Paying for Your Mistake

What happens in your house when any of your electronics stops working?

In our house, when a valued electronic stops working we go through several phases: denial (I can dry it out, there’s no way that cracked the screen, etc.), fear (okay, this isn’t working, it’s broken, how am I going to fix this?), and stress (how long will it take, how much will it cost?….agh!). Then reality sets in…we will get this fixed, it will cause some inconvenience, and cost us money we weren’t planning to spend.

My boys have longed for a computer that would allow them to play video games on. We hang onto our electronics for a long time, trying to squeeze every penny out of them, and that doesn’t bode well for teen boys dying to play games that require computers with high processing speeds, and loads of memory. We didn’t budge on their ask for many years until COVID hit, with all the social distancing and at-home time we figured it was time.

The boys were overjoyed when we got the computer, and have enjoyed it and used it almost everyday, until it broke. Or more specifically the screen broke. It didn’t get cracked but would only display 3/4 of the screen, the remaining screen was mainly white. What exactly happened? I thought. My boys went through the motions: denial – no it can’t be broken (reboot, still broken); fear – what are we going to do (this will cost money, how quickly can we get this fixed?), and stress – how long will I have to live without my computer??? 😬

I know it must have felt like a lifetime to my kids, waiting almost three weeks for the replacement screen to arrive and the repair shop to fix it. During this time our oldest mentioned a handful of times he’d cover the cost of the repairs. I appreciated that he wanted to cover but wanted to understand why. Neither he nor his brother had been forthcoming regarding what might have caused the screen to become damaged.

After picking up the repaired computer I asked my son why he wanted to pay for the repair, if he felt he had any responsibility in what happened. Without any further prompting on my part he said, “Mom, what happened is totally my fault. I didn’t handle the computer as carefully as I should have.” “How so?,” I asked. “I know I dropped it at least once or twice, and grabbed it when I was moving it.” While I wasn’t crazy about his carelessness with the machine, I was impressed with his honesty and willingness (dare I say desire?) to be held accountable. “Okay,” I said, “You can contribute to the cost of the repairs. The expectation is you will be more careful from now on, and should this happen in the future you will cover the full expense.” “That’s fair,” he said, and that concluded the conversation.

Holding my son accountable financially (even partially) was hard. As a parent, holding my child accountable for behavior or mistakes has gotten easier with time, but adding the financial component felt like we are reaching another more adult-like milestone with our son, and was new ground for me. But it was a good lesson for my son to learn — sometimes you have to literally pay for your mistakes. But owning them, and getting them corrected does pay off (pun intended) 😊 — my sons got to play their games again. They were both ecstatic!

How do you hold your child accountable when they do something wrong? How do you help them learn or do better following their mistake?

Helping a Mother in Need

When was the last time you did a random act of kindness?

My oldest son needed to get a new identification. After weeks of waiting, and thinking I had everything we needed for the appointment, we headed out to the office. We were met easily by a waiting clerk. Awesome, I thought. I gave them the paperwork. Everything was there. This is good, my optimism for this being the shortest appointment ever was growing. Then they asked for payment. No cash. No credit cards. Only a check would be expected. How could I forget to bring a check?, I thought. My mind started racing. I couldn’t just run to the car, my checkbook wasn’t there. If I went back to the house, I’d lose my place and have to reschedule the appointment again. Dread started sinking in.

Then the most amazing thing happened, a woman working with the clerk next to mine saw what was unfolding and offered to help. “I’ll give you a check. You can just Venmo or PayPal me.” I’ve never been so grateful. “Are you sure you don’t mind?,” I asked. “Not at all,” she said, “I’ve actually been looking for an opportunity to help someone else. The same thing happened to me when I was at a grocery store and the bill was over $400. I couldn’t believe someone would help me in that way and having been wanting to pay it forward ever sense. This makes me feel good.” I used her check to complete the transaction and transferred the owed funds noting in the notes “helping a mother in need.”

