It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Hacked

My son has anxiety issues. His anxiety, while it has slowly started to get better, is still very much present in our lives. His triggers include any blemish on his body (anything that’s bleeding, a scrape, even a bruise), bad weather, loud noises, when something looks “not right”, and tech related issues which he then goes worst case scenario assuming he’s been hacked. Of all of his triggers, the most common and worst of them are cuts and tech related issues. It’s not easy trying to figure out ways to validate his feelings while also trying to calm him down and thinking about ways to prevent a future attack. Especially since sometimes these episodes can be hours long affairs.

I never compare parenting struggles, but honestly there’s nothing more trying of your patience. You need to remain calm as your child is pacing frantically around the room, practically hyperventilating as he goes through all of his thoughts out loud. It’s a helpless feeling knowing that whatever you could say can be misinterpreted and worsen the situation. Sometimes, maybe because I’m a bad mom, I just watch it unfold because I have no idea what to do otherwise and I’m afraid I’m going to start pacing around the room just as frantically because I don’t want to make matters worse and my heart hurts. Yesterday, my son woke up at 7 a.m. from a nightmare that he got hacked and the computer didn’t work anymore. I held him while he calmed down, knowing that when he has his nightmares, he just needs cuddles. But then every flicker or anytime the computer lagged for a minute, he just remembered his nightmare and starts pacing around the house in a panic that he’s just been hacked and what is he going to do and his email has something from Google about compromised passwords and what is he going to do and maybe he needs 2-step authentication or check to see if Linus Tech Tips can help but he can’t go near the computer because of the hack haunting him.

My husband is an IT god among men. Fortunately in his new position at work, he spends most of his time at his new desk. My son called him 4 times in a row before he received a tech answer that satisfied him and he was able to get over his episode. He was fine for the rest of the day and excited when Dad came home to talk to him all about what he learned about computers after they talked. He’s 8 and knows more about computers than most adults I know, myself included.

Every day is different. He could go several days without an episode. He can have an episode every day. He can have several moments in a day. You can’t avoid triggers, because you’re supposed to help him figure out ways of coping. Sometimes getting him to do his breathing exercises works. Sometimes you just put his noise-cancelling headphones on and he’s fine. I prepare him ahead of time that a storm is coming because if he hears the thunder, it’s game over immediately. At least if he knows it’s coming, he lasts until he sees heavy winds, then he starts pacing around frantically reminding himself that Mommy has a plan in case of a hurricane or tornado and she knows what to do to keep me safe and his brother is a certified lifeguard and has his first aid certifications so if something happens, he can help too. How when he gets any sort of cut or scrape he needs a bandage and how Mommy doesn’t understand that he needs a bandage because this scrape is the most important thing on his mind right now. You just let him have the bandage, even when you can’t see a mark.

You never truly know patience until you have to manage sensory disorders and anxiety and whatever other mental health condition can be thrown at you in the form of your children. It’s hard enough dealing with your own mental health issues, let alone also managing your child’s. You always have to walk a delicate line. You get judged or funny looks because your kid won’t go into the cafeteria with loud noises or won’t wear a Halloween costume to a school Halloween function for whatever reason he rationalized and you just go with it because all that matters is that they are happy and participating the best that they can. You treasure those good days more than you normally would because you know just how bad those bad days can be.

But the most important thing is that they know that you love them through it all. Even when they are thrashing around and keep hitting you during an anxiety attack. You just hug them harder. Even when their defiance seems unable to be overcome. Because when they are smiling at you, they smile bigger since they know that you were there for them when they weren’t behaving or acting out or having an anxiety attack. They know that you would fight all of those triggers if you could. You were patient with them, even when you think that you weren’t. You did enough for them when you thought it was impossible to help. They just want to know that you love them and that you are there for them no matter what. Even if you have to buy a 100 pack of bandages a week.

Can’t I Just Send Him to Summer School?

I’m fortunate that I have 2 very bright boys with unique personalities. I try to navigate the difficult world of discipline, without the purpose of breaking who they are. My youngest, who is always described to me by others as “lively”, “willful”, or “quite the handful”, is probably the most difficult of the two to navigate. He, unlike my oldest, has yet to respond to my simply glaring at him. I just give the look to my oldest, he cowers in fear, and apologizes. Sometimes, I do it just to mess with him and to remind him of my power. I’m an awful human being and sometimes that just translates to my parenting. It’s all about psychological warfare, giving me the upper hand as the alpha of the house.

My youngest is his own brand of beast. He’s defiant, often just for the sake of being defiant. He’s impulsive. He lives life by the motto of “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”. My struggle now is pointing out that “Sorry” is meant for an accident, where you didn’t intend for something to happen. Apologizing for intent is meaningless because that means you knew what you were doing and simply didn’t care. He’s a sweet boy, who mostly means well especially when his meaning well gets him to what he wants. But he’s a kid. That’s what kids do. Due to the age difference between the boys, each of them had their own time as the “only” child. The difference is that my youngest is the baby of the family and that’s the way that it goes. He’s mine. He’s my special child that once he gets through this phase, is going to make his own positive mark on the world. We just need to make it through the now.

Over the course of remote learning, I struggled with desperately wanting to send them back and desperately not wanting to end up in the hospital or worse because of the virus. I did know that when the schools opened up that this would be the best place for him because he needed that environment to thrive. Some kids don’t. My oldest didn’t, but I sent him anyways because he’s a senior and he needed to suck it up and enjoy his last year in the school. Plus, I wanted them to not spend the entire day eating $200 worth of groceries in one sitting. Boys, am I right?

The summer school in our district is free. They bus the kids. I joked about sending my youngest to summer school, because with the way the year ended up, he spent most of the year at home. This summer school would be the break that I needed! It was a funny joke, but then after thinking about it, it doesn’t actually sound like a bad idea. My youngest works best when he’s in a strictly structured environment. His routine every day is down to the minute on the clock. That’s how he’s always been. He’s a bit more flexible about it than he was, but the basic need for routine and knowing what to expect for the day is still important to how he functions and deals with the day. It’s a thing.

I won’t send him to summer school, but you best believe that I’m going to fantasize about it while I’m arguing with him about why he doesn’t need to eat an entire bag of family-sized salt and vinegar chips in one day and why buffalo wings are not something that should be eaten 3 times a day, 7 days a week. Or while I explain mommy needs to work and doesn’t want to know about his YouTube video at this exact second of the day and maybe it can wait until after work. I’ve earned the right to fantasize about summer school for my kid and so have all of the other parents that had a difficult year.

Parenting the Free-Spirited

I get it. I wasn’t a normal kid growing up. I was spirited. I did things my own way. I didn’t want to be fit in a box with labels and I did everything that I could growing up to keep people on their toes. I was a unique, free-spirited child that enjoyed a bit of mischief and psychological warfare. I’m really not afraid to admit that I still have these same tendencies. This attitude has kept me sane and surprisingly out of the typical drama that adults deal with. Because I genuinely don’t care. The other parents want to make fun of my custom Chucks or my really warm hat and stained winter coat, let them. I’m not dressed like a blizzard is coming at any moment for them; I like being warm and cozy in winter. and if you want to look stylish and freeze, that’s your issue.

My children each have a bit of this free-spirit in them, though my oldest child is far more reserved. It’s challenging, especially as a parent, because you want them to follow basic rules of behavior but at the same time you don’t want them to lose that free spirit. My youngest has been the biggest challenge with this, primarily because he doesn’t have time to bother with whatever social norms are expected of him unless it really matters to him like when he’s teased for his uniqueness. For instance, when kids at school made fun of his Skechers shoes because they weren’t Nike or Under Armor shoes and my husband proceeded to buy him a new pair of shoes because my husband was scarred from some incidents where our child was teased for being Asian and it was important to “minimize what they could tease him about”.

