Five Wishes

Sometimes I find myself with my kids, and for whatever reason, time just sort of slows down, and the details of the moment overwhelm me. Maybe it’s a smile, a laugh. Maybe it’s the way one of them is running down the soccer field or the fierce determination of a batter’s stance. Or maybe it’s the sound of their voice, or a picture they’ve drawn, the feel of their hand in mine. Or maybe…maybe…it’s not at all. Nothing specific anyway. It’s just the moment, and the raw rightness of it makes me wish I could stay right there in that moment forever. That things could always be like that. That there wouldn’t come a day when they’d grow up and move on with their lives, go off to college…and maybe never come back. That’s what I did. (My husband, too.) I went to college, then went off to find a job…500 miles away. I planned to go back. Louisiana was home. It never occurred to me I’d stay in Dallas. I was a Louisiana girl…not a Texas girl. But here I am, all these years later, still in Texas.

Time doesn’t stand still. Things change. Children grow up. That’s life. So instead of spending too much time on the fantasy that certain moments can last forever, I’ve found myself thinking about what can be, instead. What seeds I can plant today, for the most wonderful blossoms possible tomorrow. I can’t freeze time, but maybe, just maybe, I can influence what lies ahead. So I find myself with these wishes, wishes for my children…for my nieces and nephews…my siblings and parents…my friends. For everyone.

  • I wish for you to be heard. For you to always feel like you have someone (or several someones!) who hears you, who gets you. Someone you can lean on—who wants you to lean on them. Who wants to listen. Who likes to listen. To you.
  • I wish for you to feel love. Really feel it. The warmth and security, the unabashed acceptance of who you are, the confidence that comes from knowing you don’t walk through your days alone.
  • I wish for your life to be absolutely flooded with smiles. Your smiles. The smiles of others. I wish for you to feel the freedom to lift your eyes to a total stranger…and smile. And I wish for you to feel the warmth of smiles given to you. Just a smile. Such a simple gesture. But each one has untold power.
  • I wish for you to be true to yourself. Be authentic. Find your passion, and follow your passion. Don’t let anyone else tell you who you should be. Define you. Affect how you think about yourself. YOU are the leading lady (or man) of your own life, the captain of your own ship, the author of your own life story. Own it. Love it. Chase your dreams. Color outside the lines if you want to. Don’t hold back. You are the only you.
  • I wish for you to make the most of each day. Not because you never know what tomorrow may bring, but because each day brims over with its own promise. Don’t worry about tomorrow, not until it becomes today. One moment, one breath at a time. That’s how you see the colors in the rainbow and hear the sound of the birds.
  • And finally, I wish for you to know that even when darkness comes, as it sometimes does, it always passes. Not even the darkest, stormiest night lasts forever. Dawn always comes, and with it a new day.

Okay, so that’s six, but I never was very good at math, and that’s okay.

I’ll miss Peanut Butter on the Keyboard so very much. I have a heaviness in my heart that this door is closing, but everything in life has its cycle. I’m on just about all the standard social media sites, but I am most active and responsive on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jenna.mills. I’d love to see you there!  For now, I’d like to close by wishing you happiness in all that you do.

Give Me Blood

My little boy, 6,  plays hard. He runs and jumps and tackles and…invariably…falls. Cuts and scrapes and bruises are a way of life around here. He’ll come running to find me, all alarmed and agitated. “Mommy? Mommy! I’m BLEEDING!!!”

You know…BLOOD!

The drill is always the same. Wash the wound, apply some antibiotic cream, followed by a bandage. Within minutes, the crisis has passed and he’s back outside, running and jumping and doing all those things little kids do. Sometimes he even comes running for ointment and a bandage for a bruise or a growing pain…and the second all is applied, he’s back to his normal happy self.

My daughter is another story. She’s eleven. Her scrapes and bruises are no longer of the flesh. Her aches and pains dwell beneath the surface, and they run far deeper. She’s dealing with hot-and-cold friendships and peer pressure, with cool kids and mean girls, hushed whispers and turned backs, fifth grade math and standardized tests, the looming end of (the much loved days of) elementary school and the exciting yet terrifying beginning of middle school. She’s no longer a little girl but she’s not yet a big girl. She doesn’t understand why friends she’s known and played with for years and years suddenly don’t call or include her anymore. She gets hurt when there’s no seat saved for her at the lunch table. Her heart breaks when she finds out about a party everyone was invited to, except her.

