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?

Madden

Is your child enthralled with video games?

My oldest son is a huge fan, though we’ve never owned a gaming system. It was a conscious choice by my husband and I. We didn’t want to get caught up in having to have the latest and greatest, spending lots of money on games and accessories, turning our living room into a game room, and most importantly losing our son’s attention. We want to spend time with him while he’s growing up, not him and his video controller.

Of course, we have tablets and my son has found that gaming systems aren’t the only medium that allows you to play games. He quickly found Madden (NFL) was available as an app and begged me to download it. We agreed he could with screen limits (though I know he’s exceeded the limit many, many times). When I’ve realized this and told him to turn the game off, it is met with much resistance. “I need to finish this game!” “Just a minute.” And the list goes on. I’m the ‘bad guy’ interrupting his fun, or so he thinks. After me nagging him multiple times and then walking over and taking the tablet out of his hands he shared his anger. “Why can’t I have an XBOX? Everyone else does!” I took a breath and reminded him that we had no plans of buy a gaming system. He’d already shown us he struggled with screen time just on the tablet. He didn’t like that. I’m sure he thought my husband and I were being unfair and/or mean.

My son went away to overnight camp for a week and was not allowed to bring any electronics. We didn’t know how he’d fair. He had books to read but this would be the longest time he’d been away from electronics. Before he left on his trip, he asked if I’d update his Madden app on the tablet while he was away. “It’s very important,” he said. He even put a reminder on the calendar.

When my son returned I shared with him that I’d had trouble updating the app, but found a work around. He was grateful and started to play the game. After about 30 minutes, he gave me the tablet and said, “You know, Mom, I don’t need this. I’m glad you never got me a XBOX. If you did, I would just be on it all the time and would miss out on doing so much. Like all the stuff I got to do while I was at camp. Sorry I gave you such a hard time about it.” My younger son was standing nearby and overheard the whole conversation. His expression was priceless. He too couldn’t believe what his older brother was saying.

My son is back on his tablet, but not as much as he previously was. I know what a draw Madden can be, and know how much my son enjoys playing it, but am glad he’s seeing the pitfalls of spending all of your free time playing games and how, if you’re not careful, they can take you away from participating in life.

How do you handle your child’s screen time or gaming habits? How are you helping them be present and experience life?

I’ll be off for Labor Day weekend and back in September.

Getting Caught Up in the Moment

Did you play sports growing up? Do you recall getting caught up in the action, whether you were playing or watching your team?

My son’s soccer team was recently invited to watch the local high school play in the state tournament. My son was excited to sit with his teammates and watch the teams play (a special bonus was that their coach was one of the coaches for the high school team playing). The kids quickly got caught up in the action. It was fun to see them interact, cheering on the team, doing the wave (without any care that no one else was doing it) and talking in their own team lingo as they observed the game. They also got caught up in the nastier side of sports, booing and finding ways to take digs at the opposition.

I got caught up in the action as well. It was a very aggressive and physical game. At one point, two players collided, resulting in one (from the team we were cheering for) bleeding from the head. When the referees proceeded not to issue a yellow card for the incident, I too got caught up in the moment. “When are you going to card #10, ref? This is ridiculous!” I yelled. My son was a little taken aback. One, because I had been relatively quiet up until this point, and two, I clearly reacted as though a true injustice had been done and either the ref was blind or incompetent. His reaction brought me out of the moment. I needed that. The ref’s job is hard enough, they didn’t need me yelling at them. I didn’t want my son thinking my behavior was right either. (On a side note, I don’t know how refs do it. I would sink into the ground if people were telling me how terrible I was while I was performing at my job. I don’t envy them, but do respect them, no matter how frustrating it can be when you see a missed call.).

The game was close right up to the end. The team my son was cheering for won in dramatic action. He was in heaven. He and his teammates celebrated and went off to find their coach to congratulate him. It was one of those moments where you recognize it’s special. It doesn’t happen often and you need to just enjoy it. I couldn’t help getting caught up in my son’s moment. It was pure joy.

How do you get caught up in special moments when they happen?

 

 

 

A Change in the Weather

What is your favorite time of year, and what makes it so?

In our house, Fall is right up there.  We made a list of our favorite things (kinda of like Oprah’s Favorite Things list, but made up of things you just can’t buy). 🙂

There are the normal things we look forward to every year:

  • Apple cider
  • The return of college football and going to Red Mill (Red Mill is a burger place that is open all year round. For whatever reason the return of college football reminds us it’s time to go back to Red Mill)
  • The leaves changing color, and
  • Going to the pumpkin patch (we’ll do that here in a few weeks)

And there are those things that are temporary, having to do more with my children’s ages and interests than anything else:

  • Watching my oldest son practicing soccer past sunset with his team
  • Spending more time with other moms during practice — we’ve found the kids don’t seem to miss us if we slip away for a hot beverage or quick meal and get back by the time it’s over
  • Watching and cheering my son and his teammates on at the game (it’s nerve racking for me)
  • Spending time on the playground with my younger son while older brother plays in a game (I’m much calmer here)
  • Decorating a gingerbread Haunted House (again, we’ll do that here in a few weeks…and as much as I’d like to think this will be a long-term tradition, I fear it will only last as long as the boys are interested in doing it).

Time continues to pass. The boys are getting older. We reached a new milestone this season. Our membership expired at the zoo. We’ve had a membership there since the kids were babies. They no longer seem interested in seeing the animals. Other parents warned us this was coming, but it feels a little like a change in the weather…nothing ever really stays the same, and that’s okay. The constant traditions of Fall I look forward to, they will always be there. The ones that are yet-to-be excite me. What activities or temporary traditions will the new seasons bring for my family? We’ll just have to wait and see.

What are your favorite Fall traditions?

Spring Chicken

What are your favorite Easter traditions?

I love everything about Easter: the time of year, the colors and blooms; Easter Egg hunts; family time and all that goes with the holiday. What’s funny is that Easter really did spring (or should I say sneak?) up on me this year. With a work schedule that has been abnormally busy, plus traveling, plus working through a bad cold, I noticed I almost let Easter get away from me. Half the joy, in my opinion, is the planning and getting ready for the day.

I may no longer be a Spring chicken, but I feel like a kid at heart. And while I won’t actually hunt the eggs myself on Easter, I sure will enjoy hiding them and watching the kids find them. It’s joy and happiness that comes from being together–I don’t think that gets old at any age.

How are you taping into your inner-child this Easter season? What helps keep you a Spring chicken?

March Madness and its Shining Moments

March Madness is in full swing with the NCAA basketball tournament starting this week. I couldn’t help but be taken in by the story of R.J. Hunter making the 3-point shot to win the game for Georgia State. It was what those of us who enjoy watching sports love–the underdog coming up with a win. What made the win that much more special was that R.J. is the son of Georgia State’s head coach, Ron Hunter.

Ron Hunter summed up the experience best in an article by Dan Wolken in USA Today, It’s unbelievable. I wish every dad in America could have that opportunity, what I just experienced with my son.”

Have you had a Ron/R.J. moment? Maybe not on the same scale or stage, but just as memorable? I can remember winning a race in a swim meet by tenths of a second with my parents looking on. I felt great about my accomplishment, but really appreciated being able to share it with my family. It made it that much more real. It’s a good memory we all remember. There were other triumphant moments too that weren’t sports-related–speaking in public for the first time (getting through it, and not passing out was a plus), and winning an unexpected award in a large setting (was both exciting and humbling). My parents being there to witness these events made them that much more special.

I look forward to experiencing my children’s ‘moment in the sun’. It might not be during a marquee game or event, but it will be their moment, our moment, and it will be something we’ll share for the rest of our lives.

What memorable moment have you shared with your child? What shining moment(s) have you experienced?

Jackpot!

When was the last time you felt like you struck it rich? Whether it was winning money unexpectedly or having an outcome or experience better than expected?

I had one in an unexpected place…a local family fun center. We went to the family fun center to pass the time on a rainy day. My boys were off playing separate games. I was with my younger son and we joined his brother to an atmosphere of excitement. Lights were flashing and the machine was dispensing tickets at a fast rate. My older son exclaimed, “I hit the jackpot!” When he said this, I thought he won maybe 50 tickets or so. But then I looked at the game and saw he indeed hit The Jackpot — 1500 tickets. He was ecstatic, and I was stunned. How often does someone hit a jackpot, I thought.

We can so often think the jackpot is out of our reach in life. While we might not win the lottery or the jackpot at our local family fun center, I’d argue that we’ve all hit the jackpot many times without realizing it. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I met my husband, we bought our first house and when our kids were born. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot anytime I see a beautiful landscape, hear a song that I love, I connect with others in my writing or speaking, run into a friend in an unexpected place, or get an “I love you” from one of my boys. When I think about it, I’ve hit the ‘jackpot’ many times. It isn’t a rare thing, as much as it is a special thing.

When do you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot?

Puppet Show

What do you do to jumpstart your activity in the New Year?  No, I don’t mean what exercise regiment have you started, but how do you rebound from all the activity around the holidays and then those few days of calm between Christmas and New Years, where things seem to slow down, things become calmer, and you have some time to breathe?

It’s not uncommon for my ‘jumpstart’ to take place sometime several weeks into the year. I yearn to hold onto the slowness and peaceful state-of-mind I feel those days at the end of the year, and look ahead to the next time I’ll get to experience that feeling again. Thinking of future vacations helps.

My kids are much more eager to get back into the swing of things than I…seeing their friends at school and resuming activities seems to get their energy back up.

On a workday morning not long into the New Year, I was overwhelmed with everything that had to be accomplished in the day ahead. I was eager to get the kids going so I could start getting through my lists of “to-dos”. My youngest son didn’t want to get ready, and was adamant about not getting out of bed.  As I assessed the situation two choices came to mind: 1) I can get frustrated, and start to dole out consequences (potentially ruining my day, and my sons), or 2) do something different.  As I was assessing the situation and deciding what to do next, I happened to notice a puppet on the floor in my son’s room.  Hmmm…could a puppet help me do something different to prompt my son along? 

I picked up the puppet, a fluffy plush cat puppet and brought the cat to life. “Hmmm, I don’t want to get ready, I just want to sit in bed all day long and do nothing,” I said in a cat voice, “I’ll just sit here all day. I don’t care if I get dirty, I don’t care if I don’t learn anything. I’m going to do what I want.” My son was amused. Using the puppet brought a smile to my face. Engaging him in this way was helping me experience a creative energy I hadn’t felt since before the holidays. I continued, “Too bad I’ll only be known as plain old Fluffy, but at least I get to stay in my bed.” I had the cat pause for a moment and then had Fluffy take on a new and improved persona. “Hmmm, maybe I will get dressed after all. I’ll brush my teeth and make my bed. I’ll go to school and I’ll learn and I’ll do BIG things. I’m going to be Fluffy the Fabulous,” I added with gusto. Fluffy was going places, and my son was eager to follow.  I asked my son, “which Fluffy are you going to be today? Plain old Fluffy or Fluffy the Fabulous?” He considered my questions momentarily and replied, “Fluffy the Fabulous, of course.” We both giggled and he finally started to get himself ready.

Sometimes it just takes a moment to wipe away the dreary and get pep back in your step. Who knew a simple puppet could make that happen?

What is giving you energy in the New Year?

R.I.P. Halloween Costume

Do you have a favorite childhood Halloween costume you wore? Perhaps your costume gave you super powers, made you feel like royalty or turned you into a scary creature. Nostalgia surfaces when I think of Halloweens past.

I’m starting to get the same nostalgic feeling for my children’s Halloween past. They are reaching the ages where they will only trick-o-treat for a few more years and wear costumes. I’ve held on to many of their costumes from the past. Not wanting to just give them away, they’ve felt too special to just give away.

I recently came across a box that had an astronaut costume my son wore when he was two or three years old. It was adorable and I can remember him attacking a cupcake with green frosting while in the suit. We have some great pictures of our frosting covered astronaut in our scrapbook and some wonderful memories in our heads. I have a young nephew and was hoping to maybe pass the costume on to him, but he already has another costume. I saw a friend’s son that is close to my nephew’s age and offered up the astronaut outfit without a second thought. I want this to go to someone who will love and cherish it as I do. Funny thing is, as soon as my offer was accepted, a feeling of sadness washed over me. The act of giving away the costume confirm my boys are growing up, and they won’t be little boys for much longer.

I accept that I can’t stop time. I remind myself that I just need to appreciate the moment…take lots of pictures and enjoy the present Halloween.

My boys are growing. The costumes will eventually be going. When we bury someone we often say Rest In Peace. I hope my kids’ costumes bring much joy in their next life, with whomever gets to wear them. I don’t want the costumes to Rest In Peace in a box in my closet, but want them Worn and Enjoyed in the Present…W.E.P. Halloween costumes. W.E.P.

Relax and Rest, Repeat

How are you relaxing this summer? Have you been able to get away on vacation, or find some ways to rest at home?

The school year always feels like a busy time. There is always something to plan for, something to remember to have your child bring, or not bring. It seems like you always have to be somewhere (and you have to remember where, because it changes). And there are always lots of activities: after school activities, homework, etc. It’s enough to make anyone long for the summer break. But summers don’t seem as relaxing as I remember them.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the summer and the time off. Summer meant swim team practice, riding bikes with my friends in the neighbor and playing at each other’s house. Summer took on a different meeting when I entered the workforce. The long stretches of time off went away and were replaced with 8+ hours/day of work with an occasional vacation day sprinkled in.

As a parent, there never seems to be enough time off. There are the demands of the job, and getting your child to where they need to be (camps, friends, etc.). Taking time off to spend it together as a family is something we do each summer: taking a trip to visit family and seeing different parts of the country. There never seem to be enough vacation days or time to do all the things we’d like to do. And there never seems like there is enough time to rest.

I was reminded by the directions on a shampoo bottle, that I might need to re-tweak my formula for how to spend my time during the summer. The shampoo direction said, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” I thought, they are onto something here…it’s simple to follow and yields results. My new phrase for how I spend my summer time is: Rest. Relax. Repeat. It will take some effort on my part, but the summer is a great time to enjoy the good things going on in your life: the warm weather, your family’s health and all the great adventures we can have at home and wherever we spend our time off.

How will you spend your summer? How do you rest and relax during this time of the year?

Speaking of resting…I’ll be taking a break from writing for the next few weeks and will return following the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the rest of your summer!