Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Who Needs “Siri” When You Have “Mom”

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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:

“Daffodil.”

“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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Life Lesson: Teen Dating

Dear Sons –

I know we’ve talked a lot about dating before (even when you didn’t ask my opinion) but I wanted to give you your own handy-dandy written “Guide” in case you are ever wondering what I would tell you and I’m not around. Call it, Mom’s Guide to Dating.

Don’t roll your eyes.

Here goes:

  1. Don’t be an asshole. You heard me. If I find out that you are treating your significant other badly I will personally kick your ass.
  1. Don’t be a doormat. This is not the opposite of being an asshole. Don’t always give in to your significant other just to keep the peace. If she wants to see Star Wars and you want to see Inside Out make an argument for why you should pick the movie this time. Or compromise – there’s nothing wrong with compromise. If she insists that you always give in – move on. Don’t sell your soul.
  1. Move forward at a mutually agreed pace. No one should dictate how quickly a relationship progresses. Both parties need to be comfortable.
  1. Laugh – a lot. Not at her (or at anyone, for that matter), but with her. Remember, if you guys can’t laugh at the stuff that makes each of you smile – move on.
  1. Don’t let Hallmark be your guide for gift giving. I personally hate Valentine’s Day (as you know). Your father has not been allowed to give me a gift on Valentine’s Day for the 25 years we’ve been married. Sure, for a few years he tried to give me flowers the day after Valentine’s Day but, no…just don’t. One caveat: if the person you are dating LOVES Valentine’s Day or Sweetest Day or any of the other made up holidays (yes, I’m holding back a comment) you should acknowledge the day with something (just remember that the florists jack up the prices on Valentine’s Day so don’t blow a paycheck on a dozen red roses – especially if she is demanding them). Remember, it’s the thought that counts.
  1. It’s the little things that matter. I swear.
  1. Find someone who likes to do the stuff you like to do (but not necessarily everything you like to do – see #8 below). Your dad and I bonded over Chicago Blackhawks hockey, horse racing and eating out. It was a great place to start.
  1. Have separate interests (this is not the opposite of #7, above). Remember you are separate people. I do know couples who do EVERYTHING together and haven’t killed each other – yet. These are the outliers. It’s good to have separate interests – it gives you something to talk about and something to share – occasionally – with the person you are dating.
  1. DO NOT alienate your friends (make sure your girlfriend doesn’t alienate hers either). I lost many a friend over the years to the “I’m dating someone and I need to spend every waking moment with him/her because that’s what couples do.” Ugh. If your dad and I didn’t have our friends around I’m not sure if we could have been together this long. Sure, your dad and I do a lot together but I also like going to the theater (he only like musicals), running (he HATES running), dancing (he can’t dance), and overanalyzing just about everything (he has no patience). Similarly, I have zero interest in playing poker in Vegas, watching European soccer and skiing. That’s what our friends are for.
  1. Apologize when you do or say something stupid. No one is perfect and mistakes will be made. Just don’t make it a pattern of do-something-stupid-apologize-later. Then you are just being an asshole (see #1 above). Also, if you are dating someone who is stuck in that pattern – move on.
  1. If your relationship has run its course have a face-to-face conversation. No ghosting, no break up texts, no social media announcements – I don’t care what the media or your friends say is the norm nowadays. Anything short of a face-to-face conversation makes you a jerk. Yes, it will suck; yes, she may be really, really pissed; and, yes, you will potentially be hurting someone but eventually, when the scars have faded, at least she won’t be able to say you weren’t honest and respectful.
  1. Be honest, respectful and kind. Always.

Love,

Mom

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What would you add? What do you disagree with? Let me know!

 

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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.

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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.

Duh.

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.

 

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

 

 

Separation Anxiety

Three days ago my oldest son landed in Costa Rica. I thought that it would be the first time—ever—that he and I would go more than a day without communicating. Everyone told me that cell service was basically non-existent in the cloud forest. There was also no WiFi in the rooms where he was staying so if he needed to communicate with me he would have to email me from the student area.

He does not send email.

He considers anything longer than a six-word text essentially writing a novel, so, I had prepared myself for limited communication.

And then I got this email:

“I’m not in the same room as [the kids I’m traveling with] but that’s ok, I’ve made other friends…There’s no WiFi in the rooms so this is the last email that I am going to send. Love you! Bye”

It was like a knife through my heart. That’s it? I won’t get anything for the rest of the trip? He’s never been away from me for two weeks and certainly we’ve never gone two weeks without speaking. And now, nothing? I forwarded the email to my friend and wrote: “I’ve lost my baby…” (Very dramatic, I know).

I’d gone through this with my 12-year-old when he went away to summer camp but at least at his summer camp the counselors made him write home – even when he didn’t want to. And, they posted pictures of the campers so I could see if he was smiling and, most importantly, he was in this country.

My 16-year-old was in a jungle in Central America without me.

I was a bit shocked by his ability to separate from me so easily. This is the kid who checks in with me all of the time, the kid who has never wanted to be away from home for an extended period of time, and, yet now, he’s gone. Just like that.

I wallowed in my sadness for a bit but then I realized that this was what I expected and, most importantly, what I wanted.

I settled in with my book for the night when I heard a call coming in on Skype.

Really? I had just accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to hear from him and now he’s Skyping?

I almost emailed my friend to say: “Never mind. He’s back.”

He wanted to tell us about the giant tarantula in the common area and the scorpions scurrying around the rooms. You’re in a jungle, I wanted to remind him. Instead I said, “That’s so cool! Now go to bed.”

An hour later…

The phone rings.

WTF! (It’s amazing what a difference an hour makes.)

This time he wanted to tell us that he had switched rooms because there was a scorpion the size of a baseball cap in the other room.

Creepy? Without a doubt. But still, not an emergency.

I tried to remain pleasant—he was nervous about sleeping in a bed of scorpions—I get it, but I ended the conversation with this reminder: “You really shouldn’t be calling me. It’s very expensive. If it’s an emergency call me, but if not, send us an email. You’ll be fine.”

Nine hours later:

“Hi mom! I got some sleep.”

Remember when I wanted him to call? Well, now I didn’t.

I want him to be independent. He’s going to college in two years and I really don’t want him to have to call me every day. I want him to NOT want to call me – even if I want him to call me. Get it?

When he hung up he was mad at me for reprimanding him about calling. I chose the tough love approach. If I don’t shove him away, will he ever be ready to leave?

Twelve hours later…

Nothing.

I checked email, made sure I was still logged in on Skype and checked my texts.

Nothing.

Remember when I said that I didn’t want to hear from him? Well, I was wrong.

He can’t even send a text? I know that I told him not to call but he never listens to me; why would he start now?

I know I sound crazy but I’m struggling with my need to let go and my desire to hold on for dear life. I know that my job is to teach my kids to be on their own. I do not want them living in my basement when they are thirty but the alternative could be that they are living somewhere else and I never see them.

How do you navigate that fine line? How do you get your kids to want you around but not so much that they can’t function without you?

An hour later…

I hear the beep of Skype.

Damn, I really thought he wasn’t going to call.

Ah well, here we go again…

 

 

 

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