Parenting seems to be all about the juggle.
Regarding balancing her work career with raising kids, best-selling author Nora Roberts once said, “It’s too damn hard to keep everything in the air, and that’s a pressure we don’t need to put on ourselves. And if you drop a plastic ball, it bounces, no harm done. If you drop a glass ball, it shatters, so you have to know which balls are glass and which are plastic and prioritize catching the glass ones.”
Roberts was not literally referring to her children as balls in this case, of course. She was referring to the responsibilities in life that sometimes don’t get done or fall through in the thick of it all.
There are times when everything piles up and it’s impossible to manage it all. There must be prioritization, delegation and acceptance. The juggle applies to work and family and usually involves both with some other obligations. There are times when the plastic balls – the non-critical things — Roberts refers to fall. There was a time when I really sweated these sorts of situations. I still don’t like when I forget or can’t manage to meet the demands of a situation, but I have the perspective now to realize not everything is paramount even if there are a couple people – notably a 13-year-old named Beckett and an 11-year-old named Carson – who value it differently.
Though the juggle continues, over the last year, I have noticed life has gotten easier in many ways and more complicated in other ways. There is not as much of a physical demand and time crunch as the boys get older. The challenges have turned more psychological as the kids change and mature.
In our 13-year-old’s case, he’s become a tough read. It’s challenging when he chooses to keep some feelings and thoughts from us. It’s part of the maturation process, but it’s a struggle for all parents to not have open communication with their kids. Teens simply don’t share what’s on their mind all the time. He was once an open book and revealed everything. He is now much more reserved and private.
While this reserved nature is difficult at times, one thing that has remained a constant throughout this evolving parenting adventure is the importance of a sense of humor. Some examples to illustrate the point:
•I showed Beckett a picture from eight years ago taken on Assateague compared to one captured last weekend in about the same spot. He was 3 years old in the first one and is now 13 years old. We marveled over how much he has grown and changed, while I look younger. He didn’t agree with that last part.
After saying how much he likes his hair better now and how he’s taller than his mom at 13 years old, he hit with a quick and passing comment. He said, “Yeah puberty has hit me hard, finally.” For some reason, his delivery made me laugh out loud.
•For some reason, Carson has been taking a stuffed animal to school each day.
It started with a small squirrel one day that I encouraged him to stick in his pocket when we walked up to the school. It has now morphed into something called a “chubby narwhal,” which will not fit into his pocket or even his bookbag. He carries it proudly in his hand as we make our way to school. I’m sure he gains a few second looks from parents in the drop-off line and students in the halls. I could care less, but it’s ironic for a child who never wants to bring attention to himself.
I admit to the first couple days trying to talk him into leaving his stuffed animal in the truck, offering to fasten it in the seat belt to keep him safe throughout the day. He objected. I have now transitioned to getting a picture of the “chubby narwhal” in different places along our walk into school. Whatever it takes to get him to walk into school on a good note, but I will continue to oppose carrying the stuffed animal for him. He thinks that’s hilarious.
•I try often to think back on what I was going through when I was 13 years old. However, the world is much different today and it’s all about technology. I’m convinced there are more negatives associated with social media like Snapchat and Tic Toc than positives when it comes to teens.
I think these avenues contribute to make them more socially awkward than they would naturally be at their age. On several occasions, we have been out and about with Beckett and recognized a couple kids his age. Pam or I will say, “hey isn’t that so and so and so and so.” He barely manages a glance in their direction but squeezes out a “yeah we are not really friends.”
There was one case recently when I knew for a fact there was a group of kids his age he hangs out with at times and definitely “snaps” with thanks to my phone surveillance. Yet, when he saw them in person there was nothing. It happens often.
Before I could even take a deep dive into it wondering if Snapchat is rotting all their brains, I figured it out. He was embarrassed to be seen with his parents and mortified at the thought of talking to his friends in front of us. This was probably not all that different than it was in 1988 when I was 13 years old. Later, when I asked if my premise explains why he doesn’t talk or acknowledge his friends with us, he said, “I never said that.”
I got it.