In Train-ing

How will you get to your holiday destination(s) this year?

Our youngest is a huge fan of public transit and rail. My husband first introduced our boys to riding the bus when they were younger to get around town for their activities. Our youngest learned to get to middle school via light rail and bus when he entered sixth grade. That’s when we think the bug hit. He loved transit, the paths it takes, how it moves people around with relative ease. He was hooked.

You can say he’s a bit of an expert as he spends hours researching about metro and light rail lines around the world. Our summer vacation we used public transportation most of the time because of him. He planned it out for us — where to go, what line to take, knew the time tables — it was impressive. For his birthday, he took his friends on the train to the next city over to explore and celebrate (thank goodness the teens fare was free!😊).

His comfort with transit, and love for it, is infectious. I rarely took public transit before my son became so enthralled. He’s helped even his old mom learn a new trick. 😄

When we plan trips or go anywhere using transit is now part of the equation. Pluses of transit — it saves you money (no airport or downtown parking), is less stressful (you don’t have to deal with traffic), and for our son gives him greater independence (replaces what a bike did for me in my childhood); downsides — sometimes it can be unpredictable (running behind) and riding with others.

While we have no near term plans to travel I know many do. While my son is bummed he’s not mapping out a journey for us, he’s continuing to learn as much as he can on light rail and other public transit around the world so he can guide us on future trips. You could say he’s in training for his future (whether it manifests into a job, or just remains a passion). He makes me see travel in a different way. Holiday travel doesn’t have to be running around to catch your flight, or stuck on the interstate with everyone else. You have another option, the train. Depending on your destination, it might take longer but with way less stress, interesting scenery, and an opportunity to actually enjoy the ride.

How will you get to your holiday gatherings? What would make your holiday travel with your child or teen less stressful?

I will be away next weekend celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving!

Having a Me Moment

My youngest is into transit — it doesn’t matter which kind — light rail, water taxi, metro/subway, train — he studies them (thanks to the internet) and enjoys learning all the ins and outs, including their layouts, how to navigate/makes transfers, payment accepted, hours of operation, etc. To most, that might seem boring. To him, it brings him to life.

We decided to go east for Spring Break. My youngest was the navigator as we used mass transit for most of our travel to get around. We took a light rail from the airport, then transferred to a metro line. We/He learned things as we went — what was running on time or delayed, payment challenges (for those who ride transit and have struggled with a ticket kiosk, you know what I’m referring to), poorly marked transfers (how in the world do we get to the green line, I only see an exit?), and entering the metro on the wrong side of the platform (oh no, is that the train we want to be on over there?).

My favorite was when we entered the DC metro for the first time. Clearly, this is what my son had been waiting for. He had the biggest smile on his face that expressed immense joy. “You look happy,” I said. “Mom,” my son replied with a smile even bigger, “This is one of the best transit systems in the US, even in the world. I’m having a me moment.” I just watched him as he took it all in. Side note: for those that aren’t familiar with kids on the autism spectrum like my son is, you may not know that one of their super powers is knowing what they like/are interested in/their passion. It is super inspiring to see.

While my son was loving our journey for the most part, he’d get upset with himself anytime a mistake happened. He prides himself of his knowledge and likes being thought of as ‘the guy that doesn’t need no stinking map’ (his grandfather coined that phrase for my son after my son told his grandparents he knew the full layout of an amusement park they’d taken he and his brother to and weren’t sure how to navigate without a map. He told them “we don’t need no stinking map. I know how to navigate this place!” And he did.😊).

I had to remind my son that mistakes happening is how we learn, and yes, it can be frustrating and doesn’t feel great, but we’re better for it, when we take something away we’ll do differently. He understood but didn’t like it.😊

My son having his ‘Me Moment’ stayed with me. How fortunate we are as parents when we see our child(ren) come to life —literally seeing their dream coming true before your eyes. It’s rare. Very rare. And, while at the time I don’t think I realized it, I (likely along with my husband) were having a ‘me moment’ too as parents witnessing this/experiencing this with our son.

What is your child passionate about? What ‘Me Moments’ have you witnessed/experienced?

You’ve Got Talent

What is your child talented at?

