Raise A Child in 30 Years or Less

“The Long And Winding Road” (Sometimes We Let Our Kids ‘Yearn’ The Hard Way)

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I just hung up from a phone conversation with with my daughter, the college co-ed. She needed a little pep talk. She’s upset because we are poor. Well, WE aren’t actually poor. My husband and I do just fine.  SHE’s the one that’s poor.

The poor struggling college student. It’s a rite of passage and a tad cliche, but to some extent we orchestrated it and we kind of like it.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. We are mean, heartless and cruel parents. And by today’s standards, I guess maybe we are. But lest you judge us too harshly, let me explain…

Our daughter has absolutely everything and even more than she needs. We are paying her tuition, her rent is covered by us and she has a vehicle (albeit nothing flashy) that starts right up when she turns the key.

The problem, as I see it, is entirely relative. Like most people, our daughter’s plumb-line for normal is derived from her peers. Through no real fault of their own, some of her peers are the uber-indulged offspring of my generation; the generation that was hell-bent-for-leather to give our children more than our parents gave us.

I’m not sure why one-upping our parents was the calling card for so many of us as we waltzed into our own parenting roles, but it often was.

And, my how we succeeded.

By and large, we’ve raised a new generation that is accustomed to fine dining, has traveled the world over, swipes credit cards with reckless abandon, drives luxury cars and views many privileges, such as higher education, as absolute entitlements.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a peer of mine sigh and lament, “I just want my kids to have more than I had growing up…” I could’ve spoiled my kids even more than I already did.

And there’s no doubt I would’ve indulged mine way more, but my rather determined husband got in my way. From the very first sonogram, he was a man on a mission, “We aren’t going to spoil these kids, they need to grow up feeling-the-yearn, like we did. It creates motivation, and builds character and self-sufficiency.”

Despite our eventual joint resolve, we still managed to spoil the little buggers more than we intended. But, not as thoroughly as we might have if we hadn’t committed to a ongoing system of checks and balances.

So what do I say to my kids when I dust off my “I’m So Sorry I’m Not Sorry You’re Poor” speech? I tell them how glad I am that we’ve left so much for them to anticipate and savor in their adult years. I say I’m happy the best is yet to come and they have so much to look forward to in life. I tell them I’m delighted that they haven’t already experienced, “the best years of their lives” courtesy of their Mom and Dad.

Granted, there’s always so much to thank one’s parents for. Mine gave me life, my faith, my value system, my education. We had fabulous birthday parties, glorious Christmas mornings, many awesome memories on our boat and long lazy weekends camping at the lake. It was grand.

Grand times on my Dad's boat - I'm the kid with my arms in the air

Grand times on my Dad’s boat – I’m the kid with my arms in the air (it’s hard to believe, surrounded by all that luxury, I longed for more in life…)

But, the first time I ever clambered onto a ski lift and witnessed the panorama of majestic mountain peaks, I was already an adult. I was married and with my husband the first time I ever stepped foot on a beach in Hawaii or boarded a cruise ship. We bought our very first brand new car together and then sat in it all afternoon getting high on that intoxicating new car smell mingled with self-satisfaction and pride.

Don’t get me wrong here — I’m not saying you’ll ruin your kids’ lives inexorably if you take them snow skiing or, God forbid on a Disney Cruise.   I’m merely suggesting that, moving forward, future generations might be wise to re-examine a few of our #Parenting Goals and rein it in a bit. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting more for our kids; let’s just trust and inspire them to go get some of it for themselves.

Productive, happy and well-adjusted young adults are working towards their own established goals and ambitions. The common denominator seems to be that they have something to strive for.

As that Great American Philosopher, Jane Fonda, taught us in the 1980s, you’ve got to “Feel the yearn!” Never mind, that was, “Feel the burn!”  Oh well – you get the gist.

Maybe I’ll drive over to College Town, take my girl out to a chic restaurant and tell her just how lucky she is.

My treat, of course.

“The Wind Beneath Your Wings” (I’m Still Winging it as a Mom and Hoping For The Best!)

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Proper and effective parenting is sometimes just about ‘winging it‘ and hoping for the best…

Remember when your babies started tentatively trying to walk on their own, and you let them toddle 2 or 3 steps from one parent into the outstretched and waiting arms of the other parent? (Or at the very least, another caring family member.) Gradually, you lengthened the distance your little one had to travel until they were walking independently.

