Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

How Do You Talk To Your Kids About Terrorism?

I didn’t post a “What Would You Do?” post on Friday because it seemed frivolous after the attacks in Paris. Then, on Saturday morning I opened the Wall Street Journal and saw a photo of a person in a body bag on the cover of the newspaper and a more serious “What Would You Do?” question came to mind: What do you tell your kids about terrorism?

Images like the ones in the Wall Street Journal are everywhere. You can’t turn on a computer, look at a newspaper or turn on the TV without a graphic image of the recent attacks in Paris or Beirut or Nigeria cropping up. And kids are on line all of the time – being bombarded by headlines and images. The image of the person in a body bag was nothing compared to the images my 15-year-old has viewed on the Internet since the attacks.

So, what do you tell them?

My kids were pretty young when the attacks on 9/11 occurred. My older son was 5 ½ and my youngest was only 1 ½. I was watching the Today show the morning of the attacks and actually turned the TV on just minutes before the second plane hit the tower. My older son saw the attack in real time. At that moment I knew exactly what was happening but he didn’t. I thought it was best not to say anything because he was so young so I told him it was a plane crash in an effort to buy myself more time to come up with an explanation that would be age appropriate. Of course, I lost all control over the story once he went to school that afternoon. He heard different versions of the attacks depending on whose parents had told them what.

He came home thinking that Chicago had been attacked and that the planes were bombs.

I didn’t really know what to tell him that would be honest but not too frightening. I certainly didn’t want him to worry about boarding a plane or traveling into the city. I recall not saying much and hoping that because of his age he wouldn’t ask.

I have chosen, through the years, to be fairly matter-of-fact about the news, telling my boys what has happened but not giving them too much frightening detail. Usually they don’t ask too many questions, which I always viewed as a good sign. I should have realized that they were getting their information somewhere else and not discussing it with me.

A few days before the Paris attacks my 15-year-old and I were talking about a video game that he wants for the holidays. I said that it seemed pretty harsh and a little disturbing. “Not more disturbing then the real world,” he said. “This is make-believe. Shooting in movie theaters and schools is real.”

Wow. I didn’t even know that he thought about any of this.

Apparently he worries when we goes to a movie theater, not enough to stop him from going to the movies, but he said that the shooting in Aurora, Colorado is always on his mind when he walks into a theater.

I told him to always sit at the back of the theater and if anyone stands to face the audience he should duck. I thought if he had a plan it would ease his fears. I don’t think I helped.

I don’t want my boys to be afraid to go to a movie theater (or run a marathon, go to a soccer match, see a concert or fly in a plane). I have always talked about those incidents as if they are isolated events. Unfortunately, now it seems that every day brings a new threat and I clearly need to talk about it.

Just last night, my son brought up all of the flights that have been delayed or rerouted in the U.S. over the last couple of days. Of course, we are flying in a couple of weeks and, although my son didn’t say he was worried about it, I still attempted to allay any unspoken fears he may have.  “Little chance of anything happening on a flight to Missouri,” I told him.

“But we are flying out of Chicago,” he countered.

I said something about not living our lives in fear or the terrorists win. Although I do believe that sentiment, I knew it sounded dismissive; I just didn’t know what else to say.

I’m certainly not going to tell my kids to avoid crowds or events on the off chance that a terrorist is targeting that venue, but there is a part of me that wants to bubble wrap my kids and lock them up—keep them away from all danger.

As if that’s possible.

Parents in Columbine and Newtown and even in our small town outside of Chicago thought their kids were safe. All they did was send their kids to school – a place that is considered a safe haven – and the unthinkable occurred.

So, as the unthinkable continues to happen, what do you tell your kids? Do you keep them away from the news (easier when the kids are younger and you can control what they watch)? Do you change your plans? I have a few friends whose kids were planning to study in Paris next fall. At least one of the moms I talked to said she would not let her child go. What would you do? What would you tell your kids to keep them safe?

My older son wants to study abroad in Europe next fall as well. Initially he had suggested attending a program in a small town in Italy and I scoffed. “You want to be a in a big city! Go to Rome!” I told him. Now I’m not so sure. Sending him to a little town in the middle of nowhere sounds pretty appealing to me right now…

 

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Why Creating Family Traditions is a Bad Idea

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Hey, you, over there, taking the photos of your lil’ punkin in the pumpkin patch, put down the camera and step away from that cute family moment.

I’m doing you a favor here. You may think that this is the beginning of a great family tradition that will last a lifetime but really you are merely starting down a path that will lead to pain and misery.

Seriously.

Sure, right now it’s adorable to watch your 2-year-old try to lug that ten pound pumpkin and to see your daughter grinning from ear-to-ear as you lift her overhead to reach the apple at the top of the tallest tree in the orchard.

But right now doesn’t last forever…they eventually become teenagers and that’s when the fun ends.

The child who one day loved all of your family traditions will turn on you the next day and demand that you stop engaging in traditional family activities that bore them/embarrass them/make them hate you because you are making them participate.

Just save yourself the pain of one day trying to get your teenagers to go pick out a pumpkin with you or go apple picking or decorate the Christmas tree while sipping hot cocoa and listening to Christmas music.

They won’t do it.

“But you LOVE apple picking,” you will remind your 15-year-old and he will look at you as though the very idea of eating an apple is repulsive and you have lost your mind because he never, never, ever enjoyed that activity.

“Help me put out the Halloween decorations, please,” is met with: “Why would we put out decorations? We aren’t little kids anymore—mom.”

Last year I “threatened” (i.e. screamed for a good 30 minutes) to take away Christmas unless someone helped me decorate the tree; five minutes later the tree was decorated but it was shrouded by a cloud of disdain for all things jolly.

At that point I officially hated Christmas.

Eventually your teenagers’ contempt for your heart-warming family traditions—the traditions you lovingly developed to create routine and joy in their lives—will just suck the joy out of the season.

So what do you do when the family traditions you’ve created no longer fit your family (but you still want them – damn it!)?

You could:

A) Have every family tradition involve a gift exchange because, somehow, my family is still ok with the traditions of gift giving for Christmas and Hanukkah.

B) Wait until you have grandchildren and do it all over again while secretly waiting for the day that your child calls you in a huff because his kid won’t pick out a pumpkin without several friends in tow. (This, of course, is my personal favorite.)

Or,

C) You could just adapt.

Unfortunately, option “C” eventually wins.

Until recently, I never thought about not being with my children for a holiday but, of course, my husband and I did that to our parents once we started dating. We had to divide our time between events or, as was often the case once we had kids, trade off between families every year. We solved the agony of making three Thanksgiving stops by forcing everyone to come to our house but even that has changed, as our siblings have had to adapt to their own extended family plans.

But significant others aren’t the only ones who force changes on family traditions. Once my son left for college even something as silly as giving him a half-birthday cake on his half-birthday (one of my favorite traditions) turned into a logistical nightmare since it fell on a weekend and I couldn’t send a homemade half cake. I compromised by sending a half-dozen cupcakes from a local bakery but that turned a simple idea into quite a pricey event and, besides, it just wasn’t the same.

But what about when he studies abroad and isn’t home for Thanksgiving? Or what if he decides to stay for Christmas in his new locale? How will I manage to arrange for his favorite holiday tradition, hanging his stocking on his door for Christmas morning?

It just occurred to me that there will come a day when my boys will not wake up in my house on Christmas morning and their stockings will sit on the mantle, unfilled, as mere decoration, much the same way our uncarved pumpkins decorate our porch now.

“It’s what’s supposed to happen,” my husband just said to me. Clearly, he isn’t quite as moved by this as I am. 

Screw that.

I changed my mind. I’m not going with option “C,” I’m going with option “A” above. A little bribe, I mean gift, could go a long way.

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Top Five Things to Know About a Newborn

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I’m not around many soon-to-be or completely new parents much. Although our neighborhood is filling fast with young families, by the time they move to the ‘burbs they usually have at least one preschool or school aged kid in tow. But today I got a peek into the mind of a soon to be new parent when my dentist told me about his plans for his new role as a dad.

He knows I write this blog so he asked me what advice I would give him. At the time nothing really important came to mind. To be fair I was also drooling a bit and I’m not sure when I spoke that I was actually articulating words since my mouth was so numb but I did come up with one piece of advice – when you change your newborn boy’s diaper make sure you cover his penis or you will get sprayed.

I thought that was pretty useful information!

But now, several hours later (although still numb and drooling) I’ve come up with a few more the things that I wish I knew when my oldest was a newborn. To be fair, I probably knew all of this – I’m sure some well-meaning parent told me but I either forgot what they said, I thought I knew better, or I didn’t believe them.

Just in case my dentist wants to know, though, here is my list of the top five things I wish I knew when my kids were babies.

  1. You will not consistently sleep through the night while you have kids living in your home. I knew the first few months would be tough but eventually we would reach that magical point when the baby would “sleep through the night.”  Well, yea, he slept through the night.

And then he didn’t.

There were nights when he was teething, or stuffy, or scared or just wide awake for no apparent reason at 3 am. And then they become teenagers. Not to freak you new parents out but I don’t remember what it’s like to fall asleep and wake up in the morning without interruption – and my youngest is 15.

  1. If you are a type “A” kind of person, learn to let go. You cannot control what happens with a baby (see teething, stuffy, scared above). I did not know this. I like to control things. I was positive that I knew best and I could get my kid to comply.

I was wrong.

For instance, I thought my kid should sleep because I said so:

Me (to Baby #1 at 8-months-old who is awake at 2 am): Shhh! Go to sleep.

Baby #1: bursts into fits of giggles

Me: (sobbing) This is not funny! It’s dark out! It’s time to sleep!

Baby #1: giggles more

 And then I had my second kid:

Me (to Baby #2 at 8-months-old who is awake at 2 am): I’m just going to sleep on your floor with my earplugs in. You do whatever you want in your crib.

Baby #2: bursts into a fit of giggles

Me: (curled up on the floor) zzzzzzz

  1. Which brings me to my next point: your first kid is like an experiment. You won’t know what you are doing. No matter how many babies you have been around you will not know what you are doing with your first child. BUT, you will figure it out…eventually. This will only become apparent if you have another kid or two.
  2. Don’t read too many books or consult too many websites. Even if you don’t know what you are doing, too much information can make you crazy. I had to laugh when my dentist mentioned that he needed to get another book to read for the weekend because he just finished his copy of If You Read This You Will Be the Perfect Parent or something with a similar title because really, the only reason you read these books is because you want to know everything before the baby comes. You truly believe that armed with ALL of this parenting knowledge you will be able to deftly handle every situation that comes up and you will be the “Perfect Parent.”

Ha!

Sure, I read What to Expect When You are Expecting and What to Expect the First Year. I considered the latter my “bible” and consulted it for everything from the step-by-step instructions on how to bathe the baby (this made my mother laugh so hard she actually left my house) to what a normal baby’s temperature is (hmm, same as an adult’s). The more I read the more I thought I was doing something wrong. I found, after the fact, that the best books to read were the ones that were humorous. Like The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy and Go the F**k to Sleep.

  1. Parenting requires humor. Sure, parenting is serious business. But it’s also not. Watching your toddler walk the dog (or the dog walk your kid) is funny. So is your 5-year-old making you breakfast or your 7-year-old singing like Justin Timberlake. Even tantrums are funny (really, they are, especially if you join in and act like a toddler, too). Just remember: if you don’ t have a sense of humor you will never survive the teenage years…

What would you add to the list? What do you know now that you wish you knew when your first kid was a newborn?

What Do You Do With 40-Year-Old Baby Teeth??

Why do we parents save our kids’ childhood mementos? Are we saving it all so we can occasionally rummage through the boxes and reminisce or do we plan to give it all to our children when they are older?

If you agree with the latter, consider this scenario:

Many, many years in the future you hand your grown daughter a box of her lovingly preserved childhood mementos. You await for what is sure to be a squeal of delight as she sifts through the treasures.

Then she screams and slams the box shut.

“Ew! Are those my baby teeth?!” she yells. “That is so creepy! Why would you keep those and why would you think I would want them??”

Hmm. Not quite the reaction you were expecting.

Quickly, you rip the box from her hands before she can see her umbilical cord encased in plexiglass. Clearly she won’t appreciate that either.

A friend of mine recently relayed a similar story to me (thankfully, without the preserved umbilical cord bit) after her father handed her an envelope that contained her 45-year-old baby teeth. This naturally got me thinking, if we are preserving out kids’ keepsakes for them, shouldn’t we put more thought into what they may actually want to see in 40+ years?

With that, I decided to purge my home of random crap, I mean, mementos. I sorted through all of it with an “everything I am saving for my kids may eventually become theirs” lens because really, will my kids ever want this:

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or this:

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During my purge I came across some gems that I am certain my kids will NEVER miss after I toss them out:

A newborn diaper (unused, of course, although I bet someone, somewhere saved a used one). I must have kept it to show that my kid was—surprise—once the size of a newborn.

27 toddler size shirts (yes, 27!). I’m sure that when I shoved those clothes in a corner of my closet 10 or 15 years ago the memory of my boys in those particular shirts was probably too strong to let me part with the clothes. Now I have no idea who wore what.

Results for standardized tests from grades 4-8. WTF was I thinking? Did I think they would need them to apply to college??

Two musical recorders from 4th grade. I didn’t like hearing them play the recorder in 4th grade why would I want to hear it ever again?

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Report cards from kindergarten through high school. Ok. I’ll admit, I got distracted sifting through the earlier report cards because, let’s face it, no teacher will ever again tell me, “Your child is a gift!” or “He brought a smile to my face every day!” Those reports I kept, the rest got recycled.

Artwork. As much as my husband would have liked, I did not take photos of all of our kids’ artwork to eventually be made into an album. I am still working on assembling the first year of my 19-year-old’s baby book so clearly I am not an album maker and, for the record, neither is my husband. Besides, how many of these can I look at:

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Now, I’m not a total ogre. There are definitely many things (too many things) that I will hold on to whether my kids want them or not: photos, playbills from performances, newspaper clippings, a lock of their hair, handmade cards they wrote that still make me a little teary, their beloved books, and, of course, some old toys.

I will NOT toss out all of their toys.

My mom gave away all of my Barbie dolls and accessories when I left for college and I was devastated! In her defense, my parents were moving and I hadn’t touched them in years, but I didn’t care. At the time, I wailed dramatically about how all of my childhood memories had been taken away and what if I had a daughter who would want those toys and blah, blah, blah. The reality was that the one Barbie I did manage to salvage was gleefully dismembered by my boys within minutes but still…

So, just in case my boys hold some deep, perhaps irrational attachment to more than just the few stuffed animals, Lego creations, Thomas the Tank Engine trains and Matchbox cars I’ve decided to keep, I let them sift through the piles of stuff I was preparing to toss and asked what they wanted to save. Surprisingly they wanted nothing, especially not their teeth. “My baby teeth??” my youngest asked. “Why? That’s so creepy!”

Go figure.

What out of the ordinary childhood mementos have you kept for your kids?

What NOT To Bring To A College Dorm (And a Few Things Students Couldn’t Live Without)

Around this time last year, just as the first Hello Kitty notebook hit the shelves at Target (signaling the start of the back-to-school frenzy), my older son and I started shopping for his dorm room.

Ugh!

It should have been fun—all the possibilities! But my son had very little enthusiasm for the process and I had very little patience.

Thankfully we don’t have to do it again. But, if I did, I would have done it a little differently.

I still wouldn’t have let him shop alone, though. If I let my son pick out what he “needed” for his dorm room the list would have looked like this:

  1. Food
  2. TV
  3. Xbox
  4. Mini fridge

He would never have thought about buying sheets (“I’ll just take the ones off my bed at home!”) or a shower caddy (“What’s a shower caddy??”).

Of course, not all kids would be as clueless…but it helps to have a parent tag along and it helps to have a plan.

I’m here to help with that plan.

I polled my older son’s friends, their parents, and my friends to find out what worthless items they purchased for dorm rooms—items that seemed essential or items that were on a list somewhere as a “Must Have” but were never—and have never—been used by an actual student.

What not to buy/pack/bring:

  • Too much clothing – specifically, according to one mom, “The twenty button-down shirts that my son HAD to have but never wore.” Two words: no space.
  • Too much formal clothing – If you are in a fraternity or sorority or you have a major where you need to make formal presentations, you may need a suit jacket or a couple of dresses – you won’t need multiple suits, several dress shirts or five dresses and four pairs of formal shoes. See above: no space.
  • Too many shoes – Again: no space.
  • Real plates, knives, forks – use disposable. I know, I know, you are worried about your carbon footprint but, according to the kids, “you will never, ever clean the dirty plate/fork/knife,” and well, that’s just gross.
  • Printer – “They take up a lot of space and there is a print room in every building.”
  • Plastic cleaning gloves – Ok, I admit it. I packed these, and, not surprisingly, they returned home, unopened at the end of the year.
  • A vacuum – If you don’t already have one, don’t buy one. Someone on the hall will have one that your kid can borrow for the two times he actually vacuums.
  • Laundry basket and a laundry bag – No room for both. Bring a collapsible laundry bag.
  • A lot of hangers – “Extra shelves—maybe—would have collected more clothes,” according to one mom.
  • Bulky luggage – pack clothes in collapsible bags or use heavy-duty garbage bags for transport.
  • A Panini press or any other kitchen appliance – save it for an apartment.
  • An iron– this one depends on your kid. One boy swore by it. “College dryers tend to make clothes incredibly wrinkly,” he explained. While another girl said that she never took hers out of the closet.

Now for what the kids couldn’t live without:

  • A foam topper and mattress pad. My son’s bed was at least 6 inches higher than his roommate’s and seemed obnoxious to me at first but my son said it was the comfiest bed he has ever slept in.
  • A fan – Remember not every dorm has air conditioning.
  • A collapsable storage ottoman – Storage AND extra seating! Items that pull double- duty are always helpful.
  • A 6-ft. power strip (or two). Who knows where the outlets will be.
  • Portable speakers – “I couldn’t live without [them]” and “We were always moving around but still wanted to listen to music.”
  • Garbage bags – “Lots of garbage bags.”
  • A mini hot water kettle – Most kids, my son included, thought this was really useful “to make tea, ramen, oatmeal, hot chocolate, etc.”
  • Light bulbs – “You may get a desk lamp but they don’t give you light bulbs,” one mom reminded me.
  • Plastic storage bins – Perhaps not as many as I bought for my son but he did use them to keep things stored under his bed (again probably not in the way that I would have organized them – I mean who puts the snacks with the playing cards?? There should be a separate bin for games, right??).
  • Extra toilet paper.
  • Can opener/bottle opener.
  • Mini fridge.
  • Head phones.
  • Some wall decorations. Emphasis on some.
  • Extra sheets and towels – NOTE: this one actually made both of the lists above. One mom said they were useless as her son never broke out the second set, while my son used all three (yes, three!) sets of sheets but never washed them until Thanksgiving – he just stripped off the dirty sheets and threw them under the bed. Whatever it takes to get them to use clean sheets, right?
  • A plunger – “I lived in a suite-style dorm and shared a bathroom with three other freshman guys.” Enough said.

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and it will depend on your kid but remember, most dorm rooms are about 12 x 14 feet – for two people!

Less is more, people.

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What would you add to this list? Let us know.

Get A Job!

I was driving my younger son and his friend to soccer practice when they both started lamenting how busy they are this summer. My son’s friend is starting driver’s education as soon as soccer ends because, as he explained with a touch of sarcasm, “I can’t have one day with nothing to do.” My son groaned in sympathy. “I know,” my son added. “I don’t have a single day off this summer.”

Insert eye roll here.

I have no sympathy for this complaining. First of all, taking driver’s ed and playing soccer were my son’s requests, not mine, (as if I want another teenage driver in my house!) and, more importantly, he was complaining about being bored two days after school was out!

It would be great if he could have one of those idyllic 70’s summers. I can picture it perfectly: he would yell up the stairs in the early morning to say goodbye to me, the screen door slapping behind him before I can react. Then he would head to his best friend’s house on his bike and they would wander the neighborhood picking up other friends while looking for something to do, eventually following the railroad tracks to find the body before Keifer Sutherland and the other greasers could find it.

Oh wait. That’s the movie, Stand By Me.

All kidding aside, I wish he could have one of the carefree summers of my youth.

But he can’t.

They no longer exist.

Unless we parents collectively decide to yank our kids out of ALL activities my son will be home—alone—playing video games and watching YouTube videos, all day, EVERY DAY while his peers continue with their extensive summer plans.

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This trend is not going anywhere especially if you factor in the get-into-college-summer-resume-building frenzy of activities that all high school teenagers seem to be involved in.

My son is a rising high school sophomore and according to the Internet (where everything is true) my son should be on a service trip in Guatemala or working on a novel or starting a company in our garage (although that would be nice…).

With nothing but soccer and driver’s education on his agenda, his college admissions resume will be light.

There go the Ivy’s.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of a new book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” and author of The New York Times article, “What’s Your Teenager Doing This Summer? In Defense of ‘Nothing” wants parents to take back summer. She encourages parents to jump off of the get-into-a-good-college bandwagon and let “summer feel like summer again.”

She believes that free time will morph into time spent “cooking, biking, building models, drawing, talking to Grandma, reading books from the library, keeping a journal, feeling bored, making money mowing lawns or washing cars, noodling around on the piano or the guitar, learning how to drive, going for a swim, daydreaming in the hammock, lying on the grass staring up at the clouds.”

Hmm…I don’t know many teens who would fill their days daydreaming in a hammock or talking to their grandparents. I know my kid wouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree that teens should not spend their summers padding their high school resumes but should they really spend their summers doing nothing?

I have a better idea: let’s tell our teens to get jobs.

Not an “internship” at a family friend’s company but a real job. Preferably an annoying job with a bad boss, mean customers and a lot of responsibility.

This works on so many levels. Not only will your teen have some activity to fill his days but, if you, or your kid, care about the whole resume-building exercise, he will develop skills he would never develop if he was on a 3-week trip to the Galapagos Island with a staff to help him navigate the experience.

Maybe, because I’ve been through the get-into-college rodeo already, I recognize that the over-priced, completely scheduled, 2-week summer service trips and the full-time internships that Lythcott-Haims mentions aren’t fooling any admissions counselors.

What stood out on my older son’s resume wasn’t his two-week trip to a tropical paradise to tag turtles (yes, we were those parents) but his summer jobs as a baseball coach and a camp counselor for nine-year-olds. Talk about developing communication and problem solving skills! And those were just the skills needed to deal with the parents.

But, and this is important, he didn’t get those jobs with an eye towards his high school resume; he took those jobs to make money and because he likes kids. The rest (the experience, the learned skills, the connections) was just a bonus.

So, when your kid asks to go to Hawaii for three weeks to help the dolphins or you feel the itch to sign your kid up for one more learn-to-code class, hand your son or daughter the Help Wanted section from the local paper instead.

Then start planning your trip to a tropical paradise with the money you will save.

What are your teens doing this summer?

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How To Survive Summer Vacation With Your College Kid

Nine months ago I wrote about how my oldest son was off to college and I worried about how I was going to adjust. I was so sad and so convinced that I would never grow accustomed to setting the table for three instead of four and I would always mourn his absence.

Well, I got used to it.

It was so conflict-free! My oldest is the child who brings out the fight in me. I don’t know what it is but we butt heads over everything. It’s not so much what he says as how he says it: with a snarky tone that just begs for a fight.

And, far be it for me to back down.

When he was away at school we didn’t fight…much. It’s hard to fight with limited communication. But, our disagreements, if we had them, were usually via text (I could hear that snark in his words even when I couldn’t actually hear him). Thankfully we didn’t have time to text-fight very much because angry typing takes forever.

But now he’s home. Let the fighting begin.

I was so naïve. I thought that summer break would be exactly like his winter and spring breaks: short and sweet with nary a disagreement. I guess we were all on our best behavior because we had such little time and, now that I think about it, he had the flu over winter break and strep over spring break so he really was on his best behavior. Sick kids are so much easier to deal with.

Now that he’s healthy and we have three months instead of three weeks, I’ve come up with this survival plan:

  1. I will encourage him to sleep until 3:00 pm. This limits the amount of time that we can see each other during the day. Limited face-to-face interactions limits the number of fights we can have. Unfortunately, this can’t go on forever (for so many reasons, of course). Only one of his two summer jobs has started and the one that will get him up and out of bed by 7:00 am doesn’t start for another week. In the mean time I am relishing the quiet of the morning/afternoons.
  2. I will ignore the snark. Often, when my son misses breakfast and lunch because he has slept through both meals he gets snarky. I WILL NOT ENGAGE! I will simply tune him out like a teenager engaging with his or her parents. I will let my mind wander to pleasant thoughts while he complains about being bored/tired/hungry/oppressed. And when his venting loses steam and he turns back into my sweet, loving child I will tune back in.
  3. I will make my home less appealing. When my older son was younger I wanted to have the house where everyone would hang out. I thought it was a good way to keep an eye on the kids. Now, I would prefer they go elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong. I really adore my son’s friends. I do. They are great kids who are polite, kind, smart, engaging and they even clean up! But they are at the age when they may want to do things that I don’t want to know about. I don’t want to always be the parent who will have to say no. So, as a deterrent, I will hide the snacks and fall asleep on the couch when his friends come over. Or maybe I will sit at the counter with them and ask them a lot of questions. Or, even better, I’ll invite my friends over to sit at the counter with them and ask a lot of questions. That should make them want to flee.
  4. When I actually want to spend time with my son (which is often, in case you were worried) I will take him out for a meal. He LOVES to eat so taking him to a new restaurant and offering him a good (free) meal are easy ways to get some quality time. Family dinner every night is another way to “force” him to spend time with us but that usually only lasts five minutes (although it is a pretty good five minutes). If I want real, extended time without conflict, he needs food.
  5. I will torment him when he starts to fray my nerves. I’ll crack bad jokes, play my music too loudly, ask him questions or ask him to help with chores. This will force him to retreat to his room or the basement. It’s like a time out without having to ask him.
  6. I will not wait up for him. I used to lie in bed waiting for the back door to open before I could drift off peacefully. Now I put in my earplugs and promptly fall asleep. He usually doesn’t stay out too late so this one is pretty easy. I also know that if he gets arrested, gets into an accident, or gets abducted someone will call me and wake me up.
  7. And finally, I will not worry about him getting arrested, or getting into an accident or being abducted. At least not obsessively (I’ll always worry a little). There was a time when I worried about all of those things and the only time I felt secure was when he was home in bed and I knew exactly where he was. And then he left for college and I knew nothing about his whereabouts. I had to trust that I taught him well and that he would make good decisions…ok, good-ish decisions.

I’m only three weeks into my plan but so far, so good. If it doesn’t work, however, there’s always summer school next year.

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