Tag Archives: parenting

Bringing in the Reinforcements 

In the last few weeks I’ve shared a link with three different people, and it occurred to me others may benefit from it. No, it’s not the secret to landing a coveted limited edition of the retro Nintendo gaming system coming out this fall, the SNES. What? I know fair number of gamers and this is what they talk about. You keep track of the Kardashians, and I keep track of gaming minutia. Also, sadly, it’s not a secret website where legally foolproof impeachment information is being collected against the Cheeto flea. That’s just a personal fantasy of mine. A girl can dream while she’s fighting for truth, justice and the American way. 

It’s the website of the Aging Life Care Association. If you are middle aged, you are most likely dealing with aging parent issues. You might also be lucky enough to have kids, so you get to be the sandwich generation. Unfortunately that does not come with fries and a pickle, but you get serious bragging rights and no one should question your drinking habits. 

There’s plenty of information about how to find care for kids, probably too much. But for aging parents? Not so much. Unlike kids, which you can throw into a reasonably clean, safe daycare situation and they will be ok, each parent situation is so very different and complex. Plus these are fully formed adults who rightfully don’t take kindly to “Because I said so,” even if they said it to you. Or maybe because they said it to you. 

There’s no manual to this, but there are these amazing people called geriatric care managers, and you can find one on the website, which covers all the states. They can help you in all sorts of ways, even if it’s just listening to what the issues are and make suggestions. They generally know the resources available in your area, and can point to other experts you will need in this adventure: elder affairs lawyers, house cleaners, companions. The women we hired also come to my mom’s doctor appointments and help us synthesize the information. 

Of course you need to do your homework and interview them to find one you think best fits with your family situation. And when you do, it’s a great relief to be heard by someone who’s experienced and say, yes, I get. Here’s how I can help. 

So, that’s my public service announcement. This week I’m off to the kid’s college orientation, staying in a dorm, no less, so I should have plenty of funny things to tell you next week. Or at least something funny after a few glasses of wine. Don’t worry, I’ll work it for you guys. I’ve got to go now and order a side of fries and a pickle. 

Photo credit: http://www.centerforworklife.com/stuck-in-the-middle/

The Santa Liar

I posted this last year and am posting it again with an update. My now 16-year-old and I were about to get out of the car to go Christmas shopping, and he brought up a joke list of things he was holding against me. Well, at least I think it was a joke; I guess only time will tell. It included me telling him Santa wasn’t real, not taking him to a Toys R Us before the age of 10, and not letting him have Fruit Rollups as a kid. He’s clearly not old enough to know the much bigger things he should be holding against me, and I’m not telling him. My friends have all been bought off to stay silent, so I should be good until he goes to college.

I said I wasn’t sorry about the Fruit Rollups, but was definitely sorry for the Toys R Us and Santa. For the record we took him to small, independently owned toy stores, so it wasn’t like he never went into a toy store. I just had a thing against the very BLUE and very PINK isles at Toys R US, and its public-meltdown-inducing size: both his and mine. But that’s a other blog.

I told him the shortened version of this story below–that I hadn’t really understood how to pull it off since I don’t remember believing in Santa, and he answered that it was society’s re-enforcement of the whole Santa thing that was to blame, not me. I guess that educational toy thing actually worked. He also couldn’t really remember how old he was, so we both agreed there most likely hadn’t been any permanent damage. And there you are, years of massive mom guilt dismissed in a two-minute talk and a laugh. Thank god I wrote this before I knew he hadn’t been scarred for life. There’s no blog in that. Enjoy.

One Christmas morning, I woke to the sound of footsteps bounding down the stairs and an implosion of anxiety. I’d forgotten to fill my then-four-year-old’s stocking from Santa Claus. Heart pounding, I went into super mommy mode: grabbed the bag of stuffers (at least I remembered to buy them!), flew down the stairs with ninja stealth speed, motioned behind my son’s back to my mother to stall him with cute grandma chatter, thanked the universe he was not the kind of kid who raced right to the presents, dumped the goods in the stocking, and then wandered back into the kitchen with a guilt-induced nonchalance perfected during my teenage years.

