Soaking Wet

When was the last time you got into a water gun (or water balloon) fight? For me, it had been several decades, that was, until this week.

Each year, my husband and I encourage our boys to complete a math software-based program that includes upward of 200 assignments. The work that is not assigned by the school, but encouraged as an aid to help the student practice and hone their math skills. We think it benefits our children, so we have them work on it throughout the year. When they are done, we celebrate by letting them get something they want (within reason) to celebrate their accomplishment. This year, my oldest wanted a water gun.

When I was growing up, a water gun was small and made of see-through plastic. The water gun my son selected was large and had multiple water spray mechanisms. Water guns have come a long way since I was a kid.

Once my son had the water gun in his hands at home, he couldn’t wait to fill it with water and take it out the backyard to see what it could do. The minute my husband got home, my son determined a water gun fight needed to ensue. My husband had a different idea, he suggested the boys help him with some projects outside, and when they were done, they could have a water gun fight. The boys eagerly agreed.

It couldn’t help but smile watching my boys help their father out in the backyard, and it brought me great joy to see the water gun fight that commenced following. My oldest was relentless in getting his father soaking wet, and my husband wasn’t about to let his son get him wet without returning the favor. My youngest occasionally got into the battle, but was happy just to observe, like me. When the fight was over, everyone came back into the house. There was panting, and laughing about what had just happened. They were soaking wet, and I loved it.

I’m guessing we’ll have several more water gun fights in upcoming years, and think about how long it will be before my boys re-engage in a water gun fight once they are grown. I hope it isn’t as long as it was for me. I clearly missed out on having fun with water.

As an adult, what games have you reconnected with from your childhood? What activities do you do as a family that bring you the most joy?

 

Sum-Sum-Summertime

We have officially entered summertime. School is out, the weather is warming and thoughts of vacation are top of mind. There is a lot to look forward to.

I heard Surfing U.S.A. by the Beach Boys playing on television this past week. It took me back to my childhood, reminding me of all the memorable songs I associated with summer vacation and enjoyed during the summer months. The images it brought up were so vivid, and good:  BBQs, fireworks, trips (camping, or traveling by car or air) to spend time with family and friends. The memories remain strong, much like Christmas or holiday memories, I crave to have new memories as good as the past, maybe even better. But there’s no guarantee of that, and all I can do is look for the opportunities to enjoy the summer and actually enjoy them.

It shouldn’t be so hard, especially if I’m humming or singing a little tune. Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime, summertime.

How do you plan to enjoy the summer with you family?

On Father’s Day

I never knew my grandfathers. Both passed away before I was born. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a grandfather. Someone to be a male role model and teach me things with unconditional love.

When I moved to the northwest, I met a very nice older couple who I became close with. Ken, the husband, became the closest thing I had to a grandfather. I would often see him and his wife, Ellie, on Sunday mornings. He would always greet you with a big smile on his face, genuinely glad to see you. After greeting me on one Sunday Ken said, “Boy, we just think you’re just great.” What an amazing gift. It didn’t matter to me that I was grown up I soaked up his affection like a sponge. It was the unconditional love I imagined I would have experienced if my own grandfathers had had the opportunity to meet and spend time with me. I was in awe that Ken felt this way, and had the courage to voice it to someone who wasn’t even a family member.  Ken was a model for me about how we should treat each other, and how anyone has the ability to touch another’s life.

I am grateful that I have my father still and my boys have both their grandfathers. I am captivated when watching them interact. Games of catch, fishing from the dock or seeing them watch a game together have a greater significance to me.

I’m grateful for the time I had with Ken. He passed away in recent years, but he made a lasting impression.  Most fathers (and grandfathers) do.

To all the dads making a positive lasting impression, thank you, and happy Father’s Day.

The Advocate

Do you ever struggle to speak up for yourself? How about speaking up for your child?

If so, then we have something in common.

Speaking up for yourself is one thing. Whether it’s due to lack of confidence, the way you were brought up, or something else, you are the only one that suffers when you don’t speak up for yourself. But what about your child. They don’t have a voice, and need their parents or loved ones to advocate on their behalf.

