Weathering the Storm

Watching hurricane Ian sweep across the state of Florida was hard. It’s hard anytime you see a natural disaster happening and have no ability to stop or change the course of what’s coming.

This storm was especially hard as our family has many loved ones that were in its path. Add a particularly rough work week, and there were moments I felt I was barely able to hold it together (unsure if a good cry and screaming would have helped). Just one of those moments where you know something has got to give.

As a parent you want to shelter your kids from worry or concern. It moments of great stress, it adds more stress if you try to keep it inside. My husband was great. He could see the stress and offered hugs and words of reassurance (everything’s going to be okay) when I needed it. Instead of potentially scaring my boys more by losing my cool (snapping at something small), I let them know I was having a rough week. It was going to be okay, but I was stressed and they could help me just by doing what was asked and cut mom some slack.

They agreed. My youngest now asks us how our work days are at dinner (yikes? Maybe I shared too much😬).

The hurricane is still moving. Many are still in danger. I’m fortunate that our loved ones were spared. So thankful. My oldest knew his grandparents might be effected. He (who normally doesn’t show/share his emotions) texted me (because that’s how he likes to talk to me more often than not 😂) to ask how they were doing. I could tell from all his questions he was stressed at the idea they might not be okay. I reassured him they were fine and encouraged him to text them himself (why do we often get asked to be the messenger?🥰).

How are you weather storms (literal or emotional) that come your way? How are you helping your kid navigate stressful situations?

Audition

Ever get stage fright?

That’s not exactly what happened with my son, but it was pretty close. My youngest started high school and has been looking forward to getting back into theatre. Being his first year, he wasn’t sure what he’d need to do to join the drama club. He learned they’d have auditions and he’d need to come, bring his paperwork, and read a script.

He was a bit nervous about going (naturally), but worked through his nerves and stayed until it was his turn. They called him to the stage and said, “Okay, you can start.” My son was confused and overwhelmed. He didn’t know what they wanted him to do and he broke down in tears. Thankfully, the adults realized they needed to give him more direction, gave him a minute to compose himself and handed him a script to read from. He regained his composure and redid his audition, this time feeling more confident in his effort. I met him in the parking lot following. He broke down in tears again talking about how embarrassing it was that he didn’t know what to do, and admitting that afterwards he realized he hadn’t read the paperwork completely and at the bottom it referenced coming with a monologue prepared.

We talked about this being a growing experience. That life will sometimes through unexpected things our way, and how we respond matters. He might not have liked how he responded, but recognized he was so overwhelmed that his emotions burst through. I reminded him that the good news was he survived and everything was fine after all. He appeared to take some solace in this. We talked about how he might handle the situation differently next time – be it an audition or something else. “I guess I’ll read the paperwork more closely,” he said. I told him that was a good way to avoid getting caught off guard, but the unknown can happen regardless of how well you plan. While he couldn’t come up with what he’d do differently, we discussed recognizing the feeling if/when it happens again and if possible take some deep breaths to give himself a chance to respond in a way he feels better about. It’s a start.

I’m proud of my son for trying and not giving up. I’m more proud of how in tune he is with his emotions and his understanding of his need to feel them, counter to how many of us who will do anything not to.

The drama season officially kicks off soon and the school has several plays. Whether he has a speaking role or plays Tree#3 😊 I’m grateful he’s sticking with it, as it proves even when we fall/fail/didn’t-realize-we-were-supposed-to-have-memorized-a-monologue there is always the opportunity to dust yourself off (regroup), and try again.

How do you handle the unexpected? How are you helping your child navigate a perceived failure?

Dress to Impress

At what age did you become conscientious at the clothes you wore?

For me, it was probably middle school. I cared about clothes — wanting to look nice — probably as early as kindergarten, but middle school it went to a whole new level. I became concerned about what my clothes said about me — did I come off as cool, lame, trying too hard, not trying hard enough, etc. Add that I wasn’t petite or small by any stretch just compounded the issue.

Thankfully, I have boys, and while all boys are different my sons haven’t had much interest in what others think of their outfits. My oldest can be found most days rain, shine, hot, cold, and anything in between in a hoodie and sports shorts. My youngest likes graphic tees, but only when they highlight his interests.

