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!

Weathering the Storm

Watching hurricane Ian sweep across the state of Florida was hard. It’s hard anytime you see a natural disaster happening and have no ability to stop or change the course of what’s coming.

This storm was especially hard as our family has many loved ones that were in its path. Add a particularly rough work week, and there were moments I felt I was barely able to hold it together (unsure if a good cry and screaming would have helped). Just one of those moments where you know something has got to give.

As a parent you want to shelter your kids from worry or concern. It moments of great stress, it adds more stress if you try to keep it inside. My husband was great. He could see the stress and offered hugs and words of reassurance (everything’s going to be okay) when I needed it. Instead of potentially scaring my boys more by losing my cool (snapping at something small), I let them know I was having a rough week. It was going to be okay, but I was stressed and they could help me just by doing what was asked and cut mom some slack.

They agreed. My youngest now asks us how our work days are at dinner (yikes? Maybe I shared too much😬).

The hurricane is still moving. Many are still in danger. I’m fortunate that our loved ones were spared. So thankful. My oldest knew his grandparents might be effected. He (who normally doesn’t show/share his emotions) texted me (because that’s how he likes to talk to me more often than not 😂) to ask how they were doing. I could tell from all his questions he was stressed at the idea they might not be okay. I reassured him they were fine and encouraged him to text them himself (why do we often get asked to be the messenger?🥰).

How are you weather storms (literal or emotional) that come your way? How are you helping your kid navigate stressful situations?

A Sign of Support

The situation in Ukraine is terrible. The bravery the citizens are showing is inspiring. Trying to imagine what it must feel like to be in the situation is impossible. It must be terrifying, stressful, exhausting, and so much more.

My boys are much more aware of politics and what is going on in the world than I was at their age. We discussed what was happening in Ukraine at dinner, and wondered what we could do to help. It can feel hopeless when you are far away and removed from the situation. We talked about how we could show support, and how we could donate to relief organizations. We talked about why one leader would inflict so much pain on so many, with no regard for the damage he’s doing to innocent people (in Ukraine and Russia), their lives, livelihood, and countries. We talked about the beauty of so many around the world being united against the invasion. It wasn’t an easy conversation, but it was a needed one. War is ugly, and no one wins in war.

Following our conversation, our youngest being into geography, insisted we get a Ukrainian flag using his own money. We agreed and now have it hanging in our window as a sign of support. He knows he doesn’t have the means to contribute any significant amount, but knew a visible sign of support had to mean something.

How do you talk to your child about bad things that happen in the world? What signs of support have you and your family taken for others are in need?

Holiday Rush

The holidays are a joyous, but busy season, right?

Trying to get shopping done, decorations up, wrapping gifts, traveling to see friends, family, Christmas lights, etc. Throw in work or school activities and commitments, and it can get to be a bit overwhelming at times, at least in our house.

During a particularly busy week at work, my husband, who was traveling on a last minute trip, shared we had tickets to a comedy show that had been rescheduled multiple times due to the pandemic. The show would happen while he was still away. They had been a gift for me, so he really wanted me to go. Normally I’d be excited, but this came up suddenly. I was already stressed with work and everything else going on, and didn’t feel up for going. My husband pushed. “You could use a laugh, take a friend or one of the kids.” He was right, but it still left like ‘one more thing’ I needed to get done. I inquired with a small handful of friends and none were available. I asked my boys and my oldest agreed to go. He was excited, I think by the prospect of doing something more adult, not necessarily hanging out with his mom. 😊

It was a flurry of activity leading up to us getting to the show. My mind was going a mile a minute with things still left to be done over the week and upcoming weekend. I caught sight of my son next to be and my inner voice said pretty loudly ‘be in the moment — the work, activities, commitments, etc., will all still be there — your son is with you now, this is special, pay attention.’ The voice helped me let go of much of the stress I’d been carrying around. I looked at my son again and focused on being present. What a gift! Simply focusing, and I mean focusing with intention, let all my worries slip away for the rest of the evening.

The holidays are hectic and stressful. Given this, what are your favorite things to do during the season with your child, and how do you stay present during these special moments?

Happy Holidays! I’ll be off for the next few weeks with friends and family and will be back in January.

Anxiety, Stress, and Gratefulness

What sums up 2020 for you and your family?

For us, it’s been anxiety, stress, and gratefulness.

Anxiety – the virus turning into a global pandemic reminded me of when I first became a parent. What is happening? How do I get myself through this? How do I help my sons get through this? Time shifted. It slowed much like it did when my sons were newborns, not knowing what each new day would bring, and bracing myself as I learned and adjusted.

Stress – much like giving birth trying to figure out how to survive — what we were seeing on the news, schools shutting down, work going remote, isolation, boredom, not knowing, toxic politics, people suffering, inequality and injustice, and longevity of the situation setting in — could be overwhelming and feel like you were surviving a trauma over and over. Putting one foot in front of the other to make it through the day could be challenging, but you put on your survivor face cause you had kids that needed to know everything would be okay, even when you didn’t.

Gratefulness – nature and our cat have been lifelines for us this year. Simple things — a sunny day, a rainbow, petting our cat (or simply watching him play, run, or hunt), brought us great joy. Virtual dinner parties, friends reaching out to check in, our boys finding ways to physically distance but still be with their friends, are things we are grateful for. Our health. Masks. People taking the virus seriously. All things we are thankful for. A vaccine, maybe two, coming, hallelujah! Time picking back up, adjusting to our new normal, being healthy. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.

What sums up 2020 for you and your family? What are you grateful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll be off next week, but back in December.

Who Needs a Hug?

Ever had one of those days where you just need a hug?

I was wrapping up a particularly stressful day and joined my family in the kitchen. “I could use a hug,” I said to my husband. He knows this is code for I need you to give me some reassurance (hugs work great) that lets me know I’ll get through this/this too shall pass/everyday won’t be like today. My younger son jumped up from his chair and said, “Let’s give Mom a hug sandwich!” My husband and I were reminded of hug sandwiches we’d done with our sons when they were much younger. It would be a fun way for us to show affection for each other and include the kids. There were ham sandwich hugs (one kid in between my husband and I), double decker (both kids in between us), and other silly variations. My son suggesting a hug sandwich was just what I needed that day.

Once the hug sandwich began, we noticed our older son sitting down not joining us. My husband and I looked at each other, and then he asked our son to join us. In typical teenage fashion he said “no.” “Ah, come on,” I responded, “everyone needs a hug every once in a while. Join us.” “Nope,” he said. My husband, younger son and I briefly commiserated and decided he was going to get a hug whether he wanted one or not. My husband said. “Okay, if you’re not coming to us, we’re coming to you.” We walked in our 3-person hug sandwich towards my oldest son (I was going backwards relying on my husband and younger son to guide me). There was much laughter as we shuffled across the room. Once we were in front of my oldest, who was still seated, we asked him to join us. “No,” he repeated. We weren’t giving up. We all started asking him to join us. Finally we started repeating his name over and over. After he realized we weren’t going to give up he stood up and gave us a resigned, “fine.” He briefly joined the family hug (1-2 seconds max) sandwich before stepping away and ensuring he got some distance from us so we couldn’t keep after him. 😊

The hug was something we all needed — reminding us we’re there for each other, we care about each other, and can be silly together regardless how old we are.

How do you do hugs in your family?

A Sign of Hope

What gives you hope during difficult times?

Nature calms me. I’ve seen it have similar effects on my husband and boys too.

At the end of a stressful work day I needed to clear my head. It had been raining most of the day but started to clear up. Even though I was exhausted I asked my youngest son if he’d go with me on a walk.

As we left the house, I tried to leave my work day worries behind, but it wasn’t easy to do. After walking in silence for a few blocks my son and I started talking. We had a nice conversation, and my earlier stress started slipping away. As we rounded the corner towards our house, a rainbow appeared in the sky. I decided to stop and take a picture. My son pointed out that the rainbow went all the way across the sky. “It’s a full rainbow,” he said. We stood there and marveled at the sight for a few minutes. It almost felt like a someone was sending me a message that everything was going to be okay. It was just the sign of hope I needed.

Where are you finding hope these days?

‘Tis the Season

What time of year is most stressful for you?

For many, the holiday season brings stress with it, but my stress starts earlier in the year and peaks around this time — like a roller coaster with the biggest hill at the end.

January usually brings changes at work which require an adjustment — it’s common for me to have to tell myself at some point during the month, “calm down, you’re going to figure this out.” And I do. Just around the time I’m acclimated to the changed there are school activities, events, volunteers needed, vacations to plan, and again it culminates to what feels like a fever pitch, and then school is out, and the stress lowers. Then vacation comes, and the break is welcomed and rest is enjoyed. Recharging is the goal. Then school starts again, there is planning, figuring out logistics, getting used to a new schedule, new teachers, new activities, new places we have to be at new times. Then we adjust, and the stress lowers. Then it picks back up with all the things that come rapid fire starting in October and goes through the end of the year — Halloween, birthday parties, family visiting, getting the photo album together, getting the holiday card written and sent, scheduling holiday parties, making plans with friends, getting the house ready for Christmas, shopping, and the list goes on and on.

