The Last Weekend at Home

It’s back to school time. That means that some of us parents are sending our kids back to school at the local grade/middle/high schools. But there are some parents that are spending this time getting ready to either send their kid back to campus or sending them there for the first time. This is the last weekend at home with my oldest, before we pack up the car and travel across the state to send him off for his first day of school next weekend. It’s a bittersweet moment. We’re proud of him for getting accepted into the different colleges, especially his top choice. We’re happy he chose one close-ish to us (about 2 and 1/2 hours away). We’re happy to take our first trip up to Salem, despite the fact we’ve live in Mass practically our entire lives. We’re scared and sad because he’s going to be gone and who knows when the next time he’ll come home is. It’s a lot of different emotions that every other parent in this position is probably experiencing right now.

This weekend will be dedicated to him. We’ll have a nice game night. We’ll take him out shopping for stuff for school. We’ll spend every second that we can with him making as many last minute memories that we can so that he’s setup for success when we drop him off at campus. Then, during the week, we organize his stuff and pack it. Maybe we’ll work in silence, not wanting to talk about it. Maybe we’ll reminisce about some hilarious memories. But we’ll likely sit in silence as we make sure his clothes are cleaned and packed up. Focusing on the task at hand rather than the emotions. That’s how we roll. Makes sure he remembers everything that he needs from home and make lists of what we need to get the day before we leave. We’ll talk about how nice it will be having his own dorm and not having to deal with his little brother annoying him. We’ll console his little brother, who will miss his big brother despite his protests that he won’t. “Because he’s super mean to me.”

It’s exciting for him. He gets to have this experience that neither of us really had. We gets to live on campus and make his own way in life. He’ll do well. He might struggle or fail at something. It’s all a part of the growth process. Every year of his life prior to going away, we focused on raising a child that was as confident as he could be, as self-sufficient as possible, and with a passion for learning. This is where he’ll learn if he really wants the dreams he’s had his entire life of solving crimes and impacting lives. This is where he continues his growth that he started in the comforts of his home. This is where he can exceed expectations or disappoint himself. That’s all a part of becoming an adult. As parents, we can only hope that we did enough to prepare him.

I’m not worried about losing contact with him. I’m sure he’ll at least send a meme or hilarious Reddit post for me daily. I’m sure he’ll call regularly, at least once a week. He should be taking this time to enjoy himself in between his studies. He should be meeting new friends. Taking full advantage of this experience that he’s lucky to get.

I don’t know a lot about this new chapter because it’s not something I’ve experienced. I have no wisdom to share. But what I do know is that he has a massive family behind him full of family and friends, that is here supporting him. He knows that he has this support. He knows that we believe in him. I’m so excited that he gets to have this moment and he’s worked damn hard for it. He will be the change. He will be great.

Talking to Your Kids About Death, Part II

A few years ago, I wrote about talking to kids about death. The only time I have ever had to talk to my kids about death is when it was someone that they didn’t really know much about, outside of stories I would tell. In that blog that I linked, I discussed talking to my oldest about his biological paternal grandfather dying. Otherwise, it was all abstract talk. I tell my youngest about my grandfather, his namesake. I keep my memory of him alive by telling these stories and my son likes to hear about “Grampa George”. I have never had to tell them about someone that they actually knew dying. Death was sort of abstract to them. They knew it existed and that it’s inevitable. But they never had to experience the actual feeling of true grief and figuring out how to process that.

That was until recently. A schoolmate of my youngest lost a battle that no parent should ever have to watch their child go through. How do you tell your child, especially a child with anxiety issues and has trouble processing/dealing with emotions, that someone they knew and regularly interacted with has passed? A child that’s the same age as he is? I’ve seen cancer and what it does to the people suffering from it and the people around them. It’s a slow and agonizing spirit-crushing illness. And to have to tell your child that another child they knew has passed from it isn’t something you prepare for. You prepare for the passing of their grandparents. Great grandparents. Older relatives. Not for their friends. That’s too tragic to consider, let alone plan for.

I tasked my husband with it. His personality and temperament more closely matches our youngest, which made him much better suited for the task. Plus, if you read the blog linked here, you can see that tact isn’t my strong suit and I would have made matters much worse. Part of being a parent in a partnership is that you get the ability to pick the tasks that are best suited to your skill set. My husband was a rockstar. He eased into it. “Remember your friend that was sick?” Our child responded, “Yeah, he had an illness that made his hair fall out.” My husband paused for a moment and told him the sad news. It took our son a few minutes before he realized it. “But, he’s young. Kids aren’t supposed to die. Parents are supposed to die first.” My son wasn’t wrong. “It’s sad. We talked about video games a lot.” My son seemed fine after talking about it, until it was time for bed. Then it all came back to him, as nighttime is perfect breeding ground for anxious thoughts to take over your brain. We didn’t sleep that night.

