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Incredible Years (Part 2)

Imagine who you want your kids to become. Be that.

~Unknown

Ever since I became a stay-at-home mom, I have made it my job to gain the resources and support to become the best damn mom I can be. I just completed the 7th week of the Incredible Years course. With only 3 weeks left in the class, allow me to give you an update on the tools I have added to my parenting tool belt. In a previous post, Incredible Years (Part 1), I talk about intentionally playing with my kids.

So, besides playing, what have I been up to? Here are 4 key parenting strategies I have been working on:

  1. Praise, encouragement and positive attention – This comes fairly naturally to me (as long as I’m in a good mood). Because of the class, I am trying to work on praising and encouraging even more. This works on adults too my friends. My class instructor mentioned something that continues to resonate with me, “What gets you more positive behavior? Praise and encouragement. What get’s you more negative behavior? Lack of praise and encouragement.” We often fail to recognize our children when they play quietly or do things without complaining. Those things deserve A LOT of praise because we want them to keep up the good work. We cannot praise and encourage our children too much, so dish it out parents!
  2. Tangible rewards, incentives and celebrations – Prior to the class, the only time we tried out rewards was for potty training, and it was fairly successful. Now, I have implemented a rewards system for other behaviors and I am seeing even better results than before. When getting started, I tried to have this process be led by my kids. We went to the store and they got to pick out their favorite stickers and a small notebook to put them in. I involved them in the process of choosing which behaviors would be rewarded. We award a sticker for a few specific behaviors (i.e. staying in bed at night, obeying the first time, etc). Once they get really good at those behaviors, we phase them out and start rewarding new behaviors. During the first round of the rewards program, they did really well and I felt they deserved an extra reward. I told them how great they had been doing and said they could cash in all their stickers for a trip to the pool, yippee! Another incentive we added was a kindness jarkindness jar. When one of the boys is nice to the other or they are playing really well together without fighting, they get to add a cotton-ball to the kindness jar. When it fills up they get a trip to the zoo or a museum. Who doesn’t love receiving a favorite reward for a job well done?
  3. Limit setting – For some reason this one is a challenge for me. It feels like I have to strike a delicate, somewhat perfect balance between me taking control and giving my child some control. The main “take away” lessons I’ve learned on setting limits are: don’t give too many commands, give clear realistic commands one at a time, and lastly, follow through with praise or consequences. Despite the challenge, I think the effort will be worth it. But in the mean time, I must dedicate my obsessive and anal self to careful and intentional limit setting for my wild and crazy boys…that won’t be hard at all!
  4. Ignoring – Did you know it’s OK to intentionally ignore your child at times? I let my children know in advance that I am not going to pay attention to them if they continue a certain misbehavior. So far I have ignored whining, arguing, and temper tantrums. Like many other strategies mentioned in this curriculum, ignoring is to be combined with praise for positive behaviors. The main reason I like this method is because you don’t give attention to certain negative behaviors and thereby inadvertently increase that negative attention-seeking behavior down the road.

I continue to be grateful to be a part of such a great parenting class. If you have a child between the ages of 2 and 8 years old, I highly encourage you to check out The Incredible Years Website and find out if there are classes offered in your area. Also, check out my page on Parenting and let me know if you recommend additional parenting resources.

Grady craftI’ll close with a few thoughts on play. The importance of daily one-on-one play has become very apparent to me as I continue with the Incredible Years curriculum. Playing with my boys has been lot of fun, I am bonding deeply with both of them, and they are expanding their creative minds. But, oh man, it’s easy to put play-time on the back burner. I have to remind myself that I have an extra 10 minutes in my day to play with my kids…10 minutes, that’s all it takes! I know it’s oh-so-good for many reasons, so I will continue to strive to play with my kids. Every. Single. Day.

We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.

~Charles Schaefer

 

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When Being a Working Mom Crushes You

While perusing Facebook yesterday I ran across, Recline, don’t ‘Lean In’ (Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg), an article by Rosa Brooks criticizing Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’.

Now, I have NOT read Sandberg’s book so I can not speak about it’s content. But, as for the article, Brooks makes some great points. She says:

Work has expanded to require employees’ round-the-clock attention [and] being a good mom has also started requiring ubiquity…It’s hard enough managing one 24/7 job. No one can survive two of them.

