It’s Official: I’m Useless-ish

I’ve become irrelevant.

No, really. Apparently, when I wasn’t looking, my children grew up and they no longer need me.

A good thing, I know, but still.

See, last week my youngest got his license. Finally! I thought as I sat in Hell’s waiting room the DMV. No more days broken up by a kid’s schedule. No more trying to finish work, clean the house, run errands and prep dinner during the two hour window between shuttling back and forth to practices or during the surprisingly short block of time between morning drop off and afternoon pick up from school.

And, most importantly, no more late night pickups from friend’s houses!

Yay!

I would finally be able to don my pjs before 10 pm and not have to worry about running out in said pjs and being pulled over by a cop who would assume that I had been drinking or that I stole the car simply because I look like a vagrant. No silk robe or adorable short sets for me. No, my choice of sleepwear consists of a ratty old pair of shorts, a faded t-shirt and a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt I stole from my brother in high school. Pair that with my drooping sleep-deprived eyelids and my mop of hair and you can understand my fear of being mistaken for a drifter.

Those days are over!

So imagine my surprise when my son got his license and drove away from me for the first time and my first thought was: Wait! What? Driving you everywhere and bitching about it is my job!

Just like that. After 16 years as a chauffeur my services were no longer needed. I’d been unceremoniously let go.

Wow.

The running joke in our house is that I am constantly trying to get fired from this mom gig. When I cook a mediocre meal or I forget to wash someone’s favorite shirt I beg my family to fire me. “I’m just no good at this job,” I say. “Go ahead, fire me. I’ll be ok.”

But I didn’t really mean it.

I read somewhere that our job as a parent is to make our job as a parent unnecessary. We are supposed to give our kids all of the skills they need to do all of the things we do for them so they can go live productive adult lives and not need to call us to figure out how to boil water. (That’s what YouTube is for).

You teach them things, like how to read, write, use the bathroom on their own, cross the street, organize their homework, feed themselves something (anything!) and do laundry because you want them to be free of you and a little part of you wants to be free of all of that crap, too.

Be careful what you wish for.

I don’t think it matters if you are a stay-at-home mom, a stay-at-home dad, or a mom or dad who works full time or part time, most parents just want to take care of their kids. They want to nurture and dote on their kids and part of doing that is by doing things for their kids. However, when your kids no longer need you to do things for them it is both gratifying (Yay! Job well done!) and bittersweet (Who will I read a bedtime story to now??).

I’m, of course, not talking about the mind-numbing or gross stuff that they eventually can do on their own (believe me, I never felt nostalgic for the diaper changing days) but the stuff that is occasionally fulfilling. Like driving them around. As their private driver I felt my kids were safe(r) if I was driving. I also had the best conversations with my kids while driving since they did not feel the pressure of having a face-to-face conversation. And, (probably the best part) I could eavesdrop on carpool conversations. For whatever reason, kids forget that you exist when you are the driver and they talk about things they would never, ever normally say in front of you.

Sigh. Those days are over.

Now I will just need to be satisfied with my new, pared down job description. My job has been streamlined not eliminated entirely because it’s feeding time at our house (otherwise known as lunch) and as I write this my 20-year-old son just asked what there is to eat.

I guess I’m not completely irrelevant after all.

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Bye, Mom!

 

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Thank You All You Mothers

After 20 Mother’s Days as a mom and far too many to mention as a daughter and daughter-in-law, I’ve realized a few things about the day. Perhaps I’m alone in these thoughts, perhaps not. Let me know.