My youngest loves geography, but showing his passion, or talent, for knowing every country in the world (not just be able to identify it by shape, but can also identify the flag, and key facts) can be a bit of a challenge for a talent show — especially when they asked each kid to keep their routine under two minutes, and entertaining, engaging, or, at least, interesting to the audience. I never thought I’d say this, but thanks to internet my son found Yacko’s World (Yacko is a character from Animaniacs — a cartoon from the 90s). In the video, Yacko sings the countries of the world to a catchy tune. My son decided he could do that. He can also sing, so combining his talents (geography and singing) made sense.

He practiced and practiced. He decided on his ‘costume’ — a travel shirt and two flags he could hold while singing. When it was his turn, he walked up, they started the music and he started. He added a silly dance in between the stanzas and the audience loved it. He loved share his passion, engaging the audience and being brave. It was a very good night for our son.

What I love about talent shows is that it gives you an opportunity to do something brave, step out and be vulnerable to a crowd, to show what they love and/or can do well. My husband and I commented after the show, the kids weren’t all ready for Kids Got Talent or Little Big Shots, but they had all been very brave and we’re proud of themselves for putting themselves out there.

How are you helping your child identify their talent or passion? How are you helping them to be brave and showcase it?

I’ll be off next week to spend time with family.

When I Grow Up I Want to Be…

Did you know what you wanted your profession to be when you were a kid?  When did you figure it out or are you (like me and) still trying to?

My son was sharing a fictional story one of his friends had shared. The main character was Bill Gates, but not like we know him. In this story, there was a war and Bill Gates was ridding the world of bad people and getting paid money to do so. In a time when super heroes, and good guys and bad guys run rampant, these kind of stories don’t shock me like they used to. I asked my son if he knew who Bill Gates was. He said, “Sorta?” with an uplift in tone that indicated he clearly did not. I explained that Bill Gates did make a lot of money, but it wasn’t from getting rid of bad people, it was from inventing (along with many others) the personal computer. He happened to have a passion for learning about computers, and was visionary in how people could use them. I continued that while he had made a lot of money, he had started a foundation that was focused on giving most of his money away to help others through education and healthcare; and that he was so passionate about this work, that he was encouraging other wealthy people to do the same thing (give their money away towards helping others).

My son was curious about a man making so much money, and instead of spending it all or giving it to his children, he would give it away. “Well, you can’t take it with you when you die. And the money would be more than his kids would ever need,” I explained. I decided to explore with both my sons what they were interested in doing when they grew up. My oldest quickly chimed in that he wanted to build a robot–like Iron Man, or Baemax from Big Hero 6, but for real, not pretend. Or maybe he’d create a new Pokémon card. You could see his creative wheels turning. My youngest chimed in. “I want to do construction. Maybe build things. Or maybe paint cars.” I reiterated that they could do whatever they wanted to do when they got older…the only one that would prevent them from doing it was them. I noticed my oldest looked a bit concerned. “But I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up.” He was clearly upset at knowing for certain what he would be when he grew up, “What am I going to do?” I was not expecting him to feel this pressure to know what he wanted to do. I certainly had some ideas when I was his age, but that was all they were ideas, or fantasies. I reminded both boys that my husband’s and my job is to teach them things, including exposing them to new things and encouraging them to try them so they can know if it’s something that is a passion or interest for them, “Without trying, you’ll never know,and that no one expects you to know what you want to be or do at such a young age,” I finished. That seemed to suffice for my boys and we went on to talk of other things.

Life is precious, and goes by so quickly. What would the world be like if we all followed our passion? Pretty good, right?  When you are enthusiastic about something it’s natural to want to share it with others. While not everyone has money to share, everyone has the ability to share what they are passionate about.

How are you helping your child find what they are passionate about? How are you helping them figure out what they want to be when they grow up?

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?


Silence = Acceptance

I was recently flipping through the December issue of O Magazine when I came across an article capturing Oprah interviewing a Sandy Hook family that had lost a child. At first, I was uneasy reading the article. I have cried many times thinking about what occurred and what difficulty the families left behind have gone through. The article made the feelings fresh again.

