Parenthood

A very different 1st day of 8th grade than any of us imagined a year ago!

Photo Aug 30, 11 28 27 AM

Pictures of him taken after he got home from his 1st day of 8th grade.

For the past 2 school years, B has played sports for a local private school. Isn’t that awesome they allow homeschoolers to join their sports teams?! Last Winter he met a boy on the basketball team who was a homeschooler and going to this private school part-time. We didn’t know that was an option! By Spring, B told us he would like to try going to a traditional school for freshman year of high school. He wanted to see what it was about and if he would like it. We felt we’d be throwing him to the wolves if we just dropped him off at the public high school without any experience or preparation. So, we enrolled him, part-time, in the private school where he’s been playing sports. Yesterday was his first day.

He had been so confident and excited to start this new adventure all Summer. Me, not so much. I love our homeschool life! The flexibility, going anywhere we want on any given day, rabbit-holing for days, weeks or months about a subject or topic that B’s interested in, staying in PJs all day if we want, meeting so many different SMEs in and out of the area and learning so much from them, no one to report to if he’s sick, and learning together.

The goal of parenthood is to raise confident, secure kids who can and want to go out into the world and I love that he wants to go and try new things. But it still hurts a mom’s heart to realize this is the beginning of the end. Pretty soon he’ll no longer need me to drive him anywhere and then he’ll be off in college and we won’t talk everyday. I won’t know where he is and what he’s doing any given moment of the day at some time in the future! So this is a great transition to that time.

I have been so upset for the past week, though! I am grieving as if we just dropped him off at college and not at a school a few miles away for less than 4 hours a day! It just reminds me, again, that he is our only one. There are no more babies at home and there will not be anymore babies at home, no matter how hard we try. I’m going through that grieving process all over again.

Last week we attended Back-to-School Night. Very different from when I was a kid. Back-to-School Night used to happen a few weeks into the school year and only for parents. Parents follow their child’s schedule, meet teachers and listen to what their kids are going to learn. This one was for the entire family and took place before school started. We were to bring his school supplies and locker decorations and everything could be all set up and ready for him on the first day of school.

My anxiety and weepiness of the past week disappeared at Back-to-School Night! I got all caught up in the love and fellowship, happy B could meet his teachers and see where the classrooms were in relation to his locker ahead of time. However, the reality of starting at a traditional school slammed into Mr. Excited & Confident that night and we had a little incident at the lockers. He looked like a caged animal, panicked and then lashed out at me. Poor thing! And he was like that when he was home until I left him at the school yesterday. He was freaking out about not knowing what the rules are, getting sent to the principle’s office, not being able to keep up with lessons, etc. He basically went up his tree.

We just had to reassure him and remind him that:

  • There is Grace in abundance for him at the school! They know this is all new to him and will help him along.
  • He is a good kid with a good head on his shoulders. He’s not a vandal, he’s not mean, he doesn’t talk back, he knows what is right and what is wrong and, if he has any doubt, the Holy Spirit will activate his intuition and let him know.
  • Although he’s not the best speller (he scored a 4th grade level in Spelling on the school’s entrance exam) the school was not concerned and knows they can turn that around before the year is out. Plus, he scored an 11th grade level in Reading Comprehension and college level in Math! Being bored might be more of a concern than not keeping up. 😉
  • This isn’t a life sentence. He’s going to see if he likes a traditional school or, more to the point, does he like more aspects of it than he doesn’t (because there are always pros and cons to each situation). We can re-evaluate at the end of the first quarter, during Christmas break, etc., and the same goes for high school.

Yesterday before walking into the school, I prayed over him in the car. I went in the school with him to get him to his locker, do some decorating that didn’t get done on Back-to-School Night, show him where the classrooms were (he was stressed and nothing was sticking in his head), and to let him know he’s not in this alone. I was doing really well keeping my own shit together so as not to make him lose his until the Admissions Director and then the Principal came out of their offices when they saw us walk by, hug me and ask with sympathetic faces, “How ya doing, Mom?” NEVER ask someone holding their shit together with spider webs if they are OK!!! My son saw my eyes leaking and he didn’t need that on him, too! I do have to say they have been so wonderful and patient with us and I feel confident that B is in a safe place.

He had some trouble multi-tasking in a class, and he got his back up because two female teachers who talked about the rules of the school and in their classrooms used only scenarios with boys in them while describing what not to do (insert eye-roll). And he’s sad about all the things he won’t get to do because he’s chosen to be in school 5 days a week.