“So, should we see what Santa brought?” I asked, only slightly out of breath.

“Yeah!” my son answered and off he went.

“I can’t wait until he stops believing,” I whispered to my mom. “I just can’t get the hang of this!”

My mother just shrugged, unsympathetic to the fact that it was her decision about Christmas when I was a kid that had led to this madness. At some point when I was very young, she got tired of missing the Christmas gift opening fun because she was in the kitchen cooking dinner. So one year she declared we’d open our gifts on Christmas Eve. My three older siblings were no doubt hip to the truth about Santa at that point, but I was young enough that to this day I don’t have memories of believing in Santa, although I surely must have. I mostly remember feeling lucky that we got to open our presents earlier than everyone else I knew. I could count on my grandparents to get me something good—traditionally Santa’s territory. Add to this the fact that we didn’t fill stockings—either from each other or Santa—and you can perhaps begin to see how recreating the whole Santa myth thing for my son was a DIY project, made all the more difficult because I’m a terrible liar. Big lies, little lies, doesn’t matter. I have no poker face, and when asked a direct question, like, say, “Is Santa Claus real?” I will crumble.

I averted the stocking crisis, but this was my next big dread. The Santa Claus question.  I marveled at all the other families I knew who celebrated Christmas. How they had no trouble at all telling their kids Santa is real—through all the stages, from the tentative, “I’ve heard rumors from the other kids but I don’t  believe them, so please confirm,” to the “I’m 13, so you can stop pretending now.”

I knew I had a few years before I really had to sweat it, but by the time Lucas was in fourth grade, the pressure mounted. My son is very logical and smart, and so he started wondering about the logistics earlier than other kids. He didn’t just ask straight out if Santa was real, which would be hard, but also easily deflected with a quick “Yes!” and redirect. Rather, he asked a ton of ancillary questions in trying to make the logistics match the seemingly impossible feat of going around the world in 24 hours. Of course there are a host of newer animated Christmas shows that try to answer that very question—and they invariably involve very high tech equipment with Mission Impossible movie style antics. The ancillary questions could be evaded, but I didn’t realize they were actually zeroing on the “big” question and softening me up like a criminal in a bad 70s good cop/bad cop show. The fact that I could evade them or turn the question back on him, “So how do you think the reindeer can fly?” only encouraged me to let my guard down, relax, think I had another year to quiz other parents, read up on the internet, figure out how the hell to do this…and then it happened.

The topic hadn’t been mentioned in weeks, and I was distracted with something else when he asked: “Mom, is Santo real?” Wide-eyed and paralyzed like a woodchuck just before it’s going to become road kill, I paused. Somehow I’d hoped when he finally asked, I’d be able to discern in his voice where along the continuum he was in the belief—the beginning of the end? Half and half? Not believing, but still wishing to? I strained in vain to hear the undertones, and my mind raced over the previous conversations we’d had. I came to this horrible, terribly flawed decision: He’s smart, he’s logical, he will be hurt in the future when he knows I lied to him right now, and he seems ready to know the truth. Otherwise why would he ask? I told you I was no good at this.

“He’s not real, sweetie,” I said. His crushed whisper “He’s not?” and his sudden fierce tears slammed into me like an 18-wheeler. Holy crap, what had I done? I backpeddled like a person holding her promised soul away from Satan. I have no idea what I really said, but in my mind it was a lame version of, I was just kidding, of course he’s real, mommy made a really, really, really bad joke. The tears stopped, but it was horrifying. That was the beginning of the end. I think his belief lasted one more year after that, and then it was done. He still likes Christmas, so there doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage. At least for him. I still twitch a little when I fill his stocking, And I try not to think about the lies I may have to tell if there are any future grandkids. Better work on my poker face.

Some Post-Muthah’s Day Thoughts

I know Mother’s Day was last week, but I was busy with Jesus Christ Superstar, and as I’m a muthah 365 days a year, I didn’t feel the need to rush. Also, there is so much Mother’s Day lovers and haters hoopla now on the internet, I’m only just now poking my head out over the motherhood sandbagged front line to see if it’s safe. A ceasefire seems to have been called. At least until May 2016 or the next “Lean In to Tiger Mother Hidden Dragon” book.

I hold on to things, I admit it. It’s not my best trait, but there it is. When my son was about four, all I wanted to do for Mother’s Day was go to IHOP for breakfast. That’s it. But my kid being four, he wasn’t really into it. I got that time-honored whiny lament, “There’s a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, but when is it Kid’s Day?” To which every parent on the planet will say, “Every day is effin’ kid’s day, you little S.O.B.!” But when your kid is four and has an overdeveloped sense of fairness based in concrete words, it’s hard to explain. I should have stayed home and made myself breakfast (screw everyone else, it’s MY day!) and enjoyed myself. But that seemed too much like giving in to my kid’s complaining, so what’s the right thing to do? I have no idea, but it definitely was not what I ended up doing—drag us all to IHOP, wait for 45 minutes to sit down, and then have a silent, crabby breakfast, while my kid refused to eat anything. I know, right about now my parent’s generation is shaking their heads, and everyone who parents better than I do is rolling eyeballs and running to a computer to write their new blog, “10 Things Today’s Parent Are Doing Completely, Utterly Wrong, Please Arrest Them.” You’ll have to forgive my choices, I get confused a lot because I’m either being accused of being too permissive or I’m not being protective enough; honestly, it’s hard to keep track.

But I digress.

So that Mother’s Day was pretty much a disaster. Then my then-mother-in-law moved to be closer to us, so Mother’s Day became focused mostly on her and my own mother. I was more the coordinator for celebrating the senior mothers, and that was OK. Because honestly, every year all I could think about was that miserable hour and a half spent trying to have breakfast and being painfully reminded that mothering is hard. And perhaps it’s even harder on that day when you’re supposed to be “honored,” but more often than not you’re glaring at your incredibly ungrateful offspring over a giant stack of cooling pancakes and congealed bacon.

It was my coworker who set me straight. Near Mother’s Day  a number of years ago, but a decent number of years after “The IHOP Incident,” I was recounting said incident and explaining why I didn’t really like to make Mother’s day plans. My coworker, also a mother, waited a moment, then looked me in the eye and said, “Lucas was four. You gotta let that go.” And she was right. The story had taken over every opportunity to do something different.

But then I got divorced, and there’s nothing more awkward than the years of  pre-during-post divorce Mothers’ Days. This year I was finally able to at least contemplate a baggage-free Mother’s Day, and when another coworker suggested a trip to the beach for ice cream, it sounded perfect. We used to live around the corner from the beach, and now we live two miles away, and you know how that goes. I know people who travel hours to get to the beach want to slap me right now, and you’d be absolutely right to do so, which made it all the more reason to go.

On Friday before Mother’s Day, my son said his sci-fi appreciating English teacher recommend a movie, “Ex Machina.” I’d read a review of it in the newspaper (how old school of me, I know) and thought it sounded cool. Then because I seem more inclined to read reviews and not get my ass up and out to actually see the movie, I promptly forgot all about it. But Lucas was up for seeing a movie with his old ma, so that’s what we did, and then went to the beach for ice cream. Perfect.

That’s the Facebook version.

