9 Clues You’re a Parent of a Pre-Teen

I am now a parent of a pre-teen. And as a parent of a pre-teen, I have discovered it’s (cue the soundtrack from Aladdin) a whole new world, baby. What do I mean? Let me break it down for you with …

9 Clues You’re a Parent of a Pre-Teen

  1. There’s a taller person in the house. You can actually look this person almost in the eye, which is quite amazing considering he/she used to fit in the crook of your arm.
  2. This taller person has a much bigger appetite. Like an eat-half-a-large-pizza-by-himself appetite (and that’s only for a snack).
  3. You feel a lot less cool because there’s a lot of eye-rolling directed your way these days. The same kind of eye-rolling you might have done in the presence of your own parents before you realized they were cooler than you thought.
  4. You feel like you’re losing control. While there is no such thing as control in parenting, there’s a lot less of it when you can’t wrangle a kid who comes up to your nose and can also talk back.
  5. Your feet seem smaller. Only because the ones that used to follow you around everywhere are now the same size as yours.
  6. You find yourself praying more (refer back to #4). Mainly for yourself because you feel like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing anymore and need the patience and endurance of a saint.
  7. You reminisce a lot about the good ‘ol days, especially when old pictures pop up on Facebook, and you miss (almost) everything about the baby and toddler stages. But not enough that you’d want to do it again because you are TIRED.
  8. You’re constantly in awe of the fact that you’re helping to shape a child in becoming an adult. This fact also causes you great dismay because you’re still working on this adulting business yourself (refer to #6).
  9. Your hugs are often rejected (sniff sniff!) … but when they aren’t, the experience is unbeatably sweet and precious and amazing.

What thoughts do you have about parenting a pre-teen? What do you wish your parents knew about you during your pre-teen years?

Speaking of teens, here’s a new boy band that was put together on the show, Boy Band, and their single, “Eyes Closed”. A few of them are only a couple of years older than my munchkin! Yikes. 😛

Thoughts on Going to Jail

The munchkins know to ask for approval before they download a game to play on the iPad. The process usually goes something like this: 1) Munchkin shows me the game; 2) I peruse the description, rating, and reviews; 3) I say yay or nay. It’s a pretty straightforward and quick process, and so far we’ve been able to keep the games age-appropriate and family-friendly. That is, until recently.

Lo and behold, I’ve discovered my mama brain doesn’t function too well during the summer. It could be that I don’t have enough me-time during the day, so I end up staying up way too late at night, and the gears in my head just don’t turn as fast when they’re tired. Or I could just be getting old. 😉 Either way, when one of the munchkins asked me to approve a game the other week, I inadvertently agreed to let them go to jail.

Yup. The game is all about trying to escape from prison.

What was I thinking?! At first, I reasoned it was a good game for problem-solving because breaking out of a locked establishment would require using your brain to come up with a plan and then to implement said plan. What I didn’t think through were the reasons why one would be in jail in the first place and how breaking out of jail would be a crime. Playing this game would in a sense make my child guilty of not just one crime, folks, but two! I had basically given a thumbs-up to illegal activity.

Sigh. Can we say, #mamafail?

All was not lost though! (There’s always gotta be a bright side to things, right?) 😉 Because life is all about trying and failing and trying again, I decided to make the best of this opportunity. We talked about what prison life is like (based off what I know from TV shows and books, not my own personal experience, mind you!), and also increased our knowledge of some key vocabulary words (e.g. warden). I also talked about my friend and former classmate who currently works as a therapist in prison. And get this, he’s not just a therapist for one jail, folks, but two! (Yes, he’s as awesome as he sounds!) And I even managed to share about how a large percentage of prisoners are from fatherless homes and the implications of that. Amazingly enough, I was able to use a game about jail to strike up some interesting and educational conversations about life. God’s grace, folks, God’s grace! 🙂

And to top it all off, I heard from my therapist friend recently that the Moodkins have become quite a hit in—you guessed it!—jail.

The therapists are using them for one-on-one counseling, as well as group therapy with the prisoners. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the cute therapy plush toys I created for kids to be helpful for adults, too. It’s been a huge blessing and affirmation for me to see them making a difference in schools, counseling centers, and now—prison. It just goes to show, you never know how God will use our small stuff for bigger purposes. 🙂

All this is to say that there’s been a lot of talk about jail in our home lately. There’s never a dull moment in parenting, is there? But thank God for His grace and providence in working everything out for good.

I hope you’ve had a good summer! We have less than one week of vacay here and then I’ll be back to my regular blogging schedule. As always, thanks for reading and sharing in my journey. 🙂

What have you been doing this summer? How have you seen God at work in your life? Tell me in the comments below! 🙂

When Parenting Feels Like Construction Work

I used to think raising babies and toddlers and preschoolers was hard. Oh, those years are long and wild and most of all, tiring, but the upside is that they’re simpler. Most of the time, you feel like you’re working in a production line, going through the same motions (feed, change, sleep, repeat) every single day, but a lot of it is “mindless” work. (Until the tantrums start. Lol) Raising a tween, on the other hand … THAT. IS. HARD.

I wish I could go into details about what we’ve been going through, but the munchkin who has requested to not be mentioned on social media ever again would not approve, so I must respect his wishes. 🙂 Suffice it to say, I told hubby the other day that I am seriously considering dyeing my hair because my white hair is doubling by the week. Groan … mutter … sigh!

Even as I’m praying and struggling through these new challenges, I’m reminding myself that this is all normal. Kids are supposed to grow up, “find themselves”, and navigate that fine line between dependence and independence. During this time, however, bad attitudes, hurt feelings, and mistakes will happen. Words will be said and things will be done that we wish could be taken back and undone. Most of all, this parent-child relationship will be tested time and time again.

Sigh (again)!

I was reminded this week of a show my kids used to watch when they were much younger called Bob the Builder.

Image courtesy of flickr

If you’ve never seen it, it’s an animated show that features a fix-it guy named Bob and his whole crew of construction vehicles. One of the things that Bob always says is, “Can we fix it? Yes, we can!” I thought of Bob and this slogan because lately, I feel like there’s a lot of fixing going on in our house. Our parent-child bond keeps on being tested—and broken. But for every time it does, we can be like Bob and ask, “Can we fix it?” Yes, we can!

Repairing a relationship is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. We can’t use tools, such as screwdrivers, hammers or nails, to put things back together. Hearts cannot be mended with tape or glue. But you know what we do have that is stronger and more effective than any fix-it gadget? Love.

I can hear you groan (or maybe that’s me!). Yup, unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for a broken relationship. But I do want to encourage all the parents out there who are in the early stages of parenting: You can make it easier for yourself now.

The one thing I’m thankful for is that hubby and I have fairly close relationships with our munchkins. Over the years, we’ve worked to build up mutual trust and respect and, thanks to hubby, a sense of fun. For the most part, we enjoy one another’s company and are sensitive to one another’s needs. Because of this closeness, whenever there’s a disconnect between us, we can feel it. It makes us so uncomfortable that we can’t go too long without wanting to reconnect with the other person. Because of the bond we’ve built (and continue to build upon), it’s easier and more natural for us to repair the bond when it breaks. And this, my friends, has been our saving grace during this crazy time.

So, this is the advice I give to all parents of young kids: Be sensitive to your child and his needs. Love him the way he needs to be loved. And a decade from now, your future self—and your child—will thank you for doing so.

This is a song I’ve been listening to on repeat, Imagine Dragons’ “Walking the Wire”. Even though it’s a love song, I think the lyrics are very applicable to parenting through the hard times.

We could turn around and we could give it up
But we’ll take what comes, take what comes
Oh, the storm is raging against us now
If you’re afraid of falling, then don’t look down
But we took the step, oh, we took the leap
And we’ll take what comes, take what comes

What helped you through your teen years? Are you a parent of pre-teens/teens? I’d love to hear your advice!

When There Is No Finish Line

Hubby has been working out on a regular basis for a few months now . This decision pleased the cheap, ahem, I mean frugal side of me because it meant he’d finally be using the gym membership we’d been paying for on a monthly basis. I’d also be getting a more healthy, energetic and buff husband and who wouldn’t want that? 😉

Hubby’s efforts the first two months were jaw-dropping. He’d go to the gym before the sun woke up and go again before he came home from work. Two workouts in a day? Who does that kind of thing?! Apparently, according to hubby, a lot of people who go to the gym do. They must either really want to get their money’s worth or the happy hormones you get from exercising are a real thing. 😉 There’s likely a third reason though as to why people stick to a workout routine. Hubby explained it to me with a slogan he saw on a shirt at the gym. It read, There is no finish line. 

 

The thought is that in order to stay healthy, energetic and buff, you need to exercise, eat right, and sleep well on a consistent basis. That means every. single. day. Because once you stop, the laws of physics (specifically, the one related to gravity) take over and your body start drooping and sagging and not functioning as well as it could.

When I heard this slogan, I couldn’t help but cringe. Working out every single day? If only I had enough energy to do that. Well, the irony of it all is that when you start working out, you gain more energy which helps you continue the vicious, I mean, wonderful cycle. So once you get going, it’s easier to keep going. Exercising will still require effort, time and commitment, but as you continue to do it regularly, it will become a part of your routine. Which is a good thing because there is no finish line when it comes to staying healthy.

This slogan got me thinking about how so much of our lives requires daily maintenance. Our minds, hearts and souls need regular nourishment and “exercise” as well. I’ve been experiencing this need as I stay home with the munchkins during their summer vacation. Boy, whoever came up with that slogan must’ve understood what having kids is like because believe me, there is no finish line when it comes to parenting. This job requires you to get up, clothe, feed, and clean up after your kids every day. And that’s just the physical, “easy” part of being a parent. It’s the emotional and mental stuff—being patient, kind, forgiving and gracious—that really kicks you in the butt. Sigh. 😉 I’ve been reminding myself to work on listening well and keeping my expectations realistic. And making sure I get some me-time and good sleep so I can be on my best behavior for them.

We have one week of summer vacay under our belts now and ten more to go—whew! Fortunately, I find that the longer I’ve been a parent, the more I know how to keep going on a daily basis. Not that it gets easier, but it does get a lot more predictable and a little more manageable. And there are plenty of rewards—shared experiences, funny moments and silly stuff—to keep you going … and going … and going … 🙂

What things do you want to keep working at on a daily basis?

Raising Our Kids for Other People’s Benefit

One of the munchkins came home recently and told me their teacher joked that we (hubby and I) were having a hard time with them and offered to adopt them. My first reaction was, Ha, he doesn’t know what he’s asking for!; my second thought, After all the hard work we’ve done?! No way, buddy! 😉

This joke got me thinking though about our job as parents. We have kids for ourselves, to fulfill a desire within us that imagines how nice it would be to have our own mini-me’s. However, when we raise our kids, it’s not only for our benefit. We raise our kids for other people, too.

What do I mean? All the teaching, guiding, correcting, and nurturing we do with our kids eventually benefits the people our kids come into contact with. This includes their friends and teachers and their future employers, potential spouses, even society as a whole. Whoa. That’s a sobering thought. But isn’t this the goal of parenting? To love, influence, and bless our children so they can in turn love, influence, and bless others.

Parenting is a huge responsibility and also one of the most thankless jobs out there. Even though we don’t always directly reap the rewards of our labor, there are moments when we get a virtual pat on the back for the job we’ve done. Like when a teacher tells you what an inspiration your child is to him. And he offers to adopt said child. I think that’s a good sign you’ve done something right as a parent. 😛 And now that I’ve thought through this offer some more, I’ve changed my mind. I’m warming up to the idea … especially with summer break around the corner. 😉

Speaking of the break, I’ll be returning to a summer schedule for posting to this blog (aka. whenever my kids allow me to!). I’ll leave you now with this fun video from the musical episode of The Flash (my favorite superhero!), featuring the song “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”, which is a good reminder for me as I think about all the time I’ll be spending at home with the munchkins. 😉

In what ways are your children a blessing to others?

Embracing the “Lasts” of Childhood

I was driving the munchkins to school yesterday when we got stuck in a mile-long traffic jam, thanks to a broken-down train. The road we were on happened to be near a park we used to go to regularly when they were younger. C looked out her window at the empty swings, slide and spinning-thingy and remarked, “It looks so small.”

I laughed and replied, “That’s because you’re bigger now.”

This truth is something I’ve been chewing on lately as a mama. My kids are bigger now, so big that one of them is getting too tall to be my chin rest. They’re heavier now so that when I try to carry them—with one arm under their head and the other under their knees—I can only manage to stay upright for ten seconds. They’re also outgrowing a lot of the activities they enjoyed before: going to the park or playground, holding my hand when we cross the street or having me read them a book (or three!) at bedtime.

As parents, we always look forward to the firsts of childhood: a child’s first word, first step, first time pooping in the potty, first day of school, first performance … the list goes on and on. But what happens when some of these “firsts” start becoming their “lasts”?

I used to complain about reading to them before bed. I was tired, blurry-eyed and, quite honestly, looking forward to my alone time after the family fell asleep. The last thing I wanted to do was crack open a book and narrate it in my most dramatic voice. Just between you and me, I may or may not have only borrowed reeeaaalllly short books from the library to shorten the reading time. 😉

There came a day when the munchkins were in bed, waiting for me to take a shower, so I could read to them afterwards. Except that on this night by the time I was ready to read, they were already asleep! And the same thing happened the day after and the day after that. By the third night, other than realizing I could’ve taken longer showers (haha!), I started to wonder if my job as a bedtime book reader was coming to an end. Maybe the munchkins didn’t want me to read to them anymore?!?! :O Noooo!

That’s when I decided reading to them at bedtime wasn’t such a bad thing. It’s something that takes time and effort, but it’s also a great privilege and—sniff, sniff!—a temporary one.

As much as we long for our kids to grow up, it’s hard when it actually happens. It’s hard to accept that your baby doesn’t need you the same way he did before, but trust me, it’s a good thing. Before you know it, your little one won’t need you to brush their teeth for them. They won’t need you to wipe their bottoms or their noses. There will come a morning when she will shake her hand free from yours when you reach the school gate. An evening when he won’t ask you for another bedtime story. And maybe even a day when your child will be the one showing you neat shortcuts on your phone that you had no idea existed. And it’ll be okay. Because their growth and their independence is our reward. It’s a sign of a job well done. 🙂

So, let’s celebrate the “firsts” of our children, embrace their “lasts”, but most of all, enjoy all the in-betweens.

Here’s a beautiful rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” sung by Voctave, from the movie Moana. Just think, one day we won’t be bombarded by Disney songs (unless of course you choose to be)!

What childhood “lasts” have you learned to embrace?

When Failure Means Progress

For all of us in the U.S. (except for the lovely states of Hawaii and Arizona), there’s this wonderful day in March where we lose an hour of sleep every single year. And every single year, I—along with every parent in the country—dread this day. Well, actually most of us also dread the day we gain an hour each year because that means earlier wake-up times for the kiddos. (And all of us wonder if whoever started Daylight Saving Time had kids because no parent in their right mind would have thought this was a good idea! LOL) Anyhow, this year I wasn’t the only one dreading the time change; C was too.

