Recalculating

I know the analogy “life is like a journey” can be a tired old cliche, but as a parent, it really is the best metaphor you can use.

crazy-carBe warned, though: this journey is a road trip, and you didn’t pack enough snacks, everyone needs to go to the bathroom exactly 2.36 miles past the last rest area and/or McDonalds (even though you asked “Does anyone need a bathroom break?” long before you reached the exit), someone gets carsick, the GPS isn’t working, and you threw out the old, ripped, mis-folded and mashed-up paper map when you were scrambling through the glovebox looking for napkins.

And naturally, there’s always someone who thinks they know best when it comes to the best route, and/or your family.  Whether it’s your mother, father, pastor, neighbor, pharmacist, plumber, mechanic, or the person who bags your groceries at the market, there are people in your life who don’t know when to keep their advice to themselves.  It’s just like having Siri on 24/7 and you can’t switch her off.  It will happen from the time you announce you’re going to be a parent until well after the kid(s) are older and have started their lives apart from you.

Keep smiling, say “thanks,” and move on.

You owe those people nothing more than that when unsolicited advice is thrown at you, much like when you decide that the scenic route looks far more interesting than the main highway and Siri responds in thamapt frigid voice “Recalculating.”  Yeah, your mother may purse her lips and shake her head when you do things your own way, but she’s not driving this bus, is she?

What happens when we screw up?  (because we all do)  Well, apologize; fix what you can; move on.  Really.  I used to beat myself up about all manner of things.  Not anymore.  Kids have remarkable memories.  Believe me, they’re going to remember far worse and more embarrassing moments, and will happily blurt them out at the most inopportune moments in the future on this trip we call Life.

And guess what?  No one is going to need therapy!  Because “normal” is, after all, just a setting on the dryer.

You’re driving.  At least until the kids are 16, right?  Even if you’re winging it (like me), you’ve got a general destination in mind, and although you might not have the most dicountry-roadrect route mapped, you’re getting there.  In the meantime, let someone else drive once in a while; crank up the tunes and sing along; look out the window; be glad you’re taking the scenic route, and enjoy the ride as much as you possibly can whenever you can.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!drawn heart

A Funny Thing Happened After My Son Left for College….

Last week, I’d written an entirely different blog for this week.  It was about the angst I was feeling as a Mom about whether or not I’d prepared my son enough for Life On His Own at college.  I was certain those feelings would follow me into this next chapter.

But after having dropped him off, I don’t feel that angst anymore.  I am angst-less.

How did that happen?

Well, Z did go off to three weeks of summer camp every year for 7 years — and they weren’t allowed to bring electronic devices, so the only way to keep in touch was by old-fashioned letter writing.  Maybe my brain just thinks we’ve dropped him off at camp…

Perhaps writing about the conflicting emotions here on the blog over the summer was a kind of journal-therapy…

Or maybe laying out what I was feeling and unflinchingly looking at the pesky tear-jerking thoughts helped me work through them by the time it came to say “good-bye”… Not to say there weren’t tears and lots of hugs and “I’ll miss yous,” there were, but not long and protracted.  Although part of that may have been due to pure exhaustion…

(I’m pretty sure I’m not a cold-hearted monster who is incapable of feeling, so we’re just tossing that idea out right now.)

Whatever the reason, I’m ok.  Ask me again next week and that answer may have changed, but for now, I’m good!

My kid was one of the first of my friends’ kids to head off to college this month.  And now those friends and friends of older kids keep asking how I’m doing.  Messages on Facebook encourage me to “hang in there,” texts reassure me “it gets better,” emails remind me to “keep breathing”… Normally, I’d be so grateful for commiseration and encouraging words, but I’m rather confused this time, because I don’t need them right now…

I know most all of us get excited for our kids’ new adventures.  Maybe the excitement I feel for Z starting this new chapter has overwritten the sad “empty nest” feelings for me.  Do I miss him?  Of course.  Is it disorienting not being a part of his everyday life?  You bet.  Do I wistfully walk by his bedroom on the way to my office?  Sure, sometimes (but it is all neat and tidy now with the bed actually made, and I do like that part).

