I don’t know how to write this so I’m just going to start and hope that it makes sense. I feel the need to write about this subject immediately, which means I’m not going to do a lot of editing.
A couple of things happened this week at the same time that made me sick to my stomach. The first one is something that everyone knows about- the college entrance scandal. The scandal that involved wealthy, well known actors and actresses buying their children’s way into prestigious colleges. The second event was something that happened to my six year old son. He got in trouble at his after school day care program. Now, this isn’t the first time he’s gotten in trouble, but the frequency has been increasing in the last month. My son most likely has ADHD and Auditory Processing Disorder. What does this mean? It means that Jackson has a very hard time controlling his body. It means that when you tell him something, he needs to be told in more than one way in order for him to understand it. It means that he is easily overstimulated, especially in loud, active environments (classrooms, restaurants, after school programs etc.) It means that if he doesn’t do what you asked him to do, it isn’t because he is being defiant, it’s because he actually didn’t hear you because he was distracted. He doesn’t fit into the “typical” child mold. School will always be hard for him because our current school system does not reward children like him. But is he a bad child? Is he a trouble student? No! He’s probably one of the sweetest, funniest boys you will actually meet. Don’t get me wrong, Joe and I are not the parents who think that our child is perfect and the teacher is wrong. We know Jackson is hard to work with. We know he can be frustrating. We had Jackson’s spring conference this week and his teacher asked me if Jackson frustrates us. I literally laughed out loud and said “yes, every darn day!” For these reasons, Joe and I started going to parenting therapy in order to get the tools to best work with Jackson and what he needs. We had found that we were constantly frustrated with him and yelling non-stop in order to get him to follow a direction. Our yelling has decreased substantially and we are learning to work with his strengths. What we know is that Jackson loves to please people and responds very well to positive reinforcement. But our current school system and society do not see Jackson’s spirit and joy for living as something good. They don’t see his strengths, they see that he isn’t being obedient. Going back to his after school program. In the last month there have been changes in the staff. There is one staff member who believes that all children need to follow directions at all times and if they aren’t, there will be consequences. Fine. Children need to learn to follow rules, I get that. But as a six year old, they are still learning what these rules are and instead of consequences, can we try positive reinforcement? When I suggested this and trying a sticker chart (a tool that has worked in the past for Jackson) his response was “well, I mean, I guess we could try that as long as no one else knows about it”. I’M SORRY, WHAT!!!???? Why do we have to hide that? Why do we have to make it look like every child fits into a perfect mold? Why can’t other children see that not everyone is the same and their needs may be different? So I have a couple problems with this. The first is, what’s going to happen when this teacher talks to the other teachers in the day care? Is he going to tell them that Jackson is a trouble child? Is he going to say he’s a hard child? So then what? Now other teachers think that he is hard before they even know him, before the even see his strengths? And then it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy, where Jackson then starts acting poorly because that is what is expected of him. I see this all the time in the school system and when I worked as a kindergarten teacher. A child is labeled as being “bad” or “difficult”. The teachers then tell the other teachers and soon all the teachers at the school know this student and their deficits instead of their strengths.
Here’s my second problem with the fact that we expect all of our children to behave in one perfect way: our society puts way too much emphasis on how things look on the outside. This was just proven in the college scandal. For God’s sake!!! These people literally could not accept the fact that their children didn’t live up to their expectations and instead of loving them for who they are, they bought their way into prestigious colleges, all to look good. What the hell is wrong with our society?!!! Why the heck can’t we accept the way our children are? Why can’t we accept that not everyone is the same? Our world needs every type of person and their strengths. And not everyone is fit to go to college, let alone an ivy league. We live in a society where we value selfies, Instagram feeds and Facebook posts more than we value our children’s well-being and teaching them to be themselves. Will my son go to college? I have no idea. What I do know is that my husband and I will support him and his strengths and let him know that whatever path he takes will make us happy, as long has he is happy. Can we please just learn to accept children the way they are? It is our job, as parents and teachers, to teach them how to be good people and how to survive in life. It is not our job to judge them and demonize them for not fitting into the mold that we think they should fit in. I don’t know how to solve this problem except to teach my own children that we love them for who they are, and I hope you will do the same for your own children and students.
