Posts Tagged ‘teens’

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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Years ago, in what seems another life, I used to work with adolescents. During that time, when I had no significant parenting experience, I considered myself a champion of youth. I thought young people should have seats on boards of directors for nonprofit organizations and that adults  needed to really listen to what they had to say.

I like to believe that still hold those values. I also know that I’m not the champion I once was – and that’s not because the focus of my job is no longer youth.

It’s because I live with two teenagers.motherhood

Since my children are quick to point out how I, a professional woman with a Master’s Degree, am generally clueless about anything of importance, one might assume I am in awe of how much they know in comparison.

I’m not. At the same time, I know I don’t often give them the credit they deserve.

When my son mumbles at me under his breath, I often forget about  his ability to make a whole room laugh with a facial expression or wry comment.

When my daughter snaps at me for asking her a question, I tend to ignore the fact that she’s often lost in a book or absorbed in learning.

And when I get anxious about the mistakes I make as a mom, I definitely don’t give my kids enough credit for setting me straight.

Thankfully, they do it anyway.

Last Sunday night after a very busy weekend, I found myself already ramping up for an even busier work week. In other words, I was starting to stress myself out. And when I stress myself out, I tend to stress  out everyone around me out as well. Or, in the eyes of my  children, I can be incessant and annoying.

So it was for my daughter, for whom I made several suggestions about things she should be doing. Nothing I said was necessary or even important. In reality, I was putting some of my own issues onto her shoulders, and she knew it.

“Mom,” she said. “I’m the one living my life. Let me do that.”

She was right.

There are times when parents have to interfere in their children’s lives, but that wasn’t such an occasion.

She wasn’t making a decision that affected her health or her future success. She had a perspective that I didn’t, which is exactly the reason I used to be such an advocate for young people.

They might not always be right, but adults aren’t always right either. Adults might have more experience, but sometimes that experience keeps us bogged down in all the reasons something won’t work instead of getting excited about testing the possibilities.

Most importantly, the potential of our young people is only limited by the opportunities adults provide them to grow and learn.

And those opportunities often mean that we moms have to let go of our strong desire to steer the direction our children take in life. Instead, we have to trust that even though our kids may not always know where they want to go, the responsibility of finding their path lies on their, not our, shoulders.

My kids have taught me that being a good mom sometimes means I need to stop providing advice and instead need to listen to them. When I do that, I can hear them say  they need a mom who allows them to fall, make mistakes, struggle and discover that sometimes the best path in life is the one that isn’t mapped out years in advance but is one that is blazed by experiences.

My daughter may only be 13, but I have no doubt that’s exactly what she meant when she told me that she, not me, is the one living her life.

Hopefully, I can follow those words of wisdom.

Turning the Tables

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
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My daughter was sharing her latest insights and opinions with me, but apparently I didn’t react appropriately.

“You’re thinking about writing about this conversation into a blog, aren’t  you?” she said accusingly.

Actually, I wasn’t. Instead, my sudden and unusual silence was a result of my worry about our cat, Skitty, who is staging a hunger strike after our recent adoption of a new kitten, Artemis.

“No,” I responded. “While I love listening to your thoughts and opinions, I wasn’t thinking about writing about you or this conversation.”

“You better not just be saying that,” she said.

I wasn’t.

I’d had a tough week and wasn’t in the mood to write about much of anything, particularly about the conversation we were having. But, based on Kendall’s adamant protests, I promised that I wouldn’t write about anything she said or did.

I admit I may be breaking that promise (slightly) right now, but that’s only because I have to give credit where credit is due and Kendall is quite the inspiration to me.

She may not believe me, but I remember how sensitive and easily embarrassed I was when I was 13. I also remember thinking that the only thing more embarrassing than my mom sharing stories about me was having to endure her behavior in public.

Even now, my children sometimes ask me to tell “grandma stories.” They laugh at tales of  grandma trying to ride the school bus home after leaving her car for repairs, her argument with a theater manager after trying to sneak in her own popcorn or her plunge into an irrigation ditch after being “chased” by horses on her way to a board of education meeting.

But I also know that my children will have similar stories about their own embarrassing mother.

While I didn’t fall into an irrigation ditch last week, I did fall into a creek during what was supposed to be a simple walk to the park with my German Shepherd, Rodney.

The problem was, I couldn’t get to the park.

