Tag Archives: children

21 Because I Didn’t Kill Him

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My youngest son just turned 21 this past week. He’s officially and legally an adult because of me. Because I didn’t sell him to a tribe of travelling gypsies when he was a toddler; because I didn’t let that pack of wolves raise him through the early years; because when he was a teenager I’d already missed the point that I could just drop him off at the fire station no questions asked; because he is the child my own parents wished upon me and I already know all his tricks so, yes, he has survived to adulthood. You’re welcome.

Now at last, the child who has, for all these years, driven me to drink is old enough to buy me that drink. Except he’d probably have to borrow a few bucks from me to cover the bar tab but whatever. He is the factual proof of the enduring grace of a merciful God, because without that, I would have probably killed him a long time ago. He has always been that kid who would jump off the roof in Superman pajamas, who never passed up an opportunity to explode something, tested the coverage on my health insurance, and to this day believes that rules are not directives to be followed but dictates to be challenged and broken.

Without this child, I would have undoubtedly and irresponsibly squandered away the money I’ve spent on broken phones, broken bones, broken eye glasses, broken cars and broken windows on ridiculous things like tropical vacations or furniture without broken springs, backs and legs. I would never have developed a close, cooperative relationship (think 12-Step Support Group) with grade school teachers who had to deeply examine their career choice after a year with my son. His third grade teacher never returned to the classroom and his fourth grade teacher has my vote for canonization.

I can only think that 21 years ago I must have prayed for patience, because

God has given me endless opportunity to learn it with this kid – now a young man. And this very impressive young man has also taught me through his example to love abundantly, deeply and with every fiber; to charge forward fearlessly; to show tolerance unquestioningly but to question everything else; and to live life passionately.

It has been an honor and a blessing to be his mom. Happy Birthday, Tom!

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Mom and the Man

JackFour years ago, he graduated from high school. Four days ago, he graduated from college. I thought I couldn’t be more proud of my oldest son as when he boldly and confidently marched himself into his Kindergarten class without so much as a look back at me; not until he boldly and confidently marched across a stage to accept a high school diploma. Well, paint me ignorant because neither matched seeing him pause mid-handshake with the president of the university, diploma in the other hand, while a photographer captured that moment he became a college graduate.

And so the washing machine that is my life hits the spin cycle again. You’d think I’d get used to this. You’d think.

What I’m realizing about being a parent, now that my babies are turning into adult people is, if you do it right, they go away. Suddenly, that seems really messed up! If you invest your heart, you’re life’s allotment of patience, a small financial fortune, and any hope of developing a solid sleep pattern, your reward is to see the back of their heads as they charge off boldly and confidently into their lives. Just when you finally get them to the point that you really want to hang around them, they leave! So messed up.

But, too, if you really do it right, you give them a phone. It’s like one of those tracking devices they put on dorsal fins of orcas. Even as your kids get all adult-y, they’ll still use that phone to call you about the really important things in their lives: How long does it take for hard-boiled eggs? What do bedbugs look like? Where do you get pants altered? Yes, your role in their lives is basically to be their personal Google search, but that’s okay. It means they can handle the big things in their lives themselves.

So as my oldest spreads his big, strong wings to fly, I watch the back of his head as he marches off to do big things. He’s bolder and more confident than ever, but I know, too, he’ll glance back. When he does, I’ll tell him hard-boiled eggs take about 12 minutes, bedbugs look like little apple seeds, the dry cleaner can alter the pants, and I’ll always be here, always proud, always loving the man he’s become.

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Pint Size Panhandlers

panhandlingParents, when you jokingly told your kids to go play in traffic because summer is wearing thin and so are your nerves, did you not realize they thought you meant it? While in Houston this past weekend, I was stopped at two different, very busy intersections in two different parts of town and encountered children begging among the cars. These kids, who ranged from maybe 7-years old to mid-teens, were going car to car with football helmets asking for money. No responsible adults were anywhere to be seen. I’m guessing there are no responsible adults anywhere to be seen in their lives period. What the heck, people?!

And so my rant begins. First of all, there is not one single microscopic fiber of my being that has birthed children that will let me encourage, support or condone this. One of these boys was barely tall enough to see in the window of the cars which made it pretty difficult to see him, especially when he started darting through the cars to get to the median when the light changed. How difficult would it be to stuff one of them into a car as traffic started moving and that child never be seen again? Seems like prime pickings for human trafficking to me, but I suppose I’m just an over-protective fatalist, right?

All that aside, not for one minute did I believe these kids were collecting money for a youth football team, maybe because I want to live in a world where there is no such youth sports league that would send children into heavy traffic to raise money. Bottom line, the kids were just begging. Stop me if this is an insane idea, but, since they’re obviously not actually playing football, maybe they could spend some of their time earning money working at a job. Crazy, huh?

If a little kid rang my doorbell and wanted to use my bucket, my soap, my water and my hose to wash my car, I’d pay him $10 to do it. I’d go $20 if he was big enough to wax it, too. If a kid rang my doorbell and said he’d do whatever job I’d give him to earn a little money, I’d invent work for him. But whoever taught these kids to go beg in traffic or even permitted it should be flogged. Rant over.

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Apology to My Appliances

washerDear Kenmore Elite Washer and Dryer, I am so sorry. I understand that there are limits to your capacity and capabilities to perform your set functions, but I can’t tell my college students not to come home with a half-semester’s worth of dirty laundry. Of course, you and I have developed a machine-human relationship built on respect and understanding that, obviously, in their naïve youthfulness, they don’t quite get. I try not to overload you and you try not to eat single socks. For us, it works. They, however, have strange ideas. Young people are like that.

First of all, I sort clothes. Whites, colors, jeans, towels, delicates – you get it. It’s like an adult Sesame Street® game where you match all the things that are alike. If nothing else, this is a great way to keep tighty-whities from being tighty-denim blues. So maybe college students don’t actually get that. To them, sorting is “wash” or “throw away.” One load. One love. And whereas I try to not overtax the machine, they believe if you can still force the door closed, you’re good to go. My dear Kenmores, I can only apologize.

To the French-door, freezer underneath refrigerator, I appreciate your efforts to work overtime. I do understand that it is more difficult to maintain a consistent temperature when the doors stand open for long periods of time. And yes, I realize, too, that there was a lot of food in there, but maybe there were just too many choices. Although, by the end of the relatively brief visit, you and the pantry looked like all battalions of the Syrian Army had just come through on a supply raid. I promise to reward your consistency and patience by restocking as soon as I liquidate my 401K.

You have to realize, my prized and well-loved appliances, that college students just aren’t like you. They have no easy-to-understand manual that lets you trouble-shoot problems as they arise. There is certainly no warranty or protection plan. There are no YouTube videos that explain step-by-step how to go back to the original factory settings. Trust me, I checked!

The good news for you – although not so much for me – is that the college students seem to only migrate through seasonally. I’ve already scheduled the technician for your tune-ups. And thank you for your service.

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Mowing: #1 Parenting Mistake

IMG_0070As I have just recently graduated my last child out of public schools with no interaction with CPS, the court system, or Federal Law Enforcement Officials, I feel I have credibility to pass along advice to parents coming along behind me. While I believe that half the fun of parenting is discovering new and better ways to screw up your kids and ruin their lives, these are tips to keep them from screwing up yours.

Big Parenting Mistake #1: Teaching your children to mow the yard. Do this and you’re setting yourself up for disaster. After a couple of summers, you’ll be fat and lazy, sitting on the porch with an ice cold watching them work like rented mules. Next thing you know, they’ll graduate from high school and go to college, leaving your much older, fatter, lazier self alone to push the mower. Don’t think you’ll pay the neighbor kids to mow because you’re paying college tuition, so you can’t afford those things.

Do not let your children learn to drive. Driver’s training is Big Parenting Mistake #2. Sure, those first few times they run to the store for you on their own is great, but then they start realizing they have freedom. This is a dangerous thing in a child. Suddenly, it will occur to them that they can drive other places besides the store, like out of state. Then one day they get in the car, drive away and don’t come home to mow the yard. That’s going to hit you especially hard if you’ve already screwed up and made Mistake #1. Plus, they took your car.

Have you allowed your children to start becoming free-thinking, independent people? Wow. You’ve just made Big Parenting Mistake #3. This almost completely guarantees that your children are going to screw up your life. Count on them wanting to think for themselves, be independent and not stay home to mow your yard. Probably with your car.

Children with no skills, ambition or transportation are more likely to stick around and take care of you in your old age. They’ll gladly heat frozen pizzas, apply bunion cream and pluck the hairs out of your withered, old chin until you die. And with the money you save not paying college tuition or financing a new car, you can pay someone to mow your yard.

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Our First Holiday Without Him

tgivingThis Thanksgiving, I joined the countless other forgotten, unloved parents who raised ungrateful, thoughtless children who have the unthinkable audacity to grow up, go away to school, get lives of their own and forget to come home for major holidays. (Insert pathetic sob here.) That’s right, my college student did not spend Thanksgiving Day with us. I always knew one day he’d break our hearts. Instead of being here within the clawing grasp of our loving arms, he went to Toronto instead.

Despite pointing out that he’d have plenty of time to hang out with his friends and see the world after we were dead, he went off anyway. So we cried. Just a little. We can only have small crying fits as crying upsets the dog. And the dog is really old, probably just one upset away from the Rainbow Bridge. Not that it matters, because Buster is so old he probably doesn’t remember that we even have a rotten son. Unfortunately, the rest of us aren’t that old and will likely die of a broken heart long before we can get that old. Not that this matters to anyone in Toronto.

Oh sure, he tried to sort of make it better by coming home for a few days before his little adventure. This was probably an attempt to get us use to what the future holds for us: the days when he’ll speed past our nursing home and honk twice, too busy to actually stop in and wipe the Ensure® off our trembling chins. Never the less, we’ll still be telling the nursing staff what a good son he is in our thin, failing voice, the whole time hoping we haven’t been dumped in the next facility to be investigated by Channel 11 for health code violations.

Honestly, I blame myself. It was me, after all, that raised him to be independent, to jump on opportunity when he sees it, and to chase down every adventure. And I’m not too proud, though, to say I was wrong. Those were bad parenting decisions on my part. Therefore, I think it’s now on him to realize that, forget that whole independent thing, and be home with me every chance he gets. There are millions of kids still living at home with mom, refusing to be launched! Why, oh why, did I get the one that won’t land?! (Insert big sigh here.)

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Moms, Guns & the YMCA

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To the woman parked in the Astro minivan next to me at the YMCA, try to remember what I told you: This is why God invented wine! Poor dear was having one of “those days.” Anyone who’s been in possession of a child for more than six hours knows what “those days” are. She was just sitting in her van when I went into the gym, and she was still sitting there when I came back out. In her van. Windows up. Sitting.

This seemed sort of strange, so I tapped on the window and asked if she was okay, pointing out that you really don’t get the benefits of your workout if you don’t actually get out of the vehicle and go inside. She said she wasn’t there to work out. She was hiding. Okay, that was alarming. But, she reassured me it wasn’t her that was in danger. Her toddler, on the other hand, was pushing his limits. The identified toddler was home with dad. And mom was just hiding in her van in the parking lot.

I use to “hide” in the parking lot of the high school. It was a clever enough disguise; anyone driving up would assume I was there to pick up my child. In fact, I was sitting there reminding myself that one day my child would actually go to high school if we both survived that particularly challenging day. So hang in there minivan mom!

To the YMCA, thank you for putting the sign on the front window in three languages explaining that fire arms and weapons of any kind were not allowed in the gym. This gives me a greater sense of safety for those times when I realize I still have another 15 minutes left on the treadmill and start screaming, “Are you kidding?! Can someone please just shoot me!” that someone won’t actually do that. Despite the level of conviction that goes into the delivery of that statement at the time, I probably don’t really want to be gunned down at the YMCA.

If you think about it, this is probably why minivan mom chose that parking lot. Right there on the window is a reminder that, as much as you think you’d like to kill your kids – and we’ve all thought it (usually more than once) – it’s frowned upon. At least at the Y.

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No Do-Overs

010In just a few shockingly short days, my oldest son will graduate from high school. It brings on a spin cycle of emotions and memories and moments when I’m not sure I can breathe. Throughout the run up to this major life event, I have learned a few key things that might be helpful to others who are in the same boat or see the boat pulling into the harbor in the next few years. If this is a been-there-done-that for you, see if you don’t back me up on this.

First of all, if you’ve never been involved in community theater, do that now. You’re going to have to learn to be an actor. For example, you’ll need to act like you’re not having your heart scooped out of your chest with a grapefruit spoon all the time – last school dance, last birthday at home, graduation ceremonies, college acceptance letters. You have to act convincingly like you’re really ok with this black hole vacancy that’s going to move in when your baby moves out.

Consider magician as your new career field. It’ll come in handy when you need to magically produce cash for prom, grad night parties, announcements, dorm deposits, tuition payments, and, oh by the way, “I outgrew my dress clothes last week” so throw in a new suit and shoes. Magician Mom will benefit from a little mind reading to know when this young adult is feeling more adult or a little too young for such a big world. Not to mention, you’re the one who will magically make all the details of this transition happen because your soon-to-be-graduate is far too caught up in finals, friends and fun.

Then, prepare to be baffled. I’m constantly baffled at how we went from chicken nuggets and nap time to charging off to conquer the world in just a few minutes. It was only minutes, right? And why is that as soon as they start becoming these really cool people that you actually want to be around, they leave? Why don’t they go off to college when they’re teething or colicky or in that horrible hormonal stage that renders them unrecognizable? Just when you’ve gotten them turned into great people, they move out.

Is it too late to rethink raising that baby into a strong, intelligent, independent young man who is ready to spread his wings and fly? Probably no do-overs at this point, huh? Then all I can do is hold my breath and watch him soar! Go get ’em. Jack!

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