Part three: Relating to my increasingly independent child.

The final part of this three part series is by far my favorite. It also came as a complete surprise but when I tell you that if fuels the conversations AJ and I have on a daily basis I am not kidding. It has been the greatest gift of this age. Talk about utilizing the time we already spend together to the fullest!

One of the biggest things I learned while teaching, (thank you Ms. Pittman!), was that as kids start to become fluent readers (third grade and beyond) it is extremely important for them to still be read to.

Even knowing  this fact, we started skipping book read  ALL THE TIME. One reason for this is that AJ was picking the books and I wasn’t excited about them (honestly how excited am I supposed to be about the fifth Captain Underpants book in a row?) SO instead of book read I would let him watch a second show – which HELLO!!– he was never going to pass up.

So I came up with a rule – we could each pick one skip night a week. And then I came up with a better process for finding a book we would both like – I would find three books I thought we both might like and then he could choose one of those.

I first noticed the change this approach took one weekend when we were about finished with Hatchet and we decided to go for a hike.

For two hours we talked about the book, how different things we saw made us think of different parts of the book. What our favorite and least favorites parts of the book were and how we thought it might end. It was so much fun!

Deciding if this rock would work for shelter like in Hatchet. Verdict? Probably not.

Later while reading Holes, we were stuck somewhere waiting in line when AJ commented that he was a thirsty as the boys in the book digging in the sun. What could have been a boring wait in line turned into a conversation about the camp and how terrible we thought it was. And EVERY SINGLE TIME we go to the dog park we get to rehash parts of our favorite dog books, Shiloh and Because of Winn Dixie.

Use book read before bed as a time to create lasting memories with your kid. You know you and your kid best – find books you’ll both love and enjoy returning to time and time again.

It’s best to read books two grade levels above your child’s reading level. This will help them improve their comprehension.

If you need some help finding books at the right level for your child Scholastics Book Wizard is a great place to start. Your child’s teacher can also help! 

Your kiddo is growing up and it’s natural that his interests will grow with him and maybe away from your own and that is perfectly fine! You can find ways to maximize the time you spend together – such as music in the car and enjoyable book reads at night. And you can create ways for him to share in some of your favorite activities as well.  

Read part 1 here! 

And read part 2 here!


Part two: Learning to relate to my increasingly independent child

Last week I introduced this series by sharing how I realized my son and I were not spending much time together as he grew more and more independent. Today I’m sharing two ways I have found that have helped us grow closer again.

Look for more opportunities to say ‘yes’.

An article in this Friday Finds really sparked this idea. In general I started to examine if my “no”s really could be “yes”s, and honestly most of them could be. But one major thing I started asking myself is: can a no become a modified yes? For example AJ always asks to play on my phone in the car. Instead of saying “no – let’s talk” or “sure” and turning on the radio I suggested he be a DJ and play us some music.

This approach lead to non-stop conversation about what songs we like, why we like them, how it’s nice to play some of my favorites in between his favorites. Car rides have quickly become a favorite past-time! I do however get unlimited veto power on songs–because a girl can only listen to so much Whip and Nae Nae.

Do you already have certain times that you and your kid spend together by default? Can you find a way to turn that time into a favorite for you and your child?

Make spending time with mom (or dad) a “special” event.

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It is impossible to talk about how we spend our time without discussing the use of technology. Listen, this blog is a no judgement zone and technology is an important but touchy subject in parenting these days.

I’ll just put a disclaimer in here that we do NOT have it figured out and provided my kid is healthy and happy I don’t put too many limits on electronics. That said – we do have one major tech rule in this house: one electronic at a time. Basically this means that, no, you may not have a show playing, youtube going on a computer, and be playing on your iPad at the same time.

Almost every rule I have for my kid, I try and apply to myself. Which is why we have one big exception to this rule, sports. If you are watching sports on the TV, you may also have one other electronic. Because of this rule (and the exception to it instead of AJ being downstairs watching something while I’m in my room watching something else, he will often end up sitting next to me while I’m watching sports. He probably knows more about women’s professional soccer than any other boy his age – but honestly it’s so cool. He has favorite players and he asks me about them all the time and makes sure not to miss any of their games.

AJ will often get to stay up a little past his bedtime if he’s watching sports with me. I cannot stress it enough, make doing something you love doing (watching cooking shows if you’re not into sports, staying up to play your favorite games, etc) feel like a special treat for your kiddo!

Keeping an eye out for opportunities to turn a ‘yes’ into a fun shared moment and making time spent together extra special have helped AJ and I find new ways we enjoy spending time together.

Next week I’ll share the most surprising activity that has brought AJ and I even closer together recently.

Read part 1 here!

Read part 3 here!


Learning to relate to my increasingly independent child

AJ and Kelly together outside in front of a barn
When AJ first came to live with me he was five years old, and I was a pre-k teacher bursting at the seams with ideas to interact with kids his age. We played with chalk, blew bubbles, brought shaving cream into the shower, painted with water, built legos, and watched the few shows I introduced to him – mainly Wild Kratts because well, it’s the golden standard of kid TV.

As our lives began to evolve, AJ matured and grew and I quit teaching, I woke up one day and realized AJ and I really did not do a whole lot together anymore.

He would be downstairs watching some Disney show I could not even stand listening to (perhaps a future blog on our struggle with kids shows) and I would be up in my room reading or watching sports. Occasionally he would ask me to play a nerf war or pokemon game and I would either begrudgingly agree and do my best to fake enjoyment or suggest something like catch outside which had like a 50% success rate.

Aside from a few games of catch, a couple of walks, and our scheduled sports, we no longer enjoyed the same things.

I totally understand that as time passes kids become more independent and want to do less with their parents. However I felt we had grown apart too much and wanted to find ways to bring us back together.

In this blog series I will share three of the ways I have found to rebuild our shared interests and capitalize on the time AJ and I spend together. Here’s a little preview of what’s to come, stay tuned!

Look for more opportunities to say ‘yes’ – Not only will your kid think you’re cool for finally saying yes! But you can look for opportunities to use those yes moments to turn average moments into great ones!

Make spending time with you a “special” event! – Do you have any rules that can be bent if it means togetherness? Thinking he got away with something is a sure way to make memories of being together more fun.

Be purposeful in choosing the books you read together.  – Selecting books that can spark conversations when you least expect it has been my favorite way to reconnect with my kiddo.

Read part 2 here!

Read part 3 here!


Why I listen for ‘remember when’

An everyday walk turned into a ‘remember when’.

You guys, this parenting thing is HARD. It’s hard even on the best of days – when you’re well rested, well fed, and emotionally content. On the less than great days it can feel so defeating. My admitting that it’s hard doesn’t take away from any of the joyful parts – and we know there are many – it also won’t make it any less hard, but hopefully it can make you feel less alone.

Among the many things that make parenting hard, the one that is a huge struggle for me is balance. How do I balance my kids needs and desires against my own? They don’t always live in opposition but they occasionally do. If I feel like I need 60 minutes to myself in my room, how does that balance my child’s need to have me sitting next to him while he builds legos or his desire to have me play catch?

I don’t feel like every waking moment my child and I are together we have to be engaged. Similarly it isn’t fair to him if in all of our time together my phone is in my hand. (Y’all I’m trying to break the habit, I really am!) Before I became a parent I had strong beliefs about things like screen time, beliefs that in my current reality are just unreasonable and in past realities were plain laughable. A single parent in school full-time? Let’s be real, my child was lucky to be fed and read to – ok it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t good either. We’ve recently entered a new season of life, one that’s a little more relaxed, a little more peaceful.So now I am in the process of examining our day to day.

It’s not that I’m hoping to increase the quantity of time AJ and I spend together necessarily, but I do want more quality time. I’m looking at our interactions and asking, how can I up the quality of them. I have had so many ideas swirling around in my head – a well thought out pinterest activity perfect for instagramming everyday? YES!… no.. I have so much respect for parents who pull these things off but it isn’t me. By the time I’ve compiled the list of things we’d have to find or buy to accomplish the pinterest worthy activity — I’m already bored and burnt out. When I sat and really thought about the few times I’ve actually managed to get an activity to the kitchen table, AJ and I have had fun. But it’s never been an activity that gets talked about months later.

Speaking of activities that get talked about later, when I really stopped and listened to AJ and the memories he brings up later on – you guys it’s so simple:

“Remember that time we made our own pizzas together?”

“Remember when we went on a walk to the shopping place and I jumped off that ledge?”

“Remember when I helped with the laundry and we played that game where I was the king?”

“Remember that time we watched a movie and we made the fancy popcorn and s’mores together?”


AJ making pizza for dinner.

So many of his favorite memories have come from the times I’ve simply made more of an effort to include him in the activities I would be doing anyway. Maybe you can relate, but if I’m able to cross of the things on my to do list, I’m more relaxed and happy spending time together. What I hadn’t realized however, is that like all kids AJ also gets boosts to his self-worth when he feels like he’s contributing to the household – and let’s face it, I have not figured out a sustainable way to manage chores. The past week I’ve made more of an effort to ask AJ if he wants to help while I do [insert mundane chore here] and sometimes he says “no” but sometimes he says “yes” and maybe it takes an extra five minutes to accomplish an activity but it is so much more fun when we do it together and I love that we’re creating new “Remember whens.”

I truly believe if I hadn’t noticed and started listening for the “Remembers” coming out of AJ’s mouth I’d still be in the kitchen cooking by myself. Stewing in guilty feelings that I wasn’t at the table creating indoor sand castles with a nine year old who would quite frankly rather be rowing himself down the alley with a skateboard and a stick.