For the Love of Lists

FRIDAY 

7:30 am – make sure the kids are out of bed

8:00 am – drive the kids to school – MAKE SURE THEY HAVE THEIR LUNCHES!

3:30 pm – kids come home from school

SUNDAY

9:30 am – drop B off at soccer game (NOT PRACTICE FIELD!!!)

10:30 am – drop R off at bus

11:30 am – soccer team meeting and lunch

1:45 pm – pick up T. Drive to improv class. DON’T BE LATE!

No, this is not a couple of pages ripped from my calendar, it’s part of a list I am creating for my husband so I can leave for the weekend for the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop and know that my husband will NOT FORGET TO PICK UP OUR SON FROM HIS SOCCER GAME. I should be packing or practicing my wittiest lines or at the very least reviewing the weekend schedule but, no, I’m making lists…in bold and mostly in caps.

I like lists. Lists make me happy; they keep me organized and I love the feeling of running a line through a finished task. I don’t, however, like making lists for others.

It makes me cranky.

Even though the list I am currently drafting is more for my benefit then my husband’s, every time I need to make him one I get a little annoyed.

Shouldn’t my husband of 21 years, the man who has lived in this house for the entire length of our children’s lives, know WHAT TIME THE KIDS GO TO SCHOOL?!

(A couple of years ago he tried to drop our then middle-schooler off at the elementary school.  I don’t note which their schools on my list even though I am tempted…)

I know I’m not alone. I know that I am not the only mother who takes these steps before she leaves her children in the care of their significant others. Perhaps not with the intensity that I do though…

I have one friend who claims that she can just leave and her husband will figure it out. That might be true but she will never really know. Before she leaves, she arranges the carpools and the sitters and makes sure her kids have somewhere to go after school just in case their dad forgets when the kids were going to be home or that they needed a ride to baseball practice.

She orchestrates her kids’ schedules just like I do, the only difference is she skips the list and gets other moms and/or neighbors involved as backup.

I guess I could stop whining about the lists and just skip them all together. Really, what’s the worst thing that could happen: the kids would be late for school or my youngest would get stranded at a soccer game?

That won’t happen.

My kids know what time they are supposed to be at school.  They will remind my husband (or hound him depending on how late they are running) and my husband will drive them—or they will walk or get another ride. And my youngest will not be left on the soccer field because there will be other mothers there who will notice him sitting alone on the field and will make sure that he has a ride…that is if he doesn’t call his dad first.

No, the worst thing that could happen is that they will call me.

Yes, it makes me feel better that someone knows where my kids are and where they are supposed to be but it also makes me feel better that I can ignore the frantic texts asking me where the soccer game is or what time track practice ends?

It’s on the list and I, will be out.

 

The Truth About Parenting…and Dogs

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My oldest child was born during the Stone Age of Parenting.

Way back in 1996, when he was born, the Diaper Genie was a new-fangled gizmo and Pottery Barn Kids was a pipe dream for those parents who didn’t want to decorate their children’s rooms in glaring primary colors. There were no YouTube videos to show me how to properly swaddle my baby or give him a bath; parenting blogs—those now ubiquitous havens of compassion and commiseration—were non-existent; and the parenting section in my local bookstore consisted of a couple of shelves of paperback books shoved in the back of the store.

How did we survive, you ask?

Well, we did have multiple copies of What To Expect the First Year sent to us by well-meaning friends who knew we needed some guidance but we also had my mother, my mother-in-law, aunts, uncles and friends who offered first hand accounts of how they had weathered the new baby storm armed with nothing more than a burp rag and a handful of Cheerios.

They rarely offered unsolicited parenting advice and when they did it focused on how not to coddle your kid, as in: “If he doesn’t want to eat what’s in front of him now, he will when he gets hungry. Stop making him a special meal!”

Sage advice.

But, as my son aged and our second child was added to the mix, the amount of available information about how to raise our children began to grow as well.

I no longer had to seek advice from someone I knew—I just had to ask Google.

Even when I didn’t actually want advice, though, I couldn’t escape it. Everywhere I looked there was always some article, study, or blog post telling me what I could be doing better or, more often, pointing out what I had already done wrong and leaving me with the impression that there was no way to fix the damage.

For instance, I was recently thrown into a tizzy by the Atlantic Monthly article entitled, “The Overprotected Kid.” Naturally, I was compelled to read the piece, what with the words “kid” and “overprotected” in the headline (“overprotected” being code for “parenting failure” two words I find unable to tear myself away from).

Somehow an article about creating a different type of playground that would allow kids to experience “independence, risk taking and discovery” turned into how I robbed my now teenaged children of the ability to take “reasonable risks,” which stunted their healthy childhood development and will ultimately result in their inability to leave home and have happy and productive lives (my take, not the author’s).

It was easier when I didn’t have a clue.

