Tuesday, June 27, 2017

School's out for summer...

Image result for summer vacation kids Can't speak for anyone else but I hear Alice Cooper every year when my kids and their friends go to their final day of school, more energized then ever, antsy to have the day start so it could finish and then they are out for summer.

Man I miss that -- bit jealous always of my teacher friends who have it too - the idea that I could have a whole summer off.   I am a high energy person, not quite hyper, so that would include keeping busy but it would also include doing a bunch of nothing except pleasurable things, like reading, beach going, travel, painting, writing.  Doing those things without wondering what chore, work thing or commitment I needed to get to.

For those of us that are parents in this day and age we are also told about the planning we have to do for our kids.  I do not mean for wee ones that need actual caretakers, I mean for every age group living under our roof.  After all we cannot have kids do ... brace yourselves ... NOTHING.

Yet isn't nothing, no schedule, what we as adults look at them longingly for having during this time? I mean none of us see the last day of summer and think "man if I was kid I hope my parents made sure I was busy every nanosecond of every day until school starts."  No we look at them and wish we too could have that break to do what we want.  Now what we fill that time with might differ from what our kids want but to me the possibilities and pure lazy days of summer as a kid are part of the magic of being a kid.

These kids are kept busy throughout the year and this is not a good or bad thing, it is just the way parenting happens for those who have the ability to put kids into activities.  For those that do not, their kids still have some schedule.  If parents care for their children, focus on being there for their kids they should all grow up to be in pretty good shape.

Summer though - I remember it well.  My dad was fond of giving me some math problems to do every day, eye roll even now and sorry dad they did not make me like math more, I had assigned summer reading lists for good part of my school years and then I had a few chores each day.  Beyond that my parents worked and I was not tethered like my kids since I lived in New York.  In a borough that allowed me free roam within in and out of it to the City without parental supervision.

You know what we did for a good part of it, my friends and I, not much.  We went to the public pool, where you had to watch your towel and your money as this was New York in it's high crime, low quality of life era.  We walked around aimlessly. We played video games in candy stores, where people smoked.  We hung out in alleyways and parks.  When younger we played kickball, tag and some other things until dinner, where you gobbled and then ran back down, until streetlights came on and then you begged for "just a little while longer".  You were hot and sometimes someone opened a fire hydrant so you can cool down.  We also went to the movies, and paid for one movie, but often saw several in the movie theater (it was air conditioned and no one checked or cared I think).   We sat in homes and watched some tv.  Overall though we did not do those things that we seem to expect our kids to do these days.  Keep a schedule being top of the list.

I know some people went to camps, day or sleep away, I did not grow up in a neighborhood like that. Your parents may have shipped you off to relatives in Europe, but there you did a lot of the above stated only in a different land.  We went to the beach when we got older, on subways, sweating as we stuck to plastic seats on our way, until we had cars.  If you were in Europe you did whatever it was that kids there did, but again not much of a schedule.   We went on vacations with our parents, or weekends at Jones Beach, Robert Moses or Sunken Meadow.

So this summer I thought I would let my own kids figure out how to be bored, not have as many scheduled things, and get to do whatever they do these days to be entertained.  I figured I and most of the people I grew up with are doing ok.    They have some scheduled camps, some vacation with us and a bunch of let's play it by ear.

I gave them the summer I think as an adult I miss from when I was a kid.  They have a lifetime to be "productive" and only a short while to live without the responsibililties of adulthood.

Do what you think is right for your kids always but once in a while it is ok to let that be letting them enjoy the luxury of being a kid ... especially in the summer.

Happy summer off kids ..


Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer time and the parenting advice is not easy

I appreciate good advice, knowledge as much as anyone I know.  I am totally comfortable with my dorky nature of wanting to know things, to seek things out, to be grateful for those who offer advice and help when I need it.

Yet I am so over and so annoyed with the vast amount of parenting advice out there that is not really advice. It is all about waxing poetic on how wonderful that person's decision was to do whatever and how if you aren't doing it you fall short.  I am over being told how I fail as a mother, as a woman just to be told a few weeks later that whatever I tried to switch too will pretty much be the end of any hope for my children.

It is easy these days to be an expert - I mean I could blog about it and pretend that it is based on professional opinion when in fact a blog is pretty much the editorial section of the newspaper. Yes some facts will be there but opinion is not fact, though this seems to be very blurred on all levels these days.

So as I raise my kids to the best of of my ability, I triage through advice and rely on my trusted resources - women I actually know whose kids I happen to also know.

It is not easy being a parent, rewarding and amazing yes but not easy.  It shouldn't be, you are after all responsible for a whole other being, beings.  Their care is in your hands, literally, and who they become is a result of most of your influence.  I know we like to say that their peers, and they do too, are their greatest influence but they aren't they are just the voice they choose to hear.  However, I am a firm believer that our voice lives on like that annoying supermarket muzak in their head.

I do not think, beyond living in places of extremes, that doing one thing or not doing one thing is what is going to make the child. For me I find it works when I try and parent much like I am told to do with all else, think, be moderate, be fair, I am not always right and have to admit it.   That's it - I got not other must do's because this blog is my opinion and I have no real qualifications, as most authors of those "you must make sure to" articles don't either, to make a fact based declaration.

