A Quiet Place

Things seem quieter now, right?

Having the out-of-the-house distractions go away at first was difficult. We are used to having noise around us. If you are like me, prior to the pandemic having the house be quiet — no sounds coming from from kids, my screens making noise, or the sounds of running, playing or arguing — felt good for a little bit, but inevitably the silence would turn to discomfort. I’d get a feeling I was wasting time and should be doing something. If I was doing something I would be making and/or hearing noise. Cue the tv or radio coming on (at a minimum). Hearing noise would calm me.

But now there is a lot less noise all the time — less traffic on the street, no groups of people gathering, no sounds of sports being played, or the kids running around outside with their friends — part of it makes me long for the past, but I’m hopeful for the future and know the noises will return eventually.

I’m trying to really embrace the quiet. When I talk to parenting groups it’s one of the tools I recommend — making quiet time for inward reflection. To inquire within yourself how are you doing and what do you need. It’s a great opportunity to just listen and see how your mind responds. When I do this I’m often surprised by what I hear — you need a hug, you need a break, you need to hear it’s going to be okay. I feel better once I can identify my need(s) and acknowledge getting them addressed (my husband and youngest son are always willing to give good hugs; my kids can help in the house and yard or cook a meal; my husband is always there to tell me it’s going to be okay). If something comes up they can’t address, I seek out others for what I need — talking to my girlfriends to keep those connections going, checking in on my parents to make sure they are okay, etc.

While it being more quiet may make you uncomfortable I’d encourage you to lean into it and see what ahas you have around how you are doing and what you need.

How are you caring for yourself, so you can better care for your family, during this time?

One New Day at a Time

How are you getting through each day with your family at home?

My husband and I went for a long walk in our neighborhood early in the morning over the weekend. Few people were up so it was easy to social distance from the handful of other neighbors we encountered. As we walked we talked about how different things were since the Coronavirus changed how we live. As we talked I reflected how I’d been experiencing a similar feeling I hadn’t felt in a while. It was a fear of the unknown tempered with a need to push through the fear — it was a feeling I experienced when I first became a parent.

I remember after my first son was born how I felt almost disconnected from my body — seeing my baby, adjusting to the baby’s needs, learning this ‘new’ normal, and trying to shake the discomfort I felt — adjusting to being a new parent. How was I going to do this? How was I going to be a good parent when I didn’t have any experience? I was learning as I went, and it felt scary. But I had to adjust, getting paralyzed with fear wouldn’t serve my son, or me well. I had to walk through the fear knowing eventually I’d get comfortable with how my life was changing.

We are adjusting. Each day seems a little easier than the last. Much like it did in those early days of parenting. I move forward with the knowledge that I did it before and I can do it again — one new day at a time.

How are you adjusting to how the virus is impacting your family’s life?

No Distractions

How are you and your child dealing with the Coronavirus?

Our schools shut down a week ago. My younger son’s school transitioned to online learning, my older son’s teachers are giving students optional assignments as enrichment. Neither child seems to mind sleeping in later. 😊 Of course, my husband and I are also working from home which can make for an interesting work day. I’m grateful my kids are older and can care for/entertain themselves. I do, however, enjoy, when I’m on a work video conference and I get to see someone’s child, or family pet wonder into the picture. It reminds me how similar we are — it’s comforting.

Restaurants are take-out only or delivery, public places closed to help slow/stop the spread of the virus. The first week transitioning to this new normal wasn’t easy.

One way we are dealing with the situation is going for walks around our neighborhood. With virtually no traffic it’s easy to distance ourselves from your neighbors. While walking one day we saw a neighbor sitting on her porch. We lamented the change in our daily routines. I shared how there was a calm, almost a peace, I was feeling that I haven’t felt in a while (maybe ever). That with no distractions–having to get kids various places at various times, work commitments, and other activities outside the home–I was forced to just be. She smiled when I said that. “I know what you mean,” she commented. We both agreed having no distractions was a blessing, if only it weren’t the result of a pandemic.

Eventually the pandemic will pass, and life will return to normal. Or maybe we’ll come out of this with a new normal, who knows? For now, I’m trying to embrace the opportunity to just be.

How are you coping with this new normal? Is there any unexpected upside you’re experiencing?

A Walk to Remember

How are you dealing with the Coronavirus, social distancing, and events, public spaces, and businesses being shut down?