We accomplished the driving version of that this weekend. With our baby. We lengthened the distance between us and the outstretched, loving arms of waiting responsible family members, but only because we sort’ve had to…

The story: We were in possession of 2 highly coveted tickets to Saturday’s football game in College Town, USA,  about 45 minutes down the highway.  A last minute family emergency changed the plan from a Father/Son excursion to our son inviting a friend to accompany him to the game. Transportation immediately became the major issue. We mentally ran through a short list of unsuitable options, when dad suggested we simply let the 16 year old boys drive themselves.

Drive themselves???

I wasn’t one bit in love with that plan. I couldn’t care less about football and failed to realize the overall import and significance of this particular game. But, apparently this game was

H.
U.
G.
E.

While I may not give a rat’s arse about pigskin, college rankings and conference pride, I do have a soft spot for my boy, plus I understood we couldn’t waste these precious tickets. They came with complimentary passes into an elite tailgate party, where fabulous fare was being catered by some of our area’s finest restaurants and caterers.  If I appreciate anything in life, it’s the privilege of hobnobbing around delicious food.

Additional points of persuasion:
1. No one travels over 35 miles per hour on the interstate on College Game Day. In fact, that’s why they named this stretch of road “I 35.”
2. Both boys have responsible on-campus older brothers that would be waiting for them with open arms right there in college town. Metaphorically ready and able to catch them should they fall.
3. If I don’t let them drive, Option B was that I myself would drive them and hang out around the stadium waiting to drive them home. A 7-8 hour Saturday evening proposition.

Thus, I set them free following a stern lecture on responsibility and sound adult decision-making.

The next morning, we really didn’t care to hear all that much about the game, as we’d caught the highlights on the telly, but we clamored for every detail about the tailgate party, foodies that we are.

Not much to tell!” The Boy-Ginger responded in mono-syllabic grunts, deflecting our queries with general teenaged annoyance.

He then went on, much to our disappointment and dismay, to inform us that the only food vendor he sought out at the tailgate was an all-you-can-eat buffet in our area aptly named, The Golden Corral. In fact, he went back, not once, not twice, but thrice for additional helpings of their chicken wings.

And then, worst fears confirmed, the boys proceeded to drink. Wantonly and recklessly. From a chocolate fountain. Provided by, none other than, you guessed it – The Goldenest of Corrals.

Honestly, I’d heard enough. The next thing you know, he’d be telling me they dipped the wings in the chocolate sauce.

For the first time in weeks I found myself actually cheered by the fact that our other offspring are up and out of the house, so we can focus what’s left of our joint parenting energies undistracted on this last remaining child, who obviously still needs so much from us before he’s ready to fly off.

I no longer suffer from the malaise of “Almost-Empty Nest Syndrome!”  Wings or no wings, I’ve still got plenty of work to do around here.

I knew we should’ve signed him up for Cotillion when we had the chance.

“There Must Be 50 Ways To Leave Your Mother” (3 Last Minute Things I Need To Teach My Son Before He Leaves For College This Week)

“Suds for Everyone!”

We are packing to take our 18 year old son off to college at the end of this week. A small pile of sundry ‘Do Not Forget!’ items accumulating by the door serves as a startling reminder that I have less than a week to tie up a few loose parenting ends before I send him out into that wide blue yonder we call the Real World...

1. After We Pay Your Tuition, You Will Have More Money Than We Do

I’m so glad we had the “money talk” today. When you asked me how you would be obtaining cash flow while you were away at school and I explained, you seemed somewhat taken aback.

Son, we are providing for your tuition, books, lodging and we generously upgraded your meal plan to include more caloric energy per day than the rest of our family consumes in an entire month. I can’t imagine what else you think you’re going to need,  but I saw all those graduation checks that came rolling in last May. I happen to know you have more money in your bank account than I do.  Use it.

When you complained that you didn’t want to use your “precious money” to buy “things like shampoo,” I saw the likes of your Dad in you. He feels the same way. That’s why he takes all those business trips. It’s solely to obtain those tiny little bottles of free hotel shampoo.

Got any business trips on your calandar? I didn’t think so. Just buy yourself some shampoo, okay?

And, look at it this way – when your Grandmothers ask you what you spent all your graduation money on, and you answer, “Suds,” you won’t really be lying.

2. Any Moron Can Do Laundry

People have been telling me forever that I was doing you a genuine disservice by doing your laundry all these years.  But, I didn’t mind doing your laundry while you played sports and made those stellar grades. When my concerned friends worried aloud in my presence that you “wouldn’t know how to do laundry when you left for college,” I assured them I could “teach any Moron to do laundry in 5 minutes!” and “planned to do so right before we left for College Town, USA!”  And, no, I did not just call you a moron. I’m your mother, I love you.

