Being 9

Something happens to us when we grow up. We forget what it’s like to be a child, because we don’t see life the same way we once did. The wonder of a new world is lost. We may gain wisdom and experience as we age, but we lose the magical perspective we had when we were little.

Everything changes; it’s the natural order. But wouldn’t it be nice to go back in time and look at the world through the eyes of a child?

Photo by Cynthia Petersen

Photo by Cynthia Petersen

We push through the growing pains and awkward moments of childhood, and emerge a more mature version of ourselves. We hit the ground running as we enter adulthood, a little fearful, but determined to make a name for ourselves. We work hard to pay the bills and put food on the table while we raise our families. The older we get, the faster time passes. We lose track of the years, but then the kids finally move out and start families of their own, and we can finally breathe again.

About midlife, we start to think about the past; life didn’t always go the way we planned, so what do we do now? Maybe we feel a little sorry for ourselves, but if we’re lucky, all that dissipates when we have grandchildren.

We love our kids dearly but being a grandparent is so much better (sorry kids). Maybe it is because we don’t have the responsibilities and pressures we did when we were parents, or maybe grandchildren are God’s reward for a job well-done.

We get to spoil our grandchildren, have fun and eat junk food that isn’t normally allowed, and then send them home to mom and dad. And it’s all acceptable because we are Grandparents.

I have 9 grandchildren, with another on the way, and I adore every single one of them. And they love me just because I’m Grandma, which is pretty awesome.

My granddaughter, Isabelle, is an extraordinary child. She was a colicky baby and a naughty toddler, but she has blossomed into a beautiful young lady, with a soul to match. She is thoughtful and caring, and helps me out even when I don’t ask, which is a lot to expect from a 9 year-old.

Isabelle is not perfect. She picks on her little sisters and has an over-whelming amount of energy. She is impulsive and easily distracted, and doesn’t always listen. But Isabelle has the kindest, most generous, heart of anyone I know. She loves animals and wants to be a zookeeper when she grows up. She loves to climb trees and spending time outside. She loves to create anything, which is something we share. In fact, we have a lot in common. When I look at Isabelle, it’s like looking in a mirror. How can I not adore her?

This little girl is giving me a wonderful gift; she is helping me remember what it’s like to be 9 again.

When I was 9, I felt invincible. I wasn’t afraid to take chances. I didn’t second guess anything, because to me, nothing was impossible.

But as we grow up we forget that. But maybe, if we’re lucky, we might get a second chance to see the world like we did when we were 9.

I’m not sure I would want to go back and relive my entire childhood, but it’s nice being able to spend time with your friend; remembering what it’s like being 9.

Appreciation is just icing on the cake

I love being a mother. I fell in love with all my children even before they were born. I loved feeling them move inside me and dreamed about what they would look like, what their personality would be, and what their future might hold.

My kids haven't changed a lot since they were little.

My kids haven’t changed a lot since they were little.

The moment my first child was born (I have four), I devoted my life to being the best mother I could, which wasn’t always easy.

Now that my children are grown and have kids of their own, it’s easy to see where I went wrong (after all, hindsight is 20/20).

If kids did come with a manual, it might look something like this:

1. Spend one-on-one time with your kids, even if you have 10.

2. Make them feel important, loved, and safe.

3. Set boundaries. When you say no, mean it.

4. Give them a daily chore, even if it’s just picking up the front room.

5. Tell them you’re proud of them.

6. Encourage them to try new things, everything, until they find something they like to do or are good at.

7. Don’t try to be their friend. You can’t be their mom and their friend at the same time.

8. Ease their fears by being open with them and answering their questions to the best of your ability.

9. Teach them manners and to respect others; the Golden Rule.

10. Set a good example. Give them someone to look up to.

11. Don’t talk bad about their fathers, or anyone for that matter.

12. Teach them forgiveness.

13. Tell them you love them every day.

14. Never put them down or say they are bad. “Words once spoke, can never be taken back.”

15. Don’t set your expectations too high for your children.

Looking over this list, I can say that some of my parenting skills may have been lacking, but we learn as we go. No one is perfect. I may not have been able to give my kids the world, but at least they knew they were loved.

This year I received a letter from my youngest daughter, Lori, that made me realize that I must have done something right.

And she gave me her permission to share part of it:

“… Having my own children made me look at my mother in a different light. Everyone wants to be a better parent than their own, do things differently. And while that is true in some aspects, I also want to be just like my mother in many ways.

