Lessons from the Corn Maze

Have you ever been lost?

It’s not a good feeling to be lost in an unfamiliar setting. Except, perhaps, when that unfamiliar setting is a corn maze.

We went to our favorite pumpkin patch with other family members to pick out pumpkins, snap pictures, and drink some cider. The kids wanted to do the corn maze. We’ve had varying degrees of success with corn mazes. When they were younger, we’d accompany the kids. As the children grew older they wanted to show us they could do the maze on their own. What’s the harm? we’d thought. One year four kids went in, three came out. We waited, and waited, and right around the time we were going to go in we saw my son walking through the corn. Not the maze. The corn. He had gotten so frustrated by the dead ends he’d decided he would make his own way out.

In our most recent trip, my nephew and brother-in-law went into the maze a few minutes after my boys and their older cousin had entered. We were surprised to seem them re-emerge before the older kids did. “Did you see the others?” I asked. He shook his head no. Hmmm. I wasn’t too concerned because I knew the kids would figure a way out — even if it meant walking out through the corn.

The kids finally emerged. They were laughing and at ease. “Did you all get lost?” I asked. “Yea,” my older son commented, “there were so many dead ends.” The kids walked on, un-phased by the situation they had come from. They left the maze behind without thought and walked towards wheelbarrows filled with pumpkins.

I thought about how often in life we can feel lost — the first day of school, moving to a new place, starting a new job, becoming a parent — and how you have to quickly figure out how to acclimate to make it through any discomfort you feel. There is always a way to work through being uncomfortable. Whether it’s taking a straight path (walking through the corn) or being willing to let yourself be lost for a while knowing you’ll eventually figure things out (like my kids and their cousin not letting the dead ends defeat them or dampen their experience).

How have you handled times when you felt lost? How are you helping your child acclimate when they do?

Aww Man

Do you have a brother or sister? If so, have you always gotten along?

My boys generally get along pretty well. They are opposites, for the most part, one like sports, and gaming. The other is interested in the arts, and geography. But, they have their moments. My oldest is a thinker, he’s not a big talker (communicator), and has been known to have a quick temper from time to time. My younger is easy-going, generally in good spirits, and can talk your ear off if he’s interested in the topic. Like any siblings, with their age difference, the older one can think the youngest is annoying or acting “like a baby.” The younger can be confused sometimes when he’s unclear what he’s done to upset or annoy his brother (and there are other times when he knows exactly what he did). 😊

Being in middle school, my youngest has shown an interest in learning Minecraft. My oldest first got into Minecraft in elementary school, grew bored with it but has recently experienced a renewed interest. [If you’re not familiar with Minecraft it’s a video game where you can build worlds, explore, gather, and do combat. There is somewhat of a cult following–with many enthusiasts, songs (parodies), blogs, videos, memes, etc.] Since my youngest is just starting to learn the game, he asked his brother for help. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw his big brother step in to help and show him what to do. My oldest is at the age where he ‘couldn’t be bothered’ by his younger brother, but thankfully that hasn’t been the case. They are bonding over it. This is one of the first times my oldest has had a chance to teach his brother (be a mentor). He’s enjoying this role, and he’s good at it. Aww (Man) — you’ll get this reference if you’re a fan of Minecraft. 😊 I hope this is just the first on many bonding experiences they’ll have that will help their relationship grow.

How do your children get along? What do they bond over?

Catch and Release

Does your family have a pet? Does your pet ever bring something into the house you wish it hadn’t?

We love our cat. He brings us all kinds of joy, but lately he’s been bringing us a bit more. Mice and birds to be exact. When our cat first joined our family, he was an indoor cat. After several months, we found a pet door that would let him leave and re-enter by detecting the chip he has. We figured this would give him freedom and would keep other animals from entering. What we didn’t account for was that our cat would hunt for prey (mouse or small bird), catch it, and then carry it in. Our cat doesn’t realize it prey wasn’t dead, but playing dead in order to survive. Our cat brings in the critter, lays it on the floor, looks at us with pride (see what I did?) and when we approach, it never fails, the prey suddenly comes back to life and scampers off. Ugh!

One day, he brought a finch in in the morning and a mouse that night, my oldest son, who tends to go to bed the latest and was met with the mouse this particular evening, put his foot down. “We’re locking the cat door at night! I can’t take another animal getting in here.” My husband and I were becoming pros are catching and releasing the prey, and we too were getting tired of our cat bringing small animals in. So we did. Of course, our poor cat is thoroughly confused. The door that let him in and out at will, now doesn’t–it’s open during the day and gets locked at night (prime hunting time). His pride in catching the prey is now viewed as did I do something good or wrong? We’re working with our cat to teach him this new boundary (can you teach cats this?). It’s interesting to see us, as a family, all being on the same page with how best to address the situation. The parental power dynamic is removed and instead it’s how do we solve this together?

Raising kids reminds me of what we’re working on with our cat. You sometimes give them some freedom, and then have to reign it back in when you see either they aren’t ready for it, or it’s being abused. It helps when everyone agrees there is an issue and decides how to best address it together.

How are you giving your child more freedom? Have you ever had to reign it back in?

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

What’s something funny your child has said?

My earliest memory of my kids saying something funny was after my youngest was born. After a week at home, his older brother asked my husband and I, “When are we going to recycle him?” We couldn’t help but laugh. We loved that our son recognized the importance of recycling, but found it funny that he was ready to send his brother to the bin and go back to being an only child. 😊 Needless to say, we explained you don’t recycle humans.

More recently my youngest has been delivering some pretty classic lines. On the first day of middle school I picked him up at the end of the day. The parking lot was full of parents picking up their kids. My son came towards me. “How was your day?” I asked. “Today was SOOOOO long. I’m exhausted,” he paused then continued, “Well, time to go see my therapist.” It was true he was going to see his therapist after school, but that was a coincidence. I burst out laughing when he said what he said, one, because how many of us have had days where we’d love to see a therapist following? And secondly because he said it so that every other parent could hear. They looked at me, then him. He responded to my laughing and the parents looks, “What? I am going to see my therapist.” You have to love these moments when my son doesn’t have a filter. The parents smiled looked at me. I shrugged, smiled and confirmed we were heading to see his therapist. I smiled the whole drive there.

Several weeks into the school year my son had another memorable moment. His class is working to build a tiny house for people in the neighborhood. They had some construction experts come in to walk the kids through the design and get them started on the project. My son shared that he saw one of the men while he was on the bus heading home. “He was smoking,” he said and then made a face and continued, “Not a good look.” Oh my goodness, I couldn’t help but laugh again. I get it, you see someone in one setting and assume you know who they are, and then see them in another context and it challenges what you thought you know. Yet my son was succinct in his observation — right, wrong, or indifferent. I wonder what he’ll say next.

What has your child said that made you laugh?

First Concert

What was the first concert you went to?

Mine was Duran Duran. I went with two friends, and our moms. I wanted to go with just my friends, but there was no way my mom was going to let her then 13 year old daughter go without adult supervision. I wanted to see the band so bad, I didn’t care.

My oldest is a big fan of several YouTube stars. This particular YouTube star (or assemble) came to town and the minute my son heard they were having a show he was begging to go. I, like my mother, was not going to let him go unsupervised. I asked if he had other friends he wanted to go with. “Nah, not really,” he replied, “Dad can take me.” Phew! I thought. Thinking I’d gotten out of something I didn’t necessarily want to do, and a little concerned about the content of the show (was it going to be offensive to females? I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with this particular YouTube star). We agreed he would pay for his ticket and his father would attend.

Of course, plans change and my husband was called out of town for work. I was going to be going to the show after all. My son was very disappointed he had to go with me. Again I was trying to figure out if it was because he was concerned about the show’s content and how I would take it, or if it was because he sees me as the more embarrassing parent. I think it was a little of both. 🙂

We got to the show early to get our seats. I promised my son I would do my best not to embarrass him. It was an interesting crowd. The star is probably in his mid-late 20s. The fans ranged in age, though skewed younger. They were passionate about their affection for this guy. The show included elements from content on his channel, and did some parent-splaining (where younger people explain things to us old people 😁) to help us better follow the show. There were moments that made me cringe (body humor/sexual reference that was more immature than insulting), and others that made me respect the star (he and his co-star shared personal stories and encouraged loving yourself as you are, and appreciating the gift of life) — they really used their platform well — both to entertain and inspire.

My son was watching me like a hawk throughout the show and would periodically ask, “Mom, why are you making that face?” I didn’t know I was making a face, but told him I was fine and not to worry about me. If I thought anything was that bad we’d talk about it after the show.

After 90 minutes the show concluded and we headed home. My son was on a high from the show. He talked about the crowd, and the energy, and how much he enjoyed it. I reminded him that he and I have had fun a few times together (maybe I was trying to remind him I’m okay to hang with from time to time — e.g. I’m not that embarrassing). 😊 “You’re right, Mom, we have had some fun,” he says. And we left it at that. How cool is it that I got to go with my son to his first show?

Have you taken your child to a concert or show? How did you handle it if you weren’t necessarily looking forward the entertainment?

Reboot

Getting a hug from your kid always makes your day a little better, right?

My husband came home from work one day and was greeted by my younger son. “How was your day, Dad?,” he asked. “Fine,” My husband replied. You could tell by his tone that it wasn’t a particularly good or bad day, he did look a bit tired though. “Dad,” my son continued, “you need a reboot! I’m giving you a hug!” My husband couldn’t help but laugh by ur son’s reaction. “A reboot?” my husband asked. “Dad, you’re like a computer. Running all the time. You’re going to ‘crash’ eventually — no computer runs forever. And a hug is the way you reboot.” I was in awe of my son’s insight and the truth of his words. We joked about how Dad ‘crashes’ (naps) too often do he was probably overdue for a ‘reboot.’

As parents, we are going on full speed 24×7. We can sometimes try to get by on caffeine, little sleep, or just ‘touching it out.’ Children are very observant and understand a lot more about what’s going on than we parents sometimes realize. I loved that my son recognized this, and loved that he understood a simple hug could make a world of difference even when you’re not having such a terrible day.

How do you reboot? How does a hug from your child positively impact you?

Zip Lining through Fear

Does your child seek out adventure or shy away from it?

My oldest loves thrill rides, and is more often than not, open to trying something new. Even if it might be a little bit scary. My youngest is opposed to thrill rides, and generally opposed to trying anything that involves taking a visible risk. I understand. I was scared of the same things when I was young, but through the encouragement of my parents (largely my father who reminded me, time and again, that I could do this, and that everything would be okay) I learned to not only overcome my fears but be willing to take risks.

We decided to go to a zip line operator to do something fun as a family over the holiday weekend. We knew going in we’d all be a little nervous once we got to the top of the zip line, but thought the fun of doing it together was worth it.

I went first, my youngest son after me followed by my husband and his older brother. When my youngest got to the first platform he was scared. I thought well goodness we’re not even half way up. He looked at me and said, “A bee is stinging me.” The platform wound around the tree making it awkward for me to get to him quickly to try to help. I managed to get to him, saw there was a bee on his shirt and tried to shake it off. I thought I had when my son cried, “Mom, it’s stinging me. Make it stop.” I thought the bee was gone, but when I pulled my son’s shirt away from him the bee flew out. I thought oh no, do we go on? Do we stop? We were only on the first platform. After everyone had calmed down I looked at my son. “The bee is gone now. Are you okay? Are you ready to move on?” I don’t know what possessed me to say that, maybe it was the fact that my son is getting older and things like this can happen. I didn’t want the bee to be the end of our experience. He nodded and we kept moving forward. We got to the next platform and while crossing on the bridge (which honestly was pretty scary as there were big openings where you could see the ground directly below your feet) his harness came down around his legs. This can’t be happening I thought. Maybe someone was trying to tell us not to zip line? Thankfully a staff member saw what happened and quickly got to him and got his harness back on and tightened properly. We finally reached the zip line. He was behind me as I got ready to go. “I’m scared,” he said. “I am too,” I said, “I can only get through my fear if I go.” I stepped off the platform and off I went. Almost instantly my fear was gone and I was enjoying zipping down the line. “It’s great!” I told my son as I was soaring through the air, “You’re going to love it.” It took him a while to get his courage up to go after me. My husband was on one end encouraging him and I was on the other. After a few minutes, he stepped off the platform and came hurdling towards me. I could see that he too had moved from fear to that’s what I was so worried about?

When he was off the zip line he was so proud of himself, and so was I. He had many opportunities to turn back, say “I’m done”, but he didn’t. He showed himself he’s tougher and more capable than even he could have believed.