And I just feel so helpless. Sometimes she’ll come to me; other times I have to figure it out on my own. Sometimes I’ll see a post on Instagram and realize what has happened, hear something from another mom, or simply see the hurt or confusion in her eyes. And the mom in me, the mom who once cleaned and bandages her skinned knees, wants to clean and bandage those wounds, too. But it’s not that simple anymore. Because these wounds are life wounds. I can wipe away her tears and hold her close, stroke her hair. I can give her words of wisdom and tell her about similar situations I ran into when I was a kid, about friendships that went awry and how sometimes people simply grow apart. I can promise her that everything will be okay, that she and her friends will either find their way back to each other or she’ll make knew friends, better friends (which we, as adults, know is true.) But none of that takes away the sting or the devastation of the moment. None of that puts the smile back onto her face. None of that sends her bounding back out to play, like her brother with his ultra-cool Star Wars bandage on his shin.

It’s all part of growing up, I know. Perfectly natural. And being there for her, loving her, supporting her, is as important as any ointment or bandage. (It IS the ointment and the bandage.) But as I hold her close and try to absorb as much of her pain as I can, I can’t help but think…skinned knees are a whole lot easier than skinned hearts.

Outlive Yourself

Saying goodbye is never easy. Seeing good things come to an end. Closing doors…sometimes doors we aren’t ready to close. As PBOK prepares to end our run, I find myself flipping through the journal I started two years ago, in which I jot ideas and notes for future blogs. As with so many endings, there’s a lot unsaid/unblogged. But I suppose that’s the way life goes.

However, there’s one topic I don’t want to leave unsurfaced in the quiet pages of my journal: outliving yourself. Below you will find a blog written by a local woman in our small community who, five years ago, was faced with every parent’s worst nightmare. Out of unfathomable grief, she and her husband planted seeds that have grown into a beautiful tribute, a lasting legacy, and an incredible gift, all while keeping their family together.  She and her husband are such incredible examples of strength and love and grace, and how sometimes parenthood (and love) takes us in directions we could never have imagined. Her name is Tara Storch, she is unbelievably inspiring, and she has given me permission to share this blog she wrote. I invite you to read her story, and to explore additional information, resources, and products at http://taylorsgift.org/

 

Taylor is a Beautiful Candidate for Organ Donation, Would You Consider it?

by Tara Storch

It was March of 2010, on our first day of Spring Break in Colorado when my husband, Todd and I were faced with something we never thought we’d ever face in our lifetime…our oldest daughter Taylor had been in a skiing accident and the doctors told us there was no hope of her surviving.

Storch family spring break

Sitting in shock in the hospital that day, we were asked a question that we’d never thought to prepare for, “Your daughter is a beautiful candidate for organ donation, would you consider it?

Without a Doubt

I remember distinctly looking at my husband as he stood by Taylor’s bedside.Immediately we said yes. Taylor was such a giving child that we knew it was the decision she would have chosen for herself, had she been asked.

Like most families, we didn’t sit around the dinner table talking about organ donation. In fact, I’m not sure if Todd and I had ever talked about it before that point. We had no interest in talking about our own mortality, much less the mortality of our children.

That would never happen to us… So we thought.

Finding Hope

Looking back at that horrible day, Todd and I have said so many times that it was a privilege to have said yes to that question. Taylor saved and improved the lives of five people. But it wasn’t just the recipients that were affected, it was their families and friends who were also touched by Taylor’s gift of life.

Taylors recipients

To this day, the ripple effect still astounds us.

When we returned home from Colorado and slowly tried to pick up the pieces of our lives without our oldest child, Todd started doing some research about organ donation. In our digging, we found out that our great state of Texas had only 2% of registered organ donors. We kept asking why that was, but most importantly how that could be. It immediately sparked a passion and purpose in our hearts – something that to this day we still have no words for other than, we felt like it was God’s calling for us. We had an overwhelming sense of purpose that we knew, somehow, we could make a difference in this world and honor our precious daughter at the same time.

