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Archive for the ‘Kid Issues’ Category

writingletter

With a household of young adults aged 15-20, I am in the final years of my hands-on parenting stage, and the empty nest is getting closer and closer. If I think too hard about this fact, I am liable to burst into tears. However, sometimes this revelation is a light in a tunnel of teenage moodiness and rebellion.

Each stage of parenting has both pros and cons, and these later teen years are no exception. I love that my kids are so independent now. I no longer need to coordinate their every move, or ensure they are properly entertained. All of my kids are capable of jumping on a bus or driving a car downtown to go hang out with their friends, and they earn their own money to pay their way for non-essentials. They make many of their own meals and keep track of their own homework. And I thoroughly enjoy conversations with them, because they are at a level where we can discuss things from current events to their natural day-to-day.

However, their growing independence comes with a price. Being so close to total independence, my kids tend to believe they should have the kind of absolute freedom all adults have, even while they are still a dependent in our household. They fight certain rules and obligations, and the power struggle is real. They have reached an age when forcing them to do anything is no longer realistic, and I have to rely heavily on the ideals I’ve raised them with, and hope with all my might that these ideals possess some sort of pull in their current decision making.

There are many times when I feel like just throwing my hands up in the air, and maybe even giving them the house while I move to some deserted island. But just when I have reached my breaking point with these rebellious, stubborn teens, they do something to remind me that they are really just brilliant human beings that I cherish more than anything, and they are only testing their wings before they are ready to fly.

I came across an article I wrote when my daughter was 13. In it, I was going through an especially difficult time with her, and I was frustrated with how far our relationship had fallen in such a short amount of time. But then I put myself in her shoes, remembering what it was like when I was 13 years old. I ended up writing a letter to my 13-year-old self, telling my younger self all the things I would have loved to have known back then. You can read that letter here.

My daughter is now nearing her high school graduation, my son is finishing his first year of high school, and my stepson is figuring out his career goals after college. It’s so easy to place my adult ideals on their day-to-day actions, and grow frustrated when they don’t do things the way I would do them. However, if I look back at the person I was at their age, and remember what it was like as an older teen getting ready to leave the nest, I gain a bit of perspective about their role in life.

I also remember all the things I grappled with at their age.

So in favor of understanding my teens a bit better, I took a stroll down memory lane and wrote a new letter to myself from way back when. Here’s what I came up with:

Dear 18-year-old Crissi,

At this moment, you are preparing for high school prom, graduation, and the moment when you can pack your bags and leave your over-controlling parents and all of their ridiculous rules. I get it. You can’t wait for your freedom. These are exciting times. However, as your 38-year-old self, I feel it my duty to share a few things I’ve learned about us in the past 20 years. I hope you will take some of these things in consideration.

1. If you are given the choice between moving in with that exciting bad boy or getting a college education, CHOOSE EDUCATION. Trust me on this, it’s going to save you a lot of headaches. That being said, I know you’re not going to listen to me. See #8.

2. Smoking does not make you look cool. Just stop.

3. Pay attention to who your real friends are, and stop wishing you were hanging out with the “cool kids.” Years from now, those cool kids won’t even know who you are. But your real friends? They’ll still care for you 20 years after you graduate.

4. You don’t have to fall in love with every boy who pays attention to you.

5. YOU ARE NOT FAT.

6. Right now, you believe you are completely plain and forgettable. But years from now, you are going to find out from several people that they looked up to you, had a crush on you, or wished they had been better friends with you. You are not as invisible as you think you are. However, the biggest takeaway I want you to gain from this knowledge is that you should really be kinder to yourself. You’re kind of awesome.

7. You will have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU. Sorry. And congratulations.

8. That boy you’re dating is going to be the worst thing that ever happened to you. He is also going to be one of the best. Through him, you get to have two really awesome kids, and you are also going to gain a real life education.

9. You are going to be way too young when you start having kids. You are going to make countless mistakes. However, you will also learn so much as you all grow together. And when they are older, you will get to be the cool, “young” mom, and you will share a unique bond with your kids.

10. You will one day be friends with your parents. Right now, you don’t get why they are so strict, and why there are so many rules. You are even plotting all the ways you will be a much better parent than they are. Trust me, they actually know what they are doing—at least for the most part. One day, you will reach a point in your parenthood when you understand why they did things a certain way, especially when your own kids are being buttheads. You will also have many days when you want to call them and apologize.

If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what would you say?

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Naughty boy2
I recently became enamored with a Points List that a mother used when her kid got grounded. Basically, the mother created a list of things her child could do to get off groundation, each task attached to a certain number of points. Once the child reached 500 points, they were done being grounded.