  1. Mother’s Day has an apostrophe because it’s supposed to be about honoring one’s individual mother so…it should really be about my children “honoring” ME, but it never is, which is fine. Really.
  2. Handmade cards from your younger children will always be better than the store bought ones you get when they are grown. Not that I don’t appreciate all of them but, c’mon nothing is better than these:
  3. 98% of girls will gush about their mothers on social media but only 1% of boys will do the same. As the mother of boys I know this is true and it’s fine. Really. No, I swear.
  4. If you wait until the last minute to order flowers for your mom they will cost four times as much and they will look like this:IMG_2977
  5. If you have children who play sports there will be multiple games scheduled on Mother’s Day (but, shockingly, none on Father’s Day).
  6. You will never find the perfect last-minute gift for your mom if you look at web sites that scream: “Mother’s Day Gifts Your Mom Actually Wants!” While I appreciate some of the ideas, my mom has never wanted a unicorn head, at least not that I know of and certainly not for Mother’s Day.
  7. Most moms I know don’t want any gifts for Mother’s Day anyway; all they want is time — either with or without their kids depending on how old the kids are. When my kids were little, for instance, I really, really, desperately, could not wait for some time by myself but, alas, my kids had other plans. They LOVED spending time with me on Mother’s Day. It was all Mommy, it’s your day and we are going to the park and out to eat and we are going to play baseball and take a walk and make a craft and, and, and. So, I played along and took time off on another day. Now that they are older, of course, all I really, really want to do is spend some time with them, which I get to do, but it’s not quite the same. Sure there are hugs and meals and some conversation (they are 16 and 20-years-old so I don’t expect much by way of conversation) but what I wouldn’t give for a little bit of Mommy, Mommy, Mommy (just a little bit boys, in case you are reading this).
  8. And finally, I’ve figured out that Mother’s Day is really a day to be grateful for all the mothers in your life. I am so grateful for my own mom, of course, but also for all of the women who have taken care of me and, especially, all of the women who take care of my boys. I know that I am not the only woman who feeds my boys, worries about my boys and would step in and mother my kids as needed. In case I don’t say it often enough – thank you.

 

 

That a Difference a Year Makes

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What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time nothing could have stopped me from picking up my older son from college—not my bad back, not my schedule, nada. I had been waiting the entire year to have him back home and the pick up would mark the first day of the summer together again!

Yay!

I didn’t care about the 3+ hour drive to pick him up, followed by the 3+ hours of organizing/packing/loading/of his college life into the car and the 3+ hour drive back home within 24 hours. It didn’t matter that my fantasy of engaging in deep meaningful conversation with my son was shattered because he slept while I drove and didn’t utter a peep except to ask when we would be home and when we could stop for food.

It was all good because he was coming home!

Well, that was then and this is now.

Now my back is kinda sore, we’ve been traveling a lot recently and, well, I have this class that I’m taking on Tuesday afternoons –just for fun – and I would miss it if I had to pick him up.

I know. I know. I DO suck as a parent!

In case you think I am an ogre, I did try to figure out a way to pick him up and make it to my class. For instance, he mentioned that some people were staying for a few extra days to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. “You should stay!” I exclaimed probably too enthusiastically. “That sounds like so much fun!”

“Nah, I’ll come home Tuesday,” he said.

“I can drive down over the weekend to pick up your stuff and you can take the bus home,” I suggested. “In case you change your mind at the last minute.”

(See, I am so thoughtful.)

“No, that’s ok. I hate the bus,” he said.

Hmmm…

“What if I drop off the car over the weekend and I take the bus back? Then you can stay as long as you want and drive home!”

Nope.

See, I tried.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can’t wait to have him home.

Really.

I would just like someone else to pick him up so I can get to my class.

What? He’s going to be home all summer; there will be plenty of time for me to be with him.

It’s amazing what you can get used to, right?

When my son first left for college I didn’t think I would ever get used to our “New Normal.” I worried that I would never grow accustomed to setting the table for three people instead of four or get used to how quiet the house was with only one kid left. I never imagined not wanting to spend as much time as possible with him even if that included driving in a car while he slept next to me.

Well, things change.

That doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t ache when he leaves but, for now, I know he is coming home. And, in this case, he will be home for three months – three months that will require a whole other set of changes that I have to get used to.

Last summer we had an unexpected bumpy re-entry when my son came home from school. All visions I had of a warm and fuzzy return were marred with power struggles and readjustments.

“Stay in your room until you remember what it’s like to live with people who are not 19-year-old boys!” I remember screaming, ah, saying.

Those first few weeks were not pretty.

We eventually adjusted to that change and then again when he left for college for his sophomore year. This summer, I am sure there will be similar changes that we need to adjust to so why rush it?

So, yes, while I am excited for him to be coming back he’ll be home soon enough. In the mean time, my husband can get a head start on the joys of summer with our 20-year-old.

I’m off to class.

 

 

Are You Your Kids’ Personal Punching Bag?

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Apparently, while I was teaching my kids to read and write and be decent human beings I was also teaching them to use me as their personal punching bag. Every day, without fail, one of my kids will vent at me and, while venting, will find a way to blame me for whatever has occurred in their lives. Venting about missing a deadline to turn in a paper? Must be because I didn’t teach them better time management skills. Venting about being sick? Must be because I didn’t tell them what medicines they should be taking. Venting about not being independent enough? Must be because I didn’t make them do more chores!

