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Teetering on Thin Ice–When Friendships Save

There are three words whose perfection and beauty are unsurpassed in the English language:

NO ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.

(What? Did you think I was going to be a sentimental fool and profess something sappy like “I love you?”)

I have been mechanically-challenged my entire life. I will admit it is part laziness, part impatience, part knowing there is a man somewhere to help me and part incompetence. The most part.

Once upon a time, I destroyed our refrigerator’s ice machine. If you missed that doozy of a confession, just know it involved black nail polish and a grinder. And an inordinate amount of dark, goopy ugliness.

I am an ice addict and a day without cubes is like a day without a hit for a junkie. So, I immediately tackled the ice machine with soap, water and even nail polish remover. But most of the unit was unsalvageable. My husband Jamie reluctantly ordered a $50 hunk of plastic to replace it and I waited with great anticipation for the part to arrive. Frustrated, he banned me from buying ice cube trays or bags of ice–assuredly a new form of spousal abuse.

I was thrilled when I finally received the part until I noticed the two most dreaded words in the English language: Assembly Required.

To The Friend I Never Called

Dear Friend,

I’m not even sure you remember that time a few months ago when we ran into each other at the store. Had it been six months, two years, five years since we had seen each other?

We hugged. We chatted. We shared stories about how our kids are growing up too fast. Our mouths gaped when we realized the kids were so much older than we remembered them. It was a lovely ten minutes of my day. I’m quite sure you felt the same.

Our parting words went something like this, “It was so great to see you! What a fun surprise! I’ll call you and we can go out for coffee or go to the park with the kids!”

I don’t know who promised the phone call. It was probably me. And I didn’t call.

On the other hand, maybe it was you who flippantly suggested a phone call follow-up to our incidental meeting. And you didn’t call.

I’m sorry. I’d love to see you again for ten minutes or longer just about any day! But you know what? Our lives just aren’t connected like they used to be and we don’t need to feel badly about that!

Let’s enjoy those times when we serendipitously get to chat in the parking lot at the grocery store or find one another at the same friend’s anniversary party! Some day our paths may travel side-by-side again and we’ll have a blast together.  But for now, let’s not get caught up in making plans that we know we can’t keep.

I love you and I’ll be seeing you.

Your Friend

 Jenna lives in Littleton and loves connecting with friends old and new in parking lots and at parties… anywhere will do! When she’s not hanging out with family and friends she’s probably just “busy.” Lame.

P.S. Have you seen this video that has gone viral? A mom creates a hilarious video to apologize to parents without kids.

How Can I Tame My Son’s Rude Jokes?

Dear Mama Drama:

My ten-year-old son is always cracking jokes and thinks he is extremely funny. The trouble is that his jokes are usually at the expense of someone else. When people respond negatively to him, he acts like they are overreacting and too sensitive.

I think he has some sharp wit beneath the rudeness, but I don’t know how to tap into it. Most of the time he comes off acting like a jerk instead of being funny.

~Unamused Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Unamused:

Ten-year-old boys often use humor to engage socially and, as you relate, they don’t always understand the line between funny and rude. Children (and some adults) also use inappropriate humor to humiliate others in order to feel better about themselves or attempt to elevate their social status. This is also bullying behavior. Additionally, some children do not read social cues well and misinterpret (or miss altogether) the facial expressions and body language of others. Other children don’t understand the basic rules of friendship.

I suggest you start by spending some time assessing what may be behind your son’s behavior.

If it is related to his self-esteem and trying to elevate his social status, spend some time talking with him about how he sees himself. What are his strengths? What are his challenges? How does he think others perceive him? What words would he use to describe himself? If his responses are overwhelmingly negative or overly grandiose, help him to develop a more accurate positive self-perception and find different ways to fit in and feel good about himself.

If it is that he does not understand the line between funny and mean/rude, you’ll need to teach him this directly. Try out different jokes with each other and the family, clarifying which ones are funny and which ones aren’t and why. Watch age-appropriate comedy shows together and take note of times when that line into meanness is crossed or is right on the edge. You may even find a local acting or improv class that can help him hone his wit while losing the rudeness.

If your son truly is not reading the social cues others are giving him and understanding the rules of friendship, help him to learn these. Books, games, and role-playing are fun ways to teach feelings, how to read facial expressions and body language, and the ins and outs of friendships.

A fabulous book that can help your child see the perspective of those on the other end of the joke is Just Kidding by Tracy Ludwig. Two great resources for understanding your child’s friendship style and how to help him are The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends by Natalie Madorsky Elman, Ph.D., and Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D. and Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them by Michele Borba, Ed.D.

