Can Moms Help It

When my Daughter finally got back to campus in August, she had a lot of readjusting to do. She was living with roommates and not parents. She was adjusting to doing things in person once again, and she had a lot on her plate. Plus, COVID still had restrictions all over the place with certain things.

Her schedule included five classes, and one class that required her to go to an elementary school to observe onsite. She had an internship. Part time job. Deputy editor at the paper. At least two other clubs she was an active member. Some sort of scholar program. Homework. And President of a volunteer organization that wasn’t able to recruit new members last year because it wasn’t able to be done virtually, and they were still unsure of the status this year as to whether the university students would be allowed to go onsite to actually do the volunteering, and seemed like it was going to be an organization of three.

So August was a tad stressful for my daughter.

I was on the phone with her one morning as she explained everything to me. I heard her voice rise about five octaves. I made a suggestion about something.

One suggestion about one thing after she regaled me with tales of all the above things I mentioned, the stress clearly coming through on the phone.

I said one thing…

She bit my head off. Told me that she was an adult. Told me that my making the suggestion was making her more stressed. Told me I needed to butt out and not meddle.

OK fine. I dropped it.

Later that day, I was standing on the subway platform.

Young woman, late twenties probably, was waiting for the train, which was six minutes away.

Woman gets a phone call.

Woman: Hi Mom.

Woman: Yeah the apartment was really nice.

Women: Well, it’s a little small but…

See her walking in circles

Women: No its not a shoebox it’s…

She starts to tap her foot

Women: No there isn’t a window in the bathroom or kitchen but…

looking down track waiting for train to appear quicker

Women: But Mom it’s the best apartment I’ve found

runs her hand through her hair distractedly

Women: Yes I would love an apartment with big closets and lots of windows but…

look of pure distress

Women: But Mom...

exasperated sigh

Women: Oh Mom- there’s the train. Need to go.

She shuts her phone and waits three more minutes for train.

So my question is: Do Mom’s always try to give unneeded or unwarranted advice? Is it just hardwired into being a Mom?

Can we just not help ourselves?

Do Mothers always feel they need to tell there children what to do? Is it worse with Mothers and Daughters?

Pick Up The Trash

My daughter spent part of a High School summer doing community service work in Costa Rica. This is the norm for middle class kids in our area, whether you go to public school like my daughter, or private school like my Teen X. Teens show how community minded they are, and put it on their college application. My understanding is that colleges almost expect kids to have some glaring public service announcement that they pull out as needed.

When my daughter went to Costa Rica she worked in two areas: Housing and day camp. She poured a concrete floor for a family that previously only had dirt. I don’t know exactly what goes into making a concrete floor, but my daughter said it was hard and exacting. She literally saw the woman and the family that she was helping to provide with a new floor. She knew that if she screwed up, this family would be the ones to suffer. There was a literal face to the cause. She left her days exhausted but feeling good about what she was doing.

The other part of her trip revolved around working in a day care center. She lead the kids in games and crafts and spoke to them in English so that they practice their language skills. Her biggest takeaway was that these kids, though they didn’t enjoy the luxuries that her and her NYC friends have, still showed such a sense of joy and wonder. They were not jaded or sad or mean like some of her NYC classmates who had considerably “more” than they did. She loved this experience so much that it was one of the reasons that she is pursuing a minor in Education and Social Justice. No, she does not want to be a teacher, but she would love the ability to work on educational policy reform.

We also can’t forget about my daughter and water. When in Costa Rica, my daughter saw in real time just how precious a commodity potable water is. On her short list of causes she believes in, water is right there front and center.

My daughter chose to look past her upbringing to see what other parts of the world, what other people face. She is by no means a Saint, nor is she perfect, and sometimes she forgets that she has things come easily to her, but this experience really made her see and feel things she did not know about.

But does every child take away the same experience?

We know someone who did a service trip this summer, in America, and this was based on working with sea life and oceans. Teen X is very environmentally friendly.

