Category Archives: children

In An Effort To Squeeze As Much As I Can Out Of My Son’s Childhood

My 11-year-old son has been a little extra cuddly lately. My son who isn’t typically cuddly.

With my daughter, I know what this means. It means that something is going on in her life that she isn’t particularly proud of or she’s experiencing some bullying or peer pressure to try things she shouldn’t.

So, I ask all the right questions.

“How are things in school? Made any new friends? How is David doing? Troy? What’s the weirdest thing that happened this week? What made you laugh out loud today? Did you help anyone today?”

I sit. Waiting. Hoping all of his troubles pour out.

Nothin’.

I push as far as I think I can push without him figuring out what I’m doing.

“Mom? Can I go play xbox?”

And off he goes.

This goes on for about a week. I’m stymied. And then, in the middle of snack yesterday, he says, “Mom? Do you think I’m too old to Trick-Or Treat?”

www.theycallmejane.wordpress.com

I want to scream “NO!” and cuddle him in my arms and tell him to treasure every single moment that is still his childhood. But I can’t. He’s a middle-schooler now. He’s my tough guy who has been too cool for my hugs and snuggles for awhile now.

But it all makes sense now. His 10-year-old brother is fired up about his zombie costume. He’s been talking about it for weeks. While my other son watches from the side lines.

“I’ll just be a bank robber. It’ll be easy. I’ll wear all black. A ski mask and paint a dollar sign on a pillow case,” he says non-nonchalantly.

“Do eighth graders trick or treat?” he muses.

He started middle school this year. He’s moved from being on top to the bottom of the school food chain. He’s intimidated by everything all over again. What to wear. What to eat for lunch. What to share with your mom.

And whether to hold onto  one of the last pieces of childhood.

When I was a freshman in high school my friends and I had a sleep over on Halloween. The plan was to watch scary movies, stuff our faces with pizza and giggle into the wee hours.

“We should go trick or treating!” someone said. I looked around nervously. I was among the youngest of our group, We were all on the swim team together and there were sophomores present. What would they think?

“That’s a great idea!” A sophomore shouted. “We can all go as swimmers!”

Not a hugely original idea, but everyone loved it and we raced around, grabbing what we could from my house and then going to other girls’ houses to scrounge up more swim suits, caps, googles and warm ups.

Despite our fun-loving attitude and our polite thank yous, about 1/2 the time we were not well received.

“Aren’t you a little too old for this?” A little old lady (she was probably 45) asked.  One man actually refused to give us candy.

About 1/4 of the time, nothing was said but with the reluctant handout, the sentiment was understood.

And the rest of the time, we had warm welcomes, light-hearted comments about our “costumes,” well wishes for our upcoming League Championship and lots of candy.

We had fun, despite the nay-sayers. We laughed. We let loose. We stuffed our faces. We treasured and embraced the last days of what was still our childhood.

“No, sweetie,” I said to my cautious-confused son. “You are NOT too old to trick or treat.”

“But how will I know when I am too old?” he asks. I can see the wheels spinning, wondering if that day is just around the corner, coming much sooner than he is ready.

“You are too old when you can afford to buy a whole pillowcase full of candy for yourself,” I tell him.

He jumps off the stool with a big, goofy grin on his face, happy with my answer that seems oh-so-far-away.

And we just squeezed one more Halloween out of his childhood.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under children, Growing Up, Motherhood

Negotiating iThis, xThat and Every Screen In Between

A Facebook friend alerted me to an article on the Washington Post that has resonated with me in every fiber of my being. “Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything.”

I was born on the cusp of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. I remember the days in college of wrapping rubber bands around the punch cards you inserted into the computer. Then, just a few years later, I  purchased  my first “home” computer shortly after graduation.

I have three children. A 21 year old daughter and 10 and 11 year old sons. And that 10 year difference might as well be 3 generations of technology users. When we finally let our daughter have a cell phone, that’s all it was. A cellphone. You called people with it.

Now? It’s a phone, a mailbox, an urban dictionary, an internet surfer, a radio, a photo album, a camera, a video recorder. It connects you to your parents, your siblings, your family, your friends, your friend’s friends, and every other sick-o stranger on the planet.

How do you teach “Stranger Danger” and stay current with all the tricks that twist and turn by the minute?

screen time

One answer: You can’t.

My sons, especially Mr. 11-year-old, have been begging for a phone. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not necessary. I drive them everywhere they need to be. We still have an old-fashioned land line phone at home.

But if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m scared to death to break down and let them have a phone. It’s one less screen in front of their faces. It’s one less screen I have to worry about breaking. And it’s one less screen that’s going to take their precious innocence.

We have limited screen time. Weekends = 3 hours each day. Weekdays = unlimited. Well, that’s what we tell them – so they think they’re getting away with something. But between school, swim practice, baseball, Kung-Fu and Boy Scouts it works out to about 1.5 hours a day.

We have “Unplugged” days when no screens of any kind are allowed. We recently took an unplugged 4 day vacation to the mountains. Just fishing and hiking and board games and card games . Campfires and mosquitoes and skipping rocks. Books with real pages and that intoxicating “new book” smell.

It was heaven.

Like the author of the Washington Post article, I just can’t outright ban the screen time. It’s oh-so-necessary in this day and age. They need to be connected and savvy. On the other hand, I worry about what it is doing to their social skills. Will they develop a Dowager’s hump, hovering over their Kindles and iPads? And who ARE they talking to on xbox-Live?

This is truly a rickety-tricky age in which to live. Oh, sure. I know that every generation has its struggles. But this is one arena where we don’t have a role model to guide us. It’s trial and error. And with cyber-bullying and sexual predators, it’s an error that can be devastating.

So.

I struggle.

And you struggle.

And our kids hate us for keeping them from their precious screens.

But that’s just how it’s going to have to be.

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Filed under children, In the News, parenting

Losing The Battle Of The Sexes To My 10-Year-Old

We have tried to raise our children color-blind and gender-blind. And so far, I think we’re doing an okay job of it. Hesitant to pat myself on the back. Eyes wide open enough to see that maybe our bias might slip once in awhile. But feeling pretty confident we’re raising two open-minded young men.

We’re balanced. (And my husband, who practices Chinese Medicine, would be happy with that assessment.) 

That being said, I need to make you aware of a few facts.

1. Our “pediatrician” is a Certified Nurse Practitioner.

2. Our CNP has amazing credentials, works with a group of equally amazing doctors and has been practicing for over 30 years.

3. We, and by we I mean all of us, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our CNP.

4. We would make our CNP a member of our family if that wouldn’t be crossing any personal/professional boundries.

5. We call our CNP Dr. Alex.

6. Dr. Alex is female.

6. My boys are about to hit puberty.

I purposely schedule their wellness visits smack dab in the middle of summer. Germaphobe that I am, I refuse to take them when their birthdays actually fall, late winter and early spring. And we rarely (Thank you, Chinese Medicine!) need to go the doctor except for the wellness visits.

We had their wellness visit this week.

“Well, how are my two favorite boys?” Dr. Alex sings as she walks into the exam room. “I haven’t seen you in forever! How are you enjoying your summer?”

Eyes glued to the floor. A barely audible “fine” squeaks out of one boy. I can’t tell which one.

“#1son, are you still playing baseball? How is the season going?” she asks.

“Okay.” Eyes still boring a hole in the tile floor.

“And #2son, are you playing this year?”

“No. I swim,” said almost in a whisper.

“But you’re playing this fall,” I chime in, embarrassed that my boys are being so rude, so quiet, so not like themselves.

The entire exam goes along this way but Dr. Alex barely notices. Chatting along with me like the “old friends” we’ve become. We both have children in the same university. We’re both about the same age. So she and I have plenty to catch up on. She still tries to engage the boys as she asks them to breath deeply, touch their toes, look up. No response.

