When your children want to know the gory details…

(Original Post July 2015)

 

So I found myself caught between a rock and a hard place (sorry for the cliché) the other night.

My daughter wanted to know if I was a rebel when I was younger.

Maybe it was the deer in the headlights expression that gave it away, but she knew immediately that I was not always the straight-laced, button-down, Christian woman that I am today.

Don’t get me wrong, I was always the one who everyone’s parents trusted, including my own. And for good reason.  For the most part, I stayed out of trouble, rarely broke the rules (I was usually too scared) or at least was smart enough not to get caught. But my daughter wanted the dirt, the gory details.

At first I told her that if she could guess something that I had done, that I would fess up. She couldn’t really come up with anything, to my relief, but she was relentless.

So what’s a parent to do? Make up something? No, that’s not my style. I’m too honest for that. I mean, really…honesty has always been my enemy.

This was a dilemma. If I told her a rebellious story she may use it against me further down the line. You know, throw my words back at me…”But YOU did it!” That would be bad. Or she could go the other way…”Just because YOU never did it doesn’t mean that I can’t do it!”

There really was no way to get out of the messy situation. It was a teachable moment…for both of us. So I thought of something forgivable, and told her a brief story from my rebellious youth. It was entertaining and not something she could really duplicate, so I was safe there. No one in the story got hurt. I told her how I learned a lesson and why it wasn’t a good idea to begin with.

Discernment…that’s what I learned. I learned that it isn’t so bad to tell my kids the gory details of my past mistakes, as long as I keep them in my past, and as long as my kids can learn a lesson from them. I think I’ll be ready for the next time one of them asks about my history, and I’ll keep the gore to a minimum. I’d like to keep my straight-laced, button-down reputation intact.

I’m just glad I got to live my teenage years BEFORE the internet.

Do you tell your kids about your gory details?

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When You Don’t Fit in the Box

Have you ever felt different than everyone else? Guess what? Everyone has felt that way at some point in their lives.

I’ve talked before about the area where we’re living. It’s super competitive. Which is good when you’re talking about having good schools. Our schools don’t just want our kids to strive for excellence. Sometimes it feels like they demand it…even if you don’t fit into the Excellence Box as defined by their terms.

Our school districts encourage…nah, that’s not the right word…they PUSH for excellence in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. And there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s quite admirable.

Except for one thing: NOT EVERYONE FITS IN THE “STEM” BOX.

I have at least one child that fits that description.

She would rather get a root canal than sit through a math class. Okay, that might be an exaggeration. But she hates math with a passion. She’s a “creative” down to the depths of her soul. She can tolerate science because it’s kind of fun and creative in its own way. And technology, so long as she’s using her computer to create some elaborate artwork, then, yeah…she’s in. But engineering and mathematics…forget it.

Almost every day I get an email from the school district about some new opportunity for a STEM camp or Advanced Placement Exam or Advantaged Student Experience (whatever that is). But rarely does something come across my email for “Regular Kids.” You know, the ones who fall through the cracks because they don’t fit in with the AP kids and don’t fit in with the Athletes. They don’t fit in “the Box.”

We used to send our kids to school to prepare them for life…ALL parts of life. To teach them to be well-rounded, to expose them to culture and history (and some reading and writing), and to teach them how to work together in a controlled environment. Oh, and to have some fun along the way. Now it seems, we’re sending them to school to prepare them for “a Job.” But that’s what College is for. There’s plenty of time for that.

I can’t tell you how many high school kids are depressed or experiencing crazy amounts of anxiety. Oh, and I get emails about classes to help your teen manage those emotions too.

Look, I’m not saying that striving to be the best you can be is a bad thing. I’m just saying that maybe we’ve become a little too one-sided. Maybe we need to lighten up a little bit. Maybe we need to not panic so much when our kindergartner gets held back a year because they aren’t ready to move forward just yet. That’s okay. Everyone is different.