The road from my neighborhood to the park had been closed for construction of a new bridge. A highway sign indicates a detour for moving vehicles, but that detour isn’t safe for pedestrians. My determination (also known as my obsessive-compulsive personality) was not going to let the lack of a bridge prevent me from getting to my destination.

At first, I thought I could easily cross the creek. There were, after all, large rocks spaced in strategic locations across the approximately eight foot span of water. Unfortunately, those rocks weren’t stable, and my ginger steps across them weren’t enough to keep them, and me, from rolling.

As I plunged into the creek ,  I fell on my left wrist - the one that I hadn’t fallen upon, shattered, and had surgically repaired last winter when I was “determined” to walk Rodney during a snowstorm.

After popping my wrist back into location, I did what any embarrassing mom would do.

Realizing I was already soaked, I decided I might as well continue across the creek. When I fell again, and I recognized that my nearly 5o year- old body had to find an easier route to the park.

I didn’t.

After slogging through mud and getting caught in the arms of bushes with thorns, I gave up and walked home covered  in wet, muddy pants with bloody scratches on my face.

To me, my appearance was that of a warrior.

To my children, it was that of a pathetic middle-aged woman who can’t act normal.

I understand their feelings. I remember the horror at the sight of my own mother, dripping wet in her checkered, red and white seventies era pantsuit after falling into the irrigation ditch.

But here’s what my own children don’t  understand about me and what took decades for me to understand about my own mother.

Embarrassing our children is a good thing because we have to teach them that behaving within the normal parameters of societal expectations never changes anything. We can never find an alternative path across a creek if we aren’t willing to take risks and look a little silly. We can’t inspire others if we are never willing to take on our own fears and challenges. And we certainly can’t tell our children to pursue their own happiness if we can’t demonstrate that being true to ourselves is where the path to happiness starts.

I, like my own mother, may be an embarrassment, but I’m fairly confident that a willingness to wear that description with pride is a job requirement for being a mom.

At least, I know it is for me.

 

Something Really Scary

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Halloween is quickly approaching, but I don’t need a special occasion to be frightened.jack o lantern

I get a little bit scared every time I publicly share my thoughts, opinions and experiences in writing.

And yet, perhaps like people who watch scary movies and choose to visit haunted houses, there is also a part of me that must enjoy the fear because I keep putting myself out there.

Putting together a string of words can feel magical, but knowing that others might read those words can be frightening. With every sentence, I am giving a small piece of myself away.

When I write, I want my words to be informative, emotional, persuasive and possibly even entertaining. Those same words also reveal the truth about whom  I really am, and that is very, very unnerving.

Take, for example, the topic I actually considered writing about this week – my worst  trait as a mom.

I’m certainly not a helicopter parent nor do I think my children are superior beings about which I constantly brag. But I do have a have a tendency to get completely neurotic when I think either of my children will have to deal with the same issues I did as an adolescent.

My constant struggle as a teen to be true to myself without being a social misfit, which I often was, has taken a toll on my own children. I want them to have a strong sense of self and the confidence to question the status quo, which they both do. At the same time, I worry every time I see their peers going in one direction while they step in the other.

When I say worry, I’m not referring to a brief concern. I’m referring to my need to talk about the issue incessantly until I drive both of my children, and my husband, absolutely crazy. At that point, I just try harder to explain that I don’t want them to fight the same battles I fought.

Despite my efforts, no one takes my babbling seriously, which is what compels me to take to the written word. After all, there must be some other mom somewhere whose emotional turmoil of adolescence is impacting her children decades later. Or maybe not.

Which is why I decided I should write about something completely different – like Halloween. Only, when my fingers started across the keyboard, my brain went in a completely different direction and the words tumbled out anyway.

Scary, isn’t it?

A Messy Situation

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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I absolutely despise the phrase “I told you so.”

But then, I can’t imagine anyone actually likes hearing words that generally follow a bad decision, a poor choice or some unfortunate situation.

Sometimes, even when they remain unspoken, I know I deserve to hear them.

And sometimes, I am saying them to myself.

Now that I have two teenagers living under my roof, I find myself saying those words to myself over and over again, just as a friend warned me years ago.

At the time, one of my many job responsibilities was teaching adolescent development and parenting. I thought I was an expert as I spouted facts about concrete versus abstract thinking, risky behavior and setting boundaries.

In reality, all I knew was what I had read and what I had been taught, neither of which can replace genuine experience when it comes to human behavior or raising kids.

