This Is Why Socializing Is Exhausting — Even For Extroverts

Lately, I’ve been into the whole extrovert/introvert dynamic. I’m in love with a very extroverted extrovert and sometimes I don’t think I’m going to make it through this relationship despite being madly in love with him.

That’s a joke, of course; we’ve learned to slide into a happy medium, but there are times when I definitely need to lock myself in a room to recharge, and he has been offended more than once.

He always has the radio blaring. He has a huge circle of friends he’s always asking to join us. We can’t go anywhere without him knowing at least five people. His friends call him “the mayor” because he has some connection with everyone, and he could literally be “on” every second of every day if he had to. 

I’ve always been an ambivert — someone who goes between feeling extroverted and introverted — although I didn’t know it was a thing until I was older and saw the term on the internet. I immediately thought, Oh, there’s an actual name for my personality type! I now know that it’s more than fine for me to tune out every once in a while.

I can walk into a party and feel like I’m all in. I can socialize, I’m fine with heading to the bar or buffet alone and getting what I want. I have no problem making small talk with strangers.

But then…

Something happens to me that has always made me wonder if I’m really just a bitch. I do this thing where I shut down. I get tired. My mouth goes into a straight line and I have trouble focusing and staying in the conversation. I need to be alone to recharge. Many times when I’ve been out for the day or evening, I literally feel it for a few days afterward. 

When I say feel it, I mean I feel like I’ve met my socialization quota for a while. It’s as if I have a switch that shuts off and alters my mood, just enough so it’s obvious to others. 

There have been times it makes me feel embarrassed and insecure just for being, well, myself.

A friend of mine who is very extroverted, but married to an introvert, once told me she got her energy from other people. Her husband explained he felt like other people took his energy away. Oh boy, did I feel that. 

There is a reason people, extroverts and introverts alike, shut down after being around a crowd, going to a party, or even spending one-on-one time with people: It’s tiring. And many times, we probably aren’t aware that socializing is even what’s making us tired.

A study at the University of Helsinki found everyone gets a bit run down after being social around three hours after the festivities were over.

Of course, this depends on a few factors like how long they’ve been out and about and how big the crowd is, but the results are clear — whether you are introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between, being a social butterfly does take the wind out of your sails. Being around people and chatting it up uses valuable energy, even if it’s more subtle than using physical energy by, say, going for a jog or moving furniture. In fact, the study suggests that it’s the frequency of social activities — not the amount of tiredness we get from socializing, which is just about the same in both groups — that distinguishes extroverted personalities from the introverts.

It means that no matter which label we wear, we need a break after hanging out, and that’s okay.

An article in I Heart Intelligence explains, “According to experts, introverts have a less active dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control the reward and pleasure centers of the brain) and reward system than extroverts. Having a stronger dopamine reward system means that extroverts get more excited and energized by the possibility of reward than their counterparts. Hence, extroverts are much keener to initiate a conversation with a stranger or be the last one at the bar.”

So, this is probably why some feel the “hangover” worse than others after being social (I say social media counts, too), and we need to recognize it and take care of ourselves before that feeling becomes even more overwhelming. 

Psychology Today reports, “according to Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, there is no such thing as a ‘pure’ introvert or extrovert. We all fall somewhere on a sliding scale.”

Regardless of how run down you feel after socializing, you aren’t alone. We all need a break at some point — even my very social boyfriend.

We need to stop apologizing for it, and more importantly, we need to stop calling people out and shaming them if they decline an invitation or would rather stay in and read.

Because the truth is, social burnout is real, and impacts us all — even extroverts — at varying degrees. If you need to read a book and pass on that Zoom call or birthday party, then you should. No questions asked.

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This Is What ‘Mom Burnout’ Feels Like

You are probably a lot like me. As a mother, you’ve had days when you slump down the wall and feel like you cannot function, no matter what you try to do or how you try to change your mindset. You cry. You tell yourself you can do better and you are lucky to have kids in your life. Every little thing bugs you and you want to scream and slam your fists on the counter. And as soon as you see a break in the clouds — a moment of silence or a second away — something else happens.

Maybe it’s a spill. Perhaps it’s a tattling child. It could be another dirty diaper that sends you over the edge. Whatever it is, you can’t seem to pull it together and these are the days you know with your entire being that you need a damn break.

But then there are the days your burnout isn’t so obvious. You just feel a little off, a bit tired despite a good night’s rest. You feel forgetful and short tempered even though everything is going as smoothly as it can. 

These are the days we mentally take ourselves down pretty hard because we think, Things aren’t that bad. What’s my problem?

Just because a wound isn’t obviously bruised or throbbing doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Burnout in moms seems to be the same way. It’s not always blaring. We can’t always put our finger on it. There are days when it’s hard to recognize, so we keep plugging away because we are ignoring it or we literally don’t have a choice in the matter. 

We are the ones who see when something needs to be taken care of like no one else can. My ex-husband once told me I could be in a deep sleep and wake up the minute one of our kids moved in bed, or he forgot to lock the door before he went to bed.

