Growing into Yourself

How did you become the person you are today?

It’s not a simple question to answer.

It’s curious being a parent watching your children navigate who they are and want to be (now and in the future). My oldest son is very self-critical. He often gets frustrated when he can’t do something new exceptionally well the first time. He’s disappointed and gets angry that his body or mind requires him to work at something.

I don’t know where this comes from. We’ve always talked to our kids about hard work and how it pays off. How everyone, regardless how smart, strong, etc., has to work to hone their skill(s) and improve. He’s heard us talk about this numerous times, he’s heard teachers and coaches say this, but can only conclude that he believes our words don’t apply to him.

Until this last school year. For the first time Ive seen him want to get better on his own. It was as if he’d awakened and finally understood that if he wants to improve — in sports or school or anything else, he’s going to have to put in the work. During a student-teacher conference the teacher confirmed this growth / maturity my son had gained. I always feel it is a gift when someone acknowledges you in such a profound way. I could see my son appreciated the teacher’s comments as well. I left the meeting grateful that my son was maturing and taking a more active role in where life takes him, but I can’t put my finger on what led him to this realization, or desire to better himself. Is it self awareness that he lacked before and now found, or just a better understanding of how things work and realizing there are almost always no shortcuts to success?

I’m not sure I’ll ever know, but I’m somewhat in awe of watching my son grow into himself.

How are you helping your child grow into who they will become?

Imaginary Audience

Has your child said something that made you pause?

My youngest son participates in a theater group that is made up of kids with challenges: whether it’s being on the autism spectrum or someone with developmental limitations. It is wonderful to see the kids be in a safe space where they are more alike than different and no judging is going on.

A new member joined the group this season and is more vocal than most of the kids. While waiting for my son in the lobby I heard this young person start to say, “they are making fun of me. Everyone makes fun of me.” The teacher quickly intervened and clarified to the student that the others were laughing at what had happened in the scene not at him. I heard him one or two more times make similar comments. Each time the teacher worked to help him understand what was really going on differently.

I asked my son about it on the ride home. “I heard someone saying they were being made fun of. What was that about?” I asked. “He kept saying that, but no one was making fun of him,” my son said then continued, “I think he had an imaginary audience.” That gave me pause. “What do you mean by imaginary audience?” I asked. “He’s hearing things that aren’t there,” my son said. “From people that aren’t there?” I asked. “No, the imaginary audience is in his head,” he said. The conversation got me thinking. “We all have that voice in our head that tells us things — what to eat, comments about how you look and or should feel. Do you know what I’m taking about?” I asked. “Yea” my son said, “we all have those voices.” I was pretty impressed my son had this awareness. I know I didn’t at his age. “It makes me sad if that kid hears only negative things even if they aren’t happening. That would be a terrible way to live.” I said. “Yes,” my son agreed. “What if instead of letting that inner voice or ‘imaginary audience’ be negative, we only allowed it to be positive? That would be pretty amazing!” I said. “Yea, it would say things like ‘you’re amazing. You’re going to be great.” laughed my son. We came up with other positive and somewhat silly sayings for our inner voice. After we were done and I had a moment to reflect, I asked my son where he came up with the phrase imaginary audience. “The internet, Mom.” he said. Well, duh, I thought, of course he heard that on the internet. Maybe the internet isn’t the encapsulation of all that is bad after all. ūüėä

What insights has your child shared that gave you pause?

Bird in the Window

Have you ever seen anything out a window that gave you pause?

My oldest son commented one morning, “Mom, the cat’s looking at a bird out the window.” I didn’t think much of it at the time, though it seemed a little odd this would catch my son’s attention. I went about getting ready for my day and walked down towards our basement, where sure enough, our cat was sitting at the window. Starring at something intently and wagging his tail. What really caught my attention was that he was looking at whatever it was at eye level out the window and not up. I assumed the bird my son had referenced was up on a fence or in a nearby tree. I stopped to see what had caught the cat’s attention. It was a bird, who clearly was having some trouble with one wing. You could see the bird try to fly only to come back down. It was scared and it really didn’t like that it felt trapped in an area where the only thing that separated the bird and the cat was a glass window.

I couldn’t watch the bird suffer. It had fallen into a well by the window and couldn’t get out. I knew my cat would love to catch this easy prey, but I just couldn’t let that happen. My son came over. “So, what are you going to do, Mom?” I stood there for a second and thought I need gloves. I had to dig through some drawers and found them. Then I had to open the window. I didn’t know how the cat, bird, my son, or I would react. I tried to prepare myself for my cat taking off after the bird, my son freaking out, and me trying to get control of the situation. I took a deep breath and slowly opened the window. The bird got as far away as it could from me. It made the saddest cry I’ve heard. I tried to reassure the bird I was there to help, but clearly the bird didn’t understand. It continued to cry. It reminded me of a very frightened child. My heart broke. I was able to get a hold of the bird, and as gently and quickly as I could, I lifted it out of the well and let it go. It took off half running, half trying to fly across the yard. Success!