Sometimes social and emotional issues feel beyond a parent’s skill and understanding. If this is the case, seek support from your school counselor, social worker, psychologist or an outside mental health professional.

Lisa Vratny-Smith

 

How can I navigate our unruly neighbor child and her screaming mother?

Hi Mamas! I could really use some advice! I’m completely stumped!

(Image Courtesy of Kevin Shorter)

Long story short, my 5-year-old daughter’s “best friend” lives across the street. They are in the same kindergarten class and play outside of school frequently!

I have come upon a rather large issue! Considering the fact that our children play well, are in the same class and live across the street from one another I have become “friends” with the little girls mother. The more I am around her the more I am starting to see we are two TOTALLY different families.

This mother uses yelling as her form of discipline. Not a slight raise of the voice, I mean a red face, veins popping out SCREAM! She also encourages her 2 and 5 year old to say cuss words, then laughs at them.

Mama Drama: Strategies for a Successful New School Transition

Dear Mama Drama:

My eight-year-old daughter is starting a new school this year and I need some ideas to help her with this transition. Last school year was difficult as she struggled with feeling unsupported and misunderstood by her teachers and she often refused to go to school. She also had some difficulties with bullying behavior from her peers, particularly on the playground.

(photo credit)

Understandably, she is anxious about starting a new school year with teachers and peers she doesn’t know. Any ideas you have are greatly appreciated!

~Protective Mama

Dear Protective:

Your daughter will benefit greatly from you being proactive as well as protective. There are many things you can do together to make this new school transition smooth and positive for her.

First, talk with your daughter about her specific worries regarding the new school both with peers and teachers. Make a list and problem solve strategies together. Getting worries out of our head and having a plan for how to handle them can significantly help in decreasing anxiety.

Next, visit the school. Principals and secretaries come back several weeks before teachers and students. Make an appointment for you and your daughter to meet with the principal and have a tour of the school. This is a great time to talk with the principal about your daughters concerns and for you both to ask questions regarding how learning and social difficulties are handled in the school.

If your daughter has an IEP, 504 plan, or other specific needs, be sure to let the new school know. Once teachers are back, contact the staff members who will be supporting these plans and arrange a time to review your daughter’s specific strengths, needs, and supports within the first few weeks of school.

Take your daughter to play at parks in the neighborhood or at the school playground. This will give her an opportunity to meet children from the neighborhood who will be attending school with her as well as to practice social skills with you there to support her.

Read books about bullying to learn new strategies and to help your daughter realize she is not alone in her experiences. Choose one or two strategies she feels comfortable with and role-play different situations so your daughter will gain confidence in using them. Some great books to read with you daughter are The Juice Box Bully by Bob Somson, The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill, and My Secret Bully and Just Kidding by Trudy Ludwig. Books you can use a resources to support her are Words will Never Hurt Me by Sally Northway Ogden, Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me by Michele Borba, and The Unwritten Rules of Friendship by Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore.

If your daughter needs help with other social skills, talk with the school social worker, counselor, or psychologist about a social skills group that can support her in developing more effective friendship skills, assertiveness, and other social emotional skills that will help school be a positive place for her.

Finally, continue to be proactive by meeting her teachers and communicating with them regularly about both positive experiences and concerns that need to be addressed. Teachers need to hear what things are working as well as what is not. Most teachers are comfortable with emailing parents, which can make this less time consuming for all parties.

It can be tricky to find the balance between being supportive and being a helicopter parent. Encourage your daughter to address her concerns with adults in the building as much as possible, but be available to help her do so as needed. Trust your daughter to grow in these skills with your support, but also trust your gut about when to step in and advocate for her.

Share your new school transition and support ideas.

 

Mama Drama: Anniversary Advice Round Up

Mama Drama is celebrating two years with Mile High Mamas!!

We’ve rounded up all of the drama Lisa has covered during that time into a variety of categories to make it easier for you to find that special nugget of information or advice you need.

Keep the questions coming ([email protected]) and remember that we all have our share of Mama Drama, so contribute your advice, ideas, and tried and true strategies as we support each other through the journey of motherhood in this fabulous community of moms.

Be sure to bookmark this page for easy access and share it with all your mommy friends!

Developmental issues:

Articulation Angst – When to worry about speech concerns.

How to Make Love Potion

The greatest thing about love – it’s an innate gift – it lives inside of us and we can, and should, give it freely to others. Appropriate to the relationship and situation, love can do amazing, life changing things. A hug, a kiss, a pat on the back, a helping hand, a kind smile, a word of encouragement, a  favor, a simple note, a special gift, a promise, a prayer…there are thousands of ways we can love someone else, and the most remarkable thing about love is that the heart can not give love without receiving the beautifully divine consequences of unselfishly loving another.