Archives

Book Review: Love Skip Jump

tallbook (1)

By Karen Hendricks

Is your instinct to say “yes” whenever you’re asked to volunteer at your child’s school, help a friend or relative, serve on a church committee, etc, etc? There are so many messages today that help us “deprogram” from automatically saying yes, because it’s so easy to overextend our capabilities and our time. So, as a result, is it now your instinct to say “no” to everything? Don’t get me wrong; there are so many wonderful causes, opportunities, people in need, ways to help your children’s schools/sports teams/etc, but it feels good to say “no” without a guilty conscious, and be selective about what we’re saying “yes” to, doesn’t it?

Well, I recently read a book that turned my whole way of thinking upside-down! Love Skip Jump: Start Living the Adventure of Saying Yes by Shelene Bryan is an inspiring book that challenges us to say “yes” more often.

How many times do you hear that little inner voice, putting ideas into your head? Is it really your thoughts… or is it God speaking to you? Shelene Bryan had a life-changing thought—to go to Africa and actually meet a child that her family was sponsoring by sending money for food and other vital necessities. What an incredible first leap of faith, that set countless positive results into motion!

Now, she isn’t saying that we should say “yes” to everything like Jim Carrey in the movie Yes Man: “Saying yes to everything obviously becomes problematic and is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is listening to God’s call and recognizing the things He wants you to say yes to, then actually doing those things.”

It’s a three-step process that she describes as starting with love—the love that God has for us, and a relationship with God. It’s the foundation of our lives as Christians. The second step, “skip,” refers to giving up, or skipping something, for the sake of someone else. This illustrates God’s love, but more than that, it’s an attitude and lifestyle of giving. And skipping comfort. The third step, “jump,” means saying yes to God, and using your God-given talents to affect others. Jumping is an action.

Shelene Bryan - Photo Credit: LoveSkipJump.com

Shelene Bryan – Photo Credit: LoveSkipJump.com

She identifies lots of “things” that hold us back from saying yes: our job, spouse, relationships, addiction, success—or  the desire to have others perceive us as successful, our house, car, luxury items, or even the praise we like to receive from others. But Shelene especially felt a calling to help children and families in need.

Shelene writes about additional experiences she had, saying “yes” to ideas that popped into her head. Prior to the Christmas season one year, she contacted her friend Rachel, a neonatal nurse, and asked if she knew of a family that needed help during the holidays. As a result, the entire Bryan family bought Christmas gifts for a family that would be spending Christmas day with their baby at the hospital. In fact, they used the money that they would have used on their own gifts and shopped together. The Bryan kids still received stockings with little gifts, plus gifts from other family members, but Shelene writes about how exciting it was to watch her own children selflessly “skip” their gifts in order to help others. The icing on the cake? The Bryan family piled into their car, loaded up their surprise gifts, and visited the family, shocking them with their thoughtfulness on Christmas morning. They visited with all the other children hospitalized on Christmas morning, as well, singing Christmas carols in the hospital. How many of us would have the courage to do something like this?

One of my favorite chapters is titled “Every Jump Ripples.” Shelene writes, “We have all seen ripples moving in concentric circles away from the splash of a stone thrown into a lake or pond. In the same way, ripples happen when we say yes to God and do whatever it is He wants us to do. Our little splash has a reverberating effect on others.”

One example of a ripple: one of the neonatal nurses was moved by Shelene’s family’s visit and asked Rachel why the family would do that for someone they didn’t even know. Rachel told the fellow nurse about Shelene’s visit to Africa—to Uganda—and coincidentally the nurse was of Ugandan heritage. She had never been to Uganda but had always wanted to go. Rachel told her that Shelene planned a return trip to Uganda soon and the woman was compelled to join her on the next trip. As a result, the hospital also donated medicine… another ripple.

This book was especially thought-provoking, so much so that I’ll admit it was hard to read at times! It truly challenged me to examine my priorities, and think about being open to opportunities to “say yes” in my life. Hopefully I will not be so quick to automatically say “no” in the future… and I look forward to trying to make a difference in the lives of others,  spreading the love of God, skipping or giving up things that I don’t really need, and having the courage to take those leaps of faith, all the while involving my family. As Shelene Bryan writes, these experiences can be “uncomfortable journeys but with rich adventures.”

Every chapter in the book concludes with a prayer and there were several that especially spoke to me. I will leave you with these words and hope they are as inspiring to you, as they were to me:

Lord, help me see that my real worth is based on who I am in Your eyes, and not on my worldly successes. Help me see those who are hurting so I can show them the unconditional love You have shown me. Give me the boldness to share Your love and truth with those who come across my path. Amen.

Lord, give me the wisdom to recognize the comforts that constrain my desire to follow You. Help me seek above all else the things You would have me do in my life. Help me identify the yes opportunities You are putting in my path. Amen

Lord, allow me to know You well enough so that I can recognize Your whisper. Give me the strength of mind to hide Your Word in my heart so I can match Your Word against the voices of my culture. Give me the ability to be still and reflect on who You are and what You have done and what You want to do through me. Amen.

For more information:

Click here for SheleneBryan.com

Click here for LoveSkipJump.com

bloglove

Advertisements

In search of the best job ever

IMG_8149r

By Karen Hendricks

We are approaching a milestone here at Off the Merry-Go-Round. We are nearly two years old!

We founded this blog and community as a way to band together and offer support to parents everywhere who were scaling back their professional lives in favor of more quality family time and a healthier balance of work and family.

It’s amazing how many of you have shared your stories, followed our blog, and commented on our articles. It is extremely rewarding to see the community grow!

It’s also incredible to read about high-profile CEOs following suit and stepping off the merry-go-round of demanding careers. Earlier this month, I caught the story of Max Schireson on the Today show. As the CEO of a major software company, he announced he was stepping down and sliding into a lesser role with the company as vice chairman, in order to focus more on his family and home life.

In his blog, Schireson explains his decision:

I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every 2-3 weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood…. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job.

I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have an meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice the more certain I am that it is the right choice.

He told the Today show that he’s simply looking forward to participating in his family’s everyday routine:

“I think what I look forward to most is just being more engaged in the day to day of it,” he said. “Having more time with the kids, whether making dinner or talking to them or helping with homework.”

Congrats to Max Schireson and parents everywhere who are joining us “off the merry-go-round!”

Click here to read or watch the Today show’s coverage.

Click here to read Schireson’s full blog post, “Why I am leaving the best job I ever had.”

 

I Can’t Wait to Hold Your Hand

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Photo Credit: Licensed under the Public Domain by the National Cancer Institute.

Photo Credit: Licensed under the Public Domain by the National Cancer Institute.

Ah, sweet summertime… those lazy, hazy days. The days are lighter and brighter, the pace of life seems to slow down, and families get to spend more time together. And that’s what all moms and dads look forward to, right? Time spent with their children.

Funny, though, I don’t always hear that from parents. In fact, many times I hear quite the opposite. In May, I attended a fellowship dinner for my church. The conversation soon turned to children—about how fast kids grow and about the many changes they go through.

I sensed where all this was going because many times while talking with a friend or family member, at some point during the conversation they begin complaining about their children. Now, I do realize that this is likely not ever meant in a derogatory way; nor is it an expression of these parents’ true feelings for their kids. They probably just feel comfortable venting their frustrations to me, and unloading their feelings about their children’s antics and behaviors. Sometimes, these parents may even use humor in their ranting in order to defuse conflicts with their children when they later interact. That is actually a positive approach to dealing with many family situations.

Honestly, though, I have never really known how to respond to this manner of complaining simply because I don’t share these feelings about my son. My husband and I were no less than tortured for years by the many circumstances, and seemingly unending losses, surrounding the building our family. When our child was finally born and ready for us to adopt him, we were so overcome with emotion and filled with joy that we didn’t even have words. Although perhaps it will be hard for some to believe this, my husband and I used to “argue” over which of us wanted to get up with our son for the next middle of the night feeding. No, I am not kidding!

Sometimes, we would resolve to getting up together and sharing in this late-night ritual because we knew it was a special, treasured time that would all-too-soon be gone. And, it was. For our son began growing—sometimes in faster spurts than others—and never stopped. He has continued to grow up and fill out. We also know that once he reaches his destined height, he will continue his growth emotionally and spiritually.

We never can turn back the hands of time.

