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.

Mom goes to her first Comic Convention

I live in a house full of nerds. Subjects like comic books, video gaming, anime, CosPlay, D&D, and RPG are part of the norm…for them, but not for me.

I love my nerds and all the “nerdiness” that surrounds them And I stay just on the outskirts of Nerd-dom looking in. They don’t leave me out, at least not on purpose, I’ve just never found that stuff interesting. It’s not “my thing.”

But we had a local, small venue ‘Con (Comic book convention), so I agreed to go. I had a pretty good idea what was involved, but I wanted my kids to see that I was interested in something they love…or at least participate in it. If nothing else, it meant we’d get out of the house and spend some family time together, without them groaning about it.

My daughter dressed up as Trafalgar Law from One Piece and her little brother went as Law’s sidekick, Tony Chopper.

The Con was fun entertaining. I was most impressed with the artists who had booths and were selling their prints. I can appreciate their talent. I want to give a shout out to Sam Ellis – designer and illustrator for Adventure Time, Archer and Catbug to name a few. My son is a fan of Catbug, but Sam didn’t have any Catbug prints with him to buy. So, Mr. Ellis drew a quick doodle of Catbug and signed it for my son. An original! How awesome is that for anyone, let alone an 11-year-old boy!

It was fun for the kids (and me) to get to talk to illustrators and writers of some their favorite comics, up close and personal.

And then there were the costumes. Fortunately, I had my husband with me to tell me who a lot of the costumes were, since I’m not versed in the Comic world. Again, a lot of talent, which I can appreciate, being a bit of a seamstress myself. And the creativity. Not just in the actual creation of the costumes, but in the hybrid costumes as well: Steampunk Mario & Luigi, a Victorian version of the Tardis from Dr. Who, to name a few. Their vision was fascinating.

Though my teenage daughter found it overall boring and too small (she’s been to much larger Cons), it was the perfect “Starter-Con” for me and my son.

Will I go back next year? That’s debatable. It may be sort of a one and done thing for me. But the rest of my brood will, no doubt, get dressed up and go again next year. My daughter has already started planning her costume for next time.

But at least I got to spend some much-needed time with the family. And the kids hung out with us, so long as we followed along behind. I can’t ask for more than that.

Am I Doing Enough for My Kids?

Every so often, I get this panicked feeling that I’m not doing enough for my kids to help them succeed. #raisingteens

We’ve never been an “over-achieving” family. I’ve written about raising average kids before and how I am perfectly fine with that. I don’t need them to be doctors or lawyers, or physicists or to run their own technology empire. If they do, that’s fabulous, but if they don’t, then I’m good with that too. I want them to be happy in whatever career they choose. And I want them to choose something that allows them to pay their own bills, and maybe provides them a house with an extra room for me and my husband in our golden years (A girl can dream can’t she?).

But I’m talking about MY responsibility to THEIR future.

I have a 15-year-old. And suddenly, I feel like time is running out to teach her everything I need to teach her before she takes on the world on her own, or at least partially on her own (I don’t plan on kicking her out the front door the day after high school graduation).

While a lot of our youth seem to be floundering, with their noses stuck in their computer screens or smartphones, I worry that we haven’t done enough to inspire them to want better for their lives. But I don’t want to push or nag either, because I’ve seen the results of that scenario too.

But there are things looming in the not so distant future: SATs, driver’s license, job, college applications, scholarships to find. My rational mind tells me that this isn’t going to come all at once, and that there will be waves of responsibility and opportunity that come her way, and we’ll deal with it when we get there. But what if I fail at the parenting part and miss those deadlines. Then what?! The consequences for missed opportunities are much greater at this age than they were at age 10.

To look back now, potty training was a breeze compared to the weight I feel at the moment. By the way, my condolences to anyone going through potty training – it was, until now, the one part of the whole “parenting thing” where I felt completely unprepared. There was no manual, and if there was, I swear my kids didn’t read it! LOL

When I approach my teen, I’m met with eye rolls, and push back, and a lot of silence. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe this too, shall pass. But I need to find the teen manual and find it quick. We all read “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” before our kids were born. Is there a “What to Expect when You’re Expecting a Teen?” Because I’d really like to have it on hand for reference right about now.

So, to my fellow parents of teens, am I alone in this? Will this, like potty training, happen when they are ready? Or should I rip the training pants off now, and spend the next few months cleaning up the puddles?

Career Advice to the SAHM

First, let me say that I would not go back and change my decision to be a SAHM. It’s been rewarding and challenging, and they’ve driven me crazy a lot of days, but I wouldn’t take it back if you paid me (although getting paid to be a #SAHM would be a great idea).

For my husband and I, it made more sense for me to stay at home, rather than what it cost for 2 kids in daycare. Aside from wanting to be a SAHM, the financial aspect was really the bottom line for us.

That being said, what I wish someone would have told me before I made the decision to stay at home is this: Keep up with your industry, whatever it may be, especially if it’s a technology driven field.

Fast forward, and my kids are now 15 and 11.

Before kids, I was a graphic designer. I loved doing that. It was fulfilling both to my creative side and my task-oriented side. But I happily set it on the back-burner when my daughter came along, some 15 years ago. I did some side jobs here and there, mostly volunteer work: the newsletter for my church, and any other flyer, ticket, program or brochure they needed, and I volunteered for a Pregnancy Center where I helped with their “Walk for Life” campaign. Again, with brochures and posters.

But technology changes in the blink of an eye, and after only a few years, the graphic design apps I used were quickly becoming obsolete. I still have the graphic design knowledge, just not the daily experience with the new applications. I didn’t have the money to invest to retrain myself or invest in the new programs, because I was investing in diapers and formula, and later in braces and glasses and music lessons for the kids.

Graphic Designers need a portfolio of their best work. My portfolio is filled with my children’s Citizenship Awards, and Soccer Pictures, and Homemade Cards for Mother’s Day.

My advice to new moms, or moms with young children who have stepped away from the workforce, is don’t let your special skills fall by the wayside. Your college education will always be there. But if you have a specialized field, keep up with it. Do whatever you can to stay with the technology. Take classes at the local college or adult school. Check in to your local library and see if they offer any refresher courses.

If you don’t, you will pay a price. Finding a job will be much harder when you want to get back into your field of interest. Most employers don’t mind so much if someone took time off to raise a family, so long as they kept up with their industry, or if they took a few years off (maybe 3 or 4).

But for those of us who took longer (up to 10 years), remember that the competition is tough out there. There are lots of women who didn’t take the time off standing in line for the same job you are.

If you can still talk the talk and walk the walk, it will go a long way to getting a foot in the door.

You can do it. I believe there are people that WANT mom’s to work for them, because those employers realize that Moms have a lot at stake, and are hard workers…they’re moms.

How about my fellow SAHM’s? What career advice would you give? Did you find it hard getting back into the workforce after taking time off to raise your kids?

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.

Help! I’m becoming a helicopter mom!

 

I thought I was a “chill” mom, but I guess I’m not.

I’ve never really been a helicopter mom. When the kids both started pre-school, and the other moms were crying on that first day, and children were clinging to their mother’s legs, mine left me willingly. It was almost insulting…they couldn’t wait to get away from me! LOL

But I considered it a blessing. We’ve never experienced separation anxiety, except for one brief week in kindergarten for my son. I’m not sure what got into him, but it left as quickly as it arrived.

Now that they’re in their pre-teen and teen years, however, I find myself wanting to hold on to them tighter.

Maybe it’s because I know what I did as a teen and what my husband got away with, and that scares me to death. And, by the way, I was the “good kid” in my group.

My daughter is 15…she’ll be driving in a year, God willing. And there are some days that I’m surprised she remembers to put on shoes before she leaves for school. How will she be ready to operate a motor vehicle! We better do a lot of work this next year.

This weekend, she got an offer to got to her first concert with a friend in the big city. It was a dive club that they’d have to take the metro to. Her friend’s mother was going to accompany them, so I shouldn’t have been nervous, but I was. My husband wasn’t. He was all-encouraging and pointed out that we were driving ourselves to concerts in horrible parts of Hollywood unaccompanied, when we were 16. But I was the third and last child in the birth order at my house and figured that my parents had given up being strict by the time I rolled around. Besides, I was the “good” kid, remember?

My kids are “good” kids too. Really good. But the world has gotten a lot scarier than when we were teens…or at least it appears that way. Maybe my eyes are just more opened to what’s out there compared to what my parents knew what was going on. Thanks information age. #notemysarcasm

So, what’s happening to me? Why am I feeling the need to hold on tighter when I should be loosening my grip? I know it’s wrong and I’m not doing them any favors. They need to explore and make mistakes. It’s just that the older they get, the bigger the mistakes get, and there’s no way to make them understand that.

The concert thing worked itself out. Turns out the club they wanted to go to has an 18 and over age limit. At least I escaped this time. But more times will come, and I’m just going to have to trust that I’ve prepared them, and learn to clip my helicopter wings a little…but not completely. And maybe watching the news a little less would help too.

How about you? Do you find yourself letting go or holding on tighter as your kids get older?

Pretending to be “Normal”

 

Epilepsy is a funny thing. I can go weeks without an “episode.” I love those times. It’s when I feel most normal, like I can do anything, like I’m just like the woman standing beside me at the grocery store (except that she probably drove herself there – I can’t drive…thanks epilepsy).

And then it only takes a 30 second “episode” to change all that.

My confidence (and my brain) gets shaken, and I suddenly get that apprehensive feeling that hangs over me like a dark cloud. When I was little, before I was diagnosed, I used to tell me mom that it was “going to be a bad day.” Neither one of us knew why I said it, I just had this feeling of doom that hung around.

Fast forward some 35+ years later, and I know exactly what I was getting at: the anxiety that accompanies seizures.

It was so much easier when I was younger and fearless. But as you get older, you get wiser, more cautious…almost to a fault.

Every time I have a seizure, it sets my confidence back a step. And depending on how strong the seizure, it sets my confidence back A LOT of steps.

It makes me question my independence: Should I go places alone? Should I take public transportation alone? Should I even try to cross the street alone?

I will always be the “weird girl in the corner,” I’ve gotten used to that. But I hate that my kids are now old enough to see me as the weird girl in the corner.

It’s hard to portray confidence, and show them that they need to work through their challenges whatever they may be, when some days I don’t even believe it myself.

Life will always through curve balls that you may not be prepared for, you just need to decide if you’re going to swing or duck. Today I feel like ducking.

I just want my confidence back. Tomorrow’s another day. Maybe it will be a good one. It certainly will never be a “normal” one.

Thanks for listening. I wish I had some grand epiphany to share, about how I’ve learned something wonderful from having epilepsy, but today my brain is tired. Today epilepsy sucks.