There is a glimmer of hope when she gets on the computer and shows them where they fall on the growth chart. #1son will be around 6’2″ when he grows up and #2son around 5’11”. This pleases them both immensely. Their father is all of 5’7″ and #1son is the same nationality as his barely 5 foot sister, so his fears are dashed that he, too, will follow that ethnic stereotype.

But as soon as she turns back to them to ask them if they have any more questions their heads drop immediately to their chests and they whisper in unison, “No.”

I’m mortified.

But she acts like she doesn’t notice. Which surprises me. So, I try to engage the boys. To no avail.

We say our goodbyes until next year (wink, wink) and go our merry way.

“What was that all about?” I glare at them in the backseat through the rear view mirror.

“What?” They both ask, innocently.

“You barely spoke in there. Dr. Alex was asking you questions and you barely answered. You wouldn’t look at her when she spoke to you. That was so rude!”

Silence.

“Well, what do you have to say for yourselves?”

(Insert long, dramatic pause.)

“But Mom! We were naked!”

Just to be clear, they were not naked. They had on t-shirts and underwear. But I guess, to a pre-adolescent boy, that’s about as naked as you can get. (Thank goodness!) 

And with every feminist bone in my body I’m fighting the urge to move them to one of the male doctors in the group.

But I have a feeling I’m going to lose this fight.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under children, From The Mouths Of Babes

To The Parents Of Small Children: Trust Me. I Speak From Experience.

A friend alerted me (us?) to this article on Huffington Post in her Facebook status with a hearty “Amen!” When you bring an exclamation like “Amen!” into the picture, I am intrigued.

So, I read the article. It’s about something I am very familiar with. Infertility. And then pregnancy. And then getting what you want, only to turn around and say, why did I ask for this?

The chaos. The sleep-deprivation. The frustrations.

I know this, having two boys only 10 months apart in age, all too well.

I remember just weeks from my due date and my husband and daughter were teaching our middle son to crawl. I screamed, “Why are you doing this? I can barely see my toes. How am I going to chase a crawling gremlin?!?”

And then, just as our youngest was learning to crawl, my husband and daughter were teaching our middle son to walk. I screamed, “Why are you doing this? I can barely keep up with one little gremlin. Now you…”

But I stopped, mid-rant. What was the point?

Yes, it was tough. Yes, I snapped on more than one occasion. And when people said, “Enjoy these moments now. They grow up so fast!” I knew exactly what they were talking about.

My children are 10 years and then 10 months apart in age. I benefited from the experience of having been-there-done-that with my oldest.

With my daughter, when people would tell me to “enjoy her now” and that “they grow up so fast,” my eyes would glaze over and I would nod politely. I never quite felt the same anger towards those well-meaning people as the author of the Huffington Post article does, but I certainly agreed with him (at that time in my life) that their comments weren’t helpful. His annoyance is much stronger than mine was. He threatens to “break up with you” if you say it to him. He begs all well-meaning people out there to avoid that advice.

Well, with my “wealth” of experience, I’m about to rock his world.

I say?

Say it! Shout it! Climb onto the roof-tops and shout to every stressed out parent out there:

“Enjoy every precious and not so precious moment! They grow up so very, very fast!”

As annoying it may be to hear it the second time around, it made me pause. It reminded me to stop, take a breath and breathe in their sweet, grubby goodness. When my boys were 2 and just turned 3, my daughter was 13. Not needing me. Only around the house between school and gymnastics practice. Hugs were less frequent. And a tuck-in and a kiss goodnight was met with, “Mom?!? I’m not a baby anymore!”

My daughter, 10 years older than the next child, is a constant reminder of how fleeting those baby-toddler-childhood years truly are. Now in college, needing me so much less and at a university 4 hours away, I am missing her so much more. The grimy fingers. The skinned knees. The silly songs. The talks in the car. The butterfly kisses. Even the whining.

Oh sure, there were times when I’d hide in my closet, tears welling up because I thought I was going to lose it. I gave myself time-outs when I’d catch myself at the end of my rope. Parenting is not for the tender-hearted, and yet, it is.

