Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

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?

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

SAHM1

This week, the blogging world exploded when Amy Glass blatantly put down stay at home moms (SAHMs) when she wrote a blog titled “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry“.

Here are a few token quotes:

“Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself? There’s no way those two things are the same. It’s hard for me to believe it’s not just verbally placating these people so they don’t get in trouble with the mommy bloggers.”

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”

What can I say about Amy Glass?

Well, first, what can I say about my own experience?

I am one of the lucky moms who have experienced both SAHM-dom and being a working mom. Both have their perks. Both also have their downfalls. As a working mom, I look with envy at SAHMs. I’m envious that they have time to make their kids lunches every day before school, and are home to help them with homework when the kids get home. I’m jealous that they get to join the PTA, or volunteer in the classroom, or have the time to really investigate what’s going on when Johnny’s grades start slipping. Some of the SAHMs I know are the ones whose kids look the most put together, and have socks that actually match, while you can see my kid’s socks peeking through his holey sneakers because I haven’t actually found the time to take him shoe shopping.

I feel like I’d have so much more time as a SAHM. But then I remember what the reality was.

I did the stay-at-home mom thing in the first year of my daughter’s life, and in the first several months of my son’s. We moved to a new city and I had no friends. I spent my whole day being mom, talking to babies, cleaning up messes, keeping the kids entertained…. I was jealous of my husband who got to go out and make a living and talk to other adults while I stayed home in sweats and smelling of spit-up. I had dreams, too. But those got put on the back burner while my husband became the breadwinner, and I kept the home straight. My expertise became vested in keeping the household running and the kids thriving. But my self-worth? It mistakenly plummeted. I felt like I a big fat nobody. I mean, how do you incorporate your homemaker skills onto a resume? How do you keep up with the world when the majority of your news media exists on PBS, Disney, and Nickelodeon? How do you not feel jealous when you see attractive women exiting their cars to walk towards their big office jobs, wearing pencil skirts and carrying briefcases, when I’m juggling a baby on my hip and breakfast remnants in my hair?

It was our meager finances that finally dictated my need for a job. But honestly, I was relieved to get back to the work force and take a break from the littles. My new job became my vacation from my real job. And whenever I get a little jealous over a few of my friends who are lucky to be able to stay home with their kids, I remember how much I suck at keeping a stay-at-home schedule, and how hard it was to get time off from a job that was pretty much around the clock.

Mom kidsAs I reflect on this opinion that Ms. Glass has, I can’t help but feel like she wrote it simply to attract a ton of attention to her blog, and nothing else. I mean, if you look now, there are more than 10,000 comments both applauding her stance and blasting her words. However, I feel sorry for her too, because it’s apparent she feels the need to bring herself attention by slamming a whole group of people for a significant choice in their life – a choice that means the world to their family.

And I can also only guess that she doesn’t have children. If she did, she’d understand the miracle that exists in their very first breath, and the way it feels to see the world through their eyes, and the Jekyll and Hyde emotions of wanting to strangle said kid when they’re being total buttheads while simultaneously willing to give them her very last breath if it meant they could keep on living. She’d understand the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, of sometimes feeling like the world is on one realm while she’s stuck in the land of tikes, even while understanding that this is where it is most important for her to be. She’d understand what it’s like to give up a career and a paycheck, throwing herself into her child’s future instead. She’d understand that fine balance of devoting time to the family while keeping her self-worth, and the daily struggle of not putting her whole entire identity into being the mom of her child.

I guess I can’t be mad at her, either, though I do feel a little judgey about her writing such an obvious ploy piece to gather hits for her blog. I can’t fault her. I clicked. I read. I’m responding.

Truthfully, no person – mom, or not – should be looked down upon for their life choice if that is what their calling is meant to be. If you are meant to backpack Asia, awesome! If you’re meant to work full time while also raising a family, good job! And if you devote your time to your kids as a stay at home mom, fantastic!

We all would do better to pull each other up instead of putting each other down.

Note: I became aware of this post by Amy Glass when my cousin posted her own rebuttal. She is much more eloquent than I am, and definitely more forgiving. Read what she has to say HERE.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Read Full Post »

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?

