Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Easy Fundraising for Schools – Deep Discounts on Brand Name Children’s Clothes February 27, 2014

Filed under: school — rjlacko @ 10:27 am
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bagThousands of parents across the US are turning kids clothes into cash for their children’s schools.  As schools continue to be hit hard by sharp budget cuts (often eliminating music, art, PE and other programs), parents are taking matters into their own hands with a modern fundraising solution that requires no selling wrapping paper to friends!

Schoola is a national platform that is revolutionizing school fundraising. It sends pre-paid bags to parents so they can donate gently used kids clothing. Schoola then collects, tags, prices and features the clothing online at www.schoolastitch.com, where parents can purchase for great deals (think 90% off retail.) The best part? 40% of every purchase goes right back to the school! No cost, no fuss.

Schoola is the creation of Stacey Boyd—parent, former teacher and school principal. In 1997, she built an inner city charter school from the ground up. A year later it was one of the highest performing middle schools in Boston. Stacey recognized how children who struggled in math could come alive in music class. How art, physical education and foreign language could have a profound effect on students. She also saw how hard it was to get funds to support these programs. And how easy it was for the programs to get cut.

Dedicated to putting paintbrushes, books, baseballs and violins back into the hands of children, Stacey launched Schoola in the 2012/2013 school year. A few innovative schools took the call to run a clothing drive during the last (and busiest) week of school. Parents sent in their gently used children’s clothing, which were then listed on the website at amazing prices. Participating schools received proceeds from every item sold—a win for all.

Today, Schoola is 3,000 schools strong, bringing new paints to art classes, new instruments to the orchestra, new books for the libraries. Quality clothes get a second life. Parents help parents. Schools help schools. Schoola makes all this happen by giving children the tools they need to succeed. Using Schoola is easy:

1. A Clean Closet

Step right over here to have a Schoola Bag sent to you. Fill it with outgrown clothes and drop it in the mail. Schoola covers all postage.

2. Amazing Savings

Find adorable pre-loved clothes from around the country on Schoola’s site at dramatically-discounted prices. Have a look!

3. Your Child Wins

40% of proceeds from each sale are donated to your child’s school, helping to keep and expand important programs for your child.

Interested? Request a bag here and clean out your closets!

 

Top 10 Reasons the Hello, World book is the Perfect, Personalized Baby Gift October 11, 2013

Written by Jennifer Dewing and illustrated by Holli Conger

Written by Jennifer Dewing and illustrated by Holli Conger

My neighbors recently welcomed home their first child, a beautiful baby girl. My husband and I didn’t falter; we bought the biggest box of newborn-sized diapers we could find. Babies need to be changed an average of 12 times per day–a practical gift makes sense.
We were stumped about choosing a more personal gift to offer. The transformation of becoming a parent is life-changing. The overwhelming love that blooms within the heart deserves to be honored, nurtured, and celebrated. But how?
Hello, World! delivers on the top 10 list of what to look for in a baby gift. Written by award-winning author Jennifer Dewing and illustrated with adorable animals by artist Holli Conger, Hello, World! comes personalized with the new baby’s name and photo (optional). If you provide the parents’ names, the city where the baby lives and the baby’s birth weight, the book will include that optional personalized information as well. Like all I See Me personalized books and gifts, this new title makes a special gift and lasting keepsake.

1.     Make it a Keepsake. Personalizing this book with baby’s thoughtfully selected name will be something that baby (and the new parents) will treasure for a lifetime.

2.     Educational. Babies learn and develop right before your eyes. This gift is educational and helps to fuel the new baby’s brain development.

3.     WOW Factor Hello, World! is sure to get a lot of “OOOHS” and “AAAAHS” when opened by the new parents.

4.     Growth Potential. This gift grows with the baby. A special book is a gift that baby will use for years and keep forever.

5.     Picture Perfect. Any gift that can be customized with a baby’s photo is sure to be a hit with new parents. And, baby will delight in seeing himself or herself on the gift. (My “big kids” STILL loving seeing photos of themselves as infants. Me too!)