I think this parenting hack is brilliant, mostly because it puts the length of the grounding into the child’s hands, and they’re learning several things in the process:
– How to strategically rack up the points to finish faster (hint: the larger items aren’t always the best way to get there)
– Motivation to do lots of chores without procrastinating
– That getting in trouble really isn’t worth it

My son has had his Xbox taken away for pretty much the whole school year because his grades slipped past the point of being acceptable. The rule was he could get them back as soon as he brought his grades back up. However, today is the last day of school, and his grades never budged.

I’ll be honest – I hate punishing my kid. And with summertime here and no way of him getting his grades back up until school started, I really wanted a way to give him back his game system. However, he still needed to earn those grades back.

In came the Points List (click to enlarge).

On the list, there are a few items to take note of.

The first is the one 50-point item: deep cleaning his room. My son’s room is a disaster area, and it will probably take him a full day to get the job done. This is why it has so many points attached to it. And while every other item on the list is stuff he can choose between to do, this is the one item I have made mandatory.

The second is “G-rated Lucas.” Like most 13-year-old boys, my son finds humor in some of the grossest or inappropriate things. 24 hours of no potty-talk is totally worth 15 points to me.

Third is the large list of 5-point items, particularly the letter writing items. He can probably whip up every single one of those items in one day, which will add up to a lot in a very short time. But I thought it would be a nice touch for his grandparents to get a nice note from him. Also, Ella is a little girl we know who is working very hard on her reading. How awesome would it be to receive a letter from a 13-year-old friend?

Fourth is the 20 points for reading Forever Thirteen and writing a book report. Yes, I am shamelessly enticing my son to read the book I wrote through a points system.

Fifth are the negative points. While the majority of the list are items that can help him earn his Xbox back, there are a few things that will keep him from earning it back as fast. This was my chance to try and turn around a few of his pesky bad habits – like sneaking food in his room or borrowing without asking.

And there you have it. If you’d like to download a copy of your own Points List, here is a link to mine in a Word Doc so that you can change it as you see fit: Wine Country Mom Chores Points List

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I have a 12-year-old son who is a 7th grader this year. Like most 7th grade boys, my son’s actions don’t necessarily involve a lot of thought. Just this week alone, he decided that buying and consuming a Monster energy drink right before bed was a good idea, skipping his chores and lying about them being done was perfectly acceptable, yelling at his stepdad would have no repercussions, and leaving the house and not coming back until after 8 p.m. (with no cell phone or note) was okay.

And in the past month or so, he has also pointed his fingers at other cars while I’ve been driving, pretending to shoot at them.

replica gunYesterday, our county was rocked by the news that a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by the police in a southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood. The first reports spoke of a man carrying assault weapons who was shot down. But the developing story evolved, and it became clear that no would-be murderer was killed – it was just a boy, carrying “toy” guns, or rather, replicas of real guns.

I can’t comment on who is at fault in this situation. There just isn’t enough information yet about what went down in the time when this kid was spotted, and when he was fired upon. But I do know that nerves are rattled at the recent news of a boy the same age who brought a gun to his Nevada school, injuring two students and killing a teacher before turning the gun on himself. I know that there are news stories all over the nation of kids who are capable of heinous crimes. And I know that a boy around the age of 13 would think nothing of carrying around a toy gun that looked exactly like the real thing – because they’d WANT it to look like the real thing.

This morning, I sat down with my son and told him about this 13-year-old boy’s death and his family’s tragedy. I took the opportunity to discuss how there is nothing funny about pretend violence – how it can actually lead to something tragic like this. And I laid out some firm guidelines for him:

– Never go out in public carrying anything that might look like a real weapon. Nerf guns are one thing – their bright colors and odd shape makes them apparent they’re just a toy. But anything that is supposed to look real can be mistaken for the real thing, and could get you injured or killed.

– Never point your fingers at anyone else to look like a gun. You don’t know who you’re pointing at, and it could have the real thing pointed back at you in return.

– Always, ALWAYS respect the law and those employed to enforce it.

This boy’s death is a tragedy for his family, and for our community. There are no words to describe the sorrow I feel for everyone involved in this devastating event. Yes, there was a time when a kid wouldn’t get shot for carrying something that is only meant to look like a weapon. But times have changed. Even “just playing around” can be deemed unsafe.

I urge all parents to take a moment and speak with your kids about the importance of weapon safety – even if that “weapon” is just pretend.

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A friend of mine wrote recently about an incident in her childhood that left a bad taste in her mouth. Her father had set her up on a private computer, telling her she could write about anything she wanted to without worry of anyone seeing anything. What he didn’t tell her was that he’d mirrored her computer on his own, allowing him to see EVERYTHING she was writing. She only discovered this when writing about personal feelings, and her father came to talk with her about it.

What this dad did, in my opinion, was commit a gross violation of his daughter’s trust. He led his daughter to believe she could be her most candid. And then he took advantage of that. His actions had the danger of affecting his daughter’s feelings about trust for life. (You can read her post HERE.)

But even after saying all that, I do believe a parent has the right to check their children’s online activity. In fact, I think it’s mandatory!

My kids are now 15 and 12. Several years ago when I first allowed them to go online, I let them know that I was to have access to all their passwords and would be checking on them from time to time. This included email and Facebook. I let them know right up front that their activity online was not private from me. This did two things – it forced them to make sure their online activity was at a standard their mom could live with, and it gave me the guiltless permission to check their online business.

This proved vital last year when my daughter got into a relationship with a guy who just wasn’t trustworthy. She became ultra sneaky, and I really questioned what was going on. My daughter had since changed all her passwords, but had a habit of leaving herself logged into my computer (perhaps on purpose…). The messages I saw between the two of them proved to be far beyond what a healthy conversation should be. And I confronted her.

The result? She was furious, of course. She felt betrayed, of course. But soon we were able to talk it out and come to some understandings.

Since then, we have a much more open relationship. I have made it safe for her to share with me what she needs. She has stopped being so secretive. I have no need to hack into anything of hers – though I’m sure she knows I will if I feel it’s necessary.

I feel like things would have been much different had I not been able to peek into what she thought was private.

So yes, I think parents should monitor their kids’ online activity. But they should also respect their child while doing so. It should be divulged upfront that the parent can and will access personal online data if the need arises. And things like private writings in a personal document must always be respected as PRIVATE (unless their are questions about the child’s safety).

What’s your opinion? Should parents “hack” into their kids’ accounts online?

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Yesterday, my son decided that a good use of his downtime was to take a knife and stab a perfectly good cantaloupe repeatedly. I found it on our counter in the morning. As a result, the Taz got woken up by the wrath of his mom, and all his electronics taken away to show him what bored really feels like.

When I came home, I found a few new gifts and this note:

“Dear Mom. I’m sorry for cutting the canalope. To prove it I’m giving you my best lanyard and I bought a new canalope. Please forgive me! 🙂 ”

I mean, how can I even stay mad?

He is either really, really cute for doing this, or one hell of a manipulator. Either way, I fell hook, line, and sinker.

Want more stories like this? Download “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows” – our Wine Country Mom stories about the hijinks of Taz, the drama of DQ, and tales of our single-parent family life.

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bear

This morning my son tore his room apart. Annihilated is a good word. He had so much anger pent up inside of him that he didn’t know how to control it. And so he raged. He threw things. He ripped his bed apart. He knocked over his chair. And he growled deep into his throat with a primal energy as he slammed his hands against the wall.

We were at odds this morning. He got on the video games when he wasn’t supposed to. And though I knew he would argue against any limitation I placed on him for the two minutes of game time, I also knew I had to follow through. So I told him they were gone for the day.

Hence, the rage.

I don’t know what to do when he gets this angry. I know that, probably, the thing he needs most is for me to stay calm and loving with him so he can find an anchor in me and bring himself down. But when he gets that overly angry, being loving with him is like hugging a grizzly bear.

My natural impulse was to get angry back. But I refrained and chose to walk away. I had to get ready for work. He was to leave within the next 5 minutes. I was frustrated that all this was happening at the worst possible time. The last thing I wanted him to do was to go to school totally amped up with rage. So walking away seemed like the best choice.

And that’s when he tore his room apart.

So next I got angry. And when I got angry, I got really angry. I let loose with the language, told him this was unacceptable. And we yelled at each other, both so angry at what was going on.

And then the truth behind his anger came out. Because you don’t just get that angry over video games, you get angry about all the stuff you’ve been stuffing inside. The video games just made all that stuff overflow.

boy holding a teddy bearHe’s angry about stuff going on at school and at baseball – how he’s rejected by the cool kids on his team and deemed fat and ugly by his classmates. He’s angry about being so out of control. He’s angry that he keeps getting in trouble. But mostly, he’s angry over his dad, who failed him many times over during his last visit – a visit that I keep learning more about.

Like that my Ex told him secrets from my past – a past that happened before my son was even born.

Like that my Ex yelled and screamed about anything and everything while my son sat in a corner of the room.

Like that he threatened the lives of anyone who dared to come to his house.

And the latest, that a game of roughhousing took a wrong turn, and my Ex took his anger out on Taz – physically.

And no one was there to protect him.

I am so angry right now. Angry, devastated, torn apart…exhausted…  Mostly, I’m furious with myself that I actually let Taz visit his father all by himself, knowing how delicate Taz is underneath his rough posterior, and knowing that the Ex has a lot of flaws.  And I’m furious with the Ex that he can’t recognize just how much his son idolizes him, even when the Ex lets him down over and over again.  The Taz is always ready to forgive his dad.  He even kept all this a secret for as long as he could, afraid that I would take his dad away from him.

I called the counselor this afternoon to try and get the earliest appointment we can. At Taz’s last appointment, Taz had us all believing everything was fine. But over the past couple of weeks, he has had several intense moments of rage that prove everything is NOT okay. The counselor talked me down over the phone, the concern evident in his voice as he sensed the brokenness in both Taz and me. And we see him next week. In the meantime, Taz is to write down everything that makes him angry in an effort to control his rage. And I have to do my best to remind him that his rage makes it too hard to help him.

In the meantime, my life is still being controlled by a man I never should have made children with or married. I will never be free from his torment. And now, he’s making our kids’ lives a living hell. And I’m tired. So, so tired.

Words cannot express the rage I feel at this man.

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This article will be published in the Press Democrat on Friday, February 8.

A friend of mine had to teach a group of teenagers about how seeds travel so they can germinate. Her challenge: how to teach about the topic and also keep these technology driven kids interested for more than an hour.

As a crafts teacher for younger children, her natural talents were geared towards more artistic activities. So my friend utilized her skills and had the teens decorate “seeds,” or in this case, wine corks that would represent seeds. You should have seen how fast those teens grabbed at stickers, paint daubers and colorful pens to decorate their corks.

Then my friend took the teens to the local creek. The teens were instructed to throw their corks in the water and watch as they got closer and closer to the finish line/collection point my friend had put at the end of the race, where the corks could be retrieved. The teens got really into it, following their “seeds” as some corks flowed downstream easily while others got stuck behind rocks. In the process, all of the kids not only learned something new but were entertained beyond their smartphones, MP3 players and video games.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity to “trick” youngsters into having fun away from their electronic toys.

One of the hardest parts of raising kids is knowing how to keep them entertained. It’s easy to let them sit in front of the TV for hours on end. But to get them up and moving, or to exercise their mind? Finding ideas to occupy them when they’ve run out of things to do can be a real challenge.

For Robert Correa of Novato, the answer to keeping kids occupied is as easy as giving them a list of things to do every time they say they’re bored.

“Housekeeping, lawn mowing, dog walking, baby-sitting, reading, dishwashing,” Correa listed off the top of his head. He suggested that older kids would find enjoyment in being taught how to cook, and any kid can fly a kite, paint a picture, ride their bike, or skate. He also noted that kids should call their grandparents when they find they have “nothing to do,” just to tell their grandma and grandpa they are loved. And, of course, there is nothing like throwing an impromptu dance party in the privacy of your own living room.
“Put on some of your old records or CDs and dance together or sing together,” Correa said.

Elizabeth Dalton of Santa Rosa has three boys, ages 6 and 4 years old, and 20 months, and knows all too well the importance of having something fun up her sleeve to keep her sons entertained. One activity she discovered is called geocaching, otherwise known as a good old-fashioned treasure hunt. But in Dalton’s case, she gives the activity a prehistoric theme.

“I bury dinosaur toys outside and have the kids dig them out,” she said.

Jessica Snowden of Santa Rosa has a different kind of treasure hunt she suggests for quick entertainment.

“Make a list of age appropriate items,” she suggested, like telling younger kids to find something tall or red, and older kids to find something horizontal or bigger than a foot. As they find each item, then can check them off their pre-made list. “I have done this treasure hunt in teams for birthday parties or sleepovers,” Snowden said. “I have also done it with cameras,” she added, noting that cellphones and handheld video game systems worked well for this activity, allowing kids to capture their treasure through a photo instead of collecting the actual item.

Lorna Brown, owner of My Gym Santa Rosa, is known for having fun things for younger kids to do. One game she plays with kids is to blow up balloons (not helium), and give one to each child.

“Give them indoor space to bop them around, encouraging them to keep them up in the air,” Brown instructed. “Let them know that if their balloon pops, then game over.” She suggested that when the kids need a break from so much play, they can stop and decorate their balloons with markers.

And every kid can benefit from an “I’m bored jar.” Take an afternoon to brainstorm 100 fun things to do. Add in things like making homemade playdough, taking a hike in the hills, building a fort in the living room, learning how to speak Pig Latin, writing an illustrated children’s book, trying to beat your own record of bouncing a ball on a tennis racket, blowing the biggest bubblegum bubble, or anything else you and the kids can think of. Every time the kids say, “I’m bored,” point them toward the jar and have them pick an activity at random.

Do you have any tricks to entertain your kids when they have nothing to do?

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