As I wrote yesterday, I believe that raising children without religion is more difficult than raising children with religion. When you embark on the journey of raising children who are freethinkers, you head into the unknown. There are no set answers about beliefs. It is scary, very scary. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Raising Boys’ Category
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to remember my first conversation with David and/or Michael about religion. And I can’t. I do remember that Michael went to a friend’s house (he was quite little – maybe 4) just before Christmas and he saw a nativity scene. I remember him asking about it in the car on the way home. Of course, both boys were in the car with me, and while I don’t remember the details of the conversation, I would imagine it went something like this… (more…)
One of the things that I like about living in an apartment is that I get to meet people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise. The boys and I get to meet people who are here for a short time and then move on. But they are interesting people and sometimes we are lucky enough to have them stay in our lives. And sometimes not. The apartment complex is more diverse than a neighborhood would be (here in Parker, Colorado) and there are people of all ages here.
For example, there are some grandparents here in our complex. We met them soon after we moved in. They had their son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons living with them for a while after they moved in. The boys were all around the same ages and the oldest was in the same program David was at school. When the son and his family moved out of his parents’ apartment, we kept in touch. In fact, he watched the boys for 1/2 a year in the morning before school. He is now divorced. But his parents still live in the complex and the boys still visit on a regular basis. David has somewhat moved on (he is the oldest and has less in common as the boys have grown-up), but Michael LOVES spending time with the boys. In fact, this summer the boys were visiting their grandparents a lot and Michael was usually with them. I would feel worse about this, but I had pneumonia for most of the summer and I knew that Michael was safe and supervised. The grandparents, who my kids call “Grandma and Grandpa H” (they use their full last name, but I won’t post that here), are amazing people. Grandma H was a teacher and is from Puerto Rico. Grandpa H is from NY or NJ (I can’t remember – I know that their family lived in both places – but they moved to Colorado from Ohio). They’ve been married forever and their son is, I think, in his late 40’s. He was an only child. They love to cook for the kids and when David did a project on Puerto Rico, Grandma and Grandpa H made some traditional dishes for him to take to school to share with his class. They buy the boys Christmas presents every year and the boys have gone (in pjs) to their apartment Christmas morning for a little bit. Sometimes the boys go over there and just hang out and talk with them. I love that the kids have a great relationship with Grandma and Grandpa H. We wouldn’t have met them, or stayed in as close contact, if we didn’t live here.
We’ve also met a number of young families. One family lives across the hall from us. The mom, Tina (I’ve changed their names to protect their privacy), is 27 years old. She has 3 children (and one who died at 15 months from brain cancer, she was 20 years old at the time). Her youngest son is special needs. Looking at him, you wouldn’t know that anything was wrong with him. But try to talk with him, he’s 5, and you are left perplexed. She’s been working on getting him a diagnosis and into special programs since they moved in. She’s had him at Children’s and has had a ton of testing done on him. She started several years ago (before they moved to Colorado) and has had difficulties getting the specialists to give him a diagnosis. He was a premie and he has a whole slew of problems. She finally got a diagnosis and I think that it fits (mostly). As a special ed teacher (even though I’m not working at the moment, I do have a Master’s in SPED), she has asked a lot of questions. And I’m happy to help her out. Some of the things she’s been told have been confusing and I understand why she is so frustrated.
But, let me tell you, she is an amazing mom. Her daughter and her youngest son are 12 months apart (her daughter is the youngest). Recently,I went to check on her because as I was taking the garbage out, I noticed that her keys were still in the door. As it turns out, she had both her daughter, Anna and her youngest son, Charlie crying and she was trying to get them in from the car. Her oldest, Lance, who I think is in 2nd grade, had to use the bathroom and had gone running to their apartment. I helped her carry stuff inside and she told me about Charlie’s diagnosis and that she would be meeting with ChildFind the next day.
As we were chatting, we discovered that we both love to scrapbook. She doesn’t have much time (her husband travels and is not home much of the time) because she is busy with her kids, but she wanted to show me her scrapbook of her son, Allen, who had died. While I was sitting looking at it, Charlie and Anna were both crying. She said that they both missed their naps and were tired and cranky. (Personally, I was surprised as my kids were done napping at 3, but she said that her’s still napped – apparently, Charlie could nap for 3-4 hours a day.) Lance had gone out to play with the kids running around the complex (Michael was one of them). Charlie was bothering Anna as siblings do when they are tired and cranky. I listened to her talk to him. She spoke softly (not her normal volume) and slower. She simplified. “Stop. Anna was there first.” And she told him consequences, “If you don’t stop, you will go to your room.” She was amazing.
I would have been flustered. I would have yelled, if it were my kids. But, she has learned that that doesn’t work with Charlie. He is on the Autistic Spectrum (for those of you who don’t know – that means that he has some autistic characteristics, like not understanding facial expressions or tones of voice that other kids his age would understand). Charlie also doesn’t understand consequences most of the time, making it difficult to discipline him. She and I have talked about strategies for parenting him. But she lives with him 24/7. And she tries so hard.
When I was 27 David was a newborn. I was figuring out parenting a newborn. I was inexperienced and unsure of myself. Here Tina is at 27 and has gone through the loss of a child (I can’t imagine) and is trying to raise a kiddo with special needs along with her other 2 kids, mostly by herself. If I hadn’t talked with her, I would have missed out. I would have written off this amazing person because of stereotypes. Because looking at her, you might see a young mom of a crazy kid (Charlie). You might see a woman who smokes (and this is the ONE thing that I can’t truly get past – but who could blame me with Chris’ lung cancer), who doesn’t seem to have things together. But that is not who she is at all.
She is an expert on her own kid and trying to find her way through the maze of doctor’s offices, services and insurance to get her kid what he needs. She is a strong advocate for him, and is trying her best to work through a system that is difficult for parents who have the money to hire advocates to help them. A system that is confusing even for professionals and often responds best to the parents whose voices are loudest and checkbooks can afford attorneys.
I am shy by nature. Sometimes it comes off as being “stuck up” but I am usually quiet. If someone says, “hi” I’ll respond, but often I have difficulties initiating conversations. Living in an apartment has forced me to leave my comfort zone and interact with people. It has expanded my horizons. I would love to have a house and a backyard. I would love to have a place to call mine, permanently. But that isn’t to be right now. And if I didn’t live in an apartment, I wouldn’t have met Grandma and Grandpa H or Tina. I would have missed out.
Yesterday David entered the world of the teenager. It seems like such as short time ago, he was a baby! And I am not old enough to have a teenager!!!
My wish for my handsome, amazing and talented son is that his teenage years are mostly happy and anguish-free. He is such a good kid and he is on his way to becoming a wonderful man. Being a teenager is tough and I wouldn’t relive those years. I hope that he doesn’t feel that way when he looks back (upon having his own teenager).
I really enjoy spending time with kids. My “nieces” (who are 2 and 4) bring me delight. Some of the kids I’ve worked with as an Educational Assistant are inspirational and absolutely amazing. When I taught preschool, I loved to talk with the kids because 3 and 4 year-olds know so much and their thoughts about the world are very insightful.
My boys are articulate, interesting kids. I generally enjoy spending time with them. However, there are times when I wonder about the job I am doing raising them. There are times that they seem to feel entitled to things that are, well, things they aren’t entitled to.
As a kid, there were certain things I knew that I could expect and that I would have what I needed, but not necessarily what I wanted. My parents budgeted carefully, and when I was in middle school, I got a “clothing allowance.” From this allowance, I was expected to purchase what I needed. Make-up came from my clothing allowance. Additional personal care items (such as a specific brand of shampoo) also came from that allowance. And then all my clothing was supposed to be purchased with that money. If I wanted something that I didn’t have enough money for, I could either use my own money (babysitting money, allowance money or gift money), or I could wait. There were some rare exceptions – like when the dog ate my brother’s shoes and Mom and Dad gave him the money to buy new ones.
There was one other exception that I remember: buying me a blazer for a dance in 7th grade. I was feeling very out-of-place in middle school and was having a lot of difficulty fitting in. I was smart, not smart enough to be at the top of my class, but just smart enough to stick out. I remember speaking with several girls that I had known forever and found out that they were all wearing blazers to the dance. I didn’t own a blazer. It left me feeling even more out-of-place. I don’t remember what I told my parents, but I know that my father told my mother to take me to get a blazer.
I remember feeling shocked, grateful and very loved. Blazers were expensive. For some reason, I have $75 stuck in my head as what it cost and this was 1982. This was a lot of money and it wasn’t coming out of my clothing allowance, because I didn’t have any money in my “fund.” This was something special, and I knew it.
But I wasn’t entitled to the blazer. Just because I wanted it and everyone else had one didn’t mean that I got one.
This is where I think that kids today are spoiled (my boys are definitely included). They have many activities that we didn’t have when we were kids. We weren’t “over-scheduled” with activities like some of them are. We didn’t eat out or get fast food on a regular basis (it was a special occasion thing). And just because everyone else had something, didn’t mean that we got the same.
I wouldn’t say that my boys are over-scheduled. Michael has his soccer (2 days a week during outdoor season – practice on Friday and games on Saturday and 1 day a week during indoor season – games on Saturdays). He sings in the men’s choir at school (which generally meets 1 morning a week before school) and he will be starting in the band this year. He will play the flute and has instruction after school every Monday and every other Thursday. For band and choir, they are at the school and either before or after, so all I have to do is drop him early or get him late. We carpool to/from school as he is open-enrolled at his school and there isn’t a bus. During the week, there isn’t a lot of extra running around. We do have some crazy days ahead with a special Saturday choir rehearsal (the boys from the 2010-2011 choir were invited to sing at a Volunteer Appreciation Event at the Museum of Nature and Science) then 2 soccer games (back-to-back) and a Band information meeting/Instrument Rental. Yes, all on the same day. And then the following Saturday with the choir performance at the Museum of Nature and Science (Denver) and then a soccer game immediately following. But generally, things are not that hectic.
David has band and drama activities. He has band during school hours, so I don’t consider this to be an “extra” activity. David plays the tenor saxophone. Last year, David played in the Jazz Band and that required rehearsal 1 day a week after school. Drama is dependent upon a number of things. First, David would have to audition and get a part. David auditions for Missoula Children’s Theater productions through the Parker Rec Center. He LOVES doing these productions. But they are intense. The kids audition on Monday night from 4 pm to 6 pm and then if they get a part, they would rehearse (depending upon the part) Monday from 6:30-8:30 pm and Tuesday-Friday from 4:00 pm – 6 pm and/or 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. On Saturday, they rehearse starting at 10 am and do 2 performances, one at 2 pm and one at 5 pm. Then they are done. It is a crazy week, but it is a lot of fun for the kids. If David does a different production, like one at school, rehearsal is usually for an hour 1-2 days a week after school. And they rehearse for 6-8 weeks or so.
The kids want to do these activities, and Chris and I want them to be involved. They have enough to keep them out of trouble, but not too much that they can’t enjoy being kids. But here is where the entitlement issue comes in. There are times when they believe, truly believe, that they are entitled to something that they aren’t. For example, Michael is growing. He needed new shin guards for soccer. They are necessary for him to play and not get hurt. But he isn’t entitled to get the “coolest” pair. He got a reasonably priced pair and he will hae to be happy with that.
David is also growing. Tons. He had a pair of Crocs that he wears to take the dog out (since we are in an apartment, we have to walk our dogs. David walks Sugar and Michael walks Kirby). But the Crocs (after 2 years) have additional holes in them (from Jibbittz that fell out). He has been making due. Last week I took him to buy a new pair. He had been saying that he wanted some and with the old ones not keeping his feet protected and dry, I thought he should be able to have a new pair. Michael got upset. He was at school when we went and he didn’t get a new pair. He didn’t, in my opinion, need a new pair. He has several pairs (at least 2 that he picked out and 1-2 that were David’s that don’t fit). Just because David got some, Michael felt that he was entitled to a new pair. He was quite angry with me because I said he didn’t need a new pair. In another couple of weeks, I’ll take a good look at his Crocs and see if he needs a new pair, but with his difficulty in accepting that he wasn’t entitled to a pair, I’m not rushing.
Then there was dinner the other night. Soccer practice is on Friday night from 5-6 pm. It is about 15 minutes from our place. Chris doesn’t cook and we are generally starving by the time we finish. So, last year we started pizza night. I can feed all of us, with leftovers for lunch on Saturday, with pizza from Little Caesars for $15. It is a fairly good compromise regarding eating fast food and not spending a fortune. Anyway, I had told Michael that we would stop to get pizza after practice. He was good with that. However, at some point the kids began talking about shakes at Carl’s Jr. And Michael decided that was what he wanted. I like Carl’s Jr. But to feed the 3 of us (Chris was out-of-town), it would be easily $25. For the 3 of us to have pizza – $10 (with leftovers). That is a major difference. And I’m unemployed. So, I said no. Michael wanted Carl’s Jr. and felt he was entitled to it. He wasn’t. He protested by not talking to me and then refusing to eat pizza (when he is angry he often doesn’t think about who his refusal is hurting – I could care less if he eats pizza or not – he isn’t going to starve – and he isn’t punishing me by not eating pizza). I did try to compromise and offered to let him run into the store and get some vanilla ice cream to make shakes, but he would have nothing to do with homemade shakes. So, he didn’t get the ice cream and we wouldn’t make shakes.
Another time he told me that I “owed” him a soda with caffeine. I asked him why he thought that and he replied, “because you wouldn’t let me get one last time.” I told him that I didn’t owe him any soda and that if he wanted some, that was not the way to ask.
Writing all of this, I’ve realized that it is more Michael feeling he is entitled, than it is David. I wonder if it is a younger child thing, a Michael thing or the way I am raising him thing. I do know that I am going to have to take care of this – and do it quickly before he becomes more of a monster than he already is (and I say that with great love and fondness, usually). But I can’t figure out how he became that way in the first place.
Fair does not mean the same. It does mean that there should be some balance between what a child needs and what a child gets. And children often need different things. David needed new shoes and Michael needed new shin guards. They are not the same, but they are equivalent. That is the best we can do: try to make give children what they need, not what they demand, not what they feel they are entitled to, but what they need.
And just for the record, I don’t think that the clothing allowance division between my brother and I was totally fair. We both got the same amount of money for our clothing allowances, but I had to purchase make-up with my allowance. And then there were shoes: how many pairs of shoes does a boy need? How about a girl? However, the system worked and stopped a lot of fighting between me and my mother over my buying clothes.
What will I name the follow-up to this post? What comes after EVEN More?
How come I can manage to clean off the kitchen table completely, but can’t keep it that way? It takes less than 24 hours before it is covered with stuff again.
Why does it rain whenever I plan an outdoor activity?
Why is it that when my schedule allows me to sleep in, I still wake up early? And why, when I need to get up early, am I sleeping very deeply when the alarm goes off?
When you are blowing up a beach ball, if you don’t hold the valve, the air won’t go in.
Why do some of the smartest people miss the obvious?
How is it that I became an adult and still have so many unanswered questions?
Can you see the speech bubble above my head when you read this?
Why don’t I get to throw tantrums? I don’t want to be an adult and have to act my age.
I don’t want to referee any more arguments and my black and white shirt needs to be washed so all disputes must wait until my shirt is clean. How did I become a referee anyway?
What did we do before sticky notes? How did we “flag” items that were important? Can you imagine how your life would change if suddenly all sticky notes disappeared?
I think that digital cameras were a great invention for parents. I didn’t take many pictures before I had my digital camera because I didn’t want to waste film or money developing the film for bad pictures. Now I can take as many pictures as I want and if I only keep a few, that is ok and I just delete the ones I don’t want.
How can a child be in the bathtub for over an hour and not wash? Is there not soap and shampoo in the tub? Why is it that when you remind said child that they need to use soap, they say “ok” and when you check on them a little later and ask if they have used soap, they reply, “not yet”? What are they waiting for? And why is it when you check with them again, they say, “I forgot.” How can you forget to use soap when you are in the bathtub?
How is it that you can clean all day and within an hour there are more dishes to be done, laundry to be washed and garbage to be taken out?
Why would anyone clean all day? I must have lost my mind.
If I lost my mind, it was because I put it in a safe place and can’t remember where that safe place was. I know that I put it somewhere safe, so we wouldn’t lose it, but I really can’t remember where that is. It would be the same place where I put the powdered sugar container before we found it. I promise you that it was safe there though.
Why is it that it hits 3:30 pm and I get tired? And then all I want is to eat chocolate and sleep. I understand the sleep part, but what about the chocolate part? Is it because I think that chocolate will wake me up? Or is it because chocolate is “comfort food”?
Why do kids assume they missed the bus when a bus goes by?
Why didn’t my package arrive when it was supposed to? It left Denver at 4:17 am and it still isn’t here. What did we do before we could track packages? Or order off the internet?
Why did it take more than 24 hours for my package to transit from Denver to Parker? It takes me less than 30 minutes to drive from Parker to Denver
Why is it, when I finally have a day all to myself – Chris is at work and both kids are at school – I have a massive headache and can’t enjoy it? Aleve and coffee haven’t put a dent in it, either!
If unemployment says that I am supposed to make 5 contacts a week for jobs, and I apply for 10 jobs this week (because there are 10 jobs posted I can apply for), and there are no jobs posted next week, am I good?
Why is it that when I change the sheets, wash the comforter and actually make the bed look nice, does the fan decide to spit dust? I know that I need to clean the fan and I’ve thought about doing it, but just hadn’t gotten to it. It is a tough job standing on the bed to get the fan clean, and the dust goes everywhere. And I’m still working on getting everything in my room put away from moving the furniture from Sugar’s trip out the window (see previous post).
Why do my kids argue about the stupidest things? They actually were getting VERY angry with each other about having a fan on in their room while they were trying to sleep. One child was hot. The other child said he couldn’t fall asleep because of the noise the fan made. How in the hell do you solve this problem?
Parenting at 9:45 pm would not qualify as some of my best parenting. I get angry when kids are arguing when they are supposed to be sleeping.
Why is it that I ordered a book for me (on parenting – specifically parenting kids without religion) and David manages to steal it and read the beginning of the book before I have a chance to look at it? He really frightens me sometimes: he was familiar with one of the reviewers of the book. How does a teenager know of a reviewer of a parenting book? And does that mean that I bought a good book, or one I should be leery of?