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I turned 50 this past December.  It was one of the best days of my life.  My husband and son showered me with love and affection.  I received phone calls from family and friends, and got lots of Facebook love.  Topping the evening off was dinner out with Tom and one of my BFFs, Peggy and her husband Jimmy.  It was definitely a day to remember.  Leading up to it I was excited, and pensive.

If I’m lucky, I’ll have lived half or a little over half my life and at some point I’ll probably write about how I’d prefer to spend the next half.  On turning 50, one thing I knew for certain was that I’d hear from the AARP and I’d need to get a colonoscopy. . .

To read the rest of this post, please click on this link here at Mothering in the Middle where I am a featured contributor:  http://www.motheringinthemiddle.com.

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The other day I was at my son’s preschool to pick him up. Often, we have “big yard” playdates with some of his classmates after school. The big yard is one of the common areas at the school where the kids play on the jungle gym, run around, pretend to be pirates on the big ship and eat leaves from the vegetable garden. On this day there were a lot of kids playing in the big yard, including little girl visiting the big yard with her younger sister. This young girl, who I’ll call Marla, couldn’t have been more than 6.

The Littlest E was playing with his friends as I sat at one of the children’s picnic tables.  Next to me was this beautiful, little girl with long, wavy hair, a round face and doe-like eyes.  The following is a conversation we had. I ask that you read it with the innocence of a 6-year old.

Marla: Is her your son?

Me: Yes, he is.

Marla: He’s really your son?

Me: Yes. Would you like to know how he’s my son?

Marla: Yes.

Me: We adopted him.

Marla: What’s that?

Me: Well, he didn’t grow inside me, but in his birth mom. For whatever reason, she wasn’t able to take care of him and he needed a Mommy and Daddy. My husband and I wanted a family so we adopted him and he became our son.

Marla: He has brown skin.

Me: Yes, he does.

Marla, said with great concern and caring: We have peach skin and there’s no one else here with brown skin. Will he be okay?

Me, smiling: That’s a really good question. He’ll be fine. He has lots of friends and, in his class he has other friends with brown skin.

Marla was quiet for a moment.

Me: It’s a pretty cool thing that there are all kinds of families, isn’t it? There are many ways to become a family.

Marla: Yes.

There’s another quiet moment.

Marla: Do you love him even if he has brown skin?

Me: I love him because he has brown skin, because he’s my son. I couldn’t love him more than if he grew inside me. I love him.

There’s another quiet moment.

Marla then yells to her sister: What are you doing?

Our brief exchange has ended and she left the table to play with her sister.

© 2015 Melanie Elliott

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For The Littlest E’s 4th birthday, Tom and I told him he could get a dog as one of his presents. So, last Labor Day weekend we went on the quest. Our first stop was Wylder’s Holistic Pet Center & Rescue in Studio City. A friend recommended we go there and she was spot on in the recommendation! There were a bunch of dogs in the pen looking eagerly at people as they walked in. Our son’s face brightened when he saw all the four-legged furries excitedly waiting for him to come play with them. We asked him which one he wanted. He pointed and said, “I’d like the black one.” That is how Pepper joined our family.

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She is part Schnauzer and terrier (we’re just not sure which kind, perhaps Cairns Terrier), and she’s the best dog ever. Peppy Girl blended seamlessly into our family and into our hearts. She’s great with kids, potty trained, and is protective in a healthy way. She’s such a sweetie, and The Littlest E LOVES her. It took Pepper some time to warm up to Tom though because we think she witnessed abuse in her old home from a man with salt and pepper hair. After a week, she realized that Tom was a good guy and she loves on him all the time.

 

While we welcomed Pepper into our lives, we had to make some changes. Dogs need to go for walks, especially Pepper who is energetic and loves to be outside. We developed new routines, including The Littlest E’s and my morning routine. That now includes the morning walk. I’ve come to cherish our morning walks for the exercise, to let Pepper exercise and take care of her morning business, but mostly I enjoy the extra one-on-one time I get to spend with my son. I know this time together is fleeting. He’ll be going off to Kindergarten in the fall and I’m not sure what time we’ll have to leave the house to get him to school. I may end up walking Pepper alone in the early mornings before Tom leaves for work. That remains to be seen.

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Some mornings it’s rush, rush, rush, we are running late and my usually energetic son is taking his time walking so I’m having to yell, “Come on, let’s get moving!!!” Or, he’s so focused on picking up every stick or touching every wall of every home on our way to let Pepper do her business. It can take a long time and I get wrapped up in ending the walk before we’ve even begun the morning journey because we’ve GOT to get to school. I forget to experience the NOW and be present with my little boy and dog.

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Then there are the walks where my son says to me, “Mom, can I hold your hand?” Sometimes he just slips his hand into the one that’s not holding the leash and we walk together, mother and son. Those are the best walks. His hand feels so small in mine, yet strong and warm. One day mine will be the one that’s small. On those walks, time doesn’t matter, so what if he’s late. I’m bonding with my son. We enjoy each other’s company and that’s priceless.

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One morning he asked me, “Mom, do you want to learn a song?” “Of course,” I replied smiling down at him. We spent the first half of that walk with him teaching me the words to his song. He’d sing a line; then I’d echo it. The second half, after Pepper had pooped, I taught him one of the songs I know. Those are the mornings I treasure, being fully present with him, not worried about getting anywhere, when the world is just the two of us spending time together outside with our Little Furry hustling along, sniffing the ground and exploring life.

Images: Melanie Elliott

© 2015 Melanie Elliott

 

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The Shield

I used to teach comedy traffic school many years ago when I was fresh out of college and didn’t know what to do with my life. It was great. I worked in the office with friends signing people up, then learned how to teach the course, then eventually taught all over the Bay Area. Funny thing though, the class I meant to audit to become a teacher, I actually had to enroll in because I got a speeding ticket. There was lots of laughter from my fellow traffic violators when they learned that. One of the things I learned, and taught violators was that for every 2 to 3 thousand times we violate a traffic law do we get caught. You can see where this is going, right?

The other day, I was driving The Littlest E to preschool. We take a certain route down Colfax Avenue and sometimes there’s traffic. To go around the traffic I sometimes drive in the bike lane before making the right hand turn I need to make to avoid the traffic entirely. Well, on this particular day, while I was making said violation (along with another car in front of me), there happened to be a police car next to me as well as an idiotic mother and child wanting to jay walk across the crowded street. For the record, it’s okay to drive in the bike lane, if and only if, the line is split, not solid. I wasn’t doing that.

Bike Lane!

I made the turn, and another left turn to get to Chandler Boulevard, that is the way I take my son to school, and sure enough the police car followed me, turned its lights on and I pulled over. I was hoping they’d follow the guy in front of me, but no. It was my turn. As I was stopped the car, I told my son, “I’m getting pulled over by the police.” He asked, “Why Mama?” I said, “Because I may have done something wrong.” At this point my heart was racing, was I going to get a ticket or warning? Was the police officer going to be nice? Was this going to be a positive teaching moment for my son who observes everything? If I got a ticket, would my insurance go up? Would I have to attend traffic school? All these questions entered my head in the seconds it took me to pull over.

The most important thing for me regardless of whether I got a ticket or not, was that my son witness a positive encounter with the police. The Littlest E is not aware of events that happened in Ferguson, South Carolina, New York, or Florida, but he may have seen a bit of the Ferguson coverage while I was watching the news. Did he fully understand know what happened? No, but he doesn’t like me watching the news anymore. He’s only 5 and, to our knowledge, hasn’t yet really experienced overt or inadvertent racism in his short life. It’s important he know that police officers are there to protect and help us and catch us if we break the law. I was impressed by a recent video of a young black man, Will Stack, who was pulled over by police and after posted a video of his encounter on Facebook. (Google “Will Stack Video” to find it.) We have talked to our son about racism in an age-appropriate way. As The Littlest E grows up, we will definitely fill in the details more thoroughly.

After I stopped, I took my sunglasses off so the officer could see my face. He came over and my window came down. I asked, “Did I do something wrong, Officer?” He told me I was driving in the bike lane. I said, “I thought you were allowed to ride in the bike lane before turning.” He basically told me I was in the lane for too long and I almost cut off a mother and child wanting to cross the street. Mind you, they were going to jay walk, but that’s beside the point. The office didn’t need to hear my inner monologue about that. What I needed for my son to hear was that I was respectful of the officer. He asked for my license, registration and proof of insurance. I then had a “senior” moment not remembering what my registration looked like. To him I probably looked flustered so I then added “It’s been a long time since I’ve been pulled over.” Went into the glove compartment and got the registration and insurance info and gave everything to him.

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Now the next part is questionable whether I should have said this or not. As the officer walked away with my info, I asked him if he was going to give me a warning or ticket? Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, but the words tumbled out. A good friend said to me after she heard the story and what I said, “What, were you crazy?” The officer replied, (and he didn’t have to) “Let me check your info first.” While we waited I kept explaining to my inquisitive son what was going on, what the police were doing and how I made a driving mistake and the officer was telling me about it. A female police officer was outside our car standing on the street. I looked at my son and said, “Hey, there’s a female police officer,” while I waved to her.   She came over to the car and I explained to her that I was telling my son about what police officers do and how they are there to protect us and keep us safe. It was probably overkill, but I wanted to make sure my son was okay while all this was going on and that he knew I was okay, too.

