Tag Archives: teenagers

10 Things I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

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?

100+ things for your teenager’s Easter basket

Easter-basket-pin.jpg

When it comes to Easter baskets, kids are easy to shop for. Grab some jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, gather a few small toys, add the artificial grass and voila, you have created the magic of the Easter Bunny.

And then they become teens, and the Easter basket dilemma begins.

First off, don’t think for a second that teenagers are too old to wake up to an Easter basket on Easter morning. It’s more important than ever for parents to keep the magic alive as long as possible – and Easter morning is just one of those occasions to do just that.

However, teens are notoriously hard to shop for. They have specific tastes in style and gifts, and many times their tastes can be more expensive than the average Easter basket item.

With the help of other parents of teens, I have gathered more than 100 things to place in your teenager’s Easter basket – most of them completely affordable. If I’ve missed any, be sure to leave them in the comments.

(P.S. To see 50 more things, click here)

Alternatives to Traditional Baskets
– Fill an upside-down umbrella
– Use a portable shower caddy
– Fill a lunch box
– Use a reusable shopping bag
– Create an Origami box

Handmade Coupons
– Get out of chore
– Date night with Mom or Dad
– Day at the beach
– Teen’s choice for family outing

It’s All About the Money
– Eggs filled with coins
– $5 gift card to local business
– Gift certificate for mani/pedi
– Gas card

Toys for the Kid in All of Us
– Stuffed animals
– Nerf guns
– Bubbles
– Wind-up toys
– Family game
– Lego set
– Playing cards
– Hula hoop
– Jump rope

Get Ready for Summertime
– Beach towel
– Swim trunks or bathing suit
– Pool toys
– Sunglasses
– Swim goggles
– Flip flops
– Sunblock
– Baseball cap or floppy hat
– Snorkeling gear
– Beach umbrella

Subtle Hints for Upcoming Vacation
– Disney coffee (or hot chocolate) mug
– Pine cone (for hiking or camping)
– Seashells
– Pineapple (for Hawaii)
– Croissant (for Paris)
– Calendar or photo book of destination

Plan for Rainy Weather
– Umbrella
– Rain boots
– Rain jacket

Tasty treats
– Candy, of course
– Cheese sticks
– Beef jerky
– Trail mix
– Old-fashioned soda
– Handi-snacks
– Granola bars
– Cereal
– Hot chocolate

Bath Time is Fun Time
– Bath toys
– Bubble bath
– Bath salts
– Washcloths
– Bath towel
– New robe
– Hair brush
– Bath sponge
– Pumice stone

Practical, But Cool
– Cute socks
– A new outfit
– Underwear
– Key chains
– Deodorant
– Flavored tooth floss
– New toothbrush
– Colored shoelaces
– New pajamas
– Travel mug
– Water bottle
– Fingerless gloves

For the Creative Teen
– Colored pencils
– Colored chalk
– Scented markers
– Coloring book
– Water color paints
– Gel pens
– Polaroid camera
– Sketch book

For the Studious
– A new book ;-)
– Cool pens
– Colored paper clips
– Cute office supplies, like this cat shaped Post-it dispenser
Refrigerator magnets
– Mad libs
– Erasers
– Flash drives

Things to Do
– Movie passes
– Sports equipment (basketball, bucket of baseballs, etc)
– DVD of their favorite movie
– New video game

For the Teen With the Green Thumb
– Flower seeds
– Gardening gloves
– Gardening tools
– Potting materials
– Collection of succulents
– Hummingbird feeder

For the Music Lover
– iTunes gift card
– ‘Retro’ mixed cassette tapes
– Concert tickets

For the Girly Girl
– Nail polish
– Lip gloss
Metallic temporary tattoos (I want these!)
– Mini lotions
– Hair accessories
– Jewelry
– EOS chapstick (shaped like an egg!)
– Body spray or perfume
– Henna kit

What else?

When banned leggings become only half the story

The big news in the newspaper today is about Kenilworth, a Petaluma Jr. High that is mandating rules in regards to leggings, skinny jeans, and yoga pants. While not banning them, they are restricting these particular pieces of clothing by declaring they can only be worn over something that will cover them up – be it a skirt, shorts, or long shirt.

