Dinner Outside

The weather has gotten unseasonably warm where we live. It’s a joy, as normally we don’t get warm temperatures well into July. The weather has allowed us to eat outdoors. On nice weather evenings, we like to go outside — it’s more relaxing and has the ability of getting our oldest to open up a bit more. 😊

Our oldest was finishing his meal with us outside, and we thought he’d stand up and leave without having much further dialogue with us the rest of the day. Instead, he leaned back in his chair, took a deep breath, and started asking his father and I about college, and work. You could see his mind processing the information. As I shared I tried to be mindful of what and how I was answering his questions. I’m trying to walk with him, not manipulate him. I wanted to answer his questions honestly, from my experience, but not over-index to stress my position (e.g., resist the temptation to influence him around what he should and shouldn’t do post high school).

It was really nice sitting and talking with him. It was special just having him be with us. Being outside with the sun going down and flowers and trees blooming around us made it that much more memorable.

Having dinner in the backyard is special for our family. Where do you have special meals? Your backyard, at the park, another’s house, etc.? What settings get your child to open up?

I will be off next weekend enjoying time with family and friends, and will be back in June. Hope you enjoy the holiday weekend.

Instagram Catfish

My youngest is on the spectrum and struggles making strong connection with his peers. This can be especially hard when you’re a teen, going through puberty, exploring your sexuality, and becoming more independent.

Our youngest son is one of the most ‘innocent’ people you could meet. His emotional intelligence is through the roof (he has empathy that is beyond compare), he loves animals, and spends countless hours online learning about world geography, other cultures, transit systems, and follows politics. He has very little interest in things I think most parents of teens fear — nudity/pornography, alcohol, or drugs.

My husband and I are aware our sons are on Instagram, but thought it too, particularly for our youngest, was innocent. We found out we had reason for concern when my husband saw our youngest son texting (chat function) with another user and appeared to be trying to hide what he was messaging from his father. My husband decided to inquire who our son was talking to while we were at the dinner table. My son got very quiet and seemed embarrassed. He shared he had started to confide some of his secrets to this stranger including his wants and desires because it felt ‘safe.’ When we challenged our son on who this person was, how old, etc., we learned this person was in their 30s. I appreciated my son’s honesty but was beside myself, as we’ve talked to our boys about being online and never sharing information or trusting who is on the other end, especially if you haven’t met or seen them in-person. I was more upset by the adult on the other end who allowed/continued the conversation even though he knew my son (based on his age being on his profile) was underage. Beyond the emotions I was experiencing, I could see how lonely my son felt, and how he’d been looking for an outlet to share his feelings and thoughts with others. outside mom and dad, and while I get it, it still terrified me.

My son realized the errors of his ways, blocked this ‘friend’ and gave me his login information so we can monitor the app and ensure he’s connecting safely with others his own age. He wants his independence but realizes he lost some of our trust but hiding this from us. We’ve always advocated for our kids to talk to us about anything and everything, even if it’s uncomfortable (for them or us, especially us (meaning my husband and I)). He feels like he lets us down, and we feel like we let him down (how didn’t we know?, how could we or should we have been helping him?, etc.).

We talked about making mistakes, that’s how we learn and grow, and while he’s becoming more independent, he still has knowledge to gain. He agreed, though still feeling embarrassed and ‘stupid’ for not knowing better. We just reminded him now he does.

Social media, like any technology has its pros and cons. I like that it allows users to connect on their interests or passions. I’m not a fan of some of the unforeseen risks inherent with letting younger folks (whose frontal lobe hasn’t fully formed) converse easily with folks who may be legit, or may be a catfish.

I’m still working to recalibrate my brain around what we learned. Some of my son’s innocence is gone, but I should expect that with age. I’m reminded I need to stay on top of how my son is connecting with others and getting his needs met (e.g., making friends that allow his to be himself, share openly, trust with secrets), and what my husband and I (and his therapist) can do to help.

How do you keep a pulse on your teen’s interactions on social media? How are you helping them know the dangers, while giving them freedom to explore who they are and their interests?

March Madness

Are you watching the NCAA basketball tournament?

I used to follow college basketball and still enjoy watching a good game on occasion, but I haven’t watched the tournament or really paid attention to it for years. That changed when my oldest came home after practice and I had a game on. I don’t know why I put the game on, but glad I did. My oldest stayed, watched the game with me, and even shared his thoughts (mostly which teams he was rooting for, and how watching the games kind of stressed him out when he thought a team might lose). While there wasn’t much depth per se to the conversation, I’ll take it. I rarely get more than a grunt of acknowledgment out of him on a daily basis. 😊

I suppose I’ll have the tournament games on a lot more in the coming weeks with the hope he’ll continue to engage (even a little conversation from him goes a long way with me).

In what unexpected settings do you get your kids to open up and talk to you?


Reconnecting with old friends feels wonderful.

Our youngest is enjoying high school, though he can feel a little lost sometimes with the large number of students and teachers that can only give each student so much attention.

He was asked by his middle school to come back and be a student judge for the school’s STEM fair. While interested to see what the students came up with, he was more excited to see former teachers, admins, and younger classmates. He was greeted like a rock star, it didn’t hurt that he’s grown considerably taller since he left which added to him standing out. He gave and got big hugs from teachers and admins. I lot of ‘hellos’, ‘how are you?’, and ‘what’s high school like?’ from his old classmates. He relished being seen, acknowledged, and valued (wouldn’t we all?). It was so awesome to witness.

The school is looking for opportunities to bring more of my son, and his peers back on campus. I can share from his experience is was more than worth it. He may have helped judge the competition, but reconnecting was the true prize.

Where does your child feel seen, acknowledged, and valued?

Dress to Impress

At what age did you become conscientious at the clothes you wore?

For me, it was probably middle school. I cared about clothes — wanting to look nice — probably as early as kindergarten, but middle school it went to a whole new level. I became concerned about what my clothes said about me — did I come off as cool, lame, trying too hard, not trying hard enough, etc. Add that I wasn’t petite or small by any stretch just compounded the issue.

Thankfully, I have boys, and while all boys are different my sons haven’t had much interest in what others think of their outfits. My oldest can be found most days rain, shine, hot, cold, and anything in between in a hoodie and sports shorts. My youngest likes graphic tees, but only when they highlight his interests.

On the first day of school, my youngest put thought into his outfit. He wasn’t so concerned with his appearance as he was with letting people know he has an interest in transit. He was adorned head to toe in all things metro/subway. He knew it was overkill, but wanted to do it, in hopes others would engage with him on the topic. He came home disappointed. We asked if he got any feedback on his outfit and he said he didn’t. I asked him what he thought others were most concerned about the first day of school. He said, “themselves,” as he sighed and rolled his eyes knowing it was the truth. “Give it more time. You keep wearing it (as he has many pieces to choose from) and people will eventually notice.” He knew that, but was still disappointed. I can understand. You try to get affirmation or acknowledgement from others, and do not always get it. Especially when you are seeking it in a covert way. I reminded him to just be himself. People are getting adjusted to new classes, teachers, and peers, and he’ll find his group (be them transit enthusiasts or otherwise) before he knows it.

What does your child/teen do to connect with others?

What Exactly Are We Teaching — Checkpoint

Do you have those moments when you question what you have (or are) teaching your child?

Our oldest is off on an extended camping trip. He prepared for the trip, ensuring he had his gear, and everything on his checklist. He would have his phone with him, but coverage would be sketchy being in rural terrain. While we knew he’d like his phone to listen to music or a podcast, we were surprised when he wanted to use it to call us.

I’ve shared before, our son will do much to distance himself from us these days — even when at home, so it was a surprise when we got a call the first night he was away. He was with a newer group of kids he didn’t know particularly well and was getting adjusted.

We were surprised when he called again the second and third night. The calls were short, he mainly would run through what he had done, and share how he was doing mentally and physically. Part of me loved him calling. Knowing he was okay, and staying connected. Another part was concerned. Wouldn’t my son grow more (in his confidence, capabilities) if he weren’t in contact with us and made it through the trip without communication? I talked to my husband about it. We agreed that while this was a test run for our son’s future independence, our son needed to know he would be just fine going throughout the trip without being in contact with us. So hard, but needed.

We weren’t sure how to broach the topic with him, but two things came into play — coverage was spotty and some days he didn’t have signal, and his battery (even with power sticks to give him extended use) finally gave out. He’d be forced to go without communication for the second half of the trip. Was I worried? Part of me, yes. Not hearing from him makes he wonder what he’s up to and how he’s doing. But a bigger part of me, the part of me that knows I need to arm him with the skills he needs to be on his own, wasn’t.

I look forward to him getting home with these new experiences and knowledge of his abilities. I’m also waiting for him to want to distance himself again from his father and I. It’s part of growing up. He’s reminding me that I have to stop, periodically, and check in and acknowledge (or challenge) what I’m teaching him. And be aware that time is short as he’ll be off on his own before I know it, and I want to make sure I’ve given him all the tools he’ll need to fly.

What capabilities are you most interested in giving your child? What prompts you to check-in regarding what your teaching your child?

The Christmas Letter

Do you send out cards for the holidays?

Every year we send out cards to friends and family. We like to include both pictures (so our loved ones can see how the kids have grown), and a letter that outlines what we’ve been up to. This year’s card I wondered if including a letter would be worth it, haven’t all of us (for the most part) been up to the same things for the past 9ish months?

I decided to give it a try. After getting the opening out of the way (how do you best start a greeting during a pandemic?), I launched into the details of what our boys were up to, what my husband and I are up to, and things that helped us during the year. Putting the words down in writing showed me that while life often felt like it’s been on pause, we’ve actually been doing a lot of living, and growing, and listening, and talking. We’ve been creative in how we connect with others — my oldest riding bikes with his best buddy, and my youngest connecting with his peers over a virtual game night — are two of many examples of how we found ways to enjoy it.

Writing the letter reminded me to keep finding joy in the present, pandemic or post-pandemic. And help my boys keep finding joy as well. We’ve got a lot more living to do.

What happened this year for you and your family that’s brought you joy?

While the Kids are Away, the Parents Will…

Has your child ever spent the night at their grandparents, or a friend’s house? Or gone away to overnight camp? How did you spend your free time?

My boys go away a few times a year — to camp, a school trip, or visiting their grandparents. Every time they leave, my husband and I have to figure out what to do with ourselves. All our parenting duties temporarily go away and we have to adjust to it being just the two of us.

When my boys were young, I coveted date night. Just having some time away with my husband was priceless. I desperately needed a break from my parenting responsibilities. But as my boys have grown and become much more independent, date nights are something my husband and I need. It’s no longer about needing a break, but instead about being connected.

A date night now can include simple things like a walk around the neighborhood, eating dinner together, or talking, about anything other than work or the kids. This time together reminds us why we’re together. When our kids are gone (particularly when it’s for several nights) we miss them, but know that they are growing with the experiences they are having, while we are strengthening our relationship while they’re gone.

How do you and your significant other stay connected? How do you enjoy your (kid) free time when you have it?

Date Night

How often do you get out for a date night?

My husband and I have tried to get our for a date night at least once a month since our kids were born. It wasn’t always easy to find a sitter, but we knew for the health of our relationship we needed it.

Our date nights have evolved as our kids have grown and become more independent. When they were young, our dates were planned, and would include a nice restaurant, and a movie or a show if we could swing it. But as the kids have grown, the date nights have become more casual, less planned. It’s just time for us to be together alone.

On our vacation this summer, the kids were happy after a day of being outdoors to have some downtime (or should I say screen time). My husband and I suggested one night early in the trip that we should figure out what we wanted to do for dinner. My oldest quickly piped in, “Why don’t you all have a date night. We’ve got snacks we can eat here.” My husband and I looked at each other. “Are you sure?” I asked, “Because we won’t be bringing anything back for you.” “Yes!,” both sons chimed in. My oldest finished with, “Go!” My husband and I shrugged and headed out. We had a nice dinner, we got to talk about the trip, how things were going with us, and how things were going with the kids. We talked about the upcoming days and our plans, and just enjoyed each other’s company. It became a common theme throughout our trip. We had dinner as a family most nights, but several nights the kids would insist it should be a date night and my husband and I didn’t resist. It’s nice that we all enjoy each other when we’re together but need our space so we can enjoy each other even more when we all come back together.

How often do you have a date night? How are you connecting as a couple during time away from your child?

A Walk in the Woods

Where do you have the best discussions with your child?

We were attending a year end picnic with my younger son’s class. His older brother did not want to be there — fearing embarrassment from being associated with younger kids (how uncool, right?). While our younger son played with friends, my oldest asked his dad to go with him on a walk in the woods that surrounded the picnic area. They were gone 30 minutes or so. I didn’t mind. It was nice to being able to watch the kids enjoy themselves or talk with another parent. When my son and husband came back he asked, “Mom, do you want to go for a walk?” I wasn’t expecting to be asked, but gladly accepted. We walked and talked and walked and talked and walked and talked some more. It was a nice conversation where we got to talk about deeper things — the intricacies of relationships, being vulnerable, being judged, being true to who you are — by the time we got back we’d walked over three miles, but it didn’t leave me tired. It left me feeling energized, even elated (my teenage son will still talk to me — yes!). 😊

When my son allows me to talk with him — not to him, but with him — it feels like I’ve struck parenting gold. Moments I’ll certainly remember and I hope he does too. I hope he thinks of such conversations as being open, honest, loving, and empathetic. I hope he feels the love, support and encouragement I’m trying to share.

How does it make you feel when you connect with your child on a deeper level?