Father and Son Conversations

Anyone stubborn in your household?

If we had a competition in my house for who was most stubborn, I think it would be a four-way tie. 😊 We all have our moments of digging in.

My husband and our oldest son do volunteer work in the community most weeks. My husband thought it would be nice if he and my son went out to dinner, just the two of them, following a volunteer event. He was excited by the idea and told my son the plan. It went over like a lead balloon. My oldest didn’t want to go out to eat, and when my husband pressed my son for why, my son could only respond with that he didn’t know. My husband came to the dinner table, deflated, hurt, and a little angry. My son went to his room. I inquired what happened, was told, and then let some time pass to see how my husband and son would resolve the situation.

I waited, then waited some more. Nothing happened. I finally told my husband I was going to talk to our son.

When I went into my son’s room. I told him I understood he and his father had a conversation and it hadn’t gone so well. He explained, “You know I love you guys, but, I don’t know, (he paused as if trying to pick his words carefully), I don’t want to go out with you by myself, it just feels weird. You know?” I knew what he was talking about and shared, “I do understand what you are talking about. You know why it feels weird, right?” I paused. He looked a little puzzled. “Because you are becoming more…” I trailed off. “Independent,” he said. I could tell this was an aha moment for him. “This is part of growing up,” I continued, “it’s normal for you to want to do more on your own, with your friends, and start to pull away from parents. But guess how Mom and Dad look at this time. We see how quickly you are growing and know it won’t be too long before you’re off on your own. We’ll be lucky to get to spend any time with you. The time we have now is precious and special to us, and while I get you don’t want to be seen with us, you might throw us a bone now and then and have a meal out with us (though any activity will do). We love you kiddo.” He smiled while trying not to smile.

I asked my son to go talk to my husband, who was sitting out in our backyard. He resisted but then went outside. I stayed inside and tried to give them some privacy. My son came in a few minutes later and returned to his room. I figured all had been resolved.

My husband came in a while later. “Did you all talk and get things resolved?” I asked. “No,” my husband replied. “But I saw him go outside. Didn’t you all talk?” “No,” my husband said, “he came outside, walked around a little bit and then went back in.” Ugh, I thought. This is crazy. First, why didn’t my son take to his father, and second, why hadn’t my husband talked to my son? Their stubbornness was shining through.

Not long after, my son walked in the living room, saw my husband was there and started to turn back towards his room. I told my son, “stay right there,” then I looked at my husband, “now you, go into your son’s room and talk this out.” It felt a little ridiculous that I had to instigate this, but I couldn’t take them not talking any longer.

My husband came out of my son’s room after a while. “All good?” I inquired. “Yes, all good.” He later thanked me for intervening, and agreeing they were both being stubborn. I could tell he felt better, my son felt better, which, of course, made me feel better.

How do you handle when you (or your child is) are being stubborn? How do you help your child communicate more effectively?

Reminiscing about the Good Old Days

Sharing good memories with others and recalling them makes me happy.

I can remember looking forward to this when my sons were very young. What memories will we make as a family? What will be those experiences that stay with all of us?

Flash forward many years, I had to wait until my oldest was 7 or 8 before any memories started coming up — they were smaller in nature, what we did, where we were; and not until 10 or 11 before the memories started being collectively shared — memories of things we did as a family, experiences we all remember. There is a certain joy in remembering together.

We talked recently about some moves our family made over the years and how things had changed since my husband and I were first out on our own. I started, “When you moved to a new place, your first thought was making sure electricity, water and phone will be turned on, and cable is installed.” I paused before continuing, “When you move now, it would be water, electricity and the internet.” I smiled, this took us down a path of the differences between how things were for my husband and I as kids and young adults, and how things are different for our kids. We talked about when cable TV first started, how people used to watch movies at home (on VCR), how we had to use maps or an atlas to navigate getting somewhere, and how the first iPhone came out the same year my oldest was born. My sons thought this was hilarious, as did my husband and I. Our discussion led us down the path to many wonderful memories as a family — trips we’d taken, sporting highs, and much more. It was wonderful reminiscing. It took me back to the early days with my boys — wondering when we’d fully get to this point. Reflecting on the dinner conversation I’d say we’ve arrived. I so look forward to what other memories we’ll create and remember together in the future.

What are some of your treasured family moments?

Summer Camp Inspiration

What is keeping your child busy this summer?

Summer camps can be a godsend for parents when school is out — with the exception of the carpooling, odd hours, and cost, right?

My oldest decided he wanted to go to a specialty sports camp. It was a single day and very intensive. He was excited to go as the camp was touted as preparing the participants to become college athletes some day. I expected to hear all about how awesome the camp was when my son got home, but he was more in a daze (he got sunburned and had been outside for ten hours, but still).