Parenting is tough. Parenting can make you say and do things that you wish you hadn’t. But you pick yourself up, you learn from your failures (and we all have them) and you move on.

Much too quickly.

Because before you know it, they’re grown. They’re independent. They’ve taken all the skills you armed them with.

And they’re gone.

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Filed under children, Lessons Learned

An Open Letter To The Fathers Of Daughters Around The World

father-daughter

An Open Letter To The Fathers of Daughters Around The World:

Starting at a young age, at a very young age, make father/daughter time a priority. Make it a such a regular, natural occurrence that by the time she is a teenager, she expects you to take her out for sushi or ice cream.

When she’s six, laugh at her knock-knock jokes, teach her to fish. Walk the dog with her and dance the Macarena. Listen to her giggle about her favorite television show. Sit in the front row at her school music assembly. Let her fix your hair with barrettes and bows. Tell her she’s beautiful, inside and out.

When she’s ten, indulge her passion for ice cream. Ask about her teachers at school. Know her best friend’s name. Ask about her friend’s friends. Tell her about your friends when you were a kid. Go to every gymnastics meet. Play catch with her in the backyard. Go on a hike. Listen. Watch. Teach. Tell her she is beautiful, both inside and out.

When she is 14, share your passion of sushi together. Have her teach you how to use your iPhone.  Even if you already know. Watch a baseball game together. Go to her cheerleading competitions. Listen to her babble about things that seem unimportant. The important things will slip into the conversation when you least expect it. Listen harder. Tell her she is beautiful , inside and out.

When she is 19, take her out for coffee to hear all about her college classes. Listen as if your life depends on it. Nod. Smile. Offer advice if you think she’ll hear you. Sit silently, if you think she won’t. Just be there. As close as a text. As close as a phone call. Send her a funny picture in the mail. Make sure she knows you think of her every day. Tell her she is beautiful, both inside and out.

You have a power we mothers don’t have. You have the ability to teach our daughter that she is worth treasuring. The partner she chooses will be a reflection of you and all the work you did when she was still a little girl.

Will she pine for a boy and wait by the phone, just as she had to pine and wait for you? Or will she expect to be treated with kindness and consideration and respect? Will she allow her heart to be trounced on, over and over because she doesn’t feel she deserves better? Or will she let go of the frogs and hold out for a prince because you taught her that she is a princess?

Model good behavior with her mother. Show her how she should expect to be treated by her future soul mate.

Do these things, these simple, yet oh-so-important things to make life a little easier for the mothers of the daughters of the world. We tell our daughters that they are beautiful, both inside and out, every day. But they roll their eyes at us and say, “But Mom, you’re paid to say that!” When you say it, they hang onto your every word. Their eyes sparkle. They stand taller. They begin to believe what you say.

And then someday.

One day.

They will find a man, like you, who is beautiful.

Both inside and out.

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Filed under Adult Children, children, parenting

My Son. The Supernanny.

We all have good days and bad days as a parent. We all pray that our children won’t end up on Dr. Phil one day, telling the world how we messed them up.

And then, out of nowhere, when we least expect it, we get a glimpse of how we’re doing.

While folding clothes and watching a re-run of Supernanny, my youngest son sat down. Just to be in the same room. To play on his Kindle. And he started watching.

ABC#00001

“Mom? They should put her in a time out. Shouldn’t they be in bed by now? I can’t believe he even knows that word. How old is he?”

Then a Supernanny parenting question pops on the screen. We have to wait until the commercial break for the answer.

“I don’t have to wait. That’s an easy one. The answer is C!”

Sure enough, he’s right.

“You’re going to be an amazing father someday,” I beam.

“Yeah,” he muses, going back to his game.

“Just remember everything I taught you,” I say, kissing the top of his head.

“No,” he says, “I’ll remember everything you DID.”

…..

Yep.

Today is a GOOD day.

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Filed under children, parenting

For All You Parents Of Multiples

For all you parents of multiples out there…

I-was-planned

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Filed under children