Back to School — Okay with Not Being Popular

Being popular can cause people to do strange things. Largely not being themselves but trying to be what they think others will perceive as cool or popular.  

I’m looking at being popular quite differently this year. Instead of worrying about my kids feeling like they fit in (being most liked or not), I’m much more concerned with them feeling safe.

Are there any parents out there that are fearful of their child going to school and getting caught in random (or targeted) violence? We’ve seen what happened at Sandy Hook, we continue to hear news story after news story of innocent people being killed by people who had access to guns and felt entitled to use it as they see fit (not to defend, but for revenge). The most recent story being the horrifying work place killing of the news reporter and photo journalist this past week in Roanoke, VA.

I am tired to hearing these stories. It feel like it’s something I’m just supposed to accept. I don’t. I will never get used to these stories. I will never be okay with innocent people dying at the hands of someone who has a gun and uses it because they can.

I am tired of people having easy access to guns and using them in violent ways. Often stories can seem ‘far away’ and not something we have to deal with in our personal lives. I live in a place I would say is safe, yet we’ve had two events where multiple people died at the hands of ‘ordinary’ citizens in the past few years. You hear about people killing people in movie theaters, who would have ever thought that would happen?  Where does it end?

I am tired of having to deal with people who have guns who feel entitled to have them and brandish them anywhere they see fit (I was in a fast food restaurant not long ago and a gentleman came into the restaurant with a pistol tucked into the back of his jeans, it wasn’t in a holster and wasn’t secure. It was almost like he was asking someone to pick a fight with him, or call him out on having the gun, so he could use it. I tried not to panic, but had my kids with me, so we got our food and quickly exited the restaurant. What kind of society do we live in, where the person with the gun has more rights than the unarmed citizen?).

I am tired of being scared to speak out because there are those that are much more vocal than I that feel differently. I am not against people owning guns, but do feel people should have to demonstrate that they can operate them safely and in the right places if they want to own one.

And I’m tried of being quiet because I fear someone with a gun may want to silence me for speaking up.

My kids are what are helping me find my voice. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t say anything because I can’t bare the thought of them dying at the hands of someone who happens to have a gun, and feels compelled to use it against others; or that as a society we don’t figure out how to address this so our children don’t have to when they are adults — how much worse does it have to get before it gets better?

As the kids go back to school, I think about it being a new year, new opportunities, a new chance to teach our kids a different way. We have to model what that change is.

I know my position may not be popular, and I’m okay with it. Especially if it helps others find their voice. The more of us who feel this way and speak up, the better chance we have for change. Is there anyone else out there that is with me?

Home Away from Home

How do you stay connected when you are separated from your child because of travel?

Many of us travel for our jobs. My husband and I have worked hard to minimize our travel schedule, but there continues to be times when we need to be away. Being away from a few days is relatively easy for our kids to handle. It becomes more difficult when one of us is gone for longer periods of time.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it stinks!

Applications like Skype and FaceTime have made it easier to communicate and ‘see’ each other, but can be somewhat disappointing when you don’t have very interesting information to share: nothing particularly exciting or unique happened during the day and everyone is fine, or have limited time to talk.  When discussing this issue with some friends one, whose spouse also travels quite a bit, shared that when she or her husband travel they found that sharing pictures or making video messages went a long way with the kids. I thought it was a great idea, so our family decided to give it a try. Instead of sending a standard “Hi, Dad. How are you? We love and miss you” message, we decided to get creative. We’ve come up with various silly ways to stay connected when one of us is away. We sing songs to each other, put on short skits or Lego-inspired plays…the kids have lots of good ideas. It’s all about what they think will be fun or interesting to do. It’s been fun to make the videos, and helped us all feel more connected even though we are miles apart.

What’s helped you feel most connected to your child or spouse when you’re away on travel?

Let’s Go Camping

When you think of summer what comes to mind? Playing on a Slip ‘n Slide, spending lots of time in the pool, going swimming in a lake, fishing, making homemade ice cream or something else?

My boys and I have never camped in the summer, but that’s going to change this year. We’ve camped before (see blogs on our camping trips in the past) but also in cooler months. I can remember camping as a kid and it was almost always in the summer months. Memories of bugs, relentless heat, and sweat come to mind. It’s probably why I’ve avoided it up to this point. Instead of doing traditional camping (and by that, I mean getting in the car and driving to a camping site) we’re going to camp in our own backyard. I realize this isn’t a unique idea, but it’s a first for us. Not having to drive anywhere and still being able to use all of your camping gear is appealing. And if the bugs bite, we’ve got a quick escape (either come inside or I can run to the store and pick up some bug spray). I know, I know…what fun is it, if you don’t have all the hardships that can come with a good old fashioned camping trip? Lots, I’d say. My boys are really excited about the backyard campout, and can’t wait to figure out how to convert of backyard so it is more ‘camp-like’ (I can’t wait to see what they come up with).

