Preparation

How prepared is your child to be independent?

My teens are opposites in many ways. One showers, wears deodorant, brushes and flosses without being asked. The other has to be prompted, reminded, nagged more often than not. They will take proactive action only in more extreme situations (e.g., they recognize they smell pretty bad too).

One teen can get around on public transit, without complaint. The other one prefers to be driven and picked up, and complains when these options aren’t available. 😉

Neither’s room is clean per se, but one child does put their clothes in their dresser drawers, and has made their bed more days than not. The other uses their room (more exact-their floor) as their dresser, and rarely makes their bed.

Our oldest is getting closer to the day he’ll be on his own, and my husband and I have discussed the need to get him better prepared—to live in a space he (and others) can tolerate, maybe even be proud of (that means being tidier and cleaning up after himself), getting himself to and from places without the help of mom and dad, and putting more care into his hygiene (I don’t know anyone who enjoys being around unpleasant smells).

We decided since football season has finished and our son can decide what he does after school (workout or come home), he can figure out how to get himself home — walk or public transit. The situation presented itself for us to get him doing this when my husband was tied up and I was across town when our son reached out to get a ride home. He’d have to figure out how to get home on his own (keep in mind he was about a mile away from our house). He was frustrated that we couldn’t get him but became really unhappy when we told him he’d need to start getting himself around without our help. “You can’t just change things!,” he said, “this is so unfair.” He continued to share how upsetting this change was for him. We gave him some space to calm down.

I went to talk to him after a while. He doubled-down on how ‘dumb’ and ‘unfair’ the change is. I doubled-down on the importance of us better preparing him to live on his own, and his need to demonstrate not only to us, but more importantly to himself, that he’s ready. That means he’ll need to navigate public transit sometimes, take ownership of his space (room) and personal cleanliness. He resisted. I reminded him no one likes change, it hard, and I understood he didn’t like it. He told me he was done talking to me and get out of his room. Power struggle ensues?🙃 I tell him I won’t leave until he can calm himself down. He resists (of course, trying to flex his independence). I stayed and made him show me a few deep breaths. His facial expression read I hate you so much. I get it. I had those moments with my parents too. Before I left his room, I reminded him his father and I weren’t helping him by helping him (cleaning up after him, doing his laundry, nagging him about personal hygiene, etc.). He was old enough and needs to take full ownership.

It’s tough making change, especially when resistance is high. It’s harder when it’s with someone you love. Its easier knowing it’s for my son’s benefit. He loses if we don’t allow him to grow and learn what he’s capable of.

How prepared is your child? What challenging situations have you encountered trying to help them and how did you overcome their resistance?

How Getting Feedback Helps

My sons got to spend time with their grandparents over a school vacation. My oldest planned to help his grandfather with some outside work while there.

I called to check in and see how things were going. My oldest shared, “I feel pretty worthless.” “Why are you saying that?,” I asked. “Because, grandpa asked me to dig out some dirt, and after I was done, he and the neighbor, who’s helping out, had to come back and redo the work I did. It’s embarrassing.” Clearly my son wanted to do a good job for his grandpa. I doubted grandpa saw the work he’d done as anything other than helpful, yet, I knew that my saying that wouldn’t help my son. “What could you do different tomorrow?,” I asked him. “I don’t know. That’s why this is so frustrating. I’m not sure what I could have done differently.” There was silence while both he and I thought. “What about if you start doing the work, then stop after a few minutes and get grandpa’s feedback — confirming you are doing it right, or make adjustments. That should allow you to get it right and feel good about it the first time. What do you think?” I asked. “Hmmm. That makes sense,” he replied. We then changed the topic and discussed what else he’d been up to while there.

The next evening we checked in again. This time he felt much better about the work he’d done. “Everything went fine,” he shared. He was smiling. It was good to see my son feeling so pleased. The following day, he sent me a video and texted that they’d finished. You could tell be his voice how proud he was of the work they had done.

I’m happy my son got to work with his grandpa and learn some new things. I hope he took from it that by taking the simple step of asking for feedback and correcting as you go, can save you pain (maybe even embarrassment), and help you feel good about what you accomplish.

What simple steps are you teaching your child to avoid mistakes, and/or be more successful?

Helping a Mother in Need

When was the last time you did a random act of kindness?

My oldest son needed to get a new identification. After weeks of waiting, and thinking I had everything we needed for the appointment, we headed out to the office. We were met easily by a waiting clerk. Awesome, I thought. I gave them the paperwork. Everything was there. This is good, my optimism for this being the shortest appointment ever was growing. Then they asked for payment. No cash. No credit cards. Only a check would be expected. How could I forget to bring a check?, I thought. My mind started racing. I couldn’t just run to the car, my checkbook wasn’t there. If I went back to the house, I’d lose my place and have to reschedule the appointment again. Dread started sinking in.

Then the most amazing thing happened, a woman working with the clerk next to mine saw what was unfolding and offered to help. “I’ll give you a check. You can just Venmo or PayPal me.” I’ve never been so grateful. “Are you sure you don’t mind?,” I asked. “Not at all,” she said, “I’ve actually been looking for an opportunity to help someone else. The same thing happened to me when I was at a grocery store and the bill was over $400. I couldn’t believe someone would help me in that way and having been wanting to pay it forward ever sense. This makes me feel good.” I used her check to complete the transaction and transferred the owed funds noting in the notes “helping a mother in need.”

We all have had moments when we need help. We left house without diapers, or need someone to hold the baby while we handle another crisis, or ask someone to momentarily watch one child while we chase after another. There are always opportunities to help. This woman was a godsend and truly helped a mother in need. Now I’m on the lookout for who I can help, and pay forward her kindness.

How has someone else helped you in a time of need? How have you helped another parent in need?

Movers Wanted

What jobs have you had family or friends help with?

Moving, particularly when I was younger, involved soliciting the help of family and friends. I never liked asking, but always appreciated the help.

My sons aunt and uncle were in need of help moving from a rental back to their home. They were in a pinch and asked for my sons help a few days before they needed it. Both boys said “of course,” as they love their aunt, uncle, and cousins and wanted to be off assistance. When they found out they would also get some money for doing it they were beyond thrilled.

After they helped them move, my husband and I asked them how it went. “It was nice,” my youngest shared, “it was nice just spending time with them alone. We had fun.” We realized our kids hadn’t spent much alone time with their aunt and uncle, we (my husband or I) always seemed to be around at the same time. I was happy that had this experience and shared memory with other family members. My oldest piped in, “Yea, they said that might want our help again in another week.” He was excited by the prospect.

Helping others can be so fulfilling. Helping others and getting paid, especially if you’re young and want/need to make money — near utopia (at least for my kids). 😊

How do you model family and friends helping in times of need? How does your child view helping others?

Enjoying Exercise

Have you found your child more sedentary since COVID began?

My oldest has always been active. You rarely see him sitting or laying around, he’s always moving, dribbling or throwing a ball, or getting out doors. My youngest has been active-resistant. 😊 We’ve always encouraged moving your body as something needed to live a long healthy life. My son gets it, but it’s not been a great motivator for him. We’ve exposed him to different ways he can move (outside of walking and exercise), but he’s resisted. Until his older brother asked him to work out with him.

Imagine our surprise when our youngest eagerly went to work out with his brother. Our oldest has really taken to physical fitness and saw an opportunity to engage with his brother. He asked me about it prior to asking his brother. “I want him to live a long, healthy life. I want him to be around for a while.” I smiled and said, “You know what this says about you, right?” “I don’t know,” he answered, “that he should exercise?” “No,” I said, “that you care about your brother. That you love him.” He suppressed his smile until he couldn’t any longer. “Yea, I guess you’re right,” he concluded.

It is neat to see our sons come together with this activity. My husband and I have done some self-reflection and asked ourselves —shouldn’t we be doing this for our youngest son? But we agreed that he would have fought us, and done anything we asked half-heartedly, while working out with his brother is something he enjoys. And instead of doing the minimum being asked, he’s doing his best. I think he realizes he’s brother cares about him too. Bonus!

What is your child doing to stay active during the pandemic? How are you or a family member helping them?

The Benefits of Boredom

Quarantine is creating boredom for many of us, including my kids.

My boys have been thrilled to have more free time since school has been out (though they’ve had increased free time since the virus closed school and learning went online). My husband and I have talked about what we can do to get our kids unglued from screens, but hadn’t really come up with much beyond having the kids go outside for daily physical activity, and reading as a family.

Our oldest helped answer the question when he asked to talk to his father one evening. “Dad, can I talk to you?” My husband described that when my son asked him this, he appeared to have something weighing on his mind. My husband started thinking through what my son might want to discuss and was bracing himself for a worst case scenario— was he looking at inappropriate content on the web, was he wanted to do hang out with friends and disregard the precautions needed to protect against the virus? My husband shared that my son was struggling to get out what he wanted to say. After a minute or so, he sighed and said, “Dad, I’m really bored. There’s nothing to do. If you have any projects you plan to work on around the house tomorrow, can I help you?” We’ll, of course, my husband was relieved. He agreed our son could help him around the house and outside.

After helping his father the following day, before going to bed, he asked my husband if he could help him again the next day. My husband agreed. An interesting turn of events since previous requests for help had been met with sighs and resistance. 😊

My husband joked that he’d have to start coming up with things for them to do, because as a team, they were making quick work of our house projects. I shared that our son was likely experiencing the need to contribute in a meaningful way. Much like we work or volunteer. It might be to make money or to help a cause, but we’re contributing, something I think is a desire we all share, particularly as you grow older and become capable of contributing. We discussed giving our sons (both boys) more structure during the summer with ideas around academics, being creative, and physical. We’ll see what works.

My son had to become bored to understand the benefit (and joy?) of contributing. How is your child dealing with any boredom? How are you turning the boredom into a benefit?