Learning lessons about myself as I teach my son to drive

My son has his temporary driving license, and for the past several months, he and I have been spending hours of time driving per the requirements to get his official license.  He dragged his feet in the beginning and wasn’t really interested in getting his license, but after a lot of practice, I think he’s developing into a really good and confident driver.

I expected to enjoy my time teaching him how to drive. The two of us spend a lot of time together in the car as I drive him to and from the 45+ minutes from our house to his school.  What I didn’t expect is to learn about myself and who I am through his observations of my teaching.

One such insightful comment came from him last week and it made me feel so good about myself that I wanted to compose a little post about it on my long neglected blog.

As we drive along, I give him a running commentary from the passenger seat about how fast to go, or where to turn at the next light or stop sign, or that he’s either too close on one side or should slow down or go a bit faster, etc.  It’s not that I am constantly talking. He often asks for the above information as he’s driving along. We’ve had a great time together, and I’ve enjoyed teaching him how to drive. 

Being an engineer, I don’t just tell him, this is a 25 mile and hour zone, or this area is reduced speed, I give him the whole reason why different roads are marked how they are, etc.  I’ve never just taught him in an “I said so” sort of way. I have always told him and his sister the “why” about things.

Earlier this week, as we were going through a residential area, he made a comment about my running commentary. He thought it was so very like me to tell him what I did. I was telling him to make sure he drove 25 mph in the residential area  because there might be people around and we don’t want to accidentally hurt someone, rather than telling him that he might get a ticket if he exceeded the speed limit especially in a residential area. He loved that my reasoning involved making the world a better place, rather than just trying not to get into trouble.

And with this observation my son gave me perhaps one of the greatest gifts he could give me. He summed up for me that he saw in me who I hoped I actually was. I have always tried to do the right thing because it was the right thing, not because I would get into trouble if I didn’t. I try to live each day trying to make the world better for my having been there, rather than just trying to stay out of trouble.  My son let me know that I am living what I hope to be. I am modeling the person I am trying to be.  It says a great deal about him, as well. He observes people and really sees them as they are.

I will miss these driving lesson days.

Boys and Girls are equal

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. Allow me to indulge in some parental bragging for a moment. I ended up wanting to write more than 140 characters in twitter will allow, so I decided to dust off this old blog.

I am so proud of my son. I guess that also makes me proud of how my husband and I are raising him. Let me give you an example of why from this morning.

As we do, our children are spending their Sunday morning watching cartoons on the Cartoon Network. When my husband and I came downstairs, they were watching an episode of Teen Titans Go. This episode: Teen Titans Go: Boys vs Girls

I didn’t see much of it, only caught the tail end. What I did catch involved cooties, and the boys not liking the girls (although Robin was conflicted because of his crush on Starfire) because boys are better than girls. The girls were saying similar things about girls being better than boys. In the end, they all had to work together to defeat the cooties and put them back in whatever box they’d escaped from. Robin makes a big speech about how girls are superior to boys in every way, and then Beast Boy points out that only a boy could make such an awesome speech. Ha ha ha. The End. It’s actually one of the funnier cartoons we let them watch.

The show ends, and my son says “I didn’t really like that episode. Boys and girls are equal.”

And with that simple statement, I know I am raising him right. I know my husband and I are setting a great example. Because for all of the girl empowerment and sexism bashing (and outright mean spirited attacking of old white men scientist guys who say stupid things) going on in social media, he knows that it’s not a competition. We are equal. Boys and girls. Men and women. We are all equal. That’s where I hope we are heading, and that’s what I hope my children are bringing into the world.

Fringe Season 4: Walter makes me miss my own father

I logged into my blog this evening, while watching the third episode of season four of Fringe, to try to write an entry or two, only to find that I’d started an article on Fringe back in March. At the time I started this point, I wrote that I was three episodes to the end of season 3 in the television show, Fringe. I’ve finished season three and am in to season four now. I didn’t watch Fringe with it aired on television, but tried my best to catch up as season five was airing. I didn’t make it, but am still trying to work my way through the series.

