It Was the Equipment…

“The other kid was mean to me.”

“I didn’t get the good bat.”

“The teacher didn’t make that clear.”

“She cheated.”

“It’s not my fault.”

Have you noticed that people are out to get you? Every person in the universe has made it their goal to destroy your hopes and dreams?

Every time something goes wrong, it’s the fault of someone else, or something else. It’s never your fault. Nothing is ever your fault. The litigious mindset has entered the everyday…

When did we lose sight of personal responsibility? As TJ remarked yesterday, part of being independent is accepting that sometimes when bad things happen, it is your fault.

Bad grade? Well, did you study enough?

Iffy review at work? Did your performance this past year really exceed expectations?

Not make the team cause you’re too short? Well maybe, but then again, maybe you just weren’t good enough…

Does blaming something/someone else really make the rejection/bad grade/whatever  better? Or does it just put a Band-Aid on the situation?

If we’re trying to improve our self confidence by placing the onus of responsibility of someone else- we’re doing it wrong. We MUST accept that there are people that are better than us. We must accept that there is a whole wide world of people who can do things and do things well. While I have no doubt there are times when the “less deserving” has gotten something, you can’t just assume that this is the always the case. Blaming doesn’t make it any better. You can’t live your life blaming outside influences for the state of your life.

It’s that whole resilience thing again…

Next time something doesn’t go your way (or your child’s way) think about why it went wrong. Think about ways in which you could have been better. Unless you’re in a ski race and your boot inexplicably breaks, try not to put the blame on something else. This does not mean “blame” yourself. (Blame should not be a word that anyone uses on an everyday basis) Just try to come up with a different plan of attack for the next time you try something. Figure out what went wrong- learn from the experience.

No one makes every team. (Michael Jordan didn’t have a stellar baseball career) No one wins everything. No one glides through life with no setbacks. Everyone fails sometimes. When these things happen, it’s just life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Accept that and move on.

Blame only moves you back. Blame never moves you forward.

Accept that…and move on…

 

 

 

Make it Easy

So we just threw the word happy our of the parental lexicon…

Independent was a word that a few people threw out as a possible substitution, and I think that’s a pretty good choice…

“Yes my dear child. I just want you to be independent.”

I like the sound of it. But what does it mean? And more importantly, how do we guide our child towards independence?

For purposes of our discussion, let’s say that being independent means being self sufficient- knowing what you need and how to achieve it. Being able to take care of yourself. Don’t all parents want to know that their kid knows how to survive?

Well…maybe…

The problem with a kid learning how to become independent is that many parents aren’t thrilled with the idea of their kids being able to exist without them. It makes parents superfluous. One minute they’re parents…the next…nothing…

Let’s throw in a real life example: A few weeks ago, my Sister in Law told my Husband that their Mother was upset with my Husband. (Yes- this is what passes for communication in his family- just look up passive aggressive in the dictionary) Why was MIL upset? Because my husband never asks her for anything. That’s right- he is independent and able to take care of his needs, and his Mother isn’t happy about it. She needs to be needed…

Unfortunately, when you have parents like this, it often skews your thinking. My daughter whined over the weekend about how she wants someone to pick her up from school for Christmas break. FYI- we don’t own a car, and there is a perfectly good train line from DC to NYC. My Husband was beginning to relent, while I made the case that she wasn’t a hobo jumping onto a freight train with her stick and bandana full of possessions hanging off her back. She takes Amtrak- with nice seats and wifi and ability to charge your electronics. Bathroom and snack car. This isn’t exactly slumming it…

My husband was trying to be nice, but he was also trying to make it easy for her. (He was also trying to make her happy, but that’s yesterdays blog) He also likes the thought that she still needs him.

My thought is that she has to learn to get to and fro on her own- it’s part of the learning experience. I want her to know that she can do it. It boosts up your confidence when you learn to do new things- when you figure our how to get by.

Yesterday morning we got a text: my daughter got a great price (yay on cyber Monday deals) on a train ticket home at the perfect time for her to leave school. No one needed to pick her up at school- she would make it home by herself (exactly like she did for Thanksgiving)

Finding a good price. Knowing your schedule. Figuring out how to get home. These are all life skills. These are the skills that lead you towards becoming independent.

Independent is a good thing. It doesn’t mean you don’t need someone anymore. It just means you have the ability to survive on your own. And don’t we all want to know that our kids have the means to survive?

The Worst Parenting Mistake

“I just want you to be happy.”

