Thursday, June 25, 2009

The concrete jungle: bullying and grace

Like most parents, I'm crazy about my kid. Since we graduated from the challenging toddler years, every day--even a tough day--has one or two moments when I see our daughter for the miracle, the grace of heaven, that she really is and get lost in that love.

It's been a joy to watch her blossom academically, at play with friends, in her voracious reading, in her creative activities. There have been struggles in each area, yes. Especially on the school playground.

Beginning in second grade, three girls began bullying her in that nasty way females sometimes do. With girls, it tends to be called "relational aggression," because they don't act physically aggressive as often as they try to take the wind out of another girl's sails. "Your shoes are ugly." "Andrea says your dress is ugly." "Sarena says you're a loser."

Never mind that none of that is true, that she's doing very well in school and has plenty of friends for playdates and lots of cute, non-show-offy clothes for school. I'm being totally honest when I tell you that worrying about the next day's playground time has kept me up at night off and on the past two school years.


We've found some ways to bolster her self-confidence in these situations (although progress here seems to proceed at a glacial pace), and things have gotten better. So it was with a feeling of wonder that I listened to her account of her first day at summer daycamp this past Monday.

She said, "A girl was being really mean to Jasmine today. She was being a bully to her." I remarked on how unfair that was and asked if she had been the victim, too. She said, "No, Savannah and another girl just picked on Jasmine, but I told her I was on her side."

Can I tell you that at that moment, my heart swelled? It wasn't that long ago that someone told me that the challenges my daughter has faced from the mean girls at school were only going to build character in her, that she's a strong girl who "gets" what's going on and she'll be fine.

But it's so hard to look at these situations long-term, when you're living your day aware that in ten minutes it's recess over at school four blocks away and hoping that this is a good recess and that you won't hear an upsetting story after school that you push away until it wakes you up at 2:00 a.m. and lose another 90 minutes of sleep...

So when my kid told me that she told this poor bullied girl that she would stand by her, it seemed like the most profound kind of grace. For her, for her new friend. I'm not one of those people who has a Bible verse for every occasion, but I know in my bones that this is Romans 8:28 in action: "All things work together for good to them that love the Lord," and I told my daughter that, and she smiled a powerful little smile.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The importance of play

When your child has more regular weekly appointments than you do, it may be time to step back and evaluate. Ask yourself, "Does my child get enough unstructured, unscheduled time for play?" Several key areas of a child's development are helped along by open-ended playtime.

Recently, I answered a Twitter request for guest bloggers from Princess Time Toys, and you can read the article here. While you're there, click over to the store for some terrific toys and dress-up clothes that can help boost imaginative playtime.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Keeping kids happy while you work at home

Take it from someone who was working on email newsletter deadlines six days after her C-section with her baby on a Boppy next to her on the couch: you need a strategy or at least a few great tips to be able to handle the work-at-home mom (WAHM) life. I thought this article had some very good ideas, and I say this after nine years of WAHMhood.

Before I post the link, my own tips include these:

  • Be sure you spend some quality time with the kids an hour or so before any conference calls where silence is critical.

  • Set the expectations early about when silence is needed and when interruptions are OK. Have a hand signal or a sign right at hand that each child knows means the equivalent of, "I love you, but you must wait until I'm done with this call before I can answer you or else I'll lose this client and you won't be able to go to gymnastics camp. Thank you! Did I mention that I love you?"

  • Train with your li'l darlings so you're not trying desperately to communicate and teach a rule while dealing with a deadline or phone-based crisis. By the time my daughter was four, she was able to understand the signals and wait patiently (most of the time).

The article I'm mentioning here is from and is called, How to Have Happy Kids while You Work at Home. Enjoy! Then get some work done.

What are your best WAHM tips? I'd love to see your pearls of wisdom in the comments below.