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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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Trust (from March 10, 2013)

Several days ago, at our evening chalice lighting, B said that he was thankful for people he trusted. He didn’t elaborate, and I decided to wait until he brought it up. Last night he returned to our house after spending the night before and all day yesterday at his dad’s house, and he came home ready to talk about trust.

I should preface what I am about to say by saying that B has a very high standard for honesty, and for treating one another as we would want to be treated – good ‘ole UU, or really most religion’s, teachings. The places it becomes testy are twofold: when a peer says or does something he considers to be a slight, but which other kids might just take as a joke, and when his dad changes the plans he and B had previously discussed, and B has trouble being flexible. His dad would like to be able to say “Because I’m the grown-up and I get to do what I want every now and then” (wouldn’t we all?), but all B sees is a promise broken, and remembers and can recite every time it has happened. I fall in the middle on this – I feel Iike we should all set reasonable expectations and try to stick to our plans, but I also think sometimes things don’t go as expected and you have to be flexible and take one for the team. I say such things to B.

I do remember, though, that this is the same boy who, in second grade, had a wonderful male teacher whom he liked, who took extra time with B, and who I thought was good for B. Then one day, partway through the year, B came home and told me that he had overheard his teacher saying something to another teacher in the hallway about a student from his classroom. B and his classmates were supposed to be working quietly at their desks, but he had gotten up to wash his hands, which is what allowed him to overhear this. He wouldn’t tell me what he heard, but he was clearly hurt by it, so I could only suggest that he misunderstood what was intended, particularly since it was not intended for his ears. He listened to what I had to say, and then said “I can’t trust him anymore, Momma.”

I have to wonder if the root of a lot of this is having told him from the beginning that the reason that his father and I did not stay together was because his father broke the marriage promise. I sought the advice of a therapist as to how to talk to a two-year-old about divorce, and her advice was to state it simply, and in a way that was honest about what actually happened, because if he didn’t grow up with the knowledge, then someday he would feel betrayed when he did find out. Maybe that was the right thing to do, and maybe it wasn’t.

I remember the first time B broke a promise to me. He must’ve been about five years old, and had seen a “secret” store of matches in the church kitchen. I extracted a promise that he would never touch them, which he gave me with apparent sincerity, and then turned around within twenty minutes and was striking them with his pre-k buddies like a bunch of mini-hoodlums in the church vestibule. I told him he needed to sit quietly with me for 5 minutes, after which I told him how disappointed I was that he had broken his promise to me, and that I wanted him to sit just a few more minutes and think about it.  He was inconsolable, and I was confused, until I finally put two and two together and realized that the broken marriage promise had caused me to leave his dad, and his panic was that I might leave him over this broken promise.

Today I worked on this blog entry at the batting cages while B got in the first swings of the season. As we walked out to the parking lot afterwards, he said

“I know what I’m thankful for already today.”

“Already?” I asked. “What is it?”

“I’m thankful for people who keep their promises.”

“Ah” I said. “But I didn’t promise to bring you to the batting cages.”

“No, but Dad did.”

Everything we do, or don’t do, as parents is evaluated by our children. I don’t write this as a criticism of his dad – I write it to think about life the way B thinks about it right now, as a just-turned eleven year old boy. I am so thankful to hear these insights from B, even when it was me in the church vestibule breaking his heart because of my ill-chosen words. May his heart, and my ears, stay open as he grows and matures.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Eleven

Today is mythankfulboy’s eleventh birthday.  He is very excited to be a year older, and is also excited because 11 is my favorite number (his is 37 – we’ll see how he feels about that one when he gets there!)  He had a great time with a friend go kart racing on Saturday as his party, had ice cream cake for breakfast on Sunday, and had more presents and leftover cake today.  A good birthday 3-day weekend.

When I asked for what he was thankful tonight at the chalice lighting, before I had the question fully formed he blurted out “People I trust”.  “That’s a good one”, I replied.  He said “You think so?”  “I do.”  I didn’t ask what that was about, although I think he was waiting for me to ask.  I thought he’d probably tell me on his own.  Since he didn’t, I’ll be giving him plenty of opportunities to talk about trust over the next few days, to prime the pump, so to speak.

I told him I was thankful for a clean house, even though ours really wasn’t.  He laughed, and said it was clean enough.  I’m glad he thinks so!   Of course, I am thankful for a thoughtful, kind, capable boy who is transitioning from being a child into this funny in-between pre-teen place.  He is a blessing, whether he’s my favorite number or not.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Control

Late last week, during the rush to get ready for B’s birthday party and the visit from his grandparents, during one of our chalice lightings, I was thankful for all of his help. He responded with “You know, you can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do. Nobody can make anybody do anything they don’t want to do.” I was a little bit stunned, but glad to hear what he was thinking. He went on. “Kids are always saying they’re the boss of me, but I always say that they’re not the boss of me and I’m not the boss of them. Nobody can be the boss of anybody else because we all have control of our own brains and make our own decisions.” Hoping to let myself off the hook, I said “So kids at school saying they’re the boss of you is what has got you thinking about how you make decisions?”. “That and, no offense Momma, but you, too.”

So much for getting off the hook. “So”, I said. “If you make your own decisions, why do you do the things I ask you to do?” “Well”, he started, “I, uh….” This was followed by a long pause, which he broke with a sigh and said “Do you know, because I’m not sure.”

I smiled to myself, and said “I can’t be sure why you make the choices you make, but I can tell you why I obeyed my parents when I was your age. I loved my parents very much, but more importantly, I trusted them to keep me safe and to teach me what I needed to know. I knew they wouldn’t make me do things that were unnecessary or would hurt me in some way. And I respected my parents. There was nothing worse in this world than disappointing Grandaddy. There is still nothing worse in this world than disappointing Grandaddy.”

He thought about that for a little while, and said that it was mostly trust that made him do what I asked him to do. He said it was hard for him, though. After a little more discussion, we determined that it was hard for him to give up control. I told him that I hoped, as he got older, that he could find a balance between needing to have control and being okay when he didn’t have control, because it would make life a lot easier for him. Then I told him that I love him more than anything in the world.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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