I’m also not knocking the kids that are excelling in STEM. More power too you! Good job! I sometimes wish I had those skills, or even that interest. But I’ll tell you that the adults that have their Master’s Degree and the ones that barely made it out of high school both buy their groceries from the same store. Their basic needs are the same.

I’m just saying that there are a lot of different paths to get to the same goal…being a healthy, fulfilled, responsible, contributing member of society.

Maybe we should consider that ONE BOX does not fit ALL.

Because at the end of the day, all we want is for our kids to be happy and our educators not to be exhausted.

And if your kid is one of those that doesn’t fit into the Box, relax. They just haven’t found the right Box yet.

I’m raising Average Kids and I couldn’t be more proud.

I Really Hate to Cook

I don’t use the word “hate” lightly, but when it comes to making dinner on a nightly basis, it’s the perfect word to use.

Unless we’re talking about baking a box of Duncan Hines brownies or a batch of chocolate chip cookies made from a tub of Tollhouse Cookie Dough, then I don’t want to make it.

All the meal planning websites and menu organizing tips won’t inspire me to actually put food to pan and cook the fool thing. Even the best meal kits services won’t help me find the motivation it takes to prepare a healthy meal for my family night after night. Now if it showed up at my door, ALREADY COOKED, then THAT would be a service I could get used to. But not a service I can afford.

And yet, somehow, I feel like I am all alone on this.

I want to WANT TO cook, if you know what I mean. I WANT to feel the desire to provide for my family. It isn’t that I’m a bad cook necessarily. My food is edible. No one has ever complained of food poisoning from eating one of my meals. I can follow a basic recipe. I can even time things so the side dishes finish at the same time as the main dish. So, it isn’t that I’m a terrible cook, or that I don’t know what I’m doing.

I just DON’T WANT TO. I know…I’m whining here. But I really can’t get past it.

When I met my husband, my mother-in-law bragged to me that all three of her boys knew how to cook, clean, iron, and even sew on a button. In fact, on our second date, my husband made me a beautiful pot roast dinner from scratch.

If I was a smart woman, right then and there, I should have pretended that I couldn’t even boil water. Then we wouldn’t be in the mess we are now, because then he would be the one cooking dinner. He’s better at it than I am. It’s a fact. (Messier, but better). But he is the main bread winner and works full time, so it isn’t fair that I ask him to cook as well. He has enough responsibility. I can’t ask him to cook when he gets home from a long day at work.

It’s become a running joke with his co-workers when I text him at 5:45 asking to pick up dinner (usually fast food). They hassle him to no end.

When I go to the grocery store, I buy for the whole week, including leftovers. But by Wednesday evening (if not before) I’ve lost all motivation to prepare any of it.

I don’t know what is wrong with me!

I’m not depressed, I’m not stressed out (unusually), I’m not even particularly lazy, except when it comes to cooking every day.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to get motivated to cook dinner, I’d love to hear it. Or if anyone would like to commiserate, I’d love to hear that too.

Thanks for listening.

Letting Go…but Not Giving Up

My life with my children has been a series of “letting go.”

I let go when you didn’t need me to rock you to sleep when you were an infant.

I let go when you didn’t need to hold my hand to stand and walk on your own.

I let go when you could hold the spoon to feed yourself.

I let go when you walked into preschool that very first day and waved goodbye.

I let go when you learned to write your name all by yourself.

I let go when we took the training wheels off your bike and you balanced on your own.

I let go when you started choosing your own friends in school without my help.

I let go when you stood on the stage in your first Christmas play and sang your heart out.

I let go when you spent the night at your first sleep over and didn’t need me to tuck you in.

I let go when you got on the bus your first day of middle school and rode bravely without me.

I let go when you didn’t get the grade you wanted and learned you had to work a little harder sometimes.

I let go when you had private conversations with your friends.

I let go when I learned I wasn’t necessarily privy to every corner of your life, and that privacy didn’t mean secrecy.

I let go when I gave you the keys to the car and you drove out of my sight only to return safely.

I let go when you went on your first date, and I prayed you’d make wise choices. You did.