He has always just marched to his own drum. From his alternating between sleeping, waving, and acrobats during ultrasounds, we knew from the start that he was going to be his own man. He was born in September and by Thanksgiving, he was rolling around like a madman. I remember telling the pediatrician and he laughed at me saying “It’s too early for that”. He didn’t laugh when my spirited little child tried to roll of the exam table and the doctor looked at me and said “Yeah, you have a mover on your hands.” Developmental milestones meant nothing to this child, whether it was inch-worming by Christmas or not speaking until he was 4, my little guy decided he was going to just do things his own way.

There’s a fine line that needs to be walked here, one where picking your battles gets a little harder. Because it ends up that everything is a battle. Bedtimes are rude and I’m the worst for enforcing them. How dare I expect him to wear pants when guests come to our house? You do want to encourage the independent spirit, even if there’s a bit of defiance behind everything he says. When you don’t encourage the independent spirit, you end up with someone who follows whatever is the popular thing at the moment or blindly follows a political party without questioning it. It’s not about raising someone to be molded in your image or into this perfect, ideal child; it’s about raising someone into the person that they are supposed to be.

It’s going to be a complicated struggle. You will end up sobbing behind the closed door of your bedroom because you’re on the verge of breaking down. But the most important thing is to not break their spirit in your goal of trying to teach them how to be both good people and free spirits. I wish I could offer some advice on the best approach, but I’m just winging it where some days are better than others. But that’s kinda my advice on anything parenting related. We’re all just trying to make it out alive with children who grow up to be reasonably functioning but not totally damaged adults.

The Daily Adventures of the Verbally Abusive 8 Year Old

I feel like every day of remote learning is tearing away of what’s left of my sanity. Should the schools be opened because I’m losing my crap here? They should open when it’s determined to be safe enough. I chose to be a mother; I signed up for all of the mentally challenging parts as well as those joyous moments. My kid being more than a handful was probably my fault. I tried my best. I really did. The first one came out so well.

Joking aside, I have spent a good majority of most mornings being screamed at for entire chunks of the morning. He’s screaming about being tortured. How he’s forced to do schoolwork against his will. How sitting at a desk is torture and schools don’t care about kids and they just want to torture him and all he wants to do is play video games and revel in his defiance of everything that the adults say.

I wish I could say it was the remote learning crushing his spirit. The truth is that my spirited special boy is his own person. He spends his school day trying to work smarter, not harder. By trying out outsmart the teacher by logging minutes on things when he just “AFKs” and lets the minutes log while he pulls up game sites and YouTube on his Chromebook. It’s exhausting running in his space in the dining room, while he breaks the 1000000th headset of the school year and reminding him of all the work he should be doing. Then he shows me the work is turned in and everything is fine. It isn’t. He didn’t do it and just turned it in so that it looked completed to me. Then I get the message first thing in the morning about how he needs to the work he didn’t do the day before. Which starts this vicious cycle all over again.

I try so hard. I’m worried he will fail the 3rd grade because he doesn’t care about school. He’s 8 and doesn’t care about school. He doesn’t want to go to bed when he should. In fact, if he’s told to do anything against his will, he turns into a gremlin who ate after midnight and the wrath is felt by everyone in the house.

I try not to argue. You can’t argue with a 8 year old, especially when they start complaining about how they are suffering and being abused for having to do school work. I try to be patient, when all I want to do is scream at the top of my lungs and start physically pulling out the hair that is already falling out due to stress.

This is just a phase. He has anxiety and a sensory condition. It’s difficult to navigate this time, which is already pretty tricky. I take comfort in the fact that I’m told my husband was just as bad at that age. But, he turned out well as an adult. Not sure my husband put a metal toy in between the surge protector and the Chromebook cord out of boredom during school, causing the power in the entire room to go out. At least my oldest learned how to reset the fuse at the box, a valuable lesson for any adult to know.

We will make it through it together. We will navigate this tricky phase and come out better on the other side. The best I can do is make sure that he knows that he’s loved and supported, no matter how long he screams at me for being an abusive torturous mother for forcing him to do his work. I can hug him and let him know that he’s fighting for independence and I get that, but that at the end of the day he still just needs mommy cuddles. It’s hard for kids to manage their emotions, especially when they don’t even know what they are going through. It just takes some patience… and a bottle of wine after they go to sleep.

The New School Year

Everyone is already looking ahead to the new school year, anxious to get the kids back to school in a setting where they can see their friends again. Mostly, I’m just excited to have someone else fight with their child why school work is important, even if it’s going to kill them from boredom. My home OT sessions have gone similarly horrible. In fact, I would be lying if I said I was confident my children are going to go back to school next year and be able to keep up with their peers. My only real comfort is knowing that my kids aren’t the only one with the “worst teacher ever” right now.

If you’ve been on social media, you have seen everyone share those new guidelines from the CDC about opening up the schools. I definitely have. I read them. They seem insane, to say the least. Not that I don’t believe there should be some guidelines, but that I don’t believe they can accomplish what they want. Not in my school district, at least. 1 kid per seat on the bus and skipping rows? My oldest son’s bus has kids sitting 3 to a seat and that isn’t even enough for them. How is that going to work? Are we going to magically come up with more buses when we can barely afford to meet the needs of the teachers and students as is? What about expecting young children to keep a mask on all day? That’s not realistic at all. It’s not realistic. And aside from the mask policy, 90% of it probably won’t even be put into effect in most districts.

I get the point. I understand the point. I don’t believe in those conspiracy theories about fear mongering and how the flu kills more people just because your media told you that line once and you just believed it. Or because you heard it, wanted to verify it, then just ignored the 20 other articles that disprove this point and use that one article from the National Review to show that you’re right. You’re not right, if you read the actual science behind the numbers. Here’s a brief rundown, in case you’re interested: it all comes down to testing. Since the CDC can’t ensure that everyone who died of a flu-related complication was actually tested for the flu, they essentially estimate a number to what they think it is based on some algorithm that I probably wouldn’t even understand if I tried. I got this information from Live Science, then looked at several other articles that ended up sharing the same exact information. I could be wrong. I’m not unwilling to hear actual facts to prove me wrong. But, this is what my research has shown me. Even still, their estimate was around 62,000 people dying of the flu this year. Which is, for those who like math, is less than the over 90,000 people who died of the coronavirus-related complications.

What these 2 illnesses do have in common is that by taking the proper precautions, you can minimize your risk and the risk of others. I’m not saying don’t live your life. I’m just saying don’t be stupid. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

Back to the original point of the post: what about our kids? People around social media are in an uproar on the community forums. “I’ll just homeschool my kids.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I can barely keep up with my “I need money to survive” workload and the very, very, very basic remote learning things that I have to keep up with. If you’re already struggling with that, good freaking luck actually homeschooling your kids. You have to prove that you are competent by the school district’s standards to homeschool, have to essentially submit lesson plans/hours of instruction, and follow strict regulations based on your school district. You have to be in compliance with laws around homeschooling. Then, there are those other aspects of not having that socialization in the school environment and missing out on those activities they get to enjoy in school like goofing off on the bus during field trips or school dances. I’m not anti-homeschooling; I’m very much in approval of parents who do what they feel is right for their kids. What I do want to make people realize is that if you’re struggling now, homeschooling isn’t a viable option for you.

