Category Archives: adolescence

Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

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Hallmark Milestones (make me cry)

It’s fine, I’m fine, everything is FINE….my Gawd why do I get so emotional at these predictable Hallmark milestones? My kid just finished 8th grade and naturally there was a ceremony, we have one for everything now, first period parties, hard pass. I approach these events with the cynicism of a crone, meh, it’s 8th grade not med school, calm the hell down and yet…

As I scan the faces on the stage I feel a strange mix of emotions. I’ve known a dozen of these kids since preschool, most since Kindergarten, half the grade has been at my house at some point. It’s not a huge grade maybe 115 kids and as I watch them, I’m reminded of the ever growing gap in the parental/child relationship. I’m keenly aware that while I once knew everything about my kid, I’m no longer the primary confidant. One of my friends summed it up – once we shared them with the world, now they share a piece of their world with us.

Throughout the day I hear the refrain of Sunrise, Sunset go through my brain and my emotions play out like a predictable plot, so pedestrian in their ebb and flow. Somehow I’m OK with that because this is the shared camaraderie of parents. I can catch a side glance toward another mom and within seconds I know she’s on the verge of losing it as I quietly pass her a tissue. There’s comfort in that, knowing your peers are experiencing a similar cocktail of bittersweet emotions.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When, did, they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they, were, small?

Sunrise, Sunset – Jim Nabors

I’m sure the middle school promotion ceremony plays out in a similar format throughout America. The same six kids get recognized every year – leadership, citizenship, athleticism and all around Stepford child awards. My kids never get them. My son was one B away from straight A’s in middle school.

The single B was from 7th grade gym class where they had to choreograph a dance. Three dudes where set to shake it to Shaggy’s  Bombastic but some Lynne Cheney type bish decided that was too risque so they had to switch songs at the last minute. So basically censorship prevented my kid from making straight A’s in middle school. That same year they were forced to do square dancing and since there were more guys than gals, his partner was a known douche bag who likes to pick fights. I don’t think I’ve hated anything more in my kids school careers than 7th grade PE.

Bombastic

My girl had one C in middle school and it happened last semester in Algebra. I can barely spell Algebra let alone do the equations, I won’t hold it against her. My kids are good. They usually make the Honor Roll, don’t get in trouble and they are respectful around adults (well, the girl gets testy around me, she is fine with other adults). So in sum, my kids are slightly above average academically and there isn’t an award for that.

They stopped doing sports when they realized that concussions are a strong possibility and my son got sick of @ssholes on the soccer field. My daughter flirts with instruments – flute, piano, and now guitar, she has some musical abilities she just hasn’t stuck to one thing long enough to excel. Should I force her to play the piano an hour a day? Seems stupid to me and I’m done paying for lessons that aren’t enjoyed.

And those six kids that get the awards, they work their asses off and so do their moms. These kids have been groomed in utero and on through to this day to stay on track – musical instruments, student council, tutors, travel sports – resources and talent have been carefully mixed to keep their kids in the front of the pack. I admire their tenacity yet I opted out. I picked calmer weekends and weeknight dinners around the table, I was hoping for some sanity.

If my kids decided they wanted to do something specific, I followed their lead. We had one year of travel soccer (crazy and expensive) and a brief foray into lacrosse, neither stuck and I wasn’t too sad about it. So now my kids don’t do sports and I think the Grown & Flown types would have me feel bad about it but I just can’t muster up the guilt (yawn). BTW, the Grown & Flown Facebook Group has some seriously mean people in it. The posters routinely include “please don’t be mean” in their posts because there are some ragers in there.

As I’ve been a witness and a participant in this raising of humans, I am constantly aware of the privilege around us. I did not grow up like this. I was raised by a single mother and I had a dead beat dad, we were broke. My brother and I had to fend for ourselves. There were no tutors, no activities that required rides from mom or added any extra expense, it wasn’t an option. We were latch key kids who understood that there wasn’t money for extras, we barely got by.  I used to clean my neighbors apartment so I could earn money to go roller skating.

My kids don’t know that struggle. They have two parents that would set themselves on fire to give them what they need and we have financial resources that neither my husband nor I had growing up. He came from a working class family, his parents were immigrants, they worked their asses off to get their kids a better life.

When the college admissions scandal blew up this spring, I wasn’t surprised. I can see this happening where we live, these people are so primed for it. All the money, time and sweat equity they have poured into their offspring, they aren’t settling for anything less than Penn State. The ones that want Ivy Leagues pay for college coaches, they’ve all spent at least a year’s tuition on the prep before they receive their admissions letters.