Do I expect that feelings of missing him will ambush me in the coming weeks?  Probably.  I’m prepared with tissues at all times, just in case.

What I do know for sure is that I spent the last 18 years raising a kind, funny, smart, curious person.  He sprouted wings and wanted to use them sooner than a lot of his playmates, and I could either accept this as part of the person I was raising, or squelch the fire that fueled his curiosity.  Frankly, having been squelched a lot myself, I had no desire whatsoever to try and change the course of my son’s trajectory.  So maybe I’ve been preparing myself all along for this giant leap.

That little person turned out to be a pretty terrific young man.  Far from perfect, but pretty amazing all the same.  I trust in that.  I also know without a doubt that he will sometimes fall; he will at some point(s) fail; there is turbulence ahead, and he will need to learn to navigate all of that and more.  I trust I was able to teach him to find, and use, the tools he needs; but above all, I hope he learned to trust in himself, in his absolute capability to deal with what Life brings.  He is resilient, and now he needs to believe in that resiliency.

And here I am, cheering from the sidelines now.  Always.  Some days I feel like I’m flying blind — we’re in uncharted territory: Life After Kid.  I’m not abdicating as his Mom, but he is sovereign now.

Until next Friday, Friends!

Recalculating

I know the analogy “life is like a journey” can be a tired old cliche, but as a parent, it really is the best metaphor you can use.

crazy-carBe warned, though: this journey is a road trip, and you didn’t pack enough snacks, everyone needs to go to the bathroom exactly 2.36 miles past the last rest area and/or McDonalds (even though you asked “Does anyone need a bathroom break?” long before you reached the exit), someone gets carsick, the GPS isn’t working, and you threw out the old, ripped, mis-folded and mashed-up paper map when you were scrambling through the glovebox looking for napkins.

And naturally, there’s always someone who thinks they know best when it comes to the best route, and/or your family.  Whether it’s your mother, father, pastor, neighbor, pharmacist, plumber, mechanic, or the person who bags your groceries at the market, there are people in your life who don’t know when to keep their advice to themselves.  It’s just like having Siri on 24/7 and you can’t switch her off.  It will happen from the time you announce you’re going to be a parent until well after the kid(s) are older and have started their lives apart from you.

Keep smiling, say “thanks,” and move on.

You owe those people nothing more than that when unsolicited advice is thrown at you, much like when you decide that the scenic route looks far more interesting than the main highway and Siri responds in thamapt frigid voice “Recalculating.”  Yeah, your mother may purse her lips and shake her head when you do things your own way, but she’s not driving this bus, is she?

What happens when we screw up?  (because we all do)  Well, apologize; fix what you can; move on.  Really.  I used to beat myself up about all manner of things.  Not anymore.  Kids have remarkable memories.  Believe me, they’re going to remember far worse and more embarrassing moments, and will happily blurt them out at the most inopportune moments in the future on this trip we call Life.

And guess what?  No one is going to need therapy!  Because “normal” is, after all, just a setting on the dryer.

You’re driving.  At least until the kids are 16, right?  Even if you’re winging it (like me), you’ve got a general destination in mind, and although you might not have the most dicountry-roadrect route mapped, you’re getting there.  In the meantime, let someone else drive once in a while; crank up the tunes and sing along; look out the window; be glad you’re taking the scenic route, and enjoy the ride as much as you possibly can whenever you can.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!drawn heart

Galileo, Galileo

Originally published November 3, 2015, this is a look back at where we were… and how far we’ve come on this journey…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~peanuts

For Halloween, we flew out to Ithaca, New York for some grown-up trick or treating with my best girlfriend, E, and her husband, D.

Actually, we really flew out to visit Cornell University with Z; the trick or treating was a bonus. D had done his graduate work at Cornell, so they happily joined us out there (they are also Z’s godparents).

As I’ve said before, we are in the thick of college-shopping.  Although Z is only a junior, we all wanted a better idea of what was out there in the college world so we started earlier this year, and it’s been an adventure from start to almost-finish.  Z has an impressive line-up of colleges he’s narrowed his search down to: out of Big 10the five contenders, four are Big Ten schools here in the Midwest (Northwestern University, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ivy league logoUniversity of Iowa), and an Ivy League in upstate New York (Cornell).  All have astounding physics departments, with equally impressive campuses, housing options, student activities, and research opportunities. They include state schools as well as private; large, small, and medium-sized student bodies.

After each visit, Z declares that university to be his new “favorite.”  We’ve heard that four times now, and I don’t doubt we’ll hear it later this month when we visit the last (for now), Iowa.  T and I are impressed with each of the schools for various reasons, and would be hard-pressed to rank our own favorites (ok, truth be told, T is a die-hard Michigan fan, having done his own graduate work there).  If Z is accepted at all five schools, I don’t envy his position to choose — but what a fantastic problem to have!  I really do feel that whatever decision he makes, it will be a winner for him.

Realistically, do I think he has a shot at the Ivy League?  After visiting, yes.  It’s a long shot, but after listening to the Dean of Admissions and two faculty advisers talk about what they look for in an applicant, I believe my child does, indeed, fit their bill.  Of course I’m biased.  But honestly, I can see where he would be a very good fit there.

What ultimately convinced me was serendipitous: while we were waiting for one of the tours to start on Friday, Z mentioned he wished he could see what a college physics class was like.  One of the student admissions guides overheard him, and said “let’s see what’s going on this afternoon.”  Lo and behold, an Intro to Physics class was scheduled later and Z was invited to show up and sit in!  We re-tooled our itinerary slightly for the rest of the day so he could take advantage of this awesomeness.  So, while T and I caught up on our email and people-watched for a while, Z walked into the giant lecture hall, and concluded he’d entered Heaven.

He LOVED the professor teaching — Z said he was animated, used props, humor, and he felt the prof was TEACHING, not lecturing.  Z caught on right away to the day’s lesson: it’s what he is studying in his AP Physics high school class right now.   He couldn’t stop talking about that visit for the rest of the weekend.

What this taught me wasn’t just about the University itself, but about the course my child has set for himself: it’s the right one.  He is, indeed, head over heels for physics.

CornellAnd it illuminated the truth that the best fit for him will be the university that sees his passion and excitement for the subject matter and research possibilities, realizes he would be a tremendous addition to their college, wants him to become their student on his journey, and will match his passion for learning with their own passion for teaching.

After all the spread sheets and pros and cons lists have been created, after all the hard admissions work has painstakingly been done, and the FAFSA filled out accordingly, what if he isn’t accepted to his first choice, whichever that turns out to be?  I will be disappointed for him and my heart will ache that this is something Mom can’t fix.  But I’ve also learned in the last several years that we all end up where we’re truly supposed to be if we trust in ourselves and take advantage of the choices before us.  If he learns that over the next several years instead of in his 40s and 50s, he’s going to be ahead in this game called Life.

During this process of “college shopping,” we’ve had a lot of fun, and I hope he looks back on these weekends we’ve taken to tour different communities in different states with fondness, if not downright laughter.  I joked at the beginning that we went to Cornell to go trick or treating…well, we made him a deal: we would take all the tours and go to all the meetings he wanted while we were there for the long weekend, and in return, he would be our Designated Driver for a few hours to tour the Finger Lakes wine region, just north of Cornell.  He happily agreed.

vineyardsSo this past weekend, we flew to upstate New York; had a great welcome dinner with E & D; participated in all the talks and tours Admissions offers; visited several Finger Lakes wineries (which is the best kind of grown-up trick or treating); discovered Uncle Joe’s Bar in Ithaca which turned out to be a designated University of Michigan saloon, complete with cowbell and lots of friendly people, and watched UoM win on a big screen on one side of the bar, with the Mets on another (home state crowd not happy with that loss, nor the eventual outcome; our condolences); and all with good friends who are really family.

QueenThe most fun, best moment for me, though, was all five of us in the car belting out the entirety of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the top of our lungs as we barreled through the winding, rolling countryside at dusk on the way back from the wineries with my son driving, and me riding shotgun.  Pure happiness all around.

I don’t know how many more trips like this we’ll have, but I’ll happily take that seat whenever he’ll have me.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

 

But Siri said…

I know the analogy “life is like a journey” can be a tired old cliche, but as a parent, it really is the best metaphor you can use.

crazy-carBe warned: this journey is a road trip, and you didn’t pack enough snacks, everyone needs to go to the bathroom exactly 2.36 miles past the last rest area and/or McDonalds (even though you asked “Does anyone need a bathroom break?” long before you reached the exit), someone gets carsick, the GPS isn’t working, and you threw out the old, ripped, mis-folded and mashed-up paper map when you were scrambling through the glovebox looking for napkins.

And naturally, there’s always someone who thinks they know best when it comes to the best route, and/or your family.  Whether it’s your mother, father, pastor, neighbor, pharmacist, plumber, mechanic, or the person who bags your groceries at the market, there are people in your life who don’t know when to keep their advice to themselves.  It’s just like having Siri on 24/7 and you can’t switch her off.  It will happen from the time you announce you’re going to be a parent until well after the kid(s) are older and have started their lives apart from you.

Keep smiling, say “thanks,” and move on.

You owe those people nothing more than that when unsolicited advice is thrown at you, much like when you decide that the scenic route looks far more interesting than the main highway and Siri responds in thamapt frigid voice “Recalculating.”  Yeah, your mother may purse her lips and shake her head when you do things your own way, but she’s not driving this bus, is she?

What happens when we screw up?  (because we all do)  Well, apologize; fix what you can; move on.  Really.  I used to beat myself up about all manner of things.  Not anymore.  Kids have remarkable memories.  Believe me, they’re going to remember far worse and more embarrassing moments, and will happily blurt them out at the most inopportune moments in the future on this trip we call Life.

And guess what?  No one is going to need therapy!  Because “normal” is, after all, just a setting on the dryer.

You’re driving.  At least until the kids are 16, right?  Even if you’re winging it (likecountry-road me), you’ve got a general destination in mind, and although you might not have the most direct route mapped, you’re getting there.  In the meantime, let someone else drive once in a while; crank up the tunes and sing along; look out the window; be glad you’re taking the scenic route, and enjoy the ride as much as you possibly can whenever you can.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!drawn heart

 

Fairy Godmothers have nothing on Moms

Originally published in November, 2015, I find myself thinking a lot about these wishes again lately…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

fairy godmothers“Sleeping Beauty had three fairy godmothers who bestowed one gift each upon her in the form of a wish — but couldn’t manage to keep the girl away from a spinning wheel in 16 years.

When I was pregnant, I dreamed about what my child would be like: what he/she would look like, sound like, everything.  Of course, we all want our children to be smart and healthy, kind and successful, and SAFE; at the beginning, we tend to think in these broader strokes.

Then, as a new parent, my life was filled with so many new things besides a baby: crib latches, bottle temperatures, learning to fold strollers one-handed while holding the baby and diaper bag in the other, navigating the grocery store half asleep, play-group politics, pediatrician recommendations, my own changing body, and a million things more… I was grateful to just keep up.  Although I never really forgot all those “wishes” for my child, I just never got around to writing it all down.

I say a mother’s wish is worth 100 fairies’.  So here they are, in writing now (give me a break — remember, I said, at the time, I was happy to just keep up).

wishing star

In no particular order, these are the 12 things I most wish for my child:

Kindness.  Above all else.
Understanding.  Of yourself and others.
Integrity.  Do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
Love. Yourself, others, our World.
Health.  Physical, mental, emotional.
Wisdom.  Physical, mental and emotional.                                                                             Resilience.  Always.
Creativity.  In whatever you do, think outside that box… or rectangle, or circle, or parallelogram…
A Sense of wonder. For everything.
Friendship. Be a good friend and you’ll have good friends.
Gratefulness.  For who and what you do have.
Be owned by at least one rescue pet at all times.  It’s good for your soul.

Nobel prizeNaturally there are other things I wish for Z, like nice manners and a Nobel Peace Prize;  actually, those may very well be covered by the list above. But these are things I’ve learned are most important to me as we both grow older, and I hope they are, or become, important to him.

I wonder how different this list would be if I had written it 16 years earlier?

