Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Take a Kid, Leave a Kid Moving Things Around

And with the wave of a wand everything changed again.

I wonder sometimes if other peoples lives are half as chaotic as ours. With four kids between us its bound to be complicated at times, but our life certainly seems to be at a level of chaos well beyond your average family. I thought sending my son away to school was best for him but it really wasn't.
He's been back home since Christmas and I've seen a remarkable improvement in his emotional state. He smiles a lot more and that's good.

At first he walked around with his head down and shoulders slumped, the sort of deep rejection that can only come from feeling like you are no longer loved or wanted. It's been hard, seeing him just totally lose direction like that. He just gave up.

Justin has always been my dreamer, pointing out the possibilities in life. It's been good to see him come back.

It's not pleasant to see any of your children struggling. I knew more than anything he needed to regain his faith in himself. He allowed outside forces to take that from him.

People think that bullying is something that happens outside of a child. It isn't, it happens inside.

My son was not the same child anymore. I can't tell you how I missed him. He's cracking jokes again, telling me about his dreams again. He's starting to find his faith in himself again and it makes a mom happy to see.

Jaid is looking into military school. Justin is going to Job Corps this summer when enrollments reopen. Brooke is just trying to figure out who Brooke is, but she is doing a damn fine job of running a business.

Mystery? She's Mystery. Law school always in her sights. 4.0 GPA, Honors classes. It's coming together.

It became official this week, Jaid turned thirteen. For the next eight months we are the parents of four teenagers. One partway out of the nest and fully on the way to finding herself. One getting ready to fly and more determined than ever. One that is planning to fly far away, and the other planning to fly higher than we ever dreamed.

This next few years will be a wild ride. I am betting on it... We've faced some struggles but we must be doing something right.

So at the moment that is two in the home... One here regularly. In case you were counting.

Disclaimer: Population guaranteed to change without notice.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The First Good-Byes

We haven't had much time together as a whole family this past few years. First, Brooke flew off to Germany to go to school. She came home for the summers, but she was gone for two and a half years.

That first good-bye nearly killed me. Watching her walk away, suddenly very grown up. I'd like to say that I handled it as the most mature of parents would, bravely armed with the knowledge that she was going on a wonderful adventure. I couldn't bear to watch her walk through the security gates so I turned around and caught Sugar's jaw shaking. When my grandmother's jaw shakes all bets are off.

I spent a good part of the next month crying at the drop of a hat. I tried to muck out her room for her, but I just sat in the middle of her room and cried. Her room sat unpacked until we moved into the home we live in now.

Brooke is a Green Day girl, they aren't just her favorite band they mean the whole world to her. And for that first year I had to avoid Green Day totally. While enjoying a birthday dessert run with a friend of mine I broke down in the middle of Applebee's when I heard "Time of Your Life."

Yes, I did learn to handle it better. I guess we all do, we have no choice. My kids are still teenagers, I thought I had a long time to go before empty nest syndrome reared it's ugly head. A lot of mommas are feeling it right now. As babies head of to school big boys and girls and big boys and girls head off to become women and men.

It was a little bit easier to let go of Justin last year and Mystery this year because their dad is a lot closer now. A six hour drive versus half a world. I get to see them fairly regularly, and we can stay in contact. Justin and I even pass notes while he's in class through one of his projects.

Mystery, she's always been my independent one. I haven't heard a lot from her since she went to live with Daddy, but I didn't expect to. She has always been a very busy girl, only her interests have changed with age. Boys are replacing bunnies and school dances are far more interesting than documentaries with mom.

Brooke is 18, but she will be 19 at the end of October. Justin, my only boy will turn 16 just after that. The baby of the family, Mystery, is 13 until May. I was supposed to have a few more years with them, but things just don't work out the way we'd like sometimes.

They are going to grow up one way or another, and I know I can't stop it. In fact that's kind of what we've been working towards all along. What we didn't know is that my husband's little girl would need us even more than my kids did. And we had no way of knowing the chaos that her extended family would bring to us through her.

