Tag Archives: teens

Mortified Teenagers

I have a confession to make. I embarrass my kids. Most of the time it’s unintentional. For example, my son will turn down the radio before he opens the car door when I drop him off at school. He doesn’t want anyone to know we’ve been listening to talk shows, blues music, or worse, music his friends might actually like because I’m an old fogey and shouldn’t be listening to anything but talk shows and blues music.

Sometimes, however, my embarrassing nature is intentional.

My daughter deletes any comment I make on her Facebook. It doesn’t matter how simple it is, she has it banished from her timeline faster than I can refresh the page.

The other day she was being a bit too snarky for my taste. So in good humor, I posted ‘I love you’ on her page – ten times. She kept deleting them, but my copy and paste skills were faster than her delete mode could function.

“Oh, we’re playing that game, are we?” she said, a smirk on her face.

“Hey, I just love you very much, and want you and everyone you know to be aware of it,” I replied.

“You really want to go there?” she asked. And I nodded. But then I realized that payback is a, well, you know.

“You better not be posting anything horrible on my page!” I exclaimed, aware that I not only had real-life friends, but also co-workers and some people I didn’t know at all as ‘friends’ on Facebook.

“No, I’m not posting anything on your site,” she said. I went back to my ‘I love you’ paste-scapade and received an error message.

“DQ only shares some information publicly. If you know DQ, add her as a friend or send her a message.”

My own daughter UNFRIENDED ME!

Truth be told, it doesn’t take much for a teenager to be mortified by their parents. Want proof? Try to sound like them. Santa Rosa mom Jessica Snowden described the looks her daughter and friends gives her when a common phrase used by the younger generation slips out of her mouth. “Unfortunately, it could be when the friend who started it is around to hear,” Snowden said. “It’s hard not to have it rub off on you though when they are saying them all the time.”

Pediatrician Pierrette Mimi Poinsett of Windsor confirmed that just the “mere existence of parental units instigates mortification of teens.” Dr. Poinsett, who has a teenage son, advised that if parents want to be able to hang with their teenager, it’s best not to hug or kiss them in public. She also jokingly advised, “never sing or dance in front of your teens, especially in public.”

Of course, all bets are off on that one in my family…

Ann Leach of Santa Rosa agreed, joking that she’ll go out of her way to embarrass her teen as a sort of payback when her daughter is being particularly nasty. “But overall, it’s a great relationship,” Leach said, mentioning that while her daughter’s friends view her as a tough mom, she believes they know how much she cares about them and her daughter.

And let’s not forget the fact that if you are a parent, you are WRONG. Even when you’re completely right, you’re wrong. Santa Rosa dad Matthew Witthaus shared about the time his niece walked in on her mom and stepdad just when they were in the heat of the moment. She “thought she was the wronged one when shouted out the door and chastised for not knocking first.”

But teens don’t always hate their parents. While my daughter is 13, thus at an age when she knows way more than I ever could in my 30 plus years, sometimes she feels more like an ally than the enemy. She’s known to hang with me for lots of mom-daughter bonding time. There have been many nights when we’ve stayed up late watching a movie together or just gabbing about girl stuff. I include her in some of my Girls Nights Out now that she’s no longer a young child. And she’s become my favorite shopping partner in crime.

Witthaus mused about this as well, mentioning the friendship that exists between his niece and her mom regardless of the teen years. “Molly and her mother have a text message habit, communicate constantly on FB, and, if you didn’t know it from looking at them, talk to each other on the phone as one would a sister or best friend,” he said. “Neither of them would have it any other way, and they enjoy, rather than abhor, the comments as to the nature of their ‘sisterhood.’”

My daughter eventually ‘friended’ me again on Facebook. In return, I have done my best to refrain from commenting on her status updates. But seriously, it’s torture to keep my thoughts to myself when she types things like “He makes me smile” as an update.

Who??? Who makes you smile, DQ???

Guess I’ll never know.

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Best gifts for teens

The most difficult group of people to buy gifts for? Teens. They’ve moved beyond the latest Elmo toys and those cute outfits we love to see them in, and have now developed a taste in style that is as separate from ours as they can get. Needless to say, this makes gift buying for them extremely difficult. Having several teens on my own gift-giving list this year (and knowing firsthand how horrendous the teen gift-buying experience can be), I’ve compiled a smorgasbord of items that your teen may actually crack a smile over….and utter something more than their usual grunt.

1. Video Games
These are a terribly personal gift, and it’s best if you know what titles your teen is asking for before buying, as well as what the games are about if you’re concerned about content. But if you’re looking to surprise your teen, here are a few titles topping the lists this year (with help from our game blogger, Eric Wittmershaus).
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” – A massive, open-world role-playing game full of magic, elves and dragons.
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” – Cutthroat mulitplayer that puts players in the role of various manly men fighting World War III against a Russia run by a group of ultranationalist terrorists
“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” – The latest, and possibly greatest, chapter of the Zelda series that has Link tormented by dreams, and scouring the dreamy world of Skyloft for his princess Zelda.
“L.A. Noire” – Detective story set in a stunning re-creation of post-World War II Los Angeles.
“FIFA 12” – Sports gamers will appreciate the improvements in this latest version of the soccer game that features improved gameplay, competitive scenarios, and more.
For more video game titles, check out Eric’s blog at gamewit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

2. iGifts
The iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone are topping the lists for technology this year, according to a Nielson survey. And truthfully, you can’t go wrong with these gifts. Not only do the offer tons of uses beyond just listening to music or scouring the internet, they offer plenty of other gift ideas to go with them – accessories, headphones, protective covers, iTunes gift cards… Your whole family will be set on what to get your teen. Thank you Steve Jobs.

3. eReaders
Teens still enjoy a good book, but eReaders give them the ease of being able to dive into a novel without lugging around something bulky and heavy. Those who enjoy reading several titles at once will especially love the ease a good eReader gives them. Topping the charts is the Kindle 3, followed closely by the Nook Simple Touch Reader. The eReader we recommend with the best memory options (though low battery life) would be the Nook Tablet.

4. Clothing
Tread lightly if you plan on buying your teen fashions. Many teens have a very specific (read: picky) sense of style, and will turn their nose up at most of the things you deem “cute”. If you don’t have a specific sense of what your teen likes to wear, it’s best just to take your kid pre-shopping and let them pick out what you’ll be wrapping up in terms of clothing. Or, just keep the receipts for a few inevitable returns.

5. Livescribe Pulse Smartpen
Possibly the coolest thing this self-described geek has ever seen, it’s a way to make note taking easier. The pen records audio and handwritten notes to make studying and organization so much easier. Drool…. Buy it at Amazon

6. Polaroid 300 Instant Camera
Sure, now everything is digital. But what about the retro coolness of the Polaroid camera? Photo buffs will go gaga over the vintage aspect of shaking out their instant photo for a new spin on picture taking. Comes in black and red at HSN.com.

Still strapped for ideas? Here are a few more:

Preppy teens:
Make-up
Hair accessories
Watch
Jewelry
Perfume or cologne
Locker accessories
Leather-bound journal

Sporty teens:
Carrying bags
Team wear
Athletic shoes
Heart monitor
MP3 player
Snow Goggle Camera

Geektastic teens:
Computer
Portable speakers
Eclectic alarm clocks
Gaming Chair
Gadget charging station
Laptop messenger bag
Gaming accessories

New Driver:
Personalized license plate
License plate cover
Fun bumper stickers
Antenna characters
Floor mats
Seat covers
Car speakers
GPS/Garmin

Teen Room decor:
Lava lamp
Beanbag
Room fridge
Glow in the dark decals
Random art
Wall clock
Artistic lamp

And more:
Headphones
Subscription to online streaming site like Hulu, Pandora, Netflix, or Spotify.
Retro style record players
Artist carrying case
Origami kit
Karaoke machine

Teen Stocking stuffers:
Cash
Personalized luggage tags
Keychain
Chocolate
Uniquely styled USB Flash Drives
Earbuds
Room freshener
Fingerless gloves

Middle School Madness

"Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down."

My daughter’s door was closed to me, a barrier that couldn’t possibly have been thicker than the wall that was already wedged between us. It had not been a good morning. Words had been spoken and spilled to the floor without any way to sweep them all up. We were afraid to say anything more should it add to the already hurtful things that lay between us. So we parted ways and avoided each other at all costs. And that door remained closed for the better part of the day.