As their mom I am happy to be a sounding board when they are struggling with a problem. I am happy to listen while they beat themselves up for making a mistake and, of course, I will always be there if they are having a hard time and just need a shoulder to cry on but, seriously, why is everything my fault?!?

Because I set up our lives to be that way, that’s why.

I walk around feeling guilty for everything that goes wrong in my kids’ lives. (Yes, I have issues, but that should be obvious by the title of my blog.) I assume that I have failed in some way if they screw up.

It’s funny because whenever my kids do something well I never think, Wow, I did a great job parenting my child. Nope, apparently my influence does not extend to the good stuff – just the bad.

Even now, I’m thinking: They blame me because I taught them to blame me!

Ugh.

A friend of mine told me that her 22-year-old daughter was complaining recently about her lack of money management skills. “You should have forced me to work through college and pay all of my bills so I would have a better understanding of how to deal with money issues!” she told her mom. My friend told me that she felt strangely guilty for a minute before she realized that her daughter was just mad at herself for not having the foresight to take on money management responsibilities earlier.

“The way to deal with this behavior,” my friend explained, “is to recognize that the kids are simply projecting their blame on you, an easy and convenient target.” To deal with this bullshit, I mean, behavior, I am supposed to substitute the word “I” for “you” every time my kids start to blame me for something. So when son calls me from college and starts to bitch about his lingering head cold telling me, “You did not tell me what meds would make me feel better!” I am supposed to be hearing, I did not figure out what meds would make me feel better.

Hmmm…I feel better already; that might actually work. (Or, I could just not take his calls – hey, don’t judge; it’s a work in progress.)

Last night I had another opportunity to use my new anti-projection techniques. My youngest told me I should go back in time and force him to do more chores because then he would be more independent. He said the reason he is not independent is because I always do everything for him (this from the kid who asks me to get up and get him a bowl of ice cream every night while he sits on the couch).

He’s right, of course, I should have forced him and his brother to do more. I should have dealt with the nonstop whining that ensued whenever I asked them to do anything. I should have dealt with the resulting pools of water from their attempts at washing the dishes or the dog or pretty much anything involving water. I should have dealt with the glacial pace at which any chore I asked them to do was accomplished.

But I didn’t.

Is it too late??

Clearly my kid wishes he was more independent, at least that’s what his outburst indicated when I substituted “I” for “you” in his statements. What he was really saying was that he should have forced himself to do chores but, let’s face it, it’s so much easier to blame me because, like most people, he would rather sit on the couch and have someone get him ice cream than get up and get it himself.

And what about me? What am I projecting when I lash out at my kids for not doing something? When I yelled back at my son last night and said, “You should make yourself independent!” did I actually mean that I was mad at myself for not making him help around the house?

So, last night, in order to help my son on his quest for independence, I left. I stomped out of the house to meet my friends and thought,  I’ll show him, I’ll make him fend for himself…right after I put dinner on the table and remind my husband to clean up.

Hey, baby steps. I just figured out how to deal with my projection issues you can’t expect me to take on my avoidance issues at the same time.

 

 

Raising Sheep?

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I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything but I’ve been busy contemplating life’s big questions like, How do I keep the cut avocado from turning brown? or Why do I live in a state where my face is frozen for at least four months a year? or, and this one is really puzzling, Why do all the high school girls look EXACTLY the same? 

This last one really has me perplexed.

Yes, I was a high school girl once and I remember the pressure to dress like everyone else – why else would I have donned neon – but it’s all so very Stepford Wives-ish. All of the girls have the same long, flowing straight hair, they all wear the same boots and they all carry the same bags. Lately I’ve been driving past a posse of girls on their way to school who are all carrying – in addition to their backpacks – a little Lululemon shopping bag.

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Why are they all carrying the same shopping bag to school?!  I guess it’s a status symbol but it looked really weird to see a bunch of girls who are not in the shopping mall carrying the exact same shopping bag. Sure, all my friends had on leg warmers when I was in high school but at least they were different colors! (And, yes, I know, that’s not a great argument.)

So, why do teenagers conform? Is it so they look like they know what’s “in”? Or, is it because they don’t want to seem different and stand out? If that’s the case, then why bother primping before school to look your best? If you are trying to look your best it’s usually because you want to get noticed (or is it because everyone else looks their best and you will stand out if you don’t try hard enough to look your best???).

I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore and I don’t have to figure it out. But wait, I am trying to figure it out…

I guess the question I have for us parents is what is our role in this scenario? If your kid wants to look exactly like everyone else should you let him? Boys don’t seem to care as much about clothes — although I have heard rumblings about crew socks and Timberland boots being de rigueur this season so I could be wrong. But even if it isn’t about clothes the boys still care about how they are perceived.

So, what would you do?

If your daughter wants to spend her money on those Ugg boots that she has to have because everyone else is wearing them, do you let her?  Do you let your kids emulate the crowd or do you steer them toward something else at the risk of making them seem “different”? Do you stay silent or do you chime in about embracing their differences and finding their own style?

Hmmm…

We could use your wisdom. Please share it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Would YOU Do?

 

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On this week’s episode of What Would YOU Do? we have a question from one of our readers. Really. This isn’t just me saying a “friend” (wink, wink) has a question; this is really a friend with a question.

Our reader wrote:

“My 13-year-old son did not get invited to a birthday party for some girl in his class. Only 15 kids were invited and he didn’t make the cut (but all of his friends did).

Then the girl texted him the day before the party(!) and said, ‘I couldn’t invite too many people but you can come if you want.’

What would you do?”

Hmmm….

My knee-jerk response was, Screw that! Don’t let your kid go. But once I recovered from my Mama Bear reflex, I thought if your kid wants to go to the party, let him go. Give the party girl the benefit of the doubt; maybe she really couldn’t invite a lot of kids.

Now, I would love to believe that I would respond that way if it was my kid but I’m not so sure. Let me tell you a little story about how long I can hold a grudge against someone who hurts my kids, even slightly:

My older son was the only one in his class excluded from a birthday party in preschool.

Preschool!

I’ve disliked the kid who left him out for-ever! My son got over it pretty quickly because – well, he’s a better person than I am. Fast forward 15 years. I recently read that the kid who left out my son and, by the way, talked about the party over-and-over in front of my son, was arrested for selling drugs.

I smiled when I read about that. Karma is a bitch, baby.  (Which, given my mean-spirited nature aimed at a pre-schooler, can only mean that I am going to die a fiery, painful death one day. Oh well. Too late).

But I digress.

So, my question for you, dear readers, is:

  1. What would you advise your kid to do in the above scenario, assuming your kid asks your opinion?
  2. Is your advice different from what you are really feeling (or am I the only one??)?

Please tell us, What Would YOU Do??

 

Have a burning parenting question? Want to know how to handle a sticky situation? Let our readers help you figure it out. Send an email with your questions to: isuckasaparent@gmail.com

I resolve…

Usually, that line would be followed by “nothing” because I am not one for making–or keeping–New Year’s resolutions, but this year I have finally come up with a very do-able resolution. This year I resolve to NOT be the smartest person in my house.

For years I have had all of the answers. No matter what the topic or the situation I was, without question, the only one in my house who had the answer or, apparently, the capacity to figure out what to do.

It’s time to pass the torch.

Someone else might want to tell someone where the ketchup is or how to look up the directions to a restaurant using nothing else but a computer and a phone.

As much as I hate relying on someone else to look out the window to see if it’s raining, I think it’s time. Being the person with all of the answers is fun! Who am I to take that fun away from someone else in my family?

For example, just yesterday, one of my children was standing in front of our open refrigerator, totally befuddled.”Where is the yogurt?” he asked.

Me (quickly figuring out the answer from the other room): “Move some stuff around in the fridge and you will find it.”

My kid, smacking himself in the head with the realization that I just gave him the perfect answer: “Oh yeah! There it is! Thanks, mom!”

 

But, if I wasn’t the smartest person in the house this is how it could have gone:

Me, whining: “I can’t find the mustard!”

One of my kids: “Move some stuff around in the fridge, mom.”

Me: “Of course! There it is! Wow, honey, what would I do without you??”

Think about how great he would feel if he was the one with all the answers! Think about how much it would build his self-esteem! He would be drunk with power! I know I am. I currently go to bed every night thinking:

I am so powerful! I am the only person who knows what time the kids get out of school, where the extra dog food is kept, and where to find a book on the bookshelf. I don’t want anyone else to have that information because I want everyone to ask me questions all day! Bwahahaha!

See. Drunk with power.

But it’s not fair. I shouldn’t know everything anymore. I want my family to know that feeling as well. I want them to know what it’s like to sit down, pick up a magazine and have someone yell to them that they can’t find their homework/shoes/keys. I want them to feel the joy when they respond, “Well, did you look in your backpack/the mudroom/your jacket?” and have the item be exactly where they said it would be.

Why should I have all the fun?

So, yes, I resolve to pass the power of knowledge to one of my family members. And I will…just as soon as one of them can find it without my help.

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