Moms don’t get a day off, ever. Even on the rare occasion when we’re out of the house and have someone taking care of all the things (let’s face it, when the hell does this ever really happen?) our minds are spinning non-stop. 

It’s exhausting, and yeah, it’s gonna cause some burnout.

Scary Mommy polled some of our readers to tell us what their mom burnout felt like, and this is what they said:

Sharon S. says that when she’s suffering from burnout, “I have no energy to stay focused and it’s too easy to react.”

Oh yes, I’ve been there a few times already today and it’s not even noon yet.

Gretchen K. reports how different burnout can feel, which may make it hard to recognize. “Can’t focus. At all. And it depends on which type of burnout. When the kids were young, I remember wishing for a non serious type of medical emergency (like appendicitis) that would put me in the hospital for a few days to catch up on sleep. Now it’s more the worry of teens/college students. SO MANY WORRIES.”

Aleksei Morozov/Getty

And the mind just goes and goes which is so exhausting.

Katie K. feels her burnout physically, saying, “It’s physical pain in my neck and shoulders, crying at the drop of a hat and a hair trigger temper.”

So many mental struggles show up in physical ways, and we blame it on lack of sleep without realizing we just need a break.

Scary Mommy also talked via email with Dr. Pavan Madan, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry, the largest outpatient mental health organization in California. 

Madan says, “There are three main symptoms of burnout — feeling physically or emotionally exhausted, not being able to handle usual tasks, and feeling annoyed easily.”

Hello, this is why your shoulders are tense, your head hurts, and you feel like you can’t focus. 

A 2018 survey found half of all parents suffer from burnout — and those results were pre-pandemic. I think now we all feel more burned out than ever.

So, now that we are aware we have it and we know what it can feel like, what can we do about it?

Dr. Madan says, “Burnout can be prevented by having a better balance between family time vs. ‘me’ time for moms, and between hands-on activities vs. screen activities for all family members.”

Having a routine for our kids as far as sleep, meals, and study time “can help children feel prepared for the next activity and avoid some conflicts,” he says.

If you feel like you don’t have time to take a few minutes for yourself and get some breathing room as we so often do, Dr. Madan reminds us it’s important — as it will result in better health and that means we will be better parents. 

Burnout is a serious thing that can impact our lives in many ways. But the truth is, moms don’t get the time needed away unless they are proactive about it.

Ask for help if you need it. Set a routine for your children. Don’t forget to schedule some time for yourself. Even a little bit may go a long way. If you find yourself thinking, I really don’t need to go for that walk today, or I really should say yes even though I don’t want to, remember you are worth it — and your family would cosign. You really are doing a service for all involved, so don’t gloss over it and tell yourself you can wait. 

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When Grandparents Say You’re ‘Using Your Child As A Pawn’

Almost five years ago, I made the decision to cut off my own mother from myself and my children, and since then, I’ve fought tirelessly to uphold parental rights within the courts against grandparents’ visitation right suits (also known as third party visitation right lawsuits). I’ve Googled, I have read article after article — and mostly, when you look this up, you come to the general consensus that parents are evil and use their kids as “pawns” against grandparents or third parties who “just want to see the kids.” There are very few (if any) dissenting opinions, so I decided to write my feelings down.

The ultimate battle cry in grandparents’ rights groups is the complaint of adult children using their children (the grandchildren) as “pawns.” It’s like the grandparents who say this believe that this is a game (as pawns generally come from a game of chess) and they’re being kept from their prize so the parents can win the “game.” Some even say that this is “child abuse” and “elder abuse.” Let’s discuss that, shall we?

From a parent’s point of view who has been accused of such things, I will tell you truthfully that protecting your children from abuse, of any kind, is not using your child as a pawn. Ever heard a grandparent say they’re “so depressed, they need to see the baby to cheer them up?” This is emotional abuse. My child is not your dose of Xanax, lady, and is not responsible for your mental health. There’s also verbal abuse, and sometimes even physical. I’ll say it again: protecting your child from an abuser (or abusive behavior) is not using your child as a pawn.

Protecting your child is literally one of the most primal instincts one can have. If your mother or mother-in-law doesn’t hesitate to verbally lash you, whether in front of you or in private, then why do you think she will be kind to your children? Even if she is related to that child, she has expressed disdain and hatred for (or even “disappointment” in) one of these children’s parents, which literally makes up 50% of that child’s DNA. Again, for the ones in the back: if they hate you, or dislike you, or express discontent towards you, they are frankly saying that they dislike 50% of your child’s DNA. Protecting your child from these sorts of people is not “using them as a pawn.” It’s not a game; it’s your child’s emotions, mental health, and overall happiness.

Now, let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we? You don’t think that the grandparent in question would be unkind or abusive to the child… they just hate you, the child’s parent. After all, that’s why they’re accusing you of “using your child as a pawn,” and even abuse by withholding the child from the grandparent, right?

