This is our official first day of high school picture and it sums up our feelings on the school year perfectly.
We want normal.
Every parent, student, teacher, and administrator is having their patience, compassion, and ability to strike balance tested on a serious level these days.
After just one day of a hybrid model of remote and in-person learning, I’m exhausted as a parent.
I’ve spent all my hopefulness. I’ve used all my patience. I’ve done all I can do.
Our family gave today our best. Tonight we regroup, refuel, reset our expectations, and hope that each day will get easier.
A friend’s child asked her today “will it always be like this?”
We all could benefit from asking ourselves that question every day.
We need to remember that this time in our lives will pass. It is temporary. Brighter days are ahead.
It will not always be like this.
Here’s to finding the bright spots while we wait.
This week I had the pleasure of reviewing an advanced copy of Jacqueline Leigh's Skedaddle.
As a recipient of the Moonbeam Children's Book Award, Jacqueline has done it again with Skedaddle, her third children's book.
This simple story of a young girl unable to fall asleep because of the antics of a squirrel in her attic is brought to wondrous life through Jacqueline's skilled story telling and Erika Wilson's whimsical art work. In a "nut shell," Skedaddle is pure delight!
With a story and illustrations appealing to children and adults of all ages, I found myself reading and re-reading Skedaddle all afternoon. I wish I was still a preschool teacher so that I could build a fun curriculum around this clever story!
The sweet and endearing message of Skedaddle is delivered with lightness, humor, and innocence. Skedaddle is one of those books that is sure to be pulled from the shelves over and over and over again to be treasured throughout the years.
I can't wait for you all to read it and love it as much as I do!
Skedaddle will be available for purchase on October 1, 2020. In the meantime, join Jacqueline for the Skedaddle Virtual Party over on Facebook for your opportunity to get your personalized and autographed copy of the new release.
Be sure to also Skedaddle on over to Jacqueline's website, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date on all of her projects.
As the summer begins to wind down and fall begins to knock gently on our door, I typically find myself in my happy place—not because of pumpkin spice anything, or leggings and boots, or shiny new academic year planners and school supplies — but because both of my boys are boys of fall.
Article originally published on Her View From Home. Click HERE to read the full article.
Dear Mamas, You’ve Got This
It’s that time of year again — the time when summer days begin to shorten, summer nights require a sweater, and back to school sales fill the stores.
But, this year, everything feels completely different.
This year, mothers everywhere are facing the beginning of the school year with a growing sense of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.
I know I am.
Each day I wake up still uncertain about the back to school plan. Each day finds me second guessing my family’s decision to allow our sons to return to school in a hybrid model versus a fully remote option. Each day finds the dread and sadness building in me. Each day finds the lightness of summer fading.
This is not how this was supposed to go.
Right now, my head is filled with a million racing thoughts:
- How can I help my children learn remotely this year?
- What is the best physical space for them?
- How are they going to stay engaged all day?
- How can I make sure they learn something?
- How are they going to feel emotionally with this new school plan?
- How can I balance their schooling and all of the other things I have to do?
- How can I possibly do everything that is required of me.
- What if I fail at this?
- What if I can’t do this?
- Are they going to be ok?
- Am I going to be ok?
What is being asked of us as mothers right now is almost impossible to understand and has created one of the most pressure-filled moments of motherhood I can remember.
I am overwhelmed and sad that this is our reality.
But, I am trying desperately to hold two key thoughts close to my heart. These thoughts have become mantras for me lately and are what I say to myself when the anxiety gets too loud:
This is not forever. This is not our new long-term normal. This will not define our children and it will not define us as mothers.
We are not in this alone. There are lots of other mothers out there facing similar struggles.
We need to lean on each other. We need to commit to calling, texting, and FaceTiming each other regularly to give each other space to vent, complain, and cry and to build each other up.
This will be hard. There is no doubt about it. There will be days when we cry, days when we scream into pillows, and days when we just can’t get motivated.
There will also be days where it feels not quite as impossible. There will be days where the smiles outnumber the frustrated sighs.
It will be ok.
We will get to the other side of this challenging time.
This time in our lives will serve to remind us that there are so many things outside of our control, that the uncomfortable and hard times are always temporary, and that we are not alone.
Right now, mamas, we need to breathe in and breathe out, taking this challenge before us one single day at a time while cutting ourselves an amazing sense of grace.
You’ve got this, Mama, and we’ve all got each other.
Recently my family drove north to stay at a hotel for one last getaway before summer ends.
Life on the other side of our shared hotel room wall was very different than life on our side.
The family on the other side of the wall was the same as my family - just a version of us from 12 years ago.
On the other side of the wall were high pitched squeaky voices that shouted “mommy look!” over and over again.
On our side of the wall were tall manly teenage boys with deep and sometimes moody voices.
On the other side of the wall were toy train whistles and giggles.
On our side of the wall were xboxes and conversations about politics.
On the other side of the wall they were silent by 8pm and awake by 6am.
On our side of the wall we stayed up past midnight and slept in late.
On the other side of the wall the parents were the last to fall asleep.
On our side of the wall I was the first to fall asleep.
On the other side of the wall were bedtime stories, sweet lap cuddles, raspy early morning voices, and sippy cups of milk.
On our side of the wall were requests for coffee, sarcastic quips, and eye rolls.
Both sides of the wall were filled with love and families just trying to find joy with each other as summer comes to a close.
No matter which side of the wall you are on right now, enjoy your time there.
There is peace and magic and beauty on both sides of the wall.
I’ve been here before.
This space between elementary school and middle school is familiar to me for I have walked this road before with my oldest son. This road is a place where childhood really starts to feel finite and the pull of adolescence finds its way into our lives. It’s a short road but one that feels endless at times and is often uncomfortable and scary.
Originally published on Her View From Home. Click HERE to view full article.
This isn’t how it was supposed to be.
I’ve pictured this moment, your first day of high school, since the instant I knew you existed. But the reality of this moment is far different than anything I had ever imagined — just like the past five months have been for you.
Originally published on Her View From Home. Click HERE to read the full article.
Last week my family of 4 snuck away with my sister’s family of 6. We decided to continue our pandemic social distancing but do it from a different place. We piled into two cars and made the trip to a beauitful house in the mountains. All 10 of us in a house together, on vacation, for the first time ever.
It took a pandemic to make it happen.
No travel sports for the children has opened up our schedules. Pre-pandemic, we had to struggle to find a few hours each month where all of us were free. But now, we get to spend one full weekend day together each week and easily found a way to get away for a vacation.
It took a pandemic to make it happen.
As the 10 of us floated down a river in our teethered together inflatable tubes for a full 7 hours, we laughed, we talked, we swam, we stood up and dragged our tubes when the water got too low or the current got too slow, we wondered if the little rapids would kill us when the water was higher and moved more quickly, we relaxed when the current and depth was just right, and we pointed out how lucky we were to be able to have this time together. We made incredible memories with each other.
It took a pandemic to make it happen.
Later that week, as we sat around the dining room table playing game after game after game and belly laughing until it hurt, I breathed it all in and hoped that the future would be kind to this family. I hoped that these days we have been given together would keep the 6 cousins tethered together — just like those tubes on the river — long after the grown ups are gone.
It took a pandemic to make it happen.
While I wish we could go back in time and avoid so much that this year has brought to us, I am also grateful for the forced slow down these difficult times have provided us. Life seems to have more sweet spots now as I decide more deliberately how and with whom I spend my time.
It took a pandemic to make it happen.
Although things often feel wildly out of control in the midst of the current events, my life feels wholly more mine than it did before. Life used to feel like those areas of the river where the water was high and the current was fast — things often felt out of my control and like they were moving too quickly. Other days used to feel like those parts of the river where the currents meet and we had to work hard to get our tubes back on track.
But now, despite all of the stress and uncertainty in life, my life feels like those sweet spots in the river. There is peace, happiness, laughter, and love. Things somehow feel just right.
It took a pandemic to make it happen.
Everywhere we look right now we hear and see the same few words over and over again.
For many of us, this constant news cycle can be overwhelming, tapping into our already somewhat heightened levels of anxiety. For those of us that are parents, we have an added layer of concern: how do we explain the current state of affairs to our children and provide them some sense of reassurance?
While there is no magic elixir, magic wand, or secret rule book, there are a few key strategies that just might help us to decrease our children’s current worries and restore a sense of hope.
1. Be Honest
As with most things, children know more than we think they do and they crave honest information. As much as I want to shelter my children from hearing about the potential bad things that could happen, now that they are in school and in sports, this is simply not a reliable option. They can potentially overhear information from an adult or directly from another child in a number of locations. When parents make the decision to provide their children with honest information, there is better control over what and how specific information is shared with their children.
2. Watch What You Say
On the flip side, be mindful about what you say around children, not just around your own children, but when you are out in public. You don’t want to be that person who exposes another child to information their parents had not yet shared.
3. Consider Development
Children’s emotional and cognitive capacities develop significantly throughout their childhood. Before sharing details with them, take their developmental stage into consideration. A 12 year old will want and need more specific and detailed information than a 7 year old may need. Avoid going into too much detail or overwhelming them with details. Let them guide you on how much information they need.
4. Be a Role Model
Let’s face it, children learn a lot from watching their parents: the good, the bad and the ugly. Show your children that feelings like anger and frustration are normal. If you are angry, name it. Be sure to not only show your child that it is normal to feel emotions but also demonstrate acceptable ways for them to express those emotions. Avoid holding it all in and expressing it only when the children are not around. Let them in on the realness of feelings. You will be providing them a solid model for how to handle and manage life’s biggest challenges to come.
5. Reassure. Reassure. Reassure.
Children need to feel safe and the adults in their lives are the ones who are tasked with that monumental responsibility. I am not advocating for you to tell your children that nothing bad will happen to them or near them ever as that would be a lie. You cannot predict the future. You can, however, point out that good stuff happens far more often than the bad stuff. Remind children of all the people and systems in place to keep them safe and all the healthy people around them. Reassure them that you would never knowingly put them in a dangerous situations. Highlight safety measures that are in place in they express fear over attending a certain event. Repeat as many times as necessary. When you think you’ve said it all enough, say it one more time.
6. Limit Media
Television news, social media accounts and newspapers now provide non-stop, around the clock coverage of the virus outbreak. Pictures, video, audio clips; it’s all out there and it can quickly become too much for children. Be mindful of what children may be exposed to and consider whether it is necessary. I recall hearing accounts from 9/11 that many children interpreted the frequent replay of the plane hitting the tower as multiple planes hitting multiple buildings day after day. Even if you think your children aren’t watching the news with you or don’t see the headlines on the newspaper, think about what they may overhear from the next room or what they may see when the newspaper is left casually on a kitchen table.
7. Create an Open Dialogue
Children need time to process things. It is not unusual for children to need days or even weeks to develop questions or be able to express their thoughts on difficult topics. Send your child the message that you can always find time to talk with them. Many parents have success by carving out time each night around bedtime for an opportunity for children to share their experiences, thoughts, feelings and ask questions. Some parents schedule weekly one-on-one parent/child dates at a coffee shop or fast food restaurant to connect. These conversations tend to be better received when they focus on one child at a time, rather than as a family dialogue with multiple children of various developmental stages.
8. Point Out the Positive
Despite what we see on a daily basis, there are lots and lots of great things that happen locally, nationally and internationally. Seek out the good stuff and share it often with your children. Local newspapers can often be a more positive source of news, particularly for children. Highlighting the positives can also go a long way to helping children feel safe. No amount of the good stuff is too much!
9. Monitor Behavioral Changes
Keep a watchful eye on your child’s behavior. Changes in sleeping and eating patterns may indicate that your child is having a hard time processing some events and information. Changes such as suddenly wetting the bed again or asking to sleep in your bed could be a normal response to stressful information. Be careful not to shame your child about changes like these. Rather, give them some time, continue to provide reassurance and keep a watchful eye. If you are concerned, reach out for support. Your child’s school, their pediatrician and local child therapists are all great resources.
When I became a parent nearly 14 years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about parenting. I’d read all the baby books, perused all the baby websites, signed up for the weekly emails about my baby’s development and yet still was woefully under-prepared for what it would take to be a mother.
Not much has changed since then. I still feel inadequate most days as I stumble my way through the maze of parenthood.
As my oldest approaches his 14th birthday, I find myself amazed by how much he has changed in just one year. Facebook Memories and Timehop remind me almost daily that every day he steps closer and closer to adulthood, slipping further and further away from childhood.
Blinking back tears, I look at him today, amazed at the young man he has become and I am humbled by just how much he has taught me during his 13th year:
1. Hold on loosely, but don’t let go
It turns out that 80’s bands gave us more than just good music — they gave us solid advice to live by as parents. My 13 year old has taught me this year that while I need to hold onto him and continue to guide him, I can’t cling too tightly. He needs space to find himself and that means space to make his own mistakes. If I hold too tightly, he’s never going to learn how to make it as an adult.
2. Hit the Whoa
Every year there is some new “dance” that takes over on Tik Tok and You Tube. If you’re lucky, your 13 year old will tell you about it, teach you it, and then tolerate you when you are in public and try to show off your skills. I’m still not exactly sure what the Whoa actually is though…
3. Be honest with friends
Middle school has been rough for me as a parent this past year, as it turns out that middle school drama doesn’t really stop when you leave middle school. It all rears its ugly head again when you become a middle school parent. During moments this past year when my 13 year old caught wind of such drama, he was always very matter of fact and eager to offer advice to me. He always encouraged me to “just talk to them” and be honest. His message — if they are your friends, they’ll understand.
4. Hard work pays off
This past year has seen my 13 year old face a significant arm injury, requiring lots of visits to specialists for testing, physical therapy, and sports restrictions. Pain, daily ice massages on his elbow, strengthening and stretching workout and playing baseball with his team while not really be able to do anything more than swing a bat sometimes would be a lot for any adult to manage, let alone a teenager. But he persevered and was able to finish the final few games of the season without any restrictions. I think most adults, myself included, would have given up.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff
You can learn a lot from how 13 year old boys handle conflict. While they have their share of disagreements with their friends, get hurt, and have drama, they are quick to let it go and move on. They don’t sweat the small stuff. They let it roll of their backs. We could benefit from doing more of the same as adults.
6. Teen music is great for working out
I think every generation has a “I can’t believe what those kids are listenting to for music these days” moment. But, it turns out, if you are open minded and let them play their music for you, you just may find yourself asking them to add some of those songs to your workout play list. The music those crazy kids are listening to these days is great for cardio and weights at the gym!
7. Sleepovers are the worst
I thought sleepovers would get better as they got older. They don’t. Although they can regulate themselves and then recover a bit quicker than my 10 year old when it comes to going to sleep at a normal time, now that they are teenagers the responsibility of hosting becomes so much more stressful for us as parents. Are other kids bringing in vapes, drugs, or alcohol? Are they going to try to sneak out? Are they doing something on social media that might hurt other kid’s feelings? Nope. Sleepovers for 13 year olds still suck.
8. Disney is magical, even for teenagers
Our family has always loved taking trips to Walt Disney World. Each time we go, we wonder “Is this it? Are they too old for the magic?” It turns out that 13 is not too old! As we were walking out of Epcot park at the end of an evening in Disney last month, my 13 year old leaned over to me and said, “Mom, even though we are older now. Doing this is still a lot of fun.” I tried to give him a hug as tears started forming in my eyes but that was quickly shot down as hugs are a bit of a rare commodity for some teens.
9. Hugs are the greatest gift
When my son was little, he was a great hugger and snuggler. Now, hugs are much harder to come by. But, when I do get a surprise hug hello or thank-you or as a comfort, it is one of the greatest gifts ever. I wish I hadn’t taken all those toddler hugs for granted, I never knew how much I would miss them.
10. Teenagers can navigate
Earlier this month we went tubing down a river in New Hampshire with a large group of families. It was 5 mile river float and we let the group of teenage boys float off together ahead of the adults. Many of us worried that they wouldn’t be aware enough to see the tiny sign that would indicate it was time for them to get off the river. When we rounded the bend and saw the beach with the sign, the teens were nowhere in sight. I immediately wrote them off, assuming they missed it but I could not have been more wrong. Not only had they seen it, but they had returned their floats to the rental place and were waiting together for us near our cars.
11. Car rides are special
Joining a travel sports team has meant lots of long car rides over the past year and although those often meant waking up early and staring at headlights for 2+ hours, they also mean that I got to ride side by side with my 13 year old, trapped in a moving box. Just us. Something special often happens on those long car rides. The air shifts just a bit and he begins to open up about his life, his friends, his feelings, his fears. I love those car rides now.
12. Teens have instincts too
One of the biggest lesson I’ve learned from my 13 year old is that just because we, as adults, are older, doesn’t necessarily mean we are wiser. Teenagers are humans too and have some gut instincts that sometimes are spot on. It’s important to give them a chance to use their voice and share their instincts. Being able to tap into that insight will help them immensely in their adulthood.
13. We need more cereal
One of the primary sources of fuel for 13 year old boys is cereal. It could be a meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack and teenagers eat it by the boatload. My 13 year old has taught me to assume that we always need more cereal. If you see me at any store these days, I can guarantee I have some cereal and milk in my cart.
There are whole sections of bookstores devoted to the topic of how to parent a teenager. You could read every single one of those books and still feel unsure of yourself as you navigate the waters of parenting a teenager. But, I’m learning that the best way to parent them is to see them, hear them, and accept them for who they are right now…and feed them lots and lots of cereal.
Parenting is one of life's greatest challenges and greatest rewards. Here we explore all aspects of parenting from pregnancy onward, highlighting both the struggles and the triumphs.