Report Card

How would you grade yourself as a parent?

Most of the time I’d tell you my husband and I are doing “okay” as parents — learning as we go, making mistakes, admitting to ourselves and our kids when we do, learning from them and correcting ourselves/doing better, working to impart wisdom, morals, values, and beliefs, and supporting our boys as they grow. Sometimes I feel like we’re doing well (A/B grading), but other times…

Our oldest doubled-down on not wanting to continue sports in the upcoming school year. He made some good points regarding why he wanted to step away, but his argument seemed to carry a thread of how hard it might be to continue and that was the biggest driver behind his decision. My husband and I knew that the life lessons he would gain by seeing it through were very valuable—you don’t quit when it gets hard, you find your way through. Yet how could we get him to understand and reconsider? We talked about what he would gain by staying, how it would help shape him and his confidence, and how we didn’t want him to look back and regret his decision later when there was nothing he could do about it (meaning he only has two years left in high school). He was standing firm. As much as I hoped he wouldn’t play tackle football due to potential head injury, I was now hoping beyond hope he’d change his mind. It felt like the downside of walking away outweighed the upside. I felt like I was failing my son.

Turn to my youngest. His class is going on an overnight camping trip done by a group called Journeymen. This groups helps develop skills amongst its campers around working together, and successfully completing tasks (such as building on outdoor structure to sleep under). The intention is for the campers to be pushed outside their comfort zone, but have success and grow as a result. My son’s class had participated in it when he was in the sixth grade and he was pushed almost too far (keep in mind he is on the spectrum and his brain isn’t wired to stand significant discomfort easily), that we ended up getting a call where my son pleaded with me to take him home. I told him I couldn’t and explained why it was important he stay (he needed to know that he could do it). He did stay, but was a bit traumatized by the whole experience and was good with never going back again, You can imagine his reaction when we told him his class would be returning. He broke down, got highly upset and stated repeatedly “I’m not going.” My husband and I jumped into trying to calm him. “It will be okay, you’ve grown since the last time and so have your classmates. It will be better.” He wasn’t buying it. After several minutes of being unsuccessful at talking-him-down, my husband offered a great suggestion—have our son talk to his teacher, express his concerns and share what would make him more comfortable going on the trip. Our son was still highly upset, but said he’d try.

That night my husband and I asked each other “are we doing this parent thing right?” Because we felt like we’d be given a F grade based on the recent interactions with our boys. What were we doing wrong? I didn’t sleep well that night wondering what I should be doing differently or better.

Fast forward to the next afternoon. Our youngest gets home from school all smiles. He’d talked to the teacher and the teacher was in agreement around what hadn’t been great the first time round and how it would be different this time. My son had gone from being fearful the prior day to excited about going on the trip. Our oldest got home a little later. Before my husband or I could get a “how was your day” out, our son announced he’d continue to play football and would reserve making any decisions until closer to the start of the season. He wasn’t committing long term, but giving himself more time to make a decision. My husband and I sighed in relief. Maybe my husband and I were doing better than we thought???

What made me feel immensely better was when we shared our failings with a group of friends, and they all shared times they felt like failures too on occasion regarding their kids. Each story was relatable, made us laugh, and while we are trying our best, and aren’t successful in every moment, we see growth in our kids and ourselves beyond.

How would you grade yourself as a parent on any given day? How are you getting through those times you feel like a failure or not living up to the example you are trying to set?

Nervous Wreck

Have you ever been nervous for your child?

My older son plays flag football. He loves it. He was fortunate enough last year to play on a team that had fantastic coaches. The kids on the team learned to work hard and have fun. Everyone got to play, and the best part of all was the kids won enough games to get themselves into the regional Super Bowl tournament. The tournament was intense, the competition more fierce and I was a nervous wreck. It was very hard to watch what was happening. I tried to distract myself by pacing and standing back from the crowd, but nothing could quell my nerves. I so wanted my son and his team to win.

They made it through the first three rounds in spectacular fashion (winning one, losing one, going into overtime and ultimately winning to go into the next round). They lost in the semi-final game, in a game that could have gone either way — the other team had the ball last and they won. I was exhausted afterwards — you would have thought I had played four games in a row on the field.

This year my son is playing on an even better team, with the same coaches, so the kids are continuing to work hard and have fun, but they are also winning. They just won the local city-wide championship and are in the regionals, starting with the semi-final game. Watching the local city-wide championship, I again was a nervous wreck. I watched it with another mom from the team, and commented to one of the players grandmother’s that was there watching, “This is aging me beyond belief.”

My angst forced me to reflect on what am I nervous about exactly? I have no influence or power to determine the outcome of any game. All I can do is lend support and encouragement. It says nothing about my son, or me, if his team wins or loses. I actually think you learn a lot more when you lose than when you win. I know my son wants the win desperately. He is such a fan of the game and I know he has pro-football-dreams like many his age. I know that I want this for him because of how happy this will make him. Of course, I also know how disappointed a loss would be (and having to deal with him being upset wouldn’t be fun, but it’s not something I get nervous about). If I really peel back the layers, I think my nerves are around “Am I doing right by my son?” Are my husband and I giving him the experiences and opportunities to experience things that will shape him to become the person we hope him to be? If the team wins or loses, will he use the experience to grow in a positive direction?  I don’t know the answer, but I do feel like I’m better understanding where my nerves stem from.

Parenting is full of worry and angst. When moments of success happen (your child succeeds at something) there is a moment of — I’m a pretty okay parent. Moments when they make a mistake, falter or fail can make you feel like maybe you’re not as great a parent as you think you are. I see my role as a teacher for my boys. Help them learn, grow (through missteps) and have success. It’s priceless when it happens.

I’ll never forget watching my son’s team win the local championship. The shear joy radiating across his face was magical. I know my nerves will return watching him in the regionals, but I’m glad I understand what’s behind them. And despite the outcome of the game, I’ll be there for him — to celebrate with him or pick him up.

What’s behind your nerves as a parent?

 

An Uncertain Future

With a new school year right around the corner, there is a lot of angst in our house. What will the new school year be like? Will my children fit in, make friends and be okay?

As parents, we ask ourselves these questions each year.

This year, my family will be at another crossroads. My oldest will be heading off to middle school. There is a lot of angst for him, even though he will be going to a school with many familiar faces, the unknown is concerning to him. The school is much larger than his elementary school (with almost 3x the number of students). It would be overwhelming to anyone. Throw in that he is quickly becoming a teen, and all that comes with it — being more self conscious and concerned with how others view you — and your anxiety would rise too. I remember middle school and I shudder. Of all my school years, it’s those that I wish I could have skipped. They were awkward, I never felt comfortable in my own skin, and experienced a heightened sense of needing to survive to get through those years. I’m desperately trying not to project my experience on my son, and am hopeful his time in middle school will be much better mine.

My younger will be in elementary school for the first time on his own. Of course, he too has many classmates who are familiar to him, but I’m anxious about how he will do on his own. Part of me knows I need to give him more credit. He’s a resilient kid, and will figure it out.

As a parent, I’m reminded during times like these how much is out of our control. I can certainly try to help my children prepare for the school year, but ultimately they will be the ones going to school and while I can help them as much as possible up front, I have to let go and let them fail or succeed on their own.

Parenting is tough when the future is uncertain. Have I done all I can to prepare them (with knowledge, insights, strategies for how to deal with different situations, etc.)? I guess we will see.

How do you help your kids get ready for the new school year? How do you help them navigate being in a new environment?