I’m reminded of my own upbringing and how the simple things: watching (and sometimes catching) lightning bugs, running through the sprinkler, going to a BBQ and just relaxing with people I loved holds a special place in my heart. These things were fun, relaxing, and created a moment that forced me to pause to appreciate how good it felt to be right where I was, without a care in the world.

When have you experienced those moments? How are you and your family enjoying the summer?

 

Talk to Me (or someone you trust)

Have you ever wondered what your child was thinking or feeling, and gotten frustrated when they weren’t able (or willing) to talk to you about it?

My oldest son is getting to the age where he is starting to hold back on what he shares with my husband and I. He is willing to ask questions and come to us when something is really on his mind, but struggles to talk to us (or his caregivers or teachers, etc.) when he is frustrated or upset. In these instances, his go-to strategy has been to express his frustration with a grunt and closed fists, or to simply walk away. While I appreciate him being aware enough that he knows he needs to calm himself done before responding, I yearn for him to talk to me (or my husband, or his caregiver, teacher, etc.) to tell us what is going on and why he is getting so frustrated, angry or upset. When he doesn’t or isn’t willing, I feel helpless to help him. It’s feels awful.

We enrolled our son in a camp that was recommended to us to help with these types of struggles. When I picked him up following a day of camp his counselor came over and shared that he refused to participate and talk to them during the day. We discussed how we could get him to open up. The camp, which is outdoors-focused, runs a MineCraft project for their participants. They set-up a project the kids can work on, and help them with their social interactions. My son heard about this and wanted to join. We saw an opportunity to help him get what he wanted (to ‘play’ MineCraft) while helping him open up and better express himself when frustrated or upset. “I’ll make you a deal. You tell your counselor what is bothering you tomorrow, and we’ll consider letting you play MineCraft,” I offered. “Okay,” my son quickly replied. The following day, he eagerly greeted me and said, “Mom, I told the counselor what was bothering me today!” He was excited about it (I’m sure his excitement was around the possibility of him playing MineCraft increasing, but I’ll take it).  I told him that I was glad to hear it, and I’d talk to the camp counselor about how to get him set-up to play with the other participants. My husband and I are not necessarily video game fans, but thought this was about as good as we could hope for as an introduction to the gaming world. As my son and I were leaving I reiterated why it was so important he not keep his thoughts and feelings to himself all the time. “We can’t help you if you don’t talk to us. We don’t know what you’re feeling or thinking. We can’t read your mind. But we can help you when you are willing to tell us. Make sense?” “Okay, Mom. I’ve got it.” We’ll see if this works, but it feels like we’re heading on the right path. I’m feeling a little less helpless.

How have you gotten your child to talk to you when they were reluctant to do so?

Cooling Off

How do you keep cool on hot summer days? Do you have memories of swimming, using a Slip n’ Slide or running through the sprinkler?

I was on a business trip after a long day and was looking forward to changing clothes and going for a walk. It had been a long day, it was hot, I’d been in a small, hot car for too long and was ready to de-stress. It was late enough that the intensity of the day’s heat was gone and it was starting, ever so slightly, to cool down. I was on the 5th floor of a six-floor hotel. When I got into the elevator I joined a Dad with his two sons, about the same age as my own kids. As kids will do, they were talking about how excited they were for the pool, and how annoyed they were that my arrival (really the elevator having to stop) really bummed them out–they had a pool to get to. “How come the pool isn’t on the roof?” one of the boys asked. We all kind of looked at each other like we were thinking the same thing….that’s actually a pretty good idea, kid. Before you knew it, we were headed down, but were stopped again on the 2nd floor. This time, a young woman joined us with her cellphone next to her ear. As soon as the doors closed, one of the boys looked at his father and said, “How come people on the second floor don’t take the stairs?” I couldn’t help but smile. My boys would totally have said the same thing. The woman took it in stride, took the phone away from her ear and said, “Well, my goodness, I’m so sorry.” And the dad attempted to apologize for this son’s remark. The doors opened again, and the kids bounded out towards the pool, leaving us, their comments and their cares behind.

I couldn’t stop smiling. I no longer felt the heat of the day, or the stress that I had felt only a few floors earlier. I relished in the simplicity of kids, their honesty and forwardness. I thought about my own kids, and how similar they were to these boys. They reminded me that sometimes you can get annoyed or delayed (much like the boys were in the elevator), but getting to where you want to go can help you leave your cares behind. I decided I would follow suit, and leave behind my cares once I stepped out of the hotel, it made for a much more pleasant walk–I was calm, and I was cool.

When has your child’s honesty gotten you to rethink a hot situation?