Well, let’s look up the literal definition of “pawn” as defined by Oxford Dictionary: “A chess piece of the smallest size and value, a person used by others for their own purposes.” By calling your child a pawn, they are straight up saying your child isn’t of much value beyond a bargaining piece.

So, I’ll say what I want to say every single time I see a grandparent accusing a parent of using children as pawns. Protecting your child is not, and will never be, abusive. Abuse runs deeper than physical abuse. And the grandparents know it. How many cut-off grandparents default to saying, “We spoiled our kids rotten, so it’s our fault she’s a brat” or similar? That right there tells you that you are protecting your child from emotional and mental abuse — that they’ve bestowed not only on their grandchildren, but on you both as a child and an adult.

It is parental instinct to protect your child from harm, and that is what you are doing.

Furthermore, if there happens to be a grandparent reading this and shaking their head in disagreement, let me ask you something to make you think a bit: if you love your grandchildren, why not be respectful to their parents and work on a relationship with them first, before bringing their children into the equation? And if your mind instantly jumped to insults or excuses on how “horrible” your son or daughter or son-in-law or daughter-in-law is, I encourage you to seek therapy — because you certainly don’t need to be around your grandchild while you’re actively disliking a person (their parent) who makes up 50% of their DNA.

And the first thing you should probably discuss with your therapist? Why you are comparing your grandchild to a game piece of little value.

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As A Single Mom, Owning My Own Home Is Exhausting But Worth It

Every Spring, I look around my wet yard and see the piles of leaves and a spongy lawn that makes me want to live in a place where I don’t have to clean up the yard. Then the fantasies about calling a realtor and walking away from it all loom in my head.

There’s an irrigation problem I’ve never gotten fixed properly, and as soon as I rake the oak leaves, they all seem to come back within a week.

When it snows, which it does often, I need to plan out a huge chunk of time to clear the driveway, walkway, and shovel the snow off the deck so it won’t collapse (it’s already happened to me once).

When my garage door stopped working, I felt like an idiot calling around to different places to have it repaired. The people on the other end were asking me all kinds of questions so they could troubleshoot as best they could so they’d know which parts to bring, and I was lost. I might as well have been trying to decide on a foreign language. 

When my furnace stopped in the middle of the night last winter, it took hours before I talked to someone who could help. And when I smelled gas last spring, I was in a panic when a guy arrived from the place that delivers my gas. He was a little too touchy-feely for me as he asked if I was a single mother while he watched my kids through the window watching television.

These are the moments when I want to cry “Uncle.” These are the reasons I have fantasies about selling my home and renting so I don’t have to worry about calling three companies to get a price on my roof. 

There are days I wake up and see a lock is broken, or my taxes have gone up, or none of our outside spigots work right, and it feels like it’s too much work for one person.

There’s no one to talk about home repairs or finances with. I can’t lean over the island to get my partner’s advice on whether something should be fixed or replaced.

But then…

Then I come home after a run and see the pear trees I planted when my son was four, in bloom. The sense of comfort that spreads over my heart is all I need.

When I drop my kids off at their father’s house on a winter’s night and come home to see my porch covered in glittery snow and the way the front lights bounce off the door I’ve painted at least a dozen different colors, I know that I am home.

As a little girl, as a young woman, as a mother, I didn’t think I’d be a solo home owner. I never thought my name would be the only one on the mortgage. Owning a home was something I always thought I’d do with someone I loved and trusted.

We’d pick out a new refrigerator together when the old one died. We’d figure it out together if the roof needed to be replaced or the furnace went. We’d fight while painting the kids‘ rooms. We’d push each other to do the raking just to have it done because even though we’d both hate it, we’d want our yard to look nice. Then, we’d reward ourselves with a burger and shake afterwards.

I’m incredibly lucky to be living in the home where my kids have lived their whole lives. When my ex left, he wanted that for his kids, and we were able to work it out.

But I knew it would come at a cost. And a high one at that. I didn’t know about the money worries or the sleepless nights or the hard labor. I mean, I knew they would be there, but I didn’t know what it would feel like to experience them. Your deck boards don’t start rotting when you are good and rested with enough money in your bank account to snap your fingers and have them replaced.

I’ve worked incredibly hard to keep my home. I’ve done it for my kids, but I’ve also done it for me.

I’ve learned these past four years of being a solo homeowner that I can trust myself to make the important decisions, and that’s enough. 

Also, this year after raking my whole yard alone, I took myself out for a burger and a shake, and it was pretty damn fulfilling. I sat there looking at pictures of my kids with my home in the background, knowing with my entire being that every ounce of effort is so worth making — even if I do have to do it on my own.

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New Study Might Offer Tips On Getting Kids To Eat Fruits And Vegetables

I’ve tried a number of strategies to get my children to eat fruits and vegetables. I’ve tried forcing them, which usually ends in tears and gagging. I’ve tried bribing them with treats, which I will admit, works better, but at the same time, I cannot help but feel like it’s counter-productive to bribe my children to eat carrots by tempting them with Skittles.

Each day I make my children pack a fruit or veggie of their choosing in their lunch, and each afternoon it comes back home uneaten. We send it to school again the next day, and it comes back, until it goes bad, and we pick out something new. This is the life-cycle of produce in my house.

I suspect there are a number of you nodding your heads. According to researchers at the University of Eastern Finland “children eat inadequate amounts of vegetables, fruit and berries across Europe and elsewhere, too.” So it’s not just me, or you, or America. Getting kids to eat those greens is difficult worldwide. So take comfort in that. The struggle is universal. But these researchers wanted to find a way to overcome it.

child holding blueberries
Libby Penner/Unsplash

They studied the consumption of vegetables, fruit and berries, and the family’s home food environment, through a survey taken by parents. The study looked at 114 kindergarten-aged children and their parents in Finland. Raw and cooked vegetables and fruit and berries were analyzed separately.

What did they find? Well, I hope you are sitting down because it might be a tough celery stick to swallow (see what I did there?). According to the researchers, “maternal example was associated with the consumption of raw and cooked vegetables as well as with the consumption of fruit and berries. Paternal example, on the other hand, was the strongest for cooked vegetables.”

So what they are saying is that if mothers eat fruits and vegetables, it will have an impact on their kid’s fruit and vegetable consumption. For some reason, if dad eats fruits, the kids don’t care. But if he eats veggies, those little people get all excited about it, and load their plates with peas.

Okay, it’s not quite that simple.

Researcher and Nutritionist Kaisa Kähkönen from the University of Eastern Finland said their findings show that “teaching children to eat their greens is not something mothers should be doing alone. A positive example set by both parents is important, as is their encouragement of the child.”

child and parent with fruits
Przemek Klos/Reshot

Looking at my own home, my wife and I are both vegetarians. But to be real, Mel is a true vegetarian, eating a regular assortments of fruits and veggies, while I might as well be a carb-etarian. I don’t eat meat, but I don’t eat all that many fruits and vegetables either. For the most part, I live on breakfast cereal, crackers, and rice. Beans are okay. You get the idea. It’s not the healthiest, but I’m comfortable with it.

However, according to this study, I’m going to have to eat more vegetables because my kids obviously find me inspirational in this area. Considering I’m 100% sure they have never found interest in anything I do or have accomplished, eating vegetables might just be my one shot.

The study also showed that dinner is the most important meal at home when it comes to teaching children to eat vegetables. The families participating in the study often ate dinner together, highlighting the role of parental influence on the development of children’s dietary choices and preferences. Thus, if you are going to eat vegetables, do it at dinnertime when your children are watching.

child holding apple
Bonnie Kittle/Unsplash

I’d also recommending making a big deal out of it. Perhaps tell them about how you fight crime in the evenings, but you couldn’t do it without your zucchini power. Wait, that sounds bad, but you know where I’m going with this. As for fruit, snacks were the most important time to set an example.

On the whole, the study found that “many families still eat less vegetables, fruit and berries on average than would be beneficial in view of health promotion. Cooked vegetables and berries were the least eaten food items among the study population.”

I would certainly love it if I could get my children to eat more fruits and vegetables. Not only for their health, but because it would limit my own parental guilt, and stop making me paranoid about my kids’ teachers judging their poor eating habits. I’m going to do it. I’m going to bite the bullet (or in this case, baby carrot), and be a better example. At least when the kids are watching. Who’s with me?

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When Adoption Doesn’t Go As Planned

As I sit here at 45 years of age, I think of how blessed I have been. I have an 11-year-old daughter. I cannot express in mere words how much I love her. I have a husband whom I love and to whom I have been married to for 21 years. I’m a full university professor and head of my program. I’m happy and fulfilled. Yet, something in me still feels incomplete. I long for another child to be a sibling to my daughter and a partner in our family’s adventure along life’s path. It is not a feeling of sadness or loneliness, but desire for another human being to join our family.

The journey for a second child has taken us down many roads — natural fertility treatments, miscarriages and failed adoptions. Nothing prepared me for the sense of loss following my obstetrician’s report that she could not hear a heartbeat, and the fear of the scheduled DNC to follow. Losing a baby in utero can be a gut wrenching emotional trauma. People don’t tend to speak about miscarriages in terms of death. But what else is the spontaneous stopping of a human heart?

I thought I was a bit more “immune” to the sting of loss when we suffered our first adoption setback. At this point in my life, I had not only had the miscarriage but lost my mom suddenly and watched my dad recover from a serious injury. Loss had become woven into the fabric of my life. However, as many know, previous loss does not prepare one for future loss.

In February 2018, I was coping with the reality that my father was getting re-married. She is a lovely woman who takes good care of him. However, watching my dad walk down the aisle and say “I do” to another woman was also saying another goodbye to my mom. My mom was no longer my dad’s only wife in this life.

Pixabay

The sense of confusion and loss I felt at the wedding was swept away, however, when we got a call that a birth grandmother had chosen us to raise her daughter’s infant son. The biological mother had just started college, and felt like she was not ready to parent. She wanted to be at a different point in her life before taking on such responsibility.