Speaking of hands… In reference to her children’s rapidly growing bodies over the years, one woman in our fellowship group said:

“One day you go to hold their hand and you see that it is actually—a hand!”

The talk continued, round the dinner table, with every member contributing toward the “kids these days” conversation. It seems that at every stage of my child’s life, I hear something from someone about how I should prepare for what lies ahead – what lies “in wait” (cue the Evil laugh–heh heh heh–here). I have already passed many of these supposedly dreaded stages – the terrible two’s, which is the year of public meltdowns and tantrums; the threshold three’s, which is when your child is older yet not old enough; the ferocious four’s, which is the year of independence wars; and the stage I’m in now ….. the fighting five’s, which is a year that will bring more I-can-do-it-myself battles. And through this all I wonder: Just when will these behaviors drive me to the brink of, well—complaining?

I do recognize that all of the behaviors observed and described by child development experts, and many parents, are categorized as general attitudes and behaviors that will likely be seen at some point during a child’s second year of life, third year of life, etc.; as well as in varying degrees of frequency and intensity, within that given year. However, I truly do feel as though my son and I do not fit in with the: My-Kids-Drive-Me-Nutty Club simply because… well, he doesn’t.

From the moment I brought my son home, and as I have watched him grow, I can honestly say I have enjoyed every age/stage/phase/and “fad” that has shown itself in his development. Initially, I did think I would have a hard time “Saying Goodbye to the Baby Years,” especially since my son is an only child.

Yet, it seems that as he grows, my son only becomes more wonderful—more adorable and fun to spend time with; more intuitive and sensitive; more curious and inquisitive; and more helpful and loving. So, I honestly can’t complain when the complaining wheel begins turning around my social and professional circles.

As I wake up each day to my beautiful little boy, growing big... I look at him, grin, and think:

I can’t wait to hold his great BIG hand!

We're "keeping it under our hats"... truth is, we have no complaints!

We’re “keeping it under our hats”… truth is, we have no complaints!

How do you handle being on the receiving end of parents’ complaints about their children? Do you perceive these “vent sessions” as a healthy, positive coping strategy? Or as having a negative effect on one’s parenting? Do you participate in, or even initiate, these kinds of discussions? Also, do you have tips for dealing with the inevitable growth and moving on of our children? How can we keep our relationships with our kids warm, loving, and strong – without causing them to feel “smothered?” 

We look forward to reading your thoughts!

 

How to Keep Your Child Interested in Learning and Reading through the Summer

Childrens'_books_at_a_library

Choices, choices! Photo Credit: ProjectManhattan

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

When I checked my email this morning, I saw a message from my son’s lower school principal titled – “Summer Reading and Enrichment Resources.” Ah, yes, it took a moment for my former elementary school teacher brain to register … just because it is summer does not mean we stop reading and learning!

I wonder if any of you share the following experience raising your children:  My son is an enthusiastic learner who loves school and absorbs so much around him like a dry sponge soaking up water. However, usually if I try sitting him down for more structured learning – as in, “We’re going to learn about the – ch diagraph now;” I find him balking at this “academic” time.

Even at such a young age, my preschool son takes school very seriously and loves to learn.

Even at such a young age, my preschool son takes school very seriously and loves to learn.

I get so much more from his young mind if we learn through play; or at the very least, weave learning time into playtime. One afternoon, we were drawing pictures on our sidewalk with chalk. My son began making the –sh sound for the beginning diagraph he learned last week, as we wrote our last name and talked about the sound that starts it. When I casually wrote “ch” on the sidewalk next and asked if he had learned this letter-sound combination (which I knew he had), he immediately rattled off a long list of beginning –ch words he had learned!

My parents were leaders in the field of education and learning was of great value in our household. Yet, it was a fairly structured experience and my mother’s school teacher job continued through the summer – if you know what I mean. I don’t think I lost any interest in learning because of this. In fact, many times I even enjoyed it since I was born loving to read and write. However, now I do admit that sometimes it could be a drag.

