Can’t Wait

What have you been looking forward to doing post pandemic? Have you done it yet?

Our family has been planning and saving for a ‘dream’ trip for a while. The pandemic took away a few summers for us to do this vacation due to restrictions or challenging logistics. It’s been hard to bide our time, but the trip is upon us and we can’t wait.

We have two-three summers with all of us together before my oldest is out of the house and our chances of taking a family trip significantly dwindle. Time is moving forward with or without the pandemic. 😬 It makes this trip that much sweeter.

The best part about this vacation isn’t so much where we’re going but how we’ll get there. My youngest, with his love of maps and transit has helped determine how we’ll get from place to place. It’s fun to see his passion and knowledge pour out of him. When he was younger and with his grandparents at an amusement park they were trying to determine which way they needed to go to get on a ride. My son replied to his grandparents, “We don’t need no stinking map, I know where we are and how to get there.” And he did. He’s earned the nickname “I don’t need no stinking maps” from his grandparents, but it’s only used when having a map would be handy. 😊

Seeing our kids get involved in the planning has been fun. Our youngest is excited, but also a bit bummed knowing he can’t see everything in one trip. We remind him to figure out how he can get back to these locations for further exploration in the future. Set a goal, make it happen.

It’s fun to anticipate an upcoming event. Then it happens and before you know it it’s over. I’m going to be mindful, and work to keep my family mindful so we take it all in, and be there, with the goal of this dream trip lasting beyond the vacation itself. Hoping to have experiences that we’ll remember happily forever.😎

What are you looking forward to doing as a family this summer? What memories are you hoping to make?

I’ll be off for the next few weeks and back mid-August.

Wash-Rinse-Repeat

When was the last time you felt blah?

During the first year of COVID, feeling blah was front and center for me. But as we adjusted and things have opened, closed, re-opened-ish, the ‘blahs’ have lessened.

My oldest struggles sometimes when things are mundane. He doesn’t do well with lots of free time. He likes keeping busy and gets restless when he isn’t. He came home from school one afternoon and his mood got progressively worse throughout the evening. I asked if something was wrong, wondering if he’d had something bad happen in school with a test, assignment, or friend. “No,” he said and looked downtrodden. I gave him some space thinking it might just be a teenage thing. I know I liked my space when I was his age.

Later that evening I caught him as he was heading back to his room. “Wanna talk?” I asked, thinking he’d say no, but instead he just started talking. What was interesting is that he started talking to me from his bedroom and didn’t come back to where I was. I questioned does he want to talk? But after continuing to speak, I went to his room. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Everyday is the same. It’s wash-rinse-repeat. If this is all there is, it sucks.” I asked him some more questions to better understand what was causing him to be in this funk and boredom seemed to be the answer. What I found curious is that he had many other things he could do to keep himself occupied (work on projects, get ahead on homework, connect with friends), but he was choosing to be bored and bummed about it.

Of course, as a parent you want to help your child so I made suggestions, tried to get him to rethink boredom and the gift that it can be, and ensure he was okay. It was clear I didn’t have the answer.

I know there is much to be gained by your child learning to deal with occasional boredom. I am like my son in that I don’t like being bored either, but not because of not having anything to do (that part I like). It’s this feeling of, if I’m not doing something than I’m wasting my time/not being productive, and if I’m not being productive, I’m not contributing anything of value, and if I’m not contributing something of value, than I’m wasting precious time. I have to catch myself when I think or feel this, because it’s counterproductive. If you are productive all the time, you’ll burnout or worse.

I drove my son to school the next morning. “Anything of interest happening today at school?,” I asked. “I’ve got a test, but otherwise it’s nothing new. Wash-rinse-repeat.” I asked him if he felt like he was being challenged at school thinking this might be contributing to him being bored. “No, if anything I’m too challenged.” Okay, so school is keeping him engaged that’s good, I thought. Still trying to offer something to help I pivoted to what has served me well for most of my life…noticing your environment and the beauty around you. I offered him a suggestion. “I know you feel like each day is the same, but try to find something new around you. Art on the wall, a bird outside. Just pay attention to what’s around you and see what happens.” He thanked me — whether he was appreciative or subtly letting me know he was “good” and didn’t need any more Mom intervention is unclear. 😊 Regardless, I do hope he can see life for the gift it is, and realize being busy has its place, but stopping and periodically resting (doing nothing) is valuable too.

How do you help your child when they are in a funk? How does your child deal with boredom?

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.

The Great Pumpkin Carving

What’s a favorite Fall tradition for your family?

We have several including going to our favorite pumpkin patch, but the tradition I look most forward to is pumpkin carving. The pumpkin carving is fun, but I enjoy the company, seeing everyone, talking, catching up, sharing a meal, and feeling connected.

Last year, we skipped the tradition as a precaution due to COVID. We all missed it. My niece is a senior in high school and will be heading off to college next year. This being her last pumpkin carving (at least for a while) is really hitting home. My sons and I talked about it when we went to the pumpkin patch with their cousins. We are all in a bit of denial this tradition will come to an end-of-sorts after this year. Yes, it will still go on, but it will be different without her with us. I’m reminded again of how quickly time is going and trying to be truly present so I can fully take in the joy of the experience and all of us being back together again.

What traditions are you most looking forward to resuming? What will it mean to you and your family to be back with others again?

Disconnected

Does your child have an electronic device that they enjoy using for fun?

Everyone in my family has an electronic device. We held off on our boys getting smart phones until they were 13 (and rules apply, break a rule they lose the device). We decided for Spring Break we’d head out to a more remote part of our state to disconnect and unwind. A change of scenery would do us all some good. My husband tried warning our kids in these places access to the internet (WiFi or cellular) would be sparse and to be prepared (meaning bring a book, puzzle or game we can play, or download content to your device so you can access it while we’re there).

By day 3 of our trip we came to our first location where internet access was no where to be found. Our oldest had downloaded some music and podcasts, so he was fine. My youngest downloaded nothing and brought nothing to keep himself entertained. You would have thought something major had happened by the way he broke down. “This is the worst trip ever. It’s going to be so boring.” It went on and on. Being on the spectrum he had to explain to me how he was feeling. There were many thoughts that went through my mind as he complained about being bored (such as — how ungrateful, and doesn’t he understand others would kill to be able to go on trips like this?). I heard him out, patted him on the leg and said, “I get that this is hard for you, but this will happen sometimes in life. You might get bored and you have to make the best of it. I’m going to go sit over in those chairs overlooking the beach. Come join me when you’re feeling better.” I walked away.

He joined 30 minutes later. “It took me a while to feel better,” he said, “do you think we could go down to the beach?” “Sure,” I said, and off we headed. The beach was great. My son had a great time and admitted later in the day that the trip wasn’t so bad after all. The next day we were at another location with no connectivity. He had another meltdown and again we found another activity and we made it through another day. When we got home, both boys were grateful to be home and have full access to the internet again.

At dinner that first night back, we talked about the trip and what we enjoyed. We talked about sites we saw, hikes we took, and seeing wildlife. “Okay,” my youngest said when it was his turn, “I had a good time. I know I didn’t handle it well, and I’m sorry. I’ll be prepared next time.” We are heading out later this summer on another trip that will take us to remote areas (again limited to no cellular or WiFi coverage). My hope is that my son will be ready next time with activities to keep himself occupied and allowing himself the time to truly disconnect and enjoy the beauty (nature) around him.

How do you and your family disconnect? How does your child handle situations where they have to be disconnected from their device(s)?

Have you Reddit?

Quarantine is helping my husband and I better understand our kids interests. Particularly on the Internet. The computer is in a common space in our house. The only exception is when our boys are doing online school (they can take the pc into their room for their virtual class). My husband and I try to pay attention to what they are watching and periodically check the history to ensure they are looking at appropriate content (we have identified sites that we’ve had to have conversations with our boys about periodically). The pandemic equals more time at home, and more screen time for my kids.

Having dinner one night, we got on the topic of what the kids had learned that day (from school or otherwise). My younger son shared something he learned (I wish I could remember what he said), and it prompted me to ask him where he learned this (as it didn’t sound like something he’d learn in school). “Reddit,” he said. My husband and I looked at each other with slight concern. “Do you think what you learn on Reddit is all true?” I felt I needed to challenge his belief around credible sources. “No, mom,” he said as if it was the dumbest question I could have asked, “but there is some stuff that is true on it.” I have to admit it’s been years since I’ve been on Reddit so I couldn’t further my argument. My older son joined it, “Yea, mom, what’s wrong with Reddit?” My husband and I turned the question back on them. “What’s so good about it?” I asked. “Well, I don’t know. It has pretty good stuff,” my older son said. “It’s not like it’s 4chan.” “4chan, what’s that?” I asked. I liked my kids were sharing with me. I wasn’t sure I was going to like what I heard but wanted to know regardless. “It has just about everything on it. There’s funny memes and videos.” “Yea, 8chan, is way worse. We don’t go there. It’s got a lot of extreme stuff on it,” my younger piped in. “Don’t worry, mom, we aren’t looking at anything bad.” Of course my husband and I would be re-reviewing their browser history soon.

We talked about credible sources for news. I found it laughable when my oldest said, “where should we get our news – Instagram? Facebook?” “No,” both my husband and I replied, “You get it from credible sources that employee journalists that have degrees in journalism.” While I know not all good journalists have journalism degrees it wasn’t worth creating any gray around the subject. “There are newspapers (local and national), TV (local and national), and radio stations, like NPR, that provide you with information that can ensure you really understand what’s going on,” we shared. Those other sites you mentioned may have news on them, but they are more for entertainment than for giving you the facts. My sons seemed to get the point my husband and I were trying to make. I think the websites they have enjoyed may have lost some of their “cool” factor for them too. “Mom, I can’t believe you know what Reddit is” my youngest shared. “You’d be surprised what I know,” I finished. He smiled, looked briefly concerned with thus realization, then smiled again. 😊

I’m glad my husband and I got to know more about our boys, and our boys us.

What are you learning about your child, and their habits, during quarantine?

Silver Linings

What’s grabbing your attention during the pandemic?

The first few weeks, news of the virus held my attention, but as time has gone on, I’ve started tuning more into the needs of myself, my family and others. Just paying attention– really close attention — to my boys and how they are doing has led my husband and I to have some ‘aha’ moments we easily would have missed if the pre-Covid-19 busyness was still around — be it how they are doing with school, dealing with isolation, and their overall health.

We did have a moment this week, where being tuned in to my kids felt really nice. My oldest got a notification that it was time to register for high school and the classes he’d like to take (electives beyond mandatory courses). I knew it might create stress for him since it’s the first time he’s had to make these types of choices in this way. We sat down together and watched the tutorials and downloaded the course catalogue and after awhile, got the hang for what he needed to do. It probably took all of 30 minutes, but I realized how having no distractions (nothing else my mind was focused on — such as an upcoming work day or appointment I needed to keep) allowed me to relax and have patience to spend the needed time with him. It showed me how impatient I’ve been in the past in these types of situations, and provided me an opportunity to be there for my son — truly be there for him — to help him. I knew he was fine once he started reaching out to his friends so they could try to coordinate schedules. 😊

I sometimes miss the rush of my previously busy life, but continue to look for the silver linings. Being able to pay attention fully has been one of those gifts.

What silver linings are you experiencing as a result of the pandemic?

No Distractions

How are you and your child dealing with the Coronavirus?

Our schools shut down a week ago. My younger son’s school transitioned to online learning, my older son’s teachers are giving students optional assignments as enrichment. Neither child seems to mind sleeping in later. 😊 Of course, my husband and I are also working from home which can make for an interesting work day. I’m grateful my kids are older and can care for/entertain themselves. I do, however, enjoy, when I’m on a work video conference and I get to see someone’s child, or family pet wonder into the picture. It reminds me how similar we are — it’s comforting.

Restaurants are take-out only or delivery, public places closed to help slow/stop the spread of the virus. The first week transitioning to this new normal wasn’t easy.

One way we are dealing with the situation is going for walks around our neighborhood. With virtually no traffic it’s easy to distance ourselves from your neighbors. While walking one day we saw a neighbor sitting on her porch. We lamented the change in our daily routines. I shared how there was a calm, almost a peace, I was feeling that I haven’t felt in a while (maybe ever). That with no distractions–having to get kids various places at various times, work commitments, and other activities outside the home–I was forced to just be. She smiled when I said that. “I know what you mean,” she commented. We both agreed having no distractions was a blessing, if only it weren’t the result of a pandemic.

Eventually the pandemic will pass, and life will return to normal. Or maybe we’ll come out of this with a new normal, who knows? For now, I’m trying to embrace the opportunity to just be.

How are you coping with this new normal? Is there any unexpected upside you’re experiencing?

‘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?

Your Parental Rating

How would you rate yourself as a parent?

It’s not as straightforward as you’d think, right? There are so many different categories that could go into the rating — loving, nurturing, ability to teach/educate your child, how well you handle emotions (your child and your own), your cooking skills, organization skills, ability to provide, ability to get yourself and your child safe, and so much more. If you got a rating for each category what would be your average?

A few days before my youngest graduated from elementary school my husband and I were in the main office and ran into the principal (who is retiring) and the resource teacher. We thanked them for being so good to both of our boys. They clearly cared about helping our boys be successful in school and helping them thrive. “You’re boys are great, ” both commented, “You all are great parents.” I immediately chimed in, “TBD.” Meaning, while it’s always nice to hear others think you are doing well, my husband and I have further to go with our boys before we can fully accept that rating. I think instead my husband and I work to not be complacent, or take for granted the precious time we’ve got with our kids, and our need to stay open and aware of our shortcomings and where we can improve. No parent is perfect, but striving to be the best you can for your kids is as good a goal as any.

How would you rate yourself as a parent? Where do you see opportunity to grow and do better by your child?