A Quiet Place

Things seem quieter now, right?

Having the out-of-the-house distractions go away at first was difficult. We are used to having noise around us. If you are like me, prior to the pandemic having the house be quiet — no sounds coming from from kids, my screens making noise, or the sounds of running, playing or arguing — felt good for a little bit, but inevitably the silence would turn to discomfort. I’d get a feeling I was wasting time and should be doing something. If I was doing something I would be making and/or hearing noise. Cue the tv or radio coming on (at a minimum). Hearing noise would calm me.

But now there is a lot less noise all the time — less traffic on the street, no groups of people gathering, no sounds of sports being played, or the kids running around outside with their friends — part of it makes me long for the past, but I’m hopeful for the future and know the noises will return eventually.

I’m trying to really embrace the quiet. When I talk to parenting groups it’s one of the tools I recommend — making quiet time for inward reflection. To inquire within yourself how are you doing and what do you need. It’s a great opportunity to just listen and see how your mind responds. When I do this I’m often surprised by what I hear — you need a hug, you need a break, you need to hear it’s going to be okay. I feel better once I can identify my need(s) and acknowledge getting them addressed (my husband and youngest son are always willing to give good hugs; my kids can help in the house and yard or cook a meal; my husband is always there to tell me it’s going to be okay). If something comes up they can’t address, I seek out others for what I need — talking to my girlfriends to keep those connections going, checking in on my parents to make sure they are okay, etc.

While it being more quiet may make you uncomfortable I’d encourage you to lean into it and see what ahas you have around how you are doing and what you need.

How are you caring for yourself, so you can better care for your family, during this time?

I’ll be taking next Sunday off to celebrate the holiday.

Up, Up, and Away

Does your child like to travel?

My oldest has anxiety when he travels — specifically to new locations. He isn’t worried about mechanical problems or turbulence, but the length of the flight, getting bored or uncomfortable in his seat, and worried about worst case scenarios when he reaches his final destination — it being unsafe, or getting lost, etc. Leading up to his most recent trip, he started showing signs of his anxiety in a number of ways — complaining “I don’t want to go”, getting angry “this is so dumb”, and muttering under his breathe “this is so stupid”. Keep in mind he’s 14, so these reactions are common when he experiences anxiety or discomfort regardless the situation.

My husband and I deployed multiple methods of working to help him work through his feelings in the days leading up to his departure. We had numerous talks, went on multiple walks. We reminded him that while he may be anxious about the unknown (and reassuring him that it’s normal to feel this way) that everything was going to be okay.

He and I talked the night before he left on his trip. I tried to get him to think about his fears in a different context. “How long, and potentially boring, the flight is going to be is a good problem to have,” I said. He looked at me quizzically. “Think about it. There are kids whose family can’t afford to pay the rent, or struggle to put food on the table. To those kids, getting on a plane to go somewhere is a dream. The fact that you have this opportunity to see new places is a gift.” I could see, for a flicker of a moment, he understood what I was saying. He wasn’t done complaining or sharing his concerns with me, but I’m hopeful I got through to him and when his anxiety returns he can think of this is a larger context the problems that he’s experiencing are actually good ones to have, and instead enjoy the gift he’s being given.

How do you help you child when they have anxiety? How do you help them work through their feelings?

Who Do You Love?

What or who do you love?

My younger son can easily articulate what and who he loves. He says I love you to my husband and I without any discomfort, and for the most part is comfortable sharing his feelings openly and honestly with others. I think he is just wired this way. My oldest keeps his emotions close. He can come across as being quick to anger or unhappiness, but am now better understanding that it is his discomfort that is causing these emotional reactions.

I’m thinking of having my oldest keep a gratitude journal. Peggy Orenstein’s talk and my Head and Heart blog made me think this is one way we can help our son keep his head and heart connected. My hope is that by journaling he’ll grow to appreciate all the good things in his life, and that while disappoint and discomfort will happen there is a different way he can respond because he’ll remember he’s loved and has a lot of things to love in his life.

How does your child express their emotions? How are you helping them remember all that is positive in their life?

Seeing Parenting through Another’s Lens

How do you compare your parenting style to others?

It’s hard, right? I think I’m like many who assume others parent like I do. I certainly see flaws in myself and have areas for improvement in how I parent, but like to think I, like my peers, are parenting in much the same way.

My oldest son plays sports at his school. He’s brought one of his buddies with him to the car after practice, and asked if we could give him a ride home. I agreed, though would have been more comfortable getting this child’s parents approval before doing so. My son is at the age where everything I do embarrasses him, so instead of denying the friend, I agreed to take him home knowing I would want/need to discuss this with his parents. After the boys were in the car, the boy told me how to get to his house and then I mentioned I’d like to meet his parents. He agreed then shared,”I live with my Mom and Dad. Their actually my grandparents, but I call them Mom and Dad because they adopted me as a baby.” I could tell by the way he shared the information he’d said all he was going to say about the situation and I understood. We got out of the car so we could meet his (grand)parents. They were lovely people. The boys went off to his room. The (grand)mom gave me background on the situation without any prompting from me. Over sharing to the point of personal discomfort for me. The boy’s mom had struggled with addiction and wasn’t in his life. Nor was his father. They were doing everything possible to give him as normal a life as they can but it’s tough given their age and the situation.

I left the conversation feeling a range of emotions — I felt a bit overwhelmed hearing so much detail and not knowing what to do with it (the woman had been so open with me even though I didn’t know her), I felt empathy and compassion for the boy (I can only imagine how he deals with his mom and dad not being in his life), and grateful (that he had such loving and willing (grand)parents). I was see parenting from a different lens. I thought of other kids in similar situations that aren’t so lucky. It made me feel guilty and uncomfortable–feeling a need to find ways to better help such kids, but not being sure how to in our ‘it’s none of your business’ culture.

The conversation reminded me that we do not all parent the same, situations and how people approach raising kids are different. And different is okay. No judgment. As long as what’s best for the child is what drives our decisions and behavior.

How do you view the parenting of others? What do you learn or do differently when you’re confronted with seeing parenting in a new way?

I will be away for a few weeks enjoying time with family for Spring Break and Easter.

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?

Dealing with the Consequence

How do you handle discipline?

Some days I wish I were a stricter parent. That way when I’m handing out a consequence to my child, I wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable about it.

My oldest continues to adjust to middle school. Some days are good, others not so much. He had a bad day this week and decided to direct his displeasure at me. I talked to him calmly (as I always try to do with my kids) and asked him to take a breath, calm down, think about what you’re saying to no avail. I then went into warning mode — “if you can’t calm down and stop this behavior you are going to go straight to bed when we get home,” (mind you it was not much after 5 p.m.). I didn’t want to send him to his room but his behavior needed a consequence. He challenged me. “No you’re not. You’re going to come in my room, talk to me, and then I’m going to get out of my room.” Whoa, I thought, my son is right. I normally do talk to him about his behavior and do back off the consequence — he still has one, but it’s not as extreme as the first. I decided in that moment that I had to stay firm to the consequence I’d handed him. I wasn’t doing him any favors by letting him off the hook. “Not this time. You’re staying in your room and that’s that,” I said. I didn’t get an “I hate you” which surprised me, though I wouldn’t doubt he was thinking it. Instead I got a “this is stupid” which is what he says when he struggles with something or has a different view from someone else. “It’s not stupid. It’s necessary,” I continued, “the point of a consequence is so you learn from it, and hopefully don’t repeat the behavior again.” “Well, I’m going to do this again,” my son claimed. “Well, then I guess you’re going to have to get used to being in your room,” I concluded, “I always hated being in my room, I thought it was really boring, and when my parents handed me that consequence I usually learned from it, and I hope you do too.” He groaned and huffed off.

When we got home he dropped his back and went to his room. He slammed the door for affect. I didn’t go in and talk with him. I just let him sit. After an hour he said, “Okay, I get it, I’m grounded!” I didn’t respond. Just let him sit.

It’s not easy to let my child suffer the consequence of their actions, but its needed. When I don’t enforce the consequence I’m telling him he can get out of things or won’t be held accountable, and I fully expect that out in the world others will hold him accountable.

How do you handle giving your child a consequence when it makes you uncomfortable? How are you keeping your child accountable?