I let go when your choices weren’t necessarily my choices, and that was okay.

I let go when holding on tighter would only strangle you and make me crazy.

I let go just far enough so that you would know I am always here, waiting, when you need to come running back, no matter how far you wander.

I let go in so many ways, but my love for you will never lose its strength.

TechNO-Christmas

I’m sorry son, I can’t afford your Christmas List.

We’ve been sold a bill of goods that technology is the way to go…not if you’re on a budget.

My 12-year-old son’s Christmas list is an array of Steam Gift Cards and Amazon Gift Cards. Woohoo! What a boring Christmas!

Since he is a gamer, he’s all about the technology right now. There’s no changing his mind, unless I just simply pull the plug. But since the kid’s school district LOANED them all their own personal computers for the year, he will find a way to game no matter what.

So, I put out a plea to my friends who also have boys in the same age group and we’re all in the same club.

But I wasn’t really Gobsmacked until I googled “Gifts for Middle School Boys” and up popped a list from heavy.com called “The Best Cool Gifts for Boys: the Ultimate List 2018.” If you want a good laugh, google it. No offense heavy.com, but your budget for a middle school boy is WAY out of touch, in my opinion.

Of course, there are a few items thrown in for budget-conscious moms like me like the “Kingdom Come: Superman Graphic Novel” for $12.19 or the “1ByOne Bluetooth Sport Wireless Earbuds” listed for $38.99. But the list got downright hilarious as I scrolled past the “ASUS ROG Zephyrus GX501VS Gaming Notebook” listed at $2299.00!

There are some varied other selections to choose from: An Ergonomic Gaming chair for a mere $349.99, or a Logitech Gaming Mouse for a conservative $126.99, or the budget-conscious AKAI Professional Mini Keyboard and Pad Controller falling just under $100.00 at $99.00.

Whatever happened to the days of Stretch Armstrong or video games like Aztec or Oregon Trail for the Commodore 64? Somehow, we could afford those things.

Ahhh, but I digress. Those days of old (yes, I know I sound like my mother) I remember well.

So, until I win the lottery (which I would actually have to play to win, right?) or Publishers Clearing House comes to my door (again, I have to play the game), I guess my kids will never know the joy of the gift of a $2299.00 computer until they earn the money themselves.

Until that day, they’ll be forced to unwrap presents of worth and not extravagance.

I’m sorry technology, but your price is too high for my family.

Happy Christmas shopping to you all! And if you have any ideas for affordable Christmas presents that don’t require taking out a loan, I’d love to hear them. By the way, you can still get Stretch Armstrong if you’re interested. Amazon has almost EVERYTHING! LOL

Confession – I’m Guilty of Enabling My Kids

“I’ll just do it myself.” Even if I don’t say it out loud, I often think it. Not out of martyrdom, not out of self-pity, but just because I can do it faster, and get it done when I want it done, whatever the “What” may be.

Am I alone on this?

I wouldn’t say my kids are spoiled, not in the traditional sense. They don’t have the latest iphone, they don’t get showered with unnecessary gifts, I don’t buy them brand name clothes. They aren’t spoiled in that sense. But when I step back and look at what I do around the house in comparison to what they do around the house, I realize that I am an “enabler.”

It started because I was a stay-at-home-mom, and my only job was to take care of the kids and the house. But the kids got older (12 and 16) and yet I still do almost everything.

I do their laundry, I make their lunches for school (except the 16 year old makes her sandwich), I make dinner AND wash the dishes AND put them away when they’re dry. Our dishwasher is broken, so I hand-wash everything. I dust, I vacuum, I clean the bathrooms, I empty the trash and take the bags to the garbage…I do way too much.

And it isn’t helping them AT ALL.

These are vital survival skills they need. But rather than engage in yet another argument, I just do it myself.

But ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

With my back being injured this past couple of weeks (it’s getting better), it’s become very apparent to me how I’ve cheated my kids out of figuring things out on their own.

