Anything Can Happen Friday: Mother’s Day Edition

Rule of thirds: we talked about this yesterday. When you are trying to achieve a goal, you will be great 1/3 of the time, Okay a third, and crappy a third. (Alexi Pappas- Bravey) We debated if we thought this was a good ratio of good times to bad.

Somewhere in the discussion with Deb, I thought about Motherhood. (FYI- Deb has probably motivated more blogs than anyone else) As Deb and I were talking, I realized that motherhood is clearly part of the rule of thirds.

The great part? Well, that’s easy. Think about all those pictures on your phone, or in an album somewhere. Looking in my house is like a highlight reel of the great moments: artwork framed on my wall, pictures in cap and gown, certificates and trophies. These are all those moments that we think about when we decide to make Motherhood our goal.

I smile at the picture of “My first Haircut” where my daughter sits in the high chair and I clip her bangs. Who doesn’t love a “first” of something…it’s the beginning of the milestone. First day of school pics that my daughter stood patiently for every single year. Firsts, beginnings holding so much promise. I look on her window ledge and see a lifetime of trophies from things she has excelled at: Chess and and tennis and debate and law team. I remember cheering and crying when her little league softball team won the championship. I remember cheering and crying as she accepted the Pinstripe Bowl Scholar Athlete award at Yankee Stadium. The college acceptance letter. These are the moments you think about as you are carrying or adopting your child before they are even born. You can’t help but imagine the wonderful experiences that your child will have as they figure out who they are.

The quiet moments of reading “Goodnight Moon as their eyes get heavy. The tea parties on the living room floor. The times they add the chips into the cookie dough. Walking hand in hand with them as they skip a little bit. These are probably the greatest of the great moments- just you and your child and everyone is happy and you are just in the moment.

But on the road there, we have a lot of ennui. Sitting at the practices waiting for your kid to finish up. Rereading their opening statement for the Mock Trial competition a thousand and one times. Hearing them try to play “Smoke on the Water” first on recorder, and then on the clarinet, and then on the guitar….unless your child is a musical prodigy, there is no way you do not want to cut off your ears when they practice.

There’s the boredom that comes with the day to day, the rote of getting them out of bed, dressed, breakfast, make sure they have all their stuff, get them to school, come home and do homework, brush the teeth…rinse…repeat…how fondly do you remember reminding them if they have their gym uniform?

OF course…we have those moments that make you question why you became a parent. Colic….the dreaded hours between 4 and 6pm when they might just cry. Or the waking up in the middle of the night. The look of the new parent is a clever mix at awe in what they created, and shock at surviving on as little sleep as they do.

The toddler years. Who doesn’t love bolting down furniture and locking everything that opens. Ever try one of those toilet locks at 3am?

The years when your kid is struggling to find their place in the world?

When they lose a game or a competition or a friend?

When they hurt so bad that you feel like you are empty because you don’t want to see your child hurt so much?

The tween years….yeah…who doesn’t love the onset of puberty?

The teen years…rebels who think they have a cause?

Yup.

1/3 great

1/3 okay

1/3 crappy

But…

Wow…

It’s worth it.

Congratulations to everyone, whether or not they are a Mother, who has parented a child. It is not the goal of everyone, but to those who choose it, I salute you.

Put the Fun is Dysfunction

My sister and niece were in from Seattle last week. They stayed with my parents. Apparently our parents were, let’s just say obsessing about something, so my sister sent me a text:

Was our family always this dysfunctional?

Of course the answer is yes and no. My parents have gotten more set in their ways as time has gone on. But, there was always lots of crazy going on in the house.

Whenever I’ve written about my family I get a variety of responses from readers.

  1. I shouldn’t talk badly about my parents
  2. I should get over my past
  3. I shouldn’t expect my parents to apologize
  4. What would I say if my daughter said things like that about me

Which leads me to my conclusions:

  1. those who have had a relatively functional childhood can’t understand those who didn’t
  2. just because someone turned out relatively OK doesn’t mean they don’t have demons
  3. Sometimes the person who never speaks ill of their childhood is far worse off than those who complain because they are pushing their feelings aside
  4. if your child tells you how your actions affected them, you should listen with an open mind

I think that people should learn to move on from the mistakes of their parents. I firmly believe at some point you have to stop blaming your parents for your failures.