I saw the parent of Teen X while Teen X was still on the trip.

Me: How does X like the trip?

Parent of X: Well, X hates the group leader. X has been arguing with the group leader since the beginning of the trip

Me: What does she argue about?

Parent of X: X doesn’t like the rules.

Me: Like what?

Parent of X: X didn’t realize how much cleaning up of garbage there would be. She thought they’d be helping the environment

At this point I mumbled my way out of the conversation because really, if you don’t see what is right in front of your face, my pointing it out isn’t going to help much.

So what’s the point of this? Was it just to humble brag about my daughter? Partially, sure. My daughter has managed to defy her spotty parenting to become a decent human. But it’s also to highlight why colleges kinda sorta want to see community service on a middle to upper middle class kids resume. The goal is to make the kids see what the world is really like, even if it’s just for three weeks during the summer between sophomore and junior years.

Yes we have a shortage of water.

Yes, some people live in huts with no windows and no electricity and dirt floors.

Yes, some kids are happy without the latest tech gadgets.

Yes, the oceans and beaches and whatever are filled with human waste products that must be cleaned up.

But sometimes you need to see these things up close and personal in order to understand them. The problem is, some people can be exposed to something and still not understand the issues. How often are we blind to what is right there in front of us? How many willfully choose not to look deeper at an issue? How many people choose to see things that way that they want to see them?

You can choose to look at the world the way you think it is, or the way it actually is. Which way will actually start solving the issues that we face?

Parenting is Hard

Parenting is hard….says my daughter.

She came to this realization this year, as she navigated parenting our puppy.

You need to watch what they eat

You need to pull things out of their mouths

You need to watch what they’re doing

You spend your days telling them No

You worry about them all the time

My daughter ended her diatribe with a question to me:

How did you parent me and not go crazy? Wait – not crazy because we aren’t supposed to use that word anymore. How did you parent me and still function every day?

I didn’t really have to think about the answer to that: You parent because you love. And love is stronger than anything else- except for maybe hate, but that’s a whole other post.

Parenting is a blessing and a curse. You get the opportunity to raise a child. You get to watch them grow and learn things and you get to see those adorable smiles and the tinkle of their giggles. You also get to wipe their butt after they poop. You get to smell them when they go through the adolescent phase of not showering. You get to hear them berate you.

So how do we parent and still function?

We remind ourselves that parenting a child is a privilege. When you have the opportunity to raise a child it is a gift. We know that even though there are some rocky moments, there is so much joy to be had with a child.

Being a parent is being an eternal optimist. When there are issues, it’s keeping the positive attitude that things will get better. It’s reminding ourselves of all the good moments of the past, and if we can just hold on a little, we will see more good moments ahead.

Being a parent is hard. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It has also been worth every moment: both good and bad.

The Parent/Adult Child Relationship

I’ve been wondering how to navigate the relationship between my daughter and I as she forges on into adulthood.

As luck would have it, I know someone whose Mom came up to town from Florida last week. As I watched their dynamic, I knew that I had the basis that I needed to start creating a better relationship with my own daughter…

  1. When you arrive at your daughter’s house, get mad that your daughter was working when you got there. Tell her explicitly that she should have been at the front door waiting with literal open arms.
  2. Complain, again, about the “no shoe’s in the house policy” that your daughter has. Repeatedly scoff at the suggestion of house slippers, because house slippers are stupid.
  3. Complain that your grandchildren are at school. What’s more important after all- algebra II or being there for your grandmother
  4. Remind your daughter all the things you did for her while she was growing up
  5. Tell your daughter that she doesn’t treat you with respect
  6. Cry that she treated her own mother so much better and she wants you to treat her as she treated her Mom
  7. start yelling at your daughter because your daughter doesn’t cater to your every whim
  8. Tell your daughter that she’s a despicable spoiled brat
  9. Call your son and tell him that she can’t stand his sister and she has to leave that very moment because she can’t spend another minute in the house
  10. Curse at your son because he dares to say that he will call her a car service- a good son would rent a car and drive over and pick up his Mother
  11. Remind both your children that they don’t respect you
  12. Tell your children about how you worked to support them and without her you would have nothing
  13. Spend so much time talking about a gift that you gave, that the daughter hands you a check for the amount of the gift because no gift is worth it being thrown back in your face a million times
  14. Ask why they treat their Father, her ex, so much better than they treat her, because he was despicable.
  15. Give a birthday toast that doesn’t say anything about your daughter, but tells all the sacrifices that you made for your children

