And although they often joke that she is the best "Second Mother" (not "second best", they explain) around, and even tell her that she is the only step-mom they have ("no questions asked", as one kid affirmed in writing in his mothers' day card to her this morning), she is, still, after all, "just" a step-parent, with all the self-imposed guilt and other emotional drama that entails.
In terms of my relationship with my own mother, that also comprises its fair share of emotional drama: Orphaned at 21, I don't have any instagram-worthy photos to share of my beautiful adult relationship with my mother, because I don't have one.
So I'll spend today's blog post instead sharing my reflections about some observations I had the unique opportunity to make this weekend, while attending a Girls CAN Fly event at a nearby airport.
Canadian Aviation Pride, an organization I volunteer with, had been asked to set up a booth in the hangar.
We did our usual assortment of pre-made rainbow airplane necklaces to sell, and also set out other beads so that kids and their families could make their own necklaces, rainbow or otherwise, before or after their flight. This afforded me the opportunity to observe how families would "help" especially their youngest children with a self-chosen task.
The first steps to the learned helplessness I witnessed so very often in my middle school classrooms!
Watching a child struggle with a task is hard, no question, but with encouragement and time, most children can complete many "difficult" tasks on their own or with limited support, and the research shows that it is actually good for them to engage in this struggle.
The other thing that amazed me was how many of the parents basically vetoed their kids' choices of bead colour, style and placement in order to make the necklace as they (the parent) thought it ought to be, rather than how the child herself envisioned it. I kid you not, I witnessed one parent keep telling his kid to choose different beads than she was choosing, because that would "look better", and watched in amazement while another dad fully removed four of his daughter's six beads, and replace them with different ones, to make a pattern he thought looked better!
It's easy to watch and judge, of course, and so I spent the rest of the weekend pondering my own influences on my kids... of course I want to guide them and expose them to things I deem "valuable", but am I making sure to honour their individual choices as well, even if they differ from my own?
Working so much with the Kindergarten Program this year in my new job, I am well familiar with how important it is for teachers to support students' development of their own identities as learners. I wonder how well I have done with this as a parent? I am determined to renew my commitment to developing my own children's resilience, strength and confidence!