My little boy just turned 5 years old, and he had a very successful preschool year. This was due to several factors. For one, he has very supportive and involved parents – go us! Second, the philosophy of the private school he attends is grounded in just letting children “be” and grow into who they will be – of course with the support, guidance and nurturing of amazing teachers. Third, between school and home he was not taught, but not “pushed” to the point where learning became stressful and not fun anymore. Of course, there is a structured academic program and curriculum at my son’s school; and the education actually is fairly rigorous – just through a different approach. As in: Struggling with a weak pencil grip and forming your letters? We’re certain that with a little breathing room and some practice you’ll be writing with no problem as you fill out your college applications!

So, how do you keep your child from disconnecting from all he or she learned throughout the school year? How do you get them to want to read? How do you decide which books are best for a young reader – a “pre-reader” as they are commonly referred; and how do you find books that will spark your child’s curiosity and imagination, and keep your child interested in the world of books … without any “nagging” on your part?

Don’t let reading and learning – no matter what time of the year,

become an overwhelming experience for your child.

Read on to learn more!

Parents genuinely want their children to have an interest in books and learning; however, sometimes accessing those pathways to learning can be daunting – even in a place as seemingly benign as a library.

In libraries and bookstores, the children’s sections can actually be overwhelming, especially when your child is just beginning to show an interest in books. This can be especially tough during the summer when other activities and experiences beckon your child to take part – summer camp; swimming lessons; “pee wee” (insert name of sport here); weekday playdates; parties and picnics; vacations and day trips; etc.

The question parents need to ask themselves is:

How can I generate, support, and nurture a love for reading and learning in my child

without it becoming overwhelming?

Even a Superhero needs to know how to read!

Even a Superhero needs to know how to read!

Below are several ideas and tips for how to choose, or help your child choose, books that will engage them; and have them seeking time to read, think, and learn!

In their online Week of January 6, 2014 edition, ‘Baby Center’ published an article called “How to choose the best books for your pre-reader,” which shared six suggestions from reading specialists, teachers, and experienced parents. Here they are below:

Read rhyming and word pattern books. Preschoolers love to hear books with rhymes and word patterns, especially ones that are easy to memorize. They love to join in when they know how to finish a sentence: “One fish, two fish, red fish, BLUE fish!”

Look for books with short, rhyming sentences and predictable structure: Nursery rhymes, counting books, alphabet books, and poetry books. Books by authors such as Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, and the poet Shel Silverstein are good choices.

Share your childhood favorites. Winnie-the-Pooh, Goodnight Moon, and Go, Dog, Go!: Yes, they’re still around!

Browse through the library or bookstore and look for the books you loved when you were starting to read. Find out whether your parents still have your first books packed away. The classics never go out of style.

Encourage your child to read about his favorite characters or topics–even your childhood favorites such as Pooh and Piglet!

Choose books with colorful illustrations. Words aren’t the main attraction for pre-readers. Pick out books with vibrant colors and beautiful pictures, and talk about the pictures with your child.

When you’re reading the story to your child, stop once in a while to discuss the picture and how it relates to the story. This prepares your child for the early reading stage, when he’ll use pictures for clues about what each page says.

Pick books that fit your child’s interest. Choose books about his favorite subjects: Cars, trucks, zoo animals, kids his age — even television characters such as Dora the Explorer or Elmo. The idea is to develop a love of reading, not a love of reading a certain kind of book.

Take your child along with you to the library or bookstore. Don’t restrict your child to one age group or subject. With reading, anything (within reason!) goes.

Look for books your child can manipulate. Pre-readers are drawn to books that do things. Show them how fun reading can be with bathtub books, pop-up books, big books (oversized books are often sold in teacher supply stores), squeaky books — anything to keep your child turning the pages.

Seek expert advice. Librarians and preschool teachers know from experience what kinds of books preschoolers love. Ask for their recommendations.

What experiences and advice can you offer our Off the Merry-Go-Round parents and community for capturing and keeping your child’s interest in books, reading, and learning? Was there a time in your childhood when you recall your love of books started to develop? Whether you are a reading specialist, a parent, an educator, or even a grandparent who reads with their grandchild – we will appreciate hearing your thoughts!

 

Father’s Day Food for Thought…

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Karen Hendricks

Here at Off the Merry-Go-Round, because our contributors are all women, we tend to talk from a mom’s point of view but a lot of our articles truly can and do apply to our spouses, “the dads,” too. We have several dads who follow our posts, and we welcome more fathers to join our community–because all of the latest research seems to point to a growing number of dads who are “stepping off the merry-go-round” and either trimming back on their careers or switching to “stay-at-home” dad status.

