Tag Archives: Kid Issues

Teenage showdown

It was a showdown in our living room this past weekend. I gave her a task to complete, she refused to do it. And finally, when she saw that I was just as stubborn as she was, she huffed off and went to go do my bidding…or so I thought. When I came to her almost an hour later, she was face down in her bed, doing her best to ignore me. And when I asked her why she hadn’t finished the task I set out for her to do, she mumbled into her pillow that she was better equipped to do it in the morning.


The next morning, she informed me that she would be hanging out with one of her guy friends. No asking. Just telling. And it was insinuated that I was not invited. So I informed her that this sounded too much like a date, and as she was only weeks from being just 13, this was not going to fly. The argument from the night before made an encore into this tense conversation. And fireworks were soon being set off right and left as we danced around a battle of wills to see who would win and who would submit to defeat. Thing is, I’m the mom. That is supposed to automatically make me win, right? And in her mind, she was just RIGHT, so that automatically made her the winner.

Obviously, neither of us was even close to backing down.

We eventually stated our final testimonies, leaving each other to stew in our own anger before letting it simmer to a gentle roll of thoughts and emotions that included a “maybe I was too harsh”. Of course, uttering those words would mean automatic disqualification, so neither of us was really keen on saying them out loud. But I am the mom, after all. And that gives me a slightly bigger responsibility to stop being immature and try to diffuse the situation. However, my daughter made it a little easier in her own way.

I continued making breakfast – soft boiling the eggs, pushing the bread down in the toaster, and buttering the already toasted pieces. She silently stepped in beside me, flipping the bacon when she saw that I was too occupied with the rest of the breakfast to keep them from crisping too much. And she helped me crack the soft boiled eggs and put them on the plates for the rest of the family. It was her way of making peace without ever uttering any words of concession. And it helped to soften the argument to the place of actually getting down to the root of the whole problem (which was separate from what we were actually arguing about, as it usually tends to be).

“I understand where you’re coming from,” I told her, regarding this separate issue. “I really do. And it sucks. I’m sorry,” I said. And she just smiled a small smile, letting me know that while she still didn’t think it was fair, she was willing to at least work with me on it.

And with that, it was over.

It was reminiscent of the arguments I used to hold with my own mother, the ones where we’d be at each other’s throats, screaming awful things at each other as we both struggled to be the one in the driver’s seat. And eventually we’d become so enraged that we’d be forced to separate and retreat to our own rooms where we could wish the most horrid things upon the other while mourning our own suffering and pain. And after a time, we would calm down and be able to diffuse the situation in a matter of moments, giggling and laughing as if we hadn’t just been guilty of leaving the household in an uproar as we bombed each other with the words we used as weapons, nicking anyone who was stupid enough to get in the way. And it would leave my poor dad wounded as he shook his head in disbelief that two totally stubborn women who had waged such an embarrassing war of words were now carrying on like nothing happened. I mean, where were our battle wounds? Because he seemed to be carrying the bulk of them.

And this was the case of DQ and me. Mere hours after our blowup, she insisted a seat next to me in church (an ironic place to be after a hell of an argument), and then spent the rest of the day hanging out with me as if she sort of liked me. And Mr. W was left to shake his head at the whole incident – though he had managed to avoid injury by quickly retreating during our flurry of angry words earlier that morning.

She turns 13 next week. And as my aunt (who raised three great kids who are even better adults) told me when I shared my story, “You’ve got a mountain to climb my dear, but you’ll eventually reach the other side. And it will be wonderful again I promise. I speak from lots of steep, rocky, avalanche-prone climbing experience.”

Ah, teenagers. Here’s to some steep mountains of torrential avalanches and gorgeous views.

When bad news happens

The fire in San Bruno, September 9th 2010

9 years ago this Saturday, I was woken by the phone ringing continuously. My grandma was on the other line, letting me know that my parents were ok, and that they told me not to worry – they’d get a hold of me when they could.

“What are you talking about???” I asked her.

“Go turn on your TV.”

For the next few hours I was glued to my television, just like the rest of America. And I watched fearfully as image after image showed different angles of the twin towers being hit by an airplane, eventually showing them as they crashed to the ground. Would we be next? Had war entered our country? Did we need to make a plan of escape should the worst happen on our side of the country? And what about my parents, who had chosen that very week to visit New York for their vacation? Would they really be ok?

At the time, my kids were too young to know what was going on. My son was only a baby, my daughter just 3 years old. My daughter asked what was going on, and I told her that some planes had crashed into a building. She sat with me and watched the images for awhile. And as I watched people jumping from buildings to their death, dust covered people running for cover, and images of planes repeatedly crashing into buildings, I became aware of the state of emergency on the television through her wide, innocent eyes.

Around the same time of year in 2005, Hurricane Katrina reared its ugly head and devastated the southern states, particularly Louisiana and Mississippi. Homes were leveled, signs all twisted up, boats eerily taking residence in the middle of abandoned streets. Some of the nation’s poorest were left without homes, food, or water. All they had were the clothes on their back. Heartbreaking video was captured of people standing on their roofs with as many belongings as they could save, surrounded by the flood that drowned their homes from the broken levies. Images of children, reminiscent of the children we see on commercials about third world countries, looked out at us with haunting eyes. And we watched as the devastating scene unraveled from an area of our country that had suffered from an angry act of god. My kids were now ages 3 and 6, and both were worried as the images took up the screen and entered our living room.

Yesterday, a devastating fire broke out in San Bruno. The television showed images of fireballs reaching astounding heights from a broken gas main. Homes were destroyed. Several people perished. The scenes were like those out of a movie, so unreal. Cameras scanned the scene to show areas of devastation, exhausted firemen fighting the burning inferno, and news stations played video seemingly on repeat as the whole city seemed to go up in flames. And at 9 and 12, my kids were fully aware of what was going on.

Kids are affected by the images of disasters we see on the television. But different ages react in different ways, and depending on the child. When my son was younger, he almost didn’t see the world around him. Images could be blowing up on the television, and he couldn’t tell the difference between reality and disasters shown in a movie. In his mind, none of it was real. My daughter, on the other hand, saw it all as very real. And images like those on TV when 9/11 happened worried her. Even though it was happening on the other side of the country, she felt like it was right in our own backyard. When I found her sitting next to me watching all the chaos going on in New York, I did the only thing I could do. I turned the TV off. And then we talked about the reality of the situation as best as a 3 year old could understand. At the time I wasn’t sure what was going on, or if we were even safe. But a toddler wants reassurance that they ARE safe. She wanted to know what was happening, and I gave her a very short description without getting into too many specifics. And I gave her the reassurance she needed – she was safe.

When the kids were older, conversations were able to expand more regarding devastating events in the world. When Hurricane Katrina happened, I limited the amount of TV images the kids were seeing. But I didn’t let them be ignorant of the situation either. We talked more about the people who were in need because of what they had lost, and the reality of crime on the rise due to the devastation. I didn’t let it consume our whole lives as we went about our day to day, but I used the event as a way to think about what we had, how lucky we were, and what could be done to help others in need.

At the age the kids are now, I don’t censor the images – though I still don’t have the images filling our living room through TV or the Internet. The fires in San Bruno have opened up discussions about what people have lost, and what we would do in this kind of situation. Many families didn’t even have a chance to think about it – the firemen were knocking on doors right and left telling people to get out NOW.

“What would you save?” I asked my daughter this morning.

“Whatever was closest to me, and I would get the heck out of there!” she said realistically.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, hurricanes, terrorist attacks….  When bad things happen, it’s all over the news.  But how much of it do we share with our kids?  At times, the images on the news may seem like something out of the movies. And while it’s important for kids to understand the reality of these events – a conversation with a 3 year old will look very different from the conversation you’d have with a 12 year old. You shouldn’t necessarily lie to your younger children regarding scary events, but it’s better to shield them from every detail of the truth so that they aren’t overcome with worry.

And as for the media? When the same images are filling your living room over and over, sensationalizing the trauma so that it’s bigger than life…sometimes it’s better just to turn it off.

Tackling Bullies

If you’ve been reading my stories for any length of time, you’ll notice that a common theme I discuss is in regards to bullying (like here, and here, and here). It makes sense. I’m a parent of kids who are only growing older. And as they grow older, the issue of bullying is becoming more of an epidemic in their schools. I worry about it. I worry that my kids will be targeted. I worry that any action or inaction I take will only make things worse for them. And with the way bullying can take any shape or form – from violence to mere teasing to using their Facebook pages as the ultimate tool in gathering the masses – I worry that my own kids will become guilty of bullying others as well.

More recently, I talked about a friend of mine who was potentially going through her own bullying situation. Her son was being challenged to a fight by a kid who was bigger and stronger, just to see who the winner would be. Basically it was a battle of brawn with an obvious outcome. As an update, nothing came up about it. The fight talk ended up being just that – talk. But in the meantime, my friend was suddenly faced with needing to know how to react to a kid who was threatening other kids, even just through empty threats. And the comments received on the blog (and any other blog that I have discussed bullying) were mixed. Some said to let the kids fight it out. Another said that school officials needed to be alerted immediately so that the bullying could be quashed. And another said to teach our sons and daughters to walk away.

The truth is, it’s hard to know how to handle a bully situation as a parent. Remembering what it was like to be a kid, the common feeling was that if a parent got involved, we were toast. Not only were we completely mortified, we were afraid of being more of a target for being a narc. So it was pretty much a given that any teasing we endured was kept from our parents so that we could at least save a little face.

And the bullying I witnessed in school was truly mean-spirited. One girl who was on the awkward side had an obvious crush on a popular boy in school. A group of girls created a love letter to her from him, with his knowledge. The girl was floating on Cloud 9 – until the boy broke up with her in front of everyone, making everyone laugh. Another girl had rumors circling around school about her solo bedroom behavior. And then there was the group of kids who thought it was funny to pants other students in gym class, thanks to the convenience of drawstring shorts (apparently these kids never graduated; my 7th grade daughter says this still happens in gym class). There was teasing about body parts thanks to the absence of modesty in the gym locker rooms. And there was peer pressure to try things we never would have done on our own, like drinking hard liquor in between classes or smoking pot behind the school or cutting class.

In truth, the bullying of yesterday was not better or less than the bullying of today. It was just as much a reality then as it is now. But now it has become much easier to target others thanks to the advances in technology. This is why schools have stepped up their efforts to stop bullying in their tracks, even including consequences for “cyber-bullying” done inside and outside of school hours in their rules.

And some schools have adopted a new anti-bullying program called SSA – Safe School Ambassadors.

I learned of SSA when my daughter was recently nominated to take part in it. The program targets the escalating problem of bullying by tackling from within – training a group of influential students to work amongst their peers to help alleviate negative situations more effectively. Note, it does not train kids to break up fights or to take on violent situations. Nor does it set them apart from their classmates by making them wear vests or badges. But it instead gives them tools to handle situations on the spot within their own group of friends so that circumstances involving bullying can be easily diffused. Due to the “narc problem”, adults are more likely than not to be ignorant of what students are really going through. At one point in the training program, the students discussed the things they had witnessed on school grounds. As they mentioned the weapons they had seen, the drugs kids their age were taking, and other scary situations that were taking place, my daughter told me that the teachers were holding their hands over their gaping mouths in shock. We just don’t know what kids are going through. We don’t know what kinds of peer pressures they are being faced with. We can be the best parent in the world and still be unaware that our child is being tormented by others or that they are guilty of being the tormentor. So a peer based anti-bullying program makes sense.

But as parents, what is within our realm of power to protect our children from bullying? First, forget the narc problem. If you learn of something going on, discuss it with the principal or the teacher so that it can be handled quickly and effectively. If your kids are targeted more, speak up more. Send the message loud and clear that your child is not a victim, and any negative action against your child will reap a world of hurt in consequences.  Get to know your children’s friends and their parents, creating a network of people to fight this battle together. Go to PTA meetings and school events to broaden that network. If your children are on social networks, be a presence on there too. It is not infringing on their privacy to be their Facebook friend. It is being aware of their online activity. In fact, in my household my kids are only allowed to be on social networks if I am not only their “friend”, but if I also know their password to log on. It is common knowledge that I check up on them by accessing their accounts and knowing what they are up to – including their “private” conversations and viewing their friends’ pages. The same rule applies to my daughter’s cell phone.  It is not being nosy.  It is not snooping.  It is ensuring that my kids are safe, and that they are engaging in only safe and respectful activity.  And if I see something that goes against that, I bring it out in the open with them.

Do you have an opinion on handling bullying? Are there things you have witnessed that shock or anger you? What are some things that we as parents can do to help our kids, or that the schools should be doing to tackle this problem?

Overweight Kids

It doesn’t feel good to be hanging on to some extra weight. And a good majority of our population knows this fact by experience. What is a common problem for adults has created a multi-billion dollar industry in ways to let go of some of that girth – from diet foods, to detoxes, to laser surgery, to good old-fashioned PhotoShop. But the issues with weight don’t stop with adults. Nowadays kids are also battling the bulge. And no wonder – the increase in technology and convenient foods high in fat have promoted a sedentary way of life for our kids. Kids these days….  When I was a kid we used to walk uphill both ways with rocks in our shoes.  Seriously, though, there was no cable television.  There was no Facebook.  And video games weren’t all that addicting, so we actually preferred to play outside.  Kids these days are way too engrossed in virtual entertainment.  And the result is a child who is growing sideways, with a self esteem that is diminishing just as fast. And their way of dealing with it is to continue hanging out in front of the TV or computer, munching on food because it feels good in that moment.

But believe me, your child doesn’t want to be overweight. They want to be a healthier version of kids their age. They may even feel “eater’s remorse” after indulging in something sinful, just like adults tend to do. They may even know what foods they should avoid, and that they should be getting up off the couch and moving around. But they don’t know how to start.

It’s up to us to show them how. And it’s our responsibility to promote a healthier way of living.