As usual, I was right. We knocked that task out today in no time flat. All in all, you did well. I’m sorry your clothes came out wrinkled and you’re concerned about having to iron them. When I told you the solution was simply to do “smaller loads,” so your clothes could fluff out more freely, and you responded that “would take too long” and you, “didn’t want to spend all your free time doing laundry,” I was kind’ve stung. Did you realize when you spoke those words, that you were taking a personal swipe at my entire existence? I do laundry for a living, so ouch.

One more thing: as you get older, you’ll realize there is no such thing as “free time.” Any moron knows that. Okay, I think now I just called you a moron.

3. I Am Always Going To Parent You

By no means should you ever feel that I’m done parenting you. Last night you hung out at your friend’s house awfully late. I texted you when I was ready to go to bed to see what your plans were and you came across a wee bit CAVALIER. I know that this time next week you will be on your own and I won’t have “the luxury” of knowing right where you are, but I plan to parent you right up to the very last possible second – Up the dormitory staircase, down the dormitory hallway, right into the dorm room.

And, Spoiler Alert – when you come home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, I’m going to pick up right where I left off. If you don’t like the sound of that, you should plan some type of a business trip for those weeks. You can pick up some shampoo while you’re there.  That’s just a suggestion. It’s whatever you think. I’m not going to tell you what to do.

Wait- scratch that last part- actually,  I am.

 

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“Lord I Was Born a Ramblin’ Man” (Helping Your Older Kids Grasp Your Double-Standard…)

Back-to-School shopping from home this year!

(Back-to-School shopping from home this year!)

 

Approximately 87,600…

Admittedly, this is a bit of a rough estimate and I took the liberty of rounding the number off, but I am trying to figure out how many times I have driven my 5 kids places over the past 30 years, since my oldest child was born.

From the day after we brought Emilie home, when I strapped her into her car seat for her first Baby Well-Check, until I ran Tommy to soccer practice a few nights ago, I arrived at roughly 87,600 car rides – give or take the 7 or 8 times their dad actually shuttled them anywhere.

Which might explain the rather unorthodox reaction I am having to Tommy getting his driver’s license.

I am letting him drive.

Yesterday, when two of my daughters happened to be home, chatting in the kitchen, one of them looked up and asked,

Where’s Tommy?”

When I answered, “He’s at soccer practice!” they kindly offered to pick him up later, on their way back home from running an errand. This left me no option but to ‘fess up-

He drove himself there!

He drove?” They exclaimed, in unison and surprise. Apparently, according to the girls, getting one’s license around here was certainly a laudable milestone, but it didn’t translate into the level of personal freedom and autonomy their younger brothers enjoy.

Okay, I admit I might’ve put some rather stringent restrictions on my daughters when they were new drivers, freshly sprung from the loins of the DMV,  with their little plastic cards in their little plastic hands, but things were different then.

We had more rules and standards.   In fact, we may have had so many standards there appears to be a double-standard.

No listening to the radio while driving….No Backstreet Boys, No N’Sync, No Brittany Spears or Destiny’s Child. The boys, however, managed to convince us that they would drive better with the steady thrum of a savage rap beat.

No interstate driving. I mapped out elaborately circuitous routes for the girls in order to keep them off the interstate. This, apparently, took them through some sketchy parts of town. At one point, Mollie complained  that she thinks a stray bullet grazed her car. So, we allowed the boys to take more direct routes via the highways and byways of this great land.

No leopard print plushy steering wheel cover or pink rabbit’s foot rearview-mirror decor. Sorry, I know teenaged girls love to prettify their rides, but this is all just too distracting. I needed their hands on the actual steering wheel at 10 and 2, with nothing dangling and obstructing their view. Fortunately, the boys never wanted to trick out their vehicles with crap from Claire’s or Limited Too. Fast-food bags clutter the floorboards posing no safety threat.

The older kids can criticize me all they want.  They can call it a double-standard if they must, but I prefer to think of it as ‘evolving as a parent.’

Don’t get me wrong, I still worry up a blue streak.  It’s not as though utter lawlessness abounds;  we still have a few rules.  Tommy is required to text me when he arrives at his destination and when he leaves to return home, etc.  We haven’t gone so far as to embed a chip in him, but we do track his movements…

That’s how I came to notice, that as the 5th child of burned-out  parents, he’s kind’ve like your Visa Card – he’s everywhere he wants to be.

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(metaphorically, Mom points her camera down at the ground in despair…)

 

“Take The Long Way Home” – Complimentary ‘Parent Therapy’ Is a Must After a Set-back…

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There are 34 equally lovely contestants backstage. The Emcee is about to call the names of the lucky 20 girls who made the NBA dance team my daughter is trying out for.

She made it all the way to the final leg of this journey. We could not be prouder, even though my heart is visibly thumping out of my chest and my hands are shaking my program so badly it looks like I’m fanning myself, but I’m not.

A few have told us, “It’s in the bag!” and “She’s got this!” But as parents we can’t help but let our thoughts drift to a potentially long car ride home and the ensuing months of “parent therapy” (the only kind we can afford) if things don’t go our way. If she doesn’t make it, it will take “all the Kings horses and all the Kings men,” to put our little egg back together again.

One of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever face as a parent is just how much to “put your kid out there.” ie: what, if anything, should you encourage them to try out for.

These decisions seem fairly benign when your children are young, but the effects on our children’s long term psyche and overall sense of well-being magnify as our kids mature and develop. Simply put, the stakes get higher. As a protective parent, there are times you can’t help but think – if they don’t try, they can’t fail…

When my kids were small, they’d jump in the car with hand-outs about Brownie Troops, Boy Scouts, basketball and soccer teams; perhaps even band. It was standard to allow/encourage their participation, as participation simply meant signing up.

The process didn’t get tricky until down the road a bit, when our kids started wanting to join teams that involved try-outs, judges, coaches and the dreaded C-word “cuts!”

This is a whole different ballgame. Now you’re competing against other wannabes and their impressive entourage of parental backing. Everyone is saying the right thing, touting the party line, “We don’t care about the outcome either way, we’re just excited that ‘Junior’ likes this activity and does his best and has fun trying!”

Okay, true, but when you’re not looking, they are hiring private shooting coaches, private batting coaches and buying protein bars that cost $5 a bite. They are hiring personal trainers, purchasing world class equipment, while renting private studio space for their daughter to pirouette in.

Don’t believe them when they say their daughter is a “Tom-Boy Natural Beauty!”  Just like your girl, she’s been in your city’s finest salon all morning getting coiffed, spray tannned, her lashes extended, every stray hair plucked.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of this, per se. You just have to be realistic, eyes wide open about what you’re getting yourselves and your kids into.  The other parents and you (yes, You) probably care more than you think.

If your child makes the team or squad, it’s a high like no other. I’ve never done drugs, but I imagine that’s what they must feel like. Conversely, if your child doesn’t make the cut, it will be the worst few days or weeks of your tenure as a parent and part-time Therapist. (The length of the recovery is a complicated formula involving the age of your child, multiplied by how long they prepared for this try-out, divided by your clever ability to distract them by dangling a new dream in front of them…)

If your kid is cut, you may very well ask yourself why y’all even bothered taking the risk. You may even find yourself wishing you did do drugs, but don’t, because you’re about to need all of your wits about you, to get your child through this.

As the young ladies names were called, we held our collective breath and listened to name after name, doing the quick math calculation to see how many spots were still left for our girl to fill. Her number was 3; twice the announcer called 33 and 13 and my heart leapt hopefully.

When they called the final squad member it wasn’t our beautiful girl. Our hearts sank into our stomachs. Several caring strangers seated around us reached over to clamp our shoulders in disbelief and astonishment. “She was amazing! “We thought she had it!

Like all good mothers, I immediately blamed myself. Maybe when you believe in your kid too much and encourage them to “go for their dreams,” you also subconsciously set them up to endure this type of enormous let down. Secretly, I’m wishing we had just skipped all this “reaching for the stars” and enjoyed the rest of the summer just lying back and gazing at them instead.

It was going to be a long drive home for sure. Good thing I packed necessary provisions:
-tissues (for me, my girl isn’t much for crying)
-a few verses (Jeremiah 29-11, “For I know the plans I have for you declared The Lord)
-my therapist schtick
-the tiny cheerleader that lives inside me, always
-an ice cream sundae (I didn’t pack it because I knew it would melt, but there’s plenty of places we can stop along the way and get one)

We are going to take the long way home…

Start with a Lemonade Stand

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Emilie & Mollie take a break from selling lemonade during a nationwide kid’s Lemonade Stand fundraiser for Cancer Research.  (link included) Their tees say, “Got Lemons?”

