Brothers in Need

Do you always get along with your sibling(s)?

My oldest often thinks his younger brother is super annoying. I remember my sister feeling the same way about me when we were in high school. It isn’t often you see my oldest interacting with his brother outside of meal time or out in front of the TV. They have different interests, friend groups, activities, etc.

We went hiking over the long weekend. We were nearing the last steep climb when my youngest, who was trailing us all, yelled “stop! I need help.” We turned to find him off to the side of the trail in pain. He’d lost his footing, his ankle rolled and he heard a pop sound. 😬 We were at least a mile away from getting to flat ground and where he could be helped. It was one of those moments where you think how are we going to get through this? We had him rest on the side of a hill, while we dug through our packs to see what we had (of course, we’d ran out of ace bandages and hadn’t replenished the pack, and started to think in terms of building a splint out of sticks). Before we proceeded we asked our son if he could move his foot – it hurt, but he could. We asked if he could put weight on it – it hurt, but he could. We asked if he could walk – it hurt, but if we went slowly, he could.

His father and I attempted to have him walk and lean on us, but both of us are shorter than both of our sons by 4 to 5 inches. Our oldest is about the same height as his brother and works our regularly, so being able to support his brother was a better fit, but would he do it?

Once he saw the pain his brother was in, he agreed to help without any opposition. He had his brother put his arm across his back and told him to take weight off his injured foot. He encouraged his brother, “it’s going to be okay. Make sure you watch where you’re putting your feet. You can put more of your weight on me, I can take it.” It was a wonderful moment to witness. It took considerably longer for us to finish our hike, but we were able to get our son out without issue.

We talked afterwards about what we’d remember most from this trip. The fun we’d had together, or our son hurting his ankle? While his ankle still hurts, I’m guessing his older brother showing his love for him might be what he (and his father and I) remember most from this trip.

When have you experienced (or witnessed) sibling love?

Instagram Catfish

My youngest is on the spectrum and struggles making strong connection with his peers. This can be especially hard when you’re a teen, going through puberty, exploring your sexuality, and becoming more independent.

Our youngest son is one of the most ‘innocent’ people you could meet. His emotional intelligence is through the roof (he has empathy that is beyond compare), he loves animals, and spends countless hours online learning about world geography, other cultures, transit systems, and follows politics. He has very little interest in things I think most parents of teens fear — nudity/pornography, alcohol, or drugs.

My husband and I are aware our sons are on Instagram, but thought it too, particularly for our youngest, was innocent. We found out we had reason for concern when my husband saw our youngest son texting (chat function) with another user and appeared to be trying to hide what he was messaging from his father. My husband decided to inquire who our son was talking to while we were at the dinner table. My son got very quiet and seemed embarrassed. He shared he had started to confide some of his secrets to this stranger including his wants and desires because it felt ‘safe.’ When we challenged our son on who this person was, how old, etc., we learned this person was in their 30s. I appreciated my son’s honesty but was beside myself, as we’ve talked to our boys about being online and never sharing information or trusting who is on the other end, especially if you haven’t met or seen them in-person. I was more upset by the adult on the other end who allowed/continued the conversation even though he knew my son (based on his age being on his profile) was underage. Beyond the emotions I was experiencing, I could see how lonely my son felt, and how he’d been looking for an outlet to share his feelings and thoughts with others. outside mom and dad, and while I get it, it still terrified me.

My son realized the errors of his ways, blocked this ‘friend’ and gave me his login information so we can monitor the app and ensure he’s connecting safely with others his own age. He wants his independence but realizes he lost some of our trust but hiding this from us. We’ve always advocated for our kids to talk to us about anything and everything, even if it’s uncomfortable (for them or us, especially us (meaning my husband and I)). He feels like he lets us down, and we feel like we let him down (how didn’t we know?, how could we or should we have been helping him?, etc.).

We talked about making mistakes, that’s how we learn and grow, and while he’s becoming more independent, he still has knowledge to gain. He agreed, though still feeling embarrassed and ‘stupid’ for not knowing better. We just reminded him now he does.

Social media, like any technology has its pros and cons. I like that it allows users to connect on their interests or passions. I’m not a fan of some of the unforeseen risks inherent with letting younger folks (whose frontal lobe hasn’t fully formed) converse easily with folks who may be legit, or may be a catfish.

I’m still working to recalibrate my brain around what we learned. Some of my son’s innocence is gone, but I should expect that with age. I’m reminded I need to stay on top of how my son is connecting with others and getting his needs met (e.g., making friends that allow his to be himself, share openly, trust with secrets), and what my husband and I (and his therapist) can do to help.

How do you keep a pulse on your teen’s interactions on social media? How are you helping them know the dangers, while giving them freedom to explore who they are and their interests?