Of course, I could just stop reading lifestyle magazines and avoid parenting websites, but I seem to stumble on parenting pieces in places I would not normally have expected to find someone spewing parenting advice—the front page of The New York Times, the business section of The Wall Street Journal, even People magazine!

If I had been bombarded with all of this info before I had kids I may have written off the parenting gig and just bought another dog. (No one has accused me of being a sucky dog owner…yet).

But, alas, we can’t return to the Stone Age so we have to adapt. I could disengage from all social media, avoid the Internet and don blinders to avoid eye contact with parents who want to discuss the latest new parenting study – a suggestion proposed by Sarah Miller in her satirical New Yorker piece, “New Parenting Study Released” or…I could treat my kids like I treat my dog.

Because, although there are plenty of things I could teach my dog, I don’t view his inability to learn something as an indictment of my dog training ability. I also recognize that my dog’s inability to fetch will not have repercussions for his future. Even if he doesn’t learn to get my newspaper he will still lead a happy life…asleep at my feet, a tummy full of dog treats.

We should all be so lucky.

 

 

 

18 Things My Kid Can Do Now That He’s 18 (But That Doesn’t Mean That He Should)

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My oldest son’s 18th birthday was quickly approaching and he kept talking about all of the “perks” of being an adult: voting, unrestricted driving, buying lottery tickets.

I, on the other hand, started to obsess about the perils: arrests, dangerous sports, permanent scarring (aka tattoos).

I gathered my info and wrote about it here: http://www.manilla.com/blog/help-my-kids-are-almost-adults/

He and I discussed the five points – well, I talked and he half-listened because he is 18-years-old and he thinks he is invincible. Then the night he turned 18 I presented him with $20.00 for lottery tickets and the following list:

18 Things You Can Do Now That You Are 18

(But that doesn’t mean that you should)

  1. Buy A Lottery Ticket
  2. Vote
  3. Get a Tattoo or Body Piercing
  4. Serve on a Jury
  5. Sky Dive or Bungee Jump
  6. Change Your Name
  7. Donate Blood
  8. Buy a Car
  9. Rent an Apartment
  10. Enlist in the Military
  11. Buy Cigarettes
  12. Drive All Night
  13. File a Law Suit or Sue Someone
  14. Get a Job Serving Alcohol
  15. Move out of Your Parents’ House
  16. Sign a Legally Binding Contract
  17. Work Full-Time
  18. Be Tried and Convicted as an Adult

I saved the best for last.

Dear College Admissions Officers

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Dear College Admissions Officers-

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to make a plea for my kid to get into your school. I am submitting an application for you to complete for my consideration of your school.

See, if I’m going to sell myself to the devil in order to help pay for my son’s education, I think I have the right to make you impress me.

Yes, we’ve visited the schools, attended the info sessions and reviewed the websites to make sure that you are a good fit for my kid but really, is that enough?

I know that you are going to put on your best face to appeal to me and my kid. You will have the best-suited kids give the tours and sit on the discussion panels but we all know that those kids reflect the top 5% of your student body. I want to see the other 95%. Do all your students have double majors and triple minors and have they all started their own companies/written a novel/cured a disease?

Really?

Sure, you could argue that you don’t need my kid – there are thousands of kids who would happily take his spot. That is why I’m petitioning every parent of a future college student to include this application as part of the process going forward.

Don’t be intimidated by the questions. They are quite simple. In fact, many of them are very similar to the ones that you asked my son to answer on your application so, yes, they may seem a bit familiar*. This is designed to make it easier for you and, more importantly, to explain what you were thinking when you wrote the question asking a 17-year-old what part of your strategic vision most appeals to him.

Please review the application questions carefully. Any misstatements will be held against you. Also, should your word count exceed the stated word limit your application will be deleted and you will be mocked.

  1. Please describe in 100 words or less what a real dorm room is like using at least four out of the five senses (bonus points for using taste). Please do not describe the dorm room that is used on tours, you know, the one decorated by Bed, Bath and Beyond and unoccupied by an actual student.
  2. Please explain why your campus food service is now limited to fast food chains and how you feel that three meals a day at Panda Express and Jimmy John’s will provide adequate nutrition for my child. Feel free to include medical journal articles in support of your answer.
  3. My family’s strategic vision promises to make my children competent members of society and to cultivate skills to enable them to contribute to society without asking family members to clean up after them. Please describe, in 300 words or less, how providing laundry service instead of forcing students to do their own laundry will promote our vision.
  4. Name one dish you would prepare for my family if we were invited to dinner at your home?
  5. Tell me your favorite joke and explain how telling me a joke will make me want to send my kid to your school.
  6. Do you have a scholarship for students of Eastern European Jewish/Greek Orthodox descent whose grandparents were in the scrap metal and/or restaurant business? If not, why not?
  7. Will my kid get a job when he leaves your school or will he be living with me again in four years? In 300 words or less tell me why I should believe you.

