Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dear sons: I wish the middle for your kids

Dear Sons:

(Letter #24)

So I've read a few things recently that reinforce the thought of how my generation and my parents' generation have absolutely hit opposite sides of the pendulum when it comes to parenting. My guess is that my mom and dad parented in a way drastically different than theirs did as well.

A recent article I read suggested that those who parented in the 60's and 70's and even 80's were entirely hands off. Kids left in the morning and didn't come home until mealtime or when the street lights came on. Parents didn't hover. The kids walked to friends houses. They rode bikes around the neighborhood. They sometimes did stupid things -- exploring where they shouldn't have been, but they learned how to problem solve. They were kind of on their own. People really didn't bat an eye when kids were left home alone for hours or sat unattended in a car while parents when in a store to shop. Supervision just wasn't that common.

And it also suggested that today's parents are much the opposite. Helicopter parents they are called. They watch their kids every move. And the moves of everyone else's kids. They call police when they spot a kid unsupervised in a car or in a park or in their own front yard. They don't believe their kids are safe walking to school or riding their bikes to friends' houses. Supervision is paramount.

How we ended up on such opposite sides is perplexing. As we grew up, we had freedom and we had independence and we survived. We didn't have cell phones back then as a means to track where everyone was all the time.

Now that generation is doing the parenting and it's so different than it was back then. As I've moved on in my parenting years, I've learned to hover less but can't imagine a world where I'd send you out to play and tell you to come home hours later when it started to get dark. And I don't necessarily believe that the world is that less safe than it was then. But I know I'd be a nervous wreck, wondering where you were and what you were doing and who you were with and why you were gone so long and if you were getting into trouble or if someone had started trouble with you or if you were lost or if you were hungry or a barrage of other possibilities.

I hope that when you become parents, life will fall somewhere in the middle. Where your kids will be able to learn about the world without you looking over their shoulders and where you'll be connected enough to communicate, yet not so much that the worry takes over the enjoyment. I wish for you that parenting will be middle ground.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Little things that make you fall in love again

We've been married for almost 24 years. It's a long time.

As time passes, the daily grind of keeping things going with work and family and home can sometimes put you in robot mode. You're doing what needs to get done and not fully appreciating everything around you.

I had a moment last night where I just felt a load of gratitude for what I have and felt so appreciative of the hubby I have.

One of our boys - the 11-year-old - is in an upcoming play. He's been on stage before, but will have more lines in this production that he's had in the past. I'd gotten a kind call from the director just letting me know that he's getting stuck during some scenes and could use some extra practice time.

My son's spent a lot of time in his room going over the script on his own and he's been going through scenes at weekly rehearsals. It wasn't quite enough. I tried over and over and over and over to get him to sit down with me and go over lines with him. I suggested that it would really help if I read him the lines of the others in the scenes and we could go back and forth. He just wasn't going for it. He's not a shy kid. I don't know what the deal was. I guess I make him nervous. I can see that. I totally don't want to do that, but I can understand it. I'm sure he'd feel pressure if we sat together to rehearse.

I thought that if he didn't want to rehearse with me there's no way he would want to with his dad. Theatre is my thing, not my husband's. I'd be out at a musical every week if I could spare the time and money. I love going to plays. I love live theatre put on by all ages.

I can't even remember the last time my husband has been to a play that wasn't at one of the kids' schools. The last closest thing we went to may have been Blue Man Group. That was about 15 years ago.

So, it shocked me when I asked my son, "Do you want to go over lines with Dad?' and he answered "yes." And then I was surprised at how well it went.

Like I said, theatre is not my husband's thing, yet he patiently sat down with the script going through scene after scene, making sure he was getting pronunciations correct and adjusting his voice based on the character. He encouraged my son to leave the room for a moment to get into character and to use props to help him recite the scenes. I would have done none of that. I would have focused on memorization. No wonder my son wanted to practice with dad rather than me. The kids have said it before and I wholeheartedly agree that dad is much cooler than I am.

Anyway, seeing the two of them together and listening to them was just so heartwarming and a reminder of what a good father he is. And it just takes me back and makes me fall in love with him all over again.

Back when they were babies and toddlers those tender moments of cuddling and him feeding them and them falling asleep in his arms were constant and easy to recognize. As they get bigger and the cuddling and snuggling is less and less, we tend to forget...at least I do. And that makes a reminder like this just so sweet.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dear sons: Experience matters

Dear sons:

(Letter #23)

Well, it's time for another little note from mom. I know when you're a teenager or young adult you think you know it all. You think the grow ups are out of touch or dumb or just crazy. You think you have the answers. So, if you know the answers, there's no need to take advice from the grown-ups, right? Wrong.

I was in your shoes once. I thought I knew better. I could do things faster and more efficiently. I didn't think the grown ups made sense sometimes, so it didn't seem like I needed to listen to them. But, experience does count for something. And it's often when you get older and experience more that a light comes on and you realize that people who have had life experiences really do know what they're talking about.

So, I'll give this piece of advice (that you probably won't take because, well, we've covered that already) to keep an open mind. And to not be defensive when an adult tries to suggest a better way. To not shrug off the advice that stems from years of experience. To listen to those who try to teach you better because they've learned from their mistakes. Take a minute to really listen and then look at yourself and rethink the choices you are making. Sometimes experience can provide the answer you need.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

So, while the girl mommies were at Frozen on Ice...

For the past couple weeks, I've been seeing posts and pics all over social media from moms taking their kids to Frozen on Ice. And at the same time, there was another show in town. One with big boy appeal...Monster Jam.

And since I'm a mom of no girls and all boys, I found myself sitting in the loud, smelly, freezing Allstate Arena watching ATVs and dune buggies and big monster trucks make their way around the track lined with dirt and sand.

Never in a million years would it be a place I would pick to spend money on tickets for and choose to spend a night at. But, you know, the things we do for our kids. And I did have fun.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Teaching lessons and learning lessons (an awakening inspired by laundry)

In my early days of parenting, I thought that one of the best things you could do as a mother was to do things for your child. It's pretty much a necessity at first. You have to do everything for that new child. They are helpless without you and spend those early days wrapped in the neediness of that child and you do everything you can for him or her.

As the child grows, the amount of things you do for them should lessen. I really didn't understand the concept that the idea of raising a child was to help them learn to do things on their own and to become independent. You are to raise them to one day be able to do all the things you do for them all on their own. It really is all about doing for them then teaching them and then eventually them not needing you to do those things anymore.

I honestly didn't get it at first. I just didn't get it. Why would I make my child do something when I could do it for them? I washed faces after eating. I cut up food for them. I made their beds. I cleaned their clothes. I sorted their socks. I straightened up their rooms. I ran their baths. I cleared their dishes off the table when they were done eating.

I was mom. I was supposed to do these things. Looking back, that is really what I was thinking. It seemed mean almost for me to make my child do a chore when I was completely capable of doing it. Well, that was when I had one son and he was the center of my world. Needless to say, my attitude has shifted as more children were born and they grew.

My attitude may have changed a little too much. Now my way of thinking is "why would I do something for them that they could do themselves?" If a child sits in front of the television and calls to me in the other room as I am in the middle of a project asking for a beverage, I most likely will reply, "No, you are capable of doing it yourself. You can get yourself a glass of water." Rewind 15 years and I would have jumped no matter what I was in the middle of and delivered that glass of water. And then kissed them on the forehead and probably asked if they'd like a snack to go with it.

My mind wandered to such thoughts today as I did laundry. You see, I don't usually do laundry. The kids are all old enough that they are all capable of doing laundry. Hubby washes his uniforms at work. The kids each do their own and there's a chart on the fridge with laundry on the list. Each day one of them is responsible for washing whatever is the laundry room that needs to be washed. Towels. Blankets. Coats. Hats. Gloves. Sheets. Stray socks. Pieces of clothing belonging to their brothers that got left behind in the bathroom hamper. And my laundry and my husbands. I do the folding and put it away, but they fill the washing machine, transfer it to the dryer and carry the baskets upstairs so I can fold them. Then they carry the clothes to wherever they need to go.

