Who Knew I Was A Cool Parent?

Most of the time, I feel like a dinosaur.

I still own a flip phone (my friend tells me I should donate it to the Smithsonian), I prefer talking rather than texting, I don’t drive a car (they won’t let epileptics have a license – with good reason), I’m always at least one season behind in styles and technology.

I even parent in an old-fashioned style: my kids don’t have cell phones (ages 11 & 15 – though the 15 yr old will probably get one this year), they don’t have ipads, or the latest in fashions either.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we live in a relatively wealthy area, but we aren’t wealthy. My husband and I joke all the time that we’re bring the property values down. My kids probably won’t go to Ivy League schools, like many of their classmates, unless they get a full ride scholarship. They don’t get to join every club and every sport around…it just isn’t affordable. And I’ve always felt a little guilty about that…not enough to keep me awake at night, but enough for it to bother me.

I am not the definition of a “cool mom.”

So, when my daughter had a friend spend the night this weekend, she “allowed” me to hang out with them. Actually, I told her that she could have a friend over, but that I wasn’t going to go hide in the bedroom, and be pushed out of the living room, so that she and her friend could take over the TV and the living room.

It was one of the few chances I got to talk to her and her friend. Since I don’t drive, I miss out on eaves-dropping on their conversations while running them from place to place. As we sat on the couch, channel surfing, I tried not to insert myself into their conversation, unless I was invited. I even waited until the next day for my daughter to explain some of the slang they were using, including one term that in my generation (GenX) meant something completely different than it does now.

My daughter has told her father and I that she tells her friends that her parents are “cool.” Truthfully, I thought she was just giving us lip-service for the next time she screws up. But even her friend mentioned that she heard we were “cool.” (Unless her friend is in on the scheme – but I’m choosing to believe that’s not the case).

Apparently, my husband and I have decent taste in music, and that scores big points. And I guess it helps that my husband is a gamer, and the two of them can talk for hours about RPGs and stuff like that. I have always been a little jealous of that.

I guess it’s nice to be “cool” in your kids’ eyes. I mean, we all say it doesn’t matter, and we’re the parent and not their friend. But I think it does matter to us that they like us. Hopefully, they’ll like us enough to come to us with the hard questions, and the hard problems of life.

Who knows how much longer I’ll be “cool.” I’d better enjoy it while I can.

What Happened to Life Skills?

I worry about my kids’ generation’s life skills.

Because of technology, our kids are far more advanced technologically speaking than we were at their age, it’s true. AND KUDOS TO THEM. Where we had to show our mom’s how to program the VCR, they are downloading apps, and writing code by the time they’re 10 years old.

But it’s the basic “life skills” that worry me.

I was the generation of “latch key kids.” Basic “life skills” were, at least, a matter of necessity, and at most, a matter of survival.

My husband was getting dinner prepped and could de-bone a chicken by the time he was 10 years old. We could use knives, and the toaster, even the stove at a much younger age than many of our children do.

We used the phone (landline, that is) and called our friend’s houses to arrange our OWN “playdates” (we didn’t have a name for it back then). I had probably a dozen phone numbers memorized in my head, not programmed into the phone, by the time I was 7. I can still remember a few of them to this day. And we had to talk to their parents when we called and ask politely to speak with our friends.

We also knew how to take a proper message and write it down, and to screen a call to be able to tell if it was stranger or friend calling. We didn’t have “caller ID” to screen our calls. The only thing “programmed” was our ability to ALWAYS tell whoever was calling that our parent(s) was “busy” and NEVER tell the person calling that our parent(s) wasn’t home.

My generation was handling money (of the paper and coin persuasion) at a very early age too. I lived in the boondocks, but my husband lived where he could walk to the nearest liquor store with a friend and buy candy or bubble gum or a comic book, give the clerk the right money and get back the right change.

We all had jobs by the time we were 16, some of us were even younger. If we didn’t work at the mall or a fast food restaurant, we pulled weeds for neighbors, or mowed the lawn for the old lady down the street. We learned responsibility.

Some of us had paper routes, much to our parent’s chagrin, where we folded and banded the papers, and on rainy days stuffed them in plastic bags. And we were responsible if someone didn’t get their paper, because WE got a call telling us so. But that rarely happened, because we didn’t want to get back on our bike or incur the wrath of mom or dad who had to drive us to go back out to deliver the lone paper, especially in the rain.

I worry that this generation doesn’t have those skills, just as I’m sure my parent’s generation said the same thing about us. I know it’s our responsibility to teach them, but here’s the thing: Unless they get a chance to PRACTICE THEM OVER AND OVER ON A REGULAR BASIS, they will always be a little bit hesitant, or worse, over-confidant, and THINK they know what they’re doing when in actuality they only know a fraction of what they should.

The thing is I don’t know where this mindset comes from that we tend to shield our kids from the world. We want to do everything for them, and it isn’t helping them at all. I’m guilty of it too.

This summer, is the summer of “Do It Yourself” at my house: your laundry, your lunch, your social arrangements with your friends (with permission of course), your dishes, your hygiene (I can’t even believe this one is an issue), your money management, and your time management.

So far, it’s going well. They feel more empowered. Of course, there’s still whining at times, but it’s working…I hope.

Please feel free to leave any suggestions for encouraging “life skills?”

As a side note: I had a hard time finding stock photos of kids doing any of the things I listed above.

Letter to my teenage children

 

It’s a precarious tightrope that parents walk: wanting to keep you safe and needing to let you go.

I need to give you enough rope to wander away, but not lose sight of home, yet still enough to pull yourself back home without getting tangled up in the process.

I want to guide you and help you with the circumstances that cross your paths, but I want you to use the tools we’ve given you to try to solve your own problems.

I want to give you freedom to experience things in your young life that will help form your opinions, your relationships and your joy. I want them to be your opinions and not mine, even if they are different from mine.

I can’t be there all the time. The world is a big place. It’s a place of wonder, a place of amazing sights and sounds, and, unfortunately, a place of danger too.

So how do I protect you without smothering you? How do I wait patiently by while you may not make the choices I would choose for you? How do I let you go and hope that you remember everything we’ve taught you? How do I know that you will come home when you get in over your head? How do I know you’ll seek wise counsel, even if it isn’t mine? I have to have faith.

I know you’ll try things you shouldn’t because, like you, I was young and curious once too. I know you’ll make mistakes, because I have, and still do. I pray those mistake can be reversed.

I hope that you find love, but not at the expense of your self. I hope you find success, but not at the expense of love.

So here’s where I have to trust. Here’s where I have to let you make your own decisions, and hope that I’ve equipped you well.

Here’s where I begin to set you free into the world, and hope you remember that you can always come back home.

The door will ALWAYS be open, the table will ALWAYS be set, and I will ALWAYS have the time.

Love,

Mom

When competition is too competitive

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I’m a mom who believes in healthy competition. I believe in 1st, 2nd & 3rd place trophies. In the right context competition can spur you on to want to do better. Some people even thrive in that environment. But not everyone.

Somewhere along the way, my kids have managed to surround themselves with really smart kids, to which I’m thankful. I consider it a blessing to have them being influenced by kids who want the most out of their education (or at least, the kids’ parents want the most for their education).

But it comes with its disadvantages too.

The wrong kind of competition.

It can be horribly damaging to a person’s ego and self-confidence, especially when you find yourself comparing your abilities to those of others who seem smarter than you are, or who feel the need to remind you they’re smarter every chance they get.

When my kids get down on themselves for not “measuring up” to their peers (according to their own eyes, because of course I think they’re geniuses), I have to remind them that first and foremost, the only person they need to compare themselves to is…well…themselves.

And second, if they want to be “smarter,” they have to work for it.

They forget that their “smart” friends probably weren’t born that way. They work to be that way. I can bet that their friends’ parents are much stricter than we are, and their friends’ lives are probably filled with many more extracurricular academic activities. “Minecraft” is probably not first on their list.

But my kids, like the rest of us, want it both ways. They want unlimited computer time AND they want to be at the top of their class.

They also need to remember that many “smart” and successful people failed numerous times. But they got “smart” and successful from learning from their mistakes, and learning to ignore the nay-sayers and others who tried to keep them back.

So I’ll keep encouraging my kids to strive for 1st place, as long as they remember what it takes to get there, and to remember that if they reach 1st place, not to lord it over others. It’s okay to be proud of your self, but it’s a whole different animal to be arrogant about it.

The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.

Teaching My Son About Beauty

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So often we hear about “body image” and what is true beauty. It’s usually directed towards our young girls.

One night, while watching TV with my son, there seemed to be countless commercials for Victoria’s Secret, and Macy’s Bra Sale…you get the idea. The advertisers seemed to be focused on ONE audience…or maybe not, depending on how you look at it.

That led to a conversation on “beauty.” My son commented how the women were all so skinny and pretty. My inner alarm went off.

I realized that, though I’ve talked to my daughter about realistic beauty, I haven’t really talked to my son about his expectations of women. #letsgetreal

For my daughter, I showed her something Dove did regarding how models are “created.” The video has since been taken off of their website, but I found it on YouTube. You can watch it here. I highly recommend showing it to your children.

But I realized that maybe I had been remiss in not showing it to my son.

We are NOT a very “high maintenance” family, meaning “beauty” is not really a focus. I don’t get my hair done, I never wear makeup (much to my husband’s chagrin), my husband doesn’t wear Lucky jeans (unless I find them at Marshall’s) or have a designer watch, and I don’t buy name brands for my kids (again, unless I can find them at Marshall’s). “Beauty” doesn’t really cross my mind much. I don’t feel pressure to compete with the women around me, or the women in magazines, and I don’t want my kids to either.

I want my son to choose a mate the same way that I want my daughter to…based on personality and friendship first. Attraction is of course necessary, but I also want them to have realistic expectations. I want them to find the beauty within, the kind of beauty that lasts. #realbeautylasts

When it comes time for them to get married, I want them to picture their future mate with the opposite physical qualities that attracted them in the first place and ask themselves, “If this person lost those qualities, would I still be attracted?”

If the answer is “yes” then they’ve chosen that person for their inner beauty and not for what they see on the outside.

Most importantly, I want my son to understand what goes into creating the models he sees on TV or in magazines. I want him to know they don’t wake up that way, and they don’t go to sleep at night that way. And they don’t live their everyday life that way.

It’s never too early to start…they pick up on way more than we think they do.

Why I Shouldn’t Read the Comments

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When will I learn? Yesterday, I read a post that appeared at the side of my News Feed in Facebook, you know, in that “Trending” section. I really shouldn’t read those…I think Facebook has devised a way to only send me “Trending” topics that just make me angry.

The topic of this particular “Trending” post that I read was divisive and controversial to begin with. But I think the part that saddened me the most (aside from the topic of the article itself) was the CALLOUSED COMMENTS that were under the post. I couldn’t fall asleep last night because the part of me that wants to change the world wouldn’t stop writing (in my head).

But I wasn’t thinking critical thoughts as much as I was trying to figure out a way to stop the madness.

I am always shocked by how calloused and venomous the people who comment in an open forum seem to be. They attack one another, and criticize, usually without merit or knowledge. Fortunately, Bloggers don’t seem to fall in this category. Blog Commenters are usually supportive and thoughtful. #BloggingLove

But the comments in the public forums like Facebook, or at the end of an online editorial are different.

I think it must be a game to some people to see how much they can stir the pot and get people riled up. It’s like they only comment to get a rise out of people. They AREN’T trying to help, they AREN’T trying to solve anything, they’re just pouring fuel on the fire. And the media is egging them on.

I wanted to join in the comments, not to try to add to the fire, but to try to voice compassion, but I resisted. I even typed out my comment, but didn’t hit “post.” I didn’t want their ire to be released on me.

I try to stay informed, and we talk to our kids about what’s going on in the world. But sometimes, I just can’t take anymore. #mediabreak

So while I was lying there praying and trying to get the thoughts out of my head so I could go to sleep, it occurred to me that all of those commenters, all of those haters, are just a SMALL PIECE of the global pie.

No matter what the media tells us, no matter how they try to divide and terrify, I have to remember that the rest of the pie is probably more like me than I realize.

I have to find peace in the fact that people are human and, for the most part, want what’s best for themselves and their families.

We aren’t so different from one another. But the commenters…they’re what’s different. THEY are thpumpkin-pie-520655_1920e oddballs. They are NOT the majority. They are NOT me and my neighbors, friends, and family. They are NOT you.

Thank goodness blogs don’t have those comments, at least not mine. Thanks for keeping it real…and for staying in the bigger piece of the pie.

Leaving a Legacy – a tribute to my Dad

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I lost my Dad in 2007 to Alzheimer’s. I miss him everyday. The following is part of his eulogy I wrote for his memorial. Thank you for letting me share a little bit about my Dad.

We all hope to leave a part of us behind in this world when we move on to the next. We hope to leave something good, something tangible, something that brings a smile to another person’s face when they think of us.

My dad did more than that – he left a legacy.

He left my brothers and me with a strong moral fiber. Strong biblical morals. So strong, that when we learned them, we were too young to understand the significance of what we were being taught. Morals that were so ingrained in us that when we became Christians it seemed like just what we were supposed to do.

I never heard him curse, and rarely did he raise his voice. And yet we knew when we had done something wrong…like when I broke curfew more than once and the words “I’m disappointed in you” were enough.

He left a legacy of love. I don’t think I ever questioned his love for us – even in our rebellious teenage years when we made more than our share of questionable choices. He always let us know we were loved.

He left a legacy of good work ethics. He worked hard for our family and showed us the value of a dollar and how to earn it.

He left a legacy of appreciation. We knew how to appreciate the things of life. When we were young it was about appreciating our toys. Some of which still survive today. As we grew, we learned how to appreciate bigger toys…like our first cars.

He taught us how to appreciate one another…our families…our spouses.

He left a legacy of honesty. Of how to build a life based on love and trust and hope and kindness. I don’t ever remember an instance of rage, even when one could have been warranted.

He left a legacy of laughter…of family wrestling matches, and endless board games, and family vacations.

But most importantly he left a legacy of God. Through his actions he showed us who Jesus is and what Jesus’ love meant every day of his life.

So to my dad, I would say “Thank you” for leaving us a legacy that we can hope to pass along to our kids. Thank you for the years of patience and love. I hope I can live up to the example you set for me.

Thank you for being a strong example, so that when it came my time to get married, I knew what qualities to look for, and found them in my husband.

I love you, Dad. You will be missed.