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Category: Life Lessons in Raising Boys

Helicopter Parenting: How to Land Your Aircraft for Good

Helicopter Parenting: How to Land Your Aircraft for Good

It's so hard to stay out of it, but I'm trying
It’s so hard to stay out of it, but I’m trying

“Helicopter parenting.  Don’t be a helicopter parent.”  Through the years, I’ve heard the phrase and the disdain that comes with it as other parents judge your completely “everything-must-be-perfect-for-my-baby” style of parenting.  But I didn’t quite know what it really entailed until recently.

I was at a playdate with three good friends of mine, each of us with three children.  While the other moms hung out in the kitchen with their infants, chatting and snacking on the delicious veggie and dip spread, I sat downstairs in the playroom in the finished basement.  I went down because my toddler was down there with the “big kids” (he had just turned 3, and the next youngest child down there was 5), so I needed to make sure whatever he got into was safe, that there weren’t chokey toys he was getting curious about, that he wasn’t climbing on things, etc.  But since I was down there anyway, I couldn’t help but to observe my 8yo tell another kid to “shut up” [“We don’t say ‘shut up,'” I said.  “Please tell him you’re sorry.”] and hear a friend’s son say “I’m going to punch you in the face” [at which point I gave the look but didn’t say anything.]  Next came the movie the kids put on TV, complete with an occasional swear word that the boys repeated, giggling.  I was disciplining during a playdate, trying to predict what would happen next and wondering how I could control it.  I was getting stressed out down there while my friends were upstairs having a playdate of their own.

That’s when I realized I had become a dreaded helicopter parent.  Maybe not in its traditional sense — i.e. I don’t meddle in school stuff much — but I was there, watching my kids’ every move, and trying to make sure it was all ok and everyone was happy and kind and all that good stuff that kids often are deep down but not constantly displaying on the surface.  I was zooming around and descending promptly any time I though my brilliant intervention could improve the flow of the playdate.  I was annoying myself and annoying the kids.

I do believe that “times have changed,” and parents today probably should be a bit more watchful than when we were kids and our parents would send us out to play all day and expect us to show up back home at sundown.  But there I was, at a friend’s house, where everyone and everything was ok . . . and I was meddling.

I decided it had to stop.  If you find yourself in the same situation, here are

5 strategies to help you stop helicopter parenting and land your aircraft for good.

Think back.

Try to remember a time in your own childhood when you had to deal with another kid not being nice to you, for example, saying “Shut up.”  What did you do?  How did you handle it?  Did it even faze you at all, or did you just carry on, playing with the other kids instead?  If you can remember how you got out of an uncomfortable kid interaction, you may realize the power of your own children to get out of it on their own as well.    I once threw a sneaker at my sister’s head.  I was mad, but she got hurt.  And while someone eventually told on me, seeing my sister cry was enough to make me realize I had done something wrong and to make sure I never did it again.  As the mother of three boys, there are a lot of kid battles in my house.  I’ve tried to take a step back instead of constantly running to the scene to try to save the day.  When I hear the boys arguing, I call from the other room, “Work it out, guys.”  Then I hold my breath and listen.  It’s not always pretty, and I often still end up helping resolve (or send them to their rooms to cool down).  I’m trying.  Hopefully soon they’ll get used to me telling them to work it out on their own, and hopefully that means I can start to breathe again after saying it.

Think forward.

OK, one kid just threw a rock at another.  What’s going to happen next?  Will he apologize?  Will he throw another?  Will the “victim” strike back?  Will other kids get involved?  Will someone cry?  Will someone tattle?  If you can read the situation (easiest if you know the kids involved) to get a sense for which way you think it will go, you can keep your actions in check and respond appropriately.  [Note:  I’m pretty sure I’d have trouble staying out of the situation if someone really threw a rock, but I thought it would be a good example.]  If it’s going to escalate, step in, but be fair to all and not just there to protect your own child.  He may have been the one who threw the rock in the first place.

Scan for danger.

Is anyone in real danger?  Can someone be physically hurt?  Sticks and stones can break bones, and while words can also cause emotional damage, they may require less of an immediate helicopter response.  If there is any risk of danger, get those propellers spinning fast and swoop down to help fix the situation.  There may be grey areas — like a projectile sneaker flung — somewhat gently — at a sibling’s head, but you’ll know when real danger is there.  Trust your instinct.

Is this a rerun episode?

Have you seen this situation before?  The exact same situation, the exact same kids?  Is there a toxic combination of personalities that repeatedly derails into an unhappy playdate?  If yes, you may not need an immediate intervention, but rather a chat with your children outside of the situation.  Talk to them later about how they feel in those situations, whether they have fun with those kids, whether they were comfortable with how everyone treated each other.  If they’re not, you can proactively change your plans for the future to avoid those tough playdates.

