Tag Archives: Parenting

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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Ash Bashing

A burned, half-eaten biscuit, with a few crumbs, on a white background.I don’t know what it is where you grew up, but at my childhood school, Grandparents’ Day meant bringing your parents’ elderly living parents to school. Alive. You could even bring an older person who wasn’t necessarily related to you but filled that role of a grandparent in your life. The key element being that they were actually still alive. One girl in Davis, California brought her grandfather to school to share with her friends, except she’d baked his cremated ashes into cookies and passed them out.

What happened to the idea of respecting your elders? Maybe it’s a bigger issue to me now that I’m tipping into that elder category myself. While I loved my grandma more than anything on earth and I do really love a good chocolate chip cookie, combining the two does not magnify the love for or greatness of either no matter what angle you look at it. I love endangered baby harp seals. I love lasagna. That does not mean that I want to combine the two into an ill-gotten, macabre casserole to share with unsuspecting friends.

What makes it all even weirder, there were kids that ate the cookies knowing that Grandpa was an ingredient! One of those students, Andy Knox, said that despite containing “tiny grey flecks”, there was no way to tell it was human remains. “If you ever ate sand as a kid, you know, you can kind of feel it crunching in between your teeth, so there was a little tiny bit of that.” Okay, remember that kid’s name. If he ever runs for office, do not vote for him no matter who the other choice is.

Investigating police officers had to figure out what laws cover baking deceased human remains into food and tricking people into eating them. Is this a food and beverage violation? I don’t know, but scientists say that despite how distasteful in every possible way this is, there was no risk to the cookie eaters.

First you have Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards snorting his father’s ashes with way too much cocaine (Seriously. Google it.) and now this. What happened to the idea of Rest in Peace. That’s peace as in peaceful and leave me alone once I’m dead. Not piece of your next recipe. Lord! Kids these days!

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It’s a Party. Period.

throwing-a-period-party-1280x960I got an invitation to a Period Party. As a writer – well, in the loosest interpretation of that word – I thought I’d been invited to a fun little soiree involving punctuation and editing marks. My brain was so busy trying to decide which red gel pen I’d take as a hostess gift that it took a while to realize this wasn’t what the invitation was at all. I’d actually been invited to a party to “Celebrate and Welcome” a ten-year old girl into womanhood.

Maybe it’s because I raised boys. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but I honestly thought it was a joke. But no, for some bizarro reason, Period Parties are a thing. Now, I don’t want to be indelicate here, but as I run the memory reel back several decades to when I started my period, I don’t remember wanting to have a big, public party that included neighbor ladies I barely knew.

No, I was mortified at the realization that I was being forced against my will towards adulthood (I recognize now, a wise instinct) and that my credibility as a hard-core Tomboy was going to be increasingly compromised. To make it all worse, my older brother cemented my mortification in place by teasing me unmercifully. Poor thing, he had such little practical experience with PMS, but that’d come later. Basically, happy, carefree life as I’d known it was officially over. This was a reason to sob in my room, not throw a party.

While the struggle to overcome my curiosity to witness firsthand what must surely be an indication of the fall of our society, I’m going to find a polite way to decline the invitation. That there simply is no party-appropriate wrapping paper for whatever impossible gift I might find (what the heck do you even take to such a party), I know myself well enough to admit I’d never get through the event without making way too many inappropriate jokes. Let’s blame that back on my brother.

Instead, I think I’ll throw myself a menopause party. I’ll invite all my friends who will show up in comfortable clothes, bring lots of wine, fight for the best spot under the ceiling fan, and collectively not care about what anyone else has to say about it. And it will be the best party ever. Period.

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Family Court in Session

family courtIn this trough between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, there is no better time to take a look at some examples of beautiful, happy families in their natural habitat: the courtroom. Parents are busy suing their children while the kids are getting lawyered up to go after their parents. Tell me, Hallmark, how are you going to handle this fine kettle of smelly family fish?

In St. Louis, 17-year old Anthony Dwight is suing his biological parents because he was born white. Did this boy skip Biology class in school? Exactly why would he expect his very white, Midwestern parents to produce anything but a white child? But yet he wants to hold them responsible for their “selfish desire to bring another white child into this world,” which, I’m sure, no one regrets right now more than they do. Of course, this is nothing that $20,000 to pay for the treatment to turn his skin color to “dark black” wouldn’t cure. Maybe they just need to turn his behind a bright red.

And Michael Rotondo. THIRTY YEARS OLD and his parents had to get a court order to have him removed from their couch after eight years! I’m guessing they already tried throwing his Xbox into the front yard so when he frantically ran out there to reclaim it they could lock the doors and bar the windows. This college educated, deadbeat dad then whined in court that he didn’t have money for moving boxes so he couldn’t leave. I don’t know about the liquor stores in New York, but around these parts, you can pick up some nice, sturdy boxes for free.

Since I’m always looking for the silver lining, I’m ready to jump on the opportunity presenting itself here! I am going to hang out a lawyer shingle for my new firm, “Grow the Heck Up Legal Services.” I’m not sure what white Anthony Dwight is paying his lawyer (where did he get that money?), but I’ll represent his parents for free. That I’ve never been to law school is beside the point. I’ll simply show up in court and throw out the GROW THE HECK UP defense. Same with Michael Rotondo: Grow the Heck Up! Case closed.

Ultimately, though, the way to avoid these situations all together is, when you have the choice, just raise hogs instead.

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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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Sheets Happen

Dorm roomAfter nearly two months of living in his college dorm room, my youngest son proudly sent me a text message (because you know college kids can’t actually dial a phone and talk on it, they text), and he proudly declared that he had actually washed his sheets … for the first time. As a mother with at least a marginal sense of parental responsibility, I wasn’t sure if I should be overwhelmed with a sense of “Where oh where did I go wrong” or actually proud that I got this text at the end of September and not March.

I try to place it on a scale of what are normal ranges for college freshman. On one end of the spectrum, I know his roommate is still living out of the suitcase he showed up with. At least my kid has his clothes on hangers. Okay, they were on hangars when I left him at the beginning of the semester, so in my mind, they’re on hangers. Just give me this delusion, will you? On the other end, there are the dorm dwellers with beds that would make a military drill sergeant misty-eyed. Of course, those are the kids who also have mothers driving to campus regularly to pick up laundry and drop off lunch. (I can’t even type that idea without cringing.) I guess that makes him pretty normal.

I’m reasonably certain that he has done laundry since he’s been gone despite the failure to include the bed sheets… reasonably certain, but not wholly positive. Which is why, a few weeks in, I sent a care package with socks and underwear, just in case. He’s probably too old for CPS to take him into custody for parental neglect, but, at the same time, I try to keep up appearances of being a good mother.

So I sent a reply to his text asking if he’d also gotten the sheets back onto the bed. And he had. I mean, to clarify, they were piled up on the bed with the rest of the laundry, so that sort of counts. I’m not sure if the bed was ever actually made again, and, honestly, I didn’t pursue it past there. As a parent, you have to chalk the wins when you can and let go of the rest. He has clean sheets – I’m a happy mom.

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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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And Then There Were None

Jean___Thomas2Mom and Tom2In just a few days, my tenure as a grade-school parent ends. Despite those times when we just weren’t sure if it would really happen, my youngest son will graduate from high school – We hope. Although, there is still time. Not until I actually hear his name called and the diploma put in his hand, will I breathe. That’s the same time his counselor will stop eating Valium like LifeSavers, the principal will stop considering a career change, and his first period teacher will look up and think, “Oh! That’s who that kid is. His face isn’t familiar.”

I’ve always said he is the child my parents wished upon me. This is the kid that would have qualified us for the elite Navy Seals special ops supreme command of Parenthood if such a thing existed. He has made us battle ready for any level of mischief, mishap, or outrageous improbability. While they say it takes a village to raise a child, I disagree. In this case, it takes a village, a fully functioning medical/surgical facility, an offshore bank, several high level negotiators, a contact at the United Nations, a building permit, and friends with “connections.”

Then just about the time I think I’m on the top of my parenthood game, he’s leaving. He never listened when I told him to clean the bathroom, wash denim separately, or mow the lawn. But when I told him to dream big and chase after it, he listened to that! I pushed him to take harder classes and do his homework on time. Of course, he never did that. But when I push him to be independent, smart and self-sufficient, he’s all over it. What the heck?!

So it seems I have worked myself out of a job — a job with rotten pay, long hours and amazing benefits. It’s a job I have loved more than anything else and one I must have done right. The last little bird in the nest is spreading huge, strong, powerful wings that will let him soar to places beyond what either of us could have dreamed.

And just as he did when he marched off to Kindergarten, he’s not looking back. If he did, he’d see the endless pride on my face and my heart in my hands. He’s going to be great! And I’ll be okay, too.

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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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