Archive for the ‘letting go’ Category

When Your College Kids Come Home for Winter Break: Expectations vs. Reality

The anticipation was high. I hadn’t seen my baby (i.e. my 18-year-old college freshman) in two (2!!) months and he was finally coming home. I expected family dinners and family game nights, trips together into the city to see a play, late night conversations and laughter.

And then there was reality.

Ok, it wasn’t that bad – there were plenty of moments of togetherness – but my Norman Rockwell reunion was not to be. My son had friends to see and sleep to catch up on. Treks into the city were not on his “to do” list unless, of course, they involved his girlfriend.


I’m on my 4th winter break (my baby is now a senior in college) and I can tell you it’s much the same as it was when he was a freshman. And, although I know better, I can’t help but hold out hope that every break will be a little different. So here are the top expectations I have every year for my college kid’s winter break and what I should know by now but clearly don’t:

Expectation 1: The first night that my son is back home we will have a long family dinner where he will tell us stories about school and his friends and we will all stare at him with adoration and laugh at all of his funny tales.

Reality: We eat dinner together. It takes about 10 minutes then his friends come over to pick him up and he leaves with promises to tell us stories when he comes home (and that doesn’t happen because I am old and asleep by 11).

Take away: But at least we shared a meal!

Expectation 2: We will all gather together to watch a holiday movie, snuggled up on the couch sharing a bowl of popcorn.

Reality: Everyone agrees to watch a movie but no one will agree on what movie. I feel dissension in the ranks so I demand that they stop bickering and watch Elf/White Christmas/Bad Santa and like it – damn it! About 30 minutes in I notice that my husband is asleep and the two boys are watching something entirely different on their respective computers only glancing up once or twice to watch the movie.

Take away: But at least we are in the same room!

Expectation 3: We will decorate the Christmas tree together – sipping hot cocoa and reminiscing as we pull out ornaments.

Reality: I tell everyone we are putting up the tree. Everyone says they can’t at that moment and I have to wait. So I wait. About an hour later I ask again and get the same answer. I insist we put the tree up NOW, reminding my family that it only takes 15 minutes – tops – to pull out the tree and hang the ornaments. I am met with more resistance. I threaten to cancel Christmas. Everyone begrudgingly walks to the living room to put up ornaments and I am sad because this was NOT what I wanted.

Take away: I should put the tree up by myself. Of course that would result in whining from my family that I didn’t wait for them so basically it’s a no win situation. Maybe I should invite friends to help and offer wine?

Expectation 4: I love going out for breakfast and he loves to eat so I will take him to this great breakfast place I used to go to in college that has the most amazing, over-sized, gooey, iced cinnamon buns.

Reality: He sleeps until at least 1:00 pm. every day and the restaurant closes at 2:00.

Take away: Take him to lunch or dinner.

Expectation 5: We all go Christmas shopping together!

Reality: We buy everything online because after one trip to the mall I remember how much I hate being at the mall around Christmas.

Take away: Start shopping around Halloween?

Expectation 6: We will head to the city to see a play/ eat dinner/see the Christmas lights and it will be magical – just like when they were little.

Reality: When the kids were little heading into the city to see a play/eat/see the decorations was usually a nightmare and did not improve when the kids became teenagers who would rather have been hanging out with their friends.

Take away: Let them bring friends and give them LOTS of advance notice and constant reminders or you will be met with: That’s tonight?!?! when it’s time to leave.

Expectation 7: I will miss my kid when he goes back to school.

Reality: I will miss my kid when he goes back to school and I will forget all about my failed attempts at togetherness which is why I repeat them Every. Single. Year.

Take away: Look for the spontaneous moments of togetherness and don’t worry if your plans fall off the rails.


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, the happiest of holidays and a wonderful New Year!



The Last First Day of High School


When I first quit my job to stay home with my kids I had big plans. Being with my kids was my only job and I was going to make the most of it. Those warnings about “appreciating the time with your kids because it goes by so fast” were not going to be lost on me!

I learned, rather quickly, however, that it’s really hard to appreciate EVERY moment, like the ones when, sleep-deprived and delirious, I would curl up on the floor of my younger son’s bedroom, praying that my mere proximity to him would help him drift back to sleep at four in the morning. I wasn’t trying to wish away his babyhood but, at that moment, while he giggled and babbled at me through the slats of his crib, clearly not going back to sleep, I would silently repeat the mantra, this too shall pass.

Then there were those mind-numbing days when we would make our daily park/library/grocery store circuit, desperate to fill the hours before bedtime. Soon they will start school full time and I will finally be able to get things done, I would think.

Once they were in school I longed for the days when they would be able to do their own homework without my nagging, take care of their own things, and eventually be able to drive so I could skip the carpools and late night pick ups. Just this summer, for instance, as I waited up—again—for my youngest son to get home, I caught myself thinking, once summer is over and he is back at school I can finally go to bed before midnight.

This too shall pass…

And then it did.

And now summer is over and it’s my youngest son’s last first day of high school and I’m wondering what happens when this passes??

What happens to me when my nest is empty?

When I dropped him off for the first day of his senior year of high school I thought I was simply sad because it had all gone by so quickly; he would be heading to college next year and, given his uncommunicative nature, I would probably rarely, if ever, talk to him. But then, when I realized that at this time next year I will have no one left to drive to school (or pick up after or make dinner for or dote on…), my unease grew rapidly. Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of doing whatever I want with my time and I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to be.

In my rising panic I turned to my good friend (who also happens to be a therapist) to help me deal with my immediate need to calm the f**k down. Christina Jones, LCSW, suggested that I view this new phase of my life as a time to figure out who I am today and who my “future self” can be.

“What if you see this as an opportunity to discover who you are now and accept that it might not be who you used to be, even as a mother?” she asked me.

I could tell this was not going to be a quick fix.

“You can never really go back,” she added, “But you can take who you’ve been – in every chapter in your life – and figure out who you are now. That can be exciting.”

Hmmm…exciting, terrifying, anxiety provoking, all of the above?

This isn’t the first pivot I’ve had to make. When I decided to go from full-time lawyer to full-time mom, I went into a bit of spiral, as well. I would joke that I was a “retired lawyer” instead of admitting that I was a stay-at-home-mom – I simply couldn’t let go of that persona even though it was my idea to make the change. It took me a while to let go of who I had been—or thought I was—and to come to terms with the idea that my focus had shifted and continued to shift with each new phase in my and my family’s lives.

And here we are again; new phase, new focus.

This time, as I plan my next act, I will try to be more mindful of the passing days and try to embrace even the moments that can’t end fast enough. In a year I will be a “retired stay-at-home-mom,” and who knows what else. Maybe “the mom who has to nag her college graduate son who moves back home for a year to save his money while he works before grad school”?

This is very exciting.



Who Needs “Siri” When You Have “Mom”


My family doesn’t have Amazon Echo or Google Home. They have me.

I, apparently, know everything. Just ask my family (oh, wait, then they will have to ask me so that wouldn’t work).

I am amazed at how much my family thinks I know. I should be flattered because – obviously – they think I’m brilliant. Why else would they ask me things they can easily find out on their own?

For example, recent requests included:

“Mom, what’s this flower?”

“Hon, when are the kids done with school?”

“Mom, how do you heat up a can of soup?”

I, like any good digital assistant, dutifully answered:


“May 4 and June 7.”

“Pour the can in the small pot and heat on low.”

The thing is, other than the last question (which, by the way, is a topic for another day) I had to look up the answers. I don’t know flowers (after a failed web search I had to ask a friend about this) and I seriously have not memorized my kids’ schedules so why does my family ask me questions when they know I will need to look up the answers? More importantly, why do I actually look up the answers??!

Often, as I’m looking for answers to one of their questions it occurs to me that my children and husband could be doing this themselves. It’s not like I’m hiding the electronics. But by the time I remember that I’m not supposed to be enabling my children (or my husband for that matter), I’m already three Google searches deep into answering their questions and I realize it will probably take longer to lecture them then to give them the answer. Besides, if I say, “See that mini computer also known as a phone attached to your hand? It has the answer to your question; just look it up” chances are they will NOT look up the answers to their respective questions; they will simply avoid the question.

Really, it’s true. I’ve tried it.

For instance, it took me a while to figure out the daffodil answer so by the time I responded my son had moved on. My husband’s request for the kids’ schedules was similarly ignored when he decided not to bother with a possible trip in June and just planned for July because no one is in school then. (Little does he know there’s an entirely different schedule for summer but he didn’t ask and like Google Home, I don’t volunteer answers).

As for the soup question, well, if I hadn’t reflexively given my son the answer or if I had told him to read the back of the can (like I should have!), he would probably have given up and eaten a cheese stick (which would have solved his hunger issue but, seriously, READ THE BACK OF THE FREAKING CAN!)

I think it might be too late to change our ways. I needed to nip this in the bud when they were little (or, in the case of my husband, when we were dating) but everything took soooooo long when my kids were young. If one of my boys asked, “Mommy, what kind of flower is this?” when he was six years old and I responded, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up,” the process of finding the answer would have taken a good 30-60 minutes of haphazard, child-directed searching and I am not a patient person.

This, my friends, is known as a lack of foresight…or stifling independence, or shitty parenting, whatever you want to call it.

But now, if I keep answering their questions will they ever learn to find the answers on their own? Will they care? Should I just buy them a Google Home and be done with it??

The thing is, unless we can use “Mom” as the voice prompt for the digital assistant I’m not sure my family will know how to get it to respond. Then they will just ask me to ask Alexa…

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Bad Parenting Behaviors to Let Go of in 2017

So, here we are, almost in February and I’m still contemplating what I want to work on this year. Not that I’m keen on resolutions. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution and yet, I can’t stop myself from making them.

I have a problem with someone telling me what to do or not to do, which is weird, I know, since I’m the one making the resolution. There is something about saying out loud, “I will not eat sugar,” that causes me to make a beeline for the candy drawer.


Finally, however, I think I’ve come up with a couple of things that I can get behind in 2017; two bad parenting behaviors that I can let go of this year and feel good about: not doing everything for my kids and not talking about them with other people.

Let’s start with the second one first.

I will not talk about my kids with other people.

You might think it’s odd that I have chosen not to talk about my kids with other people when I write a blog about my kids and share it with other people. Believe it or not, I write very little about what happens to my kids and when I do I tend to have their blessing. I’ve tried to make this blog about my bad behavior, because, well, I often suck as a parent and I want to be held accountable.

What I want to stop doing this year is sharing information about my kids that I know they won’t want me to share with anyone else but I do it anyway because I’m venting to my friends. Let’s face it, parenting is not easy and sometimes you need to talk about your failures or your kids’ bad behavior with someone else.

My advice? Choose your audience and your stories carefully.

How many of you have done this? Your kid is driving you bat-shit crazy and you run into a friend and proceed to offer too many details about your kid’s latest exploits thinking there is some sort of “mom code” that will prevent your friend from relaying the info to her kid who just happens to be your son’s or daughter’s good friend.

Next thing you know, your kid is pissed at you – as he or she should be – because the story you told has made it’s way back to your kid but with all sorts of embellishments.

It doesn’t matter if the story you told was totally benign or you thought it was just a funny story to tell your friend. It doesn’t matter if it was relayed exactly how you told it or whether the story made its way through a group with new and completely fabricated details (as these stories tend to do). Your kid feels betrayed and you feel like crap.

So, yes, I will be working on this behavior this year because last year I let my kid down and that really did suck.

I will not do everything for my kids this year

When my kids were little and I chose to stay at home with them I felt that it was my job to wait on them hand and foot and stifle their independence.

Oh, wait, that wasn’t the plan.

No, the plan was to stay at home to take care of them and be around to watch them grow. The problem with that plan was that I felt guilty about being a stay-at-home mom and I felt like the only job I had was to take care of the kids and the house. If someone else was doing those jobs what was I doing all day??

No one saddled me with this notion (except, maybe Hollywood and the media’s distorted images of women’s roles and my own upbringing, but I digress).

Every time I thought about passing on the laundry duty or forcing my kids to cook dinner I wondered what I was supposed to be doing in the void of activity. Eating bonbons? Watching TV with my feet up on the ottoman thumbing through magazines? Writing??

The problem, I realize now, was not with the job but with the job description that I had written.

Instead of thinking that my job as a mom was to cater to my boys’ every need, I should have recognized that my job was to help my kids become independent, capable adults who could handle their own cleaning/feeding/scheduling.


Nearly 21 years into this parenting gig and I finally figure it out.

Obviously, I didn’t start out wanting my kids to be needy and dependent and, for the most part, even with all my failings, they are pretty capable (if I’m not around, of course). But now it’s time to let go of the guilt and rewrite my role. I will call my new title: Director of Creating Independence. I’m sure my kids will call my new role: Tyrant.




What parenting behaviors do you hope to work on this year?



It’s the Holiday Season and, Really, Whoop De Doo* Because Well, Ugh.

I’ve asked around and it feels like there’s an epidemic of apathy this holiday season. It doesn’t matter what holiday is being celebrated it seems like everyone I talk to is trying to wish the holiday season away as quickly as possible.

All of a sudden Christmas and Hanukkah are days away and I am scrambling and stressed and wondering how the hell it’s the end of December already. I blame the mild temperatures in Chicago, where I live, for tricking me into thinking that the usual snowy holidays were months away instead of weeks. Or maybe it was the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win that made me feel like the end of the world was fast approaching so why bother with the gift shopping. Or maybe it’s just the news.

All I know is that I have a shopping list that needs to be dealt with, a closet full of presents that need to be wrapped, a stack of Holiday cards that need to be addressed and mailed, and absolutely zero motivation to tackle any of it.

What’s a girl who usually loves the holidays to do?

I’ve checked in with other folks who are feeling the madness and asked them how they are putting the “Happy” back in Happy Holidays. Before you go to your room and stay there until January 2 you might want to try some of these ideas first.

  1. Buy less stuff. In other words, stop shopping now. I need to stop looking at gift lists. Every time I do I find another thing that would be perfect for only $25.00! Do you know how quickly a bunch of useless $25.00 gifts add up? Ridiculous. Just stop.
  1. If you’ve already done most of your shopping try a trick that works well when you are preparing for a trip. Travel experts agree that if you lay out all of your clothes when you are packing you can usually put away half of what you thought you would need and still have too much. It’s the exact same thing with presents. Right now, put all of your purchases on the floor and return half of them.
  1. Plan an experience instead of buying more stuff. Fewer boxes, better memories.
  1. Skip the holiday cards if you haven’t made them or bought them already. You could send something to the relatives who never see your kids but do you really need to send one to all of your kids’ friends? One friend just posted a picture on social media of the holiday card she is sending to her far-flung family and friends. Another friend is opting for Happy New Year cards instead. If all else fails and you still want to send a card you could pull a Julia Child and send out Valentine’s Day card.
  1. Find time to spend with family that doesn’t involve gift giving. Watch a movie, cook together, play a game, go for a walk.
  1. Volunteer. You’ve probably heard it before but helping others really helps put the stress and the excesses of the holidays in perspective.

Wishing you all the best for this holiday season!


*This is an actual song made famous by Andy Williams minus the “ugh” part

My College Junior Won’t Be Home For Thanksgiving (And I Don’t Like It)

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. I love the food, I love not having to run around and buy gifts for everyone, and I especially love the warm and fuzzy feel of gathering together and being grateful. Over the past few years, however, the holiday has changed for us. Extended family members started traveling out of town for the holiday or had to split time with other parts of their respective families. That meant that our little nuclear family had to switch it up a little, either celebrating with friends or going out to dinner. Those changes were initially met with some trepidation:

What would it feel like to be with friends instead of family?

Sort of the same but without the traditional fights from years of baggage being brought to the table.

Will a restaurant meal be as satisfying as a home cooked meal?

Surprisingly, yes, even more so without all the clean up.

This year, though, I am not going to cope as well with our newest adjustment: our oldest son is studying abroad this semester and he will not be with us for the holiday.

I don’t like it.

When it first hit me, I worried about him more than us, of course. Would he be homesick if he wasn’t with family for the holiday or would he even notice that it’s Thanksgiving because he’s in a foreign country where they don’t celebrate? Should we yank his little brother, a junior in high school, out of school for a few days and spend a ridiculous amount of money to fly there and spend the holiday with him? Should we fly him home??

Before I started checking flights, I checked my sanity.

Sure, I recognize a slippery slope when I see one. First he’s overseas, then he is too busy with schoolwork or some internship that keeps him out of town, then some girl comes around and demands that he spend Thanksgiving with her family. Next thing you know, my husband and I are alone, eating a Thanksgiving-themed TV dinner while watching football with the dog.

But, really, what can I do about it? I’ve been in those shoes and missed holidays with my family because of work or my spouse’s family obligations so I know it’s just a matter of time before he will be in the same boat.

Families evolve – something no one tells you when you have little kids. Sure, they tell you things will change when you get more sleep or when the kids are in school for longer than two hours a day and you can actually run more than one errand, but no one explains what it feels like when the kids move on with their own lives. Even leaving for college doesn’t qualify as moving on; they come back—a lot…at least at first. But then, suddenly, you see a change. It’s not really sudden, though; it was happening all along but you just didn’t notice it. Maybe the texts and calls asking for advice don’t come as frequently, or at all, or you notice a level of confidence – and competence – that wasn’t there the last time you saw him or her.

I visited my son in Europe a month or so ago and I cried when I left him. Big, gulping, worse than when I left him at college sobs. It was not because I was leaving him in a foreign country as much as it was because he was perfectly fine and capable navigating this foreign country without me.

Of course, I want him to be able to separate from me and be independent – it’s what we’ve all been working toward but, wow, it’s like a punch in the gut when it happens.

And it happens.

So, you accept the new change in the family dynamic and you adjust, again, until the next seismic shift and so on and so on and so on, always hoping your family, whatever that ends up looking like, will still kinda feel like a family.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

So, this year my son will not be home for Thanksgiving because, geographically, it’s not realistic…and we will adapt. One day, however, he may be just a couple of towns over with his significant other’s family and (in case my kids are reading this) I will most likely be sitting at home splitting a store-bought turkey sandwich and a bag of sweet potato chips with my husband, thinking about the time when we were all together…

Just kidding, kids. You know I would never eat a store-bought turkey sandwich. 😉

(Here’s hoping Mom guilt works).


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!


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.


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.


Bye, Mom!


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