“How’d it go?,” I asked. “Okay,” my son said. He was quiet. I had expected him to add more without prompting, but to no avail, so I continued, “was it all you were hoping for?” “Not exactly,” he said. He drew out the word not. “How so?” I asked. “We’ll, they had us run drills and this one coach kept yelling at me. I thought they were going to teach me, but I don’t feel like I learned anything new.” I asked him a few more questions then gave it a rest. He was clearly disappointed with the experience and exhausted.

About a week after this my son asked me to go for a walk. That rarely happens, so I jumped at the chance to get outside and have one-on-one time with him. As we walked he talked about his plans for the summer and things he wanted to do. As we walked the conversation went back to the camp he had attended. “I just can’t get it out of my mind what that coach said,” he started, “what he was asking me to do made sense but it was my first time doing it, so unsure why he kept singling me out and yelling at me.” We talked for a while about how the coach gave his critiques. Based on how my son described it the coach ‘motivated’ by shaming. I had to stop my son and make sure he understood something very clearly. “There are different ‘leaders’ that will come in and out of your life and will come in the form of teacher, your boss, and even coach. Leadership styles vary, but the best leaders know how to get the best out of you without having to break you down. When a leader feels this is the only way they can motivate you, it says more about them, than it says about you.” I corrected myself, “It says everything about them and nothing about you.” I explained further, “When you use shame or intimidation to motivate, it will work but there can be collateral damage, I.e., devastating consequences. You don’t want someone to be the best athlete or musician or dancer or worker or (fill in the blank), but be stressed all the time, hate themselves, and/or suffer mentally. You want to be led by someone who inspires you, understands how to get you to push beyond your comfort zone, and get the best out of you. When that happens you thrive vs. survive.” I took a breathe with the hopes that what I was saying was sinking in. “If the coach taught you a new approach and you think it’s a good one, then work on getting comfortable with it, and better at it, but do not waste one second allowing how he delivered his assessment to you sink it. Just let it fall on the ground where it belongs. He doesn’t know you or your capabilities. My guess is he would single out anyone he thought might make him look bad. Pitiful.” I rested my case.

My son was still taking in what I said. He shared other comments the coach had made that were directed at the larger group that confirmed my suspicion that this coach wasn’t someone I wanted my son around, and was grateful it had only been for the one day.

We’ve all had experiences in our lives where a leader didn’t necessarily show good character. It’s disappointing when you experience it, and angering when you see (of hear after the fact) your child did. I’m just glad my son shared. I hope he’ll take this lessen on leadership and look for leadership that will help him grow in a positive and healthy way — leaders who inspire him, push him to be his best, while appreciating him for who he is as he is.

What is your child doing this summer? Who are the leaders inspiring your child?

I will be off next week enjoying the long weekend with family and friends, and will return in July.

Father Figure

Who are the men in your life that have had the greatest impact?

My father had the greatest, but there have been many other formative males in my life — uncles, teachers, coaches, and others.

My youngest goes to school where several students have a single parent, grandparents or guardians that look after them. My sons’s school stresses the importance of showing up for each other, and redefining what being a man is (throw out classic male stereotypes and be who you are vs. who you think you’re supposed to be), and what family and community is. People who show up, care, and guide you in a positive direction are the type of figures you want in your life. We all need figures like this.

On this Father’s Day who is (or are) the father figure(s) in your life that have most positively impacted you? What about your child’s? How are you celebrating these special people in your life?

To all the dad’s out there (or those that played a father figure role): Thank you! And enjoy your day.

Transitions

What transitions are you currently facing?

Transitions are a normal part of life. We’ve all experienced more dramatic transitions in the past year with COVID — being apart, remote work and schooling, etc. We’re transitioning again as those with vaccinations increase and COVID cases drop.

Coming out of COVID, there seems to be a heightened awareness of what each transition means – a BBQ with friends (luxury), attending an event with more than five people (a little anxiety producing at risk – it feels uncomfortable still, but then joy), and so on.

My youngest son’s school had its graduation ceremony since COVID that was both in-person and live-streamed. It was the first time our family, and many others had been in such a large group setting. We wore masks since many students are still not fully vaccinated and in a desire to be cautious and respectful of others comfort levels with masking.

After the ceremony was over, we went outside to a large open parking lot to congratulate the graduates and parents, and socialize. Being in the open, many folks removed their masks — another transition. It was freeing to see and experience for myself.

As we move out of the isolation and separation COVID brought, more noticeable transitions will come — returning to the office, school or not, for example. We’ll have a heightened awareness of them, and then we’ll get used to them and (potentially) take them for granted as part of life once more. Funny how transitions always seem to have a thread of “hard” (to do) in them, right? But transitions are essentially change and we know that change is rarely easy.

