As I was looking through some pictures to put in the kids' scrapbooks, I realized that I had never posted about our first Chinese New Year Celebration as a family. Yes, I know it was back in January, but the pictures are still cute. The kids have sure changed a lot in the last few months. Riley and Bridget have gotten orthodontics and now Veronica can get all her hair in pigtails.
The three big kids just had their Spring music concert, and I'd have to rank this one a solid B+ for my children.
First the good - Bridget sang. For the first concert. Ever. At least her mouth moved in an approximation of singing. Close enough.
To those of you unfamiliar with my child, she is not a fan of the spotlight. She does not enjoy thinking that everyone is staring at her.
This concert was quite a transformation since her first public singing performance when, as a preschooler, her class sang for church. My daughter was terrified. I told her she didn't actually have to sing, but she did need to be polite and stand and sit with the rest of her Sunday School class. She did. However, she turned her back on the entire congregation while the song was sung. I praised her bravery in standing up.
This led into standing without singing, yet facing the right direction. Another achievement. She backslid a bit during her first Kindergarten school concert where she stood crouched behind the student in front of her and flipped all of her hair so that it covered her face.
She eventually settled into a routine at concerts of staring at the ground or covering her face while not singing. Advance the mental montage of her lack of concert singing to yesterday. She sang. I take partial credit.
My daughter is in 4th grade. In 5th grade, children have the option to take choir or not. Judging from my daughter's lack of desire to sing publicly, I'm pretty sure you can guess that she is ready to high-tail it out of Tra-la-la land. She will be starting band next year, so hubby and I are okay with her exodus.
However, I felt like Bridget had not quite done her best in the last couple of concerts. There was no effort. And doggone it, I wanted to see her lips move once. So I told her that she needed to show that she had learned the skill of singing in public before I'd let her out of choir. If she hadn't learned how to put forth an effort singing she would have to learn it next year in choir. And no, I did not push it so far as to suggest she actually do the motions that go along with the songs for this concert - heaven forbid that embarrassment for her.
A slight nudge out of her comfort zone and Boom! She gave the appearance that words came out of her mouth. She could have been lip synching. I'm not picky.
More good from the concert for my children - Riley and Connor sang with enthusiasm as usual.
Also, and perhaps the best of all, this was the first concert in memory in which none of my children publicly "adjusted themselves" repeatedly, picked their nose, pretended to hang themselves with their tie or fell off the riser.
Why then, you may wonder, did I only rank my children's performance a B+ instead of an A? When I couldn't catch one of my children's attention to give them the across-the-room death stare for misbehavior, I had to do the parenting walk of shame to correct this child's behavior while they were waiting off stage for their chance to sing.
All in all, an excellent concert, with the highlight being the 3rd and 4th grade classes playing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" on their recorders. Get ready Orchestra Hall, I think you've got some talent coming your way.
Just in time for Mother's Day, we've got a new mother at our house and her name is "Puffy". She is about 2 feet tall and apparently comes and goes as she pleases. She joins the new dad we have had for about 6 months now. He is named "Yellow Haired Dad".
Sawyer doesn't mess around and created not one, but two imaginary friends for himself. And parents no less. When it was just Yellow Haired Dad, I thought it was pretty funny. I'll admit, my ego isn't as fond of his second mom.
Puffy and Yellow Haired Dad follow in a long tradition of imaginary friends. The first to join our house was "Mr. Nobody". Mr. Nobody was Riley's buddy. Riley was quite enamored with Mr. Nobody. That is, until Bridget claimed Mr. Nobody as her friend and determined that he was no longer Riley's friend. Older sisters can be very persuasive (and sometimes ruthless). Undeterred, Riley then discovered "Mrs. Nobody" and all was well at our house.
A couple of years later, we added "Little Guy" to the mix. I believe Little Guy was a sibling group creation for Connor's enjoyment. Little Guy was some sort of fairy or sprite, or Tom Thumb kind of character. One of the older children would see Little Guy on a flower or ceiling fan and try to direct Connor with where to look. Sometimes he found Little Guy, sometimes he was tearful that he was the only one who couldn't seem to see him. Eventually, Connor claimed full rights to Little Guy and was fortunately able to find him wherever he was hiding.
Several months ago, Yellow Haired Dad joined the family. Sawyer loves to tell us about all the adventures that he has had. Apparently, Sawyer flew his own plane to the North Pole and petted a giant tiger at the zoo with Yellow Haired Dad.
And now, enter Puffy, his other mom. Puffy is not related to her appearance, although I can't help but imagine her in a down-filled vest. I admit to feeling slightly jealous of Puffy's ability to take Sawyer on adventures around the world without my being invited.
Last I heard, Puffy took Sawyer on a Fire Truck ride all the way to Grandma and Grandpa's house three hours away. She had the siren on for the whole trip. Actually, I think I will let Puffy have the noisy adventures with Sawyer. She hasn't claimed bedtime reading yet, and I'm willing to fight her for that.
I cringe every time I hear a parent say, "I just want my child to be happy."
This is usually part of a very well-meaning, earnest conversation in which parents talk about how they don't have any preconceived ideas about what their child should do in terms of career, sports or hobbies. I understand the sentiment. I do.
But I think happiness isn't what we should be striving for. Instead, it is the end result of what we instill in our children.
We all know parents that just hate to see their little snooky-wookums upset and give in to temper tantrums, requests for more "stuff", and all-around unpleasant behavior. This is in an attempt to make their children "happy". I have seen these parents shrug their shoulders at the ridiculousness of the situation they find themselves in. They throw up the their hands and offer a trite comment such as or "she's got her daddy wrapped around her little finger" or "I guess this is the terrible twos. It must be the age."
I hate to tell you this, but you can't give your child lasting joy. Happiness is not a goal to be reached. It is the result of reaching your goals. I believe that ongoing joy is the result of having certain character traits planted and tended in your soul. In my case, my faith shapes those character traits and how I instill them in my children, but people of all belief systems value pretty much the same things.
When deciding which behaviors are acceptable or need correction, I try to focus on the character traits of empathy, respect, hard work and self control. Anyone who has these four traits will be able to successfully navigate both professional and personal situations. I think this is the biggest key to long-term joy as opposed to short term happiness.
Not offering assistance to a child that has fallen and is crying does not demonstrate empathy. Allowing a child to be sassy to me or lying does not foster a strong sense of respect for others. Half-hearted attempts at homework do not show a strong work ethic. And slamming doors and screaming during a fit does not display any form of self-control.
Now, I realize that children (and adults!) cannot perfectly demonstrate these four character traits at all times. But, children need to know what to strive for. I have found that it is easier to pick and choose my parenting battles based on these four principles. I think it helps me distinguish between the annoyances that every parent faces and the issues that need to be addressed and why.
No, my goal of parenting is not to make my children happy. My goal is to help them become kind, thoughtful, hard working, respectful people who have a strong enough sense of self-discipline to make wise choices for their life. That will require a few tantrums and rages along the way (my children's tantrums - hopefully I will be able to demonstrate self-control better than that.) when they don't get what they want and are unhappy.
They will utterly dislike me at times. I will never be the cool parent, and I am okay with that. Instead, my long-term goal is to be like the woman in Proverbs 31, verse 28. "For her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, he praises her." And I am not going to get there by focusing on trying to make my children happy.