This Changes Everything

What knowledge do you want to impart to your child while you’re able?

Over the holidays, when I had some downtime, I streamed a lot of content. I just needed to veg. I came across the documentary film This Changes Everything — it looked interesting but I kept putting off watching it. The Netflix overview said the documentary takes a deep look at gender disparity in Hollywood through the eyes of well-known actresses and female filmmakers. I think I wasn’t in the mood to hear how women are ‘sold short,’ i already knew that, I just wanted to watch content that either made me laugh, or didn’t make me think.

Come the recent long weekend, I was trying to find something to watch once again. I was up for watching content that would make me think so I selected the movie. It was so eye-opening and explained a woman’s plight in what we have to overcome in a tangible way (how we’re perceived, why we’re perceived the way we are, and what to do about it). I left thinking as the only female in my household I needed to get my ‘boys’ to watch this. Because whether they knew it or not, the content they’ve taken in over the course of their lives has influenced their views of girls/females and beyond. I needed them to be aware, empathize, and hopefully be an advocate for equality.

I selected the movie when it was my turn to pick for our Saturday night gathering. We watched the movie. Afterwards we talked about what they learned, what surprised them, and how (of if) it changed their view of women. The boys thought they already knew women were underrepresented but we’re surprised by the numbers. They agreed women were shown more as objects in movie (particularly older ones), and even pointed to some parts in other movies where the female character was only shown for male viewers benefit (it literally made my youngest flinch when he recalled some of the scenes).

We pivoted to how these projections of what and how women behave and what they want from a partner can be confusing to both the man and the woman in relationships based on images we see everywhere (on screen, TV, internet, etc.), and how with my knowledge of the female’s mindset could help them be a good partner— be aware of where a women may come from regarding intimacy, what they might be comfortable/uncomfortable with, why that is, and more. Again, not the easiest conversation but at least both boys were willing to hear me out (getting the oldest to listen a WIN!).

I’m hopeful the information sank it, and my boys feel more informed. I’m optimistic they can avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions about what others expect of you (in relationships and intimacy) that their father and I experienced. Will this movie and discussion change everything for their experiences in this area? I don’t know, but ever bit of knowledge helps. Continuing these conversations will be essential.

What are key messages or values you are working to impart to your child or teen?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Ick. Gross. Pass.

That’s how I would have responded if my parents had wanted to talk to me about sex beyond “the talk” which was more focused on the mechanics. After that talk, which felt more like a trauma, I couldn’t look at either of my parents for weeks without getting grossed out.

My husband and I knew we’d have to better communicate with our kids about sex, intimacy, love, and all that goes with it. Knowledge is power, but it can feel oh so uncomfortable to try to talk about sex with your kids.

Thankfully there are lots of good books and classes for parents on this topic, and culturally it’s more accepted (and encouraged) to talk more openly about sex with our kids. My husband and I would have to work through whatever discomfort we have.

Our oldest continues not to want to talk to my husband and I about much of anything. We have to demand he sit with us at the dinner table and tell us at least one thing that happened that day. It’s pulling teeth. Our youngest is more talkative and willing to engage. What pleasantly surprised my husband and I was when our youngest shared that he was learning about sex in his health class. I wasn’t aware they taught sex in high school, but I’m grateful. The class goes beyond body parts and mechanics, but educates the students on STDs, prevention/protection, terms, consent, and more. As my son was learning, he had questions. He wanted to ask his questions in a safe place so he asked his father and I at home.

He was interested in what certain terms meant, our experience with sex (how hold were we (generally), were we scared, etc.), and more. There was a discomfort I felt at first talking to my son about some of his questions but quickly relaxed as I could see what I was sharing with him was helping him. We talked about why girls (or boys) have sex — they want to, they think they have to (it’s expected, or the other person won’t like them), they feel pressured (their peers are doing it and therefore they should to), or they are curious (what it feels like, etc.). We talked about terms. We talked about where he was with his own curiosity/interest. He made me feel better. I hopeful he’s more equipped to make informed decisions about his body and help any future partners feel good about their choice and experience with him. Now, we’re trying to figure out how to share the same information with our resistant older son. Pulling teeth, but we’ll do whatever it takes to have this (getting less uncomfortable) conversation.

What helps you when you have to have an uncomfortable talk with your child/teen?

