So Very Thankful

As Thanksgiving day arrives, and you reflect on the good things in your life, what comes to mind?

We have a practice in our home where at dinner, we say grace. It mainly consists of saying what we’re thankful for. It’s a daily tradition we all enjoy. For my boys, it’s an opportunity for them to share with us what’s top of mind (sometimes they are most thankful for what is in their field of vision — a napkin on the table, a food on their plate they are grateful is being served for dinner, or a toy or book left on the table. Other times its memories from the day — things like doing well on a math test, playing well in a game or playing with a friend), or what’s in their heart (sometimes they surprise us with the most amazing comments — thankful for people in their lives, or for nature, or acts of kindness they witnessed from others). For my husband and I, it’s an opportunity for us to share what we’re grateful for, and keeps what we consider blessings–healthy kids, our own health, good friends and family who care about us, jobs and a safe, warm place to rest our heads each night–front and center.  There is much to be thankful for, and it feels really good acknowledging it every day.

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time of year we remember what we are thankful for. It’s a day with friends and family, where you appreciate all the good things in your life. It’s special and I’m thankful for it.

What practices of gratitude do you and your family practice? What makes your Thanksgiving special?

I’ll be spending time with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving.

Re-present-ing

Has your child ever asked for a gift that didn’t seem to “fit” their gender, and if so, how did you respond?

My boys have recently celebrated birthdays. One son was very interested in Minecraft, Pokémon, Yo-kai, and other popular games for kids his age. My other son wanted the Anki Overdrive starter kit *and* the Barbie Dream House. My first thought was, wow, my kid has expensive taste. My second was, hmmm, I loved the Barbie Dream House when I was a kid. I literally begged my parents, I wrote what I thought was a compelling letter to Santa, and prayed to God and anyone else who would listen to my plea until it arrived one year, but was I okay getting this (or another Barbie product that was actually within our budget) for my son? As open-minded as I’d like to think I am, his request gave me pause. Personally, I could care less if he has the Barbie Dream House and all the Barbie’s he wants (though I have no idea where it would fit in our house), but what would people say?  Would they make fun of him?  I felt really conflicted. I want to support him and his interests and don’t want to try to steer him away from something he wants towards something I’m more comfortable with. It’s not right or fair to him.

My son helped me with the issue. We were riding to a car museum for his birthday party (he also loves old-fashioned cars and has recently taken a real liking to NASCAR), and had his two best friends in the car, Carly and Dan. My son had found the Target holiday magazine (darn you, Target, and your compelling marketing devices!) and brought it to share with his friends on the ride down. As they flipped the pages they each called out what they hoped to get. “I want this robot,” one shared. “Look at the Paw Patroller, how cool,” said the other. My son got to the Barbie section and confidently said, “I want the Barbie Dream House. I know it’s a lot of money, but I really, really, really want it.” Dan broke out into innocent laughter thinking my son was kidding, and said, “but that’s a girl toy!” His reaction was exactly what I had feared. My son turned to Dan and quickly and confidently responded, “Don’t make fun of me. I like it. There’s nothing funny about it.” Dan stopped, and within seconds it was like the entire conversation had never happened. They just flipped the page and kept going. My son brought up the Dream House again later and there were no giggles or additional words. My son seems to know who he is and what he likes, and he’s not going to let anyone tell him otherwise. I was impressed. I don’t think I had that level of self-confidence when I was his age.

My hesitancy to get my son a ‘girl’ gift is fading. I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable, but I’ll continue to work to be so over time. My son deserves that. After all, he’s representing himself very well, and I owe him my support and encouragement to help him continue to be comfortable with who he is.

How do handle situations when your child asks for something you’re not comfortable getting them?  How do you help them be comfortable with who they are?

Soccer Mom

Did your parent(s) ever embarrass you as a child?

Of course they did, right?  It’s a rite of passage for most parents. While I’ve been open with my boys that mom and dad will likely embarrass them from time to time, it will never be intentionally done. They know they can call us on it, and we (my husband and I) have to own it, and try to make it right (e.g. don’t do it again).  What I didn’t anticipate was where I’d have the most trouble not being a repeat offender — at the soccer field.

I am not one of those parents who yells at the kids or the refs and tries to correct them. Instead I’m guilty of calling a play-by-play with what the kids are doing on the field, like it’s some how going to help the outcome of the game. “Nice pass to Jake.” “Way to block it, Luke.” “Take it away, Caleb. You’ve got this.” But one time I went a little too far. My son was struggling in a game, and instead of doing what the coach was telling him, he got angry and started to talk back, “I’m doing what you told me!” “What am I doing wrong?” I didn’t like the way he was talking to the coach, and instead of letting the coach handle it (like I should have) I said, “Why don’t you channel your anger back into the game, and get more focused?” My son was clearly beside himself with embarrassment grunted and gave me a “zip it” hand gesture (moving his fingers across his mouth). When it was half-time he came over to the sidelines with his teammates, and knowing I was standing nearby, loudly said, “I don’t ever want you to come to a game again!”

He had a point. I would have hated it if my parents had done the same thing to me. I wanted to be supportive and encouraging (that’s what we need at any age), not shame him in front of his peers. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. If I wanted to have this discussion with him, I should have done it in private. I told him as much after the game.  “I was wrong. Not what I said, but where I said it. I should have said it away from everyone being able to hear and I’m sorry.”  He still wasn’t happy, but he got it. I owned my part in what happened, and haven’t made a similar comment (at least in front of his peers) since.

I think I rationalize my broadcasting tendencies (which are now strictly the positive play-by-plays) as wanting to show I’m interested and vested (e.g. my son knows I care about what he’s doing), and that somehow my encouragement will help the team (know that they are supported and care). Not to worry, I’m aware that my ‘cheering’ likely isn’t doing much, if any, good, and am working to be a more subdued parent. Outside of walking away from the game and distracting myself, I haven’t come up with a lot of best practices for how to do this.  Anyone have any suggestions to share?

I know my son realizes I mean well, and that I’m his biggest (along with his dad) fan, but I need to model for him how you support someone without strings attached (e.g. I support you even when you’re struggling…especially when you’re struggling), encourage without having to voice my praise (clapping or a yahoo is fine during the game, any points I want to make can be saved for the car ride home). And maybe that’s it…a desire to share feedback real-time, versus seeing how things play out and providing more constructive input at a later time. It’s not easy. It takes practice. I’ve got some work to do.

Are there any other rowdy parents like me out there (willing to admit it)? Do you have a hard time being quiet and calm while watching your child participate in a competitive activity?