The thing is, this is just information based on what we know today. This is a new beast we are dealing with here. We might have better answers about it, more testing, and a vaccine by the time we send our kids back to school. No one really knows much about anything. But, what I do know is that I’m going to follow the people who are experts in science, specifically infectious diseases, to form my opinion. Not some hack job on the internet that is only spewing misinformation because for some reason people have an adverse-reaction to facts and misinformation can be very profitable. Keeping yourself educated with the latest, and I can’t stress this word enough, FACTS is really going to be the only way we get through this.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I’m not a particularly positive person. I’m more of a jaded realist. The thing about being a realist is that you are often accused of pessimism. Am I guilty of pessimism? Who isn’t? Hope is the most treacherous of human fancies, after all. A motto I lived much of my teen years following.

Some time after becoming a parent, I lost the need for pessimism as a crutch though I still mention how my class voted me the class pessimist with my dear friend. We deserved it. I started more towards realism, still careful not to hope. Hope leaves you open for disappointment. I prefer logically considering things and determining the most likely outcome. Things didn’t turn out how I would have liked? I started living by “It could be worse.”

As it turns out, people hate that phrase. I like it because it centers me. It puts things in perspective. Sure, school is officially cancelled for the rest of the year leaving teacher Mom in charge. But, it could be worse. At least I know they are safe. I’m not going to be worried about them contracting the virus at school. I don’t have to worry if their schools become a statistic for school shootings or being bullied. I just have to worry more about whether or not I’m enough for them. And my never getting a moment of quiet time until this lockdown ends. Send help. By “help” I mean “wine”.

Does this new normal suck? Sure. I can’t take my kids to the park. I have to juggle trying to help with 2 sets of remote learning plans plus an OT learning plan. But we’re safe. Aside from the stomach bug that took over our house, we’re healthy. I don’t have as much time to clean because I have to juggle teaching, my own work, keeping them quiet so they don’t bother my husband as he works in the makeshift office in the basement. But, it could be worse.

Whenever someone vents to me about something, I try to remind them that sure things suck but life’s too short to stress over everything. That’s how I remain so seemingly emotionless. It’s not that I don’t care about the Patriots getting rid of another player. It’s just in the grand scheme of things, is that really something worth my already limited sanity? This is something we should appreciate now more than ever. Yes, you are validated in feeling emotionally done. But looking at how things could be worse doesn’t dismiss those real feelings of stress and anxiety; it helps puts things in perspective. At least we have a roof over our heads to stay safe during these difficult times. We have food in our fridge. Because there are a lot of people who don’t have these luxuries. They don’t have the luxury of remote learning capabilities. It could be so much worse for us.

Most importantly, we have each other. And as long as we each do our part, things will get better. We just have to do what needs to be done. This may be considered a war time, but do we have to go to war? No. We have to sit on our asses playing video games, catching up on our reading list, binge-watching whatever we want. Some people have to still go out and work, my husband being one of them. But he wears his mask, uses his hand sanitizer, and washes his hands because it’s more than just about him getting sick. This is our time to shine. This is our time to come together and ask for help and put a smile on another person’s face. Because they probably need it. We all do.

Don’t Believe the Social Media Hype

We all live off of our social media. I’m definitely on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit for an obscene amount of time everyday. It’s the best way to keep up with Overwatch League news and get those precious Baby Yoda memes. (Those get me all the time.) But this is also where people put out the best versions of themselves. Even I try to take images on my more self-conscious days that don’t show off that pile of toys and other crap on the floor that I just didn’t feel like picking up.

The problem is that for every time a parent brags about their child’s grades or gets those adorable photos, it’s not real life. While they are taking that picture of that awesome report card, her children are probably tearing apart the house as they scream bloody murder and tattling on each other while she has her other hand on the bottle of wine. Because sometimes the glasses aren’t enough and you just need to go to the big show. It’s like that meme where everything’s on fire and they are sitting there going “It’s fine”.

That mom isn’t posting a selfie saying “felt cute” because she felt cute. More likely she needed the validation because that day was an awful day. That’s fine. People need something to make themselves feel better and they shouldn’t be judged for that. I’m pretty much a 90% anti-judgement person. The rest of the 10% is reserved for parents who don’t use car seats for their kids, mistreat their children in any way, mistreats my children, mistreats dogs, and people who don’t like Baby Yoda memes.

