Spring Forward

Do you ever wish you could stop time, or at least, slow it down?

Daylight Savings starts today, and it reminds me how quickly time is moving forward. It seems like the year just started and we’re already almost a quarter of the way done. My kids complain about how slow time goes. I can remember when I felt like that. Time dragged on as a kid. I thought the school year lasted forever.

A friend recently shared a photograph of a group of us, from a trip we’d all taken ten years ago. My oldest was a baby in the picture. When I looked at the picture I had two thoughts: 1) I can’t believe how fast time is gone, and 2) wow, look how young I look.   There’s a lot that goes into ten years of time, and while to my son it may feel like time is going slow, to me it feels like it’s going faster and faster. I wish there were a way I could slow it down. If I spring forward another ten years, he’ll be off on his own. Gulp. I’m not sure I’m ready to think about that just yet.

How do you experience time? How does your child?

 

So Very Thankful

As Thanksgiving day arrives, and you reflect on the good things in your life, what comes to mind?

We have a practice in our home where at dinner, we say grace. It mainly consists of saying what we’re thankful for. It’s a daily tradition we all enjoy. For my boys, it’s an opportunity for them to share with us what’s top of mind (sometimes they are most thankful for what is in their field of vision — a napkin on the table, a food on their plate they are grateful is being served for dinner, or a toy or book left on the table. Other times its memories from the day — things like doing well on a math test, playing well in a game or playing with a friend), or what’s in their heart (sometimes they surprise us with the most amazing comments — thankful for people in their lives, or for nature, or acts of kindness they witnessed from others). For my husband and I, it’s an opportunity for us to share what we’re grateful for, and keeps what we consider blessings–healthy kids, our own health, good friends and family who care about us, jobs and a safe, warm place to rest our heads each night–front and center.  There is much to be thankful for, and it feels really good acknowledging it every day.

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time of year we remember what we are thankful for. It’s a day with friends and family, where you appreciate all the good things in your life. It’s special and I’m thankful for it.

What practices of gratitude do you and your family practice? What makes your Thanksgiving special?

I’ll be spending time with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving.

Masterminds and Wingmen

I had taken my boys in for haircuts when one of the employees came to me and said, “I know your boys are a little young for this, but you just have to read this book,” and proceeded to tell me about Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wisemen. I was a bit skeptical, but her enthusiasm convinced me to check it out. I have not been disappointed.

The book is written to help parents better understand their sons and provides strategies for how to better handle situations. With each page I read of the book, I felt like I was discovering something new about the opposite sex. I was amazed how little I felt I truly understood about the male experience growing up. I immediately went to my husband and said, “I need you to read this, and tell me if there is any truth to it…if there is, I feel like we’ve struck gold!”

I am passionate about parenting with no regrets and this book is greatly appreciated. It’s hard to get something right when you don’t know what you don’t know. What struck me about this book is how little of us are talking about this (the differences between sexes and our experiences growing up)…there is great information in here, why wouldn’t we want to use this to have more open dialogue with our sons and daughters. Reading this book feels like something that needs to be shared and discussed.

The book has made such an impression on me, I’ve recently picked another Rosalind Wiseman book: Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World. Based on the reviews I’m guessing it’s as good as Masterminds and Wingmen. Assuming so, while the book is targeted at parents, I’m leaning towards sharing both books with my boys in their teens. Parents may need to understand their sons and daughters, but kids need helping understanding themselves and the dynamics potentially going on around them. I’m hoping these books will help shed insight I would have benefitted from growing up. Don’t just watch me navigate child and teen-hood, help me understand what is happening and why, so I can have a better understand what is happening and why.

I’m grateful the hairdresser made a point to let me know about this book. She inspired me to share it with you.

What parenting information has inspired you?

 

The Great Football Debate

Are you a parent who has concerns about letting your child play football?

I have shared in previous posts that my oldest son loves football and really wants to play. I love watching college football, and partly blame myself for getting him interested in the sport to begin with. My husband and I have allowed our son to play flag football up to this point. While we were hoping that would appease his desire to play the game, you can see his desire to play full-contact football everytime he watches a game, sees a high school player suited up, or walks into a sporting goods store. When he saw that you could buy football pads and helmets in a store you could see his eyes light up with delight. You could almost read his mind. I want those pads.

Our son recently asked about playing contact football with my husband and I. “I want to play!” he pleaded. My immediate response was “no way.” I followed it up with many talking points that backed up my position — it’s not safe, too many people get hurt, it can negatively impact your long-term quality of life, etc. My son didn’t hear anything after I said “no.” Instead of hearing me out, like any nine year old, he got more passionate with his plea. “You have to let me play. You just have to.” His petition lasted a full five minutes. He seems to have some talent (according to his biased mom), but even if he physically can compete, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready for him to. While I wasn’t willing to budge, my husband was willing to hear him out. “We’ll consider it when you are in high school, and you show us you can compete, not get hurt and keep up your grades.”  My initial reaction was “what?”, but after thinking about it for a minute it made sense. Forbidding our son from playing would only make him want to play it more. I don’t want my child to miss out on experiencing something he wants to, but I also want to protect him and am responsible for helping him make good decisions. Allowing him to play football right now isn’t something I’m willing to do. I’m hoping (hopeful?) that with all the evidence and news around body and brain injuries in the sport, more will be done to make it safer so kids can enjoy the sport without having to sacrifice long-term health.

How do you talk to your child when they want to try something you’re not comfortable with them doing?

 

What a Jerk!

I have to admit. I am probably not always my ideal self when I am driving a car. While I had grand plans for quelling my need to verbalize my disdain for disrespectful drivers while my kids were in the car with me, I have failed.

After picking the kids up one afternoon and heading to the house, I pulled onto a street that only had enough room to let one car pass at a time. I saw someone was coming the other direction and decided to wait for them to clear the street so I could go. It was going well, until a driver behind me, who didn’t understand why I was waiting decided to take matters into their own hands. He drove around me, and quickly understood why I hadn’t moved forward. He quickly pulled over to the side, and thankfully avoided causing an accident. My blood pressure on the other hand shot up. How dare he? I thought. I felt disrespected by the other drive and really didn’t like it. “What a jerk!” I said aloud. I continued to refer to this poor man as a jerk all the way down the street. It was almost like I couldn’t help myself.

As we neared the end of the street and I probably used the word ‘jerk’ a dozen times. I finally started to cool off. I could feel the tension in my body lessen. I took a deep breath. The driver turned left and we turned right. That definitely helped. It finally occured to me that both of my boys had been listening to me. “I shouldn’t have called that man a jerk, that was wrong of me,” I said. I proceeded to try to explain why I had gotten so upset, but my sons weren’t buying it. “Mom, jerk is a bad word. You shouldn’t say it,” my older son said. “Yea,” my younger son chimed in. It was one of those moments, where I had to agree with my sons. As much as the other driver may have “offended” me, it wasn’t on purpose, and I’m sure I’ve done the same thing unknowingly to other drivers myself. I certainly wouldn’t want them to be upset with me, or to carry that anger around with them. “You’re right,” I said to my boys, “you’re right.” We were quiet most of the way home.

Later that day, I took my older son down to soccer practice. I had to go through a busy intersection and saw two drivers having a similar experience to what I had had before. To me, it was clear one driver was causing the angst, but clearly wasn’t taking responsibility for it. I’m not sure if it was empathy or what that prompted me to once again say, “Wow, that guy is being a jerk!” He wasn’t being a jerk to me, but the other driver. I quickly realized I had said, “jerk” again and owned it. “I said ‘jerk’ again. I’ve got to quit saying that word.” My son agreed, “Yea, Mom, maybe we should put tape over your mouth.” He said it so innocently and matter-of-factly I couldn’t disagree with him. Instead of getting upset, it made me laugh. “You’re right, ” I said, “maybe we should.” My son taught me a lesson that day: that as much as we’d like to think we’re teaching our kids, they are teaching us too. I’m reminded that I need to try to be a more patient driver and better model what that looks like for my boys.

What have you learned from your child?

The News on Stay-at-Home Moms (and Dads)

It’s in the news again….this time the media is stating more women are staying at home to raise their children. If this really news? Sounds like someone is trying to start a debate, doesn’t it? Does it really matter if more women are staying home or going back to work? I think each woman’s (and man’s) decision is made for their own unique reasons and lumping parents into working or stay-at-home categories (and all the stereotypes that go with them) is a dangerous precedent. Aren’t we all trying to be the best parents we can be? My guess is, if we peeled back this observation, we’d find more parents are staying home — whether it’s the mom or the dad.

Every caring parent grapples with how to best raise their child, how to nuture them, and teach them. When it comes to deciding if a parent will stay at home or go back to work there is no easy decision, and in my experince, a whole lot of second guessing. When I speak to parenting groups, I talk about the phenomena of second guessing that occurs when you became a parent. It can feel like you’re getting your PhD whether you realize it or not. I was indoctrinated into second guessing just about everything within weeks of becoming a parent. Once I realized second guessing was becoming second nature, I started to push back against it. I found that when I was unsure, research, a discussion with my spouse, and sometimes others (when appropriate) helped me make decisions I felt good about. I also realized I had the opportunity to evaluate and course-correct when/if needed. It was liberating.

Only you know how to best raise your child. Staying at home versus going back to work is a personal decision. One isn’t better than the other.

If there is news in any of this, it’s that we, as parents, are constantly seeking to do what’s best for our child regardless of whether we stay home or not. That sounds like good news to me.

What do you parenting decisions have you struggled to make? How are combating second guessing?

Spring is in the Air

As I walked out of the house, rushing to get everyone in the car something caught my eye: blossoms on one of our bushes. While I had just been in a hurry to get to my car, I allowed myself a moment to examine the plant more closely. Were there more blooms? Would there be more soon? The one I was looking at was so beautiful.

My children, who I was busy hustling out to the car only moments earlier, noticed that I had stopped. “What is it Mom?” my oldest asked. “Look at this,” I said. Both boys came over to see what I was looking at.

I never tire of the beauty that comes with Spring. Daffodils blooming, tulips starting to grow. The blooms in white, purple, pink and yellow that come to life. For me, it’s a magical time of year. The natural beauty I’m experiencing is both comforting and humbling.  It is so powerful it’s no wonder I felt compelled to have my children experience it with me.

My son’s joined me by the bush. “Oh, there’s a flower,” my son said. “Oh, yea, and there’s another,” my youngest added. They both examined the bush in search of more blooms. It was one of those moments where you’re both present in your surroundings and fully engaged with the people around you–rare and special, in my opinion.

Once we finished examining the plant, we proceeded to the car. “More flowers are coming,” I commented. My son asked, “how do you know?” and while I could have said ‘this is the time of year that plants start to bloom,’ I decided to respond based on how I felt, “I can feel it in the air, can’t you?” My sons nodded in agreement. It made me smile.

How do you experience the beauty of nature with your child? What season is most magical for you?

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?

Marriage IS Work

In SNL’s season finale, host Ben Affleck talked about hosting for his fifth time, and also poked fun at his acceptance speech at the Oscar with her wife, Jennifer Garner. She joined him on stage to discuss the famous comment from his speech that “marriage is work”.

While he worked to explain himself and what he meant by his comment to the audience and his wife, the unspoken message came through loud and clear—anyone who is honest about marriage will agree with what he said: marriage is work. Any relationship worth holding onto takes work. Think of the work we put into connecting with our parents, our children, our friends and each other. In some relationships the work seems effortless, in others it can be exhausting.

When I met my husband, I instantly liked him. We shared a lot in common. It was easy to make a connection with him because he was easy to relate to. After being married for several years, we learned that while we could relate to one another, we weren’t connecting as deeply as we wanted to, or stated more accurately, how I wanted to.

We have worked on connecting more deeply in recent years. Making ourselves more vulnerable to each other, and freeing ourselves to speak more honestly. While uncomfortable at first, it has become easier for both of us with time. Being accepted as I am, truly as I am, is really freeing. I am able to love my husband more deeply and we are able to enjoy each other more fully. That’s not to say we don’t occasionally hit a bump in the road. We know that’s not possible, we may have disagreements, and we just work through them.

Marriage is work, in the best sense. Parenting is work. Life is work. Sometimes the work seems effortless, sometimes it can seem exhausting, but it always feels worth it.

Driver’s Test

I was driving to work one day when it happened. I was near a tunnel entrance and decided to change lanes. I put my blinker on, checked my mirrors, looked over my left shoulder to make sure I had plenty of room, and then moved over. The car I pulled in front of clearly did not like my decision to change into their lane. They weren’t going especially fast prior to me changing lanes, and they didn’t run up on me, so how did I know they were upset? Because they threw on their high beams, and kept them on for the next three miles. The first chance to pass me, they did. They pulled up beside me and attempted to get my attention. I decided it would be best not to make eye contact, because I figured it would only make things worse. After the driver realized I wouldn’t take the bait, they sped off. I still have no idea what I did to provoke such a reaction.

I reflected on my decision to change lanes earlier. Had I done something wrong?  I had plenty of room to change lanes I checked a couple of times prior to moving over. What was I missing?

Then I thought I wonder what’s been happening with that other person today.  Did they have a rough night of sleep, or are they stressed out about a meeting, or did they get into an argument with a loved one before leaving?  I don’t know what caused them to get so upset, but I have to believe their mood didn’t have much to do with me. I think my lane change was their last straw.

I think about myself as a driver. While I like to think of myself as a calm and compassionate person most of the times, I must admit that gets tossed out the window when I get cut-off or have a bad encounter with another driver. I sometimes think is this some sort of test (of my patience)? It feels like I’m being purposely disrespected or dismissed, like the other person believes they are entitled, or that their needs or wants are more important than mine. And perhaps I’m onto something with this belief, but think it’s only a small part of it.

Prior to having children, I would mutter four-letter words under my breath or make hand gestures below the dashboard when I got in these situations.  It was my way of getting some of the frustration or anger out, without making the situation worse. Since having kids I’ve had to rethink my responses. Kids are constantly watching what we do. Sometimes when a drive does something I don’t like I’ll say, “Come on friend” to which my sons will ask, “who are you talking to? They’re not your friend?” I’ll explain that it helps mom calm down when she talks about someone as her friend. I’ll also try to explain what’s going on. “I’m frustrated because I want to get home and this person is holding us up. It’s not their fault, they might just be having a bad day.” Having this conversation with my kids requires me to practice patience, being aware of my actions and words, and using it to teach—not always easy to do.

I’m not sure how much I’m getting through to my kids, but I’m hoping that they are able to handle traffic a little bit better than I do when they get older. My sense is people will continue to cut each other off, and drivers will continue to get frustrated with one another.  I can’t control what others do, but I can certainly control my actions and prepare my children for how to deal with drivers when they encounter similar situations in the future.

Thank goodness they won’t be ready for their drivers licenses for many more years. I still have time.

How do you handle frustrating drivers?