The real version is we went to the movie (which I highly recommend if you’re into movies that look at the morality of creating an artificial intelligence in a mind-twisting way) and then we had a brief but significant discussion about the ending and the consequences of the characters’ actions. Anyone with a teenager will understand that is like winning the parental lottery. Significant, meaningful discussion. About emotions. With a teen. Yeah. Then we went to the beach for ice cream , and by that I mean we crawled 5 miles an hour looking for a parking space. We found a 15-minute one, pulled over got the ice cream and made it back to the car in 14 minutes. Then we pulled out and proceeded to crawl 5 miles an hour to the end of the beach and then headed home. I did get to see and smell the beach and had ice cream with my kid with nary a whine or glare. Perfect.

Photo credit: Sanctuary Yoga 

The Santa Liar

One Christmas morning more than 10 years ago, I woke to the sound of footsteps bounding down the stairs and an implosion of anxiety. I’d forgotten to fill my then-four-year-old’s stocking from Santa Claus. Heart pounding, I went into super mommy mode: grabbed the bag of stuffers, flew down the stairs with ninja stealth speed, motioned behind my son’s back to my mother to stall him with cute grandma chatter, thanked the universe he was not the kind of kid who raced right to the presents, dumped the goods in the stocking, and then wandered back into the kitchen with a guilt-induced nonchalance perfected during my teenage years.

“So, should we see what Santa brought?” I asked, only slightly out of breath.

“Yeah!” my son answered and off he went.

“I can’t wait until he stops believing,” I whispered to my mom. “I just can’t get the hang of this!”

My mother just shrugged, unsympathetic to the fact that it was her decision about Christmas when I was a kid that had led to this madness. At some point when I was very young, she got tired of missing the Christmas gift opening fun because she was in the kitchen cooking dinner. So one year she declared we’d open our gifts on Christmas Eve. My three older siblings were no doubt hip to the truth about Santa at that point, but I was young enough that to this day I don’t have memories of believing in Santa, although I surely must have. I mostly remember feeling lucky that we got to open our presents earlier than everyone else I knew. That I could count on my grandparents to get me something good—traditionally Santa’s territory. Add to this the fact that we didn’t fill stockings—either from each other or Santa—and you can perhaps begin to see how recreating the whole Santa myth thing for my son was a DIY project, made all the more difficult because I’m a terrible liar. Big lies, little lies, doesn’t matter. I have no poker face and when asked a direct question, like, say, “Is Santa Claus real?” I will crumble.

I averted the stocking crisis, but this was my next big dread. The Santa Claus question.  I marveled at all the other families I knew who celebrated Christmas. How they had no trouble at all telling their kids Santa is real—through all the stages, from the tentative, “I’ve heard rumors from the other kids but I don’t  believe them, so please confirm,” to the “I’m 13, so you can stop pretending now.”

I knew I had a few years before I really had to sweat it, but by the time Lucas was in fourth grade, the pressure mounted. In addition to my inability to tell a lie, my son is very logical and smart, and so he started wondering about the logistics earlier than other kids. He didn’t just ask straight out if Santa was real, which would be hard but also easily deflected with a quick “Yes!” and redirect. Rather, he asked a ton of ancillary questions in trying to make the logistics match the seemingly impossible feat of going around the world in 24 hours. Of course there are a host of newer animated Christmas shows that try to answer that very question—and they invariably involve very high tech equipment with Mission Impossible movie style antics. The ancillary questions could be evaded, but I didn’t realize they were actually zeroing on the “big” question and softening me up like a criminal in a  bad 70s good cop, bad cop show. The fact that I could evade them or turn the question back on him, “So how do you think the reindeer can fly?” only encouraged me to let my guard down, relax, think I had another year to quiz other parents, read up on the internet, figure out how the hell to do this…and then it happened. The topic hadn’t been mentioned in weeks, and I was distracted with something else when he asked: “Mom, is Santo real?” Wide-eyed and paralyzed like a woodchuck just before it’s going to become road kill, I paused. Somehow I’d hoped when he finally asked, I’d be able to discern in his voice where along the continuum he was in the belief—the beginning of the end? Half and half? Not believing, but still wishing to? I strained in vain to hear the undertones and my mind raced over the previous conversations we’d had. I came to this horrible, terribly flawed decision: He’s smart, he’s logical, he will be hurt in the future when he knows I lied to him right now, and he seems ready to know the truth. Otherwise why would he ask? I told you I was no good at this.

“He’s not real, sweetie,” I said. His crushed whisper “He’s not?” and his sudden fierce tears slammed into me like an 18-wheeler. Holy crap, what had I done? I backpeddled like a person backing away their promised soul from Satan. I have no idea what I really said, but in my mind it was a lame version of I was just kidding, of course he’s real, mommy made a really, really, really bad joke. The tears stopped, but it was horrifying. That was the beginning of the end. I think his belief lasted one more year after that, and then it was done. He still likes Christmas, so there doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage. At least for him. I still twitch a little when I fill his stocking, And I try not to think about the lies I may have to tell any future grandkids. Better work on my poker face. .

People Who Forget History Are Doomed to Have a Crazy Homework Assignment

Yesterday evening, I was just settling in to polish the draft of today’s blog about fun with Craigslist, when my son came home early from his Dad’s. At first I was psyched because that often means he finished his homework early. And then I saw his face. It went beyond normal teen indifference to downright morose. Uh-oh, there’s trouble in Homework City. With no prodding (also a bad sign) he said he’d been feeling bad all weekend about a history essay assignment. So much for my superior parenting skills – I’d just thought he was in a classic teen bad mood. He had to read two original, dense articles published in academic journals in the late 1940s, one calling for peace with the Soviet Union and one calling for containment. He had to outline each article, then choose a side, and write an essay using one of the articles as a source. He’d been at it for over an hour and had barely gotten though a page and a half of the first article. I saw the despair on his face and looked at the blinking lights on my laptop. I took a deep breath and closed it.

Moving quickly into efficient mom mode, I told him brightly that he could do this, and I would help. I assumed the issue was his tendencies towards perfection and detail. Math and science are easier for him, and in those subjects perfection and being detailed is useful. In writing, though, perfection is like Superman’s Kryptonite. So feeling the return of my parenting A game – one might even say overconfidence – I took a look. As predicted, the outline was highly detailed, with a maelstrom of roman numerals, letters, and numbers. I barely started to tell him that he just needed to highlight the main ideas of the article (In my mind, I was already triumphantly wielding that essential college tool, the highlighter, like Excalibur) when he showed me the teacher’s outline instructions. The happy, free-spirited highlighter got ripped unceremoniously from me. My son was actually following the instructions. For each paragraph (whether it was three sentences or 20) he had to write the main idea (roman numeral), then the main points (A, B, D), then examples of the main points  (1,2,3). I really wanted to head to the unopened bottle of wine on the counter whispering my name. But even I could see this would require sobriety. Did I mention I hate the word “rubric”?

Now, I started to panic. Yes, he started this monstrosity way too late, but I learned long ago that finger-pointing just makes him fold in on himself, and then I have to feel guilt over both the pointing and the folding. Better to stick it in my back pocket, and then vigilantly pester him every weekend, “Got any history homework? You don’t want to repeat the Soviet Union essay do you?”

Much like the Soviet regime, which I learned about from the containment article, we needed to brutally ramp up production, only we’d be sacrificing that insanely detailed outline instead of the Russian population. See? We already have learned from history. He’s an auditory kid, so I read the paragraphs aloud and we talked through summarizing the main ideas and he wrote those down: no main points, no examples. It still took nearly three hours. It was close to midnight, nearly two hours past my bedtime and past any time my brain can actually work. I desperately wanted to go to bed, but then he gave me a big hug and thanked me, saying he couldn’t have done it without me. Damn that kid and his gratitude! I could see from his face that he needed me to hang around a bit longer for moral support as he started the essay. I stayed up another 30 minutes, floating in an out of consciousness. until his essay was well under way. Ah well, that’s how the Communism crumbles.