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)?

Proud

When have you seen your child be proud of something they’ve accomplished?

My oldest is learning how to drive. Gulp. He is wired to be anxious in new settings and learning to drive has been no different. We started in a nearby church parking with lots of room so he could get a feel for the car. Learning simple things like wearing your seatbelt, using the gas and brake, and checking your surroundings. He was learning something new, and something that comes with great responsibility. He was nervous but willing to give it a try.

Starting and stopping. Knowing where to put your hands on the steering wheel and turning with crossing your arms were things he had to learn. The first lesson there was jerky motions, and “sorry, I’m sorry” when he did something not quite like he wanted to. It took me back to when I learned to drive. I remember my father teaching me how to first drive in a field, then on dirt and back roads. If he was ever nervous, he never let on. And I can remember thinking if he had confidence in me, maybe I should have confidence in myself.

In our state, you have to go to driving school in order to get your license if you’re under 18. Part of driving school includes driving time with an instructor. While I knew my son enjoyed the safety of practicing in the parking lot, it was time to get him on the road. I didn’t want his first time with the instructor to be his first time on the road.

I took him out and we started on a side street. I didn’t tell him where we were going, I just gave him instructions along the way. “Let’s take a left at this intersection.” “Turn your signal on.” “Go ahead and start braking.” “After you stop count to three before you go.” And so on. We were a few minutes in and he was doing fine but asked, “where’s a parking lot we can pull into.” I could tell he was uncomfortable that a busy intersection was coming up. Instead on pointing out the nearest parking lot, I said, “We’re not stopping. You’ve got this.” We proceeded to drive for a while longer. We went through another busy intersection. You could almost see his confidence grow and his anxiousness subside. At one point I told him he’d be driving us back to our house. “No way!” he said. His fear momentarily returned. Instead of going back home, I had him drive past our house and we drove for another ten minutes. I could see his confidence growing and took advantage of the opportunity to guide him back home and into the driveway. He put the car in park. Smiled, and exited the car.

When I met him inside he couldn’t wait to tell his dad what he’d just done. I told him what a good job he’d done. He was almost glowing, it was a wonderful feeling to know I contributed (even just by being there and believing in him and his abilities) even in a small way. He did all the work.

He went into his room and came back out after a few minutes. “Thanks, Mom,” he said. “I just needed you to know you can do it, and you did,” I said. “I’m proud of you.” He smiled and went back to his room.

We all need people to believe in us regardless of our age, but especially when we’re young. I thankful my father believed in me, and hope my son passes has a similar experience with his child one day. It’s a wonderful memory I’ll treasure.

My son has much more learning to do, and even though mistakes will be made it’s how he’ll grow and get better. And while I might feel proud, him being proud of himself is the greatest gift he can give himself.

What makes you proud? How are you helping build your child’s confidence in them self, and their abilities?

Vacation Dreams

How did your vacation plans change this year?

We, like most, scrapped our vacation plans (that were supposed to start in April) once COVID hit. We were hoping we’d be able to travel in the summer, but as the pandemic has lingered our plans have changed. Staying closer to home, trying to come up with things to do.

Planning and the anticipation of an upcoming trip is half the fun of going on vacation in our house. Now even local trips outside the city are tempered with hope that COVID infection rates won’t rise causing state to shutdown again. Instead of anticipation it can be nerve racking.

We all need time away, a break, an opportunity to rest and just be. We’ve had a lot of time to be together, but crave a different landscape. We desperately want to be able to move about like we could before.

In our family, we’ll occasionally ask each other, “What are you most looking forward to?” The response is usually trip related, or about a pending activity or celebration. Almost all take place away from our home. If you ask that question now you’ll hear, “Being able to see my friends”, “Playing sports”, or “Getting out of here.”

We’re dreaming of vacation and being able to move freely (and safely) again.

What are you and your child dreaming of doing post-COVID?

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?

Silver Linings

What’s grabbing your attention during the pandemic?

The first few weeks, news of the virus held my attention, but as time has gone on, I’ve started tuning more into the needs of myself, my family and others. Just paying attention– really close attention — to my boys and how they are doing has led my husband and I to have some ‘aha’ moments we easily would have missed if the pre-Covid-19 busyness was still around — be it how they are doing with school, dealing with isolation, and their overall health.

We did have a moment this week, where being tuned in to my kids felt really nice. My oldest got a notification that it was time to register for high school and the classes he’d like to take (electives beyond mandatory courses). I knew it might create stress for him since it’s the first time he’s had to make these types of choices in this way. We sat down together and watched the tutorials and downloaded the course catalogue and after awhile, got the hang for what he needed to do. It probably took all of 30 minutes, but I realized how having no distractions (nothing else my mind was focused on — such as an upcoming work day or appointment I needed to keep) allowed me to relax and have patience to spend the needed time with him. It showed me how impatient I’ve been in the past in these types of situations, and provided me an opportunity to be there for my son — truly be there for him — to help him. I knew he was fine once he started reaching out to his friends so they could try to coordinate schedules. 😊

I sometimes miss the rush of my previously busy life, but continue to look for the silver linings. Being able to pay attention fully has been one of those gifts.

What silver linings are you experiencing as a result of the pandemic?

No Distractions

How are you and your child dealing with the Coronavirus?

Our schools shut down a week ago. My younger son’s school transitioned to online learning, my older son’s teachers are giving students optional assignments as enrichment. Neither child seems to mind sleeping in later. 😊 Of course, my husband and I are also working from home which can make for an interesting work day. I’m grateful my kids are older and can care for/entertain themselves. I do, however, enjoy, when I’m on a work video conference and I get to see someone’s child, or family pet wonder into the picture. It reminds me how similar we are — it’s comforting.

Restaurants are take-out only or delivery, public places closed to help slow/stop the spread of the virus. The first week transitioning to this new normal wasn’t easy.

One way we are dealing with the situation is going for walks around our neighborhood. With virtually no traffic it’s easy to distance ourselves from your neighbors. While walking one day we saw a neighbor sitting on her porch. We lamented the change in our daily routines. I shared how there was a calm, almost a peace, I was feeling that I haven’t felt in a while (maybe ever). That with no distractions–having to get kids various places at various times, work commitments, and other activities outside the home–I was forced to just be. She smiled when I said that. “I know what you mean,” she commented. We both agreed having no distractions was a blessing, if only it weren’t the result of a pandemic.

Eventually the pandemic will pass, and life will return to normal. Or maybe we’ll come out of this with a new normal, who knows? For now, I’m trying to embrace the opportunity to just be.

How are you coping with this new normal? Is there any unexpected upside you’re experiencing?

‘Tis the Season

What time of year is most stressful for you?

For many, the holiday season brings stress with it, but my stress starts earlier in the year and peaks around this time — like a roller coaster with the biggest hill at the end.

January usually brings changes at work which require an adjustment — it’s common for me to have to tell myself at some point during the month, “calm down, you’re going to figure this out.” And I do. Just around the time I’m acclimated to the changed there are school activities, events, volunteers needed, vacations to plan, and again it culminates to what feels like a fever pitch, and then school is out, and the stress lowers. Then vacation comes, and the break is welcomed and rest is enjoyed. Recharging is the goal. Then school starts again, there is planning, figuring out logistics, getting used to a new schedule, new teachers, new activities, new places we have to be at new times. Then we adjust, and the stress lowers. Then it picks back up with all the things that come rapid fire starting in October and goes through the end of the year — Halloween, birthday parties, family visiting, getting the photo album together, getting the holiday card written and sent, scheduling holiday parties, making plans with friends, getting the house ready for Christmas, shopping, and the list goes on and on.

I knew I was overly stressed when I received a reminder call of an upcoming appointment. I was certain the person had the wrong date. “I was just there two or three weeks ago.” I rescheduled the appointment pushing it a month out. It was only when I paused to really think about it (the next day) that i realized it had been closer to six weeks since I had gone in, and I was in fact due for an appointment. Where did the time go? I thought.

No one is making me do any of these things. This is my doing. I want my children to have certain experiences (parties, holidays, vacations, etc.). I want to capture the memories and make sure I’m not getting behind (cause that would stress me out even more). But I realize I am close to burn out and desperately need a vacation. Time off is just around the corner so I’m just trying to power through until I get there. My guess is many of us are in the same boat.

How do you handle stress as a parent throughout the year? How do you navigate stress during this time of year?

First Concert

What was the first concert you went to?

Mine was Duran Duran. I went with two friends, and our moms. I wanted to go with just my friends, but there was no way my mom was going to let her then 13 year old daughter go without adult supervision. I wanted to see the band so bad, I didn’t care.

My oldest is a big fan of several YouTube stars. This particular YouTube star (or assemble) came to town and the minute my son heard they were having a show he was begging to go. I, like my mother, was not going to let him go unsupervised. I asked if he had other friends he wanted to go with. “Nah, not really,” he replied, “Dad can take me.” Phew! I thought. Thinking I’d gotten out of something I didn’t necessarily want to do, and a little concerned about the content of the show (was it going to be offensive to females? I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with this particular YouTube star). We agreed he would pay for his ticket and his father would attend.

Of course, plans change and my husband was called out of town for work. I was going to be going to the show after all. My son was very disappointed he had to go with me. Again I was trying to figure out if it was because he was concerned about the show’s content and how I would take it, or if it was because he sees me as the more embarrassing parent. I think it was a little of both. 🙂

We got to the show early to get our seats. I promised my son I would do my best not to embarrass him. It was an interesting crowd. The star is probably in his mid-late 20s. The fans ranged in age, though skewed younger. They were passionate about their affection for this guy. The show included elements from content on his channel, and did some parent-splaining (where younger people explain things to us old people 😁) to help us better follow the show. There were moments that made me cringe (body humor/sexual reference that was more immature than insulting), and others that made me respect the star (he and his co-star shared personal stories and encouraged loving yourself as you are, and appreciating the gift of life) — they really used their platform well — both to entertain and inspire.

My son was watching me like a hawk throughout the show and would periodically ask, “Mom, why are you making that face?” I didn’t know I was making a face, but told him I was fine and not to worry about me. If I thought anything was that bad we’d talk about it after the show.

After 90 minutes the show concluded and we headed home. My son was on a high from the show. He talked about the crowd, and the energy, and how much he enjoyed it. I reminded him that he and I have had fun a few times together (maybe I was trying to remind him I’m okay to hang with from time to time — e.g. I’m not that embarrassing). 😊 “You’re right, Mom, we have had some fun,” he says. And we left it at that. How cool is it that I got to go with my son to his first show?

Have you taken your child to a concert or show? How did you handle it if you weren’t necessarily looking forward the entertainment?

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?

March Madness

What does March Madness make you think of?

Basketball right? I would agree with that, up until I a few years ago when I realized March is the month where a culmination of things come together: the first flowers of Spring start to bloom, time change (Spring forward), St. Patrick’s Day, and, the NCAA basketball tournaments.

As a parent, this month always seems to go by in a flash. My boys and I were just admiring the first crocuses and daffodils of the season. Every year it seems these flowers come earlier than we expect. We braced ourselves for losing an hour of the day (and how that always seems to throw off our sleep cycle for a week) when the clock jumped an hour forward last night. The kids are excited about it being St. Patrick’s Day later this week. Always a fun day for our family to wear green, dance, be silly (by doing silly dancing in our house), and hope for good luck. And last, but certainly not least, there is the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments. It’s not a family affair yet, more of something I like to watch, but my son’s are starting to show some interest in so there is hope it will become one in future years.

Before I know it, March will be over and we’ll be into April with another flurry of events: Easter, Spring Break and dreams of summer will begin.

I’m doing my best to enjoy the ‘madness’ and not let it pass me by. Smell the flowers. Check. Spring forward. Check (I had no choice). 🙂 Dance a silly jig with my kids on St. Patty’s Day. Looking forward to it. And enjoy watching the basketball tournament — Bounce. Bounce. Check.

How are you enjoying March ‘madness’?  What family activities make up your March?