What a great experience it was to be a Guest/Co-Host on the video podcast “Start a Lemonade Stand – Getting Your Kids To Work.”

This show takes a break from the discussion of bullying to tackle the subject of your kids and employment. It was an hour long, so watch it only if this is a point where you find yourself as a parent. It’s specifically geared toward those of us with kids and teens who want to hear a discussion of why our kids should work (benefits such as gratitude, independence, work ethic) as well as some specific suggestions of jobs kids can work at appropriate ages.

The best moment of the show might’ve been when I talked my way to the realization that the most effective way to avoid working throughout one’s lifetime is to try to be a writer…

Here is the link!

Hugs,
Leslie

https://blab.im/5ef34df13afe4e5381230619013a43f4

 

Also-

Kids Lemonade Stand Fundraiser for Cancer Research to generate a giving and entrepreneurial spirit in your kids:

http://www.alexslemonade.org/

 

“That’s What I Like About You!” (Gracie & The Romantics)

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So much to like...

So much to like about my Mom in NYC

There’s really nothing quite so illuminating as trying to share a small, tight, confined space with your own daughter. Honestly, I should know; I just spent Spring Break traveling with my 20 year-old daughter, Gracie. I know you’re thinking our hotel room was probably too small, and you are correct. It certainly was. But, by “small, tight, confined space,” I really meant that all of Manhattan wasn’t big enough for both of us.

Spending 4 days together on that crowded little island off the coast of New York, prompted Gracie to shed some light on a few personality flaws I could really stand to work on, if I want to be a better person – and who among us doesn’t strive every day to be a better person?

Mom has a Selfish Streak:
Apparently, I should try to be more willing to share my blessings with others, particularly my children, and most specifically Gracie. This was revealed to me on the very first morning of our trip. I finished my coffee, applied a smattering of make-up and decided to brush my teeth. I noticed a toothbrush that resembled mine was on the counter sopping wet. I asked her, “Did you use my toothbrush?” She promptly answered, “No!” Since all toothbrushes look alike to me, I believed her and launched a search for MY toothbrush. Taking pity on me, or more likely – in the interest of time – she confessed, “Okayyyyyy I used your toothbrush!” That wasn’t the only thing I shared with her on the trip. In addition to forgetting her toothbrush and her phone charger, she obviously forgot all her money, too.  If she brought money with her, she kept it well out of sight…

Mom has Boundary Issues:
The only thing worse than a selfish mother, is one who doesn’t want to share her things, but wantonly helps herself to your things, without your express permission, as though she paid for them herself.    You know – a Mother like me.

We had gone to a fabulous restaurant for dinner, but had been told by several native New Yorkers that we simply must swing by Magnolia Bakery for some Banana Pudding. The place is famous for it. We purchased a pint container to take back to our hotel room, but failed to get a fork or spoon. Nonplussed and satiated from dinner, Gracie promptly fell asleep. I stared despondently at that pudding for way too long. A combination of creativity and desperation inspired me to create an eating utensil out of Gracie’s criminally expensive makeup brush I bought her at MAC (Picture chopsticks). It worked like a charm! All up until the following morning, when Gracie started applying makeup. I deftly explained my dilemma from the night before, fully expecting her to be as impressed with me and the resultant solution as I was.  It was a stroke of genius, a brush-stroke of genius…

 

A stroke of Genius

A Brush-stroke of Genius!

Mom Sucks at Photography:
Millennials take a jarring amount of pictures. Not of landmark historical buildings, fountains or statues, mind you. They take pictures of themselves. Lots and lots of them. When Gracie’s arm wasn’t long enough to include both herself AND a particular background she liked, she reluctantly enlisted my services to take the photo with her cell phone.

That’s when I was confronted by this ugly truth: I am a TOTAL FAIL at picture taking. My hands shake, I don’t hold the camera at a flattering angle and I don’t know when to use the flash. Try as she may, Gracie could not help but express disappointment in my ineptitude. At one point, entirely exasperated by a candid I took of her, she remonstrated, “When you look through the lens, the trick is just to ask yourself:  “Is this how I would want to look in a photo?”  Too bad her “tip” wasn’t particularly helpful. It’s not going to help me to be a better photographer, because the way she looked was, in fact, exactly how I wish I looked in a photo. Not to mention, at my age, we love a little blur to our pictures. We pay extra for that…

And, that is by no means an exhaustive list. There’s an entire category of general garden-variety annoyances:

– When Gracie told me I looked cute in hats, I bought 7 more. Clogged up our suitcase. Moms who over-do things are annoying.

-When I tried to adopt the vernacular of the millennials, it was as irritating as listening to a person who learned English-as-a-second-language attempt to curse. Apparently, I used the word, “LIT” totally out of context. I just couldn’t pull it off.

-When I talked indiscriminately to strangers on the subway, I was informed that I, “had plenty of friends back home and didn’t really need any more friends, especially in NYC.” (I happen to know for a fact that my new friend from the Subway does not agree, because I talked to her this morning on Facebook.)

 

My new subway friend

On a positive note, it’s downright invigorating to know there’s so much growth potential and room for improvement in my personality! I’m not the least bit daunted; I’ve got nothing but time on my hands to enroll in Charm School and maybe even take a Cell Phone Photography Course.

I guess the only thing I’m still a little baffled by, in light of all this recent self-insight, is how in the world do I actually have “enough friends?” You’d think they’d be pretty sparse.

It just doesn’t seem like I’m all that “LIT.

“If Loving Uber’s Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right!”

 

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There’s no question that parents raise their youngest kid differently from their oldest. A few of the more meaningless “standards” are apt to fall by the wayside. Anyone who denies this truth, is either lying to you or to themselves. And, without a doubt, the further apart your children are spaced, and the more kids you have – the greater the disparity. With a 14 year chasm between our oldest and youngest, our Childrearing Metamorphosis is shockingly pronounced.   There are some moments when we are barely recognizable as the same set of parents…

Case in point, when our oldest was 6, I was standing outside her first grade classroom with a group of mothers. The topic of discussion was an upcoming field trip to the zoo and which mothers would be willing to drive. My hand shot right up. I couldn’t volunteer fast enough. My immediate impulse  was, “Pick me! Pick me!” One of Emilie’s classmate’s mother was a battle-hardened veteran Mom, whose first grader was her 5th and youngest child. She responded, quite emphatically, “You couldn’t pay me to drive that field trip!” I was horrified by her cynicism and lack of enthusiasm. Sharing my observation with Jimmy the second he got home, I lamented in despair, “Why would a person even have children, if that’s their attitude?”

Fast forward 23 years and here’s what I know:

When a young girl/woman has children, she optimistically believes that her duties are going to be 90% shaping and molding character, with approximately 10% tedious administrative-style parenting responsibilities sprinkled in.   That’s exactly backwards. As a parent, you spend 90% of your time driving your children around. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the rare opportunity to influence your youngsters in any meaningful way. (Conservatively – LESS THAN 10% of the time.)

I would suggest to you that you’re a “Glorified Chauffeur,” but I think “Glorified,” is overstating things a bit…

One recent Saturday night, Tommy (the youngest of our 5) went to a local “Teen Hangout,” with a group of friends. One of his friends’ parents volunteered to drive them there. Since they were all spending the night at our house later, we let the other parents know that we would be responsible for getting the boys home. We figured it would be around midnight. Saturday Night Live would be over, and we knew we would, at best, be trying to hold our eyes open.  So,  Jimmy suggested that Tommy download the Uber app to his phone.

My hurdle was to sell our plan to the other “First-Time-Teen-Parents.” These folks are just now entering the Teen Scene from the parenting side of things, and are not yet jaded, or sufficiently burned out.   I feel uniquely qualified to reason with these parents, because I was them just a few short years ago.

I went at it from this direction: “This is the ideal time for the boys to Uber! No one is desperate right now, so we can always go fetch them if there’s a problem. But this way, in the future, they’ll have the app on their phones, and they’ll know the ropes. If they ever DO NEED to Uber, (for whatever reason) they’ll be confidently familiar with how it works!”
For further persuasion, I added, “Take it from me, don’t blink, the day they NEED an Uber will be here sooner than you think!”

My friend, Leslie, (mother to one of Tommy’s buddies – her firstborn son) listened to my logic and said, “Give me a minute to marinate on that…”

I responded, “Take all the time you need!” I wasn’t too concerned, Jimmy and I had already agreed that whomsoever nixeth our Uber plan, was driving the midnight pick-up shift themselves.

Leslie saw the light; the group of boys übered home and were safely in my den, killing villains on our Xbox, by midnight.

