Second-Guessing Ourselves: A Mother’s Day Reflection

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I always knew I wanted to have children, and I think at one point, I thought I’d have a lot of them.

That was until my daughter almost killed me during delivery, and as well as from the aftereffects of said delivery. Honestly, if she had been born before my son, I would only have one kid. What happened during that delivery scared the living daylights out of me. I knew I’d never have another child after that. (Which actually, was quite convenient, as my husband was content with two kids: a boy and a girl.)

And yet that incident left me second-guessing, which starts to become the mantra of a mother. You’ve heard your friends and family members tell a story about their child and then add on, “I should have done this….” It’s true. We do it.  It’s easy to continually second-guess yourself about how you’ve raised (and continue to raise) your kids. Did I do enough? Have I been supportive enough? Honest enough? Loving enough? Understanding enough? Tough enough?

You get it, right moms? The list goes on and on. The truth is, we’re not perfect. No one is.

We can second-guess ourselves until the cows come home. (And I’m told, eventually, the cows do come home, but it could take a while).

So my thought for this Mother’s Day is a simple one: we have to stop questioning ourselves.

Hear me clearly:

You have done enough. You are doing enough. You are enough. Your kids love you despite your mistakes, your occasional bad moods, your tendency to say “no” sometimes for their own good, your chaotic schedules and long work hours, your incapacity to ride the big rollercoaster at the theme park, and your ability to always rise above any nonsense and always be able to hug them and tell them that you love them.

When I read what my kids wrote in my card today for Mother’s Day, I realized a couple of things: (1) they say sweet things—and they mean them, and (2) no second-guessing is going to stop me from being the best damn mother I can be, even when it’s hard, even when I don’t always agree with them, even when I see things differently than they do, and even when they say they don’t need help with something, but they really do.

Being a mother means we have that “mom radar”—we know when guidance is needed, when a hug is needed, and when lending an ear and really listening can make all the difference.

I’m not a perfect mom, and I don’t pretend to be one. I’ve lost my cool. I’ve yelled (I’m Italian—what the hell do you expect?) I say stupid stuff sometimes when they want to hear something else.

Nevertheless, I am a mother, and I know I am learning right along with them as we all continue to grow together.

And second-guessing our past decisions, tactics, and methodologies won’t do anyone any good. We do the best we can. Each. And. Every. Day.

Trust me: the kids are alright.

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

 

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The (Obnoxious) Kid on the Plane

Image result for cartoon of kid having tantrum on airplane

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It’s a prayer all of us have sent up at some point in our lives: Please, God, don’t let the small, rambunctious kid sit near me on the plane.

Sometimes prayers get answered.

Sometimes, they don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I love children, especially my own more than others, but when I’m packed in like a sardine on my way to a pleasant vacation—or even worse, on my way home from a pleasant vacation—the last thing I want is a fussy, crying, obnoxious kid sitting next to me on my journey from which there is no escape until we land. I already come to the journey on an airplane with a touch of claustrophobia each time I buckle the lap belt, recognize that there’s no getting off no matter what, and carefully consider whether or not to fight for an armrest. Truthfully, I’m not a fan of confinement, even if it’s taking me to or from a splendid place. In nonverbal communication, we call the study of the spatial requirements that affect human interaction and behavior proxemics, and quite frankly, I need all the personal space I can get to ward off anxiety.

So, what happened was this: I saw the kid coming and sent the prayer up.

Now, make no mistake—I’m not mad at God, because I know how busy He can be and completely understand the magnitude and quantity of other pressing requests and matters that must take precedence over mine. But at least give me brownie points for trying.

I had spotted the family earlier in the airport as we waited at the terminal, but we boarded before they did. I sensed that there might be a disturbance in the force, as the kid seemed to be a handful. Along with my husband and kids, we said hello to the pilot, scooted down the aisle, found our spot, and settled in.

Just as we were all positioning ourselves and getting comfortable, I looked up and saw that family heading straight for us.

Low and behold, the family sat directly in front of me with the kid, while the grandmother was seated across from them on the aisle seat. I tried to stay positive and hope for the best. Honestly, I did.

However, for the entire two-hour trip, the kid was passed back and forth from mother to father and over to the grandmother. The kid fussed, cried, screamed, wanted food, didn’t want food, wanted a drink, didn’t want a drink, and threw his blanket and toys into the aisle in a fervent fit of madness. I’m guessing he was between the ages of two and three—and he brilliantly manipulated all three of the adults like a pro. When he didn’t get his way, he demonstrated one of the most sensational temper tantrums I’ve ever witnessed with a high-pitched squeal that made the hairs on your arms go straight up. The entire plane was treated to the kid’s soprano voice, and I noticed the flight attendants, after trying to help, share worrisome glances as they tried to keep their distance from him as much as possible.

Who could blame them? I wanted to do the same. In fact, I almost offered to help the flight attendants pass out peanuts so I could escape the extraordinary octave the kid was capable of reaching (watch out Mariah Carey—he’s coming after your notes).

Needless to say, when we touched down, my anxiety level was at a 12 on a scale of 10. So much for the relaxing flight home from a fantastic vacation.

Moreover, if I’m not mistaken, I think I heard a rumble from the passengers of glee along with a quiet show of applause that we were soon to be…

Free.

15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

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Holding On and Letting Go of Your Children

HPWorldThe second a child comes into your life, you know at some point, you will have to let go. They are babies, and they need you as infants, but not too long after, they find their own two feet can take them places, and they start walking, exploring and discovering. Even as toddlers, they are beginning their journey away from you. As much as you want to hold on, the truth is, you are already beginning to let go.

Think about it. Your toddler turns three or four, and he is ready for pre-school. You let him go. He has to find his way, make friends, create things on his own, and learn to listen and respect others, not just his parents. He is growing up before your eyes, and you watch in wonderment.

As he continues to grow and begins to become interested in activities, you guide him, but ultimately, he finds what suits him, and he chooses his own path. While some may find sports as a passion, others may dance, act, play instruments, paint, draw, or become a magician. The possibilities are endless, and you support your child’s choices.

You are proud of all of his hard work and accomplishments. Nothing can compare to the pride you feel regarding your children, each child.

Before you know it, he is turning into a little person, a small adult, and your conversations change from talking about Disney cartoons to talking about Harry Potter or Jack Bauer on “24.” You instill lessons of hard work and reward. You take family vacations together because you know time is fleeting and you have to grab hold of any moments you can that are magical and leave you with fond memories of how important this young person is to you. He grew out of a love you share with your husband, and yet, he continues to grow away from you.

This is not a bad thing. You are doing something right.

But now it’s 3:45 a.m. in the morning. Your alarm is set to go off, but you are already wide awake, and you gently tap your son so he can prepare to catch his plane to California. He’s a junior in high school, and his DECA group is heading to International competition. You spent the last evening helping him pack, and your heart sank, because you realized that in a little over a year, you will be sending him off to college.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, suit and outdoorTo college.

How did you get here?

You want to hold on, but you can’t.

He’s growing up. He’s becoming a man.

You hug him and tell him how much you love him, and he walks out the door into the dark of what is still night with his suitcase.

You tell him to have fun, have a good trip, be safe, and eat something healthy.

You’re still holding on, but you have to let go.

15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

In Summer, The Song Sings Itself

SummerIn a little over a week, I’ll be back on campus teaching my fall college courses. Some people may dread the thought of work, but not me. I always look forward to the fall and going back to school, to using my brain, to being in the classroom, and to seeing young, eager minds ready to work.

BUT I’VE HAD A WONDERFUL SUMMER.

Yes. I have had one of the best summers of my life. I have enjoyed every tick-toc moment of it. Even as I’m writing this, I am sitting on my new back porch working from home, and taking a quick break from researching and writing a textbook to write this post. My kids are happy and we are all about to head to the pool for movie night. We have great friends and neighbors, live in an active neighborhood, my parents are a short trip down the road, and we are closer to my in-laws. We’ve had two great vacations, and we really have no complaints at all.

Summer, you have been good to us. We are thankful.

One of the most wonderful perks of being a professor is the time it allows me to be home in the summers with my children. I love spending time with them and watching them grow; I enjoy spending time with them and their friends as we will do shortly at the pool; and I love having those “nothing” days as we had on Tuesday when it rained and flooded our neighborhood.

Captured this moment at Fenway Park...my son with his arm around his sister during batting practice.
Captured this moment at Fenway Park…my son with his arm around his sister during batting practice.

And although I do work a lot from home and spend a great deal of time writing, I make the time for them—always.

Fall is about to move in, life is going to go back to being more hectic, and school is about to start. But, we’ve got a few days until then, and I’m going to enjoy every last minute of this beautiful summer.

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Atop of the Highland Lighthouse in Cape Cod.

Trendy (Quirky) Things Kids Do

QuotesSomeone please explain to me how it became a fad not to tie one’s shoes. I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling of my own shoes being untied.

My son walked out the door this morning, and I told him to tie his shoes. Because of the snow on the ground, I decided to drive both my daughter and him to school. He got out of the car, and guess what? The shoes were still untied.

This is a trend among boys. I see it. I see it everywhere.

And guess what?

NikeTalk
Photo credit: NikeTalk

I don’t get it.

On another peculiar morning, where the temperatures were hovering around 7 degrees with a wind-chill factor of about 0 degrees, I drove my kids to school. Walking up to the main doors were boys wearing shorts. That’s right. Wearing shorts to school. It was zero degrees.

This is another strange trend that I can’t quite wrap my head around.

And yet, there’s one more. I see it here on campus as well as with middle school kids and high school kids.

That trend is that kids don’t wear coats.

No coats.

Just sweatshirts.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my mother would have screamed at me for not wearing a coat amid a plague of arctic temperatures. She would have told me to wear my coat so I didn’t get sick. She would have told me to wear a coat because it’s the logical thing to do.

And yet, I have to constantly tell my kids to put coats on. What is this all about?

What is the aversion to wearing a coat?

Tie your shoes. Wear sweat pants. Don a coat. Stop being quirky.

It’s really not that difficult.

And I’m tired of sounding like a broken record.

A Trick and A Treat

QueenCostume
My Annual Queen Costume…here with my kiddos circa 2008.

It was Halloween sometime in the 1970s. I was elementary school aged. All of the kids on my street where I grew up knew that it was one of the greatest nights of the year. We all went around together, shouting “trick or treat” and came home with oodles of candy. It was perfect. There was enough candy to keep me sick for weeks.

I’ll never forget the one particular house where the husband was dressed as Dracula and the wife was dressed as some kind of vampire too. His cape flowed and his fangs were monstrous. He came out of the coffin and delivered us our candy in the most perfect Transylvania accent; eerie music played, and we were all petrified to open our bags for fear he might drag us into the coffin. It was the greatest trick—to scare us all in good fun.

As an adult, the greatest treat I have is seeing little kids come to my door dressed in a variety of adorable costumes. And while I won’t be Dracula or his bride, I’ll be wearing my standard-wear-it-every-year Queen costume as I hand out the candy.

So for me, it’s not Trick OR Treat, but rather a Trick AND Treat that makes it special. I haven’t thought of that man dressed as Dracula in a while. However,  I hope he’s still at it.

Conversations With My Daughter & Elf On The Shelf

Yesterday, my family and I went to Washington, D.C. We walked around Georgetown and did a little pre-Christmas shopping. It was a beautiful day to be taking in the sights and sounds of Georgetown, and the place was hopping!

Before we left, we were discussing what was in Georgetown to see—and we were talking about the holidays as they are quickly approaching.

“You know who’s going to be here in a couple of weeks, right?” my daughter said.

I knew who she was talking about. She’s been obsessed with him since we first got him.

“Elfis?” I responded.

“Right!” she said excitedly.

Elfis is our Elf On The Shelf. Every child who has an Elf has to give him a name. His job is to report back to Santa each night on the kids’ behavior and then, the next morning, magically appear in a different location. He hangs from chandeliers, dangles off bookcases, gets tangled in the lights of the tree, and even once, became singed from sitting too close to a lightbulb. We created a makeshift apron to cover his injury, and silently thanked The Lord that he didn’t burn the house down.

In our home, he arrives the night we decorate our house. He shows up when there’s a feeling of Christmas spirit and our tree has gone up. Traditionally, we cut down our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. I entertain a lot during the holidays, so we typically get our house ready early. Elfis usually makes his first appearance that night.

“I was thinking, Mommy. We should get the girl version of the Elf On The Shelf this year,” she said.

“Really? You want another one?”

“Sure. Then Elfis can have a friend, and we can name her Elfaba.” She is funny, my daughter. She wants to name this female version after Elphaba in “Wicked.”

For those of you who already have an Elf On The Shelf, you realize, that’s doubling the commitment. We tend to become forgetful as we age. It requires even more diligence.

“We’ll see,” I said. My kids are getting older. I was wondering if they could still hear the bell ring, like in “The Polar Express.” I asked them if they still believe.

“Do you, Mommy?”

“I always believe,” I said. “Christmas spirit lives right here.” I pointed to my heart.

“We do, too. Besides, we wouldn’t get as many presents if we didn’t,” they said.

So, now we’ve gotten to the bottom of it.
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Have a funny story to share about your Elf? Please do so in the comments area. Also, would love to hear the names of them…

A Conversation With My Daughter (I Just Love These)

(To set this scene, you have to understand the following: (1) My daughter’s room can tend to be sloppy; (2) She loves to analyze me; and (3) I am a hypocrite.)

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“Elle—your room! It’s a disaster! Come here and clean it immediately!” I’m shouting to her from the top of the stairs.

She makes her way up, enters the room, and surveys the damage.

“Yup. It’s a disaster, alright,” she says.

“How can you stand it like this?” I ask, picking panties and Squinkies off the floor simultaneously.

She looks at me and cocks her head. “Well, Mommy, you have a lot of room to talk. Nanny told me that when you were younger, your room was a mess too.”

I look at her, and scratch my head. I knew my mother would let the cat out of the bag at some point. Paybacks…

“Well, that’s right,” I say. “I wasn’t very neat.”

“Then why do I have to be?”

I ponder this question. I don’t really have the answer, except to accept that I’m a hypocrite.

“Nanny also told me that you used to get in trouble for staying out too late.”

I start to wonder how long this laundry list of “Nanny said” items will be. There are stories to be told, but not to a nine-year-old. They must be saved until she is graduated from college.

She starts to clean up, and I begin to help her.

“Thanks for helping me,” she says.

I kiss her on the forehead.

“Oh, you know what Poppy said?” she says. “He said he ripped the telephone out of your room and wheeled the stereo out too. You used to get in trouble a lot, huh?”

“Well, sure. All kids get in trouble,” I say.

“Yeah,” she says. “But it sounds like you got in trouble A LOT!”

“Maybe,” I say. “But at least I learned my lessons.”

This leaves her deep in thought as she contemplates the profound wisdom I have shared with her. A minute passes, and then she continues. “Then why is there a pile of your clothes on the chest in your room and your shoes are all over your closet floor?”

“For nostalgia, Elle,” I say. “For nostalgia.”