Dear Old Dad

How are you celebrating Father’s Day today?

Every year on Father’s Day, we think about our dads. Favorite memories come up. For me it’s celebrations after swim meets, running road races together as a child and teen, seeing him cheer me on regardless of the situation, helping me with math or a science project, watching sports together, or having him acknowledge me and what I have to offer the world. I am fortunate, my dad was and is present and takes his role seriously.

Dad’s are important. I can’t imagine who I would be or what I would be doing professionally if he weren’t there guiding me through life. So for all the dad’s out there I say, “Thank you!” Your daughter(s) and son(s) are paying attention and grateful for you — your guidance, your presence and your love.

How will you celebrate your father today? What gifts, as a parent, are you giving your child as their father?

Happy Fathers Day!

Cabin Fever

Do you live where there is snow and/or ice?

I have a love/hate relationship with snow. It’s beautiful when it falls, there is something peaceful about it. Yet, when the temperature drops I feel my anxiety rise.

A recent storm happened during the week. As the snow fell, my mind wondered from work and I started fretting about picking up my kids from school. Would the roads be icy? What would traffic be like? Should I head out early? Thankfully, I was able to break away from work and get everyone home safely.

The storm kept my boys out of school for a few days. At first, they loved it. Building a snowman, having a snow ball fight, then coming inside and watching cartoons. They were in heaven for a while, but after a few days their glee turned to boredom. My oldest son even told me, “I hope we can go back to school tomorrow.” You know things are bad when your middle schooler wants to go back to school. ūüėä

Thankfully the schools were back open the following day. On the heels of this storm, another storm is on its way. You’d think my kids would be happy to have more snow, but they’ve told me they’re ‘over it.’ My sons can’t meet up with friends and do their normal activities. They are feeling restless. They even think our cat has cabin fever (our indoor/outdoor cat hates going out in the snow, but also hates staying indoors all day).

We’re trying to figure out how to spend our time together as we remain home bound. We’re grateful for electricity. We’re grateful for warmth, and a roof over our head. I’m sure we’ll figure it out — whether it’s playing board games, working on puzzles, watching a movie or baking together. I love the time together, but could do without the snow.

Has weather ever kept you and your family at home for an extended period of time? How did you and your family combat cabin fever?

March with Me

What causes are important to you and your family?

My son came home from school in December and said, “Mom, the Women’s March is coming up in January, will you march with me?” I was so consumed with all the holiday obligations going on, it hadn’t crossed my mind what might be coming up in January. “That sounds great, but why are you so interested in doing the March?,” I asked. “Because our teacher gave us a choice — participate in a event for a cause and write a 300-word essay about your experience, *or* don’t participate and write a ten page paper on the topic.” I could see the choice was easy for him. He certainly liked the idea of the shorter written assignment, and I believe he felt a bit ‘left out’ when I marched in the 2017 March without him. He wanted to see what all the buzz was about.

The buzz was noticeably less this year — you’ve potentially heard about factions in the leadership levels, numbers of people thinking why bother, what’s going to change, and there was a part of me that was asking myself the same questions — do I want to do this? There is a million excuses I could use not to walk — I’ve got other things to do, I’m tired, the weather isn’t great, etc. But of course I wanted to participate, even if it wasn’t necessarily convenient — I needed to set an example for my son that there are things worth fighting for, and you have to show up sometimes (even when you’re tired, have other things to get done, etc.) because it’s just that important.

I tried to get my son prepared for smaller numbers at the March, he had heard me tell the store many times how overwhelming (in a good way) it was at the numbers of people who came out in 2017 and I was afraid he’d be disappointed, “there may not be a lot of folks here, I really don’t know what to expect.” He responded soon after we arrived, “Mom, there’s a lot of people here, what were you talking about?” I shrugged. “Guess I was wrong,” I smiled.

The organizers brought up several speakers who spoke on many topics including equality, inclusion and safety for women, kids, LGBTQ, immigrants, the poor and Native Americans. Several people came to the March because they are angry at our country’s leadership, and someone started a chant against the current administration. My son was quick to point out, “This isn’t about Trump. This is about what’s wrong with our country and what we need to do to fix it.” He wanted to spend less time complaining about the problem and hearing ways people could fix it. I was impressed.