A friend tried to point this out to me when my son was just a toddler. I had been quoted in a newspaper article about carefully picking battles with teenagers. I specifically told parents not to waste time and energy fighting over messy bedrooms as teenagers should be allowed to be in control of some parts of their lives, including personal space.

“You are going to look back at that article some day and laugh at yourself,” my friend said.

I told her I wouldn’t.

I was wrong.

When my son turned 13 and his bedroom began to resemble destruction left in wake of a tornado, he came up with his own solution to my constant griping. He asked if he could move into the bedroom in the basement, which we already called the kid cave. His dad and I agreed, and I thought the bedroom battle was resolved.

I was wrong again.

My daughter, who once took pride in keeping her room neat and organized, has apparently been taking notes from her brother. As her room grows messier and more chaotic by the day and the contents of her room are now spilling out into the hallway, my complaints have grown louder and more frequent. They’ve also fallen on deaf ears.

Even as I tell myself I am fortunate to be battling with my daughter over such a minor issue, I am also aware that I’m not following my own naive yet somehow sensible advice: pick your battles so you have the time and energy to deal with the major issues.

Since I haven’t listened,  the battle is starting to wear me down. I have also become convinced that my daughter is simply laying the groundwork to take over the basement as soon as her brother graduates from high school.

I’m telling myself that will never happen, but something tells me I may also be wrong.

Which means I will once again be telling myself “I told you so.”

Lost In New York

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
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I could easily be the poster child for people who choose to ignore sensibility and instead blindly try to make our way through life ignoring the basic principles that our parents taught us.chaos

Take, for example, my awareness of the perils of pride.

I know pride is one of the seven deadly sins, and I grew up hearing the phrase “Pride goeth before a fall.”

But that knowledge didn’t prevent me from taking pride in my belief that, because I remember being an adolescent, I understand adolescence. After all, circumstances and access to information may change, but people and feelings don’t.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

There may be a grain of truth in those thoughts, but those grains don’t feed the masses. They also don’t take into account genetics,which often distort perspective.

And because my children share my genes, neither of them gets wrapped up in the drama of their peers.

My son seems maintains a complete air of oblivion and chooses to mask himself in his sense of humor and comic attitude.

My daughter denies being anything like me, but she loves musicals, listens to theater music more than popular music, requires hours for reading  each day and labels herself as a book worm.

In reality, she’s much smarter than I am.

She, for example, remembered to actually take her phone with her to dinner in Times Square in New York City last Friday night.

I, on the other hand, left my phone on its charger in our hotel room. I realized this as we were getting on the subway but commented to my daughter, her best friend and her best friend’s mother, “All three of you have phones. What are the odds I’ll be separated from all of you?”

Apparently, the odds were not in my favor.

Upon arriving in Times Square (the girls’ choice not their mothers’), we took a leisurely stroll before spending a couple of  hours in a restaurant that offered both entertainment and food.

My next mistake was to suggest we leave.

As soon as we opened the doors and stepped out on the street, I knew something was wrong.

My first clue was the ear-shattering screams coming from across the street.

My next clue was the ear-shattering scream right next to me along with the words “It’s Magcon boys!!!!”

Up to that point, my only exposure to the Magcon boys was through my daughter’s best friend (the one who was with us.) Her mother and I had spent hours trying to understand whom these boys are and why they are famous.

From what I understand, the boys post  six-second videos, photos and amusing comments on social networking sites. They aren’t actors. They aren’t (real) musicians. And they aren’t (real) comedians.

They are simply boys who post on the internet.

I so don’t get that.

In other words, I really don’t understand adolescence these days.

Because of that, I didn’t expect my daughter’s best friend to start chasing after them in Times Square with a mob of other screaming teenage girls.  Nor did I anticipate that her mother then my daughter would chase after her, while I, in high heels and no phone, would watch them go.

And I had no chance of finding them.

Times Square on a summer night is wall to wall people.

All I could do was shrug my shoulders and say “Magcon boys” when other people asked what all the excitement was about. I would see their looks of confusion and feel a brief sense of peace in the fact that I wasn’t entirely alone in my lack of understanding.

I was simply without a phone in Times Square while my daughter chased her best friend’s mother who was chasing her daughter who was among a pack of adolescent girls chasing boys that post in the internet.

I didn’t get it. I also didn’t know whether I would stay where I was (as taught as a child) or simply head back to the hotel room.