This is not exactly big news. Schools all over the place put restrictions on certain types of clothing to give educators and what they are teaching a better chance of being center stage than questionable fashion choices. But what made this big news was one particular statement made and how it was presented:

The girls, in a private assembly away from the boys, were told to cover up because it was distracting to boys and their raging hormones.

Suddenly the entire reason this assembly was called in the first place was forgotten. And parents inundated the schools and the news stations in anger.

Read more opinions about this issue at SantaRosaMom.com

First of all, will boys be distracted by their female peers if they are wearing tight fitting apparel? Absolutely. But will boys be distracted by girls if they are wearing modest apparel? Absolutely.

So the school’s huge mistake was to put emphasis on the boys reaction as a reason to not wear revealing clothing.

However, are girls in middle school guilty of dressing a bit too maturely for a girl aged 12-14?

Absolutely.

Call me old-fashioned, but the way some young girls dress these days is shocking to me. Last year on my way into a grocery store, I saw a girl around 13-years-old hiking up her shorts so that they covered less of her rear than a bathing suit would. And on a recent evening, I watched as a young girl around age 15 consistently adjusted her mini skirt so that it remained high enough to just cover her bottom. Leggings have become a popular article of clothing, both for their comfort and for the close-fitting appeal. Except that nowadays, the material on leggings has become so thin, you can see right through them. And still, they are being worn as pants even though they cover NOTHING.

So when I see parents up in arms, arguing against the school’s “new” policy about girls covering up and how it was presented, I feel like they are being distracted from several bigger issues:

– That it’s alarming for a child under the age of 14 to be wearing anything meant to show off that much of her body.

– That while it’s true we cannot control someone else’s reaction to what we are wearing, it is also true that the kind of clothes we choose to wear send very specific messages.

– That it’s pretty sad when the school, instead of the parents, has to step in to teach what is decent to wear in public.

– That the school is concerned enough to take action because the dress code has gone past appropriateness.

– That it has become the norm for schools to get in trouble as parents fight against them instead of supporting the rules they create in efforts to improve the learning environment.

 

I agree that this could have been handled better. I get that parents are pushed out of shape because the girls were talked to, and not the boys. But the reason the assembly was brought up in the first place was because the dress attire among the female population at this school was getting out of hand.

Shouldn’t we spend more of our energy promoting modesty in our kids than fighting the schools against it?

50 things for your teenager’s Easter basket

When you think of Easter baskets, you probably think of young toddlers running out to see what the Easter Bunny has left for them. You may have visions of tiny toys and plastic eggs filled with jellybeans. There’s magic in those grass filled baskets, and it’s not wasted on toddlers who will marvel at every single surprise they discover Easter morning.

But what about the teenagers?

When I was growing up, my mom made it a point to never take away the magic we felt at holidays when we were younger. Well into our adult years, we received a stocking full of small gifts at Christmas, a bunch of pink and red covered chocolate treats at Valentine’s Day, and an Easter basket full of trinkets and goodies at Easter. And now in my own house, I am continuing the tradition.

Thing is, however, it is much more difficult to find fun things to give teens at Easter when the majority of seasonal treats are geared towards kids under the age of 10. This year is even harder as we work to steer clear of all things sugary – i.e. anything that is traditional to give at Easter.

So with a little help from other parents and some searching on my own, I have put together my own list of things, edible and not, a teenager might want to discover in their basket Easter morning.

Happy Easter!

1. CDs
2. DVDs
3. Gift cards to their favorite store
4. Nostalgic kid toys (wind-up cars, Lego men, yoyos)
5. Pez dispenser
6. Gum
7. Themed baskets (nail spa, music list, hair, etc)
8. Movie tickets
9. Family coupons (for a later curfew, get out of chores free, etc)
10. Gas card
11. Nail polish
12. Lip gloss
13. Magazine (cars, beauty, or whatever their interest)
14. Poster of their favorite actor/band
15. iTunes gift card
16. Sunglasses
17. Perfume or cologne
18. Toothbrush
19. Water bottle
20. Travel coffee mug
21. Book
22. Phone accessories
23. Ear buds
24. Comic book
25. Disposable camera
26. Hair accessories
27. Flip flops
28. Beach towel
29. Sketch pad
30. Journal
31. Socks
32. Gel pens
33. Smelly pens
34. Glitter glue
35. Sharpies
36. Kite
37. Small package of cookies
38. Snapple
39. Crackers
40. Subway gift card
41. Keychain
42. Hat
43. Chapstick
44. Lotion
45. Flower seeds
46. Video game
47. Jewelry
48. Wallet
49. Purse
50. Dollar coins

What else?