Read Full Post »

In the morning, I am usually the last one to leave the house.  I kind of like it that way, because it gives me a few moments of quiet in an empty house.  Of course, it also means that I am the one who is left with a sink full of dishes to fill the dishwasher with, and hungry cats that still need to be fed.

This morning was no exception.  In fact, the sink was filled with dishes, despite the fact that the dishwasher was close to empty.  This included a container from yesterday that still held the remnants of warm tuna.  Totally appetizing.  And to the right of me sat the stove with leftover food chunks from everyone’s breakfast makings.

I could have gotten mad.  Admittedly, I was a little irritated.  But honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

However, the appliances did not feel the same way.

Here’s the note the dishwasher left.

And the stove, not able to keep silent any longer, added its two cents as well.

I was concerned that perhaps my family might take offense to the appliance’s efforts to share their feelings.  But I didn’t want to stifle their voice either.  After all, everyone is entitled to their feelings.  So I left for work and went on with my day.

When I got home, however, apparently the loaf pans and my husband had a heart to heart while I was gone.  My husband heard I had made banana bread while he was away on a business trip, and none was saved for him.  The loaf pan felt bad about this, and felt the need to share its own feelings:

20130502-183659.jpg

And then, the calendar – who I keep forgetting to put the dang month on – decided enough was enough.  My daughter keeps reminding me to do my usual artistic month title, but I keep forgetting.  Guess the calendar felt a little slighted.

20130502-183707.jpg

I think my house has gone mad….

P.S. The teenagers in the house decided humorous notes totally beat out ordering them around.  When I came home, the stove was totally clean, and all the dishes were put away.

Read Full Post »

Something strange has been happening in my house for the past few weeks. The kids have been getting along.

I know, weird, right?

On a recent afternoon, DQ had just finished asking me if she could bring Taz along with her some of the times she went out to hang with her friends. The two have never been known for getting along. DQ is usually bossy and mean to her 12-year-old brother. Taz, in return is generally a tease and nuisance to his 15-year-old sister. But now? The sibling bond has been holding fast. I couldn’t help questioning DQ about the sudden shift in their sibling relationship.

“Do you think it’s because the two of you got some time apart from each other?” I asked her, referring to Taz’ recent solo visit with their dad. She had chosen not to visit their dad for two reasons – because she had just moved back home after living there for a month and a half, and because it gave Taz a chance to hang out with their dad all by himself. At least those were the reasons she gave me. I had a hunch the biggest reason for staying home was to hang out with the guy she was dating.

“I guess,” she answered. “But I think it’s more than that. I guess I just keep forgetting that he’s going through all the same stuff I’m going through.”

And suddenly, I understood.

I have two sisters I grew up with. My sister, Melissa, is only a year younger than me, and we shared a room. My youngest sister, Heather, is five years younger than me – which isn’t a lot now, but felt like decades when we were younger. Growing up, we had our fair share of fights. I mastered the fine art of pinching Melissa so I could leave purple marks but not draw blood. And Melissa was a pro at pulling my long hair. But both of us would tag team Heather, ganging up on her because she was always getting in our way.

I was jealous of Melissa growing up. She had a lot more friends than I did, and was a lot prettier. She spent a lot of her time hanging out at other people’s houses since she was always invited out. I enjoyed staying home in my room, reading a book. She joined the cheerleading team and ran for track. I imagined secret passageways in my bedroom, leading to magical lands where no one could find me. She was tall and slender, I was short and pudgy. She was clean, I was messy. We were night and day, black and white, oil and water.

And despite all that, we were also the best of friends.

At night we’d lie awake while I told her made-up stories using shadow puppets. On long car rides, we held performances of every single song we knew while riding in the back seat. When our parents got into the occasional fight, we were there to reassure each other that we’d stand together through the divorce (my parents just celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary). And while we could argue like it was nobody’s business, we were also each other’s strongest allies. I knew all her secrets, and she knew mine. We held a million of them from our parents, covered for each other in times of trouble, and had someone to discuss all the weird stuff that was going on with us as we grew into our awkward teenage selves.

And now, as adults, we’ve all come into our own. We have our own lives, our own friends, our own accomplishments and struggles. And we’re all really good friends – even the “annoying” one (who ended up not being so annoying after all).

sisters

We also hold a bond that no one else could ever understand. We share the same history, come from the same mold, and were raised the same way. It’s hard to think about the time in the future when our parents are no longer around. But when that happens, my sisters and I will still have each other. We are each other’s link to a story no one else shares – and no one can take that away from us.

Taz and DQ have the same bond. Through all the changes, the one thing that has been constant is the common link they share to a history all their own. They may resort back to their fighting days. They may swear in their childhood that they hate each other. Or who knows, they may even remain friends from here on out. Regardless of how these younger days play out, they will still hold the keys to our past when I am no longer here. And no one can take that away from them.

This article will appear in the Press Democrat on Friday, May 3

Read Full Post »

This post will publish in the Press Democrat on Friday, Feb. 22.

I hate school projects. There. I’ve said it. I’ve often felt like it was more homework for the parents than it is for the kids. Yes, I understand that school projects are meant to be for the kids. But please tell that to the students who bring in the projects they worked on all by themselves only to be shown up by the child whose architect father built an exact replica of the Golden Gate Bridge out of toothpicks.

True story.

At any rate, I am not a parent who does my child’s project for them. But I do have to sit and hold my child’s hand from start to finish on these projects just to get them done, feeding him ideas because he just can’t come up with them on his own. I suppose these projects are meant to help kids learn in a more fun way. However, forcing a child to sit for hours during the weekend as I suffer through glue gun burns while talking him off the ledge is anything but fun.

Recently my son, Taz, brought home a packet of papers detailing the upcoming science fair. He had a choice to either do homework during this time or create an elaborate project. Of course, he chose the project because it’s “more fun” than homework. In the meantime, I suffered flashbacks of every project we’d done in his 12 years of life.

One year, Taz had to create a report on different leaves he found. He was to collect about twenty leaves, dry them, and then tell a story about where he found them. Sounds like a sweet project, doesn’t it? Wrong. Between his tears and whining and my threats that he’d never see the light of day again until this project was done, I don’t think either one of us wanted to see a leaf ever again. Even now I shudder a little when autumn comes around.

In 4th grade, Taz was given the infamous Mission project. For kids with parents who know how to build, this must have been a blast. For me, it was a really bad joke. The book he brought home from the library with the instructions on how to build a California Mission from scratch was totally wrong in all the measurements. I had to stretch my brain to capacity to figure out what the measurements were supposed to be so that the building would actually stay intact. Then I used way too much hot glue, both on my fingers and on the house, because I just couldn’t trust him with the tool.

mission

This year, my son was given a month of lead-time before the project was due. Taz had chosen an experiment that compared the growth of sugar and salt crystals, which he assured me was very quick and promised we had plenty of time to finish it. Since he is now in sixth grade, I took him at his word.

A week passed by, and then another. The science fair project was pushed to the back of my mind as it slipped off my radar. But when I received the teacher’s reminder that the project was due in five days, I began to hyperventilate. She happily noted that we were probably already done with the experiment, and just needed to finish the poster over the weekend. But we hadn’t even started. Even worse, through research we learned that sugar and salt crystals take 7-10 days to properly grow.

We were so in trouble.

Actually, the Taz was the one who was in trouble. But as his parent, I couldn’t help feeling responsible that I hadn’t pushed harder for him to get this done much sooner. I dragged him to the store to gather up all the materials he needed to finish the project and make a beautiful poster to go with it. Then the two of us went to work setting up jars of water, one with salt and one with sugar, and a stick for them to grow on in each.

The first day, the salt one began to crystallize on the stick while the sugar one did nothing. The second day, the salt one grew a tiny bit more. The sugar one did nothing. The third day, the salt one was still slowly growing while the sugar one was asleep at the wheel.

The science fair was two days away and the experiment had failed. There wasn’t enough time to start over. We were forced to make a choice – keep going and hope that something would happen in the nick of time, or scrap the whole experiment and do something completely different.

That was how we discovered which household item cleans pennies the best.

The completed poster

The completed poster

Have I mentioned how much I hate school projects?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »