I met the most amazing lady ever! She was on the 4hour flight with me from Atlanta to Salt Lake City during my trip to visit my Aunt in California, which is where I am writing from…
What is so amazing to me is that I met her at a time where I’ve been contemplating my Mothering skills. I have recently come to realize that I’m not doing enough, and that I am not as ‘present’ as I should be. I’ve let certain things go, and we just seem to be muddling through life. The problem is that I haven’t fully submitted to my role as a mother of 3. I’ve been so hung up on what I want to do, how I’m going to make money, how I’m going to ‘make my mark in this world’ and my need to be creative. Yes, I love my children and I think I do ok, but there are certain things I’m not focusing/paying attention to that I need to be.
Anyway, I met this woman on the flight. At first I was a little annoyed that she asked me to switch my window seat for her 9 year old daughter’s aisle seat. I said yes, because there was really no reason to say no, other than ‘I chose a window seat, so I should have a window seat.’ I said yes, but I was just a little annoyed anyway. Her adorable 11 month old baby of course dissolved that annoyance within minutes.
I usually don’t get involved in long conversations with airplane seatmates, but she struck up conversation, and she seemed nice enough, so I responded. We ended up talking non-stop the whole 4 hour trip. She not has not only nursed ALL her kids (including the 11 month old with her), she also donates to Milkshare, an organization that collects breastmilk and donates to babies who maybe cannot tolerate formula or have other reasons whey they need it. She is also planning to carry a baby for couple who have been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for years. Did I also mention that she is an Army wife, which means she is a single mom for months at a time? Prior to meeting her husband and becoming a Mom of 6, she taught English in South America and Russia. This woman is simply amazing! An earth walking Angel, if you ask me.
Turns out she is a mother of 6 (?) with her oldest being the 9 year old girl I switched seats with, and her youngest being the adorable baby. For the 4 hour trip, she regaled me with the exact mother-wit and mother-wisdom I had been seeking. She shared with me her love of mothering, and her love of humanity, her grace, her poise, and her calm and patience in dealing with life with 6 under 10. She also showed me that its okay to get gangsta with your kids if they get outta line. Most importantly she showed me the importance of Natural Consequence as a way of getting kids to behave. I’ll never forget her stories of how she handled her kids’ insistence on unbuckling their seatbelts. I won’t repeat them here because I know some people might find it extreme. Suffice to say that it was ingenious, drastic, and extremely effective.
In those four hours we discussed everything from breastfeeding to temporary homeschooling, to tips for packing healthy school lunches. In case I forget later, here are some of the tips I learned:
She believes kids should get to experience school during elementary and high school. Elementary school because that’s where they learn to sit still, follow a routine etc. High school, for social reasons: joining in clubs, attending dances, dating etc.
She plans to homeschool her kids during middle school, for 2 reasons. 1. She will get to have very precious valuable one on one bonding time with each child for at least a year, before it’s time to homeschool the next one. 2. Middle school is a very delicate time when kids are just developing their self-esteem and are highly susceptible to peer-pressure and wanting to do things (sometimes dangerous things) to impress their friends. It’s also the time when the mean kids are the meanest. She figures if she can spend that time with them teaching them, molding them while she still has influence, her kids will have that time to develop a strong sense of self, and healthy self-esteem before going to high school.
She believes each child should participate in gymnastics because it teaches balance and coordination. Not every child is going to stay with gymnastics, but it will help them in whatever other activities they choose to participate in, be it soccer, ballet, whatever.
She also believes that in high school, each child needs to participate in at least one activity, because it gives them a place to belong. When she was in high school, she probably would not have participated in anything because she was a home-body. She was not naturally inclined to join anything, but her mother told her she HAD to pick something, so she picked the one thing there was no try-out for. I honestly don’t remember what it was, but she ended up loving it, and it gave her a place to belong, even if she wasn’t or outgoing.
Incidentally she doesn’t believe in the overscheduling kids that we see today.
ON GETTING KIDS TO BEHAVE.
Of course kids should be taught right from wrong, why something is right, and something is wrong, etc. They should also understand consequences.
But she also says find out what your child’s currency is, and trade with them using that currency. One of her kids loves to be outdoors, so she trades outside time for chores. Whatever it is, reward them wit that incentive.
ON PACKING HEALTHY LUNCHES
Don’t buy single serve packs, they cost too much. Instead, buy in bulk and pack in serving sizes. For instance, she has little plastic containers (such as the 8 or 10 packs at Dollar Tree) that she uses for jello, or chocolate pudding. Also, she freezes little plastic bottles half filled with water, which she then tops of with juice. 3 benefits: 1) the juice has thawed by lunchtime but is still cold, 2) the kids don’t get the full amount of sugar in the juice and 3) the juice bottle lasts longer
Hide the veggies. While it’s important for kids to identify veggies and develop a love for them, sometimes they refuse to eat them, so hide them so they still get the nutrition. She purees chocolate pudding with steam veggies, a la “The Sneaky Chef” by Missy Chase Lapine.
Whatever you can do ahead, for the week, do. For instance, she makes puddings, jello, and whatever else she can for the week, so all she has to do is pack sandwiches and toss everything in the lunch box the night before.
Lemon keeps it fresh Squirt some lemon juice in your bag of cut apples to keep them from turning brown.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned from this amazing Mom in that short time. Of course, I have no plans of doing everything like her, because that’s not me, but I plan to incorporate some of the things I learned from her. Ironically and unfortunately we never even exchanged names or contact info. If by some strange chance she should ever read this, I want to say ‘thank you!’ I learned a lot from you, and most importantly I was reminded of the reason we become stay at home moms in the first place, which is to raise happy healthy well-adjusted kids who become productive members of society well into adulthood.