Posts Tagged ‘high school’

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, it’s not Christmas, it’s back-to-school time!!

I have always loved back-to-school time but as I’ve gotten older my reasons for loving it have changed.

When I was a kid I loved shopping for supplies and buying new fall clothes. I still get the itch to buy a nubby sweater in mid-August just so I have something new for school. And, of course, I loved buying school supplies because there is nothing better than a brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons. (Burnt Sienna and Periwinkle will always have a special place in my heart).

Then, once I had kids, back-to-school time was equally exciting because the kids were excited (and I could buy Crayola crayons again- yea!). Everything was new: New teachers! New classrooms! And, even though their friends lived within a two-block radius and they spent their days together at the park the kids still couldn’t wait to see their friend IN SCHOOL and have recess IN SCHOOL!

As the kids have grown, all of our attitudes toward back-to-school have changed.  I still buy school supplies – but they are no longer as interesting to buy. Now it’s more like a scavenger hunt. Do you know how hard it is to find a composition book filled with 4×4 graph paper? I don’t think it actually exists. I think the teacher just puts it on the list because he hates us.

And the kids don’t even look forward to school anymore. First of all, they no longer get recess which, lets face it, was always the best part of school and second, they don’t need to go to school to see their friends because they are always at my house.

Which is why I’m singing Christmas songs.

The most wonderful time of the year has to be back-to-school time because I get my house back – at least from Sunday night through Friday afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong; I like that my kids have their friends over but there are times when I would really, really (really) like to put on my pajamas at 8:00 pm and sit on my family room couch within striking distance of the fridge.

We have a basement but it’s not very large so the 15-20 kids who end up at my house are usually sprawled on my family room couch. Even if they are in the basement I don’t want them to come upstairs to find me in my Mickey Mouse pajama top dipping into a box of cereal with a white wine chaser.

Some things are really best done privately.

The problem isn’t just that these kids are at my house all night. It’s that our youngest has his friends over from the time he wakes up until dinner, when his older brother’s friends are just arriving.

You are probably wondering why I just don’t kick them out – tell them to find someone else’s house to hang out in.

Then you are clearly not the parent of teenagers.

I want them here because I know where they are and who they are with. If I kick them out, even once, I’m afraid they will end up at the house where no one strolls through the kitchen casually making eye contact to check for dilated pupils or smelling for beer and tequila.

And, so, I put up with the inconvenience of eating popcorn (and sometimes dinner) in my bed with my comfy clothes on—but no pajamas—and I patiently wait for the “Hap, Happiest Season of All”: Back to School.

Parenting is Like Your Senior Year in High School

Do you remember suffering from senioritis as a student: those final weeks when you couldn’t wait for high school/college/grad school to end so you could get on with the rest of your life?

I think I’m suffering from the parenting equivalent.

I know that unlike high school/college/grad school, the parenting gig doesn’t end (as my cousin once said to me “once you have kids you always have kids”) but the apathy that I have been feeling towards my parental duties is highly reminiscent of those days when I could not bring myself to finish another study guide or research paper.

Sure, eventually I would slog through the notes and the reviews and the essays in school, but I remember doing so with no enthusiasm and wondering when the drudgery would end.

Kinda how I feel about parenting right now.

I swear if I have to pack another lunch/drive another carpool/sign another form, I’ll lose my mind.

Which is why I have not been able to write a single blog about how I’ve sucked as a parent, because everything I’ve done kinda sucks.

The other day my 13-year-old’s dinner consisted of a Frappuccino from Starbucks, some Oreos and a large bag of Sun Chips (at least it was the veggie kind). He may have had a cheese stick, too, but I don’t remember…I was too busy reading People magazine.

I couldn’t even bring myself to yell at my 17-year-old for slacking off on his finals! He and his girlfriend were “studying” for physics and I heard a great deal of laughing. Laughing! Physics is not something to laugh about – unless you are on a roller coaster – and yet they were giggling and I knew that nothing was getting done. I could not muster up one “Have you learned anything yet??!!” because I was catching up on episodes of Lost.

The good news is, in school, if you succumb to the effects of senioritis there could be real consequences. A recent New York Times post listed the potential pitfalls of slacking off as a senior in high school: losing your spot, having to explain yourself to the administration or worse, losing a scholarship.

Thankfully, for me, the consequences of my slacking off are far less dire. First, my children are old enough so they really can fend for themselves. Eventually even my carb-loving youngest child would scramble an egg or eat some yogurt. Heck, he might even be motivated enough to get his brother to take him out to eat! And my oldest would eventually suck it up and do his homework, probably even more so because I’m not nagging him.

I also have a husband who helps pick up my slack, as long as it has nothing to do with talking to our kids about sex or telling our 17-year-old that he can’t have his girlfriend in his bedroom – at which point he will run away and is no help at all.

I assume this monotony will eventually end and be replaced with exciting parenting duties like driving to-and-from camp and planning college visits. Until then I will stock the fridge with heat-and-serve dinners and take the lock off my older son’s door. And, finish watching Lost. I only have four more seasons to go…

Go Away*

“I can’t wait to go to college!” my 17-year-old proclaimed.

Finally, I thought. I was so excited that I completely ignored the fact that he finished the sentence with: “…so I can get away from YOU!”


Whatever the driving force may be, I don’t care – he wants to leave!

I was worried for a while that I was making his life too easy and he would never want to go to college. He doesn’t need to set an alarm clock because I happily (?!) climb up and down the stairs every morning for at least a half-an-hour begging him to get out of bed. He’s never had to make his own dinner (if food is not prepared he’ll graze until he can get the car keys and go out to eat); and his sheets and clothes are (surprise!) always clean when he needs them.

Why would he want to leave?? (And more importantly, what is wrong with me??)

I know most adults would never leave a place where they are catered to, waited on and downright worshipped, so why would a teen?

But I have finally hit on the best way to get your kids to leave: annoy them, harass them, remove their bedroom door if you have to, whatever it is just do it and let them move out.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. But I really, really, really want them to go to college – preferably a college that requires a 3-4 hour plane ride from home. Of course I will miss them but I will see them again – there are lots of breaks from school where they can come home, sleep late, visit their friends and borrow our car. Breaks that are just long enough to remind me that I want them to become productive members of society so they can move into their own homes and do their own laundry.

When we first started discussing college with our son, I didn’t really think that I would need to sell him on the idea of going away. It’s college! It’s freedom! It’s fun! But he just didn’t seem to grasp that.

We wanted to show him college students having fun (no, not playing beer pong or doing shots off of a co-eds belly) so we sent him to a college football game. Take my advice: If you are trying to sell your kid on the idea that college kids have SO MUCH FUN then don’t let him go to a football game on a rainy 43–degree day with his dad, uncle and grandfather and make him sit in the stands until the end of the game even though the final score is 83-10.

He won’t even look at a Big 10 school now.

We tried other tactics like stopping at a college that “just happened to be on our way” to our destination and scheduling college visits with his friends but nothing motivated him…until we demanded that he give up his phone at 11:00 pm every night.

Now he can’t wait to get away. Who knew?

I have to wield this new power wisely though. I don’t want to tighten our rules so much that we find him climbing out the window in the middle of the night to flee from the tyranny. No, I will pull out the demands only when I find him getting a little too comfortable in our home like when he plops himself on a stool at the counter and says “breakfast,” or when he’s out of clothes and asks me when I’m going to finish his laundry.

Then all bets are off…


*I’ve been holding on to this piece for the past couple of days because it seemed contrary to what I was feeling since the bombing incidents in Boston. This blog post is about wanting my kid to “Go Away” but on Monday I was prepared to have both of my kids live with me forever if it meant I could protect them from random acts of violence. But with a few day’s distance I remembered that no matter where my kids are I will worry about them. It doesn’t matter if they are running down the stairs too quickly at home or driving home from college, I will worry. If I tried to protect them from everything I wouldn’t allow them to go to the movies or a shopping mall without me and they wouldn’t be allowed to participate in largely populated events, teach children in elementary schools or even attend college. And those are only the events of the past year and a half. And so, it is with that in mind, that I can say my kid will leave home and I will worry but it is the way it’s supposed to be.

Beyond the Ivy

I live in a highly competitive town; the kind of town that is populated by over-educated, type-A parents who breed over-educated, highly competitive, type-A kids. Why, you may ask, do I live here? Well, when your kids are little and you are looking for a house you are easily swayed by a nice, safe community and blue ribbon schools. What you don’t realize though, is that while you intend to read Goodnight Moon and Polar Bear, Polar Bear to your kids, your neighbor will be reading Anna Karenina and War and Peace to his kids…in Russian.

Little by little though (when it’s too late to uproot your family) you start to see the signs: your kid can’t play competitive baseball past the age of 9 unless he can make the travel team (and if he can’t make the travel team then it’s time to pick a new sport); your daughter can’t get the lead in the community play and play soccer at the same time because only serious actors need apply for the leads; and don’t even think about having a child who wants to play an instrument in high school and explore another subject as an elective.

Although we managed to avoid most of that stress for the first 15 years of our oldest child’s life nothing prepared me for the ultimate competition…the college search.

My 16-year-old attends a public high school with over 4000 kids—1100 of them are juniors like he is—and apparently every single one of those juniors is going to an Ivy League University.

That’s right!

According to every parent that I run into his/her child is being courted by or committed to an Ivy! And they are only juniors!

Ok. Clearly many (not all) of them are full of shit but it still makes me feel like I’ve failed miserably at something. I want to pretend that my son is going to Princeton too!

It’s hard not to get caught up in the frenzy when you are surrounded by parents who are masters of the “humble brag”:

Poor Muffy! I don’t know how she is going to choose between Yale or Harvard. I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes!


Did your son hear from Northwestern and Duke yet? Our mailbox is bursting with catalogs and letters from them. I figure everyone is hearing from them, right? It couldn’t just be my son, could it??

When I first heard about that kid being inundated with college mail I started to panic. Sure, my son was getting emails and brochures from schools but we weren’t buried in mail!

Then a friend pointed out that my son probably didn’t check the box on the ACT application that allows schools to send him materials.

It took everything in me not to find his login and check that damn box. Who knows what schools would send him brochures?! Then I would feel wanted!

Uhm, did I say I? I meant he. He will feel wanted. That’s right – this has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

And just like that I get sucked into this ugly place where I start to feel bad about my kid’s prospects even though he is doing really well.

When I am able to step off the habitrail of college craziness, I realize that I don’t actually care that my son is not looking at an Ivy League school. Contrary to what my neighbors say not everyone will attend a top tier school nor should they. It reminds me of something that author and psychologist, Madeline Levine said in the documentary, “Race to Nowhere.” I’m paraphrasing here but she pointed out that when we were growing up (I’m speaking as a 40-something here) we knew that some kids would go to Harvard…now everyone thinks they are.

My son would not thrive at a highly rigorous university—for a dozen reasons (and no, I’m not trying to rationalize anything). My oldest is not an academic. He does not love to study. You will never catch him researching some random topic or reading the encyclopedia for fun (yes, that is what I used to do and yes, I am a total dork). But sometimes you realize that your kid is not you and they have other tremendous skills that are worth encouraging.

For instance, my oldest is highly adept at bringing disparate groups of people together and creating amazing connections between people. And—in what I view as his greatest skill—he has an uncanny ability to get other people to do things for him. Just the other day I told him that he couldn’t go out until he shoveled our sidewalks. Fifteen minutes later two of his friends showed up at our door with shovels in hand and helped him clear the snow.

I guarantee they can’t teach that in college. Ivy League schools be damned.

Decisions, Decisions

I need your opinion.

Am I a bad mom if I let my son go to a party? A party where it was likely that some kids would be drinking alcohol and that I could only guess would eventually be broken up by the police because high school parties haven’t changed much since I was in high school? Have I set a dangerous precedent where I can no longer revoke his party going privileges??

My 16-year-old (who is a junior in high school) asked if he could drive to a party this past weekend. He told me who was having the party and somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered hearing something about this kid and his parties.

I asked my son if the kid’s parents were going to be home. He didn’t know.

I asked my son if there would be alcohol. He didn’t know.

I chose to believe that he really didn’t know and I let him go.

Thankfully the police were already lining the streets when he pulled up to the party so he didn’t have to formulate an exit plan while he was there.

A friend of mine said that having the police at the party before he got there was a good lesson because next time my son will think, “All parties are eventually broken up by the police.”

I’m worried that my son and his friends were thinking, “Next time we need to get to the party before the cops come.”

My son has been to “parties” before; parties where they serve Arnold Palmers and pizza. If only every party he will attend would be this innocent. But they usually aren’t.

I’ve had several parents tell me that they heard about “the party” and in the same breath tell me that their kids would never go to a party like that. Too bad these are the same kids who were texting my son from the party (he showed me the texts).

See, I let my son go because he told me he was going. He could have lied and told me that he was going to a friend’s house and gone to the party anyway (like most of the kids). But he didn’t. He told me the address of the party, he told me the friend he was going with and he gave me his friend’s cell phone number.

He also texted us when he got to the party and told us about the cops on the street.

What other junior in high school is going to do that?

Before he left for the party I laid out the rules. Even though I know he doesn’t drink or do drugs, my mantra was the same: No drinking, no drugs, and if the cops show up—leave. (See, he’s the kid who would go talk to the police and try to help…and probably get arrested).

His response: “Mom, please. I’m not going to do anything stupid. I’m 16.”

I’m still laughing about that one.

When he got home he gave me the play-by-play. I heard about the police, the ambulance (???!), the fight in the parking lot of the pizza parlor where he and his friends eventually ended up, the kid with the pot at the party (!). I heard it all – or at least 2/3 (ok maybe 50%). But still, he was talking.

That’s not to say that I believe that he will always tell me everything or he will never get in trouble or he will never do anything stupid. (Please, he is stupid – he’s 16).

But for now, I think that I can trust him so I give him a bit of a longer leash – until I think I have to pull back.

Before he went up to his room, I hugged him – he’s so naïve that he actually thought I was only saying goodnight and didn’t notice me sniffing him like a police dog. I may trust him but I’m not stupid.

Like this post? Let me know!

A Few Words of Wisdom (or Bugs, Volcanoes and Fiery Car Crashes…What? Me Worry?)

This is my first guest blog. Well, technically it’s not a blog; it’s an email that a friend of mine sent to me and another friend of ours. Our older boys are going to Costa Rica this summer for a couple of weeks. They will be traveling with a very well-respected program and yet, we parents (ok, some of us parents) tend to lean toward catastrophic thinking when it comes to our kids. After we signed up for this trip two things happened: first, the lead story on Yahoo News last week was about the prevalence in Costa Rica of Chagas, a bug whose bite leads to symptoms that mimic the early stages of AIDS and HIV, and, of course, has no cure; and, second, I read that the Turrialba volcano is set to erupt at any moment in Costa Rica which could have significant impact on travel conditions—either the boys will never get in the country or, more disconcerting, the boys won’t get out of the country and they will be living with bugs that cause an incurable infection. Add to this that all three of our boys just started driving and you have a pretty incredible stew of crazy on your hands.

My friend’s email came in response to the latest email frenzy regarding volcanoes and icky bugs and several teenagers recently killed in fiery car crashes. Her email was a wonderful reminder of what our role as parents really is and how little we can control everything:

‘I just learned that a sorority sister of mine (my age, with a 21-year-old son), lost her son in a car accident recently.  He was driving onto the highway in Burr Ridge [Illinois] late at night (a Friday night), and got hit by a truck.  Incredibly sad.

I still believe my kids have a higher probability of being hit by the Domino’s delivery car that comes tearing down our street every Friday/Saturday night as the kids continuously cross the street to play “Ghost in the Graveyard,” but I would never tell them to stop playing this game. I keep telling them to be careful and watchful.