6.     Drool Over It. We’re talking “baby gift” here. Hello, World! is colorful and something baby will literally “drool” over.

7.     Cuddle Factor. Both parent and baby will love snuggling up with this story.

8.     Built to Last. Let’s face it, babies have curious and exploring little hands and mouths! This book is a quality gift that is built to last.

9.     Easy-to-Order. Hello, World! can be delivered to your special delivery within a couple weeks of birth.

10.  Made in the USA. Feeling patriotic? Hello, World! is made right in the USA.

 

*I was not compensated for this recommendation. Hello, World! is a high-quality, charming keepsake.

 

Parents Guide to Helping Kids Study, Get Better Grades September 6, 2012

Filed under: motherhood,school — rjlacko @ 12:24 pm
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After completing a full day at school, commitment to after-school activities and sitting down to dinner, the inevitable must be procured from the backpack… homework.

Can we all agree on a few things here? Homework should not only complement the classroom work, but it should fulfill a specific function, from Day One/Grade One; homework should instill the classroom lessons in the memory of the child, effectively and efficiently as possible.

At home at the kitchen table or established study area, your child has the rare opportunity to review the presented materials using his or her own learning style–auditory, kinesthetic or reverse osmosis, however your unique little person operates. It’s up to us “post-scholars” to give our children something not every classroom has the luxury of providing–lessons on HOW to learn, HOW to study, HOW to get the information of the day to stay between the ears, at least until test time. But how?

Teacher and school administrator Gary Howard has been helping children get better grades for over 35 years.  What he’s proven to parents, students, and teachers, year after year, is that very little improvement is possible unless you can teach the children HOW TO LEARN in the first place.

His new book, Help Your Kids Get Better Grades is designed so that parents can simply, quickly and effectively mentor children and guide them to do the right things at home and at school, so that they learn how to study better, listen and take notes, and take tests with less stress.

“Parents can have a tremendous impact on how a child handles school and test-taking,” he says. “But it is the child who is taking the test.”

Howard’s book identifies what is needed for children to discover and grow the talents they are born with.  Education success however, is in the hands of the student who has to practice by studying.  Howard focuses on how to make studying fun.

Here are just some of Howard’s suggestions on how parents can help children improve their study habits and effectiveness:

Shop and let the student select the perfect pen. The right pen makes all the difference when taking notes or writing long essay answers on an exam.  Parents may be surprised, but printing is easier for many students than writing script cursive.

Schedule Study Time and Stick with It. Set up a weekly schedule for study time with two forty-minute study times each day with a 20 minute break between. Pick the times and stick to the times.

Buy Study Guides for Your Student.  For high school and college, these 5 to $9 guides of key subjects are the easiest and fastest way to get the bottom line necessary building blocks of information on a topic. In no way are they to be considered cheating. They are a wonderful way to get the outline and vital subjects identified.

Encourage Participation in Study Groups.  After school, join a group, discuss ideas, ask each other questions and research the answers together. But focus on work, this is not a social gathering.

Get a Tutor.  In sports you have a coach, at the health club there’s a trainer, so in classes, don’t hesitate, get a tutor.  Use the Internet and search. It’s not as expensive as you may imagine. The help over the tough spots can be invaluable – the difference between getting it, and losing it. (Note from Rebecca: I’ve had several parents tell me how hiring a tutor for a semester to help with a difficult subject significantly improved the student’s abilities and attitude for the remainder of high school. Awesome investment? I think so!)

Get a Good Backpack. The essential items include: notebooks, two favorite pens, two pencils, text books (for the day only), Kleenex, energy bars, medications, two dollars in change, and clothes for the weather. Parents – inspect weekly or anytime.  Write your name address and phone number in indelible ink on the pack in case it gets lost.

Have Reading Skills Tested. Make sure your child is at the appropriate level for his or her age and does not have eye problems.  See an eye doctor if you have any doubts or concerns.