How many parents have uttered this line?

How many children have heard it?

But….

as parents…

When we say these words, are we setting up our children for a lifetime of disappointment?

What does it mean to be happy?

Tick- tick-tick precious seconds are accumulating as I’m waiting for you to come up with a sufficient answer…

What is happiness? How do we achieve it? Why do we want that one thing, above all others, for our children? What does it really mean when we say we want them to be happy?

First off- is anyone happy all the time? I know I’m not. I broke my favorite mug a few weeks ago. It pissed me off. I was having a conversation with one of my closest people and I said something that annoyed them- neither of us is really happy about that. I could continue with all the other things that recently annoyed me, but you get the gist. We can’t be happy all the time.

And this beats around the bush that I’ve been blogging about for a month: our kids expect to be happy and when something takes work, or doesn’t end up according to plan, they get depressed. They wonder what is wrong with them – they wonder why they can’t be happy…because their parents just want them to be happy…and deep down no kid wants to disappoint their parents…

Some kids don’t look for a job, or a career, or their own apartment, because having to do these things might not make them happy. Who wants to go to work at a specific time every day and do work? That certainly doesn’t make most people happy…

Even when things go right- the partner, the career, the car, they wonder why they are not in a perpetual state of bliss. Their expectation is that, like everything else in their young lives, happiness is supposed to be 24/7/365.

I may not know what happiness is, but I certainly know it’s not 24/7/365.

So why do we say “I just want you to be happy”?

Why don’t we say- ‘I want you to pursue happiness- go for the things that will fulfill you and help you grow and learn. I want you to live a life with few regrets, while knowing that everything comes with a price, whether literal or figurative. I want you to know that it’s OK if there are times when “happy” isn’t your predominant emotion- being happy all the time is too much of an emotional burden.

With all the words in our language- how did we become so focused on HAPPY?

Why don’t we try another word- How about as parents we say:

I just want you to be resilient.

OR

I want you to be happy 50% of the time.

OR

Just be the best you that you can be- in whatever form that takes.

 

Book Review: The Grammarians

I’ve been thinking about doing book reviews, so I thought about trying one out today. What do you think of the format? It’s a work in progress. The sectional ratings are out of 10.

The Grammarians    by  Cathleen Schine

Sarah Crichton Books      Farrar, Strauss and Giroux   New York   2019

Synopsis- The lives of  highly intelligent, identical twin girls who tend towards the pedantic. We see their story played out via the help of an archaic dictionary that their doting father brought them home as a gift. The novel takes place in the second half of the twentieth century in New York City and its surrounding suburbs. It would be classified as General Fiction.

The Ratings

Characters- The main characters in this book are not likable. They come off as rude, condescending and boring. If you want characters that you root for, this book is NOT for you. Rating: 4

Plot- There is really no plotline. We see the girls grow up, and while there is a climax of sort, it’s mainly underplayed. You do not wonder what will happen, you wonder if anything ever will happen. If you are plot focused, this book is not for you. Rating: 5

Setting- While there is some colorful New York City in the seventies/eighties references, this is not a lush narrative wherein the location makes the book move along. It could really take place in any urban area with suburbs. If you like highly descriptive novels, this is not for you. Rating: 4

Language- This is the strength of the book. As one would expect with a book titled grammarians, words, and the way that they are used are extremely important. Every section (there are no actual chapters) begins with a word and its archaic definition. There is a clever way that the author makes us look at the word, and the duality of meanings that some words have. If you are entranced by words, you might give this a try. Rating: 8

Structure- The novel is fairly straightforward and in chronological order. It is told third person omniscient, which is a good structure for the novel because we get a peak into each sisters thoughts independently. The novel lacks depth in certain areas, because there are entire parts of their lives that are skipped over. If you want to know EVERYTHING about the characters, it will leave you yearning for more information. While you often get a peak into their souls, there is not much background. Much is left for the reader to imagine or assume what happened. Unfortunately, the reader may not care what the characters are thinking. Rating: 5

Readability- As one could imagine, a book that lacks plot, setting and likable characters is sometimes difficult to get through. If you do not like clever word play and an almost essay like structure, you may have difficulty getting through it. Because of this, I found that I could only read a section or two at a time. There is not an immediate draw to pick up this book and read it. Though only 200 e reader pages, it often seems longer. If you want a page turned, not for you. Rating: 3

Message- This book made me think. While the traditional things on which we base a book are lacking, I still thought that reading this book was a worthwhile experience. There are underlying themes and messages in this book that are highly discussable, and relevant in todays world. After reading the book I was captivated by the thought of what is language, and what does it mean in the greater context of our culture. I will continue to think about this book for awhile, no matter what its shortcomings were, because I think its broader message is that important. Rating: 10

Overall Score: 39/70, which for today we will equate to 3 out of 5 stars.

There are many things wrong with this novel, but at the end of the day I’m glad that I read it. As always, open for discussion with anyone that has read it.

 

 

 

No

Yesterday I posed the question “Should a person about to ask someone to marry them ask permission of the parents beforehand.” Needless to say, this is not a yes or no question. The comments provided us with a lively debate on the topic, all sides having interesting and valid points.

Today I am going to start with the supposition that one should ask the parents of the intended for blessing/permission.

So Person A approaches Parents Z and says “I love your daughter, and I would like to ask her to marry me. Do I have your blessing?” Parent Z says “No”.

What happens next?

What if the parent really doesn’t like the guy that there child is dating?

Should the parent deny their blessing/permission?

I understand that there are many valid reasons for not wanting your child to marry someone. If the person doesn’t treat your child well, no marriage certificate is going to change that. Abusive relationships don’t get better.

But what about the areas that fall into the grey area of relationships? The guy has been married before- is that a valid reason to say no? Doesn’t make enough money? Doesn’t practice the same religion? Doesn’t want kids? Works too much? Works too little?

What are reasons that you would not want your child to marry someone that would make you not bless/permit a union?

Then let’s go to the next step:

Does the person holding the ring box still ask the person to marry them?

Does the person receiving the ring say NO to the proposal to make their parents happy?

Does the person receiving the ring say YES, and proceed to get married without their parents being present, or accepting the marriage?

And you all thought this would be an easy post…

It all boils down to one essential question: How much do the parents feeling matter when their children decide to get married?

My friend met the parents of the girl her son is dating this past weekend. She was very “eh” about them, and the girl. As the kids are college seniors and about to go to graduate school,  I said “Don’t worry about it. She is respectful of your son. It’s not like they’re getting married.” But after I said that to her, I thought- hmmmm- but what if they do decide to get married? Will my friend spend her life not really liking her kids in laws, as well as his wife?

What do you think?

 

 

Tradition…or…Outdated

Recently I had a conversation with a friend. I asked him if his daughter were to get engaged, would he expect the future spouse to ask him for his blessing/permission.

His answer was simple- Yes. He would expect it because if you’re going to go the marriage route, you adhere to all the conventions.

That’s one way of looking at it.

Then you have my thought: I actually said that if someone “asked” my permission I would tell my daughter to run fast and run far. I think it’s sort of demeaning to ask permission of anyone other than the intended spouse. My daughter is a mature, responsible grown up woman: to think she needs someone to take care of her is ludicrous. Don’t ask me: just treat her with respect and kindness and love. Tell that to her. Show her that with everything you do.

As I was having a hypothetical situation about my daughter, I decided to ask her what she thought. This past weekend was Parents Weekend, so as we sat down to a delicious brunch, I posed the question:

“If you were dating a guy, would you want him to ask us for permission to marry you?”

Her answer:

“I would never marry someone like that. That’s not respect. That implies ownership. Are we supposed to give him two goats and a bag of coin too?”

So.

Should a person who intends on proposing ask the parents of their beloved permission/blessing? Is it outdated and unnecessary, or is it good manners and a sign of respect?

When I Don’t Like Myself

My Sister in Law and her family were not able to go to dinner with us on the night of my daughters graduation, so we went to dinner with them on Thursday, the night before. Also in attendance were my Mother in Law and her boyfriend.

Ten people.

Honoring my Daughters accomplishments and High School career, a pre college send off.

Except, did you know that my niece won the English award at her middle school moving up ceremony? And she goes to private school. And there are one hundred kids in her grade. And you know it’s private school….

And did you know that B is going to be in an Honors class next year? At private school?

And J is the BEST athlete in the whole town they live in? he pitched the game.

Now repeat all those statements about a thousand times. In my Mother in Law’s voice. Because it was not my sister or brother in law making these proclamations. Nor was it the kids themselves. It was my Mother in Law.

Ask me how many times she mentioned my daughter’s 98 average over four years of high school, including a 100.32 senior year?

How many times she mentioned my daughter’s three school tennis trophies including MVP this year, highest doubles rating in her division and numerous strong finishes?

The fact that she was allowed to take over the maximum amount of AP classes that her school allows?

It was so bad that my sister in law said to my daughter- “Sorry. I can’t say anything nice to you without my Mother jumping in to tell us how great my kids are.”

That’s how bad it was.

So for 2 hours we heard how great my niece and nephews are, and nothing about my daughter.

Which turns me into a bad person. I really wanted to say something mean about the kids. I wanted to say something mean about how they weren’t really accomplishments. How they didn’t compare to my daughters accomplishments. I was starting to get passive aggressive about the whole thing. It’s not a look I want to wear. I am not proud of myself for these feelings.

I really don’t like the person I become when my Mother in Law is around. I don’t understand why she wants to compare her grandkids. Shouldn’t we all be allowed to embrace their accomplishments without having to continually tout one over the other?

I’m going to do some sort of penance for my bad thoughts. But it will be after tomorrow’s post because I still haven’t talked about graduation yet.

Search For: Roommate

Prolougue:  Our heroine clicked the button “Accept” and the roommate search was done.

Chapter One: When I went to college, there was one way to find a roommate- the college sent a questionnaire, we mailed it back, and a month before school began you received a name and an address. Welcome to your roommate. Now- there are all sorts of ways. Most of my daughter’s friends found roommates through their schools official Facebook page. Some ended up with friends of friends, or classmates from their High School.

Chapter Two: My Daughter’s school does it a little differently. Students fill out an online questionnaire and are then matched with about 30 people based on their answers to certain questions. You are then supposed to reach out to the people that interest you.

Chapter Three: Stress: OMG emailing total strangers? What do I say?

Chapter Four: You have the ability to write a “profile” a short paragraph that basically describes who you are. This is not mandatory, but my daughter did write one. She also had the expectation that the person she would room with would also have written one. So immediately upon receiving her matches, she was able to eliminate about fifteen names. She also eliminated anyone who appeared to be a partier- just not her thing.

Chapter Five: Stress- How do I know what answers are red flags?

Chapter Six: My daughter ended up sending notes to about ten people. Five responded. This annoyed her a little that some people didn’t even have the courtesy to respond back. Now, they could have had an issue with the system, some kids did. But really- how do you not respond at all…

Chapter Seven: Stress- What’s wrong with me that people don’t want to reply? Am I too uptight? Too urban? Too perky? Not perky enough? Do I look like a nerd?

Chapter Eight: She ruled out one girl right away. She just knew the fit wasn’t right.

Chapter Nine: Stress: Is she sure that girl wasn’t right? Am I basing it on that her social media profile pictures would not correspond with the person that I am?

Chapter Ten: Continual conversation with one girl who seems more social than her. Girl seems nice.

Chapter Eleven: Stress. This girl is really into the sorority thing. She almost went to Tulane and Ole Miss. Will she be too outgoing?

Chapter Twelve: Rule out nice, but probably too outgoing girl and concentrate on other three. All seem nice. All have much in common with our heroine.  Two of the three want to be lawyers. All on the history/government track.

Chapter Thirteen: Stress. One girl has almost no social media profile. Is this a red flag? Did she scrub her profile? Does she have a secret profile? Is she just out of the loop of a teenage girl? My gut instinct is saying No. But we’re oddly similar…

Chapter Fourteen: Our heroine has come to the realization that any of these three girls would be fine, even the low social media one. But she is still unsure if any one of them is better than another.

Chapter Fifteen: I, the Mother, is starting to get stressed because the deadline for a roommate is Monday and I don’t want her to get a completely random roommate. I want her to decide, because there’s that quote- the devil you know…. With these girls she already has an idea….do you want the great unknown?

Chapter Sixteen: My Mother is driving me crazy. Doesn’t she know how stressful this is?

Chapter Seventeen: One of the girls has popped the question: Will you be my roommate?

Chapter Eighteen: Stress. This girl seems fine. There’s no reason not to room with her. Why is it so daunting saying Ok? Maybe because I just got home from prom and I’ve been up over 24 hours straight and my feet hurt? My makeup stayed on great though.

Chapter Nineteen: Mother perspective- OMG just tell the girl yes or no. But remember tick tick tick

Chapter Twenty: Will literally live with Charles Manson and Ted Bundy clones just to get away from the crazy maternal roommate I have now

Chapter Twenty One: Did you accept her yet? It’s not fair, not letting her know.

Chapter Twenty Two: *&%$#@

Chapter Twenty Three: I make some sort of hand gesture to my daughter.

Final Chapter: A roommate is chosen- a very smart government major who wants to be a lawyer and is from Florida.

The End

But don’t worry: Sequel to follow….

Take it to the Limit

How honest should we be with one another? I ask this often and I sweat this is not an entire post about this subject: it’s going to lead to something else.

When you are at someone’s house and they serve you food, do you immediately say that it is salty? More than once? When asked how the meat is, do you reply “A little tough.”

Think about that- do you tell your host that the food isn’t good?

Now let’s add another variable: What if the cook is your Mother, and the one making the statement about the food is your Father in Law?

FYI- true story about my Father’s Day meal and the food my Mom took three hours to prepare. Let’s see, at the meal my FIL also told my Dad that the way he was treating his cancer was wrong. (No- my FIL is not a Doctor, nor is he in the science field at all. And no, he did not have cancer- so yeah- no frame of reference).

To add to his conversation, he also yelled at me. Nastily. Why? you ask. Because while we were at the table eating dinner I turned off the TV in the living room. He yelled  “Why did you turn that off? I was watching.” Nasty. In front of my parents- and you know- that doesn’t put them in an odd position at all. You know, my parents who can’t cook a meal nor know how to treat an illness…

Last night I had the pleasure of eating dinner with my Mother in Law. Look up passive aggressive in the dictionary- her picture is there…. She proceeded to tell me that no one ever tells her when my daughter wins anything. First off- usually posted on Facebook, which she has. Second off- I know my husband forwards her the pictures. And she’s going on and on about how she’s only the Grandmother, why should she know anything. To which I said to my Husband (rather loudly) “You don’t tell your Mother anything?” thereby extricating myself from the situation.

I also heard that the weather in Ithaca NY is the same exact weather as Washington DC because my MIL is a little (ha) annoyed that my Daughter is going to a Catholic college and though she is all accolades, she’s writhing that my daughter didn’t choose another college….(FYI- she didn’t talk to me for a month and a half after my daughter chose her school)

So Friday, which is already going to be emotionally laden for me will be made worse by the onslaught of family at the table. Good times. I know I am whining, but I don’t have the energy to deal with pettiness this week. I just want to watch my daughter graduate, and take pride in her accomplishments.

Why does family make it so difficult?

 

Prama

My Daughter has Prom tonight.

Well, actually, she is getting her make up done at 10am. Then her hair at 11. Then Pre-Prom starts at 2, and it will be a half hour cab ride to the person hosting pre prom. Need to be at school by 4pm for the busses to leave at 430.

As of now it’s like, a 65% chance of rain.

Pre prom is outside- big roof.

Prom is at a lovely place in New Jersey, with a big terrace overlooking the Hudson River.

Hence prama….

But the whole thing surrounding prom….

Some people hated prom. Others said it was the best night of their lives. Some simply do not go. What makes this night special enough to warrant a million emotions?

My Daughter hates the abstract idea of prom being something that one takes a date to. To her, it is a school dance, and therefore, as a school event, there should be no push to have this a dated event. At the beginning of Senior Year, she and her five best friends made a pact: Unless someone was in a relationship, there would be no dates. This would be their last Hurrah as a group, before they head out to various parts of the country.

Fine.

Except the first prama came when one girl wanted to bring a date- a boy she did not know that well…

In the end, she’s not bringing a date. But the angst….the ridiculous conversations….the prama….

Tables. Who is going to sit where and with whom. That was a fun ten days…

Where are they going to do pre prom? How many pre proms are they going to?

Where are they changing after prom for the after prom….

Do you want to go in the talk of who is renting a space for after prom? Which diner they will go to at 6am?

Prama.

And the anxiety has already begun in my house as my daughter is one very taut nerve. If you want to know why parents lose their cool, it’s events like this….

I’m sipping tea, listening to the jackhammers in the background, knowing that that will be the least annoying sound I hear today. I’m sure the whining will be much worse….

But I also know that at 4pm, when my daughter is standing under golf umbrellas with her friends, and they all look so pretty, and their smiles will be flashing, I will stand next to by friend S, and we will tear up a little, and we will hug each other. We will smile and laugh and cry. We will watch our incredible daughters head off to, hopefully, an incredible night under the stars.

I’m sure that Billy Joel tune will ring in my ears- “Now before we end, and then begin, we’ll drink a toast to how it’s been, I’ve loved these days.”