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For the love of it

Last night was the fourth baseball game this week, so we’ve been home no earlier than 9:30 and as late as 11:30 on work nights (no school for him!)  I am grumpy during the day – tired, overextended.  But at the games, the kids are so great, and I love to watch mine so much, that it all seems worth it.  The boys are all 14 and 15, still growing into their giant cleats like puppies growing into their feet. They are silly and dedicated; they want to be taken seriously but are not too serious themselves.  They are no longer emotional wrecks when something doesn’t go their way, and they are compassionate when things are going so well for them that it has a negative effect on the other team’s morale.

It was a muggy night – not too hot, but very wet. We were lucky to be joined by a dear friend we don’t often see, and Mythankfulboy was lucky to get to pitch for the first time this season (Momma’s least-favorite position because the pressure is so high, but he loves it).  We won by a 10-point margin, securing a play-off position, and they called the game after four innings.

We said our goodbyes to our friend, MY, then fast food, then home, arranging by phone a fun outing for B with some gaming friends, most of whom he’d never met, for today while I’m at work.  B took a shower and I sat down to 2 1/2 hours of work.  He was ready for bed fairly early, so he interrupted my work to do the chalice.

Standing beside me with his hand on my shoulder while I sat at my desk, he asked, “What are you thankful for tonight, Momma?”  (This chokes me up, because “momma” these days is mostly reserved for the chalice lighting.)  Before I could answer, he continued, “I’m thankful that I got to pitch and that MY was there, and that I made turkey sausage by myself today.”  He was referring to the first time he had taken turkey sausage from freezer to meal by himself.  I said I was thankful to see and to hug MY, and that I was also grateful that he made a good lunch all by himself.  He said he was excited to meet some gaming friends in person tomorrow, and I agreed that it would be fun, and said I was thankful for NF’s mom, who will do all the driving to make it happen.  He smiled, looking off in the distance, no doubt imagining what it would be like with these new, old friends. Then he leaned down and laid his shoulder on mine and his head so hard on the top of my head that I was pushed sideways with my spine compressed painfully, but I stuck it out as long as he would stay there, just for the love of it.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Too much gaming

Gaming.  Too much gaming.

I have surprised myself by being a parent who isn’t anti-gaming, exactly.  B has made some nice friends, he plays cooperative games, we largely avoid violence (he would play more violent games, but accepts my restrictions).  He plays within visual and hearing range so I know what’s happening.  His language is clean and cooperative.  He has time limits – 2 1/2 hours on a school night (unless homework or baseball or somesuch interferes – then less) with an evening cutoff of 9pm, and 4 hours on a weekend day (2 morning, 2 evening).  He hops off the game if I need him to do something, and he doesn’t usually need reminders to do chores or homework or to prep for his next day of school.

But, he sometimes fails to heed the time limits on his own.  If I point them out, he complies, but I would like to see him monitor this himself, both because it’s the responsible thing to do, and to give himself an internal clock about gaming that might (might) last beyond his teenage years.

Last night a baseball game was cancelled due to rain, so he was home before I was – probably 3:30.  Other than eating dinner and walking the dog (the latter grudgingly), he gamed until I told him to unpeel himself from the console a little after 9.  At that point he moved to his bed and laid down with his iPod to watch Youtube videos.  At the chalice lighting I asked him to tally the number of hours he had spent on technology that afternoon/evening, which came to roughly 5 1/2.  I said, “It’s just too much.”  He set his jaw in frustration, looked at the wall, and nodded.  I said, “Do you understand why?”.  He continued to stare at the wall and nodded.  We sat in silence for a few minutes, then I extinguished the chalice, told him I loved him, and walked out.  He answered, “Me too” without moving.