Home Study Location, Chair and Lighting.  Sufficient lighting, comfortable desk and chair, with little or no distractions!  No TV, radio, music, or games during study time.

Getting Proper Note-Taking Down. Taking good notes is a learned skill. Use clean paper and favorite pens, three-ring binder with paper and separators, outline with notes and major points.  Re-reading good notes is where learning really takes place.  (Note from R: I wrote down everything my teachers said in college. Really! I would simply read my (albeit) cryptic shorthand every evening to solidify my memory of the lecture, then again at test time. Straight A’s, anyone? Yes, please!)

Develop Your Memory with Mnemonics. Using rhymes, telling stories or jokes, and memorizing four to five letter acronyms is a great way to remember lists of details or essential rules.  Writing these 20 times engraves them on your brain.

What are your tips for helping children to learn better study skills?

 

Batman The Dark Knight, and Helping Kids Achieving Goals

Filed under: Uncategorized — rjlacko @ 11:45 am
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“They started so young,” thwarted competitors lament, when a young phenom bursts on the scene and quickly claims the highest rewards. We’ve all been awe-inspired by at least one, maybe a fresh-faced 17-year-old swimmer from Colorado earning a gold medal at the Olympiad, or a university student building a the world’s most popular social networking platform, perhaps.

Unsurprisingly, there is a nervous, hopeful energy among parents on the sidelines. Where I live in Southern California, there is, quite literally, no limit of opportunity. Should my child whisper a curiosity about culinary arts, ballet, soccer, rock climbing or outrigger canoeing, there are several programs in each discipline vying for my registeration form and tuition payment. Will animation become my child’s lifelong passion? Acting? Software design? Will he become a great gymnast, baseball player, taekwondo expert? Do we have the best coach for the job?
 
My boys are ages five and seven. They have run the gamut of activities–dabblers in much, experts in little. My husband and I are, paradoxically, on a frantic search to help them find their bliss–because we love them, and because we would deny them little outside our resources. This Summer my older boy was invited to join seasoned. pre-teen fencing competitors under the tutelage of a visiting Italian champion. I actively hid how much pride this brings me, while the ongoing spectacle of the 2012 Summer Games only spurred my secret satisfaction.
Who knows if he will continue his path in the sport of fencing? In the meantime, I am pondering the mysterious; I wonder whether high achievers are simply inevitable, merely realizing what they are “born” to become by inherent character, predisposition and good genes, regardless of the odds or obstacles. Or do we really have a hand in our child’s future?
 
Sometimes inspiration comes where we least expect it. When Michael Uslan (Originator and Executive Producer of the Batman franchise of motion pictures) was a boy during the 1950s and ‘60s, he was so obsessed with comic books that he collected thousands and didn’t hesitate to send corrections to editors when he spotted a mistake in a story line.

“My origin story – what formed my character – is entrenched in comic books,” he shares in The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir (www.theboywholovedbatman.com). “When I was 8 years old, I wanted to see if I could get my name in print, next to Bruce Wayne and the rest of Gotham’s characters.”It wasn’t luck, fortune or an accident that Uslan grew up to produce the most successful comic book-based movie franchise of all time, he says.

 
Now, his goal, like many parents, is to inspire kids and young adults to pursue their own dreams with focus and dedication, “because you can make them come true.” Here’s how:
 
• Know your passion: Uslan wasn’t the only kid on his block who loved comics – but most of the others probably never dared to dream that they could have a hand in influencing their favorite character, he says. It’s important to ask yourself, “What do I really, really care about?” The answer to this question will be the seed from which dreams sprout.
 
• Don’t be a passive bystander – participate: His passion for comics blossomed through several steps, including a general interest in reading and writing and active participation with the world’s first ComicCon in New York City in 1964, when he befriended comic writing legend Otto Binder. These days, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to be proactive, he says, citing blogs, websites and social networking. “A teen raised with today’s technology can create a video, for example, that rivals those created by professionals,” he says.
 