How does your child work through fear? How do help show them what they are capable of?

The Start of Something New

Is your child starting at a new school this year?

My youngest is entering middle school. His first new school in six years. He’s feeling a range of emotions – anticipation and excitement over the new school, what he’ll learn, how it will be different from elementary school, meeting the new students, and making new friends. He is also mourning elementary school. Classmates he grew close to, particularly towards the end of the year. Already missing those that will be moving away, or going to other middle schools. Concerned about if he will make new friends, concerned if he is ready for the harder material, ready for the independence he is gaining.

As a parent, I too am experiencing a range of emotions. I’m excited for him, but also concerned–will he be accepted as he is, will this experience be good for him, will he grow as my husband and I hope from it? I think every parent has these concerns at one time or another. But I have to let him go in order for him to grow, find himself, struggle, make mistakes and be there to help him work through the tough times, and celebrate the successes.

We’ll have the first day of school behind us before we know it. We’ll navigate the start of this something new like we have before (daycare and kindergarten)–by being open to what’s to come with optimism, preparing for unforeseen bumps, experiencing them as they come, and moving onward.

How do you help your child when they start something new? How do you help them adjust?

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

Summer Reading

What book(s) is your child reading this summer?

When I was growing up there was a summer reading challenge and I couldn’t wait to see how many books I could get done during the competition. I wanted to get the award. I don’t recall if it was a certificate only, or if there was any tangible prize, but it felt good to have the achievement under my belt.

Oh, how times have changed. Maybe I was so excited to read because my mom limited our TV time during the summer, and reading was the next best thing. Or maybe I really wanted the recognition that came from doing the challenge. Or maybe I just liked reading. Probably a little bit of all. What I can say is that my children have only shown mild to no interest in participating in a summer reading challenge. I thought I could get them enthused in this when they were younger. There was some interest when they learned the winners got to eat a meal at the top of the Space Needle (a pricey treat indeed), but when they realized how much reading it would take to win, their enthusiasm waned. When the top prize wasn’t as attractive the following year they pretty much lost whatever remaining interest they had left. 😞

While participating in a summer reading challenge didn’t take with my boys, getting them to read a (chapter) book or two has. My oldest has been reading fiction and non-fiction. I like that he’s taken an interest in finding topics he likes to read (sci-if, military and history). My youngest is still figuring out what he likes. We picked up The Haunting of Henry Davis by Kathryn Siebel. As a parent you aren’t always the intended audience when your child reads a book to you, but I have to say both my son and I really enjoyed this book. It was much more than a ghost story. It was about finding out who you are, taking risks, and learning what true friendship means. We had a hard time putting the book down. I loved that I enjoyed the book, but that my son now knows there are really good books out there just waiting to be read. Will he be in a summer book reading challenge next summer? I doubt it, but I do believe he’ll have a better understanding of what he likes to read.

What good books has your child read lately? How are you getting them to read during the summer?

Date Night

How often do you get out for a date night?

My husband and I have tried to get our for a date night at least once a month since our kids were born. It wasn’t always easy to find a sitter, but we knew for the health of our relationship we needed it.

Our date nights have evolved as our kids have grown and become more independent. When they were young, our dates were planned, and would include a nice restaurant, and a movie or a show if we could swing it. But as the kids have grown, the date nights have become more casual, less planned. It’s just time for us to be together alone.

On our vacation this summer, the kids were happy after a day of being outdoors to have some downtime (or should I say screen time). My husband and I suggested one night early in the trip that we should figure out what we wanted to do for dinner. My oldest quickly piped in, “Why don’t you all have a date night. We’ve got snacks we can eat here.” My husband and I looked at each other. “Are you sure?” I asked, “Because we won’t be bringing anything back for you.” “Yes!,” both sons chimed in. My oldest finished with, “Go!” My husband and I shrugged and headed out. We had a nice dinner, we got to talk about the trip, how things were going with us, and how things were going with the kids. We talked about the upcoming days and our plans, and just enjoyed each other’s company. It became a common theme throughout our trip. We had dinner as a family most nights, but several nights the kids would insist it should be a date night and my husband and I didn’t resist. It’s nice that we all enjoy each other when we’re together but need our space so we can enjoy each other even more when we all come back together.

How often do you have a date night? How are you connecting as a couple during time away from your child?