I have to admit, we were quite taken aback on Back-to-School Night when the Science teacher started talking about Evolution vs. Creationism, as well as a question on yesterday’s Science homework asking if you thought climate change was a fact. But we’re reminding ourselves that not everyone sees eye-to-eye on all issues and hearing another person’s perspective on any subject is educational. You can learn about a topic as well as learn about the person speaking.

He takes 3 classes (Civics, English & Science) 4 days a week and on the 5th day, he adds a 4th class, Health. You know, girls go off with a female teacher and boys go off with a male teacher (one of B’s coaches), and they talk about manly bits and other subjects. We have very open dialogues regarding our bodies, respect for each other, sex, drugs, etc., but it’s always just B with one or both of his parents. We felt it beneficial for B to discuss these and other topics with boys his age in the room and an adult leading. It’s good for a kid to know others do and feel the same things or are confused about the same things. The hubs and I also are hoping that subjects we have neglected to, or didn’t know to, bring up will be addressed by the Coach teaching the class and B can come home and continue the dialogue with us.

I know this is long, but I have to share one more things about B’s first day of school. I tried so hard to keep it together until I walked out of that school and I assumed I would sit and bawl in my car for an hour, so I passed on the Admission’s Director’s offer to come by her office for coffee and bagels. However, as soon as I walked out the door, my eyes dried up, I felt no emotion (god or bad) at all, and I got a headache. I didn’t want to go home, so I went to the local Chik-fil-A and sat in the parking lot looking at everyone’s back to school pix on Facebook until they started serving lunch at 10:30am. I ate my sandwich and drank my coke there and took the side salad for today’s lunch (which I’m eating right now). I drove to the liquor store and bought a pint of Tito’s because I knew I’d need it (and, DAMMIT, I deserved it!) with dinner.

As I drove home, I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t cried yet and why I had this headache. I was traveling on a road with a 55 MPH speed limit and had all the windows open. I cried out to God, “WHY can’t I cry?! I need to cry, I need to release all this before I pick him up so he doesn’t feel guilty or responsible for my normal, parenting grief! Please, God!” And you know what? The dam immediately broke and the sobs came. I reached up a hand to clear my eyes and all of a sudden there were tissues swirling around me, like I was in the eye of a tissue tornado. Even though I was going 60 MPH, none of them flew out the window. There were at least a dozen of them. I grabbed 2 out of the air and after dabbing my eyes, I looked around and there weren’t anymore tissues to be seen. I wondered where the tissues came from and then realized we usually keep a box of tissues in the back seat and the wind through the open windows must have flung them around.

When I got home, I searched the car for all the other tissues that were flying about and only found one more, which is a good thing because I needed to blow my nose! There was no box of tissues in the car, anywhere. The hubs had tasked B with cleaning the car out the week before. No tissues nor trash anywhere. I realized my headache was gone and that God had sent me the tissues. I am so humbled and blessed to be called His own and so thankful to Him for reaching out to me in my time of need.

Sometimes you just need an affirmation from the horse’s mouth that you’re doing OK by your child.

We know a family with two children: one in middle school and one in elementary school. The elementary-aged child is babied. When he’s winning and when he gets what he wants, his happy, smiling face looks like an angel. When he’s not the best at something/not winner, he storms off or fakes an injury complete with fake tears. When he doesn’t get what he wants, he whines, yells and cries. He’s old enough to know better.

The mom does not discipline his behavior. Sometimes she tries to explain to him, rationally, why he can’t do/have exactly what he wants at that moment, hoping I guess, that he’ll see her side of it and agree. Nope. He just gets louder, turns on the tears and she gives in.

Her middleschooler has always been mature in front of me. That is, until earlier this month. I saw her interrupt her mother’s conversation to start whining about something she wanted. Something that she was old enough to do for herself, but wanted her mom to do for her instead. Her mom reminded her she was in the middle of a conversation, there were many options in the house from which she could choose, go get yourself what you want. The middleschooler stomped her foot, raised her voice and told her mom she didn’t like any of those options and wanted her mom to go get another option for her. The mother excused herself to the person she was talking to and walked off with her daughter, her head down.

At first, I was shocked to see the older child act that way, but then it dawned on me: why should she be mature, patient and not get what she wants all the time? She had watched her brother whine, raise his voice and/or evoke tears for years and get everything he wanted, so she was finally employing the tactics herself. Right or wrong, she’s a smart cookie!

It’s not how we raise our child, but she’s free to raise hers however she wants.

