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."


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


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.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io

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


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

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.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io

You're kidding, right?


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

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.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


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


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


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."


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io



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


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


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.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io



Such as?


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io



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


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io



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


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io



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.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io



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


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

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.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io

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


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

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 9: I’m Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My “To Do” List

Red has always had a tendency (Black would say it’s her default setting) of becoming overwhelmed quickly, especially when presented with a project that she isn’t able to do in “one sitting”. And this was even before her crisis, when she had more time. Before she had to juggle being a mom to two young girls along with handling many new responsibilities, when something as simple as scrapbooking became a major task. And although scrapbooking’s as “warm and fuzzy” as it gets, Black gave her some pragmatic advice that not only calmed her down by making the project manageable, but included the girls.

P.S. – Red knows scrapbooking’s never done, but now, years later, the boxes of “new” items to be included are in the attic, and she’s not sure if working on them will give her a feeling of accomplishment or be bittersweet as her “little girls” have now grown into young women. Regardless, Red decided that when she has some pockets of time (whether over holidays or weekends or maybe whenever she needs a “break”), she’ll continue to eat that elephant that Black had given her the “recipe” to many years prior.



red head red head assets.rebelmouse.io

OK. One of the things that has been on my list forever is working on the girls’ scrapbooks.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

Scrapbooking? It is a big business and nothing to laugh at. But since I am not a scrapbooker (not sure that is even a real word), could you give me a little more detail?
Keep Reading ... Show less

Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

Red, a stay-at-home mom with two young daughters at the time, was always busy and focused on her girls and family life. Of course, life always has stressful events, and she was looking forward to the small "fun" one of getting a puppy. But she wasn't prepared for two "big" life events at the same time – her husband got fired and they'd have to move. And if that wasn't enough, she found herself taking on financial responsibilities, including learning about personal finances. So, to say she felt overwhelmed would be an understatement. And to say she was looking for sympathy from Black would be reasonable. But to say that she was unique because she was "stressed out" would be inaccurate. At some point, we all feel like we're dealing with a seemingly endless list of tasks and not enough hours to do everything, not to mention not having the energy or stamina. The reality is stress affects everyone, although it affects everyone differently.

P.S. – Years later, although Red knows that there are plenty of causes of stress (not to mention, what COVID-19 has done to everyone's stress level), she sometimes has a habit of thinking that her stress is "special". Yes, there might be some specific things that are "unique" to her (and Black would argue complicated by the fact she's warm-and-fuzzy), but as a single mom and the daughter of an elderly parent, there are issues many of us have to manage. Just like how many of us are feeling the joy – but also the stress – of the holidays. Of course, Black has helped her realize the value of finding "alone" time and exercising (although sometimes it requires taking an extra-long walk or a bike ride). But often, it's enough for Red to know that she's not alone in these feelings and remember that a busy life will be stressful at times, so finding balance is key.



Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

You OK?


red head red head assets.rebelmouse.io

Yes. Why?
Keep Reading ... Show less

Chapter 15: I Need A Warning System

In the midst of Red's "crisis", one of the many things she learned was the importance of communication. But talk about something (pun, intended) that gets lost in day-to-day living, especially when those first months found Red's life turned upside down and she was focused on "fighting fires", so there was little time to talk about day-to-day topics. But Red realized she needed a way for the family to talk about important subjects in a more proactive way than what they'd been doing. And she had come to realize that it needed to be two-way communications, not just parents talking and children expected to listen.

P.S. – When Black first introduced the idea of a family meeting to Red, it was a revelation … the idea that there could be a "neutral" setting that allowed everyone to share thoughts and opinions on topics big and small. So, did family meetings become a regular event at Red's house? It would be nice to say they did, but they didn't. However, the concept resulted in more productive one-on-ones (Black would probably argue those still qualify as meetings) where issues or problems could be tackled in a "safe" environment, and both sides would genuinely listen to the other with an open mind (ok, sometimes it was a semi-open mind). Interestingly, many years later, when Red's girls became young adults, she found they'd have impromptu family meetings, and that made Red smile as it reminded her of Black's initial idea all those years ago.



Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


Got a minute?


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


Maybe. Depends on the topic. If you are calling about hopes, dreams or birthday gifts, the answer is no.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


None of the above. I like your idea of sitting down as a family and discussing important issues, like charity. Plus, it will help the girls learn the value of communication. However, I don't want them to think I am lecturing them. Any ideas?
Keep Reading ... Show less