Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

One Week In – The Middle School Version September 12, 2017

He was the same person on September 5th (the first day of school) that he was one day earlier on September 4th which will henceforth be known as BMS (Before Middle School), yet things were totally different.

Yes, he is the same person but parenting him is different.

On day 1, I made a plan to go to work late so I could walk him to the bus stop.  It was his first time taking the bus after all.  As we turned the corner we saw the other children at the end of the block already waiting – with nary a parent in sight.    I had to stop walking and bid my boy goodbye before the other children noticed us.  As I watched him walk away, he got smaller and smaller.   He made his way to the curb where he would wait and I saw that it wasn’t all in my head.  He was at least a whole head shorter than all the other students.  It was hard turning my back and walking in the opposite direction.  I never had to do that BMS.

On day 2 the students were assigned their lockers and Ace was given a top locker but he’s not from a family loaded with tall genes so he couldn’t reach it and they had to swap him with another, taller, student.  He’s still not quite grown.  Yet, he was so excited about the freedom he now has to roam the hallways in between each class.  We talked about how it’s now his responsibility to get to all his classes on time and to collect, from his locker, whatever books he will need to bring home in order to complete homework.  None of this was an issue BMS.

3 days in, I was getting questioned on whether or not he can take a cell phone to school because he is apparently the ONLY one who does not have a phone.  He was asking if friends could come home on the bus with him after school.  (Ahm, no. Friends can’t come over when no adult is home and we need to get their parents contact info – Same as BMS.)  After just 3 days, he was asking that we not wake him up so early in the morning and he’s taking it upon himself to make his own dinner.  Mind you, it’s microwave mac and cheese but still.

 

I believe there’s an upcoming school dance, which I’m sure parents are not invited to.  I know they will have teacher chaperones but I don’t remember going to a “no parents allowed” school dance until I was in (the equivalent of) 9th grade.  He’s getting jokes now that he didn’t used to get and he’s more concerned with how his outfits look and his little brother is no longer allowed into the bathroom with him at any time.

 

All these developments make my brain go a little haywire.  I think about the time I went to a school dance and had promised to meet my Grandma in front of the school by 11pm but I was too busy on the dance floor to notice the time and the next thing I knew, my Grandma was there, in our auditorium, looking for me.  How embarrassing!!!

It’s a good memory (now), and I love getting those triggers, but it makes it very real to me that this time with my Ace is going to go by very quickly.  Looking back at it now, my teenage years FELT like the longest ever at the time, but they were over in a flash.

I think about the lyrics to a song from the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack where his mom sings to him:

 

And I knew there would be moments that I’d miss
And I knew there would be space I couldn’t fill
And I knew I’d come up short a billion different ways
And I did
And I do
And I will

 

He’s growing up and the truth is, even though it’s scary at times, I do love to watch it happen.    He’s the same person, but now that he’s in middle school, it’s calling for a different kind of parenting.  I will try to do it all right.  But I haven’t.  And I don’t.  And I won’t.  All I can do is my best and hopefully he will look back and say his memories are good ones.

 

*Note*  He’s one week in and he says it’s been great.  He swears that Middle School is better than Elementary School and much to his own amazement, he thinks he will enjoy History class.

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Sneak Peak July 18, 2017

We’ve had a teenager staying with us for a couple of weeks now and let me just say that it was a shake up.

 

First of all, she’s a “she” which is quite different from having 2 “he’s”.   Hers is a world of making matching tie-dye bandanas with her best friend and taking selfies showing off her various hair styles.  It’s a world of nail polish and emoji’s and the mall.

 

She’s 14 so she’s not a kid, but she’s also not an adult.  It’s a fine line to walk for both her and us.

Even though she’s on vacation, we are still who we are so she has chores and the tutor who comes (yes, even during the summer) to work with our boys has been helping her also.

 

We monitor social media posts to make sure they are age appropriate and try to find the sweet spot between outfits that are cute and trendy but not too “grown”.  We still have to tell her to clean up her room – all while talking about crushes and suicide and drugs and abortions and STD’s*.

One minute we are in the throws of peer pressure to smoke and the next thing you know we are painting toe nails and singing songs from High School Musical and drinking strawberry milk.

 

Being a teenager hasn’t changed.  When she writes, she decorates her pages with hearts and the dots over her i’s are big circles (to look cute).

Yet, teenagers nowadays are living a totally different existence than the one I lived.  It’s scary.  They have too much access to things they are not mentally equipped to handle.  There is so much pressure to be raunchy.  Thanks to the few who have turned bad publicity into lucrative careers, things that my friends and I would have thought were scandalous have become “goals”.