Plan your own playdate.

Remember your friends upstairs having fun?  You should be there with them.  Build a relationship with your kids so they know they can come get you if something does go wrong.  Trust the system, and trust your kids, so they can have fun being kids and you can have fun being the parent.  Of course, the ability to do this varies based on the kids’ ages and personalities, but you can try it when you think it’s right, and hopefully everyone will be happier in the end.

I’m hereby trying to stop being a helicopter parent so I can land my aircraft for good.

But is hovercraft parenting allowed, in case grounding the helicopter is too hard?  😉

 

#mobtruths #parenting #raisingboys #helicopterparents

 

 

Snow Day Survival: 10 (non-destructive) Indoor Activities

Snow Day Survival: 10 (non-destructive) Indoor Activities

A snow day in mid-March?  If you’re anywhere in the Northeast US right now, then YES!

Some snow days are indoors
Sometimes you need to stay indoors

Some snow days are perfect for going outside to make snowmen, go sledding, catch snowflakes on your tongue.  But if you’re having the kind of snow day with brutal wind and poor visibility keeping you and the kids indoors — in my case, three high energy boys who like to jump from one activity to the next quickly and leave a tornado of destruction in their path — here are 10 simple (non-destructive but some hands-on) activity ideas to pass the time.

Your key to Snow Day Survival:

  1. I Spy.  I whip out this game any time I need to get my kids to focus on something.  Super-easy, since all you need is to make up clues on the spot based on things you see in the room.
  2. Scavenger Hunt around the house.  If you’re feeling super-creative, write rhyming clues and riddles to help the kids get navigate from one place to the next.  If you’re feeling sneaky, have them hunt for things like the crumpled pajamas or random sock they left on the floor, and tell them there’s treasure in the hamper.
  3. Taste Test.  This is a fun one I had forgotten about until a friend shared a picture of her kids doing it last week.  Blindfold the kids, and have them try all sorts of foods.  The child who gets the most correct wins.  Easy samples I’ve used include garlic salt, sugar, salt, cinnamon, applesauce, ketchup, yogurt, and honey.
  4. Progressive Story.  Start a story with your children, and then pass the paper/pencil around from one child to the next, with each one adding the next part of the story.  If they’re too young to write, do it out loud.
  5. Kitchen Sink.  My kids all love this, and I loved it as a child, too.  Pull up a chair to the kitchen sink (surrounded with towels on the counter and floor if your kids are anything like my boys!), and let the kids play with soap bubbles, plastic cups, the fun water spray thingy, etc.
  6. T.V.  Yes, I said it.  Let the kids watch TV.  A movie, even . . .
  7. Dance Party. Turn down the lights and turn up the music.  Dance, dance, dance!
  8. Silly Bath.  If the kids’ hands have unshriveled from playing in the sink, let them do a silly bath — squirt some extra bubbles in it, or even food coloring, and let them just play.
  9. Bake or Cook.  Cookies, if you have the ingredients.  Or pasta, if you don’t!
  10. Kitchen Potions:  If you don’t feel like really cooking or baking, let the kids do an “experiment” with kitchen stuff.  I give mine a pot, some water, and little cups filled with all different “ingredients” like cinnamon, paprika, flour, salt, etc..  Let them pour each into the pot in whatever order or amount they choose, and see what kind of concoction they come up with!

Now, if you’ve tried all of those things, you’ve likely made it to approximately 9:00 a.m. . . . and, in my house, I will have sent the kids to time out at least twice and broken up at least eleven wrestling matches.

It’s up to you to fill the rest of the day!  🙂

#mobtruths #snowday #raisingboys #momlife #parenting

Playing with soap and water and cups at the kitchen sink
Playing with soap and water and cups at the kitchen sink
pot, water, ingredients, potion!
pot, water, ingredients, potion!
A day at the mall playscape

A day at the mall playscape

playing at the mall, where people are people
people are people

It was a rainy day with nothing to do (how often does that happen, right?).  My kids were going stir crazy, so I brought them to the mall to play in one of those play areas (which, admittedly, skeeve me out a bit when I think of all the picked noses and germs in there).  I always douse my kids in hand sanitizer after, but try to focus on their fun while we’re in there.  People are people — lots of kids play there.

On this particular day, there were two other parents from two other families watching their sons in the play area as well.  Since “boys will be boys,” we watched our high-energy monkeys leap off fixtures that seemed a little too high to jump off of, screech a bit louder than we would have liked, balance on the very edge of climbing toys, slide down plastic cars, and bounce around to get wherever they wanted to go.  We exchanged knowing glances and nods and an occasional laugh, as well as the triumphant sigh of relief when the kids jumped but didn’t fall.