What are your wishes for your children?

Until Friday, Friends. Cheers!

 

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Originally published on August 25, 2015.  As apropo now as ever…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Admit it: you sang the title just now, didn’t you.

I love my son.  Let’s just be clear on that.

But by the time mid-August rolls around, I’ve decided I love the beginning of the school year almost as much.

Dad with cartThose office supply commercials capture the essence perfectly, don’t you think?  From the parent gaily coasting along the aisle on the back of a shopping cart, to the sad, pitiful children, standing by, watching as their Dad effectively loses his mind from pure relief that summer vacation is nearly over.

Dad and kidsIsn’t it great?

Our kids don’t understand.  They won’t — unless and until they become parents themselves.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home parent or a parent working outside the home: by the time summer is well underway, you find yourself going through the calendar (many, many times) counting the number of days until the bell rings.

I love our family vacations when we’re able to get away.  But they’re FAMILY vacations — we ALL get to relax (more or less) then.  The kid may be “on vacation” from school the rest of the time, but the adults here are back to work.  Trying to keep another person busy and entertained is another whole job unto itself.  Forget about getting anything else actually accomplished.

Even a teen — old enough to dress and feed himself, but apparently not old enough to understand that 12 hours in front of a screen probably isn’t the healthiest way to go — surrenders to the idea that brains are on hiatus over the summer.  I’m tired of taking away gadget privileges for spending every waking hour with them.  When does self-policing kick in?  Age 30?

No matter how many times I tell my son “It’s good to be bored once in a while,” he doesn’t believe me.  In this age of instant access to all sorts of information and entertainment, being bored is akin to the spinny circle of death on a computer screen (cue the screaming and agonizing and gnashing of teeth).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I look forward to the beginning of the new school year because then I have other adults (ie, teachers and coaches) on board with me keeping the kid’s brain from turning to mush.  We get back to a SCHEDULE where EVERYONE (even the teenager) knows what is expected and when (even if he claims the contrary).

mom jumping for joyBut I think it’s mostly this:  even more important than my teen having a schedule is ME having a schedule:  I know exactly how much time I have before the “I’m hungry/there’s nothing in the house to eat/can I watch TV/where’s my iPad charger/why do I have to take the garbage out/my room IS clean/I have too much homework” griping begins.  I know exactly how much I can get done during the school hours, and I know how I need to structure my day and my work schedule to take advantage of the optimum quiet time BTA (Before Teen Arrives).  Even when I worked outside the house in an office miles away, I was besieged by telephone calls and texts once 3:12pm rolled around — the moment he walked in the door from the bus stop.

Even when I leave lists of chores to be finished by dinner time, I still hear “I’m bored” once in a while.  At those times, I’ll “save” my work and put the computer to sleep, and sit down with my teen child.  Sometimes that plaintive tone best suited for a 6-year-old comes through in the 16-year-old.  I’m not sure, but I think that’s more “Mom, I need you.”

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but he seems happier when we’ve sat together and talked about his day, or avoided talking about his day all together.  I can pick up on the cues enough to know when he wants to skip a certain subject.  Sometimes I’ll fix us a light snack as he sits at the kitchen counter, talking; me asking questions along the way, sometimes he asks the questions.  It can be 10 minutes or half an hour.  But somewhere along the line, these breaks have become very important to both of us.  I can see his shoulders relax, he smiles more quickly, and becomes animated while telling me about what happened during chem lab or at the lunch table that day.

Sometimes, when the snack is finished and we’ve talked about everything we want to at that time, a “sigh” will escape.  That’s usually me.  Z will look at me and smile, give me a hug, and go back upstairs or downstairs (depending on mood) to work on the “too much” homework.  I’ll go back to my computer and open the most recent project.  We both work until it’s time for dinner.  At that point, we’ve settled back into our day and managed (usually) to accomplish something, and we feel good.  The laughter comes easy, sharing the rest of our day is fun, and it’s a pleasure for all of us to be back in the same room together.

