Independence Day

As we get ready to celebrate July 4th, independence is top of mind.

We ventured to the east coast over Spring Break and visited Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, and Philadelphia, PA. It was a trip my husband and I had always wanted to take our kids on, to allow our kids to get a better understanding of our country’s founding, and see historical and iconic sites.

I’ve talked about my teens starting to embrace their budding independence. Going to these sites made me better appreciate what it took for us (as a country) to become free, and the guts it took to do so. Though youth emerging to adulthood isn’t revolutionary, it can be a battle — trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be — maybe pushing against others (parents, teachers, coaches, friends?) who are trying to tell (or influence) who you are — to be you.

This Independence Day, I am in awe of those that helped paved the way for us to live in this wonderful (though not perfect) country. I’m also in awe of my boys as they fight through the trials and tribulations of becoming the men they will be as there is courage, bravery, and strength, in being uniquely you.

How are you helping your child embrace who they are? How are you encouraging their independence?

I will be taking time off to celebrate the holiday weekend with friends and family, and will return in July.

World’s Best Dad

What are the qualities you’d put on the list to determine the world’s best dad?

If I had to boil it down, for me, the qualities would include — love, support, encourage, teach, show/guide, feed (literally and figuratively), and love, love, love. These qualities are pretty much what I’d say makes up World’s Best Mom too. 😊

Because raising kids is hard, dad’s who lean into parenting are even that much more special.

If you were fortunate enough to have a dad that you’d put on the list for World’s Best Dad, congratulations! You hit the jackpot. I know I did, and my kids have too (whether they realize it yet or not is another question ☺️).

Thanks to all the World’s Best Dads out there! We love and appreciate you for being you. Enjoy your day!

Zoom Graduation

Time flies.

My youngest finished middle school this past week. In advance of the in-person ceremony there was much preparation—practicing his speech (all students at his school that are graduating do a short speech reflecting on their time there), figuring out what to wear, etc.. There was much preparation for us parents as well—ensuring family members had all the details, the after celebration for the students being cared for, etc.. COVID threw a wrinkle into the plans when it hit a good portion of the school’s small student body and forced the school to move the graduation to Zoom (we thought we were past that, but … not), 😬 and the after celebration pushed out. A bummer in the moment, but the right thing to do.

Zoom may have actually made the graduation ceremony better—family from afar could still participate and support their grandson or nephew. The kids were in more comfortable (natural) surroundings which helped lessen anxiety around their public speech, and no one felt pressured to “keep things moving along,” — it was nice.

The benefit of Zoom was also watching the students encouraging and supporting each other through the chat feature throughout the ceremony. When they weren’t encouraging and supporting each other, they were sharing inside jokes or being funny (nice for a parent to get insight first hand in what kids find funny these days). 😊

While watching the ceremony there was a strong sense of how fast time has gone by, and the milestone moment we were going through. I desperately wished time would slow down, even just a little. The ceremony concluded. My son was proud of his speech and how he delivered it, and we all reflected on his growth, and maturity, and being excited for him in what comes next.

Time flies. Oh, how in these moments, I wish it didn’t.

What milestone(s) is your child/family celebrating? What are (have) you doing to commemorate the milestone?

Storytelling

We read stories as a family. It is much more rare as our kids have gotten older. There is often pushback — no, ugh, why??? It’s so boring!. But when our youngest came in and said, “Mom, I just read the best book, and you have to read it too,” I knew family reading might be in our future.

My son had just finished reading Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. It’s about how we’ve justified the mistreatment of people of color for centuries through the stories we’ve been told, and allow ourselves to believe. Of course, I’m oversimplifying the contents of the book, but after reading it, upon my son’s recommendation in less than two days, it was the essence of what I took away. The mistruths of what I’ve allowed myself to believe up to this point made me uncomfortable but was also freeing. How could I have been so blind?

