March Madness

Are you watching the NCAA basketball tournament?

I used to follow college basketball and still enjoy watching a good game on occasion, but I haven’t watched the tournament or really paid attention to it for years. That changed when my oldest came home after practice and I had a game on. I don’t know why I put the game on, but glad I did. My oldest stayed, watched the game with me, and even shared his thoughts (mostly which teams he was rooting for, and how watching the games kind of stressed him out when he thought a team might lose). While there wasn’t much depth per se to the conversation, I’ll take it. I rarely get more than a grunt of acknowledgment out of him on a daily basis. 😊

I suppose I’ll have the tournament games on a lot more in the coming weeks with the hope he’ll continue to engage (even a little conversation from him goes a long way with me).

In what unexpected settings do you get your kids to open up and talk to you?


Reconnecting with old friends feels wonderful.

Our youngest is enjoying high school, though he can feel a little lost sometimes with the large number of students and teachers that can only give each student so much attention.

He was asked by his middle school to come back and be a student judge for the school’s STEM fair. While interested to see what the students came up with, he was more excited to see former teachers, admins, and younger classmates. He was greeted like a rock star, it didn’t hurt that he’s grown considerably taller since he left which added to him standing out. He gave and got big hugs from teachers and admins. I lot of ‘hellos’, ‘how are you?’, and ‘what’s high school like?’ from his old classmates. He relished being seen, acknowledged, and valued (wouldn’t we all?). It was so awesome to witness.

The school is looking for opportunities to bring more of my son, and his peers back on campus. I can share from his experience is was more than worth it. He may have helped judge the competition, but reconnecting was the true prize.

Where does your child feel seen, acknowledged, and valued?

Public Speaking

How comfortable are you speaking in front of others?

My youngest had an opportunity to return to his former middle school to share his experience and how prepared he was for high school. He was eager to go in hopes he’d see some former faculty or classmates. The community event for the school was moms (no students past or present), and no former faculty and administration. It was a bit of a bummer, but he loves the school so much he easily adjusted talking to new teachers about his experience.

The event had us sit down in a circle and the head of school asked us to give our feedback on why we’d picked the middle school, the best thing about the middle school, and how well my son was prepared for high school. I provided my input, but turned the floor over to my son since I knew the parents would like to hear from him directly. He did a great job sharing his thoughts, and needed little prompting to answer questions and provide insights. He went from looking down at first when he responded, to making eye contact, to joking with the crowd towards the end. It was like watching a flower bloom. I couldn’t help but smile.

On the way home my son and I discussed how things went. We both reflected on how some of the questions asked helped us see even more benefits of him going to the school than we’d previously realized. He was proud of his ability to talk in front of so many strangers and attributed his comfort with the confidence the school gave him regarding who he is (e.g., you’re great just the way you are). I was so happy for him that he recognizes the gifts the school has given him, how he’s been able to use them to excel in high school, and be confident in who he is enough to do public speaking at such a young age. It makes me wonder what else he can do that even he doesn’t know yet. 😊 I can’t wait to find out.

What gives your child confidence?

Talk to Me

Do you ever struggle to get your child to talk to you?

My oldest doesn’t divulge information easily. As his parent it can be deflating (is there something I can do differently to get him to open up?), and sometimes concerning (what is he thinking, is he okay?) but that’s the worrier in me. He is a teen, and I’m aware of his growing need for independence and not necessarily having mom or dad be ‘in the know’ on everything.

My oldest is getting closer to graduating and needs to start thinking about colleges. He hasn’t been willing to discuss where he might want to go, or study. While I was probably the same way at his age (in not knowing what I might study), I always had my eye on going to college. I knew I needed good grades to get in, I’d need to apply for scholarships to help offset the cost, but knew one way or another I was going. I’m not picking up that vibe from my son and that is worrying me.

I can understand the value of a college education being questioned after COVID, but I still believe college is that unique place and time in your life where you get to figure out who you are, what you’re interested in, you get exposed to different people from different places, and your universe expands. I know I thought I knew everything I needed to know about life and others in high school, but saw how small my universe was when I went to college. I very much want that for my two boys. My husband and I have been saving and planning for this.

My oldest shared with my husband he might opt to go to a trade school instead of college. He told this to my husband in confidence and my husband encouraged him to tell me. He won’t do it. I have tried asking him his thoughts on college, does he want to do something different, and he won’t share anything. Ugh! It’s unclear whether he doesn’t want to hear my thoughts (scared of how I might react), or if he’s still making up his mind (maybe college is still on the table?). I just wish he’d talk to me.