On the first day of school, my youngest put thought into his outfit. He wasn’t so concerned with his appearance as he was with letting people know he has an interest in transit. He was adorned head to toe in all things metro/subway. He knew it was overkill, but wanted to do it, in hopes others would engage with him on the topic. He came home disappointed. We asked if he got any feedback on his outfit and he said he didn’t. I asked him what he thought others were most concerned about the first day of school. He said, “themselves,” as he sighed and rolled his eyes knowing it was the truth. “Give it more time. You keep wearing it (as he has many pieces to choose from) and people will eventually notice.” He knew that, but was still disappointed. I can understand. You try to get affirmation or acknowledgement from others, and do not always get it. Especially when you are seeking it in a covert way. I reminded him to just be himself. People are getting adjusted to new classes, teachers, and peers, and he’ll find his group (be them transit enthusiasts or otherwise) before he knows it.

What does your child/teen do to connect with others?

Transitioning

Parenthood is all about dealing with transitions, right?

The transitions came fast and furious when my sons were babies. The transitions slowed and felt more manageable as they aged, but there is always that period of time, at least for me, at the beginning of a new phase of their life, that I am uncomfortable because I’m learning how to adjust to the newness as well.

After several challenging moments with my oldest, I started googling for books on ‘my son hates me’. I’ve always been okay with my kids being unhappy with me especially in times where I’m trying to impart a lesson, or teach a moral or value, but lately with my oldest it seems I can do nothing right, it’s embarrassing that I exist, and I’m clearly the most annoying person in the world. It’s the plight of many teenage parents, I know. 😬 I stumbled upon the book “He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe In Himself,” by Adam Price. The reviews were high so I gave it a shot. What was I missing in my interactions and communications with my son?

I read the book while our family was together for a weekend away. The context of the book is focused on boys who’ve checked out of school, but I found you can easily apply what your son is ‘checking out of’ to almost anything. For my son, he’s fine in school (we’ve taken a pretty hands off approach) with the exception of having him show us progress/reports cards online periodically. We’ve been way more involved/vocal on his activities and have tried to motivate/prompt/threaten (lost privileges) for not being more proactive. In reading the book, I took away the following—I need to give my son more space, even in his activities. He still needs guidance/guardrails, but essentially he’s capable enough and needs to take more ownership. I need (along with my husband), to step back, give him room, and let him show us who he is. This is soooo hard. My son is capable and does need room to grow. He needs to build confidence in himself and his capabilities, but oh how I still want to be able to help him navigate things with ease, and remove obstacles where I can. I’m not helping him by helping him. The age-old trap us parents can fall into. I have to tell myself to zip it (when I want to give coaching or advice), and let him g(r)o(w). Soooo hard.

How are you helping your child grow their confidence? If you have a teen, how are you helping them transition into adulthood?

Being Good Enough

Have you ever struggled with self-esteem?

I sure did (and still do, though no where as much as I did when I was younger thanks to the help of some very smart people (therapists) over the years). My oldest comes across as very confident in who he is, and what he’s about, which I admire, yet I see him struggle with his esteem in a repressed/painful way. He has high expectations of himself — always. If he doesn’t live up to those expectations regardless how unrealistic they are he gets frustrated and defeated. He does have resources to talk to, yet, I’m not sure how much he is sharing (working on/addressing), and how much he is holding back. I remind myself he is young, and he will continue to learn more about himself as he grows and allows himself to be more vulnerable/open.

My youngest has high emotional intelligence. He has great empathy and can quickly understand when others are feeling. He is my ‘happy’ guy, but even he gets unhappy sometimes. He starts high school this year and is starting to think about what that means — new building, new teachers, new people, new pressures, and more. He sighed while we were in our family room. I asked him what was up. He said, “I’m just thinking about high school, and what that means. I think it will be fine, but I guess I’m just worried I won’t make any friends.” As a kid on the spectrum, forming new friendships is something he struggles with, though, he has friends and people often approach him because of his sunny demeanor. He will have opportunities to make new friends, assuming he puts in the effort. The way he said his statement it made me feel like he was trying to tell me something more. I pried, “you have friends and most people like you, so what is your concern?” He thought and then said, “I don’t know. That I’m not…” he paused, looked down, then back as me and said, “good enough.” You could have knocked the wind out of me. It took me til my mid-thirties to have that epiphany about myself and here he was at only 14. I asked, “Good enough for who?” I thought he might say, “the other kids,” or something along those lines, but instead he said, “me.” Wow! I was in awe of my child. To understand something so profound about himself as his age just blew me away. I asked, “how are you not good enough for yourself?” He shared that he thought he might have to change who he is (autism mannerisms (flapping and humming) and all), and he hated the idea of not being true to himself in order to fit in at school. I loved my son so strongly in that moment. That he loved himself that much and knew he’d be letting himself down if he had to change inspired me. I need to be more like my son. He has got this loving yourself thing all figured out!