Laundry is something a child can and should learn to do. I cringe when I hear about mothers who still do laundry for their adult sons. I am glad that I finally woke up and gave this chore to the kids. It's something they are capable of. They learn cause and effect in the way that if they don't do their laundry, they don't have clean clothes. They then have to wear something not so clean or dig into the icky looking or ill fitting pieces that serve only as back-up garments.

I want to raise sons who can fend for themselves and not expect that the woman they end up with will be the one doing the laundry and housework and cooking and all that good stuff. I want them to be men who were taken care of my mom and then taught that everything mom did for them they could do on their own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

When you sleep soundly, so may I

I walked into the living room earlier this week and found my youngest one asleep on the sofa. It reminded me of this poem I wrote many moons ago. :)

Put down your head, sweet child, upon my chest.
Close your eyes, and slumber in security.

When you cry, I weep an ocean of tears.
When you are hurt, my pain is so severe.
When you're gone, my self is incomplete.

When you smile, sunshine fills my life.
When you laugh, your comedy is a sweet song.
When you reach for me, my self becomes complete.

Sleep, my dear, in my warm arms.
When you sleep soundly, so may I.

I'm losing them

As Christmas break was coming to a close, I tried to squeeze in a quick overnighter. Mid-December was a bit of a blur as stomach flu circulated through the house. Christmas wasn't the flurry of activity for our family that it's been in the past. There was no celebration with my husband's side of the family as his father passed away about a year-and-a-half ago and his mom moved out of state in early December. On my side of the family, we don't have the grand Christmas holidays we celebrated at my sister's huge house in the west suburbs anymore. She moved to Arizona last year. My oldest brother wasn't there. We had a nice gathering, but it's just not the same when there are siblings missing who we are used to seeing every Christmas. We went to my younger sister's house, but it was several days after Christmas so it felt a little strange.

Anyway, I thought to make the time off a little more special, I would arrange to take the kids to a water park for a little fun. It was my husband and I and my four youngest boys. My oldest is an adult now and he rarely travels with us anymore. It makes me a little sad - as again, it just feels like something's missing - but he is either working or hanging out with friends or just opts to forego the bickering on the car ride that is bound to happen when you squeeze 7 people into an SUV for a road trip. Since my oldest usually doesn't go on trips with us anymore and because I have two teens that are growing quicker than I care them to, I savor these getaways when we have time all together.

So I got the bags packed and off we went to the water park. My 13-year-old (the overachiever) was genuinely upset that the trip was cutting into his time to work on his science project. We got to the hotel and first thing the 9 and 11-year-olds wanted to do was get in the water. Since it was getting close to dinner time I told them we'd head to the restaurant first and swim after that. We all enjoyed a nice meal and timed it well. We were all hungry, but hadn't yet hit diva status (remember that Snickers commercial that showed how hunger can turn the nicest person into a cranky, inconsolable diva) and enjoyed each other's company.

After dinner we returned to our room and I pulled out all the swimsuits. My husband had a busy night at work the day before and opted to stay in the room and rest. My 13-year-old told me he didn't want to swim. At all. During the two days there. "I really don't like to swim," he said. He expressed that he'd rather stay in the room. The 15-year-old was on the fence about swimming, but when his brother didn't want to go, he decided he'd stay in the room, too. The two youngest couldn't wait to get to the pool.

So, off the three of us went, leaving the other three behind in the room. As I floated around on the lazy river with nothing but my thoughts I came to the realization that the boys that I'd left behind in the room were moving on. They aren't into our little trips the way they used to be. They're too big for the children's museums and kid attractions. They are at an age when parents aren't all that fun to be with. Whereas a year ago we'd take trips and they would go with the flow and tag along and seem excited, this time it was apparent that they'd rather sit with their phones and play video games. I realized that I'm losing them. I'm losing them to the teen years. They're going into territory I can never pull them back from. They're growing up.