Monday, May 22, 2017

Dear soon to be 13 year old son

To my amazing son;

I am writing to you as you are a month away from becoming a teenager.  

That's exciting for you and for me and scary for me, and probably for you. 

I mean how tiring is it to hear people state the obvious all the time ?  You are not a child anymore, You are getting bigger, You need to be more responsible, You need, You are.... on and on.  As if this is news to you.  So why do we do it ?  Because actually you are still a child in most ways and one that is still learning.  Because as smart as you are you do not know it all and only adults later on realize how much they still need to learn all the time.  Part of it is our own fears - that we did not prepare you enough, that we did too much for you and you may not be able to be independent, that you are so different than we were at the same age.  We need to chill a little and you need to cut us a break as we will not stop this, I promise it is because we think so highly of you not because we think you cannot do something.

We all remember becoming 13 and for some of us we forget how everything in our lives that seems trivial now was all consuming and absolutely important at the time.  So remind us when we might say "is that really a big deal?" tell us that it is, we need help learning how to be parents of a 13 year old too.  

As you turn 13 you are that much closer to what you probably see as awesome, and should, the finish line to getting "older".  To getting less dependent on us, to making more and more of your own decisions.  Man was I totally with that line of thinking when I was younger, I so wanted to be older, to not have to ask for permission, to be free and then I got older and I realize you still need to be mindful of others, you want to take others into consideration and you know all of us "old" folks lament how much we miss our youth.  This is hard because your days seem to stretch on forever, school year flew by from my point of view, it was never ending from yours.   You will get there, don't always rush it, there are great things to come but there are moments that you should enjoy now, in the moment because they will be those memories that you will look back when you get to my age.

I was never the 13 the way you will be, I was 13 in my own era, with my parents and with different things to tempt me to do wrong as well with things that were so wondrous to me and may seem lame to you.  You do not have to be me at 13, there is nothing wrong with the fact that you and your friends communicate via devices, or watch YouTube for hours, don't need to wait for a tv show to come on because you can stream it, never sing lyrics wrong because you can look them up and never have to drag out a heavy book called an encyclopedia which may have outdated information in it to learn.  You are all learning to be ready for the world you will inhabit, that is frankly awe inspiring for me.  Yet certain things remain, kindness to others, not doing something to someone just so you can appear more dominant, caring about the world around you and knowing that I am here for you when the world doesn't do those things for you.  I may yell, I may not like it but I got your back.

There will be changes to your body - oh she is not going there - mom stop, no really please stop.  I know all about them, they will make you feel awkward, they may be annoying as they may come with skin issues, you will smell more, you might start growing hair and that baby smooth skin that I adore will be left behind.  Whatever it is I, or your Papa, can talk about it, you might blush more than we do, we might wish you didn't ask and we may not have an answer but choose one or both of us and we will try, we will be honest and let's face it I am pretty funny so it will be kind of humorous. Unless it is not funny and then I will break out the Astoria girl in me and kick ass if you need, or just provide a shoulder to lean on.

Last but not least 13 is a one of many numbers that will have significance for you in life.   You want to make choices as you become a teenager that do not negatively derail you from celebrating future milestone numbers.  You may be tempted to try drugs, alcohol - let's talk about those choices honestly and how to make sure you do not do anything that will harm you, I promise not to tell you unrealistic things.  You may start to think about sex, the beginning of whatever that means at 13 these days.  You are only 13 - you need to slow it down a little -- know how to be respectful of your partners, be good to your own body and most of all slow it down a little.  Yes I repeated myself I am allowed I am your mom, we repeat incredibly well.

On the subject of repeating  - I will tell you these things again and again and again because if you learn nothing from this except that I am here for you and that I am learning how to parent a teenager to continue to grow the smart, funny, good looking, kind, talented boy to a man.  That I love you even when I get mad, that you love me even when I seem so totally not to understand what you are saying, that you will do great things and no one should tell you otherwise.

I love you my soon to be teenager for all the things you were, are and will be.  Now go be an annoying, brooding, eye rolling teen but also stay true to who you are inquisitive, clever and confident that you have unconditional love from me,

Love
Mom

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Did you have the talk yet ?

 As you raise a child you find yourself in the role of a storyteller, a teacher and  a bit of a walking encyclopedia (I wish I was a Google but instead I just use it all the time).

Your first forays are teaching them the basics, eating, listening to you, talking, walking.  Their curiosity grows and you seem all knowing to them, because basically you are.

I love learning so sharing that with my kids, reading to my boys and generally imparting what I know and going to find out more if I didn't was right up my alley.  I was the teenage girl that my boy crush called Eggbert, with affection.   Though if I was to be fair he was pretty easily impressed by fairly common knowledge.   I enjoy the process of listening and learning from those who can explain things that are beyond my current knowledge base and yes my friends now tease me about all the "facts" I store and share.

Being a parent is about teaching them to love learning.  It is not what they retain as much as stroking their curiosity, not dismissing their questions even when you are tired and have no idea and frankly could care less who would win the imaginary fight between the Hulk and Thanos.  I say Hulk because the grumpy green guy is still on the side of good and after all comics are about right winning out over wrong.

As they grow their questions may remind you of all that you do not know, or have forgotten.  This is the time I find I am teaching my boys patience, and sometimes my own lack thereof.   Teaching them that no one knows it all and that they should know how to find out might be more valuable than the feeding of info I have done up to this point.

Then there are the talks... you know the uncomfortable for us and somewhat for them ones.   The talk about sex, yes it is a good thing, yes it is fun, yes it comes with responsibilities.  You do not need to talk mechanics because frankly they find that as gross to do with a parent as you do.  You do need to talk about consent, appropriate age, what not to do and safe sex along with contraception.  I did not do all of this at once with my soon to be 13 year old, I am not done, this comes in bits as they ask and they do not need the whole discussion in one shot I have found.

The talk about drugs and alcohol is hard for me.  The dangers, the chances that they will try something and most of all the availability of drugs that can kill scare me, I want to duck and cover.  I want to pretend I do not know of them.  I can't and boy it is uncomfortable because you do not want to make it like some of our parents, unrealistic scare tactic that did not work, nor downplay it.   It is an ongoing discussion.  Pointers welcome.

The last of the "talks" for me is the one about how to be a good person, to be kind, to know when to push back and when to stand up for yourself or for others.  To have confidence in yourself so you are not mean to others to make yourself feel better about who you wish you were.  I want to raise kids who appreciate others, respect the planet and recognize when they may have a bias.  These are not only talks but also actions - these are learned as they watch how you act and let's be honest we are all assholes at some point.

Maybe the thing I take away from being a parent is what I have tried to do in my life, talk and listen. I smile and think of one of my closest friends and how he and I barely can finish what we have to say because the other jumps in with additional info or questions, he fascinates me because of this and our friendship grows me (of course I hope the same is thought of me by him).

I watch our world and while I do not agree with all those who say "what's wrong with the world today?", it's the same crap that has always been wrong with the world we just see it live time now, I do wonder when did we stop disagreeing and started just yelling?  When did we stop thinking of how do we find middle ground and agree to have different view points?  When did being right and sticking by someone or something we chose become more important than learning and evolving our thinking when that person or those ideas fail?

Did you have the talk yet?  Maybe it is not just with our kids, maybe we need to have the talk with one another for our kids.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

It's still mama in any language

It's fascinating to me that in almost every language the word for mother is the similar and the word for father can vary so much.   Of course because I love research and word origins I had to look it up before I wrote this blog.   It is tied to the sounds a baby makes and particularly around the sound they make often in their babble for hunger, the addition of breast feeding murmur (or bottle feeding if that is how you had to go) is also an addition to this "mmmmamamma" sound.  At the very core mama is the main part of their survival, their comfort and their feeding at the time they are totally reliant on another person to do this.

Now fast forward to say modern day teenage years and mama becomes Ma or eye roll Mother and it is the symbol not of nourshiment often but of everything that is impeding you from doing every stupid thing that as teenager you know you cannot live without, but do.

Go a little further and you suddenly realize that most mothers were not your nemesis and hey looky that as you become a mom yourself they actually suddenly seem to have useful advice, who knew ?? Take few more steps in years and they need you in ways you needed them when you were more helpless and can they really be mortal?

As mother's day approaches I am awed and flawed with what I am as a mother myself.  This balance of not reigning in your instincts to protect them paired with the need to help them grow and be independent thinkers and held together with a love that you could not imagine is hard to capture into words.  I was not one of those people who loved babies from an early age, I did not babysit, did not have any interest frankly in holding anyone's baby through my twenties.  Sure they are cute and have a unique sweet smell but they were for others to coo over.  This girl smiled politely and moved on.  I am convinced it was paired with my underlying fear also of what kind of mother would I be.

I am an independent person who hesitates to rely on anyone, working on it- not easy, so what did that mean for my ability to give that up for another being?  I was not even sure I wanted children until my 30s when I had a relationship with a man who was just truly the whole package.  Smart, attractive, interesting, well rounded, thought I was perfect exactly as I was but there to support and push me to be the person I wanted to evolve too.  It happened after I broke up with the man who would later become my husband.  It was a whirlwind romance and then he told me he knew he would never want children.  Partially due to our age difference, which hadn't been a thing for us until then even though it was considerable, and mostly because he just knew it was not what he wanted.

Many judged him negatively for this, I didn't.  I understood and appreciated the honesty.  It made me realize that knowing I had the option to have them was a lot more in line with what I wanted then knowing I would not have any.

I do not regret ending that relationship, it is a great memory and to be loved like that is part of the reason I grew in many ways.  In ways that add to the mother I am.

Being a mother these days though is hard in different ways than it was for our parents.  It is a never ending list of things you are expected to do and do well that we so easily agree to, because we do not want our children to think they are not worth it and that is what we are told will happen.  We need to be nutritionists not just common sense food suppliers, we need to have project management ability to ensure that we give or have found ways for our kids to get to a well rounded set of activities (read more than one), we need to understand science and question because we are bombarded with incorrect information about everything from sunscreen to medicine, we need to have a good knowledge of what our kids are doing 24/7, what the latest technology is, the apps and shows they watch and if we cannot do this without also being successful, fit, well read, informed about all topics -- well then we are not really being the best mothers we can be.   Or so "they" tell us.

I am a dedicated mom, as are the women I know, but give me a break.  I try and balance their food by cooking most of their meals with mostly organic food but McDonald's is not crack and the occasional meal from there will not doom them.  Do I think they will will suddenly fall apart just because I got non-organic milk here and there?  NO.   I encourage their interests and cheer them on at their big moments but they need to be happy to be at their activities not for me but for themselves.  I picked physicians for them that I connect with so I do not need to do their job and get a medical degree, they encourage discussion but in the end I trust my ability to pick people who are not out to harm my children.  Apps and screen time and gaming move at the speed of light, I do not.  So I have to rely on the fact in part that I have created a safe environment for my boys to share what they are doing paired with the random checking of their devices.  I enjoy working and I am not a size 4, good for you should you be, but I am conscious of what I eat and how I look.   It is a struggle and I do not need to hide that from them but tell them it is ok to come to me when they do.

I am teaching my boys to embrace their mistakes, and learn from them, just like I do.  To enjoy the moment instead of checking off the box and most of all to know that I love them unconditionally. To find that person that makes them feel like they too are the total package.

The mother - child relationship is not an easy one so this Mother's Day enjoy remembering those things that your mother did with you that made you the person you were.  If you lost your mother then share those memories with someone you care for.  If you chose not to be a mother share your strength to be a woman who embraces that choice and shows the future generation how to be comfortable with who they are not who society says they should be.  If you could not have children then be the woman who seeks and gives support to others in the same situation - that is motherhood too.

Most of all I am embracing the fact that to be a good mother you have to appreciate the other women in your life and be there for them.  For moral support, for sharing of pick ups and drops offs and for lots of laughter and reminders that we are all learning on the job.  Thank you for your friendship and the wine ladies.

Happy Mother's Day

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It ain't me babe ..

Image result for it ain't me babeI know you are supposed to, because i get told from every angle, love going to every kids sports activity that they participate in.  You are there for them, for EVERY game, supposed to be paying attention, cheering them on and on and on.

I frankly do not like it - there I said it - let the wrath of the perfect things you have to do these days as a mom come down on me.  I like attending some, none of the baseball ones (seriously just writing that made me cringe a little), sports but man what is it with the expectation that you have to be there for every one when this has no interest for you.  It is not a good example for your kids - no really it is not.  You are teaching them to go with the herd mentality.  I will buy the equipment, pay for the lessons and yes even attend at least half if not more, but if one parent is already there and enjoys this why do we need both of them there when one obviously does not enjoy this.

I do not like bleachers, the bugs, the nasty grass touching my feet (urban girl - ok with it).  I do not have a clue what is actually going on for the most part because my brain is in daydream mode during baseball, all I know is that when my kid is up, I mimic the lingo and give a big shout out.

Since I already failed uber mother of the year chances already while I am on the topic when did it become the expectation that we as mothers, regardless of whether we work in the home or outside of it, have to basically be personal assistants to our kids?

I am having my Norma Rae moment, writing this on May 1st International Workers day, and saying no more.  I will be there when I need to be, will be there for the big things, and teach my kids that validation comes from their own sense of accomplishment not from constant reinforcement from mom.  That does not mean I have to cater to their every need, plan their social lives after the age of 9 and make sure they are constantly entertained.  These are all life skills they need to develop.

I will continue to partake in the military precision planning of pick ups and drop offs but I need some me time, that comes without laundry and chores or constant feeling that someone is about to burst in and need something.  They are all capable of not starving at this point in their life and I swear I do not move the commonly eaten foods just to mess with them and dominate with my knowledge of where the (insert item here) that is in their face is.

We have set the bar so high that I cannot imagine what the next set of parents will have to do to match it and beat it (quit all jobs, get hired by mini army we created to cater to them?).  They need to learn to be independent, set goals and deliver on them with asking for help not helped just because we are there.

I love my kids, and I like a lot of other kids that they are friends with.  I actually had a great experience this past Saturday driving my oldest son and some of his friends, who I have known since they were months old, to and from a party.  Their slightly wobbly voices dipping lower, their conversation pretty diverse about lands traveled to and lands to be seen, their ease of talking to adults about a range of subjects.  I volunteered for that, I will do it again.

Is it not enough to do the things they need, the things you enjoy with them and only some of the things they need support on (splitting the difference when possible with the other parent?) anymore?

So to all of you who love being on the sideline at every game THANK YOU - please wink at my kid too - I will be there for some, I will be there in the way my kids are raised and I will be doing my thing without remorse for many of these missedgames - their father will appreciate your being there too with him.  He loves this stuff.  I on the other hand am all about the other things my kids are into and let's not kid ourselves our children will all have plenty to talk about at therapy no matter what we think we are doing amazingly well.

I am woman, I am strong, I am ok with making myself a priority too. Like Bob Dylan sings "it ain't me you're looking for ...babe".