It’s tough raising a man in America. Instant gratification, technology, entitlement, lack of work ethic/conscience/moral compass are just a few of the things we have to deal with, work around or develop in our son. B does not receive everything he wants. Sometimes it’s because we can’t give them to him, but mostly it’s because we choose not to. And he’s expressed his unhappiness about it several times. It would be so much easier to give in, to spoil him with things and do everything for him. However, what kind of man would we be releasing on the world one day? Would he even be a man or just a large, entitled child? We gladly fight the battles as the come because our eyes are on the end result. He will be an amazing man, employee, employer, spouse, whatever he wants to be. He already is an amazing teenager, even though we still butt heads over things.

That being said, we do doubt ourselves as parents at times. Deep down we know we’re doing the right thing, but we still worry. Sometimes, we just get tired of fighting the battles and are tempted to give in.

Yesterday we witnessed the boy I spoke about at the beginning of this post throw a fit in the middle of the street. I said to B, “I know your dad & I raise you harder than others. We’re more strict and we hold you to a higher standard than some other parents. Would you rather we raised you like that boy is being raised?”

He replied, “No way! I mean, sure, it’d be nice to have whatever I want, whenever I want. But, Mom, if you raised me like that, I’d never get anywhere in life.”

Sometimes you just need an affirmation from the horse’s mouth that you’re doing right by your child.

Yes, we’ve allowed our 13yr old to watch rated-R movies and adult television shows for years, and here’s why.

I’m angry. Why?! BECAUSE OUR KIDS ARE GETTING HURT AND ARE DYING! They’re killing themselves, killing each other, getting pregnant, getting raped and overdosing on drugs and alcohol! Sheltering them from the bad, instead of showing it, and it’s consequences, will not save them.

After hearing about a bill in the Virginia Senate earlier this week, I decided to explain why we let B watch some rated-R movies. I’ve received looks and comments from parents who disagree, disapprove, or were just plain shocked into silence, but the horrified look on their face told me exactly how they felt. I get it. There are plenty of things other parents allow/disallow their children to do that I don’t agree with and you have a right to disagree with me, as well. However, we feel we have damn good reasons. And since I don’t feel the need to get into a debate, nor defend myself, to the person who just stares in horror at me, I do have a platform right here.

First, let’s start with what inspired me to write this post. There is a bill, already passed by the Virginia State Senate and now waiting to be voted upon in the House, requiring “…K-to-12 teachers to notify parents of classroom materials with “sexually explicit content.” Parents could then “opt out” their children and request that the teacher provide an alternative assignment.” You can read the details, and find out how this bill came to be, in this Washington Post article. That got me thinking, again, about how some parents disapprove that the hubs and I do not shelter our son and sensor what he’s exposed to as much as they do. Then I found out this week that the 14 yr old daughter of an acquaintance killed herself and a 17 yr old OD’d on heroin.

If our children are blessed to live long, healthy lives, we will only have them under our roof and under our influence for the first quarter of that time. Our job is to ensure our son has the education and tools to take care of and protect himself when he leaves home. One of my personal goals has always been to make sure B won’t become a college freshmen brain-damaged or dead from alcohol poisoning. My son will know his mother was raped, will know all the different  scenarios of rape and will be taught to intervene on behalf of ladies who are not giving, or cannot give, consent.  The storytelling in movies can be great tools for learning about life. If we waited until B was the legal age to watch rated-R movies, 17, we’d have less a year to utilize these particular tools.

We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that by not allowing B to watch or read certain things, and only letting him visit the homes of friends who aren’t allow to watch or read certain things, that he would never be exposed to them. He’s bombarded by them all the time, in (phone/computer) and out (friends and strangers) of our house. I don’t want other kids “educating” our son based on something they saw, overhead, misinterpreted or made up to impress their friends.

Here’s a scenario that won’t happen in our home. B is forbidden to watch rated-R movies. While hanging with a friend, the friend tells B that last Saturday he couldn’t sleep, snuck down to the basement TV and watched a late-night, “soft-porn” show on cable. Or maybe this friend was searching the web for something harmless and a typo led him to something completely inappropriate and he told be, in detail, what he saw. Something that the friend described was confusing to B or he didn’t understand what a word meant, but he doesn’t want to look stupid to his friend, so he doesn’t ask questions. But he has questions. If he’s forbidden to see such things, and the friend hasn’t told his parents what he saw for a reason, what’s the likelihood that B’s going to come home and feel safe bringing his concerns to us? He doesn’t want to get in trouble. He doesn’t want me to tell his friend’s parents and get him in trouble, either. And he probably believes he’d get the standard answer of, “That’s not an appropriate discussion to have at your age.”

We talk, we discuss, we share real-life examples from our own experiences, we read biographies and we show him with TV and movies.

