Honoring Our Boundaries: “No” Is A Complete Sentence

“No” is a complete sentence.”
Anne Lamott

That sentence used to drive me crazy when my kids were little. Remember those days when every request, every plea, every last ounce of your mommy-breath received a “No”? Do you remember their determined little faces, squeezed into such ferociousness, fists in the air?

And now I realize my toddlers had a point.

The last few weeks were a doozy. Nothing particularly earth-shattering or heart-breaking happened, just weeks when I said ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ and let my boundaries get far too loose. Weeks when I had to dig deep for courage, weeks when I was tired, hungry, and felt like I didn’t give myself a moment to catch my breath.

And I did it to myself. I have no one to blame. I didn’t say “No.” Not once.

That old adage about putting on our own oxygen mask first is absolutely true.

 

 no boundaries

I’m spending the weekend trying to re-center and re-capture the fleeting muse of Persistence – sometimes is the only way I  make it out of bed in the morning. Does this happen to you?  When did you agree to do one more thing, schedule one more meeting, help one more person when what you really needed to do was stop, breathe, and help yourself? What did you say “Yes” to when you really wish you had screamed “No!”

What happened?

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I didn’t set good boundaries. I let other people put me in places that made me feel resentful and  frankly, worn out. I forgot to hold myself accountable for my own happiness. I lost my center.

Being a teacher mom is a delicate balance, especially at stressful times of the school year – like the beginning and ending. And grading periods. The anxiety and busyness families feel at the start of the school year is definitely felt at my house, too. I still have to get my family back on a routine, make sure that my kid is ready for classes and homework and studying and sports. I have to get myself out of summer mode and suddenly, after 8 weeks of being mostly at home, I’m gone all day long. And sometimes into the night, too.

Teacher moms get the double back-to-school whammy. We get the sometimes unexpected bliss of watching our own children walk out the door and into new adventures alongside sometimes expected unhappiness of watching our life go back to bells and grading and teaching routines and behaviors and meetings and meetings more meetings.

We’re trying to make everyone else’s school year start off smoothly, and oftentimes around mid-September, we crash.

How much time do we give to our jobs versus our families? It’s why I’ve never become an administrator. I cherish the eight weeks of summer, the weekends and evenings when I don’t have to technically be responsible. I get to choose.

During this school year, I’ve been choosing to work late Friday nights. It’s quiet time for me – time when I can think, breathe, spread out and center. It’s my way of setting my weekend boundaries; if I leave it school ready to go for Monday, my brain spins much less over the weekend. I give up a few more hours on Friday to allow myself to get more space to choose.

One of my ‘extra’ jobs is training new teachers; this year, I’m working with two adults who chose teaching as their second career. All three of us have families and responsibilities at home. I’m reminding myself to walk my talk – teaching them to set personal and professional boundaries is so important as they begin their careers. I want them to learn not to promise too much – it just ends up disappointing everyone.

“If your boundary training consists only of words, you are wasting your breath. But if you ‘do’ boundaries with your kids, they internalize the experiences, remember them, digest them, and make them part of how they see reality.”
Henry Cloud

jumping sunset unsplash

Ultimately, it swings back to me. How do I teach my children to live their life within their own boundaries? How do I model for them a life that balances work and home? How do I show my kids how to follow their passion and not lose the trail back home?

I think it goes back to Anne Lamott – I think I’ll teach them that “No” is a complete sentence.

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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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Arming Teachers Isn’t The Answer

I’ve been deeply, deeply rattled by the most recent mass shooting in Oregon.  Not just because I’m a mom, and I mourn the inconceivable loss of the children. Not just because I’m a writer, and mourn the loss of the creative writing teacher. And not just because I’m a human, and mourn the violence and tragedy of anyone killed at the hands of another.

I’m utterly devastated because I’m a classroom teacher, and I’m tired of worrying if this will happen to me. I’m a junior high school teacher, concentrating on serving students with the best education I can. I’m focused on watching developing minds bloom, and creating lessons to capture their attention and engage their minds. I’m intent on offering the very best of me every single minute of my work day. My intention is to help make the world a better place by teaching kids to be confident, kind, and compassionate humans.

I’m not focused on protecting them from a mass shooter – but now, I feel like I need to start paying attention.

