Growing, Growing, Gone

How did we get arrive at back-to-school time again?  Where did the summer go?

My boys are excited and dreading school starting at the same time. They are nervous for who their new teacher will be, and how the new year will be different from the last. Every year we go through this, it reminds me of my school days. I used to feel the same way.

This is my oldest son’s last year in elementary school and I can’t believe how time has flown. Didn’t he just start kindergarten a few years back? I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, but the thought of him entering middle school in a year is a bit much to take. He’s not a baby anymore, he’s becoming a young man before my eyes.

At a recent gathering of parents, one commented how much taller both my boys were. There are, I thought. Something I don’t often notice. Looking at sons friends, I could see how they were growing too. Growing up is more bit bittersweet than I appreciated. I want my children to grow and thrive, but there is a part that wants them to stay young forever. Any ideas on how to stop your child from growing? 🙂

They are growing. They will continue to grow, and one day (yes, the dreaded one day) they’ll be gone — off on their own. I have a much better appreciation for what my parents went through with me. Back to school marks my children’s progress in their education, and mine as their parent. Am I doing right by them? Are they getting the most out of school and out of their childhood? How am I doing in my journey as a parent? Am I teaching them all the things they need to know to be on their own in the world? Thankfully, I still have time. But at this rate, not as much as I’d like.

How are you ensuring your child gets the education (academic or life-wise)? How are you ensuring they learn everything they need to know?

 

 

 

Zombie Mommy 2.0

Once again it’s that time of year where the grunting begins, followed by endless nagging. The grunting is from my kids — “Do we have to get up?” “Just five more minutes.” “Okay, okay, I’ll get ready!” The nagging from me or their father “Guys?!” “Have you brushed your teeth?” “Are your shoes on?” You get the drift. I honestly can’t stand having to prod them along most mornings.

Last year in a creative attempt to prompt my kids to action, I went into zombie mode and stopped nagging and started doing my own grunting. Raising my arms out in front of me and dragging on foot behind. “Mommy’s gonna eat boy’s who aren’t ready yet!” The boys squealed with delight — this was fun! As I brought out the Halloween decorations this year, my sons asked when Zombie Mom would be returning. The next morning, Zombie Mom re-emerged.  My youngest thought it was hilarious, but said, “Hey mom, when we get closer to Christmas, can you be Scary Santa?” I had to laugh. Did I do Scary Santa last year?  Is Scary Santa like Zombie Mom but says ‘ho ho ho — Santa hungry for boys who aren’t ready?’ I’ll have to think about that one. I’ll have to ask the kids to tell me how Scary Santa would act. The best part of all of this is making it playful makes it fun (instead of stressful and frustrating). I have to remember to do this more often. The kids enjoy it and they get ready in much more timely fashion.

How do you engage your child to get them out the door?  What creative ways have been successful for you?

A Change in the Weather

What is your favorite time of year, and what makes it so?

In our house, Fall is right up there.  We made a list of our favorite things (kinda of like Oprah’s Favorite Things list, but made up of things you just can’t buy). 🙂

There are the normal things we look forward to every year:

  • Apple cider
  • The return of college football and going to Red Mill (Red Mill is a burger place that is open all year round. For whatever reason the return of college football reminds us it’s time to go back to Red Mill)
  • The leaves changing color, and
  • Going to the pumpkin patch (we’ll do that here in a few weeks)

And there are those things that are temporary, having to do more with my children’s ages and interests than anything else:

  • Watching my oldest son practicing soccer past sunset with his team
  • Spending more time with other moms during practice — we’ve found the kids don’t seem to miss us if we slip away for a hot beverage or quick meal and get back by the time it’s over
  • Watching and cheering my son and his teammates on at the game (it’s nerve racking for me)
  • Spending time on the playground with my younger son while older brother plays in a game (I’m much calmer here)
  • Decorating a gingerbread Haunted House (again, we’ll do that here in a few weeks…and as much as I’d like to think this will be a long-term tradition, I fear it will only last as long as the boys are interested in doing it).

Time continues to pass. The boys are getting older. We reached a new milestone this season. Our membership expired at the zoo. We’ve had a membership there since the kids were babies. They no longer seem interested in seeing the animals. Other parents warned us this was coming, but it feels a little like a change in the weather…nothing ever really stays the same, and that’s okay. The constant traditions of Fall I look forward to, they will always be there. The ones that are yet-to-be excite me. What activities or temporary traditions will the new seasons bring for my family? We’ll just have to wait and see.

What are your favorite Fall traditions?

Back to School Jitters — Parent Edition

When your child started back to school did you feel nervous?

Feeling nervous as a parent was a surprise to me, yet I’ve experienced it every new school year. When my oldest son started kindergarten I was nervous but thought it was natural because he was moving from pre-school to elementary, he’d be with new people, have more structure and more expectations put upon him. I worried if he’d fit in and make friends, and be safe, and like his teacher…you get the picture. I was caught off guard when I was nervous when he entered first grade the following year. He knew the school and most of his classmates. He did have a new teacher, but the school is small and most of the kids (and parents) know the faculty. The pattern has repeated over the years. Each new school year creates a bit of anxiety and nerves for me, the parent, on the first day. What is going on? Why am I still nervous? Parents aren’t supposed to get nervous, right? I thought. Clearly I was wrong.

Upon reflection, I realized there were several reasons why a parent may be nervous:

  • You care about your child and worry about them making (or keeping) friends and fitting in
  • You worry about them having a positive learning environment
  • You care about how your child does in school, and how you as the parent, are helping your child be successful–trying to figure out how to accomplish this (helping with homework, etc.) and keeping up with all your other responsibilities would make anyone nervous (e.g. how am I going to do this (again)?)
  • You care about your own friendships–do you mesh with your child’s classmates parents? It seems so trivial, but feeling like you are part of a school community not only forces your child to make friends, but forces the parents to also. It takes effort and precious time. Will other parents like me? How will I fit in?
  • You relive your own childhood through your child(ren) in many ways. A new school year, at least for me, takes me back to the fear I used to have when I was growing up–would people like me, was my teacher going to be nice, did anyone notice the effort I put into my new outfit? 🙂

We grow up with our kids. We learn patience and better appreciate what matters in life. I dropped my sons off at school, and marveled at how well they handled it, how well I handled it. The nerves slipped away quickly, but I know they’ll be back next year.

How do you experience the new school year with your child? If you have any tips for how to calm your child’s nerve, please share.

Parenting is a Team Sport

Have you ever felt like parenting is a competition?

It’s a topic I often cover when speaking to parenting groups–being a parent can feel like many things including a rite of passage to see how we (as parents) can out do each other, or how our kids can. It starts when our child is very young — whose sleeping better through the night, eating better, rolling over first, standing up, walking, etc. We are proud of our child hitting a developmental milestone, and want to believe their success is largely due to our parenting skills, but in reality it is more a mixture of our child’s innate capabilities and disposition, which may or may not have been influenced by us.

While we may feel like competition is only between other parents, a topic that isn’t often spoken of is competition between the parents themselves. Competition between parents can be just as common, and is not limited to couples who are divorced. Competition between a couple can be more subtle in how it shows up: a child feels they can confide in one parent more than they can another and the parent who is left out feels sadness the child doesn’t have (or maybe want) to have the same relationship with them, or competition can arise when one parent connects/relates easily with their child, while the other struggles. There are many different ways the feeling of competition can arise, but parenting is not a competition; it’s about doing what’s right for our child, not us. This can be hard to keep front and center when we have our competitive juices flowing.