I’ve been watching Fringe mostly when my husband goes out of town, and after my children fall asleep. Getting them to sleep takes a lot longer when my husband is out of town.  This means I end up watching one episode, then another, then another and end up paying for it by staying up well past midnight.

When I logged into my blog tonight, I was struck by the title I’d given this post.

Watching Fringe does make me think about my dad. It makes me think about him a lot.  He’s been gone for 18 years, and I still miss him as much as the day that he died. He never got to meet my kids. He wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle when I married my husband (although they did meet). He never got to do so many things.

Watching Fringe and watching the relationship unfold between Walter and Peter Bishop does make me miss my Dad. I am surprised I actually put that down in an entry.

My Dad was complicated. He had his demons. He had his weaknesses. But he also had great strengths. He was brilliant. He loved very deeply. He loved his kids. He could have been so much. He could have had a great life. I am RocketScienceMom because he always answered all of my questions about the stars, the universe and everything. I am RocketScienceMom because he shared with me his love of math and science, and I inherited his affinity for both. I only wish he were still around to see me actually become RocketScienceMom.

Sadly, he’s not here. I lost him far too soon. But the complicated relationship between Walter and Peter, and the brilliance of Walter remind me of my Dad.  His ability to cut to the heart of things, and sometimes say things that should have gone through some sort of mental filter, are very much like Walter.

I find that I am enjoying Fringe more than I thought I would, in spite of the fact that I don’t really have the stomach for all of the disgusting things or the monster of the week that they often show.

Here’s to an ending of season five that I hope is worthy of the  seasons that lead up to it.

And please don’t spoil me. I have done a great job of remaining spoiler free so far.


Everyone misses Daddy

Ed: I wrote this post up a few days back, and scheduled to post it so that I’d spread out my posts on this blog.

My husband and I both work at the same place. That’s where we met. Where we went from being him and me and became us. We make a great team both at work and at home. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

We both used to travel now and then for our respective positions. He’d travel much more than I would, but we both traveled. Since we had children, I have had a great reluctance to travel. First it was because I was nursing, and wouldn’t travel in the first year for each of my children. Then it just became harder for me to leave them in general.

Luckily, reductions in the travel budget at work have resulted in less funds available. This has lead to more of a reliance on internet and phone methods of holding meetings across county and less face to face meetings for the work that I do. That works out just fine for me.

For my husband, it seems that everything he ever works on requires some travel. Some months he’s gone for a couple of weeks, and some months he’s gone a day. Some months we are lucky enough that he doesn’t have to travel at all. The kids and I are used to Daddy having to leave now and then. It’s hard on everyone, but we’ve got our routines and we manage.

That is until this trip.

This time the kids are missing Dad terribly. I don’t know if it is because both kids are more aware of their father’s absence, or because we just had a wonderful couple of weeks off as a family for winter break, or because it’s actually been a few months since Daddy has had to travel. Whatever it is, these last two nights, both kids have been in tears and seem to be unable to fall asleep. At least tonight it only took an hour before their tired little bodies finally gave in to sleep. Last night, it took two and a half hours, and eventually ended with them both sleeping with Mommy.

I feel like they do. I hate it when my husband is away. I stay up far too late, getting all of those things (like blog posts) done that I don’t get to when he’s home. In truth, I do all these little tasks because I can’t sleep when he’s gone.

Just like my children.

Good night. I wonder how long it will take me to fall asleep.


All our Children need is love

Yesterday, across town, a high school student brought a gun to school and shot five of his fellow students. At the time I write this, two of the victims have died, and the other three remain in the hospital. The details of why this happened are still being investigated, but there’s been mentions of bullying, and family troubles.  I have been staying away from the sensational reporting of our local news, but enough of it has made it my way, that I have a picture of what is known right now.