There is actual research to support the idea that when people spend a portion of their day apart, coming back together is far more pleasurable.  Maybe that’s why summer break doesn’t always feel like a vacation:  maybe there’s too much togetherness.  No apart time.  Everyone knows what everyone else is doing all day.  There’s not much to talk about then.

futileSo come on, First Day of School!  Hurry up and get here!  I really, REALLY want to appreciate the absence of my teenager!

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

Standing on this precipice

Dear Z,

Wasn’t I just writing about your 16th birthday?

Somehow, a whole year full of ups and downs and ins and outs and every-which-ways has passed, and I now find myself writing as you turn 17.

Seventeen, more than any age, looks like a precipice.  You have obtained that driving license; you’ve visited colleges; you’ve taken the ACT, the SAT, and you worked hard to bring up an already stellar GPA; you’ve traveled abroad; you are in the midst of your first “serious” relationship; and you’re about to be a high school senior.  All of these experiences, and more, have led you to this cliff’s edge.

But don’t be alarmed!  This cliff is offering you a unique perspective on where you’ve been and the infinite ways to go from here!  On this path you’ve seen the best and the worst of people.  Now you know what to look for.  On this path, you have seen beauty unparalleled, and ugliness you hope never to see again.  Now you know what to look for.  This path has been smooth and bumpy along the way (for both of us); and you’ve learned the smoothest path isn’t always the wisest; but sometimes it’s ok to “coast” and put down your burdens for a while, too.

You’ve seen first-hand what integrity really means, and I see you striving to live up to that idea.  I’ve seen you rage against injustice, and I pray it won’t harden you.  Watching your sense of humor develop has been a trip and a half, and I hope it serves you well in all your years ahead (it’s a super-power we share).  Your passion for learning inspires me every single day, and I’m so excited to see you spread those wings you’ve been testing…

…and jump.

Yes, jump.  Get a running start and leap off this cliff, spread those wings, and see where and how far they take you.

This time, unlike others, you’ll be doing it by yourself.

I’ll be watching from the cliff, always.  Sometimes holding my breath, other times cheering wildly.  I’ll desperately want to jump to follow you when I see an ill wind coming your way, but I won’t.  I will be here, when you need me to be.  I will be here to throw you a rope if you need one.  And my home will always be yours, even when you have a place of your own.  Anywhere my heart is, you are already there.

There are so many people in this world who love you ~ some you’ve never even met.  And there are even more who will grow to love you from this point on.  These are people I may never meet, but I hope you’ll tell me about them.  And I hope you cherish them.  Cherish the hell out of the people who cherish you, ok?  Keep your heart open, but guard it.  Because that, my child, is your greatest asset, your greatest gift.  It is what will keep you aloft.  Your very great big heart.

I have been so incredibly lucky to give you part of my heart, and be given a piece of yours in return ~ that is what has kept me on the wing all these years together.

Fly, be free to continue your journey to be anything and everything.  In the meantime, remember: I love you mostest.  You are my greatest treasure.    Always and forever.

~ Mamadrawn heart

 

Push me pull you

happy people“Adolescence is perhaps nature’s way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest.” ~ Karen Savage and Patricia Adams

We are currently in the throes of “I am an adult, I can do whatever I want / I want you to do everything for me.”  And I can’t keep up.

When I give Z space, I’m “uncaring” and “insensitive.”  When I ask what’s up, I’m “intrusive” and “over-protective.”  He especially hates that before he leaves the house, T or I will ask Who, Where, When: the rule at our house is that someone else always knows who you’re with, where you’ll be, and when to expect you home (a.k.a. “curfew” for him).  He flips out every time we ask.  E-V-E-R-Y T-I-M-E.  I’ve started telling Z what the blogger Robert Brault tells his kids:  “If I seem obsessed to always know where you’ve been, it is because my DNA will be found at the scene.”  Z fails to see the humor — or truth — in this.

Apparently, I am supposed to intuit when he is about to run out of shampoo.  The kid doesn’t have to share a bathroom with “Mom,” so I’m not ever in his shower.  He has his own shampoo.  Except when he doesn’t.  And then it’s my fault because “those are the things I’m supposed to keep track of”… except when I’m not. (because if I venture into his bathroom, I am “intruding on his privacy.”)

dirty laundryEveryone at our house does his/her own laundry.  It’s been that way for five years, and it’s never been an issue.  But suddenly it’s my fault when Z doesn’t have clean underwear or the particular pair of jeans he wanted to wear out on a date with his girlfriend of one month and life is SO unfair because HE has to do his own laundry and WHY can’t anyone help him out once in a while…. He apparently hasn’t figured out where the clean sheets and towels come from which magically appear in the linen closet.

I’m still trying to figure out how it’s my fault that he’s overwrought about a friend who has seemed distant lately.  I’ve never even met this person, how do I know what the problem is?  So I ask him to tell me about it.  He says he’s worried about this friend, but he doesn’t want to go into it.  Thinking as a parent, I ask if something really bad has happened, a la “Is everyone ok?”  Massive eye roll.  Huge exasperated sigh.  Both designed to let me know I am being “stupid”.  So then “to keep Mom from freaking out” (remember: with teens it’s all or nothing), he goes on at great length about this current disaster.  I do my best to try and keep up.

“At fourteen you don’t need sickness or death for tragedy.” ~ Jessamyn West

OlivierOr sixteen, apparently, either.  The theater gene may have skipped my kid, but Sir Laurence Olivier himself has NOTHING on Z’s Drama Kingmanship.  I never knew what “gnashing of teeth” really was until I experienced watching it up close and personal with a teen.  EVERYTHING is either awesome or awful.  No in between.

So after he’s finished with his tragic monologue about this friend, and then stares at me, I take this as my cue to empathize.  “Wow, sometimes friendships are so hard, right?” I say, completely sincerely.  But apparently that was THE WRONG answer.  “You just don’t get it, Mom!” he wails.  I try again.  Still wrong.  I offer a suggestion that he write a letter to this friend, telling her how much he values their friendship, and how hurt he feels when she blows him off.  He says “What kind of a solution is that?”  I ask more questions, I offer other suggestions about how to get through to this friend, and Z tells me I’m still not “getting it.”  After about 1/2 an hour, he’s yelling and clearly frustrated, the “argument” starts to go in circles, and I get dizzy.  At this push me pull youpoint, I either A) very calmly say it’s getting late and maybe a good night’s sleep will make it all a little clearer in the morning, or B) lose it and shriek “What do you want from me?!?”  It’s about 50/50.  Sometimes talking with him is akin to the llama-like Push Me Pull You from Dr. Doolittle: you can’t get anywhere.

“Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.” ~ Author Unknown

Or more.

Let’s face it:  I won’t survive him through to 18.  In the next two years, I’m going to age well past 100, and then there’s no turning back.  I scramble around in the corners of my memories, trying to remember what it was like to feel like a teenager.  Like the pain of childbirth, however, the memories of having those feelings are faint or non-existent. (I am of the theory that if we remembered either, the human race would have died out a long time ago.  Seriously: who in their RIGHT MIND would voluntarily go through either if you remembered exactly what it was like the first time?).

 “The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.” ~ Raymond Duncan

So why do we parents need to stick around until they’re 18?  I mean, they know everything as early as 12, right?  Let’s just say “so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu” until they’ve graduated and get real jobs and have no one to blame for not having clean underwear except themselves.

rainbow2And yet, sometimes a small miracle occurs when you least expect it.

Yesterday, Z handed me a folded sheet of paper off the printer asking quickly, and with his eyes averted, if I would “take a look at this.”  He practically sprinted into the kitchen without waiting for a reply.

I unfolded the paper.  “Dear S,” it began.  “Your friendship means a lot to me, but I need to tell you how you’ve hurt my feelings when you blow me off in the hallway…”

Maybe we hang around for those mystical, magical times they acknowledge that, perhaps, they really do need us once in a while after all.

Until Tuesday, Friends.  Cheers!drawn heart

 

 

 

Free to a good home

An “oldie” but a goodie….

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I have a bone to pick with whomever designed human beings:  who believed having a menopausal woman and a teenager living in the same house at the same time was a good idea?

I had my child later than the norm: I was 35 when Z was born.  And that was a good thing because I would have been a terrible parent in my 20s.  I have always known that (although I do wish I had the energy I had back then).  But I’m certainly not the only one having children at 35 or beyond.  So what’s with the design flaw?

IMG_1168I love my child.  I do.  Really.  I’m pretty sure.  Let me check and get back to you on that.

This week has been one that makes me think an ad on Craig’s list to sell the 16-year-old doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all.  Hell, I’ll give him away.  For some reason, everything to him is magnified for the worst at least tenfold lately:

He’s going to perish from “all the homework.”  At most he’s spent 42 minutes a night on it so far.

I asked him to change the sheets on his bed.  It’s been a week since I asked.  You don’t want to know how long the current ones have been in residence.  Clean sheets are still sitting on his dresser.  According to him, I’m too controlling.  Yeah, kid: I also control your access to the Internet in this house.  Remember that.

IMG_1370I (gently) reminded him to practice piano after he promised he was going to take it more seriously this year.  He not-at-all-gently stomped up the stairs to his room.

He gets the privilege to drive to school on days we have a second car available, but suddenly he’s not happy about which car he gets to take.  I did offer a second choice, which was not driving at all.  He did not see the humor.

He just found out that the ACT is the morning after he wanted to go to a rock concert in the city and I said “School comes first.” He hasn’t spoken to me since, which actually isn’t a bad thing right now.

I don’t recognize this spoiled brat at all.  This is not how I raised him.

What happens to the teenage brain on hormonal overload?  Why do they think this kind of behavior is acceptable?  More importantly, when does it stop?

I have friends who say “Oh, the nice kid comes back eventually.  Usually around age 20.”  I know they’re trying to be supportive, but holy crap, I don’t know if I’ll last that long.  At least not without dealing with my kid in a manner in which society may decide it’s time for Dana to go away for a while.

IMG_1291Because I don’t look good in Jailhouse Orange or Asylum White, I decided to dig around to see what I could find to help me hold on.  In her article Are Teenage Brains Really Different From Adult Brains?, Molly Edmonds states, “In adults, various parts of the brain work together to evaluate choices, make decisions and act accordingly in each situation. The teenage brain doesn’t appear to work like this.”

Duh.

She goes on to say that “The brain’s remote control is the prefrontal cortex, a section of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions. This section of the brain also helps people understand one another.”

I also found out it is also the absolute last section of the brain to develop.

That explains a lot.

Add to this the hormonal changes at work, and it’s a wonder any of us lived to see 20: the adolescent brain pours out adrenal stress hormones, sex hormones, and growth hormones, which in turn influence brain development, and not always for the better. Testosterone increases to 10 times the previous amounts in adolescent boys.

In other words, our kids’ brains are a hot mess.

Of course, I can’t say that mine is much better.

Being in menopause is an interesting experience (aside from the hot flashes, night sweats, and the mood swings).  According to neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, MD, “Before menopause, a woman’s hormones encourage her to avoid conflict. Our estrogenized brain circuits cause us to respond to stress with nurturing activities that are intended to protect our relationships.”  In other words, from puberty to menopause, a woman walks a fine line between making sure relationships are steady, and tries to keep anger or aggression dialed down. And that urge doesn’t IMG_1383stop until the hormone supply that fuels it is cut off during menopause.  Brizendine continues, “As the ratio of testosterone to estrogen rises, the anger pathways in a woman’s brain become more like a man’s. Now she gets angry, whereas before she may have just bitten her tongue. At the very least, she’ll stand up for herself and say, “I’m not doing that anymore.”

Wow.  That explains why those little old ladies are so feisty.  They’re working out the lifetime of pent-up “niceness”!

So, in a nutshell:  here is my teenage son, feeling the surge of hormones flooding his brain and pretty much incapable of understanding adults; and here am I, experiencing the drain of hormones, leaving me less likely to put up with his crappy hormonal attitude.

Great combination.  Like bleach and vinegar.  Or drinking and driving.  Or Bonnie and Clyde.

These are the odds we face everyday.  I think I know what secret ingredient must be present in people: magic, pure and simple.  It’s the only explanation as to why we’ve survived this long.

Until Friday, Friends.  Cheers!