Back to the ceremony…there was the obligatory photo montage featuring a small collection of photos for each student. A guarantee for tears is what it is…pictures of babies morphing into high school kids on a continuous loop until the ceremony begins. My brain went through a total recall of my daughter’s childhood. It extended into the known parts of her friends, past and present.

There were times when I felt like I knew too much…that girl is on anxiety meds, that one is struggling with her sexual orientation, another was once a close friend until she wasn’t, that kid’s dad has cancer, his parents are separated, divorce, divorce, affair, those 4 kids each lost a parent (one dad died 7 weeks ago, heart attack), the boy who has been in a wheelchair since he was two, the blind kid who has the same birthday as my daughter…..my heart broke a million times yesterday knowing some of their struggles. And while, I am still somewhat involved in the district, I don’t know everything. Each one of those kids is struggling with something, regardless of the awards, perfect hair or blatant talent, privilege can’t take away every obstacle in life.

Last night there was a party at the school for the kids. It had a theme because of course it did. I can barely remember a time when parties didn’t have a theme, barbaric. The theme last night was Aloha High School. Some moms came up with theme related activities. Decorations included grass skirts around the basketball hoops. These parents are EXTRA, they go all out. There were at least 8 different activity stations all with Hawaiian flair – hot potato, scooter hockey, volley ball, an inflatable obstacle course, limbo, hula hoops, and my personal station Flip Flop Flippin.

Flip Flop Flippin or FFF as it is known on the street, features two elevated hula hoops and flip flops. The goal is to flip a flip flop off your foot through one of the hoops. Yeah, sounds easy, in reality, not so much. It’s easier to do with a heavier shoe, I know this now, I know it deep in my sole (typo intentional, calm down grammar nerds). I had maybe five customers in 2 hours.

Midway through the party,  I went over to assist at the inflatable obstacle course. Actually, I wandered over to chat with a mom friend, she soon put me to work. Before I knew it was the inflatable course warden yelling at boys to stop grabbing each other’s ankles as they attempted to climb the slide. I yelled to the point where my throat hurt and some dudes got black listed from the course. I have without a doubt destroyed my daughter’s chances of dating any of those guys, mission accomplished.

Despite the carefully planned curated activities it turned into a zoo in no time. Noodles for the scooter hockey were immediately weaponized as 14 year old boys unleashed their inner Zorro. The boy in the wheelchair had at least 4 kids on the square scooters trailing behind him in a whip chain for at least 40 minutes (I was happy about that, he had a blast and his mom is a G-damn hero).

In the end, the gym looked like a Hawaiian party war zone. The “no food in the gym” rule was breached, a Moku dessert bowl bleeding pomegranate on the wooden floor. Remnants of leis were scattered like ashes from Mauna Loa. No doubt, the remains of a good time as they leave this part of childhood behind. I’m not crying, you are.

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Next Stop, High School

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Next Stop, High School

Things have been busy around here. The Holderness Family made a video called MAYcember which is a beautiful tribute to the insanity that is the end of the school year.

Holderness MAYcember

My daughter is about to finish 8th grade which apparently is a big deal now. When I transitioned from 8th into 9th grade in the ’80s, not so much. There’s a promotion ceremony which requires a new outfit and shoes ($$$$). There’s also a party for which parents are expected to donate time, money and a pint of blood (specifically, unicorn blood).

Of course a Sign Up Genius went out via email and I was ready. I beat out at least 17 other parents to be the virtual first which means I get to be Napkin Mom. This is the most coveted of all of the sign up options, followed by Paper Plate Dad with Aunt Disposable Utensils coming in third.

Yesterday Facebook made me all gooey by showing a photo of my daughter from five years ago. It was her third grade field day and let me just say, we do field day big here. Until middle school then it falls off a cliff because middle school should suck every damn day. When I was a kid we had tug-of-war and races, that’s it. If you were lucky you got one of those frozen POP-ICE sugar water things that bled purple dye on your legs, done.

Field Day here has a theme and kids are encouraged to build something to go with the theme. They order special t-shirts each year which kids (and adults) customize. One year it was flying machines…most kids went with airplanes and helicopters, my girl made a flying saucer and it was the sh*t!  The memory photo that came up yesterday featured the seafaring vessels. That year both my kids participated. My son made a viking boat and my daughter brought out the big guns and made a submarine.

Obviously these projects require some supervision. Unlike the Boy Scout Derby Car that my husband totally made (1st place winner), field day projects are individual with minimal construction help. My daughter would always consult my father in-law. Nonno was the fixer of things around here, that Italian ingenuity deep in his DNA, he could jury-rig anything. She would come to him with a very specific vision of what she wanted, sketches in hand and he would search for the materials to make it happen. They would tinker in the detached garage until the structure was built and then she would take over with painting and any finishing touches.

Yesterday’s memory photo featured my daughter at 9, beaming with pride next to an equally proud art teacher, the submarine in the foreground. That particular teacher is a mentor of emerging artists, an innovator, one of those teachers that makes a difference. Nonno helped her make that submarine, letting her lead, making gentle suggestions only when necessary.  It was a snapshot of that precious time between childhood and the teen years. The last real bits of childhood, before you care about how you look or what others think. Before she was on Instagram or Snapchat, when she was a ball of creativity and enthusiasm guided by the gentlest of souls, her dear departed Nonno. She still has those qualities, they are just a bit muted now by life experiences and the realization and pressures of the real world beginning to unfold.

Next stop, high school.

 

 

 

Napkin Mom (Over It)

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Napkin Mom (Over It)

I started out so strong when they were little. When my son was colicky and didn’t sleep through the night I would hold him, offer him a bottle, sing a little song I made up. I was a good mom. When my daughter came along 19 months later, I was still good. Grateful that this one liked to sleep more…I promised her the moon. I was so filled with gratitude for an easy baby.

When they got to preschool I was all in. I knew every kid/mom/dad/teacher/assistant, I could tell you the names of the baby chicks that came in the spring. I dressed like an adult for the Mother’s Day Tea. Hell, I put on lipstick AND mascara. For Halloween I dressed up as Cat in the Hat, my kids were Thing 1 & Thing 2. I was happy to be there in those moments, soaking it in.

My reign of good momness continued into elementary school. I volunteered for everything. I was a lunch mom, I assisted the littles with their Capri Sun straws, opened cracker packages, kept the peace at recess. I was the Class Mom for both my kids some years….do you have any idea how hard it is to pull that off? People fight for that here, I was golden. There were years when I had each School Board Member and the District Superintendent in my phone contact list. I never called them but they probably would have answered if I had (alright, most probably would have answered…..some….perhaps, two of the 10 wouldn’t block me).

At one point I was consistently attending school board meetings and I had opinions about things. Then I realized that I didn’t need to have an opinion about EVERYthing, so I shifted my focus. I started volunteering for a non-profit that provided grant money to the district. This was the big time of good momness, I was raising money (say it with me) “FOR THE CHILDREN.” And honestly it was a lot of fun for the first year or two, until it wasn’t.

When my kids were both in middle school I hit the wall. I was burnt out and it happened to coincide with some family issues and a teeny bit of social drama. I wouldn’t say I went out in flames, it wasn’t that dramatic. I just kind of walked away, fire licking at my toes and I didn’t look back.

It’s been a year now since I deserted my volunteer post and I have definitely turned a corner. My daughter has a school event coming up in a couple of weeks. As is the norm these days, a Sign Up Genius went out requesting parents to bring party goods – food, decorations, etc. I responded immediately, I wanted to get on there before anyone else so I could make my claim. It was close, I edged out 4 other moms to beat them to the coveted spot and I’m happy to report that I won. I used to be the makes-homemade-chicken-parm and brings several trays to feed a hundred people mom. Now I’m “Napkin Mom” and that’s just fine.

 

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Only the Memory Remains

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Only the Memory Remains

Cyranny’s Cove is a blog I follow. She is a very generous soul who often spotlights other bloggers and she posts daily. Today she posed a question – What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done, in the name of Love? Cyranny’s Quickie

You know the date stamped on milk cartons, the ones that indicate the best “use by date”, wouldn’t it be cool if relationships came with that? In my late teens through my late twenties the craziest thing I did for love (or co-dependency?) was to stay past the relationship’s natural expiration date (I’m not talking days past, years past). I had a couple of those awful relationships where I kept trying to make something so broken work. In hindsight, it was like trying to complete a puzzle with significant pieces missing. Thank God those days are behind me.

On a lighter note, the single craziest thing I did was for teenage infatuation, which as most know, is a very toxic, sometimes lethal aphrodisiac. I was 13 when Rick Springfield played the concert arena at Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. At some point during the show I decided that I should sneak back stage. I had to meet him, had to! I determined that the best time to do this would be during his performance as people would be too distracted to notice.

The specifics are hazy so many years later. I do recall climbing a rather tall wall and hiding from Security behind shrubbery until I found a bathroom. I hid in there listening to the muffled sound of Jessie’s Girl until the show ended. A friend of Mr. Springfield came into the bathroom. She was perplexed as to why I was there and I confessed my sins. She tried to talk me out of waiting for him after the show, something about privacy, personal space, felonies, blah blah blah. I just wanted an autograph I wasn’t trying to start a family with the man. After the show ended there were a handful of people waiting outside to meet Rick Springfield. I managed to get his autograph which, has sadly since been lost, now only the memory remains. So if Rick Springfield happens to read this I would love another autograph.

What is the the craziest thing you’ve done for love?

Muber (Pronounced: Moo-Brrr)

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Muber (Pronounced: Moo-Brrr)

Last weekend I commented to another mom friend that I am in the “Muber” stage of parenting. I’m not necessarily to the go-to person in my kids lives unless they need a ride, also known as the teenage years. It’s not all terrible, sure the pay still sucks and they trash my car but sometimes I gain some insight.

It’s hard to know what your kids are up to all the time unless you are tracking them like the CIA.  We have limits on their phone use, protocols to prevent 24hr access. The goal is to protect them from predators and make sure they don’t stay up all night on Snapchat, freedom with boundaries. They need the space to make decisions, room for mistakes, it’s how we learn.

So when my kids want a ride somewhere, especially if they want me to drive their friends, I give an enthusiastic “YES!” It’s my only chance to observe how they interact in the “wild”. The bits and pieces of conversations I hear between friends in the car gives me some insight into their teen world that I might otherwise miss. So for now, we are in the Muber phase which, will soon transition into Holy-shit-teen-driving-car-insurance-is-expensiveAF phase. Be careful out there.

 

 

The Lonely Middle Years of Parenting

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The Lonely Middle Years of Parenting

Parenting kids in middle and high school is such a complicated and lonely space to be in. When our kids are little we tend to share a lot about them. Holiday cards, social media posts, small playgroups, sports teams and parent clubs. The little cherubs happily pose for the camera without a whiff of self consciousness.

Somewhere around 5th grade things start to shift. The kids no longer want you to go public with what you think is cute. Concerns about privacy, social status and damage control start to creep into your thoughts. The kids disappear from your social media feed and you keep things under lock and key. The difficult stuff is whispered to your closest friends, a very limited set of eyes and ears. Even with those confidants the experiences are exhausting and isolating at times.

I’ve had days this past month that have absolutely gutted me. Pain for my child which housed a kaleidoscope of emotions; profound sadness, love, pit of my stomach fear, impatience and resignation. Fortunately the low points have been transient, replaced with more hopeful experiences, it goes in and out like the tide. I can only imagine the despair of families that reside in the muck for extended periods of time. I’m sure those parents are around me, they just aren’t talking about it.

The why of the reasons for not discussing things openly are a complicated stew of ego, protection, shame and insecurity. Shame that maybe we failed as a parent somehow – gave too much or too little. We were too involved or not vigilant enough. We haven’t properly adjusted the sails, we hit the gas when we should have braked and now we are spinning out of control.

The first inclination is protection. Protect the child at all costs from labels, embarrassment, bullies, the boogeyman, mistakes or misunderstandings that can negatively impact their future. That’s a tall order and some days I feel so small, minuscule, a speck of dust, insignificant. At this phase in their lives, your kids generally care more about friendships than family, at least temporarily. Another jagged pill to swallow, the person you want to help most in the world doesn’t necessarily want your assistance or your opinion. They will however, happily relieve you of $20. or the car keys when they start to drive.

Insecurity is the ghost that haunts us all whether we care to admit it or not. Insecurity is married to shame maybe not officially but they are at a minimum shacked up together. If I’m honest, this is the piece of parenthood I feared the most before we had kids. Knowing that I would make mistakes as all humans do. I also knew that making mistakes as a parent would cause me intense pain. Mind you I haven’t had colossal failures, just the usual varieties; having a more impatient tone than intended (this is called yelling), being a few months behind on the dental check up, and not being a constant shadow on their social media.

I’m sure some parents and kids skate through this phase without a pimple or a tear shed, I think those are the unicorns. Most of us take a deep breath and remind ourselves to have a friendly tone when we knock on our child’s bedroom door. We worry about over/under scheduling, setting reasonable expectations that neither diminish goals nor create neurotic overachievers. I’m still searching for that sweet spot of challenging my kids so they can bend without breaking.

 

Welcome Aboard!

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Welcome Aboard!

Hey there blogging friends, there has been a recent uptick in followers here lately and I have no idea why. The newbies could be Russian bots, marketing peeps or spies for Jeff Bezos, complete mystery. For the authentic, in the flesh real people, hello and welcome aboard. Thanks for joining this weird ride of mine. Here’s a snapshot into my life via a description of yesterday’s events so you have an idea of what you’re in for, buckle up.

Nut Butter Log – Thursday

OH FFS there is another school delay! The sleeping in bit is great until it derails the remainder of your day. I needed to be in three places at 9:30am – 1) Work 2) Shoveling my mother’s driveway 3)Driving kids to school. The kids still come first around here followed by mom and then the clients. Calls were made and expectations were appropriately lowered, what I refer to as adjusting the sails.

Getting middle school and high school kids to school on time has a set of variables that I didn’t really anticipate when they were little. I thought preschoolers were a tough bunch – lack of focus, poor bowel movement control and a struggle to tie shoes, sometimes I long for those days. I can’t get into specifics because teens have very intense rules about what can and can’t be posted…let’s just say that some mornings it feels like I am walking a tight rope over lava…in a wind storm.

I dropped my son off first then offered to take my daughter to Wawa for some snacks because she had ski club after school. She was very happy about that (parents of littles – food bribes still work in middle school). We were driving out of the busy parking lot with no expletives and zero honking which, is a minor miracle because that place is the stuff of nightmares. Then it happened, a massive hot chocolate spill directly into my daughter’s crotch.

DD: Mom! Oh no, look!! I look like I peed myself.

Me: You smell good though…you went with the S’mores variety didn’t you (exaggerated sniff)…now that is the smell of summer in February.

DD: Oh My God! I can’t go to school like this.

Me: Nope, you can’t. I’ll take you home (smirking). You can go to work with me. Rob & Laura would love you. (They’re in their 90s)

DD: MOOOOOOOOM.

Me: Relax honey, just think about which pants you will change into and be super fast when we get home. Sometimes the universe sends us a sign to not take ourselves too seriously. We will now refer to this as “The Great Hot Cocoa Incident of 2019”.

DD: I’m sorry you’ll be even later for work. (Side eye and a smirk, she has perfected both)

After I got my daughter to school, I was on my way to my mother’s house to drop off the milk which, I forgot to drop off at 8:30 when I shoveled out her car and walkways. I got to my clients house an hour later then scheduled and then shoveled out their car, driveway and walkway. Lots of shoveling which was good since the gym got sidelined with the delayed opening.

I have a small business which fills in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. Many of my clients are elderly and need assistance with errands, household chores and rides to the doctor. Rob and Laura are clients that I visit twice a week and I adore them. They’re both in their 90s and have some mobility issues. Yesterday our errands included two grocery stores, a diner, the butcher and the post office.

The first grocery store was a hive of activity. Our slow moving somewhat decrepit parade was getting passed by like fighter jets buzzing the tower. I had to suppress the urge to stand in the center of each aisle and assume the starfish stance in an effort to create a safe zone for my clients. Shopping with them is always interesting, they bring a list which is organized by aisle. Things were going well until we got to the beans. Butter beans and Lima beans were both MIA. I can’t really tell the difference between the two but Rob can and he has a recipe that doesn’t allow for bean substitutes. This necessitated a trip to a second food store.

I offered to do the bean run into the second store and have my clients wait in the car. They obliged and I soon found myself in another aisle of beans stumped by the options. There were Butter beans (yes!)..then there were two types Lima beans. One can advertised “Butter Beans, Lima Beans in Sauce” they were white and looked suspiciously like the plain butter beans. The other can of Lima beans were the familiar detested green Limas of my youth. This was a bit of a dilemma, which Limas should I get? When I was putting myself through college, working full time busting my ass, I never imagined this would be my breaking point. In my mind I could hear the overhead store announcement,  “Existential life crisis brought on by beans, aisle 15”.

I could not consult my nonagenarian friends (I went to college so I could use that word), they don’t text so, I made an executive decision and put those nasty green Limas back on the shelf. I found out later that I made the wrong choice because of course I did! I was blinded by my longstanding hatred of green Lima beans. You never know when a food you hated in your childhood will come back and bite you on the ass. Yesterday the green Lima beans did just that, the bastards.

After the beans were tucked into the car I asked my clients where to next – those party animals wanted to go to the diner. I guess they rested up while I was having a mental breakdown over beans and they were hungry. I was hungry too in fact, I treated myself to an Almond Joy while I was checking out with the beans. I had to cleanse the putrid memory of green Lima beans with something equally powerful from my childhood palate.

The diner we went to is their version of Cheers, everyone knows their name here. I walked in the middle of our slow moving parade with Rob in front and Laura behind me. This is a typical conversation:

Me: Rob we have the table in the back corner. Remember if you fall, fall backwards, I’ll catch you.

Rob: (Grunts) It’s crowded.

Me: Yup, we’re threading the needle here, threading the needle, almost there.

When we get to the table I ask them each where they want to sit. Then I sit, taking a mental note of where the canes are resting so, they don’t become tripping hazards for the waitress.

Laura: I love Ann (the waitress), she seems like an interesting person. I wish I knew her better. Check out her feet when you get a chance.

Sure enough Ann is sporting some bold striped socks. Laura knows this because at 92, her head is in a permanent downward tilt. At the first grocery store I saw a dime on the floor which I quickly stepped on to hide from her view. I didn’t want her to bend down and pick it up. Not on my watch Laura, the activity of bending down to pick something up can be a game changer at her age.

After lunch Rob wanted me to stop at the butcher to buy bacon. The store is a throwback to what I can only assume would be 1957. This is one of Rob’s happy places and I marveled at the number of deer heads on the wall (7 and one was wearing an Eagles hat). One more stop at the post office to clear their box and we were back at their house. I helped put groceries away and noticed that there was another pound of bacon in the meat drawer. I informed Rob that he has a significant bacon supply and then remind him we are going to see his Cardiologist next week, we both chuckle at that.

When I get in my car to leave my clients, I get a text from my husband that a family friend is sick and we may need to watch their twins (6 years old). I text the twins mom and offer to help.  She takes me up on it because I’m the friend you call when sh*t goes sideways. I won’t hold your hair back if you’re drunk in a club vomiting into a public toilet but I will drive you home, my friends know this.

Once again I found myself in the position of needing to be in two places at once – picking up my son who stayed after school for robotics and fetching the twins off the bus. I texted my son to hasten his pace and broke several traffic laws to get to the bus on time. For the next 5 1/2 hours I had twins who are equal parts adorable and exhausting. At 9pm I took them home and at 9:30 I picked my daughter up from ski club. Within an hour, I was falling asleep in bed sitting up not watching the news.

Like so many of us, child-rearing competes with caring for aging parents, self-care, and running a household while managing a job.  I’d say this is what it’s like to be the meat in the middle of a generation sandwich but nut butter seems more appropriate. Thanks for visiting :).

 

Summer Camp

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Summer Camp

I went to summer camp once when I was a kid and it was subsidized. We drove 45 minutes each way on a school bus with a bunch a screaming lunatics. You had to watch your back and guard your lunch or you wouldn’t eat that day beyond the off brand stale snacks they gave out. I’m so glad I clawed my way out of poverty so I can eat real Oreos and not those sad Hydrox second rate cookies.

My kids have each gone to a variety of summer camps – soccer, chess, YMCA, a drone academy, tech school, improv comedy and cow camp. Cow camp is quite special, this summer will be my daughter’s 4th year. We basically pay an exorbitant amount of money to have her work on a dairy farm for a week. She partners up with a friend (because they’re suckers too) and the two girls get assigned to a calf for the week that they attend camp. They groom the calf, walk the calf on a lead and review the basics of showing livestock. They also spend a day in the milking barn. The place smells like sour milk and cow sh*t but my girl loves it and it’s the most effective way to pry a phone out of her hand.

My husband gets annoyed paying for this working farm camp and he suggested we start a “Housecleaning Camp.” Naturally we would charge the parents an outrageous sum of money to send their kids to our house to learn proper cleaning. My husband would have to teach it because I’m not qualified. It sure would be nice to earn some cash and get the house cleaned. I’m currently drafting a business plan and I intend to franchise.

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Last year my daughter attended cow camp with a very good friend who shares her sense of humor. They told me what they wanted to name their calf and I thought it was funny. I posted about it on Facebook:

“Informal Poll – If your kid went to a dairy farm camp and they (along with a friend) decided to name their cow “Burger” would that be considered funny or disturbing? Asking for a friend…”

Most of my FB friends thought it was funny. Except one person who wrote this:

“Are they prepared to butcher and eat it? That would be the difference between ‘’for real/funny’’ and ‘removed/callous.’ If my kid were in the first category, I would be immensely proud because I think we all need to own our sh*t, and as a parent and teacher, our kids NEVER own their sh*t because we have failed and created ‘snowflakes in climate change’!”

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Woah lady, slow down.This is supposed to be a light-hearted post. No she isn’t going to butcher a dairy calf for food, that WOULD be wrong. Plus she is only kind of leasing the calf for a very specific time period. That calf will be working with two more suckers campers next week. I can’t imagine what that bill would be not to mention the psychological trauma for all involved.

And with that the levity and humor was sucked out of my post. I know the person who wrote that and I like her, I still do. I pointed out that it is a dairy cow so that eliminates the meat aspect. It kept nagging at me though so I decided to put it under my mental microscope to take a look.

Use of NEVER is non starter for me. I point out my kids’ errors on a daily basis. I don’t consider myself a maker of snowflakes but perhaps that is like the crazy person who can’t see their crazy. To say someone NEVER does something would actually take some serious effort at consistency. Doesn’t apply, let it fly.

Then I focused on the term callous and that’s what got under my skin like a splinter you can’t quite get regardless of the tweezers and incessant picking. Then I came to the realization that my kid needs to be a little calloused. The fact that she is showing some grit in a humorous way actually puts us in the plus column.

And then I found this T-shirt:81Lyxlyn9iL._UL1500_.jpgWe tried drone camp for the first time last summer. My son is mechanically inclined and he likes to fly drones so we decided to give it a try. There aren’t that many camps that interest a 14 year old dude. I got a super creepy vibe off the owner when I walked in on the first day. There were just a handful of people signed up including a mother and her two kids. The fact that a mom was there gave me some comfort.

This was a one week camp and I stayed within a 5 minute drive while my kid was there. I usually sat in the parking lot for the 2 hour sessions. Each day I would hear about some sexist (toward the mom and daughter) remarks or other inappropriate comments hurled at the helpers by the owner.

The owner, Mr. Yaya (a solidly fake name), would verbally abuse the help, who had the misfortune of also being his stepsons. He would say stuff like “they’re white on the outside but yellow on the inside,” Whaaat?!. One time I watched an argument between Yaya and one of his stepsons. Yaya was yelling at the kid saying “don’t tell me how to run my business” as I’m walking toward the building. Awkward.

On the last day of camp Yaya announced that he was going to Maine. I mentioned that we had gone to Bar Harbor in June. Yaya proceeded to tell us why he hated Bar Harbor and how only stupid people go there. Apparently, Bar Harbor gets far too crowded for Yaya, he isn’t really a people person (shocking because he is so damn charming). The icing on this weird cake was that my son built a drone during the camp but he wasn’t permitted to keep it. Basically another pay-to-work camp. I’m thinking we will skip drone camp next year.

 

Making Space for Forgiveness

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Making Space for Forgiveness

I told her it was OK as my mother sobbed on my shoulder. I turned out fine, my life is far better than anything I could have dreamed. I told her that I forgave her and I understood that she just did what she had been taught, modeled patriarchal behavior. The same shit that her parents did that tore her down. Now she feels regret for repeating those awful behaviors.

Women are so eager to take on the blame. She’s crying over the bad wiring in her brain. The structure and synapses which were created by her own traumas, one by one, they formed a new way of thinking; alcoholism, rationalization, self-preservation, victim-hood, depression and decades of regret, at 73 the guilt is smacking her in the face, hard.

It’s sad and predictable, I remain calm and reassuring, while simultaneously hoping I can get home before the ice cream melts in my car. I know that sounds callous but I’ve been living with this drama my ENTIRE life. My head wanders in several directions: my recently deceased father and the damage he inflicted on all of us, groceries in the car, company coming over and being a witness to my mother dissolving in front of me, again. It’s almost too much to take but I’ve taken so much more than this when I was little.

She laments about her mental illness and the limitations it has caused. Her brilliant mind is her best worst enemy. She talks about her long ago marriage to my father and how brutal he was…he’s been dead less than 5 months. She begins to tell me about the rapes, the beatings, how awful he was and I don’t want the details. She holds the worst of it back and I am grateful for that. I already know too many terrible things about my parents, I don’t need more. I do ask for clarification on a few things, the answers surprise me.

I asked her why she left me in Florida when I was 9 while she and my brother went back to New Jersey for a visit. She has a puzzled look on her face and says that I wanted to stay. I was 9 and calling the shots apparently, I stayed with friends that we barely knew for those two weeks. She asked me if anything bad happened during my weeks with Kay and her family. I tell her no, remembering that is when I started smoking and I kissed a boy for the first time. I don’t mention these things, she has enough on her mind. She didn’t want me to stay with Frank, her then live-in boyfriend. She asks me if Frank ever made a pass at me. He didn’t, I was never assaulted by any of her boyfriends which, in retrospect, is sadly miraculous.

Then she confessed one of her biggest regrets as I stood there. She regrets how she handled it when she found out that 16 year old me was in a relationship with a 32 year old man. A man who 6 months prior, had been my counselor. So predictable, the textbook definition of a vulnerable girl and a predatory male. She’s mad at herself for not lashing out at this man 34 years ago. Instead she gave me the anger and disgust because that is what she was taught. It’s the females fault, it always is, men are the way they are. It’s OK mom, you reacted the way you were taught, I forgive you. She seemed to calm down a bit and I told her I loved her and left to go home.

A few hours later, I’m in my kitchen making a damn good tomato sauce with sausage, eggplant and roasted garlic. I have the echo blasting 70’s music, I’m in my happy place. Then I have one of those ah-ha moments. My mother doesn’t hate me, she hates herself for all the ways she’s failed me. Somehow this awareness removes a burden and I have more space for forgiveness.

Panic at the Escape Room

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Panic at the Escape Room

I recently took a group of teenage girls out for pizza and an escape room experience. The outing was to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. She’s had to deal with some adversity this past year – the deaths of two grandfathers, a falling out of previously close friends and the hormonal angst of being female in an adolescent body. Eight grade is out to destroy everyone and no one gets out unscathed. I try not to fret about it too much. I constantly remind myself that grit doesn’t grow on a sunny beach, it grows in a dark, lonely, painful place.

I started to have anxiety about her birthday in the wee hours before dawn. Somewhere around 3am my brain decided to obsessively worry if someone would decorate her locker at school. I realize what a luxury problem that is, I was raised by an alcoholic mother and had a deadbeat dad, a decorated locker wasn’t in my orbit in middle school. First world problems be damned, my mind just wouldn’t let it go.

My daughter and I have made at least a dozen trips to the local drugstore to purchase candy and decorations for various girls in her grade. My girl makes a point to celebrate everyone’s birthday. She even decorates for half birthdays for the friends that have summer birthdays when school is closed. She’s logged significant hours on this little project and I was concerned that she might get forgotten since she is usually the organizer. Like the mom who bakes her own birthday cake because no one else will, for the record I haven’t done that but I know women that do. I have purchased flowers to cheer myself and have made my own chicken soup when I got sick. It’s empowering to take care of yourself. Decorating your own locker would just be weird. I did hand over a king size candy bar in the morning and noted that I would have attached them to her locker if that was allowed. I got some serious eye roll for my troubles.

I worried for nothing, her friends showed some big love. My daughter came home with Halloween-level bags of candy – Kisses, M & Ms, Reese’s, Kit Kats – it was Candy Palooza! They put streamers on the row of lockers which flanked hers, there were balloons, pictures, memes, there may have been a parade, it was magical! The only bummer was one of her closest friends couldn’t make the event due to a weekend away which could not be rescheduled.

Driving your kids and their friends around is the best way to learn about them. I try to keep my mouth shut and just listen, not my first inclination. My daughter likes EMO (for the old people, that is a genre of rock music which leans heavy into emotional expression and yes I had to Google it ’cause I’m old too). Her choices were vetoed and they started playing songs from Seussical.

Horton Hears A Who

I tried not to laugh excessively as the theater nerds in the car sang their hearts out while my daughter had a FFS look on her face. It was priceless. Before you could say “Break a leg!” we were parked and headed in for pizza. I got them all pizza and seated myself at a table for two on the opposite end of the room. Shortly after I was settled in, I got a text from my daughter “love you momma”. Ahhh, I replied with the usual emoji’s – kissy face and double hearts. A few minutes later I got another text – That was Xxxxx. Punk got me, I may have yelled “You Suck!” from across the pizza dinning room, maybe.

An hour later we were on our way down the block to go to an escape room. My daughter picked out the scariest possible scenario because that’s who she is. One friend was petrified so I opted to stay with her and watch the remaining girls try to think their way out of the room via a monitor.

This room included a prisoner who was supposed to be foreboding instead he was a cornucopia of clues and helpful hints. “No, not that key”, “Turn it the other way”, “Listen to the tape again”…..this man was desperate for these girls to “escape” so he could move on with his own life. One of the clues required that a Nerf dart gun be used to hit a specific target. My daughter was so bad at this that the inmate was actually handing her the darts to improve her odds. Imagine Hannibal Lector trying to assist six teenage girls with a task for 50 minutes when everyone is taking turns giggling and screaming “shut up” at each other. I’m sure he was ready for some Chianti by the time we finished. They got out in 53 minutes and that man earned every penny of his pay.

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What he wanted to say: Oh FFS girls, look under the compass. The compass, it’s circular has a glass dome top with N, E, W, S inscribed…..I’m guessing none of you were ever in the Girl Scouts. No I don’t want a smoky eye tutorial. Are you even paying attention?

I drove all the girls home and later that night I went to my daughter’s bedroom. She had a great birthday and she loved her presents – mostly nods to Panic at the Disco and My Chemical Romance, her two favorite bands. One friend included some sarcastic buttons in the gift mix. This is my favorite –

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I happen to be good friends with the mother of the girl who gifted this to my daughter. She gets our humor.

So while I can pat myself on the back for a successful outing I must also call myself out for a gift faux pas. In my haste to purchase EMO ‘merch’ (that’s short for merchandise, or so I’ve been told via audible eye roll)…I purchased a sweatshirt that is wildly inappropriate. I’ve given in on the excessively ripped jeans fad however, my daughter will not be wearing her new MCR sweatshirt to school. It has this on the front:

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Not really sure how I missed the gun border on this. My eyes aren’t what they used to be and it was one of those late night Amazon purchases. We all have to live with those regrets from time to time…of course it wasn’t Prime, that would be too easy. So once again a parental victory is leveled by a parental fail and isn’t that the way.