Just as I had decided to go back to the hotel room,  I heard ear-splitting screams coming back toward me.

A couple of  teenage boys followed by screaming and crying teenage girls followed by a few angry parents were coming my way.

Then I saw my daughter and grabbed her.

I don’t know if I was more grateful that I had found her or that she said to me “this is the dumbest thing I have ever witnessed.”

We spent a few minutes together laughing as we watched the girls holding their cell phones in high in hopes of getting a photo of a “Magcon” boy. We rolled our eyes  at the girls as they banged on the doors of the building where the boys had entered. And we expressed our disbelief  at the histrionic girls gasping  in tears that they had seen a certain boy. My daughter even tried to capture the chaos on her cell phone.

As we bonded over our genetic code of not pining over boys we could never have, two New York City police officers joined us.

Maybe we looked a little too happy. Or maybe we looked a little too sane.

I’ll never be sure.

What I do know is that I apparently stomped out the dreams of thousands of girls when I asked the officers why they were letting such insanity ensue. When they asked me what I meant (apparently most New Yorkers don”t use the word ensue), I told them about the chaos of the girls chasing the boys.

The police officers disappeared telling me they’d “take care of it.”

A few minutes later, my daughter’s friend and her mother appeared with two photos with “the boys.” The drama was over.

I was happy for my daughter’s friend, but I can’s say I understood her obsession. Neither did my daughter.

The incident had left us both completely lost in New York City.

The next day, as I sat next to my daughter watching Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, I witnessed her lip sync every lyric.

That’s when I realized there are many people who will never understand her passion for music or the theater just as people didn’t understand mine at her age.

Perhaps that’s why I also felt so lost as a teenage. Now I realize now that being lost isn’t such a bad thing.

But being lost without trying to gain some perspective and better understand others is.

Thankfully, my children and their friends are providing me with those lessons on a daily basis.

Social Caterpillar

Monday, July 21, 2014
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Emma Watson (via Pinterest).

Emma Watson (via Pinterest).

Rachel “Bunny” Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon, the horticulturalist and art collector turned second wife of philanthropist and horse breeder, Paul Mellon, became famous for her best friendship with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. (Lord, what a mouthful.)

In the time she spent with Jackie redesigning the White House Rose Garden, she shared her secrets for staying out of the public eye while maintaining an influential role in society.  In her old-fashioned correctness, she told friends that “a woman’s name should appear in print exactly three times: when she makes her debut, when she marries, and when she dies.”

The rest, darling, isn’t to be shared.

I read about “Bunny” in an article in the July issue of Town & Country magazine, which questioned whether people can maintain any sort of solitude in the glare of social media.  If you can Google your own name and not find any information, then you have achieved the nearly impossible dream.

In this day, most (if not all) girls make their “debuts” via Facebook. And once they’re out, there’s no going back.

I talked about this with Ava, who is 11 years old and doesn’t have a social media presence (other than what I publish). Most of the girls she knows already have Instagram sites, and a few have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.  She’s never asked for anything other than access to Pinterest so she can surf pictures of her favorite musicians. We agreed in order to save our bedroom walls from hideous posters of British boy bands.

Ava sees how much I’m online, posting comments and uploading pictures, and fiddling with different filters to make shots look their best.  She also knows that I landed assignments from USA TODAY simply by maintaining a LinkedIn profile, and she’s aware that I blog about our family every week in the Daily Mail’s online edition. It doesn’t bother Ava — in fact, she’s proud of her old mom — but she doesn’t want to call attention to herself. Like her father, she just doesn’t care to share.

And there’s something to be said for the girl who says nothing at all.

“I think those sites can cause trouble,” she said to me one night when we were up late talking.

“How so?” I asked.

“It just seems like girls get into a lot of fights over things that are posted.”

True, I admitted.  Girls and boys have to be very careful about what they put out there.

“I just like being quiet.”

I wish I had that skill.  Some people have described my writing as “brave” and “gutsy” and “always honest”, but it’s also risky to reveal so much. It’s a call for reaction — and criticism.

We talked about the concept of privacy for a long time, and I realized that she’s entering a stage of life that is full of sensitive matters.  As a writer who observes everyday life and analyzes its oddities, it’s very hard not to turn motherhood into material. As playwright Nora Ephron said so expertly, “Everything in life is copy.”  And she’s absolutely correct.

But maybe it shouldn’t be.

After a few sleepless nights, I’ve decided to end my run writing for The Mommyhood.  It has been a difficult decision that makes me sad, but I feel like I need to let our rising sixth grader have some breathing room. She and her younger sister have belonged to the world for nearly four years, and while I have enjoyed every second of sharing this cherished life with you, I think it’s time to bring it back home.

Giving up this blog is a lot like giving a baby up for adoption.  For a journalist, an essayist or a diarist, a column in any form is a coveted space.  I am very grateful that a friend pitched one of my pieces to Brad McElhinny and encouraged him to give my work a closer look, and I am so appreciative of the Daily Mail staffers who made me feel like one of them.

Of course, I have to give thanks to my girls, who provided more than a half-million words under my fingers. In return, I plan to print every post and have two copies bound, which will be saved for when they become mothers. This blog has chronicled a large part of their childhood, but also the phases of motherhood that I hope they’ll refer to one day.

Finally, I thank you, dear readers, who have clicked my links every Monday, “liked” them, favorited them, forwarded them, and provided tremendous support through comments and replies. Parenting is a lonely job at times, but I rarely felt that way. Each time I signed on, there was always someone there to give me a much-needed thumbs up.

Bright and early this morning, I was waiting for the “pop” of sealed jars containing homemade strawberry jam.  I sat at the computer and scrolled through shots on Pinterest  – everything from Kate Middleton and baby George to sweet George Harrison. Then, I stumbled upon a quote attributed to Emma Watson, most famously known as Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series. It’s hard to tell if she actually mouthed the following words, but I sent the pin to Ava anyway.  It said:

THE LESS YOU REVEAL, THE MORE PEOPLE CAN WONDER.

And as my girls enter the reality show of adolescence, I pray they’ll choose to remain a bit of a mystery.

Note:  Katy Brown may be leaving her regular spot in The Mommyhood, but you can continue to follow her lifestyle blog, House Kat.  It’s a peach!

http://thehousekatblog.wordpress.com

 

Commencement

Monday, May 19, 2014
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baby avaDear Ava,

Six years ago, your dad and I had one of our most memorable arguments. We struggled with the decision to send you to kindergarten. You’d just turned five, and separation anxiety was the name of your game. I wanted to delay your start another year until you felt more secure; your dad stressed that you should enroll because you were ready. Guess who won?

Now I’m writing as you wrap up your time in elementary school.  In a few months (weeks, really), you’ll be in what your dad and I called “junior high”.  This is the place where you’ll learn more about others than you will in college.  That’s where you’ll go to learn about yourself. These next few years are going to be the hardest — for you, as you work through situations that make no sense — and for us, as we work through fears of letting go. See, this separation anxiety business is inherited. That’s the gene you got from me.

You got a few other traits, too.  On a hot summer morning, you kicked your way into the world with a foot so long that it smeared off your birth certificate.  The finest blonde hair and darkest blue eyes were the prettiest things I’d ever seen.  And when you grabbed my finger and gave me a reassuring grin (which I refuse to consider was anything else), I knew that you were a cure for a lot of hurt.  No matter what anyone says, I’m a firm believer that we travel through this existence in desperate need of a mother.  Whether we liked or loved the one we were given makes no difference. If we’re lucky, it’s a presence that will get us through everything else that life throws at us.  If we weren’t so lucky, then we spend our days looking for something to fill that void.  You were given to me to fill that void. I’ll thank God every day for knowing what I needed, exactly when I needed it most.

You’re going to need help, too, but you’ll fight it. Hopefully, you won’t put up the fight that I did when I was a teenager — paybacks are hell — but I do expect a showdown every now and then.  We’re too much alike. You’re going to make mistakes, but I’ll make more.  I’m going to hang on too tight, stay too long, become too involved and say entirely too much.  You’ll do the same. But, I’ll forgive you as I hope you’ll forgive me.

Those mistakes, by the way, are learning experiences.  You’ve heard us say many times, “You can do this the easy way or the hard way.” It’s still your choice.  One of the saddest parts of being a parent is allowing a child to make mistakes. It’s brutally difficult to stand back and watch what’s sure to happen. However, you can avoid some of the headaches by remembering what we’ve always preached to both you and your sister:

If you don’t want it known, don’t say it.

If you don’t want it shared, don’t write it.

If you don’t want it remembered, don’t post it.

If you don’t want it saved, don’t pose for it.

If you don’t want it told, don’t do it.

But please tell us about it.  While I’m sure you won’t want my opinion every moment of every situation, and while I’m sure one of your greatest lessons will be learning how to solve your own problems, I want you to promise that you’ll always bring those thoughts home.  The rest of society (school) might judge you, but we won’t.  We’ll criticize your first dates, and we’ll scrutinize dresses for dances, though.  That’s our job.

Oh — one more thing:  If you get your heart broken, don’t show it. Dignity is your best friend. Protect her.

From the first day of elementary school to the approaching last, your dad and I have been immeasurably proud of you. And it’s just the beginning! We can’t wait to see what you do with all the potential that you hold back, but we know exists.  Hold your head up high (but hold your values higher), flash that smile, and walk like you’ve been there all along. It’s the first of many steps toward independence. And as you showed us six years ago, and as you’ll show us again in six more years, you’re going to go far. You’re ready.

With all our love,

Mom (and Dad)

 

 

 

Call Me Crazy (Part Two)

Monday, May 5, 2014
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I’ve calmed down since my last cell phone rant.  But not by much.

After a candid conversation with a few teenagers, I learned that middle schoolers need phones for several reasons:

1) Once the day is done, students are usually on their own. After a certain time, the school is locked and it’s difficult to make a telephone call from the office, which is also locked.

2) It’s a means of looking (and being) occupied during awkward social times, such as waiting for and riding on the bus, waiting for the first bell, waiting for the lunch period to end, and waiting for dismissal.  It’s a type of “don’t bother me, I’m busy” signal that a hardback book used to serve.

3) Group work is more common in middle school, which requires kids to spend time together out of class. It’s hard to coordinate logisitcs, and even harder to share files and pieces of the project without email and cell service.  For most kids, a phone is a homework tool.

4) The mother of a teenager chimed in to remind me that we live in a Columbine and Sandy Hook world. School lock downs can occur for any reason these days.  Wouldn’t I rather get a text from my daughter telling me that everything is OK, as opposed to calling the school for a half-hour trying to get answers?

And 5) There’s a lot of emphasis on knowing where our children are at all times.  But, we’re the ones who are picking them up.  Traffic jams, wrecks, detours, dangerous weather, meetings, etc., can keep us from getting to them on time.  Shouldn’t our kids know were WE are?

I relayed all of this information to my husband, and we determined that our rising sixth grader doesn’t need a cell phone for her birthday. Nothing good can come of it over the course of a summer vacation.  There’s too much downtime to get into friendship trouble due to potential misunderstandings. However, IF we do cave in and allow her to have a cell phone, it’ll happen the day before school starts. We’ll visit our guy at AT&T to select a phone that connects to our network so we can monitor every single move — incoming and outgoing.

But, if we discover improper use of the phone by our tween or her classmates, we’ll rethink our decision.  James Lehman, creator of The Total Transformation Program also produced a companion piece called “The Complete Guide to Consequences”.  Dr. Lehman gives parents tips on motivating children to practice responsible behavior.  However, much of his advice is geared toward managing indignant teens.  I needed specific help in the cell phone area, so I searched for blogs that focused on protecting our kids before trouble starts.

Dr. Laura Markham has been known to ruffle parents’ feathers, but in this instance, she is absolutely correct in her assessment of tween-age independence.  As Markham points out in the very first paragraph of an essay, the middle school years are children’s first steps toward total separation, but a cell phone keeps them connected to mom and dad.

Some other parenting experts say that’s the problem.  Cell phones turn parents and children into conjoined twins. Kids don’t know how to cope with problems.  They only know how to text their parents.

Markham admits that she worried for hours about her daughter misusing the phone to text after midnight, chat with strangers, download expensive apps and songs, post rude or thoughtless comments on social networking sites, and share less-than-flattering pictures with kids who could then send them on to the entire student body.

Yes, Dr. Laura, I hear you loud and clear.  Dr. James Lehman says we should trust our kids until they give us a reason not to.  We need to set firm expectations of how the cell phone and its features are to be used.  Contracts may seem silly, but every service provider requires customers to enter into agreements before any type of product can be sold. Parents are providing their child with a cell phone.  This device should come with a list of demands:

1. Phones are given back to parents at the end of each day.  Phones should not be allowed in a child’s bedroom overnight.

2. Phone numbers must be kept private, and given out only with permission from mom and/or dad.

3. Keep a life: A child (tween/teen) should not stop what they’re doing to answer friends’ texts or calls when they first come in.  However, if mom or dad calls, then the child MUST pick up. No excuses. No exceptions. If a call is missed, return it ASAP and be prepared to explain.

4. NEVER broadcast a location, or post/check-in on social networking sites.

5.  Know that the phone can be checked at any time, without warning.  Be prepared for all texts or messages/voice mails, etc., to be read or listened to. Privacy is reserved for bathrooms.

It’s sort of ironic:  Parents report that they allow their tween to have a cell phone ONLY so they can stay in touch for safety purposes.  In this day and age, people are unreliable.  If you want your child to be able to get a hold of you, it’s because you know that a million things can happen, and a text might make the difference between a close call and a devastating one. However, when the child does something wrong, the cell phone is taken away.

Safety first? I wonder.

 

 

 

 

Call Me Crazy (Part One)

Monday, April 28, 2014
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About this cell phone thing…

In earlier posts, I told you that my husband and I had no intention of getting our daughter a cell phone until she reached high school.  I couldn’t imagine the reasons why she’d need one before the first day of sixth grade, but every parent I spoke with confirmed that they’re as basic as school supplies: backpack, lunch tote, cell phone.

But why? Yes, I know … it gives our girl a lifeline. She can get in touch with us if she needs something. However, I can only assume phones must be turned off —  if not put away entirely — during class, and I assume they’re dropped to the bottom of a bag of some sort during practices or after-school activities. Please tell me if I’m wrong.

As I look back on my first year of junior high, which is now middle school to our kids, I had no need to call anyone. I was in the hallway with my friends before school, seated next to them in seven classes, at the same table during lunch, and on the field with them for band.  My dad dropped me off at 7:45 a.m., and my mother picked me up sometime around 4:00 when band ended.  Once again, who was I supposed to call, for what reason, and when was there time?

On weekends and during summer vacations (from June to September), my friends and I got together at each other’s houses or at the neighborhood pool.  My mother told me to be home at this hour, or that she’d be there to pick me up at that time.  I didn’t call to tell her when I was ready to come home.  She told me when to expect her.

Am I as out of touch as a rotary phone?

But all the middle school kids have them, I’m told.

Fine. So all the kids have some version of a cell phone.  Many have fun phones (I hesitate to call them “smart” when they can cause so much trouble), and others have less glamorous flip styles.  For those parents who are as stubborn as we appear to be, their children have “pay as you go” phones that are truly held for emergency use.

I took to the Internet to search for “first phones” and I found a list of possible choices.  As reported by numerous parenting sites, these are a few good ones available through local stores:

1. LG Migo

2. Sanoxy GSM

3. Firefly Glow

4. Buddy Bear

….WAIT. STOP. The “BUDDY BEAR” phone?

I clicked the link and literally choked on a long sip of Diet Dr. Pepper.  Indeed, these are “first cell phones” as I typed into the Google search box, but they aren’t intended for middle schoolers.  They’re intended for “little hands.”  Yes…preschoolers.

Pardon me, Mom, but WTH?

As I read RooGirl’s article dedicated to the best cell phones for kids of all ages, I discovered that entry-level communication devices are similar to an elderly person’s First Alert button that’s worn and pressed if they’ve fallen and can’t get up.

“…Parents give their children cell phones for reassurance and added security. It also allows them to keep in touch with their kids when they’re not together.”

Are they home alone?!

“Parents can choose phones to track children’s whereabouts via GPS, monitor phone activity and block content. Finding the cell phone that’s right for your child depends on how old, tech-savvy and responsible they are. And, whether you want them to use the phone for emergencies only, communicating with friends and family or have the ability to surf the web.” — RooGirl blogger

I’m sorry, but I can barely finish this post.  I am completely shocked that at least 10 phones on the market are designed for the younger set, gadgets that include cameras, text messaging, full-sized multi-color screens, and customizable ringtones. “Let it Go” has been downloaded more times than any other song.

I sit here thinking that if your child needs an SOS device in his or her hip pocket, then you don’t need a tiny tyke cell phone that whistles.  You need your head examined.

As I scrolled down to the tween and teen line of phones, I stopped on one of the first models reviewed by RooGirl.  The LG Rumor.

That’s it. I’m done.  Maybe I am Frozen in time.  But in the words of Elsa the Queen, let the storm rage on.  The cold never bothered me anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First phones for little hands…

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.