 

Her time with us is coming to an end.  I will miss her a lot and I’m sure the boys will too.  It’s been a joy seeing her have fun and experience new things.

We’ve laughed a lot.  In addition to Fun Land and the river, we’ve played board games and Uno and been to a water park.  Shaunie and I were even able to go on a mid-week date since we had a babysitter.  She’s been VERY tolerant of Ace and all his talking and she’s been completely unphased by Jay and his moods.  Her and the boys have developed a relationship where they trust her and love hanging out with her while they watch TV, but they fight over who has to sit in the middle seat in the car.

The 3 of them ganged up on Shaunie to tease her about being scared to go down the big slide and they really get a kick out of it any time her and I make fun of each other.

 

Having 3 kids means more.  More fun and more laughs and more hugs and more “I love you’s”, but also more money and more mess and more tiredness.  Kudos to you guys who have 3 or more kids.  It’s a JOB.

Taking it all into consideration though, she’d be welcome back at any time.

 

We are on the cusp of having full time teenagers and I can only imagine what things will be like when my boys get to be the age she is now.  Based on what we saw over the past 2 weeks with regards to the topics of conversation, I’d love to think that it is far away but the fact is that it is less than 3 years away.

Having her has been …. eye-opening, and interesting, and scary, and helpful, and heart stopping, and a breath of fresh air, and tiring, and a treat.

 

 

 

*We are Aunts so I think that makes it easier for her to open up to us about certain things than with her mom and yes, we tell the mom everything that we think is even remotely concerning.
 

On Maturity March 17, 2017

Some kids mature faster than others – That’s not news.

If I look back honestly on my own childhood, I do believe I was a fairly easy child to raise in many ways.  I was a talker for sure, but I didn’t talk back.  I wasn’t destructive or defiant or a liar.  I was polite.  I excelled at entertaining myself through reading or playing with dolls or attempting arts and crafts projects.  I pulled good grades and kept good company.  I was dutiful as the granddaughter of a public official when we either hosted or attended official functions.

That said, I also don’t think I was particularly mature mentally.

Among the many things that Ace has inherited from me – That’s one of them.  Overall, he’s a good kid;  But, he’s not the most mature for his age.  That can be good in that he’s holding onto his innocence and we all know that it can hurt once you realize that the world is not a nice place – but it can also be frustrating as a parent when you feel like you are constantly correcting behaviours that your child should have outgrown due to natural maturing.

 

This is something that we have been working really hard at over the last couple of years … Breaking Ace out of some of his more childish (?) interests and ways of thinking or acting.  We have upped the “tough love” and we talk excessively about how he’s becoming a man and he’s not a baby anymore.  We remind him that he’ll be in middle school later this year.

 

For me, it’s one of the more difficult aspects of parenting.  I don’t want to be hard on him.  It’s not my natural tendency.  I am the soft landing.  The nurturer.  The boo boo kisser.  I also recognize much of him in my younger self so I understand how he feels – But I wish if someone had tried to help me instead of leaving me unprepared for adulthood.

 

Recently, we told him he could not do something.  He was not happy about it.

Later that evening he said the following:

“Mom, can you sit down please.  I’d like to talk to you.  I know you said no (to that thing earlier) but I don’t understand why.  I really don’t see how anything bad could come of it.  Can you please explain to me what the problem is.”

 

It was such a grown up thing for him to say and I was really proud of the way he handled it.  I sat and we talked and I got him to see it my way.  I even shared a story about something similar that I went through when I was in high school.  Me sharing my own stories like that help him to understand that we are not being hard for the sake of it and help to show him that we do understand where he’s coming from but we have some added knowledge based on life experiences that he doesn’t yet possess.

There was no attitude or raised voices or pouting or shutting down.

 

We hugged it out and I breathed in his freshly bathed scent.  It’s not easy raising a sweet little boy clad in snow man pj’s to be a strong, confident, adult man of integrity.  So often I wonder if we are getting it right.  So often I feel like I’m not the right person for the job.  Every so often, I feel like we will all be ok.

 

Balance February 16, 2017

 

Balance seems to be the name of the game lately.

 

Ace is learning some tough life lessons around how to balance being the nice, sweet, caring, polite boy he is without letting people take advantage of him or mistreat him in any way.

It’s hard when you start to realize that not all kids are nice.  Gone are the days when everyone is your friend and when everyone is truthful and when every kid in the class gets an invitation to the party.  I am worried about him going to middle school in September as I think these issues will be even more plentiful and emotions will run even higher as puberty hits them all. I don’t want him to get bullied.  I don’t want him to lose his kind heart.  I don’t want him to be the one hurting other peoples feelings.  I do NOT want him to back down from a challenger.   I DO want him to stand up for himself.  I want him to show strength and confidence.

