The Adventures Of Fatherhood-September 20, 2019

Maybe it’s just parenting’s ups and downs, but I’ve noticed my kids having some moods lately.

Somedays they seem just off, and it’s an adjustment to see these new mood swings in my boys, 11 and 9 years old, respectively.

I’m used to them being excitable, motivated and anxious to do whatever. Now, these boys have their own perspectives on things, and like most people they want to do things their way. The problem is it’s not the right way.

In Beckett’s case, these newfound desires may include waking up at 7:45 on school mornings when we must leave the house at 7:55. He then gets an attitude when I have to rush him to put his shoes on while eating his breakfast. His reluctance to kick himself into gear after I spent most of the morning pulling his blankets off him repeatedly and urging him to get out of bed aggravates me. I now insist on 7:15 as his morning wakeup time.

During a recent conversation about how middle school was going, Beckett admitted he has anxiety about it. It took multiple conversations over the course of the week to learn what was giving him trouble. We ultimately learned it was a new revolving schedule that was giving him consternation. Organization and planning are not strong suits of his at this point, and this rotating school day routine is a struggle for him. When we asked how we could help, he said, “I’m not a baby, I just need time to adjust.” We told him we understand that, but we were here if we could help him get better prepared for his school day the night before or give him some advice on how to organize his locker.

Of course, our 11-year-old wants to do things his way. We like that, as we are not enamored with helping with his homework and reminding him to study. One night this week I asked about his school load and whether he needed to study for a couple quizzes coming up. He seemed insulted that I would think he needed help, reminding me he’s not in lower school any longer. I was okay with that until I saw he struggled with one of them.

Later, I questioned him on it and he insinuated I was making a big deal out of nothing and that it was early in the term. He may have been right that I was blowing a quiz out of proportion, but it’s incredibly difficult to watch your kid underachieve when you think you can help.

That, of course, is one of the struggles with parenting. Knowing when to push your involvement and help versus letting them be independent and learning from mistakes is mental warfare. It’s not a black-and-white issue. Parenting is a sea of gray I’ve concluded. You do the best you can with decisions and challenges as they arise, while truly never having clarity on whether you did the right or not. Hindsight often provides the answer, but that’s not always the case.

Though my kids are still young, I see the value in letting them fall down every now and again. It’s true they learn more from hiccups and missteps than they do when everything goes as planned. It’s a good thing to see them struggling from time to time. It fosters independence and awareness. I saw a great sense of pride in Beckett when he did well on the next quiz after the one he bombed. He realized he must acquaint himself better with the content or he’s not going to be successful.

As my kids get older, I’m finding there are more and more instances when we, as their parents, must let them learn these lessons on their own. We can talk about these situations repeatedly, but there is a lot to learn from first-hand failing.

Steve Harvey put it well in his biography when he wrote, “Failure is a great teacher, and I think when you make mistakes and you recover from them and you treat them as valuable learning experiences, then you’ve got something to share.”

Could be because it’s September, but my kids are exhausted after school.

This is especially the case with Carson. Typically, we try and get both our kids to do their homework immediately after school. It’s been our experience putting it off till later in the evening after dinner and sports practices is not productive.

Of late, it seems Carson, 9, requires a break after school. For the first couple weeks, he was napping on the way home from school in the car. That shows how much school takes it out of him. I joke with him it’s hard work being a good boy. He then points at me in his trademark fashion, as if to say in his nonverbal fashion, “it’s hard for you to, right?” I always reply, “oh man, it’s incredibly hard.” He always giggles.

He seems to be adjusting this week and no longer needs a few minutes of napping, though he still doesn’t want to do his homework as soon as he gets home or to our office after school.

A couple years ago, it would have been impossible to get him back in the school mindset. He’s now able to transition from school to relaxing or playing outside back into school mode to get his homework done. I’m not saying he’s thrilled about it. There’s a few dramatic sighs and grunts, but he eventually gets it done.

I consider that progress. Celebrating the successful small things is part of taking things day to day with our special needs kiddo.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.