Upon hearing the news from a Facebook friend on my way in to work yesterday morning, my first reaction was fear. Fear as a mother who has two grade school age children and wants nothing more than their happiness and safety. My whole being wanted to wrap them up in a little cocoon and protect them from the bad things in this world.

I didn’t bring up the shooting in our dinner time conversation last night. I waited to see if it had been mentioned in their school day yesterday, ready to answer questions, but none came. They are only in third and first grade, so their teachers might not have felt the need to talk about this event to their classes.

Bullying, however, did come up.

My son’s friend is a bit of a bully. He makes fun of younger children, and rarely has a nice thing to say to or about anyone. This perplexes my son, who has tried very hard to be friends with this young boy. They have been friends since they met in first grade, and hang out together at the extended care after school.

For about a month at the beginning of the school year, this boy wouldn’t talk to or play with my son. When my son tried to ask why, he’d been brushed off. Then, the friend started to try to get their mutual friends not to play with my son. Eventually, the boy apologized and they were back to being friends. No explanation was given.

Still, the questions remain. My son asks: Why does this boy say mean things? Why does he pick on younger children? Why does he insult people? Why?

The best explanation I can come to, simple as it might be, applies to all children who bully and all people who choose to act out of hurt and not love. They are somehow unhappy with their lives. The unhappiness can be anything, and might be hard for someone on the outside to understand, but I believe that all meanness comes from a deep unhappiness. If you are happy in your life, and have all that you need, then you will pass that  happiness on to others. If you are sad, then all you  have to offer others is that sadness.

My daughter jumped on that idea, and came up with home life reasons as to why children might be unhappy and therefore might be mean to others. Then they went through other children they knew at school that were mean, and tried to think of reasons why they would be unhappy.

My point wasn’t to analyze the state of their schoolmates, but was rather to teach them compassion and try to give them insight in to why people make hurtful choices. I am not trying to excuse these bad choices. We are all responsible for our choices. You can be happy because you choose to be so in spite of all that might stand in the way of happiness. But if you are never taught that you can be happy and choose happiness, how do you believe it? If you are a child and your examples are to be hurtful, how do you learn differently? Rather than excusing, I am only trying to understand, because I believe that understanding something allows you to deal with it and perhaps help to make it better.

My heart breaks for the parents who sent their children to school yesterday, and who did not have those same children come home. I cannot fathom that loss. My heart breaks for the boy who believed that this was the answer to whatever his problems were. My heart breaks for all children, everywhere, who are so sad that death is an option at the end of their stories.

Sometimes I worry that no matter what we do as parents, there are influences (media, movies, peers) that are beyond our control in the raising of our children. It’s that worry that makes me consider quitting my job and home schooling my children. Slowly, I let that worry pass by and allow myself to believe that the unconditional love I show my children and the compassion I teach them by words and hopefully by example, are what they need to prepare them for the bad and the good in this world.

As parents, loving our children, really and truly, is the best way to raise them to love themselves and to love others. A world with people that act out of love is a world worth working toward.

Thank you for listening.

How do you handle giving constructive feedback to teachers.

My children attend the extended care program at their grade-school. Since I work full time, I can’t be home at 3:30pm when they would get out of school, so I sought a school that offered on site after school care. The private catholic grade school we picked had such a program. I have always been happy with it. I like the teachers. I know my children are safe. My kids can finish their homework with help from the teachers who work the extended care, spend time with their friends, and watch some after school television.

Last night, when I picked them up, I immediately noticed that my son’s left eyebrow was swollen up huge! He explained that he and another child had collided as he made his way past where the kids were playing basketball. It was just an accident, but he banged heads with the other child hard enough to cause a big old goose egg right above his eye. It was so swollen that his he was squinting just a touch.