Applications must be submitted by midnight tonight. You will hear from us via email or possibly snail mail by March 18 or March 25 or possibly earlier, unless it’s later, depending on our mood.

Thank you for your prompt response,

Exhausted Mom of a College Applicant

*See if you can guess which questions were based on real application questions.

Teaching Kids About Relationships (or How to Avoid Talking Directly About Sex)

I didn’t realize that conversations about the birds and the bees would continue long after my initial “this is how babies are made and no, it’s nothing like a chicken” talk that I had with my kids. I really thought that you have “the talk” and never speak of such things again. But with two teenaged boys I’ve come to appreciate the importance of continuing a dialogue—especially when one of those teens is dating.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to share some relationship advice with my kids (and you). It’s either that or let my kids get their information from TV, movies and a bunch of their friends who also have no idea how to have a healthyish relationship.

Find my 5 Steps For a Successful Marriage at Manilla and on Yahoo Finance:

https://www.manilla.com/blog/5-steps-for-a-successful-marriage/

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/5-steps-successful-marriage-154545486.html

The BM* Phenomenon

Has this ever happened to you?

You hear a word or you come up with an idea and suddenly that word or idea is EVERYWHERE!**  You think it’s some kind of sign – it must be – because what are the chances that you would come across an article or see something on television that addresses the very point that you were just contemplating!

It kept happening to me this past week. Was it the universe answering all of my questions or was it just a coincidence??

You decide…

  1. Last week, over breakfast, my younger son and I were discussing the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, and I mentioned that I would have had such a dull life if I hadn’t gotten married and had children. Cut to two hours later at the health club when this line flashed across one of the TV screens:

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”

Hmm…

That was a quote from blogger, Amy Glass, an unmarried woman without children, who wrote her opinion about how married women with children are failures. Apparently the universe was telling me that I will NEVER be exceptional because I got married and had kids, but does that mean that I will also have a dull life?

2. Later that day I started writing a piece about my younger son who, I’ve decided, really needs to lighten up. As he’s “matured” he has lost his devilish spark. His teenage snarkiness and insecurities have dulled the twinkle in his eye and, EVERYTHING is embarrassing to him – if I dance around the kitchen, even if no one can see me, he is mortified. And he used to be the one to break into song and dance on the street.

I actually typed out this sentence: my younger son has lost his joie de vivre. Shortly after writing that sentence I took a break to read a couple of emails and scroll through some posts and I read this piece: “6 Qualities Kids Need to Succeed — and One They Don’t”. And, what was the number one quality? That’s right: joie de vivre!

What are the chances??

Was this another coincidence or was the universe telling me that I need to get my kid to dance in the street and sing at the top of his lungs—embarrassment be damned?!

3. A short while later I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about how, everyday, there is a new formula for raising successful children. And, I mentioned, that I was finally ready to embrace the whole Tiger Mom approach even it was so contrary to encouraging a joy of living in kids. Lo and behold, the next article I read was, “What Drives Success?” in the New York Times, co-written by…Amy Chua, aka The Tiger Mom!

Uncanny! Was this supposed to be my blueprint for success?

4.  And finally, in a moment that was clearly more Tiger Mom and less joie de vivre, I was yelling at my oldest son about his first semester final grades. Not the non-stop, berating kind of yelling, but a lecture IN A REALLY LOUD VOICE. I have no idea what got into me because a) he’s a senior and his college applications are done so there isn’t much that I can do about it and b) he doesn’t care because he is a second semester senior and his college applications are done and there isn’t much he can do about it. When I finally came up for air he turned to me and said, “You know, yelling doesn’t help. It never has.”

In a huff, I stomped off towards the kitchen and there, sitting on the counter, was a neatly folded copy of the Wall Street Journal with an illustration of a woman yelling at a child bearing a headline that screamed at me: “Damage Control: Talking to Your Child After You Yell.”

A sign?! I wasn’t sure until…

I checked my twitter account after I read the article and saw this tweet from Today Moms: “STOP YELLING! To make kids listen, Dr. Phil says, try a whisper”.

I admit I was starting to get a little paranoid. I was beginning to wonder if I was part of an experiment where I was being video-taped and someone was intentionally feeding me information via the Internet to get a reaction (yes, I do watch too much television, thank you for asking).

What do you think? Is the universe speaking to me or is it a sign that I should just stop reading?

*Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. What did you think it stood for??

**The phenomenon, in case you are interested, is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or “frequency illusion” which is the illusion that something which has recently come to your attention suddenly seems to appear with higher frequency shortly thereafter.

No More New Year’s Resolutions

Still struggling to stick to those New Year’s Resolutions?

Don’t bother. (I’m still working on the same ones from 2011).

We’ve taken a different approach to motivating our family. I’m at Manilla.com today and Yahoo! Finance to tell you all about it.

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