“Good job, Mom,” my son said. I looked around and saw the cat hadn’t moved a muscle. He seemed content just to watch the spectacle. I let out a sigh of relief. Everything went about as well as I could have hoped.

Going through this experience got me thinking. I felt the bird was there to remind me of something. That life, whether you’re a parent, or a child, can be scary sometimes. And that sometimes you need help, even when a familiar face isn’t around. Sometimes we’re good about asking for help (e.g. when you’re a child and don’t know another way), and sometimes we’re not (e.g. when you’re an adult and think you have to do everything yourself). Was the bird there to remind me to let others in? Or remind me that there are kind people out there that will want to help in a time of need? Can I be one of those people to help a stranger like I helped the bird?

I hope so.

What do you do when you see something or someone struggling? How are you teaching your child to help others?

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?

We are the Champions

How do you celebrate your child’s success?

As I shared in an earlier post, my older son’s flag football team won the city-wide tournament, which qualified them for¬†the Regional Flag Football tournament (dubbed the Super Bowl Championship).

My son was much calmer going into this round than the city-wide games. I told him to just ‘enjoy it’ (easier said than done, I know), and that ‘no one could take away what they’d already accomplished. They’d be the city-wide champions regardless.’ This seemed to help. We arrived early and waited for his teammates.¬†The other teams were there early and were getting prepared. One team even arrived in a limousine.¬†My initial¬†thought was¬†“that’s so nice” and then I thought “is this team here for a different game or tournament?”¬†when the kids stepped out of the limo in matching uniforms, the limousine started honking it’s horn and there was a line up of fans for the kids to run through. I was genuinely confused, what was going on?¬†Then my husband leaned over and said, “I think they’re trying to psych out their opponents.” Aha, I thought, my husband was probably right, though I was disappointed because if what he said was true the psyching out was being coordinated by the parents of the players, and not the players themselves.

Our team continued arriving slowly over the next hour. One of the coaches got caught up in traffic, another was with his son at a soccer tournament that was running long. It was becoming a little concerning.

Our fears subsided when we had five, and finally a sixth player arrive. The first game started. The other team had over ten kids, plenty of subs and we had five players with a sixth on the sidelines (he’d been injured and they were holding him out of the game unless absolutely needed). The odds were stacked in our opponents favor, but then we played.¬†Our kids played with toughness, determination and a will to win. It was special. They beat the other team 44-6. Then they moved to the championship game. We’re going up against the kids that showed up in¬†the limousine. Their fans were cheering them on in droves, they’ve¬†had balloons and tents set-up. We had a decent showing on our side, but the other team had us beat. Then the game started. They drove down the field, it was looking like they might score, when¬†we intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown; and then we get the ball back and drove down for another touchdown. My son’s team was so in-sync with each other that they were not going to let¬†a player on the opposing team have any success if they could help it. They batted balls away from the opponents, they intercepted, they pulled flags at the last minute to stop a score from happening, it was magical. As I was watching it I was thinking this is one of those moments we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives. We won the game 28-0.¬†My son¬†and his teammates got trophies —¬†they were SO excited. It was amazing to watch, see my son be a part of it, and talk to him about what a special day it was.

We went out and¬†celebrated with the team afterwards. It was one of those days¬†you just don’t want to end. The following day we watched, and re-watched video we had taken. My son paced around with excitement around playing flag football again in the Summer League, Fall League and¬†any league available to play in¬†in-between. ūüôā As the weekend came to an end my son asked, “Mom, is that it?” I asked him what he was talking about. He said, “Is that it? We won, and now there’s nothing else?” I knew what he was referring to.¬†When you’ve prepared for something for so long, it happens and then it’s over, where do you go from there? I told my son, “You’ll see your team soon¬†when you go to the coaches’ house¬†for the season ending party.¬†And we can have people over during the summer and maybe we could get a pick-up game together.”¬†But I¬†know there’s only a 50-50 chance that will happen. It’s hard when the victory is over, the dream realized. When you reach a goal and have to find a new one.

I’m¬†grateful my son, and our family had this experience. It was a special one, but it reminded me that I have to help my son¬†appreciate his accomplishments, be grateful for his opportunities, to believe in himself and his capabilities,¬†and to set his sights on the next goal.¬†After all, my desire is to help him be victorious in whatever he does.

How do you celebrate your child’s successes? How do you help them prepare for their next?

Happy Fourth of July! I’ll be off next week enjoying the holiday.

A New Member of the Family

How did you acclimate to a new member joining your family?

It’s not an easy transition, right? My family has recently expanded. No, not with another child, but with a pet. A nine month old cat from our local animal shelter. Our family has been talking about getting an animal for a while. The kids were hoping for a pet for Christmas, but there was just too much going on, and we told the kids not to expect one¬†so they wouldn’t¬†get their hopes up. Following the holidays we revisited the idea of getting a pet. My husband and I agreed there would probably never be an ideal time to get an animal (there’s always something that is going to be on), but if we wanted the kids to experience the joy and responsibility of raising an animal the time was now. So we got in the car and headed to the shelter with two very excited kids.

I should have known when we walked into the shelter that we would be walking out with a pet, but foolishly thought we’d just look and have time to continue to prepare before bringing one home.¬† The kids saw the cat, everyone thought the cat was a good fit, so the cat got a new home…with us. My husband and I both grew up with pets. Our respective pets lived mainly outdoors. Living in a high traffic area with cold and damp weather, our cat will be an indoor pet so we needed to quickly prepare for our new arrival. Conveniently, there was an pet store practically next door just waiting for folks like us to come on in. ūüôā We grabbed everything we thought we would need, headed back to the shelter, got our cat and headed home. We scrambled to get prepared, but running over to a pet store and stocking up on supplies might get you physically prepared, but not mentally prepared. If the cat had come in, liked where the food and water was, found an easy place to sleep, etc. it would have been wonderful. But like any new member of the family, there was going to be an adjustment period. We were ready for starting the cat off in a small space (thanks to the shelter’s guidance). We weren’t ready for the cat’s near constant¬†meowing¬†once it was in our house, or for the cat to reject the kitty litter and go outside the box (yep, got to experience that on day one), my husband and I learned that¬†while we knew a lot about raising animals, we still have more to learn.

I¬†went to bed the first night thinking what have we done? What have we gotten ourselves into? I woke early the next morning thinking are we really ready to be this cat’s caregivers? I was taken back to when I first became a mom. Regardless of the long preparation (9 months) while the baby was growing inside me, I still felt ill-prepared when my son first came home. I’d taken classes, asked questions, gotten the house ready, but still¬†I had the same questions…what have we done and gotten ourselves into? Are we going to be good parents?

I know it will take a while for our cat to adjust to our home and us, and us him. The kids love the cat and the cat is quickly taking to the kids. Pets played a big role growing up. I can recall my pets giving a sympathetic ear when I was down, or sitting in my lap just when I needed someone. Pets are magical in that way, and I hope my kids will have the same experience as I.

Are you a pet owner? How did your family adjust to having a new pet?

 

Giving til it Hurts

Which do you prefer during the holiday season — giving or receiving?

I have a heightened sense of my spending during the holiday season. Toys for the kids, gifts for friends and family. It can all add up quickly. Add on charities and the desire to help others, and it becomes the time of year money seems to leave my pocket too easily. I love the joy the gifts bring to my loved ones, and how donations can help others, but do not necessarily look forward to the pending credit card statement that follows.

My oldest son decided he wanted to get a gift, with his own money, for his younger brother. He accompanied me to the mall so he could get some ideas. My youngest son is into geography and when we came across a map store we knew we wouldn’t leave the mall empty-handed. The store was filled with amazing gifts — maps of every country, globes, travel books, pictures, and more. It was a bit overwhelming. He decided to get his brother a map of Australia. My youngest has always shown an interest in visiting there. The map cost $25. There was a cheaper version of the same map, but the one he had chosen was lamented and would last for much longer. He took the map up to the counter, looked at me and said, “Am I really paying for this?” To which I responded, “Yes.” You could see his inner turmoil — wanting to get his brother something he would love, but struggling with parting with his money. He took a deep breath, pulled out his money and handed it over to the cashier. As we walked out of the store he leaned over and said, “That hurt.” “What hurt?,” I asked. “Spending that much money,” he replied. I understood what he meant, sometimes, even when we want to be generous, it can make us feel uncomfortable — especially when you’ve worked hard for the money and saved it over a long period of time as he had. We walked out of the store, and my son immediately headed to a sports store. He found a cap he wanted, went to the cashier without even looking at the price of the cap and had them ring him up. This time the total came up closer to $40. $40 for a cap? I thought. I would think twice before dropping that much money on a hat…it seems like a rip-off. Yet, my son was perfectly happy to part with that much money for it. I couldn’t help but contrast the two situations — one was about being selfless and giving, the other was about self satisfaction. One caused him angst and one didn’t phase him. Interesting.

