My 14 year old son doesn’t answer his cell…

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My 14 year old son doesn’t answer his cell. He uses it mostly for text messages which I think (at least with me) is the preferred use of cell phones for kids his age. I admit I sometimes call him, like I did just now, knowing he won’t pick up. I do it so I can hear his voice when he first got the phone and recorded his message in 6th grade. He sounds so young and innocent. Then, after I listen to it, I leave him a message that I pretend he’ll actually listen to, usually about how I love him.

I know he hasn’t even thought about changing the message because if he had thought of it, he would’ve changed it by now or maybe not. Maybe he doesn’t care he sounds like a really little boy (as opposed to the boy who is taller than I am now and has a much deeper voice– one his younger sister insists he is faking)?  I’m thinking I might say something before he starts high school on Monday just so he doesn’t get teased about it (i.e. by girls who ask for his number?). It’s funny how I want to protect him in all the ways I’m still able. Then again, maybe it’s not worth it? I bet his new friends won’t even call him on the phone. They’ll text too…or google hangout or whatever they do.

Anyway, I have a few days to think it over.  Maybe I will record the recording on another device to keep it as a reminder of his younger self.  I’ll see if he even listens to the message I just left saying “Hey. Remember me? It’s your mom. I love you baby. Call me back, K?” and if he even returns my call.

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Toothy Grin

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After the dentist appointment we decided to browse the local Goodwill to kill time.  We needed to wait for the numbness to wear off and the bleeding to stop before my daughter could drink a milk shake from the ice cream place down the block.

It wasn’t until we got home that evening that she realized she was missing her tooth necklace, the one that contained her newly extracted tooth. If it weren’t for the tooth fairy thing, she probably wouldn’t have cared, but instead, naturally, she wanted to find it. Fortunately it didn’t take long for her to recall hanging it up on a hook in the Goodwill dressing room while she tried on clothes. It was too late to go back that evening but I was able to call and they said they’d hold it for me until the next day. I promised her I’d go get it first thing in the morning.

When I got there in the morning I told the clerk I was there to pick up a necklace my daughter had left there the day before. He said he remembered me and proceeded to announce fairly loudly over the store PA system “the lady who left her teeth here yesterday is here to pick them up”.  Did he really just say I was here to pick up my teeth? Suddenly it felt like everyone in the store was trying not to look at me but couldn’t help turning their heads to stare and I couldn’t blame them. A lady showing up at the Goodwill to pick up her teeth she left the day before? I would’ve taken a look at her too!

As I was standing there waiting, I felt like grabbing the speaker to clarify, “Sorry that was a mistake. I’m actually here to pick up a tooth necklace– you know the kind dentists give kids– a white plastic tooth box on a red string? My daughter left it here yesterday after a baby tooth was extracted. We were here killing time and she left it on the hook in the dressing room. I’m not here to pick up my teeth. Knock on wood I still have all my originals in my head…just sayin’. You can go back to shopping now.” But instead I stood there, imagining what I would say while running my tongue over my teeth and silently thanking my parents and my adult self for all the years of investing in good dental care.

When the clerk returned with the necklace and handed it to me I thanked him with a big toothy grin that I flashed around the store for longer than I might normally while I put the necklace around my neck. I brought it home to my daughter along with a good laugh.

Turn that Box Off and Go Outside!

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It drives me completely insane that my kids’ screen time increases exponentially during the summer months. Sometimes I think they forget we live in northern California in walking distance to the ocean. I had to beg for the Slip-n-Slide in Detroit while they, these lucky kids, can ride their bikes to the ocean! The PACIFIC OCEAN! Yet still, for some crazy reason, the temptations of the screen seem stronger than the pull of the tide.

I’ve never liked “the box” as my mom used to call it. I can still hear her telling my brother and sister, who both liked it more than I did, “Turn that box off and go outside!”.  As a side note, our house was robbed quite a few times growing up (I know. I’m in therapy). I remember my parents being very upset about all the losses, except the television. When it was stolen, they didn’t replace it for months. I wonder now if maybe my mom orchestrated it and although I know she did not, I understand why she might’ve.

Ever since my children were very young, I’ve threatened them that their brains will turn to mush if they spend too much time in front of a screen, any screen, no matter how tiny and innocent it may seem. For a long time I think they actually believed me. But today, when i finally got their attention after several failed attempts, “Hello? you guys! Hello? HEY. YOU TWO! My beautiful children staring at the screen! Yeah. You two. It’s time to turn it off. Your brains are going to turn to mush” my son responded calmly, “No, mom, brains can’t turn to mush. I researched it a long time ago. They go unresponsive.” LOL! “EXACTLY! Mush = Unresponsive. Now turn it off. Go find something else to do…and may I suggest something that involves a little sunshine and fresh air? Maybe ride your bikes to the beach?”

No-Sleepovers

It’s no secret that I hate sleepovers. Every time I get an evite for my kid to attend one, a feeling of dread comes over me and then pity for the parent who got conned into hosting it.

The tricky thing is, once your kid gets wind of it, which is often weeks before the evite hits your inbox and probably months before the parent hosting it even knows they’re hosting it, saying no is next to impossible.

