Choosing Not to Spread Valentine’s Day Cynicism to My Children

mom hands and child hands holding a hear_valentinesdaycynicism_rockinrandommom

Valentine’s Day is over and the stores are selling all the leftover chocolate for half off. Or 75% off, whichever. I’m writing this post in the aftermath of the holiday because for one, I have pictures to share and two, I want to talk about how parents influence their kids, even when they don’t mean to. My Valentine’s Day cynicism is the perfect example of that.

For any of you who read my blog and have read my past posts on Valentine’s Day I am a bit of a cynic. It’s not that I don’t believe in love (though my thoughts on that are quite complicated) but that Valentine’s Day puts too much pressure on couples, especially married couples with kids. However, around Valentine’s Day I get a bit extra cynical and it has affected my boys. Because of them I have learned to curb my Valentine’s Day cynicism.

my sons playing an arcade driving game_valentinesdaycynicism_rockinrandommom

For the past few years I have verbally expressed my dislike for Valentine’s Day and romance. I did this without realizing that young ears were listening and young minds were being influenced by their mama’s negative opinions. My Valentine’s Day cynicism was rubbing off on my favorite and most precious people on the planet.

Take Adam for instance. He loves celebrating all holidays. Or at the very least getting excited about them and making everyone aware of said holiday. Hanukkah is one such day. We don’t celebrate this holiday but rest assured that Adam makes it known when it arrives every year. His knack for knowing these things is incredible to me. Even smaller days that most people don’t even know exist. So when Valentine’s Day comes around he wants to celebrate with as much enthusiasm as we do with Christmas and Halloween.

Only one problem with that. He heard me tell someone else how much I dislike the holiday so now every year he gets upset and has adopted the same attitude towards it. My Valentine’s Day cynicism rubbed off on my sweet, funny, happy-go-lucky boy.

my son at his old elementary school playgroud_valentinesdaycynicism_rockinrandommom

Have you ever said things to someone else that you never intended for your kids to hear but they heard it anyway? Yeah, it’s happened to me. This goes beyond Valentine’s Day though. I have developed a very negative outlook on romantic relationships and love. I have been a bit more outspoken about it than I probably should have considering little ears were listening.

This is Conner. He swears up and down he will never get married and never fall in love. Now anyone reading this is probably thinking he’s just a kid and doesn’t know yet. You’re right. He is just a kid but I see in some of his mannerisms and remarks he makes that make me aware of my mistake. Both his father and I have repeatedly said over the past 6 years that we will never remarry.

Over the years he has developed the same attitude and I don’t like it. Not one bit. While I understand as a parent I do have the most influence over my kids, I also encourage them to find their own way. Their dad and I both encourage our boys to have their own opinions and beliefs. But here I am with a child who sees something he barely understands the same way I do. It’s not fair to him. I don’t want my boy to go out into the world with this cynicism about love and relationships.

my son at the arcade_fighting Valentine's Day cynicism_rockinrandommom

So My ex and I had a conversation about this and we thought, “Hey, why not turn this day into a fun family day?” We both decided in order to change our children’s way of thinking about this holiday and about love and relationships, the best way to start would be Valentine’s Day.

We are in agreement that yes, we are both products of divorce and we were never really shown what a healthy relationship looks like. We know that while our marriage failed we have worked very hard to have a healthy co-parent relationship and friendship. We also agree that just because we aren’t together doesn’t mean we’ve doomed our kids to a lifetime of negative relationships.

So to fight our own Valentine’s Day cynicism and to help fight for our kids, we planned a fun night with our boys. I made them cupcakes and chocolate gift bags with their favorite candy inside. Then we took the boys to this new arcade that just opened up at the mall.

giant pac-man game at arcade_fightingvalentinesdaycynicism_rockinrandommom

As it turns out Valentine’s Day wasn’t so bad after all. It all depends on how you choose to celebrate it (or not). We didn’t need a whole bunch of extravagant gestures. All we needed was an evening at the arcade then we ordered some take out afterwards. It was a great night for all of us!

What do you think about how much influence you have over your kids? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks so much for reading!

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My First Born Has Reached the Big 16!

16 year old boy in polaroid frame with autumn leaves background_my son_rockinrandommom

It’s official…. My first born, Adam, has turned 16 years old! Two days before Thanksgiving, my wonderful son has reached another major milestone in his life. We celebrated with cake and gaming at an 80’s style arcade/bar/restaurant called Quarters. For real, the games actually cost a quarter just like they did when I was a kid playing at the local arcade with my siblings.

Adam loves the “retro gaming” as he calls it. Super Mario Brothers was the first game he got into and has been into it ever since. Since then he has added Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Tetris to his list of favorites. Of course he plays modern games like the Lego series (Batman is his favorite) and Skylanders but it’s old games that sparked this birthday party theme.

Starting 10th Grade, trials and triumphs:

Adam’s second year in high school hasn’t been met with rainbows and kittens. As we all know, high school is tough. It can be tougher on those who don’t exactly fit in. We are talking about kids who may be dealing with more then they need to at home or kids who have a learning or neurological disadvantage within the school system. Most kids feel abnormal in their teens. Their bodies and brains are changing and add hormones on top of everything else – yeah, high school is tough.

my son eating_first born 16_rockinrandommom

The first semester has been tough but Adam is doing a great job of staying on task, getting good grades, and following the rules. Adam, himself, has even come up with a game plan to help him navigate better when to take a breather and how to deal with difficult situations at school.

Make Way for the Gamer!

Because Adam really wanted the old Nintendo controller to be the center of his theme for his party, I had to come up with a design that was unique to him. First, I searched Etsy for retro gaming designs. Most of them were Xbox related but I did finally find the NES controller. So, the candy bar became the goodie bag.

Next, was to design Adam’s party invitation. Again, I went to Etsy but I found nothing that suited Adam. So I did what I usually do when I can’t find something unique – I made it myself, with Adam’s input. I used PicMonkey to help me design the perfect invitation for my boy.

Finally, there was the cake. I only found one cake design on Etsy and it was again, related to Xbox. While Adam likes the Xbox, he’s more of a Wii U and Switch kinda guy. So PicMonkey came to the rescue once again!

firstborn16_invitation cake design candybar wrappers_nintendo_rockinrandommom

When Only One Kid Shows Up:

So after all the planning and every kid responds with a yes, it’s finally party time. One problem though – only one kid shows up. This is a tough blow but it was tougher on me and Adam’s dad than it was on Adam. The kid that showed up was Adam’s closest friend. Therefore, Adam was totally okay with the other kids not coming.

Of course he had his brother and two of his cousins there. All Adam really cared about was getting to play all the games with his friend, eat great food, and finish it off with cake and gifts.

At the end of the afternoon, Adam was really happy and it didn’t matter how many kids showed up. He got to have his fun and celebrate with the ones he cares about. Later that night I did get a call from a mom of two of the kids. The one teen had a soccer game and she got distracted by that. Totally understandable.

By Monday, four other kids were distraught that they forgot and was really sorry to have missed it. Since Tuesday was Adam’s actual 16th birthday, I figured I’d bring in what was left of the cake and surprise him and his classmates with an impromptu party.

collage of birthday party pictures_firstborn16_rockinrandommom

Reflecting on Parenting this Amazing Kid:

Every year my first born gets older, I reflect back to his baby days. Now, as he has turned 16, I reflect on every year that has passed. I am reminded of what an amazing gift he has been to me. My first born didn’t talk until he was 3 1/2 years old. He could read by age 3 but conversations were limited to echolalia. Since then, I have watched this amazing kid go from barely talking to making us all laugh with his comedy skits.

I have watched this astounding human being go from only socializing with adults to making a few really good friends with his peers. I have seen him go from many meltdowns, to communicating his needs daily.

He has developed into a compassionate and intelligent young man who is full of life – and full of love. He walks into a room and it immediately lights up. Everyone who knows him, loves him. As a mother, I couldn’t ask for more than that. He amazes me every day!

So here is a little semi-poem I have written for my first born on his 16th birthday…

a poem for my first born_16_rockinrandommom

Happy Birthday, Honey Bear!

Thanks so much for reading!

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Parents also Friends?

parentsalsofriends_rockinrandomom

Parents also friends? Recently I have been asking myself this question as I am very close with my kids. I have read several articles about how it’s not okay to be your child’s friend in order to maintain proper authority over your children. If we coddle our children and consider them our friends, then we must not be doing our job as parents, right?

This mentality comes from the aftermath of a generation of self-involved, spoiled, and entitled young adults known as Millennials. This generation has a bad reputation, though to be fair, so did my generation. Generation X was otherwise known as the slacker generation so I don’t hold much stock in reputations. Anyway, we are still raising some of that generation. My oldest is a part of generation Y. He is none of the above things his generation is known for.

I keep seeing articles titled, “I am not your friend!” While reading the article I can see that the mom loves her children but she comes off as being somewhat of an overbearing person. I don’t believe that is the case but it got me to thinking. What does friend mean in the context of parenthood? Well, let’s start with the basic definition of what the term friend means. I looked this up and didn’t expect what I read:

parentalsofriend_rockinandommom

Do you see the first definition there? ONE ATTACHED BY AFFECTION OR ESTEEM. Here’s another one I came across: parentasfriend_rockinrandommom

Isn’t that interesting? Who woulda thought? It’s a bond. Now we each have our own definition of what a friend is and what kind of friendships we want in our lives. Typically, most of us define friends as someone NOT related to us who we have mutual affection for and a bond with. But these definitions include family. When we think of family though, we think of our siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. We don’t think of our parents or children as friends.

Then I thought, well, what goes into a friendship? Friendship is more than just a bond. In order for that bond to even occur, you have to be there for one another. A friend is someone who listens to you. A friend laughs with you, argues with you, cries with you. Hmmm… I do all of those things with my kids.

Being a Mother First.

I always tell my boys that I am their mother first. I will always be their mother before anything else. They are well aware that I will put my parenting above everything and anything. It’s just that important to me that I raise kind but strong men. I am not a strict mother by any stretch.

I have very few rules. I am not a stickler for doing chores because I don’t ask them to do what I, myself, am not willing (or just too lazy-I mean, tired to do). There are three major rules that I have though that are of the utmost importance for them in life.

Rule #1:

Don’t talk back! Now of course, growing up, kids are going to do this. It’s part of the process of childhood. Pushing boundaries is a way of life for kids. I also encourage my boys to have their own opinions and to speak their minds. However, talking back is disrespectful and that is something I DO NOT tolerate in my house.

Rule #2:

When I ask you to do something, do it! This is another one that kids will argue about. They’re kids. If you’re a parent and you expect your kids to not moan and whine when they are asked to clean their room or brush their teeth, you’re in for a rude awakening. In their minds they have better things to do like play Minecraft or watch cartoons. That doesn’t mean I won’t get on their asses about it though. Again, it’s about respect.

Which leads to me to…

Rule #3:

Never Disrespect Me! I DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, tolerate disrespect (notice the theme here?). For most parents, this probably goes without saying. For me, it goes much deeper than that. I was never treated with any respect growing up. Because of that I will respect my children. I respect their privacy and their opinions, even if I disagree with them. Most important, I respect their feelings and their boundaries. In return though, I expect them to show me the same respect.

Because of these three golden rules I am raising two pretty great kids. I’m not a strict parent but I’m no pushover either and they know it. I allow them to be who they are. And you know what? Because of that, I have learned so much from them. I have learned to see the world through their eyes and boy is it amazing!

What about you? Do you agree or disagree with parents being friends.

Thanks so much for reading!

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3 Ways I helped My Grieving Child Mourn

grievingchild_rockinrandommom

The past two months have been crazy busy. Most of it has been good but some of it has been sad. Two weeks ago, my ex-husband’s grandmother passed away. She had been very ill for a long time. By the end she was in a lot of pain and was suffering greatly. For my son, Conner, this was a great loss. My grieving child had a lot to deal with and I did my best to comfort him.

grievingchild_rockinrandommom

The pain she was in often made her irritable and cranky. Two years ago, she had deeply hurt Conner’s feelings. Long story short, eventually, she apologized to my ex-husband and he told Conner. She was so remorseful for her behavior and I think maybe she was afraid that Conner hated her.

When we were told that she had very little time left we talked to Conner about it. Conner wanted to see his great-grandmother and tell her that he loves her. So the day came when his dad brought him to see her. He had prepared Conner as much as he could to see her because she was so thin and weak that she could barely even open her eyes.

Conner went to her and told her he loved her. I don’t know what else was said because I wasn’t there but my ex told me that about a minute after Conner left the room, Great-Grandmother stopped breathing. Conner was still there. He knew what was happening. She passed away and my son’s grieving began.

grievingchild_rockinrandommom

 

Adam handled it better. He knew his great-grandmother had been very sick and he understood that she was gone. While Conner chose not to attend the wake or the funeral, Adam chose to go to the wake. He wanted a chance to say goodbye. Both boys wrote her a beautiful goodbye letter and they were placed in her casket with her.

Watching Adam kneel beside her casket, I could see a slight apprehension on his face. I was prepared to console my oldest grieving child but he surprised us all. Everyone grieves in their own way. When I asked Adam if he needed to talk he simply said, “I know she’s in a better place and that I will see her again.” And with that, he was ready to leave.

Conner is a bit different. Death is really hard for him. He feels the sadness immediately and deeply. When he was only 3 1/2 and his Godfather died, his sensitive little soul felt it with a force like I’ve never seen on such a young child. Last year when my mother lost two of her cats one after another, Conner felt it. My grieving child cried over them for days.

So what is a parent to do when their child is in so much emotional pain? I don’t think there are any right or wrong answers for how we help our children deal with the loss of a loved one. As parents, our first instinct is to shield our children from all the bad in the world. What do you do though when one of the bad is a natural part of life?

grievingchild_rockinrandommom

Here are the three ways I comforted my grieving child:

  1. I let him feel his pain – A few days after Great-grandmother’s death, Conner and I watched Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Everything was great until Superman’s funeral. That scene is about 5 minutes long and my grieving child just let it all out in that moment. All I could do was hold my baby and let him cry into my arms. We sat like that through the rest of the movie. I simply held him.
  2. I gave him space – As soon as we got home he didn’t want to talk about it. He wanted to play Minecraft. I let him because I knew he needed something else to focus on. Every now and then he would stop playing and come cuddle with me but he needed that space to tune out and to process.
  3. Listened and answered questions honestly – This happened more when he was younger. When he had questions about death I answered them to the best of my ability. I was also as honest as I could be. Anyone who knows Conner knows that his questions can be very specific and sometimes out there. If I didn’t know the answer, I told him so.

These are the ways in which I helped my grieving child mourn his loss. I let him feel his sadness, ask his questions, and gave him the space he needed to process everything. He’s doing better this week but the road to healing will take time.

How do you help your child deal with loss? Feel free to leave a comment below

Thanks so much for reading!

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Mama Bear and the Bully

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It’s been three months since you last heard from me and I have a lot to catch you up on. One of those things has to do with my baby bear, Conner. My sweet, creative, energetic and imaginative little boy, who, despite his boyishly protective and outwardly robust nature, has an incredibly sweet and softhearted disposition. He’s a sensitive child and maybe this is the reason why he gets bullied. But he has a Mama Bear who works around the clock to make sure he is resilient but safe from this year’s bully.

It all started in the fall but during that time Conner and this boy were friends. At first all seemed well. Occasionally this boy would taunt Conner and say some rude things but nothing that concerned me too much as I know children can sometimes be mean. So my focus at that time was to teach my boy resilience. I would say to him, “A bully can’t bully you if you ignore them.”

Over the course of the past several months I’ve had some real conversations with my 10 year about people in the real world. Conner is a deep thinker like me so I knew it was time to start having these conversations. The fact is my boy is sensitive and the world isn’t kind to us sensitive people so I armed him with some strategies that I used growing up. Words hurt though and a bully knows this.

bully_rockinrandommom

That’s the hard part about being a parent. Well, lets’ be honest, parenting is hard in every respect but this is harder in the sense that we as adults are still trying to navigate this world and figure out how to deal with the ugly side of life. So what makes me even think I am qualified to teach my son about life? What makes any parent qualified? One word: Experience. And experience with a bully or two in my own life, well, I definitely have that.

bullydifferent_rockinrandommomHowever, teaching my son some resilience in dealing with the occasional rude comments from people is one thing. But we all know that words hurt and as the year progressed this boy got more and more aggressive in his use of those words. At one point he told my son that he hopes he dies in a fire all because Conner loves DragonBall Z and this kid thinks its “stupid”. At that point though I had already contacted the school twice about this kid. I also found out he was bullying other children on the bus.

The bus driver had made several reports on this kid yet nothing was done. That is until a few weeks when he punched Conner in his head as hard as he could a few times. Conner got off the bus in tears complaining that his head really hurt. When he told me what had happened it took everything in me not to get on that bus and go after that kid. I did, however, call the school right away and left a message with the principal. Only this time I threatened to call the police.

 

Now of course the last thing I want to do is call the police on any child. But I was at my breaking point with this kid and with the school. Prior to this incident they had done absolutely nothing. Kids have gotten kicked off the bus for less.I had to do something. The sad part about this whole thing is that it even went this far.  I shouldn’t have had to resort to threatening legal action in order for the school to finally step in and do their job.

He got suspended for a week from the bus. However, I demanded that this child not be allowed near Conner. I found out through my own investigation that this kid has anger issues. The school knows this, yet does nothing. Now I am pretty sure there are legitimate reasons behind that but the picture is clear. This boy is not getting the help he deserves.  If I hadn’t stepped in my son would have been ignored too.

This boy still tries to insult Conner on the bus. He has to be five seats away from him at all times regardless. It tells me that he did not learn his lesson and no one is doing a damn thing about it. I’m sad for this child but I have to look out for my own. Conner now ignores him though which means my talks with him are doing at least some good.

Thank you for reading!

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