PostHeaderIcon Parenting in a Shutdown

It’s been 3 weeks since schools shut down. For my 13 year old, life has been a dream. She has a little world of her own inside her room. Every corner, shelf, space is a collection of things she’s saved since she was a toddler. She’s almost a hoarder. She can stay in her room all day and if possible, have her meals there too. She’s pretty indifferent about going to school, and though she’s a diligent student she never really understood the purpose of physically going to another building to learn. Don’t get me wrong. She’s social enough and a great conversationalist. She has many friends and loves them dearly. But this new system of online classes, a chunk of assigned work, a few Zoom calls tucked in here and there, some accountability but without the rigmarole of a rushed morning routine and walking through crowded hallways while trying to balance an oversized binder and a Chromebook, seems refreshing to her. She has a check off list for herself, so every morning, she sets an alarm, gets ready, completes her schoolwork, has her meal and then she’s either perfecting her Minecraft skills, or researching the most unusual topics. She’s also been singing and playing her piano. Oh, and how can we forget TikTok? I have had zero problems with this child as I adjusted my expectations based on her abilities. I know she will take care of her schoolwork. I have also accepted that it takes her 20 minutes to understand why she needs to help me vacuum when she could be doing more important tasks such as rummaging through old boxes in the shed for her toys from when she was three. I have also accepted the fact that she is not like me, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think it might be a good thing, eventually.

My 17 year old had her finals the week we shut down and has since been free of academic bondage. So I gave her a list of chores to do like most mothers would — a carefully crafted list with visuals and words of affirmations, clear directions all in a table format demonstrating my high tech skills and meticulous planning style. That list, my friends, is a piece of art. But here’s a snippet. The girls each have a cupboard in addition to a walk-in closet. I truly believe that Marya’s cupboard contains her retired knick knacks but more importantly, it is a collection of items that have mysteriously disappeared from the house, such as my fancy pair of gold shoes, some jewelry that was borrowed for an event and lost, possibly a packet of socks that were bought but never found, blankets that have since gone missing… basically I am convinced that everything I am looking for since last year can be found there, hence my interest in cleaning it out. I asked Marya to clean that cupboard and I promise not to judge or utter a single word of reprimand, that I will gracefully put everything we find in there in the right place and erase it from my memory and will not say “see I told you it was there!” I will report back in a few days regarding the outcome. The thing with my kids is that just like all other kids, they are kids. When they go to bed, I take a deep breath and shift my thinking for a few minutes. I realize they are struggling with this new weird situation we’re in all of a sudden. We all are. As adults we feel responsible and hope we can make this shutdown productive so when they go back to school and resume normal life, they are still useful human beings who have retained their learning. We also want them to have a routine and not wile away this time. I am still teaching, be it in the most unusual manner, have a ton of professional development to accomplish and none of my daily chores seem to have gone away. I still cook and clean, in fact, clean a bit more than normal, I still do the gazillion other things we adults do, but I think I worry a bit too much as well. I don’t always model the kinds of behaviors I expect from my children. Like today, I told Marya we would take a break and do yoga at noon. At 1 pm she asked me if I was still going to spend time with her. It broke my heart.

Sometimes I get so absorbed in my own life that I forget my little ones have feelings too. Later, we talked at length about anxiety stemming from the unknown, and we talked about unspoken fears that have emanated from the happenings around us. Our kids like to see us as solid pillars with everflowing faith and security but seeing our vulnerable and imperfect side gives them compassion. We made a pact that we’d be more realistic and chalk out a plan together. We talked about how dad still has to go to work and as much as they stay 6 feet apart over there and washes his hands excessively, he has his own set of anxieties. And that maybe Sara was dealing with her anxiety by finding toys from her past. And that Marya needs to talk more to relieve her worries. And maybe if I didn’t spend so much time designing Pinterest worthy lists I could spend time actually helping my kido with her cupboard problems…and one day, she could help me with mine. We’re all together in this. And like everything else, this too shall pass.

The Serenity Prayer

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


PostHeaderIcon Times have changed: Covid-19 thoughts

Working from home has been quite interesting to say the least. No more packing lunches and rushing in the morning with my 8th grader’s breakfast falling out of her hands, and getting out of the door just in time to navigate through the buses and what seems like the entire West Valley traffic right outside my door. A one minute drive to my school would take 18 whole minutes, people!

But I miss that chaos. There was so much order in it.

Now I’m cooking a lot more. My kids seem to be hungry all the time. They don’t ask for fancy meals but I find myself bursting with creative juices. I also seem to be cleaning a lot more. My husband is still going to work everyday and when he enters the house, I see him as a socially-undistanced person and a threat to my beautifully sanitized home (I exaggerate) though truth be told, they are being very safe and mindful at their “essential” workplace and we are grateful. I seem to be doing a lot more laundry as well! All of my OCD has been coming out in different ways, some creative, some utterly annoying as I hear sighs of frustration from my family members. I have created more work for myself in addition to our online teaching experimentation and delivery. I guess we have all found our own special ways of dealing with this quarantine life.

Overall, I am spending a great deal of time with my daughters. I have always enjoyed that and now there’s a part of me that secretly craves conversations with teenagers. Those of you who teach this age of kids know what I am talking about. Teenagers are the most beautiful people ever. They are little adults that need love, attention and validation, and when they get all of that, they gracefully accept whatever direction you may have for them. They are so hungry to be heard. And oh goodness, how lovely do they sound! I have to throw something in here:

As I’m writing this note, my younger daughter calls out for me from upstairs:

Daughter: Mom, can you come upstairs?
Me: Oh, I just sat down. Today was bathrooms cleaning day, then I showered, then I cooked dinner, cleaned the kitchen and I just sat down.
Daughter: If you’re struggling being a parent then you should have thought twice about becoming a parent when you did!
Me: No sweetheart, no struggle here. I love being a parent.

How can you not love these little sassy younglings? She just wanted me to sit on her bed so she could chat with me while she colored in her room. I should have listened before bursting out with my life rants. Sometimes I, the parent need to grow up.

So as I was saying, isn’t it amazing how a tiny little inconspicuous virus has been controlling our lives these last few weeks? Makes me humbled, and a little mad because now I need to wear a nifty face mask and think many times before going out. There’s also perspective thrown at me about how I think I have my life in control after so many years of working hard and all of sudden, one day I am told, as are all of you, that we can’t do what we have been trained to do anymore, that we can’t touch things as we please and sit with friends when we feel like. Hashtag wow! Hashtag perspective.

I guess we get to experience a new lifestyle and create a new normal now. Just read a bunch of posts by my teacher friends. Feel blessed to belong to a community of people who are so passionate. I know that we will make this school year worthwhile in the most innovative of ways. I’m thinking of all the learning that will happen for us teachers. I’m thinking of the so many adjustments parents and students will make, and some days it will not be pretty and kind. Graduations, finals, SATs, college admissions, missions, proms, concerts, plays — everything sits in an obscure space. But you know what, there is a greater purpose and meaning to all this, and like a wise man once said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

I am also thinking about the many folks around the world who have been affected by this situation in ways of finances and ill-health and unwelcome solitude. How I cherish the freedom we had and will have. I have faith that this too shall pass.

I just want all my friends and fam to know that I’m here for you. I can chat, talk, even come see you (if you live in my city) and stay 6ft away from you. If you need me to cook a meal, I will gladly do so. I pray for everyone’s health and protection. Please pray for us. We are together in this!


PostHeaderIcon Set them free…

My 16 year old has her driver’s license now but was hesitating to go anywhere alone. Now that school is about to begin (and she’s doing Running Start so she can’t be dropped off), she’s understanding the importance of driving solo. So she’s been overcoming her fears and going places alone, and feeling so proud of herself. Mama secretly wants to be with her or drive behind her but mama knows she must not do that.

God knows it’s difficult seeing your kids battle their fears…whatever they may be and you just want to hold on to your babies and make all their struggles or problems or fears go away. But then they’ll never grow, they’ll never be strong independent human beings… so yes, I keep talking to myself everyday and tell myself not to handicap them with my emotional needs. Set them free… in whichever way is needed at that time.

PostHeaderIcon A few sleepless nights…

Since the Florida school shooting, I have woken up a few times in the middle of the night and walked up to my children’s rooms. As I saw them fast asleep, I thought of those parents who lost their sons and daughters in what was once an inconceivable event, but has, in recent times, become a somewhat usual occurrence in the schools of today. I’ve been troubled — as a parent, as a teacher and as a human being. I know I share the same sentiments as everyone reading this.

These kinds of events lead us to thinking of the why, and while we all are entitled to our opinions, there has to be a plan in place to fix this broken part of our societal structure. I am of the opinion that the common man who is not in military or armed forces should not have such ease of access to firearms. While this isn’t the only matter of concern, here’s something I have been thinking, only that someone else said it before me about the “guns don’t kill people, people do” argument: well cars don’t kill people either but we have excellent car control laws to limit people killing themselves and others and when that fails we have mandatory insurance to provide coverage for losses incurred (excerpt from another Facebook user’s comment).

It’s like that touchy technology topic… kids and gadgets. Technology isn’t bad but unless we have rules and consequences laid out for our kids, technology can be misused or overused. If we set proper guidelines and train kids to utilize technology as a tool, they can become developers and programmers and engineers and scientists or just even prepare sophisticated documents for school and college.

So then it all comes down to parenting or the lack of it. It comes down to community and our moral values. It comes down to what I read a long time ago: The difference between a successful person and the one who isn’t — is what they do in their free time. It’s about the company you keep and the books you read. It’s about manners and ethics, and about social consciousness. It’s about people getting so busy that they forget to stop and reflect. It’s about the lack of connections and the ongoing race with ourselves to reach an unknown destination. It’s about confusing our goals with finding contentment. It’s about taking all that time trying to change everyone instead of first fixing ourselves. It’s about not being available for our children because we are so busy trying to build them a material world without building them and their mindsets first.

I don’t have answers or solutions but I want to be part of the change as much as you all do. I hope that as a teacher I don’t ever have to barricade my classroom doors and protect my students. I hope all our children can go to school to learn and mingle blissfully with their peers without fear of undesirable intruders. This is as real as it gets, but guess what, if we take ownership of this world we call ours, then perhaps we can experience the change we’re looking for.

PostHeaderIcon Handling Failure

The topic of failure and how kids these days react to it came up at my class yesterday when we were discussing the trends and history in education. Some of the issues covered were dress code, discipline, legislature… but the topic of failure caught my attention a bit more than the others.

I remember failing as a child. My parents didn’t try to make up for it or make me feel better by compensating with a gift. They also didn’t tell me a fake story about how it was actually someone else’s fault and not mine. I was raised to take ownership of my choices and understand the consequences of those choices.

Many kids today are very fragile. One life skill that is not being modeled or communicated is handling failure. We are always trying to protect the emotional space of a child but in turn making them weak individuals. We have more kids with emotional issues now than ever before. The helicopter parenting, the “every child is a winner” mentality is crippling.

I’m all for positive reinforcement, I’m all for empathy, but true nourishment of the mind comes from experiencing a variety of emotions and getting skilled at dealing with them.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
– Truman Capote

PostHeaderIcon The Technophobia beast that lies within us.

It’s naive of parents today to think that if their child can find an app on an iPad or swipe unlock a phone, they now know how to use a computer. Technology is commonly associated with gaming but in reality, technology is a vast term that includes such a diverse array of offerings. I teach 140 students every week and only a handful come with an understanding of the productivity aspect of technology. These are the kids who know more than just downloading games on their parent’s tablet and charging it. It’s the 21st century. Children encounter technology in every area of their lives, be it at school or home and whether we like it or not, technology plays a formative role in the development of a child today. Our refrigerators and vehicles and laundry machines are all intelligent machines, and so it just makes sense that our children understand how things work and even consider learning how to utilize these tools to their advantage. 

It is not bad omen to read on a Kindle. Yes I like to smell the pages in a book. I understand that phenomenal goose-bump inducing event of touching a matte cover with raised print. It is almost like getting drawn into an intergalactic wormhole and becoming one with the book. But if we drop the baggage of technophobia, we will realize that there is great convenience associated with it. Managing a calendar, creating lists and receiving timely notifications has never been easier. I can finally declutter my refrigerator and be done with the hundred stickies that were wallpapered on it. I can track the whereabouts of my children when they are away from home or share my schedule with my family so they know what my day looks like. Taking it a step further, have you ever thought about building a digital portfolio showcasing your accomplishments? It would be so easy to share it at multiple levels. Think about the ease of access! What about taking up blogging as a hobby and developing writing skills?

Breaking news: school state exams are now mostly online. Why do you think that such a transition has been made? Because this is how there can be more effective grading; it saves costs and allows fair judgement; there are accommodations for kids with special needs, there’s more uniformity. So if a kid can’t see well, there is an option to zoom in the text, or if a child’s primary language isn’t English, multiple language options are available and the questions can be read out on the child’s headphones. These are just a few examples. We are now using technology in our schools to help kids with learning disabilities. Today’s teaching methods involve blended learning experiences where students can access global knowledge right from their devices and use collaborative tools in the classroom. We are now past the stage where we argue if technology is affecting our cognitive skills. It is now up to us to determine effective ways to incorporate the many uses and benefits associated with the many facets of technology.

The use of technology is an additional skill every child needs to learn. It by no means replaces the conventional pencil and paper. But every generation adds on a new skill, and for us it is the productive use of technology.

My advice for parents of today is to look at technology as a productivity tool. Their exposure can be limited and defined so there’s a balance and method to the madness we see today. Embrace the trends that are relevant to the changing needs of the times and look into inspiring children to become innovative leaders of tomorrow. Our children are the future workforce where Big Data and Artificial Intelligence will make up a huge percentage of the jobs to come. What John Dewey said many years ago, makes total sense now: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” Doesn’t it?

PostHeaderIcon Helicopters! I’m talking about parents here.

In 1969, Dr. Ginott used the term helicopter parents in his book entitled Parents and Teenagers.

I came across this term a few years ago and didn’t pay much attention to it until I became a teacher and ran into a few parents who fit that term perfectly. Helicopter parents hover over their children excessively, controlling and managing their routines, tasks and decisions, and take responsibility of their child’s failures or successes.

As a parent and a teacher, I have learned that allowing a child to do what they can do by themselves helps empower them. Overcontrolling and overprotection can deplete their natural strengths and curiosity, and hamper their spirit of learning. This can make them overdependent. Many helicopter parents start off by simply helping their children become engaged in various activities and providing direction but their involvement deepens as competition with other parents sets in, or the fear of their child’s poor performance keeps them from letting their child work independently. Sadly, more often that not, children of helicopter parents end up losing self confidence and self esteem, and because they have always had an adult hovering over them, they become afraid of making decisions and coping with real life challenges.

I like to ask my kids and students to figure out how to do things when I’m sure I’ve give them instructions and they are capable of completing certain tasks. Our brain behaves like a muscle that needs to be used so it stays supple and active. Creating an environment for children to learn from failure is vital for mastering life skills. While we need to provide direction and watch out for our child’s emotional status, we need to remind ourselves of our primary goal: shaping children as self reliant individuals.

PostHeaderIcon Inspiring a child

Teaching my kids to be fearless dreamers has been on top of my agenda. Dreams evolve, dreams change, but the process of dreaming keeps a child inspired. I share my dreams with my children regardless of how silly they may sound. Inside every dream lies a clue or representation of what could make us passionate. A few days ago, I shared my bucket list with my children who are now fourteen and ten. I started writing out lists from a very early age when my mother, one evening during a thunderstorm blackout, told me that writing thoughts helps make a stronger mark in our minds. Since then, it has become a habit. I make lists for everything, even my dreams for there is great power in visualization, in retrospection, and intention.

