showing them how much I value them. Where is that effing parenting handbook anyways!?!  I thought this was the right thing to do!!!  Last night I was at the dance studio watching Mac dance for the first time this month… <pats herself on the back for nailing non-overparenting of one aspect of McKenna’s life for a solid 10 straight days>.
  3. Hires tutors throughout school years – not because they need tutors, but so they can improve their already excellent grades.  While I haven’t hired tutors for my girls, I did ‘homeschool’ them in math all summer even though they both have high grades in math.  My intention was to help them gain confidence and give them a head start on the school year in a subject they are least comfortable with.  Upon reflection I realize I probably sent them the message that their A wasn’t quite good enough and that I expect more from them.  Ugh. #homeschoolfail #parentingfail #selfesteemenhancingfail
  4. Want kids challenged at the highest level all the time.  Groan…  So guilty of this.  With all three kids.  One might even say I’m currently doing it full speed with Berrik and this homeschooling gig.  #wthiswrongwithme
  5. Want kids to ‘find their passion’ in middle school and/or highschool.  Just last evening at the dance studio, where I was basking in the joy of watching my daughter be challenged at the highest level in her tap class, I had a conversation with another dance teacher about Avi ‘finding her passion’ in choir. As I type this post, I am rolling my eyes at myself so frequently that I’ve given myself a headache.

I was not raised this way.  I was a farm kid who was lucky enough to live in the same farm yard as my grandparents and my cousins, and only a kilometer down the road from more cousins.  We left the house and headed off to whatever adventure we could find all the time, with no intervention from adults, and came back when it was getting dark or we were getting hungry.  We learned problem solving.  For example, on the round bales stacked two high we had to figure out what to do when youngest cousin falls (read: gets dropped) down the holes between the bales to the bottom (sorry Andrea). We discovered how much gas you need in the jerrycan strapped to the dirtbike to get to Sedalia and back. (Mom, did I ever tell you about the time we went to Sedalia?)  I had chores on the weekends and may the good Lord (or more likely Grandma) save you if you didn’t get them done before Mom got home from her shift at the hospital.  We helped with dinner and dishes (except when I just HAD to go to the washroom, and took my book in there to read to give Ryan plenty of time to get a head start on the dishes…for the record, I believe that qualifies as strategic thinking).  We had 2 channels on the TV and one was often a bit fuzzy. We didn’t watch it much.  Our first computer was a Commodore Vic 20 – the 20 is for kilobytes.  So you can imagine we weren’t doing too much on that fancy piece of technology.  We read books.  And played outside.  We put tea towels on our heads to pretend we had long hair, and ate Grandma’s cookie dough until we were sick.  We played school sports and I danced one or two nights per week, likely for 30 minutes at a time.  We went to dance festivals and to be honest I can’t really even recall if we ever won.

There are many things we did that I think we were exceptionally lucky that nothing permanently disfiguring or worse happened.  By today’s standards were were totally underparented. But I will say that when I went to college, I knew how to cook for myself, do my own laundry, and problem solve out of many a pickle… I registered myself for classes, talked to my professors if I had a concern about a grade, and even used that strategic thinking to avoid 8am classes at all costs.

The article I linked to above says this:

Have you ever stopped to question what the end result of all this involvement is? It’s a generation that can’t do anything on its own.

A generation that needs coaches, tutors, mom and dad to be at the sidelines at all times.

A generation that thinks it always needs to be number one at everything.

A generation that is never satisfied with who they are.

A generation of anxious, nervous kids.

A generation that is not hungry for anything because everything is handed to them, everything is fixed for them.

We are robbing them of the opportunity to grow up and discover themselves. To figure out who they are, what they love, what they excel at, what they want to excel at.

Let’s stop protecting them from the world and start preparing them for it, instead.

Sigh.  You know how as a parent you have those days (or more likely 15 minute increments) where you think, wow, I’m really nailing this?  Only yesterday I had one of those moments.  It was while I hovered in my helicopter watching McKenna dance and discussing how my middle schoolers had each found their passions, and mentally congratulating myself for challenging Berrik to learn a few more sight words and achieve more math problem solving skills earlier in the day.

What’s most interesting is that while I intellectually get that overparenting is not doing my kids any favors, it will take a significant mindset shift for me to break these nasty habits.  It’s all about balance, and I’m going to make a concerted effort to try to scale back where I can.  Baby steps.  Head is officially out of the sand, but it’s going to take some time to land this helicopter and park it for good.