Sharing and Support

November 10, 2010

Last night was another one of those times when I really wished that my social event would end up canceled.  I could not be the canceler, because I had a crucial role.  But man, was I just swamped and exhausted.

Things have stayed crazed at work, and I am still looking forward to the weekend that will be work-free.  Maybe it will be this weekend … but I’m not sure.  It wasn’t last weekend.  It wasn’t Halloween weekend, it wasn’t the weekend before Halloween.  So I guess it’s been a month since I had a solid weekend, and we traveled to my parents’ house, so it wasn’t necessarily restful.

Yesterday was particularly crazed at work, and while most things wrapped up by 3:30, other things cropped up at 6.  even though I had to leave at 6:30.  So when I finally left at 6:50, and raced home (hard to do when dependent on Boston’s T trains …), and wolfed down some shrimp stir fry while changing out of a suit into jeans, and barked at WD about what snacks he bought for me to bring along … I was really wishing I didn’t have to be somewhere by 7:30.

But that changed quickly.

The meeting I went to was one of parents in Mouse’s 7th grade.  It wasn’t organized by the school, but rather is parent-run.  We started it last year, when the kids were in 6th grade, with the intent of having a forum to talk about our kids’ growing older and maturation process, and also to allow parents to stay “in the loop” about what our kids are up to.  (All parents of the grade are invited – it is not a selective group.)

So if Mouse comes home and says “Mom!  all my friends are allowed on Facebook!”  I can give her that “I know you’re not being honest” look and say “that’s not what their parents tell me!” And she will be thwarted, and will look down at her shoes, embarrased that she was caught in a lie, and she will stay off Facebook.*

Topics we’ve addressed include: “dating” (we had a spell of that during 6th grade; my daughter was definitely involved), homework, technology, screen-time limits, allowance, increased independence (i.e., are they allowed on the accursed T?  Who the hell knows why they’d want to go on the accursed T …), bullying, boy/girl friendships (NOT dating), after school supervision, and more.

For a while last year, it felt like we had the same set of parents every time, and most of them were parents of girls.  This year, though, different people are coming, and more boys are represented.  Last night’s discussion was pretty robust, and I think we all enjoyed the conversation.

In order to make the discussion meaningful, we have a set of “guidelines” – when the group first started, it made the meetings feel a little stilted, but the goal of the guidelines (which, from what I’m told, are the standard guidelines for most support groups) is to keep conversation on track and appropriate.  We are all very busy, and while it’s fun to get together and chit-chat for an hour and a half, and we could probably do it for longer, that’s not what we’re seeking through the establishment of this group.  So we have a facilitator each time, and we have pre-set topics, and we watch the clock.  Beyond that, the guidelines just work to remind people about confidentiality, and about respectful conversations.

I was the facilitator last night.  I so didn’t have the energy for it, going in.  But once we got going, I was happy to be there, and loved being a part of the community.

And I highly recommend similar groups for people with pre-teens and teens.  I was involved in the formation/organization of the group for both my girls, and think it is so valuable.  When it was Lemon’s class, I often went feeling clueless about the stage she was at, how I was supposed to respond to concerns of a middle schooler, etc., and appreciated those in the room with older children who could talk about coming through the other side of the nasty middle school years.  Now it’s Mouse’s group, and I am one of those with an older kid, and I do feel a little more secure in the handling of a tween (even though my girls are so night & day, I don’t know why).  Some people feel that because they’ve been through it before, they don’t *need* the group.  But I find the community so important.

I also find it very valuable that my kids know I have the community.  They know that I know their friends’ and classmates’ parents, and that we talk.  They may be less inclined to sneak around, in light of that knowledge.

There is also value in listening to other parents and hearing the way they do things.  If a parent says every. time. that she/he is fine with the kids gathering in her basement to smoke pot?  Yeah.  I’m glad I know that.  If there are parents who seem to not be aware of the fact that the kids are growing and maturing and think it’s FINE to leave kids with chemistry home alone at the age of 13/14/15?  I’m glad I know that.  It will inform my decisions when I am faced with “mom, can I go to ____’s house?”  I may ask different questions, and I may have a different answer.

Yeah, I’m glad I went.  I’m also glad I got home early enough to have some fun conversations with my girls & husband before they scurried off to bed.  We also had fun polishing off the brick of Brie that WD sent with me, and dripping bits of fig preserves on top, and generally enjoying the yummy-ness together. Although, I got so little of the Brie, I kind of wish my kids had less refined pallets …



* In reality, Mouse isn’t interested in Facebook, or the computer at all, really.  Her only interest is all the free apps on the iTunes App store,  especially those that make farting sounds.  No, she is not an 8 year old boy.  She is a 12 yo girl.



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