Do you understand why this example showed me exactly how to further my relationship with my daughter?

Parents.

What would we do without them…

Pick Yourself Back Up

My daughter has a lot of trophies and medals and awards. This is a fact.

This fact has led some people in our circle to think that my daughter is “charmed”. That she snaps her fingers and accolades just appear, as if by magic.

I need to remind people that for every trophy, for every plaque, every medal, there are so many things that she didn’t win…

Maybe she has fifty wins…maybe she’s entered 1000 things…

5%

She has lost 95% of the time…

Which means that 95% of the the time she has picked herself up, dusted herself off and went on to the next thing.

This doesn’t mean that she wasn’t upset by the losses- she has shed a tear, kicked a wall, screamed in frustration…she has shown emotion. She is upset every time she doesn’t get something that she wants.

But she doesn’t let that stop her.

People ask me how she became so resilient…

So, the question is…

Is it my skill as a parent?

Or…

Was she born this way?

Is resilience a learned or an innate behavior?

While I would LOVE to say that it’s my superior parenting skills that raised a resilient child, is it?

I do know that I have always told her that there is nothing wrong with making mistakes. I’ve encouraged her to try out things even if they are out of her comfort zone. I know her singing voice is, let’s call it, average, so when she wanted to try out for glee club I helped her practice and encouraged her to go for it, even though I knew that there was no way she would be picked unless literally no one else showed up at the audition. I figured it was better to try for something you wanted instead of spending your life wondering if you would have made it.

Whenever she lost something, I would giver her a hug, ask her if she did her best, and then ask her what comes next.

Did I teach her to be resilient?

Or did I enhance something that was inherently part of her personality?

Even with all the encouragement in the world, would a different child act differently in the face of adversity?

So here’s the part where I ask your opinion:

Is resilience a personality trait or a learned skill?

Anything Can Happen Friday: The Train Ticket

This is a totally fictional tale about some mother and some daughter.

Some mother and some daughter are having a perfectly lovely conversation over the phone. No Zoom. No texting. Just an old fashioned cell phone call on speaker because some mother hates holding the phone to her ear.

After much pleasant chatter:

SOME DAUGHTER- OMG I bought my train tickets for Thanksgiving. I need to leave Saturday night at 10pm and get into DC at 2am

SOME MOTHER: Really? They’re already sold out?

SOME DAUGHTER: No. The tickets for Sunday were more expensive.

SOME MOTHER: You know I’m paying for the ticket. How much of a price different are we talking?

SOME DAUGHTER: The Sunday afternoon tickets are X, about 50$ more than the 10pm train.

SOME MOTHER: I don’t want you getting to DC in the middle of the night and going back to a mainly empty dorm. Change the ticket.

SOME DAUGHTER: I’m not happy about the train time either.

SOME MOTHER: If neither of us is happy about the time, change the ticket. I am paying for the ticket and frankly that price is cheaper than I thought it would be.

SOME DAUGHTER: Morally, I can’t pay that much more for a train ticket strictly for the convenience.

SOME MOTHER: BUT I’M PAYING FOR THE TICKET

SOME DAUGHTER: Don’t you think it’s ridiculous that the afternoon tickets are more expensive?

SOME MOTHER: Supply and demand

SOME DAUGHTER: I just can’t pay more money than the other train.