Within just a few minutes, the boys shifted from playing family by family to interacting with each other, ultimately creating a hide and seek game to keep them busy in this enclosed little haven in the middle of the mall.  They were having pure fun.  With an occasional picked nose.

Did I mention that I’m a white suburban chic?  Or that one of the other parents was a dad with the most beautiful, blackest of black skin?  And that the other was a mother, with olive skin and a hijab framing her face and bright smile?  No, I didn’t.  It doesn’t matter to me.  It certainly didn’t matter to the kids that day either.  We were all just people, united in play, together for the joy and cringe-worthy moments of watching the kids let their energy out.  There’s no pithy moral here.  Just a reminder — or evidence, perhaps — that people are people.  And all should be treated equally as such.

#mobtruths #kindness #spreadkindness #parenting #peoplearepeople

M.O.B. Confession: My sons aren’t sporty

M.O.B. Confession: My sons aren’t sporty

no sports
My sons aren’t into sports right now, and that’s ok

I have three sons, and they’re not particularly sporty.  And that’s OK.  There.  I said it.

When I had just two sons, I often heard “Wow, you’re the perfect family of four – a golf foursome!”

And when I had my third son, so many new comments flooded in, like “Wow, a soccer team!” Or, “Three boys?  You must be so busy with sports practices!”

But I don’t have a soccer team.  I have three very silly, high energy, active boys who are more interested in cars and action figures and music and building things than they are in joining a team, going to practice, and trying their best to win a game.

While I’m not sure I have the time or the character to be a “soccer mom,” I do sometimes wish I had a sports practice or game to watch at least one of my sons play in.  Why?  Is it for me?  So I can bond with other sports moms?  So I can feel the rush of cheering for my kids?  It’s a little of that, but even more so the chance to see my boys in a team setting, trying their best, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but always having the camaraderie that comes with a team, and the sportsmanship and strategic thinking that goes with it.  And to see them feel proud of themselves knowing they’ve given it their all.

Not only do my sons not play sports, but they don’t really watch them, either.  I’d love to start a Sunday football tradition in my house, or follow a specific NHL team or college team.  But so far, when I’ve tried, the kids are more interested in what snacks I’m going to serve than what sport we’re watching.

It doesn’t matter, really.  Though I admit I cringed recently when my son said “I think the Red Sox are playing the Giants this weekend.”  Ouch.  What’s going to happen if he says that at recess? Is it my duty as the Mother of Boys to at least make sure they know a socially acceptable amount of team names for each respective major sport, and that they don’t inter-mingle them?

Probably not.  I think it’s all going to be OK.  As long as my kids don’t feel left out, or like they’re missing out because so many of their friends play sports, then all is well.  They play some sports at recess and at camp, whether they truly know the rules or not.  They are active in non-team activities like karate and swim class and an awesome American Ninja Warrior gym class.  And above all, they’re happy, and that’s all that really matters.

Kids can learn a lot of valuable skills from playing sports, from technical athletic skills to people skills, sportsmanship, and the way they tackle problems.  For now, my kids get those skills elsewhere, through their other activities and other social interactions and through the impromptu wrestling matches that seem to playfully erupt daily in my house full of boys.  If they follow their dreams as of today, one will be a water-park designer when he grows up, one will be a professional drummer, and the littlest guy (age 3) – I’m going to keep him designated as my Chief Snuggler.  They may not be sporty, but they’re mine, and I’m very proud of them.

#mobtruths #raisingboys #raisingsons #boymom #parenting #kidsandsports

 

12 Simple Acts of Kindness

12 Simple Acts of Kindness

kindness projects
12 easy kindness projects

A little kindness goes a long way, I think.  I try to model it whenever I can — not just consciously, but because it’s how I’m wired to act — buying a hot cup of chicken soup for a homeless man, supporting a local family in a time of need, donating to charities, smiling at people in the grocery store . . .  But it doesn’t always seem to rub off on my kids.  Sure, they have their moments when kindness oozes from their bright smiles, but more often than not, I hear them whining in a store to get a toy, or wrestling and punching their way out of sibling conflict at home.  I’ve started doubting that modeling kindness would be enough, so I jumped into action to try to prevent my kids from being “those kids” who only care about their own needs, in hopes of them carrying the importance of kindness into their daily lives now and as adults:

Monthly Kindness Projects.

kindness
12 easy kindness projects for the year

Here is a list of 12 Kindness Projects for you to try throughout the year.  Some are more elaborate than others, some are quite simple as many acts of true kindness — like a smile in a grocery store — can be.    Only a few have made my boys roll their eyes.  They now get excited when I tell them it’s time for our kindness project, especially for the ones where they can see the result.  In 2017, I’m hoping to have them come up with their own ideas for our project list as well.

