Posts Tagged ‘teens’

Who…me?

Monday, April 7, 2014
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I recently wrote a short piece about ordering The Total Transformation Program after watching a 30-minute infomercial on TV. When the package arrived, I felt a pang of guilt, because my daughters are well behaved and they give us a world of happiness that I’m almost embarrassed to admit. They’ve done nothing wrong to prompt this research project, but I like to anticipate what may happen next.  I plan disasters you see, and I’m convinced teenagers turn into the spawn of Satan by the time they turn 15.

So, I’m preparing to dance with the devil herself.

As I cracked open the instructions (more demanding than a one room school teacher), I discovered that parents who order this disciplinary guide have serious troubles at home. If you have a rude, crude, obnoxious, violent, defiant child sleeping under your roof, then The Total Transformation Program better be on your bedside table next to the King James.  But what if your child (the age bracket begins at age five) has a couple of quirks — such as playing the victim too often, or playing the politician to say all the things you expect him or her to believe, just to get out of trouble?

I know.  I got scared, too.  I felt like I’d hired a lawyer to find potential lawsuits in my life. I didn’t have any problems when I sat down at the kitchen counter, but after I got up, I felt like we needed a family intervention.

But wait! There’s more!

So one of my daughters plays the victim and the other plays politics.  What about me?

Dr. Lehman, the Total Transformation Program therapist, reveals that I’m the biggest problem of all. ME!  In fact, it’s amazing that my daughters have gotten this far in life.

I’m a Perfectionist, a Screamer, and at times, a Martyr.  I tend to blame myself more than anyone or anything else (see Perfectionist), but this time, I’m taking Dad down with me.  He’s a Bottomless Pocket, Ticket-Punching, Savior.

Sticks and stones  may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…much.

THE BOOK, which is how I will refer to it from now on, suggests that our parenting roles are, at times, ineffective.  But if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?

I may not fix it, but I can be aware of what works now … because it might not work later. I need to tweak how I manage the girls as they grow older.

This just might be the most important lesson for parents: Be aware.  Don’t be different, but be mindful of what we do (on occasion) that trigger behaviors in our children that we don’t like.  No, it’s not all our fault, but children learn from what they witness at home.  They take the best (and worst) of us wherever they go. We should at least be cognizant of our own weak spots so we can prevent tension and turmoil later on.

So, I’ve been humbled.  I opened the book (and the seven DVDs) thinking that I would read about other people’s problems.  Instead, I recognized all of us. There are no perfect children, and no matter how hard we work, there are no perfect parents.  The challenge is to find a way to solve problems without creating great divides in the relationships we cherish.

I bought the program after high school senior Rachel Canning sued her parents for tuition and living expenses despite moving out of the family home.  My daughters will not turn out like that kid, I said to myself. And they probably won’t.  But now I see that we could turn out like Rachel Canning’s parents if we don’t change our ways.

 

 

 

 

Decision Times

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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I was organizing old photograph albums on a shelf in the basement when I found a journal from my teenage years. I picked  up thedr-seuss-memory-quote spiral-bound notebook filled with sprawling cursive writing, but I only read a few lines before  putting it down.

I’d thought I would enjoy reminiscing with the author, but I realized that I didn’t even recognize her. I recalled the events and even many of the emotions she described, but I didn’t remember the girl.

Experience and time have distorted my memories of the teenage girl I once was, and even though I still have a great deal in common with her, we are now very different people. And in reading those few journal entries, I found myself wondering how that teenage girl could possibly have been expected to plan what she wanted to do with the rest of her life when she hadn’t yet grown into herself.

dr seussNow, 30 years later, that former teenage girl is fielding questions about what her son wants to do with the rest of his life, and I’m having a tough time believing that he can possibly know.

Maybe I’m a cynic. After all, I’m just as astonished by people who stay in the same career, much the less the same job, for their entire life as I am by people who are still married to their high school sweetheart.

In my world, that just doesn’t happen.

In my world, teenagers are just tall children who are exploring the world and discovering new interests and passions every day. They are young souls who are still learning that life isn’t about one decision that will lead them down the right path but about a series of decisions that will take them on an adventure.  And the are unique individuals who still need to determine how to use their gifts.

But I realize that’s in my world.

In the real world, teenagers are encouraged to identify their interests, decide on a college major and purse a career path by the time they are 21.

Maybe, if I didn’t have a son who was only a baby last week and is turning 16 next week, I might buy into that world.

