OUR Children – Do You Hear Them?


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A child murdered by her parent.  A child hit by a car in front of her house.  A child caught in the struggle between foster and biological parents.  A child entering a new school in a new city.  A child moving away from her friends.  A child rebelling dangerously against her parents.  A child living homeless.  A child unexpectedly losing her mother.

This week children are weighing heavily on my mind.  Preparing to return to my classroom, I am overrun with emotions, nerves, memories, fears, and expectations.  Starting up a new school year is supposed to be exciting-a fresh start, a new chapter in the life of a child, a time for families to gather together and celebrate a new beginning.  Yet as I go through each day, it seems as if I’m bombarded by children in crisis.  It scares me.

I’ve been teaching for 20 years, mostly all of those in junior high schools. I’m used to dealing with kids as they experience the joys of ‘tween’ and ‘teen’ years.  But this month it feels different.  Less exciting.  More serious.

What is happening to our children? Are things really so different from when I walked the halls of my school as a 9th grader, mainly concerned about how my overalls looked (it was the 70’s) and if my hair had curled correctly that morning?  Sure, I had friends who had family problems, and knew kids who got in trouble.  But all this?

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Who is making the choices here?  Parents know that we need to empower our children, teach them how to be confident, strong, mature humans.  We choose to give them experiences that will nurture their talents, expose them to the world, and teach them how to survive when they leave home.  We remember images of our babies, smiling up at us as we hold them.  Our toddlers curiously pulling everything out of drawers.  Our  kindergarteners learning to write and glue and skip.  Our elementary school students lining up, playing ball, and performing class musicals.  Our teens biking to school alone, having slumber parties, getting their drivers license.  Our graduates, leaving home.  But these kids-what are they learning?  That life is hard.  That children can be powerless.  That even good parents can make bad choices.  That no one is listening?



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No parent thinks that as they send their child out for the day that a car will hit them and knock them out of their shoes, left unconscious on the street.  No parent thinks their estranged partner will commit the unthinkable act of taking their child’s life.  No parent thinks their child will steal, lie or cheat.  No parent wants bad things to happen to their child.  But they do and it’s scary and I’m mad.
I’m mad that children are victims.  I’m mad that adults don’t take the time to look kids in the eye and really SEE them.  Slow it down.  Pay attention.  Pause.  Listen.  You will be amazed what you can learn-not just about your own kid, but about all kids.  What is in their control?  Really think about why they act the way they do-they’re trying to tell us something.  Think about what is out of their control.  Think about what choices have been made for them.
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What I’ve learned from decades of working with teens is that they almost always want to do the right thing.   Kids don’t always know what the ‘right’ thing  is-but they usually can find their way if someone takes the time to listen to them.  I’ve learned that kids like limits-they like to have things to choose from.  And yes, they will challenge – testing limits is a natural process in learning.  They like choice.  Kids don’t like to be boxed in and feel like all the adults in their life know what’s best for them.  They like to be listened to.  I’ve learned that children shouldn’t be seen and not heard.

What I’m still learning is that bad things happen.  Adults will make choices that have superb and terrible impact on kids, and that’s the way life works.  I’m still learning that kids are strong, resilient and remarkable and can survive and thrive despite amazing experiences that would send most of us screaming into the abyss.

Please, listen and hear what they’re saying.  Give them a voice.  Give them a choice.



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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: Children On My Mind


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Sometimes as I’m moving around in my day, an image gets stuck in my head that I can’t shake. Sometimes it conjures up a memory, a feeling, or provides an impulse to do something. Often, though, I just see something that I want to capture in my mind for no particular reason-it just speaks to me. I’d like to offer these images up for ‘thought contributions’-as a way to generate a community of ideas together.


This week’s Friday Photo was taken about 9 years ago on a day much like today, when summer was ending and we were all moving and changing gears.  My uncle, Paul Mason, captured my children at a time in their lives when innocence was a daily state.  This week I’ve had many children on my mind…


What images of your children’s life are embedded in your mind?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – please start our conversation with a comment!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Family Favorites: Catch Our Baseball Fever

Over the years, our family has found quite a few cool things to do together-some pretty typical, some definitely not.  One of our family favorites is going to baseball games.

We spend huge amounts of time at the Little League Fields, and have learned so much about how adults and children learn from each other there (see my post ‘Speak Softy’ for more).  But during the summer when little league has settled down, we still have a baseball urge to fill.  Our local AAA team is where we head.  The Sacramento Rivercats play at Raley Field in West Sacramento, CA, as the minor league team for the Oakland A’s, and are the closest way to watch live professional baseball.  We like to go several times each summer-it’s an inexpensive, relaxing way to spend an evening (or afternoon-but around here in the summer that can be HOT!). 

Last weekend my son and I jumped into the car and drove about 20 minutes to the ball field.  Traffic was heavy, and parking was worse.  Just as I was about to give up, a welcome sight came before us: an unknown parking lot!  My little Prius found an out of the way spot, and we trekked on foot towards the stadium armed with blankets and full of anticipation.

We arrived early enough to pick up our tickets from will call, and my son sprinted inside towards the lawn where kids hang out in hopes of nabbing an autograph or two from one of the players as they warm up.  Sadly, no one was signing, but we did find a spot on the grass big enough to spread out  and settle in.  Families surrounded us on the lawn, laughing and happy as the game begins.

