Before I became a parent, I assumed parenting was hard.
Then I had my first baby and quickly realized that parenting is way harder than I ever could have imagined.
When my baby became a toddler with his own big personality, an inhuman-like ability to slither like a snake out of my arms when he didn’t want to be carried, and a deep commitment to throwing massive tantrums, I realized that parenting had somehow become even more challenging.
Parenting a high schooler is the hardest phase yet
Fast forward to today and I find myself facing the hardest phase yet of parenting: parenting a high schooler. With just a short bit of time so far under his belt as a high school freshman, I find myself more confused than ever when it comes to how to parent my son.
When do I step in and communicate with his teachers?
How much do I remind him and check up on him about his school work and home work, especially during these times of partial remote learning?
When do I loop in the administration if there are bigger concerns?
What ARE bigger concerns at this age?
When do I get involved?
When do I keep quiet and shrink into the background?
Today the finish line of his childhood looms larger than ever in the distance. Next year he can drive a car. In two years we start looking at colleges. In three years he’ll be in his final year of high school.
Just like that — these days will be gone.
The pressure of finishing high school looms large
Sometimes the pressure of that looming finish line is overwhelming, knocking the breath right out of my lungs. We have just a short time to hold on to him tightly and enjoy these final years while at the same time stepping back from him and letting him make his own decisions and fail on his own.
Parenting a high schooler seems to be a never-ending cycle of missteps and course corrections, a constant stream of muttering lessons to ourselves:
“Oops I stepped in too far. I should have let him handle this.”
“Oops, I should have jumped in sooner. This was too much for him to handle on his own.”
For over 14 years I have known that every stage of parenting was getting harder. Yet the challenges I face today as a the mother of a high schooler have somehow caught me completely off guard.
Sometimes I miss those newborn sleepless nights, the toddler tantrums, and the nervous early school days. Sometimes I miss my little boy. Sometimes I want that finish line of childhood to stay in the distance just a little bit longer.
My son is still a child but also an emerging adult
But, when this almost adult son of mine who towers over me, wraps me in his arms and tells me he loves me all while asking for $20 to go out with his friends, I’m reminded that balance still exists between the child and adult sides of him.
Somehow, despite all the uncertainties and challenges that this stage of parenting brings, it also seems to be the best so far. There is space to just enjoy each other’s company and there is beauty in watching the rapid transformation that takes place in high school.
Just as we did with every other stage of parenting, we will figure it out.
We will be ok, even when we cross that finish line.
(originally published 09/30/2020 on Grown and Flown at: https://grownandflown.com/parenting-high-school-freshman-is-hard/)
“Kids are too soft these days.”
I rolled my eyes and tuned out the parent next to me at the youth baseball game when he started on a tirade about “today’s kids.”
The truth is, I’m tired of hearing people say that we are raising a generation of soft kids.
When did we all agree that we wanted to raise tough kids anyways?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who slough off danger like it’s no big deal?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who tolerate being bullied by their parents?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who don’t know how to express any feelings other than anger?
I know the answer that parents like the one next me will give.
“We can’t raise soft kids because life isn’t fair.”
“People are going to be mean to our children when they are adults.”
“Kids need to develop thick skin to make it in this cruel world.”
I just don’t buy it.
What if we all tried to raise soft kids?
Kids who aren’t afraid to express their feelings and emotions and will likely be better partners and parents for it.
Kids who notice other people hurting in the world and want to help create change, rather than place blame.
Kids who let their heart, rather than their pride or arrogance, guide them in life.
If having soft kids means having kids who know the power behind their words and choose kindness over hate, then let me have soft kids.
If raising soft kids means that they don’t have to listen to me shouting criticisms at them in front of their teammates, coaches, and opponents, then I hope they turn out soft.
If raising soft kids means that I have kids who don’t tolerate racism, prejudice, and hate, then I hope I raise soft kids.
Maybe all these soft kids can help make the world a better place. Isn’t that a better option than throwing our hands up and conceding that the world sucks?
Maybe I’m just too soft myself but I have hope that we can do better.
We have to do better.
A few weeks ago I ran away and I brought my family with me.
It’s become my favorite thing to do for my birthday week.
Nestled neatly between the end of the school year and the beginning of the longest stretch of summer, for years that week has provided my family and I with the perfect freedom to get away.
There are 4 simple rules for this escape from our normal lives and they are always the same. Our location must:
This year as I floated in the vacation pool with my champagne-margarita in hand, I realized that although those 4 rules are constant, we never travel with the same 4 people.
In fact, two of the guests on this trip are completely different each year.
This year we traveled with an almost 17 year old, complete with his driver’s license, and a 5’11” 13 year old with long flowing hair that would leave even the 1969 version of Paul McCartney completely jealous.