The latest stats on fatherhood, in the news thanks to this weekend’s Father’s Day, are pretty surprising:

  • Nearly half (46%) of all American fathers say they don’t get to spend as much time with their children as they’d like.
  • About half of all parents say they spend more time with their children than their own parents spent with them (46% of fathers and 52% of mothers said this).
  • There are 2 million American stay-at-home dads (2012 figures)–a number that has nearly doubled since 1989.
  • 35% of all stay-at-home dads say that illness or injury is the reason they are home with their children.
  • Nearly half of all stay-at-home fathers (47%) are living in poverty.
  • Nearly half of all working parents say they’d rather be at home raising their children, but they need the income from their jobs (48% of working fathers and 52% of working mothers said this).
  • 27% of all American children under the age of 18 are living apart from their fathers.

(All of these statistics are credited to the Pew Research Center.)

So, while some dads are more connected with their children by staying at home as primary caregivers, there’s also a large number of dads who are not living with or connected to their children’s lives. What an extreme spectrum of family life. Doesn’t it feel like so many other areas of our society, especially reflecting political values, where people are moving further and further away from each other’s viewpoints and finding they have less and less in common?

We talk about the struggle to balance our working lives with our family lives quite often here at Off the Merry-Go-Round… it would be great to include more fathers in that discussion. It is a challenge, whether you are a mother or father, single parent or married, working part time or full time, etc. There is indeed a lot of common ground that we can share among all parents.

I think there’s a lot of “food for thought” here… so while I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day, celebrating with your Dad, husband and/or other significant father figures in your life, take time to reflect and think about our society’s changing roles. How involved was your dad, what is your husband’s role, and what are you observing from your friends/family?

Read More:

Growing Number of Dads Home with the Kids

5 Facts About Today’s Fathers

Why Are Dads Staying Home?

 

Lessons from the Playground

Today we welcome guest blogger Lisa Cadigan! This talented mom manages the blog Daily Presents: Finding the Extraordinary in the Everyday, where this piece was originally published. You can learn more about Lisa in the bio which follows her article.

playgroundlessons1

By Lisa Cadigan

My family and I spent Saturday at a state park where we hiked for a while until we reached a playground at the end of the trail.  It was a beautiful day; the first peek of spring getting ready to burst forth in all of its splendor, and it felt great to be outside basking in sunshine under tall trees with the people I love most.

The kids had been looking forward to reaching the playground during a good deal of the hike – particularly my son, who often forgets to realize that he is actually presently having fun.  He often chooses to look for what may be coming that’s potentially better in his future rather than realize that the moment he is already occupying is pretty good, too.  We are working on that.

By the time we reached the playground, both kids were happy to be there.  They had been getting along pretty well all day, which I always view as a small miracle, and I hoped their shared adventure would continue now that we had reached the much anticipated playground destination.

Unfortunately, though, shortly after arriving at the playground, my daughter tripped and fell on the suspension bridge, leaving a painful red mark on the side of her belly.  She started to cry.  My son rushed to her aid, trying to make her feel better, a little afraid that it might somehow be his fault, I think, because he often feels that everything is his fault (which sometimes it is, but not always – this is another thing we are working on).  He started to give her a big bear hug and sing a song we had made up for her when she was a baby.  She got angry and started yelling at him that she was NOT a baby.  Plus, the hug was TOO MUCH.  The brand of help he was offering was not what she needed at that time.  We tried to explain this to our son; to thank him for trying to help, to tell him we were so glad he was looking out for his sister, but that part of helping people is listening carefully to find out what they need and then to offer THAT to them, if you have it to offer.  The truth is, I am not sure my daughter really knew WHAT she needed, because when he finally left her alone she became angry that he wasn’t paying attention to her anymore.  He was frustrated that his efforts were unsuccessful.  She was looking for an apology for the stupidity of his efforts.  My guess is that she just needed a little alone time to allow the sting to go away, and then an acknowledgment from him that he loved her and understood how much it stinks to fall and hurt yourself; that he was there for her while she healed.  He couldn’t magically heal the red mark, though.  Her body was going to have to do that in cooperation with a little time and space.

Later, when we sat on the deck in our yard, my daughter’s previously bruised belly poking out of her shirt in the warm sunshine, I hoped that she was feeling the soothing rays of the sun more acutely than the bruise; that maybe the bruise was even making her a little more aware of the warm sun, so that she could convert her anger at the stupid playground equipment that bruised her and her brother who couldn’t adequately comfort her into gratitude for the warm sun that was presently soothing her skin.  I hoped her brother would check back in with her to see if she was OK later, when she was a little more open to feeling his unique (and sometimes trying) brand of love.

I am supposedly a grown up now, but I still hike and play the playground games from the points of view of both my son and my daughter. I don’t always know how to comfort the people I love when they need comfort.  I struggle with giving them what they need in the times that they need it.  And I can get really frustrated when my efforts don’t work.  On the plus side, I am getting better at living in the present and at looking within myself to heal some of my own wounds and find my own peace, although I still need to remember that

a)    having the space and time to look deeply is largely possible thanks to the people around me who make a gift of that time and space.  I can’t take that for granted.

And

b)   my methods of finding peace may not work for everyone. Pushing my methods to find happiness and peace onto others in an effort to “help” rather than just giving them the time and space to figure out how these things work for themselves is like giving big bear hugs and singing baby songs.

Hiking and playground games seem to be my life’s work.  I don’t think I will ever master the games; but I keep playing them and playing them, varying the methods and strategies to keep it interesting.  The longer I play, the more apparent the simplicity of the rules becomes, and yet the act of playing still makes me breathe as hard as I do when I hike up a mountain.  Somehow knowing that hiking to a playground is simply the act of putting one foot in front of the other doesn’t make the work of the actual hike any easier.  But with practice, I am finding that it is possible to enjoy the feeling of the burn in my muscles when I play hard.

Today I am thankful for the people in my life who play with me every day.  May we continue to play without keeping score, and graciously offer “do-overs” whenever necessary.  May we take breaks when we need to, help each other up and try again when we stumble and fall, revel in the best moments of the game, remember the best views on the hike, and use all of the memories to help us appreciate the new moments as they come.  And at the end of the day, we need to give a high-five to all of the beloved peeps on our team, saying, “Well done.  Let’s do it again tomorrow.”

web-bio-lisaOff the Merry-Go-Round is a place of community & inspiration for parents who have scaled back their professional careers in favor of quality family time… and from the first moment we met Lisa Cadigan, we admired her excellent sense of balance between career and family. “I have been given a great gift – the ability to find joy in simple moments, the ability to find longer and longer periods of balance and peace in a busy, hectic life,” Lisa writes on her blog Daily Presents. Professionally, Lisa established Cadigan Creative, “laying a foundation for the elusive balance between career and family.” You can find out more about Lisa’s graphic design and marketing services on the Cadigan Creative website, where she also shares stories about how people are using creativity, kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. Brava, Lisa!

Saying Goodbye to the Baby Years

Final school concerts, awards assemblies, graduation ceremonies… chances are your family calendar is dotted with these events over the next week or so (maybe longer, if you’re making up lots of snow days, ugh!). Along with these milestones and rites of passage, come lots of welcome changes but also bittersweet moments for us as parents. We thought it was the perfect time to revisit Jennifer (Smith) Schuler’s blog post “Saying Goodbye to the Baby Years.” Sniff….

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

If You Have to Say Goodbye

When you are only able to have one child (for whatever reason), simply put–you treasure him extra much. It’s not that I love my child more than anyone else loves theirs, it’s just that there is no little one coming behind him as a distraction from my sadness at seeing him grow up and move forward in his life. I think I just hold him a little tighter sometimes because of that.

I have always relished snuggle time with my little boy.

I have always relished snuggle time with my little boy.

This fall is going to be so incredibly difficult for me because I do not want to let my “baby” go. Although I was able to stay home with him and have a lot of quality time together, I don’t think parents ever feel as though they have had enough time for that. And no matter how hard you try to slow time down, it still won’t stop.