Books can tell you what they think you should know about having this conversation with your kids. But your kid is unique. I always say that you can read all of the parenting books that you want, but the problem is plans are great until you have kids. There isn’t any cookie cutter solution for dealing with life, especially life with kids. They don’t follow a rule book. When dealing with sensitive matters like death, you need to focus on the best approach for your kid. My husband is better with easing into the hard conversations, where I’m more of a “blunt, to the point” person. And I cannot stress this enough, there’s no way to plan for telling your child that a schoolmate/classmate has passed away.

After the fact, while my son was processing the news, he kept asking “Why?” The simple answer would have been (excuse the language) “Because cancer sucks. Fuck cancer.” He kept saying it wasn’t fair. It isn’t. In times like these, I revert to my Catholic-ish upbringing. “Because it was his time to be an angel.” “You can talk to him anytime because he’s up in heaven.” “Maybe your Grampa George can help take care of him now.” Even if I don’t actually believe in this, it doesn’t mean there’s no comfort for my son in hearing these things.

Talking about death with your kids is as hard as it is inevitable. It’s a delicate topic to address. I don’t think it will get any easier, but it’s important to be as open and compassionate as possible. Answer any questions in an age appropriate way. Show your support. Remind them that it sucks but how their loved one would want them to live their life anyways. That they will always be around them in their heart and memories. That grief sucks and never gets any easier. That there’s a part of you that will always be sad in some moments, but that there’s also a big life of experience that the deceased would want them to live.

Cancer sucks. But I’d like to point out a couple of my favorite causes to support, which are very close to my heart that could always use a little help.

The Jimmy Fund

Make-A-Wish

It’s Time to Celebrate

In a few short days, we will be coming together to celebrate the hard work of my oldest son. Graduating high school is a major milestone. It’s a massive achievement, especially with his courses to graduate with honors and considering the cluster that the past 2 years were. Graduating high school isn’t easy, especially when the world is stopped in the middle of a pandemic. It does make you pause and reflect on how far he’s come, from being the smallest kid in class to being at least sorta the same size as everyone else. Sorta.

That means it’s time to bring all of the family together to celebrate with him. To share your pride with them in that moment, while also praying that maybe this is the day the apartment people aren’t taking over your entire front of the house so that your guests at least have someplace to park. Not holding out hope though. Apparently they prefer walking halfway down the street rather than in their actual parking lot, choosing to take up every spot in front of our house and on some occasions, even our driveway. (Rant over.)

It’s stressful looking around the house and thinking “There’s no way to get everything done by the weekend while also working”, especially since my husband has been working overtime since last week and my youngest has decided this is the week for sporadic anxiety attacks to take up my time. That’s what you do as a a parent though. You suck it up and just drink more coffee as needed. You plan the menu, get to cleaning and cooking. I’m fortunate enough that I can easily bribe my nephews, one with just pizza and the other with pizza and the promise of sharing his aunt’s precious recipes. I like the company and I like that at least someone has an interest in learning the family recipes. My oldest son does sometimes, but his will to learn recipes is overcome by his love of gaming and streaming.

The most important piece of this puzzle isn’t the food that will be eaten or even the worries of parking or not having the house clean enough for guests. The most important piece is the people coming together to celebrate in this moment. A celebration we wouldn’t have been able to have a year ago. It’s the conversations that people are going to have while they are eating or just sharing their pride in my son’s accomplishments as well. It’s about family, both the ones of blood and the ones that you choose. These are those special moments that you’re going to remember more. I’ll occupy myself with cooking and serving guests, hoping that I don’t just start crying both of pride and of sadness that my oldest will be going away in a few short months.

He deserves this. He deserves the world and the world is now his to take on. He’s going to do great. He’s going to do great things. And I’m thankful for the tribe that helped along the way, ensuring that he was setup for success. He grew up knowing he was loved and supported every step of the way and that matters. That helped create the compassionate, narcissistic monster that we know today. (Kidding about the narcissism, mostly. Kid has an ego, for sure.)

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.

And He’s Now a Graduate

I think I was waiting for some emotional moment to happen when my oldest graduated. I expected to be overcome with sadness, but instead I was just immensely proud. I expected to mourn his milestone into adulthood, but instead I was really excited to see him transition to this next chapter of his life. I reminisced in my head about his kindergarten graduation. I bragged to anyone who would listen about him. (Sorry social media. But kinda not.) He’s now a graduate, moving onto this next adventure of his life: college, which is clear across the state from us.

It’s hard. It’s hard to put all of this to words. I spent the graduation not being able to hear anything and making jokes about how the mayor is only good at public appearances and giving speeches. I was just focused on getting him through the day, doing the walk he didn’t want to do. I told him, “I don’t care if you don’t do the walk. This isn’t for you. I care that your grandparents are going to be pissed at me for letting you not walk. I just don’t want to listen to it. So, suck it up buttercup, you’re doing it.” I explained for him that graduation is about the family being proud of their graduate. Hilariously, after all of that he keeps asking me for any pictures I had of the event. Not bad for someone who didn’t want to do the walk.

It’s easy to feel sad about this. You remember them as babies and somehow you blink and they are planning their college adventures. They are on a program for dormmates that’s essentially just Tinder, where you scroll through and select the people that you think you can spend the year not arguing with. You may even make a friend for the rest of your time at school. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not letting myself focus on the sadness of my oldest leaving sooner than I’d like. I’m focusing on the other things. Like how great it’s going to be for him at his dream school. Like how I need a new couch and a fixed bathroom door before I can throw a party. Like how if I break down, I know everyone else will follow. But if I show strength, they will all know it’s okay. I know my role in the world, and that’s it.

My boy graduated within the top 70 of his class of 291 students and he graduated with a fancy Pro Merito recognition. He finished his grades with a 90 in AP English and had honors all 4 years of school. He had his choice of colleges and a future wide open to him. I’m so proud of his hard work and the man that he’s become. He’s caring, compassionate, and kind. He’s trying to figure out how he can use his future career to have a positive impact on the world. He wants to help people and wants to work in law enforcement, trying to do his part to make the system more honest. He has lofty ideals that I hope for his sake (and the world’s really) he can accomplish. I have faith that he’s going to do great things. I have faith that I did everything that I could to give him the foundation of intelligence, confidence, and compassion to achieve everything he wants to.

My boy is a graduate. The world is now his to do what he wants with. And I wish that I could say that I could not be any more proud of him than I am in this very moment. But I know that he’s going to keep making me even prouder when he goes out into this world. I just hope that he’s ready for the world.

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.

As They Grow Into Adults

I’ve always said that my approach to parenting was all about the long game. It was about raising future adults. I wanted to be the change, doing my part to raise a generation of kids with a strong work ethic, a duty to serve others, and to just be kind human beings that did their part in the world as functioning adults. I wanted them to be self-sufficient. As I raised my oldest, I taught him how to do laundry as soon as I felt it was safe to. I taught him how to cook. I taught him “girl” things because I wanted him to be able to take care of himself as an adult. I wasn’t going to be raising a 32 year old that was incapable of doing the simplest thing for himself. I wanted him to be able to live on his own and if he did get married, he could take care of his partner.

It’s amazing to see it happen. It seems like you blink and one day they are on the last week of high school, like my oldest son is now. But when you think about it, you saw the process happen in slow-mo. You watched those little steps. You watched the first time he made your famous curry dish and proudly showed off. You watched him do his homework and get honors and high honors on the report cards. You saw his hard work as he worked towards his goals, getting into his top choice college. It was a process that was an honor to be a part of. While I always want to protect my little (not-so little) boy adult, it’s time where I move onto the sit back and worry stage. It’s under his control now. He is the driver of this ride that he’s on now. I now have to transition into the guidance stage. The stage where I support and offer advice, but ultimately, it’s on him now.

This is why I thought it was so important to play the long game. I wanted to make sure that he was equipped out there. That he was equipped to make the right decisions. That I did the best that I could to make sure that he would carefully think out his next move. That I did the best that I could to raise an adult that would contribute something great to society. I hope I succeeded. But when he moves onto campus in a few short months, that’s when I’ll know for sure if I did my job effectively, while still letting him know that this would always be his home no matter where he lives.

You try to deny that this growth is happening. Not my little baby. But eventually the days count down and you can’t avoid it anymore. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that this adult will find his place in the world and do something great. I even imagine seeing him on ID, talking about how he profiled and got the bad guy. I look forward to seeing the great things that this young man will accomplish. I did my part in this arrangement; now, I have to trust that he will take it and run with it.

They All Inevitably Grow Up

Exactly one month from today, my oldest will be graduating from high school. I spent all year (actually the past 4 years, for the interest of full disclosure) mentally preparing for this. As the college offers came in and the eventual acceptances to all of the schools he applied to, I offered insight and advice when asked. I didn’t have to help him decide where he wanted to go: the minute he saw the criminal justice program at one school he immediately knew that was the school for him. It wasn’t the most prestigious of the schools that he had been accepted to, but it met his criteria: it was a small campus, quiet town, and had the programs he was interested in. And he was accepted into his top choice school, Salem State. He considered the closer schools, but UMass Amherst was too big for his liking and the other schools didn’t quite have the program he really wanted. Salem was perfect. Plus, he loved the added bonus of walking around the area of the witch trials. It was in-state, as affordable as college can be, and it made him happy. I supported that decision.

There have been the battles, reminding him to get off his butt and apply for scholarships. Reminding him about other deadlines. Reminding him that there’s no secret trust fund to pay for his college tuition. Telling him to get his scholarship letters to the school. But, it’s been an experience for sure. It was a learning adventure, learning to step back and watch him decide the trajectory of his life. This was his call. If he wanted to find a job and skip college, that would be his call. But he has his grand dreams of becoming a forensic psychologist and helping to solve crimes. He wanted to do his part in making the criminal justice more fair, from the inside. It’s not my job to tell him what to dream; it’s my job to support him where I can.

Yesterday he signed up for his freshman seminar and orientation. It would be virtual due to the pandemic. It made everything so real. I’m happy for him to move onto this next chapter of his life. But it’s going to be sad. You dedicate so many years trying to grow these babies into adults, getting them ready for the real world, that it does become a bit sad when you have succeeded. The most rewarding of sadness?

I’m excited for him to get out on his own. I’m hopeful for him. I have said for a long time that this boy was going to change the world. I was wrong; this young man is going to change the world. Everything he has done until this point was just minor in comparison to what he’s going to be capable of in the future. He may be leaving to college far sooner than I would hope, but he’s ready. I just hope I’m as ready as he is.

I’m Not That Kind Of Mom

There are those moms that go all out at every holiday. I don’t judge them. Good for them for having the money, energy, and patience to go through all of that. I don’t think they are any better or worse than me; just different. And that’s okay because we all have our own parenting styles. Some holidays do get more priority in my book than others, for instance the only one that I actually care about which is Halloween. Easter is just another money grab from the candy company, I spend enough on it at Halloween.

By the time Easter hits, assuming I remembered, I’m all tapped out from birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Halloween to even bother with the holidays that I don’t really concern myself with. I don’t make heart-shaped anything on Valentine’s Day, which is honestly another holiday I often just forget about. I don’t turn everything green on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t even like boiled dinner or corned beef and cabbage. I eventually suck it up and do it, but I don’t like it. This year when Easter hit, I just grabbed whatever was left in the store and made something of it. Fortunately, my youngest child’s favorite candies weren’t anywhere near sold out. The only toys that I could find was sidewalk chalk and giant $12 plushies. Yes, I saw the price, said “No way”, and just grabbed the chalk.

Do I go the extra mile? Half the time I barely think my kids are going to make it out of the day alive. I’m frequently reminding them of why putting random stuff in their mouth is a choking hazard, why you can’t live off of just salt & vinegar chips or chocolate, and other things that I feel like are a more important use of my time than whether or not I spent $100 on an Easter basket. Which I would never do, because I’m also extremely cheap.

I bought the ham. We had a nice low fodmap Easter dinner to stick with my husband’s new diet. We went for a walk and let the youngest run free at the park. We sat outside and let him draw all over the driveway, sidewalk, and front steps with his chalk. I’m trying to teach my kids the importance of the little things. It doesn’t matter the stuff they received. It’s just stuff. Those aren’t really the memories I want them to have. I want them to realize that stuff doesn’t equal love. It doesn’t mean anything. The actions, those little moments, those are the ones that I want them to treasure. Are they absolutely spoiled in stuff and in love? Yes. But being spoiled doesn’t mean that I have to teach them to equate material items and cost of things with how much another person loves them.

I only spent $20 on the basket items. My youngest doesn’t care. He cares that he was remembered. He cares that the Easter bunny gave him his favorite candy. We don’t need to go broke for material things to prove that we love people. We need to remember those little things, like how much they love Reese’s and Starburst jelly beans. How much they love to help make the Easter ham and spend time with their family. Material items are just around for so long, much like the people in their lives. They won’t remember all of the material things. I’d rather make the memories so that they can carry those memories long after I’m gone.

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.