I try to teach my kids to be kind, to understand their world and how I can be of use in helping them navigate it and most of all to build a trust (hence the muzak in their heads) that translates to them knowing when to come to me for advice.

My kids are fortunate and they are told so but we chose to give them things, in good spirit, so we also choose to make sure they know that they have more than they need but not so much that they forget it.

I expose my kids as often as possible to people, places, foods, ideas that are diverse not because I think that makes them better but because it makes them curious and open to ideas.  That is my kids, may not be yours, neither one of us is wrong.

Maybe all these articles annoy me because they serve to remind us more often than not to focus on the "parenting as competition with other parents" instead of being truly a reference for all of us who should admit that we wing it a lot more than we actually know 100% of what we are doing.  Maybe you don't, maybe you are reading this and think none of this applies, that works for me.

I applaud anyone who chooses to be a parent, as much as I also support those that choose not to be for whatever reasons.  So what if our children are imperfect they are human after all, not some prize to be held up.  They are the reward not the means to get one for being written about.

So go be parents - whatever that means to you - be the parents you know your children need because most of us know that more than any article can ever tell us.  If you have a nugget of info to share pass it on but if you have only "I did it betters" well then good luck with your writing career, this girl is passing on that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hey hey daddy-o

Father's Day is coming up - there I told you, no excuses to forget to get something for your dad, father figure, male who acted as your father or just a guy in your life who fills that need.

Fathers have evolved through time, and we do not always take the time to acknowledge their contributions to the family as much as we do for Moms.  It makes sense, even in the most egalitarian of houses I still see the mother organizing what dad executes, managing and doing the workload and most of all let's be honest there is nothing like a mom.  Moms love with some super elevated emotional nerve that the best of fathers only get close to.

Yet I am so really overwhelmed with emotion when I see how fatherhood has evolved.  There were always good fathers, bad fathers and the average bit of both of those things fathers when I was growing up.  They were there but not present, they were often loud, often the discipline stick used and many a time they were the ones that were in need of taking care as much as the kids.  These men of a previous generation were teachers to their kids, they loved their kids but too many did not know what that meant in terms of showing it.  We also have as a society changed our understanding of what parenting is and with that both mom and dad have become different than our parents.

My own father was a complicated figure, kind at times, really mean at others.  An auto-didact without a way to teach what he learned most of the time without derision.  A selfish man who loved to entertain.  A man who loved music, art, education and travel and passed those things on to me.  We struggled my father and I.  I did not respond well to his constant measurement of me to others where I fell short almost every time, to his pushing me by telling me that it was expected that I achieve more and more and most of all the times he just was mean because he could be.  I was not that kid that would rise up to "show him" yet that was not the man I choose to call the whole of my father.  He was funny, really funny, we went record shopping together, we went to the movies, we did a lot of things and he was great to learn from.  He was my Daddy and I miss him even when I have consciously self-corrected behaviors that I saw myself mimick of his that had been things that I disliked in him.  The other things he was were about him I realize, after years of therapy, not about me.

Today's fathers that I know are so different.  I see them with kids, they take them to events and stay there cheering them, giving unwanted advice and then softening it up.  There they are helping coach various sports teams and being good with other people's kids not just their own.  They are doing carpools and changed diapers.  They are an active part of school performances and events. They spend time with their kids and enjoy it.  These men follow through on the things the mother's of their children ask of them.  They are not "helping" their wives or partners because these are their children so they are sharing in the raising of them.

Today's fathers want to be more than the threat needed when a child misbehaves.  They are working on being the person their children will want to be with when they are adults and do not need to be with either parent except because they enjoy it.

Yeah I know we make fun of the fact that you still cannot find things in the house that have always been in the same spot, that you still ask us questions about basic routines and things that we as moms do not ever seem to need input on (what should I feed the kids among my personal favorites?).  You are there as our bookend to prop up our children until they are their own novels, and we will be there when they need a rest on that same shelf.

I watch my male friends, and other dad's that I know, and I want to say you are an awesome bunch.  I applaud you and am glad to have you around my own kids who, if they choose, will have some great role models to build from as fathers.

You will never be moms but you do not need to be you need to be the best fathers you can be and from where I am standing you are all doing a pretty kick-ass job with that.   Anyone can father a child but it's the best of men who are truly Papas, Daddy's, Tati, Pops.

Happy Father's Day

Monday, June 5, 2017

Then there were 5

My parents surrounded themselves with several families when they moved to the States, families who were the same ethnicity.  Families who they could speak their native language with, share the same foods, the same cultural norms and had friends who were around my age.   We were 6 girls.   Three of were only children, one was an only child for a long time until her parents had another son much too late for us to be anything but annoyed by, and two were sisters. We had each other's families known over for dinner parties that lasted until the wee hours of the night, for weekends driven to the beach, all of us crowding in the back of one car, begging to put on Top 40 Casey Kason and dealing with listening to whatever they wanted to as well.  My father was notorious for having us also answer various school related topics, I am pretty sure all of us know capitals and geography more from those trips then from school.  

These are my memories, these girls, endless hours spent together talking, talking on phones that were tethered with long, stretched out cords.  I can see us walking away from our parents at the beach, burning plastic (don't judge we were poor) at the picnic area we went to just to see the patterns they would melt into (don't judge I said).   We were a unit, like steps each a year younger than the other. One of us lived in New Jersey, in a house to our apartments, so we spent many New Year's in her basement while our parents danced, laughed, played poker and basically left us alone to listen to our music, to drink our bootleg shampoo bottle of booze that I had brought (it was nasty for the record), to be silly.  

We were family and those of us who lived in NY went to the same schools or schools near by, followed each other around, walked endless hours by boys we liked and asked if they had looked at us.  We supported each other and debated the merits of Led Zeppelin, the Stones, the Doors and swooned over Rick Springfield at the first concert we all went to,  our mothers complained for days about the noise level (of the girls screaming not Rick).  It baffled our parents how we could talk so much, then get on the phone and talk some more.  We were sisters and fought like such, we loved each other.

Yet we were not the same.  I was the oldest and the easiest going, maybe I was bossy at times but for the most part I was pretty much game to go with the flow.  G was the next in line.  She was always a little bolder, ok a lot bolder.  She called her dad by his first name, we met when she was 9 and I was 10.  He wasn't her biological father, she knew and told us, we nodded but probably not quite understood.  She was like us but she wasn't.  She was allowed to roam freer than the rest of us, she was raped at 11 by a group of teen boys.  She told me, she made me swear not to say anything or she would deny it, we did not say anything.  I am not sure now if we knew what "rape" meant.  After all she still hung out with them after so was it that bad?  The adult in me shudders remembering this, we did not tell we should have but we thought the parents would be mad at us.  I know her behavior was typical of a survivor now, I did not know that then.   

We all started smoking pot in our teens, I started to pull away when I realized it was getting beyond just that.  I saw the people that we were with and I did not see them leaving the place we were, I was 16.  I did not explain this to the other two of the 6 of us who were with me, G and M, I left them and I left it behind because a part of me wanted more, wanted to be anything but stuck in the same place in life.  I left her slowly and I loved her a lot but she stayed.  She took more and harder drugs. Her depression, as an adult I see it, her self destructive behavior hidden behind an always present smile, a big personality.  She couldn't be an addict, she was too smart, too popular, too everything right?  

We drifted apart and we drifted back together when my father and two of the mothers died the same year, mere months apart.  G's mom was one of them.  We shared each other's grief, we laughed at every memory we had of them, we were in our 20s.   They died much too young.  We lived without a parent each much too young. 

Her addiction took her, she thought she was in charge, she could convince us she was in charge but she was out of control because that is addiction.  It starts by giving you a good feeling, it makes you fill a void, it takes you.  It takes everything from you, it becomes the best friend you need, you want, you defend against those who tell you to give it up.  It is a disease and it is rooted in pain and we did nothing to help, she never asked us to, we all had moved on.  One of us kept in touch with her.  

I saw her not long after I had my son at a party that our New Jersey friend threw.  She had tracked G down.   She had been in Riker's, she like many in there had been sexually abused and raped by the guards, she was not some character in Orange is the New Black she was my friend and she had called none of us.  Not to visit, not to see her, not for help.  She had her addiction still and it would wait for her to get out of jail.  She had her smile, we all hoped she would be ok. 

G died last week.  She had been clean for 10 years, she had been with her husband for 20.  They had spiraled down and up together, he was helped her stay clean along with him.  They gave up heroin.  Read that again, they gave up heroin.  He replaced her addiction with love, the way he spoke of her was a gift, I was happy she had that kind of love.  It was the thing that filled a void that topped addiction.  It was something she chose to do because she finally found a way back to being able to make that choice. 

We were once 6 girls and now we are 5 and every part of me hurt when I heard of her death at 48.  Her smile is what I remembered first, her laugh and the way she seemed like life was hers for the taking, addiction took her potential to be bigger than life. She could not control it, it controlled her.  

G made me laugh in her death like she had when alive, she made me remember how good my childhood was and how close to going in a different path we all were.  It made me wonder where I failed her and it made me realize that in all of the years I knew her she never asked me to help her except for once, and I did but I could not help the pain she carried since we were children.  G is part of every childhood memory I have, part of how I moved in a different direction and now part of the way I spoke with my kids about drugs and what they do to you.  

She had love and that means a lot to me.  It also reminded me that we need to not be silent about sexual abuse, pain, and offer real treatment for those things along with treatment for addiction.   Too many have become one less number to their friends and family and left us with memories instead of being part of the ones we will make.  If you know anyone who is an addict try and give them the option to ask you for help - they will not get better until they realize that there is more to life than pain, that the drugs or alcohol they use will not make it better and that they deserve our compassion and support not our jails and indifference. 

Then there were 5 and as it always was - we grieved together, we laughed at memories together and no matter where we live we live within each other always.   We have been friends for over 40 years, through many decades and from a previous century.  Goodbye my friend I will love you always.