What transitions have you and your family already made? What transitions still await? How are you helping your child make transitions (back to school, parties, being with friends, etc.)?

Can We Talk About It?

When your child asks you for something (they need, want, etc.) what do you do?

When my boys need something (school supplies, clothes) it’s pretty easy. For non-essentials, I typically weigh the pros and cons, we discuss as a family if pricey (can we afford, is this a good use of our money—often turns into financial discussions/teaching moments with kids, etc.), and then we decide.

My oldest found a sports camp he wants to go to. It’s a single-day camp and pricey (not crazy pricey, but enough to make you at least weigh the pros and the cons). I knew how much he wants to go to the camp. My husband and I discussed the cost and agreed we’d let him go. By the time my husband and I connected on this we were full into our workdays and my son school, so I decided to text him to share the good news , he could go to camp but with some conditions. “Your father and I discussed and you can go to the camp. In return I’ll take a daily hug, you need to make sure all the dishes are done before you go to bed, and lessen the sass towards mom.” I said all of this ending with a smiley face 😊 to let my son know I was serious, but also that it was coming from a place of love.

I expected his response to be “great” or “thanks,” instead he responded with the following in rapid fire: are you sure? I can pay for it? Can we talk about this before you sign me up? Was my son ‘adulting’ on me? I texted him back, “We can cover — is hugging me really that bad? 😊 We’ll discuss tonight before we register you.” He responded “Thanks.” It seemed like he was being very pragmatic and he got me thinking. Does he not want to go? Is there something about the camp that worries him? What’s prompting this desire to part with money? My son rarely spends money, he’s always saving it which made me think am I missing an opportunity for my son to feel good about spending his hard earn money in a way that feels good to him?

That night we talked about it. My husband and I explained that we would cover the cost for this camp, but other specialty camps he might want to do over the summer he could cover. My son was excited, and we felt like we’d found a happy medium. Reflecting on the situation I realize my son is getting closer to adulthood daily and I need to start leaning into that more (vs holding onto the vision of him being young and more dependent). It may be uncomfortable for me, but the more I practice it the easier it will become.

How are you helping your child make money choices? How are you helping them prepare to be independent?

Vaccination

Shots are never fun regardless of your age, but when has a shot ever been something you looked forward to?

My boys were happy when my husband and I became eligible for the COVID vaccine in our state. They were elated when they were able to sign up to get their shots more recently.

One the day of his first vaccination shot, my youngest (who hates shots) was so excited he practically ran to the chair when it was his turn. No hesitancy to give the nurse his arm, relax, etc. Once he had his shot, he was elated. His reaction was much like my husband’s and mine — excited, relieved, hopeful. My oldest was the same with his shot, but played it much cooler – that’s what 15 year olds do, right?

The boys have figured out when they will be fully vaccinated, have made notes on their respective days on the family calendar, and can’t wait to fully re-engage with friends, in activities, and more once the date arrives and beyond.

There is a collective sigh of relief from us all. How fortunate are we that we lived through this. How fortunate that we’ll get to (more fully) live again. So grateful for science and medical folks that figured this out. My boys saw the shot as a gift, and I do too.

How is your child with shots? How are you re-engaging in activities as things start to re-open?

I will be off next week to enjoy the long weekend with family and will be back in June.

What Exactly Am I Teaching You?

When was the last time your child rebelled?

Having your teen rebel is a part of growing, becoming more independent, and figuring out who they are. I expected some rebellion from my boys but not when it came to preparing them for life on their own.

My oldest has a strong work ethic, he’ll work hard at those things he wants to excel in (academics and sports/personal fitness), and is great about doing anything physical (yard working, helping others), but when it comes to tasks that need to be done (such as cleaning) that he doesn’t enjoy it’s a constant battle to get him to do. Crumbs on the counter from making a sandwich, dishes from dinner in the sink that need to be washed, and don’t get me started about his room. 😊

I have alternated my approaches to get him to do the work that needs to be done. Explaining why it’s important. What caring for your environment tells others about you. How we are a family and we all play a part and have responsibilities. All have had temporary success. He will be better with cleaning for a few days and then fall into old patterns. I started to see some activity that brought things to a head — my husband doing the dishes for my son, the dishes my son did not being truly cleaned (running a wet sponge across a pan doesn’t make it clean), and more crumbs on the counter. I did what any fed up parent would do — I texted him!

You thought I was going to say confront, right? Well I did, but in my text. I needed him to hear me, because I was seriously asking myself what exactly am I teaching you by not addressing this in a more serious manner. My son reads his texts and I knew he’d get the message. I outlined what he needed to do (clean), and our expectations going forward. I knew he would not like what I had to say.

