A Dad’s Impact

What impact did your father have on you?

Mine was present and involved. I am fortunate, I know.

My husband is also present and involved with our sons lives, even more so than his father or mine were in our respective upbringings. He understands the importance of his role and the benefit his boys gain from him being engaged in their lives.

Many men are more present, more involved, and even picking up more of the responsibility of raising their child. It has a real impact, and makes a difference with your child, your significant other, and your family. Dad’s matter.

How is Dad making a difference in your child’s life? How will you be celebrating Dad today?

I will be taking a few weeks off to rest and recharge, and will return in July.

Difficult Conversations

Talking honestly about what happened with George Floyd and the aftermath can be difficult, regardless if the conversation is with your child, friends, or family.

I feel fortunate to have a diverse set of friends who have been willing to engage in these conversations that have been uncomfortable but needed. Being honest, owning our truths, and experiences reminds me that with knowledge comes power, and together we can make our community and country better.

In addition to my friends near me, the pandemic has allowed me to talk to my best friends who live far away each week. It has been a blessing to be able to connect with them more often. Typically when we talk I go where I can have privacy and speak freely — after all our talks include discussions about our kids, and spouses. 😊 As the issue of systemic racism, and the call for reform and an end to injustice and a need to address equality has gained traction the topic of discussion came up with my friends. I saw an opportunity to have a potentially uncomfortable conversation with them out in the open (having close friendships doesn’t mean you all think alike — true friendship allows for truths to be spoken, and vulnerability, and love for each other regardless), instead of going into a room and closing the door for privacy, I FaceTime’d with my friends without earbuds in my living room. My youngest son was on our computer in the kitchen. I felt like even if my son wasn’t fully listening to the conversation I needed to do it this way — out in the open not in private. I needed to show him there is value, bravery and strength when you speak from your heart, especially on topics like this. The fact that my friends are willing to listen, respect what i have to say, and still love me makes for wonderful and sustainable friendships. I treasure them.

Change will only happen if we are willing to talk (even when it might be uncomfortable), and really listen to each other.

How are you having these conversations? How are you modeling for or teaching your child how to have them?

Talking with Your Kids about Racism, Injustice, and the Need for Change

What happened to George Floyd is horrific.

As my family and I watched the aftermath and the juxtaposition between peace and unrest it forced us, as a family, to talk in a deeper way than we might have otherwise.

As a parent it is important to me to help my children be better people than I am. I’d like to think that I’m a good person, but know there is always room for growth. And while I’d like to think I’ve always been open-minded and self-aware, the truth is that came with time. I’m trying to help ensure my kids are open-minded and self-aware from the get go.

Based on this, it is why we’ve talked about racism, inequality, and injustice (for those of different color, religions, gender identity, sexual orientation, gun violence, etc.) as a family, and why our recent opportunity to read together has helped us have these conversations.

It can be incredibly frustrating when the injustices are so blatant, and you raise your voice (participating in peaceful protests, write to your govt officials, and vote) and nothing seems to change.

I’m reminded that change being made is often met with resistance. It’s hard. It isn’t easy. And if you really want change, you have to keep raising your voice, and demanding it. Even if it seems exhausting and infuriating and disappointing in how long it can take.

As parents, we play a role in this change. In how we make our kids aware of the injustices that still exist today, how we have empathy for others, appreciate diversity, and how we have to use the tools that we have (voice, and actions) to be the change.

How are you talking to your child about what’s going on? How are you helping your child be the change?

Gender Fluidity

Gender fluidity is not something I gave much thought to prior to becoming a parent. I thought in terms of having a boy or a girl and the joys and challenges that came with each.

As our culture has become more aware, and with strong individuals who have been brave enough to be their true selves, it’s opened conversations and minds on what it means to be transgender, LGBTQ, and helped bring awareness and appreciation for those who do not identify non-binary or non-conforming to a single gender. As a parent it has given my husband and I an opportunity to explore our sons knowledge, and experiences around the topic.

This didn’t just happen out of the blue. We’ve continued to read as a family. Moving from To Kill a Mockingbird to Call of the Wild. We started a third book, but it wasn’t holding our interest, so we let our youngest pick the next book. He suggested we read The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater. He had started to read it at school prior to the school closing due to Covid-19. He thought the book was good and hadn’t finished it. We got a copy and started to read.

We are still early in the book but are learning one of the main characters is non-gender conforming and prefers the pronoun “they” vs. he/him or she/her. It’s written in such a way that while the character is non-conforming that is secondary to who they are. They are true to themselves and good at finding others that will accept them as they are. They are confident in their own skin. Who doesn’t want that (for themselves or their child)? It’s lead to us having truly wonderful conversations with our boys, talking about diversity and acceptance. Everyone is essentially different — it’s a matter of how outwardly visible those differences are, right? — so many of us can more easily hide (or try to) our differences because they aren’t outwardly visible, but oh how freeing it feels when you let your full true self be known.

I’m grateful my son recommended this book, and look forward to us continuing to grow together in appreciation of everyone regardless of how they identify.

How are you helping your child understand and appreciate differences in others?

Animals to the Rescue (Again!)

Have animals been helping comfort you and your family during the pandemic?

Each day when I’m out in the neighborhood, particularly when I’m with my youngest son, we decide how successful our walk is by how many animals we see — cats and bunnies get extra points as we see then more rarely than other animals. Seeing these animals — neighbors walking their dogs, squirrels running between yards and trees, crows scouting out yards for food, bees buzzing, snails making their slow pilgrimage to yummy yards, and hearing birds sing — calms me. It brings happiness to my son. It’s always a topic when we are outside.

I see stuffed animals in windows, to bring younger children joy, and give them something to count while they are out in about. Animals — real or a toy — seem to have an even greater importance to so many of us during this time. I’ve always loved animals, but appreciate them even more now.

We all need something that helps us get through our days. The love of our family goes far, but animals just being (their normal animal selves) gives me a needed boost.

What is giving you and your child comfort (or an extra boost) during your days?

I will be taking next week off to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend and will be back in June.

A Different Mother’s Day

This year Mother’s Day will be different. Many of us are still at home, sheltering in place, wearing face masks when we venture out, and are social distancing to keep ourselves and others safe.

I normally crave time to myself on Mother’s Day to relax and rest — maybe even take in a movie if I’m feeling adventurous. We will all be home together this year with no opportunity to venture out much past our neighborhood and that’s okay. The benefits of being at home together has taken on new meaning for us — we seem to have a renewed appreciation for one another. Not having to run around to get kids here or there, or myself here or there, and being overloaded with things to do has waned. The chaos of my pre-COVID-19 life has settled into a more peaceful existence. I used to yearn for the peace I have now and saw Mother’s Day as my opportunity to achieve it — but this year the gift of peace came unexpectedly, and I plan to relish it for as long as it lasts.

This Mother’s Day, I will do what I’ve been doing with my family since the pandemic arrived — be together — oh, and I might rent a movie we can all watch together.

How is the pandemic changing your Mother’s Day?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Have you Reddit?

Quarantine is helping my husband and I better understand our kids interests. Particularly on the Internet. The computer is in a common space in our house. The only exception is when our boys are doing online school (they can take the pc into their room for their virtual class). My husband and I try to pay attention to what they are watching and periodically check the history to ensure they are looking at appropriate content (we have identified sites that we’ve had to have conversations with our boys about periodically). The pandemic equals more time at home, and more screen time for my kids.

Having dinner one night, we got on the topic of what the kids had learned that day (from school or otherwise). My younger son shared something he learned (I wish I could remember what he said), and it prompted me to ask him where he learned this (as it didn’t sound like something he’d learn in school). “Reddit,” he said. My husband and I looked at each other with slight concern. “Do you think what you learn on Reddit is all true?” I felt I needed to challenge his belief around credible sources. “No, mom,” he said as if it was the dumbest question I could have asked, “but there is some stuff that is true on it.” I have to admit it’s been years since I’ve been on Reddit so I couldn’t further my argument. My older son joined it, “Yea, mom, what’s wrong with Reddit?” My husband and I turned the question back on them. “What’s so good about it?” I asked. “Well, I don’t know. It has pretty good stuff,” my older son said. “It’s not like it’s 4chan.” “4chan, what’s that?” I asked. I liked my kids were sharing with me. I wasn’t sure I was going to like what I heard but wanted to know regardless. “It has just about everything on it. There’s funny memes and videos.” “Yea, 8chan, is way worse. We don’t go there. It’s got a lot of extreme stuff on it,” my younger piped in. “Don’t worry, mom, we aren’t looking at anything bad.” Of course my husband and I would be re-reviewing their browser history soon.