Walking Beside

My oldest is becoming a young adult and thinking through what they want to do beyond high school. As I’ve previously shared, I thought college for them was a given, and they don’t share that view (though their view tends to change from day to day). 😊

It was helpful being with a large group of our friends (we were celebrating one of their birthdays). As we sat together we raised the issue, shared our concerns, and sought other points of view and feedback. One friend offered this was our opportunity to “walk with” our son on his journey as he continues to figure out who he is and wants to be. That was so helpful for me to hear and think about. It reminded me not to try to control, manipulate, or be passive aggressive about the situation with my son out of fear, but to have more open dialogue with our son, set a plan to help him make the best decision for himself (my husband’s idea—brilliant). We want him to know he’s supported and loved by us no matter what.

It’s tough when you have to let go—let your child test the waters, earn their wings and fly. They’ll make mistakes—it’s the only way we learn and grow. I just need to walk beside him. Not carry him. Not push him. Just walk beside. It’s something new I’m learning, but already feeling optimistic about my own growth as a parent of an almost-adult child. It’s a transition and definitely not easy for me.

How are you helping your child be more independent? How are you supporting goals they have that don’t align with your vision for them?

Know it All

Is your child/teen a know-it-all?

I recall going through this phase in high school, around the same age as my oldest is now, thinking yea, I understand pretty much everything, what else is there to learn? I can even recall some male classmates raising this and we all agreed. We thought we had it all figured out. Cue laughter, right?

I realize my son’s brain is still forming and he is trying to gain more independence and determine who he is, but the angst I feel — particularly as his time under my roof is shortening, I stress. What have I not taught him? Will he still listen to me, my advice, and guidance? Or has that period of time already passed me by? Does he see his good qualities, does he recognize his strengths? What logic is he using to make decisions? And the list goes on.

He’s a good kid. Yes, I’m biased but believe it to be true. He’s not rebelling outwardly (other than minimal communication). His grades are good. Friends nice. He involved in activities. Than why do I feel so uncertain about preparing him for his future? What have I missed? How can I still help shape who he’ll become?

You might say ‘listen to him’ — when he speaks, believe me I listen. 😊 Don’t judge or criticize — that one may be hard for me especially if I think he’s making a mistake, but I’m going to try. Work to understand him — if he’ll let me, I’m there! And I’m sure there’s more (including being empathetic).

It’s funny how you think you have everything figured out as a teen, and question what you know when you have one. 🥰 Im trying to practice empathy for myself during this period and trying to take it one day at a time.

What advice help you get through uncertain times with your kid?


Reconnecting with old friends feels wonderful.

Our youngest is enjoying high school, though he can feel a little lost sometimes with the large number of students and teachers that can only give each student so much attention.

He was asked by his middle school to come back and be a student judge for the school’s STEM fair. While interested to see what the students came up with, he was more excited to see former teachers, admins, and younger classmates. He was greeted like a rock star, it didn’t hurt that he’s grown considerably taller since he left which added to him standing out. He gave and got big hugs from teachers and admins. I lot of ‘hellos’, ‘how are you?’, and ‘what’s high school like?’ from his old classmates. He relished being seen, acknowledged, and valued (wouldn’t we all?). It was so awesome to witness.

The school is looking for opportunities to bring more of my son, and his peers back on campus. I can share from his experience is was more than worth it. He may have helped judge the competition, but reconnecting was the true prize.

Where does your child feel seen, acknowledged, and valued?

Public Speaking

How comfortable are you speaking in front of others?

My youngest had an opportunity to return to his former middle school to share his experience and how prepared he was for high school. He was eager to go in hopes he’d see some former faculty or classmates. The community event for the school was moms (no students past or present), and no former faculty and administration. It was a bit of a bummer, but he loves the school so much he easily adjusted talking to new teachers about his experience.

The event had us sit down in a circle and the head of school asked us to give our feedback on why we’d picked the middle school, the best thing about the middle school, and how well my son was prepared for high school. I provided my input, but turned the floor over to my son since I knew the parents would like to hear from him directly. He did a great job sharing his thoughts, and needed little prompting to answer questions and provide insights. He went from looking down at first when he responded, to making eye contact, to joking with the crowd towards the end. It was like watching a flower bloom. I couldn’t help but smile.

On the way home my son and I discussed how things went. We both reflected on how some of the questions asked helped us see even more benefits of him going to the school than we’d previously realized. He was proud of his ability to talk in front of so many strangers and attributed his comfort with the confidence the school gave him regarding who he is (e.g., you’re great just the way you are). I was so happy for him that he recognizes the gifts the school has given him, how he’s been able to use them to excel in high school, and be confident in who he is enough to do public speaking at such a young age. It makes me wonder what else he can do that even he doesn’t know yet. 😊 I can’t wait to find out.

What gives your child confidence?

Talk to Me

Do you ever struggle to get your child to talk to you?

My oldest doesn’t divulge information easily. As his parent it can be deflating (is there something I can do differently to get him to open up?), and sometimes concerning (what is he thinking, is he okay?) but that’s the worrier in me. He is a teen, and I’m aware of his growing need for independence and not necessarily having mom or dad be ‘in the know’ on everything.

My oldest is getting closer to graduating and needs to start thinking about colleges. He hasn’t been willing to discuss where he might want to go, or study. While I was probably the same way at his age (in not knowing what I might study), I always had my eye on going to college. I knew I needed good grades to get in, I’d need to apply for scholarships to help offset the cost, but knew one way or another I was going. I’m not picking up that vibe from my son and that is worrying me.

I can understand the value of a college education being questioned after COVID, but I still believe college is that unique place and time in your life where you get to figure out who you are, what you’re interested in, you get exposed to different people from different places, and your universe expands. I know I thought I knew everything I needed to know about life and others in high school, but saw how small my universe was when I went to college. I very much want that for my two boys. My husband and I have been saving and planning for this.

My oldest shared with my husband he might opt to go to a trade school instead of college. He told this to my husband in confidence and my husband encouraged him to tell me. He won’t do it. I have tried asking him his thoughts on college, does he want to do something different, and he won’t share anything. Ugh! It’s unclear whether he doesn’t want to hear my thoughts (scared of how I might react), or if he’s still making up his mind (maybe college is still on the table?). I just wish he’d talk to me.

It would be one thing if we couldn’t afford it (and I’m aware of how fortunate we are to do this), or didn’t stress the importance of education and gaining knowledge with our kids, but we do. My son is anxious by nature and has a fear of failure (who doesn’t, right?), I’m worried he is taking a path that will essentially guarantee him a job, but narrow his opportunities in the long run. He is becoming an adult, but his frontal cortex still isn’t fully formed and I’m worried about him making decisions that can be life impacting. I may sound dramatic, but it feels like my son is coming to a crossroads and may pick a path different than I envisioned or hoped. I am struggling between supporting him and his growing independence and greatly wanting to influence his decision. I just wish he’d talk to me. It. Is. So. Hard.

How do you get your child to open up?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Ick. Gross. Pass.

That’s how I would have responded if my parents had wanted to talk to me about sex beyond “the talk” which was more focused on the mechanics. After that talk, which felt more like a trauma, I couldn’t look at either of my parents for weeks without getting grossed out.

My husband and I knew we’d have to better communicate with our kids about sex, intimacy, love, and all that goes with it. Knowledge is power, but it can feel oh so uncomfortable to try to talk about sex with your kids.

Thankfully there are lots of good books and classes for parents on this topic, and culturally it’s more accepted (and encouraged) to talk more openly about sex with our kids. My husband and I would have to work through whatever discomfort we have.

Our oldest continues not to want to talk to my husband and I about much of anything. We have to demand he sit with us at the dinner table and tell us at least one thing that happened that day. It’s pulling teeth. Our youngest is more talkative and willing to engage. What pleasantly surprised my husband and I was when our youngest shared that he was learning about sex in his health class. I wasn’t aware they taught sex in high school, but I’m grateful. The class goes beyond body parts and mechanics, but educates the students on STDs, prevention/protection, terms, consent, and more. As my son was learning, he had questions. He wanted to ask his questions in a safe place so he asked his father and I at home.

He was interested in what certain terms meant, our experience with sex (how hold were we (generally), were we scared, etc.), and more. There was a discomfort I felt at first talking to my son about some of his questions but quickly relaxed as I could see what I was sharing with him was helping him. We talked about why girls (or boys) have sex — they want to, they think they have to (it’s expected, or the other person won’t like them), they feel pressured (their peers are doing it and therefore they should to), or they are curious (what it feels like, etc.). We talked about terms. We talked about where he was with his own curiosity/interest. He made me feel better. I hopeful he’s more equipped to make informed decisions about his body and help any future partners feel good about their choice and experience with him. Now, we’re trying to figure out how to share the same information with our resistant older son. Pulling teeth, but we’ll do whatever it takes to have this (getting less uncomfortable) conversation.

What helps you when you have to have an uncomfortable talk with your child/teen?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

What value do you offer the world?

A bold question and one many of us would probably answer meagerly. I’m not sure many of us think in terms of the value we offer to others, let alone the world.

We were invited to ring in the New Year (east coast New Year’s because none of us can stay up that late 😂) with a group of parents we’ve known since our kids were born. Two of the families teen/tween children joined us. Our kids didn’t, but wish they had.

It was fun getting the kids to talk and share with us — what gifts they got, how school was going, driving, and what colleges they were thinking about (for the older ones). The kids have typically opted out of getting together when we gather, because, well, they’re kids, and at their age it often feels like they’d rather do anything else than hang out with us (their annoying, boring, basic parents). I get it.

We moved on to have dinner and again, the kids surprised me by being willing to eat with the adults and not off at their own separate table. Great conversation continued. We talked about weather, school, the news (we had a great discussion on drugs and the dangers and the kids were educating us!), and then one parent asked for each person to share a highlight from 2022, and something they’re looking forward to in 2023.

The kids really engaged and talked about their highlights – making new friends, adjusting to a new school; and things they were looking forward to – trips/family vacations, and the Taylor Swift concert (how did they ever get tickets?). 😊

We moved on to other areas of interest and gaming and online play came up. As a parent gaming can sometimes feel like a blessing (something fun that occupies their time), and a curse (will they ever stop playing that games?). We (the parents) wanted to hear firsthand from the kids their take on this — what games they play, what’s good about gaming, what isn’t, etc. One of the older boys (16) shared how he’d gotten into monetizing gaming. His parents seemed surprised so we all had questions — what was he doing, how did it work, how was he getting new business, etc.. He shared his interest in designing and figured out how to make gaming skins and logos for different players. He was doing this work at a low cost with no actual money being traded (other players would pay him by putting money into a game (for extended time, lives, tools/weapons/ etc.) so there was value), but nothing that would ever show up in his bank account.

I saw how he downplayed his work, that it was ‘just a hobby’ and thought he wasn’t that good. I had questions — how many people had he done work for? Approximately 100 was his answer. Was he getting repeat customers? He was. His work clearly had value, and while his community was small, he was doing good work. I shared this with him and shared with him that I thought he might be minimizing the good work he was doing. I could see I made him uncomfortable but assured him that feeling this way by what I’d just said was normal. “We aren’t often told we offer things of value. We think ‘why would anyone want this?’ Or ‘there’s many others out there much better than I am at this.’” And while there might be others out there that are more experienced it doesn’t take away from what you have to offer. I finished by saying, “Being humble is a good trait, but don’t do it to your detriment. Don’t sell yourself short. Even as adults we do this. Whether it’s creating gaming skins and logos for your friends online, or anything else that helps, provides, or supports others has value. I wish someone had told me this when I was younger.” The table was quiet. He gave a nod of acknowledgement. Other parents chimed in supporting him and his efforts, and then we moved onto other things.

In life we too often sell ourselves short. We aren’t anything special, right? Others are better at, smarter than, or more experienced than us, right? Wrong. Others miss out on what value we bring when we minimize our gifts — which can come in the form of knowledge, emotional support, finances, creativity, and beyond.

What value do you bring to the world? How are you helping your child not to sell themselves short?

A Very Mom Christmas

Have you seen the SNL skit about a ‘normal’ mom experience Christmas morning? Everyone gets more gifts than they can imagine, including the family pet, and mom gets a robe. Nothing else. Nothing in her stocking. No words of thanks. Just a robe. It cracks me up every time I see it.

Have you ever had such a Christmas? I have. My mom had one too. I can remember as a child I was so dismayed my mom didn’t get much that my sisters and I overspent on my mom the next year to make sure she didn’t feel left out. We guilted our dad to no end too. He definitely tried to make up for it, and didn’t make the mistake again.

I get it. The older I get the less I want or need. I really want Christmas to be great for my kids, and husband, and cat. 😊 But I was a bit bummed when one year I got only one present (I can’t even recall what it was), and my stocking was empty. I tried to hide my disappointment, but my kids found the stocking being empty wrong and started inquiring with my husband why nothing was in it. My husband shared privately that he didn’t know what to get for me and that’s why my gifts were lacking. I told him I’d be more specific in things I’d like in the future (even though I’d love for him to know this without me telling him—oh well).

So often the holidays are about trying to make things perfect — the gifts, the food, the decorations, the house. It can be overwhelming, even exhausting. And something always won’t go quite right — gifts arrive late, food gets burned, decorations lacking, house a mess, and perhaps an empty stocking. But while I remember that very-Mom-Christmas, I remember the memories of the kids being excited, my husband surprised, even the cat knowing it’s a special day (new toys and treats, oh my!) and I cherish it so.

Being a mom/being a parent is hard. Wanting to have a perfect holiday – normal. Being okay when it is less than – a must. It’s about being together and sharing our gratitude for what we have, what we’ve been given, and our love for one another. Is another Mom-Christmas in my future? Maybe, and that’s okay. Time with my kids (especially as they get older and more independent) is more special to me than any gift. And it doesn’t hurt that I pick up a few small things for myself as a treat around the holidays…just in case. 😊

What holiday memory brings a smile to your face? How do you plan to enjoy the holidays when something goes wrong?

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