This article reminded me of my time as a working mom. After my second son was born and I went back to full-time employment, my life soon became the most challenging, stressful, and unhappy time in my life. And while there were certainly some good things going on, the hardships far out-weighed any benefits my family and I were experiencing. Ah, my family. I think back and feel sad about how forgetful I was and how I neglected them. I was certainly putting my career first and was blinded by my need to do a good job and be perceived as a hard, competent worker. Brooks says it so well:

Rocks balancingIt’s little wonder that many of the gifted young female staffers who enter these workplaces hit a wall at some point, and come to the painful realization that work and family obligations aren’t always things you can simply “balance.” Often, these weights become too heavy. They can crush you.

I certainly felt crushed, and I felt like I harmed my family and our precious relationships with each other in the process. As it turns out, my attempts to be competent at both work and home became a battle I couldn’t win. Eventually I lost my desire to work and gained a huge desire to give staying at home a try. I became gradually more excited to create space for myself to actually get to know my kids, actually pay attention to my own needs and those of my family (including my poor neglected husband). Check out a previous post Why I stay at home to learn a bit more about when I hit my breaking point and quit my job to hang out with preschoolers 24/7.

Whether it’s one more meeting, one more memo, one more conference, one more play date, one more soccer game or one more flute lesson for the kids, sometimes we need to say, “Enough!”

I took it a few steps further than Brooks suggests. I chose to say ‘Enough!’ to working outside of the home all together. It has been a great choice. I have no regrets.

I realize that Rosa Brooks wrote her article not to encourage working moms to quit their jobs, but to encourage them to find balance between the workplace and family life. Many working moms have found a balance that works for them. If both parents are working, I think it’s largely important that tasks be shared between both caregivers or if you’re a single parent that you get help from your family or community. As I observe most of my mommy friends, it seems that working and stay-at-home moms alike do the bulk of housework and child-rearing. As nurturers we take on caring for everybody and often we neglect caring for ourselves. It is so important for moms everywhere to voice their needs and prioritize self-care. But of course that is easier said than done.

Although many working moms do strike necessary balance, in some cases, I think that balance can only be found by leaving the job that is crushing you. Leaving that job to find a less stressful job perhaps, or leaving to stay at home if financially possible. After observing the benefits my family has reaped over the past seven months I have been home, I realize that this choice was crucial for us and frankly…I can’t afford to go back to work. 

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“Team Jesus Forever, Right?”

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The Out Campaign

When I began blogging last summer, one of my first posts was about Coming out as an Atheist. I mentioned there were extended family members, co-workers, and some friends who after 2 years still didn’t know about this huge change in my life. I had a lofty goal of taking opportunities to come out every chance I got. Well, after 7 months, I can’t say that I’m as far along as I want to be in this regard, but I have certainly made some progress. I wanted to take an opportunity to share with you one instance of coming out to a colleague.

Enter Shannon. I first met her when I was involved in a Christian ministry in college. She is an extremely bubbly, nice, goofy, beautiful, and yes, very devout, woman. Post college, we both remained in the same town and would catch up with each other occasionally. Many years later, prior to quitting my job last summer, we became colleagues for a few months. During those months, even though I was an atheist the entire time, she still knew me as “sold out for Jesus”. Even though she talked about god often, I just didn’t feel comfortable mentioning my lack of belief in a work setting.

file0001113911603When it was my last day at work, she gave me a big hug, passionately exclaimed how much she would miss me, and said, “It’s OK, team Jesus forever, right?” This statement took me SO off guard. I was absolutely not prepared for her to say that to me (in front of other people, mind you) so I had no response at all. I just sort of felt sick to my stomach, said goodbye, and turned around to leave. My issue is that so many people know me as a person that loves god and spends a lot of my time and energy pursuing god and his interests. Well, now that I’m an atheist, that obviously isn’t the least bit true anymore.  I want people to know that I no longer believe the things I use to believe, but how are they going to know if I don’t tell them? I can’t expect them to read my mind, that’s for sure. But the reality is, this can be an entirely awkward topic to bring up depending on how well I know a person and the context in which I encounter them.

So, after having this weird encounter with Shannon, I went home and felt sick about my inability to say something in the moment. I absolutely HAD to respond to “team Jesus forever, right?” Because, um… no, NOT team Jesus… not even if I was a Christian would I feel comfortable with that statement!