What I didn’t see coming, was the following weekend: Late on a Saturday night, while dining out with friends, we received a text from Tommy asking if he could uber over to his friend Max’s house. We looked at one another and shrugged. Other than Max’s parents thinking we sucked, we could find no legitimate reason to say no. For $5 he übered over and a few hours later, $5 got him right back home.

$5!!!!

Now, I find myself reminiscing over my entire 29 years of parenting and wondering where the hell Uber has been all these years. I could just cry thinking about how many tennis lessons, dance classes and football practices, I dragged a breastfeeding infant or a screaming toddler into my mini-van, in order to transport their older sibling somewhere. Uber could’ve been right up there with Sonic, Fruit Snacks and Disney Videos on my list of Approved Parenting Tools.

I mean, they thoroughly vet those Uber drivers, right? I see no reason why Mollie couldn’t have been übered around town the year she sold a record number of Girl Scout Cookies. No amount of money would’ve been too much to pay for that service.

Suffice it to say, I’m uber into ubering. It’s rapidly gone from being an adjective and a noun in my home, to a verb. And, I’ll even go a step further – in the course of driving my kid around, if that Uber Driver chances to notice a character issue in any one of my kids, that they think needs a little tweak, they are encouraged to address it.  At this stage of the game, I’m obviously not above a little assistance.

 

 

“They Had Fun, Fun, Fun, Til Their Daughter Took Their Instagram Away!”

 

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People always seem to want to criticize today’s parents for “living vicariously” through their children, but sometimes, perfectly innocent parents are thrust into that role through absolutely no fault of their own. Sometimes, the real culprit is actually their child…

When our daughter was home from college recently she uploaded (or is it downloaded? I literally have no idea) her Instagram account onto my iPad. I’m not 100% sure why she did this, but I can speculate. I’m betting it’s not because her eyesight is failing and she can’t see her friends’ pictures without the benefit of a larger screen; I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that her phone was dead and my iPad was the only device that was charged-up at the moment, so she simply helped herself. After she performed this download/upload task, she cyber-socialized a bit and then drove herself back to the university and the Mansion where she lives down there; they call it “The House.” That was on a Sunday afternoon.

Things were quiet for a few days. (For those of you not blessed with college students, these kids are super dedicated to their studies, and your investment, 3 days out of 7, so there’s not a lot of traffic on the social interstate Monday – Wednesday.) It was a few days later, the following Thursday night, when I was lying in my ibed reading my ibook, minding my ibusiness, when all Hell broke loose. “Notifications” start dinging away across the top of my screen, as though The Transylvanian Orchestra had set up right there inside my ipad to play me my own personal lullaby. I fell asleep long before I had a chance to become annoyed, but it appears as though the dinging continued merrily throughout the night.

The next morning was a little like waking up to that first snowfall of the season. When I poured my coffee and attempted to check my email, my screen saver had been blanketed overnight with a flurry of “LIKES.” Around 300! I didn’t even know what I had done, much less who I had done it with, or more importantly, how I looked doing it. But, what I did know, was that my daughter, Gracie was buried somewhere under this avalanche of social validation…

I waited a very polite 5 hours before I texted her. (We have different time schedules.) When I asked her about it, SHE actually had the audacity to fuss at ME.

“Whatever you do, Mom, DO NOT HIT THE “LIKE” BUTTON ON THOSE PICTURES! You have no idea how Instagram even works! You’ve actually done that before, and since that’s MY account on your IPad, it’d be the equivalent to Me liking my own pictures! I’m really not trying to hurt your feelings, but it’d probably be best if you just steered clear of my Instagram account for now.”

That was on Friday morning.

That night, around the same time, maybe a tad later, the same thing happened. It seemed as though I was just as popular as I was the night before, with even more people dinging my praises! Ever curious, I couldn’t help myself, I closed out my book app and tapped on that camera-looking-thingy, devoting the rest of the evening to “steering” my way around her Instagram. I’m a firm believer in, “learning by doing,” “trial and error,” and, if all else fails, I’m not above a short YouTube tutorial.

Jimmy and I had such an entertaining weekend getting to know our daughter’s friends over Instagram. It was like Parents Weekend, without all the unnecessary travel and costly hotel and restaurant charges.

And those kids had the cutest names! They reminded me of those old CB Handles from the 1970s.

They were semi-incognito – like “maddieboddie.” Pretty sure that’s my niece. Hey Madeline – Aunt Sessie loves you!

and

“Imbringingsexyjack!” He’s bringing clever back is what he’s doing.

What about, “thrillyjilly?” I bet that gal can really bring the party.

I had a CB name when I was a kid – it was “Brillo Pad!” I’ll give you one guess why…

With Jimmy’s demanding career and our family being as large as it is, he really relies on me to keep tabs on all of our children. (That’s one of the reasons I’m so keen on updating my social media skills. It’s imperative that I stay sharp and current.) This morning, he asked me if I’d heard anything from Gracie yet this weekend, I answered, “Not so far, but I can show you a cute picture of her from last night on Instagram!”

Just as he reached out for my ipad, I started to admonish him, “Don’t touch the screen…” But it was too late. A red heart emoticon popped up right over the fluffy blonde head of “bythegracieofgod.”

As you might imagine, she got an immediate notification on her smart phone that the good folks back home had not just liked her own picture on HER OWN INSTAGRAM account, But, actually maybe even just LOVED IT! She’s none too pleased and mentioned deleting her Instagram account off my IPad as first order of business when she gets home next week for Spring Break.

Problem is, Daddy and I are so enamored with Instagram now, that I’m going to be forced to revive my old CB HANDLE and start my own Instagram account…

“brillopad” didn’t just LIKE your picture, she freaking LOVED it!

That’s a big 10-4 Good Buddy!

 

 

 

Checkout this video on YouTube:

 

 

 

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We Are Family, I Got All My Sisters With Me… (James, Tommy & Sister Sledge)

 

Every year, for as long as any of our children can remember, Jimmy and I have taken a “business trip” with his company. And every single year, my mother, may she rest in peace, (she’s fine, she’s just staying home and literally resting in peace) has faithfully and lovingly driven across the country, to babysit our 5 kids for the extended weekend.

This started way back in the 1990s, when our daughters were toddlers and has continued ever since.

We are now down to the last two kids in the nest – our boys – who launched a protest this year, maintaining that they are sufficiently mature enough to look after themselves when we travel.

Their mutiny happened to coincide with some minor health concerns of Grandma’s, so after lengthy discourse and fractious debate,  we decided to take our sons up on their offer.   After all, James IS 18 and LEGALLY an adult, (he can go to war if necessary and plans to vote in November) and Tommy is…well, he’s Tommy.

I did, nonetheless, exercise due diligence by sending a series of TEXT ALERTS to my next-door neighbors, a friend who happens to be the President of our Homeowner’s Association, 9 of my sons’ friends’ parents, as well as Our Girlfriend’s Mother – all because I genuinely embrace the Utopian-esque concept of ‘It Takes A Village To Raise A Child.’

But, my Ace-in-the-Hole was my reliance upon The Ultimate Village, the roadblock of all roadblocks, a fail-proof infrastructure that was established long before we ever had boys tarnishing the family name; dating all the way back to when our Little Tykes toys were exclusively pink.

The plan was in place, if necessary, to activate THE SISTERHOOD…

It is simply an inescapable and universal truth that no one is going to rat you out with more passion and fervor than your own flesh-and-blood sisters. Rather than call this tattle-telling, we choose to refer to this additional layer of security as “PROTECTING THE BRAND.”

…And, that’s exactly what went down at our house this past Saturday night, when our 3 daughters converged upon their unsuspecting brothers with more femme-fatale force than an episode of Charlie’s Angels.

It was Boots-On-The-Ground in Oklahoma; with technical and on-line support streaming directly out of Manhattan and Fayetteville.

And, what an impressive well-oiled machine…The Command Center at NASA conducting a Full Scale Space Mission has nothing on these ladies.

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The Trinity of Angels communicating via group text:

Edmond – “There are unauthorized vehicles in the drive-way. We’re going in.”

Manhattan- “Copy that. Are you there Fayetteville?”

Fayetteville- “Standing-By Manhattan”.

Manhattan – “Godspeed Edmond. Text pictures ASAP!

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Fortunately, or unfortunately, (depending on how badly you wanted to make a “bust”) each of our 5 teenaged guests that evening had been “Pre-Approved” prior to my departure. All Emilie actually had to do was verify their wristbands, check their names off the ‘Authorized Guests’ list, poke around a bit, issue an empty threat or two, text Mamasita a few candids and retreat.

As you can see by the time stamp on the following screenshot, the marvels of modern technology available in Mexico delayed news of The Raid by several hours.  I too, was resting in peace; apparently by the time I was ‘in the loop,’ the delinquents were tucked in bed, lights out and rosaries prayed. Unnecessary force and legal action averted.

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Viva La Village! Viva La Sisterhood!