Even though my mom was dealing with her own issues while I was growing up, I always felt love radiating from her. I know she was proud to have us as her children, and she would do anything for us. And I feel the same exact way about my own kids. I think every mother does. But what my mom has taught me in the last ten years has had more of an impact on me than I could ever imagine. She not only quit drinking, she changed many of her destructive habits as well. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not perfect and she knows it. And I don’t think I could deal with it if she was. But she has taught me a lot of life lessons that I want to instill in my children.

She is so caring and giving. She would do anything for her loved ones and people she cares about. She is determined and tenacious. I can see how much her self-confidence has grown as she has achieved things she probably couldn’t have imagined before. She is selfless and passionate in everything she pursues. Her heart is so genuine. She is a deep and imaginative thinker. We can talk for hours on the phone, jumping from one topic to another, and totally follow and get one another. How many people can say they have that type of connection with their mom? I feel pretty damn lucky to say I do…”

Out of all of my children, Lori is the most sensitive. We are like two peas in a pod. It’s not that I don’t love my other children any less,it’s just that Lori and I share a very special bond. I think the greatest gift I could ever have received, especially on Mother’s Day, is the gift of being appreciated. It makes being a mother that much more rewarding.

You are there for your kids from the moment they are born, teaching them to walk, to talk, kissing their owies, teaching them to tie their shoes,  and to ride the bus alone for the first time.  You’re there holding them while they cry after their first break-up, and helping them get dressed for their proms and weddings, and holding your grandchildren for the first time.

When you’re a mom, you take care of your kids because that’s just what you do. You love them unconditionally because they are a part of you. You created them and you raise them to the best of your ability. And when it’s time to let them go, well…. that’s a little easier said then done. But you never really let them go. You just make them think you do.



Time for Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day celebration on May 10, 1908, in Grafton, W. V., to encourage families to honor their

My mom with her great-granddaughter.

My mom with her great-granddaughter.

mothers with simple, at-home gatherings. When the holiday began to attract commercial attention in the following years, Jarvis became upset and protested what Mother’s Day had become. She believed that it was taking away from the true intention of Mother’s Day, which was to show loving displays of gratitude for mothers and grandmothers.

The love a mother has for her children has not changed over time. Stories through the ages tell of the sacrifices mothers endured, the unconditional love that enabled some children to overcome challenging obstacles, and the miracles that followed.

Some famous mothers through time include Eve, who was the very first mother. The Bible tells the story of how she disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, and she and her husband, Adam, were banished from the Garden of Eden, their paradise. She had two sons, Cain and Abel, and had to endure the pain of childbirth and the heartbreak of losing a child, while having to accept the fact that one of her children was a murderer.

Mary was the mother of Jesus of Nazareth. She stood by him through thick and thin, even as he was ridiculed for his insistence that he was the son of God. She believed in him, even as he was crucified and died on the cross, and accepted that this was his fate, for all mankind.

Mother Teresa was made a saint for helping lepers in India. Though she had no children of her own (she had given her life to God as a nun), she was a mother to all, caring and nurturing the young, the old, and the sick. She lived in poverty, among the lepers, and taught others to be loving, generous, compassionate, and kind.

Rose Kennedy, famous mother of the president of the United States, approached her mothering duties almost like a sports team manager, keeping records of everything from kids’ dental visits down to their shoe sizes, according the John F.Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

She lived to be 104 years old, outliving four of her nine children, all of whom died in tragic circumstances. Her oldest son, Joseph, was killed in action in World War II in 1944, and her daughter Kathleen died in a plane crash four years later. John was assassinated in 1963 and Robert was assassinated in 1968.

Actress Angelina Jolie takes her role as a mother very seriously. She and actor Brad Pitt adopted four children from various countries and then had twins five years ago, bringing the total number of children to six.

But not only has Jolie had a tough role as an actress and a parent, but she made the decision to have a double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer. Her mother died of ovarian cancer in 2007 and Jolie wanted to do what she could to prevent that from happening to her.

Jolie said in Elle magazine that her daughter, Vivienne, was cast in the role of Little Aurora in the her new movie, “Maleficent,” but the stress of working with their children was almost too much, and they decided maybe that’s not the best thing for them.

And then there are the fictional mothers. TV moms like June Cleaver, Carol Brady, Roseanne Connor presented the changing roles of mothers through the decades.