We talked about credible sources for news. I found it laughable when my oldest said, “where should we get our news – Instagram? Facebook?” “No,” both my husband and I replied, “You get it from credible sources that employee journalists that have degrees in journalism.” While I know not all good journalists have journalism degrees it wasn’t worth creating any gray around the subject. “There are newspapers (local and national), TV (local and national), and radio stations, like NPR, that provide you with information that can ensure you really understand what’s going on,” we shared. Those other sites you mentioned may have news on them, but they are more for entertainment than for giving you the facts. My sons seemed to get the point my husband and I were trying to make. I think the websites they have enjoyed may have lost some of their “cool” factor for them too. “Mom, I can’t believe you know what Reddit is” my youngest shared. “You’d be surprised what I know,” I finished. He smiled, looked briefly concerned with thus realization, then smiled again. 😊

I’m glad my husband and I got to know more about our boys, and our boys us.

What are you learning about your child, and their habits, during quarantine?

Silver Linings

What’s grabbing your attention during the pandemic?

The first few weeks, news of the virus held my attention, but as time has gone on, I’ve started tuning more into the needs of myself, my family and others. Just paying attention– really close attention — to my boys and how they are doing has led my husband and I to have some ‘aha’ moments we easily would have missed if the pre-Covid-19 busyness was still around — be it how they are doing with school, dealing with isolation, and their overall health.

We did have a moment this week, where being tuned in to my kids felt really nice. My oldest got a notification that it was time to register for high school and the classes he’d like to take (electives beyond mandatory courses). I knew it might create stress for him since it’s the first time he’s had to make these types of choices in this way. We sat down together and watched the tutorials and downloaded the course catalogue and after awhile, got the hang for what he needed to do. It probably took all of 30 minutes, but I realized how having no distractions (nothing else my mind was focused on — such as an upcoming work day or appointment I needed to keep) allowed me to relax and have patience to spend the needed time with him. It showed me how impatient I’ve been in the past in these types of situations, and provided me an opportunity to be there for my son — truly be there for him — to help him. I knew he was fine once he started reaching out to his friends so they could try to coordinate schedules. 😊

I sometimes miss the rush of my previously busy life, but continue to look for the silver linings. Being able to pay attention fully has been one of those gifts.

What silver linings are you experiencing as a result of the pandemic?

Classic

What activities are doing with your family to pass the time while we’re physically distancing ourselves?

Puzzles have made a resurgence. Reading. Binge watching shows. Watching or reading classics. Sewing. Playing music. Gardening. So many wonders things I see folks doing around me.

We have picked back up reading as a family. Our oldest was assigned to read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee prior to his school closing. As a book I’ve loved, I yearned to read it again, and suggested we read it together. Everyone agreed. We take a chapter each and read to each other most nights after dinner. We talk about the character in the books, how things were different in our country regarding attitudes and accepted stereotypes in the 1930s, we talk about class, opportunity (or lack there of), knowing your neighbors (in only a way you can in a small town), and passing judgement before having the full picture (or all the facts). It’s also a great opportunity for my husband and I to see how far our children’s reading skills have come (this book is not the easiest to read as it has many challenging (dare I say advanced?) words).

My husband and I were reflecting on the opportunity being stuck in the house has given us — being able to read with our kids again. We thought those days were long behind us, and have really enjoyed revisiting this activity. We enjoy seeing our kids interested in what we’re reading — in a way that shows the book is making them think, and helping them open their eyes to bigger issues we still struggle with in our society today. I’m grateful we’ve had this opportunity to do this as a family. I look forward to seeing what we do next once we finish this classic.

What activity are you enjoying doing as a family during this time?

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.