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Nudging

Last night Mythankfulboy got to participate in an hour of 1:1 baseball coaching, one of four, as a holiday gift from his Grandaddy.  It is so nice to watch your kid be 100% in the moment and learning something.  He was so excited/nervous that he couldn’t stand still; he bounced on his toes, passing the bat or a ball back and forth between his hands, as though any minute his whole body would burst into uncontrollable shaking.   It didn’t, and he had a great time, blisters not withstanding (that’ll teach him to make sure he has his batting gloves).

Home for leftovers, dishes, laundry, gaming, emails, facebook.  At the chalice lighting I showed B an Upworthy video of a family with whom I once worked, perhaps 15 years ago, brought to my attention by a colleague from that time (thanks MB!)  We talked about the impact you can have on peoples’ lives, if you choose to stop and listen and do what you can to help.  Well, I talked about that.  He mostly said, “Cool” and “That got over 3 million views!”

When I asked B for what he was thankful, he did the look-around-the-room-for-something-to-say routine, which I have learned means he never really had his mind with me in the first place.  He said, “I’m thankful for all the different ways you can blow out a candle”, and he began demonstrating them, resulting in the chalice going out before the ritual was over, and acrid smoke making us cough.  I have almost learned not to be annoyed by this not-really-present behavior, but to understand it as something that’s going to happen from time to time, or as something with which to work, either by drawing something out of whatever he says, or by giving more time and space to really think about the day and his life.  Tonight I was somewhere in the middle, so, once I ceased coughing, I asked if perhaps today he had gotten to do something he didn’t get to do everyday.

“Oh yeah!  Going to DD and getting coached!  That was awesome!  And I’m thankful for Bandaids that have Neosporin in them for blisters, and for you for taking me there even though it was stressful time-wise.  And for my haircut!”   We had, indeed, accomplished a haircut on the way home from baseball, stopping by a cool old-fashioned barber.  I said I was thankful for the barber shop, and that I hoped he liked his cut well enough to go back there.  Nothing PC about the place, but something very authentic, which was appealing.  He said, “So far so good, although I did have trouble getting all the product out of my hair.”

Old and new, good and eh, wisdom and wise-guy.  Given dedicated time and space, and an occasional nudge, reflection and connection are the reward.

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Buttered popcorn and Brene Brown

Mythankfulboy has a dear friend who is struggling.  He is 13, is sad and in physical pain, is overwhelmed by school, and has had his heart broken.  B and his friends worry about him, and for the most part (from what I have seen), do so in really loving ways.  The friend joined a group for a party this weekend, and B reported with great relief that his friend had fun in a reserved kind of way.  The friend’s mother had asked the other parents of kids in attendance ahead of time if we would prep our kids not to ask the impossible-to-answer question, “How are you?”, and B said that no one asked, and that he did think it made it better.  He said, though, that he really wondered what his friend was thinking.  It made me think of the short (less than 3 minutes) animated video out by Dr. Brene Brown on empathy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw), which quickly and playfully explains what to do, and what not to do, when a friend is struggling.  So, tonight, at our chalice lighting, I shared it and a bag of microwave popcorn with B.

When the video was finished, I asked if it made him think of anyone and he said yes, his friend.  He said, “I get the part about trying to put myself in his shoes, I just don’t think I’ve ever felt like him.”  I have to admit that, while watching the video this time, with my 13-year-old, these words had really stood out to me: “In order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.”  They stood out because, all the other times I’ve watched it I’ve thought of adults being empathetic, not kids.  Kids have so much less life experience from which to draw, at least, that is, if they’re lucky (and Mythankfulboy is lucky).  This leaves B in a position of wanting to go beyond sympathy to empathy, but really not knowing how to get there.  We can argue that he is doing a lot right, which I think is also true for his broader friend-base.  Still, I think I understand better after tonight’s chalice lighting something about the position in which he finds himself, and it will help me think about how he looks at his friendships.

I asked B for what he was thankful.  He said, “Buttered popcorn.”  I took another bite and said, “I’m thankful for buttered popcorn and Brene Brown.”

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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He’s got this

Brag alert:  Mythankfulboy just told me to stay in and get my work done (writing for work, not cleaning!) and he would shovel.  Granted, I shoveled for two hours yesterday when he was at his dad’s, and a neighbor plowed half the driveway this morning, but still, there’s a fair amount left.

One of those things you want to remember and be thankful for later, on a day when you’re feeling a little less happy with your kid.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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L is for loser; P is for president

Last evening was a normal one: YMCA, dinner, clean-up, dog, Crossfit (him, not me), and work.  It seemed like our chalice-lightings had been a little heavy lately, and my friend KBG had posted a Youtube video of a short, sweet, personal interview of President Obama by a woman named Ingrid Nilson that had touched me, so I thought I’d show him that.  I can’t go further without saying that I don’t know how old Ms. Nilson is, but from this old dawg’s viewpoint, she looks incredibly young to be so poised and graceful and accomplished, and she has a lovely openness and awe about her that made her just perfect for this interview.   She had asked him to bring an object from “home” about which to talk, and he brought several from a collection of objects people have given him since he’s been running for or been in office.  Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgqQ0PbhezU&feature=youtu.be

Mythankfulboy watched it, smiling from time to time and glancing over at me (probably to see if I were tearing up).  When it was done, he said, “Cool”.   We talked about the different symbols President Obama had pulled out of his pocket, and how he knew something about each of them – even the symbols from religions other than his own.  And, of course, since one of them was from Pope Francis, and I have a huge crush on Pope Francis, it only made me love Obama more.  Then I ruined the moment by saying, “Yeah.  I’m going to be so sad when he’s gone and some other knucklehead takes office.”

When we shifted to his room to light the chalice, Mythankfulboy had the choices he sees some kids at school make about money on his mind.  He felt they had too much money and used it too frivolously, spending thousands of dollars on computers, gaming systems, shoes, etc.  It’s interesting, and satisfying I have to say, to hear him spout my values back to me, especially because the amount of money kids (B, included) have laying around, and the amount of expensive stuff they have, is a source of frustration for me.  When B isn’t interested in doing chores to earn allowance because he has so much money he’s received in holiday or birthday gifts that he doesn’t need the allowance, and there is no thought to using some of it to help others, I have been known to, ahem, comment on it.  I’m not sure his point last night was that the excess should be re-allocated to people in need (which would have made my heart leap).  I think it may just have been commentary on money he doesn’t have that seems ridiculous because he has the things he needs, mixed with a bit of jealousy, but hey – it’s a step in the right direction.

We moved on, then, to the part about thankfulness, and he said, “Ummmmmmmm” while casting his eyes around the room trying to find something.  He eventually said, “Neat things”, then started talking about something else.  I put by fingers in a big “L” to my forehead and kept it there until he noticed.  He said, “What?  Loser?”  “Yep. That was a loser gratitude offering.” (This would be the first time I’m ever told him what he had to say about being grateful just outright stunk.)  He laughed. “I meant when things are neatly organized!”  “Hmm.  I think you can do better.”  “Okay.  Let me think.” (pause) “I’m thankful I have so many things that I want and need.”  I smiled and removed my fingers from my forehead.  “Now that makes sense to me.”  He asked for what I was thankful.

I said I was thankful for a thankful President.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Dr. King and Mr. Bowie

Monday Mythankfulboy had a day off from school in honor of Martin Luther King, Junior.  He and some friends from school had scuttled together a volleyball team for a future students-versus-teachers game, and they, with the help of mothers not at work (thank you SEC) got together to practice.  In the evening he had CrossFit for baseball. When he got home and I saw him for the first time Sunday night, around 8:45, he was tired but happy.  In addition to a really nice day, he was super proud of himself for deadlifting 200 pounds.  His father had taken video of it, so he showed me and then sent the video to a group of close friends.  The responses he got back were silly, supportive, and encouraging.  I think he was as pleased that his friends were happy for him as he was that he had done it in the first place.

For our chalice lighting, I had B sit with me and watch a video clip of David Bowie in a 1983 interview on MTV in which he quietly pressed the interviewer on why there were virtually no black artists being played on the channel.  When the video concluded, we talked about why Bowie was interested in MTV’s choices, and about why he raised his questions in the interview.  We talked about his polite persistence, and his power as a white, male, superstar to be an ally to black artists.  We talked about the ways his activism reflected the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the ways that he and I could learn from these two bigger-than-life models.  B said, “I see what you mean.  I don’t think I have many opportunities [to be an ally], though.”  This led to a discussion of not needing a crisis in which to intervene in order to be an ally, but, like Bowie in this instance, simply noticing and persistently pointing out disparity of opportunity or treatment between those in power and those not in power.  He nodded, wheels turning.

After a moment of quiet thought, he said, “I’ve heard of David Bowie, and I don’t really know much about him, but he seemed like a really cool guy.”  Sigh.  Another instance of a place I have failed in educating my child.  I’ll work on it.