It would be one thing if we couldn’t afford it (and I’m aware of how fortunate we are to do this), or didn’t stress the importance of education and gaining knowledge with our kids, but we do. My son is anxious by nature and has a fear of failure (who doesn’t, right?), I’m worried he is taking a path that will essentially guarantee him a job, but narrow his opportunities in the long run. He is becoming an adult, but his frontal cortex still isn’t fully formed and I’m worried about him making decisions that can be life impacting. I may sound dramatic, but it feels like my son is coming to a crossroads and may pick a path different than I envisioned or hoped. I am struggling between supporting him and his growing independence and greatly wanting to influence his decision. I just wish he’d talk to me. It. Is. So. Hard.

How do you get your child to open up?

Modeling Love

As parents we model what loves looks like for our kids.

My husband isn’t romantic by nature, which is surprising because he father appears to be so with his mother (skip a generation perhaps 😂), but he is committed to our relationship even when it’s tough.

My husband and I have had to learn to communicate, even when hard and uncomfortable, to stay together and better connect. The discomfort and unease was hard at first, but when you see your spouse is willing to listen to you and work to communicate in a way that supports and nurtures the relationship and you do the same, growth happens. Stronger bonds form.

I do reflect on how our children view our relationship (guess we’ll have to ask them), and what they take from it. They definitely see us disagree and get frustrated with each other, but they see us apologize or make amends. They see us show modest affection (a kiss goodbye or hand holding). We want to model that relationships take work, but are worth it.

Our youngest wears his heart on his sleeve, I don’t worry about him expressing his emotions. Our oldest doubles down and only on rare occasions expresses them though we encourage him to do so more often. I do wonder when he braves his first relationship what it will be like.

On Valentine’s Day, love is in the air. What kind of love / relationship are you modeling for your child?

I will be away next week enjoying the long weekend and back later this month.

Crash Course

Getting into an accident is the worst, right? Assuming no one gets hurt, it’s still stressful with insurance, police, getting the car to the shop for repairs, and more.

Our youngest is learning to drive. My husband and I have two different approaches with our son. My husband wants to take things very slow. I want to take things slow, but push my son so he can get better at driving, and gain confidence in his skills.

My youngest and I were out for a drive. We started in an empty parking lot. He did great. After driving around for a while, I thought he was ready to venture into some neighborhood side roads. He continued to do well. He entered a few arterials a little fast, but we talked about the need to slow down and enter them more cautiously. We continued driving on. He drove to four way stops, down side roads, and was doing so well we decided to keep going as we got closer to our house.

Following a four way stop, into an even less busy part of our neighborhood, a car came up behind us. My son noticed it and I told him not to worry about them. When he turned up a hill he was going at a snail’s pace (I’d be surprised if he was going much over 5 MPH). Knowing the car was still behind us, I encouraged him to push on the gas pedal to pick up the pace. We had originally planned to take the first right turn but missed it because another car was parked too close to the intersection. We decided he’d make the next right. Instead of slowing down at the arterial, he came in fast and knew he need to correct his position or he’d hit one of the parked cars on either side of the street. I yelled, “brake. Brake. BRAKE!!!” He started to brake but too late and we ended up tapping one of the parked cars.

Adrenaline kicked in. My son was upset by what happened. I was upset I was going to have to knock on a few doors to see whose car it was. We both calmed down. I knocked on a handful of doors, no answer. I left a note of apology and how to contact us on the windshield of the damaged car. I drove us the rest of the way home. My son let me know he heard me saying brake, but he couldn’t compute what he needed to do with his body. It was insightful but I told him, you have to be prepared to stop suddenly at all times. We decided it was something he’d need to practice.

My husband wasn’t thrilled with what happened. He never said I told you so, but could see he was thinking it. I had to reassess was I pushing my son too much? Or was my approach having a negative impact on his abilities? We decided my husband would take him on his next lesson, which he did. They practiced parking. I took my son back the following day to resume driving. I didn’t want the fender bender to move him back to square one. He asked following if he could drive with me again, and when I thought he’d be ready for the side streets. I told him yes, and that we’d work on sharping some of his skills and reflexes before we went back out on public roads.

My son wants to be pushed. He knows he needs it to conquer things he’s uncomfortable with (I believe many of us can relate). My husband wants to go slow, protecting our son, but also quelling his discomfort with our son’s modest driving experience. We’ll have to continue to work with our son together and somehow blend our techniques. The good news is, we have time. There is no rush per se for him to get his license anytime soon. We’ll take it one driving lesson at a time.

How have you gotten your child to work through their discomfort? How do you balance helping them grow while recognizing your own discomfort in their capabilities, and struggle with how to help them be better?

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?