Not long after the Sandy Hook shootings occurred, I was part of an audience that was encouraged not to be the silent majority any more, but to speak out to our government and school leaders and have our voices be heard in regards to violence and gun safety. I believe most of us in this country agree that there are measures we can and should take to make school environments safer and provide more assistance to those suffering from mental illness. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I cannot allow myself to do nothing. Silence = Acceptance. And while there is a part of me that is still working on gaining my confidence in finding my voice, I have great motivation to do so…my children. I certainly don’t want them asking me later in life, “Why didn’t you take a stand?” or “Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you try?” If I expect my children to find their voice and make a difference in the world, working with others to solve big problems, it starts with me as their parent.

While I would prefer a gun-free world, I know that’s not possible, and see no benefit in trying to pursue that as an avenue to solve this issue. Guns exist and will continue to do so. I am suggesting that we, as parents and as a country, have an opportunity to discuss these really important issues that we are not talking about because we are divided and or fear there is no middle ground. To me, gun safety isn’t an us versus them discussion. We collectively have to figure out how to address this issue.

The Sandy Hook families are not slipping into silence. In fact, they are leading the way in how we solve this problem together by forming a community around the discussion The Sandy Hook Promise: Parent Together to Prevent Gun Violence in Our Communities. It’s simple to join the community and be part of the conversation. Participate and let your voice be heard. Let’s figure out how we solve this problem together.

Silence = Acceptance. I won’t accept silence anymore.

How are you making your voice heard? How do you take action when it may be uncomfortable or not easy to do?

Hidden Messages

My husband is a self-proclaimed non-romantic. A bummer, I know. I have often dreamt of him having a romantic-switch buried deep down inside just waiting to be turned on. Of course, I’ve tried everyway I know from hints to outright asking him to try to be more romantic, attempting to will the switch on, and unfortunately the magical switch has remained dormant.

I used to think that him not being romantic had everything to do with me, as if there was a hidden message I should be reading into about me (e.g. perhaps I’m not worth being romantic for), instead of it having anything to do with him. I have learned over time and from some very wise sources that my husband is who he is and while romantic notions may be how I envision love being shown to me, he shows me his love in many others.

I started to think about hidden messages and how we can easily misconstrue what peoples actions or inactions, words or lack of words mean. This can occur not only between spouse or partners, but also between friends, and with our children. Specific to our children, meaning can be derived in the tone of voice we use, in the words we say or exclude. Do your children understand what you are communicating to them and why? Or are they reading into what you are saying without verbalizing it, much like I was reading into my husband’s non-cues?

While coming to the terms that having many romantic experiences in my life may not be in my future, I’ve recently learned that I may be wrong and that there is hope. Before my husband left for a business trip, we discussed how to stay connected while he was away. I told him how much I valued his observations or acknowledgements he makes about me or our relationship. He shared how much being able to see me and our boys meant to him. We connected via video chat each day after his departure, and he unveiled a hidden surprise. He left me notes hidden around the house. One for everyday that he was gone. How romantic! These hidden messages mean more to me than he will ever know. They not only helped carry me through the time while he was away, but have created a wonderful memory for me that I will treasure. The message was received loud and clear — I am worth being romantic for, and I still have a lot to learn about my husband.

Are there hidden messages in your relationship with your spouse or child? How do you ensure they are receiving your intended message?

Love is for Free

For most of my life I believed that love was something you had to earn. In order to be loved you had to work hard, behave, be generous (with time, money, energy), do the right thing even if it conflicted with your own wants and needs, sacrifice even if it hurt and give until you don’t have any more to give.  I realize when I write it out that this sounds exhausting and not at all what love should be.

I’m still unsure where this notion came from. Did I learn this from my family, friends, the media or a combination of them all?

I was discussing love with a friend recently who shared a powerful insight. She said said, “Love isn’t earned, it’s freely given.” This was an ‘aha’ moment for me. I think on some subconscious level I always knew this to be the case, but my beliefs and actions were not at all aligned with this belief.

I was struck by the notion that my self-worth had gotten wrapped up in this warped belief of conditional love. When I had this jarring revelation recently, I became for the first time fully aware of how affected I’d been by this belief. For instance: any physical deficiency I had (real or imagined) I felt I had to overcompensate for in order to be liked and loved. Sad, I know, pathetic even. As a teenager and young adult I would get uncomfortable whenever someone showed me any affection. I can think of so many dates I went on where I got just plain freaked out if the person liked me and wanted to go out with me again.  How could they be sure they liked me? They hadn’t even seen my flaws yet, what was wrong with them?  In reality, nothing was wrong with them, and nothing was wrong with me other than my warped point of view. I wish I had been perceptive enough to realize how askew my thinking was at the time. I wonder sometimes what I might have missed out on because of my fears.

Thankfully I continue to learn more about myself every day and I’m so grateful to have had this revelation and to have found a way to allow myself to be truly and deeply loved.

After all, my husband didn’t marry me because he felt sorry for me and I don’t have caring friends because they pity me. Just as I married my husband because I love who he is, and I love my closest friends for who they are. There are no strings attached, no money needed, no conditions they have to adhere to. I love them freely and they love me back in return.

Love is sometimes easier to give than to receive, at least to those of us that are just figuring it out it’s for free.

Are you ready for some football?

When you were a kid what did you love?  Was it a pet or a toy? Or did you have a favorite activity you just couldn’t get enough of?

Our oldest son has recently become very interested in football. Any football. College, professional, high school, it doesn’t matter.  He asks his father if they can go outside and play football every day regardless of the weather and regardless of the amount of daylight left—there have been many twilight games.  He loves the game.

It’s always a joy for me to watch them play together and hear their conversations during the game. Our son loves to tackle and be tackled. He loves to wear clothes that make him look like a real football player, and he loves to kick the ball. Above all else, he likes to make up new rules. The rules for any game change with almost every play and almost always lean in our son’s favor.  As I mentioned in my post a couple of weeks ago, winning has become increasingly important to my sons as of late.

While watching my husband and son, a number of questions have crossed my mind:

  • Where did his drive for winning come from?  My husband and I have worked hard to not place a high value on winning.
  • How do you explain rules, what they are and why they’re import?
  • Why must he want to play football?  It’s so dangerous!  While I’ve always loved watching college football, I hoped our children would love watching it with me, not actually want to play it.

It occurred to me that all three of these questions brought to mind a different parenting conundrum.

Where did his drive for winning come from? I don’t think our son is any different than his peers. Winning is going to be important, regardless of our efforts to downplay it. What we are trying to teach our boys is that of course everyone wants to win, and that while winning may feel good, you often learn more from losing. When we win we’ll often attribute it to our hard work, practice or execution of the game on a given day. Those things may be true, but what if the team that lost worked and practiced just as hard? We talk to our boys about how temping it is to become complacent and stop pushing ourselves when winning comes too easily, and that losing can be an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and allow us to improve. Talking about sports is great opportunity to discuss with the boys the merits of learning to win and lose with grace.

How do you explain the rules, what they are and their importance? Football has a lot of rules. While I’ve always felt I had a good understanding of the game, I didn’t appreciate the complexity of the rules in football until I listened to my husband and my father educating my son on the game.  Most of these rules make a lot of sense. They are needed to keep order and ensure that the game is played fairly by both teams. Rules ensure a level playing field where one team doesn’t have an advantage over the other. However, sometimes the rules don’t make much sense and seem to only create obstacles for playing the game. There is as true in life as it is in football. Some rules make a lot of sense and are clearly in place to protect us and keep us safe. Some rules are not as clear-cut; I’m not sure I’ll ever understand our tax codes, but I’m grateful for accountants who can make sure I comply with them.

Why must he want to play football?  It’s so dangerous! As an avid fan, I suppose I have no one to blame but myself on this one, but I honestly hoped he would just enjoy watching the game with me. I should have known that if he enjoyed watching football, he was likely to want to play.  I have conflicting feelings about  this. On one hand, I want to encourage his passion and football is his passion, at least for now. On the other, I’ve always believed that one of my main jobs as his parent is to keep him safe. In light of all the reports in recent years that show the long-term damage caused by the head traumas so common in sports like football, it’s hard not to want to keep your child away from the game (or any game where the risk of head trauma runs high). My husband and I haven’t had to make a final decision on this yet, as our son hasn’t asked to play on a team. For now he’s okay with just playing in the backyard or on the playground. But we suspect his interest will only increase as his friends get more serious about the sport and at some point, we’ll have a difficult decision to make.

This coming Sunday we will celebrate one of the most watched games in televised sports.  Most of us aren’t as concerned about who wins the game as we are with the ritual of watching the game. We watch because it’s an opportunity to get together with friends, we like to watch the commercials, or we just hope to see a good game. My son will be watching too, but for one reason only—because he loves it.