Learner’s Permit

Our youngest has gotten his learner’s permit and is starting classes and practices driving (with my husband and I first, and the driving instructor later on). The first drive he was understandably nervous.

First lessons with our boys started the same way — in a relatively empty parking lot, and alternate with a nearby community college that has even more empty space when school is out. We get them in the drivers seat, talk about the seat belt, seat and mirror positions, the controls (park, drive, reverse), and foot position — drive with one foot going between the gas, brake and emergency brake, before we start any driving.

The first lesson, with my youngest, was at the nearby community college. We had gone through the basics and he was ready to start his drive. He let his foot gently off the brake and we started to move forward. He drove in a straight line and I asked him to stop as we neared where he’d need to start a turn. I showed him how to turn the wheel and he did well. We continued to drive slowly around the parking lot. Early lessons are normally short (15-20 minutes in length) — for both our son’s sanity (his nerves are high), and my husband’s and mine (our nerves are pretty high too, though we try to mask them and appear we’re cool and collected). My son started to drive again, this time applying a little more pressure to the gas pedal. We were going relatively slow but when he came around the corner he over corrected and was driving towards the curb where some trees were. When I saw him start to panic, in my mind I said, “brake, brake, brake!”, but after he came to a stop up on the curb (but thankfully not in the trees) he said I said, “whoa, whoa, whoa!” 😬 My words added to his panic (clearly not my intention). Thankfully no damage was done, we and the car were fine. We concluded the lesson following.

On the drive back home we talked about the drive — what my son felt good about and what he needs to work on (based on what we practiced). My son gave me some good pointers in how I can better help him in the future. “Mom, my brain works differently. Hand gestures put my brain on overload. You telling me what I need to do is more helpful.” I love how clear my kid-on-the-spectrum is. It never occurred to me how teaching him to drive would be different from my older son. While driving on the curb scared us both, his ability to give me feedback to better help him made me feel more confident to help him succeed. Another time as the parent I’ve also become the student. While I have my drivers license I only have my learner’s permit in teaching my son. I need his feedback, regardless the situation, to be a better driving instructor, better supporter, better advocate, and better parent.

What are learning from your child? How is your child helping you be better?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

What value do you offer the world?

A bold question and one many of us would probably answer meagerly. I’m not sure many of us think in terms of the value we offer to others, let alone the world.

We were invited to ring in the New Year (east coast New Year’s because none of us can stay up that late 😂) with a group of parents we’ve known since our kids were born. Two of the families teen/tween children joined us. Our kids didn’t, but wish they had.

It was fun getting the kids to talk and share with us — what gifts they got, how school was going, driving, and what colleges they were thinking about (for the older ones). The kids have typically opted out of getting together when we gather, because, well, they’re kids, and at their age it often feels like they’d rather do anything else than hang out with us (their annoying, boring, basic parents). I get it.

We moved on to have dinner and again, the kids surprised me by being willing to eat with the adults and not off at their own separate table. Great conversation continued. We talked about weather, school, the news (we had a great discussion on drugs and the dangers and the kids were educating us!), and then one parent asked for each person to share a highlight from 2022, and something they’re looking forward to in 2023.

The kids really engaged and talked about their highlights – making new friends, adjusting to a new school; and things they were looking forward to – trips/family vacations, and the Taylor Swift concert (how did they ever get tickets?). 😊

We moved on to other areas of interest and gaming and online play came up. As a parent gaming can sometimes feel like a blessing (something fun that occupies their time), and a curse (will they ever stop playing that games?). We (the parents) wanted to hear firsthand from the kids their take on this — what games they play, what’s good about gaming, what isn’t, etc. One of the older boys (16) shared how he’d gotten into monetizing gaming. His parents seemed surprised so we all had questions — what was he doing, how did it work, how was he getting new business, etc.. He shared his interest in designing and figured out how to make gaming skins and logos for different players. He was doing this work at a low cost with no actual money being traded (other players would pay him by putting money into a game (for extended time, lives, tools/weapons/ etc.) so there was value), but nothing that would ever show up in his bank account.

I saw how he downplayed his work, that it was ‘just a hobby’ and thought he wasn’t that good. I had questions — how many people had he done work for? Approximately 100 was his answer. Was he getting repeat customers? He was. His work clearly had value, and while his community was small, he was doing good work. I shared this with him and shared with him that I thought he might be minimizing the good work he was doing. I could see I made him uncomfortable but assured him that feeling this way by what I’d just said was normal. “We aren’t often told we offer things of value. We think ‘why would anyone want this?’ Or ‘there’s many others out there much better than I am at this.’” And while there might be others out there that are more experienced it doesn’t take away from what you have to offer. I finished by saying, “Being humble is a good trait, but don’t do it to your detriment. Don’t sell yourself short. Even as adults we do this. Whether it’s creating gaming skins and logos for your friends online, or anything else that helps, provides, or supports others has value. I wish someone had told me this when I was younger.” The table was quiet. He gave a nod of acknowledgement. Other parents chimed in supporting him and his efforts, and then we moved onto other things.

In life we too often sell ourselves short. We aren’t anything special, right? Others are better at, smarter than, or more experienced than us, right? Wrong. Others miss out on what value we bring when we minimize our gifts — which can come in the form of knowledge, emotional support, finances, creativity, and beyond.

What value do you bring to the world? How are you helping your child not to sell themselves short?

A Very Mom Christmas

Have you seen the SNL skit about a ‘normal’ mom experience Christmas morning? Everyone gets more gifts than they can imagine, including the family pet, and mom gets a robe. Nothing else. Nothing in her stocking. No words of thanks. Just a robe. It cracks me up every time I see it.

Have you ever had such a Christmas? I have. My mom had one too. I can remember as a child I was so dismayed my mom didn’t get much that my sisters and I overspent on my mom the next year to make sure she didn’t feel left out. We guilted our dad to no end too. He definitely tried to make up for it, and didn’t make the mistake again.

I get it. The older I get the less I want or need. I really want Christmas to be great for my kids, and husband, and cat. 😊 But I was a bit bummed when one year I got only one present (I can’t even recall what it was), and my stocking was empty. I tried to hide my disappointment, but my kids found the stocking being empty wrong and started inquiring with my husband why nothing was in it. My husband shared privately that he didn’t know what to get for me and that’s why my gifts were lacking. I told him I’d be more specific in things I’d like in the future (even though I’d love for him to know this without me telling him—oh well).

So often the holidays are about trying to make things perfect — the gifts, the food, the decorations, the house. It can be overwhelming, even exhausting. And something always won’t go quite right — gifts arrive late, food gets burned, decorations lacking, house a mess, and perhaps an empty stocking. But while I remember that very-Mom-Christmas, I remember the memories of the kids being excited, my husband surprised, even the cat knowing it’s a special day (new toys and treats, oh my!) and I cherish it so.

Being a mom/being a parent is hard. Wanting to have a perfect holiday – normal. Being okay when it is less than – a must. It’s about being together and sharing our gratitude for what we have, what we’ve been given, and our love for one another. Is another Mom-Christmas in my future? Maybe, and that’s okay. Time with my kids (especially as they get older and more independent) is more special to me than any gift. And it doesn’t hurt that I pick up a few small things for myself as a treat around the holidays…just in case. 😊

What holiday memory brings a smile to your face? How do you plan to enjoy the holidays when something goes wrong?

I will be off for the next few weeks to enjoy time with friends and family and will be back in January. Happy Holidays!

A Very Mom Christmas

Have you seen the SNL skit about a ‘normal’ mom experience Christmas morning? Everyone gets more gifts than they can imagine, including the family pet, and mom gets a robe. Nothing else. Nothing in her stocking. No words of thanks. Just a robe. It cracks me up every time I see it.

Have you ever had such a Christmas? I have. My mom had one too. I can remember as a child I was so dismayed my mom didn’t get much that my sisters and I overspent on my mom the next year to make sure she didn’t feel left out. We guilted our dad to no end too. He definitely tried to make up for it, and didn’t make the mistake again.

I get it. The older I get the less I want or need. I really want Christmas to be great for my kids, and husband, and cat. 😊 But I was a bit bummed when one year I got only one present (I can’t even recall what it was), and my stocking was empty. I tried to hide my disappointment, but my kids found the stocking being empty wrong and started inquiring with my husband why nothing was in it. My husband shared privately that he didn’t know what to get for me and that’s why my gifts were lacking. I told him I’d be more specific in things I’d like in the future (even though I’d love for him to know this without me telling him—oh well).

So often the holidays are about trying to make things perfect — the gifts, the food, the decorations, the house. It can be overwhelming, even exhausting. And something always won’t go quite right — gifts arrive late, food gets burned, decorations lacking, house a mess, and perhaps an empty stocking. But while I remember that very-Mom-Christmas, I remember the memories of the kids being excited, my husband surprised, even the cat knowing it’s a special day (new toys and treats, oh my!) and I cherish it so.

Being a mom/being a parent is hard. Wanting to have a perfect holiday – normal. Being okay when it is less than – a must. It’s about being together and sharing our gratitude for what we have, what we’ve been given, and our love for one another. Is another Mom-Christmas in my future? Maybe, and that’s okay. Time with my kids (especially as they get older and more independent) is more special to me than any gift. And it doesn’t hurt that I pick up a few small things for myself as a treat around the holidays…just in case. 😊

What holiday memory brings a smile to your face? How do you plan to enjoy the holidays when something goes wrong?

I will be off for the next few weeks to enjoy time with friends and family and will be back in January. Happy Holidays!

Holiday Baking

What do you like to bake during the holidays?

While we have our holiday favorites, that have been in rotation for years, a newer recipe we’ve added is homemade pot pie following Thanksgiving. I made it a few years back and my oldest, who is normally unimpressed with most foods, was a fan right away asking, “when can we have that again?”

Following Thanksgiving this year, I made the recipe again, enough for two pot pies. I labeled one for my oldest, and the other for the rest of us. Our son ate his pot pie in two days. My husband and I were looking forward to working our way through the pot pie, along with other leftovers, over the course of the next week or so. It wasn’t to be. A day or so after my son finished his pot pie my husband informed me the other pot pie had been finished off too. Not by either of us, but our oldest. I asked my son what wasn’t clear about the other pot pie being for mom and dad (it was literally written on the foil cover ‘mom and dad’s’). He shared he’d noticed we hadn’t eat all of ours, had asked his father when we’d eat it, my husband said he didn’t know, and he took that to mean we might not eat it, so he did. 😬

I discussed the flaws in his rationale and how he could handle it in a better way in the future (e.g., ask if you can have a piece). Then proceeded to hand him his punishment — we’d turn this into a cooking lesson and he would learn how to make the pot pies. One, he needs more experience cooking and this would teach him some good skills (using different tools (whisk)), and having to have multiple things going at the same time (getting vegetables prepared, oven heated, pie crusts ready), etc.). Secondly, he’d get to enjoy the fruit of his labor — another pot pie, and my husband and I could finally enjoy ours. 😊

He did a great job in the kitchen and it was fun working with him on it. I always imagined holiday baking memories to be around cookies and other sweets, but this one, with the lesson involved, is one I’ll remember for life.

What holiday dish(es) or sweet(s) do you like to make with your child? What’s one of your favorite cooking or baking memories?

Listening In

Does your kid ever appear to tune you out, only to find out they’re really listening?

When my youngest was small he LOVED the word “no.” He used it so often you’d wonder if he truly understood the meaning or was just messing with you. My husband and I decided to see how much he was listening to us by changing up the questions. “Are you hungry?” “No!” “Are you tired?” “No!” “Do you want to play with a toy?” “No!” “Do you want a million dollars?” Pause. “Yes!” So, he was listening.

Speed up to teens years, both youngest and oldest engage with my husband and I in different ways. The youngest more likely to talk and listen. The oldest more likely to nod, shake head, or grunt. Texting is sometimes the most effective way to get messages across. 😂

Though I’m unclear how often our sons actually listen to us, I was happily surprised when we were sitting in a movie and the previews were showing. Normally we tune them out, unless something about them really catches our attention. I wish I could remember which trailer it was but the preview showed the main character conflicted about what to do in a situation and clearly a future act of violence was on their mind. The supporting character said, “Don’t get even by hurting those that did wrong by you, but get even by doing right by those that helped you.” There was an audible gasp for those in the theater. It was profound in focusing on taking the high road, making choices that lead to opportunity, it was so well said and I was glad it didn’t come from my husband or I. The audible gasp by others in the theater caught my boys attention. What was just said was important perhaps even wise. They were listening.😊

How do you get your kid to listen (particularly when trying to get an important point across)? Have any parent-hacks you can share around how you got your child to listen?

In Train-ing

How will you get to your holiday destination(s) this year?