We all have had moments when we need help. We left house without diapers, or need someone to hold the baby while we handle another crisis, or ask someone to momentarily watch one child while we chase after another. There are always opportunities to help. This woman was a godsend and truly helped a mother in need. Now I’m on the lookout for who I can help, and pay forward her kindness.

How has someone else helped you in a time of need? How have you helped another parent in need?

Making the Most of It

Did you incur any weather that impacted your holiday plans?

We were looking forward to getting out of town for a few days over Winter Break, but were snowbound for a week. It forced us to just “be.” It was a bit of an adjustment, we had been so looking forward to our trip, but Mother Nature had other ideas. We had no option but to make the best of it.

While most of our family were fairly unproductive (meaning we sat around trying to stay warm and watched lots of TV) , my oldest decided to get together with a friend and workout — how did they work out? By shoveling sidewalks for other people without being asked. My son’s friend had the idea, but my son was in. He was so inspired that when he got home that first day he shoveled the sidewalk around our block (which is an oversized block covering three streets). I was impressed by his desire to do this. I asked him if any neighbors noticed his work and thanked him (we live where snow doesn’t happen often and folks aren’t accustomed to needing to clear their sidewalk). “Not really,” he said, but it didn’t seem to bother him. He repeated meeting up with his friend throughout the week, they changed it up (where they shoveled and would include have fun at several snow covered parks (they wouldn’t shovel the parks, but toss the football, etc.).

The time off truly allowed us to disconnect and enjoy the moment. We didn’t have to worry about being anywhere, getting anything done by a certain time, or braving the elements. It was a much needed respite from the flurry of activities leading up to the week prior.

How did you spend your holidays? How did you and your family make the most of unexpected situations?

Holiday Rush

The holidays are a joyous, but busy season, right?

Trying to get shopping done, decorations up, wrapping gifts, traveling to see friends, family, Christmas lights, etc. Throw in work or school activities and commitments, and it can get to be a bit overwhelming at times, at least in our house.

During a particularly busy week at work, my husband, who was traveling on a last minute trip, shared we had tickets to a comedy show that had been rescheduled multiple times due to the pandemic. The show would happen while he was still away. They had been a gift for me, so he really wanted me to go. Normally I’d be excited, but this came up suddenly. I was already stressed with work and everything else going on, and didn’t feel up for going. My husband pushed. “You could use a laugh, take a friend or one of the kids.” He was right, but it still left like ‘one more thing’ I needed to get done. I inquired with a small handful of friends and none were available. I asked my boys and my oldest agreed to go. He was excited, I think by the prospect of doing something more adult, not necessarily hanging out with his mom. 😊

It was a flurry of activity leading up to us getting to the show. My mind was going a mile a minute with things still left to be done over the week and upcoming weekend. I caught sight of my son next to be and my inner voice said pretty loudly ‘be in the moment — the work, activities, commitments, etc., will all still be there — your son is with you now, this is special, pay attention.’ The voice helped me let go of much of the stress I’d been carrying around. I looked at my son again and focused on being present. What a gift! Simply focusing, and I mean focusing with intention, let all my worries slip away for the rest of the evening.

The holidays are hectic and stressful. Given this, what are your favorite things to do during the season with your child, and how do you stay present during these special moments?

Happy Holidays! I’ll be off for the next few weeks with friends and family and will be back in January.

Going for the Win

Do you get nervous before performing — running a race, speaking or singing in public, etc.?

My oldest started a new sport that runs through winter. He went in with the mindset he wanted to take advantage of the conditioning and practice as a good way to stay in shape. He has decided that he will give competition a try. He is nervous, and knows he has much to learn to get good at this sport.

I picked him up following practice one day and he shared he was going to compete. The tone of his voice indicated he believed he’d lose, and the loss would be painful. I attempted to get him to see it from another point of view. “What level would you say you’re on for this sport?” I asked. “Zero,” he replied. I laughed, “I’d say you’re at least at a 1.” I paused before continuing, “You are still very new at wrestling. You may get pinned very quickly, but winning for you, at this point, is learning something new from the match that you can apply going forward. That’s your win. And if you agree with that, there’s no way you can lose.” He sat and thought about what I said, and nodded as if he understood.

Trying new things is hard, and scary. But the growth and insight we gain around our abilities and what’s possible is the reward. Losing never feels good, but what if you grow and become better. Isn’t that a win? I think so, and hope my son does too.

How are you helping your child find the wins in new situations?

Advent Calendar

What are you most looking forward to today? Or tomorrow?

Often we move through life without noticing anything in particular we’re looking forward to. While most look forward to the holidays, perhaps gifts, and seeing friends and family, coming across an advent calendar reminded me of the smaller, but needed joys, we have access to daily.

When my boys were young I stumbled across Lego advent calendars. I recalled the joy I had as a child opening a simple paper door awaiting to see the picture inside. Now Lego was making them? I couldn’t resist getting them for my boys. Each advent calendar had a different theme (one city, one movie). Behind each door revealed a small surprise — a simple-to-put-together object such as a tree or mini figure. Every morning my boys would rush to the table eager to find what would be revealed that day.

It reminded me of unseen joy that might lay ahead. How life doesn’t give us physical advent calendars for the entire year, but they are there if we allow ourselves to see them, and figuratively (and sometimes literally) open the door. Meeting a new friend, noticing beauty in nature, sharing time with a pet, are a few examples of things that can happen for any of us any day. It’s just seeing the “door” and allowing yourself the opportunity to find the joy.

My boys are too old for advent calendars now, or so they tell me, but they’re not too old to find something to look forward to every day — whether it’s in the form of gratitude, anticipation, or the unknown. Each day there is an opportunity for us to “open” the door with anticipation and looking forward to. The “prize” might not reveal itself right away, but I’m betting with some reflection the “gift” of the day will ultimately reveal itself.

How do you approach each new day? How are you helping your child see the ‘gifts’ around them?

Gratitude and Giving Thanks

As we emerge (fingers crossed) from the pandemic, what are you most grateful for?

My youngest son’s school wanted to start a new annual tradition this school year to celebrate being able to come together as a community. They decided to hold a Gratitude Festival—to not only celebrate community, but honor the things we are grateful for — teachers, parents, administrators, friends, health, education, the community, and much more.

Being grateful has given me so much – it helps me be present and notice all the wonderful things around me (people, nature, animals, etc.). Everyday I’m reminded of all the things I have to be thankful for. I’ve tried to instill gratitude in my children. At meals we often share what we are grateful for. I’m hopeful they see the joy in being grateful too.

With Thanksgiving coming up, we often reflect on what we are thankful for. I hope events such as the Gratitude Festival at my son’s school, is one of many events that are held across the country, throughout the year, that provides each of us the opportunity to acknowledge the gifts all around us. After all, realizing the gifts in your life is a catalyst for experiencing gratitude, and when you’re grateful you feel blessed or fortunate. That usually means you feel good. And if you feel good, you’re more likely to spread your good feelings to others. Spreading happiness. What a wonderful thing.

What traditions do you have that are teaching your child gratitude? How are you and/or your child spreading happiness?

I will be away the next few weeks while spending times with friends and family, and will be back in December. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Time Management

Are you good at managing your time?

Before my oldest started school this Fall we talked about juggling priorities — school, sports, and other activities. We discussed he’d be learning time management and how to prioritize and get what’s needed done first, and wants second. We’re nearing the end of his first term and grades will be coming out soon. His sports season is wrapping up as well. He has expressed he is struggling juggling with it all.