The start of high school will come and go. He will adjust, and God-willing, it will go much better than he anticipates. What I don’t think my son understands is that by loving himself and his uniqueness, he will inspire others to do the same. Wanting to fit in is normal, but oh how boring. Loving who you are is (but shouldn’t be) the exception. It inspires, and draws people in. I hope my son understands just being himself is not only good enough, but exactly (the role model) what others need.

How are you helping your child adjust to the new school year? How are you helping them embrace who they are?

I will be off taking some time off to enjoy the last weeks of summer and be back in September.

Teen Travel

Oh, I should have seen this coming. Finally able to travel post pandemic-✔️, have itinerary-✔️, have tickets-✔️, have everything packed-✔️. Everyone excited (pause for effect) — sort of???

Three out of four of us were really excited about getting away for our vacation, except for my oldest. There were complaints at every turn. The flight is going to be too long. This is going to be so boring. I’m going to make sure you understand how much I’m not ‘feeling’ this. 😂😭😬

He earned the nickname ‘sour puss’ at one point in the trip because there was no pleasing him. For those of you who have children that are grateful and can find the joy in things, consider yourself fortunate. Our youngest is wired this way. Our oldest isn’t. We’re aware of his need to be more independent and not hang out with mom, dad, and his kid brother, but during our trip it got to a point we had to have an impromptu family meeting in a hotel room to address it.

As a human, I was angry, frustrated, and angry (yes, I meant to say it twice). The planning, and investment, and all the wonderful venues and activities we had lined up weren’t appreciated (which as a human I thought—what am I doing so wrong that I’m raising an ingrate?). In fact, we were getting a lot of ‘why do we have to do this?’, ‘this is dumb,’ etc. As a mom, I had to remind myself to bite my tongue and not say something I might regret. I was the adult and I needed to act like it, but it was so infuriating.

When my husband and I had some time alone, we discussed the situation. I can remember trips as a kid where we were going non-stop all the time and the trip seemed more like a chore (at times) than a vacation. I could relate to how my son was feeling, but still irked at his behavior.

We sat as a family and discussed how the trip was going. We discussed how when one person complains and acts like they don’t want to be there, it negatively impacts all of our experience. “Just because you aren’t having the best time, doesn’t mean you have to ruin it for the rest of us.” Ruin might have been a dramatic word to use, but it had the intended effect. I can’t say my son ‘snapped out of it’, but definitely tempered himself.

We gave him some free time to go on runs, or explore around the neighborhood where we were staying. He even got into finding energy drinks they don’t sell here to bring home to a friend. It became part of a game, where he’d find a convenient store near whatever touristy thing we were doing, and see if he could find a new beverage. It was a compromise, and for the most part it worked.

We’re planning another dream trip (one we’d hope to do many years ago, but we’re unable to) next year. While we’re well into the planning stage we’re asking our kids for more feedback and involvement in the planning so we can all have the best experience possible (if that is possible???😂😭😬).

For me, this trip was about having a once in a lifetime experience with my family. Was it a great trip?✔️ Did we see and do a lot of new things? ✔️ Was it all sunshine and rainbows – absolutely not. Did we learn more about each other and grow as a family? ✔️✔️✔️

How is traveling with your family? What resistance have you had from your child (or teen), and how did you address?

Can’t Wait

What have you been looking forward to doing post pandemic? Have you done it yet?

Our family has been planning and saving for a ‘dream’ trip for a while. The pandemic took away a few summers for us to do this vacation due to restrictions or challenging logistics. It’s been hard to bide our time, but the trip is upon us and we can’t wait.

We have two-three summers with all of us together before my oldest is out of the house and our chances of taking a family trip significantly dwindle. Time is moving forward with or without the pandemic. 😬 It makes this trip that much sweeter.

The best part about this vacation isn’t so much where we’re going but how we’ll get there. My youngest, with his love of maps and transit has helped determine how we’ll get from place to place. It’s fun to see his passion and knowledge pour out of him. When he was younger and with his grandparents at an amusement park they were trying to determine which way they needed to go to get on a ride. My son replied to his grandparents, “We don’t need no stinking map, I know where we are and how to get there.” And he did. He’s earned the nickname “I don’t need no stinking maps” from his grandparents, but it’s only used when having a map would be handy. 😊

Seeing our kids get involved in the planning has been fun. Our youngest is excited, but also a bit bummed knowing he can’t see everything in one trip. We remind him to figure out how he can get back to these locations for further exploration in the future. Set a goal, make it happen.