Minor league fields are tiny compared to those of the ‘big leagues’-but that’s exactly what we like about it – and the cheap lawn seats offer the best, most intimate views!  Kids run, wiggle, cheer and scamper for foul balls in a way that would be impossible in a major league stadium like A T & T Park, home to the S.F. Giants, or The Coliseum where the Oakland A’s play.  There, we feel like trapped animals waiting for the herd to be released.  At Raley Field, kids can imagine themselves out on the field, playing with the big guys.  They know that with hard luck and a bit of work, the Rivercats’ players will be moved up, living out their dreams.

But the best part of all, for me, is the time I spend with my son.  Sitting side by side, talking, laughing, and shelling peanuts I learn all sorts of things about him-like how he likes it when I act goofy (he really said that), and how at 11 years old he still enjoys using his mom as a backrest to snuggle against.  We didn’t catch any foul balls, and the Dinger Dog machine didn’t shoot any flying hot dogs our way that night.  But as the game ended and the fireworks blazed for the last time, I thought about how lucky I am to be living in this moment with him, and hope that when he grows up, he will make baseball games a family favorite, too.  Remember-it’s not which team wins or loses, only that you ‘catch’ the game that counts.

So next time you’re wondering what to do on a warm summer evening, why not create some memories and take in a minor league ball game?  Snuggling under the bright lights with your family is a pretty powerful thing.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Playground Paradise

When my kids were little, trips to the playground were a must. Their energy expenditure was critical to my ability to make it through the day sanely, and I’m sure that they benefited from not only the fresh air and exercise, but from the time to play and explore. After they were dressed, the stroller was packed with snacks, dig toys and a beach towel, we would head off on foot to one of the many kid friendly areas in our neighborhood. One of their favorites was the ‘The Grandma Penny Park”.

This park had all the prerequitsites for toddler paradise: a climbing structure, swings, a slide, soft woodchips to land on and best of all, the merry go round.  For kids who needed to test their boundaries and get their wiggles out, this was heaven.  For moms, the shady bench in close proximity to the playground was a perfect place to observe-just far enough away to give the kids some freedom, yet close enough to catch them when the fell.  And they always did.  I was there to scoop them off, brush off the woodchips, pull out splinters, offer sippy cups full of juice, and swallow a few Goldfish crackers before testing their courage all over again.  Cries of ‘Watch this, Mom’ resonated throughout the park nearly every second as my babies tested their balance, speed and courage.  Playmates screamed, laughed and occasionally argued over who was going down the slide first or who got more ‘under doggies’ on the swing.
Once elementary school began, life was so much more structured.  The “Grandma Penny Park’ was visited less and less, as t-ball, gymnastics, karate, rock climbing gyms and play dates because locations of paradise.  Occasionally we would stop by to take a quick swing or spin, but the twice daily trips to the playground became a thing of the past.  Energy was now expended in a more focused manner.  Shouts of ‘Mom, check this out!’ caught my attention as my children back flipped, tucked, and shimmied down every imaginable object.  Gone were the splinters and sippy cups, replaced instead with rope burns, blisters, bruises and Gatorade.  Hurt feelings from learning how to navigate friendships were soothed with hugs, talks and mommy time.

These days, trips to the playground are virtually non-existent.  Teens and preteens are much more likely to find their paradise  ‘hanging out’ with friends downtown, at the pool or bowling alley, or gulping down a Starbucks Frappuccino before shopping. Trying to hang onto the innocence of childhood becomes a balancing act between their quest for independence and my thirst to hang on to childhood.  Statements of ‘Can I hang out with my friends’ frequented our conversations.  Squeezing in the family vacations before college became our mission.  So many places to visit, things to teach them, and experiences we want to have as a family.

When we recently stumbled upon Fern Canyon, we were thrilled to watch our kids run, jump, swing and spin in nature’s playground.  Gone were the iPods, cell phones, playmates and Facebook connections.  Instead, our kids rediscovered their childhood pleasures among the fallen trees, dripping waterfalls and trickling stream.  Wooden board bridges offered just enough stability to cross back and forth while presenting them opportunities to test their boundaries.  Many times I called out, ‘Be careful” as one child scampered too high up a fallen log, or came close to soaking his only pair of shoes.  Declarations of, ‘Watch this!” echoed down the canyon as he darted from one wet rock to another, making it safely every time.  There were no swings, slides, or sippy cups in sight, just a mom, a dad and two kids creating their own bliss.
What I’ve learned is that all of us need to find our own paradise.  Sometimes we need  the structure of other people or events, and sometimes it takes the apparatus of a structure, or the companionship of friends.  Sometimes, though, all we need is our imagination and the opportunity to unleash it.
What I’m still learning is  how far away to watch, and how fast I need to rush in when they fall, as they always do.  I’m learning when to hug, when to wipe the tears, and when to stand back and let them handle it on their own.  Paradise found.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: Beacons

Sometimes as I’m moving around in my day, an image gets stuck in my head that I can’t shake. Sometimes it conjures up a memory, a feeling, or provides an impulse to do something. Often, though, I just see something that I want to capture in my mind for no particular reason-it just speaks to me. I’d like to offer these images up for ‘thought contributions’-as a way to generate a community of ideas together.

This week’s Friday Photo was taken a few months ago, on a special ‘girl’s weekend’ road trip I take every year with four of my most favorite women.  Each of them brings different gifts to my life:  humor, wisdom, insightfulness, and compassion.  I haven’t seen these ladies at all this summer, and I guess I’m missing them!  I know that like this lighthouse, they are shining beacons of friendship in my life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this ‘Beacons’ photo- please leave me a comment! 

What image do your friends bring to mind?  What gifts do they give to you?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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