The more experiences we give our kids, the better prepared they will be for life. If we lock them away in our warm, safe homes, they’ll stay children forever.  I tell myself this constantly.  When I was pregnant with my oldest and reading all sorts of parenting books, I came across a book that I’ll always remember.  Its thesis was that from the moment you give birth, your purpose and responsibility as a parent is to prepare your child to leave you.  As cold and hard as that sounded to me, it resonated with me because it made so much sense.

As for the bugs and parasites in Costa Rica, I reminded my son that he’s been through something similar and survived.  When he was 3, we took him to Jamaica and he came back with Subcutanious Larva Migron on his bottom and on the bottoms of his feet.  He was famous at Children’s Memorial Hospital for a while as they showed his butt and feet to all the doctors and interns who were not familiar with these microscopic worms that live and burrow just under the skin and are common in lesser-developed countries. Apparently, the cats there have these worms in their poop. My son and I played in the sand on the beach. There was a two-inch stream of water coming from the land next to the hotel and it cut through the sand and into the ocean. Stray cats must have pooped in the sand next to this stream of water. My son and I put our feet in this seemingly clean water and sat in the damp sand near it. When we got home, his butt looked like it had little red veins running through it…

…Hopefully, [the boys] will use good judgment and common sense, and watch out for each other…and have an incredible time, and have many wonderful stories to tell us when they get back.  I can’t wait to hear the stories…’

Omnipotence is a Bitch

I remember when my kids were little and they thought that I was all-powerful. I could make bumped heads feel better with a kiss, I knew the answers to almost every question they asked, and I always knew exactly what could make them laugh.

I was amazing back then.

But now, even though my kids are convinced that I know nothing and they know with the utmost certainty that I have no super powers, I am—seemingly—still responsible for everything…including the weather.

Yesterday morning my 16-year-old snapped at me because it was only going to be 63 degrees – in April! In Chicago! Instead of the unseasonably warm temperatures that we had been having of late it was going to be a normal April day. And that was somehow my fault.

“Mom,” my son yelled from the top of the stairs. “Is it warm today?”

“It’s supposed to be about 60 degrees,” I responded as I walked upstairs.

“What?!” he shrieked. “60 degrees. Why?” he asked, shooting me an accusing stare. “Why?”

I actually felt guilty for a second, as if I really did have something to do with the temperature.

This was on the heels of the “why do you make me go to school at 8:15?” accusation. At the time, part of me wondered if it was, indeed, within my control to set the start time for school.

I had to shake that one off as well.

I let him rant about the injustice of his 16-year-old, suburban life and chalked up his mood swing to a lack of sleep or a hormone imbalance or whatever teenage issue was pushing out any shred of logic or reason in his brain.

I said nothing because I knew that anything I said could and would be used against me on the 8-minute car ride to school.  Besides, I clearly needed more coffee to endure another onslaught.

But he was not done.

“It’s Wednesday,” he grunted just one minute into the car ride.


I noticed him turning toward me and I could feel him glaring at me accusingly. Was he really going to blame me for it being Wednesday?


“Why do I have to go to school on Wednesdays?” he asked, his voice rising in disbelief.

I laughed. Out loud. Actually it was more of a guffaw.

But really, what else is there to do when your kid poses such a ridiculous question?

Even if I said, “You don’t need to go to school on Wednesdays anymore,” he would just respond with, “Well, if I don’t go on Wednesday then Thursday would become Wednesday so then Thursdays would suck.” And so on, and so on, and so on.

He didn’t see the humor in all of this but that didn’t matter. Parenting, for me, is all about perception; that is, how I perceive the situation. A good spin can make anything look better. And boy was I going to spin this one—it was either that or bang my head against the steering wheel.

We finally made it to the school without further incident (well, there was that moment when he got mad at the people walking their dogs on the sidewalk so slowly, but at least he didn’t blame me for that).

As he got out of the car he looked at me and shook his head (because I was still smirking, of course). “You are so moody,” he said. And with that, he was off.

Ah, if only I was all-powerful…



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