_DSC0835Below is the email I sent her that same night. To some, this may seem too soft and lovey dovey. But, this is me. I am often very sensitive to the feelings of others, it’s a part of who I am.

So, this email emerged:

Dearest Shannon –

I just love you and our budding friendship. I have felt the need to be honest with you in regards to my faith or lack there-of, although it is challenging for me to share because of reactions I have had from some family and friends.

In the past couple of years I have realized that I don’t believe in any gods. I look back fondly on all my Navigator (college ministry) memories, friendships, etc. but I have went on a journey of doubt, questioning, then realization that I don’t have enough evidence to believe there is a God. I value my relationships, family and morals immensely and I feel that I am in a good place and a good person without any faith in the supernatural.

I appreciate your spirit, compassion, and emanating love. I hope that we can continue forward in fondness for each other. Take care and seeya soon,

Vanessa

I am not sure how many times I will need to have this conversation with people, probably for the rest of my life to some degree. I do know that I will choose to be honest with people when it becomes necessary, just like it became necessary with Shannon.

Your Turn

Share an awkward moment when someone thought something about you that wasn’t true.

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Building Secular Communities

You obviously REALLY value community.

Today, a friend and I were talking about our personal shifts from a religious community to a secular one. We discussed how our core values remained the same from the time we were religious, through the times of doubt, and afterward when we realized we no longer believed in a god. One thing she said stuck out to me, “You obviously REALLY value community, that’s probably why you stuck it out so long with the whole church thing”. Huh… interesting. I always thought I was so loyal to god, that the idea I was holding onto the community aspect of my religion never really occurred to me.

But I think she hit the nail on the head.

I clung to the good aspects of community that I got through church (regular fellowship, free childcare, bringing food to people when sick, singing/learning together, free childcare, deep/authentic conversations, and free childcare). Speaking of free childcare, not long before giving up on god completely, my family and I went to church on a day my husband had to run the sound system during the service. He went to do his thing, I dropped the kids off at the nursery and yeah, I definitely went to a coffee shop for an hour of bliss by myself… I love me some free childcare (as long as it’s trustworthy childcare…that’s a whole other conversation).

Alright, back to community, not only did I cling to the good aspects of community, I desperately feared the possibility of losing some of the people I held so dear.

Churches and religions “do” community very well.  But they certainly don’t own the rights to building and maintaining community. I am fortunate to have a Secular Families group in my town. While it has been a slow and steady process to build community, it is happening for my family in our post-church era and I’m so grateful.

Having fun at our Secular Families meetup

Having fun at our Secular Families meetup

In addition to this group I have decided to get involved at a local gym, my son’s Cooperative Preschool, and my local Ultimate Frisbee community. There is much community to be had in local activities and groups outside of the “church scene”. And boy am I glad for that since community is at the top of my values list!

Now, to find a non-performing, non-intimidating singing group…

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New ‘About Me’ Page

I transformed from devoted Christian to self-proclaimed atheist, from religious to godless, and I’m here to blog stories, thoughts and ramblings about my Life Sans God.

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I grew up in beautiful Colorado and as a teenager I developed a love for staying active, sharing my life with people, and being my best self. I look back fondly on my high-school memories, in particular I replay one special moment often: the day me and 3 other girls placed 4th in our Medley Relay at the state track meet. Perhaps to some, this might not seem so glorious, and I have other accomplishments that sound better. But each of us worked damn hard that day (and many days prior), we accomplished something great together and I feel that I personally surpassed what I thought I was capable of doing. I literally feel butterflies and excitement all over again just thinking about it.

As I recall this story, it occurs to me that this event could have easily happened with or without god in my life. But the reality at that time, is that I was zealous for god and for the souls of every living person I knew. Don’t get me wrong, there were times I struggled to retain this fervor, but I was always sincere in my attempts to attain greatness for god.

Over 10 years later, I am the same person. I love staying active, sharing my life with people, and being my best self, only now I focus on running AND yoga and I share life with my husband and two preschool aged boys. Oh, and becoming my best self no longer involves a god of any kind.

Do you want to hear more stories, thoughts and ramblings now that my Life is Sans God? Well then… follow my blog!

**Please let me know what you think about my new About Me page**

This was Day 8 of the Zero to Hero Challenge. Learn more here.