Crossroads

My oldest has asked to play football since he was very young. We were against tackle (due to brain injury concern, and the potential for him being exposed and potentially embracing toxic masculinity), but relented following our son being in flag football for many years, COVID isolating us all, and his need to see his dream through.

His first year, it was a shortened season—only four games, but they won most, and he had fun. The second year was a bit more eye-opening for him. He’d get overly anxious before each game — being unable to eat and/or keep anything down. He’d have no energy during the games (you don’t play optimally when you’re tired), and would be starving. All distractions. Workouts were more intense, but that didn’t bother him—he likes pushing himself to be fitter. His teammates were all over the place. Seniors making the season as if it were life and death, and his peers goofing off half the time. It’s left him questioning ‘do I really want to keep doing this?’

My oldest shared with his father he was considering walking away from the game. My husband was taken aback and needed a few minutes to let it sync in. My husband shared what he’d heard when I got home later that evening. “He said he has an important decision to make here in a few weeks about whether he’ll play football or not next year.” We we’re both caught by surprise. I wanted to talk to my son and see if I could understand more of what was driving this.

Thankfully he was willing to talk. I asked him why his was questioning playing with the team. He had clearly been putting some thought into it as he’d put a pros and cons list together mental which he recited. He shared that he loves the team and preparing for the game (though grueling). He hated how anxious he got, and it not allowing him to perform to his ability. He hated the range of attitudes by the players—overly serious (this is life and death), or immaturity, and some toxic masculinity (let’s hit something, pound chests, etc.). I could see how conflicted he was — loving the game, not loving all the comes with it. He was at a crossroads.

I started by telling him that playing, or not playing, was his decision but wanted to give him some things to consider before making the call. I started by talking about his teammates and the effect the pandemic had (which we all don’t fully understand yet) on younger people. “The seniors were overly serious because they got gypped out of two regular seasons due to the virus. They had a brief taste in the shortened season in the Spring of last year and wanted to see what they were capable of. Regarding your peers, studies have already shown maturity lacking in teen age groups due to the virus. Give tour peers through the summer and I’d guess they’ll act more age-appropriate.” I let that sink in for a minute then continued, “Regarding pre-game nerves. We can get you help with that through the doctor and bring in others like a sports psychologist to give you tools. The coach talked to you already about the leadership potential he sees in you, right?” My son nodded his head. “You have the opportunity to lean into being a leader. You followed last year because you thought that was your place, but you are growing and others see the potential in you. You have the opportunity to lead, people respect and listen to what you have to say.” This seemed to get him thinking based on his facial expression. “The last thing I’d like you to think about is not having regrets. You need to think through would you regret not playing sometime down the road, and if the answer is yes, than reconsider.” I shared a story with him about my own high school sports experience. I’d played on the golf team. The game was mentally taxing. I was good, but not great. I took it seriously, but not life or death. I recall questioning myself each year, but particularly before my senior year if I really wanted to subject myself to all the mental stress again. I ultimately decided I would regret it if I didn’t see it through, and I’m so glad I did. I have great memories, continued to improve my game, and got to be a mentor/roll model to the younger players. It was very satisfying.

My son is at a crossroads. My husband and I can only guide him at this point. I don’t want him making a decision he’ll wish he hadn’t later. As a parent, I feel the need to step back and let him make up his mind, and show that we trust him to make decisions that are right for him. He’s becoming an adult after all and needs to learn how to make ‘big’ decisions he can live with. It’s a bit unsettling as a parent to start letting go, but that’s the only way he’ll grow.

What crossroads has your child faced? How are you helping them make decisions for themselves that they feel good about?

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?

Fundraising

What has your child had to fundraise for?

I sold cookies, candy bars, a game of Monopoly based on our local town, and wrapping paper to fundraise growing up. I asked for sponsorship in walks, runs, and other physical feats to raise money to fund trips (camp, mission trips, school outing), or a good cause (awareness, research, prevention). While all things needed the money I never felt comfortable doing it (particularly when I sold things no one wanted, like the Monopoly game based on my local town).

Fast forward to present day, my son has been asked to raise money for his sport. The funding will help pay for equipment, uniforms and other things the staff and team need. They are asking each child to send out an email to 20 people they know (family and friends) asking for financial support. In normal times I would most likely be okay with this, however, with COVID and how it has impacted so many, not to mention what seems like non-stop natural disasters (flood, fire, hurricane, etc.) everywhere you look, it doesn’t feel right. I get the program needs the money. I also get that the staff are underpaid and don’t have the extra money to cover (nor would I expect them to) the costs to fund the sports program adequately. My son and I discussed.

“You know you’re supposed to be asking others for money for the team?,” I asked. “Really? No one said anything,” he shared. I explained that the parents had received several notices and that he had to set up a page and it tracked how many people they sent the solicitation out to (by # of unique emails, and by unique donation). There were prizes he could win if enough individual people donated. I then shared my discomfort with him doing this due to COVID, and so many hurting. His father and I could make a donation to hopefully cover what was needed from him. He said he agreed. I’m sure he felt relieved he wouldn’t have to ask others for money as well.

Raising money is something we all do to help fund the underfunded or good causes. It can be uncomfortable but rewarding when we see positive progress, or outcomes. Did our son miss out on an opportunity to learn the pros and cons of fundraising? In this scenario, yes. But he has fundraised before selling pumpkins, and Christmas trees, so he knows what goes into raising money including hard labor, selling a product, and helping give the customer good service so he increases his chances of a return (happy) customer. He’s even shared that it felt like they really earned the money when they raised it this way.

Solicitation for fundraising is an easier way to bring in money for a cause, but can also be oh, so uncomfortable. Am I missing out on an opportunity for my son to learn life lessons by not having him participate, possibly. But our hope is that he’ll be on the team in future years and we can revisit fundraising this way hen it feels more appropriate (more people are doing financially better).

How does your family handle fundraising requests? How do you handle any discomfort with asking or being asked?

Vaccination

Shots are never fun regardless of your age, but when has a shot ever been something you looked forward to?

My boys were happy when my husband and I became eligible for the COVID vaccine in our state. They were elated when they were able to sign up to get their shots more recently.

One the day of his first vaccination shot, my youngest (who hates shots) was so excited he practically ran to the chair when it was his turn. No hesitancy to give the nurse his arm, relax, etc. Once he had his shot, he was elated. His reaction was much like my husband’s and mine — excited, relieved, hopeful. My oldest was the same with his shot, but played it much cooler – that’s what 15 year olds do, right?

The boys have figured out when they will be fully vaccinated, have made notes on their respective days on the family calendar, and can’t wait to fully re-engage with friends, in activities, and more once the date arrives and beyond.

There is a collective sigh of relief from us all. How fortunate are we that we lived through this. How fortunate that we’ll get to (more fully) live again. So grateful for science and medical folks that figured this out. My boys saw the shot as a gift, and I do too.

How is your child with shots? How are you re-engaging in activities as things start to re-open?

I will be off next week to enjoy the long weekend with family and will be back in June.

The Nutcracker and a New Year

What has reminded you most of the holidays being different this year?

Not being able to be with family and friends really struck home during Thanksgiving. Turning on the TV this past week and seeing The Nutcracker performed, really drove it home for me for Christmas. I was ready for no parties, or gatherings. I was ready not to go to any shows, movies or ballets. But seeing The Nutcracker on a local station being performed by our local ballet company solidified how different things are.

My youngest son joined me to see The Nutcracker at our local theater a few years back. Being there in person, hearing the music and feeling the vibrations from the orchestra as they play, watching talented dancers of all ages perform, and the excitement and gratitude the crowd felt just to be there appeared universal by all in attendance. It was special. Yet, sitting here in my home, seeing the ballet felt equally special. I didn’t have to go out into public, risk exposure to the virus to see a performance that can bring such joy.

I attempted to get my boys to join me to watch the performance. My youngest was playing Minecraft with friends online. My other on the phone with a friend. Ah, teens. It didn’t really matter. I lowered the lights to mimic the theatre and sat back. I could imagine being there in person with my family beside me. It was a mixture of nostalgia for what was, and hope for what can be — seeing the ballet live again one day soon.

This year has been one that required awareness, guidance, patience, reflection, support, community, and love to make it through. While a hard year, it was a year of growth for our family, and I’m guessing for many of yours. I look forward to how 2021 will be different. How we grow together. I’d say ‘go back to normal’ but my sense is even that will have changed. I look forward most to reconnecting, and being able to hug others again. I do so look forward to the New Year.

What is bringing you and your family joy this holiday season? What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?

I will be off the next few weeks to enjoy time with family and will be back in January.

The Christmas Letter

Do you send out cards for the holidays?

Every year we send out cards to friends and family. We like to include both pictures (so our loved ones can see how the kids have grown), and a letter that outlines what we’ve been up to. This year’s card I wondered if including a letter would be worth it, haven’t all of us (for the most part) been up to the same things for the past 9ish months?

I decided to give it a try. After getting the opening out of the way (how do you best start a greeting during a pandemic?), I launched into the details of what our boys were up to, what my husband and I are up to, and things that helped us during the year. Putting the words down in writing showed me that while life often felt like it’s been on pause, we’ve actually been doing a lot of living, and growing, and listening, and talking. We’ve been creative in how we connect with others — my oldest riding bikes with his best buddy, and my youngest connecting with his peers over a virtual game night — are two of many examples of how we found ways to enjoy it.

Writing the letter reminded me to keep finding joy in the present, pandemic or post-pandemic. And help my boys keep finding joy as well. We’ve got a lot more living to do.

What happened this year for you and your family that’s brought you joy?

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.

Wait For It

Since the pandemic started time has been a funny thing. Dragging by and then suddenly speeding up, then slowing, speeding up, and so on.

The summer was probably the hardest for us. With school over, and no ability to really do anything with friends or travel, the long-ness of the situation set in. My kids complained often how bored they were. We all were.

Then school started back up and time picked back up with it. Not to the pace it was pre-pandemic but faster than it had been. We were grateful. Then the anxiety of the upcoming election set in, the economy crumbling, people suffering increased, and time almost seemed suspended — like being in an alternate universe. Yet time marched on.

Halloween came and went, and we got a sense for how the holidays will be different this year, foregoing some of our annual traditions to be safe. We held our breathe with the election. Then it was over and we exhaled. We almost shout with glee when we learned a vaccine is coming. But time is funny. The virus starts spiking, the vaccine will come but time slows, we have more waiting to do.

My boys are desperate to be with their friends again. We’re all having quarantine fatigue but have to stay the course until we’re actually vaccinated—so we play the waiting game.

It’s hard to be still and wait. You learn patience as a parent, or at least I did, with my kids. When you’re young, waiting for something can be so hard. Remember what it felt like on Christmas Eve (or morning) when you had to wait just a little longer to see what Santa brought? Waiting can feel like torture, but it does eventually pass. It almost always does. We just have to wait for it.

How are you and your family making it through the pandemic? What helps you make waiting easier or more bearable?

Exhausted

Does your child ever struggle with sleep?

My youngest became a good sleeper after we put him in the same bedroom with his older brother at the age of one. He has been our power sleeper for many years. We’ve often joke at how he can sleep through anything — high winds (he slept through it), rain coming into our tent (he slept thorough it), and the list goes on.

Lately our son has been having trouble sleeping — either having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. We’ve talked about ways to help – no food or water near bedtime, no screen time leading up to bed, and nothing seems to help. He’s not overly worried about it, but you can tell it’s bothering him. He rather liked thinking of himself as a power sleeper.

He was asked to watch the Presidential Debate for school so his class could discuss our political process the following day. Thank goodness he was only required to watch 30 minutes. He and I agreed, every minute of it was painful. It was only a few nights after that he shared he’d woken in the middle of the night and for whatever reason he was feeling anxious and scared. When I asked him if he knew what caused him to feel this way he couldn’t point to anything in particular. The way he described it it sounded like generalized anxiety. Like many these days there is much to worry about — COVID-19, equal justice, climate change, the economy, and politics. It’s enough to make anyone lose sleep.

As a family, we agreed that since the kids can remote school from anywhere we might as well take advantage of it. Because we’re all exhausted we need to take the opportunity for change in scenery. We need to find joy in the new, and gratitude for all the things we have. We’re hoping we’ll even get some good sleep. That would be amazing.

How does your child sleep? How do you help them when they struggle to get a good night’s rest?

I’ll be away for the next few weeks spending time with family and will be back in November.

Enjoying Exercise

Have you found your child more sedentary since COVID began?

My oldest has always been active. You rarely see him sitting or laying around, he’s always moving, dribbling or throwing a ball, or getting out doors. My youngest has been active-resistant. 😊 We’ve always encouraged moving your body as something needed to live a long healthy life. My son gets it, but it’s not been a great motivator for him. We’ve exposed him to different ways he can move (outside of walking and exercise), but he’s resisted. Until his older brother asked him to work out with him.

Imagine our surprise when our youngest eagerly went to work out with his brother. Our oldest has really taken to physical fitness and saw an opportunity to engage with his brother. He asked me about it prior to asking his brother. “I want him to live a long, healthy life. I want him to be around for a while.” I smiled and said, “You know what this says about you, right?” “I don’t know,” he answered, “that he should exercise?” “No,” I said, “that you care about your brother. That you love him.” He suppressed his smile until he couldn’t any longer. “Yea, I guess you’re right,” he concluded.

It is neat to see our sons come together with this activity. My husband and I have done some self-reflection and asked ourselves —shouldn’t we be doing this for our youngest son? But we agreed that he would have fought us, and done anything we asked half-heartedly, while working out with his brother is something he enjoys. And instead of doing the minimum being asked, he’s doing his best. I think he realizes he’s brother cares about him too. Bonus!

What is your child doing to stay active during the pandemic? How are you or a family member helping them?