Tag Archives: motherhood

Please stop calling our kids assholes

My kid is not an asshole.

There’s this trend lately – that apparently a lot of people find pretty damn hilarious – for parents to talk about what big assholes their kids are. I’ve seen columns, blogs, memes, Instagram photos, entire Facebook groups full of parents throwing around the term about their little darlings.

Look, I get the idea. I understand the sentiment behind it. We all have our days, our trying days, when our kids drive us to the brink – or to drink. But what’s with the name calling? A 2-year-old throwing a tantrum might be exhausting. But he’s a 2-year-old. Not an asshole.

My son is generally good natured and adorable, but he can work my nerves pretty good on occasion. But I teach him not to call people nasty names or label them with derogatory terms. We don’t call people fat, stupid, or weird.  Would I permit him to refer to another kid as an asshole or a dick?  Hell, no.

So why would it be OK for me to do it? I don’t think it is. I’m not a prude when it comes to language, believe me, but I don’t find it amusing to see a photo of a beautiful sleeping baby with overlaid type declaring, “I was an asshole today.”

Let’s save those choice words for people who willingly hurt or betray us, not a child who is testing his boundaries or learning a better way to communicate which shoes she wants to wear. I think these little wonders we create and are raising deserve better. I remember the time I screamed at my then 3-year-old to stop being such a pill and he ran to his room crying. Pained and angry at myself for losing my cool, I followed him. He wrapped his arms around my neck, and tearfully said, “Mommy, I’m sorry for being a pillow.”

Nothing assholeish about that.

I’m sure these parents don’t intentionally call their children assholes to their faces. But if the word is in our minds, if it’s repeated with such regularity, kids sense it. And it would be a whole lot easier to let it slip in one of those moments when our heads are about to explode when they just won’t put on their socks or go to sleep.

When my daughter was going through a rough patch with a friend, she was dropped off early after being out with her. She burst through the door in tears and went straight to her room. My husband went out to talk to the friend’s dad to see if he could sort out what happened between the girls.

The dad shrugged and said of his 11-year-old daughter: “She’s just being a little bitch.”

We were stunned. Who calls their little girl a bitch? To another father?

While I’m on the subject, can we do something about the incessant use about that word too?

“Bitch” has worked its way into our vernacular in a way that more than unsettles me. I find the word offensive because of the venom with which it has been used against women for decades. I hate the way women now use it as a term of endearment. “My bitches!” women exclaim on Instagram photos with their girlfriends dressed up on a night out. It’s all over TV now, with women greeting each other, “Heya bitches!”

We wouldn’t accept being called a bitch by our male partners or a boss. So why is it OK to use it with each other? I can only think of one time in my life when I have referred to someone as a bitch – and it wasn’t to her face. (And believe me, she deserved it.)

Words carry weight. I think we should use them judiciously.

I have to believe other parents agree with me. I’m sure a lot of them won’t, thinking I should just lighten up.

Maybe I am too sensitive.

Or maybe I’m just an asshole.

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He’s 9, and he’s fine. But what about me?

My 9-year-old son walked to school by himself for the first time today.

He goes to a school that’s a 10-minute drive away, not within walking distance, but he can catch the bus at the school in our neighborhood just a few blocks away from our house. His school has a late start, and he usually wants to have extra time at home in the morning and prefers I drive him to school. My flexible schedule allows me to do that.

Today, he wanted to walk to the bus. Alone. For the first time.

While he typically dawdles through the morning routine, he practically raced through it this morning, preparing himself for the day. I said I would walk him down to the corner. You can literally see the school three blocks away from that corner. He declined my offer.

“I am fine!” he insisted.

I watched him walk away, his heavy backpack not slowing his steps at all.

I know it’s the first of many times I will watch him leave. Soon he’ll be asking for the car keys, and after that, going to college. Realistically, I know there are many years before that, but it also feels like yesterday I was carrying him on my hip. It goes so fast, we all say. Because it simply does. I remember last week — or 10 years ago — when my stepdaughter decided she wanted to ride her scooter to school at about the same age. Now she’s expecting her own child.