When I was a child, I really liked getting gifts at Christmas. I didn’t learn about the joy of giving until I was a teen and finally had enough money to spend on others. I can remember saving up my money to buy my sister a leather jacket. It was expensive — way more than I could really afford (and wouldn’t have been able to without the concept of lay-away), but there was something that really drove me to get it for her: 1) I really wanted to see the surprise and joy on her face, and 2) prove to myself that I could buy gifts like this for someone else — and a thrill in my fiscal abilities. Wow, I was just able to figure out how to finance a nice present without going into debt. It felt great!¬†I wondered what drove my son to part with his money. As an observer, it¬†felt more like something he wanted to do, but he didn’t like the feeling¬†of spending his hard earned money.¬†Giving shouldn’t hurt, or give you pause or cause you angst. I do hope one day he’ll experience the joy in giving — and that parting with your money can actually feel good through and through.

Happy Holidays! I will be off for the next few weeks to spend time with family and friends and will be back in January.

Grateful

What are you thankful for?

I practice being grateful daily. Not because I have to, but because I learned a long time ago I have a lot to be thankful for and when I acknowledge it, even in the littlest of moments, it makes me feel better.

I have worked to instill this practice in my sons. I point out the beauty around us, comment on our blessings (food on the table, warm beds to sleep in), and have taught them to¬†give thanks for all the things in our lives at meals — it’s common for my boys to give thanks for what’s top-of-mind: they’ve given thanks for Lego, candy, napkins and anything in eyesight that catches their attention. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day.

We love Thanksgiving in our house, but thankfully it’s not the single time of year we pause to give thanks. I recently found an old art project one of my sons — a turkey’s body made by the shape of his hand. He colored the turkey, put a pilgrim hat on it and wrote the turkey saying, “Happy Thanksgiving!” (ironic, eh?). ūüôā I’m thankful I still have this piece of artwork, and the memories that come with it.

There is much to be grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

I will be off to celebrate the holidays with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving!

Raising a Man

 

How are you raising your child to become the adult you want them to be?

I grew up with sisters and am learning about raising boys in real-time. Boys were always a puzzle to me growing up. They could be caring and kind, and then aggressive, dismissive and cruel. What makes them act this way?, I’ve often thought. I’ve heard throughout my life (both as a child, teen and now parent), “It’s easier to raise boys than it is girls.” This never made sense to me. The beauty of girls is that we are¬†allowed to have¬†emotions.¬† And while there¬†may be¬†room for improving how we experience or work through our emotions, we are¬†not conditioned to hide or repress them. Boys don’t often tell you what’s going on. My oldest son talks to my husband and I and is pretty open about what’s going on — yet he too really struggles to understand the emotion(s) he is feeling and what’s causing them. He lumps them all into two categories: those that make me feel good, and those that make me feel bad.

Watching my sons grow, I am starting to see them exhibit those same confusing behaviors I saw from boys when I was growing up. Particularly from my oldest. He can be loving and kind, empathetic and thoughtful, and then on what seems like a turn-of-the-dime, he can be rude, dismissive and cruel — whether its to his classmates, friends, brother or my husband and I. Consequences seem to have minimal impact, it’s almost like he can’t help himself. My biggest concern as I watch him grow is what kind of man he will be. I want to believe that what my husband and I are teaching him the ‘right’ things: appreciating diversity, equality, and what you have, being kind to one another, and sharing your gifts with others. He’s for equality, diversity, fairness,¬†and taking care of the planet, yet I see him struggling with being kind. He often directs feeling of negativity towards his younger brother, or us. I understand the desire to vent to those that you know will still love you and be there for you, but it’s draining on my husband and¬†our patience and takes a toll on his younger brother. He shared what he deemed a ‘good day’ that included playing volleyball well in P.E. (I’m good with this), and then watching a female classmate miss a shot and fall in a way that was ‘hilarious’ – “Mom, I couldn’t stop laughing,’ he said (I’m not good with this). I attempted to ask him how he thought the girl felt (I’m sure embarrassed) and he acted as though I were purposely trying to be a killjoy. “Mom, I said I had a good day.” and he immediately ended the conversation.

I want my child to be happy, but not at the expense of others. Particularly not at a women’s expense. Maybe I’m overly sensitive because¬†overt sexism and misogyny are¬†finally getting the exposure we¬†women have needed to¬†change what is ‘acceptable’ behavior. I feel like I’m at a pivotal point in my son’s maturing and need to ‘up’ my parenting¬†skills a notch¬†to ensure we’re¬†guiding him down a path toward manhood that¬†he’ll one day be proud of. I want him to be kind to others. I want him to see the benefit — not only to others to how he’ll feel. I don’t know how else to do that then exhibiting the behavior myself, and getting him to think (rethink) how he interacts with others.

What challenges are you facing in helping your child to grow to be the adult you hope they will be? How are you helping your child?

 

 

 

 

Costumes You Can’t Buy on Amazon

What’s the Halloween costume you’ve worn or made that you’re most proud of and why?

Growing up, I often struggled with what to be for Halloween. As an adult, I wish I could say I was creative with my costumes when I was younger, but my memory tells me otherwise. I was a ballerina one year (not because I fancied being one, but because I already had the outfit from ballet class), a princess or fairy (I recall¬†wearing a blue dress that I loved) another,¬†a funny man one year (I dressed like this because my parents had a silly mask that consisted of glasses with a big nose and a mustache. My dad lent me a hat and a coat that were too big to go along with the outfit. It wasn’t because I wanted to be a funny man, but because we couldn’t come up with anything else), and there may have been a cat or mouse in the mix. My costumes for the most part had little imagination¬†and were pretty uninspired.

My husband, on the other hand, grew up with homemade costumes. One year, he and his brothers went as the Fruit of the Loom guys. I was impressed! I wanted my kids to have memories of better, more inspired costumes. For each of my sons first Halloweens, I put them in white onesies, black pants,¬†used a red oversized scarf and tied it around their waist and put a pirate hat on their head. It was super simple, and easy to take on/off (changing diapers and clothes was a synch). They liked reading¬†the Frog and Toad books, so one year¬†they went as Frog and Toad.¬†I thought, ‘What can I do that’s easy?‘¬†Inspiration hit me again —¬†I went to Goodwill and found clothes similar to what Frog and Toad would wear. Then I got¬†them wool hats, added¬†two large¬†white puff¬†balls on each cap adorned with small crescent-shaped pieces of black felt (with stick-on back)¬†for the eyes. The kids could take off the hat whenever they wanted — and didn’t seem to mind when we kept asking them to pose together for pictures. ūüôā¬†There were several years where a store came to the rescue. I did attempt to add to the costume. My youngest was a spider one year.¬†He loved jumping with excitement, so I decided he¬†wouldn’t be a¬†regular spider but¬†instead a jumping spider.¬†I set out to¬†make him a spider web on cardboard and use silver glitter for the web, and spelled Jumping Spider (Charlotte’s Web inspiration) in the web. My son loved the spider costume, but not the web. Of course that is what I’d worked on for more time than I’d like to admit. I had attempted to use elastic arm bands so my son could wear the web. My son thought they were really uncomfortable. I got him to wear the web for maybe a minute. Oh well. We’ve had more and less inspired over the years. Some were things the kids loved (Lightning McQueen) or interested in (Ninja, Star Wars), but this year my youngest had a more unique request.

He has had a love of geography that has grown over the last year. He has numerous books on maps, and atlases. When I asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween this year, he said, “a map!” I loved his inspiration but wondered, how am I going to help pull¬†this one off?¬†I found some costume ideas for ‘the world’ online, including globes, but my son was clear “I don’t want to be a globe of the world, I want to be a map.” I came up empty on Amazon. It was clear. There was not going to be a ‘store-to-the-rescue’ kind of costume. I was going to have to put on my creative thinking cap and figure out how we were going to pull off this costume. I ended up finding fabric¬†that’s pattern was a¬†map of the world (and a yard in length — perfect). Then I thought, can I find him a fun ‘worldly’ hat? Or something that looks ‘international’? I went to a costume store and found him a German hat (green with red feather), and a table decoration with flags from around the world. I thought, ‘we’ve got enough for a costume!‘ I didn’t know how it was going to come together, but knew we could figure it out. I got some material for backing for the map fabric, and with my sister’s help, we transformed the map material into a cape of sorts (more like a wrap, but it works). Donned with his hat and flags, we had a costume.¬†I asked my son, “So, what are we going to say your costume is?” Before he could respond, I said, “Oh, I know you’ll be a Man of the World. That means you’re well-traveled and know a lot about the world.” My son quickly responded, “Mom, I’m not a man of the world, I’m a FAN of the world.” He was right, and I couldn’t help but smile.

There is no greater joy¬†then seeing your child be inspired. To see them envision what they want to be — even if it’s just for Halloween.

What does your child want to be this Halloween? How are you helping them achieve their vision for who they want to be?