I’ve made it no secret how I feel about guns and violence. I’ve written about every mass shooting in schools since I started this blog. I’ve shared my fears and my anger over and over, both here and on social media.

gun violence

I’ve likely lost some friends because of it, too. My voice becomes too loud for some when they have a fundamental disagreement with what its saying.

I’m sorry it has to end that way, but honestly, I’m OK with it.

Last spring, I wrote about what a school lockdown really feels like. My first-person narrative has been reprinted in the Huffington Post, on Bonbon Break, and many other websites. It has been shared hundreds of times, and on September 1, even turned into a podcast interview for Ten too Twenty Parenting.

And then last week, fifteen minutes before I was instructed to huddle once again on the floor of my classroom, I saw the news alert about the Umpqua Community College. My shoulders slumped, my jaw dropped, and I felt the tears coming. Not again. NOT AGAIN!

The bell rang and my students tumbled into the classroom. We did the safety drill. We talked about why we were doing it. We discussed the reality of the world, and how scary it was that people with guns were coming to schools to hurt students and teachers.

No teacher wants to have those conversations with their students. No parent wants to know their child is in lockdown.

schools and guns

Out of the wake of any tragedy, the media frenzy commences. The people begin talking, politicians begin sharing, and tempers flare. One side says this, the other that. Friends realize how different they might be. Families realize they don’t agree.

Once again, before the crime scene tape has been renewed, the media headlines begin, shouting out solutions. Over and over again, my temper rises as the default solution escapes from the lips of those who don’t set foot in classrooms: Arm the teachers. Teach them to kill.

As my anger escalates, the words escape me – it is that unimaginable to ask me, a mother, wife and 25-year teaching veteran, to arm myself before I walk into the classroom to serve my students.

There has got to be a more sensible solution.

I’m sharing this with you to start a dialogue. Gun violence is a multi-faceted issue, of that I am sure. I know we all want the same outcome: we want the killing to stop. But arming teachers isn’t the answer. It shouldn’t even be on the table.

I’d love for you to read my weekly post for The Educator’s Room – I’m talking about Gun Violence: An Educator’s New Normal? If you don’t understand my stand against arming teachers, listen to their conversations. Talk to your child’s school administration. Think about your favorite teacher from the past – is it really their job to be the first responder to an armed shooter? Shouldn’t we, couldn’t we, come up with a better answer?

One thing I know for sure – arming teachers isn’t the right one.

I welcome your comments that enable a discussion about solutions – if you have hate and vitriol to spew, do it somewhere else.

Remember, I’m a teacher.

p.s. – In the time since I wrote this and it was published, there have been TWO more school shootings – one in Arizona, and one in Texas. This teacher mom demands ACTION!
photo credit: Blackstar Arms via photopin (license)
photo credit: Caution: School Crossing via photopin (license)

guns in schools

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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What If Books Were A Magic Potion?

What if books were a magic potion? What if you could walk into a room, and just sense the book that you needed to pull off the shelf? What if, when you were standing there, gazing at the spines and judging the covers, you could just feel the book calling to you?

Just imagine the power – if suddenly we turned to books to solve our problems. No more scanning Facebook for reassurance that we were parenting our children correctly. No more tuning into reality TV or talk shows to hear the experts tell us we’re right – or wrong. Imagine the smugness that would wipe off of our faces if we realized that all those faces, all those voices streaming through the internet, were just empty.

And what if, when we were feeling particularly down, the perfect book would fly into our outstretched hands and land with a soft thud? What if we, upon gently perusing the cover, decided to open to the first page, inhale, and hold our breath until the page was ready to turn?

I can think of the magic that could happen if I could suddenly find the answers I’ve been looking for inside the pages of a musty, gold-edged leather bound book. I can feel the giddiness rising up inside me when the words pelt off the page and into my heart, filling it with everything it has been searching for. And I can imagine the tears, the sobs of sorrow when, upon turning the last page, I realize that sadly, the solution I had been searching for was missing.

Can’t you just imagine the glory to be found when your toddler, unknowingly, teethes her favorite board book to shreds and simultaneously ingests the knowledge for her future? The bits and pieces of cardboard and color and text, surging forward and transforming into the life lessons we so hopefully wish she will learn, digested and consumed.

And teenagers – imagine the power. Downing words from vampires and dystopias and the Civil War? The power of the written word, the image on paper, would supercede any texting or Snapchatting or technology. What if parents were able to secretly select books just to share the messages they treasure, creating an underground cult of language and stories and thought?