One way my family is adjusting is by doing what we normally do on nice days — we go for a walk. I see the walk through a different lens though nowadays. Inside the house the virus can consume me, but outside I’m reminded how much things are the same. It helps that trees are budding and flowers blooming. Birds chirping, and seeing the occasional squirrel or neighborhood cat calms me.

My younger son and I decided to take a walk. While we start our walks walking side-by-side it almost never fails that before long my son is walking in front of me. He never walks in a straight line but goes back and forth, I can never gauge when he’s going to change direction and often comment that he walks like a cat, in that I’m always wondering when he’ll be underfoot (and I’ll trip over him).

For whatever reason on this particular walk I decided to ask him why he changes directions when he walks. He answered, “I like to walk on the flat parts. It feels better on my feet.” That had never occurred to me. Being on the spectrum, certain senses are heightened for him, it had never occurred to me that he thought about how his feet felt while walking on the ground. It’s not a sensation I’m tuned into. Our neighborhood sideways have lots of ups and downs from tree roots that have grown over time. I’m more concerned with tripping or falling if I don’t watch my step, and now I know my son is more concerned with finding the flatter path.

Having this realization calmed me even more. I’m not sure I would have asked the question I had of my son, or learned the answer if I hadn’t been forced to start looking at things differently outside. It’s a walk I’ll remember.

What do you and your family do to get you through this? What are you discovering during this time together?

Going Viral

How is the Coronavirus impacting you?

It’s scary to think of this new disease that has emerged. Taking lives with no vaccine available. Having kids the fear is compounded. You’re worried about everyone wondering how you keep your family members safe. You hear about the virus everywhere you go. The virus has literally gone viral.

Traveling is now a challenge. Do I still fly for a business meeting? Does my son take the bus to school? What about grocery shopping and being in public spaces? And well, living your life like you normally would.

My youngest son came down with a cold this week. Of course, the first thought is ‘could this be the virus’ but he only has a runny nose, no fever or any of the other symptoms. We decided to be on the safe side and keep him home from school to ensure he didn’t pass along his germs to others.

We are also trying to keep our kids from stressing out. Nothing is worse, in my opinion, than when a child sees their parent is genuinely scared. While my husband and I may worry about the virus, I can’t say we’re scared. We are calmed by knowing that if any of us come down with it our chances of getting a deadly form of the virus are low, we live in a city with good medical care, and we’re taking the recommended precautions (washing our hands frequently, not touching our face, etc.). Still, the unknown can be unnerving. I suppose I’m trying to live by the British war time motto, Keep Calm and Carry On. Not easy, but necessary — particularly for the sake of my kids and helping them navigate this.

How are you helping your child stay safe? How are helping them during this scary time?

Laws of Attraction

How did you know your significant other was ‘the one’?

When the evening weather is nice I like to get outside for a walk. Sometimes we walk as a family, sometimes it’s just me and my husband, or me and one of my boys. My oldest son went for a walk with me this past week. I always treat these walks as a special time for me to get caught up with him.

During our walk, he shared about friendships he was making, and growing more comfortable as a middle schooler. I asked if there was anyone he was interested in as more than a friend. He said, “You know, mom, I think I’m weird.” “Why do you say that?” I asked. “Well,” he paused before continuing, “Because I’m physically attracted to some people, but I’m not sure I like them as a person.” I responded by telling him there was nothing weird about having this insight and he was probably ahead of his peers in his way of thinking about a desired relationship. “Too often people start relationships because of physical attraction, only to find out later they don’t necessarily like the person. A relationship doesn’t work if both people don’t want to be in it, and why would you want to stay in a relationship if you didn’t like who you are with?” He responded, “Yea, it’s just weird though. It’s like one part of me is attracted and the other part isn’t. It doesn’t make sense.” I told him I understood.

As we walked I thought about the laws of attraction and how physical attraction is primal and has helped the human species to survive. I was impressed my son was aware of his own conflicts between his head and heart, and his desire to have a relationship with someone that are in unison vs. disparate.

Is your tween/teen in a relationship? What drew them to their partner?

While the Kids are Away, the Parents Will…

Has your child ever spent the night at their grandparents, or a friend’s house? Or gone away to overnight camp? How did you spend your free time?

My boys go away a few times a year — to camp, a school trip, or visiting their grandparents. Every time they leave, my husband and I have to figure out what to do with ourselves. All our parenting duties temporarily go away and we have to adjust to it being just the two of us.

When my boys were young, I coveted date night. Just having some time away with my husband was priceless. I desperately needed a break from my parenting responsibilities. But as my boys have grown and become much more independent, date nights are something my husband and I need. It’s no longer about needing a break, but instead about being connected.

A date night now can include simple things like a walk around the neighborhood, eating dinner together, or talking, about anything other than work or the kids. This time together reminds us why we’re together. When our kids are gone (particularly when it’s for several nights) we miss them, but know that they are growing with the experiences they are having, while we are strengthening our relationship while they’re gone.

How do you and your significant other stay connected? How do you enjoy your (kid) free time when you have it?

Up, Up, and Away

Does your child like to travel?

My oldest has anxiety when he travels — specifically to new locations. He isn’t worried about mechanical problems or turbulence, but the length of the flight, getting bored or uncomfortable in his seat, and worried about worst case scenarios when he reaches his final destination — it being unsafe, or getting lost, etc. Leading up to his most recent trip, he started showing signs of his anxiety in a number of ways — complaining “I don’t want to go”, getting angry “this is so dumb”, and muttering under his breathe “this is so stupid”. Keep in mind he’s 14, so these reactions are common when he experiences anxiety or discomfort regardless the situation.

My husband and I deployed multiple methods of working to help him work through his feelings in the days leading up to his departure. We had numerous talks, went on multiple walks. We reminded him that while he may be anxious about the unknown (and reassuring him that it’s normal to feel this way) that everything was going to be okay.

He and I talked the night before he left on his trip. I tried to get him to think about his fears in a different context. “How long, and potentially boring, the flight is going to be is a good problem to have,” I said. He looked at me quizzically. “Think about it. There are kids whose family can’t afford to pay the rent, or struggle to put food on the table. To those kids, getting on a plane to go somewhere is a dream. The fact that you have this opportunity to see new places is a gift.” I could see, for a flicker of a moment, he understood what I was saying. He wasn’t done complaining or sharing his concerns with me, but I’m hopeful I got through to him and when his anxiety returns he can think of this is a larger context the problems that he’s experiencing are actually good ones to have, and instead enjoy the gift he’s being given.

How do you help you child when they have anxiety? How do you help them work through their feelings?

Who Do You Love?

What or who do you love?

My younger son can easily articulate what and who he loves. He says I love you to my husband and I without any discomfort, and for the most part is comfortable sharing his feelings openly and honestly with others. I think he is just wired this way. My oldest keeps his emotions close. He can come across as being quick to anger or unhappiness, but am now better understanding that it is his discomfort that is causing these emotional reactions.

I’m thinking of having my oldest keep a gratitude journal. Peggy Orenstein’s talk and my Head and Heart blog made me think this is one way we can help our son keep his head and heart connected. My hope is that by journaling he’ll grow to appreciate all the good things in his life, and that while disappoint and discomfort will happen there is a different way he can respond because he’ll remember he’s loved and has a lot of things to love in his life.

How does your child express their emotions? How are you helping them remember all that is positive in their life?

Head and Heart

How does your child show others who they are?

My family and I were fortune to see Peggy Orenstein talk about her book Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity. My husband and I decided to have our sons attend with us. While the idea of having to hear about sex, intimacy, and porn with my kids made me uncomfortable, my husband and I knew if these topics were ‘out in the open’ we could talk more openly with our kids about what they are seeing, hearing, and thinking.

My kids shared my discomfort. “Mom, do we have to go?,” they asked. There was no getting out of it. If I as going to power through my discomfort so we’re they. We were going to this talk as a family. I did suggest a compromise, “I know you’re uncomfortable being with mom and dad at this event. If you want to sit away from us, that’s okay.” That seemed to make us all feel a little better.

One of the most powerful revelations I had during Peggy’s talk was when she shared what her work uncovered — that girls are taught to disconnect from their bodies (who you are is one thing, your body or outward appearance another), and boys are taught to disconnect from their heart (have feelings, empathy, etc., but not be able to show them). I thought about how I’ve seen my oldest son struggle with this. It’s like the empathetic kid I’ve known has been working hard to stuff his feelings and empathy way down–with it rarely surfacing as he ages. My husband and I have talked to him about toxic masculinity and encouraged him not to buy into it (or fall into its trap), but Peggy shared insights that helped outline just how hard that is. Our kids are up against what the see on TV, the internet, etc., and risk isolating themselves when they break from the “norm” — stand up for others, or freely express how they feel.

The talk has helped us start a more useful dialogue as a family around what our boys are up against. My husband and my’s goal is to teach them to keep their head and heart connected. It won’t be easy, but us being willing to be uncomfortable together has been for us a great place to start.

How are you helping your child be true to who they are?