I also discovered how keeping my children in a safe box kills their spirit. Many a time, parents want children to follow a traditional path or a familiar route hoping for predictable outcomes. While that may be in order, a lot of times, we end up suppressing the process of self-discovery and self-exploration. As a parent, I am learning to keep my involvement with my children as guidelines from my experience instead of inadvertently pushing my opinions or desires upon them. As my children grow, I grow along with them and as they experience the journey of life with me, I know they are watching me grow every day. Hopefully, they see me as an inspiration, as a person who decided not to dwell in a comfort zone and get bored.

PostHeaderIcon Some thoughts for my children

To my children:
Remember that you are unique individuals, capable of accomplishing anything. Some thoughts–
1. God created you and God doesn’t create junk.
2. You are better than no one and no one is better than you.
3. You are responsible for what you do in life.
4. Respect people regardless of where they come from.
5. Trust your gut.
6. If the man you love causes you sad tears, he’s not worth it.
7. Don’t spend too much time on your physical beauty. You’ll drive yourself crazy.
8. Read a lot of books. Read all kinds of books.
9. Never stop dreaming. Or having goals.
10. Be fit. Work hard at it.
11. If you’re stuck in a conundrum, think long and hard, you will find a solution.
12. Don’t take advice from just anyone.
13. Stay away from drama. Always.
14. Travel a lot.
15. Technology is your friend.
16. There is a lot of power in prayer.
17. Spend your money, but save some where you can’t get it easily.
18. Serve those who need you, the orphans, the sick, the poor, the elderly. This should be a dominant thought.
19. Make lists and save them on a cloud.
20. Remember your mama is always available for you. No matter what!

PostHeaderIcon Crosswalk Culture

One of the many rewarding duties at my job is safety patrol. My permanent spot is at the flag crossing. It is where children and parents walk over the drive-thru lane from the side of the school to the parking lot by the main road. My patrol vest is a shabby orange one that needs a makeover but it grabs attention for sure. I have two student safety patrol members with me in trendy bright green vests and matching neon hard hats. These students and I share a special bond. We are a team. This is where I receive my showering of morning greetings from children crossing the lane and their lovely parents. This is where a few enthusiastic toddlers who accompany their older siblings give me high-five or a good mornin’ cheer. This is where my legs get squeezed with affection by little crossers as I firmly hold the sign to stop oncoming traffic. As parents drop off their children, I am bombarded with many different versions of have a good day. Some are subtle utterings, some are more vivacious, but all impact my daily life in a significant way, like little doses of energy to fuel my day.

But the crosswalk isn’t always as positive a junction. Often times a rushed parent disobeys a rule and leaves us all alarmed and confused. Perhaps they are late for a meeting, or they aren’t feeling well, or maybe something is going on in their lives that is occupying their mental space. And so they make a choice that leaves us all bewildered.

We also witness pockets of social exchanges. I’ve heard stories of travels and weekend shenanigans. Once in a while there’s a whiff of tale that scratches my ears. Other times, I am invited for a deeper involvement.

As I look back on the days when I was younger and kids walked to school alone, I realize how the world has evolved into a more complex setting. Stranger danger, street crime, or reckless drivers are all fears a parent has. But are these fears misplaced and are we too obsessed with our overprotective quirks and helicopter parenting? Have the times really changed or are we living amidst a self-created social paranoia? I don’t know the answer. All I know that when I am on the crosswalk every morning, it is endearing to see a daddy hold his child’s little and trusting hand across the street safely and give him a reassuring hug. It is heartwarming to see a mom take the extra two minutes before her incredibly busy day and listen to her child’s early morning rant. It doesn’t matter if the world has changed or not. What matters is that we readjust our lives to keep the bonds steady and strong. And so if it means walking my child across the crosswalk, I would totally embrace it!