Todd’s grandfather told him while he was growing up; “It’s not what happens to you that matters, but how you react to it that does”. Now, don’t read this wrong, of course it mattered to us (and crushed our hearts) to lose our daughter; however, we had a choice. We could either cave up in the grief… or try to find the good. We knew our reaction was going to be important.

Taylor’s Gift Foundation was that reaction. It wasn’t by any means easy, but we made the decision to focus on the good that came out of our tragedy – focusing more on God’s purpose for us and less on the pain of our loss.

A New Beginning

We founded Taylor’s Gift in April 2010 and soon after we met Taylor’s heart recipient, Patricia. The story of us meeting Patricia originally aired on Good Morning America (watch the video), and has since shown up in hundreds of places across the internet, bringing awareness to the Foundation on a global scale. We have been working tirelessly (all by the Grace of God) to increase organ donation registrations across the country and we are proud to say that – with the help of Taylor’s Gift and the help of our peers – our great state of Texas has seen an increase in organ donor registrations by over 630% –  with over 5,000,000 new registered organ donors in the Lone Star State.

tara and patricia

It didn’t take long to notice that donor registrations weren’t the only needs at hand. We recognized that the needs of families who had been touched by organ donation were completely underserved. There were many families who had lost a loved one who gave the gift of life and were suddenly in a position of overwhelming grief and financial stress. For some, the unexpected financial costs from a funeral or losing a bread-winner was completely devastating.

Currently we help those families through our Legacy Gift program. These financial grants have been a life-line for many families and Taylor’s Gift is so honored to help fill this need. I really wish I had words to express what it means to us to give back to families who have given it all… the gift of life.

We understand their pain.

We want to give them some hope.

It’s a privilege to help. Just like that day when we were asked if we would donate her organs, looking back on it now, it was a privilege to do so .

Are you an organ donor?

How Will You Outlive Yourself?

In addition to increasing organ donor registrations and being “Here for Tomorrows” through the Legacy Gift program, we at Taylor’s Gift want to encourage an everyday‘Outlive Yourself’ spirit in every person we encounter. Register as an organ donor, strike up a conversation with someone who needs some company, make a contribution to Taylor’s Gift, find a way to give back to your local community… the opportunities are endless. Through acts that are big and small, YOU have the power to Outlive Yourself.

Take the Outlive Yourself Pledge and Tell Us How YOU Outlive Yourself

Take the Outlive Yourself Pledge

Make a Contribution to Taylor’s Gift

Make a Contribution Today

Topics: Talking About Organ Donation

Why I Let My Daughter Have An Instagram Account

I’m pretty conservative when it comes to my kids. I’m the mom who says no. No to the hot new movie that all the kids are going to see. No to the obnoxious, snarky shows on the Disney channel, no to the more risqué shows geared toward older kids. No to walking up to the school alone. No to riding bikes outside of our neighborhood. No to ride-on motorized toys. No, even, to reading Young Adult books I, myself, authored. No. Not yet.

Given this, imagine my surprise—and my daughter’s—when I said yes to opening an Instagram account.

I still remember how startled I was when I discovered, about eighteen months ago, that many of my daughter’s (4th grade) friends had accounts. When I thought of Instagram, images of selfies instantly came to mind, of bikini clad girls and video clips of kids partying, hundreds, sometimes thousands of followers. No way, I thought. No way am I letting my daughter jump into this cesspool of social media. She’s too young. Too innocent. This isn’t something she needs to be doing.

And my daughter, bless her heart, didn’t even ask. She knew. She knew what the answer would be. No, no, no.

So, one short year later, why did I do it? Why’d I do a complete 180 and let my daughter dive into the world of social media? Basically, it boils down to this:

  1. She’s a good kid. She does what we ask of her. She applies herself at school. She does her homework. She works hard at soccer and softball and choir. She helps out around the house. (She reads her brother bedtime stories!) She’s demonstrated a level of maturity, responsibility, and trust that made us feel not only comfortable that she could manage her own behavior on Instagram, but that she deserved the opportunity to try.
  2. It’s the world she’s going to live in. As much as we may wring our hands about the evils of social media, it’s not going anywhere. It’s the world we live in, the world our kids are growing up in. We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend like it’s not happening, but that only serves to 1) isolate us and 2) leave us woefully ill-equipped for dealing with reality. And I don’t want my daughter ill-equipped. I want her prepared. I want her ready. I want her to know what she’s doing. I want her to understand how to communicate, about actions and consequences, intended or otherwise. And the only way she’s going to learn this is if we allow her to explore the world in which she’s living.
  3. She’s young enough and still likes me enough that we can do this together. Two of the conditions of my daughter’s Instagram account are that it’s open on my phone at all times and that I know the password. This means I’m able to see what’s going on—what she posts and what her friends post. I see the pictures, the comments. I see who sends her Follow Requests (she’s not allowed to accept without running it by me first). We discuss who she might want to Follow. We’ve talked about why it doesn’t make sense to have hundreds of Followers, just for the sake of having Followers. We’ve talked about what kinds of pictures to post, versus those that could hurt someone’s feelings or lead to some other consequence.
  4. It’s an opportunity for her to begin expressing her own individuality. And as much as I may wish my little girl could be my little girl forever, the fact is she’s growing up, and growing into her own person. And it’s really kind of fascinating and cool (and heartwarmingly wonderful) to see her creativity emerge, to see which pictures she chooses to post (lots of our dogs and cats, and, just this week, a pic of her reading 43 on 41 after she had the opportunity to meet former president Bush!). It’s also fun to see some of the pages she’s chosen to follow: CatsofInstagram, GreatPyreneesoftheHour, and Imagine Dragons.
  5. And finally, while we’re sure there’s some forbidden fruit in our future, we don’t want it to be Social Media. We don’t want to turn this into some huge, unattainable holy grail. We don’t want her venturing out there on her own. We don’t want her trying to figure everything out by herself. Far better to stand by her side and teach her, than to shut her down because we’re not ready.

So… how’s it gone?

I’m happy to say it’s gone great. Her introduction to Instagram has been a positive experience for her, and for us as mother/daughter. It’s provided opportunities to talk about real-life situations and scenarios, such as inappropriate behavior or pictures, bullying, foul language, premature sexuality, etc. And as much as I dislike some of the content I’ve seen, I’d rather see and know about it, than to not know what was going on. Because of this, we’re able to talk about things we need to talk about. And they’re not just esoteric conversations anymore. They’re concrete, based upon concrete incidents involving people she knows. She comes to me when she gets new Follow requests, and explains why she thinks she should accept—or not accept. She tells me who she wants to send Follow requests to. She’s shown me several pictures/comments on pictures that bothered her, and she’s complained about a few of her friends who are a little selfie happy. One of them she wanted to unfollow, but before she did so, we talked about possible ramifications.

I still say no. A lot. She still can’t watch Hunger Games or Twilight. She still doesn’t have her own phone number. She still can’t read my Midnight Dragonfly books. She still can’t walk to school by herself. And she still can’t sign up for some of the more dangerous apps, such as Kik and Whisper and SnapChat. But because she’s happy with Instagram, she’s not in any hurry to branch out to other venues.

Now, six months into this new world, this No Mom is glad she said Yes.

WT# Is Wrong With You?

I peruse several Facebook Fan Pages for various television shows, authors, movies, and such that I enjoy. I like reading articles and comments, and yes, sometimes spoilers. Last week, I absently clicked on a link for some spoilers for the second season of a television series…and was gob-smocked to discover these spoilers, instead of being of the vague “a beloved character dies,” “a couple faces a threat,” or “a mysterious newcomer promises answers” variety were excruciatingly specific. But that’s not all they were, either. They were the entire plotline of the second installment in the story, including all the major plot points and surprises.

Given that I already knew all this, the revelations didn’t bug me, but I found myself cringing anyway. Since I’m somewhat of a spoiler aficionado, I know what spoilers usually are, and this wasn’t it. So I found myself feeling REALLY BAD for the people who clicked on that link expecting regular vague spoilers, but who instead had the entire second season of a popular show ruined for them. True, true… they clicked on the link so it was their choice. But I couldn’t help but think a lot of people who were clicking on that link weren’t expecting to read what they did.

So…I commented. Now, I’m not a confrontational person. At all. I’ll go out of my way to avoid just about any confrontation of any type. I’m much more of a peace making type of person. And that’s what I was trying to do. I commented something to the effect of “wow, careful there! those are a lot more than spoilers!”

And the slamming began.