Raising a 13 year old has proven to be a really hard job. It’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But it’s challenging as well. Here’s this brilliant person you’ve raised since the beginning. And over time they are changing because that’s what happens when kids grow up. Soon, they are thrust into the in-between world of Middle School, surrounded by other in-betweeners who are all growing at different rates and reasons. Put them together, and suddenly a world of Awkwardness is created.

And the biggest disease caught from this rampant pool of hormonal teenage-dom is Embarrassment.

There is no cure for Embarrassment except for Time. And even that could take about 10 or 15 years before being tackled. In some cases it never fully goes away, leading to painful years of self-consciousness that stem from these earlier days of being a Middle School teen. In the meantime, this Embarrassment causes mean and rude things to fall out of their mouths, keeps them from hugging you goodbye as they leave for school, causes their eyes to repeatedly roll towards the ceiling, and prevents them from admitting they’re even related to you or the rest of the family – as if they just popped up one day out of the ground. Most of the time they won’t even speak real words, but have resorted to grunting and nodding, or worse – not speaking at all in their efforts to will you out of the room and out of their lives forever.

But inside, there is a multitude of feelings and emotions that, at times, feel bigger than their body. This is why they lock themselves in their room with notebooks of paper to write down their deepest, darkest desires and feelings. And they keep it all secret from us because we couldn’t possibly understand what they are going through. Sure, we parents have been there before. Remember how awful Middle School was? No, you don’t. And that’s because it was SO awful that you’ve likely blocked most of those memories out to distance yourself from a truly horrendous period of time. And I think many of us can agree that we NEVER want to go through those days again.

But my daughter, and other 13 year olds just like her, is going through this horrendous period of time NOW. There are the kids who make fun of every blemish they see, the ones who spread vicious rumors about the picked-on kid of the week, the fair-weather friends, the feelings of never belonging, the Awkwardness, the Embarrassment…. When we drop our kids off at Middle School, we are abandoning them to the pack of teenage wolves that chew them up and spit them out (and repeat) for the duration of the school day. And if they don’t attempt to blend in, they become the one who stands out – and the perfect victim. You see, to a Middle School student, deflection becomes key in keeping all negative attention at bay. What better way to avoid being picked on than to heap negative attention on someone else?

So if a Middle Schooler didn’t already feel awkward enough, they are fighting a daily battle to not be noticed and to be cool all at the same time. Therefore, everything around them they once accepted as a part of their life – their family, their home, the car they’re driven in, and more – becomes a potential for mortification. Thus, they become rude, thoughtless, and fight about the stupidest things. They hold on to their opinion out of sheer will – not just because they believe they’re right, but because they believe YOU’RE WRONG.

My daughter and I eventually did make up, just like usual. But this time, “I’m sorry” just seemed like such a forced thing to say. Instead, she silently apologized by quietly working alongside me as we cleaned up the kitchen. And I silently apologized with careful glances and small smiles. And when it was clear that the worst was over, I reached over and put my arms around her in a hug.

“I love you,” I whispered to her out of anyone else’s earshot.

“I love you too, Mom,” she told me, allowing herself to be hugged.

I’m told that it gets worse before it gets better. Let’s hope I survive this. Let’s hope she does too.

What was the worst part about Middle School for you? And how’s your kid doing with Middle School now?

P.S. I’m entered in the Circle of Moms contest for Top 25 Blogs on Single Parenting. I hope you’ll take a moment and vote for me by CLICKING HERE. You can vote every day until May 23rd, or just once if you want. I’d be honored for your vote, either way. Thank you!

For the love of coffee

I had my first cup of coffee when I was probably 13. It was loaded with cream, and had more sugar than should be consumed in a 24 hour period. But it gave me a powerful surge of energy.

And it was how I realized that I loved coffee.

I experimented with my coffee palate some over my teen years. That plain coffee turned to mochas – my grown-up version of a hot chocolate. And sometimes, just to be even more “mature”, I’d add a couple more shots of espresso and be bouncing off the walls by late morning. And then I discovered vanilla lattes, the already sweetened coffee drink that held the perfect amount of milk to foam ratio. And this became my signature drink in high school whenever I hit up the local coffee shop.

While I definitely loved those fancy coffee shop drinks, they didn’t hold a candle to the coffee I drank first thing in the morning when everyone except my dad was asleep. It wasn’t flavored with vanilla or chocolate. It wasn’t served in a paper cup with an accompanying croissant. It wasn’t fancy at all. But it was the moment that made it special. Together, Dad and I would pour a cup and sit over the newspaper, taking turns reading it. (It’s interesting, when I got older I envisioned my perfect man as someone I could share the newspaper and a cup of coffee with. And I believe it was these early morning rituals that cemented that desire in me – just another piece of proof about how much impact parents have on their kids.) This was at a time when my dad and I didn’t have much to talk about. I was a surly, headstrong teen who hated school and loved her tatted boyfriend. He was a nose-to-the-grindstone worker who was never private about his expectations for all his daughters, and when we were falling short. He hated my lifestyle and wished better things for me. I just wanted to do my own thing and have my dad accept that. We couldn’t see eye to eye. And many times we’d go days without speaking because neither of us were willing to give in. But whenever our bond was severed by some trivial matter (usually a defiance on my part), it was over one of these morning coffees that it would be resolved. It may have been because I wasn’t fully awake enough to come up with a sound rebuttal. Or perhaps it was because there was no one else around to see me let my guard down. But I think it was really because this had become our moment of the day when we actually connected and were able to be honest with each other. Somehow, things that we’d avoided saying were blurted all over the table, scooped into neat piles, and then categorized until we were able to put them away with ways to solve them. Most of the time, my tough exterior was riddled with tears – tiny droplets that started out angry, but eventually weakened to apologies and need for a bit of love. And my dad never failed to react appropriately with a bear hug and an “I love you”, and sometimes even an apology of his own.

It’s not uncommon to see teens today walking out of coffee shops with a cup of joe. It’s become the social drink of the ages as we find more and more coffee shops popping up everywhere. It’s argued that caffeine isn’t healthy for the younger generation, and I agree. Too much caffeine from coffee (and yes, sodas too) can get in the way of sleep and take away from water consumption. And the desired effect of coffee can lead to even more caffeine consumption through energy drinks or boosters with not only caffeine, but stimulants like guarana and taurine that can affect different people in different ways, can decrease attention spans, and lead to high blood pressure.  And large amounts of caffeine can be dangerous to kids with ADHD, diabetes, sleep issues and eating disorders.

But remembering my own childhood and what that cup of coffee meant to me in terms of connecting with my dad, I don’t stop my own daughter from reaching for the coffee pot every so often as we’re both waking up. My coffee nowadays is rid of all sugar, thanks to a metabolism that holds on to every calorie I consume, while my daughter’s is reminiscent of my past sugary teenage brew.

And I don’t stop her from drinking it.

For in that simple cup of warmth is a magical bonding ingredient, allowing for a connection to be bridged even as every other aspect of our relationship strains in her beginning years of teenage independence.  And even if she doesn’t say it, I know it means just as much to her now as it did to me way back when…and as much as it means to me now as I sit on the parent side of the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a partially read newspaper.

What every teen needs to know

By the time our kids reach their teenager years, we can see the end in sight.  Of course we’ll be jumping for joy sad when they take that next step of independence to find a place of their own or move away to college.  But let’s face it, who wants to still be raising their children when they’re 35?  To ensure this doesn’t happen, there are some very basic skills that every teenager should know. If I’ve missed any, be sure to add them in the comments.

How to boil water
…as well as other means of cooking.  If you’re not there to make your teen a sandwich, will they starve?  If you haven’t already, start teaching your child the fundamentals of making a meal, staples they should always have on hand, using food before it spoils, grocery shopping so that there’s still food on Friday when shopping is done on Sunday…  They should also know how to work a microwave, a stove, and an oven without burning the house down.  And they should be aware of how to read labels and make healthy choices to avoid the Freshman 15, and that in the long run, eating out costs much more than making food at home.