My husband was never married to her mother, in fact they were never really together. It doesn't take a lot to bring a child into this world. All of this happened a few years before I met him, and I not only knew that he had a child, I knew her mother. Better than my husband did actually. I went to high school with her, and her first husband was my ex-husbands best friend.

I came with baggage too, I met a confirmed bachelor and within a few months he was coming home to a woman, three kids, two dogs, and a mortgage payment. I had just escaped a rape attempt and was not dealing well with it. I wasn't even divorced from my ex husband when we met.

But as prepared as we thought we were, neither of us ever dreamed that her mother would be as involved in our lives as she is now. When Rose was with her, we really only had to deal with her every other week. We heard a few things that worried us, saw a few things too but once it all broke and Rose had to come live with us we got the daily version.

Rose is a good kid, she is trying to work through the things she's experienced. She's come a very long way with us too. Her grades have not only improved, but her skills testing have gone off the charts. Coming up as much as two grades a year. Her speech problems had improved as well.

But then something happens in her moms life that sends her off of the rails. Even living with us full-time, when her moms life becomes unstable everybody elses has to follow. It affects my step-daughter, it affects my marriage, and it affects my kids. We are always doing damage control for something quite beyond our ability to control. And we can do nothing about it.

I miss my husband. I miss my family. But I can't stand feeling like everything is out of control. I had to step away for awhile and clear my head. Try to figure out how to make some for of workable family among us again. I can live without my kids part time, but we still need each other. We have always worked together as a team and I hope in some capacity we always will.

We will be together again as soon as we figure out how to get things back under-control again. Ed and I talk every night, but when the subject of how to fix all of this comes up the line goes dead. No way to control another person, no way to go back in time and change it, no way to make it go away. We have to deal with it... and we know... but the how keeps stumping us.

Two of my kids are in Colorado Springs, My husband and step-daughter are back home, my oldest is back home with them but she can't live with the chaos either, so she has her own camp trailer to live in. I am 8 hours away in Arizona.

No, this is not the family we worked so hard to build at all. Not at all.

Someday I will have to forgive Rose's mother for that, but I do not think that today will be that day. Tomorrow is not looking good either.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Step Parents and Reactive Attachment Disorder

I don’t want to hurt anybody, of that much I am certain. But I did, and this I know. And yes, I hate myself for it. But I didn’t know what else to do. When I figure it out I will let you know.

At this time home is not a happy place. We have a happy marriage. We have a happy family. But our home life has been hijacked by the baby-momma. She is a Dementor.

No matter how hard I try to keep my marriage and my family on keel there is this big dark force just sucking the life right out of us. There are literally times when I am afraid to do or say anything. We just have to try talking some more. Smile and hope it goes away. If we discipline, mommy just makes it all better. Smoothes it over. And makes sure it keeps right on happening.

Or accuses us in court.

A kid gets caught stealing your bras and panties, you should be able to do something. Goes through your private things. Tries to pit one person against another. Lies. Steals. 

My step-daughter has a lot of symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder but shes never received treatment for anything specific. She sees a general counselor that she likes, but there is no diagnosis that gives us a sign. All I know is that it is an ongoing battle with many of the symptoms on the list. We’ve caught her holding pets by the throat. She is seductive with boys, including my son.

I can’t keep smiling and saying don’t wipe boogers on the bathroom wall anymore. You are 12. We know better. I can’t keep ignoring the things that go missing. She has pulled chairs out from behind me, smashed my children's toys to pieces, stolen my private notebooks.

And I don’t want to share my most private spaces and things with anybody but my husband. Come on man, my bras, underwear and socks? And it isn’t because she doesn’t have clothes. She has piles of them and her mother sends trash bags of more clothes every few months. It is that they are not hers. So she wants them. And she admits it.

She eats all of my gluten free food too. I have to keep food in the house that she doesn’t like just so I can eat. Whole gallons of ice cream disappear. Boxes of cookies. And sometimes... we find those half full boxes crammed in the trash. Sandwiches with two bites missing. Apples barely touched. And the stuff we find in her room....

And her mother offers nothing. No money. No discipline. No support. Just grief. She  is just there to make sure we can do nothing about anything. We made her miserable by taking her child and she is bound and determined to make us the same.