Who else agrees?! LOL

For the first time in her life, she understood the logical consequences of DST. Specifically, that by losing an hour of sleep, she had to wake up an hour earlier … and if she couldn’t wake up at the right time, then she wouldn’t have enough time to do all the things she did in the morning before school and—BAM!—the world would end. (Where she gets this “all or nothing” way of thinking, I don’t know, cough cough!) The bottom line was: She had to wake up on time—or else! (To show how punctual she likes to be, let me tell you that she actually arrived on her due date, which supposedly only 5% of babies do.)

I tried to calm her fears by telling her that it wasn’t the first time she’d gone through DST. She’s had 7 years of experience losing an hour of sleep and everything turned out all right. And because DST starts at 2AM on Sunday, we have a day to practice getting up earlier. And most of all, everyone is tired and cranky after DST happens, so it’d be understandable if she was late to school on Monday.

Did my logical reasons convince her not to panic? Of course … not! 😛 So, like a lot of the time in life, I just had to let her face the problem and help her through it.

The morning after DST, she promptly announced, “I failed! I woke up late!” to which I replied, “It’s okay! You’re adjusting! It’ll get better. It takes a few days.”

This back-and-forth exchange happened every day this week, even today. But thankfully, the defeated tone in her voice has lessened little by little, day by day. As her mama, I hope and pray she’s learning that the world will not in fact end because things don’t go exactly the way she wants them to. That failure means progress, because you can always try again (and improve!). And that change and growth take time to produce. Most of all, I hope she takes this small lesson and applies it to the other hurdles she will face in life … especially next year when we’ll need to lose an hour of sleep again. 😉

I don’t think there’s any song out there about kids dealing with DST, but here’s one that’s literally for the children, New Kids On the Block’s “This One’s for the Children”.

How do you help yourself or your kiddos deal with change?

How a Blogger Respects Her Kid’s Wish for Privacy

One of my munchkins (who shall remain anonymous) told me recently, “I don’t want you to write about me or even say that you have a son.”

Aiya.

My response? “Okay. (Sigh) I won’t anymore from now on.”

Image courtesy of http://www.symbols-n-emoticons.com/2012/09/zipping-mouth-shut.html

So in case you wonder why I won’t be mentioning my firstborn child from now on in my blogs or anywhere on social media, you’ll know why. 🙂

I always knew the day would come when I’d have to respect my kids’ privacy online. I get it, especially since the child I’m talking about is an introvert like me. Even if he weren’t, I’d still understand why he doesn’t want his mom talking about him to the entire world. ‘Cause let’s face it, having a blog means everything you post is accessible to anyone and everyone on the planet. I respect his need to keep some things (actually, most things) about himself for himself.

This is specifically the reason why I don’t post pictures of my kids’ faces on this blog, but I do realize now that the stories I write about them—however cute and funny and sweet they may be—are as personal and identifiable as their photos are. And even though these stories often times impact me as their mom, they belong to them. These are their stories to tell.

So, what does this mean for this mama who loves to blog about her munchkins? Well, I’ll still be sharing about my experiences and lessons learned as a mom, just more in general terms. And more importantly, when I do want to write about my munchkins, I’ll ask for permission first.

How do you feel about sharing photos and stories about your kids on social media? 

Here’s a really creative rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata by Kurt Hugo Schneider and Amazon Echo that the kids may (or may not) have enjoyed watching. 😉

When Your Kids Surpass You

There’s been a word tossed around the house a lot this week between the hubby and E. It’s only two syllables long, but when announced in a challenging tone, it’s powerful enough to get your adrenaline pumping. What’s the word?

Rematch!

Yup, every evening at dinnertime, either hubby or E will say, “Rematch!” And after dinner the two of them will get out the chess set and go to battle. 🙂

In the past, especially when E first started learning how to play chess, it came as no surprise that hubby would win most (if not all) of the games. These days, however, the playing field has been leveled. There are more cries of, “No way!”, “What?!”, and “I can’t believe it!” from poor hubby. Because it’s finally happened. Our 10 year old son can beat him at chess now. Here’s the photographic evidence. (To be fair, I missed the game where hubby beat him.) 😉

Amid hubby’s groans of shock and disappointment, I couldn’t help but smile. I gently commented, “But don’t we want our kids to be better than us?”

His answer? “Yes, but not this soon!”

LOL. 🙂

I get his point. I already got his point a year ago when E beat me at chess. I was okay accepting defeat, however, because chess isn’t my strong suit. But if E or C were to start correcting my grammar, that would be another story. 😉

But the funny thing about being a parent is that our job is to make sure our kids succeed. And succeeding often times means surpassing.

I, for one, hope my kids surpass me. I hope they have more confidence than me, will speak up for themselves and others more than me, and have a greater positive influence on the world around them. I don’t mind if they’re smarter, kinder, more generous and loving than both hubby and me. In fact, I want them to be the most awesome people they can be, even if that means we’re (slightly) less awesome than they are. 😉

Because then we’ll know we’ve done our job as parents well.

Here’s a song, “Believe” by Shawn Mendes, that talks about believing in people. May our belief in our kids help them to believe in themselves.

In what ways have you surpassed your parents? In what ways do you hope your kids will surpass you?

The Benefits of Crying

When the munchkins were younger, there was a lot of crying in our house. Actually, there was a lot of crying outside the house and in the car, too. Let’s just say that if we had collected all those tears they shed (as well as the ones I shed during their tantrums and meltdowns!), we could’ve helped out our drought-stricken state of California. 😉 Thankfully, we’ve had a lot of rain in the past weeks to fill up those reservoirs and the kids are able to process their emotions a little more calmly these days.

I personally have a hard time staying calm when E or C gets upset, but hubby has the patience of a saint. Not only will he look at their red, open-mouthed faces with adoration, he’ll also tell them, “It’s okay, just cry!”

Just cry?! (Does that include me, too? LOL!)

But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years as a parent, it’s that one, kids cry a lot, and two, crying can be helpful.

Having been raised by my strict, no-funny-business grandma, however, I learned not to cry. I learned it was safer to stuff my emotions inside rather than show them. Which is why I struggle so much when the kids need to cry. And I use the word need because sometimes we just need to cry.

If you Google “benefits of crying”, you’ll find countless articles (here’s one) touting the physical and emotional benefits of tears. Crying releases toxins, helps you deal with stress, and makes you more mindful of your emotions and experiences. Moreover, shedding tears in front of people you feel safe with helps build your connection with them. So it’s a good thing to cry by yourself and with others! Crazy idea, huh?

But boy, does it feel good to turn on the waterworks once in a while, especially if you tend to be more of an uptight and anxious person (if you are, welcome! you’re in good company here). 😉 The thing with crying though is that if you don’t allow yourself to do it regularly, you can get out of practice. And no amount of sheer willpower can force the tears to fall (unless maybe you’re an actor). What do you do then? Watch a sad movie or TV show or read a sad story or listen to a sad song. I stumbled upon this solution recently when I started watching NBC’s This Is Us. If you haven’t heard of this show, you need to check it out. I guarantee you will shed a few (or more) tears each and every episode. Just make sure you don’t watch it right before you have to pick up the kiddos from school—I learned this lesson the hard way! 😉 This show is now my regular “therapy session” where I tell myself, “It’s okay, just cry!”

Because it is so okay to cry. Crying is good for our body, mind and soul. So give it a go sometime soon. And take comfort in the fact that your tears do not go unnoticed. As it says in Psalm 56:8,

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

This song gets me every time. Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Heaven is the Face” is a song about the passing of his daughter, but it also speaks of our hope in God to one day be with Him in a place where we’ll no longer have a need to cry.

What were you taught about crying? What do you believe about it now?