Now, before we go further, I’ll share that I, by nature, am a curious person, and am often seeking how to improve myself. I know I am flawed (we all are, we’re human). What happened to George Floyd really opened my eyes to the horrors and trauma that still occur today. It made me (and I believe many of us) want to explore our beliefs and behaviors, and change things for the better. I have actively been working on that, but reading this book helped me better understand how we (collectively as a country and beyond) got to where we are at. I knew we needed to read this as a family and my youngest agreed.

In lieu of a family movie night, we changed it to reading the book. Each of us would read a chapter. While our oldest pushed back — no, ugh!, this is going to be so boring! — it was quicker to read than watch a movie, and he liked getting time back, so he agreed. 😊

We read several chapters then talked about what we read. There was some reluctance on what some family members thought of as “feeling judged” by the author. My son and I disagreed and we proceeded as a family to work through the discomfort being felt. Why do you feel judged? Could/should we be judged in the future for things we still haven’t gotten right now (think equality, gun control, environment)? YES! At the essence, we discussed whitewashing, and how we “wash” over things because they make us feel bad or uncomfortable, and our need to understand things “as they are” and try to see others through a newer, clearer lens.

It wasn’t an easy conversation, but a needed and good one, and by the end I think we all had grown a little more. We still have more reading and growing to do, but I’m grateful that we’re closer to understanding reality for others, and learning how to improve ourselves as a result — in how we engage with, appreciate, and seek more truth vs. what makes us comfortable.

What stories are resonating with you and your family? What discussions are you having as a result that’s helping you (all) grow?

Movie Night

What’s the last movie you watched as a family?

We typically do movie night on Saturdays. We rotate who gets to pick the movie. Sometimes we take a vote. It was my husband’s turn and he chose 10 Things I Hate About You. The movie came out in 1999, and is/was a modern day take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. My husband picked it for some of the local background (being shot in and around the Puget Sound), and for the story.

I had seen the movie before, but missed a message that likely didn’t resonate with me the first time I saw it, two decades ago. In the scene, the single father is talking to his oldest daughter who is desperately seeking her independence and expresses herself by rebelling against any boxes others put her in (how she’s supposed to act, dress, and/or care about others opinions). The father has a heart-to-heart with his daughter at one point in the movie, understanding that her standing on her own is unavoidable. He is realizing how fast time is going (and has gone), and wants to connect with her while there is still time left. He makes his plea, noting she’s had him watching on the sidelines (vs. being in the game or on the field together) for some time. When I first saw the film, this statement went right past me. This time in stuck. With my boys bring 16 and 14, my husband and I were being directed to the sidelines more and more often.

I discussed it with my oldest a few days later. I referred to the scene in the movie, and shared my awareness of his growing desire for more independence. “Our time is limited. You’ll be on your own before you know it. I know you want your independence, but please let your father and I in, even a little more, just so we can better know you before you are off on your own.” I’m not sure my son understands that he is a mystery to anyone, but he has become a bit of a mystery to my husband and I, as his desire is to mostly be in his room, or out with friends. Only having short, pointed conversations with us here or there, making us curious who he is, what he’s thinking, and what he thinks about things (issues, himself, life in general). We’ll keep trying. I’m not ready to fully be ‘in the stands’ just yet. 😊

What do you connect over as a family? What movie scenes have stuck with you in regards to your parenting journey?

I’ll be off next week celebrating Memorial Day with family and friends and will return in June.

Report Card

How would you grade yourself as a parent?

Most of the time I’d tell you my husband and I are doing “okay” as parents — learning as we go, making mistakes, admitting to ourselves and our kids when we do, learning from them and correcting ourselves/doing better, working to impart wisdom, morals, values, and beliefs, and supporting our boys as they grow. Sometimes I feel like we’re doing well (A/B grading), but other times…

Our oldest doubled-down on not wanting to continue sports in the upcoming school year. He made some good points regarding why he wanted to step away, but his argument seemed to carry a thread of how hard it might be to continue and that was the biggest driver behind his decision. My husband and I knew that the life lessons he would gain by seeing it through were very valuable—you don’t quit when it gets hard, you find your way through. Yet how could we get him to understand and reconsider? We talked about what he would gain by staying, how it would help shape him and his confidence, and how we didn’t want him to look back and regret his decision later when there was nothing he could do about it (meaning he only has two years left in high school). He was standing firm. As much as I hoped he wouldn’t play tackle football due to potential head injury, I was now hoping beyond hope he’d change his mind. It felt like the downside of walking away outweighed the upside. I felt like I was failing my son.

Turn to my youngest. His class is going on an overnight camping trip done by a group called Journeymen. This groups helps develop skills amongst its campers around working together, and successfully completing tasks (such as building on outdoor structure to sleep under). The intention is for the campers to be pushed outside their comfort zone, but have success and grow as a result. My son’s class had participated in it when he was in the sixth grade and he was pushed almost too far (keep in mind he is on the spectrum and his brain isn’t wired to stand significant discomfort easily), that we ended up getting a call where my son pleaded with me to take him home. I told him I couldn’t and explained why it was important he stay (he needed to know that he could do it). He did stay, but was a bit traumatized by the whole experience and was good with never going back again, You can imagine his reaction when we told him his class would be returning. He broke down, got highly upset and stated repeatedly “I’m not going.” My husband and I jumped into trying to calm him. “It will be okay, you’ve grown since the last time and so have your classmates. It will be better.” He wasn’t buying it. After several minutes of being unsuccessful at talking-him-down, my husband offered a great suggestion—have our son talk to his teacher, express his concerns and share what would make him more comfortable going on the trip. Our son was still highly upset, but said he’d try.

That night my husband and I asked each other “are we doing this parent thing right?” Because we felt like we’d be given a F grade based on the recent interactions with our boys. What were we doing wrong? I didn’t sleep well that night wondering what I should be doing differently or better.

Fast forward to the next afternoon. Our youngest gets home from school all smiles. He’d talked to the teacher and the teacher was in agreement around what hadn’t been great the first time round and how it would be different this time. My son had gone from being fearful the prior day to excited about going on the trip. Our oldest got home a little later. Before my husband or I could get a “how was your day” out, our son announced he’d continue to play football and would reserve making any decisions until closer to the start of the season. He wasn’t committing long term, but giving himself more time to make a decision. My husband and I sighed in relief. Maybe my husband and I were doing better than we thought???

What made me feel immensely better was when we shared our failings with a group of friends, and they all shared times they felt like failures too on occasion regarding their kids. Each story was relatable, made us laugh, and while we are trying our best, and aren’t successful in every moment, we see growth in our kids and ourselves beyond.

How would you grade yourself as a parent on any given day? How are you getting through those times you feel like a failure or not living up to the example you are trying to set?

❤️ for Mom

One Mother’s Day, many decades ago, my sisters and I decided to decorate a kitchen chair with beads and a Burger King crown that we fashioned into something more royal (think glue and glitter) for our mom, and gave her the title Queen for a Day. I was really proud of how we honored our mom, I thought she was just amazing as a small child.

Of course you grow up, and some of the infallibility slips away and you see your mom as human, navigating parenthood with the ups and downs that everyone does. As a mom myself it was a bit of a relief to know she was figuring it out as she went like me, but oh remained in awe for her efforts to make sure we felt loved, protected, and cared for. I learned from a good role model.

On Mother’s Day, I hope everyone has a good day and reflects on the good you’re doing, and where your humanness is coming through. I hope you feel like a Queen for a Day, and enjoy your day!

Crossroads

My oldest has asked to play football since he was very young. We were against tackle (due to brain injury concern, and the potential for him being exposed and potentially embracing toxic masculinity), but relented following our son being in flag football for many years, COVID isolating us all, and his need to see his dream through.

His first year, it was a shortened season—only four games, but they won most, and he had fun. The second year was a bit more eye-opening for him. He’d get overly anxious before each game — being unable to eat and/or keep anything down. He’d have no energy during the games (you don’t play optimally when you’re tired), and would be starving. All distractions. Workouts were more intense, but that didn’t bother him—he likes pushing himself to be fitter. His teammates were all over the place. Seniors making the season as if it were life and death, and his peers goofing off half the time. It’s left him questioning ‘do I really want to keep doing this?’

My oldest shared with his father he was considering walking away from the game. My husband was taken aback and needed a few minutes to let it sync in. My husband shared what he’d heard when I got home later that evening. “He said he has an important decision to make here in a few weeks about whether he’ll play football or not next year.” We we’re both caught by surprise. I wanted to talk to my son and see if I could understand more of what was driving this.

Thankfully he was willing to talk. I asked him why his was questioning playing with the team. He had clearly been putting some thought into it as he’d put a pros and cons list together mental which he recited. He shared that he loves the team and preparing for the game (though grueling). He hated how anxious he got, and it not allowing him to perform to his ability. He hated the range of attitudes by the players—overly serious (this is life and death), or immaturity, and some toxic masculinity (let’s hit something, pound chests, etc.). I could see how conflicted he was — loving the game, not loving all the comes with it. He was at a crossroads.

I started by telling him that playing, or not playing, was his decision but wanted to give him some things to consider before making the call. I started by talking about his teammates and the effect the pandemic had (which we all don’t fully understand yet) on younger people. “The seniors were overly serious because they got gypped out of two regular seasons due to the virus. They had a brief taste in the shortened season in the Spring of last year and wanted to see what they were capable of. Regarding your peers, studies have already shown maturity lacking in teen age groups due to the virus. Give tour peers through the summer and I’d guess they’ll act more age-appropriate.” I let that sink in for a minute then continued, “Regarding pre-game nerves. We can get you help with that through the doctor and bring in others like a sports psychologist to give you tools. The coach talked to you already about the leadership potential he sees in you, right?” My son nodded his head. “You have the opportunity to lean into being a leader. You followed last year because you thought that was your place, but you are growing and others see the potential in you. You have the opportunity to lead, people respect and listen to what you have to say.” This seemed to get him thinking based on his facial expression. “The last thing I’d like you to think about is not having regrets. You need to think through would you regret not playing sometime down the road, and if the answer is yes, than reconsider.” I shared a story with him about my own high school sports experience. I’d played on the golf team. The game was mentally taxing. I was good, but not great. I took it seriously, but not life or death. I recall questioning myself each year, but particularly before my senior year if I really wanted to subject myself to all the mental stress again. I ultimately decided I would regret it if I didn’t see it through, and I’m so glad I did. I have great memories, continued to improve my game, and got to be a mentor/roll model to the younger players. It was very satisfying.

My son is at a crossroads. My husband and I can only guide him at this point. I don’t want him making a decision he’ll wish he hadn’t later. As a parent, I feel the need to step back and let him make up his mind, and show that we trust him to make decisions that are right for him. He’s becoming an adult after all and needs to learn how to make ‘big’ decisions he can live with. It’s a bit unsettling as a parent to start letting go, but that’s the only way he’ll grow.

What crossroads has your child faced? How are you helping them make decisions for themselves that they feel good about?

Having a Me Moment

My youngest is into transit — it doesn’t matter which kind — light rail, water taxi, metro/subway, train — he studies them (thanks to the internet) and enjoys learning all the ins and outs, including their layouts, how to navigate/makes transfers, payment accepted, hours of operation, etc. To most, that might seem boring. To him, it brings him to life.

We decided to go east for Spring Break. My youngest was the navigator as we used mass transit for most of our travel to get around. We took a light rail from the airport, then transferred to a metro line. We/He learned things as we went — what was running on time or delayed, payment challenges (for those who ride transit and have struggled with a ticket kiosk, you know what I’m referring to), poorly marked transfers (how in the world do we get to the green line, I only see an exit?), and entering the metro on the wrong side of the platform (oh no, is that the train we want to be on over there?).

My favorite was when we entered the DC metro for the first time. Clearly, this is what my son had been waiting for. He had the biggest smile on his face that expressed immense joy. “You look happy,” I said. “Mom,” my son replied with a smile even bigger, “This is one of the best transit systems in the US, even in the world. I’m having a me moment.” I just watched him as he took it all in. Side note: for those that aren’t familiar with kids on the autism spectrum like my son is, you may not know that one of their super powers is knowing what they like/are interested in/their passion. It is super inspiring to see.

