Stressed Out

Have you ever seen your child stressed out?

My boys participate in their school play. One acts in the play, the other is in stage crew. Both want to do a good job each year, all the kids do. Mistakes always happen — sometimes ones you can easily recover from (e.g. someone walks out on stage at the wrong time, but quickly gets themselves back off), some not (e.g. someone says the wrong long line and it throws everyone else off — the kids struggle with whether they should pick up at the new spot or try to get the scene restarted where it should have). For the kids it is stressful. For the parents, it’s hard to notice (because you aren’t as aware of every single line, object placement and timing of everything like those participating are), and hard to console once you’ve realized it happens (e.g. upset kids after the show).  You try saying, “You did a great job!” and “You made a mistake? Well, no one noticed” which is often times true, but to the kids, they feel embarrassed, disappointed, sad, and/or angry. I’ve had mild success in getting them to acknowledge that performing and supporting the cast, regardless of mistakes, takes guts; and that the experience is supposed to be something they enjoy not fret over. They appease me with mumble’s of “okay, Mom” or “yea, we get it,” but it’s not convincing. Once the play is over, the stress disappears replaced by relief which is interesting to tangibly see — smiles on their faces, bodies less tense, more willing to engage — it got me thinking about my husband and I and our own stresses and how that must come across to our kids.

I sometimes think I didn’t know what stress was until I became a parent — the kids are not the cause; I am. I want to be present with my kids, teach them things, have fun and enjoy parenthood. At the same time, juggling a job and the increase in household responsibilities (meals, cleaning, carpooling, etc.) requires energy which gets depleted with so many things needing to get done. Being a parent can sometimes feel like a performance too. We are moving things (much like a stage crew) and do our own ‘acting’ when we put on a brave or ‘everything’s fine’ face in front of others when we are in fact tired, strained, and stressed.  Throw on what’s going on in our country politically, and the stress can feel overwhelming. When I force myself to relax I notice that I hold my shoulders high and my jaw tensed. Amazing that I don’t realize this or feel it until I’m forced to take a few deep breaths and lower my shoulders and loosen my jaw. I wonder what that looks like to my kids seeing Mom more relaxed, more easily smiling and more willing to engage then just trying to get through to what’s next. My guess is they prefer it to stressed out Mom, who is more snippy and less present.

My kids have once again reminded me of things I need to work on. Step 1) Notice stress, Step 2) Let it go. I’m much happier (not to mention more pleasant to be around) when I do this.

How do you handle stress? How do you help your child handle theirs?

 

Sing

Getting your child to do something they don’t want to is hard.

While reading the elementary school’s weekly newsletter we noticed our oldest son’s class was participating in a school concert on Friday night. When we asked our son about the concert happening, (because he hadn’t said a word about it), he shrugged his shoulders and say, “yea?” It was clear he wasn’t excited about the upcoming event.

As Friday approached, he started to voice his desire of not wanting to participate. “I don’t want to sing in the concert. None of my classmates are going to be there. It’s just going to be me!” he said. Because the concert was more of a showcase of what the kids had been learning in music class than a formal recital we honestly didn’t know how many of his classmates would be there. We didn’t want to stress him out, but we thought it was important he participate. It would be easy to sit out and not be there, but what message would that send our son?  That you can skip things that are uncomfortable in life? Or it’s okay to not show up even though others have put in time to help you learn? It felt too important, like we were going to be missing teaching him an life lesson (e.g. sometimes you have to do things in life you don’t want to do) if we didn’t make him go.

As we got closer to the concert, he became more vocal. “I don’t want to go. This is going to be so embarrassing!” I was preparing myself to have to threaten him with privileges he’d lose if he didn’t, but offered this alternative instead. “If you sing in the show, maybe even enjoy it, we might do something fun after the show. Or you can sing in the show, not enjoy yourself and show how unhappy you are about having to participate, and we can just go home. It’s your choice.” He grimaced. He had a decision to make.

The concert went fine. He had classmates there, with two that unexpectedly did dance moves during each of the songs that made for a fairly entertaining show. It loosened most of the kids up and by the third song, they seemed relaxed and enjoying themselves, even joining in with the other kids moves.  Even my son joined in. I’m pretty sure I may have even seen him smile.

At the end of the show he joined us. I asked, “So, how was it?” “Not so bad,” he responded, “can we go to the pie place?” I couldn’t help but smile myself. “Sure,” I said. We headed out and from his body language my son appeared to be both proud of himself (for doing the show), and surprised (that he actually enjoyed it). Funny how that works.

How do you handle situations where you child is reluctant to participate?

Change of Scenery

Have you ever had to move your family?

When I was growing up, we relocated to a different state for my father’s job. It was pretty traumatic for my siblings and I. We moved from the suburbs to the sticks and had quite an adjustment to go through. It left an impression on me and created a desire to not move as a family once the kids were in school. I realize this isn’t an option for many, and there are many benefits to having your child move to different environments. It’s just my preference to, if at all possible, not move.

I’ve blogged in the past about how we are outgrowing our current home and either need to find another home or remodel ours. We are currently looking at remodeling and have found a home to stay in while the work is being done.

There is a part of me that is looking forward to the move. Moving forces you to rid yourself of much. It’s a catharsis, with a touch of sadness. Many items are a reference point for a memory, and while logically you know you’ll never use the item again it can be hard to know you’ll lose the reference point. I’m also looking forward to the change of scenery. We’ll be close to our home so we won’t feel so isolated, yet we’ll have an opportunity to experience something new — new layout, new way we navigate a new home, and make it ours while we’re living there. The kids are excited about the possibilities. I’m following their lead. Moving can be stressful, but it can be fun. It’s an adventure and hopefully we’ll all be better for it, in the end.

How did you get through you move? How did you help your kids adjust to their change in scenery?

 

Do Something

I am in disbelief that I blogged about gun violence only a month ago and we’ve already had another mass shooting. This has to end. As parents, we have to take a stand. We have to raise our voices. We have to protect our children. We have to do something.

Image result for gun statistics 2015

Join a community such as SandyHookPromise.org, or momsdemandaction.org, write to your senators and congressmen and women. Do something.

According to Everytownresearch.org at least 204 child shootings have occurred in 2015. More than two million American children live in homes with guns that are not stored safely and securely. The link to everytownresearch.org includes an interactive map that tracks every publicly reported incident in 2015 where a person age 17 or under unintentionally kills or injures someone with a gun.

Silence = Acceptance. We cannot accept this. For our own sakes, but more so our children’s and there’s to come.

I know you love your child as much as I do mine. Please join me and do something.

Back to School Shopping

Is going back to school the most wonderful time of the year as the commercial suggests?

My husband and I had every intention of doing our back to school shopping for our kids early. We let the kids pick out their backpack, lunch box and water bottle, and we get the rest of the school supplies asked for by the school.  When did it change from bringing your own supplies to bringing supplies for the class?  There is a simplicity to it that I miss from my youth, when you got a pencil box (with some ‘cool’ design’) that contained pencils, a ruler and other school supplies (erasers, glue, etc.). We didn’t bring in things we’re asked to bring in now: reams of printer paper, dry erase pens for the board, and glue sticks and folders by the dozen. I understand due to funding issues, parents bringing supplies is helpful, and I’m happy to contribute…I just wish there were an easier way.

Despite our hope of getting school supplies early, we didn’t make it to the local Target until a few days before school started. The scene when we arrived at the store reminded me of arriving at Target on Black Friday after everything had been picked over. There were several other parents, much like us, buzzing around the endless bins trying to find the allusive #2 pencils (is it possible for a store to be out of #2 pencils?), composition notebooks and several other items that seemed to be out-of-stock. It was like we were all on a treasure hunt, hoping the missing supplies would somehow materialize.

A couple of us were reading our lists out loud (Now, where could erase tops be? Have you seen any folders that have pockets by no fasteners?). When we heard each other, we all couldn’t help but chuckle. It all seemed so ridiculous. “Can’t we just give the school a check to get school supplies?” one person asked. “Or how about all the parents pool their money and someone go to Costco so we can buy in bulk?” another suggested. All good ideas, I thought. Most years most of the school supplies ends up making it to the teacher for the class’s use, but it never fails that some remains hidden deep inside my sons backpacks, only to be found at the end of the school year (so many glue sticks, and what are these expensive dry erase markers still doing in here??? Ugh!).

I find the whole experience leaves me feeling exhausted instead of energized for the new school year, but alas, it is what it is.  Next on the list, getting my sons new shoes…wish me luck (I’ve heard the shoe section looks like a tornado hit it. Yikes!).

How do you survive the trials and tribulations of getting your child ready for school?

Back to School — Okay with Not Being Popular

Being popular can cause people to do strange things. Largely not being themselves but trying to be what they think others will perceive as cool or popular.  

I’m looking at being popular quite differently this year. Instead of worrying about my kids feeling like they fit in (being most liked or not), I’m much more concerned with them feeling safe.

Are there any parents out there that are fearful of their child going to school and getting caught in random (or targeted) violence? We’ve seen what happened at Sandy Hook, we continue to hear news story after news story of innocent people being killed by people who had access to guns and felt entitled to use it as they see fit (not to defend, but for revenge). The most recent story being the horrifying work place killing of the news reporter and photo journalist this past week in Roanoke, VA.

I am tired to hearing these stories. It feel like it’s something I’m just supposed to accept. I don’t. I will never get used to these stories. I will never be okay with innocent people dying at the hands of someone who has a gun and uses it because they can.

I am tired of people having easy access to guns and using them in violent ways. Often stories can seem ‘far away’ and not something we have to deal with in our personal lives. I live in a place I would say is safe, yet we’ve had two events where multiple people died at the hands of ‘ordinary’ citizens in the past few years. You hear about people killing people in movie theaters, who would have ever thought that would happen?  Where does it end?

I am tired of having to deal with people who have guns who feel entitled to have them and brandish them anywhere they see fit (I was in a fast food restaurant not long ago and a gentleman came into the restaurant with a pistol tucked into the back of his jeans, it wasn’t in a holster and wasn’t secure. It was almost like he was asking someone to pick a fight with him, or call him out on having the gun, so he could use it. I tried not to panic, but had my kids with me, so we got our food and quickly exited the restaurant. What kind of society do we live in, where the person with the gun has more rights than the unarmed citizen?).

I am tired of being scared to speak out because there are those that are much more vocal than I that feel differently. I am not against people owning guns, but do feel people should have to demonstrate that they can operate them safely and in the right places if they want to own one.

And I’m tried of being quiet because I fear someone with a gun may want to silence me for speaking up.

My kids are what are helping me find my voice. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t say anything because I can’t bare the thought of them dying at the hands of someone who happens to have a gun, and feels compelled to use it against others; or that as a society we don’t figure out how to address this so our children don’t have to when they are adults — how much worse does it have to get before it gets better?

As the kids go back to school, I think about it being a new year, new opportunities, a new chance to teach our kids a different way. We have to model what that change is.

I know my position may not be popular, and I’m okay with it. Especially if it helps others find their voice. The more of us who feel this way and speak up, the better chance we have for change. Is there anyone else out there that is with me?