Does the Easter Bunny still visit your teenager? What kind of treats do they give your teen?

Letting her go.

‘Letting our children go’ is a lifelong process for parents, one that we wrestle with again and again, and each parent has to wrestle with it in his or her own way. — Mister Rogers

My daughter is moving away.

It’s weird typing those words. I always knew there would be a day I would have to face this reality. But I thought it would be at 18 when she left for college rather than when she was only 14 years old.

And I’m sorry to those of you I haven’t told this to in person. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it on my own.

I’m conflicted in this decision. It didn’t come lightly. DQ came to me about it months ago, and I thought we had tackled it then. I thought I laid down the law enough for her to want to stay. But several new things happened and the subject was brought up again, this time with more urgency.

So what happened?

First, her boyfriend moved 3 hours away to Redding. Having wrapped her whole social life up in him, she found herself in foreign territory. She had no close friendships, a strained social life, and the person she used to spend every moment with suddenly nowhere around.

Second, she spent a really great weekend at her father’s house, spent some quality time with her new baby brother, and got back in touch with some friends she knows who live in Grass Valley, where her father lives.

Third, she insisted she needed a change of scenery so she could start fresh.

When she first came to me about wanting to move in with her dad, I considered it for only a second before I refused. But she was persistent that I at least think about it. She laid out some very specific reasons as to why this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, noting the Christian friends (ooh, she’s good) that she hangs out with up there, how she wants to get to know her baby brother better, and showing me a map of where she would be living if she were there – taking me on a virtual tour of the town through Google Maps.

She got me thinking.

The past 6 months or so have been really rough with DQ. Her teenage years have not been the most pleasant as she goes through her Jekyll & Hyde emotions. One moment she’s the loveliest of all people. The next, I have to keep my hands out of her cage or she’ll bite them clean off.

I also understand the need for change; the realization that so many mistakes have been made that the only choice is to begin a new direction in a new place. Of course, she’s a teenager. Mistakes are going to happen over and over again. My understanding of her need for a change of scenery goes hand in hand with my concern over the fact that she’s once again running from problems she’s created. This isn’t the first time she’s wanted to run away. She did this with her old school two years ago when the drama became too much to handle. Now she’s doing it again by moving to Grass Valley.

What if it happens again once she’s there?

Her father had the same concerns when we spoke on the phone today. We had a really good, bare bones conversation about DQ’s desire to move in with him. It made me feel a ton better to hear him raise all the same concerns I had about her – even before I voiced them.

What if she falls in with the wrong crowd there?
What if she pushes all of his buttons and makes him furious, as she’s known to do?
What if she gets there and decides she wants to leave again?
What if he can’t afford to have her there?

We discussed all of these at length. He was surprised I was even considering it. I kept asking him if he had any reservations, any at all, that it was ok if he did…

“Do you want me to have reservations?” he finally asked me with a chuckle.

“Yes!” I said, laughing as I admitted I wanted him to give me the out so that I could tell DQ “no” and let it be known I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

At any rate, the decision has not been made 100% final. The Ex still needs to contact DQ’s proposed future school and find out what needs to be done to get her transferred there. And I put the caveat out there that I needed to talk to DQ’s counselor before it was a done deal. But admittedly, the decision is 99% a sure thing. I’ll be sending the Ex half of my child support check to ensure he is still paying off his back support while still being financially fair about it as he takes DQ into his care. I’ll visit every couple of weekends, making the trek over there to hang out with her. She’ll come back on holiday breaks, though how we do this so it’s fair for both kids is still a detail we have to figure out. We’ll also have to figure out how she’ll attend training weekends for the camp she’s on staff at. It’s all a bunch of messy details.

But strangely enough, I think I’m ok with this decision. I mean, I’m totally sad about it. It’s going to be weird not having her around. I’ll probably be totally depressed for the first couple of weeks.  She’s the one who makes me laugh the most. She’s not just my daughter, she’s kind of like a friend. We have a million inside jokes. I mean, who’s going to quote every movie we’ve seen hundreds of times with me? Who will I watch Glee with now? Who’s going to have living room dance parties with me, or embarrass me with her totally dirty jokes?