People see those perfect photos of their “perfect”children and other people get jealous. I’m guilty of it. When I see a parent who has a young kid who started speaking on time or early, I get a little jealous or feel bad about myself because my youngest didn’t start talking until he was 4. It’s normal to feel bad about yourself as a mother, especially when looking at social media, because there is so much pressure on us. We have to stay at home with the kids, but also work to earn money. We have to have a clean house all the time, have a size 3 body with DD chest, be perfect cooks, and slaves to society. It’s a lot of pressure to put on people who on most days just feel successful if their kids are alive at the end of it.

You need to be careful on social media. Don’t believe everything you see. Don’t believe every news story that pops up without checking sources. Don’t believe that the person didn’t take 20 selfies before deciding on the perfect one. Social media is about perception. People want others to perceive them as perfect. See, I may sometimes take photos that minimize the mess that’s usually surrounding my home. But I’m honest about being an adequate mother that just gets lucky sometimes. It happens. Sometimes I do get the house perfectly clean. Sometimes I cook a killer homemade meal, and others I toss chicky nuggies and tater tots on a cookie sheet so I can get back to work. No one’s lives are perfect, so don’t let social media trap you into thinking they are.

Mommy’s Little Monsters

Anytime someone talks about how easy parenting is, I wonder how much they pay for a nanny every month. I have pretty awesome kids and I have it much easier than some parents, but I don’t think I’ve ever once said “This is easy. I’ve got this.” Usually, I don’t. Usually I’m taking a “hope for the best approach”. People tend to think that I’m a terrible mother because I have a more “sink or swim” approach to raising my children. As much as I want to control every aspect of their life to make sure that they don’t make the wrong choices, they have to learn accountability. Maybe if I regained control, I could have an “easy time” too.

For instance, I will help some with their homework sometimes. But they need to work through the things themselves. I won’t babysit them to make sure they do everything, because I can’t be there all the time. If they don’t finish their work properly because they wanted to speed through it or not do something at all, then they should face the consequences of that. Some people view this as harsh, but kids need to learn consequences or they never learn to be accountable for themselves. For my own sanity and their own level of responsibility, I can really only do so much.

The thing that we have to remember is that no matter how hard we think it is to raise them, imagine how much harder it is for them to grow up. They have those struggles of wanting independence, but still wanting their mommy to give them a hug or have brownies waiting for them. They want to do well, but they also want to hear you say how proud you are of them. Sometimes they forget that we love them unconditionally. Sometimes they forget that even if they get a bad grade or have a bad behavior report that we are still going to love and accept them. My youngest son got his first “yellow” card of the year a little bit ago after doing so well, and he was convinced that he was going to be punished forever for it. Some of it could be my own failings as a mother. Some of that is just your normal anxiety that young children have.

Kids think that they need to do 10000 activities to make us proud. That they need to be perfect and excel at everything. We may be well-intentioned in trying to keep them busy, but we may also be setting them up to burn the candle at both ends too much. My kids have the choice if they want to do an activity or not, but they need to something aside from screen time for a little bit each day. My oldest does sports in winter and spring, taking the fall and summer to relax. He does well in school and I think this is a perfect balance for him. Plus as a junior with 2 AP classes, CCD, volunteering, and college stuff, he shouldn’t take on much more than that. My youngest doesn’t really have any interests in those things. He prefers to play games or work on building/drawing something. That’s who he is. Rather than change that, I ensure he gets plenty of exercise, he goes out and has experiences, and get him to play puzzle games that are meant for critical thinking and not just fun. That works for him. Every kid is different. Plus, I think I’d go insane trying to juggle all those activities. This is as much for my sanity as it is for theirs.