I would like to say that I handled this with more grace, but there it is.  As I write down the event, I am struck by how small a deal this is in the big picture, given how generally good he is about things, and am simultaneously horrified by the number of hours the child sat there, glued to a screen.  I feel unprepared to offer real alternatives that would be at all engaging (and therefore motivating).  He loves to read, but he does a lot of that during his school day (even of his own books).  I could demand that he spend time with me – every teen loves that.  I could ask that he come up with a project, or could create one for him.  I could give him more chores (right now he gathers and takes out the trash and recycling, keeps the dog in food and water, mows, vacuums when asked, makes a fair number of his own meals, gets his dishes in the dishwasher, does emergency laundry, and generally helps on request).  Most of it he does with a happy heart.  I suppose this is the age-old question growing a human in the teen years – how to keep them engaged in family and community with a happy heart while letting them find their own interests and learn how to spend their time.

Writing this has been cathartic.  I am going to stick to the number of hours I’ve allotted for gaming (which, my friends tell me, is already a generous number), and make the number contingent on his independent monitoring of his time.  I’m going to acknowledge that a day like yesterday is rare – that usually his time is engaged in productive things like baseball or going to the gym, but tell him he needs to find a fall-back for a day like yesterday when he finds himself with extra time, and tell him that I can help him find a fall back, and even participate in it, if he wants or needs me to.  I’m going to ask him to tell me about his silence last night – did he think I was being unfair?  Was he frustrated with himself?  (I will do this not so I can correct him, but to learn about what he’s thinking and how my thinking might need to evolve.)  And I’m going to stop being annoyed about it, for now.  Yeah.  That’s what I’m going to do.

Wish me luck.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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On the same team

Mythankfulboy and I get along really well, which is spoken with great gratitude and trepidation since he is a young teen.  Still, I offer this thought to preface a description of a brief period of tension and angst we had over the weekend.

Over the weekend I had a fever, and was in a bit of a fog for most of Saturday.  In the afternoon sometime I realized that B had been gaming (Destiny on Xbox One) pretty much since he’d been awake.  He’d checked on me as he passed by for food or the bathroom, but otherwise he had been gaming.  So, I asked him to come in to where I was sitting and I asked him to calculate the number of hours he’d been at the console.  He calculated, “About 5”.  I said, “Then that’s plenty, don’t you think?”  He wasn’t sure how to answer this.  He knew the expected answer was “Yes ma’am”, but everything in his adrenaline-pumped being was saying “Uh, no.”  What he actually said was, “Ok. Can I just finish this one thing?” then he returned to his room, finished that one thing, and joined me in the living room where he proceeded to talk over the Hallmark Christmas movie into which I’d been sucked.  It crossed my mind that I should have waited until my movie was over to take a stand, but instead I just told him to hush and let me watch my movie.  So he pulled out his iPod.  Ok, well, I wasn’t going to fight that screen when I was screening, myself.

When my movie was over I built a fire in the stove and moved to the new location.  He joined me there and, after some quiet fireside contemplation asked, “Can I just ask why, if it makes me happy, you don’t want me to do it?”  A good question, right?  I chuckled and gave him the not-all-things-that-make-us-happy-are-good talk, mixed deftly with the gaming-turns-your-brain-to-mush talk and the being-able-to-postpone-pleasure-is -correlated-with-better-life-outcomes-according-to-the-marshmallow-study talk.   He harrumphed and went to bed at 8:00.

The next morning I asked him if he wanted to make monkeybread with me, and he happily bounded into the kitchen.  After a few minutes of working side-by-side, I asked if he was still mad at me.  He said, “Well, yes.  I mean, I don’t know.  What’s the difference between angry and frustrated?”  I told him that angry was when frustration overtakes you, and you go from feeling like you can deal to feeling like you can’t.  He never really said if he was actually angry (based on that definition), but he expressed, again, that gaming was something he loved to do and he wished I wouldn’t put a time limit on it.  Then he suggested that he be able to game several hours, as long as some of the time was in the morning and some was in the afternoon/evening.  I told him I thought that was a really good step towards self-monitoring, and that I could work with that, but I still needed to say no more than 4 hours on weekends.  The only reason I allow that much is because I hear some really wonderful things being discussed and managed socially when he’s online with his friends.  Earlier today I heard him chastise someone for using the word autism in what must have been a derogatory or flippant way (“Man, autism is a trigger for me when you use it like that.  You’ve gotta find a different way to say that” – we may need to talk about the word “trigger”, but I thought he handled the situation fairly well).  He also has no problem with my listening to his side of the discussions – he doesn’t have much choice because we live in tight quarters.