We started walking with the crowd, and the number of people participating and cheering on the walkers, seemed to grow as we walked along the route. The atmosphere was very positive and uplifting, people were angry, but being surrounded by so many people that want the same things — working together, being kind to one another, making things safer, more accessible for everyone — reminded me of the good we have in every community.

We finished the March and I asked my son what stood out to him about the day. “The number of people,” he said. We checked the numbers on the way home. I’d underestimated how large the crowd was. I said probably a few thousand were there, my son guessed around 50+ thousand. The news confirmed over 85K came — wow!

I can’t wait to march again next year. I think the teacher’s assignment to have the kids participate in a cause was a brilliant idea. I hope either my son on his own, or by incentive of his teachers asks me the same question next year. “Mom, will you march with me?” Yes. Yes. Yes.

What cause is important to you and your family? What motivates you to take action?

Love at 10

What did you think love was when you were 10?

I only knew love at 10 in two forms: real – love from my parents; family and the occasional nod from the family pet; and what I thought love was supposed to be – what I saw on TV,¬† and in movies. I can remember my first crush at nine — a classmate in my 3rd grade class. I liked him not only because he was handsome, but because I thought he was nice and we could easily talk at school. I didn’t get flustered or conscientious when I was around him, he seemed to like me for me. I didn’t know what to do with my feelings. I was fearful that if I said anything he might reject the idea of us (and therefore me), and didn’t want to risk it. I hoped he might feel the same way and also be struggling with how to share his feelings, but I found out soon enough, that was not the case, when he asked a classmate and close friend of mine to be his girlfriend. I was, in fact, crushed, and if memory serves me right, I voiced this to him. I recall a brief exchange where he wanted me to talk to him about problems he was having with his girlfriend — I heard him out, told him I had no clue how to help him, and ensured I caught his eye. “This wouldn’t have happened with me,” I said (wow, where did I get the guts to say that? I thought). His eyes widened ever so briefly as he had an ‘aha’ moment, he maintained eye contact, smiled a big understanding smile as though he liked the thought (I smiled back), then almost as quickly broke eye contact, cast his head down and frowned realizing the situation he was in. It was nice to understand for a brief moment that maybe he felt the same way I did, and just didn’t know how to express himself.¬† In my youth, I was always disappointed we weren’t able to maintain the friendship we’d previously had after that point. I moved away a year later and that was that.

My youngest, thankfully, is way ahead of where I was at when I was 10. His Asperger’s gives him clarity on what he likes and doesn’t like, and the ability to voice his opinion without any hesitation (it can be an inspiration and strength in certain situations; a challenge we have to work to overcome in others). He decided this year for Valentine’s Day he wanted to do something with his ‘girlfriend’. Instead of us parents commiserating and deciding where the kids go and what they do, we left it up to them. “Why don’t you call her and ask her what she’d like to do?” I suggested. My husband role-played the phone call with my son to prepare him. He called her and the exchange was pretty priceless. He asked her what she wanted to do, she suggested going to the Aquarium and my son said, “I could be okay with that. I don’t really care where we go. I super-duper don’t really care.” Okay, so we have some work to do on phone etiquette. He hung up the phone and we realized he hadn’t confirmed a time and logistical details. He called back and finalized the afternoon with her. We talked about what he wanted to get her for Valentine’s Day after. He said ‘a card’ and I offered that we might get her something in addition to the card. His thoughts went to candy, mine went a different direction. “What about a wrist corsage,” I asked, “Its small flowers that you can wear on your wrist. She likes flowers, do you think she might like something like that?” My son smiled. “Yes, she would. Let’s get her that!” Okay, so I intervened a little on this one — guiding him to get the girl a present I probably would have flipped over when I was her age.

My son is very clear on what he likes — family, cats and anyone who is nice to others; geography and pretty much everything associated with it; acting/drama; drawing; and his girlfriend. There is no waffling, uncertainty, or ability for anyone not to understand how he feels. It’s a clarity I wished I had more fully owned when I was his age. Clarity around who and what you love seems to make life so much easier.

What does your child love?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Falling in Love — Don’t Go Changing

Who was your first crush? How did you let them know you liked them? Were you yourself, or did you change yourself to try to be what you thought they’d want you to be?

My youngest is learning about love. He has had a girlfriend for several years. He adores her, and has already planned out their future life (where they’ll live, the number of kids they’ll have and their names). But, he has a new friend at school who insists she loves him. She’s new to his class and sits next to him.

With my youngest being on the autism spectrum, he struggles with social cues. Picking up on others non-verbal communication (facial expression, body stance, proximity, etc.) and sometimes struggles with their meaning. He often takes others very literally, but in the case of this young woman, he is confused when she says “I love you.”

I recently went to my son’s school to see him participate in a fundraiser (Walk-a-thon). His classmate was there and he introduced me. She said “Seriously?” with a nervous giggle. And when my son confirmed I was indeed his mom she said, “Well, please don’t take him away from me because I really like talking to him.” I was a little confused by this statement because there was no discussion prior around anyone taking anyone else away.¬† After watching my son with her for a little while I started to understand why this girl had feelings for my son.

My son doesn’t have many friends. He is a very lovable kid, but not understanding social cues has made it difficult for him to truly bond with others. This girl likes my son as he is. She doesn’t expect him to act a certain way, or want him to change. My son only knows how to be himself. He likes talking to this girl. He likes that she likes him as he is. He is excited by the prospect of having a friend. What I picked up at the Walk-a-thon was that my son is showing this girl attention she isn’t used to, he accepts her as she is, and isn’t looking for her to change. I know if I ever came across a boy who had so easily accepted me as I was at their age, I probably would have liked him too.

Now my son is dealing with a girl who doesn’t understand the way my son’s mind works, and mistakes his interest in having a friend, as him being interested in her as more than a friend. She recently wrote him a letter that he brought home. It read something to the effect of, “Are you mad at me? I hope not, because I love you and I miss talking to you. Please don’t break my heart.” It broke my heart reading it. She is so courageous to be so open and sure about her feelings. My son doesn’t love her. My son does like having a friend, and thinks this girl is nice. I’m not sure how she will understand that. My son has tried telling her, “I just want to be friends” after getting some coaching from my husband and his older brother, but she seems to be holding out hope that he will change his mind.

As a young person, I would have been crushed if I had had the guts to tell a boy I liked him and then he rejected me (telling me he just wanted to be friends would have felt like a rejection). When I was their age, I didn’t have the guts. I am aware of how we form opinions of who we are and what we have to offer the world early in life. When we don’t feel like we are accepted or our affections reciprocated it allows the seed of “I’m not good enough” to take hold. I don’t want my son’s friend to not feel she’s good enough. I’m not sure my son could or would handle it differently if he didn’t have the challenges that come with being on the spectrum. Maybe he would have not be so open to being friends with her, maybe he would have been more conscientious about how he was behaving around her or other girls. I’d rather him be who is as he is. Not getting caught up in ‘appearances’ — what you look like, who you’re friends with, what activities you’re into, where you live, etc. — is refreshing. People like this are rare. I get why this young person loves my son. I only hope that she can accept he likes her as she is, and she can like herself that way too.

How have you stayed true to who you are in relationship? How are you helping your child avoid the “I’m not good enough” seed from starting to grow?

No Sugar Coating

When I sat down to write this, I intended to write something light-hearted, maybe even something inspired by the newly released Beauty and the Beast movie, but I couldn’t after my son shared a story about his friend experiencing racism.

It’s not an easy topic to discuss, but the conversation I’ve had with my son has stayed with me since we had it, and I¬†need to get this out.

Have you talked to your child about racism?

I’ve never felt equipped to talk about racism to¬†my children because I’ve experienced very little racism myself.¬† Gender inequality and sexism I can speak volumes to, but I’m no expert on racism. I can remember when my oldest son first learned about Rosa Parks in kindergarten and became obsessed with understanding why¬†African-Americans were treated so unfairly. “Why did¬†black people¬†have to sit in the back of the bus in the first place?” he asked. I’d respond with something along the lines of “People were small minded”, “People were ignorant”, or “It’s complicated, but know that it was wrong and¬†horribly unfair.”

Both my boys have questioned racism over the years, particularly anytime they’ve overheard a news report. “Why did the police officer shoot that man who was running away from him?” “What’s going¬†on in¬†Ferguson?” “Why don’t some people like Obama?” Each time, my husband and I¬†have attempted to answer their questions, but I’ve¬†never felt like we gave adequate responses. For me, the hardest thing I’ve had to try to explain to my children as their parent is why adults behave badly. And when I hear (or see) another adult being visibly racist its the epitome of adults behaving badly in my book. Children learn from adults,¬†so¬†as teachers of our children we¬†are all¬†responsible for racism continuing (whether we are the ones perpetrating it or standing by and letting it happen).¬†Now, I know there are many reasons why many of us aren’t more vocal or willing to take action when we see it: we fear retaliation,¬†we think it’s none of our business, or because we’re complacent and/or complicit; but what does that teach our kids?

Earlier this week, my son came home from school and asked “why are people still so racist?” I asked him what he was talking about, as he was clearly upset. “Shawn (who is a black friend of his) told me he was playing outside with his brothers over the weekend¬†and a neighbor called the cops of them. They weren’t doing anything wrong, they were just playing. Why would someone do that?” he asked, then added, “He was pretty scared, but thankfully the cop told him that he wasn’t doing anything wrong and he wasn’t going to be arrested and not to worry about it.” I was stunned, and saddened. The only “crime” Shawn was guilty of was being black in a¬†predominantly white part of town. I live in a¬†liberal-minded, highly diverse city,¬†and foolishly thought things like this didn’t still happen here. But it did.¬†If my son had been doing the same thing his friend had, no one would have called the cops on him. I moved from sad to mad. I wanted to do something about it, but was at a loss. I had no idea who called the police. I couldn’t confront them. All I knew to do was talk to my son about what happened.¬†I shared¬†his anger in what happened,¬†we talked about what¬†Shawn must have gone through and how scary that must have been; and that what happened wasn’t right. I felt good that¬†we acknowledged the injustice, but felt helpless to right this wrong.

I’m hate racism (the irony of this statement is not lost on me). ¬†There’s no way to sugar coat this. It’s ugly.¬†I don’t see the benefit in breaking each other down and holding each other back.¬†How do we get through the hate (or fear or whatever is allowing this to continue) and get to the other¬†side of understanding and acceptance?¬†How do we become a culture that wants to help¬†each other¬†not hurt each other.¬†I¬†feel ill-equipped¬†to¬†address this beyond my family. But starting at home is exactly where it should begin, right? It starts with me as my kids’ parent. It starts with you.

How are you teaching your child to accept and care for others that are different from them?

I Love You

How do you express love for one another in your family?

In our family there are the obvious signs–hugs whenever¬†the kids will¬†let me give them one, and kisses on the check at bedtime–and the less obvious signs–being present with them, listening to them, and trying to teach or help them with something when they are curious or struggling–love comes in many forms.

My oldest is starting to ‘outgrow’ hugs and kisses which is bittersweet. I knew this time would come. My youngest loves hugs, getting kisses on the cheek and saying, “I love you!” In fact, he¬†enjoys saying ‘I love you’¬†so much, we’ve determined he means it sometimes, and other times uses it as a¬†diversionary tactic: to delay having to set the table, or get started on homework. It’s not uncommon for you to ask him to do one of these tasks and hear in response, “Mom, I love you!” or “Dad, I love you!” While it’s very sweet, my husband and I realize what he’s up to. Still I’m amazed that he figured out¬†how to use the phrase to his advantage at such a young age.

Getting the kids to¬†take¬†a bath¬†or shower¬†can be¬†a struggle, particularly for our youngest. He will delay the inevitable¬†as long as he can,¬†then go into the bathroom and take his time getting cleaned and/or getting dressed. After a shower one morning, as I was trying to prompt him to hurry up to dry off and get dressed quickly so we could get out of the house to school and work,¬†he didn’t fuss or simply say, “Okay, Mom.” Instead he said from the other side of the door, “I love you, Mom.” I replied, “I love you too, but we need to hurry!” After several more minutes he emerged, still with a towel around him, but with a big grin on his face. “Urgh! Why aren’t you ready?” I asked. He gestured towards the fogged-up¬†mirror. On it I could see in his handwriting the words: To Mom, I Love You.¬† How could I stay mad? This time his message felt part diversionary tactic, part love letter. Regardless, I treasured his simple message. It’s not everyday your morning gets interrupted by a proclamation of love. It’s one of those moments I’ll remember forever.

When has your child caught you off-guard with their love for you?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

What Brings Us Together

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. An American tradition of coming together with family and friends and watching the big game, while enjoying rich food and celebrating competition.

