Parent Blog: Living with teens
by Frenzied Femme
When I was a little girl, I used to skate on my parent's pond during the winter. The ice was often choppy and the weather freezing, but I spent hours outside anyway. I especially spent time outside during the winters of the olympics. I would watch the skaters on tv and dream of being just like them. I never was, but I did manage to teach myself how to do a spiral. I'm sure my execution did not match how I thought I looked. But, it didn't matter. I was outside, exercising, and dreaming. Could anyone ask for more for their childhood?
So, when my children asked to take skating lessons, how could I say no? There was a local class. I put one daughter into Basic 1 and the other into SnowPlow Sam. One the first day, they had moved the one in SnowPlow Sam to Basic 1. It is really a basic class. The first day, they learned how to stand back up after they fall. Then they work on mastering forward momentum.... push with the left... and the right. The girls really liked it. But unfortunately, the lessons moved during hockey season to a time when I could not take them. The skating Director explained how having a private coach and private lessons was not really that much more expensive. And, the girls switched to private lessons.
The change has been so gradual over time.... adding another coach to work on artistry... another for jumps.... another for general coaching. But, over time, my middle child (the one who moved up to Basic 1 on her first day) has become a beautiful skater. I read articles that say the best thing you can say to your child about any sport is "I love to watch you play." But really, I do love to watch her skate. It is beautiful.
Both of my daughters have now been competing for years. It is difficult to watch a competition. I much prefer watching practice. I know in competitions that one fall means a big difference. But, this competition has really helped the kids. There was one season where my middle child could not string together 4 words before a competition due to nerves. She would skate like a zombie until she fell. And, she always fell. After she fell, she was a different skater. It was like the fall knocked her back to reality and then she could skate well. She did this for so many competitions until one where she fell... and won. Once she realized that she didn't need to be 100% perfect, she was finally able to relax. And, then she won every competition she entered for a year. My oldest is not as good at skating, but she still enjoys it. She has twice hit the wall during competitions. Hit the wall. I could see it coming, but I was powerless to stop it.
This week is Regionals. This is the event that the best skaters in the rink go to. This is the lead up to Nationals (what you see on tv). First it is Regionals, then Sectionals, then Nationals. Not every skill level has Nationals. But, Regionals starts at the lower levels. The best of the best go to Regionals (even at the lower levels). My daughter went for the first time this year. There is a big show a couple of weeks before the skaters go. The skaters perform one of their routines and they have a cake will all of the skaters names on it. It was a big deal to my daughter to finally be included. But, before the show, her skating started becoming erratic. She lost her double. We decided to still go, but to take her double out. She had no chance at success without the double, but she could then concentrate on her other elements. We decided it was enough to just have the experience of going.
Last Saturday, her coach decided to let her have the choice of putting the double back in. She had started landing it again when she no longer had the pressure of having it in her routine. We went the night before the competition to let her practice on the ice surface she would actually skate on. She practiced, and we went to the hotel for the night. We were fortunate that Regionals this years were only 2 1/2 hours from our house. So she only missed one day of school. We left after her school day to get her there for practice ice. When we got to the hotel, she went to unpack her competition dress to make sure it didn't have wrinkles. Guess what? She forgot to pack the dress. Inside my head I wanted to scream, "WHAT? HOW COULD YOU FORGET THE DRESS?" But, outside I just sighed and went to get the dress. The kids could sleep in the car. Which was a good thing since she had to be back at the rink at 6:30 am.
But, she pulled it together. Did she make final rounds? No. But, she didn't miss by much. She threw her double. And fell. But, she almost landed it. Had she landed it, I'm sure she would have been through. Still, coming to this level of competition and almost making it was huge. I am very proud of her. And tired.... very, very tired.
By: Queue Murphy
How do we teach our boys to be respectful to girls as they are growing up, even when the girls don’t respect themselves? It is up to us as mothers to be the example so that they grow up to be good boyfriends, husbands…human beings! We need to demonstrate, communicate, communicate, communicate.
My son has loved girls since he was very little. It didn’t take much to see that when an older girl appeared at the store, library, beach – he would stare and smile. Every grade he was in, I would be told that he had a girlfriend. I would just nod and smile and tell him to be respectful and nice.
Last month, we went to the fair in the township that we live in – he told me on the way that his girlfriend was there and he wanted to make sure that I saw her. As we walked around, he saw her and ran to catch up with her. He kept looking back and making sure that I was looking. It was fun watching him stand there trying to look cool, making sure his gelled hair was standing up straight and his shirt was hanging over in a certain way. It made me remember those uncomfortable days in Junior High when everyone wanted to be cool, while in reality, no one ever felt they were.
Yesterday, I coerced him into going for a walk with me (he’s 12 and it’s uncool). We talked about the girl he liked at the fair and he said he didn’t like her anymore. He said she kissed all the boys in school and always wanted them to be her boyfriend. She had asked him to kiss her, but he wouldn’t because she had kissed so many during the school year. I felt so bad for her. I told him he should feel empathy for her. It was obvious that she thought she could only make boys like her if she did what they wanted. She felt bad about herself. I told him it was important for him to still say hi to her and not pretend she was invisible. It was important for him to say something if he heard other boys saying bad things about her. This was the only way things like this would stop. He didn’t have to be her boyfriend, but he could be a friend.
He at first balked at the idea of taking on this responsibility, but then told me that he would try. I know it’s a lot to put on a kid, but even if we change how some boys and men treat girls one boy at a time, it will make a difference, and he’ll teach his sons and daughters the same!
By: Queue Murphy
One day after cleaning up at a community event, a pastor asked me if I wouldn’t mind driving a man to a nearby homeless shelter. He had wandered into the church out of the rain and wanted a ride to Ann Arbor – one of the better homeless shelters in the area. I looked at the man behind him, he stared straight ahead and every now and then his eyes would dart back and forth. He had a bandana on, jeans and a loose flannel shirt. The pastor introduced him as Michael. I told the Pastor I would check with my family, if they agreed we would take him together, it would be OK. I asked Michael if he wanted some lunch. He looked at me, nodded and began to follow me, as if in a trance. As we headed through a very public area to the nearby restaurant where I was going to meet my husband and younger kids for lunch, I tried to talk to Michael to get some more information about him. He would mumble in response, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.
Now I wouldn’t recommend that anyone take a stranger into their car to drive to a shelter. I would not have done it alone, and if my husband had reservations after we all sat down to eat in a public restaurant, we wouldn’t have done it either. The man was obviously mentally ill and I made sure I stayed in very crowded public areas at all times.
We sat down with my family at the restaurant and my 12-year-old, who usually vocally complains through our meals, stared at Michael. He kept trying to talk to him and obviously felt empathy. Every now and then Michael would speak in a way we could understand him, and then slip back into a trancelike state, sometimes scribbling things on a paper. My 9-year-old daughter drew him a picture on a napkin and gave it to him. He ate his meal when it came and seemed like he was trying to answer us as much as he could. We gathered food for him to take home and put it into a bag.
In the car, Michael sat in the front seat with my husband and I sat in the back with the kids. We drove him to Ann Arbor and dropped him off at a corner of homeless people playing instruments on a street corner. He said his thanks and slid out of the seat and rushed into a nearby coffee shop.
After he left the vehicle, the kids started talking about Michael, and others like him. It was a good teaching experience, and we reminded them of how lucky we all were. We also talked to the kids about staying safe if they were ever to help anyone. It was a life lesson for all of us and knowing how many Michaels are out there. Sometimes Michael comes back to our community on his wandering travels, and we always stop to talk to him and give him a bite to eat. As we drive, the kids will point out the homeless they see on the streets and discuss how we can help them – their ideas are simple, but on the right track. If we keep talking to each other and our kids about people with disabilities or mental illness, we can hope that the next generation helps to improve one of the biggest challenges out there. I only hope it made them better people.
By On the Cusp
Today is the first day of my son’s senior year at high school. Last night, in the flurry of finding the backpacks, sharpening pencils and trying to herd kids to bed at a decent hour, it seemed like an ordinary September evening, just like all the other years.