He was able to avoid me until after school. I talked to him about the text I’d sent. You could see him tense up ready to defend himself. “You know Mom,” he started, “all you have to do is remind me that I need to do the dishes.” He continued on for a few more minutes around my role in getting him to do his job. Once he stopped I spoke. “No one in life should ever have to remind you of a job you have to do. Your boss won’t do that, and no one else will either. No one reminds me of things I have to do — even things I’d prefer not to but need to — like cleaning dishes and doing laundry — but these things have to be done and each of us needs to play our part. You need to own cleaning the dishes after dinner every night, and clean up after yourself the rest of the time. I’m not teaching you an important life skill if your father or I just clean up after you. You are quickly becoming an adult and this is an important lesson you need to learn.” He thought about responding, sighed and said, “okay, I got it.”

Having to have confrontational conversations with your child can be hard. This one was hard because I felt I was failing as a parent and the values I want to teach him, and super frustrated with my son for not just doing his job. Will this most recent discussion be my last with my son on this topic? I doubt it, but it reminds me that I always have to be reassessing what my husband and I are teaching our kids, and not giving up even when our kids rebel.

Have you had a similar experience with your child? How are you helping instill the values you are trying to teach your child? How are you combating any rebellion?

Motherhood

How are you celebrating Mother’s Day today?

I’m reflecting this year on my time as a mother.

M – Milestones. Getting pregnant. Birth. Watching my children grow. Wow, wow, wow!

O – Observer. Trying to understand my child, what they need, and figuring out how to give it to them (physically, emotionally). A lot of trial and error.

T – Time. Such a strange thing. It slowed down so much when the kids were young. I couldn’t wait for time to go faster. Fast forward and I’d love for time to slow down now. My boys are becoming more independent by the day and will be grown and on their own before I know it.

H – Help. I was bad at asking for it when I first became a parent, thinking I was supposed to know how to magically do everything without any formal experience or training. A huge thank you to family, friends, and other new parents who supported my husband and I, helping us become better parents.

E – Everything. There is so much that goes into parenting. It’s hard, but what a joy. My boys have helped me grow so much as a person. Everything that goes into it — good and bad —has been absolutely worth it.

R – Rewarding. Seeing the world through my boys eyes as young children and now as teens always makes me feel like I’m seeing (appreciating) the world anew.

I hope all the moms out there have a wonderful Mother’s Day. What does being a mother mean to you?

Disconnected

Does your child have an electronic device that they enjoy using for fun?

Everyone in my family has an electronic device. We held off on our boys getting smart phones until they were 13 (and rules apply, break a rule they lose the device). We decided for Spring Break we’d head out to a more remote part of our state to disconnect and unwind. A change of scenery would do us all some good. My husband tried warning our kids in these places access to the internet (WiFi or cellular) would be sparse and to be prepared (meaning bring a book, puzzle or game we can play, or download content to your device so you can access it while we’re there).

By day 3 of our trip we came to our first location where internet access was no where to be found. Our oldest had downloaded some music and podcasts, so he was fine. My youngest downloaded nothing and brought nothing to keep himself entertained. You would have thought something major had happened by the way he broke down. “This is the worst trip ever. It’s going to be so boring.” It went on and on. Being on the spectrum he had to explain to me how he was feeling. There were many thoughts that went through my mind as he complained about being bored (such as — how ungrateful, and doesn’t he understand others would kill to be able to go on trips like this?). I heard him out, patted him on the leg and said, “I get that this is hard for you, but this will happen sometimes in life. You might get bored and you have to make the best of it. I’m going to go sit over in those chairs overlooking the beach. Come join me when you’re feeling better.” I walked away.

He joined 30 minutes later. “It took me a while to feel better,” he said, “do you think we could go down to the beach?” “Sure,” I said, and off we headed. The beach was great. My son had a great time and admitted later in the day that the trip wasn’t so bad after all. The next day we were at another location with no connectivity. He had another meltdown and again we found another activity and we made it through another day. When we got home, both boys were grateful to be home and have full access to the internet again.

At dinner that first night back, we talked about the trip and what we enjoyed. We talked about sites we saw, hikes we took, and seeing wildlife. “Okay,” my youngest said when it was his turn, “I had a good time. I know I didn’t handle it well, and I’m sorry. I’ll be prepared next time.” We are heading out later this summer on another trip that will take us to remote areas (again limited to no cellular or WiFi coverage). My hope is that my son will be ready next time with activities to keep himself occupied and allowing himself the time to truly disconnect and enjoy the beauty (nature) around him.

How do you and your family disconnect? How does your child handle situations where they have to be disconnected from their device(s)?