Archive for the ‘Adulthood’ Category

The Too Much Information Age of Parenting

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My mom and dad had it easy. There was no pressure to parent the right way – everyone did it wrong. At least by today’s standards.

Kids roamed the streets unattended, parents left kids home alone and made them prepare their own meals (Salisbury Steak anyone?) and most importantly, kids didn’t tell their parents what they were really doing so parents didn’t really know – and they liked it.

I miss those days.

Now, with technology, we parents expect that we will know where our kids are at all times. I don’t know how many times I’ve texted my kid, “Where r u?” and been frustrated that I didn’t get an immediate response. If he didn’t have a phone I probably wouldn’t ask. But he does, so I want an answer. Now.

Our parents knew we were out – whatever “out” meant. They knew that we would eventually come home; usually at whatever time they told us to be home because that’s what we did. Now, my kids can’t keep track of the time even though they have a phone glued to their hands—a phone with an alarm. Which is why I need to text…

If my parents weren’t home then we were on our own. Even though my parents owned a restaurant I don’t remember warming up meals from the restaurant for dinner; I remember cooking something and by cooking I mean heating up a TV dinner that we ate on a TV table in front of the TV.

Now, if I haven’t prepared my kids a meal before I leave, I order in for them. I do this even though both of them are perfectly capable of cooking a real meal – they are 19 and 15 after all – or simply improvising (cereal or a peanut butter sandwich for dinner never killed anyone).

The biggest difference, however, between my parents’ generation and parents today is that we know so much about our children. We schedule their lives from the time they are very little until they leave for college. We plan their activities, schedule their “play dates,” over-volunteer in their classrooms so we can get to know the other kids and their equally over-involved parents. Because of this shift in the parenting culture we know everything our children are doing and thinking and saying.

That’s how they are raised. They are raised to share. Some share more than others – even in the same house—but, nonetheless, it is generally – at least by the time they are teenagers – too much information.

I’m kidding – sort of.

Do I really want to hear the funny story about my older son’s friends who were completely trashed at a party? Yes…and no. I’m glad he can share but all I’m thinking is maybe you shouldn’t be friends with those people.

And, do I really want to know about disagreements my kids have with their friends? Well, yes…and no. I’m glad I can be a sounding board but long after my kid has moved on, I will continue to not like that person on my son’s behalf FOREVER.

I can’t unknow it.

Maybe we are better off with our heads in the sand.

My parents didn’t know about these things. We didn’t talk to our parents about stuff back then – we talked to our friends or we didn’t talk. Our parents didn’t hang on every word we said, they didn’t micro-manage our lives and, most importantly, they didn’t want to.

My parents, for instance, didn’t know when I stopped talking to my best friend of 10 years. Or, maybe they noticed but we didn’t chat about it. My mom didn’t ask me what happened or how I felt about it. I would have been mortified if she did!

But now, if one of my kids suddenly stopped hanging out with someone they had been BFFs with for 10 years I would notice and ask them what happened and, my kids, being part of this generation of over-sharers, would tell me. Then, long after my child had moved on, I would continue to obsess about the potential scar that the break in the friendship may have caused.

See, my parents had it easy. What they didn’t know couldn’t hurt them (or make them obsess or hold a grudge).

But, me? I’m screwed. I’ve already trained my kids to share with me and I’m certainly not going to tell them that I don’t want to hear what they have to say because I do…and I couldn’t stop myself if I tried because once you know about these things, you know. You know?

 

Do you know too much about your kids? Do you wish you didn’t??

 

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A Holiday Miracle

The Thanksgiving season is usually not considered the time of miracles and yet something miraculous happened yesterday. Not the miracle of weeping icons or spontaneous healing, mind you, but miraculous just the same.

Let me back up.

My 18-year-old, college freshman came home for Thanksgiving break last night and within 45 minutes our battle for control began.

And, no, the miracle is not that it didn’t happen sooner.

After several hugs for the dog, a couple quick hugs for me, and a discussion about laundry he disappeared into his room.

I was a little disappointed by his vanishing act but I figured a home cooked meal would lure him out. I was wrong. I spent 10 minutes trying to get him to join the family for dinner.

I was miffed. Shouldn’t he be thrilled to have real food?

When he finally came to the table, he brought his iPad with him.  I told him to put it away during dinner and he responded with the, “I can do whatever I want because I’ve been away at school and I do whatever I want there,” bullshit that every college kid says to his parents when he comes home for break.

I was even more miffed.

And, when I told him that I didn’t appreciate his attitude, he responded with “Whatever,” and a roll of his eyes.

That’s when I snapped.

I yelled, my 14-year-old left the table, and my husband sat in silence.

At that moment, I just wanted my oldest son to go back to school.

I thought I had prepared for this. I read all the articles and blog posts about how to deal with your kid when he returns home for school breaks – hell, I wrote an article – but it didn’t matter.

I didn’t want to spend a little bit of time with him. I wanted more.

I wanted him to want to spend time with us – well, me in particular. I wanted him to choose us over his friends and his electronics. I wanted him to say, “Let’s watch a movie together,” “Let’s play a board game,” or “Let’s go out for dinner – just the four of us!” All the books and articles told me those were unreasonable and unrealistic expectations, but I still wanted it!

Those parents of college students who say, “That’s how the visit home is supposed to be. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s healthy!” are full of it. Deep down, they are just as pissed as I am; they just want to act like they are superior parents who have this whole parenting gig down. Me? I don’t care what it looks like. I suck as a parent, remember?

I know I sound like an infant but watching my kid transition from child to independent adult (albeit one who still needs to borrow our car and doesn’t pay for insurance) is not easy. It’s really uncomfortable to have a child who one day can’t leave you alone and the next day doesn’t want anything to do with you. None of this is new; I’ve been dealing with this since my oldest became a teen but it’s always shocking to me and it makes me kind of sad…or mad depending on the day.

Yesterday, apparently, was a mad day.

But then, just as I was on the verge of destroying any chance of quality family time for the entire week, a holiday miracle occurred: the WiFi AND the television went out.

The iPad my son brought to the table? Useless.

The video games he wanted to play on the Xbox? Unavailable.

The TV shows he wanted to binge watch? Inaccessible.

Was this just a coincidence or did my shortening fuse cause our electronics to go out? Did I suddenly have some sort of power? After all, I have been called a witch before (although it probably wasn’t a literal reference).

It didn’t matter. Just like that, I had my kid’s undivided attention.

“Let’s play a board game,” he said.

A Thanksgiving miracle and, yes, I am grateful.

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Wishing you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Don’t Tell Me How To Do College!

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“Don’t Tell Me How To Do College!” my 18-year-old son snapped the other day.

What?! That’s ridiculous! I thought. I’m not telling him how to do anything. I’m merely making suggestions. (Insistent suggestions, perhaps, but still…)

For instance, one Sunday during our weekly Face Time session he complained that he had so much work to do that night. I innocently asked if he had thought about doing some work earlier on the weekend or maybe even during the day on Thursday when he has a huge block of free time.

“I got it, Mom! I know what I’m doing!” he barked.

When I scoffed at his reaction and tried to explain that I was merely trying to make a suggestion he responded with his first, “Don’t tell me how to do college!”

Similar retorts have been made in response to my suggestions that he clean his bathroom more frequently (he shares the bathroom with three suite mates), that he go to Health Services before his cold gets worse (he didn’t), and most recently, in response to my suggestion that he attend more activities on his college campus.

That last one is still lingering between us.

He has made friends at school with a group of kids who grew up not too far from the college they attend. As such, they tend to hang out in the city (the school is near a metropolitan area) rather than on campus attending school events.

My son says he’s fine with this. Me? Not so much.

I should be content that he hangs out with a group of kids he really likes—friends who bring him food when he has the flu and can’t get out of bed—yet, somehow, I have decided that he needs to have more of a “college experience” and that includes taking advantage of everything that he has available on campus.

I know this is ridiculous and, no, I’m not trying to relive my college years through my kid. (Really!) I had a great time in college, as did my husband, and we both had very different experiences from each other and from our son. You would that think this evidence—this proof that a “college experience” is not one size fits all—would be enough for me to back off and let our son “do college” his way.

It’s not.

Again, I’m not telling him how to do anything I’m just offering some suggestions.

What’s wrong with that? Is there an age limit on offering unsolicited advice to your off-spring? Because if there is, my mother and my in-laws didn’t get the memo. Neither did my grandmother or my husband’s grandfather. I was 40 when my dad died and until the end he was giving me advice.

Now, I know that when I was my son’s age I would hear my parents (notice I didn’t say listen) and ignore them (for the most part). There may have been a couple of times I heeded their advice immediately but not often. They knew this and yet they didn’t stop adding their two cents.

That’s what parents do! They keep talking and hope that something sticks!

My kid could have lied and told me that he saw the nurse and he could tell me that he’s attending every activity on campus just to shut me up – but he doesn’t. He’s being honest with me and, not so subtly, telling me to back off.

This reminds me of the first time I tried indoor rock climbing. I was on the wall and there was an incredibly annoying woman in our group who kept yelling out where the hand and footholds were before I even had a chance to look for myself. The first time she offered her “help,” I looked down at her and politely said, “I got it!” The fourth time? I snapped. “I know what I’m doing!” I yelled. “If I want your help, I’ll ask for it!”

Now why would that memory pop up right now, I wonder?  If only I had someone to give me some advice…

 

 

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A Different Angle

As I dropped my youngest son off this morning for the last day of his sophomore year in high school I was reminded of the day, two years ago, when I dropped off my oldest son at his high school for the last time before his graduation. Ugh! That was an ugly cry day for me. But, as is often the case in parenting, I survived and moved on to the next tearful/joyous/stressful moment.

So, for all you parents filling my Facebook feed with posts about the difficulty of suffering through a child’s last days of high school or college I thought I would re-share this post, originally published on May 22, 2014, to remind you that these days are not ends but beginnings – it just depends on your perspective.

Today was the last full day of high school for my oldest son. Yesterday was the last Wednesday and tomorrow will be the last time he sets foot in the school as a student.

I’ve been doing this morbid mental list of last moments for months now. Yesterday I even took a photo:

 

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The Last Wednesday I will ever pick him up from school!

 

The hardest moment, up until this week, was: this is the last birthday we will celebrate with him at home.

I’ve tried not to think about that one for too long.

I can’t stop myself. It’s such an automatic reaction that, this morning, I found myself thinking: this is the last time he will carry his lunch to high school in this black lunch bag—ever!

It’s an illness.

Obviously, I know that he will return home at some point (to visit, hopefully, not to live) but I know it won’t be the same.

As much as I complain about having to wait up for him on the weekends at least I know where he is at night. I also like sitting around the dinner table almost every night even if the meal takes 45 minutes to prepare and only 10 minutes to consume—at least I know that we have those 10 minutes!

Yes, he will eat meals with us again and I’m sure I will still want to wait up for him when he is back from college (although I guarantee I won’t make it past the first weekend) but today marked the last day that I will drive him to and from school. Those few minutes in the car every morning and every afternoon felt like stolen moments for me. Facing forward in our seats with no pressure to “have a conversation” my son would chatter away about his classes or who did what during the day at school, but once we walked into our house all conversation would stop.

I know that I will never have an opportunity like that again, at least not every day.

And, yet, this is as it should be. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

My son, through his own sadness today, pointed out that the end of high school is just the beginning of his independent life as a college student, a time filled with many firsts for him (many I’m sure that I don’t want to know about). “It’s all about perspective, mom,” he told me.

I’ll give him perspective.

For instance, today’s last lunch in his black lunch bag means that tomorrow will be the first time in nine years that I won’t have to make two lunches every day!

The last time he lives at home will be the first time I won’t have to do his laundry or yell at him to do his own laundry (at least for a few months but, that’s something).

And the last time he eats dinner with us before he leaves for college with be the first time that I don’t have to be annoyed that he has his ear phones on and can’t hear me so I have to text him in the other room to let him know that dinner is ready and I need the table set!

Perspective is a funny thing.

And it works the other way, too. I started thinking about my kids “first” moments—first steps, first words, first day of school. Those moments were also lasts if I shift my point of view. For instance, my first son’s first steps marked the last time I would be able to sit down for any length of time until my kids went to school. Had I known what his walking and eventual running, followed closely by climbing and jumping actually meant for me I may not have been so enthusiastic about taking photos of him walking – I may have taken photos of me lounging on the couch or sitting at the table enjoying a leisurely meal.

It is all about perspective.

More notable, yet unrecorded last moments masquerading as firsts:

My son’s first words = the last time I would able to have an adult conversation without being interrupted by a child’s questions.

His first “big boy” bed = the last time I would sleep in my bed (for eight years!) without a child climbing in at 5:30 am.

His first pair of big boy underwear = the last time I changed his diaper. Now that moment really should have been captured in a photo.

I guess my son was right, although he probably didn’t realize that he was doling out parenting advice. Parenting really is about your point of view. If you try to see things from a different angle it may not be as bad as it seems.

 

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).

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.

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