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.

 

 

DBQ- Emoji

DBQ.  Document based question.  If you have children currently attending public school (or maybe private, I’m not sure) you may have heard grumblings about DBQ’s.  Basically, students are presented with documents (articles, political cartoons, letters, speeches, etc) and are expected to answer questions based their prior knowledge, and said documents.  Today, I’m going to try my own version of a DBQ.

Example A: evidence found on iPad.

My daughter has this time management trick.  When life gets especially hectic, she takes Facebook and Instagram off her phone (not snapchat- lets not get totally crazy) and opens up her Facebook and Instagram on my iPad. (you know-  just in case there’s some breaking news in teenville)  But here’s the thing:  I get to see her Instagram notifications, and this is where the evidence begins.

Aperson replied to your comment:  Ï∑œΔµπ

Bperson replied to your comment: &%$*&

The answers are all a series of emojis.  Every single reply.  Not a word is exchanged- just little pictures. And it’s all Greek to me….

Example B:  Evidence found on billboard

Coming soon to a theater near you:  The Emoji Movie.

A movie.  Full length.  Based on emoji’s.

Hypothesis:

  1. Our world has now come 360.  We have officially reverted back to Cave person status.  Instead of using words to express our ideas, we have reverted back to pictures.  We have collectively decided that the use of words is outdated and too difficult to understand.
  2. The pictures are not always exactly what they seem though. (ie- I think one of them looks like a chocolate kiss, but sadly, that is not what it represents).  Only teenagers understand exactly what these pictures represent.  Adults are afraid to use anything other than the basic smiley face or thumbs up, for fear of gross miscommunication.

Conclusion:

I believe that the scholars, those that have spent years deciphering things, have been mislead.  I think the cave paintings were created by angst ridden teenagers just trying to confuse their parents, and society as a whole.  Pictures on walls have actually the opposite meaning of what the scholars believed.  Our whole society is based on a prank.  Somewhere there is a picture of a smirking teen, holding the Rosetta Stone, and saying- “This is going to be so much fun”.

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.