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.

How Rude!

It’s no fun encountering someone who is rude, right? It can really throw off your day, and put you in a bad mood. No fun.

My husband and I have recently been experiencing rudeness at the hands of our oldest child. We’ve been working on manners for quite some time, and while there has been good progress there is still room for improvement. Our oldest is eight, and in a place where he is working through growing independence and experiencing emotions more intensely. It makes for a challenging environment.

After pointing out the rude behavior we were seeing to our son, and doling out consequences that did not appear to be deterring his behavior, my husband and I decided we had to come up with a new strategy. My husband suggested that our son might still not grasp what being rude really meant and that we should talk with him to make it clear. We sat down with our son to have the discussion. It started off with our son telling and showing us how much he didn’t want to have the conversation (e.g. he got upset, outwardly showed his disdain with a grunt, scrunched up face and balled up fists, and then tried to walk away). We sat our son down and began.

We talked to him about his behavior and how it was unacceptable, and asked if he understood what being rude meant, and what actions constituted being rude. Listening to his answers really helped. “Being rude is when you’re not nice to someone?” he said guessing. “It’s more than just not being nice,” my husband shared. We began a dialogue that lasted more than 20 minutes. We talked about what being rude meant (not acknowledging others when they are speaking to you, and exhibiting behaviors that imply your needs are more important than the other person’s). We asked him again to give his definition. He struggled to come up with an explanation that was simple and clear for him, so my husband and I invoked a role-playing session to show how he could better identify rudeness. Since we often associate respect as being the opposite of rude, we thought we should help clarify some nuances there as well. We shared that being respectful doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone or do what they ask you to do, it’s how you handle yourself in these situations.

He seemed to be grasping what we were talking about, and started to get down on himself for not recognizing how his behavior had come across and impacted others.  We stopped him before he got too far along in that line of thinking, and reminded him that our job is to teach him, and what he is going through is part of growing up. We told him that he was a really neat kid, and that it was important for us to talk to him about his behavior, because when he is rude, it takes away from how neat he is. We continued that if he wasn’t aware that he was being rude, and nothing changed, there might be people who miss out on understanding how much he has to offer, and that would have been a shame. He really seemed to understand what we were saying now.

My husband and I moved on from talking about being rude, and asked him how his day had gone. Our son started to tell us when my husband interrupted him to ask him for more details. My son called his father out on what he did, “Dad, you’re being rude! You just interrupted me.” My husband and I looked at each other with a mutual understanding — we got through to our son…he does understand what being rude means, yes! It felt like we’d really gotten through to him and helped our son learned. It felt great. I didn’t know rudeness could lead to such a place.

How do you help your child work through difficult behavior? When did you know you were getting through to your child?

Good as Gold

The Sochi Olympics are coming to an end, and I am going to miss it. The athleticism, passion and commitment by the athletes is incredible. I always enjoy seeing an athlete experience their Olympic moment, particularly when it goes in their favor. Winning a gold must be a pretty spectacular feeling.

In a way, I felt like a I had my own Olympic moment this week. I experienced it during an unexpected teaching moment with my children. One of my son’s remarked that another boy in his class likes Hello Kitty. What made me recognize this as a teaching moment was when he added, “Isn’t that funny?” I asked him what was so funny about it. My other son joined in the conversation. “Hello Kitty is for girls, right?” he said. “Well,” I responded, “I can see why you may think Hello Kitty is for girls, but anyone can like Hello Kitty.” I could see the wheels turning in their head thinking this over. I added, “You might think of blue being a boys color, but girls can like blue too. And you might think of girls liking princesses and ponies,” I paused before adding for emphasis, “…and is Mom interested in princesses and ponies?” “No!” they both exclaimed with some delight. To drive the point further home I asked, “And isn’t football supposed to be for boys? Well, what is Mom’s favorite sport to watch?” “College football,” they sang. There were giggles all around and I felt like I got through to them.

As the giggles subsided, I circled back to my main point. “We all are different and will like different things, that’s what makes us interesting. It would be boring if it were all the same.” My sons latched onto this statement and shared their agreement. “If we were all the same we’d be robots,” my oldest said.  “Boring!” my other son and I said in unison.

I left the conversation feeling like I’d encountered opened my boys eyes to appreciate the joys of our differences. It was as good feeling, about as good as it gets. Was it as good as gold? It was maybe even better.