So, the discord was over just like that, but his questions are still with me.  Why not do whatever makes you happy?  What is the difference between angry and frustrated?  When you’re a teen, who should be in charge of your time?  I’m reminded that his brain is gearing up for independence, but isn’t there yet, and he still needs – craves – boundaries, assurances, and information he can trust.  So, tonight, as I listen to him talking, planning, and giggling with his game-friends, I am grateful that he and I are still on the same team.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Envy, meet regret

Yesterday was my day to take B and his friend to the gym after school, but B had hurt his toe the day before (caught the toenail on something and then partially detached it), so he didn’t want to work out, and that meant that his friend did not last long in his workout.  As a result, we headed back to his friend’s house to drop him off earlier than we usually would have, and he was really hoping a package had arrived for him with the newest Playstation game he’d ordered.  He hopped out of the car and ran to the mailbox, where he stood with a small envelope, looking puzzled for a minute before he tore into it.  Then he shoved the pieces of envelope back into the mailbox with the rest of the mail (yeah, he’s 12), and came back to the car with a lovely note from his team of teachers to his parents saying what a model student he was.  We each read it and B and I congratulated him on it (we did have a laugh that they used the word “humble”, because he’s known for his braggadocio among members of The Crew).  Then he ran around to the garage and the deck, etc., seeing if they’d left the package elsewhere.  While he was doing this B turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, “I think I might cry.”

The long and short of this was that B was pretty sure there would be no such letter waiting at home for us, and it sincerely hurt his heart.  I asked why he thought there wouldn’t be, and he said that he’d played around too much the first semester with his friends, and though it didn’t impact his grades, it didn’t make a great impression.  He wished aloud that his teachers could just forget that part of the year.  It was a good lesson for him in making a positive, lasting impression, and in school behavior, more generally.  This is something he’s had on his mind lately anyway; he recently told me that he’d asked to move his seat in his math class so he wouldn’t be tempted to cut up with his friends (my words), and that, since that time, he’d maintained an A and his teacher had told him she was proud of him for his choices.  I’m glad he’s thinking about and learning these lessons now, before grades become so important to opening doors after high school.  I’m glad he regrets his behavior earlier in the year.  I’m glad that he saw his friend get that letter and he didn’t get one, while it was also hard to watch him take it so hard.  On the other hand, I was proud of how he handled himself, congratulating his friend when he really didn’t feel like it.  Later we played a word game (Bonza) on my iPad in which you had to rearrange available letters to fill in a crossword puzzle – in this case, the theme was “The Seven Deadly Sins”.  Once we’d gotten them all filled in I asked him if we suffered from any of them.  He said he didn’t think so, going one by one until he got to “envy”, and then he said, “Well, I was envious of A’s letter.”  I said, “You were, but you handled it with grace, and that envy will wear away because of it.”  He nodded, clearly hoping that would be true.

The rest of the evening B spent off-and-on trying to convince me that he should get more time gaming on the weekends than I am inclined to give him.  He knows that if he pushes too hard I will withdraw all support for gaming, so he was trying to be gentle, but was nagging nonetheless.  When I leaned on the side of his bed to do the chalice lighting, he said, “I can tell you what I’m NOT thankful for!”  I said the chalice lighting was not for what he was not thankful.  He sighed, “Oookaaay” and said he was thankful for Xbox.  I said I was thankful for his tucking my blanket around my feet when I napped in the chair.  I soon left, both because we were done and because I was annoyed about his pushing about gaming.

About an hour later, I threw the dog up on B’s bed before I went to bed myself.  B roused just enough to say, “I love you, Momma”.  I kissed his forehead and said, “I love you, too, Honey.”

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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