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?

Your Parental Rating

How would you rate yourself as a parent?

It’s not as straightforward as you’d think, right? There are so many different categories that could go into the rating — loving, nurturing, ability to teach/educate your child, how well you handle emotions (your child and your own), your cooking skills, organization skills, ability to provide, ability to get yourself and your child safe, and so much more. If you got a rating for each category what would be your average?

A few days before my youngest graduated from elementary school my husband and I were in the main office and ran into the principal (who is retiring) and the resource teacher. We thanked them for being so good to both of our boys. They clearly cared about helping our boys be successful in school and helping them thrive. “You’re boys are great, ” both commented, “You all are great parents.” I immediately chimed in, “TBD.” Meaning, while it’s always nice to hear others think you are doing well, my husband and I have further to go with our boys before we can fully accept that rating. I think instead my husband and I work to not be complacent, or take for granted the precious time we’ve got with our kids, and our need to stay open and aware of our shortcomings and where we can improve. No parent is perfect, but striving to be the best you can for your kids is as good a goal as any.

How would you rate yourself as a parent? Where do you see opportunity to grow and do better by your child?

Just Be You

How old were you when you first became self-conscious?

I can’t recall exactly when the moment was, but would tell you it started around the third grade and grew from there. A collection of small comments here and there — whether about my looks or actions, or that of others — I picked up that people were watching, and judging.

My oldest son is a teen and extremely self-conscious. My younger is a tween, and is more self-aware, less self-conscious. That’s one if the gifts you get from being on the spectrum, you often don’t hear or register those small comments that neuro-typical folks catch.My oldest is embarrassed easily by everyone and everything (that he doesn’t see as ‘cool’) around him — my husband, his brother, and I can easily cause my older son embarrassment even if it’s in the privacy of our own home. I can’t sing, dance or be silly without my oldest asking me to stop. “Mom, you’re so embarrassing,” he’ll say. “We’re in our house. No one can see us. What’s to be embarrassed about?,” I’ll reply. “It just is,” he says. Ugh.

My oldest was having one of his you-all-are-so-embarrassing-me moments right before my husband, younger son, and I went for a walk. My oldest stayed behind. He didn’t want to be seen with us. 😊

As we were walking we discussed how easily our oldest gets embarrassed. His younger brother said, “I don’t know why he gets so embarrassed, we’re just being ourselves.” “We’ll, maybe that makes him uncomfortable,” I replied. My son said, “Well it shouldn’t. There’s a great saying I heard. Just be you. Everyone else has been taken.” My husband and I smiled. “How old are you again?” I asked. Very insightful for a tween. I just wish his older brother had just been there to hear it.

Is your child self-conscious? If so, how are you helping them see they are perfect just as they are?

Appreciating Mom

When did you first realize what goes into being a parent?

I had the ‘aha’ moment days after my first son was born. I remember thinking — how did my mom do it? And make it look so easy? I reflected on the love, the sacrifice, and confidence she took in her responsibility of raising me. I never felt like my mother was ‘winging it’ though she was figuring out how to be a parent much like I am. My confidence wasn’t there yet in those early days, but I found comfort that it would come with time.

Not everyone has a loving parent (or parents), and I realize how fortunate I am that I do.

Being a mom is tough, tiring, and frustrating at times, but also filled with reward, purpose, and love. I am grateful to my mom for being so involved, loving and caring. I appreciate her more and more with each passing year.

How do you show your appreciation for your loved ones that raised you?