How do you help your child appreciate differences in others? What teaching moment has felt more like your Olympic moment?

The Sex Talk

Being a parent has it’s challenges. One my husband and I have been trying to prepare ourselves for years for is “the sex talk.” This came front and center recently when my boys and I were visiting the zoo. We were at the tortoise exhibit when when my youngest son and I saw some movement. I made an innocent comment to my son when one tortoise nudged the other near her rear legs. “He’s saying, ‘hey, get a move on.'” I thought it was funny, and my son also recognized the silliness of my words. I walked away for a minute to check on my other son who was across the aisle looking at a snake enclosure. When I came back to my youngest son, he was laughing in full hysterics…”Look Mom, the tortoise is trying to climb over the other one.” Ah oh, I thought. Sounds like some mating might be taking place. Sure enough I looked into the dwelling and my suspicions were confirmed. What made it worse was the family that was standing next to my son. The husband who had a baby strapped onto his front was giggling nervously and saying, “um, (insert nervous giggle), I, um, don’t think he’s trying to climb over (insert another nervous giggle).” The wife couldn’t take her eyes off what the turtles were doing. My anxiety went from zero to very high very quickly. My mind started to race. Should I just tell my son the truth, that the tortoises are mating? What questions will that bring up? Is having this discussion appropriate to do in public? Thankfully my oldest son, who had no idea what was going on, rescued me by instructing his brother and I to come over and check out what he was looking at. While I continued to ask myself these questions, and fearing I might be missing a teaching moment, I kept quiet. Give yourself time to think about how to respond on this one, I told myself. My younger son never made another reference to what he’d seen.

This experience prompted my husband and I to revisit how we are educating our children on their bodies and sex. Our boys are six and eight and curiosity about their bodies is happening. While we’d like to think that we are comfortable having these discussions, the truth is they can make us a bit uncomfortable. How much do you share? When?

Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to see Dr. Laura Berman on an Oprah episode several years ago, when she helped parents and their children understand their body’s and the realities of sex. It went beyond the birds and the bees discussion. The two episodes I saw taught kids about how their body works, and talked to teens honestly about sex: covering the mechanics while important, is only the beginning, the heart of the discussion was to help teens understand the reality (emotional and relational) and the potential consequences (positive and negative). Both episodes made me cry. Not because I was disturbed at what was discussed, but because I wished so badly that my parents had had this same discussion with me. My parent’s generation for the most part, didn’t talk to their children in this level of detail, and my peers and I were left to figure most of “it” out on our own. I grateful that I managed to navigate it so well on my own, though sometimes it felt like luck played a bigger role in that than my personal knowledge.

I’m determined to help educate my kids, like I wish I was, on their bodies and sex, even though it won’t be easy. I picked up Dr. Laura Berman’s book “Talking to Your Kids about Sex” and “The Boys Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up You” by Kelli Dunham. Dr. Laura Berman’s book is to help my husband and I. The Boys Body Book is to provide my boys with a reference they can read through as needed.

What resources have helped you? How have you navigated the sex talk with your children? How did you work through any discomfort (your own, your partner’s, or your child’s)?

Spilt Milk

The phrase “don’t cry over spilt milk” took on new meaning for me this week. I brought my computer into the kitchen on Sunday morning with the plan of getting some writing done after breakfast. Instead of moving immediately into my writing, I invited my oldest son to come join me at the computer so we could watch some sports highlights that he had missed (due to his bedtime) from the night before.  My husband brought my son’s breakfast over to him to eat on the island where we were sitting including a glass of milk. My son and I finished watching our highlights and I got up to wash the dishes. A few minutes later I heard my son exclaim, “Uh-oh, sorry Mom.” I turned around to see what he was referring to. I quickly spotted the glass of milk laying across my keyboard with most of its contents now seeping into my computer. There was a momentary pause on my part. Did that just happen I thought. After I determined the answer was a resounding “yes” I quickly picked up the glass and started to towel off my machine. I turned the keyboard upside down and did everything I could think of to dry it off. I reassured my son everything was okay. I honestly thought the computer was going to be fine. I even powered it back on about fifteen minutes later without any problems.

