What’s the Lesson

Blogging is a funny thing. I usually write about anecdotes in my life, and the lessons I’ve learned from them.  Sometimes I’m funny, sometimes I’m serious, but at the end of the day, I hope I’ve told some sort of story.  On any given Sunday, I jot down possible blog posts for the week, and then I start thinking about them, listing ideas, whatever.  I had a particular blog scheduled in my head for today, but I realize that I need to do a prequel in order for you to better understand my position.  This is a hard post for me, because it is about a time in my life when I really and truly believed I’d failed as a parent.  So here goes…..

In New York City, especially Manhattan, children apply to public middle schools and high schools.  And yes, this mean at 10 years old what you do in school matters.  Every grade, every standardized test counts- these things will literally decide your future.  When  a child is in 5th grade they are taught the basics of a resume and what to do on an interview.  They spend two months touring schools figuring out which school is the right fit for them.  Then, In December, you rank the schools that you want to apply to.  After a school has received notification that you wish to go there, the fun really begins.  There are additional placement tests, there are portfolios, there are interviews.  Sound horrific?  Well- it is.

My daughter worked really hard in elementary school.  Her grades were consistently “exceeds grade standard”.  Her test scores were consistently “exceeds grade standard”.  She loved school- she loved learning. When she chose to apply to one of the most difficult middle schools, not one person batted an eye.  She was clearly a top student in the city.

The school she chose had both an additional placement test and a group interview.  The group interview would be about 5 kids in a room being asked questions.  Sounds harmless.  Except, my daughter was/is a more shy child.  She will never be the loudest voice in the room.

So you know where this is going.  My daughter did not get accepted into the school. She got accepted into a school that she did not want to go to- she only put it on the list because it is close to our house.   She hated the thought of the Middle School she was being “forced ” to attend.  She was sullen and morose.

We knew she did not get into the school because of the interview.  I knew the kids that were in the room with her, and I knew one of the children was always the center of attention.  My daughter did not know how to compete with someone who was stealing the show.  Why should she?  She’s 10.  So, a child with a lesser work ethic and lower grades received a spot in this school.  She didn’t understand how life could be this unfair.  This child never did their homework, was a troublemaker, and didn’t care about school- yet this child had received the golden ticket.

What do you think my summer was like?  Husband blamed me- because someone has to be blamed.  He said I indulged my daughter and I allowed her to be shy.  She was never going to get anywhere by being shy.  I won’t bore you with what I said back to him……

And the daughter.  She was devastated.  She kept talking about how unfair it was- how she deserved the spot based on past results.  She voiced why should she work hard if it’s all fate in the end.  She begged me to homeschool her.  She told me that only dumb people and convicts went to the middle school she was assigned.  (which wasn’t true- it’s actually an excellent school, just large)

I did not know what to do.  I was at a loss.  How do I help my daughter thru this?

As the first day of school closed in on us, I figured I’d try the proverbial “Hail Mary”.  I sat her down, and I said the following…”Life is unfair.  Get used to it.  More often than not- things will not go your way.  This is just the first example of how crappy life can be.  Should you have gotten that spot in the school?  Of course I think so….but I always think you should get everything you want.  I’m your Mom.  I think you’re the greatest force in the universe- and you will be that no matter what school you attend.  I know you feel like crap right now.  I know you feel like what’s the point in doing homework and studying and paying attention if it really doesn’t matter in the end.  So here’s the deal- you have two choices- 1) you can be sad sack.  You can enter the building but not be present.  You don’t have to do homework.  You don’t have to study.  You don’t have to pay attention.  At 2:40 you can leave the building, not take part in any activities, not make any friends.  You can literally do nothing the next three years.  Then there’s option 2)- you can do what you’ve always done- study hard, pay attention, get involved.  Make the most of the opportunities that are in front of you.  At the end of the day- it’s your ride.  You choose what to make of your life.  Which option you choose doesn’t affect me at all- my life does not change based on your life path.  My life is the same no matter what you do.  I don’t care what grade you get, or what you do.  In fact, it would be better for me if you are a slacker, because then I don’t feel compelled to pay for college.  That’s a whole lot of money that I can do other things with.  But which path will give you more options?  Which path will give you the opportunity to try different things, to figure out who you are, and what you want to be?  Here’s the fork in the road- you can choose to care about school, or you can choose not to.  The choice is yours.  But rest assured- you will enter that Middle School building on Thursday and I will not be home schooling you.”

My daughter chose to work hard.  She chose to get involved and make the most of the opportunities in front of her.  But it was her choice.  I just gave her the tools to think about how to make that choice.  I  was honest and open, and I didn’t try to sugar coat anything.

Tomorrow, we will continue the essence of this anecdote, but take it in a slightly different direction.

 

 

Who’s in Charge Here…..

I love my Mom.  I know she has made mistakes about things, but I also know she has always had the best of intentions.  That took me about 50 years to figure out.  But….my Mom can also drive me crazy.  Because even though she has known me my entire life, she still does not understand me.  Or chooses not to understand me- I’m really not sure which……

She pet sat for us last month when we were on vacation.  She loves to go to the theater, we live in the city.  We needed someone to take care of the girls.  This was a win/win situation. And I really do appreciate the help.  Truly.

But…….

My Mom’s hobby is shopping.  Seriously.  Shopping.  She DVR’s shows on the shopping channels.  Mom only uses the internet is to look for things to buy.  The only reason she wishes she didn’t sell her big suburban house is because it had lots of rooms to store the things she purchases.  She literally has gadgets for everything.  And multiples of everything.  When I go to her condo, I want to bang my head against the kitchen cabinets- because she has so much stuff, it is impossible to find what you actually need.  (This problem also causes her to rebuy things that are already in the house….it’s a vicious cycle)

Now, if you read yesterday- you know I am a serious purger of goods- I hate clutter.  I hate things that take up space.  I am clearly function over form.

So what happens when a person who values objects stays at the home of her daughter who hates things?  Well- Mom buys things that she thinks will be helpful.  And daughter doesn’t want them, but feels a little bad, because she knows her Mom is trying to be helpful.  But maybe no one actually needs to be helped……

Case in point- the laundry basket.  I have a rattan hamper- it is just attractive enough to sit in my bedroom and not make my eyes sore, it is just large enough to hold clothes for a few days, small enough to fit in my bedroom, and light enough to carry down to laundry room.  My Mother bought me a different laundry bag- because mine didn’t make sense to her.  Hers was “better”.  For ten minutes she extolled the virtues of her laundry system over mine.  She exclaimed “Isn’t this great?”  to which I answered, “Not really.  If I wanted that I would have bought that.”  She made a hmpf sound.  I felt a little guilty- after all, she just pet sat for me- she didn’t have to do that.  But I’m 53 years old- I can figure out my own laundry solutions.

I also know, that in the end, it is about control.  My Mom still wants to control everything I do.  I get that- to a point.  I am a control freak (I know- you guys are shocked to hear this)  I like things to be my way- because I know everything, and I’m always right…… (My Husband has actually said to my Daughter- just listen to Mom- she’s always right)

But…..

No one can control everything.  There is a point when you have to let your kids make their own decisions- you can guide them- but the final choice is theirs.  Kids have to learn how to make choices- list out pros and cons, figure out the worst case scenario…..They also need to learn to adapt if something isn’t working, know when something is seriously wrong and needs to be scrapped- learn how to take control of their own lives.  This only comes by trial and error.  A parents job is to help them pick up the pieces if something fails- to support them emotionally if the choice they made was wrong.  If my laundry storage system goes awry, I should be able to call my Mom and cry, without her saying “I told you so”.

So what’s the point?

  1. Don’t buy your kids things just because you think they need it or will make their lives better- ask them first,  They’re allowed an opinion.
  2. Don’t feel guilty about saying “No” to a parent- it’s not healthy to say “Yes” to anything you don’t want to do
  3. Let your kids lead their own lives.  They’ll probably be fine.

No- Say it isn’t So…..

I ran into a neighbor the other evening.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Hey.  All ready for college?

Young Woman:  Just about.  Can’t Wait.

Me:  When do you leave?

Young Woman: A few weeks.

Me:  Great.  Good luck.  What’s a recent high school graduate up to this evening?

Young Woman:  Tinder date.

Me:  Ohhhh…..sounds fun….have a good time???

And my voice trailed off into the sunset….

I remember when this girl was born.  She went to the same elementary as my daughter.  She just graduated from the same high school my kid attends.  I knew her.  I watched her grow up.  And she’s on a tinder date.

I feel old.

I realize people date.  I realize people use tinder.  I didn’t realize young woman that I remember running around the lobby would use tinder.

I feel like a prude.  I didn’t think I was a prude.  I thought I had a pretty healthy appreciation of sex.  I thought I was pretty open and realistic about what actually happens in life.  But I think I’d rather be an ostrich.  I’d rather have my head buried deep in the sand.  Because I don’t want to think about any kid I know, male, female or indifferent going on tinder dates.

If my daughter were to go on a tinder date, I would want to know.  Well- not really, obviously I want ostrich mode.- but I would want her to trust me enough to tell me what she was doing.  I would make sure she was as prepared as possible- has what she needs physically and mentally.

But I would not be happy about it.  I don’t think I can ever prepare myself enough for my daughter to go on a tinder date.  There is no “Dummies Guide to your Child going on Tinder dates.”  (But I guess that’s a book idea right there……)

I’m a fraud.  I’ve always said I would support my daughter no matter what she does.  But as of this moment- if she comes to me in 2 1/2 years and tells me she’s going on a tinder date- I don’t know what I would actually do.  Other than cry.  And bang my head against the wall.  And you  know, alienate her forever, and make sure she doesn’t trust me or ever tell me anything else again.

I know I’m jumping the gun, that this may  never happen.  But us control freaks- we always like to anticipate everything….

But for now, I’m- I going to borrow a line from Mojo, and just go LA LA LA LA LA I’m covering my ears with my hands……..

The Hard Part

Raising children is hard.   It doesn’t matter how many you have, what gender they are, where you live- parenting is just difficult.  But as with anything, every parent has specific challenges that they must face as they bring their child to adulthood.  Being a city parent- that’s sort of my cross to bare.

The Daughter has spent her existence on the isle of Manhattan.  Do you know what that’s like?  Let me give you the playground scenarios….

Scenario 1- Homeless man showers in the sprinkler at the park.  What do you wear when you shower?

Scenario 2- A “pretty woman” enters the park with her twins.  While all the Mom’s are trying to be blasé, one of the kids goes up to her and asks “Do you know Dora?”

Scenario 3- Apparently, drug dealers were leaving bags of pot taped to the underside of the water fountain.  What does that mean?  Twenty armed undercover officers raiding the park to apprehend the alleged drug ring.  At 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

This all happened during April of my daughters pre-k year.  When she was 4.  Literally the good, the bad and the ugly.   This is the life of a “middle class” urban child who lives in a “good” neighborhood.

So what was/is my specific parenting issue?

Trying to make sure my daughter is not too jaded.  To allow her to have a certain childlike innocence, while remaining tough and street smart.

To a large degree, I think I have achieved my goal.  She can navigate the transit system, she’s honing her inner radar as to when a situation just doesn’t seem right.  She knows not to leave anything valuable in her backpack, but to keep them in front of her.  She knows not to engage anyone who appears a little off – and is aware of our neighborhood shouters- like the man who curses at the mailbox everyday.  And she knows a thousand other ways to protect yourself as much as possible.

But she does have certain childlike qualities.  She can text with alarming speed and quote pop music lyrics.  Pretty Little Liars was a religion to her.  The break-up of Anna Faris and Chris Pratt almost sent her into a tailspin. She giggles with her friends, and pets about every animal she comes across and visits the adoption cats at Petco when she has a chance.  And when we were on vacation, she wanted to go to the Boston Tea Party Museum because she wanted to “throw” the tea over.  She wanted to go to “Plimouth Plantation” and she engaged with the reenactors and listened to what they said, because some of them are really quite knowledgeable.  She doesn’t find things like this silly or lame- she finds them charming, and hopes at least a few kids learn a little about history.  By seeing other teenagers at these places, I know she is a bit of a rare bird- because there was no eye rolling from her.

(Don’t think she’s an angel though- trust me- she may seem like a great kid- but she tests me at every turn.  Because she knows everything.  I mean- she practically wrote Wikipedia- that’s how well versed she is in EVERYTHING)

But this year she is about to face a different challenge- she’s what is known as a rising junior.  For a college bound child, this is the hardest year.  School doesn’t start until after Labor Day, yet I already see the stress on her face.  She has an assignment that is actually due on Monday- about 3 weeks before school officially begins.  And as I watch her trying to edit her well written evaluative essay from 3 1/2 pages to the required 3 – I can foreshadow how this school year will play out.  Hours spent studying.  Paragraphs being rewritten in an attempt to chop 50 words off of a paper. SAT books littering the tables.  Law Team notes piled on her bed.  Figuring out a costume for the required “Scarlet Letter” day.  Less sleep than she had last year- which was minimal at best.

I’m not sure how I’m going to parent her this year.  I know how badly she wants to go to a top college.  I saw her face when we visiting highly selective universities, and I know she felt like it was home.  I want her to reach for the stars…..but, I also don’t want to her lose sight of the small things.

So I’m going to try to get her to sleep a bit, stay hydrated (these are my answers to everything).  I’m going to insist she schedule in social time with her friends.  I’m going to make sure she watches U tube videos and “Riverdale”.  I’m going to pay attention to her, to make sure she has balance.  I’m going to let her yell at me.  I’m going to let her cry on my shoulder.  I’m going to make sure we stock just a little bit of chocolate, because I know you shouldn’t eat to feel better, but eating a piece of chocolate while studying is supposed to be beneficial.  I don’t know where I read that tidbit, but I’m sticking with it as sound advice.

And I’m going to hope there is just a little bit of childhood innocence left to get her through the next year and a half.

 

 

Advice to Parents- Tradition

 

Dear Parents of Children under the age of 5,

You all know that I hate giving advice.  Really I do.  But sometimes I need to impart my wisdom on you all.  And really, no matter what stage of life you’re in, kids or not, you really should read anyway.

When your children are young-  start traditions.

What do I mean by traditions?  I mean any type of event that your family can do, that is done on a somewhat rotational basis. (sort of like Christmas in July…I never thought I could get so much mileage out of something)

Why have traditions?

  1. They are Kodak moments.  I have pictures of my daughter at the same sign for the past 12 years.  If I were to line up the photos, it would be like a flip book of her becoming a teenager.
  2. They are instant flash backs- they root you to a certain time and a certain place- and when your kids were young
  3. They’re fun
  4. Everyone will really look forward to them
  5. When your kids get older, they will have their own lives.  They will have too much homework, part time jobs, practices and friends.  But they will find time for traditions
  6. Because kids really do grow up too fast

Real Life Example:

School is a big part of many children’s lives.  After completing Kindergarten I thought that my daughter deserved a celebration.  When I asked her what she wanted to do, she asked if we could go to dinner at Cowgirl.  Cowgirl is a fun restaurant filled with foods that I don’t allow her to go eat on a consistent basic- I don’t mind junk food, (I actually love food that is not healthy) but for the most part we eat healthy.  Her favorite thing at Cowgirl is their special dessert- vanilla ice cream coated with cocoa powder, topped with whipped cream, and little pats of yellow icing.  It is surrounded by chocolate sauce, and topped with chopped up pistachio.  It is built to resemble a baked potato.  When you are 5, (and older) this place is heaven.  And we started coming to this place on the last day of school.

This year, my daughter was in Costa Rica on the traditional last day of school (in high school in NYC, this “day” is actually 10 minutes of running in to get your report card and then exiting the building as quickly as humanly possible), so we weren’t able to do our tradition till last week.  We sat at the table and talked.  We spoke of upcoming college tours, AP classes, and the PSAT.  It was a stark reminder that there weren’t going to be too many more report card day dinners at Cowgirl.

When we ordered, I admit I let my daughter go a little crazy.  She asked if we could order just appetizers, and I thought- sure- how big are apps anyway?  OK- here’s the problem with going to a restaurant only once a year- you forget how big the portions are.  Even the appetizers.

Very long story short:  My daughter ate too much.  Too much veggie quesadilla.  Too much Frito pie (yes- Frito pie- they open up a bag of Fritos and plop veggie chili, cheese and sour cream on top).  too much strawberry lemonade, too much ice cream baked potato.  Too much.

We decided to walk home, it’s probably about a mile, mile and a half, but we needed to digest.  Well, I needed to digest.  The Daughter….well, lets just say she really wasn’t feeling well.  At all.  She looked at me, and said “I think I’m going to be……..blhhhhhhh”  I’m happy we were at a corner with a trash can, and that I steered her there just in time.  I took out my tissues (Moms carry tissues) and wiped her face, her hair, her hands (because she tried to catch it…..I told her that was probably not a great idea.)

Me:  You OK?

Daughter:  I feel much better now.  Wow, I haven’t thrown up since third grade,  Wow, and we’re on Charles Street- that’s ironic- upchuck on chuck street…….

Me:  Do you need anything?

Daughter: I’m sorry.

Me:  Don’t be sorry.  It’s ok.  I’m glad you’re feeling better.

Daughter:  Thank you for taking care of me.  I love you.

And she held my hand as we walked.  And I kissed the top of her head.  At this moment she looked so young, so vulnerable.  I didn’t see the sophisticated teen wardrobe, I didn’t see the high school junior.  I saw all those Cowgirl dinners flash before my eyes. I saw my baby, because she’ll always be my baby- no matter how old she is.

When we got home, she smiled and hugged me.

Daughter:  Thanks Mommy.  That really was a great night.  Vomit and all.

Me: It was a great night.  Love you!

But in my head, this is what I said:

Me:  Thank you for giving me great memories,  Thank you for being an amazing daughter.  I am going to miss these days.  But we’ll always have Cowgirl.

 

 

Failure is an Option

The Daughter is trying out to be a ballperson at the US Open.  (you know- the kid that stands at attention at the side of the net, and gets to hold an umbrella over the head of a ranked player)  The following is a conversation I had with someone regarding this.

Friend: What’s up for today?

Me:  I told daughter that I would go to Queens with her.  She has a callback for ballperson.

Friend:  Didn’t she try out last year?

Me: Yes.  Same thing.  She made it to the second round last year, and she made it to the second round this year.

Friend:  But she didn’t get to be a ballperson last year.

Me: I know.  That’s why she’s trying out again.

Friend:  But she didn’t make it.

Me: I know.

Friend: So why is she trying out again?

Me: She wants to be a ballperson.  The only way to be a ballperson is to try out.

Friend:  Wasn’t she devastated last year when she didn’t make it?

Me:  Disappointed?  Yes.  Annoyed at herself? Yes.  Figure out what she could have done better?  Yes.  Devastated?  No.

Friend:  Why are you letting her try out again?  What if she doesn’t make it again?  She will feel so bad about herself.  She will have failed twice.

Me:  OMG you’re so right.  A hole will form in the earth and she will get swallowed up.  She will take to her bed and start wearing a wedding dress because of the man that left her at the alter.  She will put a curse on all those that make ballperson……

OK- you got me.  I really didn’t say that.  But I thought something along those lines.  My actual reply was:

Me:  Do you think the humidity is going to break?

Because how else do you answer that?

Here’s the cold, hard facts: (opinion- I don’t have a degree in cold, hard facts)

  1. Life has winners and losers. (I don’t really need to cite examples do I?)
  2. If you want something, you need to do something to attain it.  No one just hands you something for sitting home on your couch.  I have never met a Publishers Clearing House winner.
  3. There will be things you need to try out for, and you are probably not getting everything you try out for.  Ask any famous actor how many auditions they went on before they landed a role.
  4. When you are rejected (which you will be) you’re allowed to be upset.  You are not allowed to wallow for days, weeks, months, years.  What good is wallowing going to do?  Is it getting you what you want?  If it does, please write about how you wallowed your way to success.  It will be a bestseller.
  5. If you are rejected- learn from your mistakes.  Figure out what you need to do to improve your chances.  Try again.
  6. If you fail again- what’s the worst thing that happens?  Does a monster eat you?  If that is a possibility, I would rethink what your priorities are.  Anything that ends with being eaten by a monster is probably not a good life path.
  7. And after you fail, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get on with whatever you need to do.  Because that’s what winners do- winners pick themselves up and get on with life. (FYI- there will be a future blog with more examples of failure and it’s benefits)

No one wants to fail.  But guess what?  We all do.  And if we don’t, we haven’t tried for anything- we never went out of our comfort zone.  We played it safe because we were afraid of being devastated.  So great- you were never devastated.  But guess what- you were never anything else either.

 

 

Tempty Nesting

Today marks the last day of tempty nesting (temporary empty nesting).  The daughter will return later this evening, and I will officially go back to being Mom on call.  Here are my random thoughts on the experience.

  1. Tempty nesting is exhausting.  The husband and I had lots of dates, both just ourselves and with other couples. We laughed a lot, stayed out late, and drank a bit too much (it’s actually a little scary how quickly I’m regaining my tolerance for alcohol- I was a one drink and done for the past 14 years, now, Ok, I’ll finish off that bottle)   We originally planned on going out last night, our last night of parental freedom, but we looked at each other in the morning, and we knew.  We knew we needed a night to play remote roulette, maybe a game of backgammon, and just sit on the couch.
  2. Tempty nesting needs to have a cohesive plan of attack.  You must find the right balance of couple time, double date time, alone time and time with friends other than your spouse.  This is crucial.  You need to find balance in a life not dependent on needs of offspring, or frankly, your spouse.  Your spouse can not be your only source of entertainment.
  3. Tempty nesting requires a hobby that requires the use of your hands.  You need your fingers to have an outlet other than texting your child.  I used my hands to take photos of random things that I never before saw the beauty of.
  4. Tempty nesters need to realign their perspective.  You’re allowed to see yourself as an individual, not just a Mom or Dad.  Though you will always keep the parent hat in your arsenal, you are allowed to change to a cap or a beret or, heaven help us, a hipster beanie.
  5. It’s really nice not to have to worry about dietary needs of a teenager.  My daughter is a very adventurous eater and not picky, but she has chosen not to eat chicken, beef or pork.  This would be great if I liked fish….
  6. Quiet is nice- there is no such thing as quiet when you live with a teen- (OK, to be fair, the Husband is quite loquacious, the only quiet time was when I was completely alone)
  7. As my daughter routinely empties both the litter box and the dishwasher (not at the same time) I feel that I’m going to need to hire someone to do those chores when she leaves for good.

I am thrilled that I survived Tempty Nest 2017.  And I know that the actual empty nest will be a bit harder- but I like a challenge.  I’ll never be ready for her to leave home, but I know I will survive it.

 

Stepford Child

My daughter (community service, central America- you’re up to speed)) did actually communicate with me over the weekend.  The email goes something like this:

Dear Mother,

I hope this letter finds you well.  My community service experience has exceeded all my expectations thus far.  This morning we had to work with cement to repair the walls of a school.  This was grueling labor, but it was a worthwhile experience knowing that the children will have a safe environment to pursue their studies……..blah….blah….blah……

Please express my warmest regards to Father, the canine and the feline.

With Love,

The Daughter

And upon receiving this email, I screamed.  For the first time since she left, I was truly worried.  It was obvious that my daughter had joined a cult.  Or was abducted by aliens.  Or got off the plane in Stepford.  So I fired back:

Who is this and what have you done with my snarky, sarcastic teenager?  Where is she?  I’m sorry we don’t have any money.  We used it all to send her on this trip.  

And then my second thought was “My husband is not Liam Neeson.  He has no skills.”

My email pinged.

Wow Mom.  You think you would be glad to hear from me as I’m the only reason for your existence.

And I breathed a sigh of relief.  It truly was my daughter.  I could feel the sarcasm and teen angst surging through the internet.

But why the formal Edwardian language?  I’m pretty sure she didn’t bring down and highbrow literature (in fact I know she took a teen lit page turner because I saw the Barnes and Noble charge)  And though her school writing is just shy of brilliant, (no maternal bias at all) her communication with me is…..informal.

And my guess is, she was a little home sick.  By writing more formally, she was probably able to distance herself.  Too much witty repartee would remind her that I’m not there to drink a cup of tea with and chat about our day.  I’m not there to fluff her pillow just a little bit before she goes to bed.  It would remind her that we’re apart.

Our past few emails are how we always talk to one another- short, to the point, yet filled with warmth.  I’m figuring  she realizes that it’s OK to miss me…to miss home.  Missing something doesn’t make you weak, but working through the missing and allowing yourself to have fun and experience life makes you strong.

We are ending our emails with XO- which is how we always end our communications, whether it’s a text that she’s met up with her friends, or an email from Central America- because no matter where she is or what she’s doing, I always want her to remember that I love her.

 

 

Room to Grow

The following are a sample of text messages between my Mother and me, after my teenage daughter left the country for a community service trip:

Mom: Have you heard from your daughter?  (Tuesday 2pm)

Me: Yes.  Arrived safely. (Tuesday 2:05)

Mom: Did you hear from daughter? (Tuesday 11pm)

Me:  Not since this morning. (Tuesday 11:05pm)

Mom: Did you hear from your daughter? (Wednesday 10am)

Me: Not expecting her to contact me. (Wednesday 10:05 am)

And this exact same pattern kept repeating, at increasingly smaller intervals, until I received the following text:

Mom: Don’t you care about your daughter? (Thursday 11pm)

(Here’s a short disclaimer about my Mom- she is a tad overprotective.  And lets just say, if I ever have to make a parenting decision, I always think, “What would my Mom do?” and then I go about 160 degrees off that and come up with my plan/decision.)

And for the record, I care about my daughter very much.  So much, that I know I need to give her just a little bit of freedom right now.  That is the whole purpose of this trip.  For her to learn to survive without me being her safety net.

Of course I am worried about her well being. The kids are going to go rafting and ziplining and all sorts of activities that required signing about a million waivers.  She is thousands of miles away from me right now.   When I did “Find my iPhone” (yes- I did this) it was bizarre to see all that distance, to see the icons as tiny little dots because they were so far apart.  It was not so bizarre to see the signal coming from a Starbucks- obviously she was observing the local culture in a foreign habitat.  And no- I will probably not have a really sound sleep until she comes home.  But that is part of being a parent- we kind of glide through the sleeping portion of our lives.

Though I worry about her well being, I also worry about her ability to function as an adult.  They don’t turn 18 and get a manual stating- “You’re an adult now.  Here’s the instructions.  FYI- they were written by the same people who write instructions for self-assemble furniture.”  So they need to practice- baby steps, so to speak.  They need to do laundry, and cook food and learn to budget both their money and their time.  They need to problem solve- on their own- without anyone stepping in.  They need to learn how to be self-sufficient.  And they need to do this before they leave home for good.  (At least what we assume is leaving home for good)

While I miss my daughter, I am happy that she is managing without me.  I am hoping that her laundry ends up the same color that it started. I am glad she is managing sharing a room with someone she does not know.  I am happy that she is figuring out the language and cultural differences of a place she has never been.  I am glad that she has not felt the need to call me.  I am thrilled that she has learned how to say Frappuccino in Spanish.  I am hoping above all else that she is realizing what a strong, self-sufficient  person she has become.

Of course, I hope to eventually get an email, or a text, just a hi, or an XO (though my only communication will most likely be a picture from the tour company, of my daughter standing on a table and dancing.)  But in my heart I know she loves me and  I know she feels loved.  And I guess that’s really the job of a parent- to make sure you’re child knows they are loved, whether you’re next door, or a few thousand miles away.

 

 

 

Community Service?

My daughter is going to Central America next week for a community service experience.  According to the itinerary, they will spend an hour painting a school (for which she was required to watch a two hour video on how not to waste paint) and an hour working in a day camp (and was required to watch a 3 hour video on what a child is).  I’m imagining a meaningful college essay on how this experience changed her life.

The summer of  2017 totally changed my life.  I was fortunate enough to get my parents to pay exorbitant amounts of money to send me on the most awesome adventure community service experience.  I learned so much about painting- I painted an entire  half of a wall.  And the kids were so cute.  My background in French really helped out when teaching Spanish speaking children English.

Preparing for the trip was also life changing.  I learned a lot about my mother when I told her I hadn’t actually looked at the packing list.  Oh how we laughed 4 days before the trip when we realized I needed 60 items out of the 75 things required.  And the joy as we measured out suitcases and backpacks and realized that none of them met the size requirements.  I’ve never had such an intense bonding experience with her.  Money truly can buy happiness.

I also learned so much about health issues.  The pills you need to swallow to protect you from typhoid are sort of big.  I realized that if I stuck the horse pill in a jar of jam, and ate the jar, you don’t even realize you’re swallowing a pill.  I was also glad that anti-diarrhea medicine really does work, and is not just an advertising ploy to get us to buy it.

Though the community service time was extensive, we managed to get in some fun time.  We squeezed in surfing and rafting and zip lining and hiking and swimming.  But I was there for the life changing experience of helping others………

You see- this essay is just writing itself.  I’ll give you an update when I read her journal  have a meaningful mother/daughter conversation with her in three weeks.  For now, I’m glad to be a proud member of Amazon Prime.