However

It doesn’t mean that parents are blameless.

The actions of parents do affect the person you were, the person you are, and the person you will become. Your background matters.

I know that I have made some mistakes with my life because I was trying to get my parents approval. I tried to do the things they wanted me to do instead of what I wanted to do. Bottom line: This made me a very unhappy person.

In order to become a more content, more stable person, I needed to admit to myself that my parents were wrong about a lot of things. They made mistakes.

This does not mean I love them less. I just accepted that they are human and flawed. They thought life should be lived a certain way- they weren’t trying to hurt me. They were doing the best that they could.

But this doesn’t mean I won’t talk about what they did, especially to them. I don’t need an apology when I talk to them. I would like them to listen with an open mind. Listen to my point of view. I don’t expect them to like the criticism. I do expect them to love me enough to hear my out. I hope that they love me enough to listen.

Is there anything worse than someone you love not listening to you?

Lack of communication is one of the largest problems we face as humans.

If your kids are talking to you, you need to listen.

Which leads me to the next point:

What if my daughter said the same things to me.

First off: I know I have made parenting mistakes. I’ve probably made more mistakes than done things right. My daughter will tell me if I’m doing something that hurts her. I admit, it hurts to have your child be truthful with you about your parenting.

It really hurts.

Sometimes I want to cover my ears and not listen.

But I realize that if I am to have an adult child/parent relationship with her, I need to listen. I need to hear her out. I need to acknowledge that I have, at times, been a lousy parent. I need her to get things out so that we can move on to a better relationship. I want to have a good relationship with my daughter as time goes on. We can only have that relationship if we communicate.

We do need to accept our pasts and move on. But we also need to acknowledge the feelings that come along with it.

Guardians of the Children

Today you’re getting a real story from my life:

A few months ago my husband got a text from his sister. I don’t remember the exact wording but it was something along the lines of:

We’d like you and LA to be guardians of our children but I want them to live in a pet free home. Would getting rid of your pets be a problem?

Ok- so obviously there are multiple takeaways from this exchange (or lack of exchange if you will)

  1. Do you even have the inklings of a conversation about guardianship of children via text?
  2. Do you ask the guardians to change their lifestyle? ie give up pets or ask them to move to where the children are as opposed to the children moving to you?

The next thoughts are a bit more tricky.

  1. If someone asks you to be a guardian, do you have the right to say “No”?
  2. If the person asking is a sibling to part of a couple, does the non related partner have the right to say “No”?

Here’s my thing: We all know I’m not getting rid of my pets or moving, so we will start with that. But what if I don’t want to be the guardian to my sister in laws kids? What if I am totally done with being a parent? What if I just don’t want to do it? Do I have the right to say “No”?

Does saying no cause an irreparable shift in the dynamic of the relationship?

Does saying no make me a bad person?

Is it ethically wrong to say No?

Now, my perspective. I love my daughter. I spent a lot of time, effort and energy being a parent. I just don’t want to do it again. And let’s face it, the burden of the day to day parenting would fall on me. I don’t profess to be a saint who will Mother the world. I’m just a person who wants to get on to the rest of her childless life…

Am I selfish for thinking this?

So…give me any and all thoughts of guardianship, or anything I addressed here, or anything that is germane to the subject.

Mom Shame

My Daughter is 19, so she has come of age with the influencer/vlogger generation. There is many a lifestyle personality that my daughter has followed on YouTube, many a live event she has attended and many a book she has bought.

As with all the things, as she has grown up and gone onto face different challenges, so have these vloggers. One vlogger that she followed for a while has recently become a Mother.

Instead of posting pics of how to decorate your first apartment and mall hauls, this vlogger now shows Mommy/baby things. This is a natural move: do you know how much money there is in baby paraphernalia?

Recently this vlogger posted a video of the home made baby food she had made for her child, who was about a year old I think. Along with the comments about how did you make that food, there were also comments of wow- could you feed that baby a little bit more and if you feed the baby that much they are going to become fat because the quantities she showed feeding her child were considered rather large.