At home – As the older brother we do hold him to a high standard and expect him to set a good example and we do allow him to call Jay out on things when he sees him doing wrong and we encourage him to help if he sees Jay struggling with something.  We do not expect him to be his brothers boss.  We want him to be nice to his brother and to play well with his brother but we understand that he needs his own space as well.  He needs to be able to say no to watching Teen Titans and to get the bathroom to himself and to deny his brother access to his room sometimes.

We are trying to guide him through all these muddy waters.  I hope we are doing and saying the right things.  Only time will tell.

 

 

Jay is learning some tough life lessons around how to balance holding firm to what he wants and managing his built-in social challenges while being nice and polite to others.

It’s hard when you are hard-wired to be singularly focused and/or routine minded but then someone else makes a change. He wants what he wants and we know that every fiber of his neurology operates this way but he does need to work with others.  He needs to share toys with his classmates and he needs to follow teachers instructions.  We want him to be his own person.  We want him to feel comfortable in his skin and to follow his own mind instead of worrying about what other people think.  We also know that it’s not cool for a 9 year old boy to go to school everyday carrying a stuffed rabbit.  We don’t want to set him up for teasing.

We do recognize that he has special needs but he’s not in a self-contained class anymore and as a fully integrated member of the general education class his behavioral outbursts are given less leeway  than they would be given in a self-contained class.  This class is what we want for him.  This environment is what he needs.  He does not always appreciate it.

At home – We want him to be nice to his brother and to play well with his brother but we understand that he needs his own space as well.  He needs alone time to play his video game on the laptop and the freedom to answer questions for himself and to deny his brother access to his room sometimes.

We are trying to guide him through all these muddy waters.  I hope we are doing and saying the right things.  Only time will tell.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Drugs and Alcohol September 20, 2016

 

Jay:  Hey Mom, do you know what you’re supposed to say if someone asks you to smoke?”

 

Me:  What do you say?

 

Jay:  You say no thank you.

 

Me:  Exactly.  That’s perfect.  But what if they say, “Come on, just this one time.  We’re all doing it.

 

Ace *Jumping in on the convo*:  Nope.  It’s not good for you.

 

Me *Switching to role playing mode*:  We just have one and we’re going to share it.  Just take one pull.

 

Ace:  No way.  It will make you sick.

 

Jay:  Yeah, and I don’t want to get sick.

 

Me:  Wanna try this instead?  It’s not a bad drug.  It’s just weed.  It’s natural.  It’s a plant and my friend grew it.

 

Ace:  No thank you.  It will mess me up. 

 

Me:  Ok fine but here’s a can of beer just take a sip of that.

 

Ace:  That’s for adults.  It will make kids sick.

 

Me:  One sip won’t make you sick. *Takes a sip of juice*.  Look.  It doesn’t do anything.

 

Ace:  That’s alright.  It may not make me sick now but it will make me sick later.

 

Jay:  That’s not for kids.  That’s for adults.

 

Ace:  Yes and a doctor didn’t say you could have it.

 

Shaunie:  Well, what if someone offers you a pill?  One that they got from a doctor.

 

Ace:  I’ll say oh no.  That’s not meant for me.  You can only take what’s meant for you.

 

Shaunie:  But it’s from a doctor so it’s ok right?  What if your friend says they take it all the time?

 

Ace:  Yeah cause it’s made to treat whatever they have.  If I take it and I don’t have that then it will make me get it.

 

Shaunie:  Ahm, that’s not really how it works but you are right that you should never take someone else’s medicines.  

 

Ace:  Oh ok.  Yeah.  That’s what I was saying. 

 

Me:  You’re such a punk.  Everyone does it. 

 

Ace:  That’s ok.  I don’t want any.

 

Me *Back in Mom mode*:  Well, good job guys.  This is important stuff.

 

Ace *Looking very pleased with himself*:  Yay!  We got it all right.

 

Me:  You did, but, this will be an ongoing conversation.  This isn’t over.

 

 

 

[The conversation above has been recreated to the best of my ability 3 days after it happened.]

 

They’re Back September 8, 2016

 

They’re back home – And this mama is happy.   We are back to making grilled cheese sandwiches and to giving good night kisses.  We are back to chore lists and finding fallen ice on the floor in front of the fridge.  We are back to laughing in the evening as Shaunee drags both boys, at the same time, across the carpet as they lay on their tummies, much to their delight.  We are back to hanging out and talking about moles and birthmarks, the krill that blue whales eat or how much it would hurt to get stitches.  The boys are back to demonstrating their karate moves (neither one takes karate) and back to Jay complaining about the amount of toothpaste Ace uses.

