The Comeback

Has your child ever made a remark that has stopped you in your tracks?

When my oldest son entered middle school he struggled with people who made unkind comments. We talked about strategies for how to handle and one way we discussed was to have a comeback. Not an equally unkind comment (e.g. an eye for an eye), but a smart comeback, a clever comeback. One that shows you caught the person’s unkind comment and you’re handing it back to them (with the intent of getting them to become more self-aware and be more careful with their negative comments and how they use their words in the future).

Examples:

Unkind comment: “You’ve got a big nose.
Smarter comeback: “The better to smell jerks like YOU with.”

Unkind comment: “You’re weird.”
Smarter comeback: “Everyone’s weird, including you for saying that.”

I didn’t realize how far my son had advanced in his comeback skills until we were looking at some apps he’d downloaded. I was asking him to show me what each app did (as a parent, I wanted to ensure that there was nothing inappropriate). He showed me an app where you race cars, but the app’s title implied it was about wrecking cars. “Are you supposed to wreck the cars?” I asked. “Sometimes,” my son said and proceeded to show me how you could do it.  I commented, “Oh, you lost a wheel!” I laughed because the car appeared to be racing just fine even though a wheel had fallen off. “Well, you lost your youth” my son replied. It was matter-of-fact and direct. I don’t think he liked that I had laughed at the wheel falling off and was treating my comment as ‘unkind’ vs. an honest, non-emotional observation. “My youth?” I said. He smiled, “well, yea!” He looked sheepish as if he realized he may have had a disproportionate reaction to the situation. I couldn’t help but laugh, “Well, I know someone who better watch it or they may lose their youth if they don’t watch what they say to their Mom.” We both laughed at that.

When I grew up, I would and could have never had this conversation with my mother. It would have been seen as being very disrespectful. I’m not sure I was excited being told by my son that I’d lost my youth, but I was impressed by his comeback. It was clever, a bit out of left field for the situation, but I had to give him credit.

Self-advocacy can be hard to navigate as you age. Asking for what you want is key, defending yourself in a way that gets your point across without escalating the situation is another. My son is gaining ground in defending himself. I have to applaud him for that.

How do you help your child self-advocate? How do you help them respond when people direct unkind comments at them?

A New Member of the Family

How did you acclimate to a new member joining your family?

It’s not an easy transition, right? My family has recently expanded. No, not with another child, but with a pet. A nine month old cat from our local animal shelter. Our family has been talking about getting an animal for a while. The kids were hoping for a pet for Christmas, but there was just too much going on, and we told the kids not to expect one so they wouldn’t get their hopes up. Following the holidays we revisited the idea of getting a pet. My husband and I agreed there would probably never be an ideal time to get an animal (there’s always something that is going to be on), but if we wanted the kids to experience the joy and responsibility of raising an animal the time was now. So we got in the car and headed to the shelter with two very excited kids.

I should have known when we walked into the shelter that we would be walking out with a pet, but foolishly thought we’d just look and have time to continue to prepare before bringing one home.  The kids saw the cat, everyone thought the cat was a good fit, so the cat got a new home…with us. My husband and I both grew up with pets. Our respective pets lived mainly outdoors. Living in a high traffic area with cold and damp weather, our cat will be an indoor pet so we needed to quickly prepare for our new arrival. Conveniently, there was an pet store practically next door just waiting for folks like us to come on in. 🙂 We grabbed everything we thought we would need, headed back to the shelter, got our cat and headed home. We scrambled to get prepared, but running over to a pet store and stocking up on supplies might get you physically prepared, but not mentally prepared. If the cat had come in, liked where the food and water was, found an easy place to sleep, etc. it would have been wonderful. But like any new member of the family, there was going to be an adjustment period. We were ready for starting the cat off in a small space (thanks to the shelter’s guidance). We weren’t ready for the cat’s near constant meowing once it was in our house, or for the cat to reject the kitty litter and go outside the box (yep, got to experience that on day one), my husband and I learned that while we knew a lot about raising animals, we still have more to learn.

I went to bed the first night thinking what have we done? What have we gotten ourselves into? I woke early the next morning thinking are we really ready to be this cat’s caregivers? I was taken back to when I first became a mom. Regardless of the long preparation (9 months) while the baby was growing inside me, I still felt ill-prepared when my son first came home. I’d taken classes, asked questions, gotten the house ready, but still I had the same questions…what have we done and gotten ourselves into? Are we going to be good parents?

I know it will take a while for our cat to adjust to our home and us, and us him. The kids love the cat and the cat is quickly taking to the kids. Pets played a big role growing up. I can recall my pets giving a sympathetic ear when I was down, or sitting in my lap just when I needed someone. Pets are magical in that way, and I hope my kids will have the same experience as I.

Are you a pet owner? How did your family adjust to having a new pet?

 

Raising a Man

 

How are you raising your child to become the adult you want them to be?

I grew up with sisters and am learning about raising boys in real-time. Boys were always a puzzle to me growing up. They could be caring and kind, and then aggressive, dismissive and cruel. What makes them act this way?, I’ve often thought. I’ve heard throughout my life (both as a child, teen and now parent), “It’s easier to raise boys than it is girls.” This never made sense to me. The beauty of girls is that we are allowed to have emotions.  And while there may be room for improving how we experience or work through our emotions, we are not conditioned to hide or repress them. Boys don’t often tell you what’s going on. My oldest son talks to my husband and I and is pretty open about what’s going on — yet he too really struggles to understand the emotion(s) he is feeling and what’s causing them. He lumps them all into two categories: those that make me feel good, and those that make me feel bad.

Watching my sons grow, I am starting to see them exhibit those same confusing behaviors I saw from boys when I was growing up. Particularly from my oldest. He can be loving and kind, empathetic and thoughtful, and then on what seems like a turn-of-the-dime, he can be rude, dismissive and cruel — whether its to his classmates, friends, brother or my husband and I. Consequences seem to have minimal impact, it’s almost like he can’t help himself. My biggest concern as I watch him grow is what kind of man he will be. I want to believe that what my husband and I are teaching him the ‘right’ things: appreciating diversity, equality, and what you have, being kind to one another, and sharing your gifts with others. He’s for equality, diversity, fairness, and taking care of the planet, yet I see him struggling with being kind. He often directs feeling of negativity towards his younger brother, or us. I understand the desire to vent to those that you know will still love you and be there for you, but it’s draining on my husband and our patience and takes a toll on his younger brother. He shared what he deemed a ‘good day’ that included playing volleyball well in P.E. (I’m good with this), and then watching a female classmate miss a shot and fall in a way that was ‘hilarious’ – “Mom, I couldn’t stop laughing,’ he said (I’m not good with this). I attempted to ask him how he thought the girl felt (I’m sure embarrassed) and he acted as though I were purposely trying to be a killjoy. “Mom, I said I had a good day.” and he immediately ended the conversation.

I want my child to be happy, but not at the expense of others. Particularly not at a women’s expense. Maybe I’m overly sensitive because overt sexism and misogyny are finally getting the exposure we women have needed to change what is ‘acceptable’ behavior. I feel like I’m at a pivotal point in my son’s maturing and need to ‘up’ my parenting skills a notch to ensure we’re guiding him down a path toward manhood that he’ll one day be proud of. I want him to be kind to others. I want him to see the benefit — not only to others to how he’ll feel. I don’t know how else to do that then exhibiting the behavior myself, and getting him to think (rethink) how he interacts with others.

What challenges are you facing in helping your child to grow to be the adult you hope they will be? How are you helping your child?

 

 

 

 

Getting to Know You

How well do you know your child?

As a parent, I’d like to think I know my kids pretty well, but my assessment was recently put into question. As I’ve shared, my youngest son is on the autism spectrum. After meeting with a specialist, my husband and I were provided with suggested readings to help us better understand Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There were several books that were recommended, along with a workbook. I ordered all the material in hopes that they would be useful. Some were intended for my son. Some were intended for my husband and I (and my son’s teachers). I wasn’t sure how my son would react when I showed him the material. Would he be upset? Or relieved? Or something else?

When the first couple of books came, I showed them to him. Because my son’s biggest challenge is picking up on social cues, we started with You are a Social Detective! Explaining Social Thinking to Kids by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke. My son and I read through the book. It was very insightful, but I wasn’t sure how much he really was following and retaining. It’s a great reference book that we’ll need to read and re-read to ensure it sinks in. The next book I shared with him was Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder. My son really liked this book. “Wow! Sir Isaac Newton had autism? Albert Einstein?” he said. You could tell he felt that instead of being deficient for being on the spectrum he was in elite company with some of history’s most famous people. Then we came upon Asperger’s…What Does It Mean to Me? A workbook explaining self-awareness and life lessons to the child or youth with high functioning autism or Asperger’s by Catherine Faherty. This book was a godsend. My son and I started reading the workbook together. It walks through different topics explaining how children on the autism spectrum may think, feel or look at situations differently than someone who is not. Then it asks the child to self-assess and answer what is true from them. Talk about getting to know your child. My son started having lightbulb moments–understanding how others without autism may experience something versus how he does–he was gaining clarity around his autism and so were my husband and I. As we read through the workbook together, our son learned more about himself, my husband and I learned more about ASD, and more about our son and how he experiences the world. It was (and is) priceless. Assumptions we had made were dispelled and unknowns were replaced with information about our son. After completing the workbook I believe I understand my son and ASD much better. It was so insightful, we talked to our son and asked if he would be willing to share the workbook with his teachers and staff who work with him so they can better understand him as well. He agreed. “What about grandma and grandpa? Or your aunts and uncles? Can we share it with them?” I asked. “Sure!,” he said. I loved his enthusiasm and willingness to share with those who love and care about him.

We are excited about finding this workbook and the other wonderful material that is helping us better understand our son. There is no greater feeling, in my opinion, then having knowledge to help you navigate life. It’s challenging enough. Having this information feels like blinders have been lifted and we can better take on this new(er) terrain.

How well do you know your child? What material (book, course, etc.) have you come across that has helped you better understand them?

The Haircut — A Mom’s Confession

Do you remember a haircut from your childhood that you were particularly fond or, or embarrassed by?

My oldest son, who is entering middle school this year, is becoming more concerned with his appearance.  Up until recently he preferred I give the stylist instructions, but over the past year he’s decided he wants to have some input, and I supported him. I can remember having some haircuts I hated as a teen — a prem on already wavy hair (I looked like a poodle), having my hair cut so short it made my face look very round (not a look any teen wants), or putting ‘Sun-In’ in my hair (that was no one’s fault but mine) — I had two-toned hair for months — ugh! — and wished I’d been encouraged to give more input before and during the haircut (I would have begged to have my hair colored back to it’s natural color during my Sun-In phase once I stopped using it if I could have).

I was impressed by the input my son gave. “I want the hair cut short not just around my ears, but all the way around in the back,” he said. “Oh, and I don’t want any sideburns, I don’t like them.” I didn’t even realize he knew what sideburns were, and his were slight, but he was clear. He didn’t want any. The hairdresser obliged and he got a great cut. He was very pleased. Months passed, and being into sports like he is, he has a sense for how athletes use their hair to make a statement, and decided that he too, needed a ‘sportier’ haircut. He decided instead of going to the same place we’ve gone to since he was a baby, he was ready for the barber shop. My husband took him and showed him the ropes. My son got more familiar with clipper numbers and enjoyed bonding with his dad. He, once again, gave the barber instructions on how he wanted his haircut and the barber obliged. My son was happy. I, on the other hand, thought my son’s hair looked ‘okay’ but could be better, but held my tongue.

This is one of those parent dilemmas: when do you let your child look a certain way  whether it’s hair, clothes, make-up, and when do you say something? I grew up hearing most mornings “are you going to wear that?”, which I hated, and decided long ago that I did not want to repeat this with my son, but I did just that. A few weeks after my son got his hair cut (and I held my tongue ever so briefly) I asked him if he would be willing to see another stylist that mom knew (this is a woman I’ve seen for years and I’ve seen her do amazing cuts on men and women and knew she could give my son a great cut). “No, I’m good,” my son said. I didn’t give up so easy. “I like your cut, but know someone who can give you a really great sports cut — like Rinaldo,” I had his attention. “Well, maybe,” he replied. I decided not to push it…but that only lasted a few days. “You know you’re hair is going to be bothering you soon (it always does when it starts to get even a little long), just let me make this appointment and if you don’t like the cut I’ll never suggest going there again.” That seemed to do it. “Okay,” he said. I made the appointment. I prepped him on what would happen — he would be going  to an adult salon (not a barber shop). The stylist would walk him through the cut. He could ask any questions that he wanted, and he could tell her what he did and didn’t want. The haircut began. My stylist walked him through a haircut and, with his input, he went with a sporty-fade. She educated him on the different terminology and tools and helped him feel more comfortable about his hair. She talked him through styling techniques and products to use to help him ‘rock his haircut’ whenever he wanted to. The whole time I was a nervous wreck. I had great trust in my hairdresser, but was questioning the choice I was making as a parent. I had brought him here. This was my idea. What if he hated the cut and the experience? He would lose trust in me if he felt he has been mislead. Had I made a mistake?

