Father Figure

Who are the men in your life that have had the greatest impact?

My father had the greatest, but there have been many other formative males in my life — uncles, teachers, coaches, and others.

My youngest goes to school where several students have a single parent, grandparents or guardians that look after them. My sons’s school stresses the importance of showing up for each other, and redefining what being a man is (throw out classic male stereotypes and be who you are vs. who you think you’re supposed to be), and what family and community is. People who show up, care, and guide you in a positive direction are the type of figures you want in your life. We all need figures like this.

On this Father’s Day who is (or are) the father figure(s) in your life that have most positively impacted you? What about your child’s? How are you celebrating these special people in your life?

To all the dad’s out there (or those that played a father figure role): Thank you! And enjoy your day.

Vaccination

Shots are never fun regardless of your age, but when has a shot ever been something you looked forward to?

My boys were happy when my husband and I became eligible for the COVID vaccine in our state. They were elated when they were able to sign up to get their shots more recently.

One the day of his first vaccination shot, my youngest (who hates shots) was so excited he practically ran to the chair when it was his turn. No hesitancy to give the nurse his arm, relax, etc. Once he had his shot, he was elated. His reaction was much like my husband’s and mine — excited, relieved, hopeful. My oldest was the same with his shot, but played it much cooler – that’s what 15 year olds do, right?

The boys have figured out when they will be fully vaccinated, have made notes on their respective days on the family calendar, and can’t wait to fully re-engage with friends, in activities, and more once the date arrives and beyond.

There is a collective sigh of relief from us all. How fortunate are we that we lived through this. How fortunate that we’ll get to (more fully) live again. So grateful for science and medical folks that figured this out. My boys saw the shot as a gift, and I do too.

How is your child with shots? How are you re-engaging in activities as things start to re-open?

I will be off next week to enjoy the long weekend with family and will be back in June.

Motherhood

How are you celebrating Mother’s Day today?

I’m reflecting this year on my time as a mother.

M – Milestones. Getting pregnant. Birth. Watching my children grow. Wow, wow, wow!

O – Observer. Trying to understand my child, what they need, and figuring out how to give it to them (physically, emotionally). A lot of trial and error.

T – Time. Such a strange thing. It slowed down so much when the kids were young. I couldn’t wait for time to go faster. Fast forward and I’d love for time to slow down now. My boys are becoming more independent by the day and will be grown and on their own before I know it.

H – Help. I was bad at asking for it when I first became a parent, thinking I was supposed to know how to magically do everything without any formal experience or training. A huge thank you to family, friends, and other new parents who supported my husband and I, helping us become better parents.

E – Everything. There is so much that goes into parenting. It’s hard, but what a joy. My boys have helped me grow so much as a person. Everything that goes into it — good and bad —has been absolutely worth it.

R – Rewarding. Seeing the world through my boys eyes as young children and now as teens always makes me feel like I’m seeing (appreciating) the world anew.

I hope all the moms out there have a wonderful Mother’s Day. What does being a mother mean to you?

Disconnected

Does your child have an electronic device that they enjoy using for fun?

Everyone in my family has an electronic device. We held off on our boys getting smart phones until they were 13 (and rules apply, break a rule they lose the device). We decided for Spring Break we’d head out to a more remote part of our state to disconnect and unwind. A change of scenery would do us all some good. My husband tried warning our kids in these places access to the internet (WiFi or cellular) would be sparse and to be prepared (meaning bring a book, puzzle or game we can play, or download content to your device so you can access it while we’re there).

By day 3 of our trip we came to our first location where internet access was no where to be found. Our oldest had downloaded some music and podcasts, so he was fine. My youngest downloaded nothing and brought nothing to keep himself entertained. You would have thought something major had happened by the way he broke down. “This is the worst trip ever. It’s going to be so boring.” It went on and on. Being on the spectrum he had to explain to me how he was feeling. There were many thoughts that went through my mind as he complained about being bored (such as — how ungrateful, and doesn’t he understand others would kill to be able to go on trips like this?). I heard him out, patted him on the leg and said, “I get that this is hard for you, but this will happen sometimes in life. You might get bored and you have to make the best of it. I’m going to go sit over in those chairs overlooking the beach. Come join me when you’re feeling better.” I walked away.

He joined 30 minutes later. “It took me a while to feel better,” he said, “do you think we could go down to the beach?” “Sure,” I said, and off we headed. The beach was great. My son had a great time and admitted later in the day that the trip wasn’t so bad after all. The next day we were at another location with no connectivity. He had another meltdown and again we found another activity and we made it through another day. When we got home, both boys were grateful to be home and have full access to the internet again.

At dinner that first night back, we talked about the trip and what we enjoyed. We talked about sites we saw, hikes we took, and seeing wildlife. “Okay,” my youngest said when it was his turn, “I had a good time. I know I didn’t handle it well, and I’m sorry. I’ll be prepared next time.” We are heading out later this summer on another trip that will take us to remote areas (again limited to no cellular or WiFi coverage). My hope is that my son will be ready next time with activities to keep himself occupied and allowing himself the time to truly disconnect and enjoy the beauty (nature) around him.

How do you and your family disconnect? How does your child handle situations where they have to be disconnected from their device(s)?

Practice Makes Perfect

Do you have a perfectionist in your family?

My oldest has high expectations of himself. He always has since he was small. In his mind, he should know how to do something expertly even if he has little to no experience with it. Make a goal on every play, ace a new math assignment, get to high levels the first time playing a new video game. He’s disappointment and frustration that things ‘don’t come easily’ is hard for him.

I’ve often wondered where this came from. My husband and I have never pushed either of our boys to be perfect. We have asked them to put in effort, try their best, and not to give up when improvement is needed. Yet, my son’s expectations of himself remain the same.

My husband recently alerted me to what might be a contributing factor. “Have you ever noticed on TV or in the movies how easy new things always seem to be?” he asked, “Take Luke Skywalker, for example. They find him on a remote planet and before you know it, he’s flying a X-wing fighter with enough precision that he hits his target and blows up the Death Star on practically his first try. You never see Luke struggle to learn to fly. He’s just good at it. You never see him put in the work.” Of course, I could point out that we see Luke struggle to become a Jedi, but that is besides the point. My husband was onto something, rarely does effort get the lead in the storyline unless the payoff is big in the end (win the game, gold medal, blow up the Death Star). Struggle and the gift it gives in helping you better understand yourself and what you’re capable of isn’t always easy to see or appreciate.

I find myself having more compassion for my son (vs. concern) over his desire to always achieve peak performance. I plan to use the example my husband shared with me with my son. Maybe it will resonate with him, maybe it won’t. And if it doesn’t, I’ll have to practice what examples I’ll use on him next. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

How are you helping your child when they have high expectations of themselves? How are you helping them understand (appreciate?) the gift of practice?

I’ll be off for a bit to enjoy Spring Break and will be back in a few weeks.

The Nutcracker and a New Year

What has reminded you most of the holidays being different this year?

Not being able to be with family and friends really struck home during Thanksgiving. Turning on the TV this past week and seeing The Nutcracker performed, really drove it home for me for Christmas. I was ready for no parties, or gatherings. I was ready not to go to any shows, movies or ballets. But seeing The Nutcracker on a local station being performed by our local ballet company solidified how different things are.

My youngest son joined me to see The Nutcracker at our local theater a few years back. Being there in person, hearing the music and feeling the vibrations from the orchestra as they play, watching talented dancers of all ages perform, and the excitement and gratitude the crowd felt just to be there appeared universal by all in attendance. It was special. Yet, sitting here in my home, seeing the ballet felt equally special. I didn’t have to go out into public, risk exposure to the virus to see a performance that can bring such joy.

I attempted to get my boys to join me to watch the performance. My youngest was playing Minecraft with friends online. My other on the phone with a friend. Ah, teens. It didn’t really matter. I lowered the lights to mimic the theatre and sat back. I could imagine being there in person with my family beside me. It was a mixture of nostalgia for what was, and hope for what can be — seeing the ballet live again one day soon.

This year has been one that required awareness, guidance, patience, reflection, support, community, and love to make it through. While a hard year, it was a year of growth for our family, and I’m guessing for many of yours. I look forward to how 2021 will be different. How we grow together. I’d say ‘go back to normal’ but my sense is even that will have changed. I look forward most to reconnecting, and being able to hug others again. I do so look forward to the New Year.

What is bringing you and your family joy this holiday season? What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?

I will be off the next few weeks to enjoy time with family and will be back in January.

Difficult Conversations

Talking honestly about what happened with George Floyd and the aftermath can be difficult, regardless if the conversation is with your child, friends, or family.

I feel fortunate to have a diverse set of friends who have been willing to engage in these conversations that have been uncomfortable but needed. Being honest, owning our truths, and experiences reminds me that with knowledge comes power, and together we can make our community and country better.

In addition to my friends near me, the pandemic has allowed me to talk to my best friends who live far away each week. It has been a blessing to be able to connect with them more often. Typically when we talk I go where I can have privacy and speak freely — after all our talks include discussions about our kids, and spouses. 😊 As the issue of systemic racism, and the call for reform and an end to injustice and a need to address equality has gained traction the topic of discussion came up with my friends. I saw an opportunity to have a potentially uncomfortable conversation with them out in the open (having close friendships doesn’t mean you all think alike — true friendship allows for truths to be spoken, and vulnerability, and love for each other regardless), instead of going into a room and closing the door for privacy, I FaceTime’d with my friends without earbuds in my living room. My youngest son was on our computer in the kitchen. I felt like even if my son wasn’t fully listening to the conversation I needed to do it this way — out in the open not in private. I needed to show him there is value, bravery and strength when you speak from your heart, especially on topics like this. The fact that my friends are willing to listen, respect what i have to say, and still love me makes for wonderful and sustainable friendships. I treasure them.

Change will only happen if we are willing to talk (even when it might be uncomfortable), and really listen to each other.

How are you having these conversations? How are you modeling for or teaching your child how to have them?

Have you Reddit?

Quarantine is helping my husband and I better understand our kids interests. Particularly on the Internet. The computer is in a common space in our house. The only exception is when our boys are doing online school (they can take the pc into their room for their virtual class). My husband and I try to pay attention to what they are watching and periodically check the history to ensure they are looking at appropriate content (we have identified sites that we’ve had to have conversations with our boys about periodically). The pandemic equals more time at home, and more screen time for my kids.

Having dinner one night, we got on the topic of what the kids had learned that day (from school or otherwise). My younger son shared something he learned (I wish I could remember what he said), and it prompted me to ask him where he learned this (as it didn’t sound like something he’d learn in school). “Reddit,” he said. My husband and I looked at each other with slight concern. “Do you think what you learn on Reddit is all true?” I felt I needed to challenge his belief around credible sources. “No, mom,” he said as if it was the dumbest question I could have asked, “but there is some stuff that is true on it.” I have to admit it’s been years since I’ve been on Reddit so I couldn’t further my argument. My older son joined it, “Yea, mom, what’s wrong with Reddit?” My husband and I turned the question back on them. “What’s so good about it?” I asked. “Well, I don’t know. It has pretty good stuff,” my older son said. “It’s not like it’s 4chan.” “4chan, what’s that?” I asked. I liked my kids were sharing with me. I wasn’t sure I was going to like what I heard but wanted to know regardless. “It has just about everything on it. There’s funny memes and videos.” “Yea, 8chan, is way worse. We don’t go there. It’s got a lot of extreme stuff on it,” my younger piped in. “Don’t worry, mom, we aren’t looking at anything bad.” Of course my husband and I would be re-reviewing their browser history soon.

We talked about credible sources for news. I found it laughable when my oldest said, “where should we get our news – Instagram? Facebook?” “No,” both my husband and I replied, “You get it from credible sources that employee journalists that have degrees in journalism.” While I know not all good journalists have journalism degrees it wasn’t worth creating any gray around the subject. “There are newspapers (local and national), TV (local and national), and radio stations, like NPR, that provide you with information that can ensure you really understand what’s going on,” we shared. Those other sites you mentioned may have news on them, but they are more for entertainment than for giving you the facts. My sons seemed to get the point my husband and I were trying to make. I think the websites they have enjoyed may have lost some of their “cool” factor for them too. “Mom, I can’t believe you know what Reddit is” my youngest shared. “You’d be surprised what I know,” I finished. He smiled, looked briefly concerned with thus realization, then smiled again. 😊

I’m glad my husband and I got to know more about our boys, and our boys us.

What are you learning about your child, and their habits, during quarantine?

Easy Come Easy Go

When was the last time your child did something that surprised you?

This last happened to me a few days after Christmas. My oldest has been asking for an iPad for a while. We have never invested in a gaming system for our kids, and my son likes to use my iPad (which is very old) to play Madden. My iPad is so old, it no longer can support any of the latest versions of Madden so, as far as my son is concerned, it’s useless. 😊 My husband and my response is always the same when our son tells us he wants this, “Do you understand how expensive iPads are?” Communicating that we understand he wants it, but it’s not going to happen. We said if he wanted an iPad so badly, he should ask for money from his grandparents, and other family for Christmas.

I was in need of a new smartphone earlier in the year after the screen on my previous phone shattered. When buying the phone they had a buy one get one free offer so I decided to pick up an iPhone for my son. My husband and I had been talking about upgrading him from his flip phone to an iPhone but still had concerns over him having such a device (particularly with all the content that’s available). Thank goodness for parental controls. Being able to restrict his usage as night, limiting what sites he can access made us feel more comfortable giving it to him as his Christmas gift. It was one of the few times I’ve seen my son get a gift and be almost overwhelmed with gratitude.

A few days after the holidays my son came to me and said, “Mom, you know that money I was saving for the iPad? Well, I no longer need it since I have my iPhone. I want to give it to #TeamTrees.” My son learned of this organization (teamtrees.org) while watching YouTube. They were getting a lot of press and buy-in from other YouTube and non-YouTube celebrities helping them achieve their goal of planting 20 million trees. My son was caught up in the hype and wanted to contribute his savings that day. While I loved that my son wanted to donate his money I wanted to make sure he was really thinking through where his money was going, and taking the steps to educate himself on the cause, charity, and feeling good about where his money went (e.g., what about the cause speaks to, or resonates with you?). My husband and I asked him to do some research, sleep on it and we could figure it out in the following days. Once we learned #TeamTrees had exceeded their goal, my son was more willing to look into other charities. We had him look up charity ratings, and after doing some research he decided to donate his savings to the ArborDay Foundation. I was proud and surprised at how easily my son was letting go of the money he’d been saving up for almost a year. He could have easily bought something for himself, but felt compelled (maybe influenced by the YouTube community?) to give his money away.

I’ll take this kind of surprise from one of my children any day.

When was the last time your child surprised you in a good way?

Holiday Spirit

What brings you joy during the holidays?

I have to admit, since my kids we’re old enough to understand what Christmas is (maybe when they were two or three) my ability to get into the holiday spirit (e.g. enjoying the decorations, music, wanting to bake) has taken more time to get there then before they came, with less time to enjoy it.

There is so much going on leading up to the holidays, right? Concerts, parties, pageants, getting a tree, decorations, gifts, etc. I have often felt I was running on adrenaline right through Christmas Day, and could only relax once the day (or at least dinner) was over. 😊 Now that my kids are older, more independent, and our aware gifts come from Mom and Dad, the fuss to get everything done, to try to create that magic you want your kids to experience, isn’t as intense. It feels as though I’m reclaiming some of that previously-lost-time from Christmas past.

I noticed a joy coming over me earlier this year that I haven’t felt in a while. It is my Christmas spirit coming back. It feels really good to have time to get close to it, and really enjoy it with my family.

With everything going on, are you able to get into the holiday spirit?