What if books were a magic potion? Do you think we’d take a second look at what we’re reading? Do you think that books, real paper and print and gloss-covered books, would ever die? Would you take a sip?

Disclosure: This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Perdu–a literary apothecary–finally searches for the woman who left him many years ago.. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
photo credit: Le Jour ni l’Heure 5709 : Paul Cézanne, 1839-1906, portrait de Gustave Geffroy, 1885-1886, dét., musée d’Orsay, Paris, jeudi 14 mai 2015, 20:43:36 via photopin (license)

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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Where Do You Find Your Inspiration?

Inspiration.

I’m always looking for it.

When my kids were little, sometimes it was simply inspiration to get me through the day with a smile on my face.

Or inspiration to trust that I knew what to do, and that everything would turn out all right.

I still look for inspiration on that one.

I remember thinking that there must be some secret handbook that I missed out on – you know, the one that had all the parenting answers?

I never have found it, so I decided to write my own. That’s when my blog, mamawolfe, was born. It’s kind of when I was born, too.

Yosemite with kids

I realized that just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, everything I really needed was inside of me-I just needed to get quiet and trust that the answers would come when I needed them.

Some people call that prayer. I call it writing. Walking. Meditating. Slowing down. Getting outside. Centering.

My inspiration.

It’s been twenty years since I started to become mamawolfe – twenty years of loving fiercely and thinking deeply. It’s funny how having kids can turn us into the people we were always meant to be, isn’t it?

This month Bonbon Break launched their “Inspire” series, and my essay about small and mighty moments is one of the to be first published. I wrote it at the end of the summer, when I was struggling with change (one of my triggers, I’m learning). I’d just finished an end of the summer family trip to Yosemite, full of love and laughs and fresh air and mind-blowing views. And lots of time to think as I walked along the trails, feeling small yet mighty in the midst of all that majestic beauty.

I realized that when I need inspiration, looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary, being present right here, right now, and looking for the big messages in smallest of moments will usually give me the answers I’m looking for.

I’d love to have you check out my post, “Small and Mighty Moments”, and let me know where you find inspiration. I can use all the advice I can get!

And be sure to check in all month with Bonbon Break as they continue to share inspirational wisdom from their group of talented writers.

 

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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ride of a lifetime

I Got Published! In A Book! It’s The Ride of a Lifetime!

the ride of a lifetime

Have you ever done something that seemed like a good idea at the time?

Have you ever jumped into a project, or an adventure just because you felt so strongly in your soul that it was the right thing to do?

When my kids and I started volunteering for a Nicaraguan non-profit called Seeds of Learning in 2010, I had no idea the impact it would have on each of us – it changed our lives.

We went from a small, college town in northern California to the mountains of Nicaragua to build schools. We went loaded with books, teaching supplies, fabric and yarn and crafts and puzzles and backpacks. We went with anticipation, trepidation, and a complete and utter inability to know what life was like in a developing country.

We went with a sense of adventure.

We came home with love, laughter, uplifted hearts and stories – lots and lots of stories.

I’ve written here about our escapades; stories of the people we loved, the simplicity of the lifestyle, and the anxiety I felt before we left. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of the lovely Nicaraguan boys and girls who eagerly embraced us strangers, and my heart aches for the mothers who try desperately to provide for their children, to give them an education, feed them, and raise them to find joy in the most impoverished of conditions.

Their stories are embedded in my heart.

A few months ago I heard of a website, Story Shelter, looking for true stories of adventure – stories from regular people who have taken risks, stepped out of their comfort zone, and faced challenges. They want to create a Chicken-Soup-style book – but with an edge.

I instantly thought of Nicaragua.

With a leap of faith, I submitted “Ride of A Lifetime”, and they loved it. Yesterday, it was published in their anthology titled “I Am Here: The Untold Stories of Everyday People”.

It’s such a thrill to see my story in print – real print, on paper. Old school style. And in an e-book for Kindle, too!

For the next few days it’s free for Kindle – click here to find it on Amazon.

The publishers put together a cool promotion page – you can see it here.

They also made a book trailer promotional video, and I’m in it:

I’m really thrilled to see my first print publication – I hope you’ll order it and enjoy my “Ride of A Lifetime”. It’s getting exciting!

Amazon Paperback Version: http://bit.ly/i-am-here-book

Amazon Kindle Version: http://bit.ly/imhereboo

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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