I hope you try some of these, or that these inspire other ideas for you.   If they do, please share!  I’d love to hear what’s on your list!

  1. Donate to food bank:  Monetary donations are often accepted, but we have typically donated food or cleaning/personal care supplies.  In our town, you can do this through the Food Pantry itself, or often through elementary school food drives.  Any donation is of course helpful and appreciated, but I try to go beyond the ordinary can of beans to have my kids pick out a few foods they enjoy so they feel good about donating them for other families to enjoy, too.
  2. Bring flowers to a neighbor:  Pick a neighbor — any neighbor! — and surprise them with flowers.  A small bouquet from a local florist is nice, but so is a bundle of handpicked wildflowers (or even weeds, if they’re pretty!) will be just as delightful.  Leave them on their doorstep with a smiley face on a note, or ring the doorbell and see their smile as they open the door to this colorful surprise.
  3. Lemonade stand:  My sister and I used to have an occasional lemonade stand as kids, and in all honesty, we kept the money we made (keep in mind we charged only $0.05 per cup back then!).   These days, it seems so many stands have a greater cause.  So when my boys wanted to run their first-ever lemonade stand on a dreadfully hot day this summer, I questioned what they’d do with their money.  We ended up raising money to buy a “cheer” present to a friend battling cancer (and I let each son also keep $2 for their hard work).  Our neighborhood was so supportive of the cause that we raised significantly more money than the $5-$10 I expected, and were able to buy our friend a gift certificate to a nice local restaurant for her to enjoy a night out once chemo was done and she was feeling good and strong.  Whether you raise $1 or $100, having a cause associated with the stand — and one with a concrete benefit at the end (the kids came with me to buy the restaurant gift card and write the note to our friend) — can make a refreshing lemonade a true act of kindness.
  4. Sponsor a family:  Throughout the year, and especially at holiday time, I feel grateful for all we have, but also concerned for families who are struggling.  Through my employer’s relationship with the United Way, I have been able to sponsor families to help provide them first-day-of-school supplies and clothing, as well as fulfilling wishes for the holiday season.  See if your local United Way chapter has such a program — or maybe through a church or local Y.
  5. Write letters:  Remember the absolute joy of receiving a hand-written note in the mail?  I do.  I still love it on the rare occasions when it happens.  Encourage your kids to write letters and mail them to friends or family far away, or to an elderly relative who will be thrilled with your child reaching out. 
  6. Donate toys to a hospital: Each of my kids, at one point or another, for one reason or another, has been in our local children’s hospital.  Each time, they have been thrilled by the act of choosing a toy from the toy basket or toy closet, to cheer them up and wish them well as they were getting ready to go home.  All of those toys are donated.  Since my kids concretely understand the joy these toys bring, we went shopping and each son chose one present to buy and donate to our local children’s hospital.  You can do this any time of year!  Just check any guidelines for size and types of toys on your hospital’s website.
  7. Host a toy drive.  For the past five years, my kisd and I have been donating to Toys for Tots.  We go to the store with the sole purpose of buying a toy not for us, which sometimes is a struggle for these young kids.   I decided to change it up this year and get more kids involved — and therefore more toys to donate and more smiles put on more people’s faces.  We hosted an event I called “Cupcakes and Kindness.”  To participate, each child had to bring a toy to donate to Toys for Tots,  After putting their toy in the donation bin, we all decorated cupcakes to take home and enjoy.  It was a little bit of mayhem and a lot of fun, and we donated almost 20 toys!
  8. Offer to do a neighbor’s yard work:  I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where neighbors help neighbors.  It’s not uncommon for someone to snow-blow someone else’s sidewalk or rake/blow leaves off of half of their yard.  As my kids get older, I hope they proactively adopt this as one of their acts of kindess.  They love to be outside, so they might as well spend some of their outside time helping a neighbor.
  9. Bring a sweet treat to a neighbor:  Baking brownies?  Make some extra and bring them down the street.  Whether the recipient eats them or not, they will certainly appreciate that you thought of them.
  10. Help someone in need:  I love this one, because it spans such a wide range of options.  Hold the door for someone whose hands are busy carrying many things.  Water plants for someone who is away for the week.  Help a friend move from one home to another.  Help put your baby brother’s shoes on while Mom is packing lunchboxes.  Little acts that can go a long way, simple enough to become routine.
  11. Tell someone what they mean to you:  I tell my kids at least every morning and every night that I love them.  I greet my friends and family with hugs. I write heartfelt thank-you notes and birthday messages.  But how often do I tell someone what they truly mean to me?  Not that often.  I’m guessing you don’t either.  A few years ago, one of my childhood best friends was approaching the end of her three-year battle with cancer.  After she gave me a sense that the end of her life on Earth was nearing, I wrote her a raw, honest note about how much and what exactly she means to me, and I sealed it up and sent it.  She called when she received it, and we talked about it — about us — about the multi-decade friendship we had from childhood through adulthood.  It was, quite possibly, once of the most refreshing, albeit difficult, conversations I’ve ever had with someone.  Try it.  Hopefully not in a grave situation like this one, but on a sunny day, at a picnic, lean over and tell a friend what you love about them.  I bet it will make them smile.
  12. Give Mom and Dad — no, just Mom — a day off:  We haven’t tried this one yet.  But I’m really hoping my husband thinks it’s a great idea and plans it with the kids.  If you try this one, please, please, please let me know how it goes and whether you actually get time to relax your brain and your body.