All sorts of people started jumping on me, as well as the few others like me who dared to mention that these spoilers were a little more specific than regular spoilers. People pointed out the thread said Spoilers (true), so what did we expect? But they didn’t stop there. It was a regular pile: Only an idiot clicks on Spoilers if they don’t want to see spoilers. Quit crying over something you did yourself. What kind of stupid person are you? Could you be any more of an idiot? What part of the word SPOILER did you not understand? And, my favorite: WTF is wrong with you?

And I just sat there reading all this, going…wow. At first I responded, trying to explain WHY I commented, but that only made the slamming worse. Random people started posting pictures with pithy little sayings on them, one after the other. Labels were tossed about, stupid, moron, and idiot among the most common. So…I disconnected from the thread and went on my merry way. I wasn’t upset personally… but on more of a macro level I found myself scratching my head, wondering what possessed people to be so ugly? Why would you talk that way to anyone—someone you know, but maybe even especially to someone about whom you know nothing? A complete absolute stranger (who could be the nicest person in the world, or could be unbelievably fragile, or in the middle of a personal tragedy, or, or, or…you just don’t know.)

A few days later there was another Facebook discussion on my local community’s page about a certain parental behavior, something some are comfortable doing, but others aren’t. And again the judgment started to fly, with those who had opted against something referring to those who opted in favor as stupid, careless, dumb, idiots, and criminal.

And again…I found myself going wow.

It’s not just on Facebook, either, although Facebook represents a nice tidy microcosm of society. It’s everywhere. The judging. The slamming. The hate-speak. There’s the big stuff like politics and religion, abortion and gay marriage, gun control and the death penalty, but the ridicule doesn’t stop there. People get shamed and shredded for whether they use plastic or paper, which light bulbs they buy, if they believe in global warming, what time they choose to put their kids to bed, if they choose to shop on Thanksgiving or…whether they choose to read spoilers.

I don’t know. I think back ten, twenty, twenty-five years ago, and it feels like we’re less tolerant than we use to be. It feels like we’re less okay with people thinking and behaving differently than us. We say we are, but then we turn around and ridicule/blast/shame them for doing so, then defend ourselves by saying hey, it’s your right to say/do what you want, but it’s my right to say/do what I think about it. And…well, yeah. It’s hard to argue with that basic logic, but it also feels like something’s getting lost there. Passing judgment/ridiculing does not equal accepting differences—and being cool with each other anyway. (And yes, as I say that, I find myself wondering if I’m being a little hypocritical…if calling out those who pass judgment is, in its own way, passing judgment…)

All I know is I find myself shaking my head, wondering…when did we quit caring about other people? Where did our basic compassion go? And civility. When…did we get so mean? We give all this lip-service to bullying, telling our kids how horrible it is and running news stories about it, but it seems to me that we, the adults, are as guilty as, if not more so, of bullying as our children.

Hmmm. Could it be our kids are learning more from us than we realize?

It’s A Scary World

So I live in North Texas…you know, near Dallas and Patient Zero. That hospital you’ve been hearing about? Yeah. Both my kids were born there. I personally have spent over a month there as a patient. My ob-gyn is there. My fertility specialist. I get my mammograms there. I’ve walked the halls, eaten meals, made friends. Needless to say, this is all hitting way close to home.

Last week I’m walking my daughter, a 5th grader, home from school, and she and one of her besties are excitedly telling me they talked about it at recess and figured it out: if the Ebola starts spreading, we all need to get to some remote island. We’ll be safe there…well, as long as we can figure out how to purify water and get food. Bodily fluids with Ebola can’t survive across water…can they? The salt water would kill them…right?

I smile. I engage with the girls. I discuss the merits of their plan, while at the same time working to assure them that we don’t need to worry about that (even as, in the back of my mind, the little fear bug gnaws away.) And then I find myself opening the front door and walking into the cool confines of our house, much like the afternoon last year when I learned about the active-shooter drill at the elementary school, so, so SAD that these little kids, these CHILDREN, have to worry about stuff like gunmen in their schools and Ebola.