But in reality, my son who is still trying to figure out who he is, and I’m pretty sure that the only way he can do that is through experiences – both good and bad. My job as a parent is to encourage him so he pursue opportunities that will allow him the time and the freedom to learn about himself.  And I hope he encounters some life-changing adventures along the way.places-ypu-will-go-quote

I also like to think that the teenager I used to be hopes for the same thing.

According to her journal, she does.

 

The Sneaky One

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
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One of the great advantages of having friends who are a few years older than me is that they usually have children that are older than my children, have more experience than I do and can offer an entirely different perspective on parenting.

One of the disadvantages is that they have every right to scoff at the pronouncements I make.Yellow_Dude__Sneaky_1_preview

Take, for example, my recent comment that I only have to worry that one of my children will take risks behind my back.

One friend warned me that any adolescent can make poor decisions.

Another told a story about cleaning around an object in her teenage son’s room only to learn years later when he was an adult that the object was a ladder he hung out of his two-story window at night to escape.

And one friend told me “You never know really know which child is the sneaky one.”

She was right. The sneaky one really fools us.

And while I will never admit to ever having my own sneaky tendencies, I know that at least one member of my family does.

Her name is Skitty, and she’s fat, furry and feline. She is an indoor cat who pretends to be afraid of going outdoors, but that is simply her sneaky effort to lull our family into a sense of security.

At times, she provides hints into her true nature when she lurks around an open door leading onto the back deck or stares longingly out the front bay window. But normally she pretends to only be interested in eating and sleeping.

We never would have learned about her true nature if she hadn’t repeated the same mistake on multiple times.

The first time she escaped, no one noticed she was gone until my son yelled, “Mom, I can hear Skitty, but I can’t find her. Since Skitty likes to hide, not being able to find her wasn’t unusual. But she normally only meows when she’s hungry and demanding food. Right in front of one of us. In a very obvious and demanding manner.

But after a search of the whole house, we still couldn’t find her. That’s because she wasn’t in the house at all. Instead, she was in the backyard and had apparently gotten quite hungry, hence her meowing.

None of us knew how Skitty had gotten in the backyard, but we weren’t too worried. We figured one of us had left the door open.

We hadn’t.

The next time Skitty escaped then meowed from the backyard, I started getting suspicious.

The third time she got out, I conducted a thorough search of the house and could find no escape route.

My daughter is the one who solved the mystery. She was in her bedroom when Skitty entered, jumped onto the window sill, pushed the screen out and jumped out of the two-story window over an asphalt driveway. She was able to survive because she still had a few of her nine lives left. That, and she jumped at an angle, landed in the bush next to the backyard fence then jumped over the fence into the backyard.

We fixed the window screen, and Skitty was once again confined to the house. But we were all a bit more aware of her whereabouts, the potential risks to her safety that she was sure to ignore and the outside interests she had worked so hard to hide.

In hindsight, I’m glad Skitty created that heightened awareness. It was good practice for me. As the mother of two adolescents, those skills will come in handy.

Fortunately, I have yet to discover any night-time escapes or truly bad behavior. But I am on the look out for it. Unfortunately, after my friends’ warnings and my cat’s escapades, I’m just not very confident I really know which kid, if either,  is “the sneaky one.”

What’s in the medicine cabinet: Generic miracle workers

Friday, February 7, 2014
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Turned on to a knock off.

Turned on to a knock off.

In keeping with my new year’s writing resolution to develop more blog posts that could actually help other mothers, I’ve decided to write a few shorter pieces related to food, beauty, fashion, and whatever else catches my attention.  For example:

What’s in my medicine cabinet?

What’s in my kitchen pantry?

What’s in my closet?

What’s in my makeup bag?

These little posts aren’t to show off what I’m buying, using, eating or wearing.  The goal is to share little discoveries that might help or bring happiness to your daily life, too.

Focusing on WHAT’S IN THE MEDINE CABINET, I’ll ask you to flip back a couple of weeks to a post I wrote about hormonal acne.  My tweenage daughter and I are suffering from different types of breakouts, but we’ve been spared some of the agony and embarrassment by products made by Rodan and Fields, the creators of Proactiv and Unblemish.

The problem is that both kits can become extremely expensive if you should need the products longer than a couple of weeks or months. But, I was able to save about $30 for the three-step Proactiv set by picking up a generic kit at Walmart for $11.