I was fortunate in that the cut turned out great. He was ecstatic. He got out of the chair and said, “Mom, I just got the perfect haircut. I love it.” My son doesn’t say such things easily. I have rarely seen him this happy. I’ve experienced a great haircut high so I knew what my son was feeling. He really liked the way he looked, and believe him understanding more about the mechanics of a haircut, and being educated on the terminology and products really helped.

I learned another lesson, or to put it more accurately, was reminded of something I already knew — that I need to let my son decide what he wants to look like and be okay with it. The stress I was feeling during the cut was not fun. Of course, I want my son to feel good about his appearance, but part of growing up is experimenting with your look. You have to have a few ‘what was I thinking’ or ‘I can’t believe I ever thought that looked good’ moments to appreciate how far you’ve come. It won’t be easy, but I need to let him be him.

What haircuts do you remember from your childhood? Have you ever intervened to ‘improve’ your child’s appearance? If so, how did you feel afterwards?

Hanging Out

My oldest son used to go on play dates, but not anymore.

At his school’s Field Day, I was introduced to one of his classmate’s mom when her son and mine ran up to us. “Mom, mom, can K come over?” my son asked. I looked at K’s mom. “Would you all be up for a play date?” My son looked horror struck. He quickly said, “Mom, we don’t call them play dates anymore, you call it hanging out or chilling,” (while throwing in some hand gestures to ensure I understood he was ‘cool’). 🙂  I could tell I had unintentionally embarrassed my son by using the wrong lingo, so I quickly corrected myself. “Can K come over to hang out this weekend?” We set a time up when K could come over.

When my son and I were alone in the car later he said, “Mom, play dates are what little kids do. I’m not a little kid anymore.” He’s right, he’s not. I catch myself still using ‘baby/little kid’ talk too often. I recently asked, “Does anyone need to go potty before we leave?” My boys both responded, “Mom (in a long drawn out way that indicated I should know better), it’s called the bathroom, and yes we’ve both used it!” I’ve realized two things: 1) my boys are indeed growing up, and 2) I’ve got to revisit my vocabulary — because I don’t want to embarrass them (I know I hated being embarrassed even unintentionally by my parents growing up), and using older language allows me to acknowledge that they are indeed getting older.

Has anyone else caught themselves doing this? If so, how are you catching yourself and modifying your language?

5th Grade Graduation

How much fanfare surrounded your 5th grade graduation?

There was none for mine, and I don’t mean a little, I mean there was none, zero, nada. The general consensus was everyone should be graduating 5th grade or there was a bigger problem that needed to be addressed.  Clearly times have changed, and now there is a desire to more frequently celebrate these milestones. I just didn’t know there would be so many activities. A graduation ceremony seemed a little over the top to me, but then I started getting the notices: Don’t Forget the 5th Grade breakfast, Don’t Forget the 5th Grade Field Trip, Send Pictures for the Baby Picture Wall, Who Can Help with the Legacy Project, etc. Wow, times have changed.

It has been fun digging up old pictures (though challenging after a long days work) and reminiscing around just how far we’ve come. It was fun going to the breakfast and catching up with other parents and recalling first days at school, and how our children, who were once very attached to us are now wanting their space. My son wanted me at the breakfast, but didn’t want to interact with me per se at the breakfast. 🙂 Not to worry, I remember being his age. I was pulling away from my parents as well trying to find myself, just as he is finding his. It is hard to believe that he’ll be moving up to middle school. I’ve relished the protective cocoon of elementary school and dreaded the day he’d move into a less protected space. He feels and I feel it. It’s hard not to acknowledge that time is passing and things are changing. And while I initially felt the school might be over-doing it with all the 5th Grade graduation activities, I’m appreciating it more and more. As the school year nears it’s end, I’m clinging to every day desperately wanting to slow time. My son’s growing up. Time will keep moving. I’m going to cherish every minute.

How are you celebrating your child’s milestones?

I will be off for the holiday weekend and back in July. Happy 4th!

 

The Halloween Miracle

How old is too old to trick-o-treat?

My boys are still in elementary school. My oldest is in the 5th grade and is quickly becoming a young man. At least he thinks he is. He is at that age where you want to start to lean towards grown-up behavior (being more conscientious of your appearance and how you are perceived by others) and losing his childhood innocence.

I thought he would trick-o-treat throughout elementary school. Imagine my surprise when I asked him in early October what he wanted to be for Halloween and his response was, “Oh, I’m not going trick-o-treating this year. I think I’m getting to old for it.” Instead of accepting what he said, I immediately tried to get him to change his mind. “Are you sure? There aren’t many more years you’ll want to go trick-o-treating.” “You love trick-o-treating why wouldn’t you want to do it this year?” “Aren’t your friends and classmates dressing up?” And finally, “I’ll level with you, there are only a few precious years where Mom and Dad get to do kid things with you, trick-o-treating is one of them, let us take you trick-o-treating, you don’t even have to dress up.” Oh, it was pathetic. I was a bit disappointed in myself for how close I had gotten to almost begging my son to let us experience this with him one more year. If he doesn’t want to do it, I need to respect that and not try to manipulate him into doing it one more time. I decided to back off–kind of.

A week went by. “Have you changed your mind by chance about trick-o-treating this year?” I asked. “Nope, not going to do it,” he replied. Drats I thought.

And another. “Are you sure you don’t want a costume?” I tried again. “No. I already told you. I’m not going trick-o-treating” he reminded me. Okay, okay, I just need to accept this whether I like it or not I concluded. I didn’t bring it up again.

Then it happened. After several days following my last attempt, my son came home. “How was your day?” I asked. “It was okay,” he shared then continued, “Mom, remember how I said I wasn’t going to dress up for Halloween? Well, I changed my mind. I think I want to be an Army soldier.” It was hard for me to hide my joy (not to mention my relief — I would get one more year of this tradition. Yes!). “Of course!” I told him. He smiled. And while it would be easy to say I got what I wanted, I think we both did. He gets to pretend to be a soldier (something he’s currently interested in) and I get my little (okay, not so little) boy for my one year.

This was a miracle, a Halloween miracle, and I am ever so grateful for it.

How do you handle your child outgrowing a treasured tradition?

 

To Give and to Receive

What part of the holidays brings you the most cheer?  Giving gifts, receiving them, or something else?

I loved receiving gifts when I was a child. I was captivated by the magic of Santa and couldn’t wait to see what I would receive. Receiving gifts was an acknowledgement that Santa thought enough of me to bring me something he thought I would like. As I grew older and the magic of Santa faded, I found holiday cheer in giving. Watching others expressions of surprise (at the unexpected gift or the thought put into it) brought me great joy. Putting a smile on someone else’s face made me happy.

As I watch my children this holiday season, I see how hopeful they are that when Christmas morning arrives they will have gifts under the tree. For my older one, the magic is starting to fade. He’s starting to ask questions and we realize this is likely his last year of believing. It’s a bittersweet moment. Joy in watching him grow into a young man, but bitter in that the innocence that goes with childhood is starting to slowly slip away. I wonder what will bring him joy going forward. Will he continue to enjoy receiving, or giving (whether it’s physical gifts, or acts of kindness), or something else?

I can’t wait to find out.

R.I.P. Halloween Costume

Do you have a favorite childhood Halloween costume you wore? Perhaps your costume gave you super powers, made you feel like royalty or turned you into a scary creature. Nostalgia surfaces when I think of Halloweens past.

I’m starting to get the same nostalgic feeling for my children’s Halloween past. They are reaching the ages where they will only trick-o-treat for a few more years and wear costumes. I’ve held on to many of their costumes from the past. Not wanting to just give them away, they’ve felt too special to just give away.

I recently came across a box that had an astronaut costume my son wore when he was two or three years old. It was adorable and I can remember him attacking a cupcake with green frosting while in the suit. We have some great pictures of our frosting covered astronaut in our scrapbook and some wonderful memories in our heads. I have a young nephew and was hoping to maybe pass the costume on to him, but he already has another costume. I saw a friend’s son that is close to my nephew’s age and offered up the astronaut outfit without a second thought. I want this to go to someone who will love and cherish it as I do. Funny thing is, as soon as my offer was accepted, a feeling of sadness washed over me. The act of giving away the costume confirm my boys are growing up, and they won’t be little boys for much longer.

I accept that I can’t stop time. I remind myself that I just need to appreciate the moment…take lots of pictures and enjoy the present Halloween.

My boys are growing. The costumes will eventually be going. When we bury someone we often say Rest In Peace. I hope my kids’ costumes bring much joy in their next life, with whomever gets to wear them. I don’t want the costumes to Rest In Peace in a box in my closet, but want them Worn and Enjoyed in the Present…W.E.P. Halloween costumes. W.E.P.