While my son was loving our journey for the most part, he’d get upset with himself anytime a mistake happened. He prides himself of his knowledge and likes being thought of as ‘the guy that doesn’t need no stinking map’ (his grandfather coined that phrase for my son after my son told his grandparents he knew the full layout of an amusement park they’d taken he and his brother to and weren’t sure how to navigate without a map. He told them “we don’t need no stinking map. I know how to navigate this place!” And he did.😊).

I had to remind my son that mistakes happening is how we learn, and yes, it can be frustrating and doesn’t feel great, but we’re better for it, when we take something away we’ll do differently. He understood but didn’t like it.😊

My son having his ‘Me Moment’ stayed with me. How fortunate we are as parents when we see our child(ren) come to life —literally seeing their dream coming true before your eyes. It’s rare. Very rare. And, while at the time I don’t think I realized it, I (likely along with my husband) were having a ‘me moment’ too as parents witnessing this/experiencing this with our son.

What is your child passionate about? What ‘Me Moments’ have you witnessed/experienced?

Debate

It never feels good to lose an argument. Especially one you’ve been preparing for.

My youngest’s class was preparing for Oxford style debates on topics regarding social issues, equity, and diversity. His team’s topic was the federal minimum wage, and his team would be arguing in favor of it. We talked about the debate in advance. He shared some of his arguments and his team’s counterpoints for what the opposition would likely bring up. He was ready.

When he got home, following the debate, he was ecstatic. “Over 80% of the students and adults in attendance (made up of student family members) voted in our favor. The other group got only 15%.” He was pleased and thought his team had surely won.

Imaging his (and my) surprise when he came home a few days later and shared the teacher had given the win to the other team, noting how well researched their information was, and their argument strong. My son was sad, disappointed (his team had gotten 80% of the vote!), and a bit confused. “I don’t get it. Our argument was just as well researched and we had way more support.” I understood the emotions he was experiencing, but didn’t have enough information to give him a ‘counter argument’ to why the other team had ‘won’ or in what areas the other team exceeded. My son could see my wheels turning and attempted to address what he thought was coming, “no, Mom, I feel bad and there’s nothing you can do about it. I feel like a dummy for being so wrong.” Of course, this didn’t stop me. 😊

“First, we don’t know why your teacher awarded the other team the win. I get it’s disappointing, “ he stopped me to let me know it was okay for him to have and feel his feelings, and I agreed (though I was super proud of the self-awareness and emotional intelligence my son was exhibiting). I continued, “when do we learn the most?” He gave me one of those I-know-the-answer-Mom-and-you’re-so-annoying. “When we ‘lose’. We reflect on what happened, what we can do better. You really aren’t experiencing a loss here.” He was still upset and we agreed it best to just let him feel his feelings for the time being.

Later that same week, we had end-of-term conferences. My son’s school is still small enough they can do these things. During the discussion the teacher (whom had overseen the debate, and teaches my son in several topics) shared my son’s progress, where he was strong, and areas of focus. Then he brought up the debate. Not to explain why my son’s team lost, but to praise him for his compelling closing argument. He played us audio of the event. My son spoke with passion, and confidence. He engaged the audience (including the adults) in a show-of-hands question segment (how many of you had minimum wage jobs? How many of you had too much money from working those jobs? Etc)—it was impressive. My son was surprised the teacher had thought so highly of his performance and he couldn’t stop smiling. The debate he’d had internally with himself over ‘what he hadn’t done ‘right’, or better than his peers, lifted. He regained his confidence.

It’s amazing to me, even as an adult, the value we put into how others see us, and how we let it effect how we see ourselves. Too often, we don’t get that second set of feedback or information like my son got from his teacher. Imagine if we did. Wouldn’t that be something? Maybe a good question for a future debate.

How do you help your child when they are disappointed by a loss? How do you (or others such as their teachers or coaches) help them regain their confidence?

I’ll be off for Spring Break with the family and will be back later this month,