How to save a buck
Raise your hand if you really hope to be your kid’s ATM for life.  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Then this skill might be the most important one you can teach them – how to handle their money.  Your teen should know how to create a budget and stick to it – putting money aside for bills to be paid on time before any money is spent on fun.  And money for fun should be included in that budget as well.  Help them open a checking account of their own and teach them how to keep it balanced, how to use the ATM machine, and that the balance the bank says they have is rarely ever the real balance.  Have them apply for a credit card, but stress how important it is to use it for necessities and not to furnish their whole apartment – and the importance of paying it off on time to build good credit.  They should also know how to save for things they want, put money aside for emergencies, give to charity, and how to get the best deal. 

How to get dressed
Ok, they are well past the time of needing you to pick out their clothes and tie their shoes – hopefully (if not, you have quite a bit of catching up to do).  But they will need to learn how to wash their clothes regularly so that they actually have something to wear.  And no, buying new clothes is not an alternative way to do laundry.  Teens will need to learn about when to use the Hot Cycle, and when to wash it in Cold.  And to ensure their whites don’t turn pink or their lights become dingy, they can use a lesson in separating colors as well.  Other important skills are how to sew a button or mend a rip, how to iron, how to fold and put away their clothes, how to treat stains, the importance of reading clothing labels, how to hand wash, and even how to best pack a suitcase (for all those trips back home to, ahem, do their laundry).

How to have respect…
…for everyone, but particularly for their housemates.  Sure, they may be used to leaving their dishes around, a clothing trail from the door to their room, and the toilet paper roll empty when they’re done doing their business.  And why shouldn’t they when MOM is there to pick up after them?  But Mom’s not at college, and I guarantee their housemates aren’t going to be too keen on seeing Jr’s dishes left in the sink.  A friend of mine told me of the time that he left his dishes in the sink one too many times, and finally his roommate did clear them out – by dumping them in his bed.  So for your child’s sake, and for their roommate, teach them how to do their own dishes, how to keep the noise levels down, common courtesy when it comes to guests in the room, and leaving OPP (other people’s property) alone as well as having boundaries in place for their own property. 

How to be organized
If your teen would like to flunk out in the first semester, the best bet would be to skip keeping a calendar and to lose every piece of paper or information that comes their way.  For everyone else, a calendar is essential.  If they have a smart phone, this is the most convenient place to keep it since they are likely attached to this particular piece of technology at all times.  Get them in the habit of putting everything in their calendar and referring to it regularly.  Another good habit for teens to get into before college is to create a filing system to hold all their assignment needs, bills, and any important document they may need to refer to later.  Not sure?  Place it in the filing system just in case.

How to…
…deal when sick, what to do or who to call if there’s an emergency (and have those numbers programmed in their phone), how to lock the front door behind them, how to fill their gas tank, how to understand their health or car insurance…and how to understand the many risks that are going to be in front of them. 

College is, for many teens, their first real experience away from parents.  This means that it’s their first brush with responsibility.  It also means it’s their first time without someone there to say no.  Now would be a good time to admit some of the stupid things you have done as a teen, anxiety you may have felt about being away for the first time, struggles you went through with a college schedule, and even the great parts about college life.  Sharing your good and bad experiences will help you be able to connect with your teen on a deeper level, and maybe even help them avoid some of the hard parts.  Of course, in the end they’re the ones who get to make the final decision.  And some of their decisions might not be the best despite your most valiant of efforts to steer them on a certain path.  And that’s when you also need to make it clear that no matter what, you’re there for them if they need it.

Teen talk: alcohol and cigarettes

Scenario: Your high-schooler comes home smelling of alcohol or cigarette smoke for the first time.

This is the time when teenagers are experimenting.  From alcohol, to cigarettes, to smoking pot, to huffing….  Some want to try mind-altering substances to help relieve the stress of teenage life.  Some are intrigued by the feelings promised from drugs and alcohol.  Some are doing it because they want to look cool, others are doing it so they don’t look stupid in front of their friends.

Nobody wants to believe it’s their teen.  And truth is, not all teens are doing it.  But to a teenager, all teens ARE doing it, and that only adds to the enticement of doing it themselves.  And it’s something parents must address with their teens.

So how to deal?  Yell?  Scream?  Take the car, their privacy, their freedom, their cell phone away for a specified period of time?  What’s going to make them decide to stop smoking or drinking alchohol.

Truth is, nothing is going to MAKE them stop doing anything.  But your reaction is going to help guide them in their own decision making skills, giving them tools to decide for themselves whether or not they want to continue drinking or smoking.

Here’s what timetotalk.org recommends:

“The response should be measured, quiet and serious—not yelling, shouting or overly emotional,” says parenting expert Marybeth Hicks. “Your child should realize that this isn’t just a frustrating moment like when he doesn’t do a chore you asked for; it’s very big, very important, and very serious.”
Say, “I’m really upset that you’re smoking/drinking. I need to get a handle on how often this has been happening and what your experiences have been so far. I get that you’re worried about being in trouble, but the worst part of that moment is over—I know that you’re experimenting. The best thing you can do now is really be straight with me, so for starters, tell me about what happened tonight…”

Side note:  I actually perused the Time to Talk website, and found a ton of information vital to parents of teens.  They even have a free downloadable PDF of a “Parent Talk Kit” that gives many real examples of talkable moments, and how to handle each one. 

How would you deal if your teen came home smelling like alcohol or cigarettes?

Final Text Message

In 2008, California went hands free while driving.  In 2009, this law was revised to include texting while driving as well as talking on the phone while driving.  And yet go for a drive, and I guarantee that you’ll see at least one driver using their phone to type out a message while maneuvering their car down the roadway.

Perhaps it is you.  Perhaps it is your teen.  Perhaps you are willing to dismiss the dangers associated with being distracted by your phone while operating a piece of machinery that can KILL or MAIM others…even yourself. 

Perhaps you have completely ignored the loss one RP family is going through as they mourn their deceased toddler daughter, and go through the painful steps of the mother’s rehabilitation – all the result of a teenage driver (allegedly) looking at her cell phone while driving, and failing to see the victims in the crosswalk in front of her.

AT&T has put together a video called “Your Final Text Message”.  Have you seen it circulating the web?  If you’re like me, you’ve avoided watching it because you knew the message was going to hurt.  Well, I watched it.  And I strongly urge you to watch it.  And I urge you to invite your teen into the room and have them watch it with you.  If anything, send it to them and let them watch it on their own.  It’s 10 minutes long, but incredibly powerful.

“If someone were to ask me to drive down the road and close your eyes for 5 seconds, 6 seconds, I would never even do that.  But if someone asks ‘read this text and respond to that’, in about the same length of time, well that would be no problem.”

“I sent one meaningless text – LOL – and killed a man.”

“People will tell you over and over again it’s not your fault.  But knowing that you were the person she was talking to when she was killed… Just having the patrol officer write in a report that a text message sent at 12:05 is the reason that she is dead is not something that will ever go away.”

“Four letters.  That’s what killed her.”

….

You are 23 times more likely to be in a car accident if you are texting than if you are not, according to a study done by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in 2009.  And while you most people wouldn’t drink and drive, a shocking study done by Car and Driver Magazine proved that you are a worse driver when distracted by texting and driving than someone who is driving drunk.

After the news broke about Calli, the RP toddler who lost her life, I took extra care to make sure my phone was out of reach, on vibrate, and out of sight so that I’m not even tempted to look at it while my car’s in motion.  Losing my life is not worth it.  Losing my children’s lives is not worth it.  Killing another motorist or pedestrian is not worth it.  Whatever I need to say to someone, it can wait.

Whatever YOU need to say to someone – IT CAN WAIT.

If you are guilty of texting while driving, please stop.  Let your last text message be a PLANNED final text while driving.  Talk with your kids about the dangers, and make them stop.  Treat it seriously.  If they are caught texting while driving, pull out some ultra serious consequences.  Take the phone away. Take the car away.  Take their freedom away. 

Better an angry teen than a dead teen. 

And if you see someone texting and driving and are safely able to take down their vehicle information, report them for reckless driving by calling 9-1-1 (once safely parked, of course).  There doesn’t seem to be any other number to report them, and let’s face it, texting while driving is reckless.

Are you texting while driving?  Have you been in a car with someone who has texted while driving?  Do you see other drivers texting while driving?  Share your story in the comments.

Anonymous comments are welcome.