A few years ago, we traveled with a soon to be high school freshman and a soon to be first year middle schooler, both eager and nervous to start the next stage of their educational and social adventures.
And it wasn’t that long ago that we traveled with a real life 7 year old pirate and his 10 year old transformers-obsessed brother.
Somehow it really feels like just yesterday that we were traveling with two tiny children - pull ups, blankies, and pool swimmies jammed into our suitcases as we lugged strollers and car seats through airports.
But this year instead of little voices shouting “mommy watch this!”, the pool was filled with the manly voices of my teenagers and my husband playing one of their many games of intensely physical pool basketball.
While they played, I sipped my cocktail and smiled at the sounds of their booming voices shouting out to each other.
And every once in a while, I closed my eyes and could almost hear the echoes of the small boys that used to travel with us.
Because those little versions were still there too.
The truth is that if I look closely enough I can always see those versions everywhere.
They are in the dimples on their faces
They are in their sweet expressions when they fall asleep.
They are in the way they throw their heads back when they find something truly funny.
They are there in their still favorite blankets.
They are there every time they choose to sit down beside us on the sofa to play music or watch a movie.
They are always there - no matter how old their current versions get or how many inches they tower over me now.
And what a gift it is to watch the sweet merging of all those versions of my babies.
I wonder who will join us next year.
Picture it: You are at a sporting event. All around you, there are sounds of swearing, fans shouting insults at coaches, and people arguing with each other. The air is filled with tension. People are yelling things like:
“Are you kidding me?”
“Use your head!”
“What is WRONG with you?”
“What do you know? You shouldn’t even be an ump!”
“We don’t have all day — make a play!”
Just another day at any professional sporting event right?
This is another day at a youth sporting event. Any city. Any town. Any sport. Any age.
Kids. Teens. Our children.
It is not a scene of which we should be proud. It is not a scene that is made any better if it is followed by a title like “Undefeated” or “Champs.”
Let me be the first to publicly and openly admit I am guilty of some of these behaviors. Negativity can be a catchy little bugger, and I have found myself quickly sucked into the negativity vortex on more than one occasion. While I am being honest, I should admit that I have probably sometimes been the start of the negativity. But, I’m not proud of it.
I can do better. All of us can do better.
Isn’t it time we hold up the proverbial mirror and take a good, long, critical look at ourselves as parents of children in youth sports?
Honest self-reflection is not easy; it is hard, painful work, and it is time to do the work.
What would youth sports look like if we all practiced some of the following strategies?
1. Be proud, not boastful.I get it. There are moments when we want our children to feel like they are the best. Of course, we are filled with pride when our child makes the varsity squad or an all-star team or has the best stats. We should absolutely share that pride with the world!
But, can we find a way to express pride in our children without putting down someone else’s child? Can we teach our children to be proud of themselves without being arrogant? Can we be a bit more mindful about HOW we express our pride? Can we help our children to win with grace and dignity? Do we really need to pit our children against each other? Where will that lead them as they move through the really difficult parts of their childhood and adolescence?
2. Let it go.It seems our social media accounts have become the high school cafeteria for adults--ripe with mean girl behavior and teasing. Passive-aggressive memes and posts litter our social media feeds, often under the guise of being funny or insightful or offering interesting comments and quotes. If we are being honest, though, sometimes they are nothing more than hurtful jabs at other parents and coaches or even other children.
Will we tolerate such behavior from our own children in a few years on social media? I hope not. So, why do we allow ourselves to stoop so low now? Why do we tolerate it from our own friends when we see it? We are not going to like everyone and not everyone is going to like us. People will push our buttons and make us feel crazy, for sure.
It’s our jobs as the grown-ups to find a way to cope with those feelings in a positive and respectable manner. We have to be the role models — even when we don’t want that job.
3. Point out the positive.Negativity spreads like wildfire. One coach, parent, ump, or child with negative energy can set off a chain reaction of negativity, and soon everyone has it. You know what it looks like. Slumped shoulders. Eye rolling. Head shaking. Slamming things. Muttering under breath. It happens.
But, do you know what else spreads like wildfire? Positivity. It’s OK to cheer on 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12-year-olds. It really is. Yes, even after they make a mistake — even a huge mistake. You can still find something positive to say in most circumstances. Despite what some people say, I firmly believe that building up our children will NOT create a generation of helpless, spineless, whine bags.
4. Inspire improvement.I would never advocate only pointing out the positive and I am not advocating for participation trophies for everyone. We should absolutely be providing our children with clear and constructive feedback as we help them to be better versions of themselves.
What if we were all a bit more thoughtful about how and when we provide such feedback to our children? When are we doing it out of anger and frustration versus the result of thoughtful consideration? Can we encourage our children to reach their goals without demeaning them in front of everyone?