Flash-forward to today, and I’m messaging with a writer friend and reflecting about all the Huge Stuff kids today have to deal with—Ebola! ISIS! Beheadings on YouTube! Mass Shootings at school and movie theaters and just about everywhere else! Cyber Bullying! Sexual Predators! Online Sexual Predators, and More, More, Always More!—and she wisely says, “They will learn to deal with it. It’s our job to raise responsible adults not dependent children, as hard as it is on us parents (and grandparents.) Our job is not to keep them away from scary things, but to teach them to deal with and overcome fears.”

And I just kinda sat there going…wow. You’re right. You are absolutely right. That is our job as parents. To teach our kids. To prepare our kids. To ready them for the day that they walk through the world as adults. Sometimes this involves protecting them. Sometimes this involves taking a deep breath while bumps and bruises happen, understanding that they are an inevitable part of growing up.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought about swimming—and drowning. When we have kids, we naturally worry about them falling into water. Given this, one of two courses are available to us: we can keep them away from water, which is really, really great, because if you’re not around water, you can’t drown…until the day something unexpected happens and are you are around water and you aren’t prepared. Or…we can teach them to swim.

So I started thinking…and talking to some friends. How do we do it? How do we teach our kids to function in this scary world? How do we prepare them for the world they are going to live in?

How do we teach them to swim?

And while it may seem like a big, overwhelming responsibility, I realized there really are some salient approaches that make a big difference.

  • Be honest. Tell them the truth. Answer their questions. Don’t create fairy tales that some day will crash around them. If they ask what Ebola is, tell them. Is they ask about ISIS, tell them. BUT…and this is huge…operate on a need to know basis. For my 6yo, telling him that Ebola is a bad sickness and ISIS is a group of bad guys in another part of the world is enough. That satisfies his 6yo curiosity. He doesn’t need to know more than that. My 10yo, however…she needs deeper answers. And I can pace myself by feeding bits of information, and letting her questions guide me. She’s functioning in this world. She’s around televisions and newspapers, radios, and the biggest information source of all: the Internet. So she has access to information as it is. I need to make sure she feels comfortable that when she asks me questions, I’m real with her, because if I’m not, she’ll quit asking. Which brings me to,
  • The media. All of it. TV, radio, print, Internet… Dial it back. Minimize their exposure. Maybe we want to hear what’s being said, but that doesn’t mean we need to expose young impressionable minds to all the spin. And hysteria. And hype. Sadly, the 24-hour (entertainment) news cycle is about ratings (i.e., making money) and not much else. If kids aren’t hearing this stuff, then a whole lot of their fears can be mitigated before they ever even begin.
  • Just like with water and swimming, teaching plays a huge role in preparing kids to live in the world that is awaiting them. Teach them about responsible Internet behavior. Teach them about the dangers of posting racy selfies. Teach them about sociopaths who pose as children on social networks. Teach them about the dangers of giving out personal information. Teach them about Ebola and how it’s spread, what bodily fluids are, and what kinds of safety protocols we can all take. Sure, what you teach a 5yo will be very different than a 10 or 15yo, but we can’t pretend bad things don’t happen, because that’s like letting your child who doesn’t know how to swim go play at the lake without a life-jacket, and simply telling him to stay on shore.
  • Acknowledge fear, but teach them skills to deal with their fears–fear is an important feeling that tells us to beware, be vigilant, but not be paralyzed. If kids are taught never to fear anything, they are too naive to function in the real world. And finally…
  • Create a consistent, peaceful, loving environment for your kids at home. Give them a safety net, a place where they know they are safe and loved, where they can exhale and trust and retreat, despite whatever ugliness they may encounter in the outside world. Listen to them. Hug them. LOVE them.

Interestingly, when I asked family and friends what their ONE piece of advice would be for parents raising kids in a scary world…a consistent, loving, peaceful environment at home was the number one response given, and the response given by every single young adult and teen. I found that pretty fascinating, and pretty telling. Love. It’s so darn important, the very foundation of our children’s lives. Maybe we can’t eradicate Ebola or stop ISIS, but we can teach, and prepare, and wrap our kids in love…and maybe just maybe, the scary world won’t feel quite so scary.

 

The Decision that Ruined My Son’s Life

….or so he says.

It all started innocently enough, a new video game my 10 year old daughter heard about from friends and asked if she could play, too. We checked it out and didn’t find anything alarming, so we said sure and off she went. She’s never been a gamer, so we were fairly amused and intrigued to see her hunkered down with her device, building all sorts of intriguing virtual creations, via the world of Minecraft. All so very innocent and innocuous…until her little brother caught the fever. He’d never done anything online before, was pretty much consumed by his Lego’s, so we saw no red flags warning us….Stop! Don’t Do It!

If only we’d known then what we know now.

Maybe summer hit at the wrong time in our son’s Minecraft love affair. Maybe he had too much time on his hands. Maybe it was just too hot outside to do much running around outdoors. Or…maybe…he’s just a whole lot like both of his parents: Type A, OCD, all-in…whatever you want to call it. He started out playing on his iPad, but quickly evolved to the X-box–and before we knew it, our 6 year old was utterly consumed by the world of Minecraft. It was all he wanted to do, all day long. It was all he talked about–even in his sleep. Even, on occasion, racing into our room in the middle of the night to tell us some cool nuance he’d just discovered or wanted to try out. Oiy.

Now, that’s not to say there was no good, because there was. Lots of it. His imagination took flight, and we soon discovered we may have a budding architect on our hands. Or a natural-born storyteller (ahem). Maybe both…but definitely a gamer. By the end of summer, our earlier fascination had turned to frustration…and some other less than attractive emotions. Because for our son, playing Minecraft was not passive. It obsessed him. Consumed. He would talk to his world as he played. And fuss. Complain. Yell. A perfectly happy kid could sit down to play, transforming in a very short time to a grumpy grouch. And his now soured mood would transfer to every other aspect of his life. Heaven forbid we told him it was time to put the device down and come eat dinner…run an errand…take a bath. And don’t even get me started about group play. I quickly learned there are reasons that, technically, Minecraft is for older kids. Yes, from a technical standpoint, younger kids can easily navigate the world of Minecraft (and do really cool stuff). But from an emotional maturity standpoint, they’re just not ready for someone else (a sister, a cousin, a friend) to enter their world…and make mischief (which is, in all fairness, an intriguing part of the game.) If he spent hours (and I do mean hours) building some master creation, only to have his sister slip in and catch his world on fire….OMG. The rest of the day wasn’t only ruined, but drama and fighting would ERUPT, and our blood pressure soared.

Which brings me to the end of summer–and our decision. By the time July rolled into August, my husband and I had not only had enough, but we realized we had a problem, and it was up to us to solve it. We did some research on the game, as well as on kids and screen time, and, after talking with a friend who goes “device free” during the school week, we decided that’s what we needed to do, as well.  Our 6 year old was starting kindergarten, and we couldn’t have him obsessing about a video game day in and day our, not when our schedules were getting busier, and sports were starting up. So. We announced that Monday-Friday were going to  become “no screen time” days.

Needless to say, he freaked. Shock quickly gave way to anger, to yelling and screaming and gnashing of teeth, to absolute mania. We couldn’t do that! We didn’t understand! We were being mean! And yes…we were ruining his life. His LIFE, I tell you. RUINING it.

But we held firm. This was one of those occasions where we knew what needed to happen, and we weren’t about to let any amount of ranting change our mind. It was time to be the parent, not the friend. And so school began, and the devices got put away.

For the first week, he begged every single day. He pleaded. He tried negotiating. Deal-making. And…yes…threats. But we held firm (and let him know in no uncertain terms that threats were NOT going to be tolerated around here.) Then week two rolled around and…nothing. No pleading. No whining. No negotiating. It was like he finally realized we were dead serious, and there was no getting around our decision. And then, glory be, other changes began occuring. The Lego’s came back out. He began drawing pictures again. Making forts. Doing all those things that I once thought drove me crazy (and, yeah, probably still do, but at least they engage him physically and mentally and he’s not glued to a device.)

Now, a month into the school  year, and it’s rather stunning how dramatically the “device-free weekdays” has changed our family. Our son is more relaxed. He’s not amped up and talking Minecraft 24/7. And he’s REALLY gotten into his taekwando classes. He’s about to test for his first “color” belt–a yellow–and he’s (on his own) practicing like crazy.

Does he still long to play Minecraft? Yes. Does he count down the days of the week until Friday afternoon, when he can dive back into his virtual world? Yes. Does he squeeze in Minecraft as much as he can on the weekends, between soccer and softball and t-ball games? Well, yeah. But come Sunday evening, the devices go away, and peace returns.