Why do I run? Because I can. Why do I get up at an ungodly hour in the morning to run? Because I can. Why do I train for ridiculous races that push me way out of my comfort zone? Because I can. At least once a week, someone will ask me why I do these crazy things and the short reason I give is “because I can”. Did I get back into running after having children to help lose some of the baby weight? Absolutely!!! (for goodness sake, I gained 60 pounds with my last son, I needed some way to get rid of that weight) But why do I continue to run and why am I still motivated to crawl out of bed way before the sun is even up? BECAUSE I CAN!!!
I’ve always been a runner. (see picture above ) I was always the fastest on the soccer field, the softball field and the volleyball court. Don’t let this fool you. I had absolutely no talent in these sports. Usually you need to have some sort of coordination to play these sports, and coordination is something I was not born with! But, I could absolutely race my brothers to the car and win “shotgun” (again, see picture above. Yes, I am beating my brother). So I joined the track team and continued sprinting. I was definitely not the fastest on our track team (kind of hard to do that when Tiffany Roberts, you know, the women’s Olympic soccer player, is on your track team and she was lapping the boys!) but I loved the runner’s high and I loved the friends I made while running. But after high school, my running stopped. Between bunions and surgery for my endometriosis, I got out of the running routine. Until I turned 30. What happened when I turned 30? Well, I went through a nasty break up and decided to join Team and Training to train for a half marathon. Secretly, I thought I’d meet my future husband on the running trails. That didn’t happen. What did happen was that I made some amazing friends and ended up running four half marathons (some might say I ran two full marathons. Ok, I’m the only one that says that). But then life hit and I couldn’t run.
You guys!!!! There were years that I couldn’t run. There were years that I could hardly get myself out of bed because I was so sad about the miscarriages. There were years when I was literally told that I couldn’t run because it would make me miscarry. There were years when I was in too much pain, physically and emotionally, when I just couldn’t manage to move my body that way. And then, after having babies, I was in that stage of solitary confinement when my babies needed me. I was nursing and teaching full time and was just too tired to get out and run. After my second son turned 1, my colleague and running partner, encouraged me to join her on runs after work. Did the mommy guilt try to take over and stop me from 30 min of self-care? Yup! Sure did!! But my husband encouraged me to take the time for myself. So my colleague and I started running again and I was in heaven. The runner’s high is no joke you guys! And being able to relax with a friend who endlessly encouraged me, even when running up that hill might make me pee my pants, was an amazing relief from the grind of nursing and changing diapers. If you’ve read my past blog entries, you know that shortly after getting my running groove back, I found out I was pregnant, for the 7th time. I immediately stopped running because I knew that my body had a hard time holding on to pregnancies when I work out too much. I ended up losing that baby at 10 weeks. That was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I didn’t run for almost two years after that! Yes, I would go on an occasional run, but nothing consistent and motivation was definitely lacking. It wasn’t until I started down this personal development journey that I realized just how lucky I am and just how important exercise is. Yes, I do consider myself lucky. Were the six miscarriages tragic and awful? Absolutely. But I was still alive. I was still able to move my body. So I started running again.
Why do I run at 4:30am? Because if I wait until the end of the day, I will talk myself out of a run. I’ll be too tired. Something will come up and I’ll have to go home after work. I’ll have to go to the grocery store to get last min dinner items (hahaha, just kidding, I don’t go to the grocery store) But, the important thing is that I know myself well enough to know that I will not run after work. I also know that I have much more energy if I get my run done in the morning. Sounds counterintuitive, hu? It is weird, but it’s true. The first week of getting up early to run or workout, is really hard. But after that, you actually start generating energy and have more energy through the day. So I get up at 4:30 am. Is it ever easy to get up at that hour? Nope!!! I curse my alarm clock every single morning. BUT, I do it! Because I can! I’m not assuming that everyone reading this loves to go out and run 3-4 miles a day. But there is something out there that you love to do. Something that brings you complete joy and gives you energy. Something that you aren’t doing. Why? Why aren’t you doing that thing? You’re allowed to do something for yourself, to take time for yourself. Don’t have time? Bull shit! If it’s something you enjoy and something that gives you energy, you can find the time. Your body was made to do it! Go do it! Because you can!!!!