• Identify objectives that will take you to your goal: In high school, Uslan became essential to the yearbook staff, developing media skills that would benefit him later. In 1972, as a junior at Indiana University, he created and taught the first college level course on comic books. After graduating law school, he had the legal knowledge and Hollywood credentials necessary to purchase the film rights to Batman and start repairing the super hero’s image. He wanted to get away from the campy sitcom version of the crusader and reintroduce the Dark Knight to his roots for a movie-going audience.
 
“You don’t have to bend to the expectations of everyone else,” Michael Uslan says. “If you love something enough and are willing to create favorable circumstances, others will bend to you.”
 
• Learn from problems instead of allowing them to distract: Most people never realize their dreams because life gets in the way. Problems and new priorities arise and detract you from your course. The trick is to figure out how to respond to these in ways that help you reach your goal. For instance, learning how to negotiate, how to efficiently manage your time or how to become very self-disciplined are skills you can apply in pursuing your dream.In his 36 years in the film and television industry, Michael Uslan (www.theuslancompany.com) has been involved with such projects as “National Treasure,” “Constantine,” and countless animated projects. His projects have won Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmy Awards. He is the author of his autobiography, The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir.
What was YOUR childhood dream?
 

How – and Why – to Instill True Gratitude in Your Kids November 16, 2010

I’m not going to say my five-year-old is ungrateful–I’m not entirely certain he has a complete understanding of the concept, but I also know that he has searched his heart earnestly and decided he would rather live with us than be raised in the Jedi Temple among younglings and padawans. Trust me, I’m flattered by his choice.

Nonetheless, he wants one of every toy he lays eyes upon, and has kicked up quite a fuss in stores when he has not been awarded a toy he deems “rightfully” his.

Worse, he has adopted a habit of leaving a wonderful activity (such as a park outing or birthday party) only to hop in the car and demand to go immediately somewhere else equally as fun. Eerg! How about, “Thanks, mom! That was fun!”

Overall, it seems all parents  have thrown up their hands at some point in frustration, but husband-and-wife authors  David and Andrea Reiser say, “Yes, it is possible to refocus our children’s attention and values,” in their new book Letters from Home: A Wake-up Call For Success and Wealth (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-4706379-2-0, $27.95, http://www.ReiserMedia.com).

“And at the center of the values we teach ought to be a profound sense of gratitude—for where we live, for the rights and privileges we have here, for family and friends—not to mention the many material blessings most kids have.”

Yes, teaching your kids to say “thank you” is important, but truly instilling a sense of gratitude in them is another matter entirely.  “Gratitude is an attitude of deep appreciation and thankfulness for the kindnesses and benefits you perceive yourself as receiving,” David explains.

Written in the form of letters to the authors’ four sons, the book explores 15 basic American virtues that built our country and that foster individual and familial success.   If you’re ready to start growing an attitude of gratitude in your own household, read on for additional reasons why gratitude is good, and for tips on how to establish it in your own family.

WHY INSTILL GRATITUDE? Gratitude is good for you! Believe it or not, gratitude is good for you on a very basic level. In fact, a study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, reveals that cultivating gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25 percent, and can also cause individuals to live happier, more satisfied lives and enjoy increased levels of self-esteem, hope, empathy, and optimism.

Gratitude grants perspective—even in kids. When you take into account the sheer amount of opportunities, privileges, and material possessions most kids enjoy through no effort of their own, it’s easy to see why many of them feel entitled. After all, they’re used to getting a great deal without knowing or caring where it comes from. However, practicing gratitude underscores the fact that all of those toys and lessons and creature comforts don’t just pop out of thin air. “When your children specifically articulate that the things they own and the opportunities they have come from someone other than themselves, they’ll develop a healthy understanding of how interdependent we all are on one another…and they’ll be more inclined to treat others with genuine respect,” explains Andrea.

Gratitude improves relationships. Who would you rather work with: a colleague who freely acknowledges and appreciates your contributions, or a colleague who takes your efforts for granted with—at most—a perfunctory grunt of thanks? It’s a simple principle: gratitude fosters stronger, more positive, and more genuine relationships.

Gratitude counteracts the “gimmes.” “Fundamentally, gratitude is all about being aware of who or what makes positive aspects of your life possible, and acknowledging that,” Andrea explains. “When your kids learn to think like that, they’ll be much less likely to make mindless, self-centered demands. Plus, they’ll appreciate what they have, and their happiness won’t be based as heavily on material things.”

HOW TO INSTILL GRATITUDE

Don’t just count your blessings—name them. Have a minute of thanks at the same time each day—you and your kids can each name a few things you’re thankful for. Whether the list includes a favorite toy, a good grade, or a hug from Grandma, this tradition will start the day off in a positive frame of mind.  David suggests, “If you have older kids, encourage them to keep a gratitude journal and write down a few things they were thankful for each day before going to bed.”

Be a grateful parent. As most parents know, the way you treat your kids affects their development much more than the rules you set. When it comes to gratitude, tell your kids why you’re grateful to have them….and do it often.  “It goes without saying that you love your kids, and that you’re thankful beyond words for their love, their smiles, their hugs, and so much more,” David says. “When you tell them those things, their self-esteem will be boosted for the right reasons (not because they have the latest smartphone or because they’re dressed fashionably). Plus, your example will show them that gratitude extends well beyond material things.”

Don’t shower them with too much stuff. This dilutes the “gratitude” impulse. Remember, all things in moderation…including your kids’ stuff.  “If you buy your daughter whatever she wants, whenever she wants it, she won’t value or respect her belongings,” Andrea points out. “After all, there’s plenty more where everything else came from! And what’s more, she’ll grow up believing that getting what she wants is her due.”  When your child wants something, make him pitch in. (Don’t be the sole provider.) If your child receives an allowance (or, for older kids, has a job), think twice before letting him pocket every last penny. If he wants a new video game, bike, or even to go on a trip with friends, ask him to help save for those things himself.  “Depending on the amount of your child’s weekly allowance or how much he makes mowing lawns on the side, you may still end up footing a majority of the bill yourself,” David admits. “And that’s okay—after all, you are the parent. The point is, though, that your children will be active participants in working toward what they want. When they understand the real value of a dollar, they’ll be more likely to appreciate what you and others do for them.”

Keep a stack of thank-you cards on hand. Insist that your kids use them often. By and large, sending out thank-you notes is one of those arts that seems to be dying. Don’t let that be the case in your house. Send out regular thank-you notes—definitely when your child receives a gift, but also to teachers at the end of the school year, for example, and to Little League coaches and ballet teachers. “Make sure your child is the one composing and hand-writing the notes, not you,” Andrea clarifies. “However, realize that parents need to set the example by modeling writing formal thank-you notes on a variety of occasions.”

Set a good example. Say “thank you” sincerely and often. The values your children espouse as their lives proceed aren’t those that you nag them into learning, but the ones they see you living out. “Every day, there are numerous opportunities for you to model gratitude to your children,” David instructs. “For example, thank the waitress who delivers your food, the cashier who rings you up at the grocery store, and the teller at the bank who cashes your check. When your kids see you expressing thanks, they’ll do so too.”

Ask your kids to give back. The old saying, “It’s better to give than to receive” has stuck around for a reason. It really does feel great to help someone else out. Depending on their ages, encourage your kids to rake leaves for an elderly neighbor, say, or volunteer at a nursing home a few hours a week. “You might even make service a family activity,” Andrea suggests. “When your kids give their time and energy to help others, they’ll be less likely to take things like health, home, and family for granted—plus, selfless service tends to dilute selfishness in kids and adults alike.”

Insist on politeness and respect all around. When your kids treat other people with dignity and respect, they’ll be more likely to appreciate the ways in which those folks contribute to and improve their own lives. They’ll be less likely to take assistance and kindness for granted, and more likely to value it as much as it deserves.  “Specifically, it’s important for parents to model to their children the importance of treating all people with respect,” David clarifies.

Find the silver lining. We’re all tempted to see the glass half-empty from time to time…and kids are no exception. When you hear your child complaining or griping about something, try to find a response that looks on the bright side. It’s called an “attitude of gratitude” for a reason—it’s about perspective more than circumstance.  “Often, kids and adults alike are more unhappy than they need to be because they’re overlooking positives for which they should be grateful,” points out David.

Andrea concludes, “We truly are a nation built on gratitude—think about the scores of immigrants who have come here over the years, bursting with thankfulness for the chance to start a new, free life. “Your own children are probably being raised in vastly different circumstances, but it’s still important that they carry on a legacy of gratitude. Start taking steps to instill this important attitude in your family today, and we all just might wake up to a more pleasant tomorrow.”

David and Andrea Reiser are proud to contribute 100 percent of royalties and other income from the publication of the book by supporting three personally meaningful charities in the following proportion: 50 percent to Share Our Strength (www.strength.org), 40 percent to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (www.mskcc.org), and 10 percent to FORCE (www.facingourrisk.org). For more information, please visit http://www.ReiserMedia.com.

 

Toy Story 3, the end of preschool and holding on and letting go June 24, 2010

Laden with teachers’ gifts and a sense of anticipation for what the summer might offer, my little boys joyfully ran to their preschool classrooms for their final day before summer break.

Much like the first day I left them at preschool, I cried the whole drive home. I’ve planned a rather complex web of summer activities for us, so they have much to look forward to. My sadness comes from how quickly it is all passing by.

In September, my oldest will enter kindergarten. I can’t help but recall the countless hours I spent researching and visiting preschools, understanding what a significant impact his first five years will have on the rest of his life, his approach to education, his ability to socialize, his future success…

I know it seems cliche, but it really does seem like such a short time ago that I gave birth to my oldest son Joseph, and now his younger brother is three and leaving little bits of his baby life behind him every day as he leaps toward little boyhood. In fact, I’m beginning to cry again as I write this. My babies are growing up!

Last night, we went to see Toy Story 3, and if you are going through anything similar with your children, it might be tough to watch. I remember the first time I saw the original Toy Story movie. It was 1995, and I was 24 years old. I was babysitting the niece and nephew of my boyfriend at the time, and we watched it on VHS. I sat there for the length of show with my jaw hanging. I couldn’t believe how much children’s movies had changed since I was a kid! I loved it.

At the beginning of my career, I was old enough (more or less) to be Andy’s mother, but at the same time, I could perceive the story with warm memories of being a child. Seeing Andy last night as a 17-year-old boy preparing to leave for college was an emotional blow I had not in any way expected. Enough time had elapsed for that character to grow up, and I had gotten older along with him. Yes, I’m aware it’s just a movie with a fictional character, thank you.

However, with my youngest perched in my lap, and my oldest at my side I was suddenly aware that my first experience of Toy Story hadn’t seemed so far in the distance, yet when the exact amount of time elapses again, my children will be 17 and 20 years old!

TS3 is about change: the agony of watching the toys long for the carefree joy of children’s imaginative play (with the understanding that their playmate would and should continue to his next milestone) and the support of Andy’s mother who is proud of her son’s succession toward college, while also wishing she “could be with him all the time.”

Don’t we all want that? To hold our children in our arms forever, while at the same time teaching them independence, encouraging them to make  and achieve personal goals, to be courageous, forgiving, and to grow in maturity?

As the poet Kahlil Gibran said about raising children, “For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

With the summer ahead, I intend to savor each precious day. Before long I’ll be helping them pack for college.