My boys are Mommy’s little monsters. They fight with each other, they destroy my house, and eat everything in sight. But every time I want to yell at them for how hard they make things or because I’ve gone insane by 5pm, I just image what they are going through. Maybe my oldest had a bad day but because he’s a teenager, he doesn’t want to talk about it until he wants to or never. Maybe my youngest had an anxiety attack at school and he’s got his second wind of energy. Those boys are struggling as much as I am some days, and that’s something we can often forget.

And It Just Breaks My Heart

I wasn’t the best student. Teachers would probably point out how bright they thought I was, but they would also probably point out that I was wasted potential. Some people would probably agree with that statement still today. Maybe they are right. Maybe not. But I understand it now, as a parent.

I worked hard to get into a good college, though it took me a couple of years to get back on the college track that I realistically was never on. I didn’t have any real goals. Then I was pregnant at 18 and my only goals became preventing my child to turn out like me. I was determined that he was going to be better. He watched me work hard every day at my hotel job. I know I worked a lot and it seemed I barely saw him. But he deserved the world and I wanted to give him everything. When I went back to school, I made sure he saw how hard I worked. I wanted him to have goals. I knew he was smart. But I didn’t want him to waste it like I did.

Things always came easy to him. When they didn’t, he became easily flustered. He was a perfectionist. I didn’t care about perfection; I cared that he did his best. I would never punish him for doing his best. If he needed help, I would make sure he got the help. He never needed it before but I would do anything to make sure he got what he needed.

Then, I saw him struggle with his homework. Homework in a subject he has always been fascinated in, despite never actually taking a course. He spent all the time he had on the assignment, and he kept getting one question wrong over and over again. He grew more frustrated. He began to get himself worked up. He snapped when I tried to help or told him to take a deep breath. He called himself “dumb”…

And it broke my heart. As adult as these kids think they are, they are just hormonal kids struggling and too afraid to ask for help. He knows he’s not dumb. I hope, anyways. I told him that he should ask his teacher for help. That was what he’s there for after all. He was determined to figure it out, even after the deadline that his homework was due. I saw him unravel and it just breaks my heart.

Junior year isn’t for the faint of heart. This is when things get real. The classes get harder. The expectations are raised. They have the added stresses of SATs and college fairs, driving school, the acknowledgement that adulthood is sneaking up on them. It isn’t easy for the parents, but it’s even harder for the kids. I’m hoping that we both make it out in one piece. But I’m worried that if he cracks this much now, it’s only going to get worse. And I only have myself to blame for that.

I see so much of myself in him. There was a time where I worked hard in middle school until I realized that I was a nothing that was getting bullied relentlessly. When you see your homework get tossed out a window and no one cares, you start to not care too. It’s easier to fail when you detach yourself than to fail when you tried so hard. But when you put everything you have into something and fall short, it’s hard. It’s how you deal with this failure that can determine your success in life. You can get flustered, but as long as you keep trying to succeed, that’s what matters. But sometimes, admitting defeat and asking for help is what the strongest person will do. This help could be exactly what you need to get to that next level. By getting stuck on the basics, you won’t have the building blocks that you need to stay on track.

I hope this was just a moment of being tired. That he burned the candle at both ends and needs to realize that you can’t do it all. Maybe now that driving school is done, he can refocus. But what happens when swimming starts? It’s hard to teach balance when you struggle with balance yourself. I hope this is a passing phase. I hope he realizes that life will get harder and that taking it too sensitively will only make things harder. That you have to accept that you aren’t a natural at everything just because it has been so easy so far. But most of all, I hope he realizes that he is loved and supported and that we are so very proud.

They Are Only Shoes Little One

While I generally just buy clothes for both the boys for back to school, I let them pick their own shoes. I know their styles enough to know what they like to wear. Both like skinny jeans. My oldest one loves simple t-shirts, video game/novelty tees, and long sleeved thermal shirts/those 2-tone baseball shirts. My younger son is a bit pickier than that, but he rarely complains about what he gets. He especially loves Gap and Nike shirts. The only shirt he really hates wearing is his “I Know I’m In Trouble When They Use My Full Name” shirt. It was appropriate for him and it was funny.

Shoes are all up to them. I won’t buy shoes without them because A) I want to make sure they fit right; and B) They know what they find comfortable. Before going out to get shoes, I asked them what they wanted so I knew where to go to buy them. My oldest knew that he wanted a pair of Chucks, then a custom pair for his birthday. Easy enough. My youngest, first Googled “Cool Sneakers” and decided he wanted a pair that were $900. Nope. That’s not happening. Eventually he decided that he really liked his Skechers GoRuns because they made him “run super fast”. So he wanted a new pair of those.

We took them shopping. My oldest went to a couple of stores before he went back to the first store to buy a pair of blue Chucks, which were hilariously enough the same color as his school’s color and his championship swim coat that he lives in. We went to another store, allowing the younger son to wander around until he found a pair of shoes that he loved. They were a cool pair of blue/neon green GoRuns and he thought they were the coolest shoes he had ever seen. He loved those shoes.

….Until he didn’t. My younger one complained about his new shoes, how he now hated them. “Well, you liked them when you bought them. You’re not getting a new pair.” My son started to get anxious about them. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he mentioned about how his friends were making fun of his shoes because he didn’t have the “right” shoes. He’s 7. I carefully tried to explain to him about how it didn’t matter what they said. That they are only shoes. That he was a person and that shoes didn’t matter. The shoes didn’t make you a better person. They didn’t make you any cooler or more likable. That it didn’t matter what these kids were saying.

I lied. Things like that do matter to other people. They do matter to make people more likable because kids judge other kids on things like that. I know I lied. He knows I lied. But I was right; they were just shoes and he was awesome no matter what shoes he wore. Those weren’t cheap shoes. They were nice, name brand shoes. Mostly because we’ve tried getting shoes from stores like Target and Walmart, and he tears through them in a month. At least the name brand shoes last him a few months before he destroys them.

I told my husband about this. My approach was to just let him wear the shoes, to try building up his self-confidence in standing up for himself. My husband’s approach was “what shoes do the kids say are the right shoes?” I wasn’t surprised. He told me before that he grew up being laughed at for being Asian, because his mom was “different” from the other moms, because he didn’t have the “right brands on”. I was bullied pretty brutally myself growing up. My husband felt that he was going to give them one less thing to bully his son about. He couldn’t change the fact that our youngest has anxiety or was “too Asian” or that he needs to wear noise-cancelling headphones to function sometimes. But he could change those shoes.

So he did. We went and got him a new pair of sneakers. He considered it a birthday present. Throughout the ride home, we kept trying to reinforce the idea that what other people think doesn’t matter. If you like your shoes, then they can buzz off. That it only matters if he’s a good person, a kind friend, and a compassionate individual. He didn’t care. He could only talk about how no one was going to make fun of him for his shoes now…

We’re guilty of spoiling our children. We know that. But I’d like to think my children never rub that in someone else’s face. We try to make sure that they appreciate the nice things that they have, but how they are lucky to have it. That not everyone is that lucky. That doesn’t make them better than anyone else. And when you have more, you are supposed to give back more. I see my oldest one taking these lessons, slipping money into donation bins or asking to buy things from a shopping list for donating to charities. We make sure that we donate grocery bags to charities during the holidays or donating here and there for various causes, and putting our kid’s names on the paper. This way they can feel proud that they helped.

It’s hard to be a mother when something like that happens. It’s hard not to want to be petty and buy the most expensive pair of shoes that you can to help your kid one up the ones making fun of them. It’s hard not to let your kids see how angry you are when these things happen. It’s hard not to do everything that you can to prevent bullying from affecting your children. But at some point, you need to realize a couple of things. One is that you need to do what you can to help their self-confidence. The other thing is that you can’t control the fact that other kids are going to bully your kid. It sucks and there’s only so much that you can do about it. They are only shoes, after all.