By Karen Wyman
Have any other families out there found that a new school year brings with it a host of different parenting dilemmas and challenges? How can we as parents prepare for these tribulations and then breeze through them without breaking a sweat? Well, since my neighborhood homeowners’ association frowned upon my idea of having a cocktail truck follow behind the ice cream truck (I mean if the kids get a visit from “Mr. Ding-a-Ling” right before dinner, why can’t the adults get a visit from “Mr. Tie-One-On” after dinner?), I had to come up with a different way to commiserate with fellow parents on the block. But first, please humor me for a minute and picture the kids flocking to the street as they hear that crackling tinny music of the ice cream truck. Now imagine the adults running out of their houses when they hear the bass from the Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling, Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” blaring from the cocktail truck! I seriously thought I was on to something, but I digress. Enter the real parenting savior my girlfriend so creatively started, the parenting club.
My friend encouraged five women with children of varying ages and all different backgrounds and beliefs to come together and form a parenting group. During our meetings, we vent, bounce problems off of each other and offer solutions and tactics that worked for our own families. It is so refreshing to let our guard down and admit that we can’t always hold it all together. We unabashedly admit that sometimes we yell, nag, cry and even lock ourselves in the bathroom for a two-minute reprieve from it all. It’s liberating to realize that we all struggle at times and instead of judging each other, we build each other up and offer suggestions on how to cope and succeed. Since we are all neighbors, we truly want each other’s families to be happy and healthy. It also doesn’t hurt to know that we aren’t the only ones on the block running around closing the windows during a particularly bad family argument!
Unlike book club, where we spend maybe 15 minutes on the book and then enjoy wine and gossip, (don’t get me wrong, that club is much loved and needed, too), this club has so much to discuss. Time flies by, as we watch segments of parenting videos, present personal predicaments and share successful strategies for everything from bedtime routines to getting the kids to eat healthy.
You don’t need an official club, most of us run ideas and issues off of friends all the time, but this group gave us the opportunity to come together as a united front. It’s also therapeutic to throw out a situation and immediately get four different insights from women whom I admire and respect. Sometimes I wish they could be with me all day as I navigate through particularly difficult parenting challenges. Luckily, our community has many resources available, so we can all find our own network of supporters whenever we need them.
One of Williston’s greatest resources is the Stern Center, which offers a variety of parent seminars and workshops. Many parents find that the hardest part of the day is getting kids to do their homework. The Stern Center realizes that often this struggle arises because many children have learning differences. One of its mottos is, “All great minds don’t think alike.” Knowing how your child learns is a huge key to success. For younger children, it also offers many programs to help build a strong foundation for early literacy and communication.
Another great resource is the website Building Strong Families, which offers free online webinars. It also addresses “Ending the Homework Battle” and offers tips on everything from “Talking So Kids Listen” to “Standing Up to Bullying.”
One of the most popular parenting information sources in our area seems to be the “Parenting on Track” approach. These are the DVDs my own parenting club consults, and we have found them tremendously helpful. We are slowly working our way through the series (it’s hard to get five busy moms together to meet!), but after just the first few lessons, you can seriously change your entire family dynamic. One of my favorite messages that the author, Vicki Hoefle, relays is “stop being a maid—why your kids do squat and what to do about it.” She also coined the term “duct tape moment,” when you want nothing more than to jump in, nag, say “I told you so” or just freak out, but you calmly refrain and let your kids work it out. If this sounds like it may be what your family needs, check out her website, as she is offering classes in South Burlington starting in November!
As parents, we all have different beliefs and values when it comes to raising, disciplining and teaching our children. It’s so important to find out what works and is right for your own family. No program or person holds all of the answers to parenting. You just need to know that you are not alone!
Regardless of whatever parenting principles you hold to, Williston is sure to have a resource to offer help when you need it. Dorothy Alling Library holds various programs throughout the year, as well as the many churches we have in our community. Some people overlook the best source of all: the Williston school system. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the guidance counselors or other faculty if you could use some advice or suggestions. You may also want to read the school newspaper, “The School Bell.” The staff, including the administrators, nurses, teachers and counselors often writes wonderful insights, recommendations and learning opportunities that are unique to our community. “The Bell” also advertises various events including a free Nurturing Parenting Program which may be just what your family needs.
When all else fails and you feel like you can’t get through to your children, just remember that the quickest way to get their attention is to sit down and look comfortable!
Karen Wyman has been a Williston resident for seven years, and lives with her husband and twin 5-year-old daughters.