I’ll be the first to admit that I question generic brands, because I’m convinced that name brands contain an ingredient that the off-brand does not.  But, for $11, I decided to take a risk and give the fake Proactiv a shot.  So far, the Equate cleanser, toner, spot treatment and mask work like a charm.

I haven’t been able to find a generic version of Unblemish, but in time, I’m sure someone in the cosmetics and skincare market will crack the code to stubborn middle-aged acne.  But at least I know it won’t cost a fortune to banish my daughters’ blemishes over the next few years.

Note: Katy Brown was not paid to use or to endorse any of these products or services.  As her husband will tell you, she buys everything.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave no print

Monday, February 3, 2014
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card info

I’m sorry, too.

Last week, I received a letter from the Neiman Marcus Group stating that my payment card was used fraudulently.  The President and CEO was very sorry and deeply regretted what had happened, noting that it was a most unfortunate intrusion. During the months of November and December, I made purchases at Target more than 30 times. I hadn’t noticed any illegal activity associated with that hacking scandal, but I did discover that unapproved iTunes purchases were connected to my user name and password.  It’s a rough time to be a frequent shopper.

Just this weekend, my family and I spent a couple of days at Easton Mall near Columbus. Every time I thought about buying something, I didn’t question the price.  I questioned whether the stores had proper security measures in place to protect my debit or credit card information.  My husband despises the barrage of questions that he’s hit with at the check-out counters.

“Email address?”

“Home telephone number?”

“Contact information so we can send you news about upcoming sales?”

“What is your full name and address for our customer loyalty program?”

His face turns the color of a hothouse tomato, and he politely — but directly — informs the sales associates that they don’t need that stuff to sell him a New York Yankees hat.  In this sporting goods store, he turned over two twenties and walked out of the mall leaving no trace of himself.

“Leave no print, Katy,” he said, patting me on the back as if I were his young son.  “Leave no print.”

On our next stop, I was in a gourmet cooking supply store and confronted with the same line of questioning.

“Are you in our system?” the associate asked.  I nodded yes and announced that I receive catalogs.

“Let’s update that address, shall we?” he asked.

The pressure was on.  Do I…or don’t I?

“What will it be used for?” I asked quietly.

“So we can email you the receipt,” he said. “And, if you have any problems with your purchases, we’ll have the transaction on file so you won’t have to bother with that receipt.”

Ok, so you want my information to email me a receipt that I won’t need anyway — to return dish towels?

I stammered and then confirmed my email address, speaking in hushed tones so the woman behind me wouldn’t hear.  This had become ridiculous!

After bagging four striped towels and an apron, the associate handed me a printed receipt.

Damn! Fooled again!

Retail stores train their associates to be tricky little suckers. Yet, I’m in control of my own information, and I don’t have to offer one single piece of data if I don’t want to.  Now that my daughter is becoming a consumer of apps and a user of different academic websites, I need to teach her how to “leave no print” as her father coaches.

  1. Never post personal contact information on websites or blogs, such as cellphone numbers, home and/or email addresses.
  2. Never allow a social networking site to post the user’s location, such as a “sent from” notification that accompanies uploaded photos and text messages or posts.
  3. Never disclose the activities of other people or where other people are located, unless it’s to identify the company of a parent or guardian. Posting their activities could put them at risk, too.
  4. Never post a password or a user ID online, or in the body of an email — not even to a trusted recipient.
  5. Apply all privacy blocks and locks on social networking sites.
  6. Be mindful of student directories or other type of campus publications that publish specific information, such as email addresses or physical locations such as apartment numbers.
  7. Leave application lines or categories blank that are used for solicitation purposes.  This includes physical addresses, cellphone numbers, and email addresses.
  8. Unless you have no choice, never volunteer credit or debit card information on a cellphone, and only provide account information to companies in which you have initiated business of some sort.
  9. Never leave receipts behind or toss them carelessly in trash cans.  Destroy all personal information, even if the receipt reveals only the last four digits of the account.
  10. Protect your social security card and never carry credit or debit cards that aren’t used on a regular basis. Keep cards in a safe location at home until they are needed for use.

My daughter doesn’t have a checking account yet, but she does have an online presence by way of email and school-based websites.  Since our run-ins with identity theft, first with a Kroger Card, then with iTunes, and now Neiman Marcus, we’ve been preaching the importance of “just say NO” to requests for personal information. While it may be impossible to “leave no print”, it is possible to teach our kids to be more secretive. And we’ll be keeping close tabs on their accounts as well as our own.

