Middle School Misery

middle schoolI had heard warnings about Middle school age kids and all the challenges but I was still quite unprepared as a mom.  My loving, smiling, affectionate child turned into someone I didn’t recognize on most days.  He was distant, defiant, emotional and obsessed with his social media.  I would try to talk to him but that seemed to annoy him more.  We resorted to snooping through his phone, speaking to parents of his friends, talking to counselors and reading parenting books.  I wasn’t sure if he was depressed, angry, hormonal, or just hated us.  I didn’t know how to help him but was afraid of ignoring it and letting things get worse.

I wasn’t a first time mom of a teen and I had dealt with some craziness but this seemed worse.  I think the social pressure side of it was much more intense.  I did realize that many parents of kids this age struggle.  I once had a woman I never met start talking to me at the school and telling me her daughter hated her.  I was surprised at her candor but my heart broke for her.  How helpless and hurt she must feel to pour her heart out to a random stranger.  Little did I know that I may feel a bit similar one day.

Parenting is hard since your child keeps changing and by the time you start to understand their needs at one stage, they grow out of it.  It’s also hard because there is so much letting go.  You get attached to your baby and then he’s suddenly a toddler running away from you.  As you start to know and love the toddler and his antics, he starts going to school and exploring a new world.  Then you get to appreciate the conversations with this little person but suddenly he’s a tween and a teen who wants to be independent yet also pampered.  You enjoy the new stages but still miss the ones that came before.

At the teen age it is hard to know how much freedom to give them.  We cannot know everything they are experiencing or doing.  Social media makes this difficult and especially with Snapchat where posts disappear.  They want their privacy but are still too young and vulnerable to be left alone.  You hear of so many cases of depression and teen suicide that there is no way you should ignore potential signs.  You have to stay connected and vigilant.

This is why I was so stressed and concerned.   I had to make sure my child knew he had love and support and try to get in his head.  This took a combination of limiting time on social media, speaking to counselors at school, forcing more family time, and just being there for him.  Things did improve and we are all smiling a lot more these days.  I am glad he’s out of middle school.  However, I’m sure there will be a new challenge tomorrow so I just need to hang on and enjoy this parenting roller coaster.

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Be Informed not Obsessed

This crisis has us all on edge and trying to understand what is happening. However, we now are realizing that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  This is not something that would be over with a few weeks of lockdown and then business as usual.  This could be months for some areas and even when we start resuming normal life, there will be a new normal.  In realizing this, I’m also realizing that I need to not obsess over every new statistic or article.

At first it seemed imperative to watch the number of new cases and deaths and see if we were flattening the curve.  I hung on to the words of the governors and of Dr. Fauci.  I wanted to get all the information I could to understand what was happening and where we were going.  Now we are in our second month of sheltering in place and it seems more important to keep up our mental and physical health than to listen to briefings and read about possible cures.  Not to make light of the new patients or those who die daily, but otherwise there isn’t anything so new on a daily basis.  If I miss some news today, I’m sure it will be repeated tomorrow. Even our video chats with friends have moved from discussing everything about Coronavirus to lighter subjects.

You can’t live at a heightened level of stress for too long.  You have to find a way to stay calm and find some happiness in distractions.  As I said this is a marathon now, not a sprint, so we need to pace ourselves.  Find something fun, calming, or entertaining to focus on while still staying informed on the news periodically.  Support your loved ones as well and remind each other to find some positive ways to pass the time.  I write this as a way of talking to myself and maybe some of you will agree with my perspective.

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The Invisible Enemy

Staying inside
Constantly terrified
Of a looming threat,
That we can’t see.

Never thought
I’d be a danger
To my Mom and Dad.

Staying away
For everyone’s safety.
Never knowing when
We could become deadly.

Some are paralyzed
But Others carefree
Thinking it could never get me.

Many are looking
for someone to blame.
A visible enemy is easier to hate.

How can nature
Still have so much power over us?
Bringing the world to its knees.

Our technology cannot compete.
It can only give us comfort and distraction,
While the enemy keeps us in jail.

Will the enemy unite us,
Or will we turn on each other?
This will be the test.
Are we worthy?
Will we defeat the invisible enemy?

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Driving Each Other Crazy

crazyStuck in a house together, socially distancing from the world but completely trapped together with your family.  Many people have mentioned they are driving each other crazy.  It is understandable.  Our relationships were not built on this much togetherness.  Some people are better tolerated or loved in small doses.  However, we have to survive this and find a way to lean on the only people around.  We have to stay six feet away from the others.

My husband and I have a pretty good relationship and share a lot of common interests and thoughts.  However, even we found ourselves clashing last week.  He has a lot of extra job stress going on due to the global pandemic and I have my own stress trying to homeschool, constantly feed hungry teens and monitor our parents.  There is a looming sense of dread as well watching the number of infected rise and knowing we both have asthma.  It was an odd phenomenon because we kept arguing but then realized we were saying the same exact thing.  It was like some sudden communication gap.  As if we suddenly spoke different languages.  Why didn’t he get what I was saying?!  I think we have started to get back to normal but it was a frustrating few days.  The kids just looked at us like we were crazy.

And then there are the kids….My teens claim they are not ‘worried’ about the pandemic and claim their stress is less because they are not ‘going to school’.  Yet, I know that the novelty of not going to classes is starting to wear off.  They do miss their friends and their sports.  It is also a little more complicated to do their assignments and coursework in this remote way.  This makes them cranky.  Oh, and constantly hungry.  I am asked at 10:30am- “What is lunch?”.  Of course they can’t agree on that either.  This is not a cafeteria with multiple choices.  They are annoyed by Mom monitoring their work and I’m annoyed by their excessive Minecraft, Netflix, and VR time.

Everyone is out of their element but it is all just an inconvenience and we have to keep that in perspective.  We are not at risk of having no food or having our houses bombed. We have supplies and TV and internet.  It’s quite a glamorous, comfortable quarantine.  We are scared of getting infected but have to think of and appreciate those on the front lines.  There are medical workers, repairmen, delivery people, grocery store workers, and others risking themselves each day to make our lives safe and comfortable.  We have to keep that all in mind and calm our frustrations.  We have to recognize each other’s anxieties and be understanding.  In the words of Elsa from Frozen, “Let it go”.  Forgive the little things right now.

Stay calm with healthy distractions.  I’m glad my kids can go outside or in the basement to play basketball or ping-pong and channel their energy.  My husband and I have also started exercising or going for walks to relax our minds and stretch our muscles.  I have picked up a book I wanted to read and the kids mentioned playing games.  We have also been having video-chats with family and friends because it is nice to see friendly faces and talk.  We have to make the best of this all.  After all it would be a shame if we survived Corona but killed each other!

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A Silver Lining for the Covid-19 Crisis

silver liningThere is so much stress and panic over the Covid-19 virus.  Everyone is on edge, worried about their loved ones and trying to figure out how to adjust their daily lives to be safe.  This is a first experience for most of us living in the US.  It is not a good scenario, however we can look at some of the positives that can come out of this.

For the government, this is a rude awakening and shows all the gaps in our preparedness and planning.  It shows us that maybe we shouldn’t be cutting funding from the CDC and healthcare and science.  It also makes us realize that maybe we shouldn’t assume we are insulated when there are health concerns on the other side of the world.  There are no borders for disease.  We should have been ready sooner and not have buried our head in the sand.  This could hopefully help us learn from all that didn’t go so well.

For companies, this is forcing everyone to do a lot of emergency and contingency planning that they never expected.  In this day and age it is making them realize that they need to have better capabilities and acceptance of remote working.  Many companies don’t have the infrastructure to support so many employees working online at the same time.  There are many functions that are not possible to be done from home.  Whatever the case, this is making everyone figure it out and it will help for future readiness.

For individuals, it is keeping us trapped at home with our nuclear families and teaching us how to reconnect.  Luckily the weather has been mild so we can also enjoy a nice walk or toss around a ball.  At times, we will get on each other’s nerves from being stuck home during a tense time.  However, that will pass and we can remember to appreciate each other.  Play board games, watch movies, read a book and try to do the things we usually don’t make much time for since we are running around.

I also found it very heartwarming that so many people in communities are reaching out to people to offer help.  Strangers are offering to run errands, babysit or get groceries for people out of kindness.  We are suddenly checking on neighbors we rarely speak Most people recognize that there are some groups that are higher risk for infection so they might need help.  There are also people who are not able to work from home or stay home without pay and now with the schools closed they have to arrange childcare.  I am really happy that neighborhoods have been creating sign-up sheets of volunteers for those who may need assistance during the crisis.

This Covid-19 crisis is nothing we wanted or ever want to deal with again.  Hopefully, with the social-distancing it doesn’t become devastating.  However, in being forced into it, I’m happy to see that it is bringing the best out of most people.  At first it seemed like the opposite, since the leaders were busy fighting about it or hiding information.  It seemed more divisive then, but the average person shows the opposite reaction.  People are coming together in spirit and with good intentions.  Ironically, the social distancing in the physical way is making us feel more socially close than ever before!

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Teenage Stress

stressRecently my teenage son was talking to someone and mentioned feeling stressed out and they replied ‘what’s stressful at your age?’.  He mentioned his exams but that got me thinking about how teens do have a lot of stress.  They are no longer at that carefree, naive part of childhood and yet they are not mature enough to understand everything.  This creates a potentially dangerous combination and that is probably why you hear about teenage depression and even suicide.

Teens have the pressure to do well in school and compete for their future success.  Those who live in good school districts often have college-level courses and an overwhelming level of work.  Meanwhile, those who live in lesser neighborhoods may fear violence and might struggle to get an education.  They are all reminded that they need to do well to have a chance at a good future and this competition and pressure looms overhead.  However, they are still young and working on being focused while a part of them just wants to play.  They are walking a fine line between childhood and maturity.

There are also so many social pressures to deal with.  They may have to navigate through bullying, cliques, or mean girls.  They may not have a support system to rely on.  They may have raging hormones and not know how to deal with unrequited feelings.  All these issues seem small and trivial once you are an adult who has successfully passed through this stage but it can be all-encompassing for a teen.  All these things can cause stress and even have long-term effects on self-esteem.

As if these things weren’t enough, these kids may have unhappiness or pressure to deal with at home.  Parents often start to let teen children in on the problems, thinking that they are old enough to understand.  They no longer shelter them from the negativity and uncertainties.  Although it is good for the teen to have some exposure to ‘real life’, sometimes they aren’t ready to process all of that.  And in addition to all this, there are so many scary realities about the world.  We as adults worry about the economy, jobs, terrorism, government but a less mature brain may also take this on as personal stress.

It’s a fine balance for us as parents to deal with our teens and not create unhealthy stress.  We need to motivate them and expose them to the world so that they are ready for it one day.  However, we might also need to shelter them and let them feel safe.  There is no harm in enjoying the end of childhood, they have the rest of their lives to be adults.

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Birthday Bonding with my Boys

Today, on my birthday, I received the best gift ever.  My boys wrote lovely and thoughtful notes in my card.  I know my boys love me and we have a great relationship but they are typical guys who don’t like to talk about feelings and definitely don’t want to write about them.  They just say ‘you know I love you and you’re the best’.  And while it’s true that I do know they love me, I’m a sap and I like to hear about the hows and whys.

I love my boys but can’t say I’m not a little envious of the moms of girls who come home and tell them all about their days.  I remember telling my mom all kinds of stories in detail.  She knew all about my friends and what was going on at school.  My guys do talk but it takes a lot to get them started.  They don’t seem to respond to ‘what did you do today?’.  That gets a response of ‘nothing’ or ‘I don’t remember’.  It takes a lot of creative questions to get them in a comfortable zone where they will start chatting.  Sometimes, then they keep talking more than I expected.

These are my favorite memories with them because I want to feel connected to them.  That is not always easy when you’re interested in different things and spend most of the day apart.  One night, my older son wasn’t feeling well and had insomnia, so I told him he could hang out in my room until he felt sleepy.  That night, while the others slept, we talked for over an hour about all kinds of random things.  We discussed sports and girls and books and life.  I even got to give him advice without getting an eye roll!

They are growing up and cuddling isn’t enough.  We have to communicate to connect and that’s not always easy.  But I’m loving the little men they are becoming and enjoying their minds and thoughts.  They gave me the best birthday with their very personal notes and their fun gifts.  Wonder Woman earrings and a Lord of the Rings necklace…gifts based on things we enjoyed together and talk about often.  I’m so grateful to be able to parent these loving kids!

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The Mummy- Quick Review

mummyWe watched The Mummy movie that just came out this weekend.  I wasn’t encouraged by the critic reviews but it seemed interesting from the previews and user reviews.  We also generally enjoy Tom Cruise movies so we went.  It was better than the reviews I read but definitely not a great movie.  I liked the first couple of movies in the Mummy series but they were pretty bad later on.  This one goes somewhere in the middle.  There was no Brendan Fraser so that made it different as well.  It was less campy and humorous than the old movies.  The action and effects were good and Tom was good to watch.  However, I thought it was much more gross and gory than the others.  In fact, one of the gross scenes was completely gratuitous. There were also a lot of zombies which I did not expect and I’m not a fan of those.  That being said, it was still a good big screen watch if you’ve already seen Wonder Woman and want to go to the movies.  This movie also seemed like it was setting the stage for a franchise of Dark Universe movies with other monsters.  It had Russell Crowe in an interesting and unexpected role as well.  Maybe the future movies will be better!

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The Wonder Woman Movie- a Mom Review

wwThis past weekend my family went to see the long-awaited Wonder Woman movie and we were not disappointed.  We are a family of comic/sci-fi/superhero buffs so we were all excited and not happy that life interfered and made us wait until Sunday to watch it.  I remember watching the Wonder Woman TV show as a child and playing her with my friends.  I was and still am amazed by Lynda Carter so I had my doubts about Gal Gadot.  I think she’s beautiful but I couldn’t imagine her in this role from what I’d seen of her in Fast and Furious. Luckily, I changed my mind after her cameo in Batman v Superman.  She did a great job and I was impressed at how she portrayed the strength and innocence of the character.

I know there was a lot of excitement over the movie because it was nice for all the young girls out there to have a hero.  However, it was nice for any gender I believe.  My boys loved the movie and didn’t think about whether the hero was a man or woman.  They just saw the strength and humor and cool action scenes.  They know enough about DC Comics to know that Wonder Woman can fight alongside Batman and Superman with no problem.

For me, it was a thrill to watch since she has been my hero from my earliest childhood memories.  She was strong, smart, fair, and gorgeous.  It was great that the movie and the actors didn’t ruin those feelings for me and others.

As for how appropriate this was for younger kids.  It was definitely a PG-13 movie.  If your kids are a few years younger but have been exposed to other action movies with violence and some gore then I think it would be fine.  However, I would not take a very young child or one who is sensitive to the violence.  There is also a partial nude scene of a man.  There is some adult conversation about sex that may go over a younger kid’s head or may be awkward to watch depending on your child.  Also keep in mind that it is set during WWI so there are scenes of wounded soldiers in pain.

I think this was a very good movie and was impressed with the chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine.  It had well-developed characters and a good story line.  I think it would appeal to any gender and parents and kids alike.  Hope you get to watch.  Enjoy!

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Connecting with my Teen Boy

mom and son, teen boys, parenting teensMy son is in his early teens and it has been a challenge much like every other stage in his growth.  No more infant sleepless nights, no more toddler tantrums or potty training or tween rage, but now this.  Now he’s at an age where he’s starting to be more mature but yet he’s still a kid mostly.  I miss the cute little kid he used to be but am enjoying this new young man.  Now, we can talk about so many things.  He knows what’s going on in the world and is more aware of people’s feelings too.  We can watch more than just cartoons together and bond over our love for superheroes.  He can help his little brother with homework or stick up for him at school.  He can open a tight jar for me and reach the higher shelves.  I watch him hang out with his buddies as they joke around and roast each other.  He’s happy and it makes me smile.

There are times it isn’t so much fun or as easy to connect too.  He still just wants fun and is not happy about chores and responsibilities.  He gets angry and irrational and we have big arguments.  He fights with his brother and wants everything his way.  He’s also at an age where school is getting harder and more stressful and social interactions are more complex.  I don’t always know what is going on in his head.

I keep trying though… not to be his friend, but a parent he can talk to and learn from.  He still needs structure and guidance and most of all love.  Some days that is not easy at all and I get worried that I’m losing the closeness we’ve always had.  Other days, he cuddles with me on the sofa and shares stories of school or jokes from social media.  It’s not always easy to get a boy to talk and share and even harder with a teen but I keep trying.  I guess trying and being available is key.  I’ve also realized that I need to show interest in the things he likes.  Sharing fun activities with him leads to conversation or just good memories.  I’m not athletic at all but I still go shoot hoops or play ping-pong for this reason.  He teases me for my skills but still keeps asking me to play so I guess it’s a good sign.  One day I will master the art of raising a teen boy and when that day comes…he will have moved on to young adulthood!

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