And maybe she wins... I don’t know.

I don’t want to be to my breaking point. But the joy and life is being sucked out of my home by someone who doesn’t even live there. All of the things we valued as a family are being sucked out of us. My husband is my best friend. My soul mate. But we just flat from one crisis to another and it never stops. Ed is as lost as I am. Nothing we have tried has really worked.
My kids all moved out. They no longer want to live at home. That kills me. It kills me every single day that I can’t provide a home for my kids that they want to live in. They want to be with mommy, they want to be with Ed, they want to be a family again but everyone just got to their breaking point.

My family is falling apart and all I can do is watch it.

I feel really, really alone in this. And so does he.

And we shouldn’t, we have worked hard to build a strong marriage over the last ten years. It should be Dementor proof, but I’m not so sure anymore. We are all just so tired.

She rewards what we try to punish and punishes what we try to reward.

It is his daughter and if he asked me to choose between him and my children he knows which choice I would make. But he loves me and he would never ask. And I love him so much I can’t ask him to make that choice. He has to choose his child.

So I sent one of my children away, and then another, and finally my little Mystery. They were being exposed to things they didn’t need to be exposed to. Thanks to an older sister with no boundaries, such lovely details as what oral sex tastes like and detailed explanations of sexual abuse have been shared with my children.

I worked hard to raise my children without those influence in their lives and someone else's carelessness as a parent is taking it away from me. I had no choice but to let my kids go. I have no way of bringing them back. I have always, always, always tried to do what is best for my kids and I have to admit that what is best for them is not being with me right now. And now I have sent myself away too.

It kills me every single day.

No more rock star fridays. No more dressing up together at Halloween. My reasons for being have gone somewhere else to live better lives and I can’t do anything about it. Because it’s true. And if I had been the one who was putting them in danger it would be one thing. But it was someone else. And she is putting a huge strain on my marriage too.

My husband, I don’t know where he is. He wasn’t like this before the Dementor took over either. It has just drained the life out of all of us. I know where he is physically, but emotionally? My husband is the love of my life. But I don’t know what to do anymore.

We can’t send his daughter back, we love her too much for that. We all do. She has already seen and experienced way too much. We all have a responsibility to protect her. To keep her safe. And that responsibility is going to last at least another six years.

I don’t know what to do... I have failed. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

25 Ways to Talk So Children Will Listen | Ask Dr. Sears®

25 Ways to Talk So Children Will Listen | Ask Dr. Sears®

There are some excellent pieces of advice here. Some of my favorites...

1. Connect Before You Direct
8. Begin your Directives With "I want."
12, 13, & 14 Speak Developmentally, Socially and Psychologically Correctly and...
24. Use "When You…I Feel…Because…" 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How Habits Begin

I remember being very small when I swore I would never smoke. My grandfather smoked in the truck when we were going out fishing, and I remember that horrible smell. Coughing. Waving my hand in front of my mouth. "I'll never smoke." I must have been five, perhaps six.
Which meant that I kept that promise to myself for about four more years. At least as far as stealing cigarettes went, I wasn't a regular smoker until 16. Once I became a daily smoker, I was a pack a day... at least. For 23 years I smoked non-stop. I quit this April, on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I was going out of town, to a strange place, with no smokers. I had an electric cigarette to use as a pacifier. It was the perfect time to quit.
It was causing health problems (duh). The inside of my mouth was always sore, it hurt to breathe, I coughed all night, I was constantly clearing my throat, and those were the ones I was used to. The flip-flops of my heart were scary though. They got worse the more I smoked, and they scared me enough to give me the push I needed to quit.
For over two months I didn't smoke. Then I gave in once, which became twice, which became a few sneaks a day. I felt so much better without them, but I missed the familiarity. The instant calm. Funny how habits can become so ingrained isn't it? So I am now quitting again. My husband has realized that he has to quit with me.
Even when we know something is not good for us, may even be hurting us... we get used to the comfort. We do it with junk food, we do it with habits, we do it in relationships. We do it as parents. We keep doing things that do not work for us just because they are habit. Because we've grown comfortable in them.
Sometimes parenting is meant to be uncomfortable. Growth is always uncomfortable.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hanging Out With Mom: Bringing Your Kids To Work

I've spent the last few days running the shop with my youngest daughter Mystery. She's thirteen, but she has been helping us run a store since she was in preschool, so it's old hat for her. She is home visiting before school starts. We've missed each other since school got out, so she's insisted on hanging out with me during the day.

My other two kids help run the shop too, and they are awesome at it, but Mystery shows more of an interest in the business end than they do. We got an order of fairy stuff in, and she watched me price the first set. She priced the second set on her own. She's figured out the cash register and how to do the reports. Then she sat next to me and helped me chart my promo work so I could keep track of it.

Friday I tried to get her to stay home but she refused. She really wants to be here and be a part of the business. We decided that the proper music for doing spreadsheets happens to be Black Eyed Peas. A few entries, a few chair grooves, a few more entries, a few lines of song. So it could just be the work environment.

But at thirteen she is a firecracker. She has thought about becoming an attorney for some time, but lately she has been thinking specifically about business law. I have no doubt that she will make it. That's just who she is.
All of my kids are different, anybody who has ever met them comments on it. They act more like adults than children. They discuss politic, religion, and philosophy. They enjoy documentaries and learning programs. Each of them has plans to make the world a better place in their own way.

When Mystery was small she would always tug at my sleeve when we were standing in the check-out line and then point to whatever collection jar happened to be on the counter. "Money for the poor people mommy?" "We are the poor people," I would always reply, then go to work cleaning the change out of my purse. Walking out of the store without dropping something into the jar was out of the question.

When she first began discussing the possibility of becoming an attorney, she said she wanted to help people in court like I do sometimes. I help people get protection orders, fill out paperwork, and teach them how the court system works so they can get through it. I am far from an attorney, but my child still sees that in me.
My son, on the other hand, is a much more entrepreneurial sort. He has already purchased merchandise with his own money to place in the shop. One of his knives has sold. My oldest, and the closest thing to having a clone I could imagine, is the creative mind behind many things in our lives. She is currently working on the new book cover for Sister, Survivor, and will be giving it a first edit when I am done with the final draft. She has the soul of an artist too.

And all three of my children are excellent writers too...

I don't know many other mothers whose kids insist on working in the family business, or who would prefer to hang out with mom over their friends during the summer vacation.

I can't help but wonder what her coworkers will think of her when she is doing legal briefs and chair grooving to the beat in her head, but it worked for Ally McBeal, I guess. If work isn't fun then you aren't doing it right.

I enjoy spending time with my children, and I've always expected more from them intellectually than most parents perhaps. Their grades mean nothing to me, it proves the level of conformity society has pushed upon my children and nothing more. Tests and worksheets tell me nothing of who the child is that I have raised. Instead, it is seeing my children all pitch in to help get the family business off the ground - not expecting payment in return.

It is knowing that even in their teens, all of the talking about being a team is still there in them. Respect, teamwork, and honesty. They still remember.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dear Poor Me Parent,

Your children did not ask to be brought into this world. They did not ask to be brought into your marital troubles. They did not ask to be brought into your divorce drama. They have no business in your dating life at all.

They are children.

You ask your children to put up with your selfishness. Your addictions. Your dysfunctions. Your emotional issues. Then you turn around and talk about how much they owe YOU. Yeah.... no.

They did not come into being by immaculate conception; you did the naughty dance, you had the baby shower, you brought them home. This whole thing was your idea.You couldn't keep your legs closed and the kid had nothing to do with that.

Stop blaming your kid.

The Rest of the World.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Golden Rule: That Means YOU TOO!

Before you do something to somebody else, you are supposed to stop and ask yourself if it is the way you would like that person to treat you. It has been pounded into our brains since we were children. Shouldn't it be second nature by now?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
There is nothing ambiguous about it. There is no room for wiggle. So why do people still think that being the parent gives them an automatic exemption from the Golden Rule? It doesn't.

There are parents out there that don't seem capable of speaking to their children in anything but a hateful tone. The banshee of the neighborhood, they do not scold their children as much as shriek at them. They snivel and snarl about how their children are ungrateful, unmotivated, and downright worthless, and all you can do is shake your head and say, "With parenting like yours, who'd a thunk it?"

I certainly don't want to be screeched at constantly, so it makes no sense to me to yell at my children. Believe me, I have my moments. When I finally blow, I blow big. But beneath every move I make is a general respect. I respect my kids as human beings, distinct and separate from myself. If I screw up, I do my best to fix it, to allow them to tell me that I've hurt them, to offer them an apology.

As it turns out, they are just as human as I am.

It only makes sense that a parent who speaks disrespectfully to their child will have a child that speaks disrespectfully to others. There is no stretch. But you can't tell screaming Mimi that, can you? Nope, in her eyes it is purely the child's fault. Effect and cause. They make me the way that I am.

*Shudders* Some people. Should not. Have children.

The good news is: Karma exists in parenting too.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mommy Rule #326 "How Do We Eat an Elephant?" Homework, Procrastination and Catching-Up

Justin is fifteen, but he has called me twice a night for the last three nights.

Not because he is a momma's boy, which he is *smiles*, but because he felt overwhelmed and needed some direction. I am always Momlette to Justin, so I knew right away something was up when he said... "Mom, I'm just... I'm just soo... urgghhh...."

 "What's up son?"

"I have a whole buttload of schoolwork to do and I'm grounded until I get it done."

Justin you see, likes to procrastinate. A trait I am afraid he learned from his mother. It appeared that 26 assignments was the magic number as to what constitutes a "buttload." Even better, he had three days left in the term.Ouch.

"There is no way I am going to get all of this homework done, and they won't listen to me."  I can hear that tone rising in his voice, the one that is means he is about to launch into panic mode. Years of experience have taught me, don't push him past that point. Once you do, you have lost him.

You have to calm him down first, and come at it from his point of view. So, we step back and pull in Mommy Rule #326, How we eat an elephant.

First we calm down, then we define the problem. The problem is, Justin has always preferred play to work. The consequences are, he now has three days to fix it.

It is a bit harder to do from several hundred miles away than it was when he was here, but I finally convinced him to get all of his school work out and look at it. He needed to get a clear picture of how much work he really had to do, not just the inflated image he had in his mind.

He found nine homework assignments right away that were done, he just hadn't marked them off. In a matter of seconds his task had been reduced by a third. From there he figured the rest out on his own.

"If I divide them up... that only leaves only 5 assignments a day!"

I reminded them that he had done this on his own, as angry as he was about being grounded he was the only person who could fix it.

And he did...

He called me that night to tell me he had made it to his goal of 5 1/2 pages without trouble. He was really pleased with himself and I could hear it in his voice. We even had a few minutes to discuss our favorite topic of ultimate seriousness, Star Wars trivia.

The next night when he called, he was upset again. He had to keep working on his past due school work until it was done, nobody else would let him just do five assignments a day. I waited for him to calm down again. "How do you eat an elephant?" I asked him.

"One bite at a time.." he answered.

He was going to be grounded until the work was done either way, so stressing himself out over it was only hurting him. He brightened again. True, 11 pages still sounded like a lot, but the 5 he could handle. When he called me to check in later that night he was still right on target.

On the last night, I answered the phone to "Hey Momlett!" So I knew right away he was feeling better. "I was just calling for my nightly home work pep talk."

The elephant had grown smaller and smaller, and he was finally feeling confident again.

He knows I know these things because we both have ADHD brains, and what works for the rest of the world doesn't always work for us. It takes a lot more energy for us to accomplish tasks than most people because our brain is always looking for a distraction.

I know what a struggle it is for me to work from home with the chaos that is our life. I have no office, I just move from room to room trying to find a place I can be as distraction free as possible. The bed, the sofa, and more often still the bathroom floor. Even with only the two girls home it can be hard to find a place to allow that focus to sink in.So I totally get where he is coming from.

I have barely learned to fight the distractions over 40 years of practice, so it will take him some time.That is one area I have always been thankful for the co-parents support. Where I am a scatter-brain my co-mom is OCD quality organized. In the time Justin has been with her she has reined in a lot of the areas I struggled with. It's good to know you have support.

Happy Un-grounding Justin, next time - just start with the tail!

PS I got 80%

Thursday, March 1, 2012

“No mommy... I do it by self.” Parenting is Letting Go

Hausrotschwanz Brutpflege 2006-05-24 211

Even before they were born, I knew that there would be things out there that would hurt them, it’s an inevitable part of human existence, but like any parent I still hoped that it was possible to just... you know... protect them from...  


Eighteen years in it hasn't gotten any any easier. From birth onward, parenting is a process of letting go.  Give them roots and give them wings, that’s what we were supposed to do, right?

Yeah,  it sucks.Our children have to grow up and we have to let them. They have their own lives to live. The growing up is the easy part... it's the letting them that gets rough.

Even now as my one and only adult child explores her new grown-up world, I am having a very hard time with the letting go part. I am a mother. I want to protect her now, as much as I did the first time I held her. And she just wants to fly.

As one phase of childhood makes way for the next, both parent and child are forced to adjust. From their first skinned knee to their first broken heart, those hurts will come, and most people will survive those hardships relatively intact. Trying to protect them does no good whatsoever, but would we really be parents if we didn’t try?

I constantly question my parenting, well... I constantly question everything but.. I have more help in some ares than most.

I'm not just raising the three children I brought into this world, I am raising my step-daughter Jade full time as well. We keep having to rehash the same old argument about an adults right to happiness versus their responsibility to keep the children involved in their lives safe, but we don't seem to be getting anywhere with the adults. As a result we have a little girl who has seen and experienced far too much for her age. If trying to keep the other kids from growing up too fast is important to us, trying to keep her age appropriate is crucial.She's not having any of it.

With children ranging in age from 12 to 18, we are in the home stretch now. This is that phase that my young parenting self referred to as “the easy part.”

The naive little fool.

While I certainly do have more parental freedom these days, the kids have new freedoms as well... and it is all new and scary for everyone. I can leave the house a lot faster now than I could in the

A few of my old friends from high school are just starting their families. Their Facebook streams are filled with ultrasound images and proud first moments. I love seeing their children grow up, hearing about their joys and triumphs. I love watching the parents try to memorize each moment of their babies lives as if they can freeze it. They can't. Believe me, we have all tried...

We tried to pay attention, to hold on, to save every second of it too. Cooing, rolling over, sitting up. We watched their eyes light up when they learned something new too. Our heart swelled with pride but at the same time our heart broke just a little too. Each step towards adulthood is another step away from us. Away from the safety of our arms and into the world.

Then last week the daughter of one of my oldest friends announced that she got married. For a moment I was once again convinced that she skipped a few birthdays. The little girl who used to draw pictures of angels for me is a wife now. She will be a good wife, but damn if it wasn't supposed to be another twenty years or so before the possibility of growing up even crossed her mind.

Some are just taking their first steps, some are heading off to college, and some are getting married, and all we can do is watch them grow and let them go.We all say the same thing though: "It just happened so fast..."

I’m not ready to boot mine out yet, but I didn’t have to. Two months after Brooke turned eighteen she came home and said, “My friends and I found a house, and I’m moving out.” Our natural instincts are kicking in. We are getting on each others' nerves... she’s already beginning to hate me for meddling, so I guess it really is all on schedule.

I worry that I forgot to teach her something crucial. My late night checklist of “Things That Could Go Wrong” is in overdrive right now. I don’t get a retake here, what’s done is done. How did that experiment work after all?

In the spirit of honesty though, I must now admit that my daughter is technically only a block and a half away. She still comes over a few times a day. She raids our fridge, uses our washing machine, and hangs out to talk. She just sleeps somewhere else now. Just like that. She is still a momma’s girl; we are still close, but she is becoming what she was meant to be all along. An adult.

Jade, is the youngest and at the same time the oldest. She is headed for adulthood at a dead run and where we had to push my kids towards adulthood, with her we are having a hard time putting on the brakes. She's ready for perfume and makeup and curling irons.We want her back into Spongebob instead of Heartthrob.

Even my baby Mystery is slipping through my fingers. She will turn 13 this year. Officially a teenager. Ouch. Every time I look at her I see the signs of a little girl slipping away and that strange woman sneaking in and taking her place. Her hero isn't Scarlett O'Hara anymore, it's Elphaba Thropp. She doesn't want to be a vet anymore either, now she wants to be an attorney because they still help others but they make better money.

Justin's voice on the phone is not his voice anymore. He’s not a man yet, but... he is. I feel so far away from him and his life. From all of their lives. I am going from being the mom who knew all of their friends and their friends parents to not knowing where they are or what they are doing. Justin is still going to school with his Dad and I miss him. I still can't watch Toy Story without crying, but that's okay... we always have Star Wars.

That shadow above his lip isn't just a shadow anymore. He is taller than me now, and the distance between the tops of our heads keeps growing every time I see him. I knew there would be a day when he would look down upon me, but I didn't really think it would happen, not really. The other day on the phone he lectured me about his big sister. He informed me that she was growing up, and I might not like all of the decisions she is making right now but I couldn't protect her from everything.

He also reminded me that I did a good job, I gave her roots and I gave her wings. I did my job, she made it... she's an adult now.

My oldest moved out...Breathe momma, breathe...

I tell myself that she will flop and flail here and there and I will want to rescue her but she'll come to me when she needs me. If she really needs my help I will be here but now is the time to trust her. To trust all of them.

I have worked so hard to teach them how to make good decisions for a reason. I never wanted them to make the decisions that were right for me, or for their father, or even their future partner, I wanted them to make the decisions that would take them where ever they were meant to be.

I know, deep down they will all be fine. The toddler years just keep coming around again in new forms.

“No mommy... I do it by self.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Twilight, and "good family values"? I'm sorry, but Edward Cullen is a creep.

Like most parents of tweens and older kids, I have heard a great deal about Twilight over the past few years. And now I hear, we can look forward to hearing the whole story again through Edwards eyes. Oh joy.

Even the adults rave about the books and movies. I am a die hard vampire fan so I must admit I was intrigued at first. I've read many of the different views of vampires and there really is something romantic about immortality. 
"Besides", other mothers kept telling me, "it has a great 'family values' message." I gave Twilight a shot, despite my prejudices towards emo guys that glitter. A vampire story is a vampire story after all. Twilight had been sold to me as the greatest thing to come to parenting since chastity belts were outlawed.  

There is nothing new about this story or the way it was told. Good girls have been attracted to the bad boy since the beginning of time, and if you play with a bad boy long enough you usually do get bitten. It only took one movie for me to become positive that Edward and Bella both have a livejournal out there somewhere, and it is filled with emotastic poetry. Teen drama activate!

As adults we are capable of understanding that Twilight is just a fairy tale, but there are twelve year old girls walking up to Robert Pattinson, the actor who plays Edward and asking them to bite them. That's a grip on reality right there.
But...  have to ask am I the only parent out there who was totally creeped out by Twilight? 

"The beautiful and dangerous" Edward watching Bella sleeping? For a vampire who can actually tolerate the sunlight, he spends a lot of time hiding in the shadows and most of that time is spent watching a teenage girl without her knowledge, or consent. Romantic for a vampire, but in real life. That's called stalking.

Edward insults Bella a lot too. He is jealous, needy, and seriously overprotective. Come on, after 110 years of being a teenager you'd think he would have overcome at least a bit of his teen angst.

 In real life a relationship that begins like this ends in abuse, emotional, psychological, and sometimes eventually physical. It ends with a girl giving up all she is to please a man who can't help being who he is.

By all means watch the movies by yourself or with your children, but if your daughters are among the Team Edward worshipers, do them a favor and tell them what really happens when you catch a bad boy. Obsession isn't love, it is lust and lust hurts, sometimes... it even kills.

Whatever values Twilight is teaching our youth, they aren't the values I want in my family.

But... maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"And I'm the strange parent?" Parenting habits that don't make sense.

There are a lot of things we do with our kids that don’t really make much sense to me. From simple things like telling our kids not to talk to strangers and then getting upset with them when they refuse to sit on Santa’s lap, to hitting a child to teach them not to hit.

We send children conflicting messages on a regular basis, and we don’t even realize we are doing it. People call their children brats and then are somehow surprised when they act like one. Some call their kids dumb, some call them lazy, some call them fat. 
When you label a person, they tend to become the label. When we label our children negatively, the negative effects show. When we label them positively, they actually live up to those labels.

Parenting is an art, not a science.

I’ve also never understood the concept of forcing a child to clean their plate, especially when we have such a high rate of obesity in our country. Yes, they need to eat healthy, but that doesn’t mean they need to eat when they aren’t hungry.

Sometimes, rules were meant to be broken. 
Part of the art of parenting is knowing when to bend the rules and when to break them totally. The most fun we have had as a family were the times we broke the rules; the days we ate dessert before dinner, stayed up way past bedtime to do something silly, or took a day off to just go hang out.

Many of us have forgotten what it is like to be a kid. When you look at things from their point of view, you see things you never noticed before. The world can be a very confusing place for a child, and as parents we need to remember that. 
They are people too, and they have a right to be heard just as much as we do. That doesn’t mean we always have to give in, but we can at least take the time to listen to them, to validate their feelings and explain our point of view. 
Most of all, I have never understood why people think we are raising children in the first place. We are raising adults, and we only have 18 years to get it right. If we screw it up, there can be hell to pay. Just something else to think about...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Tough Talks" Articles: Talking to kids about sex and protecting your child from sexual abuse

This week I found out that a woman I know is now dating her third sex offender... that we know of. Typing his name in Google brings up his record as the first four results, it would have taken her all of two seconds to check it, but she says she didn't. It isn't as if she doesn't know they are sex offenders, it is that she doesn't want to know.

There are a lot of things we don't want to know, but pretending they aren't real doesn't make them go away. There isn't a fairy godmother in the world who can make a sex offender not be a sex offender. It's what they do, it's like asking a scorpion not to sting or a spider not to bite.

They might not molest your child... but I wouldn't go poking around just to find out. If you are a parent, you have a responsibility to protect your children from child molesters, and nobody should have to explain this to you. It should be hardwired, but sadly... as soon as I posted something about it online I got several messages from people saying that they know women who seem to date pedophiles exclusively. What gives? I have NO idea.

It only takes a few minutes alone with a predator to change a life forever. If the red flags are there, don't ignore them. It doesn't matter how much you love your partner, if they are a danger to your children and you fail to act then you are just as guilty as they are, and maybe even more so. You chose to bring that child into the world, and you owe that child as safe a passage as possible.

There is very little room in parenting for selfishness when it comes to who will and will not be around your children. It can happen to anybody, once after that, well... as George W. Bush once said...

"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." 

Eventually, your kids are going to have sex. We all know where grand-babies come from, and whether we like the method or not, it happens. It isn't that we want them to remain celibate forever, but any good parent wants to hold it off as long as possible.

Educating your children as well as yourself about sexual predators is just one step along the way. Teaching them about their bodies and their safety every chance you get is the only defense you have, and even then they sometimes get through. The best of mothers have discovered that someone they placed their trust in was not trustworthy. The guilt they suffer is tremendous, but you are dealing with a professional, and to beat them you had better get educated.

When we were kids we had National Geographic and our parents' dirty books. Today's kids have the internet. Anything you want to know is a mere Google search away. Children are becoming exposed to sex at earlier and earlier ages. Sex bracelets, lipstick parties, and sexting might be foreign to you, but if your kids are above the age of 13, they probably know more than you think. They sell thongs for toddlers now, and parents are actually buying them.

Teaching them about the birds and the bees is one of the least looked forward to tasks in the parenting handbook, and most of us want to get it over with as soon as humanly possible. It's our kids... and sex... and... awkward...

I can't come to your house and do it for you, but I can offer you a bit of a helping hand: a pair of articles from the Boshemia's Bohemia archives. Practical parenting tips and ideas for helping you decide what you can do about those great fears for your kids.

Talking to Kids About Sex

Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse