Friday, March 22, 2019

Talking about a few good friends

I thought I was doing a good job at checking in with my son at dinnertime. He would tell me about his day - if anything special happened or who he played with. I got used to hearing a specific set of names that came up in the "so-and-so is my friend" category.

I thought I knew things. I was wrong.

My son was given a stack of birthday invitations and told to hand them out to his friends. And then the rsvps starting coming into my phone - rsvps from parents with children's names that I had never heard of.

And the messages were fascinating, like: Billy is so sorry that he can't come to your son's birthday - as you know they are best friends - he wants to do something special with him on another day. Or: Jane is so excited about your son's party; she says they play together every day.

I had never heard of Billy or Jane before that moment.

When I asked my son about it, he mentioned that they were great friends of his. They just never made it into our dinner conversations.

I think there are a few lessons here. One is that my son has a whole life that is just his within the school, and that is the way it should be. While he can give me glimpses into it, I am never going to know everything. The other lesson is that my son must be featured in some dinner conversations in other households at night...oh, to be a fly on that wall.

Either way, it's good to meet my son's friends.

Do you know who your child's best friend is? Are you sure? Share in the comments.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Thinking through schedules

My husband and I were recently chatting through the changes in our schedule that will come with a new, much earlier school start time next year. I had already been thinking through ways to ensure that everyone still gets the right amount of sleep (or at least as much sleep as we do now), and still get out the door on time.

It occurred to me that my husband and I actually have these scheduling conversations quite frequently - after school activities, summer, days off and weekend plans are all major topics of conversation in our household. I am sure it would be even more frequently if we had multiple children.

Whenever we have these discussions, we tend to repeat them when our son is in the room. It's important that he hears the outcome, gets the chance to ask questions and understands that when we alter our routines we are doing so while trying to still spend time together as a family. Because that's what most families want: To spend more time together.

The researchers on that link found that working family members would use extra days off to spend time together. I can agree with that. Weekends are usually spent catching up on school projects and chores, and we don't always remember to take time out to find the fun; it would be nice to take a random day off together.

While I can't make this a regular thing, I do recognize that we could probably make the idea of a "day off together" work over the summer. It would just take some thinking through schedules.

How would you spend a free day off with your family? Share your plans in the comments.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The risks we take

Sometimes I wish I could see the world through my son's eyes. For example, when we go to the large outlet shops near our home, he loves climbing/jumping/skipping around all the low walls, divided areas and various colored concrete sidewalk squares. Does he see that place as one big game level? If he gets a high enough score, will Mom get him a soft pretzel? (Hint: We always get the soft pretzels.)

I do recall being very young and jumping across the different-colored tiles in a large store once. I was looking down at my feet and trying to jump my way to my Dad. He had moved to a different display by the time I got to the spot he was in, and I accidentally grabbed a stranger's hand instead of his. I was petrified, but the man laughed it off. I ran off to find my Dad very quickly.

Other than that, I don't recall bouncing all over the place, but I am sure that I must have done it. And I try to keep in mind that the outlets can be a very boring place for a child (pretzels aside), so I try not to reign my son's play in, unless it is really crowded and I am afraid he will bump into other people. 

But this type of behavior is the relatively low risk play that a lot of children do. I wonder if my son will ever want to amp up his risk taking as he gets older. For example, he got over his trepidation of roller coasters last year and now wants to ride lots more. Is that a start? Explorers, adventurers, stunt performers...where do the seeds for those urges lie? I don't know, and evidently, researchers don't really know either. Maybe that's not a fair statement. Here's a better one: Researchers have ruled out birth order as a direct link to risk-loving adults

Some risks, of course, are good. I want my son to try new things and learn from his mistakes. I want him to enjoy his life. I also want him to always enjoy soft pretzels.

Do you encourage your child to take risks? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Beyond Monopoly and Clue

Some of the best fun my family has is when we are playing a game together. It doesn't matter if it is a round or two of UNO while we wait for dinner to arrive in a restaurant or if it is a full hour of 5-Minute Dungeon on a Saturday afternoon. We love to play games.

My wonderful husband built us shelves in the family room closet awhile ago, and I like to look at all the games we have piled up on those shelves. Yes, we have the classic games of Trouble and Sorry!, but we also have more modern games like Settlers of Catan and Qwirkle. There is a nice mix of strategy and spacial thinking games, as well as ones that are competitive and ones that are cooperative.

We have come such a long way since Candy Land and Operation. While I know those games serve a purpose - to teach children how to follow rules and play fairly and lose at something - I think a lot of next-level games let our children down. There is an exciting world of board and card games out there that let kids (and adults) have fun while also teaching new skills.

As for us, my son is never happier than when he is kicking my butt at a game. And I know that they don't all have to be big-thinking kind of games. The main idea has not changed: We play together and we have fun together.

(And Mommy wins.)

What is your family's favorite board game? Share with me in the comments.