Be Easily Forgotten or a Hero?

Have you ever been embarrassed by a sibling or family member?

My oldest has reached an age where he is becoming embarrassed by his younger brother. While he loves his brother, they get along quite well together, he is starting to be influenced by what his friends think.

We were having dinner and my oldest decided he needed to share with us that his friends make fun of his younger brother because he gets excited over little kid things — mind you he’s a few years younger than his brother, so it’s normal for him to be into the things he’s into, but his older brother was embarrassed none-the-less.

My youngest son was at the table, made a frown and said, “that hurts my feelings and kind of makes me feel bad.” I agreed. I was pretty unhappy my oldest had shared his opinion so openly with disregard for how it might make his brother feel.

My husband and I began to talk to our oldest. My husband reminded our son of a  segment we’d listened to on the radio where a man recalled an experience from his childhood where he’d followed an assignment given by the teacher to write down something you like and then asked the kids to give their assignment to a peer to read aloud. The boy hadn’t realized the assignment would be read aloud and immediately became embarrassed when he knew it would. As he suspected, the kids started to laugh at what he’d written. He wanted to disappear, until one of his peers, a girl in the class asked, “What’s the point of this assignment? To embarrass each other?” It stopped the class, it stopped the teacher, it ended the assignment. He never forgot that girl and how she stood up and ended his humiliation. He ends the story by challenging the listener to consider who you want to be in life — one that flies under the radar and is easily forgotten, or be the hero and remembered forever? We challenged our son to think about who he wanted to be — we’d hope he’d want to (and have the courage to) be the hero. “You stand up for your brother. You don’t ever tolerate someone else making fun of him,” I said. I looked at his younger brother and said, “And you do the same for him. You guys both need to look out for one another.”

We ended the conversation after getting the boys to confirm they understood us and would work to stand up for each other, even in uncomfortable situations. I’m hoping to raise heroes, not those easily forgotten.

How are you raising your child to stand up for their siblings or peers? How are you teaching them to be someone’s hero?

Cutting Your Own Path

What reminds you that winter is over?

For me, it’s when the tulips and daffodils finally bloom. They are at full peak where I live and are a constant reminder that warmer weather is coming. This winter was bitter cold and gray. The sun and blooming colors is doing all of us well. There is nothing better than walking down a path or street that’s bursting with different colors. It’s quite glorious.

My sons know that winter is over when we go outside more, and this year the occasion was marked with their bike riding. My youngest has finally learned how to ride his bike to where he can really enjoy it. It was a struggle for him to learn — getting started was what tripped him up.  Getting started with any new task we are learning can trip us up, right?

I was talking to a friend who is going through a career change. She has struggled with cutting her own path (I think something many of us can relate to). It reminded me of how my son struggled to learn to ride. He convinced himself the path he needed to take to learn to ride was too unfamiliar, would take skills he didn’t have and couldn’t master. He was struggling with unfamiliar domain. I shared with her my passion for teaching my boys how to make their own way in the world and help show them how to cut their own path. It had made me think about how when you navigate something new, it’s like looking at an overgrown path littered with brush that you have to cut away. At first, hacking at the brush can be tough, unfamiliar and even scary, but after a while, you figure out how to do it and start getting better at making a clearing you can pass through.  When you emerge into the clearing you appreciate the path you’ve made and the place you’ve arrived. I’m not planning to take my children to the jungle or give them a machete to clear brush, but I do want them to know that they have it in them to get from the can’t (ride my bike) to the can (I did it!). Much like the seasons. You sometimes have to make your way through until you make it to the other side. It’s worth it, the scenery at the end is incredible.

How are you teaching your child to make their own way?

Kids and War

How do you explain war to your child?

My knee jerk reaction is to try to shield them from the horror. There is nothing pretty about war. What is going on in Syria is unbelievably sad, and angering. To see people suffer, lose there homes and have to flee their countries in order to survive is unfathomable. Seeing innocent people killed, particularly the children by chemical weapons is devastating.

My boys have been wondering what is going on in Syria and why. It’s hard to explain. It’s ultimately about people not being able to get along and resorting to violence instead of finding peaceful solutions. I get that solving these types of problems aren’t easy, but I really want my boys to know that war is not the answer and never will be.

My youngest son got some exposure to war recently in his social studies class.  The class was studying Native Americans and their struggle to maintain control of their native land from the settlers.  Each class member was assigned a position — you either were a Native American tribe member or a member of the American military. My son was part of a tribe. The class was given different situations and asked how they wanted to handle it. In one situation, both groups wanted a piece of land and neither was willing to give the land to the other. Their choice was to 1) sign a treaty that allowed them to share the land, or 2) decide to fight the other for the land. My son said, “Mom, I signed the treaty, but others kids in the tribe decided they wanted to fight.” “What happened? ” I asked. “Well, I lived,” said my son, “those who fought died.” Wow, I thought, this is a pretty good lesson he’s learning. The next challenge the class was faced with was 1) stay on the Reservation and be safe, or 2) fight and have to get your land back. “What did you choose?” I asked my son. “Well, I was going to go back to the Reservation because I wanted to be safe, but got accidentally shot by one of my classmates who thought I was trying to leave the Reservation,” he said. The idea that my son got ‘shot’ by friendly fire didn’t go unnoticed. Seems  this class activity was a little more realistic than I would have thought. “What did the lesson teach you?” I inquired. “Well, fighting almost always results in death. You might as well find a way to make peace.” Wow. Nine years old and he’s already figured this out. I wish some of our world leaders could.

How do you talk to your child about war? How do you help them understand unexplainable things?

No Foolin’

Have you ever had someone play a prank on you?

Up to this point, my sons have cared very little about April Fools Day. April 1st has come and gone for 11 years without ever a mention. But this year, it was different. My oldest decided that he wanted to play a prank on his brother and convince him that Saturday wasn’t Saturday but a school day and asked my husband and I if we would play along. He gave us instructions: “Don’t mention it’s Friday when it’s Friday.” “Dad, since you get up early on the weekends, wake us up at the normal time and have us get ready.” I’m not sure how far he thought his brother would believe it was really a school day, but he was committed to trying. His plan started to come apart when his brother on Friday, March 31st started singing on the way to school “It’s Friday. It’s Friday. It’s Friday.” My husband and I just looked at each other. None of us had said anything about what day it was, but of course he knew it was Friday. This was going to be harder to pull off than my oldest expected.

I have to admit I’m not a big fan of being pranked or tricked, or being made to look like an April Fool, but I can remember that I was curious as a kid — was April Fools fun for everyone and I was missing out on it?  Should I try to play a trick on someone?  Remembering that I am a terrible liar helped me make my decision. No pranks for me, thank you very much.

I can appreciate my son’s curiosity. So much of life is about trying new things, testing boundaries, finding out what is enjoyable and what isn’t. I don’t know what would have happened if his brother had taken the bait and believed it really was a Friday. I’m guessing he would have thought it was funny for a while, and then probably regretted it once his brother let him know he didn’t enjoy the trick. Thankfully the prank didn’t go very far and my husband built in a trip to the doughnut store for my son being a good sport about the whole thing. Allowing your child to explore new things — particularly ones you aren’t crazy about — isn’t easy. No foolin’.

How do you help your child navigate the unfamiliar? How do you help them try new things and test boundaries?