Did our decision ruin his life? He might still tell you yes, but as for the rest of us-my husband and 10 year old daughter and myself-we’d tell you our decision was one of the smartest we’ve ever made.

 

 

 

Wingmen

Shortly after the tragic news about Robin Williams broke, when messages of shock flooded Facedbook, a friend of mine posted this:

Where was your wingman, Robin Williams? For all the joy you brought to people, all the fans mourning your loss and others condemning, who among us was there for you? We never really know what’s going on in the mind of someone else.

Over the next few hours, her words became a constant echo through my mind, poking and prodding, nudging, shifting into new questions: Who’s my wingman? Who can I call? Who can I lean on? Who’s there for me? But then…Whose wingman am I? Do they know? Do they know they can call me anytime…about anything? Do they know I am there for them? Do I demonstrate the things that I think in my heart? Do I reach out? Do I touch base and check on them? Do I let them know when I think about them?

For the past several weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship. It started earlier this summer with my dreaded annual mammogram. I believe in them, but wow, do they stress me out. Because of that, I’d put this one off a bit. But I knew it was time to go, so I mustered my courage and went. Then I waited. A day went by with no phone call. Yay! Day two. The morning went by. Yay! Maybe I’m in the clear….but then…the phone rings. It’s the hospital…the nurse…they’ve found something…an abnormality…I need to come back…my head is spinning…I’m feeling dizzy…

Okay, maybe you know that drill. I do. It’s happened before. But I stood there, all barely able to breathe and freaked out and…alone. And I wanted to call someone. I needed to call someone. I needed someone to take my hand and tell me it would be okay. I needed a wingman.

But I had no idea who to call.

At first I thought about my husband…but he was working and I didn’t want to worry him while he needed to be focused on his job. Then I thought about my sister…but she’s got massive big stuff on her plate, and I didn’t want to stress her out. Then I thought about my sweet neighbor…but I didn’t want to lay that on her. Then…

I just stood there, because I honest to God had no idea who to call. Because somehow I’ve reached this point where I have lots of people with whom I’m friends, but I’m not sure I have…a wingman.

There, I said it.

It’s odd that I can be surrounded by so much, a loving husband and wonderful kids, by great neighbors and friends, but still sometimes feel alone. And I know that part of that is my fault, because sometimes I don’t know how to reach out, to say, hey, I’m scared. I’ve got a problem. I need help. I need someone right now. I need a friend. I need YOU.

It takes a lot of courage to make yourself vulnerable like that. It’s like standing before someone naked.

But just like you have to get naked with your spouse (or significant other or whoever you’re crawling in bed with), I’m realizing you have to get naked with your friends too (figuratively speaking, of course.) (unless you’re like trying on swimsuits or something.) (but maybe that’s a topic for another day).

Sometimes I wonder when things got so complicated. Maybe they always were, but it seems like marriage and careers and motherhood, LIFE, all add extra layers and pressures to our daily existences, and sometimes it’s friendship that takes the backseat.

Have you ever felt like that? Like someone just took their friendship away? I have. Maybe we don’t mean for that to happen. We don’t want for it to happen. Maybe we don’t even realize it’s happened. Then one day we realize it’s been weeks—months—since we’ve talked to someone. Maybe we’ve missed someone’s birthday or some other important milestone in their lives. Maybe we’ve hurt them and haven’t even realized it. Maybe they’ve hurt us. The next thing you know you’re estranged, and you’re not quite sure why. (Or maybe you are, but you don’t know what to do about it, because doing something about it is HARD and SCARY.)

Recently I’ve reconnected with two longtime friends (Hi, Stacey, Hi, Wendy…you better say HI back!) and having them back in my life has been like this great big GIFT dropped down in my lap. With them, there was no falling out, just a drifting apart. Our life paths diverged. Technology (okay, and baseball) brought us back together (thank you, Facebook!), and it’s been wonderful But there are two other friendships that did experience a fracture. I’m really not sure why, but I’m working on fixing those. And yeah, it’s scary. But that’s okay. Friendship is worth it.

Wingmen are worth it.

Make sure you’ve got one. Make sure you are one.

You never know just how important it might be.

(And oh yeah. The whole mammogram thing? Everything turned out fine. Cysts.)