A Very Brady Remembrance

1969 was a very important year for me. I began kindergarten. The Mets won the world series. The Brady Bunch appeared on ABC.

8pm. Friday nights. Reruns or not, I was glued to the TV. The Brady Bunch was the show of my youth. I wanted to be Marcia. I wanted a big brother like Greg. I wanted to sit around the kitchen table and have Alice bring me pork chops and applesauce….

Last year, HGTV (another favorite of mine) bought the “Brady” house, the house that was used for the exterior shots during the filming of the TV series. Their plan was to restore the house to its Brady glory. I was excited at the very thought of this. Apparently. I was not the only one excited for this renovation. The premier of “A Very Brady Renovation” was the highest rated premier in HGTV history.

What is it about the Brady’s that gets the hearts of middle aged people pumping? Makes us sing along to the words to the theme song even though 50 years have passed?

Does it remind us of the innocence of our youth? To a time when breaking Mom’s favorite vase was the worst tragedy that could befall us? Does it just remind us of how young we once were?

The Brady kids have aged- the men are all grey now, no longer the dark brown of their youth. The middle row of the tic tac toe board have all passed. The youngest one doesn’t have any curls. But I watch them renovating the house, and once again I am five years old, sitting in the basement of my parents starter house, my stuffed cat Bootsie in my lap. I see “Greg” walk into the room that has been replicated to match his “Dad’s” den, and a tear comes to his eye: something preserved on film has been recreated to the smallest detail, and how can you not become flooded with memories? How can we all not remember all the promise of out youth? The good and the bad of a life lived?

As for the actual renovation of the house…if you’re an HGTV geek you must watch it. The show was filmed on a set, and the inside of the house was nothing like the TV Brady house. To see how the HGTV stars have rebuilt the house, found or created the décor…..it’s truly extraordinary. They have created wallpaper, crowd sourced accessories…it’s mind blowing to watch how it all happened and  what they have done.

So here’s the story….I get to take a little trip down nostalgia lane for a little while this fall, and it has been a blast. If only the Mets could win the world series…..

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Who is Responsible

Yesterday I spoke of my neighbor who is falling deeper into the throes of dementia. I mentioned that her children have been contacted, but have not gotten involved as her mental health declines. Many bloggers felt that morally the children should be helping out the parent. But one blogger simply stated that they are under no obligation to assist.

So

Are children responsible for their parents?

Is there legal responsibility to care for a parent? I don’t think there is. I don’t think you are bound to assist.

But is it a moral responsibility to take care of your parents? Aging or otherwise?

My Father in law is the type of man who thinks that children should support their parents as they age. I’m really not a fan of this line of thought, especially as he is the type of man who makes money disappear at the drop of a hat or sign of an OTB (off track betting) Should my husband and his sister be forced to support him financially?

If your parent has a substance abuse problem, do you help them through it? Or do you walk away to save your own sanity?

Now let’s switch to the aging process. If a parent is declining in health, should you take them in, or should you get them a caregiver, or put them in a facility? Or should you just let them figure it out? Who makes the decision as to where someone spends their final years? I often say to my Mother “Watch what you say to me because I’m the one making the decision where you spend your final days.” I say it as a joke when she gets a little too intrusive, but really, how much of it is my call?

I remember a conversation I had with a friend. His wife was pregnant with their second child and he said the main on reason to have kids was to have someone to take care of you when you got older. I sort of blanched at him- I mean- this was the early 2000’s. I don’t think that’s the reason you have kids, but he was clear. Kids take care of their aging parents. If they don’t, who will?

What sort of expectation should a parent have of how much support their children will give?

Now let’s segue just a little. As we age, should there be provisions in our living will as to how we want the remaining years of our lives to play out? Should I just give power of attorney to my daughter if I reach 80? Should there be some sort of clause that if my mental capacities diminish to the extent that I am walking around my apartment building knocking on doors saying my son was kidnapped, I must be put into a facility for those with diminishing faculties? Legally, are there things that we should have in place? We all know about DNR’s, but that’s specifically for end of life. What about when there is life still left?

As we deal with a rather large aging population, what should we do?

 

The Worrisome Neighbor

I’ve spoken of my neighbor K before. K is probably in her early 70’s and used to belong to our building book club. She had a wonderful career and after her retirement she started clicking things off her bucket list, and up until two years ago she led a vibrant active life. Two years. What a difference two years makes.

At first you almost didn’t notice the slips, the odd things that she would say or do. It was east to write it off as senioritis, one of those silly slips that unfortunately accompany age. But the odd behavior escalated, the things that she said and did became worse over time. Her dementia growing each passing day.

Her children got her an aide. And they have since upped it to full time care, a series of aides. This is not always helpful as she likes certain aides more than others. Sometimes, she doesn’t let the aides in the apartment, so they sit in the lobby of our building, waiting and hoping they will be able to do their job. Sometimes she forcibly ejects them from her apartment. And sometimes she calls the police on them. Yes, there have been multiple occasions where you enter our apartment lobby to see a few police officers standing in the lobby. In some cases it’s a very good thing that she called the police: last month after she kicked out her aide and called the police, the police realized that she had left the gas on in her oven….

Her behavior and things she says to others has become increasingly bizarre. I will say hello to her and ask how she is when I see her. A few months ago she would go in and out of lucid behavior so there was a 50/50 chance that she would recognize me and greet me. Last week I said “Hi” to her as I entered the elevator. As I pushed my floor button she looked at me and said “Three. Only evil people live on three. You must be evil. Why are you evil?” Her aide just looked at me and made the face of someone who has no idea what to do. I just smiled and said something non committal and luckily got off quickly. I’m an adult and I get that she’s not all there any more. But what if a kid had been in the elevator?

So we have a situation where she doesn’t let her helpers in, leaves the gas on, and 95% of the time she has absolutely no idea what is going on. As neighbors in an apartment building, what do we do?

Management has tried reaching out to her children, of which she has three. Messages have been left, but no calls have been returned. We clearly have a situation that could become dangerous, but are adult children supposed to be responsible for their parents? They’ve hired help, but what happens when that help is not enough?

I have considered calling social services, yet I feel slightly bad about that. I don’t know why exactly, but I guess it’s sort of “one day that could be me” scenario. Is this a case to reach out to authorities? Would authorities even care? Where would crazy senior women fall on their over burdened list of priorities?

What is one to do when faced with a neighbor clearly falling victim to dementia?

 

The Neighbors

As a NYC resident, I see a decent amount of celebrities. It’s not like Los Angeles, but still, famous people are sometimes around. Television shows and movies are often filmed in my neighborhood: there used to be a show “Person of Interest” which filmed one of it’s season finales on my block. We were treated to the glare of a light coming in our window at 11pm, which meant my apartment building was on TV…. So filming, celebrity sightings, are part of my actual day to day.

I do have one particular favorite celebrity sighting story though. Ric Ocasek lived in my neighborhood. He was pretty easy to spot, as he was tall, thin, and hadn’t change his hairstyle since his days fronting The Cars. And he lived in the neighborhood, which meant you might see him walking down the street, or at the dry cleaner, or at the market….

The market. This is where my favorite Ocasek story takes place. A few years ago I was doing my shopping, and I looked up from the frozen edamame to see him standing next to me. As only would happen in NYC, at that moment a Cars song was next up in the market musical mix.

That’s right. I’m standing next to Ric Ocasek and “Who’s Gonna Drive You Home” begins playing.

Now us New Yorkers, we try to be really blasé about celeb sightings- we try to be cool even if more often then not we’re jumping up and down inside.

But really.

They’re playing The Cars.

And he’s next to me.

So I actually look at him, establish eye contact.

He gives me a half smile, shrugs his shoulders and says “Figures”, and picks up whatever he was getting and walks away.

So RIP Ric Ocasek. I will remember your music fondly.

Eddie Money also passed recently.

I have reached that age when the celebrities of my youth are passing. It’s just another product of the aging process….and something else to get used to…

 

The Conversation

If you go way back and think about Monday, I wrote about a decision I made in regards to my college daughter. I just assumed what I am about to write would happen on Tuesday, but who knew the topic would reveal so many hidden truths and opinions. So today I am going to tell you conversation that I had with my daughter.

My Daughter told me she was thinking of coming home in a few weeks. There were two days in September when she would be free of commitments. Two days.

I asked why she wanted to come home. She said didn’t have someone to do something with on Friday or Saturday nights with.

I get this. I do not make friends easily. I am not good at small talk. I am not good at injecting myself into a group. And if I’m not now, I was hopeless at that task when I went to college. And yet, we all know I managed to make amazing friends.

My daughter marvels at how some kids just instantly form into a group. I had to explain to her that these are not really friendships: they are simply a group of people who fell together on the first day and whether or not they have anything in common they just group together because they do not want to be alone. There is nothing wrong with this action: it gets you out and in the game. I did this in college. I told my daughter about my experience. I also told her that I do not even remember the names of the girls on my floor that I hung out with those first weeks. I am not friends with them on Facebook, where you are literally “friends” with your neighbors work colleagues dog walker. And we all know that I made the most amazing friends in college that I still talk to till this day, often multiple times a week.

I also told her that I did not really hang out with these amazing women till I was a Sophomore. I knew them, but didn’t recognize how special and amazing they were. I explained to her that making real friends does not happen overnight.

My daughter has always had friends. In pre K she was inseparable from A- they were together every day after school for the entire year. Years K-2 brought about S. Then third grade happened, the year that kids really start to form personality. This is the year she became besties with R, who to this day remains her very best friend. This was also the year I noticed my daughter was on of the popular kids. I remember walking into the school cafeteria one afternoon to do something for PTA. There was my daughter at the lunch table in the middle, with the ten or twelve girls that everyone wanted to be friends with, the girls that all the kids at the tables surrounding them were looking at. This was a bizarre sight for me because I never sat at the popular table ever. I sat at the table in the back and ate my lunch as quick as possible so I could escape outside.

Then middle school came and my daughter was not  the “popular” kid, but the “smart” kid  who was in charge of everything. But she had friends: R from elementary school and a host of new best buds. High school- still the smart kid who was involved in everything. Had a really nice group of six girls, plus a bunch of others just outside the main group.

My daughter has always had friends. In fact, she has always had good, solid friends for she has chosen wisely. Her teen years were not filled with frenemies, but with kids she could count on.

So not having made friends yet is a new and interesting experience that does not always feel good. But she won’t make friends coming home on the weekends.

At the time I had the pivotal conversation with my daughter, it was early going: she’s barely been in class for six days. Club fair had not yet happened. Community service programs had not yet started. No one had even thought to form a study group yet. She really hasn’t had the opportunity to make any friends. Her roommate is a lovely person, kind, respectful and clean. But she doesn’t like to go out at all, so my daughter has no built in wingperson. It sucks, but it’s life: you don’t always get someone to hold your hand.

I told her that if she wants to have friends, she has to do something about it. It might entail smiling, which is not a sexist manipulation, but just a way of letting people know that you are approachable. Do you pet a snarking dog? I don’t. I pet a dog who looks friendly. Smiling does that too. We don’t always need to be stone faced.

Talk to people.

Have conversations.

Say Hi to the kid that sits next to you in class.

Introduce yourself to the kid in the elevator.

Tell someone you like their shoes.

Ask someone if they want to form a study group.

Ask someone if they want to practice for the moot court audition.

Do something.

It is probably 75% in your control if you make friends: some people are going to say no. Guess what? Rejection is a part of life. If everyone was afraid to talk to someone else, life as we know it would cease to exist.

But you have to be part of the game.

And sitting in your room in NYC is most definitely not putting you in the game.

And on a side note, my husband is Disneyland Dad: he just says “yes” to everything. If she had called him instead of me, she’s be coming home next weekend. So why did she call me, who she knew would say “No”. Cause maybe she really just needed a pep talk….

You’ve got to know your kid.

 

Culture Club

I would be remiss if I spoke of adult children without speaking of differences in culture. As Shallini pointed out the other day, it is customary for adult children to live with their parents until they are married. To do otherwise would be radical. And I think there are places where multi generational living is the norm. Some places, the youth take care of their parents. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this way of thinking: it is just counter to how I’ve grown up.

So, when Shallini asked:

“What if she wants to move home?”

My first thought was:

“No &^#$^ing way”

Because, unless there is a legitimate reason, I have zero expectation that my daughter will ever live with me full time again. First off, I know she does not want to live with me when she gets out of school. Second off, I don’t want her living with me when she gets out of school. I love her….but…..in 21st century America that just doesn’t fly.

How does western society treat adult children that live with their parents when there is no legitimate reason? What do we really think?

Well, Big Bang Theory had Howard, who was continually mocked for living with his Mother, which he did until he married. He was seen as a man/child and routinely mocked. How many women want to marry a guy in his thirties who still lives at home? Who has a Mother that cooks for him and does his laundry? That’s the kind of guy that you tell your friends NOT to go out with. You see a guy living with his parents you scream TROUBLE….ISSUES…..

I had a friend from high school, a woman, who did not choose to move out of her parents home until she was about 40. I will tell you that this was a very weird dynamic and there were issues with her that did not constitute the living arrangement but signaled something was very wrong in her head. The red flag was this living arrangement and her parents did nothing to help her. Correction: they thought her living with them would help her.  This story ends with too many pills and a too early death.

As one blog friend stated yesterday, they have a friend who is in their sixties and still working hard to support a child in their thirties. I’ve heard of many such cases. Is this the new normal?

Or should we start to change out outlook, look towards a more Eastern way of thought, and consider multi generational households? Is there a benefit to many layers of a family residing under one roof? Incomes pooled together, helping one another out when needed?

Is Western society too focused on the individual other than the collective?

So my questions for write my blog Thursday:

What is your opinion of adult children living at home when there is no good reason (saving money for a short term basis, sickness, recent separation and need a place to crash short term)?

Why?

 

 

 

Where is the Line

So I blindfolded my daughter, drove her in a white van with dirty windows to a remote spot in the woods. We walked five miles till we were in the center. and then I spun her around ten times. I walked away, instructing her to count to 100, then remove the blindfold. This was her new home.

OR

I drove to Washington DC, a city my daughter loved so much she applied to three separate colleges there. To a school she really wanted to go to and screamed “YES” after receiving her acceptance letter. We drove through a posh neighborhood, and into the gates of her hallowed campus. To her dorm we went, the good dorm that she wanted with a private bathroom. We spent six hours decorating her room with all new things, met her incredibly respectful, sweet and clean roommate. She had a schedule full of her first choice classes, and a relatively inexpensive bill for rental textbooks. This was her new home…

As we continue on with the discussion of the past two days, we have to focus on what we do as parents, what responsibility we have to guide them. Every parent has to decide what is best for their child. Each child is an individual and has to be treated as such. I know my kid. I know that I can give my kid a nudge and she figures out what she needs to do to survive.

But I also realize that some kids can not be pushed quite the same way. Some kids need a little more coddling- it’s just the way they are built. After 18 years, you know who your kid is, what their strengths are and where their weakness lies. As parents we need to help them develop their strengths, and deal with their weakness. I know this is hard. I have been there. How do you help your child develop, strengthen, or enhance their weak points? I know my daughter needs to learn how to survive as an introvert in an extrovert world. This is why I made her stay. Coming home is not going to help her deal with that issue.

But I want you to think about something else. Does your child need the extra attention, or do you as a parent need to perform the extra act? Are you helping a child solely for your own benefit? We’ve all heard of stage mothers, parents who so want their children to be stars because they never were themselves? Parents who are living their lives vicariously through their children? Parents who can not separate from their child? At some point, the umbilical cord must be severed, for both parent and child.

So whether or not you let your child come home from college for a weekend doesn’t matter. What matters is the why. Why does your child want to come home? What ails them? Why do you want them, or not want them to come home? What’s the reasoning?

No good decision was ever made out of fear or guilt. You can talk to your heart, but use your head to make the choice.

PS- On this day I remember the friends, colleagues, classmates and humanity that was lost 18 years ago today, when I was seven months pregnant with my daughter. My thoughts are with those affected by the events of this day. Peace.

 

Why?

Yesterday I told you that I told my daughter that she could not come home from college till Thanksgiving. Some of you came straight out and said I did the right thing. No one said I didn’t do the right thing, but I could tell…..they weren’t thrilled with my answer. And a bunch of people wanted to know “Why”. Why did I say no?

Ok.

Here’s the WHY.

The job of a parent is to teach their child how to live without them. Seriously- you are a successful parent if your child is able to leave the nest and prosper. And by prosper I do not mean make a million dollars, or start Microsoft, or be the President. Prosper means doing things for themselves: having a source of income and an abode and some sort of goal, even if that goal is binging shows on Netflix. Choosing reasonable friends and mates (but yeah- we screw up there 50% of the time, cause no one has a relationship crystal ball- but that’s ok cause they’re out there) Prosper means taking care of your health and home. Sewing a button. Making pasta. Cleaning the toilet. Eating healthy.

That’s the job description: must teach how to clean the grout in the tub and fold a fitted sheet.

That’s all practical of course. Your kid must learn how to do all the things you routinely do. Which means that you do not go to their house and do all those things…

Seriously- don’t do your kids laundry once they move out.

Now, along with the practical comes the emotional. Which is where my decision comes in.

I miss my kid. Of course I do. She spent almost 18 years in the bed down the hall, and way to long in utero before that. She is my debate partner. We recommend books to one another. We go to cultural events together. We had tea together every night so we could talk out our days. So of course I would love her to come home.

But what does coming home accomplish?

What does it really teach her?

Someone suggested that it would reassure her, to be able to know she can come home. But does it really reassure her? Or does it signal that I don’t think she can hack her new life? That it’s OK to run home at the slightest “misfortune” because Mommy will take care of her….

Shouldn’t the goal be to teach her that she can, is totally able, to care for herself?

Which is why I said “No”.

Remember when kids were little: how many band aids did they go through? They were still getting their sea legs, which cause them to fall. Running too fast, doing things they shouldn’t. My daughter would be covered in Dora the Explorer band aids…..Until she learned how to walk more confidently, and learned when to run fast and which situations could be dangerous….then she didn’t need as many band aids. She was solving the root of the problem. Coming home is a band aid. It covers the problem, masks it, but doesn’t really solve what caused the scrape. Coming home is essentially running away. If she is not at school, how is she learning to deal with what ails her at school?

Running away. Do we really want to teach our children to run away from problems? Run away from things that scare them? Emotionally I mean. If Godzilla is running towards you by all means RUN….

Don’t we want our kids to confront what’s in front of them?

Do we want them changing jobs because they don’t like their boss? I mean continually. I had a friend who used to change her job every year because of personality differences. Trust me: that story does not end well.

Do we want our kids giving up on relationships because their is a little bump in the road? While there are clearly times when divorce is necessary, do people give up and walk away a tad too easily?

Do you move because you don’t like your neighbor? (true story- my sister has a friend that did just this recently- and we’re talking selling a house)

So big picture: what lesson do I want to teach my daughter?

I love her. She knows that. Every action she takes dictates that she knows she is loved immeasurably. Her strength, character and resilience show that. I love her, but I am also tough with her. I am her parent, not her friend.

I want her to continue to be strong.

I want her to continue to be confident.

I want her to continue to be resilient.

But she needs to be a few hundred miles away.

Because while I am always there for her, I can’t always be there for her. She has to find me in her heart, not resettle herself in her bedroom down the hall. “Mommy loves you, but you don’t need me anymore. You got this.”

That’s why.

“No You Can’t Come Home”

Ok- this is like a flashback sequence: I gave you a hint in the title as to how this story plays out. Let’s now give you some background…

Text conversation:

D: How are Peter Pan busses

Me: I don’t know. Why (translation IDK Y)

D: I might want to come home on the 21st

Me: No. You can’t come home.

D: You’re not letting me come home?

Me: Nope

D: Seriously?

And the discussion went on like this…..

So- My daughter wanted to come home for a weekend and I said no.

This was truly my Cruella DeVille moment. Telling my daughter she could not come home was akin to making a coat out of puppy skins.

What Mother tells their kid not to come home?

Well, me….

My daughter is homesick. According to my research, about 67% of first year college students are homesick during their first semester. She’s in the average. Most kids are homesick….

So what do we as parents do about it?

Well, I don’t know what other parents do. This appears to be a dirty little secret: there are tons are articles about kids being homesick, and how that is almost the norm, yet if you actually ask people….No one has a homesick child. Everyone has a child who is TOTALLY adjusting. So everyone who actually speaks about this topic is in the lucky 37% of kids who experience no homesickness. The parents who have kids in the 67%- well I guess we’re the silent majority…

And just when I thought parent competitiveness was over, I see it’s found its way of rearing its ugly little head even when your kids are no longer actually residing in your house…

But anyway…

So what do you do with a homesick child?

If you’re me, you tell them that they can’t come home till Thanksgiving.

You tell them that you have to confront your fear, confront the demon that scares you.

You tell them that this is always their home, but yeah, you’re not letting them back in for awhile.

Do you know how horrible this made me feel?

Do you know how I wanted to jump on the train and race down to her? Hop a flight out of LaGuardia and I’d practically be there in two hours…..

I wanted to hug her and tell her that it will be all right. Mommy is here.

And really, I am always here for her….

But I just can’t rush in to fix everything.

I guess this is like that baby sleep method where you let them cry it out and you don’t rush into comfort them. I totally failed at that one. She cried. I took care of her.

But now…..

She cries, but I had to let her.

Am I doing the right thing?

Who knows.

As with all things parent, I am doing what I think is the right course of action. Trying to teach her, and help her grow into adulthood. Letting them go is so hard. My daughter thinks I’m being cruel. And, I guess I am. Sort of. But I hope I’m also teaching her how to be strong, to rely on herself, to be confident.

To be an adult.

Sunday……

The dog needed some love too….

So it’s fall. I love fall, and the sense of new beginnings. I’m back to writing, but I don’t know what form I want to write in. I tried a format of writing around the same topic for a week, but presently I’m blank. So I’m just going to haphazardly choose thoughts and ideas to explore and post.

I think I might get a little controversial tomorrow…..