It’s fun to anticipate an upcoming event. Then it happens and before you know it it’s over. I’m going to be mindful, and work to keep my family mindful so we take it all in, and be there, with the goal of this dream trip lasting beyond the vacation itself. Hoping to have experiences that we’ll remember happily forever.😎

What are you looking forward to doing as a family this summer? What memories are you hoping to make?

I’ll be off for the next few weeks and back mid-August.

Fact vs. Fiction

How much screen time is your kid allowed?

Ideally my kids wouldn’t be on for more than an hour a day, but I’d be lying if I said that’s how long they are on.

During the school year it’s a little easier to control / oversee, but honestly we’ve tried to let our kids have a little more freedom and better manage themselves (e.g, consequences if you stay up late playing a game and then are overtired and/or don’t do optimally on a test). It’s a hard lesson to have our kids learn but a needed one (in our opinion).

We were sitting outside having dinner recently on a nice weather evening and got on the topic of what my youngest had learned about a region in the world. He was providing great insights and my husband could validate what he was sharing as he’d spent time in this region himself. My husband made an observation, “it’s interesting to me who you use the internet to educate yourself and find reliable sources to do so. Why is that?” We we’re impressed but also a little surprised since so many people seem to think if it’s in the internet it’s real. 😬 Our son recounted a story about watching videos on YouTube and us telling him what he was watching wasn’t factual or accurate. We pointed out the host of the channel was clearly trying to convince people (for entertainment value or subscribers?) of outlandish things such a Big Foot being real. We told him, if there really was a Big Foot, don’t you think someone would have found him/her by now? What does it eat? How long does it live? It can’t live forever. Our son took this information in and clearly decided that he needed to rethink where he got his information from prior to treating it like fact.

Now, take my oldest son. He also watches YouTube, but we’re not sure he uses such a discerning eye as our youngest. In an attempt to show his independence he’ll push back when we try to discuss something (usually politics) as a family and take a different position to be, well different. And I can live with that if he’s only doing this to show he can think for himself. My concern is that he gets influenced to the point he believes the false narrative as truth, vs. getting his information from a more reliable source (eg someone actually trained in the field/respected). I think it’s a struggle many of us are up against. At this point all I know to do is to listen, counter with facts (and point to the sources) in hopes he understands and accepts the facts even if we disagree on which side we’re on.

How are you helping your kid understand fact from fiction, particularly in what they watch?

What Exactly Are We Teaching — Checkpoint

Do you have those moments when you question what you have (or are) teaching your child?

Our oldest is off on an extended camping trip. He prepared for the trip, ensuring he had his gear, and everything on his checklist. He would have his phone with him, but coverage would be sketchy being in rural terrain. While we knew he’d like his phone to listen to music or a podcast, we were surprised when he wanted to use it to call us.

I’ve shared before, our son will do much to distance himself from us these days — even when at home, so it was a surprise when we got a call the first night he was away. He was with a newer group of kids he didn’t know particularly well and was getting adjusted.

We were surprised when he called again the second and third night. The calls were short, he mainly would run through what he had done, and share how he was doing mentally and physically. Part of me loved him calling. Knowing he was okay, and staying connected. Another part was concerned. Wouldn’t my son grow more (in his confidence, capabilities) if he weren’t in contact with us and made it through the trip without communication? I talked to my husband about it. We agreed that while this was a test run for our son’s future independence, our son needed to know he would be just fine going throughout the trip without being in contact with us. So hard, but needed.

We weren’t sure how to broach the topic with him, but two things came into play — coverage was spotty and some days he didn’t have signal, and his battery (even with power sticks to give him extended use) finally gave out. He’d be forced to go without communication for the second half of the trip. Was I worried? Part of me, yes. Not hearing from him makes he wonder what he’s up to and how he’s doing. But a bigger part of me, the part of me that knows I need to arm him with the skills he needs to be on his own, wasn’t.

I look forward to him getting home with these new experiences and knowledge of his abilities. I’m also waiting for him to want to distance himself again from his father and I. It’s part of growing up. He’s reminding me that I have to stop, periodically, and check in and acknowledge (or challenge) what I’m teaching him. And be aware that time is short as he’ll be off on his own before I know it, and I want to make sure I’ve given him all the tools he’ll need to fly.

What capabilities are you most interested in giving your child? What prompts you to check-in regarding what your teaching your child?

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.