Two days later I pulled out my machine to do some work on it. I hadn’t used it since I had powered it on after the milk spill. When I opened the computer I noticed there might be a problem. There was milk residue on the screen and on the keyboard. I thought I had gotten all the milk off, but clearly I hadn’t. Then I tried turning the computer on. It turned on, but wouldn’t let me log in. I was getting a strange battery empty signal (even though the computer was fully charged), and the cap lock key was stuck in the ON position. I shut the machine down and tried again. The second attempt had the same issues and the computer fan was now making a loud noise I’d never heard before. I knew the machine was in trouble, so I shut it down and quickly starting scrolling through my phone for a computer repair shop.  For anyone who has gone through a similar experience, you know that you first have to take your computer in to be diagnosed ($) and then pay someone to fix it ($$$). The milk spill damaged the keyboard requiring it to be replaced.  It took a while for the cost of this accident to sink in. Wow! I thought, I had no idea an accident like this could cost so much.

When I got home, I wanted to talk with my son. While what happened was an accident I wanted him to be aware of what happened as a result. I believed it was an opportunity for him to learn and us to grow together. I didn’t see anything positive coming from getting mad at or making my son feel terrible for the damage done and the financial burden we incurred. He didn’t mean to spill the milk and none of us had any idea what might happen if he did. We all learned a lesson that day. My son learned that when we get anything liquid on Mom’s computer it can cost more than what the Lego Star Wars Death Star set costs (my son understands what this means. He has wanted this set for a while, and we had to explain even Santa couldn’t afford it!), and my husband and I learned that no one can have any liquid around our electronics, and if we do, we need to understand the risk.

We had a very calm discussion about the whole thing. While having an unexpected expense wasn’t easy to take, it was easier to get through when I reminded myself, its just money. Yes, I’ll need to work a little harder to make up for what was lost, but I can’t put a dollar amount on going through this experience with my child.

The damaged computer and bill that followed could have made me cry, but instead I grew. In my opinion, it was worth every cent.

How do handle unexpected accidents? How have you helped your child learn from the experience?

Full of Disguises

Each October, as Halloween nears, my children pull out their favorite holiday books. Substitute Creature by Chris Gall has become a family favorite. The story is about a substitute teacher that has come to bring order to a class that is out-of-control. The substitute shares tales of children who have misbehaved and the dreadful things that have resulted from their actions to deter his current class. And it is eventually revealed that the substitute used to be mischievous himself when he was his students’ age which results in him having to wear his costume until he can redeem himself. And redeem himself he does. It’s a story of hope, accepting yourself—flaws and all, and living a life you feel good about. It’s about seeing the error of your ways, making amends, and finding your way back home.  My kids love it. We read it almost every night.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Not for the sinister decorations or gore that some may find thrilling. Instead I like the imagination it conjures up and creativity is exposes in all who participate. It never fails, each year I’ll see someone in an original costume that makes me wonder why didn’t I think of that?  Or decorations that pull me.

A Halloween costume can be very revealing, and not in the literal sense (though it can be that too). You can tell who has put effort and thought into their costume and who has not. It allows us to hide behind make-up, a hairdo, outfit or mask. For one night we become someone else. It can be freeing.

It reminds me of the book. How many of us are comfortable in your own skin? How many of us wish we were someone else, even if only temporary?  How do we disguise our true selves? Do some wear disguises each day without knowing it? Are disguises worn to protect ourselves from others? Or protect ourselves from knowing our inner most selves? It can be scary to think about.

The good news is there is hope, just like in the story. As we get comfortable with our true selves, any disguises we are wearing more easily come off. It’s accepting yourself as you are—flaws and all and living the life you were intended. It’s about finding your way back home (perhaps figuratively, but it’s true), living a life free of disguises.

Are you comfortable in your own skin, and sharing your true self with others? Or are you hiding behind a disguise like so many of us?

Happy Halloween.

Fruits of Your Labor

Our deck started to show some wear-and-tear over the summer. While the thought of delaying the project was appealing, the inevitability of replacing the deck sooner than later became apparent. My husband decided to take the task on, carefully determining what tools he would need, amount and size of the material, and came up with a plan to build the new deck.

After working on the project for several weeks, he was recently able to start laying down some of the boards. At the end of his second day we were admiring the job he had done so far. He shared that working on the project felt very rewarding because as he completed tasks, he could see the result of his work. He continued sharing that as a parent it’s not always easy to see the results of the foundation we are laying and knowing if what we’re trying to teach is working, and if we will ever be able to see tangible results. I stopped him there and said, “You just gave me my next blog entry!”

As parents, we often are looking for confirmation that we are doing a good job that we are doing right by our children and we’re teaching them, as we should. With the amount of judgment that goes on and everyone having an opinion, we can often feel like our parenting skills, no matter how thorough, how diligent or well intended, aren’t measuring up.

My sons and I were in a coffee shop recently getting a snack when my youngest had a meltdown. The food item he wanted was sold out, and nothing else would do. He quickly went from being excited to dismay to shouting and tears. As I worked to remain calm, my mind was racing with the thought why do you have to do this right now in public? Everyone must think I’m a terrible parent! I could feel anger simmering inside and knew nothing would quill him, and we would have to leave the store immediately. When I told my younger son we would have to leave without him getting anything to eat it only made him more upset. I was angry and embarrassed. He was angry and disappointed. Once we were outside, I asked my son how else we could have solved the problem. Him getting angry and upset only made us leave the shop. It didn’t get him what he wanted. I also reflected on myself, was there some other way I could have better handled that situation? I asked my son the question, “So, what do you think? Is there some other way we could have handled that? Sometimes places we go aren’t going to have what we want.” He seemed to consider this for a minute and then shared some problem-solving techniques he heard in school (Kelso’s Rules): take a break, talk about it, and take a deep breath. I stopped him there. “Those are good ideas,” I said. I also shared some insight with both my boys, “Sometimes Mom feels like she is being judged by others and it can make Mom feel embarrassed and angry. That’s Mom’s issue, not yours. I’m sorry I got angry.” It wasn’t fun to admit, but it felt good to be honest with my kids.

Like my husband pointed out, I’m not sure we’ll ever know the full fruits of our labors of being parents. We won’t necessarily know if we are truly successful in fully teaching our children everything we’re trying to, but it feels good when you see a glimmer of your efforts sinking in, your children making choices that they feel good about, and instances where your child makes a decision that allows for a positive outcome.

How do handle situation where you feel like you’re being judged?

How are you experiencing the fruits of your labor?

Check-up Check-in

On a recent trip to the dentist office to get a cleaning, I had a memorable conversation with the receptionist. I have known Lauren for almost a decade. She has been the receptionist at my dentist office since I started going there. She is always pleasant, smiling and genuinely seems interested in how I am.  I brought each of my boys with me to the dentist when they were very young. Each visit since, she has asked me about them, how old they are and what they are up to.

On this most recent visit, she inquired about my boys as usual. I mentioned my youngest was getting ready to enter kindergarten and she reminded me that they will be grown in what will seem like a blink of an eye. Instead of stopping there, she shared that her children were now grown. She shared without any prompting on my part, that while you can help guide them when they are young, you sometimes have to stand by and watch them struggle, possibly fail, as an adult. She said, “You sometimes can see what’s going to happen before it happens, but you need to let them experience it on their own.” She continued, “You want to protect them, but realize they don’t appreciate it, or want your insight or suggestions. They just want you to be there for them. It can be hard, especially when a choice they’ve made ends up with a bad result, but what can you do? They’re adults.”

I thought about this for a moment, and replied, “You’re right. I know as an adult, I really only want my parents support and encouragement. If I want their advice, I let them know.”

Boundaries are an interesting thing.  As parents of young children, we are tasked with teaching our children, showing them right from wrong, helping them with their education, and exposing them to values, morals, and beliefs. We can convince ourselves it is our life long mission to be our children’s teachers, but in reality, they will only want to be taught for some long. Then they will want to learn for themselves. If we keep a healthy boundary and let them make decisions for themselves as they enter adulthood, we show our confidence in their skills. It is hard to keep you mouth shut and opinions to yourself when you see someone making a choice you wouldn’t make, or a choice you believe will end badly. You want to help your child avoid pain or disappointment, but everyone needs the chance to grow and experience life in their own way.

Lauren reminded me of something important on this dentist visit. That my role with my children will not always be what it is now. I will need to maintain boundaries, not only for my own sake, but more importantly for my children. I am not looking forward to seeing my children grown and making decisions that I might not agree with, but I do want to maintain a healthy relationship with them, and do hope that they will occasionally ask me for advice after they leave our home. I want them to flourish, and more importantly want them to know my husband and I believe in them and will be there to support and encourage them.

I never expected for my dental check-up to contain such sage advice.

How are you preparing for your role to change as your child enters adulthood? Are you thinking about it now, or holding off until you have to think about it? What will you do differently?