First Kiss

Do you remember your first kiss?

My youngest has a ‘girlfriend’ that he’s known since kindergarten. Now, you wouldn’t know they are boyfriend and girlfriend because they barely interact with each other when in close proximity. But there are these moments when they are inseparable. It doesn’t take much, when one of them initiates doing something with the other.

There was an “engagement” last summer when, during a day at summer camp, they decided they wanted to plan out their life and make it official. Our families had a picnic to celebrate their plans. We have some great pictures of them. While their pretend ceremony was very innocent, and they posed for pictures as though they were kissing, they actually did not. My youngest was fine with this, and thought all of it was good fun.

His girlfriend moved to another school this year, so their interaction has been even less with the exception of the occasional playdate. When she last came over to play, they did what the normally do, they sat in the same room, but proceeded to read books and not actually play together. As their playdate was ending, his friend suddenly decided they needed to play a quick board game (is that even possible?) and while her mom and I allowed them to play for a few minutes, we were working to wrap it up so everyone could go home. While her mother and I were talking, the kids decided to resume their almost ceremonially kiss pose they had at the picnic. I have no idea what prompted this, as it happened so quickly. After seeing what they were up to, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but it didn’t take long to figure it out. My son went in for the kiss this time and was smiling from ear-to-ear following. It was very sweet. I was happy for him that his first kiss was with a girl he really liked. I was happy that he didn’t have to go through the fretting I did in wondering when the first kiss would happen and who would it be with. It also felt like I just passed a milestone with my son way earlier than I’d anticipated. Of course, every milestone that occurs reminds me how quickly my sons are growing up. And while things can move fast in life, I’m don’t want it to go by at such a rapid pace.  I realize this is a bit out of my control, but boy, would I love to slow down time sometimes.

How do you experience milestones with your child?

 

It’s Just Brunch

When you first had your child did you worry about when you could return to activities you enjoyed prior to becoming a parent?

When I first entered motherhood, I had two realizations: I love my son, and I loved my old life, how can I honor both?  I was stumped. As a new parent, I thought sacrifice was paramount to being a ‘good parent’, and anything else was selfish. This kind of understanding and thinking was a rookie mistake on my part. What I learned was that while parenting requires sacrifice, it also requires taking care of yourself so that you can give your child the energy and attention they need from you.

When my son was young, my husband and I were lucky enough to be in a PEPS group (Program for Early Parenthood Support) and were surrounded by other families who were just starting out as parents like we were. We were encouraged to have a Moms Night Out (MNO) where the dads would watch the kids while the moms had dinner, and vice versa, so the dads had an opportunity to do the same. I lived for those MNO in the early days and looked forward to them. But as our kids got older, and required less of us physically, the need by all the moms for these MNO diminished. We probably haven’t had a MNO in years.

In those early days, I needed a reprieve from being a parent. I needed to be with others my age for adult conversation and interaction. I was very mindful of this need in the early days of being a parent. I’ve gotten a bit away from it as my children have grown and become independent.  That is, until, a girlfriend of mine reached out to go to brunch. As a working parent, she realized with all the stresses from work and home life, she needed to connect with others and became proactive about doing so. Thankfully, I was one of the friends she reached out to. “Let’s do brunch,” she said. Oh, brunch sounded nice. I hadn’t done brunch without family members present in a long time. I mean a loooong time. I loved the idea, and eagerly accepted her invitation. I loved having brunch with my friend. She reminded me that it’s okay to start reclaiming your independence and take time for those activities that are important to you — like keeping up relationships and having a good meal that is kid-free.

What kid-free activity have you reconnected with since becoming a parent? Or what activity do you want to? What helped you or what’s holding you back?

Back to School Jitters — Parent Edition

When your child started back to school did you feel nervous?