His school gives parents access online to a student’s grades and assignments. It’s a way for parents to have a view into how their child is doing along the way. My husband and I rarely go in, not because it might be helpful or useful, but because we want our son to learn he has to stay on top of his studies without us watching him like a hawk. He is in an Advanced Placement (AP) class that allows students to gain college credit while in high school if they can pass the given exam at the end of the year. In order to get him signed up for the end of year exam, I had to go into the site that shows his grades and assignment completions to find the name of the teacher and class he’d be taking the test we needed to pay for. I couldn’t help but notice there were several assignments he hadn’t turned in (thankfully his grades looked pretty good). I asked him later that day about the assignments. He was surprised — not that I had looked, but that he hadn’t gotten all of his assignments in. He checked in with his teachers the following day, turned in the missing assignments, and was actually thankful it had been caught as it would have lowered his grade if it had not been addressed.

After some particularly long days for my son, which seemed to consist of wake-up, go to school, go to practice, eat dinner, sleep, he had little time to get his schoolwork done. He shared he was struggling, I asked him,”What did we say you’d have to learn and start to master this year?” He responded, “Time management.” I was glad he remembered without any prompting for me. “That’s right,” I said, “We need to think through what tools will help you.” He jumped in, “But I’m so tired when I get home and just want to zone out for a little while.” I completely understood how he felt. I, too, remember the stress increasing as I progressed in high school. I asked him what he was struggling with most. “Homework,” he shared, “when I get home I eat dinner then go through all my classes to see what homework I have.” I shared that was a good start, and suggested he add a designated time to do homework as a way to help — give him a little time to relax after practice, but time enough to get homework done before he goes to bed. “It’s hard,” he said. I agreed with him, but reminded him that learning these skills now will help him as he gets older.

Do you have a child who has a busy schedule and is struggling to manage it all? What strategies or tools are you sharing with them to help them better manage their time?

Facing Fear

While Halloween is this weekend and many are looking to be scared, my youngest was faced with a fear unrelated to ghosts and goblins, but something that had been haunting him for a while — riding a bike on public streets.

My son’s school has teamed up with an organization that has the students ride bikes to a destination within a few miles of the school one day a week. When they reach their destination they do a service project and then bike back to school. It’s been a great activity for the kids. My husband and I were curious how our son was doing. He had had a bad experience at a younger age when he biked on a public road accidentally running his bike into a car (I blogged about it previously). When we asked how biking went he gave short answers, and was vague. We started pressing him for further details and he confessed that he hadn’t been riding bikes with his classmates and had been staying behind at school with the teachers. We asked him why he hadn’t talked about this before, and he shared he had been embarrassed that he couldn’t do it. We talked through options: we could help him practice riding with us at home in our neighborhood to get him more comfortable, he could talk to his teachers about ways to help him get more comfortable. He didn’t take us up on our suggestions. Another week went by, another excuse why he didn’t ride.

The night before our son’s school was due to ride bikes again, my husband and I sat our son down. We stressed the importance of pushing his comfort zone, and his need to have success riding his bike. We told him our expectation was he would ride, and working through his fear was a skill he needed to develop, and that building it now, would help him when he needs to face uncomfortable situations in the future. He agreed he would ride.

I half expected to learn my son didn’t ride his bike again, but was pleasantly surprised when he texted me on his way home from school alerting me that he had ridden with the group the entire time. I was so proud of him, but what made me happiest was seeing how proud my son was of himself. He was glowing. What a wonderful moment to share.

What does your child fear? How are you helping them work through any fears?

The Great Pumpkin Carving

What’s a favorite Fall tradition for your family?

We have several including going to our favorite pumpkin patch, but the tradition I look most forward to is pumpkin carving. The pumpkin carving is fun, but I enjoy the company, seeing everyone, talking, catching up, sharing a meal, and feeling connected.

Last year, we skipped the tradition as a precaution due to COVID. We all missed it. My niece is a senior in high school and will be heading off to college next year. This being her last pumpkin carving (at least for a while) is really hitting home. My sons and I talked about it when we went to the pumpkin patch with their cousins. We are all in a bit of denial this tradition will come to an end-of-sorts after this year. Yes, it will still go on, but it will be different without her with us. I’m reminded again of how quickly time is going and trying to be truly present so I can fully take in the joy of the experience and all of us being back together again.

What traditions are you most looking forward to resuming? What will it mean to you and your family to be back with others again?