Since I don’t host them any more, I don’t worry about being personally exhausted by one, but I do think about two things that are enough to make me hate them: 1) my kid being a crabby mess for at least four days afterwards and 2) head lice. Is it just me, or is it true that every time your kid goes to a sleepover, you get a follow up text or email “Opps. I’m SO sorry. Check your kid…we just found out one of the kids at the sleepover has head lice”?

But telling your kid “okay, sure, you can go to the sleepover, but you have to sign a contract with me saying 1) you will not be crabby pants the week after and 2) you will wear a shower cap the entire time and 3) if you are a crabby pants, you won’t get to use your _(fill in the blank)_electronic device for like a year” seems hard to enforce.

If someone disagrees with my stand on sleepovers, they usually tell me I’m being a party pooper. They themselves have fond memories of sleepovers as a kid….to which I say “what-EVER”…call me after you host one… and they do. They always call me after. When they’re exhausted and their house is a total upside down mess, I’ll get the call…”OMG! I should’ve listened to you. My house is a total f-in mess…they stayed up until 3 am making all kinds of noise and woke up at 6 am wanting pancakes…So and so barfed… and I just got a call that so and so has head lice. Sleepovers suck.”

I just nod and listen and say how sorry I am (cause even if they thought they wanted to host one, I don’t wish my friends ill will) … and I brace myself for the next evite to hit my inbox , which just happened this morning.

Eating (Your Fair Share) Pastries

thMy daughter loves eating pastries of any kind, but she’s especially fond of chocolate croissants.  She’s pretty impressed I don’t eat them anymore. About a year ago I stopped eating gluten all together. I stopped not because it’s the hot trendy thing to do, but because I discovered my digestion could actually be normal without it and let’s just say it was not normal for most of my adult life. So, this morning, as my daughter and I were lounging around in our pjs, I asked her what she’d like for breakfast. I offered to make (Pamela’s gluten-free) pancakes? fruit? a smoothie? scrambled eggs? fried eggs? cereal? and with a smile, she answered “a pastry”… “hmmmm… what kind of pastry were you craving?”  I asked.  “A chocolate croissant”, she said. “You really like those, huh?”, I asked. Her response was about as good a rationalization as any I’ve heard yet for eating pastries: “As I see it, it’s good to eat a lot of pastries in case you decide to go gluten-free. I figure it’s easier to live without gluten if you’ve already eaten your fair share of pastries” and then she added “it seemed to work for you, mom.” HA! I hadn’t thought of it quite like that, but it’s true I’d eaten plenty of pastries over the years. Then one day, just like that, I stopped. I haven’t so much as considered eating one again. Perhaps that’s because I’ve already eaten my fair share?

Worries in the Night

Usually it’s my own anxiety that wakes me up in the middle of the night, but last night it was my daughter’s. At 2 AM or so, she crawled into my bed, crying. She nudged up to me curled in a ball. I asked “what’s wrong? bad dream?” She said, “No. Ivy is 4.” “Yes. She is 4.” I rubbed her back hoping she’d fall back asleep but she went on… “Next she’ll be 5…then 6, 7, 8,9, 10, 11” she counted slowly stopping at “then she’ll be 12…and eventually she’ll die.” “That’s true” I said, “but that’s a long time from now… in fact, some animals live longer than you expect. One of my best friends has an 18 year old cat!” “But mom, cats live longer than dogs.” “You’re probably right. Is there something else that’s worrying you? Do you know another dog or someone else who died recently?” “No. Just thinking about Ivy.”… “OK. Well, let’s try to go back to sleep sweetie and talk about this in the morning, ok? I’m right here with you.” “But I can’t sleep.” “Are you sure? You haven’t really tried, have you?” “I can’t stretch my legs out.” “Oh why not?” “because Ivy growls every time I try.” “oh” I laughed out loud, forgetting Ivy was in my bed too… “I wondered why you were in a ball! OK, If I move Ivy over, do you think you can go back to sleep?” “I think so”. So I moved Ivy over and my daughter fell fast asleep again, but unfortunately I was up the rest of the night worrying about things like death and then everything else and nothing in particular.

My Wish

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In a series of text messages the other day with one of my best friends in L.A. we landed on the topic of a second whale washing up on the beach within a month, this time a 32-foot female humpback. I was feeling distressed about it and wondering if it was a coincidence or another indicator of bad stuff happening in the ocean?

He said I need to prepare my kids for some ugliness washing up on the beach over the next year or two. My heart sank. California, he thinks, is ground zero and sea lions and other mammals are dying en masse already. But, like most of us, I don’t want to think about things getting worse and furthermore, as a mom, my natural instinct is to shield my kids from ugliness not prepare them for it. He went on to say the oceans are dying off already because of climate change but Fukushima was a tipping point in large scale collapse and that my best bet is to make humor at the end and prepare my children for what lies ahead.  My friend tends to be intense and he has no kids, but he’s also smart, thoughtful and like usual, makes a good point… things aren’t all that rosy out there and a parent’s job, in part, if not completely, is to prepare their children for what lies ahead, right?

I found myself going over this idea of preparing my children for what lies ahead when I don’t really know what that is. It’s kind of a daunting task if you think about it. You don’t want to get so heavy on them with reality they feel overwhelmed and hopeless, but you also don’t want their heads buried in the sand thinking all is perfect in the world as long as their hair is right and they can post a good selfie. I know my children need to know the basics of how to learn… they need to be able to educate themselves with good information and they need to know how to make thoughtful choices, but what else will prepare them for what lies ahead?

Some people turn to religion as a guide, but for me that’s never been the case. I thought about where I gather strength to move forward in the face of ugliness and I landed on LOVE. Yep. Love. It’s the only thing that ever really pulls me out of the dumps when I’m faced with ugliness. And that made me feel a little better because I concluded it’s what I already know to do, in addition to providing nurturance, support, security, predictability, focus, engagement and expansion (that’s my academic list of what all children need), make sure my kids know LOVE…that they know they are loved and that they know how to love (themselves, others and the planet). In fact they are fortunate to be surrounded by love not just from me but from our friends and family.

And this is my wish for all of us…to know love and be surrounded by it. It’s the only way I know for sure to prepare for ugliness that lies ahead. Amen.

Leave While You’re Happy

People ask me a lot of questions about parenting. Probably because I’m in the child development field they think I might know something about the topic, but also my kids tend to behave well in public, which is something, especially since they do not necessarily do so at home.  I’m reluctant to give advice though because I know there aren’t silver bullet answers to parenting questions. Parenting is an individual process and more often than not, the best answer is “it depends”. That being said, I do have exactly one piece of universal parenting advice I love to share and I wish more people would follow it. I can’t remember when I learned it. It might have been at the co-op nursery school with my own kids, but whenever it was, it wasn’t soon enough. The advice is to leave while you’re happy.

That seems easy enough, right? Leave while you’re happy. Well, once you start paying attention to this concept– at restaurants, at parties, at parks, at the mall — you’ll notice people rarely leave while they’re happy, especially with young children. I suppose that’s because, if you’re happy, why on earth would you think to leave? Well trust me, you should.

Maybe a better way to say this is… don’t wait until you’re certain you aren’t happy to leave, because by then (and we’ve all experienced this ourselves or have observed it happen with other people) you’re probably looking at a full-on temper tantrum disaster which makes everything harder if not nearly impossible, like buckling a kid in a car seat or stroller. By the time a baby or toddler (or any age person really) is unhappy and screaming bloody murder, it’s just proof you’ve waited too long to leave…you didn’t leave while you were happy.

It might be helpful to think about this in terms of adult relationships as it translates fairly well. Here’s an example from my work life. Instead of leaving a job in which I was still fairly happy but had completely outgrown, I stayed and stayed and stayed, until I was completely certain I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was so unhappy I would come home at night and cry about the way my coworker typed (she used two fingers and typed super loud– it probably would make anybody cry at some point). But clearly, I was miserable and needed to leave that job a long time before I was bothered by something as small as the way someone typed. It’s when little things that once were cute or would otherwise go completely unnoticed (in a baby’s view perhaps it’s grandma tickling their toes or being buckled into a car seat) drive you to tears, it’s likely you’ve stayed too long. Maybe it’s the way someone sips their coffee in the morning or the way they whistle to themselves while they putter in the garage… Or the way they chew. It might be those tiny little things bug you simply because you didn’t leave while you were happy (and/or you probably need to take a nap). It’s kind of like my other favorite saying…stop while you’re ahead.

Yeah, so anyway, that’s my only real parenting advice… leave while you’re happy, because waiting until you’re certain you’re not happy and you’re crying over the small stuff, it means you’ve most likely waited too long.

Braiding Hair

I didn’t realize my inability to braid hair would be such an issue but the mornings are getting increasingly stressful around here with requests for various braids my daughter sees on other girls or she finds on-line (yet another reason to hate the internet). The stress to do them quickly and evenly without being poofy drives me insane. But since I’m the only one with any hope of doing it right, my daughter keeps asking me to try and I do. I do try. Inevitably though, she takes out whatever I’ve done, adding an eye roll and a sigh telling me “It’s all wrong. I’ll just wear a pony tail….AGAIN.”  I know it shouldn’t make me feel inadequate as a mom that my braids fail, I mean I do so many things well, but since I do love fiber arts and I’m good at making things with my hands, it kind of makes me crazy that I can’t seem to braid her hair right. I mean really… I can knit…I can sew…I can weave. What’s my problem with braiding her hair? Hers is slippery, which makes it particularly hard and it’s totally straight too, which means it shows every single bump, but I think it’s really the expectation thing that gets me. The fact that she has in mind a certain outcome (including perfect symmetry without pieces sticking out) makes me nervous, as if it’s a test I just know I’m going to fail before it even starts. I’m much better off doing things without intention, without rules and definitely without symmetry– unless of course the symmetry happens by mistake which is a nice surprise. But I’m going to keep trying to braid her hair when she asks, because you never know, maybe tomorrow I’ll get it right? and that’s what good moms do. We keep trying.