Good luck spreading kindness!

The new year is a great time to start!

#mobtruths#ShareKindness #SpreadKindness #raisingboys #boymom #parenting #kindness #kindnessprojects

 

Stroller for Sale

Stroller for Sale

Stroller for Sale

Stroller for sale. Maybe someday.
Stroller for sale . . . but not really

The stroller.  A necessity for moms of young kids.  But one that lingers just a few years and then moves on, like the crib and the exersaucer.  A month before my youngest turned 3, I realized I soon may be done with strollers.  “Freedom!” I thought at first.  But I quickly reconsidered.  Aside from the amazing convenience the stroller provides for carrying extra bags or snacks or jackets, I realized that when I walk anywhere without it, I feel naked in a way.  I guess it carries my heart — it defines me as a mom of young boys — and the day I need to get rid of it will be a hard one because I’ll be parting with more than what it seems at face value.

Stroller for sale

a little tattered and torn

from carrying my three sons

after each one was born

 

From newborn to infant

to toddler to boy

this stroller has given me

so much joy

 

Stroller for sale

more like a time machine

Strolling through memories

of the places we’ve seen

 

Cold, early mornings

hot afternoons

Looking at clouds

making up tunes

 

Stroller for sale

Kids getting too big to ride

I still keep them with me

They walk by my side

 

Stroller for sale

No, forget it, it’s mine

It carries my heart

And there’s no price for time.

Lessons in Motherhood: Marketing Me as Mom

Lessons in Motherhood: Marketing Me as Mom

Lessons in motherhood come often.  I’m constantly discovering things about motherhood that I never knew to expect.  Like my latest revelation that motherhood can be a lot like marketing.  Every day, I’m marketing me as mom.  Those of you who know me outside of this website know that I have a career in marketing, so it’s fair to say I often have marketing on my mind.  But even if you don’t work in marketing like I do, I bet you can find truth in this thinking as well.  Maybe even some helpful hints!

motherhood lessons
I need a billboard of me!

Marketing principles in motherhood:

Awareness:

It’s marketing 101 that nobody can buy your product or know your brand without, well, knowing it is out there.  In my house full of active boys constantly running by me at record speeds, I often have to shout, “Doesn’t anyone hear me?  Do you even know I’m here?  Do you know I asked you four times already to please brush your teeth?”  How can I drive awareness in the house that I, MOM, a critical force, am indeed there?  And, more importantly, that I’ll always be there for my boys.  I’ve found these awareness-driving techniques to help:

  • Leave occasional notes or sweet treats in their lunchboxes, to “surprise and delight” (a common marketing goal) them during the school day.  I have to do this before the kids are too old for this to be cool . . . but hopefully this will never become uncool.  I loved getting care packages from my parents when I was in college, so I intend to drive awareness of my existence at least through that era.
  • Tuck notes in their clothes for each day that I’m away, if I’m away for business travel, for example.  Just little things that show them I’m there even when I’m not physically there — like “Have fun at karate today!” or “Good luck on your spelling test!” or my favorite, “I’ll be home tonight, and I can’t wait to see you!”
  • Hugs!  Mandatory hugs!
  • And, more daily shouting of “Doesn’t anyone hear me?”  They eventually get annoyed and grunt, “Yes, Mom,” and then I’m secretly satisfied.
  • When in doubt, remind them that you grew them in your belly.  And therefore you deserve all the attention and connection you desire.

Relevance:

In marketing, the goal is to make sure your brand or product means something to your consumers, that it plays a certain role that fits nicely into their life and fills a need of some sort.  As the only female in a house full of boys, I sometimes worry that it will be hard to find this kind of common ground.  We may not have many tea parties or shopping sprees together, but I keep up my relevance by diving deep into the brains of these boys and participating in their adventures, sometimes even initiating them myself.

  • Mud.  Be willing to get dirty, or at least let them get dirty.  Bring on the mud.
  • Attend their homemade haunted houses, their impromptu breakdance shows, and even watch their pretend wrestling matches on the inflatable mattress — just don’t let them see you cringe at the thought that they might actually clobber each other.
  • Buy gooey bath stuff.  Like this.
  • Learn to make the amazing sound effects only boys seem to be able to make, like light sabers and explosions and weird animals.  Or at least try.
  • Know about their day.  Participate in their classroom if you’re able.  Know their friends.  It helps spur conversation, sometimes accompanied by eye-rolling.

Repeat:

Once you have your target consumers aware of your brand and meaning something to them, the goal is, of course, to keep them coming back for more.  You want them to stay loyal.  How do I keep my boys wanting more and more of Mommy’s amazingness?  More time with Mommy, more traditions with Mommy, more memories with Mommy?

  • Make mashed potatoes, whenever they want them.  And scrambled eggs.  Or brownies.  Have a signature food that they find extra-special when made by the one and only Mommy.
  • Create traditions.  Special holiday traditions, vacation spots, songs you sing, books you read.  R is eight years old now, and already knows what to expect as we decorate for holidays, because he remembers the traditions from prior years.
  • Instill an emotional connection.  Thankfully, I think this happens automatically through parenting.  And when you’re not sure it’s strong enough, remind your kids again, that you grew them in your belly and they are therefore forever bound to (indebted to?!?) amazing, wonderful you.

The 4P Model:

A common marketing construct — the 4Ps.  In my professional life, this stands for Product, Placement, Promotion and Price.  But as the mom of three boys, I offer you this:

  • Pee:  It’s everywhere.
  • Poop:  It’s frequent.  And talked about a lot.  And often the crux of conversations including giggle-worthy words like “buttcheek” or “poopy pants.”
  • Penis:  It’s everywhere.  It’s always, always, always on their mind . . . or in their hands.
  • Patience:  You need a lot of it.

Happy marketing, everyone!

#mobtruths #boymom #parenting #raisingboys #motherofsons #raisingsons

 

 

 

 

Raising Boys: 10 Things I Hope My Sons Learn from My Dad

Raising Boys: 10 Things I Hope My Sons Learn from My Dad

Raising Boys
Raising Boys: So many lessons to absorb from their grandpa

We’ve already established the fact that I’m surrounded by boys.  A husband and three silly, spirited, (sometimes) sweet sons.  There are days I want to pull my hair out — like when doing puzzles becomes a full-contact sport or when I realize it’s futile to spruce up the house with seasonal flair because the boys will destroy it.  But most days, I just want to squeeze these boys with all my heart, and I hope every day that I’m doing the right things to help them grow into amazing men.

We are lucky enough to live about 35 minutes from my parents, so my boys have a good, close relationship with them.  When I think about the type of men I want my boys to become, I realize there’s a lot I hope they absorb from my own dad and the man and father I’ve seen him be.

Raising Boys: Here are 10 Things I Hope My Sons Learn from My Dad:

  1.  Play.  Play when you’re young, by yourself or with friends.  And be playful when you’re an adult.  Simply because it’s fun.  It inspires imagination, it helps you connect.  We rarely have a visit from my dad without at least one tickle tackle and a lot of laughter, or a new car track set up to race toy cars on.  We joke that the maturity level of my husband and my dad are, well, about the same as my kids.  But if that’s what it takes to have a blast together and make great memories, I’m all for it.  Even if it leads to fart humor.
  2. Be there.  For family dinners, for spelling bees, for dance recitals and sports games and band concerts.  For impromptu talent shows in the family room and for all the “Dad, Mom, come see this!” moments that you should try not to pass off with an “I can’t, because . . .”  Turn chores into together time — raking leaves, washing cars.  .  Be there.
  3. And when you can’t be there, buy keychains.  It sounds weird, I know.  But when my dad traveled for work when I was a kid, he always came home with a little something for my sister and me.  Often it was a t-shirt or a stuffed animal, but over time it routinely became a keychain from whatever city he had been in, leaving us with a super-cool collection and knowledge of cities from Peoria to Nashville to San Diego.  It didn’t matter what it was.  It mattered that he thought of us while he was away (even if it was in the airport store).
  4. Participate.  Know your kids’ friends’ names, and take an interest in what they’re all about.  I admit to rolling my eyes recently and saying, in a slightly annoyed voice, “Yes, Dad . . .” when my dad, who recently rejoined Facebook, said “I saw that so-and-so commented on your status.  Is she still in Australia?  She has two daughters, right?”  But I secretly appreciate — and always have — the fact that he always knew my friends and has cared to keep up on how they’re doing.  He’s part of my life.  And they’re part of my life.  So they might as well know each other.  Not to mention that having common ground, or common knowledge of people, can help with conversation when there may otherwise be a lull — i.e. the teen years.
  5. Have a signature food.  Something you make that is undeniably delicious.  For my dad, it’s grilled cheese (with the bread “uniformly brown” and just the right amount of cheese, spiced up with various mustards depending on your taste preference) and fried egg, which really is flat scrambled egg but is amazingly tasty and completely impossible for me to replicate.  These are his go-to specialty meals that are quick, easy, and sure to be a fan favorite every time.  Ask any one of his grandchildren what they love about him, and “his fried egg” or “his grilled cheese” is sure to be on the list.
  6. Get it. It’s hard to get things right in parenting, but somehow, we all seem to triumph.  One thing that has always amazed me about my dad is his ability to just “get it” when “real-life” stuff is going on.  He’s able to cut through the clutter and focus on what matters.   He takes ailing friends out to lunch to help their families, to lift spirits and to spend quality time together.  He gives solicited advice on big decisions like selecting jobs or buying houses.  And when my dear friend from college died and I couldn’t drive to the funeral that was 2.5 hours away because I was on painkillers from having my wisdom teeth removed, he simply said, “Well, you’re not going to miss it.  I’ll drive you.”  And he did.
  7. Grow up.  But don’t grow up.  Without getting into a discussion on gender stereotypes:  Be the “man of the house” for whatever that means in your house:  protect your family, make sure the doors are locked, the bills are paid, and the lights are turned off.  Help clean up.  But remember . . . never stop playing (see #1).
  8. Branch out.  From NHL hockey to Broadway shows, my dad has always had a lot of widespread interests.  I grew up listening to oldies (1950s/1960s) music, rock n’ roll, Broadway show tunes, steel drum bands — quite the random mix of tunes.  I loved it, and I learned to appreciate it all.  It was far more interesting to me than listening to the same type of music over and over (except when he and I jointly belted out “Memory” from Cats multiple times in a row in his car).
  9. Let habits become traditions.  When you find a restaurant you love, stick with it.  When you find a Caribbean cruise you love, go on it more than once, year after year.  This seems to be how my dad operates.  Sometimes, I’ve found it frustrating, wishing he’d branch out even more.  But as I now find myself returning to the same hotel and same beach vacation every year with my kids, I understand that there is comfort in familiarity, and no need to stray from it if you’ve found something you love.
  10. Look in the rear view mirror.  It seems like this would be a metaphorical statement, suggesting that we should all reflect on who we are and how the past and the people in our lives have shaped us.  But I actually mean that you should look in the rear view mirror.  I remember my dad doing it often when I was a kid in the backseat.  It was annoying.  He’d make silly faces, or he’d glance back too frequently.  I do it to my sons now, often playing a game, but more often just soaking in their adorableness, their existence, their presence, and storing it in my memory bank for future access.  I don’t know if that’s why my dad did it or if he was just being silly, but now that I do it, too, I hope my sons adopt this habit when they are dads themselves.

No, it’s not Father’s Day or Grandparents’ Day or anything like that.  But every day is a chance to try to raise these boys into amazing men, so today is as good a day as any to celebrate my dad and the impact I hope he has on my sons, the same way he has had on me.

#mobtruths #raisingsons #raisingboys #momsofboys

 

 

Lessons My Kids Learned Without Me Teaching Them

Lessons My Kids Learned Without Me Teaching Them

Lessons My Kids Learned Without Me Teaching Them:

They don’t always listen, but they hear me.

Lessons
Lessons My Kids Learned Without Me Teaching Them

I’ve been away on a business trip for four days.  You’d think it’s a mix of hard work, nice dinners and good, uninterrupted sleep.  It’s a little of that (no real good sleep, thanks to a strong body clock and a time zone change), but it’s also time to think about what impression my kids have of me, and how I can best instill in them the life lessons I so badly want them to absorb.  What if I couldn’t get home from this trip?  What would they remember and take forward into adulthood?

I took the chance on my 5-hour flight to start reading a book, something I never have time to do since I truly get approximately 20-seconds of waking me-time on a daily basis.  I chose Sully, the story of pilot Chesley Sullenberger’s life and heroic landing on the Hudson.  I figured it would be inspiring, albeit possibly an anxious read while 37,000 feet above ground myself.

I’m finding the book to be beautifully written, with a tissue-worthy, thoughtful account of the childhood that made Sully the man we know him as today.  I see him recounting stories, like when his dad taught him to “measure twice, cut once,” how he never forgot it, and how that lesson helped shape his approach to life even in his adulthood.

Measure twice, cut once.  I wonder if my sons have learned any important life lessons from me.  Any simple tidbits that have casually rolled off my tongue through the years but which will shape how these little boys grow into men.  Given that they rarely seem to listen when I’m talking, whether it’s asking what they want for lunch, telling them the plans for the day, or asking (begging?  pleading? mandating?) 17 times that they please get their shoes on, I often feel a sense of invisibility in my home.  Even the iron went into auto shutoff mode while I was using it the other day.  Even the iron thinks I’m invisible? Why won’t anyone listen?  Don’t they hear me?

It turns out, they do.  As I sit on this flight, I remember some recent conversations the give me proof, make me smile, and remind me that words and actions matter and can be lessons, even without you knowing.    

Here are 4 lessons my kids have learned, without me knowing I was teaching them:

Language and meaning:

“Mom, ‘except’ can mean ‘only’ and ‘not any,’” E said to me recently.

 “That’s interesting.  What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, I like all fruit except grapes.  So, all fruit but not any grapes.  And nobody except you can see the picture I drew.  So, only you.”

“That’s a really good way to describe it,” I said.  “Did they teach you that in school?”

“No,” E said.  “I learned it from listening to you talk.”

Well, alrighty then.  Score one for Mommy.  He heard me.  A good reminder to choose words carefully, because our kids are internalizing them.

Handling emotions:

I was admittedly super-excited that E had learned something from me that I didn’t even overtly, explicitly mean to teach him, so I shared my joy:  “That’s great that you learned that from me!” I said.

Knowing well how to connect with people, E replied with “I learn a lot from you, Mommy.”

I was drawn in.  Can it be true?!?!  He kept talking . . .

“Like taking a deep breath when I’m angry.”

AMAZING.  Having gone through a feisty-redhead, 5-year-old-kid phase of getting frustrated with his brothers and punching them, I’ve been trying to tell E to keep his hands to himself, and to try to calm down by taking a deep breath.  Ironically, I’m usually screaming this at him like a crazy lady so it’s loud enough to break through the high volume mayhem in my house, and he’s usually talking back or crying as I scream it.  But apparently, he heard it. He internalized it.  And by him reciting it, he reminds me to stop screaming and take a deep breath as well.

Use your time wisely.

Have you ever asked your kids to do something simple, like brush their teeth, and they go off ranting for 10 minutes about why they don’t want to, why it’s the stupidest thing in the world, why toothpaste (suddenly) tastes yucky?  It happens a lot in my house, and I remind the boys, “You could have been done brushing your teeth by now and onto something fun, like playing, if you hadn’t spent so long whining about brushing your teeth.”  Cue their eye roll.

But just the other morning, on a particularly high-stress day filled with a house of rowdy boys going rogue while I try to reign them in and get all of us out of the house by 7:15am, I found myself at a slight breaking point.  I started listing, in a somewhat agitated tone, all the zillion things I had to get done that day, and how having the kids not listening and not cooperating was making it near impossible.  R looked straight at me and candidly said, “You could have been done packing our lunches by now if you’d stopped complaining about all you have to do today.”

Touche.  Nicely played, R.

I love you, too.

As you know from other posts, I send the kids off every day with an “I love you.”

And whether they respond with a hug or a quick backpack-fling over the shoulder as they run out the door, they hear me.  Sometimes they say, “OK!.” And sometimes they say, “I love you, too.”  If the only lesson they were to ever take from me is to show people you care about them, then that’s enough for me.

It’s hard to know if you’re making a good impression – or any impression — on your kids.  These stories remind me that, even with what seems like too few hours in a day, while it may be frustrating that they don’t always listen, they hear me, and they are taking valuable lessons from me.

Raising Boys: Things I Never Knew I’d Say

Raising Boys: Things I Never Knew I’d Say

Raising boys puts me in unexpected territory.  Even with respect to what I say to them.

Raising Boys
Raising Boys
Raising Boys: 15 Things I Never Knew I'd Say
Raising Boys: 15 Things I Never Knew I’d Say

Boys are different from girls.  From my experience, this is true.  The wrestling, punching, yelling, constant high energy . . . So often, words come out of my mouth, and I pause to think, “Wow.  I never could have predicted I’d say that as a mother of boys.”

15 things I couldn’t have predicted I’d say while raising boys

1. We don’t sit naked with friends.

2. Nobody’s penis goes on anybody’s head.

3. We don’t head-butt.

4. Stop picking your nose.  Unless you have a tissue to put your snot in.

5. STOP yelling “STOP” if you want him to STOP!

6. Don’t ever let me see you do that again. (which was understood as “I can do it, as long as she doesn’t see me.”)

7. Please don’t lick sugar off your foot. (after having spilled it while baking together)

8. Take your finger out of his belly button.

9. Because people wear underwear.  That’s why.

10. If there’s a bathroom within 20 feet of you, you should use that instead of the ground.

11. How did you get gum in your belly button?

12. We don’t play with garlic salt.

13. Popsicles are for eating, not for drawing on cabinets.

14. Don’t stand on his head.

15. Pause the movie and put the Fart Book back where you found it.

They may be surprising, but they make me smile.

What unexpected things have you said to your kids?