I asked what the teachers who work extended care did to help and he let me know that, as usual, they didn’t see it happen and had no idea. I immediately walked him over to one of the teachers, pointed out the swollen eye, and asked if they had ice or something to put on it. They were very accommodating, got the ice pack, and asked if he was ok. They stressed that they can’t see everything and he needs to tell them if something like this happens.

On our way home I asked why he didn’t tell the teachers, and he answered that it was for two reasons. First, in the past when he’s asked to use the bathroom, he’s been told to wait and not interrupt their conversations. And second, he didn’t want to get the other boy in trouble. It was entirely an accident. They just weren’t looking when they collided. My son just isn’t one to cause a fuss about things.

I wrangled with how to handle this situation all night. I didn’t want to get the teachers in trouble, and I do know how hard it is to keep an eye on two children let alone a whole gym full of children in ages ranging from preschool to eigth grade. The extended care program is essential to me, and I have been very happy with the service. However, from my past experience on the board of trustees at my children’s daycare, I do also know that sometimes teachers and care givers can use gentle reminders to keep their eye on the children.

So, with that in mind, and laying out all of those caveats, I talked to the Principal this morning after I dropped my children off. I asked him for only five minutes of his time, so he could make the first bell announcements, and I stressed that I love his staff and that I am overall very happy with their care of my children after school. But I wanted him to know that sometimes they aren’t paying as much attention as, perhaps, they should.

He thanked me for bringing it to his attention and said that we can all use small reminders from time to time.

How would you have handled it? I hope that the teachers don’t feel as though I’ve dumped on them. They do a great job, and this was one mistake, but it followed a pattern of distraction that I worry could result in a larger accident occurring.

We shall see what this afternoon’s extended care pick up brings.

RSM Reprint: Girls Can Train Their Dragons Too!

Reprinted with permission by Foreverparenting.com from March 2010

Originally, I wrote the column below for a parenting site called GNMParents.com. Since then, the site has sort of gone out of business, and one of its primary editors is working to set up a new parenting site with new goals and wonderful authors. I haven’t had time enough to become a regular columnist there yet but I do love the site. If you get a chance please, visit the link above and give them a little love.

The idea for the column came from my inability to find toys for my daughter. Sadly, I don’t think much has changed, especially in the wake of Lego’s new Friends line of toys aimed for girls (I will be writing about them shortly). You can read the rest after the dashes.


We took the kids to see the new Dreamworks movie: How To Train Your Dragon this weekend. To say that they (and I) loved it, would be an understatement. The dragon reminded us of our now teenage kitten. The lead, Hiccup, was easy to relate to, and, although the action was a bit intense, the morals: be true to who you are (to the children), and accept your children for who they are (to the parents), were subtle and significant.

So, as is often my response to a movie I like, I headed out to my nearest toy store in search of Dragon toys. I easily found the toy of the titular Dragon, and of Hiccup (who trains him). Who I didn’t find was the main female character, Astrid Hofferson: the one who’s tough and who stands by the lead when he doubts himself. She kicked butt throughout the movie: both as a dragon-slayer in training, and also as a friend.

They don’t even make an action figure of her.

I knew I wouldn’t find one before going to the store, because I’d searched online over the weekend. Worse, though, I knew I wouldn’t find a figure of her before I even started searching, because of past experience.

I grew up collecting action figures. My Star Wars collection still sits in a box in the basement (and still grows from time to time — yes, I know I am an adult). Then, as now, the one thing that angers me is the lack of action figures of the female characters. Try to find Amidala or even Princess Leia, and you’ll probably have to turn to e-Bay rather than your local toy store.

This is my open plea to all those toy manufacturers out there. You have an audience in the girls who go to your “action” movies, and if you’d just make figures of the women you portray, we’d buy them! We are hungry for non-Barbie action heroes. You know, not just the Lara Kroft kind, who are really designed for boys anyway. Make them, sell them, I guarentee you’ve got a market you still haven’t captured.

Until then, I remain disappointed, for myself and for my daughter.