We were overcome with joy. Kevin was back at home, when we got the call, and Ashley and I were still with my dad following the wedding. Kevin got the first flight out and Ashley and I drove 14 straight hours to meet our son/brother. We drove so as to have a car to bring him back in, not wanting to expose his young ears to the change in pressure of the airplane or his young immune system to germs.

The day after we arrived in town, we picked him up from his grandparents’ house. The grandparents were lovely. We spent several hours with them and the baby. The grandmother and I both cried. They were in many ways saying goodbye to their first grandchild, and they too were feeling a sense of loss and confusion. We had planned an open adoption, but still, they were giving their grandchild to us. We then packed up Sean in his car seat and drove back to our hotel. We were in shock and elated.

We had to wait almost two weeks to get ICPC, the intrastate adoption agency, to finalize papers. We spent those two weeks bonding as a family. The Winter Olympics were on, so while Ashley and I watched figure skating and skiing with great intensity, Kevin napped with Sean on his chest. Ashley got up with me several times a night to help with feeding and diaper changes. We took long walks around the city, and ordered obscene amounts of room service. We were so happy as a family.

Getting back home proved trickier than planned, as Ashley had to be back in school sooner than we had permission to take Sean out of state. Ashley and I boarded an early flight back home one morning while my mother-in-law simultaneously boarded a flight down to Kevin and Sean. A day later, a judge signed the ICPC papers and Sean was free to come to his forever home. Kevin and my mother-in-law drove 16 hours to bring him home.

Once home, Sean became the center of attention. However, six weeks later we got a call from our attorney. His biological mother wanted to raise him. It was a call that made my heart stop and tears flow freely down my cheeks. Loss was once again rearing its ugly head. Two days later we were meeting the same lovely grandparents we had over a month ago, and saying goodbye to Sean. This loss was incomprehensible to my then 9-year-old. She suffered more than any of us. Her capacity to love was still so naive and uncomplicated.

Johanna Ljungblom/FreeImages

My daughter and I have always been very close, so what I was not prepared for was her reticence to talk about having Sean leave our family. Her teacher was loving and supportive. She encouraged Ashley in having her and her entire class write notes to him about their time together. It felt to me as if she was more comfortable speaking to others about what happened than me. I worried that she blamed me for his returning to his biological mother.

What I learned was that loving silence can be the most supportive gesture when a child (or anyone) is in need. Once I stopped asking Ashley how she felt about the experience and just  sat with her, she opened up about her sadness and disappointment. We were able to talk about how sad and lonely we felt.

It took time to overcome the feelings of loss and to grieve. As much as I wanted to take away those feelings from Ashley, I could not. Only through allowing her to feel those emotions and giving voice to them were we able to come back together.

My fifteen years as an attachment researcher had not prepared me for the complexity that truly is attachment. Attachment involves not just one or two primary caretakers in early life and partners in later life, as we often say in the research world. Attachment is a system that incorporates individuals across our social networks. No matter how hard we try, we cannot stop experiencing insecure attachments with others or protect our children from the same. Life and love are too complex to be fully measured through quantitative studies or neurobiology. We can try to find those protective factors that will shield us and our children from pain and loss, but ultimately only through resilience and compassion will we really understand attachment.

We remain committed to adopting our second child. At this point, we hope to adopt a baby girl due April 27th. Continuing our adoption journey has been painful and difficult at times but nonetheless fulfilling. Having Sean in our life made us realize our commitment to this journey!

Update: Our daughter was born early, and as of yesterday we became adoptive parents to a baby girl. Our family is over-the-moon happy. The adoption journey has been one of ups and downs for us, but in the end we have become part of two amazing families, and been blessed with a second daughter. 

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What It Feels Like When You Have A ‘Constantly Misbehaving’ Kid

I got a call from my son’s school last week. As soon as I saw the number come up on my phone, my body was tense and my palms started to sweat. 

He’s always been my wild one. He came out kicking and screaming. As soon as he was strong enough, he started throwing furniture in his room when he was upset. His father is the most laid-back person I know. My other kids are relatively calm. And while I’m the most anxious person in our family, I certainly don’t have a temper or treat people with any disrespect. 

But my son has always had an issue keeping it together in group settings. He likes to do things to get attention. He can be impulsive and doesn’t like to quit if he hasn’t accomplished his mission.

These calls from school happen almost once a week, and I’m still not used to it. This time, the school was calling because my son thought it would be a good idea to throw an apple down the stairs in between classes. He’s already on the “no pass” list, which means he’s not allowed to have a hall pass to use the bathroom or get something from his locker because he’s shown he can’t handle it.

He has a sheet signed at the end of the day with scores from each teacher. He’s scored on a scale of one to four, one being the worst kind of behavior, four being the best. If he’s late to class, he automatically has to sit with a teacher during the 20 minutes of free time they get a day. 

His father and I have already had three meetings with his teachers this year to come up with a game plan to get him on the right track. We all sit in a room for an hour to discuss it, but nothing seems to help. 

“Did he hit anyone?” was my first question. After I heard he hadn’t, I was able to relax a bit, but I know this drill. My son will be punished, he will turn it around for a bit, then it will happen again.

I team up with his teachers by supporting them, having a talk with my son as soon as he gets home, and taking away all his devices and friend time for a few weeks. The punishments have become second nature, but clearly, I need to find a new solution because it’s just not sticking. 

But it doesn’t end there. You don’t have the luxury of giving your child a consequence and knowing it will fade away when you have the “bad” kid — the one who’s constantly getting into trouble and engaging in annoying behavior that disrupts other people. You know it will probably come up again. And you are utterly exhausted. 

I literally drop him off at school and say to him, “Please, I have a lot of work to do today and I better not get a call. You can hold yourself together.” 

When the phone rings and I see it’s the school calling, I get angry. Like, very angry. The kind of anger that seems to be simmering at the surface and doesn’t completely settle. I have to use every muscle in my body to pull it back because if I don’t handle this in a calm way, nobody wins.

I talk to my kids about not caring what others think, but I do care what others think about how my child’s behavior affects their children. I care very much. 

It’s another trigger for my anger because my son doesn’t understand that he isn’t just hurting himself, the teachers, and his classmates, but he’s hurting me and other moms who have to navigate this. He has a lot of friends and a lot of peers who follow his lead — kids who wouldn’t probably do things like spread Nutella on a locker if a boy like my son wasn’t telling them to join him.

Being the parent of “that” kid is terrifying because you don’t just think about how they are going to get through the day or school year, you worry about their future in a whole different way. 

You wonder if they are going to outgrow this and how much they are damaging their chances for other opportunities. You worry about whether they are going to lose friends because the other parents may throw their hands up and say, “No more.”

But I have to tell you, being the parent of “that” kid, regardless of how much they misbehave, makes you feel helpless and like you are failing. 

At this point, I feel like I’ve tried everything I can try: strong consequences, tough love, extra love and attention, therapy, a change in diet, lots of talk and time together, and he still doesn’t have a strong enough urge to change it around.

He’s been tested and observed. He knows he’s loved. He’s well taken care of and has friends at school, not to mention siblings who adore him.

The only conclusion I can think of is he just doesn’t care enough because he doesn’t understand the impact of his behavior. I just hope nothing too drastic will have to happen before he changes his tune. 

The post What It Feels Like When You Have A ‘Constantly Misbehaving’ Kid appeared first on Scary Mommy.

My First Grader Was Diagnosed With Dyslexia

About this time two years ago, my sweet six-year-old son decided he wanted to hand-make Valentine’s cards for his first grade classmates. I was surprised and pleased that he passed up the lure of all the commercial cards, so we got some construction paper and got crafty.

I gave him a printed list of his class roster and he dutifully copied their names onto the cards in his oversized handwriting. He worked so hard on each one.

I volunteered to help with the class party and when it came time to distribute the cards, the kids zoomed around the room in excitement—but not my son. He tugged on my shirt and when I leaned down to him, he quietly said: “Mom, can you help me pass out my cards?”

“You can do it yourself, buddy! Everyone else is,” I replied.

He shook his head “no,” and said: “I can’t, Mom. I don’t know how to read their names.”

It hit me in that moment just how much my son was struggling to learn to read, and just how helpless I felt to do anything about it. I had to hold back tears.

My son is exceptionally bright. At the end of a year in public pre-K, he ranked in the 99th percentile on the screener for our school district’s gifted program.

I was so excited for him to start elementary school. I had loved school as a kid. Learning came easy for me, and I was certain it would for him too.

When he struggled to learn “sight words” in kindergarten, I was surprised. I had been reading to him every day since he was born—literally. He loved books. I was confident we had done everything necessary for him to be “ready to read,” as they say.

family posing for photo in front of mountains
Courtesy of Janel Lacy

So I was beyond frustrated that when I started having meetings with school administrators about what could be done to help him, the conversation always turned to what we were doing to support him at home.

It took every ounce of self-restraint and decorum in me not to scream: “We’ve done it all! Stop putting the blame on me and teach my kid how to read!”

I went outside our school district for help. We talked to our pediatrician. She gave us a referral to a specialist at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital here in Nashville, and we finally got an answer: My son has dyslexia, along with about one in every five kids.

The prescription of sorts from the Vanderbilt physician was structured literacy, which is systematic phonics instruction. Repeated exposure to words, like the daily reading we did together as a family, wasn’t enough; my son needed to be explicitly taught how to connect letters and groups of letters to the sounds in our spoken language.

Before I knew about structured literacy, I can remember practicing his reading with him and coming upon a word that didn’t seem to follow the rules of basic letter sounds. I had no way to explain it. I just thought some words don’t follow the rules. But in reality, I just didn’t know all the rules.

As my son’s reading skills and confidence began to grow, I started to question—why aren’t we teaching all kids systematic phonics? After all, our written language is just a code for spoken sounds, and how can kids “decipher the code” if they’re not taught?

After researching on my own, I came to learn about the science of reading, how our brains associate letters with sounds and that statistically about 40 percent of kids do learn to “decode” on their own. But that means 60 percent don’t, including kids like my son who struggle the most.

As I have reflected on this fact, I believe it’s no coincidence that about 65 percent of kids in the United States are not proficient in reading, based on the National Assessment on Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. The same percentages bear out here in Tennessee where I live.

For the majority of kids who aren’t able to pick up the skill of reading through osmosis, the rest of their education is hampered as a result. Their very potential in life is hampered. This is a national crisis.

This is not the fault of parents. It’s not the fault of teachers either. It’s our systems at large that need to change—from the colleges of education that prepare our teachers, to the companies that make reading curriculum, to the school districts that adopt it.

Our state just made a big step in the right direction—proposing legislation and funding to ensure early elementary grade teachers have training in the science of reading and curriculum that supports it. I hope the legislation is passed. I hope our school districts embrace it. They must, if they truly want all kids to succeed.

If your child is struggling to learn to read, ask the instructional leaders at your school how they are teaching reading. If the instruction is not based on systematic phonics, tell them that’s what your child needs. It’s actually what all children need.

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More Proof That Single Moms Are The Real MVPs (And The Kids Are Just Fine)

I was raised by a strong, badass single mom. She raised my sister and me on her own while maintaining a stressful job as a special education teacher. Things were not easy for us growing up. We struggled with money. Our house wasn’t always neat. My mom was often stressed and exhausted—I remember her collapsing on the couch each afternoon when we came home from work.

But my sister and I always had what we needed. And despite a sometimes strained relationship with our dad, and a court custody battle that was traumatic for all involved, our mom was our rock. Her love was unconditional, she was steady and reliable, and she would do anything she could to provide the kind of life me and my sister needed.

My sister and I are both fully grown, have undergrad and graduate degrees, and are kicking ass at our careers. That strength my mother modeled definitely rubbed off on us.

I have many friends who are single moms. I see them for the incredible, strong AF warrior women they are. But sometimes they don’t see themselves that way. They wonder if they are “enough’ for their children. They worry that they don’t have enough time and energy to spend on their kids. They worry about money and providing all the opportunities that two-parent homes seem to.

The thing is that yes, the struggle is real when you are a single mom. But the truth is—and I hope all my single mama friends are listening—being a single mom isn’t going to screw up your kids in some way. Two-parent households aren’t the only way to raise amazing children. And even roadblocks such as financial struggles don’t matter as much as you might think they do.

Showing up, providing unconditional love, being emotionally available and stable—those are what matter most to kids, and single moms are as capable of providing those things as anyone else.

It’s not just me who thinks so either: there is research to back up the notion that kids raised by single moms fare just as well as kids raised in two-parent homes. Awesome, right?

For example, a 2017 study conducted by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology found no difference in terms of the parent-child relationship and child development in single-parent vs. two-parent homes.

This study looked at single-mother-by-choice households, meaning mothers who had made a conscious decision to raise their children on their own, often using sperm donors or other fertility treatments. Fifty-nine single-mothers-by-choice households were compared to 59 heterosexual two-parent homes.

Several very promising conclusions were found. There were no major differences in parental emotional involvement or stress between the two types of households. There were also no discernible differences in their children’s behavior.

“Children in both family types are doing well in terms of their well-being,” Mathilde Brewaeys one of the presenters of the study, told Science Daily.

Brewaeys also shot down the outdated (but still very prevalent) notion that you must have a man involved in the family unit for optimal child development.

“The assumption that growing up in a family without a father is not good for the child is based mainly on research into children whose parents are divorced and who thus have experienced parental conflict,” said Brewaeys. “However, it seems likely that any negative influence on child development depends more on a troubled parent-child relationship and not on the absence of a father.”

So, this is all pretty encouraging. But what about single moms who don’t come to the whole thing by choice—and what about kids who come from divorced homes rife with parental conflict? These sorts of situations are all too common. Thankfully, though, there’s research pointing to the fact that single mamas of all types are capable of raising wonderful, well-adjusted children.

A 2004 study from Cornell University looked at some longer-term effects of single motherhood. The article was specifically examining the academic performance and behavior of tweens and teens raised by single moms. These kids, aged 12 and 13, had been raised by a single mom for several years, and came from various ethnic backgrounds. The study researchers looked at families from white, black, and Hispanic homes.

Their findings were extremely positive and encouraging for single moms everywhere.

“Overall, we find little or no evidence of systematic negative effects of single parenthood on children, regardless of how long they have lived with a single parent during the previous six years,” said Henry Ricciuti, professor of human development at Cornell, in a press release.

The researchers did zero in on a few aspects that increased the likelihood of raising a well-adjusted and academically proficient child as a single mom.

“The findings suggest that in the presence of favorable maternal characteristics, such as education and positive child expectations, along with social resources supportive of parenting, single parenthood in and of itself need not to be a risk factor for a child’s performance in mathematics, reading or vocabulary or for behavior problems,” Ricciuti says.