But I also know it’s not the end of the world.

She’s moving 3 hours away, not across the country. It’s still unsure if this is a permanent move, or just until the end of the school year.  We’re all keeping this open as a trial, with a minimum of 6 months time.

Perhaps a little space between me and DQ will be healthy. And, can I just say it privately here?  Perhaps it will give her a bit of a reality check.  Or not.  But it makes me feel better to think so.

But beyond that, I know how important it is for her to get to know her baby brother. And in a weird Freudian way, I know it’s also good for her to get to know her dad better and be around him.

This could be good for all of us. We’ll see.

Night of the living teenager

“My kid has totally turned against us,” a friend of mine lamented as she shared all the ways her teenager was lashing out in rebellion. “She insists when she turns 18, she’s leaving. I feel devastated!”

I was there as recently as a few weeks ago. My 14-year-old daughter looked at me like I was an ogre, and anything I said or did was a blatant attack against her. She even swore she was moving in with her father at the end of the school year. I felt like I was grasping at threads to keep her here. I was failing as a mother, and I was sure to be the only person in the world going through this teenage drama pointed directly at me. It wasn’t until I put a call out to the universe and sought the help of some friends that I realized I’M NOT ALONE.

You, parents of teenagers – YOU’RE NOT ALONE.

I’ve heard that the teenage years are akin to mental illness. Teens just don’t know what they’re doing, saying, or how to handle all the mess going on inside. One friend of mine put it more kindly by referring to teenagers as delicate creatures, describing how teens are overwhelmed with feelings of rage, addiction, lust, fear, and more – sometimes all at the same time. Even when they’re hateful or spiteful, they’re fragile. And with all that, plus the daily struggle of making it out alive amidst their peers, the closest (and safest) person they have to lash out at is YOU, the parent.

The first best advice I ever received while going through the heartache of having a teenager was to seek out a good counselor – with and without my daughter. I bristled at this a bit, believing it was an expensive route to go. However, I found that most jobs cover up to 3 therapy sessions, and many insurance companies take over after that with just a co-pay from you. A good counselor will not only give your teenager a place to vent and help in managing all the stuff going on inside, but he or she will give you (the parent) some insight into the workings of the teenage brain and how to guide your teen without sliding into a power struggle.

Will your teen fight you on counseling? Probably. At least, mine did. When I brought counseling up to my daughter, her initial reaction was to tell me she wasn’t going. And when I insisted, she swore she’d act like she was off in the head. I finally reasoned with her that all I was asking for were three sessions. After that, she was free to never come again.

She went, and counseling ended up being the saving grace in ending the war between us.

Second best piece of advice I received was to listen. That means no talking, no rebuttals, and no trying to fix anything unless your teen specifically asks for it. If he’s lashing out at you, take a step back emotionally and let him vent. Sometimes the unreasonable things your teen is saying will lead into the real feelings he’s dealing with underneath.

Third best piece of advice I’ve heard is to share your feelings. Sometimes your teen just says things to make herself feel better. Sometimes it makes her feel better to make you as angry as she is. Sometimes she just want to be rude to you so that you have to be rude to her – and then she has something to use against you because GAW, YOU’RE SUCH A HORRIBLE PARENT! If your teen is blasting at you that she’s going to move out immediately after high school, she may just be trying to hurt you. Or she may really mean it. Either way, she’s looking for a rise out of you. If you bite back, she succeeded. But a better way to handle it is to tell her that when she says things like that it makes you sad because you actually love having her there, but understand how much she must really want her independence.

I’ve discovered that empathy goes a really long way.

Final advice – don’t go it alone. Surround yourself with other parents of teenagers and allow yourself time to vent or seek out advice. Sharing stories with others who are going through or who have been there will solidify the fact that you’re not alone. It will also give you the reality that this is such a fleeting period of your child’s life – and it too shall pass. Soon enough the stranger that has invaded your teen’s body will up and leave, and left behind will be the son or daughter you knew was in there somewhere.

As I told my friend, there should be medals of honor for parents of teenagers. Hang in there, we’re all rooting for you.

Fat Tuesday, Lean Wednesday

While no longer the genuflecting type, my Catholic roots have kept a few traditions under my belt that I cherish in my Christian faith. One of those is the season of Lent. I find it a beautiful time of starting over and ridding myself of the things that are warping my life. Much like the rest of the population has New Year’s Day to create resolutions, Lent is the perfect time to rid my life of everything that is bringing me down.

It’s the time when I make my life more holy.

Admittedly, diet is about to take a huge part of my Lenten fasting. Knowing I’m embarking on stricter food rules come Wednesday, I relaxed my regiment over the weekend. On Saturday I had a sandwich in a thick Dutch Crunch roll. I had not eaten bread in months. It was delicious, if not super filling. That night I enjoyed a dessert of King’s Cake in honor of Mardi Gras. The almondy taste was heavenly. Over the weekend I filled up on Ritz crackers. OMG. Ritz crackers are golden! I could eat those buttery loves all day long. And then last night I took a flour tortilla, filled it with refried beans, and then topped it with cheese. Dairy is another food item I have nixed from my diet in suspicions of being lactose intolerant. But nevertheless, I figured a little bit wouldn’t hurt.

Today I am down for the count and have been a slave to the toilet for the past 3 hours. Damn you cheese.

I fantasize about chocolate. I feel dumb when I go out to eat and can’t enjoy what everyone else is eating. I hate that I gain 5 pounds immediately when I stop eating “clean”, and it takes me weeks to lose it again. I think about food all the time.

I suffer from food addictions.

So yes, I am going to be making some changes for Lent, and am starting early today to give my tummy a break, as well as to fix some of the other areas in my life that are less than holy.

Lent Promises

Paleo Diet: So easy a caveman can do it

1. Diet: I am going back to my Paleo way of eating, but will be even stricter about it in the next 40+ days of Lent. I will allow beans in my diet (not considered Paleo), but am giving up corn and corn products, soybean, grains, and dairy – focusing my diet mainly on lean meats, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. I also plan on trying my best to stick to non-GMO foods (I am really scared at how genetically modified food has transformed the health of our society!).  And buh-bye sugar. It’s been sweet knowing you.

2. Use my inside voice: I am raising a teenage daughter. I have not been very good at it. I find myself acting in ways I swore I never would. In the past few weeks we’ve gotten into at least two screaming matches. I said things I’m not proud of, and acted out in ways I’m ashamed of. If I were my daughter, I would want to move out of my house and in with my dad – just as she wants to do. I can’t blame her. So the first rule on this I am making for the next 40 days is that I am not allowed to raise my voice. If I feel the need to yell, I need to take a moment and think before speaking. It is my hope that this will also help me to pause and remember what it felt like in her shoes, and to not take everything so personally. And perhaps I can become the kind of parent I’d want to have if I had to (God forbid) relive my teenage years.

3. Make my phone “dumb”: Another addiction? My smart phone. I am attached to my iPhone, and have become dependent on it. Free time? Feeling lonely? Need to do something I don’t want to? My iPhone is right there to distract me and help me procrastinate, replace my need for actual socialization, and help me feel less awkward in times of discomfort. And it’s holding me back. I have a wedding to prepare for. I have a novel that will never be completed until I start editing it. I have kids who need my attention and a career I need to refind my passion for. And my smart phone is right there telling me that all of that can wait because I need to beat my high score on Bejeweled. I can use the Internet when I’m sitting at a computer. All other times, I don’t need to. So my iPhone is about to become really “dumb” and lose its internet abilities so it can be used only as a (gasp!) phone.

One of the bridesmaid bouquets in the DIY wedding project I've imprisoned myself to.

4. Wedded focus: I have a bunch of really cute DIY bouquets I’m creating instead of using real flowers. But they aren’t going to get done if I’m not doing them. By Easter, these bouquets are going to be finished. I also plan on finalizing the centerpieces, invitations, and have my dress ordered. Phew!

5. A novel idea: This step is tentative, and really hinges on whether I can get the steps in #4 done. But I need to work on my book. I’ve written it, and marked it up with a red pen after re-reading it twice. But I am scared to make any changes. I need to step over my fear of altering it and dive right in. After all, what if my procrastination is depriving the world of the next NY Times Bestseller?

6. Pray. Pray like there’s no tomorrow. Pray like there is a tomorrow. Use this time of Lent to remember to lean on God when times get heavy, when parenting hurts the most, when going to work feels like heading to my execution, when I’m scared to talk to people, when every day feels like a repeat of the last, when life seems bleak, when friends feel far away, when I feel fat and ugly, when I’ve lost my purpose, when time seems too fast, when the clock seems at a standstill, when unfairness rears its ugly head, when I’m overwhelmed, when I don’t know what to do with myself…. And pray when I remember all that God has blessed me with in the hurdles he’s helped me overcome.

And perhaps some of this might become lifelong habits long after Lent has ended.

Whatever.

Whatever.

It’s her word of choice for me, regardless of what I say to her.

Did you eat all of your brother’s chocolate?

Yeah.

Well, wouldn’t you go ballistic if he went in your room and stole something out of it?

Whatever.

Just weeks ago we were close. And now? I barely know this 14 year old girl. She looks at me with contempt. She does nothing to hide her hatred for me. Above all else, I find myself so angry and hurt by her deliberate apathy that I want to hurt her back, make her care, do something drastic to take “whatever” out of her vocabulary. Days earlier, a war between us raged on until I finally took the phone out of her texting hands and threw it across the room with all my force, breaking the only thing she cares about anymore. I wanted to get her to open her eyes.

And she did.

She told me she wanted to move in with her dad. I had to bite my tongue from telling her I’d help her pack. We both knew she was bluffing. And we haven’t spoken since, except to address the issue of her stealing from her brother.

It’s all very mature.

I’ve never had to lay down the law for her. She’s been my “good kid”, the one I could rely on to keep up with her responsibilities and be my second pair of hands in the house. Now, she has to be told several times to do her one chore a day. She tells Mr. W he’s “not her father” whenever he says anything to her. She acts sweet as pie when she needs something, and then spews nonchalant venom when things don’t go her way. She has made it abundantly clear that she can get away with anything.

And truthfully, she can.

I suck as a parent of a teenager. I sent this sentiment out to the Facebook universe when lamenting the whole situation, and immediately friends who understood jumped in and gave words of encouragement and wisdom.

“Teenagers have a neurological condition called hypofrontality. It is akin to living most intensely in the midbrain, responsible for rage, addiction, lust, fear, etc.  Give yourself a break. You’re really working with a different and delicate sort of creature,” one friend wrote.

“Mine just informed me I am a power-hungry tyrant who cares only for myself. It may actually have hurt my feelings if that came anywhere near to being true,” another said. Her reaction was to laugh it off.

I don’t know how to be calmly authoritative. I wish I did.  I wish I were one of those parents who could hear their child say horrible things with laughter and a quick consequence. But I’m not. Instead, they win once I open my mouth, since tears are always soon to follow. I don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to take things away. I don’t want them to be anything but happy. And I don’t want to allow the wall that goes up between teenagers and their parents to exist in my home.

“What do I do?” I asked my mom. “What did you do with me?” And she reminded me about the contracts she had written up, attaching consequences if I didn’t abide by their rules in my teenage defiance.

“Sometimes they worked, sometimes, they didn’t.” And she admitted to spending many nights crying into the phone with her own mother when I acted like an ogre – like I couldn’t care less. My grandmother’s advice earlier that afternoon had been to talk to the kids’ father. “We may not have gotten along,” she said of her own ex-husband. “But we always backed each other up when it came to raising the kids.

“What would you like me to do?” the Ex asked me supportively after I had relayed the whole scenario. We’d never been very successful at the whole co-parenting thing. But this time, it made the most sense of all. He didn’t freak out when I told him I broke our daughter’s phone. And he agreed that her disrespect was uncalled for and needed to be addressed.

“Just listen to her,” I sighed. I admitted to him that I was not in a space where I could listen well at all. I knew she had some real areas of hurt and frustration. And I was too caught up in my own misery to even be a good parent to her. But I recognized that she needed someone she could spill with – someone who wasn’t emotionally attached to the situation at hand. And he told me he could do that.

It’s doubtful DQ and I will even talk until after her visit with her dad this weekend. Every time I think it might be time to let down my guard and break the ice, my pride gets in the way. The knife is only sunk in deeper when I see her sharing with Mr. W things she would normally share with me – even though just days ago she was throwing it in his face that he isn’t her father – and ignoring me in the process.

For now, I think time and space are going to have to do. That, and a really good contract with set in stone consequences.

I taught my daughter how to drink

Yesterday morning, I came across the story of Takeimi Rao, the 14 year old girl who was found dead after a night of drinking at a slumber party in her own home, before I even got out of bed. As I read the story, all I could think of was the horror her mother must be going through, losing her daughter in the blink of an eye over something that could have easily have happened to any young teenager. I thought of her friends, who couldn’t possibly have known the outcome when they experimented with alcohol the night before. And I thought of my own daughter, now 13 years old, and the fear gripped me over the fact that I could easily lose her the same way.

Any of us could lose our teenager this way.

It was fortunate that my daughter needed to be driven to a friend’s house yesterday morning, so she was up early and sat next to me in the car as we drove. I shared with her the story of Takeimi.  It was shocking to her knowing that someone so young was suddenly gone, a real in-your-face brush with mortality. At this point, we had no idea what the girls had experimented with. It sounded like alcohol, but there was speculation that it may have been something worse. At any rate, I took the opportunity to talk with my daughter about the dangers of experimenting with unknown substances, and with mass amounts of alcohol.

I have talked to DQ and her brother many times before about drugs and alcohol. They have witnessed the effects firsthand as their father struggles with addiction. They know the choice of abstaining from alcohol by several family members who have given it up completely upon realization they lacked self-control. And they know that alcohol isn’t evil when it is enjoyed properly and in moderation. I have chosen to not make alcohol a mystery to them by always being open with them when I do enjoy a drink, and even allowing them to taste a sip when they ask.

And I thought about my own youth, when I was around the same age as these girls, mere days away from leaving the 9th grade.

One of my friends brought a water bottle to school, and passed it around to a bunch of us. We weren’t in the dark about what was in that bottle – pure vodka. It looked like water, making it easy to drink without any teacher knowing what was going on. And we all took sips, nervously giggling as we passed it around. The liquid burned going down. It tasted gross but it gave a warm feeling as it traveled to the pit of our stomachs. At that age, it was unclear how much it would take to get us drunk. And I seriously doubt any of us even drank enough to get to that point. At least I didn’t. But it felt good to be a part of something secret and so grown-up. That is, until one of the teachers discovered what was going on and gathered up every girl thought to be in on it. I was missed in that gathering, and escaped punishment. The other girls took the heat and were suspended the first week of our sophomore year.

The whole event was without incident. No one died, or even got sick. But easily, it could have been different. A young teenager who is unfamiliar with alcohol can easily think that all alcohols are the same. If you can drink a bottle of beer, why can’t you drink the same amount of vodka in one sitting?

All day yesterday, I sat at my desk as the whole newsroom gathered information about Takeimi and the events surrounding her untimely death. As the day wore on, it became apparent that she died from either alcohol poisoning or from choking on her own vomit. The mood around here was somber as several reporters pitched in to gather enough information about what happened. I read several comments from readers and from those who were a part of the story that revealed negative feelings about reporters being intrusive, and wondering why they couldn’t just leave those involved alone. But the truth is, this story became way more than a job. Many of us here are parents, and the news of a young girl dying so tragically hit all of us to the core. I know I was consumed by it all day, and my thoughts centered on all three of my kids – DQ, Taz, and Mr. W’s teenage son. Telling Takeimi’s story was way more than a news article to the reporters who covered her story. It was sending a message of awareness to both parents and teens. And it’s probable that many families, including ours, sat down for a discussion about experimentation with drugs or alcohol with their teens and preteens after reading about Takeimi.

If any time a news story is vital, this is it.

I picked up my daughter after work from her friend’s house. When I got there, I was still reeling from a day of hearing morbid details about Takeimi’s demise. And without apology, I talked with DQ and her two friends as the grandmother stood by.

“Don’t drink,” I told them firmly after I explained exactly how Takeimi had died. “But if you do, it only takes this much,” and I pinched my fingers a half inch apart, “to get you drunk.” DQ’s friends looked at each other amused.

“I can’t believe she just told us how to get drunk!” one of the kids laughed.

“No, I’m telling you not to drink,” I corrected him. “And you shouldn’t. But I’m also telling you this because drinking too much can actually kill you.”

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Who knows if any of this sunk in? Truth is, it takes more than one conversation to get a message across to a teenager. But even when they don’t want to talk about it, we should. Takeimi was not a bad girl with an alcohol problem. She was a young teenager who wanted to have fun with her friends. And now she is gone.

But maybe her story might just save the life of someone else’s son or daughter. Maybe her death might save YOUR child’s life.