As soon as he turned the corner, I got in the car, thinking about driving to meet him. I sat there for a minute. “I am not a helicopter parent,” I told myself. “Don’t I always say my goal is to raise independent, self-sufficient children? He’s a smart, strong kid. He is 9. He is fine.”

But I still started the ignition. I drove the opposite way, and reached the back of the school, where I saw him proudly walking toward the waiting area for the bus. See, I just wanted to congratulate him, to tell him I am proud of how he’s growing up. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the same reason I followed my stepdaughter that day on her scooter.

I gave him a high-five and a big hug, told him to have a great day, and walked back toward the car.

“Sometimes it’s hard to leave them,” another mom kindly said to me.

It sure is.

 

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How do you stick to your guns when it comes to video games?

I have been arguing with my 9-year-old son for weeks about why we won’t let him play Grand Theft Auto. I kind of blame myself.

He was at an older friend’s birthday party where they were playing games he knows we don’t allow. He texted me from his iPod: “I feel left out because everyone is playing video games I can’t play.”

I was proud of him for being honest and following the rules, so I told him it was OK to try them out with his friends. I didn’t expect him to like them so much. Up until now, our biggest challenge had been pulling him away from Minecraft, which is pretty universally praised as an educational game that encourages creativity and critical thinking.

He had tucked his Christmas cash into his homemade duct-tape wallet, and my son was determined to spend that money on GTA, a game that “EVERYONE plays.”

He kept telling me he doesn’t want to do all that bad crime stuff, he just likes to drive around and play tennis and stuff. Are there really scenic byways and recreational facilities in this violent virtual world that I heard mostly consists of bank robbers, guns, hookers, and drug dealers?

For weeks, he’s been alternating between sweet talking us and screaming at us about why he should get GTA.  He has negotiated and promised, and we have threatened and researched. I don’t like video games and detest guns, so these allure of these games is lost on me. But I read the online reviews from other parents. I watched YouTube videos. I talked to friends who do and don’t let their kids play GTA. And I came to my conclusion: No way.

“Mom, it is not as bad as you think,” my son insisted. “And I know right from wrong. It’s not like I’m going to go out and rob a bank or steal a car.”

He has written too many persuasive essays in third grade, this kid.

My son, like seemingly all boys, likes video games. But he also swims, plays basketball, baseball, soccer and tennis. He’s active. He’s a good student. He likes art and music and jumping on the trampoline. Like all moms, I wonder how much screen time is too much? How damaging are these games to his precious psyche?

Finally, he wore me down. My husband and I took him to Game Stop to ask about the game. The first salesclerk warned me about the mature themes. I asked him about this “just driving around” thing, and he said you really can’t do that for very long.

Then the clerk told us if you buy a used game, you can return it in seven days if you don’t like it or decide it’s a mistake. That sounded like a reasonable option. We went over the ground rules, and our son said he understood that if Dad or I objected to it in any way, we would take the game back with no backtalk. Against my better judgment, I told him he could try it out under close supervision.

Beaming, my son walked up to counter with the GTA case in his hand. A different clerk was there and looked at me with raised eyebrows. “You sure this is OK?” he asked.

The conversation began again with this employee. He told us it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the violence, sex, and profanity.  “It’s really the worst game out there for kids,” he said, confirming my fears.

This conscientious clerk directed us toward another game we’d never heard of that he said was just as fun, without the inappropriate language and crime sprees. He backed us up, without knowing how much we needed it.

These guys are the experts, I told our son. They are super gamers. It’s their job to sell games, and they are encouraging us NOT to buy this one.

I reneged on our agreement. I knew I was in trouble. We’re all about keeping our word in our family, and our kiddo was not happy that I broke mine. But I also knew I was right.

Thank you, Game Stop guys for making this mom stick to her guns.

New Year’s Realizations

My New Year’s resolutions are always the same: get in shape, be smarter financially, be more organized. Drink less wine and eat more kale, yada yada yada.

I still want to do all those things, but I’m taking a different approach to 2016. Last year brought a lot of big changes in my life, and I’ve had some time to think about what really makes me happy, what fuels me. Some of it has surprised me, and it’s exciting for me to discover that I am still learning and growing.

As I was thinking about the New Year and the many facets that can lead to happiness, the “4 Cs” kept popping into my head. My summer job during college was working at a jewelry store, where I learned a little about the 4Cs of diamonds: cut, color, clarity, and carat.

So here are my 4C realizations (not resolutions) for 2016:

I need to create. Whether it’s a few words on this blog, working on the novel I really will finish writing,  a professional project that fulfills my creative side or a cool experiment with my son, using my imagination inspires me. I will devote more time to it this year. (But don’t expect anything too crafty.)

I need to contribute. Whether volunteering at school, collecting pennies for uncompensated children’s hospital care, sending toys to Syrian refugees or buying groceries for someone who has less than me, these small gifts mean more to me than the recipient and teach my son compassion. Giving back rewards me, and being part of something bigger than myself grounds me. I will find new ways for my family to give this year.

I need to crack up. I love laughing out loud. My friends are hilarious. My family makes me giggle. I need more of those laughing to tears, side-aching, sore cheek moments in between the rushing, the working, the worrying.

I need to connect. I value my longtime friendships with my most trusted friends, and I’m grateful for growing connections with fellow moms. I need to make time for coffee dates and happy hours and family gatherings and date nights with my husby. Having people in your life you can truly count on, who you can fully support, makes all the difference.

I know that when I’m pursuing these core beliefs, other good stuff follows. I’m even craving spinach right now instead of chocolate. At least that’s what my creative self is trying to tell me.

What are your New Year’s Realizations?

Searching for a needle in a junk drawer

My son pulled a button off the (brand new) shirt he planned to wear to Christmas Eve services and dinner.

No problem. I’ll just head to my organized sewing room and… Everyone who knows me is laughing out loud right now. No such room has ever existed.

But I know I have teensy tiny travel sewing kit here somewhere purchased precisely for moments like this. Medicine cabinet? Nope. Desk? No luck. Aha! The junk drawer(s).

I scrounged through every drawer – you know, through batteries and paperclips and toothpicks and box tops labels I really will bring to school some day and sticky lip gloss with no lids and Christmas ornament hangers – THERE they are! I did find an unused iTunes gift card, some melted Easter candy, and a 9-year-old pacifier, but alas, no needle and thread. (Note to self: Add organizing drawers to resolution list.)

How is possible I can’t find the supplies in my entire house to sew on one button? I had not planned on going to the store on Christmas Eve, but we have time, and H has his heart set on that purple shirt and black bow tie a family friend gave him. I’ll just run out quickly.

Where do you even buy thread besides the fabric store? Because I’m seriously not going there.

I’m delighted to discover your neighborhood grocery store has a small sewing section for people like me. (I am not completely alone in my uselessness!) White thread…check. Needle…who knew there were so many sizes? I’ll take the assortment.

Home again with the provisions, I tackle the project. Of course, these buttons have four holes and are all attached in crisscross pattern, so see I have to replicate that design. Ow, these needles are sharp! How are you supposed to tell where those four little button holes are?

I know my strengths. I know better my weaknesses. My aunt turns out beautiful blankets for every person in our family at Christmas. I have handmade napkins for every occasion, and all the kids have special pillow cases. My mother-in-law made baby clothes for her kids and grandkids.

Me? I took a sewing class my senior year of high school because I needed an easy first period class my last semester. I made a sweatshirt, a skirt, and a blouse. It took me four months.

So I am not one of those wives and mothers who bakes cakes from scratch or hand stitches Halloween costumes. Sometimes I wish I was, but usually I think my family is generally happy with my other cool talents. Right now, what I am is a mom determined to see my handsome son in that shirt. I worked laboriously and managed to mend the shirt without getting any droplets of blood on it. I cannot believe how proud of myself I am.

“You did it, Mom!” my son exclaims.

Yes, honey. Now let’s just carefully slide it over your head without undoing this particular button. There. Perfect. Well, perfect-ish. Whew.

Just a few more gifts to wrap, a stocking to fill, and I’ll have this Christmas all sewn up.

 

Appreciating the beauty of individuality

The  T-shirts were identical.

A sea of kids wore the shirts, which declared them members of the DREAM team at their school’s fun run. They made their way around a track lined with orange cones as they sang along to Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. In these 30 minute blocks with their classes, they were all in it together, running to raise money for playground equipment and field trips and musical instruments.

But those shirts were all they had in common.

There were the superstars who ran lap after lap with ease and got lots of high-fives. Some struggled to keep up (the chubby kid in me related to them) and received lots of encouragement. A few stumbled, and their classmates reached out to help them up. Two kids from a special needs class tightly held hands the whole time, guiding each other through rowdy mob. One boy happily  jogged along in heavy winter boots.

Sadly but surely, some of them will have an easier time in life than others. I wondered how many of them have people in their lives with the resources to make pledges so they could win highly coveted prizes like a screaming flying chicken and how many of their families don’t have a credit card, checking account, or address. How many excel in school and how many of them can’t read?

All these kids, from diverse background and experiences, are learning who they are, what they are good at, where they fit in, how to stand apart.

They whizzed by me, stopping briefly as I marked each lap on the backs of their shirts,  and I delighted in their exuberance and individuality. I gained even greater appreciation for the teachers who work with these distinct personalities all day. (And I realized some of these boys need deodorant at a much younger age.) I wished for each of them, no matter their circumstances, the same opportunities and a bright future.

The other parents and I predictably cooed, “They are sooo cute!” But oh, these extraordinary human beings are so much more.

They are athletic and awkward
Witty and wise
Shy and shameless
Friendly and ferocious
Caring and crazy
Lovely and lonely
Outgoing and optimistic
Tender and tortured
Clumsy and cool
Polite and precocious
Determined and dramatic
Gregarious and gentle
Fearless and fragile
Wounded and wry
Respectful and ridiculous
Silly and sweet
Charming and courageous
Intelligent and indignant
Angry and adorable.

Each of them beautiful. All of them worthy.

Dream on, kids. The world awaits your unique gifts.

Another year on the nice list for Mom

I watched the touching Spanish IKEA commercial that went viral about kids writing two letters – one to Santa, and one to their parents. It turns out the kids asked Santa for lots of toys, but their wishes from their parents were very different. They wanted more time with them, they wanted to be listened to.

I asked my son what he would ask me and Dad for that wasn’t a material thing. He didn’t take long to answer: “I want to know the truth about the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns and all that stuff.”

Not the response I was expecting, but I shouldn’t have been surprised giving his growing skepticism. A lot of my friends with kids this age are struggling with how to approach this. (You can read my previous post about this.)

We settled in for a talk. I told him flat out: the Tooth Fairy is not real. And leprechauns, I don’t know. I’ve never seen one. (These leprechaun traps kids make today weren’t a thing when I was growing up. I had never even heard of them until H wanted to make one a couple years ago.)

“So….Easter Bunny?” he asked.

I opened my mouth to reply, with a sigh, but before I could answer, he blurted out, “Do I REALLY want to hear this?”

“I don’t know, do you?”

“Well, I don’t want to know about Santa!” he said, quite emphatically.

santa package.jpgSo we left it at the leprechauns. And I decided it was time for another Package from Santa. I ordered the package (this is a pretty cool thing if you’ve never done it  (www.packagefromsanta.com), this time editing the letter to reflect his questions. It arrived last night. He squealed when he tore open shiny envelope from the North Pole (Whew! Another year on the Nice List!) and sat down to read the personalized letter.

“I know you’re almost 9 now and you’ve been hearing from other kids that there is no Santa Claus and trying to decide for yourself what you believe. Your parents and I have been thinking a lot about what to tell you,” Santa wrote.

“You said you wanted the truth, so here it is: the magic of Santa is real.” (More squealing.)

“But you’re such a smart boy and ask so many questions that you have figured out a few of my secrets. You’re right, it is hard for me and the reindeer to fly all the way around the globe in one night…and your parents sometimes help me make sure your presents get delivered.”

It went on to congratulate him for this good works and successes during the year and to wish him a happy birthday, which falls on the day after Christmas.

He beamed. He jumped up and down. He was thrilled. He was relieved.

He was not completely fooled.

“So exactly how does Santa get the presents to you guys?” he asked.

To tell or not to tell? He wants the truth. He wants to believe.

So I told him what I believe to be true: It’s all part of the magic of Christmas.

I hope that gets me on the Nice List.

 

 

Holy *@$Z!* Where did my kid hear this?

swearingThe other night at dinner, our not-yet-9-year-old son asked me what a c***s***er was. He actually asked just like that, asterisks and all.

“I know the F word and the S word and the D word and the B word, but what word is that?” he asked.

What the bleep?

He told me he was checking the parental warnings of a movie he and a friend wanted to watch On Demand and that word appeared on the TV screen so they didn’t watch it. I had no idea they actually specify which words might be heard in a film. They do. (They also mention what nude body parts you might see, just an FYI.)

To hear him rattle off the ABCs of curse words was unnerving to say the least. Where has he learned all this?

I remember when we were kids – I was the oldest of the group and probably 8 – we found the “F” word scratched into a fence behind our playhouse. We ran inside and asked our mom what it meant. She said, and I quote, “It’s an ugly word for a beautiful thing.”

We didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, but we were instructed not to say it. My mom used to say things like “Fiddlesticks,” when she was mad. If my Norwegian grandma was disgusted, you’d hear her say, “Uff da.”

Unfortunately today, kids hear a lot worse. Most wouldn’t have to ask the meaning if they saw a bad word scrawled on a wall.

I monitor what my son watches, but it seems like swearing is everywhere and it’s acceptable if there’s that beeeeeeeeeeeeeep in place of the word. Cursing is commonplace in the media, on pop radio, in PG movies, and on the playground. Older siblings also share lots of choice words with younger kids.

Swearing itself doesn’t bother me – my vocabulary includes some fine examples. Too often my son hears me exclaim, “Shit! I mean, shoot!” usually when I spill something, miss a freeway exit, or forget to pack a lunch. And he scolds me for such language.

Sometimes after he’s gone to bed and I’m watching the news (Oh what the h-e-double toothpicks it might have been the Real Housewives), he overhears and yells, “Mom, you know I can hear that? And it’s not appropriate!”

He knows he’s not supposed to say bad words and he doesn’t repeat them (at least in front of me.) But sadly, he’s heard a lot of them. Some moms don’t seem to care – YouTube is full of videos of babies and toddlers dropping the F bomb – but I don’t want my kid talking like that.

So we’re going to watch our tongues and enact a few more parental controls of our own. And he’s just going to have to wait a while to find out about any of those “C” words.

Gosh darn it.

 

 

Count your blessings every day

It’s easy to talk about all we’re grateful for on Thanksgiving.

Our family has been trying to make a habit of counting our blessings all year long. The idea was born on a crazy-making day when everyone was complaining and whining. I suggested – ok maybe screamed – that we all take a minute to think about something good that happened that day.

The good thing that day was the beautiful box my son made asking us simple questions: What are you grateful for? What good happened to you today? Easy questions with often profound answers that undoubtedly change our perspective. A few months later, we went to a paint-your-own-pottery place and he decided to make a more durable Gratitude Jar.

We slip colorful pieces of paper in the box and jar and share them over the dinner table several times a week.

I’m often overcome during the reading.

I’m grateful for a sunny day.

I’m grateful for true friends.

I’m grateful there was no traffic.

I’m grateful for my thriving family, my funny son and my sweet husband.

I’m grateful for coffee. I’m grateful for wine.

I’m grateful for music, for books, for laughter, for tears.

I’m grateful for our home, our health, our sense of humor. Especially that sense of humor.

Sometimes we’re grateful for simple things we usually take for granted. I’m grateful for my coat, my umbrella, my dinner on the table, my bed. My son always wants a little more stuff. He’s almost 9 and thinks more stuff would make him happier.

Sometimes he’s grateful for Minecraft. Sometimes it’s the money he got in a card from his Grandma. Or doing well on a math test or having a friend over.

Then he writes something like this, that he’s grateful for happiness, and my heart swells, knowing my message is getting through to him.

h grateful

Granted, sometimes we’re better at it this gratitude thing than others. We have been through our trials this year, as have you all. Some days just suck, as my son says. Many of us are struggling with loss and pain and stress. Others are coping with hunger, joblessness, homelessness, loneliness, illness, addiction. No matter our circumstances, someone certainly is in a worse position. No matter our wealth, someone surely has more.

When I’m down, I look through the piles of paper I’ve saved and stuffed into gallon Ziploc bags, and I’m reminded how bountiful my blessings. So I try – as corny as some may find it – to find joy in every day: A giggle, a song I like on the radio, a message in marker on a pink slip of paper that reminds me someone loves me.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 

 

Of birds and bees and tooth fairies

My son went to the dentist yesterday and had a stubborn baby tooth pulled in what was a far more gruesome procedure than I expected. We couldn’t even bring the tooth home with us, so he wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining the circumstances. “Write back,” he instructed.

He deserved a visit after the way the tooth came out. Sadly, H woke me up this morning with the news that the Tooth Fairy hadn’t come. I don’t know if he really believes in the Tooth Fairy, but I’m doing all I can to convince him, so this was a serious tactical error. I desperately want these mythical creatures to continue to exist for him.

Last year I sent away for a “package from Santa,” that came with a customized letter and official gold seal, along with a certificate declaring he was on the “good list,’ authenticated by a hoof print from Rudolph.

“He really knows a lot of stuff about me!” H exclaimed. He framed the certificate and hung it above his bookshelf.

One more year of Christmas magic preserved, I congratulated myself.

I patted myself on the back too soon. We flew to my hometown for Christmas. The gifts from Santa and and for H’s birthday the next day — unwrapped to speed the trip through airport security –were in a carry-on bag I surreptitiously put in the closet out of view. But H found it, and my curious kid could not stop asking what was in that blue suitcase. So I moved it again.

On Christmas Eve, he looked me nervously in the eye and confessed: “Mom, I looked in the blue suitcase.”

Tears instantly hit my eyes, knowing the truth was out.

“I only saw three things!” he said. “I’m sorry.”

I agonized into the wee hours about what to do. Ultimately, my husband and I decided to save the Santa gifts that had been on the top of the suitcase for his birthday and wrap up the rest to leave by the chimney.

The wait finally over for him, he dug through what was admittedly a more meager pile from Santa. Everything was going fine until he opened the art set I bought when we got to town and hid in my dad’s house. Instead of excitement, I saw disappointment.

“I saw this in Grandpa’s study,” he said, dejectedly, followed instantly by the question I feared: “Are YOU Santa?!”

He jumped in my lap and we both cried. I was overly emotional, but my sweet boy was still 7 for one more day. It was too soon. Even then, I couldn’t fully fess up. Santa is real, I told him. But there are so many people in the world, he just needs a little help from parents once in a while.

I knew this inquisitive, intelligent boy was teetering on the edge of belief. My 14-year-old nephew told me my son asked him if he believed in Santa. “Of course!” my nephew blessedly told him.

“Me too,” my son replied. “But a lot of kids in my class don’t.”

The jig is up, Mom. But I can’t admit it. He wants to believe, and I want him to.

His ninth birthday is still a few months away, and he already has to see the orthodontist and argues with me about why he can’t be on Instagram. His older sister recently announced she’s pregnant, and he has a lot of questions about how that whole thing actually works. The magic-seed-that-got-in-Mommy’s-tummy story isn’t an adequate explanation anymore.

Please don’t tell me I have to have the sex talk and tell him Dad and I are the ones who put those gold dollars under his pillow in the same week. I love that he is growing up, that he learns new things every day. But I am not ready for this.

Hoping to salvage something from the Tooth Fairy failure, I had my husband dash into our son’s room to stash the cash and respond to his note while Mr. Dubious was in the bathroom.

He ran to check under his pillow, grabbed his reward with a grin and read the note.

“Dad, this looks like your writing,” he said, looking at us both with those skeptical eyes. “But I know it’s not.”

He’s keeping the dream alive. For my sake or his, I’m not sure.