My husband took our oldest to his flag football game over the weekend. My younger son and I were going to meet them there closer to game time and were just about to head out the door when my husband called and said, “Don’t go anywhere, we’re coming home.” When they got home I asked what happened. I found out that our son was getting frustrated with what the coach was asking him to do. He was struggling to do the practice drill and was showing his frustration. Instead of being respectful to the coach and listening to what the coach was saying, he was getting more and more angry, and talking back. My husband told my son to calm down and be respectful, or we’re going home. My son jumped at the chance and said, “Fine, let’s go home.” I could tell by the look in my husband’s eyes when he told me that he hadn’t thought his threat would turn out the way it did. He had thought our son would calm down, and listen to the coach, because he wanted to play in the game. But he was stuck, like many of us when we may threats and are kids call us on it (anyone have to leave the restaurant or theatre — places you wanted to go, and then your child starts misbehaving or act up, and you threaten you’ll leave if they don’t calm down and they say basically indicate they never wanted to be there in the first place? Ugh!). I said, “Oh no, you are going to the game. That’s not fair to your team, but you’re not playing. You have to earn the right to play and you lost that right in the way you acted.  You are going to go there and support them — you are going to be their #1 cheerleader today, and you’re going to apologize to the coach for your behavior.” My son looked at me like he couldn’t believe this hadn’t happened earlier, and said, “Okay.” We got in the car and went to the field. He didn’t play, he did cheer and he apologized to the coach — not once, but twice. My hope was that he would understand you can never walk away when things get tough, you can’t let your actions let down a larger group (your team), and there are consequences, sometimes uncomfortable ones like apologizing to a coach, when you behave a certain way.

Later that night my husband and I were talking about what happened. Without discussing it, we easily could have been filed this incident in the competition file, where one parent did the “right” thing and the other did the “wrong” thing (one is a better parent than the other — see how easy situations can have that competitive feel?)…but that’s not the way we viewed it. Instead, one of us experienced, with the best intentions, a misstep and the other helped them recover. We are a team, and need each other’s help. Parenting is a team sport, not an individual one. We have certainly had scenarios where my husband helped bail me out of a misfired threat. We learn each time we experience this together, and allow ourselves the chance to discuss, reflect, and think about how we would handle the situation differently in the future. We get better together.

Have you ever felt like you were competing with another parent or your spouse? How do you parent as a team, versus as an individual?

Go Team!

Puppet Show

What do you do to jumpstart your activity in the New Year?  No, I don’t mean what exercise regiment have you started, but how do you rebound from all the activity around the holidays and then those few days of calm between Christmas and New Years, where things seem to slow down, things become calmer, and you have some time to breathe?

It’s not uncommon for my ‘jumpstart’ to take place sometime several weeks into the year. I yearn to hold onto the slowness and peaceful state-of-mind I feel those days at the end of the year, and look ahead to the next time I’ll get to experience that feeling again. Thinking of future vacations helps.

My kids are much more eager to get back into the swing of things than I…seeing their friends at school and resuming activities seems to get their energy back up.

On a workday morning not long into the New Year, I was overwhelmed with everything that had to be accomplished in the day ahead. I was eager to get the kids going so I could start getting through my lists of “to-dos”. My youngest son didn’t want to get ready, and was adamant about not getting out of bed.  As I assessed the situation two choices came to mind: 1) I can get frustrated, and start to dole out consequences (potentially ruining my day, and my sons), or 2) do something different.  As I was assessing the situation and deciding what to do next, I happened to notice a puppet on the floor in my son’s room.  Hmmm…could a puppet help me do something different to prompt my son along? 

I picked up the puppet, a fluffy plush cat puppet and brought the cat to life. “Hmmm, I don’t want to get ready, I just want to sit in bed all day long and do nothing,” I said in a cat voice, “I’ll just sit here all day. I don’t care if I get dirty, I don’t care if I don’t learn anything. I’m going to do what I want.” My son was amused. Using the puppet brought a smile to my face. Engaging him in this way was helping me experience a creative energy I hadn’t felt since before the holidays. I continued, “Too bad I’ll only be known as plain old Fluffy, but at least I get to stay in my bed.” I had the cat pause for a moment and then had Fluffy take on a new and improved persona. “Hmmm, maybe I will get dressed after all. I’ll brush my teeth and make my bed. I’ll go to school and I’ll learn and I’ll do BIG things. I’m going to be Fluffy the Fabulous,” I added with gusto. Fluffy was going places, and my son was eager to follow.  I asked my son, “which Fluffy are you going to be today? Plain old Fluffy or Fluffy the Fabulous?” He considered my questions momentarily and replied, “Fluffy the Fabulous, of course.” We both giggled and he finally started to get himself ready.

Sometimes it just takes a moment to wipe away the dreary and get pep back in your step. Who knew a simple puppet could make that happen?

What is giving you energy in the New Year?

