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

The 1980s are back…for ONE NIGHT ONLY!

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This weekend was the “Spring Fling Dance” at my daughter’s high school and their theme this year? The 80s!

Yeah…I’m feeling my age. The school brought in a portable roller rink and the kids rented skates. Wow, does that take me back!

All week my daughter and I bonded over old music videos from the 80s as she tried to find her 80s look for the dance. It was a nice change from having to watch (and listen to) the thousands of YouTube stars that my kids find so funny. Talk about a generation gap. I’ve tried, I really have, but I just don’t find most of them funny or entertaining. And every time I have to watch one, I tell my husband that we are working way too hard to make a living if these guys are making money doing what they’re doing. But that’s a different post unto itself.

Back to the 80s. It’s been fun reliving the days of big hair, dayglo, cut off sweatshirts, crop tops, rubber bracelets, and synthesized music.

We listened to Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Dead or Alive (her favorite), Adam Ant, and countless others to try to come up with inspiration for my daughter’s wardrobe for the dance.

She decided to go with a Madonna look. Not the Madonna with the pointy bra, or the Madonna in her Justify My Love phase. We agreed that Madonna in her more innocent (and I use that term loosely) “Lucky Star” days was appropriate.

We cut up an old black t-shirt, found some black lace fingerless gloves, made a gigantic hair bow, found as many costume bracelets as we could, dug out my old black bike shorts (sadly, I still have them – but I don’t wear them, I promise), and of course bought a can of Aqua Net for the extra big hair. I was surprised that we could still buy it. We couldn’t find the pink can, but settled for the purple extra hold can. I was also surprised that they haven’t decided that it’s solely responsible for global warming. LOL And I forgot how much residue it leaves on the bathroom floor. Yuck! Time to mop!

She had a fabulous time and I’m almost sorry that I didn’t volunteer to chaperone this dance…almost.

It would have been fun to relive those days, but I probably would have embarrassed my daughter with my dance moves. Bust a move!

I know my days of hanging out with my daughter are numbered. She’s already started to pull away (as she should) to find her own independence. But it was nice to talk to her about what my teenage years were like, and for her to realize (hopefully) that I was once young too.

What Parents Do to Make Things Last

 

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I’m replacing the 2nd pair of sneakers that my son has had since school started in September! Already!

It doesn’t matter whether I buy name brand or Target specials (no offense Target), he is the Sneaker Destructor: villain to sneakers everywhere.

It made me think about the things that my parents used to do to make our belongings last, before the world was so “disposable.”

I grew up in the 70s and 80s (GenX), and when something broke or started to wear out, they did everything they could to stretch as much life out of it as they could. Throwing something away was a last resort.

In the early 70s, my brothers were subjected to jeans made of indestructible fabric. They were called Toughskins and they were horribly uncomfortable. They didn’t bend, but Toughskins could take a beating. But just to be sure they got the most wear out of them, before my brothers even wore them, my mom would reinforce the knees with iron-on denim patches. Fortunately for their reputations, she put the patches on the inside of the pants. But it only made them less flexible.

And when the soles of sneakers started to wear out she’d reach for the “Shoo Goo.” Before she’d spend a dime on a new pair of sneakers, she would “Shoo Goo” the heck out of the sneakers. It wasn’t until a toe would poke through the top of the shoe that she’d have to break down and buy a new pair. Maybe I should invest in a tube.

My mom would also re-use any plastic food container. I never saw her purchase any Tupperware. Instead, she re-used every margarine, Cool Whip, and cottage cheese container over and over again. She still does it to this day.

My dad could fix anything. Whether it was electronic, made of glass or wood, belonged on the car, or belonged in the house, with enough tinkering, he could fix it. And this was before the internet, so he didn’t have any YouTube videos for reference. Just good, old-fashioned, common sense got him through it.

I think I inherited a little bit of their attitude of preservation. My husband laughs when he comes home and sees me re-gluing the leg on a chair, or weaving my kids’ clothes back together. But he’s appreciative when it’s HIS favorite shirt or comfortable sweatpants that I’ve mended.

Tomorrow we’ll go buy a new pair of sneakers, because my son’s toe is poking through the top and Shoo Goo won’t really help with that. If only Toughskins made sneakers that would keep the Sneaker Destructor at bay.

What crazy things do you do to stretch the life of your things?

The Neighborhood Rules – Practicing for Life

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When we first moved in to our neighborhood 4 years ago, there were only 4 kids: 2 of mine, and the neighbor’s 2. But since the last year, the neighborhood is now booming with kids! On my short street alone we have 13 kids! Finally we have a good old suburban neighborhood, which is exactly what we were hoping for when we moved here.

Right now, my son is out playing with the other kids in the neighborhood (ages ranging from 6 to 15). He’s eleven, and we’re in a small townhome area, so I feel pretty secure about him running around. I can hear them from my open window and see them run past every now and then.

I spent the first few years that we were here outside with him while he played with friends. Mostly I was the “Car Watcher:” I was the one yelling “CAR!” every time someone drove into our neighborhood, training my kids and the others to get out of the road and be aware of their surroundings. Now I hear them doing the same thing and teaching the younger ones to get out of the road.

We laid out a very specific set of rules for playing in the neighborhood:

  1. Stay off of people’s property
  2. Don’t play around cars (moving or parked)
  3. Leave the area the same, if not better, than it was when you got there
  4. Don’t go in anyone’s house without telling me first
  5. Watch out for the younger kids in the group
  6. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do in your own yard
  7. Someone is probably watching what you’re doing – be good
  8. Don’t chase the ball into the street
  9. Be courteous of neighbors and cars
  10. If you break something (God forbid) be accountable for your behavior

I realized that these rules can be applied to life as well. Playing outside prepares them for life, but it’s done without sitting them down and lecturing them. Once they have a good set of ground rules, it’s the best way for them to learn their limits.

These are skills that they will never learn sitting in front of a computer screen. These are childhood survival skills: get out of the road when a car comes, don’t shoot the neighbor’s car with a Nerf dart, throwing rocks will damage property and people (so will dirt clods, pine cones, and sticks), climbing trees is both exercise and fun, dirt won’t hurt, made-up games are often more fun than organized sports, and getting up when you fall will make you stronger.

Being outside, and playing with friends is probably the best “interactive” experience a kid can have. The best part is that not a single kid is running around with their phone in their hand. Not even the older sibling that shows up on occasion to toss the football around with them.

I’ve witness acts of kindness the older ones have shown to the younger kids: tying shoes, holding hands so that they can stay with the group, teaming up with an older kid when playing hide-and-seek, and making sure everyone is accounted for when a car comes by.

Here’s hoping everyone gets out to play in the sun!

I’m not a yeller…but maybe I should be

 

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I’m not a “yeller,” but I’m starting to think I should try it. (not really)

I wasn’t raised in a yelling household, and we haven’t raised our kids in a yelling household either. Instead, we opt for “strongly suggesting” or “fiercely encouraging.”

How exactly does that sound? Instead of barking orders at the kids, I tend to say things like “You need to clean up your room now,” or “would you please take out the trash.” Things like that. And it usually worked…until recently.

Now that my kids are tween and teen, I’m competing with forces much stronger than the “Mom Look.” I’m competing with technology sucking their brains. I’m competing with “friend influences” that don’t make the best choices. I’m competing with emotions and boundary pushing like I’ve never experienced before.

It’s not that I want to be my kids “friend.” I know I’m their parent, but I need THEM to know I’m their parent, and as such, I deserve more respect than I seem to be getting. Now before you say “You have to give respect before you get it,” I do. As I said…I’m NOT the yelling mom. And that expression goes both ways.

I don’t want to raise my voice. I think it’s ineffective and not in my character. If I HAVE to raise my voice, you should know you’re in trouble. And if I have to see one more of those blank teenage stares, I think I may go mad. And don’t get me started about how many times I have to repeat myself. I should only have to say it ONCE. Shouldn’t I?

You should at least have enough respect for me to TRY to kiss my you-know-what until you’re out of trouble. Make an effort. Show me you’ve understood what you did wrong. Show me you’ll at least TRY not to do it again.

Don’t make me yell. I don’t want to, I don’t like to, and I think there are better ways to communicate.

Can anyone relate?

Family Time – Am I Asking Too Much?

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Family Time should consist of more than shoe shopping on the weekends or errand running during the week. And, though I value every minute I spend with my kids, helping with homework and studying can hardly be considered “quality time.”

It seems I’m constantly competing with electronics for any conversation at all. And dinner time gives me only 20 minutes (at the most) of their undivided attention.

But getting them interested in spending time with the family, all together at the same time, doing the same activity, (especially the 14-yr-old) is down-right exhausting. And what I’m left with is grumbling kids that are sparing me very little of their cerebral attention.

The worst part is that I know they are merely “appeasing me” until they can get back to their own interests, namely the darn technology.

Has family time really changed that much from when I was a kid, or teen? I mean, I have memories of playing family games together with my brothers and my parents. I realize we didn’t have the electronic distractions we do now. In a sense, if we didn’t find friends to hang out with on a Friday night, we were essentially stuck with the parents, and, as such, we were subjected to there torturous games of “Sorry” and “Scrabble.” But we hung out…together.

The difference today is that my kids don’t have to go outside of the house to find their entertainment. And friends? They can meet up with them on-line. So maybe it just “feels” different. As parents, we’re competing for our kids’ attention on a whole different scale.

I don’t want to force them into Family Time, because then what I’m left with is pouty kids who will go along with whatever said activity is, but you can bet their enthusiasm is less than convincing, if existent at all.

So what’s a parent to do? I know I only have a few years left before they are completely out the door, at least with the older one. The 11-yr-old still has a few more years, but I feel like time is getting away from me.

So I’m asking other parents of teens: what have you done to implement Family Time? Has it been successful? I’d love some ideas.

Why textbooks are still necessary

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There are A LOT of different ways to teach and learn, and it seems every school is different for different reasons. I understand budget restraints, and different teaching styles, and I’m not a teacher, so I can only speak from a parent point of view. #momopinion

But I MISS TEXTBOOKS!

My daughter has a full schedule of classes: all the basics, History, Language Arts, Geometry, German, Health, Science…the usual.

But what she doesn’t have is textbooks. Only her History class uses a textbook. The rest of the classes use printed worksheets to work on and study from.

I understand that textbooks are expensive, but they are useful and so much more consistent when it comes to the learning material, especially for us parents.

I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has brought home geometry homework that I can’t help her with because, let’s face it, high school was A LONG time ago for me. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve had to prove “Angle-Side-Angle” or use the Pythagorean Theorem. And when she brings home a printed paper, it would be nice to have a textbook for a reference.

The same has occurred in German. I took Spanish, not German, so I’m not much help, and you can’t count on google translators to correctly translate sentences.

My kids laughed at the fact that I saved my Harbrace College Handbook, but my daughter finally appreciated it when she needed to know the difference between a compound sentence and a compound-complex sentence.

That’s why I love our public library. I’ve checked out a German to English Dictionary AND Workbook, and my daughter’s grasp of the German language improved. I also checked out an Idiot’s Guide to Geometry complete with exercises and answers. It’s starting to come back to me now, and it’s helping her too. #supportthelibrary

The “age of technology” is a marvelous thing, but it isn’t a consistent resource. Not to mention, a book never goes “offline,” and when you look up a subject in a reference book, chances are you won’t find objectionable material that you weren’t looking for. I’ve never heard of anyone getting a “virus” from a book either.

I guess I’m old fashioned, but textbooks do still have their place in school. Sometimes it’s to help the kids, and sometimes it’s to help the parents help their kids.