The kids are growing up…

I knew it was coming. As the days passed, and the kids grew older, I knew this time was coming. One day, I would no longer be required to attend parties or school events.

It starts in elementary school. In the beginning, you go with your kid to birthday parties and school activities. You relish going on field trips. Your child smiles when he sees you at the school. Or she gladly holds your hand as you walk through the zoo.

But then about second or third grade, you begin to just drop your child off at birthday parties. No longer do you have to stand awkwardly with the other parents as you watch the party games. Or if you are lucky you know some of the other parents and your time passes quickly. This stops at about the age of 7 or 8. (Maybe earlier or later depending on your child or perhaps where you live.)

During soccer practice or gymnastics, you sat through the class/practice – though sometimes that was because the practice was not long enough to leave, or it was too far to return home during that short of a time.

Throughout the elementary-school years, I have attended many after-school events with the kids from science night to art shows or choir performances. And my kids typically hung out with me at these events though sometimes as they grew older, they would venture off with friends for some or perhaps the whole time.

And then, this past year, Jase began going to middle school. There have been fewer events there, but he and I still braved an absurdly cold day in April to attend the History Fair together. But many of the other students there were with their friends and not their parents. The other parents I saw also had sixth graders. So I know what is coming…next year, I may not be coming with him at all.

And then just a few weeks later, it happened. There was a comic con at his school. Jase invited his sister to go with him. I left it up to him if he wanted me to come in with them or to just drop them off at the front door of the school. Yep, you guessed it. I wasn’t wanted. Oh, my fourth-grader wanted me to go, and in all honestly, Jase probably wouldn’t have minded.

Instead, I dropped them off at the middle school and picked them up an hour later. Jase met up with friends who are all use to Lexie joining them. (She has been tagging along since she was 4.) It felt a little odd. But now as I write this, I realize it has been coming.

For a while now, we have let the kids stay home for short times by themselves. No longer do I have to load them in the car for a quick trip to the store or to pick up a prescription. It was great to be able to run a few errands without listening to them complaining about going.

Yes, their independence is growing, and as it does, their dependence on me has lessened. A part of me is sad. Yet another part of me knew this was coming and recognizes that this is the way it has to be.

Dealing with tween behavior

It has already started. I see hints of it here and there. Jase is 11-years-old. In just three months he will be 12. Yes, the tween behavior has begun to emerge. There is a hint of defiance sometimes in his voice when we tell him it is time to get off his iPad or that we need to go somewhere. He questions why he must do something or even openly says he won’t do something like try a new food.

whateverIt isn’t that I don’t want him to find his own way, which is part of growing up. I like watching him grow and change. My husband and I are all for giving him room to grow and room to make mistakes. It is our desire to have him behave decently while doing that. No eye rolling. No mellow dramatic sighs or “Whatever” or the dreaded “duh.” (Heck, I have even seen some of these behaviors in Lexie, and she turns nine next month.)

Even though I know he will soon be in Middle School, and the attitude and changes will just keep coming, I am thankful we aren’t fully there yet. But it did make me want me to do a little research on the Internet to see what to expect and some tips on how to handle it.

Tips for handling the Tween years

  • Maintain your Parental Status – Now is not the time to become your child’s close friend. He is looking to you to help him through this confusing stage.
  • Pick your battles/Draw a clear line in the sand – As always, you need to decide what is important. Focus on the behaviors you want or those you won’t tolerate and let the other issues fall to the wayside. So ignore the eye rolls and sighs but enforce the no raised voices or walking off in the middle of the conversation. And of course, be consistent in following through with punishments.
  • Reciprocate Respect – Dealing with emotional tweens or teens can be trying to say the least but remember you need to treat them as an individual with their own thoughts and feelings just as they should treat you as such.
  • Explain what you want – As always, you need to deliver a clear message about how you want your child to behave. And when you think they are behaving disrespectful, take the time to make sure they know what they are doing that is wrong. You can’t assume they know what they said or how they said it was wrong. Remember they are still learning. Tell them what they are doing is wrong and offer suggestions of how to say it more respectfully.

I did find a particularly good blog by a fellow mom. She listed five things pre-teen boys want from their moms. (And her own tween approved the list as being accurate.)

1.) They want us to be there for them but not to talk all the time. (She noted that tweens seemed to tune out adults after about 10 words when given advice.)

2.) They want to be silly.

3.) They want us to set the rules but also want some say in them. (She said when she asked her son about punishments for his misbehavior, he almost always suggested a harsher punishment.)

4.) They want to be loved, even if they don’t act like it.

5.) They want us to have their back.

I am not sure any of these tips will help, but it was interesting reading up on others’ experiences and what worked for them or what the experts recommended. I guess we will take this as with everything else that comes with raising a child, you just deal with it as it happens and expect to make mistakes.

 

 

Growing kids need bigger bicycles

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Lexie (3) and Jase (6) on their Christmas bikes in 2011.

In 2011, my parents bought Lexie and Jase bicycles for Christmas. The kids were 3 and 6 at the time. The bicycles, complete with training wheels, got plenty of use. Over the years, the kids have both learned to ride without the training wheels thanks to the Buddy Bar (see photo) my friend loaned us.

Helping Lexie learn balance with the Buddy Bar.

Helping Lexie learn balance with the Buddy Bar.

Earlier this summer, when we took the kids up to the school to ride their bikes, we noticed something. The kids have grown. Lexie was now 8 and Jase 11, and they were still using bikes meant for kids much younger than them.

It wasn’t until I looked up the pictures did I realize they had these bikes for four and a half year. It seemed like it was definitely time for new, bigger bikes.

IMG_4812On our next trip to the store, we looked at bikes and tried to size up what size the kids would need. Jase found a 24” mountain bike that he liked, and it fit him well. Lexie saw a 20” pink mountain bike, but it was just a tad too big for her.

After pricing bikes online at several different places, we didn’t find anything with a better price and decided to go back and get them the bikes they originally picked out.

IMG_4817They had no trouble adapting to bicycles with multiple speeds (Lexie’s bike is a 7-speed and Jase’s is a 21 speed) and hand brakes.

In fact, they pretty much just took off riding their new bikes. Even with Lexie’s being slightly bigger, she did excellent. She surprised herself when she went over the curb after riding down a hill but recovered nicely.

IMG_4818Jase definitely was at ease on his bike as he rode circles around us.  He was also thrilled to find out that his new helmet has safety lights on the back that flash.

Lexie’s helmet, like her bike, is just a little too big for her so my husband had to adjust it so it stays in place. With her dare-devil attitude, we want that helmet to fit properly.

Now that they are all set with their new bikes, I am hoping to get them both to participate in this year’s bike rodeo at their school. This is an event that teaches kids about bike safety. As part of the day, they get to ride their bikes through an obstacle course.

Jase has been doing it since he was in kindergarten. The first two years he had training wheels but the past few times have been without the training wheels. Though he never rides well enough to advance to the city competition, he enjoys participating – even when he fell at last year’s event.

Lexie, on the other hand, has never wanted to do the bike rodeo. She refused to do it with training wheels. And later she couldn’t start riding without help, so she never participated. But this school year I think she might just be ready to show off!

My fourth grader attended his first maturation class

In January, we received notice that all fourth graders would be offered maturation classes in March. That is where they separate the boys from the girls and talk about the changes of puberty. (I barely remember mine from elementary school.)

At our school, they start the classes in fourth grade though the girls receive a brief intro talk in the third grade because girls are developing sooner than before. I had no clue that it started in third grade since notices only went home to parents of girls, and we aren’t there yet. (But will be next year.)

So at our school, both fourth and fifth-grade students are separated by gender and receive a lesson on what is about to happen to their bodies.

When the notice came home in January, parents could attend a brief meeting at a neighboring elementary school where they would go over what they would discuss and answer your questions. Or you could just watch the video that would be shown to your student from home. So my husband and I opted to do the latter.  We figured if we had any questions, I could then attend the official meeting.

