Posts Tagged ‘published’

The Too Much Information Age of Parenting

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

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

I miss those days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m kidding – sort of.

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

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

I can’t unknow it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Fiscal Irresponsibility

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How much control should we parents have over how our children spend their money?

That is the question that has plagued great minds since the beginning of time – or at least has bothered my small mind for the past month.

It all started with the bank statement and the missing $190.00.

That’s how much money my 14-year-old son spent on an on-line game over a one-month period of time.

190 freaking dollars!

This isn’t one of those cases where I could contact the company and ask for our money back. Well, I suppose if he used my credit card I would but it was his debit card, not mine, so I didn’t want him to get the money back.

I wanted him to suffer.

Until this summer I have used my credit card for my younger son’s video games, Xbox games, ITunes accounts, etc. so I could keep track of how much he was spending. He would ask me to charge something, and then he would give me cash. I thought this was a smart way to control his spending. If I thought he was spending too much money I wouldn’t charge what he wanted.

Brilliant!

Shortly after he graduated from junior high, however, we got him the “high school” debit card, mostly because the card can be replaced when it’s lost (he’s the kid who walks out the door with a $20 and two blocks later can’t remember where he put it.) I didn’t even consider the possibility that he would be drunk with power and simply add his account number to a computer game and start making charges.

How naïve am I?

I didn’t even realize that he hadn’t asked me to charge anything in ages. Then I saw the bank statement. I was livid. I thought: What a waste! He could have bought himself a skateboard, a bike, 50 Starbucks Frappucinos!

I made him cancel the game, lectured him about financial responsibility, and threatened to take away his new debit card if he did anything so irresponsible again.

But…then I started to second guess my approach?

After all, I did tell him that half of his graduation/birthday money was his to spend this summer. And, although I never even considered that he would spend it on virtual “gold” instead of Starbucks, hot dogs and movies, it was his money to spend.

Can I really tell him he can’t spend all of his money on video games because I think they’re stupid? Why is a $4 Frappucino any better??

When I was his age, I remember spending money on clothes, shoes, purses, all kinds of crap that I only wore or used once (shoulder pads and neon, anyone?) I’m sure my parents thought my purchases were equally worthless.

But, I learned a lesson. When I ran out of money, I ran out of money. I eventually learned to think before I bought one more pair of stirrup pants or heavy black eyeliner. (Which, is something I should have known long before, but I digress.)

The lesson my son learned is that he should have grabbed the mail before me so I wouldn’t have seen the bank statement.

If I wanted to teach him some useful lessons I probably shouldn’t have yanked the game so quickly.

I should have used that opportunity to teach him how to manage his spending and not buy things on impulse. I could have helped him map out a strategy where he could have spent money on his game and on his burgeoning Starbucks habit. But, the greatest lesson I could have taught him would have been about the value of sarcasm in parenting:

14-year-old, after burning through all of his money. “I don’t have any more money left and I want to go to the movies. Can I borrow $10?”

Me: “You know how the virtual world took all of your real money? Maybe the real world will accept virtual gold. Whadda ya think??”

Now that’s a lesson that would have lasted.

 

Do you control how your kid spends his or her money?

Did you make any worthless purchases as a kid?

 

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Big News!

I have some really exciting news – and, no, I am NOT pregnant. That certainly would be “news” but not exactly the “exciting” kind.

No, today I was launched as a blogger for Manilla – an on-line, award-winning, free and secure service for consumers to manage their bills and accounts, in one place.

(But that’s not where I come in because I have no idea how to pay my bills on-line…yet)

Manilla.com, which is owned by the Hearst Corporation, also hosts a blog with over 75 expert contributors who write about money, organization, productivity and lifestyle topics on a monthly basis. I will be sharing my “expertise” about the joy and pain and stress and (joy!) of preparing two children to go off into the world as mature, responsible adults.

I was really drawn to Manilla when I saw their booth at the BlogHer Conference in Chicago in July. This t-shirt spoke to me:

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I’m always trying to get my s**t together; I thought having the t-shirt would help with that. It was definitely the first step.

If you want to get your s**t together, check out the site and the blogs and see what the other writers have to say about family, health, time management and money strategies.

But wait, there’s more!

If that wasn’t exciting enough for you, today is also the day that the new anthology, Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Parent is being released nationwide…and one of my stories is in the book!

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I am very excited to be part of this series of books and to have my parenting story be published alongside some really funny authors who simply tell it like it is—the good, the bad and the WTF? Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Parent is just one title in a slew of humorous books published by Publishing Syndicate, on topics ranging from college to menopause and everything in between.

So, without further ado, here is the piece that was included in the book. Although I wrote it a couple of years ago, very little has changed except that now I have two teenaged boys to feed.

Feeding the Hangry

“I’m so hungry and there is NOTHING TO EAT!”

And so begins the after school fun.

My 15-year-old will stand in front of an open refrigerator teeming with food—yogurt, wedges of multiple types of cheese, tortillas for quesadillas, frozen ravioli, drawers full of fruit and lunch meat, 3 different kinds of bread, frozen pizzas, 2 kinds of peanut butter, 3 different jellies, eggs (uncooked and hardboiled), and every kind of condiment you can imagine—and complain that there is no food in the fridge.

This is usually followed by words that make my blood boil: “Make me SOMETHING!”

Keeping up with the food intake of a 15-year-old boy is a very time-consuming (not to mention, expensive) proposition. My son needs to eat at least every 2 hours or he becomes Hangry – no, it’s not a typo – he becomes so hungry that he becomes angry and nobody needs a teenager who is angrier than usual.

He is capable of consuming an entire sub sandwich, a large bag of chips, yogurt and fruit and he’ll finish all of this off with a bowl of cereal. That’s between 3:30 and 3:45. By 4:15 he is starving!

So, what does he do? Does he then sort through the pantry and whip up a satisfying snack? Does he sift through his memories to find one of the endless recipes that I have painstakingly demonstrated to him should he find himself hungry and alone? No, of course not.  He waits for me to make him something or he grabs a completely unsatisfying cereal bar and moans until dinner.

I have been saying for years that he would starve to death if someone weren’t there to feed him. And whose fault is this? Mine. I take all the blame for this one.  I have gratefully fed him all of these years because he loves food—especially my food. What mother wouldn’t want to hear her child gush about how good her food is? “You’re the best cooker,” he told me when he was 5 as he inhaled whatever dish I put in front of him. That was cute then. Now, not so much.

So the other day, while he was begging me to make him some spinach ravioli with browned butter and shaved Parmesan (yes, yes, I’ve spoiled him, I know!), I turned to him and said: “No – make it yourself.”

“But I don’t know how,” he insisted. “And you’re right here. You could make it better.”

“Pretend I’m dead,” I responded. He turned to me in horror.
“What?” he asked.

“Pretend I’m dead,” I repeated. “How would you eat?”

I could see the wheels turning.  Should he demonstrate his limited cooking skills and make a quesadilla or should he pour another bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios?

It’s usually around this time – right after I’ve thrown down the gauntlet and demanded that he learn to take care of himself that I start to feel myself back-peddling. Would it really be so horrible to continue to cook for him while he lives at home? Couldn’t I just baby him a little while longer, he’ll be gone in a few years, right?

The reality is he would eventually find food or find a way to make food. He likes food far too much to subsist on sugar cereal and frozen waffles. He even signed up for a Creative Cuisine class next year at school. But why would he ever put any of those skills to use if I’m around to feed him? And should a 15-year-old have to?

What’s worse: not feeding your child who is asking for food or not teaching your child to fend for himself?

I feel my defenses breaking down. I’m just about to break out the pots and pans when he decides to answer me.

“If you weren’t around to feed me…I’d order take out.”

Problem solved.

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