A parenting win

I’d like to take a victory lap on a parenting challenge we had the last few weeks. Isaac in particular was quite stressed out about the trip to Knott’s that culminates the 5th grade year. We couldn’t get him to explain what was stressing him out, so it was a puzzle to know how to help him. Instead he told us over and over, “I just don’t want to go! Ok?”

Photographic evidence Isaac is tolerating Knotts.

Spoiler: he did go and the photo we got from the principal shows he’s having a great time, as we expected he would.

Be a student of your child

We heard this advice from our pastor, Bob Drummond. The idea is you should observe your child and figure out how he or she responds to and thinks about the world around them. We know Isaac pretty well and narrowed down his fears to a few possibilities:

  1. He’s been getting teased lately by other 5th graders. They claim he has COVID[1] and invented the “Isaac touch” game. If you’ve read or seen Diary of a Wimpy Kid you might recognize it as a variation of “cheese touch”. He doesn’t help matters by being a physical child who can’t seem to help from touching other people (mostly their hair).
  2. Relatedly, he’s struggled with friendships this year and I suspect he was worried about being lonely.
  3. We haven’t been to Knotts in a really long time. When we had passes, the twins were riding the Snoopy rides. The rides for older kids and adults can be intimidating.
  4. He’s been asking to stay home from events because he’s addicted to YouTube. A few months ago I cut the internet on our TV from 1 am to 9 am so that he wouldn’t get up in the middle of the night and watch. It’s helped his attitude, but he often complains he doesn’t get time to watch TV.[2]

So there’s a lot of overlapping reason he didn’t want to go. As it turns out, all of these played at least some factor.

How we addressed his unspoken fears

Dealing with teasing has been hard. Isaac isn’t particularly mature—at least compared to Kathryn. He responds in counter-productive ways and, honestly, enjoys teasing other people as much as he dislikes being teased himself. We’ve talked to him about how he can handle it better (talking to adults at school, explaining how it makes him feel, walking away, etc.) but he seems unwilling or unable to take our advice. At this point I’m ready to call it for this year and work with him to make middle school better next year.

So that he’d have a friend to be with at Knotts, I suggested he find a buddy. Scouts is all about the buddy system, so I figured that would be a good way to help him feel more comfortable and less lonely. I asked him to tell me who he might ask and he gave me a few names. When we talked at the end of the day, he said his friends didn’t want to go either.

I was getting pretty worried he’d miss out when Kathryn started stressing out about the rides. Her teacher hurt his Achilles tendon and she wasn’t sure he would be walking with her group. That meant she wouldn’t be able to sit with him while the rest of the group rode roller coasters. She hit upon the idea[3] to watch some videos. She stuck this note on my monitor:

Not the best handwriting. It says “Remind Kathryn to watch roller-coaster videos”

And then I had a stroke of genius that comes to even the most dull parent from time to time. I found a vlogger on YouTube who recorded his trip to Knotts right after it reopened from COVID. Then I had both Kathryn and Isaac watch it with me. Between the excitement of the guy on YouTube and Kathryn talking about being worried about throwing up, Isaac started to brag about the rides he’d go on. I saw the moment he changed his mind about Knotts when the YouTuber shouted “Send it!” right as the coaster accelerated down the first decent.

When I picked them up that afternoon, I overheard Isaac bragging about how he was going to go on one of the more intense rides (Silver Bullet). On the way home, he told us his friends were going after all and they were in the same group. I can’t prove it, but I wonder if getting Isaac excited helped him get his friends excited too.

This morning I asked them to give me some reviews of the rides and food. Giving Isaac a mission has proved to be a good motivational tool for him in the past. We’ll see in a few hours if it worked today. I can tell from the photo above that he’s having a good time with his teacher. Hopefully he’ll learn to express his fears in the future so I won’t have to just guess.

  1. I think this is because he’s missed some days because of his stress, staying up too late and a perpetual cough that we think is allergy related. He’s the only person in our family who has not tested positive for COVID. ↩︎

  2. Sadly, this is far from true. He watches plenty of TV. ↩︎

  3. I think Joy might have suggested it? ↩︎