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The officer in charge came back and told me he was giving me a warning because he wasn’t comfortable giving me a ticket knowing the other driver who did the same thing wasn’t getting one. He instructed me not to drive in the bike lane and told me I could have hit the mother and child. I apologized and promised not to do that again. With sweaty pits, I took back my info, thanked the police officer and started the car. I made sure to obey all traffic laws while driving The Littlest E to school. All the way there, he kept asking, “Mommy, why did you get pulled over?” and other questions. I kept telling him that I broke the law and the police officer was nice enough to give me a warning. He then asked, “Can I tell my teachers about it?” Sure, why not.

It’s been a couple of days and as my son and I drive the route to school, he asks, “When did the police start following you?” “Is this where you got pulled over?” “What did you do wrong, Mommy?” I answer and explain. I’m very grateful that this became a positive teaching moment for both my son and I. It’s important to obey the traffic rules. We think we won’t get caught, but inevitably we do. He saw that the police officers were people and they were helpful. All in all it was a win-win for the both of us. I’m especially grateful that I didn’t get a ticket. My hope is that this will be his only encounter with police. That is my hope.

©2015 Melanie Elliott

Images: banspy, Greg Whalin, John Liu, Keith Tyler

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Pumpkins

Our first Halloween with The Littlest E was easy breezy. He was 15 months old and didn’t really know or care about pumpkins, costumes, going trick-or-treating, or eating candy.  We stayed home that year and answered the door whenever the bell rang.

For the past few years some friends of ours whose son is The Littlest E’s age, have held a Halloween potluck.  To read the full post, please click on the Mothering In The Middle link below:

Mothering In The Middle

Next up : The License Plate Game

©2014 Melanie Elliott

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I truly can’t believe it’s been 4 years since The Littlest E became our son.  Where did all the time go? I’m sure most parents feel the same way when celebrating their child’s birthday, along with tremendous joy and gratitude.  As an adoptive parent, I get to celebrate the birth of our son, and the birth of our family, our Family Day.  I hope I never forget what life was like before The Littlest E came home with us, so that I don’t lose the gratitude I feel everyday that I get to be his Mom.  Adoption is a gift, one that I cherish with my very soul, for without that gift, my life and my husband’s life would be drastically different.

Our Family - 2010

Our Family – 2010

I remember our first days with The Littlest E, all 19 pounds of him.  He didn’t want to crawl; he just wanted to be held and held and held.  It was a big adjustment getting used to each other, but he knew we were his “go to” people.  We were there for him night and day.  At the foster center where our son stayed in Ethiopia before coming home with us, he attached to one of the caregivers so we knew he’d be able to attach to us, and he did.   After being home for a couple of weeks, Tom, my husband, went back to work, and I was at home with our new son.  Quite a discovery we both had during our hours together.

One day, I took him on a tour of our house (which isn’t very big) so he’d feel more comfortable in his new digs.  I got on my knees and crawled around with him from room to room.  Seeing the house from his vantage point, I could imagine how overwhelming his new environment might be.  Yet we had fun discovering each room.  I would explain the names of the rooms and what happened in each.  From that point on, The Littlest E felt comfortable to crawl around.

As time passed, he went from crawling, to waddling, to walking, to running.  Now, he often starts in our kitchen, sprints, and does a running leap onto our couch that is frequently used for tackle wrestling.  Yes, he’s home and we’re home and we’re a family.  Love really does make a family.  Blood doesn’t matter so much.  Families come in many different ways these days.  Thank God for that.  Here’s a poem I posted several years ago when I was writing for an online parenting magazine that I found on a friend’s blog:

The Gift of Life

I didn’t give you the gift of life,

But in my heart I know.

The love I feel is deep and real,

. . . As if it had been so.

For us to have each other

Is like a dream come true!

No, I didn’t give you

The gift of life,

Life gave me the gift of you.

– – – Author Unknown

Our Family - 2014

Our Family – 2014

There’s nothing like waking up every morning knowing our son is down the hall in his room sleeping.  He greets most days with a smile and a snuggle, then it’s time to continue our morning routine.  He’s 5 now and still as active and energetic as ever.  In the evenings when Tom is home, we have family time, usually around the dinner table.  We say our daily gratitudes, takes turns saying a blessing, eat and talk about the day.  It’s a lovely routine.  After that, I do the dishes and Tom gets some good, quality time with his son.  Who could ask for anything more?

I can’t wait to continue to experience life with The Littlest E and our family we’ve created through adoption.  We are blessed to have what we have, live where we live and do what we do.  To those of you who are waiting to be parents, your time will come.  You’ll hold your child in your arms, however that child comes to you, and life will take on new meaning.  Hoping that your wait is short and that your child is with you soon.

This blog can also be found at Mothering In the Middle, an amazing website for midlife parents, where I am a contributor.

©2014 Melanie Elliott

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The Littlest E is going to camp a few days during his summer break.  It’s a camp where a bunch of his friends from preschool are going.  It’s a highly recommended camp and the kids’ ages range from Pre-K to 4th or 5th grade.  Yesterday he went and had a great time, but then on the way home and later that evening he proceeded to tell my husband and me some of the things that happened during his day:

  1. Someone threw his bag with his clothing over a fence. The boy who did that got caught and got in trouble.
  1. Some boy told him to “Shut Up.”
  1. While he was in the bathroom changing out of or into his swimsuit, some older boys came in and peered over the stall calling him “Naked Boy” over and over. He told us it upset him when they did that and that he didn’t like mean boys.

I’m not sure if they were all the same boys who were doing this.  Regardless, it upset my husband and me that our son was upset.  We asked him if there were more nice boys at camp than mean boys and he said, “Yes.”  We asked him if he wanted to go back to camp the next day and he replied, “Yes.”

Here’s where my head went after hearing all this.  With #1, okay, that’s not respectful of someone’s property.  Nothing got lost, stolen or broken. I’m glad the other kid got caught and was talked to. Hopefully it won’t happen again.

With #2, Tom and I do our best to dissuade our son from using words like that. Yes, it is the real world and kids say those words. The Littlest E knows people say words they aren’t supposed to say. He also knows he shouldn’t say them and, so far, he’ll say an occasional Poo Poo or something like, but he knows just because someone else says them, he doesn’t have to.

With #3, that’s where the Mama Bear in me came out. Seriously, older kids are following my son into the bathroom to watch him undress and call him names!?! Then I think are they doing it because he has brown skin and there aren’t many kids with brown skin at camp? Yes, that’s where my head went.

Here’s the gray area – do we say something to the camp?  Was this an isolated incident?  Our son wasn’t crying, but, if this happens again, are we throwing him to the wolves by sending him to camp?  Camp shouldn’t be that.

Over the years, I’ve learned a little thing called Pause.  We didn’t have to make an issue of it last night by calling the camp and saying something.   Tom and I talked about it and decided to ask the camp if they have counselors watching the little ones use the rest room.  We weren’t going to make a big deal, but ask a simple question.  We both felt uncomfortable faced with this and utterly protective of our little guy.

Here’s another gray area – when is it okay to intervene and when should your child fight his/her own battles so to speak?  In preschool the kids learn how to resolve conflict and the teachers work with them on that.  When we’ve had playdates, sometimes the kids work it out themselves and sometimes there’s parent intervention.  When do you get involved in a situation like this?

Tom and I were at a parenting group the other day and a mom mentioned her 6-year old had a thing with one of the other kids.  She asked her daughter if she wanted her to say something or not and the daughter gave her an adamant “No.”  The daughter had worked it out herself.  In this situation, it didn’t need parent intervention and may have caused more harm than good for the daughter by intervening.  It’s a gray area as to when to stick up for your child and when not to.

Here’s what happened this morning:

The Littlest E seemed excited to go back to camp this morning. A good sign, and I breathed in a little sigh of relief. At camp, I checked him in with the counselors in front and we walked in to drop off his bag. I saw a mom from his preschool and, once our sons were off playing, ran what happened yesterday by her. She proceeded to tell me the same thing happened to her son last week and that he was now afraid to put on his swimsuit.

I was bummed to hear it happened to her sweet boy, but also relieved that The Littlest E wasn’t the only one, and even more relieved it was definitely not a racial thing, but bigger kids bullying the little ones. We talked about it and decided to mention something to the office. There’s strength in numbers and I felt better having another mom with me. We got to the office and I asked, “We were wondering if you have any counselors watch the younger kids when they’re in the bathroom?” They initially thought it had to do with wiping and I then mentioned what the older boys were doing, my friend did the same, and the counselors were shocked.

They were very receptive to our concerns, which was comforting. I said that we know that in school there’s always be the kid that doesn’t like you or the bully and they jumped in and said, but not in camp, camp should be fun for everyone. They would address this with the camp supervisor and make sure the little ones get bathroom supervision. They thanked us for bringing it to their attention.

We intervened, but in a gentle way so as to not embarrass our kids, yet also in a way to make sure the camp knows they have an issue that needs attention. Fingers crossed The Littlest E has more positive things to say about his camp experience when I pick him up this afternoon and I hope these kids leave him alone.

Each situation is different and the topic of bullying is larger than this blog post.

Has your child been the object of a bully? When did you intervene on behalf of your child? When did you not? Would love to know your thoughts. Let’s get a conversation going. Comments welcome!

©2014 Melanie Elliott

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