But today, I realized it’s the beginning of the end.
Each year since preschool, we’ve taken that first day of school picture of my son, standing against the giant oak tree in our front yard. Year after year, he has inched his way up against the trunk. The physical changes have come slowly. Baby teeth grins, then the missing front teeth. Braces. And now his gleaming white grin. Hair styles went from soft light brown hair, to buzz cuts, to the sideburns he now wears proudly. His body transformed from soft, scrawny and huggable child to someone taller and stronger than me. Year after year, these changes evolved so slowly. Until now, when I so desperately want to turn back the clock.
I blink and we’re back in grade school, walking down the street. He’s chattering away, happy to be spending time with me. And neither of us are on our phones. It’s quality time at its finest.
Over the years, school has gotten easier for me, and harder for him. In high school, there are no room parents or parent volunteers for the holiday parties or teacher gifts. I don’t have to feel guilty about missing field trips due to business trips. PTO’s are a thing of the past. The teachers don’t really want parents popping in and out of their classrooms. But for my son, high school has meant buckling down and getting serious about homework. And learning. And the future.
Next year we’ll start another tradition: Packing the car to its bursting point and driving to his campus. But until then, I’m going to enjoy the year ahead.
Talking to Your Teen …. Again – cuz sometimes the other way doesn’t always work.
By: Emilia Jae
One of the toughest parts of talking with my teens (both my offspring and the ones in my classroom) is LISTENING. I’m not talking about responding to what they are saying with my opinion or point of view. Just focusing on what they are saying with no response prepared. Tough but possible.
Remember, you are dealing with an animal that is more self-centered than a toddler. They are all about themselves and only themselves. The moment you start to say “this is what I think…” the input channel in their heads change the frequency and they are watching their favorite video/playing an online game/sleeping in some other dimension. Fail.
With your own child, find something they are confident about. Something they are well-versed in or enjoy. This can be a video game, a type of music, a sport, style of clothing…I realize this list could take up the whole page. You get the idea. Find a time they are “available” (not running out the door or finally sitting down to complete homework after you threatened them or waiting for a text from … someone). Ask them about that thing. That passion.
Be casual. Maybe even practice in front of the mirror. Or with your significant other. Or your toddler. “I saw this girl longboarding the other day and she was texting at the same time! Is it really that easy?”… “Are there different kinds of boards?” Maybe even do a little research.
Okay, this is where your instincts will really try to kick in. Resist.
If they shrug or roll their eyes, don’t react. Just sit. They may answer. They may walk away.
Try again later.
When you finally get an answer, have follow up questions. And make them authentic. Even if you have to fake it (and you probably will) act interested. And DON’T give your critique, opinion, related story etc. Just a final “thanks”. (By the way – this will really throw them off. One of the perks)
Try this a couple times – use what we educators call “Teachable Moments”. If you notice said child is playing a certain game or watching a movie, join them. My husband noticed my son was getting back into weight lifting. He just went into the basement and started lifting next to him. When my son offered advice, he thanked him, even though he already knew the info my son shared.
If it gets to a point where you and your teen have shared a few times on a subject, you may find the moment to ask, “Would you like my input/advice/experience?” You may get a “no thanks”. Accept that. Bite that tongue.
Believe it or not, the more you do this, the less weird it will seem. You should notice that it will become more natural and you can even offer follow-up questions.
So is the point of this to become an expert in the current video game? No, but what a great by-product! It’s to show that you respect your child’s world. I know you believe that he/she needs to show respect first however, in their minds – they believe we don’t respect them or their world. Remember – toddlers.
Be strong! It pays off. And remember to LISTEN. (really: practice in front of the mirror first)
Emilia Jae is a certified special education teacher with over 30 years experience. Her family consists of a husband of 28 years and 2 adult children in university. She loves to write, spend time with her family, travel, read, explore the wilderness, exercise and ride her motorcycle. She claims she will never grow up and her behavior bears that out.
By: OnThe Cusp
Several years ago, I had the good fortune to hear Ellen Costello, MD and co-author of Quirky Kids, talk to my local Parent Teacher Organization. This was in the early days, when my son was young and being the parent of a differently-abled child was new, and scary. Ellen’s no-nonsense approach to the topic was a breath of fresh air.
We’re all quirky in a way, she explained. Later, it gets easier. Your child who screams because she hates sand in her toes, will as an adult choose not to go to the beach. The early years, she explained, are the tough ones.
And indeed they were. Playdates were few; appointments with specialists were plenty. I put on my sympathetic mask at school pickup, where stay-at-home moms would complain that their child was running them ragged between sports, after-school activities, and birthday parties. Eventually, I migrated over to the Other Moms, who were clustered in a tight group comparing notes on IEPs and therapy playgroups. My perfectionist nature was swallowed down to a deep, painful place within, as I cheerfully applauded the three spelling words that were right on the quiz and milestones measured by what wasn’t dropped or spilled. With time, my brittle smile gave way to genuine pleasure as I learned to appreciate all the small achievements, one by one.
Quirky kids are the brave ones. I often looked at the quote on my desk: “Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow. – Mary Ann Radmacher.” Now, my beloved quirky kid has evolved into a fine young man who makes me beam with pride. He has found his place in the world.
I still think about Dr. Costello’s lecture often. During the Q&A session those many years ago, one mother asked, how many of these kids are medicated? She thought for a few seconds, then replied, ‘Maybe half.’ Pause. ‘And virtually all of their mothers.’ There was a second of silence, then we all roared with appreciation and a sense of community. I left that evening feeling lighter than I had in months. The road ahead would be bumpy, but there would be plenty of laughter and support along the way.
OnTheCusp is a reluctant workaholic and Boston-based mother of two teenagers, whose dream is a daily walk on the beach to savor the sunrise
I find that it is easier for me to talk to my son in the car also. Maybe it's because he wants me to allow him to put what he wants on the radio, or maybe he really does feel more comfortable. He is 12.
By: Emilia Jae
While a teen, my son in particular was always very reluctant to speak to me about things - even the daily stuff:
"So, what did you do with Eddie today?"
"Really? Nothing? Can you expand on that?"
"God, Mom! Get off my back!"
Followed by stomping off to a secluded room.
Nothing new. This has been experienced by parents for millennia. I am sure that Socrates had the same trouble with his teenager. Only she ran off to the goat herd. This is assuming the philosopher had a daughter. And goats. But I digress.
On a long road trip to a soccer tournament, it was only my son and I in my car. No head phones, no iphone in front of him. It started casual - noticing things. Then we both had opinions and noted the similarities and differences. Then, gradually, he brought up some things about his life. I told him some things about me when I was his age (not comparing but RELATING - this is important). I worked VERY hard not to judge or react if he said something that bothered me. I would ask follow up questions.
By the time we got there - I had learned a lot and I think we made a dent in that wall between us. The soccer game gave us things to talk about right away on the way home. We talked a little more beyond that, but nothing too earth shaking was revealed.
The next time he went somewhere with Eddie, due to the car conversation,I was aware that he played basketball with Eddie and other kids in Eddie's neighborhood.(some of whom made bad choices)
"Did you get a game started today?"
He said "Yeah".
"How'd you do?"
"Ok. Any problems?"
"that kid with the car I told you about showed up, but he left"
"Ok." "Hey, would you mind helping me move the table really quick."
Eye roll - then he helped.
Yeah - not a huge break through, but these rides have continued and each time, a little more is revealed. Even today, at 21, my son likes to sit in the front seat when we travel so he and I can talk. (his dad is not a talker so he sleeps when dad drives).
So long drives provides a private place with no escape (try to get them to leave the headphones in the back seat, or better yet at home), they don't have to look you in the eye which can be intimidating. And long silences aren't a big deal in a car.
Just a thought.
Emilia Jae is a certified special education teacher with over 30 years experience. Her family consists of a husband of 28 years and 2 adult children in university.