I knew I was overly stressed when I received a reminder call of an upcoming appointment. I was certain the person had the wrong date. “I was just there two or three weeks ago.” I rescheduled the appointment pushing it a month out. It was only when I paused to really think about it (the next day) that i realized it had been closer to six weeks since I had gone in, and I was in fact due for an appointment. Where did the time go? I thought.

No one is making me do any of these things. This is my doing. I want my children to have certain experiences (parties, holidays, vacations, etc.). I want to capture the memories and make sure I’m not getting behind (cause that would stress me out even more). But I realize I am close to burn out and desperately need a vacation. Time off is just around the corner so I’m just trying to power through until I get there. My guess is many of us are in the same boat.

How do you handle stress as a parent throughout the year? How do you navigate stress during this time of year?

Dreams

Have your dreams changed since having kids?

When I was pregnant, and when the kids were young, I’d dream about not being able to find them, or not be able to get to them. It was always a relief when I awakened to find it was only a dream and the kids were safe.

As the kids have grown, and as their activities have increased, so have my responsibilities. I’ve noticed my dreams have changed too. They’ve morphed from not finding my kids, to not being about to find things (my car, a person, where I need to go), running late, behind (or fear I’m running late or behind), and waking up relieved that it was only a dream. The dreams tend to be circular. I’m not sure how long they actually last, but they feel endless while I’m having them — always in search of something unattainable (finding what I was looking for, getting to the destination, etc.). I don’t have these dreams all the time, but more frequently than any others I can remember.

My youngest son and I were sharing strange dreams we’d had. His was silly and we laughed about his dream. I shared mine and how I couldn’t find what I was looking for. His demeanor changed as I shared my dream, and he asked in a concerned tone, “Are you under a lot of stress?” Wow, that’s pretty insightful for an eleven year-old I thought. “Maybe,” I replied, “But no more than usual.” “Well, it sounds like you’re more stressed than you realize to me,” he finished. Okay, I thought, he may be on to something. I decided I needed to consider how much I was juggling and figure out how to lessen my stress. Thank goodness my son happened to have a dream he was willing to share with me, and got me to think more about what my dream might be telling me.

Do you have a recurring dream(s) that are trying to tell you something? Have your dream(s) changed since having your child?

Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

What makes your child uncomfortable?

A teacher of my youngest shared that my son was becoming anxious about moving to middle school in the Fall. My son had shared this information with them, and they wanted to make sure my husband and I were aware.

One evening, after we’d had time to get home, eat and decompress for a while, I let my son know that I’d heard he was anxious about the future and wanted to better understand his concern. “What are you most concerned about?” I asked. He put both hands to his forehead. “Well everything!” He paused. “I feel like I’m not going to do well in middle school. 5th grade is harder than 4th.” I could tell by the look on his face he was feeling stress about how he’d navigate the new upcoming unfamiliar territory. He continued, “I do okay in school, but I get bored a lot.” I asked, “Is that because school isn’t challenging enough?” He scoffed, “No, Mom, it’s definitely challenging enough. It’s just I have to learn all this stuff.” I felt like I could almost read his mind, so I offered, “and you’d enjoy it more if they were teaching you about things you were more interested in?” “Yes!” he said. His face relaxed from what I took to be relief at being understood. I asked my son, “Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘a means to an end’?” He shook his head no.”Well, there are some things you have to do in order to get something else. If you want to go to college one day, they’ll expect you to graduate from high school with a degree. You don’t have to like it, but you have to do it and do it well to go. You could think of going to school as a means to an end.” He seemed to ponder this for a minute. “But it makes me really uncomfortable thinking about all the work I’ll have to do. How will I figure it out?” I reminded him that he’s only in 5th grade. “What is the point of teachers, aides, parents, etc.? We are all here to help. The unknown can feel scary, and can make you uncomfortable but there are lots of people ready to help you along the way, okay? Life can make us uncomfortable sometimes it’s getting to a place where you can be comfortable being uncomfortable, does that make sense?,” I asked. “Yea, I think so,” he said, “thanks, Mom.” I could tell at this point he was ready to get back to screen time so we ended our talk.

The future can be scary, and make you anxious or uncomfortable, that’s normal. I’ve experienced it as an adult — when I became a parent, when my job responsibilities changed, when I wrote my book and started doing public speaking for example — but I knew if I wanted to achieve goals in life, I needed to embrace the discomfort and knew the best way to lessen the discomfort was with experience.

I feel discomfort when my child comes to me with problems I don’t know how to solve. I guess that’s just life, but I’m glad my child is willing to open up to me. We’ll work through our respective discomfort together.

How you help your child deal with anxiety, stress or discomfort?