Jay, I think, is happy to be back in his own bed.  Every night so far, he’s fallen asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Ace, is up to his usual antics of getting out of bed for more hugs and kisses, or to get water or to show us his dance moves.

 

Some things never change.

 

It’s amazing how much can change in a month.  Jay is now interested in having a healthier diet.  I have witnessed him eating carrots, a banana and watermelon.  He asked for an apple to go in his lunch box.  I hear he also eats oranges, peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt.  He drinks regular white milk now (in addition to what he used to drink; strawberry milk).  He tasted a pretzel and declared at dinner, “The next protein I am going to try is fish.”

When I spoke to CC and tried to give him credit for this change, he said it was all thanks to his wife Emma.  I do appreciate her ability to get Jay to turn this page.

 

Ace is 10 now.  He got Legos and more Legos and more Legos.  He’s in Lego heaven.   We got him an ice-cream cake because he used to like it but apparently no longer does.  His size 10 pants are short and his size 3 shoes are tight.

 

~*~

 

They’re back at school – And one kid wanted summer vacation to drag on forever while the other couldn’t get out the door and to his classroom fast enough.   We are back to filling out tons of paperwork and sending in money for trips and *gasp* graduation gowns.

Jay came home after his first day saying it was good and telling us about the new fish tank in the resource room.  Ace left his homework at school.

 

Some things never change.

 

It’s amazing how much can change from one school year to the next.

Jay is now in a general education class all day.  He has 2 teachers and goes back and forth between 2 classrooms.  One teacher does math and the sciences while the other does language and social studies and the like.  It’s a totally new set up for him.

Ace is still kind of the new kid in school but he’s not the newest kid in school.  There was 1 new boy in his class this year and they have apparently been leaning on each other and have formed a quick friendship.  I am happy about that.

We are looking into clubs and activities for both.  Possibly 4H and the gardening club for Jay and Navy Cadets and track or swimming for Ace.  We will see.

 

Stay tuned to see how this new school year plays out and what else will change; Inasmuch as many things will stay the same.

 

 

 

I’m Not Lying July 25, 2016

Over the last year or so I’ve written and said a lot about how great Jay is doing.  The amount of time I spend talking about his bad days or his meltdowns or my frustrations have dropped dramatically.  That’s partly because as he gets older I feel like it’s less appropriate for me to talk about his bad days in detail but the bigger part is simply that there is less to talk about.

He really is doing great and he rarely melts down anymore and he has gotten so much better about being in new situations with new people and he is doing a fantastic job of communicatiing effectively.

 

The thing is, though, Jay does much better in familiar surroundings and with familiar people.  Even if the people are familiar, he is not a big fan of crowds or too much frantic activity.  He likes calm.

That means there are times we go to someones house for a party or we go to a show or to the zoo or camping and Jay loses his cool.  There are people there who don’t see him everyday but they follow along with me touting his progress and then what they see doesn’t jive.

Sometimes, I wonder if people think I’m lying.  They would be justified to wonder.  The rare occasion they do see him, he has one (or a few) rough moments with yelling or crying or other difficult behaviours.  They aren’t there everyday to see his good manners and his sweet overtures to his brother and to hear him randomly tell me that he loves me or to get his hugs and kisses and to laugh with him and play with him in his most comfortable environments.

 

Recently, we went to a (not for a little kid) birthday party.  I guess it was more of a casual but delicious dinner, get together, talking and hanging out with yummy yummy desserts but no candles or singing but take a way containers so I could bring delicious lunch to work and now there is left over yummy yummy lemon meringue pie in my fridge, birthday celebration.

 

It was a Sunday evening just over an hour away from home.  Going would mean not sticking to our evening routine.  We would no doubt be out past bedtime.  There would no doubt be people there who we don’t see often.  There could be loud noises or strong scents or any host of other triggers.

 

Jay was wonderful from start to finish.

 

He greeted people with hugs and kisses on the cheek and he entertained himself and he told the other children they needed to be nice to each other when they weren’t getting along and he asked nicely when he wanted things and he answered questions that were asked of him and he shared his knowledge about what the sun is made of and he tidied up the toys when it was time to go and he followed the rules about only eating in the kitchen and he threw his garbage away without being asked.

 

A friend who was there told me repeatedly how good he’s doing.  How impressed she was by him.  How far he’s come.  She thought everything he did was cute and everything he said was funny.

 

It was really nice to hear that.  I mean, I didn’t NEED to hear it.  I know he’s awesome and smart and cute and funny.  I know the important thing was that HE felt happy and content and relaxed.  But it was nice to hear from someone else.