5. Remember winning isn’t everything.Sure, state, district, and national titles would all be amazing. But, if you are being honest, how much would they really truly matter to our children in 10 years? Will such things define them? Will they define us? If so, what does that mean about us?
Sometimes, it isn’t about the winning at all. Sometimes, some of life’s greatest lessons come from the loss.
6. Remember they are kids.We are raising children in a much different world and a much different time than when we were children. Today’s children have a lot on their plates in today’s world. Their lives are plenty hard enough right now.
It’s easy to forget they are still children. Quite a few of them still hold tight to the stories of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Would it be terrible to let them just have fun and enjoy their youth? Would it be OK for them to enjoy the game, even if they lose?
Next time you are at your child’s game, I encourage you to take a moment and breathe it all in. Look around at what is happening. These days are going to be over soon — for them and for us. How do you want your child to remember these times? How do you want to remember these times?
Could we all do better? I believe we can. We should. For us. For each other.
Originally published on Her View From Home HERE
Somewhere a long time ago, I began creating color coded school schedules for my children each year.
The truth is, they probably don't need them. They probably don't even look at them after the first day.
I like to say that creating these schedules helps to set my children up for success. But, in reality, I need these schedules more than they do. I love the summer months and extra time with my children but summer’s lack of a schedule leaves me feeling unhinged, off-balance, and scattered.
Comfort is what we crave when we are stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed and for me, comfort has always been found in the beginning of a brand new school year. The structure makes me feel relaxed and in control. The consistency makes me feel calm. The order makes me feel balanced. Memories of 9 solid months every year of being seen, heard, and valued makes me feel safe.
So, as a new school year begins to loom on the horizon, I feel a growing sense of calm. I lean into the task of spreading out backpacks and school supplies on my dining room table. I beam as I type all the important school dates into our shared calendar. I let out a deep sigh of relief as I begin to settle back into a new school year.
I inhale comfort and exhale chaos.
School is back.
And these pretty color coded schedules with matching color notebooks and folders are a reminder that everything will be ok.
The other day someone asked me if I had ever tried paddle boarding.
I laughed to myself as I pictured what it would be like to try to stand my uncoordinated, clumsy self upright on a board while floating on the ocean with only my balance and a paddle to prevent me from being tossed into the water by a large wave.
No, I have never tried paddle boarding. Never.
But, as I woke the next morning and quickly ran through the ever growing to-do list in my mind, I started to wonder if maybe I have been paddle boarding but just didn't realize it.
Perhaps the act of trying to balance parenting, wifeing (let's pretend it's a real word), friending (another real word), working, home owning and all the other responsibilities that come with adulting, is a bit like balancing on a paddle board.
Some days I can barely even stand up on my paddle board, no matter how calm or still the water is that day and no matter how strong my paddle is at the time.
On those days, days when my 7 year old throws himself to the floor in a full-fledged tantrum because it is time to put his shoes on or days when I get into the car already late for work and realize that my low-tire pressure light is on, all I can do is float and let the waves and ocean guide me.
Some days I find the strength to stand with ease and I am suddenly an expert paddle boarder.
On those days I glide over the ocean's surface, making dinner, folding laundry, paying bills and shuttling my children to and from events on time like a pro. This paddle boarding thing sure feels like second nature on those days.
Some days I even find myself sitting comfortably on the board, my legs dangling playfully over the edge without a care.
On those days my children are happy and polite, my work responsibilities are up to date, my house is clean and my financial stress is low. These are the days when I wish I could freeze time and soak up all the laughter, love, light and pure joy I see around me.
But then, inevitably, the water changes, as it always does, without warning. Some days there is just too much weight on my shoulders. Flat tires. Sick children. Work emergencies. Sick pets. Health concerns. Broken washing machines. Suddenly I am seasick and just want to angrily cast aside my stupid paddle and board and give up. It's too much. It's too hard. I'm not built for paddle boarding.
The negative self talk gets louder. What was I thinking? Why is everyone else out there balancing so beautifully on their boards today? What is wrong with me?
On those days, all I can do is plunk myself down on my board, legs criss-crossed-applesauce and sit there, holding on to the board for dear life, hoping that tomorrow will be a better day.
But no matter what kind of day I’m having, the truth is that I’m not the only one out here paddle boarding my way through adulthood.
When I pick my eyes up and really look around me, I can see that I am surrounded by a sea of other paddle boarders. While some may be struggling, some may be making it look effortless, and some may be navigating treacherous waters, all of us can benefit from remembering that we are not completely alone.
Maybe today is a good day to reach out to some of your fellow paddle boarders - because it turns out there are a lot of us out here in the ocean of adulthood - just trying our best to balance and not fall off our boards.
I have a secret.
I play the piano and I’m not terrible at it.
But, most people in my life today have never heard me play. I don’t record myself. I don’t perform for others. I only play for myself. My boys have grown up hearing me play though and sometimes ask me to play.
Yesterday my family visited a large music store so my youngest could pick out a guitar for his birthday. My oldest and I wandered into the piano room and he asked me to play piano.
I instantly resisted: “No. People will hear me. I haven’t played in a while.”
Then my 14 year old said to me what I often say to my clients when their inner critic creeps in: “so what?”
What’s the worst that could happen?
How bad could it actually be?
And so I did it and I messed up but I had fun and I’m glad I let him push me out of my comfort zone.
When your inner critic steps in and tells you that you aren’t good enough, aren’t perfect enough, might make a mistake, might regret something, try asking yourself “so what?”
We all could be a bit more like this 14 year old who just sits down at a piano in public and plays because it makes him happy.
Hey mamas, I have a message for you.
You can’t do it all.
You can’t be perfect.
You are going to walk into a room and forget why you even entered it.
You are going to forget about a gymnastics class.
You are going to be late for your kid’s bus.
You are going to think you responded to that text but you actually didn’t.
And you know what, it will all still be ok.
You are human and the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Every day you wake up and hit the ground running because you have people that depend on you. Their needs and their wants fill your head each day on an endless loop. Most days fitting in a shower, brushing your teeth, or even peeing alone feels like a luxury.
And I promise you that all those Mamas you see on social media with their on point makeup, immaculately done hair, spit up free clothes, and gym fresh bodies are far from perfect too.
We all have our struggles.
We all have those things that keep us awake at night with dread and worry.
We all carry shame.
So let’s stop pretending that we can be perfect.
Let’s stop pressuring ourselves and each other to be perfect. Instead let’s meet in the middle with our beautiful imperfections and show each other and ourselves a bit more grace. Let’s remind each other that none of us are perfect. Let’s show each other our imperfections. Let’s talk about them and name them instead of feeling shameful about them and trying to hide them. Let’s light each other up with our realities instead of dimming each other with the heaviness of perfection.
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I’ve been in some scary places in my lifetime.
But, hands down one of the scariest places I’ve ever been is in the parking lot of my son’s high school.
At first the parking lot is peaceful and quiet, just a bunch of parked cars and a line of parents idling in their own cars waiting for their students at the end of the school day.
Then the wooded path from the high school to the parking lot slowly begins to fill with groups of young adults.
Some are off to college in a few months.
Some are already old enough to vote and serve in the military.
Some are heading straight from their school day to their afternoon jobs.
Some are climbing into their own cars and driving away.
Some are grabbing rides home with older friends who can drive.
As they all make their way past my car, I can’t help but picture the versions of them I first met so many years ago.
Gone are the young adult versions of them.
Instead I see the 7 year old that used to ride the bus with my son when he was in 1st grade.
I see the 8 year old that played ball in the street outside my front window.
I see the 9 year old that introduced my son to the magic of summer travel baseball.
I see the 10 year old that helped lead their flag football team to an undefeated season.
I see the 11 year old who introduced me to his mother, a woman who would become one of my closest friends.
I see the 12 year old who wrote my husband a beautiful thank you note for being his coach during his youth football years.
I see the 13 year old who giggled with their friends in the backseat of my car as I drove them all to the movies.
I know they have morphed into amazing young adults but in that parking lot I still see them as the carefree, innocent, wide-eyed younger versions of themselves.
Even as they back out of their parking space in their own little SUV’s and peel away into the line of cars exiting the parking lot, I see who they used to be.
Even as they kiss their high school sweetheart goodbye in the parking lot and drive away to their jobs, I see who they used to be.
Even as they chat with each other about their plans for life after graduation, I see who they used to be.
And as my own son, always one of the last to enter the parking lot, finally makes his way to my car, I see who he used to be.
I see the 5 year old version of him, lunchbox in hand bounding off the school-bus and into my arms.
Yes, this parking lot is terrifying.
For this is the place where you can feel the distance between childhood and adulthood growing more and more each day.
But if you look and listen hard enough, the high school parking lot is also one of the most hopeful places to be.
It is where you can see the friendships and connections that will still be there for decades to come.
It is where you can see the hopefulness for the future they have yet to write for themselves.
It is where you can see the fear of the unknown and the insecurities being replaced by bravery and confidence.
It is where you can see the ability to enjoy the present.
As my son climbs into the passenger seat and flashes his 16 year old grin at me, I am aware that I only have a few more months to spend in this parking lot. Soon he will have his license and all that money he has been saving from his job will be put towards a car.
Soon I won’t be needed in this parking lot - this beautiful parking lot where fear gives way to hope - and I am really going to miss this place.
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.