A couple weeks ago, Charlie, my step daughter, had a volleyball tournament. I showed up a little late because Jackson had a pine derby race beforehand. Anyone who has been to a volleyball tournament knows that there is a lot of down time. During this time, the girls usually eat, mess around and just have fun. The parents usually talk and catch up. You know? All the normal things that people do at events like these. At this particular event, I started chatting with another mom. She was super nice and we talked for a long time, laughing and actually enjoying each other’s company. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you such a boring story. Here’s why this is story is so important and why it stands out. It was the FIRST time a mom at one of these events had talked to me. This was the first time I wasn’t treated like the step mom or the “other woman” (which I’m not!). I’ve been attending all of Charlie’s sporting events (unless I was in labor) since she was 3. Soccer games, gymnastics, softball, volleyball… And it took 10 years for a mom to actually talk to me!
What I am about to write is going to really piss some people off. I’m not going to apologize because this is the truth that I am living and what I have experienced as a step mom. Being a step mom is LONELY!! First of all, before having your own biological children, other parents don’t actually see you as a parent. I can’t tell you how often I would participate in a conversation about parenting and a friend would turn to me and say “you’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with this yet because you don’t have children”. Knife. To. The. Heart. What people don’t realize is that being a step parent is just as hard as being a parent and often times harder.
My step daughter is 13. She’s been attending the same school since she was in kindergarten. When Joe and I were first dating and married, I gave a serious effort into meeting Charlie’s classmate’s parents. I attended school events, sporting events, club events, you name it. I put myself out there and would nervously approach other moms and try to have conversations with them. I can count on one hand (without all the fingers on that hand) how many times the moms would actually respond and engage in conversation with me. They would look at me like I was crazy or like they were betraying Charlie’s mom’s friendship. Here’s the thing, I NEVER did anything wrong. I wasn’t the other woman. I hadn’t broken up the marriage. In fact, Joe didn’t do anything wrong either, his ex-wife wanted the divorce. I met Joe after his divorce, fell in love with him and Charlie and wanted to do what was best for Charlie. So there was really no reason for anyone to treat me like I was the other woman. Every year, Joe would give my contact information to the school office so they could include me on the school email list. After all, I was actively part of Charlie’s life and would need to know the schedule and happenings of the school. EVERY year they didn’t put me on the list. EVERY YEAR!!!!! So every week for the last 9 years, Joe forwards the weekly email to me so that I know what is going on. Charlie has a friend, a supposed best friend. This girl’s mom is very good friends with Charlie’s mom. Knowing that Charlie wanted to hang out with her best friend on the weekend, I reached out to the best friend’s mom and asked if her daughter could come over and play. Four times she said no and after that she actually just stopped responding. When Charlie was in Gymnastics, I took her to a practice. One of her friends from school attended the same practice and the mom was there. Now, that particular day I had had a pretty rough day at work (almost every day as an intensive special ed teacher is rough). I was zoning out and the other mom walked by me and muttered under her breath “you can try smiling”. Uuuuuummmm, ok!!! You guys! I consider myself a pretty nice, fun person. I don’t think I’m a bitch. I try to be outgoing and make people feel at ease in awkward situations like these. I know it isn’t easy attending events when both sets of parents are there. I know the teacher is uncomfortable at Back to School Night or conferences of the Science Fair when we are all there. I get it!! But does that give you permission to be rude?
So, here’s the reason why I’m writing this. We all know someone who is divorced. We all are in situations where there are step parents. Go talk to them! Include them. Trust me, they feel more awkward than you do. If a step parent is attending all of those events, knowing that they are going to be looked at rudely, knowing that there might be some engagement with the ex that is uncomfortable, knowing that they are going to be ignored, and yet they are still there, they are good people. They are trying to do what is best for the child and make the best out of a hard situation. So please, go up to them. Engage in a conversation. Talk to them like they are normal, because they are. They did not want to be in this situation, they just are and all they want is to be treated like a parent.
I'm an average girl who has discovered her passion for self-development after warrioring (yes, it's a word) through 6 miscarriages. I took that passion and applied it to helping others find their passions through High Performance Coaching. Boy mom to two "energetic boys" and navigating the art of being a step mom to a teenage girl, all while working daily on maintaining an authentic relationship with the best husband around. Sometimes mindful. Sometimes a runner. Always a little crazy!