Our family found the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet in recent years¬†which airs at the same time as the Super Bowl. In the Puppy Bowl they do an animal take on the big game with puppies of different breeds playing together.¬†And while there¬†is some competition (e.g. which dog will finish the task first) it is more about watching these adorable animals interact.¬†My youngest son loves puppies and anything ‘cute’ so the Puppy Bowl is a hit for him. My oldest son, husband and I found it quite cute ourselves after watching it for a few minutes. It is much more enjoyable for us¬†than watching violent hits, boasting players and beer commercials, and I should note I actually like watching football normally. The Super Bowl just seems like a game on steroids (literally and figuratively?).

With all the chaos of the last week the Puppy Bowl got me thinking. Animals don’t differentiate between people. Animals are eager and willing to meet (and play) with people they have¬†just met happily (unless, of course,¬†they have been mistreated). We should take a lesson from the animals playbook.¬†¬†Our pets and our love for them¬†bring us together.¬† People from all races, religions, and countries love their pets. People’s love for¬†these creatures¬†is universal. Animals have a magical quality of meeting us where we are, and excepting us how we are without judgement. They provide love, comfort, companionship,¬†and joy (and much more). My sons love animals and are asking us for a pet (and we’re hoping there may be some in our future). My husband and I grew up with animals and remember how important they were to us.

Puppies aren’t the only cute critters having a¬†bowl game today. There is also¬†the Kitten Bowl on the Hallmark Channel.¬†My¬†youngest is looking forward to seeing both the kittens and puppies play, and so is the rest of my family. We might tape the ‘big game’ and fast forward through to see the commercials later, and while either the Patriots or Falcons will become the Super Bowl Champions,¬†the animals are winning out this year.

How is your family celebrating it being Super Bowl Sunday?  What do you and your family love most about animals?

 

The Greatest Gift I got from my Dad

What are your best memories of your father?

A flood of memories come pouring back in each Father’s Day. I can see my dad rooting me on when I played a sport, I can remember him teaching me¬†skills I needed¬†to be independent, I¬† can recall watching many a college football game together. There are many, many wonderful memories. While my father gave me many gifts, there was one in particular I hold above most others, he gave me the gift of knowing myself. There are moments in time, when he would help show me what I have to offer (to another person, to a sport, to myself or to the world) simply by telling me what he’d observed. It made me feel recognized, valued and appreciated. Too often in life, you can think no one is paying attention. My dad¬†ensured I knew that wasn’t the case.¬†It’s the greatest gift he’s ever given me. I don’t think he realizes the impact those conversations have had. I’m grown now, but still cherish these talks when we have them¬†and I’ll miss them desperately when he’s gone. In my eyes, while not a perfect man, he’s the perfect dad.

As you raise your child, what special memories are you creating that they’ll remember future Father’s Days from now? What’s your most treasured memories from your own dad.

Happy Father’s Day!

First Kiss

Do you remember your first kiss?

My youngest has a ‘girlfriend’ that he’s known since kindergarten. Now, you wouldn’t know they are boyfriend and girlfriend because they barely interact with each other when in close proximity. But there are these moments when they are inseparable. It doesn’t take much, when one of them initiates doing something with the other.

There was an “engagement” last summer when, during a day at summer camp, they decided they wanted to plan out their life and make it official. Our families had a picnic to celebrate their plans. We have some great pictures of them. While their pretend ceremony was very¬†innocent, and they posed for pictures as though they were kissing, they actually did not. My youngest was fine with this, and thought all of it was good fun.

His girlfriend moved to another school this year, so their interaction has been even less with the exception of the occasional playdate. When she last¬†came over to play, they did what the normally do, they sat in the same room, but proceeded to read books and not actually play together. As their playdate was ending, his friend suddenly decided they needed to play a quick board game (is that even possible?) and while her mom and I allowed them to play for a few minutes, we were working to wrap it up so everyone could go home. While her mother and I were talking, the kids decided to resume their almost ceremonially kiss pose they had at the picnic. I have no idea what prompted this, as it happened so quickly. After seeing what they were up to, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but it didn’t take long to figure it out. My son went in for the kiss this time and was smiling from ear-to-ear following. It was very sweet. I was happy for him that his first kiss was with a girl he really liked. I was happy that he didn’t have to go through the fretting I did in wondering when the first kiss would happen and who would it be with. It also felt like I just passed a milestone with my son way earlier than I’d anticipated. Of course, every milestone¬†that¬†occurs reminds me how quickly my sons are growing up. And while things can move fast in life, I’m don’t want it to go by at such a rapid pace.¬†¬†I realize this is a bit out of my control, but boy, would I love to slow down time sometimes.

How do you experience milestones with your child?