Movies are rated-R for several different reasons. Language – I’m a cusser. B has been raised hearing cuss words so they have no shock-and-awe value to him. I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain and neither does my son. But kids he hangs out with cuss. Kids your kid hangs out with cuss. And your and my kids cuss when they are not around us. My son knows what cuss and slang words mean and their context. He knows which ones are degrading and insults and are not to be used in joking conversations with friends nor talking about others. Now, do I wish my son didn’t cuss at all? Sure. But you need to know that your child is hearing and using bad language when he or she is not around you. Don’t you want your child educated on what those words actually mean? Don’t you think they’d be horrified to find out they or a friend was using a word casually to describe another person? It’s happened with my son. The difference is that my son feels safe and comfortable coming to his father and me to ask questions and ask for clarity. Does yours?

B knows how babies are made. However, we don’t show him movies that have people having sex in them. If we come upon a sex scene by surprise, we skip the scene. If B asks why, we calmly, nonchalantly tell him he doesn’t need to see that and continue on with the movie. We don’t freak out, turn off the TV, eject the DVD and get it back to the store ASAP. He’s involved in the storyline! We all want to know what happens next, how it ends. Skip the scene and move on and he’s so engrossed in the story and quickly forgets the skipped scene.

It’s easy to send the wrong message when labeling something “inappropriate” and I don’t want my child to feel he is inappropriate for thinking about/being curious about things. Sex is not inappropriate. God created our bodies to have sex, to receive pleasure from sex and to create life. My 13 yr old watching a couple having sex, or he himself having sex, is inappropriate. Alcohol is not inappropriate. Cooking with it and having a couple of drinks at the end of a hard day or with Christmas dinner is not inappropriate. A teenager getting drunk at a sleepover or an adult drinking and driving is inappropriate. Taking my prescription properly for a condition or disease is not inappropriate. My son taking my prescription and selling it on the playground, is. These are important distinctions that needs to be made to our children.

My son will not learn what he needs to know about alcohol if his only exposure to it is adults having a glass or two of wine with dinner. His first view of, or experience with, a drunk person or a party full of drunk people cannot be when he’s hundreds or thousands of miles away from us in college, because he won’t just run back to his dorm room, lock the door and call home or open his Bible. He needs to know what drunk looks like, acts like. And although there are movies that can scare him with the worse case scenarios, that still won’t empower him to deal with college. Why not start out with something a little lighter, a comedy movie about college, sororities, or fraternities. Just like we do with all movies we watch (because we’re homeschoolers) the remote would be in my hand to PAUSE the movie and ask him questions about what’s going on in this scene. What’s his take? How does he feel about it? Any characters acting how he would? Any characters acting how he would not? Why, or why not?  Lectures telling him alcohol is bad, illegal at his age, tastes terrible and will make him feel like shit the next day won’t mean a thing to him when he walks into a college party with underage drinkers who certainly look like their having a lot of fun.

And then there are the rated-R movies that are just plain enjoyable to watch and we’re OK with B watching them with us. The Wedding Ringer, Spy, The Heat, MI-5, Kingsmen, to name a few. Friends, family and complete strangers always compliment us on B’s behavior, maturity and inclusivity. He doesn’t go around cussing, making crude gestures nor hiding things from us. He has not been corrupted, ruined nor driven towards drugs, sex and alcohol merely by watching movies with his parents and having open, non-judgemental discussion about them.

The world is a big, scary place, people, if you aren’t completely informed about it. I was sheltered as a child and inexperienced & unprepared for college life. I was told and talked to about the bad things in this world. But I was never shown. The words used to describe the evils and pitfalls of this world were not enough to help me recognize them in person. Telling me what and who was bad did nothing to teach me what to do when I encountered them. I learned, the hard way, about the bad things that can go on at colleges and I suffered for years because of it.

My son will enter battle fully trained and fully armed. Will yours?

Just when I think he’s no longer my little boy…

B is a teenager now. He is so grown up in his looks and actions:

  • His face is so mature and his body has new hair in so many places.
  • He takes a lot of care in choosing his clothes (he only wants shirts that are narrower at the bottom than at the shoulders to show how “cut” he is (his words, not mine).
  • Girls have crushes on him and he has crushes on girls.
  • He runs ahead and holds a door for a women with a stroller.
  • He takes packages and groceries out of my hands, “I got these, Ma.”
  • He puts himself to bed. Gone are the days of, “Will you just stay with me until I fall asleep? Pleeease?”

And just when I think the boy is gone forever and I start to grieve, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran comes on the radio and B totally gets grossed out by the line, “…will your mouth still remember the taste of my love…”, and I smile. There he is. That’s my little boy. While I embrace the man he’s becoming with one arm, I’m still holding the hand of the boy he has not yet left behind.

1 2 9
%d bloggers like this: