A Wasted Summer
Dear Ask Micah,
Summer just started and my son is already wasting his! He sits inside and reads or watches TV or plays his damn Xbox. I try to get him to go outside and do something with neighborhood kids and he won’t. When I was his age you couldn’t get me to come inside on a summer day. It’d be dark and you’d hear moms all over our street yelling for their kids. He should be having that kind of summer. Any suggestions besides just unplugging everything, cause then he just reads? I think it’s too late to enroll him in something.
Leave him alone. Stop trying to push him outside until you fully understand the reasons why he is choosing to spend his summer in solitude. Maybe he is tired and just wants to chill out by himself for a while. Kids these days are often overscheduled and have too many obligations. I don’t know how busy your son may be during the school year, but perhaps this summer he is enjoying a little freedom of not having to be anywhere, see anybody, or do anything.
However, there could be another thing going on here too. You say that there are neighborhood children around and he is remaining inside. Have you lived in the neighborhood long? Does he know these kids well? If not, then he may feel awkward and shy about inserting himself into their established social network. You could help with that by throwing a neighborhood BBQ, bringing those families and those kids to your house where they get to know your son better through the course of the party.
If he does know these kids and still never seems to hang out with them, there might be a reason. Your son may be depressed and retreating from the world a bit. Other than just wanting to watch TV and play games this summer, has he shown any symptoms of depression or perhaps having been bullied? How is his personality? Has he changed any over time? Has he grown darker and more sullen or isolated himself any? If so, maybe school wasn’t all that great this past year, and he was being tormented by classmates. It’s almost always more than one. That could explain his avoidance of the other kids in your neighborhood. They could be in on it, or just be witnesses to it, and he just wants a summer free from any reminders of the embarrassment and powerlessness.
I realize I am jumping into a territory that you didn’t ask me about, but I think you should be aware that it is a possibility. The best thing you can do is just stop trying to force him to go be Huck Finn and let him do his own thing during his summer of freedom, while quietly you play Nancy Drew. Ask some parents you trust if they will subtly mention your son to their kids and see what they have to say about what others think of him. Try to set up some situations where your son and you are having serious chats about stuff. Talk about your feelings on issues and reflect on your childhood some and see if you can get him to talk. It’s easier to get a kid to reveal something secret if you first reveal something they never knew about you. Open up a new line of honest communication and see if he’ll talk to you if something bad is happening. If nothing turns up, and he doesn’t seem like he’s depressed in any way, then just write it all off as he wants to spend a lazy summer. I still see nothing wrong with that.
If you feel like he needs some exercise and outdoor time, then spend a Saturday with him hiking at Oak Mountain, or walking the zoo, or the Botanical Gardens. Or drive out to Noccalula Falls and hike down to where the falls hit the river. If the family takes an outdoor excursion, then everyone will get exercise and build family memories. Other than that, let him spend his vacation whichever way he enjoys the most. His mind needs to recuperate and recharge before school restarts, and he knows how he wants to do that.
Does Mother Know Best?
How do you keep an opinionated mother and an equally opinionated mother-in-law from asserting their unsolicited advice at every turn when it comes to how I am raising my children?
Mothers will always keep the advice flowing. You just have to ask yourself how much does it actually irritate you. Does it bother you enough to say something and hurt their feelings or embarrass them? You take that risk when you have a conversation about it. Are they a big help to you with your children? Do they babysit, or pick them up for you, or help pay for any of their activities? Weigh very carefully what they do for you versus what they say. There is a risk of them getting bent out of shape if you tell them that their advice isn’t welcome, so make sure you have nothing to lose beforehand in case they get mad and a spat ensues.
Then, you might want to also make sure that they do not have valid points. Sometimes mothers of grown children aren’t as stupid as we think they are. Every once in a while they are right. Do these women have valid advice? Honestly, the first thing I thought when I read your question was what is this woman doing that gets BOTH her own mother and her mother-in-law riled up enough to start telling her what she should do? You need to at least consider what they are saying and ask yourself if you are making some parenting mistakes. You may not be, but for BOTH of them to be riding you makes me wonder: what you are doing?
If you really need these two women out of your business, just tell them both that you appreciate the fact they love your family enough to try and offer advice, but you really know what you are doing. Tell them that you prefer things to play out your way, and if you get stuck, you will come to them. Until then, they need to just trust you and watch silently. Try to be soft spoken, sympathetic, and respectful. Most importantly, when you tell them this, keep in mind how you would want your own child to tell you the same thing. Because in a few years, your kids will be adults, probably with kids of their own, and you are going to open your mouth and spill unsolicited advice just as well. Once you have spent almost two decades guarding and protecting your child, seeing to its nurturing and its necessities, navigating it through life’s twists and turns, correcting and rewarding appropriate behaviors, it isn’t possible to turn that switch off in your mind just because they grew up. So, think about that and how your own mom navigated you through life and how hard it must be for her to see you in any other light other than the girl she is responsible for. Have that idea in your mind when you talk to them. That will make your words come out much nicer and gentler.
Dear Ask Micah,
There was a position opening at my work that I really wanted and I was more than qualified for. My boss led me to assume I would get it when we were finished working on a big project he needed done. I finished the project and he gave the position to someone else. His excuse was he couldn’t spare me from my current spot because I get things done. So I have been penalized for doing a good job basically. This was the only foreseeable opportunity for advancement for me in this company. I have decided to seek employment elsewhere. My question: Once I have a new job and leave, is it wrong for me to get a little revenge and spill some secrets I know about him? I don’t care about burning bridges, I just want some good old fashioned payback.
Normally, I’d tell you to walk it off, get over it, and not cause a stir. But since you don’t care about burned bridges, I offer this advice instead…When life closes a door and forgets to open a window, wreck the room.