Road Trip

Do you enjoy traveling with your child?

I promised my son I would take him to my alma mater for a visit, and a football game a few years back. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off, as my alma mater is no where near where we live, but knew we’d figure it out. We decided this summer the game we’d go to this Fall, and bought tickets.

As we got closer to going on our trip, my son and I were reaching a point in our relationship where it felt strained. He is a teenager now, and changing. He is embarrassed easily, it is hard to understand how he is feeling and how to ‘appropriately’ respond, and he has taken up testing the boundaries of acceptable behavior (short hand — my child is embracing being rude). I looked at the upcoming trip as an opportunity for my son and I to hit the reset button. I wanted to reassess our relationship and figure out how I can better learn what’s going on with him and support him, coach him, mentor him, redirect him, versus getting upset with him. I was aware that too often I was going into “Mom” mode — where my son would do something ‘unacceptable’ and I would turn it into a teaching moment. I think my son was desperate from a break in the class. 🙂

We left on our trip. We got our car early in the morning and headed off for school. We had a long drive ahead of us. We listened to music, we talked, he slept a little bit. It was nice. I held my tongue anytime he said something I wanted to respond to — my teacher instinct is strong — I had to remind myself that for the sake of my son and my relationship I needed to give it a brief rest. We got to campus and walked around. The campus has changed significantly since I was there. I talked about what had changed, what had stayed the same, and he asked questions about how you schedule classes, how do you take the right classes needed to graduate (he was interested in learning about credit hours worked), and how you get from one class to another on time — the campus was spread out.

We were fortunate that I had reconnected with one of my favorite former professors that still teaches at the school before we came. He encouraged me to bring my son to listen to one of his lectures. We took him up on the offer, I was excited by the prospect of seeing my former professor teach again, and my son’s interest was peeked with the opportunity to sit in on a college class. During the lecture, the professor introduced us (it was an auditorium class that probably had 100 students in attendance). He went through his lecture and at one point, reflected on me as a student, the contributions I had made, the work I had done, how I interacted with my peers and how convinced he was even then that I would do well in life. It was one of those moments that, as a parent, you couldn’t have planned or hoped for.  Getting a public acknowledgement of how others see you and no less, in front of my teenage son, and one hundred others, was more than I could have ever hoped for or imagined. My son seemed to hang on ever word the professor said during the class. I think (hope) he may have even started to see his mom in a new light after what the professor said.

We went to the game the following day. There were times when I thought my son was bored or indifferent about what we were doing, because he was being quiet. But every so often, he would lean over to me and say, “Mom, this is pretty cool.” I was seeing that I’d been right, I did need to give myself and son some space to better ‘see’ him and understand him.

We got back on the road the day after the game. It was a wonderful trip, but it was still nagging me that I hadn’t had a heart to heart with my son. As we neared the end of our road trip, I said to him, “You know mom loves you. We’ve had a really nice trip. You sometimes give mom a hard time or are rude, and I want to understand why. Do you know why you do it? Because if you do, we can work together on it and figure it out.” He paused for a second and said, “Mom, I’m not sure why I do it.” You could tell his wheels were turning. “Okay,” I said, “If something comes to mind, let’s talk about it. I love you and I don’t want us to fuss at each other or be upset with each other all the time.” He nodded and I left it at that.

It was a trip of a lifetime for me. One I will cherish forever. Spending time with my son, and us reaching this new level of understanding was priceless. Everything else — the professor, the class, the campus, the game, was icing on the cake.

How are you connecting with your child? How are you navigating any strain (if it exists) in your relationship?

 

The Haircut — A Mom’s Confession

Do you remember a haircut from your childhood that you were particularly fond or, or embarrassed by?

My oldest son, who is entering middle school this year, is becoming more concerned with his appearance.  Up until recently he preferred I give the stylist instructions, but over the past year he’s decided he wants to have some input, and I supported him. I can remember having some haircuts I hated as a teen — a prem on already wavy hair (I looked like a poodle), having my hair cut so short it made my face look very round (not a look any teen wants), or putting ‘Sun-In’ in my hair (that was no one’s fault but mine) — I had two-toned hair for months — ugh! — and wished I’d been encouraged to give more input before and during the haircut (I would have begged to have my hair colored back to it’s natural color during my Sun-In phase once I stopped using it if I could have).

I was impressed by the input my son gave. “I want the hair cut short not just around my ears, but all the way around in the back,” he said. “Oh, and I don’t want any sideburns, I don’t like them.” I didn’t even realize he knew what sideburns were, and his were slight, but he was clear. He didn’t want any. The hairdresser obliged and he got a great cut. He was very pleased. Months passed, and being into sports like he is, he has a sense for how athletes use their hair to make a statement, and decided that he too, needed a ‘sportier’ haircut. He decided instead of going to the same place we’ve gone to since he was a baby, he was ready for the barber shop. My husband took him and showed him the ropes. My son got more familiar with clipper numbers and enjoyed bonding with his dad. He, once again, gave the barber instructions on how he wanted his haircut and the barber obliged. My son was happy. I, on the other hand, thought my son’s hair looked ‘okay’ but could be better, but held my tongue.

This is one of those parent dilemmas: when do you let your child look a certain way  whether it’s hair, clothes, make-up, and when do you say something? I grew up hearing most mornings “are you going to wear that?”, which I hated, and decided long ago that I did not want to repeat this with my son, but I did just that. A few weeks after my son got his hair cut (and I held my tongue ever so briefly) I asked him if he would be willing to see another stylist that mom knew (this is a woman I’ve seen for years and I’ve seen her do amazing cuts on men and women and knew she could give my son a great cut). “No, I’m good,” my son said. I didn’t give up so easy. “I like your cut, but know someone who can give you a really great sports cut — like Rinaldo,” I had his attention. “Well, maybe,” he replied. I decided not to push it…but that only lasted a few days. “You know you’re hair is going to be bothering you soon (it always does when it starts to get even a little long), just let me make this appointment and if you don’t like the cut I’ll never suggest going there again.” That seemed to do it. “Okay,” he said. I made the appointment. I prepped him on what would happen — he would be going  to an adult salon (not a barber shop). The stylist would walk him through the cut. He could ask any questions that he wanted, and he could tell her what he did and didn’t want. The haircut began. My stylist walked him through a haircut and, with his input, he went with a sporty-fade. She educated him on the different terminology and tools and helped him feel more comfortable about his hair. She talked him through styling techniques and products to use to help him ‘rock his haircut’ whenever he wanted to. The whole time I was a nervous wreck. I had great trust in my hairdresser, but was questioning the choice I was making as a parent. I had brought him here. This was my idea. What if he hated the cut and the experience? He would lose trust in me if he felt he has been mislead. Had I made a mistake?

I was fortunate in that the cut turned out great. He was ecstatic. He got out of the chair and said, “Mom, I just got the perfect haircut. I love it.” My son doesn’t say such things easily. I have rarely seen him this happy. I’ve experienced a great haircut high so I knew what my son was feeling. He really liked the way he looked, and believe him understanding more about the mechanics of a haircut, and being educated on the terminology and products really helped.

I learned another lesson, or to put it more accurately, was reminded of something I already knew — that I need to let my son decide what he wants to look like and be okay with it. The stress I was feeling during the cut was not fun. Of course, I want my son to feel good about his appearance, but part of growing up is experimenting with your look. You have to have a few ‘what was I thinking’ or ‘I can’t believe I ever thought that looked good’ moments to appreciate how far you’ve come. It won’t be easy, but I need to let him be him.

What haircuts do you remember from your childhood? Have you ever intervened to ‘improve’ your child’s appearance? If so, how did you feel afterwards?