Advice: Should You?

This week I spoke of opinion/criticism and I spoke about family.  Today, we’re going to sort of combine the two subjects and talk about advice.  Specifically, parenting advice.

I do not like to receive unsolicited  parenting advice.  There you have it.  I don’t like when anyone tells me what to do with regards to the child that I am raising.  If I want an opinion, I will ask.

Also, I do not offer unsolicited parenting advice to people.  If someone asks my opinion, I will gladly give it, but…  Sometimes I do talk about parenting when I am blogging.  Though I may be giving advice, I am not aiming it towards any specific person, I’m merely sharing my thoughts on a subject.  I think writing about parenting in the abstract is not really advice (my blog, my rules)

I have a rough plan when it comes to how I want to parent my child.  If something is not working, I figure out how to change course.  So far, this method has worked for me.  The rules that I have thought about and put into practice work FOR ME.  They are great in our specific family dynamic.  They might not be great in someone else’s. (my house, my rules)

I have had people scoff at my parenting notions.  I have people that make very passive aggressive comments about how I choose to raise my child.  To say I get annoyed by this is an understatement.  It’s not that I don’t value other opinions, but let’s just say that I don’t like certain things about their children, so why would I want to repeat their mistakes?  This most closely applies to my Mother, because I see which of her actions caused my bad behavior patterns.  Behavior patterns that I find so abhorrent that I refuse to have my child ever thing the same way.  But enough of my emotional baggage for today.

(On a side note, if you do not have children- please don’t ever tell someone how to parent.  Just remember, everyone is the best parent in the world until they have children)

Now we come to the crux of my problem that I am writing about today.  I think my Sister is making a huge parenting mistake with my niece.  Notice how I used the word think.  I don’t know for sure if it is actually a mistake.  I have no actual psychological training with which to base my thoughts on, I’m going off of instinct.

I know that I don’t know everything (seriously- I know it often appears as if I think I know everything, but I really don’t think it or know everything).  But… My logic meter is telling me that my sisters actions don’t compute.  My emotional meter is telling me that my sisters actions don’t compute. Yet, I remain silent.  Because I don’t like to give parenting advice.

Should I break my rule?

When breaking a rule, you have to ask what the benefit will be.  I run the risk of my sister not ever speaking to me again. (she runs a little hot and holds grudges and is a blamer)  I run the risk of her giving me unsolicited advice.  But…is telling her my feelings going to be beneficial to my niece?  See, that’s the unknowable thing- I have no idea if I’m right and my sister is wrong.  I have no idea if my way of doing something is actually better.  Because there are no definitive rights and no definitive wrongs when it comes to parenting.  Different things work for different people in different situations.  Parenting doesn’t come with a rule book.

I’ve actually talked around the specific subject with my sister.  I know her feelings on the issue and I’ve tried to hypothetically point out things to her, so I know her stance.  To delve more into it would be pushing the boundaries.  I know I don’t like when my personal boundaries are pushed:  shouldn’t I respect the boundaries of others?  The issue is also one that would never specifically affect my child.  I have no personal knowledge of the issues faced, so it makes my opinion less valuable.  Do I have the right to comment on something I really know nothing about?

So here I sit- wondering what the best course of action is.  Because I just don’t know what to do.




Relationships: Family

Since John Mahoney of “Frasier” fame passed away last month, I’ve been working my way through the reruns.  Along with being a funny show, it was also filled with surprising bits of wisdom.  One episode has Daphne asking “Why is it so easy to love our families, but so hard to like them.”  Truer words were never spoken.

My Sister and my niece were in town a few weeks ago.  They live in Seattle (I know- odd Frasier connection), so we only see each other once a year.  As they were staying with my Mom, this meant I saw more of my Mother and Father.  Even though my parents live in New Jersey, I try to limit how often I see them.  Because, you know, it’s easy to love your family, but hard to like them.

Nothing increases my stress level more than time with my Mother.  Arguments abound.  We’ve never learned how to communicate with one another.  Every conversation turns into a yelling match, and a show down as to who can interrupt the others the most.  I don’t think I completed a sentence for four days.  It ends with my Mother saying something along the lines of “I’m not screaming.  I’m Italian.  This is how we talk.”  My Father is the opposite though- he sits stoically in the chair and says little.  And my Sister, well, she is the Queen of pushing buttons.  She is also the most sensitive person on the planet.  She thinks every sentence uttered is a personal attack against her.

Happy day.

I love my family.  I truly do.  But spending time with them is excruciating.  I had a headache for the better part of the week because we are truly unable to communicate with one another in a rational manner.  I feel like I’m walking on eggshells when we are together.  I try to stay calm, but my Mother and Sister often say the most ridiculous things.  Ok- to be fair- they may not be ridiculous if you are a stark raving lunatic, but if you’re trying to be a somewhat logical, rational person, their statements may come across as a tad antagonistic.  My Mother has opinions on most subjects.  If she doesn’t have an opinion on something it’s because she doesn’t think it’s a “worthy” topic.  Needless to say, my Sister has the exact opposite opinions of my Mother.  And she makes that known.  In fact, I believe that all the residents of my 19 story apartment building know her opinions on everything.

But I think you get the idea that the visit was mainly spent yelling.

I love my family.  I know they love me and would always be there if I needed them.  I just have a great deal of trouble being in the same room as them.

Never fear.  There will be a few more posts that detail some of the more fun moments of the trip, as I try to logically break down exactly why you can love, yet not always like your family.

I Did it Without Thinking

I was running errands the other day, walking down Park Avenue South when  I stopped at a corner.  No big deal- that’s what you do when walking the city streets- you stop at the corner.  The only difference was, I could see the westbound street was closed to traffic- there would be no car intersecting my path.  Yet I stopped anyway.  Why?  Because I did it by rote- 30 years of crossing streets in New York – I stop at the corners.

I think certain aspects of repetitive behavior are fine- brushing teeth, washing hands…..I even believe that school kids should be taught to memorize the times tables (in my mind 5×5=25- I know there is a reason for that, but at the end of the day, 5×5=25 is 5×5=25, because it is.  I don’t want to hear they need to show work, or draw 5 groups of 5 sticks, or be told it’s OK if they got the wrong answer as long as the work is right- tell that to a boss when the till is constantly off- “I know I gave out the wrong change- but my process was right)  Oh wait- I digress- where was I?

Rote. Unconscious behavior.  Doing an action without even thinking about it.  When I wake up in the morning I look at my phone- reflexively.  I check the time, I check the message bar for texts, emails or missed calls.  I check the weather.  I just do it without thinking.

How often to you unconsciously pick up your phone to check, let’s just say, the time?  There are times we legitimately need to know the time- but most of the time, do you just reflexively do it?

This past weekend, Husband and Daughter spent some time at a relatives rented beach house.  This family consists of 3 kids, 12 and under and Mom and Dad.  The beach house had a pool complete with floats and pool toys,  a tennis court and a foosball table- I think there was even a basketball hoop.  There was a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle open on the table, a bunch of board games on a shelf.  There were plenty of things to do.

My family went out to play tennis.  When they got to the court they realized there was a wasp infestation on the court.  Even though the host family had been there a week, no one had gone out to the tennis courts- they had no idea there were so many bugs you couldn’t play.

Daughter wrote up a foosball round robin tournament schedule.  There would be no prizes- just everyone playing the same game at the same time.  This was met by a chorus of “Oh- I don’t know” and “Maybe later”.  Eventually, she got the young boys to play.  But not the girl or the parents.

When they went out to dinner, the host family just pulled out their cell phones the moment they sat at the table.  My Husband tried to talk to the other Guy- but other guy was staring at his screen.  There was no actual conversation.  The only utterances were the Mom telling the kids what they could, and more often, could not eat.  “Stop eating bread.  No- you can’t get the ribeye- it has too much fat.”

Now- I wasn’t there for this meal- I was happily cleaning my apartment, watching our pets… how can I recreate this scene?  Because this family is on autopilot- they do the same thing every time they are anywhere.  They might all be in the same room, but they are acting as individuals, not a family unit.  They sit down, they pick up their electronic device.  They don’t talk.  It is habit.

What a habit.  Sit down with your family and pick up your phone.  I think that will be my New Years resolution.  I mean really, what’s the point of vacation if you need to talk to the other members of your family.  jigsaw puzzles?  Who does those anymore? (you  can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand- but our tradition is a winter holiday jigsaw puzzle- but I’m digressing again…)

Does a family need to play games together to be happy?  Do a Mom and Dad need to go into the pool with the kids?  Does a family need to talk to one another?  Or should we all just be on autopilot, looking at one another, but not seeing.  Hearing one another, but not listening.  Sharing space with people, but not sharing lives.  Picking up our phones because they are there, that flashing screen is infinitely more interesting…..

And I love my smart phone.  I love my ipad. I often look at them because they are there, because it is learned behavior. But maybe picking them up should be done consciously, when I have a legitimate reason- like reading all your blogs……



In it to Win it

Name an 11  letter word that would be used to describe my family?

You have 30 seconds.  Cue the Jeopardy music-

The answer is:


We played mini golf on vacation.  When we approached the entrance and picked out our clubs, the attendant asked if we wanted a score card.  We responded “yes please”, but  we looked at each other and telepathically communicated – Duh- who  plays mini golf and doesn’t  keep score?  Where’s the fun in that? Don’t they care who wins?  Now- for the record- no one in my family is a candidate for the mini-PGA.  I can get a hole in one  and follow it up with a 5.  But we have fun and we try to play on every vacation.  (FYI-the Husband won both mini golf games we played- he would want the blogverse to know that).

We’re a competitive family.  We like to play games with each other.  When the daughter was younger we would have weekly family game nights, and while we still have them- they are now on a monthly basis.  They’re more like death matches tournaments- we play 5 different games, and the winner gets to choose our next dining excursion.

If we’re at a fast casual restaurant, we will take bets on what time our food will be out.  If we’re walking somewhere, we will each take a different route to see who gets there first. We will scout out a Cracker Barrel just so we can play the peg IQ game they leave on the tables. We just can’t help ourselves.

But…… we are not cutthroat.  We don’t cheat.  We don’t throw tantrums if we lose.  We try not to go back to the rule book/instruction guide if we have a disagreement.  (That part doesn’t always work so well- playing mini golf daughter actually told me I brought my ball out too far when it was flush against the edge….and she made me redo the shot.  There was honor at stake……)

Then there’s resilience.  What better way to learn about resilience than to keep playing games.  Husband is a great Words with Friends player.  I am not.  (FYI- this kills me- he is an accountant with a vocabulary of about 12 words.  I pride myself on being a wordsmith, with at least 20 words in my arsenal.)  I could beat him on a vocab quiz any day of the week- but I rarely beat him at word games.  My guess is, he wins 3/4 of our games. ( Ok- who are we kidding.  He beats me 73% of the time.  Did you really think I didn’t know the exact statistic?)  Yet, I continue to play him.  And I will continue to play him.  I can be down by about 150 points, and I will not resign a game.  Because sometimes I do win, and  I’m only going to get better if I keep playing.  There’s no secret formula- it’s just play and learn.  That’s all.  Play and learn.

I realize that some people don’t like to keep score.  I realize that there are situations where everyone gets a trophy.  But I don’t know how good this is.  I don’t think it’s realistic.  Like it or not- there are times when you win, and times when you lose.  You have to learn to do both, with grace and with honor.  Maybe you don’t have to be like my family (I actually highly advise not being like my family, cause, well- you read my blog- isn’t that enough of a reason not to be like my family?) but competition can be good.  And sometimes, it can even make a family closer……



Let’s Bag It

Sorry- this is a rant and another vacation themed blog.  I can’t believe the mileage I’m getting out of my family trip.

See the bags in the picture- this is one of those blogs where the picture is integral to the story, not just a pic that I took that I thought was pretty.

The bag on the left is what my daughter used while we were sightseeing.  Cute, right?  The bag on the right  is what I used.  Utilitarian, no?  The bag in the middle is what my husband used.  ?  What word can you use to describe the bag between the other two?

As I was discussing with amazing Ann yesterday, we like to be prepared in the event of say, anything happens.  I like to be ready- which means I carry a very large bag when we go on vacations.  ( I believe this is the fault of diaper bags- when you have a young child you routinely walk around with so much stuff you forget there is any other way to travel)

Personally, I take the following with me:

  1. wallet- can’t forget cash and credit
  2. key- hotel room key very important
  3. camera- I take a lot of pictures
  4. phone- I mean really- this is my datebook, alarm and means to the outside world- I don’t go anywhere without my phone.
  5. sunglasses- they add an air of mystery to any outfit
  6. rain poncho (I find the poncho is easier on vacation)

Now- these six things do not take up much room.  Frankly- I could use a smaller bag.  And I realize that I like to be prepared, and I might need the following things for my own use…..but…… I will in get the following questions:

Do you have any sunscreen?

Do you have any insect repellent?

Do you have any water?

Do you have any gum/mints?

Do you have a tissue?

Do you have lip stuff with SPF?

Do you have the map the hotel clerk gave us?

Do you have the brochure I picked up at that kiosk?

Do you have the review of lobster rolls that I ripped out of that magazine?

Do you have an advil?

Do you have any quarters for the meter?

Did you bring the phone charger?

I also get the following requests:

Can you hold my camera?

Can you hold this 500 page guidebook I found which has all the thing they list on the trip advisor sight?

Can you hold this 5 pound piece of fudge that I had to have?

Do you have room for my sunglasses?

We don’t need a bag for the 600 Boston Tea Party tea bags we’re buying, my wife can put them in her purse- you know- my wife is Mary Poppins in her spare time…….her bag can hold everything……

Hold open your bag so I can wash my hands, because you forget the hand sanitizer, but remembered the kitchen sink…….

I think you get the idea……you see how I began to go off the rails?

I know this is all my own fault.  I’ve spent 15 years being super mom/wife.  But frankly, I’m ready to take off the cape.  The only thing I’ve received for my super hero status are shoulders that are never not tense.  Silly me didn’t book a massage when I made the hotel reservations, so all the other Mom superheroes had already taken all the available spots.  Next vacation is being booked around spa treatment appointments.

Drop the cape.