The video was pretty straight forward. It was done in the format of some boys listening to a radio show called “Let’s Talk.” It was informative, and I could just picture the boys squirming and being embarrassed while watching it.

Jase got his chance to watch the video at school last Thursday. One of the first things he said when he came out of school was that he had to attend maturation class.

“How was it,” I asked.

“I am going to start sweating more,” he said and then bowed his head.

IMG_4362“That’s true. What about the rest of it? Did you find it embarrassing?”

He nodded. “Some of it.”

He then showed me the booklet that he received, briefly opening it to the diagram of male genitals.

We spoke a few more minutes on it as we walked. Luckily, Lexie was talking to her dad who happened to be at pick up with me. (A very rare occurrence.)

Jase went on to talk to my husband the next day. He didn’t really have questions, but I think needed to process through what had been said and perhaps needed his dad’s reassurance that it was true, and everything would be all right.

For a child who is resistant to change, I think he handled everything well.

Next year, I will have two kids attending the Maturation classes. I will get to see what the third-grade  girls learn when Lexie goes, and I will get to see what additional information the fifth-grade boys receive as they watch a different video than the fourth graders.

Letting my daughter believe in superheroes and other fictional characters

“Is Batman real, Mom?” my five-year-old daughter asks.

“No,” my son answers before I have a chance to say anything.

“He is, isn’t he?” Lexie asks again. “I want to go to Gothem.”

IMG_1103Lexie loves superheroes. She can name them all – Hawk Girl, The Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Batman…

Last Halloween, she was Wonder Woman and the year before she was Bat Girl. We recently took her to the Texas Comicon. She loved seeing the people dressed up and asked if this was the real Wonder Woman (see photo to the right) but did realize that many of the characters there were not the real ones. I guess they didn’t look too much like the “real” thing.

Of course, it isn’t just superheroes she asks about. It is Scooby Doo. (“When I am Daphne’s age, I want to go to Crystal Cove too.”) Or Winx Club. (“I wish I had wings like Bloom does.”) To Lexie, all of these characters and worlds are real. She really wants to go to these places and meet her “friends.”

35984130031Looking at photos from our trip to Disney World, Lexie will ask if that is the real Aurora or if that is really Tink she is holding in her hands. (see photo to the left)

Frankly, I am at a loss sometimes on what to tell her. Of course, some of these are real people. She hugged Snow White, and that was a real person playing Daphne at Scooby Doo Live. And she does recognize that those are living people in the movies verses the cartoon drawings.

If we let her believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, what is the harm in letting her believe these superheroes or characters are real? Are they not at least real to her?

Jase of course seems bent on ruining it for her. He takes every opportunity to tell her they are not real, that those are just actors portraying the characters. This is the boy who refuses to go near any of the characters – even if they aren’t wearing a mask.

I don’t have any problem with Lexie believing in these characters. All too soon that magical belief that anything is possible will be gone. But it also makes me wonder if all these heroes are real, what about the villains or the ghosts and other nasty creatures depicted in the shows or stories? It is hard to explain one away as fake while supporting that the others could be real.

I guess we will continue to let her believe that these superheroes are out there as all too soon she will grow up and her attention will move onto other things…such as boys. Oh, my. I am not ready for that!

Should we lessen disappointment and rejection for our children?

I read this blog recently about why your kids being left out of things is good thing. It focused on that kids were not learning to handle disappointment and rejection because we, as parents, have become too worried about hurting their feelings. Invitations have to go to everyone so no one is left out. We give second place trophies or all participants get a medal. I don’t recall any of that while growing up, but I do recall the horrible feeling of being left out and of course as a parent I want to minimize that as much as possible for my kids.