The Great Football Debate

Are you a parent who has concerns about letting your child play football?

I have shared in previous posts that my oldest son loves football and really wants to play. I love watching college football, and partly blame myself for getting him interested in the sport to begin with. My husband and I have allowed our son to play flag football up to this point. While we were hoping that would appease his desire to play the game, you can see his desire to play full-contact football everytime he watches a game, sees a high school player suited up, or walks into a sporting goods store. When he saw that you could buy football pads and helmets in a store you could see his eyes light up with delight. You could almost read his mind. I want those pads.

Our son recently asked about playing contact football with my husband and I. “I want to play!” he pleaded. My immediate response was “no way.” I followed it up with many talking points that backed up my position — it’s not safe, too many people get hurt, it can negatively impact your long-term quality of life, etc. My son didn’t hear anything after I said “no.” Instead of hearing me out, like any nine year old, he got more passionate with his plea. “You have to let me play. You just have to.” His petition lasted a full five minutes. He seems to have some talent (according to his biased mom), but even if he physically can compete, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready for him to. While I wasn’t willing to budge, my husband was willing to hear him out. “We’ll consider it when you are in high school, and you show us you can compete, not get hurt and keep up your grades.”  My initial reaction was “what?”, but after thinking about it for a minute it made sense. Forbidding our son from playing would only make him want to play it more. I don’t want my child to miss out on experiencing something he wants to, but I also want to protect him and am responsible for helping him make good decisions. Allowing him to play football right now isn’t something I’m willing to do. I’m hoping (hopeful?) that with all the evidence and news around body and brain injuries in the sport, more will be done to make it safer so kids can enjoy the sport without having to sacrifice long-term health.

How do you talk to your child when they want to try something you’re not comfortable with them doing?

 

The Great Pumpkin

Many of us have watched the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” Halloween special before. It’s been an annual tradition in our family through the years. The show took on a new meaning for me this year.

My youngest son had returned from a trip to a local pumpkin patch with some classmates and had just sit down to watch some Halloween cartoons when I arrived to pick him up. He was not happy with my timing. This has happened before in the past, when I seem to show up at the wrong time (meaning I’ve shown up when he is in the middle of an activity he is enjoying, or getting ready to start one). I typically allow him a few minutes to finish the activity or do the new activity ever-so-briefly, and assumed my strategy would work with my son on this particular day. It didn’t. Instead my son had a meltdown of volcanic proportions. He became very vocal (loud) in front of the room of kids saying, “I want to watch the movie. I will NOT go, you cannot make me go.” His other classmates saw what was going on, and tried to console him, reminding him there would be other opportunities to watch the film, but he wasn’t hearing any of it. “NO, NO, NO!” was his reaction. He stood up and ran away from me. I was a little taken aback and was quickly reassessing how to best handle the situation. I was in a room full of people (adults and kids) and my son had taken the spotlight away from the movie and had become the show. My inner critic was creeping in (if you were a better parent, this wouldn’t have happened…why aren’t you able to calm your son down?). I asked my son to step into the director’s office (where they normally send kids to calm down) and had to take a few deep breaths. I was partly mortified at his behavior, disappointed in myself for not being able to address the situation without it getting to the point that it had, and frustrated that any of this had occurred. After a stressful week of work, it was the last thing I needed.

It was one of those moments where I really had to pause. My emotions were high. I wanted to handle this in a positive way (though there didn’t seem to be anything positive going on in the present). I had to really think, how do I help my son through this situation? After a few moments it dawned on me. This wasn’t about watching the movie (he could watch it anytime), but not having control over the situation and not liking that–and that, I could understand.

I was able to get my son out to the car (though I did have to carry him), and eventually calm him down. I’m not sure he really understood why he got so upset, but we both knew we didn’t want it to happen again. My son and I made a deal, when we are upset or disappointed about something it’s okay to have the feeling, but we have to talk about it in a way that helps you get what you want or need. He’s young, he’s learning. I’m learning too.

I have a greater appreciation for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, as a result. It’s a story about wanting something to happen (you want to see the Great Pumpkin) and the disappointment that comes when it doesn’t happen as you’d hoped. I’ll remember my son’s disappointment and how he (and I) will grow from it.

