Chapter 16: I Have Three Children If You Count My Husband

Even before Red's life was turned upside down, she wanted to be the best mom possible, so often wondered and worried about the best way to raise her girls. And when she was in the midst of her "crisis" (her word, not Black's), her daughters were very young – Sawyer was 1-1/2 years old and Natasha just under 5, although she'd proclaim, "I'm almost 5." (It's funny how "young" is subjective, as at the time Red considered them young but now "very young".) But as Red turned to Black for "answers" to everything, Black understood one of Red's top priorities was making sure that the girls weren't getting short-changed. Given Black doesn't have any children, Red was amazed to receive what she's referred to as "Some of the best parental advice. Ever." (Black just rolls her eyes.)

P.S. – Looking back, Red claims that Black's advice not only made all the difference at the time but over the years. Somehow, the simple concept of treating kids as "little people" (Black calls them "munchkins"), so with respect and honesty, trusting them with responsibility and giving them credit for understanding and doing the right thing, was the closest thing to a "magical approach" for Red (yes, growing up, she and the girls watched a lot of Disney) that she's ever found. And, surprisingly enough, has even helped her with managing "big people."


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Patience, grasshopper. You also have to remember that when I first started dating Larry, his girls were 7 and 9, so I skipped over the phase you are in. I had dated men with children, but none as young as Larry's, so I was not quite sure how to deal with them. So, I decided to treat them like little people. In fact, that is why I started calling them the "Munchkins," like the little people from The Wizard of Oz.


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I always wondered about that. Were you the good witch or the bad witch?


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Neither. I was probably more like the Mayor of Munchkin City. Since I was used to working in a corporate environment, I applied the same people skills.


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You're kidding, right?


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Not really. For example, anytime I was put in charge of a new department or hired new employees, I tried to be patient because I realized people need time to adjust to a new environment and/or new responsibilities. I did not expect them to "get it" immediately. I always tried to pose things as a request versus making a demand. And, I would ask them what they needed help with versus waiting for them to have a problem. I took the same approach with the Munchkins.


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That makes a lot of sense. And what about when Larry and you decided to live together?


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Same basic approach. Plus, by moving into a new house, it provided the perfect opportunity to establish ground rules. I even created a document called "Rules of the House."


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You had a list of rules? I love it! Can I get a copy?


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The point is not the list, but the concept. I figured they needed to know what was expected of them in our house versus what they might do in their mom's house or had done in their dad's house. The rules also provided consistency — they knew they would not change each weekend depending on my mood or memory. All the rules were reasonable. In fact, most were common sense.


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Such as?


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Flush after you use the toilet. Brush your teeth every morning and night. The piano can only be used with permission.


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Those are rules in our house, too, but they seem simple enough that I wouldn't think you needed a formal document.


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True. But, I knew employees basically wanted to please management, so I figured kids wanted to please their parents. I presented most of the rules as things to do — not things not to do. For example, instead of saying "no screaming in the house," I said, "loud screaming is to be done outside only." I looked at the rules as an opportunity for them to achieve and succeed, not as a set of restrictions. It also allowed me to teach them priorities. For example, homework had to be done first thing on Saturday, and there was no television or other activities until it was finished.


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Now I'm starting to understand. And what happened if they broke any of the rules?


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Initially, they were reminded of the rule and soon they all became habits, but I never focused on punishing them for breaking a rule. Quite the opposite — they earned their weekend allowance by following the rules. I always found it more effective, with the girls as well as employees and even Larry, to reinforce positive behavior rather than punish bad behavior. It can be as simple as a "thank you," complimenting them on their efforts, or maybe even reward a job well done.


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For someone with no prior training, you seem to have caught on to the parenting job pretty well.


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How difficult is it to be honest and upfront with people about expectations? And, explain what they need to do or not do? And, acknowledge their efforts? I hate to state the obvious, and I know there is a lot about being a parent that I do not have a clue about, but like I said earlier … children are just little people.