Both Jase and Lexie’s schools have policies that if you are sending birthday party invitations through the school, you have to invite everyone or at least all of one gender. I know this is done so you don’t exclude someone and hurt their feelings. So far, we have been inviting the whole class but that means larger birthday parties. Since we usually do them at a party place, more invitees of course means more money. For Jase, we have told him that next year when he turns 9, he can only invite a select few friends. By this age, I expect the other kids to be a little better equipped to handle not being invited than at the kindergarten age.

left outI know kids have to learn about disappointment, but it is hard to know you are being left out of the fun. My daughter Lexie idolizes one of Jase’s friends who lives in our neighborhood. Emily likes playing with Lexie but there is a two year difference in age. One day, Emily had an all-girls play date, and she didn’t invite Lexie. We walk with them daily and the play date never came up. Lexie found out about it when Emily and two other friends were talking about it on the day of the get together. Lexie was crushed not to be invited. She cried all the way home. And no amount of explaining that her friend might want to play with girls her own age would make it better. I know this won’t be the last instance of heartache, but it was hard to watch. If I had known what was coming, I would have avoided the situation by not walking home with the neighbors that day as Lexie was after all only four at the time. There is no way she would understand not being included.

2nd placeAs for the sport organizations giving out trophies for all participants, Jase’s karate group does that. They have a tournament each session and everyone either gets a first or second place trophy. Jase has come in second place every time. Not once has he been excited about getting a second-place award. He knows it isn’t first and is disappointed. This actually has inspired him to train extra hard for the next tournament which was this month. He came in second place again though he did do much better this time and only lost by one point.

In the case of sports and trophies, I am fine with them not giving out awards to everyone. I know that my kids need to learn that they will not be the best at everything. But as for being left out, I am torn. Yes, I know it will happen but gosh is it hard to watch, or as I remember it, it is hard to endure. I don’t know that it makes anyone better to feel unwanted for whatever reason.

The balancing act: Independence vs. Safety

Last week, I took the kids to the water park. Last time my husband came with us. But this time it was just me and the kids. Jase likes the water slides while his sister much
prefers playing in the area for younger kids. Jase is happy to play there too, but I know after awhile that he wants to go on the slides, so I let him go by himself because I can see the slide area from where we are.

While he was gone, I began to wonder…ok, worry…about how much freedom I really should give him. He just turned seven two months ago and this is only the second time we have been to this water park. I worried about whether he will be able to find us again. The place is busy, and I notice that many of the little boys all look the same in their wet swimsuits. How easily will he be able to find us?

After he returned to check in with us several times, I began to relax a little. Then his sister and I moved to another play area just a little farther away.  I can no longer see the slides at all. And it is back to worrying about whether he can find us. I am not worried about him drowning. Even though Jase isn’t a strong swimmer, none of the water is that deep and there are lifeguards everywhere. I am most worried about losing him. And it wasn’t so much what I would do but what he would do if he felt he was lost. Would he wait where I told him to go if he “lost” us or would he decide to wander around looking for us? Would he wander out of this area and into another part of the water park? And if so, how would I find him? Of course in this instance I didn’t have to find out as each time he came back to where we were and found us with no problem.

Last month, we went to the children’s museum and took my mother-in-law with us. We have been going to this place for at least five years, and both my kids know the layout. I don’t have the same worries here as I did at the water park. We also have an agreed meeting point (the train layout) if anyone gets separated. Here I have no problem with my 7-year-old wandering off on his own.  I just had to reassure my mother-in-law that he would be fine. Not knowing the kids, she had the urge to hover.    

I guess I am still balancing the amount of trust and independence that I should give my son. I know he needs to learn to do things for himself but also want to keep him safe. I was fine with him going in the men’s changing room by himself even though the sign said anyone under 10 should be accompanied by an adult. He refuses to go in the women’s changing room or the women’s bathroom and hasn’t for over a year. Of course when he first started going into these places by himself, I did worry about what could happen. You never know who is in there.

He attended kindergarten last year, and I walked him to and from school every day. We live in a safe neighborhood and when he is older, I will be fine with him walking by himself – but just not yet. I want to give him a sense of independence, but I also want to protect him. And so the balancing act continues as I try to give him more responsibility and try not to worry about him. (Yeah, as if that will ever happen.)