On a side note, I do agree with Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald; this movie was more for adults than children. My husband and I were in disbelief about how it could ever have received a G rating. There is a prolonged near-death scene with the threat of violent, hopeless demise, the toys are imprisoned and in some cases tortured. Yes, I remember Sid Philips tortured and imprisoned toys in TS2, but among the toys themselves (who have always been peers) there was a cruelty and meanness we haven’t seen before in the TS trilogy. Lotso’s turn toward the dark side as a result of a singular incident was so complete and utterly terrifying when you consider that he is a child’s plaything. In the other movies, tough times happened and the toys always found a way to learn from it and grow from the experience.  From our perspective, Toys Story 3 should be rated PG.

 

Catching up with the kidlets: Spring 2010 June 7, 2010

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted pictures for Gramma and Grampa in Canada to see. These little gems are from Spring 2010.

Just last week, my 5-year-old Joseph surprised us all by suddenly passing Level One after only FOUR swimming lessons! He has always been a big fan of his bath, and he loves to go in pools and to the beach, but he has always been very nervous to try to leave the edge and try to learn to swim. When he was a baby, I took him to parent-and-me classes at our local rec center, but it was mostly water-bonding and blowing motorboat. And fun, of course!

This summer, I made the commitment to put the boys in “real” swim lessons and signed them up to work together in semi-private lessons at Waterworks Aquatics, thanks to a referral from my friend Kristianne Koch. Waterworks is amazing, but costs a pretty penny. Kristianne’s son Merrik went there as an infant and with his parents’ help and encouragement, was boogie-boarding and beginning to surf last summer at age four… for hours!

Anyway, Joseph was very excited and curious about swim lessons–but I could tell he was nervous. His little brother Noah was beyond excited. When I put Noah in the water, I need to stay right next to him because he will simply leap forward into the deep water, fully expecting to be able to swim. He is confidence personified. In order to get the boys prepared for swimming (and to bring Joseph’s courage up to his little brother’s level) I began listing all the things they’ll be able to do once they can swim:

  • Pretend you are dolphins!
  • Pretend you are sharks!
  • Pretend you are mermaids! (hey, who isn’t curious about mermaids at some point?)
  • Have swim races for prizes!
  • Dive for treasure!

OK, for the first four items, they were cheering! With each new idea the cheers grew louder and louder until I said, “dive for treasure.” Noah’s joy came to a crashing halt. Joseph continued to bubble with enthusiasm: “I know! We can put treasure into a treasure box, and put it at the bottom of the pool, then DIVE for it!!”

All the color drained from Noah’s face.  He did not share these dreams. He did not want to go to the bottom of the pool, not for any treasure of any kind. I’d overshot the mark, and toppled the confidence meter. Now Joseph was desperate to get in the water and Noah was clinging to the edge in fear. What was I thinking?

Over the first two lessons, Joseph worked very hard, and while I could see that he has reservations, he set aside his fear and powered through. Noah cried and cried, so I’ve let him sit out until he tells me he wants to try again, and transferred our pre-paid lesson package to Joseph. If there’s one thing about Noah, he has an uncanny ability to figure things out. At age three, he is almost as good at riding his bicycle as his older brother.

I’ve never seen Joseph so focused. I sit where I can see him and give the “thumb’s up” when he looks my way, but I am otherwise removed from his lesson. From the beginning, he was equally cautious and determined. I am so pleased to see him resolve his own inner conflict of fear, choosing to try instead. His teacher is very matter-of-fact. She doesn’t overflow with positive reinforcement, but she doesn’t appear disappointed either when he doesn’t get it right the first time. She simply offers more and more chances to try, in different ways. When I saw him swim down almost four feet to get a toy, I just knew how thrilled he must have been.

I’m so proud of him–It is incredibly rewarding to watch your child decide to meet a goal, and to make his own efforts to achieve that goal. I always reward the spirit of “never giving up” because if we persevere, we can do the things we want to do. I have seen him be frustrated when building with his Legos, and the huge sense of accomplishment that arrives when he figures out to create what he sees in his mind. But learning to swim requires trusting the capabilities of your whole body, entering an unfamiliar world and letting go. When success comes, it is sweet indeed.