Chapter 15: I Need A Warning System

Typically, when Red asked Black questions, she received questions in return. Or flippant comments. When Red asked her about charity, and specifically Make-A-Wish, she got straight answers, and that alone got Red’s attention. Before this conversation, Red thought her sister’s involvement with Make-A-Wish was very generous, both of her time and her money, but attributed much of it to the fact she had surpluses of both in her life. But once Black made her realize that her involvement went back to her corporate life, years when she might have had spare money but was working ridiculous hours, Red gained a new respect for Black’s commitment. But when Black said how it had become her “reality check” on life, Red began to understand that we all need something to help us remember what’s genuinely important.

P.S. – Charity and helping others remain an important part of our lives (and, much to the chagrin of our accountants and attorneys, drive much of our work in the education and criminal justice worlds). Black’s long-time commitment to Make-A-Wish set an example for Red’s daughters when they were growing up, and made them aware of how important it is to not only appreciate what you have but to think of others. And whether it’s an ongoing commitment to a single organization, helping various charities throughout the year, celebrating targeted donation days (such as #GivingTuesday or World Wish Day), or when specific natural disasters or humanitarian needs require immediate aid, charitable giving (whether money or time) – can make all the difference. Not only to the recipient, but as Black pointed out to Red all those years ago, for yourself.



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I’m curious about something, though. As children, we were never exposed to charity, so what got you involved with Make-A-Wish? Even Natasha has asked me about Make-A-Wish, because she has seen the kids’ artwork at your house and recognizes the logo from seeing it on your race car.
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Chapter 10: So You Think Staying At Home Isn’t A Full-Time Job?

Even before Red’s husband was fired, she had a lot on her plate. But, in reality, probably no more than any other mom, daughter, and wife, who are often (or should that be “usually”) at the center of everything, with their lives being a combination of chauffeur, referee, nurse, cook, friend, and an assortment of other “hats”. And while it can be very rewarding and gratifying knowing that so many people count on you, it can also be overwhelming, not to mention just plain stressful.

P.S. – Even today, Black’s perspective on being a full-time mom (as a stepmom, she considered herself a part-time mom, although she knew that was an important role) still makes Red smile. And while years ago she might have wished she was just a little less needed, now that her girls are older, it makes her a little sad and very nostalgic.



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Another early morning?


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Yes! Now that I did the Sunday night review, I can see how you wake up on Monday mornings ready to tackle the week. Except today is Presidents’ Day and so Natasha’s home from school.


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Anything special planned?


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Why do I have to have something special planned? In fact, why do I have to be the one who does all the planning?


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Sorry I asked …
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Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List

Red constantly feels like time’s just flying by, and in terms of her “to do” lists, she’s getting nowhere. (Sound familiar?!) But when she turns to Black hoping to get just a little sympathy or empathy (she should’ve known she’d get neither), instead she gets a sarcastic comment,

I guess I need to tell you my “secret”. Again …

"Once upon a time" is how fairy tales begin, but once upon a time in Red's life, she had lots of things to do but was able to fit everything into any given day. And her worst-case scenario? Something might slide but would still get done in a timely fashion. But when her husband got fired, her fairy tale life ended and she had to take on more day-to-day responsibilities, which meant Red soon began to run out of hours in the day, the week, the month. Luckily, Black's advice about how to manage her time, although not an obvious "approach" until it was explained to her, made a big difference.

P.S. – If Red thought she was busy when her husband got fired, she had no idea what busy was until years later when she had to juggle being a single mom with being the warm and fuzzy half of Red & Black. In fact, this new level of crazy busy (Black likes to clarify that it's "good crazy") has now become the "new norm", which means that Red still struggles with way too much to do and way too little time to do it in. It's then, when she's really stressing out, that Black often has to remind her of the original advice she gave Red, and usually tells her she needs to re-read this excerpt …


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I do have one question. What exactly did you mean by time management? I understand there's a limited amount of time in the day, but unless I give up sleeping altogether, I'm not sure how to find the time to do everything on my lists. I'm already getting up at 5:00 a.m. (and this morning even earlier!) so that I have some quiet time before I start the "mom" thing. Any suggestions? And just this once, skip the smart-ass comments!


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If I could tell you how to create more time in your day, I could make a fortune. There are countless books on time management, but I doubt you will find the time to read one, so I will tell you what works best for me.


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Type faster. What's the secret?
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