Tag Archives: Teenagers

Life is Good Enough.

Good enough.

I used to hate those words. They always seemed like a cop-out.

Then I had three kids. And we bought an apartment building. And got a dog. And I started taking care of my in-laws. And I just couldn’t keep up with my old standards any more. I started to feel inadequate, and beating myself up regularly over the things I couldn’t get done.

But I found a solution. A way out of the self-imposed guilt. I’ve turned over a new leaf.

I’ve embraced mediocrity.

And now, good enough has become . . . Good Enough. Not just a measure of acceptance, but a whole new philosophy for life. A new mantra.

Here are a few excerpts from the Good Enough Manual:

Good Enough Laundry = clean (for the most part). The kid who hasn’t yet gone through puberty may occasionally wear shirts more than once. Folding is optional. And you already know how I feel about sorting socks.

No more shame!

Good Enough Dinner = everyone eats something. Most nights I provide the meal. Most nights we eat together. But if we can’t, we can’t. My children are now old enough to handle sharp knives and prepare food. They know the way to Subway. They won’t go hungry.

Good Enough Housekeeping = a reasonable standard of hygiene in the bathrooms and kitchen. Enough said.

Dusting is now optional.

Good Enough Landscaping = the weeds will die once we have a cold snap. Probably. If not, they’ll bloom in the spring and I’ll call it a garden.

I’m no longer envious of my friends with their picture-perfect homes and spotless cars. They can hop in with me and we can go to lunch. Or we can drive out to the lake and eat Cheerios off the back seat. It doesn’t matter to me.

This weekend we’re going to a cross-country meet in Baton Rouge. Instead of rushing home as soon as The Caboose crosses the finish line, we’re going to go visit The Trailblazer at LSU. We’re going to enjoy a little October weather and I’m not going to worry about housework.

When I get home I may print up some membership cards to the Good Enough Club. Who wants one?

 

 

Moral Relativism: How I taught my son to tell a lie.

The Truth is not always clear.

Yesterday I sold myself out.

The Caboose had a concert last night, the “final exam” for his chorus class. It was at 7:00 P.M. at a church about 30 minutes from home.

My Mother-in-Law (who lives with us) has been having some medical issues this week, and my husband and I thought it best that she stay home and have her visit with the home health nurse. Knowing she’d be upset if she found out he was performing and we weren’t taking her, I did something I’ve never done before.

I told my son to lie.

I wrapped it around an explanation that, albeit true, was justification to disregard one of the standards I hold highest. At least I did until yesterday.

Since we’d be leaving the house just a few hours after getting home from school, she was bound to ask where we were going. And in his chorus uniform (dress clothes with a tie) a casual explanation wasn’t plausible. I suppose I could’ve just sneaked out the back door in stealth mode, but there would have to be an explanation of why the sitter was staying late. I felt trapped by The Truth. So I made a judgment call. And I lied.

We all tell lies. We really do. “This is the best cake I’ve ever tasted.” “I can’t make it in to work today.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t get the message.” We rationalize the lies we tell by pretending they’re harmless. We justify their use by the goal we’re trying to achieve.

As adults, we live in a world where things are not always black and white. We rely on experience and outcome to make judgment calls at times. And we sometimes lie in the process.

But at eleven years old, he doesn’t yet have that body of experience, or the understanding to make those calls. I told him that it was OK to lie because the truth would hurt her feelings. I packaged it up neatly in a way that would make it easy. Then I engaged him in the process, we told the cover story, and left.

On the way to school this morning, he was the first to bring it up. “It felt weird lying to Grandma last night.” I told him that I thought so too, and that we shouldn’t do it again. But the fact of the matter is that we will have to do it again, because she can’t do everything we do. I’ll just have to make sure I have a better plan, one that doesn’t require his participation.

And I’m now left to wonder where else he’ll apply this new standard of relativism.

“If it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’ll be OK.”

“She’ll never find out, so why not?”

“I’m only lying because I don’t want to hurt her.”

So The Truth, which I used to hold in such high regard, is now reduced to a standard I’m willing to sacrifice for a greater good in my son’s eyes. I sure wish I could get a do-over on this one.

___________________________________________

What do you think? Is it OK to tell a lie in certain situations? 

10 Celebrity Parents who are A Lot Like Me

1  –  Like Britney Spears, I practiced Attachment Parenting. I wanted my children close to me as often as possible. And with her busy partying performing schedule, Britney had to seize every moment she could to be close to her kids. Great job, Brit! I’m sure Dr. Sears would be proud!

2  –  Kate Gosslin took her kids camping. We used to go camping a couple of times a year when my boys were Cub Scouts. Although we did it without a film crew there to document the magic we have wonderful memories of those special family times. Just like her kids have of this moment:

 

3  –  Alicia Silverstone is concerned about her child’s nutrition. Like her, my son ate what I ate, but I had the messy job of cleaning the food processor after preparing his meals. Pre-chewing seems so much easier, and you can do it anywhere. Great tip, Alicia.

4  –  I put a great deal of effort into making holidays special for my kids. Especially Christmas. We always take a family photo to show how much the kids have grown in the last year. Nadya Suleman started this tradition with her octuplets, too. I’m sure when they’re teenagers they’ll look back at their first Christmas photo with mommy and smile.

Source: bossip.com

5  –  Then there’s January Jones. I, too, was concerned about my post-natal recovery. I took my over-the-counter vitamins, ate a healthy diet, and tried to get plenty of rest. I wasn’t as well-informed as January, though, and I let the medical staff at the hospital take my placenta away instead of having it dehydrated and made into capsules for me to swallow later. Although had I chosen to eat my placenta, I’m sure I would’ve prepared a big celebratory meal to enjoy.

Who’s old enough to remember the Placenta Helper skit on Saturday Night Live. Gilda Radner at her finest. But I digress…

6  –  On the concept of Emotional Intelligence, Alec Baldwin and I seem to be on the same wavelength. Helping children learn kindness and consideration sometimes means pointing out when their behavior isn’t appropriate. And with a young child it’s helpful to use a comparison the child can to relate to. So when Alec left his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, a voice message calling her a “thoughtless little pig,” I’m sure he meant it in a constructive way.

7  –  Were Joan Crawford alive today, I’m sure she’d be my Facebook friend, because we’d have so much to share with each other. I like to drink wine and keep my closets organized, and I get upset when my kids don’t eat their dinner (although I don’t serve liver).

This magnet appears on my fridge. For realz.

8  –  Then there’s Richard Heene, who (like me) works hard to infuse learning opportunities into everyday activities. He taught his son, Falcon (a.k.a. Balloon Boy) about aerospace principles, marketing, and the criminal justice system all in one lesson.

9  –  And Nicolas Cage, who (again, like me) wanted to give his son a legacy name. Each of my boys has a family name for either their first or middle name. Nic’s little dude is named Kal-El. (Superman’s Kryptonian name for those of you not into literary references.) Quite a legacy, dad.

10  –  And last (but never, never, least) is Woody Allen, who is so committed to maintaining strong ties with his grown children that he married his stepdaughter. (Although the term “stepdaughter” is used loosely. I would probably call her  his baby-mama’s adopted daughter.) Because once they grow up and start thinking about moving away, there are only so many things that’ll keep ‘em at home. He seems to have found one that works for him.

I’m sure you have a lot in common with celebrity parents, too.

Please, share your celebrity connection with the group!!

 http://www.northwestmommy.com/2012/monday-listicles-42

He really was listening.

Evidently he heard the real words. Not just these.

All those years, when I was yelling sharing my wisdom with the children, it seems The Trailblazer really was listening.

This week I called him at school to discuss a change that’s going to be happening to our family soon. (The details of which are a story for another day.) I tell him about it, expecting a reaction of surprise, probably objection, definitely questions. Since he spends nine months of the year away at school, it affects him the least, but it’s still a big change.

After a brief discussion, he pauses and says, “I’m sure you and dad thought it through, so if that’s what you decided, then I’m sure that’s what’s best.”

There was a lifetime of reward crammed in that one sentence.

He actually said “I’m sure you and dad have thought it through…”

Did he really acknowledge that his parents are capable of intelligent thought? I wasn’t expecting that paradigm shift until he was about 30.

Did he really understand that we had considered the impact on everyone, and deemed it the right thing? I think he did.

Now, maybe he was just trying to get me off the phone so he could resume his game of beer pong studying. Or maybe he’s trying to figure out how to stay in Baton Rouge this summer to avoid it altogether.

Or maybe he meant what he said. Yeah, I’m going with that.

I’m giving myself a gold star for raising that boy. I hope the other ones have been listening, too.

The Joy of “Yes”

A while back I noticed something.

I was telling my kids “no” a lot.

“Will you make pancakes for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Can we go to see a movie today?”

“No.”

“Can I invite friends over?”

“No.”

Source: thecircleproject.com

One day I paused, and contemplated what it must be like for them hearing “no” all the time. Not having the ability to control decisions about their day, or their life. Being on the receiving end of parents’ and teachers’ permission all the time.

And I decided I would try to say “yes” more often.

Because when it came down to it, sometimes I said “no” for my own convenience. If I wasn’t up to cleaning up a mess, I said “no” to a project. If I didn’t have the energy to handle a bunch of kids, I said “no” to the sleepover. They heard me saying “no” a lot.

So I had a little talk with myself about saying “yes.” And I adopted a new mantra. “I’ll say ‘yes’ when I can.” Practical realities sometimes intervened, making “yes” impossible. But as I started saying it more often, I liked the feeling I got from being agreeable. “Yes” usually meant something fun. “Yes” usually meant making memories. “Yes” brought joy back into our day.

I started to like “yes.”

And then the strange thing happened. They started saying “yes” back.

“Please pick up your room.”

“OK.”

“It’s time for bed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

And the one that causes more arguments in our house than any other, “Turn the game off.”

“I will.”

This morning on the way to school, The Caboose was feeling a little run down. He was listening to music on his iPod, getting ready for another day of sixth grade as we approached campus. Now this kid does not respond well when asked to terminate something in mid-stream. The typical response is “after this song,” or “I need to save my game.” But this morning as we pulled up to school, I told him to turn off his iPod and stow it in the seat pouch, and he said “yes.”

God, I love “yes.”

Saying Goodbye to Small, Medium, and Large

I used to have three little kids.  One was Small, one was Medium, one was Large.  Their clothing, their shoes, the servings on their plates all reflected their birth order appropriately.  We had no trouble determining whose clothes belonged to whom, which bicycle was the right size for which kid. They were spaced out by enough years that there  were clear markers of birth order by the size of everything.

You may not know this yet, we’re smaller than the average family.  Dad’s a towering 5’6”, and mom a proud 5’2”, so our offspring are destined to be of short stature.  By other people’s standards, we’re all small.  But within our home we’ve always had a distinct – albeit relative – range of sizes.

As any mom of small kids will tell you, we watch growth carefully.  We celebrate when we make it to the 5th percentile on pediatric growth charts, and then have “the talk” when we fall back off the charts.  Growth ebbs and flows in pre-pubescent boys, and small boys often go through puberty later than their taller friends, exacerbating the physical differences for a while.  But we are what we are, and in this house, we’re okay with that.

Slick was two years old when we first began monitoring his slow growth.  My pediatrician did that little formula that pediatricians do with a child’s two-year-old stats and calculated his estimated adult height.  His came out 1” taller than his older brother’s.  The doctor laughed, being a younger brother himself, and told me to expect Slick to pass The Trailblazer up in height at age 16.

Lo and behold, in the last six months, they got to be the same height.  When The Trailblazer comes home from college for visits, we have the mandatory height check to compare stature.  And it happened.  He passed his brother up.  Only by a half-inch or so, but that was enough to make it official.  The older brother is now the smaller brother.  And both are taller than mom and dad.

It’s strange.  And wonderful.  Because it means they have become men.  And they are comfortable with who they are.  (Except for The Trailblazer.  He’s a bit miffed about the taller little bro.)

Then, last week, another strange thing happened.  The Caboose needed a green t-shirt to wear to school for a Spirit Week event.  I pulled a green T out of the dryer (y’all know I hate folding laundry), and realized it was The Trailblazer’s.  But it looked about the same size as The Caboose’s.  Puzzled, I held it up to the child and, although it was a little big, he could pull it off.  So Small wore Large’s shirt to school

Small, Medium, and Large are gone.  I now have one Medium and two Larges.

Family photos will look different from now on.  When standing in order there will no longer be the familiar downward trend.  It’s strange, and wonderful.

Watching my little boys grow up into smart, compassionate young men has been the greatest reward of motherhood.  When juxtaposed against learning to ride a bike and read a book, the accomplishments big kids are far more fulfilling.  And there’s the added bonus of not having to wipe their butts or cut their food anymore.

So saying goodbye to Small, Medium, and Large isn’t bad at all.  Because Large, Large, and Medium have made me so proud.

Lovin’

Here are a few of the things I’m Lovin’ these days:

{ Source: Pinterest.com }

  • Slick getting his own car.
  • Fresh memories of The Trailblazer being home.
  • The forecast for a mild winter.
  • Pinterest.
  • Trying new recipes.
  • Cooking big, so I can send food to The Trailblazer and his roommates.
  • Helping Slick make plans for his future.
  • Listening The Caboose rehearse for an upcoming concert.
  • The freedom that comes with having older kids.
  • Finally loading music on my iPad.
  • My new laptop.
  • King Cake

Share your list!  Post it in the comments below, or drop in your link!  Can’t wait to see what you’re Lovin’!

Advice from the rear-view mirror

Every day I hear young moms beating themselves up because they have a hard time living up to expectations – both their own and those of others.  I want so badly to hug every one of them, and assure them that it’s going to be alright, that they’re going through the hardest part of motherhood, and that this, too, will pass.

I refrain from offering too much advice in person (usually out of fear of being hit with a sippy cup), but since that part of my life is behind me and I now have the clarity of hindsight, I want to share some hard-earned wisdom with all of you “younger versions” of me.

1.  Cut yourself some slack.  We all yell.  Our houses aren’t as clean as we’d like them to be.  We occasionally send our kids to bed without a bath . The list goes on.  You don’t have to be a perfect mom to raise good kids.  Last week I posted a photo on Facebook about positive parenting, and I was surprised at some of the reactions.  A few readers interpreted it to mean we have to do awesome things every minute of the day.  But that’s not the reality of parenting – every day is not a good day, full of rainbows and glitter.  Try to find moments of joy amid the chaos, but don’t expect to be able to maintain storybook standards all the time.  Work hard for your kids, but don’t expect Utopia.  It doesn’t exist.

2.  Your kids aren’t perfect.  They don’t always clean their rooms when you ask.  They tell lies to get out of trouble.  They hit each other.  Expect them to test their boundaries, because that’s part of growing up.  It isn’t a failure on your part.  It means they’re normal.

3.  Teach them right from wrong.  In our culture of acceptance and political correctness, we’ve gotten away from using terms like right and wrong. But we need to bring them back.  Children need to know that everything is not OK.

4.  Explain why.  I’m not a big fan of the phrase “because I said so.”  While its use is sometimes necessary, it shouldn’t be a standard response.  Take the time to explain the “why.”  You have to teach them the reason behind decisions, because someday they’ll be making them on their own.

5.  Let them fail.  We knew a family from school whose son was “over-praised.”  His baseball skills were fussed over like he was A-Rod, and if he made a bad grade, his mother would march in and demand that the teacher let him re-take the test.  The Trailblazer once said about his friend, “One day he’s going to realize that he’s not the best at everything. And he’s going to freak out.”  The best character-building lessons in life are learned through failure.

6.  Look forward, not back.  When mistakes are made (by you and them), don’t dwell on it.  Extract the lesson, throw out the pain, and move forward.  Nothing is gained by rehashing the sins of the past once the lesson has been learned.  This becomes more important in the teenage years than you can ever imagine.

7. Take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep.  Eat right.   Exercise.  As we all know from airplane safety drills, our own oxygen masks must be fastened securely before we can help them.   But be realistic about it.  (See item #1.)  It’s easy for that to become another place where feel inadequate.

One day, you’ll wake up and your baby will be 11 years old.  You’ll be able to actually enjoy quiet, instead of fearing it.  You’ll be able to go to the grocery store alone.  You’ll know that all the very hard work you put in while they were little is paying off.

When that day comes, go find a young mommy and give her a hug, and tell her everything’s gonna be alright.

Blazing a New Trail… or How I got philosophical over my son quitting the lacrosse team

Slick dropped a bombshell on me the other day: he doesn’t want to play lacrosse this year.

Waiting for the shot.

He had a list of very good reasons for his decision; all driven by his desire to make good grades and have choices when he has to pick a college next year.  And while I was really proud of him for having such clarity and perspective at 16-years old, I was very disappointed.  For me.

Lacrosse has been our family’s social hub for a long time now. The Trailblazer started playing at age 10, then Slick joined in middle school, and we’ve had at least one kid playing every season for the last 9 years.  These families have become some of our closest friends.  We travel with them, cheer during games with them, and collectively hold our breath when our boys take a knee for an injured teammate.

How can I NOT be a part of it?

How could he ask me to break up with MY friends.

And what would I do with myself every weekend from January to April???

I paused for a moment, and then (of course) gave him the supportive answer he was looking for.  I told him I was very proud of him for having the courage to realize he was ready for a change, and to chart a new course for himself.  I told him redirecting one’s future is a skill many adults don’t have, because they fear change more than they fear continuing down the wrong path.  I hugged him and sent him off.

Then I went in the back yard and tried not to cry.

He's so adorable. Don't tell him I said that.

Because when you leave a circle of friends, they move on without you.  I know I’ll still see them, but when they start sharing the funny story about what happened at the tournament in Mississippi, I won’t be a part of it.  And because my feelings are so damn sensitive, I’ll pull away to avoid feeling left out.  And I’ll miss my friends.

I’m so proud of Slick.  He amazes me with his maturity and vision.  I had neither at 16.  (Or 26 for that matter.)  And I know that he is on a path that will lead him to great places, so if studying harder is the ticket there, then I’m on board with that.

I wonder if the Mathletes have a parents’ club?

The Years are Short

Originally posted October 7, 2010

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My fifth-grader came home this week with instructions for his first research project.  A research project.  My baby.  The youngest of my three kids.  The one who’s never supposed to grow up.  I remember like it was yesterday sitting at the kiddie table in my den with a bucket of crayons, and the lesson of the day was “staying in the lines.”  It really can’t be that long ago…  Now we have to do a research project.

He chose Marco Polo as his subject.  In the coming days we’ll be learning about Marco’s life and adventures, and I’ll be trying to get a 10-yr old boy in modern America to relate to the concept of an “undiscovered” world.  I’m not looking forward to that.  But what I am looking forward to is sitting at the table with him, having his undivided attention, and holding on to him for a moment.

As any mom will tell you (especially one with at least as many kids as I have) is that days are long.  We rise early, ready ourselves, wake the family, make sure everyone’s fed, wearing the right uniforms, delivered to the right schools at the right time, then start our day.  As soon as we get a little momentum, it’s almost time for the school bell to ring — and then the real chaos begins.  Carpool, after-school activities, homework, dinner, showers and bedtime.  Just getting it all done takes drill-sergeant-like qualities, which don’t necessarily bring out the best in a mom.  I know from my frequent chats with other moms that I’m not the only one who collapses as soon as the last kid hits his pillow.  We’re wiped out long before then.

Each day seems like a long journey.  But then they run together, and the time compresses, and before you know it one is in college, one is in high school, and one has to do a research project.

The days are long.  But the years are short.