What holiday show has taken on new meaning for you and your family as you raised your child?

Stretch Goal

As a child, did you ever push yourself, or have someone encourage you to try something new? How did you handle doing something you weren’t comfortable doing?

I was encouraged periodically during my childhood this way, and I always experienced the same feelings: fear (what if I’m not good, what if this is a disaster), nervousness (I want to do well but am afraid I may make a fool of myself and people will laugh at me), and curiosity (what if I can do it? How cool would that be?). While my fear and nerves would initially deter me from taking on the new challenge, curiosity almost always won out. I had to figure out if I could indeed accomplish the new task or not. Even if I wasn’t perfect, or great, being able to say I did something new successfully (even in the slightest way) was a real confidence booster for me.

My oldest son recently joined a soccer league. He’s been playing soccer since he was young, but has never played in an official game. He knows how to play soccer, but doesn’t understand all the rules (my husband and I didn’t play soccer growing up ourselves, so we’re not much help here either, unfortunately). My son was reluctant to go to the first team practice. “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to play soccer,” he said. We reminded him that he was committed, we had already paid for him to play when he said he wanted to sign up. We inquired further, “What’s really going on? You love soccer, and have many friends that are on the team. Are you nervous? If so, that’s normal. Most people get nervous when they are trying new things.” You could tell he was thinking about what we were saying. I added, “The coach’s job is to teach you. He’ll help you learn the rules of the game.” My son seemed to find some comfort in this. I finished with “You might even have fun.” He still was nervous about playing, but was becoming curious about whether he might be able to play on the team, and enjoy it.

As he and my husband left the house to walk down to the field I felt for him. I know that nervous feeling, that uncertainty that comes with trying something new. I knew he would be fine, but hated that he had to experience it. No parent wants to see their child suffer. Yet, I knew he’d grow from it, and gain confidence in the simple act of showing up and trying. My husband said about ten minutes into practice our son was all smiles and his worries seemed a distant memory. It was comforting to hear.

How do you experience trying new things? How do you encourage your child to try something new?

The Advocate

Do you ever struggle to speak up for yourself? How about speaking up for your child?

If so, then we have something in common.

Speaking up for yourself is one thing. Whether it’s due to lack of confidence, the way you were brought up, or something else, you are the only one that suffers when you don’t speak up for yourself. But what about your child. They don’t have a voice, and need their parents or loved ones to advocate on their behalf.

I have to admit, I’ve often taken a backseat to voicing my opinion in regards to child development and education. My mother was an teacher for over 40 years and I have great respect for those in this profession. I’ve always been involved and stayed close enough to be  in-the-know of what is going on with my children in school, but also wanted to give the teacher a chance to successfully teach my child. I thought that might be negatively impacted if I was constantly asking for input or feedback on how my child was doing. I also thought I would be perceived as a “needy” parent. I wanted to empower my children to be independent and thrive, and thought by giving them some distance in school, it supported this desire.

My husband and I noticed our son was having some struggles in school and enlisted the help of others. We brought in someone from outside the school to observe him, and learned quickly that we needed to find and ‘raise’ our voices quickly. If we didn’t our son might  continue to struggle and develop some negative self-beliefs about his capabilities. My husband and I were going to do everything we could to ensure that didn’t happen.

We initiated a conversation with his school’s leadership (teacher, principal, counselors, etc.) and discussed our concerns. At the time, my husband and I wondered if we were wrong about our concerns and were overreacting to the situation (e.g. raising our voices too high too fast). After the discussion, one of the leaders pulled us aside and said, “You’re doing the right thing. It’s important we understand your concerns and work to help your child together.” It was a relief to hear.

I’ve gotten better at advocating for my boys ever since. No longer worried about being perceived as the “needy” parent who wants information, and to have influence in who teaches my child, etc., but instead seen as the advocate who will do whatever is needed (even if uncomfortable or scary) to ensure her sons gets needed resources, attention, etc. for the best chance of success. Finding my voice is a muscle that I continue to develop and make stronger.

For those of you who have always been vocal and will continue to be — you are an inspiration to me and others. For those of you working to find your voice…remember you need to be heard. You are the best advocate your child has.

How do you advocate for your child?