I am not immune to this dilemma. The Taz is ending the summer roughly 30 pounds overweight. Last summer, he looked just like the other kids his age. He was active in sports, could run fast, and enjoyed playing outside. But over the year, the weight crept up. He was snacking a lot more frequently, something I excused with growth spurts. He was playing outside a lot less, preferring to play with his video games. When he did go outside to play with his friends it was to hang out at their houses, eat their food, and play their video games. And the Taz stopped having the energy to play the way he used to. And soon I realized that the Taz had put on more than just a little baby fat.  The kid was actually hanging over his jeans.

And the Taz was aware of his body image. He saw how his friends were skinnier. He wasn’t ignorant of the fact that the kids on his baseball team were faster than him. Whenever I took a picture of him, he quickly sucked in his stomach and puffed out his chest to make himself appear thinner. He finally asked me to help him lose the weight, telling me of his desire to start eating healthier. Week one came and went, and the Taz was eating smaller, healthier meals and nixing the snacks in between. He was even exercising a bit with me. But after that first week, his interest in working at it wore thin. And he gave up. He’d give me lip service about eating healthy, and then go to his friends’ homes where he’d drink several sodas and gorge on junk food. And he’d sneak his money outside and buy all sorts of junk from the man who rides around our neighborhood selling goodies from his bike.

I’ll admit, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to promote a healthy way of eating and living when my son is unwilling to be a part of the process. It’s frustrating, to say the least. And I admit, it pisses me off.  It makes me angry that he feels inferior to those around him because he is bigger, so embarassed by his body that he won’t even take his shirt off comfortably when we go swimming.  It makes me angry that he wants to become healthier, but not enough to actually make the effort.  It makes me angry that there are so many targets out there aimed at children, like video games and high calorie kid meals, that make it even harder for them to even have the desire to be healthy.  How can healthy living win out when the alternative is so much more appealing?  And it makes me angry that I have dropped the ball and have allowed him to gain weight.  But I haven’t given up. The most recent development on this path is that we’ve started taking family walks in the evening. It’s become something that we all look forward to every evening. The Taz walks with us for one lap, and then skateboards the second half.   And while I cannot easily stop him from eating unhealthy food at his friends’ homes, I can continue encouraging healthier eating at home, and continue creating a habit that will hopefully become second-nature.

I also found some great tips written by Dr. Holly Atkinson, the Chief Medical Officer and Senior Medical Correspondent for HealthiNation. She encourages parents of overweight children to emotionally support children, letting them know they are loved and accepted no matter what their size is. She also mentions that parents should be the role model when it comes to changes an overweight child should make to become healthier. “Children look to their parents as their models. If you eat healthy foods, your child will too. If you exercise, they are more likely to exercise.” And it’s a good idea to limit the amount of TV watching, computer, and video games your child is playing. To see more of Holly’s tips, check them out in the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.

What are your thoughts on weight gain in kids? Is there any easy way to prevent obesity in kids? Are there uncommonly known things about our society that is actually encouraging this weight gain? And what happens after our kids have gained an abnormal amount of weight, how can we turn things around?

The SEX talk

It's not the most comfortable talk, but it's the most necessary.

I don’t think there is any more difficult conversation you can have with your tween than the (dum, dum, dum) SEX TALK. Honestly, we’ve spent our whole life as parents keeping it behind closed doors so that the kids don’t see. We’ve taught them the appropriate way to keep their willy in their pants, that “play time” is set aside for “private time”, not when they are sitting in the kindergarten circle discussing the colors of the rainbow. We prepare them for the changes their bodies are going to go through, and buy them a stick of deodorant in hopes of toning down that musky underarm stench (which, sorry, but there comes a time when NOTHING helps). We discuss where babies come from, and describe how they are made using technical terms. But eventually, it comes down to the fact that we need to discuss the big one – doing the deed, the horizontal tango, playing monopoly, the whole shebang….

We need to talk about actual sex.

We’re not talking the kind of sex that other people are doing. We’re not talking about what their parents are doing. We’re not even talking about backtracking to how babies are made (though that is a BIG part of the discussion) using cute diagrams and musing over the miracle of life. We’re talking about what they will be doing with their own bodies one day. Or, even though we don’t want to believe it to be true, what they may already be doing. And we need to talk about the reality of sex – the good parts as well as the bad.

I had this discussion with both of my kids a little while ago in the car. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been keeping the discussion about sex an open topic since they were little, keeping it age appropriate. But as of late, I’ve been stepping up the discussion. My daughter is just about to enter Jr. High. And at her age, kids are already starting to share relationships with the opposite sex. This next year she will be introduced to all sorts of new topics. And when it comes to the big ones, I’d prefer that she get her information at home first. At any rate, I started out the conversation by asking her about her recent Sex Ed class she had attended at school. I asked about the topics that they had covered, and she said that they had discussed a bit about the changes that are occurring in girls, but had mostly covered what goes on with boys. The boys had watched a video that discussed girls’ changes.

“So they didn’t cover sex yet?” I asked her.

“No, I think we talk about that next year,” she said.

“Ha ha! DQ’s having sex!” the Taz piped up in the back seat. He giggled while his sister looked ultra annoyed.

“You don’t even know what it is,” DQ fired back.

“Yes I do,” the Taz said smugly.

“Alright Taz, what is it?” I asked him. And he started making kissing sounds and wrapping his arms around himself. “What is that?” I asked him. “Kissing? Is that what sex is?”

“Yup,” he said.

“Wrong!” DQ said.

“What is it then?” the Taz asked, suddenly really interested in the conversation.

“Are you sure you want to know?” I asked him. He nodded.

“You don’t know what you’re asking for,” DQ giggled.

“Tell me,” the Taz begged.

“Ok. It’s when a man and a woman come together, and the man puts his penis–”

“Nooooo!” the Taz cried, falling over in the backseat acting thoroughly disgusted.

“Do you want me to continue?” I asked.

“Yeah, keep going,” he grimaced.

“The man puts his penis” (groan!) “in the woman’s vagina.”

“Auuuugggghhh!” the Taz cried. By this point, DQ was giggling uncontrollably.

“People have to have sex to make babies,” she told the Taz.

“But how does that make a baby?” he asked.

“Well,” I started.

“No! No more!” the Taz said, laughing.

“You sure?”

“No. Keep going.”

“When the man’s penis is in the woman’s vagina” (augh!) “he has what’s called an orgasm. Stuff comes out of his penis called ejaculate. And in that ejaculate is something called sperm. The sperm travels to the egg inside of the woman, fertilizes the egg, and then a baby begins to grow inside of the woman.”

“Do you have sex?” the Taz asked me.

Ok, pause. If I were married to the kids’ father, this would be an easy question to answer. Yes. Of course I am having sex. No, we’re not trying to have babies anymore, but sex is an incredibly enjoyable act that two people share when they are in love.

But I’m not married.

I understand that there is a virtue for saving yourself for marriage. I actually have several friends who have done this. And, especially in this day and age, I applaud the gift they are about to give their husband on their wedding night. But I have already experienced sex. And let’s be frank. I like it. I’ve experienced casual sex, and I’ve experienced relationship sex. And in my single life, I’ve come to the conclusion that sex with someone you love and who loves you back is a million times better than those of a one night stand. And I have also realized that casual sex is never really casual, that intercourse leaves a bit of your soul with that person so it hurts that much more when expectations don’t work out the way we had planned. So I get why saving yourself for marriage is actually an excellent choice. But I don’t exactly want to live my single life without it, or feel like I am in a rush to get married just to have sex again. Being that Mr. W and I don’t plan on getting married anytime soon, I would probably wither up and die in certain areas of my body…

And, wait a second… Isn’t the sex talk supposed to only be uncomfortable for the kids? I really wasn’t prepared for the tables to be turned. But what choice did I have? I needed to answer them. And so I did.

“Yes,” I squeaked.

Both of the kids nearly suffered from whiplash as they turned to face me.

“YOU DO?!?” they cried. Both of them took turns telling me exactly how they felt about that – how they thought it was so healthy for me and Mr. W to express our love in such a caring and mutual way, how they were glad that we were comfortable enough in our bodies to be able to share them with each other. But it sounded more like this:

“Ew! Gross! You’ve seen Mr. W naked? He’s seen you naked??? How many times have you done it?”

And through this revelation that they really had no idea that their mom was “doing it”, I realized another thing. I had just been the one to break through my kids’ innocence and give them more knowledge than they even had an inkling about. As far as they were concerned Mr. W and I slept in flannel jammies when I went over there, our bodies covered from the top of the neck all the way down to our feet. We hadn’t even seen each other pee (something else my kids were horrified about upon discovery). Basically, I had just revealed to my kids that it is possible to have sex outside of marriage.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have never pretended that I would tell my kids that waiting till marriage is their only option. Just like I am not reserving sex for only marriage for myself, I couldn’t possibly hold my children to that regard. But I quickly explained to them that while sex is intended as an act inside of marriage, it is possible to have it when unmarried. That’s when I took the opportunity to explain the heartache that occurs with sex, how you have to be so careful to not have sex with a person that isn’t going to handle you gently, body and heart. And I also explained that sex does feel good, but it feels better when it’s with someone you love. And, along with that, I touched on how there are also dangers that come with sex – briefly touching on unplanned pregnancy and the kinds of STDs that are possible, and how there are some people who will force sex on another person.

Even though I shattered the remaining fragments of my children’s innocence, it was actually a really good conversation. And I’m happy to say that it has opened up more discussions since, ones that are less traumatic since we got the hard stuff out of the way.

CLICK HERE for tips on how to initiate a discussion about sex with your tween or teen, and things you should be thinking about before the conversation even starts.

Anyone else having “the talk” with their kids? When did you start? And how did you initially introduce the topic?

Getting high on Digital Drugs

Is getting a digital high just as concerning as the real thing?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve likely been inundated with stories about marijuana – the fight for and against legalizing it, the closing of several dispensaries, the heightened use among teens, even blogs by yours truly. Parents, forget your concerns about marijuana for just a moment and pay attention to the latest way your child is getting high – probably right under your nose. See little Johnny over there with his headphones on? Don’t look now, but your kid is probably stoned. And guess what?

He’s doing it legally.

The scary part is that your child doesn’t even need pharmaceuticals to achieve that high. He’s buying it online from a dealer called “iTunes” or “YouTube”. That’s right, through “i-Dosing”, your son or daughter is getting high on (gasp) MP3s. This latest craze among teens is raising the ire of many.  In fact, Oklahoma is taking a stance against it by warning parents about the dangers of i-Dosing, which just might be the next “gateway drug”.

So what is i-Dosing exactly? Apparently it’s a droning sound that, when listened to, gives the same feeling of being blitzed from marijuana or cocaine. Imagine going to the World Cup and being surrounded by a bunch of vuvuzelas. You there? Congratulations, you’ve just gotten high.

Alright, let me just say it now – SERIOUSLY? What’s next, banning headphones? If my kid is rebelling by listening to an annoying sound through earphones, all I’m going to do about it is make fun of them for life. Really kid? This is your way of acting out? Ooh, there’s no controlling you, you rebel. I listened to it myself and it mostly just made my head feel like it was going to explode from how annoying it was.

For those of you wanting to get digitally stoned, take a hit.

You know my stance.  What’s your take on this dangerous practice?

Forced to enforce

“What is that?” I asked DQ when I came into her room to wake her up.

“What is what?” she asked, moving the covers slightly to conceal what I was pointing at.

“That,” I said, flipping the covers aside and grapping the lime green cell phone that had been hidden underneath. “I thought you told me that it was put away for the night. You lied to me.”

“I didn’t!” she protested. “It was put away.”

“So when was the last text?” I asked her, flipping it open to reveal an unread message that came in at 12:45 am. She grabbed it away from me before I could read any further.

“I was asleep then,” she said, clutching the phone as if it held top-secret information.

“Uh-huh, right. So when was the last text that you sent?” I inquired, attempting to get the phone back. She stealthily maneuvered it out of my reach, but saw that I wasn’t kidding around. She opened it up and scrolled down.

“12:30,” she said sheepishly.

Dang it. Dang it! Why does she have to do this to me? I mean I set up guidelines, and mostly she obeys them. But this bending of the rules? I had told her in the beginning, on Christmas day when she was presented with the phone, that she had a strict 9pm phone curfew. I told her that if she couldn’t follow that rule, among the other rules I had put in place, I was going to have to take the phone away. Only once before I had caught her bending this rule. I let her off with a warning that if I caught her using her phone again after curfew that the phone would be taken away. And I had done my best to be naïve to the subsequent rule bending that occurred after that, meaning that I had purposely not checked to make sure that she was following the rule – choosing to “trust” that she was putting the phone away at the proper time. But there was no denying it this time. I mean, it was in plain sight. And now she was forcing me to do something that I didn’t want to do…

Be the parent and take the dang phone away.

It’s not like I enjoy punishing my kids. I actually hate it. Things are so much easier and more serene when we are all getting along. I like my kids, and I’m pretty sure they like me. But as parents, we run the risk of sometimes NOT being liked when we have to enforce rules to keep them safe, to help them learn how to be responsible, and to allow them to get enough sleep at night instead of staying awake texting until the wee hours of the morning.

And sometimes I wonder if kids purposely break rules to see if their parents are paying attention. I mean, it’s almost like they WANT to be caught with how obvious they are in their monkey business. Either that, or they really believe that parents just won’t notice. For example, remember that one friend of mine with the pothead son? She ended up voicing her displeasure at his habit, and forbade him from letting any of the wacky weed into her home. And he promised her that it never had, and it never would. But when she was collecting laundry from his room, he had left a half-filled pipe right on his dresser table. Either he really thought it was invisible, or he wanted to get caught.

Or there’s the third option, if I remember correctly from my own hijinks as a teenager – rebelling for the sake of rebelling just to prove to parents that they can.

In my purse is one lime green cell phone, buzzing away with questioning texts wondering where my daughter is. And stuck at home is my daughter, her thumbs going through texting withdrawal. And me? I am not exactly jumping for joy about having to enforce punishment that I laid out from the very beginning. But what kind of parent would I be if I didn’t? What kind of message would I be giving her if I set rules and then allowed her to break them? I mean, we’re supposed to enforce the rules as parents.


Getting to know Taz

With DQ gone at her dad’s house, the Taz and I were left to our own devices. For one week, I was a mom to an only child. And let me tell you, it was very odd at first. For one thing, it was now up to me to make sure that the Taz was waking up on time in the morning. I know, that sounds strange. I’m his mom, I should be waking him up. And in the mornings, I do. I turn off the blaring radio on the alarm and shake each child awake, letting them know that breakfast is on the table. And eventually both kids stumble down the stairs, waking up as they eat. But in between my wake up time and their venture down the stairs, DQ is in the room kicking her brother every time that he falls back asleep. Because of her diligence, the kids are able to get ready in a timely manner and leave the house on time. But this week, after wondering what was taking the Taz so long to get ready, I’d find him still asleep 20 minutes after I shut off his alarm.

Another thing is that I didn’t have my little truth teller (aka “tattle tale”) letting me know when the Taz “forgot” to brush his teeth, or when he fibbed at times that I asked if he had. I didn’t have my obedient child cleaning beside me, picking up the slack as the Taz lazily picked up, well, nothing. I was his entertainment since his sister wasn’t there to pick fights with him, and he was forced to stick by my side every time we left the house since my built-in babysitter was gone.

But most of all, this week I got a chance to get to know my kid better, and to appreciate him for who he is rather than who I have expected him to be.

Without his sister there, the Taz was a whole different kid. Suddenly, he had all the attention he needed, and wasn’t fighting to be seen or heard. He was more serious, and we had deeper conversations this week – real conversations. Without his sister there to take over for him, he quickly turned the corner from being a dependent child to being a responsible kid. I also realized just how easygoing the kid is. Whenever I needed to stop what he was doing so we could take care of yet another errand, he didn’t fight me on it. And while in the car, we’d chat about just about everything.

In a perfect world, parents would be able to give their kids a significant amount of their undivided attention, getting to know each child as a separate human being with different goals and dreams and interests than their brothers and sisters. In the real world, time has a way of slipping past us. The daily grind of everyday life takes precedence over slowing down and enjoying a soul to soul conversation with each child, one on one. With more than one kid, the time spent with each child individually grows significantly smaller.

But we still have expectations for our children. And we expect them to be fulfilled. Good grades, a clean room, telling the truth, toeing the line… And when they disappoint us, when they make dumb decisions or do stupid things, we get mad and tell them so – that we expect better from them. Perhaps sometimes we are expecting too much. Perhaps we are missing the point on loving our children for who they really are. Perhaps we are expecting them to be someone they aren’t. And perhaps who they are as their own person is being drowned out by who they are as a younger sibling.

This week I was able to see past the kid I had been pegging him out to be. And I was able to see this intelligent being that was perfectly capable of acting 9 years old – and beyond. He didn’t have an older sister bossing him around and telling him what to do, therefore he could make his own decisions for himself. And I also got the chance to be reintroduced to the Taz – a kid who likes long talks in the car, racing to the other end of the block, reading up on the scores of the latest ball game, creating Lego masterpieces, skateboarding with his friends, any electronic gadget that has games on it, and being the only kid getting his mother’s attention.

This summer it is my goal to spend more individual quality time with each of my kids, letting them have a chance to take a break from being a sibling and getting to know them as just DQ or just Taz. I urge you to make it your goal, as well, with each of your children.

Is it mean to punish kids with chores?

A mom/grandmother wrote to me today regarding the article, The Excuse Maker vs. the Howler Monkey. She wasn’t in agreement with using chores as a punishment, and actually found it mean-spirited that I would infringe chores on him as a consequence. In my comments, E wrote the same thing. And I have to say, that I do get what they are saying. But the other impression I received from their feedback is that punishing a child in general is mean. And I seriously question why giving a child chores as a consequence is considered “mean-spirited” when our own parents used to spank us with their hands, a belt, a wooden spoon, a switch… I have to say, giving a child chores, to me, is actually much kinder than the discipline of yesterday.

Not only that, this new consequence has been working out really well for our family.

For one, I’ve been “howling less”. This is good news for both me and my son. For me, I am not getting worked up and agitated when I am howling at my son. I am keeping a lot calmer. And in return, my son is keeping a lot calmer with me. And also, who wants to listen to an out of control howling momma? I know I wouldn’t. And now my son doesn’t have to either.

Secondly, my son has suddenly made the shift to take on his own responsibilities. At 9 years old, and being that the routine of sports and a 2nd home has been in place for years, I do expect my son to follow through on the same things I’ve always expected of him. Before we set these consequences in place, my son would claim he had finished packing up his uniform, or that he did his homework, etc. His father or I would take the time to remind him several times about what he needed to do, and still he’d forget in favor of playing with his friends or with his toys. So the forgetfulness was due to procrastinating and being lazy. Hence, the consequences.

Now these consequences were agreed upon by the two of us. We sat down one morning and discussed a solution for helping him to remember. We came up with other solutions like making a list of things for him to do that he can check off. And we both agreed on the cleaning solution, as taking his items away or keeping him from his friends was not working. I promised him that I would never make him clean more than he could handle, and I’ve made it a point to be right there with him when he does have an extra chore placed on his shoulders. And truth be told, the cleaning consequence has rarely been used. For the first week, he was cleaning every day because he was leaving things at school, at home, at his dad’s house, not doing his homework but saying that he had…. You get the picture. And that week was very hard on the both of us. But after that first week, a shift happened when he suddenly took the time and care to take ownership of his own responsibilities. This morning, for example, I only had to tell him once that he needed to gather his uniform for baseball. Usually he would pack half of it, and then forget the other half. This time he had a clear image of what he needed to pack, and he set forth doing so. And this has become the new norm. Everything is a lot easier now, and a lot calmer.

And I can’t forget to mention how cool this new procedure has been.  My son and I have used this time to spend together as he learns how to do new things.  I have taught him how to do laundry, and he has realized that he actually likes doing dishes (just like his momma).  And sometimes chores can be as simple as helping me prepare dinner.  It all depends on how bad the infraction was (as we use this discipline technique for more than just forgetfulness).

It’s hard, as a parent, to know the right way to guide your child so that they can handle more responsibilities as they age. I am a firm believer in consequences, as they are something we will have to deal with for the rest of our lives. And it helps to cement clear values in them so that they make the right decisions on their own. But I am always open to suggestions from parents who have a different idea on how to raise children and guide them in life.

Do you offer consequences for your children in areas they were struggling with? If so, what kinds of consequences do you utilize?

The Terrible Tweens

I got a call from the school the other day regarding my son. I had stepped away from my desk for just a moment, and my coworker called me on my cell to let me know. She had been concerned, but I wasn’t. A call about the Taz wasn’t exactly a monumental event. It happened quite frequently. What did strike me strange, however, was that it was my daughter’s school calling about my son. Apparently trouble travels…..

I called the school and talked with the secretary. She informed me that the Taz was sitting in her office. Confused, I asked her what was going on. She told me that DQ had decided not to take the bus that day, and had either jogged to his school, or had jogged home. The Taz, not wanting to run the risk of taking the bus to my parents’ house alone and being locked out without a key, decided that the best thing to do was to get off the bus at his sister’s school and wait for me to pick him up.

Thing is, I knew DQ hadn’t jogged home. Our home was 10 miles away across town. And I didn’t understand why she was jogging to her brother’s school when the bus went straight there. Something wasn’t adding up. I texted her, asking her where the heck she was. She texted back and told me that she decided to go to 7-11 instead of going home.

There is a moment in every mother’s life when their child inflicts some extreme emotion inside of them. Sometimes it is pure elation. Sometimes it is love so strong that you realize you never knew love, not really, before they burst into your life. Sometimes it is the need to protect them from all that is bad in this world. And sometimes it is the desire to cause them so much hurt because they have just made the stupidest choice of their life.

And you know that you ain’t seen nothing yet.

She is only 12 years old. And as I ranted to her about the pure idiocy of leaving her brother alone to fend for himself while she went god knows where, and how she could have been hit by a car and no one would have known because she has no ID on her and no one knew where she had gone, and how in the hell did she think she was going to go home after her little “jog” over to 7-11, I couldn’t help but realize that I was acting just like my own mother.

And she was acting just like me.

It’s amazing how we’ve come full circle. Here is this young being that has the attitude that she knows it all. She didn’t flinch once as I took her cellphone, iPod, and computer away and gave her orders about which rooms I wanted clean in my house by the time I got home from work. She didn’t seem to have any reaction at all. She just shrugged, casually said she was sorry, and gave no good explanation to her thought process about not taking the bus home like she was supposed to. It was very reminiscent of the non-verbal middle finger I used to give my parents, which eventually became very verbal. And as I talked to my mom about it, I could hear the humor in her voice at the way payback’s a… Well, you know.

It’s also one of many times when I feel I owe my parents a very large thank you note for all they put up with when it came to my tweenage and teenage antics.

Do you have a teen or tween? How bad is it? And what more do I have to look forward to?