A blast from the past: This is an entry from before I was a regular writer for Goodenoughmother.com, and when advice was so much easier to give (and get) from my teenage children. When the piece was written, Dominic was on the football team and Justin wanted to help rather than hurt his older brother:
So there I was, lying in bed, minding my own business, watching the new episode of NCIS and pretending desperately that Michael Weatherly was in fact my husband, when Dominic comes in. He lays down next to me, and states, “I can’t talk if you’re looking at me.”
I rolled over, closed my eyes, and said, “Speak”.
He said, “I don’t want to play football anymore.”
Sadly, when a statement like that is made, the rules about confessing your feelings to your mom only if she’s not looking at you are thrown RIGHT out the window. I sat up, turned around and said, “Why not?”
His reasoning is that he’s the biggest kid, therefore he’s always pitted against the bigger kids during practice. As defensive lineman he takes a lot of hits, and is worried that he will get really hurt.
Refusing to agree with him and feed my own over-protective motherly instincts, I asked if he regrets trying out, to which he replied, “Yeah, I think I do.” I asked if he liked practice after school which yielded a surprising, “Of course I do.”
Now, I’m no dummy. I’ve watched more than my share of police dramas over the years not to see a giant flashing game of connect the dots. So my final question to him was, “Do you not want to play because you are afraid you’re going to get really hurt, or are you saying you want out because – for the first time ever – you have to play in front of strangers?”
He was silent for a moment, so you know he learned his sense of dramatic pause from… someone, probably not me… but definitely someone. It took a few beats but he finally admitted, “The second one.”
That response is, of course, the mom trigger for speech #3265879. “Everyone has to do everything for the first time at some time.” It is by no means one of my better speeches, but it started to ease some of the tension in his shoulders.
I would have had the entire win to myself, saved the day, actually won the Mother of the Year Award that constantly eludes me, except that Justin – never one to be left out in the cold – came into the bedroom and gave his own pep talk. It went a little something like this:
“Everyone gets nervous, Nick. I get nervous all the time. Mostly though I get nervous when I’m walking home with a girl, and I’m crossing the street, and I have to fart, because I never know if I’m going to fart when I step up on the curb or not. But I get over it.”
I’m not certain if I was more upset that he was eavesdropping, or that he felt his farting fears would save the day.
In any case, we watched the rest of NCIS together, Michael Weatherly did not walk through the front door saying, “Honey, I’m home”, and Justin, thank Heaven, did not fart.
Our team, however, did win the game.
A lot has changed since that original post: Justin has become (much to my dismay, but Febreeze’s gain) the self-proclaimed King Of Farts; Michael Weatherly has long since been replaced by Bradley Cooper as the man of my dreams, and the advice is nowhere as easy to give these days, especially when Justin’s input is more often than not, “Can we just sell him or trade him, please?”
Most importantly is that, since that original post, while there is and always will be a bit of fear when trying something new, it is not anywhere near overwhelming for Dominic. The challenges have changed some – he is no longer in football, but Nick has other tests, competitions, and projects he faces. More than once he’s admitted he doesn’t want me to necessarily solve the problem, but wants to just be able to talk about it (he is going to make a GREAT husband one day). Once it has been voiced out loud, the problem doesn’t seem anywhere near as daunting as it does when echoing through his head.
This is one of those moments where my hard work (and Justin’s fart story) from back then – is paying off now. Just wait ’til all of the other lectures start kicking in!!!
What do you do to alleviate your kids’ fears? Do you cue up the ol’, “When I was your age…” stories? Or do you just listen and let them work it out on their own?
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Wendy Syler Woodward, 37, has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and is preparing to go back to college before the end of the year. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler .