Waking the Walker

A mother's quest to survive her son's "zombie" years – aka his teens.

Tag: teenager

Fear of the Unknown

We all experience fear in some way throughout our lives. It’s a normal human emotion. With every stage or rite of passage in our lives, apprehension can set in, it’s all part of the growth process.

As children our fears tend to be simple and easily eased by an adult. As we age though, the things that make us pause become a bit more serious. These are the things that are tied directly to our future.


A wrong decision could change the course of our lives forever, which is why I completely understand my Son’s apprehension when it comes to driving.

By our teens, fear of the unknown can be extremely polarizing, preventing us from moving forward and possibly stunting our emotional health. To be honest, polarization can happen at any age, and again, we’ve all probably experienced some level of it at some point in our lives. As a parent though, it’s my job to help guide my Son through these polarizing experiences so he can move forward.

The question is how to do this without seeming pushy or prying?

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Waking a Walker is an Evolution

Like most kids, when my son was “little” he couldn’t wait to be “grown-up,” but the closer he gets to turning 18, the further he seems to regress at times. Not that 18 is really “grown-up,” but it’s a major turning point in all our lives, the completion of one cycle and start of a new one. It is most definitely scary and exhilarating at the same time. Playing Dress-Up

My son cautiously tiptoes around the whole idea of high school graduation and starting college. As a matter of fact, having just turned 16, he’s not even in any hurry to learn to drive. I do however think some of this is due to all the horrific videos they show in Drivers Ed. He is definitely fearful of getting behind the wheel, which in all honesty I am grateful for.  It’s a huge responsibility and takes a lot of focus, both of which my “walker” can struggle with at times. Although, to his credit, so far this school year (knock on wood) he’s doing well at keeping up with his work and getting good grades. And after the endless marching band season this was not always that easy.

We have touched on the subject of college and a major, but it has never been as serious a subject as it will be from this point forward. Not only does registration for classes for his Junior year need to be dealt with this month, but his first official meeting with CAP of PA College Aid, specialists in college planning, is later this month. This is the real deal and will start the process leading to the inevitable cross roads he is trying so hard to avoid.

Life just got real scary. The walkers are circling the house and it’s time to go on the offense if we want to survive.

Walkers Circling House

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“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Viktor E. Frankl

I had good intentions of dedicating this month to an attitude of gratitude. My son and I were going to play a daily round of what I dubbed “Bob’s Blessing Assessing,” styled after Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) from “The Walking Dead.” Him and Sasha Williams (Sonequa Martin-Green) would play the “good out of the bad” game in an effort to lighten the gloom of the zombie apocalypse they were struggling to survive in. She would state something that in their situation was definitely a negative and he would reply with a way to turn it into a positive. For example; she would say “danger around every corner” his response, “never a dull moment.” or “hot sun beating down on you,” he’d reply, “gorgeous tan” and one of the best, “no privacy,” his reply, “captive audience” followed by him giving Sasha a kiss. Which brought a smile to everyones face. So, this little game did help to lighten the load in not just their lives, but those around them.

Bob and Sasha

Bob and Sasha

My thoughts were if they could find a blessing in anything while trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse, my son and I could surely be able to find sunshine in anything that brought us gloom in a non-apocalyptic world. The problem was, we found it hard to find the gloom. In reality, even if we complained about something or were upset about something that occurred during the day, we never considered it enough of a negative that we would have to dig deep for the positive. We knew it was something that would pass and not worth giving that much energy. As I look back at our efforts, I’m quite pleased because we learned that despite our grumbling at times, we both know we are truly blessed and nothing can take that away from us. Not even the daily parent/teen struggles.

red flagThis exercise also made me realize that my son might actually be understanding that some things happen for a reason and that some of the negative things in our lives are there to teach us lessons. That maybe, just maybe, they are a sign that we might need to change how we do things or think about things. My theory was quickly ripped to shreds at the first sign of trouble with school work. As many of you regular readers know, my son can challenge me when it comes to his time management and organization of school work. My June post was all about this, which prompted me to bring in a private tutor to help with his study skills, which needed to be fine-tuned in order to survive his high school years. In general, my son gets good grades, but has the occasional not-so-great ones, which I’m OK with because I know we all have off days. It’s the not-so-great final grades that raise the red flag, especially when things seemed to be moving along at a steadily improving pace. My son was implementing some of the time management/organizational and study skills that the tutor had introduced, plus between the three of us we created a daily check list for my son to use to help ensure he doesn’t overlook any assignments, an issue that has bitten him in the back end more than once already.

As the end of the first marking period of his freshman year in high school approached, all signs were pointing to a positive outcome across the board. His academic grades were all A’s and high B’s as well as in band and engineering. That was until the final project for engineering was handed in and my son found out he had completely misunderstood a major detail to the assignment. The teacher was generous and gave him the opportunity to rework the section that was wrong, but he would only get half credit. My son did this, but, it only pulled the final grade up to a “C” because he already had a really late assignment at the beginning of the year. I did not get upset with my son, because, number one, it was not a core academic class. Number two, a “C” is a passing grade and shouldn’t keep him from making honor roll. And, number three, it was not only the gloom, but the light. Had my son actually pulled out the rubric for the assignment as he was working on it, he would have realized what he thought was OK to do was very much wrong and this would have prevented this not-so-great grade from happening. This major detail opened the door for a lesson to be learned, thus the light. When the teacher lays out the assignment in detail, use that as your guide and you won’t have major issues, don’t rely on your memory. It turns out that this is the very thing that caused problems with my son’s final science project in eighth grade, which was the catalyst to bring in a tutor.
Positive vs. Negative
So, here we are again, two steps forward and one step back. Despite my son’s advancements with his study skills and taking ownership of his actions when his decisions are far from the best, the “C” in engineering and 2 other not-so-great grades in a test and homework, threw him into a funk. He became “Mr. Negative,” stating he’ll never change, so why bother. He missed the point that these things will continue to happen until the lesson we need to learn is learned. Instead of these incidents being a catalyst to change, they became an excuse to just give up. Read the rest of this entry »

The Optimistic Realist Wingman

It may be two weeks since my son and I got back from our TWD Summer Road Trip, but we’re both still riding high on the joys of the trip. Hard to believe a 53 year old single Mom and her 14 year old son could travel 860 miles from PA to GA and not want to rip each others throats out like a starving walker. Add to that, driving over 250 miles around GA and then the return trip to PA. Sure we had a few hiccups, but nothing that took away from the pleasure of our adventure. Maybe it’s because we don’t often get to just hang out together. It’s usually all about the day-to-day tasks at hand, especially during the school year. Or, it could be because we were both equally excited about touring the towns where our favorite show “The Walking Dead” has been filmed. More than likely, it’s a combination of the two. Personally, I feel that this trip has become another turning point in my relationship with my son. And a positive one at that, but the proof is in the pudding.100_3413

Most importantly, we did it. After months of talking and preparing (booking hotels, ordering tickets and collecting directions) it seemed like a far off fantasy that would never come to fruition. Add to that the fact that many thought I was crazy to consider driving that far for just a couple days, let alone driving with my teenage son. Not me though. I believed the TWD bond we have was strong enough to over ride any issues that could arise. Plus, I figured the thrill of exploring new territory would keep us both in good spirits. Turns out, I was right about both. When we got back to PA, we looked at each other with a huge glint of satisfaction in our eyes and both said “We did it!” We worked as a team, and accomplished our goals and then some.

I preach about team work all the time, but, the importance of the need for it at home just doesn’t seem to sink in. It was a different story on the trip though, my son found out very quickly how important it is when traveling on the overly crowded highways and byways of the good ol’ USA. Especially in the areas where the speed limit is 70 miles per hour. My unresponsive, not very helpful at times walker became my wingman. And a good one to boot. He helped to keep an eye on traffic when I was merging or passing, and, was the navigator, which he thoroughly enjoyed. In addition, despite having directions, we did need to consult the atlas and maps on my phone in a few instances, which without his help would have meant pulling off the road, which would have added to the already long trip, which neither of us wanted.

Me and my Wingman

Me and my Wingman

He also learned a lot about the responsibilities of driving. Seeing first hand what it’s like to drive at high rates of speed on crowded highways made him realize that you really have to have your wits about you behind the wheel. I do hope this experience pays off when it comes to him learning to drive in two years. We were almost clipped by more than one tractor-trailer during our travels and this really shook him up, me too, but, I already knew the dangers that the overworked and under rested drivers of these metal menaces traveling at high rates of speed can cause. In all honesty, they are the reason I don’t take more road trips. They take the pleasure out of the trip. The close calls did make us both more vigilant when passing these beasts though. My son even put his video game playing aside to be my extra pair of eyes, which, for any of you who have read previous posts know, is a huge feat. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a Matter of Trust

With third marking period grades in, it’s obvious my son has pulled himself up and out of the ashes of last marking periods troubling report card. Yes, even kids with gifted IQ fall off the good grade wagon, especially as the subject matter gets more challenging and they’re use to not having to put in much effort because school work always came easy. This issue has caused my son to hit the wall quite a few times in middle school. Add to this the issues of poor planning, not willing to ask for help or distractions, particularly of the electronic type. As with all kids, when my son applies himself he does quite well. The problem is getting him to apply himself when his mind keeps wandering to the world of Minecraft, Pokemon or Skylanders. His desire to live in the electronic world, whether it’s simply surfing the great wide web or playing video games, far exceeds his desire to give more than the minimal when it comes to his school work. Not that he doesn’t like school. He loves learning. His mind is a sponge. He just doesn’t want to do the work that comes with it. He wants to learn the info, process it and move on. Especially anything that involves writing. Go figure. A kid who loves to read and whose Mother loves to write, hates writing, even though he has great potential. Sorry, I’m meandering. As you can see, this subject brings me great frustration and is well worth a post unto itself.

Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_9031682_an-image-of-a-three-children-mesmerized-while-playing-video-games.html'>cteconsulting / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Zombified Video Game Players

Back to the troubling grade issue. My sons poor report card lead to a complete ban of all things electronic. Mom became the keeper of his laptop, iPod Touch, wii remotes, and DS’s. (He has 3 – regular, 2D and 3D. Why? Who knows, when he went into a long dissertation about why he needed the 2DS in addition to the other two, my eyes glazed over and I began to drool like Patrick from Sponge Bob. My only response was, “Whatever, it’s your money.”) Sorry, meandering again. During this ban, he was only allowed to use his laptop for school work and when I was present. There was much whining at times, particularly during his down time. He would infer there wasn’t anything to do. At that point, I would tell him I would get rid of all his Legos, art stuff, books, guitar, African drum, board games, etc… I’m sure you get my point. My goal was to hopefully have him reconnect with the things that motivated him before video games entered his world. Note, I tried hard to keep these “brain sucking” devices out of our home. My son was 7 when he got his first game system, a DS, which in gamer years is old. The wii didn’t enter our home till he was 12 and I was hesitant because I had already seen addictive behavior rearing it’s ugly head when he played the DS. All the other devices were purchased, in the past two years, with money he saved from birthdays and Christmas. That in itself is a worthy trait, it’s just too bad the money is usually spent on electronics. Read the rest of this entry »

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