So…

Of course we can ask why the vlogger is sharing their life with us at all, but that’s a silly question to pose in 21st century world where people make their living by streaming pretty much everything they do all day. Vlogging your day to day is a thing.

Voyeurs by nature, people subscribe to these channels. GenZ and Millennials are reaching out to one another through social media. The internet is the community rec center, the church basement. the scouts for the new age.

But with the people who find this just plain entertaining, and the people who want to emulate a lifestyle, you also have the people who want to shoot you down.

Along with a tiny bit of voyeurism comes a tiny bit of mean. People can’t help but be mean to one another. For every positive comment this vlogger received was a negative comment. People interfering with what this Mom is doing.

Just because you have a presence on social media, does it mean that others are allowed to attack you?

In the 21st century, is this how we have learned to treat others who are different than ourselves?

In the 21st century is this how we have learned to treat others who do things differently than we do?

Should we ever be attacking anyone’s personal choice as to how and when they feed their child?

Should we ever be Mom shaming?

Fifty, one hundred years from now, what will history have to say about trolling and online shaming?

Is this the best that we can be?

https://anchor.fm/laover50/episodes/Rent-or-Buy-es19vi

Make it Easy

So we just threw the word happy our of the parental lexicon…

Independent was a word that a few people threw out as a possible substitution, and I think that’s a pretty good choice…

“Yes my dear child. I just want you to be independent.”

I like the sound of it. But what does it mean? And more importantly, how do we guide our child towards independence?

For purposes of our discussion, let’s say that being independent means being self sufficient- knowing what you need and how to achieve it. Being able to take care of yourself. Don’t all parents want to know that their kid knows how to survive?

Well…maybe…

The problem with a kid learning how to become independent is that many parents aren’t thrilled with the idea of their kids being able to exist without them. It makes parents superfluous. One minute they’re parents…the next…nothing…

Let’s throw in a real life example: A few weeks ago, my Sister in Law told my Husband that their Mother was upset with my Husband. (Yes- this is what passes for communication in his family- just look up passive aggressive in the dictionary) Why was MIL upset? Because my husband never asks her for anything. That’s right- he is independent and able to take care of his needs, and his Mother isn’t happy about it. She needs to be needed…

Unfortunately, when you have parents like this, it often skews your thinking. My daughter whined over the weekend about how she wants someone to pick her up from school for Christmas break. FYI- we don’t own a car, and there is a perfectly good train line from DC to NYC. My Husband was beginning to relent, while I made the case that she wasn’t a hobo jumping onto a freight train with her stick and bandana full of possessions hanging off her back. She takes Amtrak- with nice seats and wifi and ability to charge your electronics. Bathroom and snack car. This isn’t exactly slumming it…

My husband was trying to be nice, but he was also trying to make it easy for her. (He was also trying to make her happy, but that’s yesterdays blog) He also likes the thought that she still needs him.

My thought is that she has to learn to get to and fro on her own- it’s part of the learning experience. I want her to know that she can do it. It boosts up your confidence when you learn to do new things- when you figure our how to get by.

Yesterday morning we got a text: my daughter got a great price (yay on cyber Monday deals) on a train ticket home at the perfect time for her to leave school. No one needed to pick her up at school- she would make it home by herself (exactly like she did for Thanksgiving)

Finding a good price. Knowing your schedule. Figuring out how to get home. These are all life skills. These are the skills that lead you towards becoming independent.

Independent is a good thing. It doesn’t mean you don’t need someone anymore. It just means you have the ability to survive on your own. And don’t we all want to know that our kids have the means to survive?

The Worst Parenting Mistake

“I just want you to be happy.”

How many parents have uttered this line?

How many children have heard it?

But….

as parents…

When we say these words, are we setting up our children for a lifetime of disappointment?

What does it mean to be happy?

Tick- tick-tick precious seconds are accumulating as I’m waiting for you to come up with a sufficient answer…

What is happiness? How do we achieve it? Why do we want that one thing, above all others, for our children? What does it really mean when we say we want them to be happy?

First off- is anyone happy all the time? I know I’m not. I broke my favorite mug a few weeks ago. It pissed me off. I was having a conversation with one of my closest people and I said something that annoyed them- neither of us is really happy about that. I could continue with all the other things that recently annoyed me, but you get the gist. We can’t be happy all the time.

And this beats around the bush that I’ve been blogging about for a month: our kids expect to be happy and when something takes work, or doesn’t end up according to plan, they get depressed. They wonder what is wrong with them – they wonder why they can’t be happy…because their parents just want them to be happy…and deep down no kid wants to disappoint their parents…

Some kids don’t look for a job, or a career, or their own apartment, because having to do these things might not make them happy. Who wants to go to work at a specific time every day and do work? That certainly doesn’t make most people happy…

Even when things go right- the partner, the career, the car, they wonder why they are not in a perpetual state of bliss. Their expectation is that, like everything else in their young lives, happiness is supposed to be 24/7/365.

I may not know what happiness is, but I certainly know it’s not 24/7/365.

So why do we say “I just want you to be happy”?

Why don’t we say- ‘I want you to pursue happiness- go for the things that will fulfill you and help you grow and learn. I want you to live a life with few regrets, while knowing that everything comes with a price, whether literal or figurative. I want you to know that it’s OK if there are times when “happy” isn’t your predominant emotion- being happy all the time is too much of an emotional burden.

With all the words in our language- how did we become so focused on HAPPY?

Why don’t we try another word- How about as parents we say:

I just want you to be resilient.

OR

I want you to be happy 50% of the time.

OR

Just be the best you that you can be- in whatever form that takes.

 

Where is the Line

So I blindfolded my daughter, drove her in a white van with dirty windows to a remote spot in the woods. We walked five miles till we were in the center. and then I spun her around ten times. I walked away, instructing her to count to 100, then remove the blindfold. This was her new home.

OR

I drove to Washington DC, a city my daughter loved so much she applied to three separate colleges there. To a school she really wanted to go to and screamed “YES” after receiving her acceptance letter. We drove through a posh neighborhood, and into the gates of her hallowed campus. To her dorm we went, the good dorm that she wanted with a private bathroom. We spent six hours decorating her room with all new things, met her incredibly respectful, sweet and clean roommate. She had a schedule full of her first choice classes, and a relatively inexpensive bill for rental textbooks. This was her new home…

As we continue on with the discussion of the past two days, we have to focus on what we do as parents, what responsibility we have to guide them. Every parent has to decide what is best for their child. Each child is an individual and has to be treated as such. I know my kid. I know that I can give my kid a nudge and she figures out what she needs to do to survive.

But I also realize that some kids can not be pushed quite the same way. Some kids need a little more coddling- it’s just the way they are built. After 18 years, you know who your kid is, what their strengths are and where their weakness lies. As parents we need to help them develop their strengths, and deal with their weakness. I know this is hard. I have been there. How do you help your child develop, strengthen, or enhance their weak points? I know my daughter needs to learn how to survive as an introvert in an extrovert world. This is why I made her stay. Coming home is not going to help her deal with that issue.

But I want you to think about something else. Does your child need the extra attention, or do you as a parent need to perform the extra act? Are you helping a child solely for your own benefit? We’ve all heard of stage mothers, parents who so want their children to be stars because they never were themselves? Parents who are living their lives vicariously through their children? Parents who can not separate from their child? At some point, the umbilical cord must be severed, for both parent and child.

So whether or not you let your child come home from college for a weekend doesn’t matter. What matters is the why. Why does your child want to come home? What ails them? Why do you want them, or not want them to come home? What’s the reasoning?

No good decision was ever made out of fear or guilt. You can talk to your heart, but use your head to make the choice.

PS- On this day I remember the friends, colleagues, classmates and humanity that was lost 18 years ago today, when I was seven months pregnant with my daughter. My thoughts are with those affected by the events of this day. Peace.

 

Why?

Yesterday I told you that I told my daughter that she could not come home from college till Thanksgiving. Some of you came straight out and said I did the right thing. No one said I didn’t do the right thing, but I could tell…..they weren’t thrilled with my answer. And a bunch of people wanted to know “Why”. Why did I say no?

Ok.

Here’s the WHY.

The job of a parent is to teach their child how to live without them. Seriously- you are a successful parent if your child is able to leave the nest and prosper. And by prosper I do not mean make a million dollars, or start Microsoft, or be the President. Prosper means doing things for themselves: having a source of income and an abode and some sort of goal, even if that goal is binging shows on Netflix. Choosing reasonable friends and mates (but yeah- we screw up there 50% of the time, cause no one has a relationship crystal ball- but that’s ok cause they’re out there) Prosper means taking care of your health and home. Sewing a button. Making pasta. Cleaning the toilet. Eating healthy.

That’s the job description: must teach how to clean the grout in the tub and fold a fitted sheet.

That’s all practical of course. Your kid must learn how to do all the things you routinely do. Which means that you do not go to their house and do all those things…

Seriously- don’t do your kids laundry once they move out.

Now, along with the practical comes the emotional. Which is where my decision comes in.

I miss my kid. Of course I do. She spent almost 18 years in the bed down the hall, and way to long in utero before that. She is my debate partner. We recommend books to one another. We go to cultural events together. We had tea together every night so we could talk out our days. So of course I would love her to come home.

But what does coming home accomplish?

What does it really teach her?

Someone suggested that it would reassure her, to be able to know she can come home. But does it really reassure her? Or does it signal that I don’t think she can hack her new life? That it’s OK to run home at the slightest “misfortune” because Mommy will take care of her….

Shouldn’t the goal be to teach her that she can, is totally able, to care for herself?

Which is why I said “No”.

Remember when kids were little: how many band aids did they go through? They were still getting their sea legs, which cause them to fall. Running too fast, doing things they shouldn’t. My daughter would be covered in Dora the Explorer band aids…..Until she learned how to walk more confidently, and learned when to run fast and which situations could be dangerous….then she didn’t need as many band aids. She was solving the root of the problem. Coming home is a band aid. It covers the problem, masks it, but doesn’t really solve what caused the scrape. Coming home is essentially running away. If she is not at school, how is she learning to deal with what ails her at school?

Running away. Do we really want to teach our children to run away from problems? Run away from things that scare them? Emotionally I mean. If Godzilla is running towards you by all means RUN….

Don’t we want our kids to confront what’s in front of them?

Do we want them changing jobs because they don’t like their boss? I mean continually. I had a friend who used to change her job every year because of personality differences. Trust me: that story does not end well.

Do we want our kids giving up on relationships because their is a little bump in the road? While there are clearly times when divorce is necessary, do people give up and walk away a tad too easily?

Do you move because you don’t like your neighbor? (true story- my sister has a friend that did just this recently- and we’re talking selling a house)

So big picture: what lesson do I want to teach my daughter?

I love her. She knows that. Every action she takes dictates that she knows she is loved immeasurably. Her strength, character and resilience show that. I love her, but I am also tough with her. I am her parent, not her friend.

I want her to continue to be strong.

I want her to continue to be confident.

I want her to continue to be resilient.

But she needs to be a few hundred miles away.

Because while I am always there for her, I can’t always be there for her. She has to find me in her heart, not resettle herself in her bedroom down the hall. “Mommy loves you, but you don’t need me anymore. You got this.”

That’s why.

“No You Can’t Come Home”

Ok- this is like a flashback sequence: I gave you a hint in the title as to how this story plays out. Let’s now give you some background…

Text conversation:

D: How are Peter Pan busses

Me: I don’t know. Why (translation IDK Y)

D: I might want to come home on the 21st

Me: No. You can’t come home.

D: You’re not letting me come home?

Me: Nope

D: Seriously?

And the discussion went on like this…..

So- My daughter wanted to come home for a weekend and I said no.

This was truly my Cruella DeVille moment. Telling my daughter she could not come home was akin to making a coat out of puppy skins.

What Mother tells their kid not to come home?

Well, me….

My daughter is homesick. According to my research, about 67% of first year college students are homesick during their first semester. She’s in the average. Most kids are homesick….

So what do we as parents do about it?

Well, I don’t know what other parents do. This appears to be a dirty little secret: there are tons are articles about kids being homesick, and how that is almost the norm, yet if you actually ask people….No one has a homesick child. Everyone has a child who is TOTALLY adjusting. So everyone who actually speaks about this topic is in the lucky 37% of kids who experience no homesickness. The parents who have kids in the 67%- well I guess we’re the silent majority…

And just when I thought parent competitiveness was over, I see it’s found its way of rearing its ugly little head even when your kids are no longer actually residing in your house…

But anyway…

So what do you do with a homesick child?

If you’re me, you tell them that they can’t come home till Thanksgiving.

You tell them that you have to confront your fear, confront the demon that scares you.

You tell them that this is always their home, but yeah, you’re not letting them back in for awhile.

Do you know how horrible this made me feel?

Do you know how I wanted to jump on the train and race down to her? Hop a flight out of LaGuardia and I’d practically be there in two hours…..

I wanted to hug her and tell her that it will be all right. Mommy is here.

And really, I am always here for her….

But I just can’t rush in to fix everything.

I guess this is like that baby sleep method where you let them cry it out and you don’t rush into comfort them. I totally failed at that one. She cried. I took care of her.

But now…..

She cries, but I had to let her.

Am I doing the right thing?

Who knows.

As with all things parent, I am doing what I think is the right course of action. Trying to teach her, and help her grow into adulthood. Letting them go is so hard. My daughter thinks I’m being cruel. And, I guess I am. Sort of. But I hope I’m also teaching her how to be strong, to rely on herself, to be confident.

To be an adult.

The First Fight

“I’d love it if she just knocked on her neighbor’s door and introduced herself.” my Husband said. He’d said this phrase about 15 times during the four days of drop off/parent orientation.

“You’re obsessed with her making friends.” I replied.

“WHY WOULDN’T I BE?! I JUST WANT HER TO BE HAPPY!”

We hadn’t even reached the Jersey Turnpike and we’d already had our first empty nest fight.

Seeing my daughter cry when we said good bye unnerved him. He’d already been sad, and that just undid him. I obviously understand his feelings: after all, she’s my baby too….

But here’s the problem. If you talked to my daughter, she was/is not worried about making friends. She was/is worried about academics. My Daughter is used to being the smart one, the kid who got great grades. Now, well, it’s a different fishbowl. Now every student graduated in the top 10% of their class, they all were 99th percentile in standardized tests, they were all captains and presidents and showered with accolades. She’s most worried that she won’t be able to keep up….that’s why she’s anxious.

The friends thing: first off, my daughter has never been the “popular” girl. But, she had friends, good friends, all the way through school. She had kids that she could rely on, who were solid. She might not be a social butterfly, but she is very able to make acquaintances and friendships. This wasn’t really a worry.

“SHE NEEDS TO GO OUT OF HER COMFORT ZONE.” was the next comment he screamed.

I looked over to him. “She’s in a new city and state. She’s sharing a room with someone she met on Friday. She’s about to take college level classes. She needs to find out where the CVS is. Cleaning her own bathroom. Doing her own laundry. Figuring out how best to organize her time now that everything is different.” I took a deep breath. “Do you think any of that is in her comfort zone?”

He relaxed a little.  “It would still be nice if she went out of her way to meet people.”

Which led me to my next thought, which was clearly a bubble in my head because I didn’t want to engage in the introvert/extravert see saw. Why do people think being an introvert is bad? Why do they want to change us? Why is it bad that my daughter has no interest in knocking on people’s doors?

Why does he think my daughter needs to change?

Why can’t he accept who she is?

As a parent, you need to love and accept your child for who they are. If your child is introverted, you can’t make them change. And obviously, there are a thousand other examples of allowing your kids to nurture their nature. They are who they are: accept them, love them and help them become the best person they can be.

On a side note. My daughter has the greatest roommate. She has been hanging out in the floor common room and met a bunch of nice kids. She contacted a girl she met during the roommate search and is meeting her for coffee. She’s doing fine socially.

Classes began yesterday and so far, so good. Her professors seem nice, though she found out that “Bleak House” is a thousand pages long so she’s not too thrilled about that….

And there you go…..