The researchers from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology also emphasized the importance of social networks for single moms and stressed that single moms should not hesitate to reach out for help and assistance.

“A strong social network is of crucial importance,” Brewaeys remarked. “So I would recommend that all women considering single motherhood by choice make sure of a strong social network — brothers, sisters, parents, friends of neighbours. And to never be afraid to ask for help.”

I would venture to say that single moms are not only capable of raising kids who turn out just fine, but kids who thrive and get shit done. I know that I personally was inspired by my mother’s example of getting up every single day to go to work and take care of us—despite how hard it was and how completely exhausted she was.

She didn’t always see her strength then, but I did. I am grateful to her everyday, and am in awe of all the invincible, hardworking, loving single moms out there. You are doing amazing and your kids are going to be just fine.

The post More Proof That Single Moms Are The Real MVPs (And The Kids Are Just Fine) appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Was That Impatient A-Hole We All Love To Hate, And I Learned A Valuable Lesson

I was running late to a dinner with girlfriends last week when I came upon an unexpected tollway. For those of you who are lucky enough to live in a place where you don’t have to stop and pay up during a road trip, let me explain: In order for you to keep driving, you have to stop in the middle of the highway and hand over some cash to a person in the booth. They pop up everywhere in my neck of the woods and if you don’t have the money to keep going, everyone behind you knows it and gets their panties in a knot as you fill out a long form promising to hand in your payment within a few days.

It’s happened to me a few times. It’s embarrassing, my titties start sweating, and I feel horrible for the cars behind me. Meanwhile everyone behind me is beeping and calling me names because I’m making them late.

Obviously, this is never intentional. No one sets out for a joy ride saying, “Hey! I wanna piss people off today! I’m gonna hit some tolls with no money while blasting rap music and have myself a splendid day!”

Oh, but how soon we forget what it’s like when we are on the back-end of someone else’s misfortune. And by “we,” I mean “me.”

Last week, I was running late to a dinner with girlfriends I hadn’t seen for a while. My brain forgot what it was like to consider what someone else is going through before I go to impatient-town.

The car in front of me that stopped to pay the toll was taking a long-ass time and I was getting antsy. Then, I was getting right pissed. Things escalated and I started slapping my steering wheel and rolling my head back in distress. I crept closer to their bumper for effect. I somehow thought the madder I got, the more it would speed them up.

Guess what, folks? It didn’t work. It did, however, make me more mad (and hungry).

I caught myself tangled in the middle of an asshole-spiral after taking a look in the rearview mirror to see how many cars were behind me to fuel my fire more. Only I didn’t notice the cars. Instead I noticed the reflection of an ungrateful, angry woman who was contemplating plowing through the toll on two wheels.

I hated what I saw.

I was being the pecker head on this fine evening because I felt it was more important to get to where I was going on time than to practice some patience and grace. Oh and by the fucking way, look how much better I am than you because I have my fucking toll money, motherfucker. 

I didn’t stop to consider what this person may have been going through on this day — something I constantly try to practice and teach my kids. 

Then I remembered this happening to me (more than once). I remembered the panic. I remembered the sweating titties. I remembered how horrible I already felt and I didn’t need the pecker heads behind me reminding me I couldn’t find my toll money.

I pride myself in thinking about others and what they might be going through because life is hard. Apparently I forgot these life lessons that night because I was hungry for some steak and wine with my girlfriends.

Being an dick is one thing. But being a dick to someone who has been in a situation you’ve struggled with yourself is a whole other level of dick-hole-ness.

I realized the nice dinner I had the privilege of buying and eating would not get up an walk away. I have good girlfriends in my life who will wait and understand if I’m late.

I thought about the fact this person in front of me may be a new driver, like my teenage son.

It crossed my mind they might not be able to afford the toll.

The memory of my son taking my nice stack of quarters and throwing them all over the damn car during a temper tantrum when he was four made an appearance. I had to bend over and dig for them while people slammed on their horns and thought if they practically tapped the back of my car while waiting for me to pay the toll, it would make me move faster.

I checked myself in that moment, and I can tell you the shame I felt for creeping closer behind the driver in front of me and throwing my body about in hopes they’d see my frustration made me feel more shame than the times I didn’t have the damn change myself.

Finally, the car moved along. When it was my turn to pay, the toll employee let me know the person in front of me paid for me because of the inconvenience.

OMFG, I’m such a miserable asshole, I thought.

So the only thing I could do to deasshole myself was to follow suit and pay for the person behind me, and remember to not act like a spoiled brat when I’m faced with this situation again.

It was the reminder I needed to have some damn patience with people in situations where I feel my life is way more important than anyone else’s, because it’s not.

I will take a breath, remember a time I’ve struggled before I go bonkers, and treat people in a way that would have helped me when I was in a tough spot.

I promise. 

It was also a reminder I can be a jerk sometimes and it will be something I’ll need to work on forever— especially when I’m hungry.

So if you see me being an inconsiderate, impatient bitch, don’t be afraid to set me straight.

Please and thank you.

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