Feeling nervous as a parent was a surprise to me, yet I’ve experienced it every new school year. When my oldest son started kindergarten I was nervous but thought it was natural because he was moving from pre-school to elementary, he’d be with new people, have more structure and more expectations put upon him. I worried if he’d fit in and make friends, and be safe, and like his teacher…you get the picture. I was caught off guard when I was nervous when he entered first grade the following year. He knew the school and most of his classmates. He did have a new teacher, but the school is small and most of the kids (and parents) know the faculty. The pattern has repeated over the years. Each new school year creates a bit of anxiety and nerves for me, the parent, on the first day. What is going on? Why am I still nervous? Parents aren’t supposed to get nervous, right? I thought. Clearly I was wrong.

Upon reflection, I realized there were several reasons why a parent may be nervous:

  • You care about your child and worry about them making (or keeping) friends and fitting in
  • You worry about them having a positive learning environment
  • You care about how your child does in school, and how you as the parent, are helping your child be successful–trying to figure out how to accomplish this (helping with homework, etc.) and keeping up with all your other responsibilities would make anyone nervous (e.g. how am I going to do this (again)?)
  • You care about your own friendships–do you mesh with your child’s classmates parents? It seems so trivial, but feeling like you are part of a school community not only forces your child to make friends, but forces the parents to also. It takes effort and precious time. Will other parents like me? How will I fit in?
  • You relive your own childhood through your child(ren) in many ways. A new school year, at least for me, takes me back to the fear I used to have when I was growing up–would people like me, was my teacher going to be nice, did anyone notice the effort I put into my new outfit? 🙂

We grow up with our kids. We learn patience and better appreciate what matters in life. I dropped my sons off at school, and marveled at how well they handled it, how well I handled it. The nerves slipped away quickly, but I know they’ll be back next year.

How do you experience the new school year with your child? If you have any tips for how to calm your child’s nerve, please share.

The Gift of Friendship

How is your oldest and dearest friend? What drew you to them when you met? What has kept you friends all these years?

My youngest son is a very friendly kid–he can talk to people easily and engage in new situations without being prompted. He loves to laugh, and be silly. He struggles though, with making friends. He’s likable enough, and people want to be around him, he just struggles to do simple things like: introducing himself (he can play with someone for hours, walk away and we can ask, “Who’s your new friend?” and he’ll reply, “I don’t know.” “Did you ask him his name?,” we’ll continue, and he’ll share, “No, I didn’t think about it.”); or engaging in other’s interests–he is happy to have people engage with him if it’s something he’s interested in, but when it’s not–he’s not as willing. We’re working with him, along with his teachers and others, to help him develop these social skills.

He shared some frustration in lacking strong connection with his peers–even though he’s only seven years old. “I don’t have any friends, and I’m not going to.” When I asked, “What are you talking about?”, he replied, “I haven’t gotten invited to a birthday party in a long time.” He was measuring his friendships by the number of birthday parties he was invited to–I probably did the same thing when I was his age. And while he doesn’t yet understand that friendship is more than getting invited to a birthday party, it still broke my heart when he said this–one, because I could see the pain in his face; and two, I knew he was experiencing self-doubt and feeling hopeless that his situation would never change. We talked about friendship, what goes into being a good friend to someone and how it happens over time. My husband and I shared our own experiences with him and friendships, how some come and go, and some stay when you work on them. Those friendships are gifts that keep on giving. They are the relationships you ultimately want to develop and cultivate. We encouraged him and said his efforts to make lasting friendships would pay off.

Without any intervention or action on my husband’s or my part, within days of this conversation with our son, a flurry of birthday invitations arrived for him. It was almost like the cosmos or God heard our plea and responded in kind (and then some). He ended up getting invited to three birthday parties being held over the same weekend. He was ecstatic. What a wonderful gift those birthday invitations were for him. His demeanor changed, and hope for making meaningful connections with others returned. As a parent, you couldn’t help but share in his joy.

What gifts of friendship have you received or shared with others? How is your child experiencing friendship?

Playdate

When my boys were young, I longed for when they would have playdates…at their friends homes. I have to admit I liked the idea of them developing friendships outside of daycare and school, but wasn’t so sure if I wanted to host these occasions. Cleaning the house, making sure we had the right food (and understood any allergies and parental preferences), and having some activities in my back pocket in case we needed to keep the kids entertained (e.g. deter them from destroying the house) created a lot of anxiety, and made me tired just thinking about it.

As I reflected on this recently, I thought about playdates we have as we mature, though we don’t refer to them as that. By junior high it’s called “hanging out” and changes into “date night” or “grabbing dinner or a drink with your friends” as we become adults. Adult playdates seemed must easier to do before my kids arrived. Much like coordinating a kid playdate, coordinating an adult one can be just as stressful: who can we get to babysit, can we squeeze in a “relaxing” event with our busy schedules, and juggling doing something “fun” that may take away from my sleep.

But, I love my friends, and my husband, and know while stressful, scheduling activities with them are necessary. It’s what keep me connected and gives me energy back (though it does take energy to plan). Similarly, my kids need to have playdates to develop friendship skills and practice their manners.

Presently I’ve probably hosted as many playdates as my boys have attended. It’s fun to see them play with their friends and good to meet their friend’s parents. It does take some work, but the ultimate payoff is their smiling faces.

How often does your child have playdates? Do you prefer to host or have your child hosted? Do you live for playdates or dread them?

Charlotte’s Web

We just finished reading Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. It’s about the unlikely friendship and life of a spider and a pig. While the book centers on the relationship between the animals, its parallels to human relationships made me appreciate the book even more as I read it to my children.

The book was a good reminder that friendship can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Its about getting past someone’s exterior and seeing who they really are, but it goes further. It includes accepting and appreciating someone as they are. It’s about being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be loved. What a great message for my boys to get. I’m not sure they fully understand the significance in the message the story was telling, but they understand that friendship can be strong, and includes caring and sometimes sacrifice.

In the story, Charlotte is thoughtful, creative, caring, brave and selfless. She is a rare find. A true friend always is. As my children navigate relationships, and how friendship works (or how it should), I’m glad stories like Charlotte’s Web exist. It’s good for my children to hear how friendship can be from someone other than my husband and I.

What true friends are you grateful to have in your life? How are you helping your child navigate relationships?

Close Friendships From Afar

Having a close friend, or friends, move away can be hard.

When I was five, I had a friend named Mary. She is the first friend I can remember from my childhood. She lived in my neighborhood and I really enjoyed our playtime together. I recall one day being at her house and being told by my mother as she was picking me up to leave that this is the last time I would see Mary. “Mary is moving away,” my mother asked. “Why?” I responded. Mary’s mother chimed in that Mary’s father had gotten a job in another city that would require them to move. This was also the first time I can remember being pretty devastated. I couldn’t understand how adults could possibly separate children that had such a good time together. The job Mary’s father had, couldn’t possibly be as important, I thought.

It was the last time I saw Mary, and like any child my sadness at the situation faded as I realized the world went on and I would make other friends.

We have belonged to a parenting group since my oldest was born. The group has stayed together and met regularly ever since, even after many of us had our second child. We are a tight group, a supportive group and we deeply care about one another. One of the five families recently moved away. It was hard to come to terms with. You realize when people leave how you wished you spent more time with them while they were here.

I’m grateful for the time we had with this family, and even more grateful we have technology like FaceTime and Skype to keep us connected even though our dear friends moved far away. Seeing their faces makes them feel closer, and helps keep our connection strong.

I think about my children and what they think about their friends being so far away. Are they experiencing what I did with Mary? I know they’ll move on, but my hope is that through technology and occasional visits, my husband and I will model how with a little effort you can retain the best of friendships, even when you thousands of miles apart.

I’m reminded of my Girl Scout Days and the song, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” So true.

How have you dealt with relocation — your own, or friends or family? How did you help your children get through it?