SOME MOTHER: BUT I’M PAYING

SOME DAUGHTER: But Morally…

SOME MOTHER: Where were these morals when you chose to go to a private college that didn’t give you a scholarship as opposed to the colleges that gave you handsome merit scholarships? (OK- some mother didn’t say this, but she thought it…)

SOME MOTHER: Can you please change the ticket?

SOME DAUGHTER: Can you respect my decision and treat me like an adult?

In today’s adventure, who was right and who was wrong, or are both parties being stubborn?

Should Some Mother allow her adult daughter to make her own choices? Or should Some Mother back off?

Obligation

My sister lives across the country. When she comes to visit, she stays with my parents. This is not an unusual family situation- out of town relatives often stay with one another.

But…

My sister and my parents have diametrically opposite views on just about everything. I mean really, everything…

And when my sister comes to town, they verbally spar. They verbally spar about 90% of the time. When my sister came to town a few months ago, her plane landed about 6pm. By 9am the next day she was already texting me about the arguments…

I understand my sister’s point of view. She is just trying to be herself. She loves our parents, wants to see them, yet…

My parents are not always easy to get along with…

And some of my sister’s ideas on life are a bit out there…

I clearly understand both sides in this situation.

I understand the cross words and raised tempers.

I just wish that all of them could be quiet sometimes.

I understand the need to get one’s point across. I understand wanting to be heard and not wanting to be marginalized. I understand that we are all allowed to have our own opinions. I get that opinions can never be wrong.

But…at the end of the day…my sister visiting is a lot of grief for everyone. I don’t know if my sister or my parents are actually happy during the visits. I receive calls from both sides…complaining…

I am very stressed out when my sister visits because I hate to be in the middle. I hate trying to broker peace.

So my question is thus:

If a visit to family causes angst, should you visit?

Do you continue the visits out of a sense of obligation? Out of trying to assuage guilt?

Is there a time when you shouldn’t visit your family?

Which regret is worse: not seeing your family because you drive one another crazy or feeling bad that you don’t see your family?

Discuss:

Hope

When we have children, we often say-

I only want you to be happy

Now, I’m pretty sure that I’ve written that wanting someone to be happy is a fools journey… that this is a very big lie that we tell our children. When you’re trying to find happy, you miss out on the ride- which may be bumpy, but not necessarily bad…

What should we wish for our children? you may or may not have asked.

Hope.

We should wish that they always have hope…

Hope that the rainbow shows up at the end of the storm…

Hope that first impressions aren’t always the last one

Hope that when one door closes another opens…

If we have hope, we can get to tomorrow to see that life does indeed go on.

Happiness is something we search for, often illusively. Hope is what moves us forward even if happy doesn’t even glimmer on the horizon.

If we have hope, we just might be happy along the journey. We will realize that happy is not necessarily a destination, but a way of thinking about what we are doing. When we wake in the morning, maybe we won’t think about what will make us happy in the moment: when we wake up maybe we hope that we get to do something we haven’t been able to, or see something wonderful, or whatever it is that makes us smile.

Hope does not mean toxic positivity. Hope does not mean that you walk around whistling as chipmunks help you do the laundry. Hope does not mean that random people break out into song as you walk to the subway. Toxic positivity sets you up to believe that anything can and will happen if you believe hard enough…but you can click those heels a thousand times and you probably aren’t going to end up in Kansas…

Don’t set your kids, or yourselves, up to think that happy is right over there and you can attain it. A big house won’t make you happy. Car? Nope. A better job? Maybe: maybe not.

What happens if you achieve all these goals, buy all these things, and you’re still not happy?

Happy is a state of mind, not a goal or something to check off your to do list.

See, that’s why hope is a better option. You learn to bounce back if something doesn’t quite go your way. You realize that it’s part of the journey.

Hope gets you out of bed when you don’t feel like it. Hope gets you out of the house. Hope gives you the opportunity to live.

Without hope, we are truly lost.

So as you meander on the journey that we call life, remember that the sun coming out tomorrow might not make you happy. But remember that tomorrow is indeed another day- a fresh start- a day filled with promise and hope.

side note: I felt like writing today. i may not feel like writing tomorrow. But if I don’t, I will be back

Growing Pains?

Before I start my post I am going to preface it: what I am writing about today is based on a mainly hypothetical conversation that I had with two neighbors while we were doing laundry. Both of these women have 13 year old daughters and they somehow oddly thought I might have some words of wisdom regarding teenage girls and raising them. After I stopped laughing at the thought of any parent ever knowing anything, we had a discussion around this topicwhile there is an example of a situation, this was more conversational than actual

The laundry room is like the water cooler of an apartment building. We run into each other and have long conversations about pretty much everything. When I run into these particular women, the talk often turns to how did I like the schools my daughter attended (remember we have school choice here- especially after elementary) On this particular occasion, the subject was girls as they enter the teen years.

How do you know the difference between a teen who is spoiled, a kid who is acting out as part of the normal growth process, and a kid that is having a real issue?

Teenage children act out. They rebel against their parents. I know we don’t want to hear this, but a certain amount of rebellion is normal and healthy. During the teen years we know that kids are trying to find their place in the world apart from their parents. Rebelling against parents is the safest form of rebellion- they are secure enough in the love of the parents that they know they have this cushion. Doesn’t make it easy to live through, but there you go.

Now, some kids rebel way less than others. I can’t tell you why some kids are more hellish than others during this time period.

But how do we know what’s good rebellion, and what sort of rebellion causes trouble?

I have no idea.

And I told this to my neighbors. My guess if is something is self destructive, or destructive to others, you might need to sit down with the pediatrician and ask for a next step.

But do we really ever know what is normal and what is a cry for help?

My neighbor brought up a particular situation: her niece had all of a sudden become a vocal advocate against date rape and other forms of sexual aggression towards young women. She asked me, how do you know if this is a normal protest against something that has been in the news lately, or what if she, or one of her friends has been victimized? Do you ask and risk the kid shutting down? Do you watch to see if any other behaviors are off?

I shook my head: these were questions I’d often thought of myself. When I would see a girl at school I wonder if they are anorexic, or maybe taking drugs, but at what point do you say something? Is it worth stirring the pot?

While we are all supposed to watch out for one another, in practice, how do we actually do it?

As an outside we may be looking at things from a different light- sometimes being close to a situation can be blurry. Sometimes an outsider can have clarity.

When do we butt in? When do we butt out?

When “normal” can be pretty obnoxious, how do we ascertain a cry for help?

If Only They Would Just…

I remember parent teacher conferences. I would get glowing reports about how smart my child was, how she would outscore her peers on most things. They would tell me how polite she was, always listened to the rules and was never disruptive. They would explain that she was well liked and respected by her classmates. She was always on time. All these wonderful things. But they would always end with:

She rarely raises her hand. When I ask her directly she always knows the answers. In fact, she probably has an idea that no one else thought about. We really need her to speak up more. Shyness doesn’t do well in the classroom…

Now we know that my daughter goes to a competitive college. We know that she has leadership rolls and awards. We know that she was a champion debater and moot courter (even on the college level where her university is ranked in the top 25). She was picked to be her high school graduation speaker…

But yet, up until Senior Year the majority of teachers were still telling me that she needed to speak up more…(exception: one teacher who simply said- she shows me in a million ways that she understands everything I say)

But in her stellar academic career, with over 50 teachers, only one teacher ever said that it was OK to not be raising her hand…

SO my question is:

Are kids told from a young age that being an introvert is less than?

Are kids expected to change into extroverts?

Are we telling kids that being an introvert is bad?

Are introverted kids being inadvertently bullied about being introverts?

Discuss