Leave no doubt.

 

 

Oh, snap!

Monday, January 27, 2014
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And this just might be a good thing.

The day our daughter learned how to download apps was the day we became years behind in parenting. Just last week, I learned how to install a keyboard on my iPhone that contains emoticons.  Yes, just last week.  Now I end every message with some type of image that simplifies the main idea of my communication.  If we’re out of kitty kibble, then I’ll send my husband a text asking him to stop at the store before coming home.

Ringo needs food, I write. And then I add two images:  a paw print and a plate of spaghetti.

The app that’s trending now is called Snapchat, and if you haven’t heard of it (please tell me you haven’t), clear your calendar for the next five minutes and read on.

I’m serious when I type that I hope I’m not alone in this new Snapchat discovery.  I like to think of myself as a newcomer when it comes to teenage interests, but when it comes to technology, teenagers call me an oldtimer. I guess the emoticon thing showed my age.

According to website research, Snapchat is a photo messaging app developed by two students once enrolled at Stanford University.  After downloading Snapchat, customers can use their cellphones to take photos, shoot videos, add drawings and content to send to a list of recipients.  If the user sends a video or a picture, then the content is called a “Snap”.  Everything else is just a chat.

Teens (and tweens that are underage) are in love with the app because Snaps aren’t supposed to last forever.  The user sets a time limit for the Snap to be available to the list of recipients once it’s opened, from one to 10 seconds. Once this timeframe ends, the Snaps are hidden from the recipient’s iPhone or Andriod, and it’s deleted from Snapchat’s server — at some point, which isn’t quite clear.

Studies show that Snapchat is most popular among teens, but the over-40 crowd is getting in on the action as a means of monitoring their children’s activity.  However, the two Stanford University students who became wealthy entrepreneuers at a tune of $860 million (with an option to sell to Facebook for $3 billion — but they declined), also created an app for the even younger market. Snapkidz, an app for boys and girls under the age of 13, is a sibling app that allows children to take snaps and draw on them, but their creations can’t be sent to anyone else, nor can the artwork be saved.

Why should parents be concerned? As a starting point, Snaps come and go so quickly that parents might not be able to keep up with the content being sent or received by their children. To that end, Snapchat has developed a nine page guide for parents, which explains virtually every aspect of the app to help ease concerns. However, this parent didn’t feel much better about the app after reading a section that explained that it’s “not okay to create, send, receive, or save a sexually explicit image of a minor.”

But wait — I thought images disappeared in as little as two seconds! Snapchat went on to state in the guide that “…although messages are designed to disappear in 10 seconds or less, there is NO guarantee that the recipeient won’t take a picture (screenshot) of the message.”

While the app is free, the fun may be costly — if not dangerous.  Parents need to preach until they’re blue in the face that THINK BEFORE YOU SEND is the number one rule for any type of social networking. This also pertains to THINK BEFORE YOU RECEIVE, given the frequency of inappropriate Snaps and sexting traffic. If parents intend to oversee the messages their teen receives through Snapchat, “then mom or dad should instruct their teen not to open Snapchat messages until they can be viewed together.”

Right. As if that’s going to happen.

But Snapchat also advises parents to look at the app through teenage eyes.  It’s designed to be a source of entertainment (the type of entertainment is hotly debated, no pun intended). The creators stress that “…life is to be shared in the moment, for the moment.  If you aren’t enjoying it, then you’re doing it wrong.”

However, in this mother’s opinion, if you delete the app from your child’s phone, you’re doing it right.

 

 

 

 

Trick or treat, smell my feet

Monday, October 14, 2013
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Halloween 2008

With my bee and lamb, when times were easier.

Some time ago, students didn’t leave their sheltering elementary schools for the exploration of junior high until seventh grade. Kids were usually 12 years of age by September, learning combinations to lockers and lugging rented instruments to last period band class.  I remember those liberating days at Horace Mann in Kanawha City — a school that looked like a college campus and felt like a new world.

But while I was off being a grown up, I missed the decision to move sixth graders to a scary place called middle school.  And now that I’m a parent of a daughter on the verge of changing schools, this graduation has wiped out everything I thought I knew about advanced childhood. Since she’s going to this scary place called middle school at age 11, I’m going to be forced to loosen my protective grip.  This frightens me.

I’ve spent the last few months of parenting telling Ava “NO” to cell phones, social networking, cosmetics and high heel shoes.  “No, you can’t have that/do that/wear that/say that,” I lecture.  “It’s too soon.”

Yet, what is age appropriate behavior for a tween? For instance…

  • Do middle school girls, age 11, still play with American Girl dolls?
  • Do they still visit the cartoon parks at Walt Disney World?
  • Do they continue to shop at Justice or Crazy 8 (if sizes go up to age 12)?
  • Do they still have to sit in the backseat of a car, or can they call shotgun?
  • Do they ride scooters or bikes? If so, where do they do this? At the park or in the street?

Because of these uncertainties, I’ve changed the wording of my standard question.  Instead of Don’t you think it’s a little early for that? — I find myself asking Don’t you think you’re getting a little old for that?

Meaning, do middle school kids go trick or treating on Halloween? If not, this will be Ava’s last parade around the block.

Aha.  All Hallows’ Eve.  This weekend, I got up before the sun to read the latest issue of Southern Living in peace and quiet. I found myself locked in Allison Glock’s family column.  This month, she writes about preserving modesty in the modern era of Halloween. The horror isn’t in the section of the store dedicated to Walking Dead garb.  The real scare comes in the form of “Twerkin’ Teddy”, “Bad Habit Nun” and “Skeleton Catsuit”.  Yes, these costumes are made in youth sizes.

I cherished Ava’s first Halloween.  She was a baby sunflower from the Anne Geddes collection.  The next year, she was Thumper the rabbit, then a bumblebee, and the following year, she was “JoJo” the circus clown.  When she turned four, she made a darling Tinkerbell, and when she went to kindergarten, she was a fancy cheetah. After that, she became a cupcake, then a Crayola crayon, and then a 1950′s girl. Last fall, she transformed into a WVU cheerleader.

Ava and I were on the same team for a decade.  This season, however, we’re rivals.

It all started when Ava asked if she could dress as a One Direction fan.  Do we even need to buy a costume for that? She presented a wrinkled catalog.

“This, “ Ava announced, pointing to the girl in the picture.  “I want to wear what she has on.”

I leaned down to get a closer look.  BRITISH INVASION?!

Bloody hell no!

The Union Jack dress hit the juvenile model well above the knee.  It was a sleeveless sheath made from the thinnest material the manufacturers could get away with. Shower curtains are constructed of heavier fabric.

“I need the shoes, too,” she stated.  GOGO BOOTS?!

In my wicked little mind, I heard the theme song from Austin Powers.  YEAH, BABY, YEAH!

“No, Ava, no…” I whined.  “Find something else.  Here!” I pointed to another picture.  “How about this cute outfit?”

Ava screamed.  “A WATERMELON FAIRY?”

It’s different! It’s unique!

“All right…then we’ll all dress up,” I suggested.  “Maryn can be Scooby Doo, I’ll dress up as Velma, Daddy can be Fred, and you can be Daphne.”

On second thought, Fred wore an ascot. Mike would choke me with it.

“British, huh?” I pondered.  “The Beatles! We’ll go as the Fab Four! Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!” I squealed.  “But I get to be Paul.”

Ava was getting tired.

“Please, Mom,” she sighed.  “It’ll be fine.”

I slammed the catalog closed.  “Ok, but if you look even the slightest bit cheap, the costume will be returned.”

Ava shook hands on the terms of our agreement and waited by the mailbox at 4:00 p.m. for the next nine business days.  Unfortunately, the ensemble arrived.  She pulled the dress over her head and immediately reached for her knees.  It was…short. Mini-skirt short. Twiggy stood before me.

“No.  It’s too old for you.”

She protested.  “Please, Mom! Look! I’ll wear a tee-shirt under it.”

That was a slight improvement.

“And tights,” I added.  “With biking shorts on top of the tights.”

She flashed a smiled and pulled on the white boots with the stacked heel.

OH, BEHAVE!

“Can I keep them, Mom?” she begged.  I looked at Ava and then down at Maryn.  My youngest daughter was wearing a witch’s hat and dusting the floor with a broom missing 90% of its bristles.

“What do you think?” I asked Maryn.  She peered into her crystal ball.

“She’s gonna get blisters and then Daddy’s gonna hafta carry her home,” she warned.  What a wise ol’ witch.

“All right.  You can keep them,” I told Ava.  “But you will not wear those boots outside of Halloween.”

“Didn’t you wear these boots when you were a majorette?” Ava asked, marching in place.

I answered too quickly.  “Sure, I did.  But I was in….”

“Junior high?”