Please don’t misunderstand, they are good kids. Put to the test, I’m sure they would survive. But I’ve made it really easy for them to sit back and not have to take responsibility.

But this week, due to necessity, I’ve been forcing myself (and them) to take on some more responsibility. Doing the dishes without pushing back has been the biggest change. And when they argue about whose turn it is, I’ve stepped back and let them figure it out for themselves.

Tonight was a big step forward for me and the kids. We decorated the Christmas tree (we have an artificial tree and it’s our tradition to set it up the day after Thanksgiving). And for those of you who “re-decorate” after the kids have had their shot at the tree (you know who you are), you know this is a big one.

I didn’t hang a single ornament…not a single one! I couldn’t. The mere act of getting up and down off the floor and bending and stretching hurt my back. I even passed the torch of arranging the lights on the tree to my oldest and she did a fabulous job. It was my job to take the ornaments out of the box and hand them to the kids (and my hubby) to hang.

Somewhere along the way, I lost track of time, and forgot that they weren’t babies anymore. I forgot where my responsibilities ended and theirs began. I forgot when “helping” became “enabling.”

My hope is that I can keep it going and not slip back into my old enabling ways when my back is better. Maybe everything really does happen for a reason.

Can you relate to this? I’d love to hear that I’m not the only one.

More than a record store

Until recently, I had forgotten how important, scratch that…how VITAL music is to a teenager’s soul.

Feeling angry? Put on some thrash metal. Feeling sad? Cry to a good sad rock ballad. Feeling happy? Celebrate with a good punk rock number.

Sure, as adults, we enjoy music too. But not the same way that most teenagers LIVE for their music.

But it’s different for them. Just as video killed the radio, MP3 killed the record store. Yeah, we have an endless choice of music now, and our kids don’t know the beauty of sitting by the radio with the tape recorder waiting to tape the song they love. But they also don’t get to enjoy the romanticism of the record store. Remember those?

I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, so the music scene was huge for us. We had access to concerts (they were still affordable then), to alternative thrift stores like Aardvarks and Restyle Too (for those of you from Southern California), and to…well…Hollywood and all the alternative music you could stand.

At the alternative thrift stores we found more than clothes. It was a place where we could find “our people.” Other music fanatics who had more in common than SAT scores and Baseball or college admissions. We were considered the misfits (and I use that term affectionately), but we were misfits together. For those of you who might not understand, think Andy and Ducky in the movie “Pretty in Pink.”

I’ve blogged about the area where we live several times. It can be a pressure cooker of status and grades and fitting in. And when you don’t, well, life can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunities my kids have here, things they would never have been afforded in our old area. But it’s sort of painted with one brush.

I’ve been scouring our area for thrift stores or vinyl stores (there are very few) where my daughter can find some heavy metal and rock patches and pins for her new jacket. And, other than Hot Topic, there are very few. When I first moved here, I asked one of my new friends where the thrift shops were, and you would have thought I was asking where they kept the slaughter house. People don’t shop there, unless it’s a consignment shop that only accepts gently-used designer labels. And there’s nothing wrong with that, unless you don’t fit that mold.

It looks like I’m left to amazon, the great shopping mall in the sky, to find patches. But it isn’t the same as walking into the record store with Souxsie and the Banshees or AC/DC blaring on the sound system. It isn’t the same as exchanging a knowing glance from the stranger across the clothing rack that you both know the lyrics to the song being played. Or striking up a conversation with the clerk behind the counter about the concert t-shirt he’s wearing, and realizing you were both at the same concert.

Which leads me to the bigger picture: perhaps technology has separated us as much as it’s united us…perhaps even more so. I know I miss those days of connecting.

So, if you’re a “misfit,” just where do you fit in? How do you find your people?

Maybe we need more record stores and less cell phones. Maybe we need more affordable concerts and less YouTube videos. And if anyone knows where to find patches on the Mid-Atlantic Coast, please let me know. And don’t say Hot Topic, lest my daughter burn your corneas with the look of a teenager scorned.