June Cleaver was the mom in the TV show, “Leave it to Beaver.” Mothers then (in the 1950s) were depicted as woman who did not work outside the home and keep the house spotless, and shopped a lot. As a mother, she was pretty awesome, but almost too perfect.

Carol Brady branched out in a new role as stepmother in a blended family in “The Brady Bunch,” something that was unheard of until the 1970s. Being a mom in that situation was often hilarious, but there were some serious moments, too. Carol showed other moms in that situation how it was done.

Shirley Partridge was a single mom in “The Partridge Family,” but she showed the world she could do just fine on her own, without a man. She was both mother and father to her five children. She had it rough, especially with their lifestyle as a musical family. But the show did hit on a few lessons that could be learned by the moms in the audience.

Claire Huxtable was the mom on the “Cosby Show” in the 1980s.  Though she worked professionally outside the home, her five children were well-behaved. They had their problems, but her role as a black professional working mother helped other black women see that they, too, could work full-time and be a good mother.

Roseanne Connor showed a realistic scenario for the 1990s mom. A quick wit and a sarcastic attitude showed moms that life does not come with a handbook, and sometimes you have to improvise in order for it to work.

Moms of the new millennium are busy, busier than they have ever been. They work full-time jobs or go to school while rushing the kids to sports events, play practice, and show choir. They sit in the front row with their cell phones or video cameras capturing the moments that they can look at years later and say, “Where has the time gone?”

Mothers have an undeniable bond with their children. It is an unconditional love that stays with them until the day they die. And if we do it right, our mothers aren’t honored just one day a year, but every day.

Maybe it’s a phone call out of the blue, or a surprise delivery of flowers. Perhaps she would like a frappuccino from Starbucks (with lots of whipped cream!).  But most likely it’s the time you spend with her that matters most. Maybe just talking with her, laughing about the funny things that happened when you were little, or maybe just holding her hand and telling her that everything is going to be all right. Maybe that’s all she really wants this Mother’s Day.

Take a few moments this Mother’s Day to sit down and really talk to your mom. And don’t forget the frappuccino.


Parent’s role is becoming even more challenging

I have taken on the duty of covering the Marion School Board meetings, which are held twice a month.

My first meeting went pretty much what I expected, similar to the Hiawatha council meetings that I attend regularly.

I found it extremely interesting, mostly because I’m a mother and grandmother, and anything eduction-related interests me.  I also attended college in the ’90s to become an elementary education teacher, and though I didn’t follow through, I have maintained a high respect for all teachers.

During the school board meeting, a mother of two Emerson Elementary students asked to address the board. She stated that she was concerned about the safety in Marion schools because of the shooting in Newtown, Conn. and suggested that a guard be posted in every school.

It made me think about how close to home the issue had become, and how it was affecting all of us, a community nearly 1,000 mile away.

As I listened to the news report, I was shocked to hear that the shooter’s mother knew he was mentally ill, but taught him how to shoot guns, anyway.

Maybe she didn’t want to admit that her son might be capable of such a horrendous act, but she should have had some idea. She was his mother, after all.

Our society is changing and so is role of a parent. Our children are exposed to many things that can have a negative affect on the way they think and behave.

The influence of violent video games, movies, television, the Internet, and social media could be changing our children’s judgement without us even being aware of it.

Some parent think it’s OK that their young children have total access to their computer and let them play violent video games that are much too sophisticated for them. They let them watch television shows and movies that could be impact the choices they make.

Some kids have their own cell phones by the time they’re 7, and many spend much of their time texting instead of talking to their parents.

Life is busy. There are more things to occupy our time and we can’t seem to find the time to spend with our children. But we have to.

Education begins at home. Teaching children what is right and what is wrong is a parent’s responsibility. Knowing who they are, what they think, who their friends are, is more important today than ever before.

So turn off the computer, iPads, television, and cell phones. Take your children to the park, to the lake, or on a bike ride. Spend time with your children, learn who they are, and start relating to them. Be the positive influence that our society desperately needs.

We can’t stop the changes that are occurring to our society, but we can adjust the way we raise our children to reflect those changes in a positive way.

This may not be the solution to the problem, but maybe it’s a start. And besides, it’s just good parenting.

Winners never cheat (and cheaters never win)

My 5-year-old granddaughter is in kindergarten. She’s learning how to read, write, add numbers, and get along with others. She’s turning into quite a little know-it-all, like many kids her age. But there’s one bad habit that I hope her mom and dad can break her of before it gets out of hand. She cheats.

Cheaters never win--and they get sent to the corner, too! (

Playing games with her last night started out as being fun, but I soon found out that she doesn’t play by the rules.

She didn’t cheat much, and maybe I’m making too much of it, but I found it necessary to point out the game wasn’t supposed to be played that way.

She denied any wrongdoing, so I firmly told her that moving her pegs too many spaces was cheating (I know she can count, because she couldn’t wait to recite her numbers for me).  She kept doing it so I told her I wouldn’t play with her if she kept doing it. So, when she refused, I packed the game up and we watched TV the rest of the night.

Maybe I was a little hard on her, but I just want her to know that it doesn’t pay to cheat, even at Trouble.

I don’t think she’ll turn into a juvenile delinquent, but I do want to teach her to be honest and play by the rules, whether it’s playing a game or participating in life.

I think she knows, too, that she can get away with most anything when it comes to Grandma. But this is where I draw the line.

My own adventures in babysitting

Twins Natalie and Gianna (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

I thought my daughter would have a tough time with newborn twins, a 5-year-old who never sits still, and a 9-year-old on the verge of puberty.

But I now know I have nothing to fear. She handles it very well, and though she still doesn’t get much sleep, she has the twins routines down pretty good. After having Isabelle, a very colicky baby who didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost 1, the twins, she says, are a breeze.

I have watched the twins a few times since they were born, and I always walk away with a higher respect for mothers who have multiple babies. I had four, too, but they were spaced out. My three girls were all about two years apart, and my son was born four years after my last girl. I can’t imagine what I would have done if one of them had been twins.

My daughter’s twins are now at an age when they are cooing and smiling and are more aware of their surroundings. They’re starting to get their own personalities. Gianna is excited about everything, while Natalie is more laid back.

But when they want something, they both want it NOW!

They slept most of the time in their first few months of life, but I think that’s all about to change.

I recently watched them for a few hours and they seemed to tag-team me the entire time. When one was hungry, the other wanted changed or held or burped or held or fed or changed…..I really don’t know how their mother gets anything else done.

My mom had nine children and I once asked her how she did it. “I had to. I didn’t have any choice,” she said.

I think my daughter is finding that out for herself.

We do what we have to do because we’re mothers, but the rewards far outweigh the problems we face. And besides, twins are most definitely twice as nice.

People are living longer, but is it throwing the world off-balance?

The world population will soon reach seven billion. The actual count as of today, Oct. 30, is 6,971,706,828, but of course, that is just an educated guess.

When that milestone will occur is fuzzy; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the seven billionth child is not supposed to be born until next year, but according to an article in the online news source, The Independent, will happen in the next day or so.

The article, World population: Seven billion people – and counting, by David Randall and Emily Dugan, reports statistics of what life is like in the rest of the world.

“Nearly 30 years ago, about 25 per cent of US foreign aid went to agriculture. It is now one percent. To feed the two billion more mouths predicted by 2050, says the UN, food production will have to increase by 70 percent.”

They also stated that water usage has grown at more than twice the rate of the population in the past century. Today more than two billion people still do not have access to adequate sanitation, and in four decades, 6.3 billion people will be living in cities.

The world faces quite a problem. On one hand, more is being done to save more lives, bring more food and water to desolate parts of the world, and medical breakthroughs are being discovered every day; but in our quest to save the world, are we actually throwing the world off-balance?

I’m not suggesting we let those in need fend for themselves, but if the world population will only increase in the future, as stated in the U.S. Census Bureau statistics, we are going to have to find ways to accommodate more Earth inhabitants.

Obviously, scientists have been working on this problem for many years, even suggesting years ago that we begin to look for another planet that would sustain life (or was that just an episode from Star Trek?).

But is that enough? Recycling, going green, cleaner energy, new energy, no energy, composting; these are all really good things. And all the good people in the world wanting to help those who can’t help themselves is very uplifting and heartwarming. But what do we do about the growing number of people on our planet?

Birth control comes to mind. I know some people love babies and big families, but if they can’t afford them, why have them? I imagine that the world population is not on the minds of some people as they are contemplating a family, but it should be.  The future of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be in jeopardy if we don’t look at the situation seriously.

I know I won’t be here in 100 years, but I would hate to see the state of the world if we don’t do something about it now.