I have to admit, I’ve often taken a backseat to voicing my opinion in regards to child development and education. My mother was an teacher for over 40 years and I have great respect for those in this profession. I’ve always been involved and stayed close enough to be  in-the-know of what is going on with my children in school, but also wanted to give the teacher a chance to successfully teach my child. I thought that might be negatively impacted if I was constantly asking for input or feedback on how my child was doing. I also thought I would be perceived as a “needy” parent. I wanted to empower my children to be independent and thrive, and thought by giving them some distance in school, it supported this desire.

My husband and I noticed our son was having some struggles in school and enlisted the help of others. We brought in someone from outside the school to observe him, and learned quickly that we needed to find and ‘raise’ our voices quickly. If we didn’t our son might  continue to struggle and develop some negative self-beliefs about his capabilities. My husband and I were going to do everything we could to ensure that didn’t happen.

We initiated a conversation with his school’s leadership (teacher, principal, counselors, etc.) and discussed our concerns. At the time, my husband and I wondered if we were wrong about our concerns and were overreacting to the situation (e.g. raising our voices too high too fast). After the discussion, one of the leaders pulled us aside and said, “You’re doing the right thing. It’s important we understand your concerns and work to help your child together.” It was a relief to hear.

I’ve gotten better at advocating for my boys ever since. No longer worried about being perceived as the “needy” parent who wants information, and to have influence in who teaches my child, etc., but instead seen as the advocate who will do whatever is needed (even if uncomfortable or scary) to ensure her sons gets needed resources, attention, etc. for the best chance of success. Finding my voice is a muscle that I continue to develop and make stronger.

For those of you who have always been vocal and will continue to be — you are an inspiration to me and others. For those of you working to find your voice…remember you need to be heard. You are the best advocate your child has.

How do you advocate for your child?

The Waiting Game

Most of us have been on family vacations that include a long period of time in the car. It never fails at some point during the trip, the kids get restless, the distractions no longer distract, and the noise volume increases. It was this way when I was a kid, and it’s the way it is now with my own kids. When we reach this point, whoever notices it first will call for “The Quiet Game.” I think many of us have invoked the Quiet Game in this situation–where everyone gets quiet, and the last person to speak (or in some cases make any kind of sound) wins the game.

We were recently on a road trip that required us to get on a ferry with our car. We left the house early in hopes that we’d make it in time to get on the earlier ferry. After waiting in line for almost two hours, we learned that we were seven cars too late and we’d have to wait another five hours for the next ferry. It was a bit deflating, but we were prepared to wait it out. We were also preparing ourselves for playing the Quiet Game…we feared we might have to play it multiple times throughout our wait.

We went to a nearby cafe to get some food and drinks to help us get through the long hours, and noticed there was a beach just down the hill from where we were parked. We ventured down to take a closer look, thinking we could kill 30 minutes to an hour down there. Instead, we found there was a beach trail, that included a broad walk and separate paved path for several miles. Since we had such a long wait, we had plenty of time to explore.

My youngest son and I went first, we took our time on the path, noticing the sea life, the way the boardwalk turned and curved, and other wonders of nature along the way (a caterpillar eating a leaf, a large stump washed up on the shore, little pinecones on the ground). I was very present in the moment with my son. It was relaxing and we enjoyed each others company. When we got back to the car, we still had a few more hours to get through. My husband and our older son decided they would check out the path based on our experience. My younger son wanted to work on an activity book, and then when my older son returned they decided to watch a movie on the DVD player we had brought “just in case.”

When we got onto the ferry, my husband and I discussed how pleasant the long wait had been. No Quiet Game, no fussing, nothing negative. It had been time well spent. We had found ways to occupy ourselves and created some new memories at a ferry terminal. Not something I expected to do.

I will look a waiting differently in the future. It may include the Quiet Game, but it also provides me with the opportunity to be present with my kids and to find the joy in our surroundings whatever they might be.

What is your favorite game to play on road trips? What helps make the time pass more quickly or pleasantly?