Kalli Dakos’ “goodbye poems” can bring comfort to children and their parents during difficult times of loss and change. Still, I can’t freeze my son in time. This fall, he is beginning a Pre-K program at a private school where he will attend through 12th grade. Don’t get me wrong – we found an amazing school that incorporates all the educational and personal philosophies we want for our little boy. Once we looked at the benefits to our son having a whole-child education in a smaller classroom and campus environment, it was a no-brainer.

My son’s new school also offered a 5 full day summer camp program with different weekly themes. What a great way for him to adjust to his new school in such a fun way! Perhaps the fall, then, would be less of a shock. We chose two sessions separated by a week between. The beginning of the first week was somewhat hard for my son to acclimate to, especially the first day. He was in a new environment and experiencing a rather long day even though rest and quiet time was built in. After a couple of days, he adjusted fine yet every once in awhile he would fuss at morning drop off–wanting me to walk him to his group’s classroom meeting place instead of going through the carpool line.

I was so torn in these situations. I knew that having him become comfortable with this drop off routine would benefit him for the fall, yet he is still so young and I didn’t want to force him nor upset the start of his day. I decided to go easy and help him adjust slowly over a two week camp experience. After the two weeks we had an opportunity to enroll him in the final two weeks of camp, and he was very excited! He had done it. He had successfully adjusted, and enjoyed his time at camp and on the school campus! This Monday, drop off was a snap…for my son.

It was me who did not fair so well. Sigharen’t you going to miss me? Luckily my fellow blogger, Chris, wrote a wonderful piece on adjusting to the “emptying nest” and I found her tips applicable to my situation too. Her blog also offered fresh perspective on what these early years have really been about – and they weren’t always easy for sure!

Let me add a few suggestions for those of us sending young children off to Pre-K or kindergarten this fall. We can do this!

Saying “Goodbye” with Grace

* Pack plenty of tissues! Don’t leave home for that first day of school without them, or walk your child to the bus stop without a wad stuffed in your pocket.

* Try hard to wait to cry when your child is out of sight. This is something I likely will not achieve, yet it is a noble goal. I am pro showing-your-feelings-in-front-of your-children (within reason), yet at such a young age kids sometimes still confuse emotions. And, you really can’t explain “bittersweet” to them. The more cheerful, upbeat and excited you are, the more likely they will follow suit in their responses to going off to school.

* Establish sacred alone time. Carve out time for just you and your child amidst the busy school week in any way you can. Sneak in a moment of reading time cuddled up on the couch, sing songs while your child sits in the bathtub, listen to their school experiences while you’re cooking dinner. You don’t have to spend large blocks of time staring into your child’s eyes to have spent quality time together.

* Use weekends for “regrouping.” Spend some quality family time together – better if it doesn’t involve big plans or a lot of running around since the school week will have held plenty of that. Just be together.

* Make your child’s bedroom a haven. No matter how much money you have to spend on your child’s bedroom design, there are many things you can do inexpensively to keep their room current to their age-specific interests. It also doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep it organized and clutter-free. If your child has a clean, calm place to retreat to for quiet rest, reading and play he will know where he can go to relax and recharge his energy.

My son is relaxed and comfortable in "outer space!"

My son is relaxed and comfortable in “outer space!”

* Get involved in your child’s education. There are many ways to do this, even for busy working parents. If you can’t volunteer in your child’s classroom or serve on the PTA, you may be able to take off a day from work to go on a field trip or offer to prepare learning materials at home. You are supporting your child’s learning experience as you sit down together to review homework assignments and prepare for the next school day.

* No matter how many children you have…You’ll always be sad when they leave the “nest.” There are many phases of your child’s life. You will say goodbye to them all.

One morning, I went into my son’s room to make up his bed with clean sheets. As I smoothed out the covers and neatly arranged his soft pillows, I realized that although he seems to be growing up more every day he still needs me. And in one respect or another he always will. So I might be saying goodbye to my son’s “baby” years, yet he will always be my baby.

No matter how old my son gets, I will never stop holding him and rejoicing in who he is becoming.

No matter how old my son gets, I will never stop holding him and rejoicing in who he is becoming.

What was it like for you saying goodbye to the baby years? Did you find some ways of coping that we can all benefit from? If so, please share them with our OTMGR community!