That night B was thankful for his friends, and I was thankful for Dr. King, Mr. Bowie, and all the other people who stood up or stand up, with and without power, to show us it can and should be done.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Batshit crazy

After a trying week at work, with evenings filled with the usual running here-and-there, I drug myself out of bed Saturday morning to pick Mythankfulboy up at his dad’s.  I realized on the way there that we didn’t have anything on the calendar, and that it was a sunny, relatively warm, winter day.  When he climbed into the car I suggested we go somewhere and do something – you know, take advantage of the day – and he gave me the teenage sigh with the heavy eyelids.  The not-my-idea-of-a-good, – or-even-an-average, -day look.

It infuriated me, way out of proportion to the moment.  By the time we were home I was in tears.  I told him to fend for himself and left to have breakfast alone and read.  (Picture, here, the hysterical mother in every bad sitcom you ever saw who flips out and leaves the house, leaving the incredulous children and stupified father scrambling to figure out how to make it all better by the time she returns.)  I returned by noon with intent to take the dog for a walk before it rained.  I started clearing the car of recyclables and junk, and he came out of the house, hands shoved in his pockets, trying to pitch in.  When he wasn’t sure what to do he asked for a job, and I, sulkily, gave him one.  Before long he asked if he should get the dog ready, and, when he had, we headed out to the park.   At the park he skipped a hundred rocks, and the dog peed on as many.  Before long we were back in a familiar groove.

In the car on the way home from the park I thanked him for helping clean out the car and a nice trip to the park.  I then told him that, although part of me wanted to apologize for the tantrum I had in the morning, really, my behavior was a legitimate reaction to being asked to cook and clean and drive and shop and work, without help or any particular concern shown for my welfare.

He nodded.

I continued, “And even though I didn’t intend to have the tantrum, it does seem like I have to do this every so often in order to re-set things.”

 

He nodded and added, “I know. I’m sorry.”

With mock superiority, I said, “I appreciate that.  I do.  But please remember our family motto” (referring to what he had answered when asked during advent what our family motto would be, and he replied, “Don’t say sorry.  Just don’t do it.”)

He laughed and said, “Yeah. Okay”, smiling broadly at me with his braces and bands.

Having recaptured all the power and authority, I smiled back and said, “Yeah?!!

He grinned and said,”Yes ma’am” in a playfully resigned tone.

Then he suggested we go get lunch.  My pick.

When I was young I thought I would want to be the mom who suffered in silence in the hope that one day she’d hear her grown children say, “She was completely selfless and only thought of us.”  Yeah.  Not so much now that I’m an actual parent.  And not just because it’s more convenient to have the occasional tantrum, but because it doesn’t teach the day-to-day relationship skills B will need some day.  You know – how to scramble on Mother’s Day to figure out why the hell your partner has gone batshit crazy and stormed out of the house.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Wine glasses and Severus Snape

There is something that has been bugging me about our chalice–lighting. It began with Mythankfulboy’s decision not to sleep inside his covers, but on top of them with throw blankets as his cover.  He did this for two reasons: one, so that throw blankets were all he/we had to wash and he/we didn’t have to deal with fitted sheets (or “feta cheese”, if you believe speech–to–text), and two, so that he could move his head to the other end of the bed which was closer to all things technological.  This required his moving his fan to a stool next to the bed (near what would most people be considered the foot of the bed). This domino effect continued until there was no place for me to stand or sit anymore anywhere close to him, so I found myself pacing around uncomfortably while doing the chalice–lighting, while he was snug as a bug in a rug.  My discomfort was pushing me out the door before we really connected around the chalice.  Something had to change.

So, last night I called him into the living room to discuss a change of plan. I suggested that we re-route some of his cords and move his stuff (I believe I said “crap”) so that I could sit in the desk chair at the foot of his bed for the thankfulness ritual. I warned him this would mean I would probably reach out and stroke his hair affectionately from time to time.  He said this was all doable.

I am happy to report that the plan worked. He had so much to tell me about his day and his friends that I finally had to put my foot down and say we really needed to do the actual chalice.  He was grateful last night for wine glasses.  He had made me laugh earlier in the night by walking through the living room with apple juice in a wine glass held aloft with the wine glass stem tucked between his middle and ring finger and his hand cupping the bottom of the cup.  When I asked him what he was doing, he said he “needed a change of pace”.  I was thankful for Severus Snape and the brilliant man, Alan Rickman, who brought him to life off the pages of the Harry Potter book series.  A moment of silence fell, and, as I rose to go I told B I loved him.  He said, “Aren’t you going to stroke my hair?”

So I sat back down, with love and gratitude.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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