Our youngest is a huge fan of public transit and rail. My husband first introduced our boys to riding the bus when they were younger to get around town for their activities. Our youngest learned to get to middle school via light rail and bus when he entered sixth grade. That’s when we think the bug hit. He loved transit, the paths it takes, how it moves people around with relative ease. He was hooked.

You can say he’s a bit of an expert as he spends hours researching about metro and light rail lines around the world. Our summer vacation we used public transportation most of the time because of him. He planned it out for us — where to go, what line to take, knew the time tables — it was impressive. For his birthday, he took his friends on the train to the next city over to explore and celebrate (thank goodness the teens fare was free!😊).

His comfort with transit, and love for it, is infectious. I rarely took public transit before my son became so enthralled. He’s helped even his old mom learn a new trick. 😄

When we plan trips or go anywhere using transit is now part of the equation. Pluses of transit — it saves you money (no airport or downtown parking), is less stressful (you don’t have to deal with traffic), and for our son gives him greater independence (replaces what a bike did for me in my childhood); downsides — sometimes it can be unpredictable (running behind) and riding with others.

While we have no near term plans to travel I know many do. While my son is bummed he’s not mapping out a journey for us, he’s continuing to learn as much as he can on light rail and other public transit around the world so he can guide us on future trips. You could say he’s in training for his future (whether it manifests into a job, or just remains a passion). He makes me see travel in a different way. Holiday travel doesn’t have to be running around to catch your flight, or stuck on the interstate with everyone else. You have another option, the train. Depending on your destination, it might take longer but with way less stress, interesting scenery, and an opportunity to actually enjoy the ride.

How will you get to your holiday gatherings? What would make your holiday travel with your child or teen less stressful?

I will be away next weekend celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving!

Preparation

How prepared is your child to be independent?

My teens are opposites in many ways. One showers, wears deodorant, brushes and flosses without being asked. The other has to be prompted, reminded, nagged more often than not. They will take proactive action only in more extreme situations (e.g., they recognize they smell pretty bad too).

One teen can get around on public transit, without complaint. The other one prefers to be driven and picked up, and complains when these options aren’t available. 😉

Neither’s room is clean per se, but one child does put their clothes in their dresser drawers, and has made their bed more days than not. The other uses their room (more exact-their floor) as their dresser, and rarely makes their bed.

Our oldest is getting closer to the day he’ll be on his own, and my husband and I have discussed the need to get him better prepared—to live in a space he (and others) can tolerate, maybe even be proud of (that means being tidier and cleaning up after himself), getting himself to and from places without the help of mom and dad, and putting more care into his hygiene (I don’t know anyone who enjoys being around unpleasant smells).

We decided since football season has finished and our son can decide what he does after school (workout or come home), he can figure out how to get himself home — walk or public transit. The situation presented itself for us to get him doing this when my husband was tied up and I was across town when our son reached out to get a ride home. He’d have to figure out how to get home on his own (keep in mind he was about a mile away from our house). He was frustrated that we couldn’t get him but became really unhappy when we told him he’d need to start getting himself around without our help. “You can’t just change things!,” he said, “this is so unfair.” He continued to share how upsetting this change was for him. We gave him some space to calm down.

I went to talk to him after a while. He doubled-down on how ‘dumb’ and ‘unfair’ the change is. I doubled-down on the importance of us better preparing him to live on his own, and his need to demonstrate not only to us, but more importantly to himself, that he’s ready. That means he’ll need to navigate public transit sometimes, take ownership of his space (room) and personal cleanliness. He resisted. I reminded him no one likes change, it hard, and I understood he didn’t like it. He told me he was done talking to me and get out of his room. Power struggle ensues?🙃 I tell him I won’t leave until he can calm himself down. He resists (of course, trying to flex his independence). I stayed and made him show me a few deep breaths. His facial expression read I hate you so much. I get it. I had those moments with my parents too. Before I left his room, I reminded him his father and I weren’t helping him by helping him (cleaning up after him, doing his laundry, nagging him about personal hygiene, etc.). He was old enough and needs to take full ownership.

It’s tough making change, especially when resistance is high. It’s harder when it’s with someone you love. Its easier knowing it’s for my son’s benefit. He loses if we don’t allow him to grow and learn what he’s capable of.

How prepared is your child? What challenging situations have you encountered trying to help them and how did you overcome their resistance?