Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sleep Me off My Feet (PLEASE)

exhausted

When I was in college, you knew it was time to start getting ready to go out on Saturday night when my roommate, Theresa, exited the shower, walked across the apartment in her towel, and cranked up “Caribbean Queen.”

It was like a dog whistle.

Within minutes, bathrooms were bustling, Stiff Stuff was spraying and lips were lining (with precision).

And it was 10pm.

 

Nowadays, if 10pm rolls around you can be damn sure I am hoping my night is almost over.  Why?  Because I am freaking tired, that’s why.

 

I’m not exactly proud of it but I’m certainly not ashamed by it either because I know I am faaaaaar from alone. I want to sleep so badly but all my kids are at their rite-of-passage vampire stage so I’m outta luck.  I have teens coming in later on weekends and that stinks.  I have ‘tweens staying up later on weeknights and that stinks worse.

 

I know we all signed the (We’ll) Sleep (When We’re Dead) Contract when we became pregnant and that was all fine – back then.  But for the love of God, was it signed in placenta fluid?  Is there an expiration date?

 

Listen, I’m entitled to be a little cranky.  I happen to be running this show alone now.  My husband’s job keeps him out of town a lot and I must admit brag that I’ve gotten awfully good at keeping things afloat as a single parent. So long as everyone’s alright with egg sandwiches for dinner and a minimum of clean socks, I’d say this machine is running incredibly smoothly, thankyouverymuch.

But I have to be honest.  I am beat, man.  Throw in the Middle Age First Amendment (Thou Shalt Not Sleep Three Consecutive Hours Once One Hits 40 Years Old) and you are looking at an explosive yet very potential mixture  of sleep deprivation and homicide.

I can’t be like my kids and catch up with sleep on Saturdays because come on, there are dogs to be walked and husbands to reconnect with over coffee and  — you know – that litany of things on a never ending Weekend To Do List to tackle.

And forget lazy Sunday sleep-ins because let’s be real, we all know how those go: if you’re not where you’re supposed to be on Sunday mornings (cough, church) you’re definitely where you want to be (baseball/soccer/football field or well, a diner….) so THAT never works out either.

I suppose I could try sleeping a few hours as soon as I got home from work, waking up in time for dinner but — seriously, who can do that?  Oh wait….that would be a high school senior, who naps, then effortlessly drinks coffee at nine to stay up for three more hours of homework.  Screwy, right?

 

I think the greatest irony to this whole dilemma is that …

 

by the time all the chaos of kids and chores and commitments winds down …

 

… the Middle Age Second Amendment is suddenly upon on:  Thou Shalt Not Sleep Past 5amEver.

Can I get a collective “Craaaaaaaaap…..” from all my tired sistas out there?

 

 

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Through the Looking Glass (gulp)

babytyping

 

My daughter recently asked me to read her college essay.

 

I was honored.  She’s a stroke of brilliance, that gal is, so I was secretly delighted. I’m not a notorious helicopter parent in the least so – as it was with my oldest son – I didn’t know a thing about it.  I wasn’t even entirely certain where she was sending it either.

 

As a rule, I keep out of the whole college thing.  Really, I do.  Sure, we talk about it and have dinner discussions and car conversations and all that jazz but I hardly embed myself in the minutia that most parents do. Why?  Because I honestly believe that if a teenager cannot successfully get him/herself into college without a parent’s help, well, then perhaps they’re not quite ready for such a massive, maturity-driven endeavor. That’s just me.

 

By his senior year, my oldest son was a classic ding dong in high school.  I love him like mad but good grief, that kid held a 22-average in Math, barely got out of bed, and made me believe I spawned Satan that year.

 

It’s easy to understand why I embrace this hands-off approach:  I was so pissed at him the whole stinking year I was ready to stand with my arms crossed across my chest and gloat like a madwoman with a slew of “I told you so”s by the time graduation arrived.

 

Cue in visual of bubble popping.  It never happened.

 

Because …

 

HE, my adored ding dong …

 

got himself into college — every one he applied to — without one iota of help from me.

 

(caution, parental brag ahead:  He then went on to throw the Irony discus at me and got himself into the Air Force Reserves as well.  He graduated with honors from there and is in his freshman year at college as I type.)

 

Go figure.  Life.  Funny, right?

 

 

So here I am doing the college thing again.  Only this time I’m a wee more interested because my daughter is soooo not a ding dong,

 

I was excited to read her essay because as an AP/Honors/All-Around Super Student, hallelujah, I was due, man…. I knew it would be terrific.

 

I poured a glass of wine and started.

 

It began with the words, “My mother writes a blog.”

 

Um …..

 

 

What?

 

I took a hearty swig before continuing.

 

 

 

 

I won’t go into detail about the content except to say that when I finished, the swelling of pride in my heart equaled the shotgun-like-blast to my temple.

 

Hooooooo boy.

 

 

Think about it:  pick one person who knows you the most, can see your soul the clearest and well, let’s not sugar-coat it, alternates between loving and loathing you the fiercest.  Now ask that person to describe you.  Now ask that person to provide greater detail about those descriptions.

 

Talk about enlightening.  Have I mentioned the whole love/loathe thing?

 

If she sends this out beyond admissions offices, she will become famous.  I, in turn, will become screwed (although, perhaps immediately appealing to Chelsea Handler as well…  not too shabby).

 

I write about my life  and the people in it all the time  I tell what I believe to be humorous accounts of my family, I detail the days and the friends that make me frustrated or sad or joyous and, okay, sure, I rant about the idiot sports parents that make me furious.  I don’t really think twice about the content too much because – and here’s the Aha Moment – I assume that since what I’m writing is true … then it certainly can’t be … wrong.  Right?

 

The shoe being on the other foot was interesting indeed.

 

Truth is, I like it way better being behind the thoughts and words than in front of them.

 

(Loud?  Am I loud?  Really? Are you sure?)

 

Yikes.

 

 

Of course the piece was brilliant.

 

I never had a doubt.

 

 

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Happily Hangin’ with the Dirty Boys

ski sign

My friends already know I gave up skiing a few years ago.  It really wasn’t a stretch.  I honestly never loved it and once my youngest began to fly past my embarrassing attempt at it, I was done.  I immediately acknowledged that the role reversal of children now looking after mom on the slopes was an unnecessary irony.  (Hey now.  This admission isn’t indicative of my athleticism.  I’m fairly certain I can still execute a near-perfect cartwheel – in heels if I haven’t been drinking – so there’s no shame here.)

Still, owning a ski timeshare week in Vermont tends to keep the sport alive and well in our family whether I like it or not.

Whereas I used to take one for the team, I now take one for myself.  Actually I take more than one.  I take a few.

Minutes, of course.  Minutes of precious, evasive time.

I take some time off of work to join them.  I take some time to catch up on reading, and writing, and relaxing in a quiet condo or lodge (or, who are we kidding, Black Bear Tavern) while my family tears up the slopes and it is amazing.

Totally and unabashedly a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

Even better, I’m at the point where I have completely removed myself from the skiing process entirely:  the planning, the packing and all the procedures that go with it.  I throw some stuff in a duffle bag, shop for some snacks and basically well, show up.   Because of this, I do realize my right to eyeroll is diminished significantly for a few days.

During the ride up, when my minivan of testosterone unanimously voted on a dinner of Taco Bell with a side of KFC – even though I have been trying really, REALLY hard to cut calories —  I didn’t complain.

When the remainder of the car ride subsequently became a gaseous, toxic tsunami of unbearable proportion, I didn’t flinch.  Even when a voice from the back cried out through the hysterical laughter,   “Ewww, I think I just felt blood…”  Nope.  No Mom-reaction at all.

When, upon arrival, the entire contents of the van came spilling out onto the snowy ground the moment a kid opened the back hatch, not a snicker left my lips.  Shrug.  Wasn’t me who packed loose underwear in a laundry basket.  Wasn’t my shampoo and deodorant (and said underwear) that went rolling under cars.  Fun fact:  we unreasonable nagging moms tend to remember to zip OUR duffle bags.  Just sayin.

When I saw a toothbrush sitting untouched and dry on the kitchen table all weekend, I truly didn’t care. I was on vacation.

When I realized that 50% of the four teenage boys in tow never saw the inside of a shower stall the whole time, I didn’t even care about that either.

When, at day’s end, the outnumbering gender took over the main living area and zoned out in front of ESPN for (what seemed like) hours, I sat among them, indifferent and accommodating.

I didn’t ignore my happy little ski crew — I met them all for lunch and dinner in between their runs and ran around taking pictures like I’m supposed to – but I just sorta did my own thing.

Blissfully.

I relished a quiet condo and did things I never, ever do.  I perused Facebook aimlessly – only this time without a judging, clucking spouse glaring at me from across the room.

I watched supremely bad television.  Remember Jaws 2?   I had it on every television in the unit so that while I went tidying and picking up throughout the various rooms I wouldn’t miss a minute.  That.  Was.  Awesome.

In my time alone I even left on CMT (cough, that’s Country Music Television for those in the dark) all day long and, with no minions around to mock me, felt no indignity whatsoever.  Again:  awesome.

Even on the car ride home I refused to let their mayhem and (awful) music permeate my happy space.  Hearing them all shamelessly sing (shout?) the lyrics to “I’m a Stoner,” “Talk Dirty to Me,” and “Drunk in Love” actually made me chuckle instead of wince.  Hearing their man-child  falsettos nail a four-part harmony to Katy Perry’s new song made me laugh out loud.  Boys are funny aren’t they?

So it was a great time.

Unlike in years past, when I was a bumbling, scowling, cursing and freezing family naysayer, our winter bonding is now a win-win for all involved.

In fact, I may even bring up a non-skiing girlfriend next year to make it the ultimate in family vacations.

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When Bad Kids Happen to Good Parents

NJ Teen

 

 

This NJ parent-suing-cheerleader case is making me see red.

Because it totally could have been me a few years ago.

I wouldn’t consider myself a mean mom, but I have been known to hand my kids a scraper and say “Get to work,” after finding dried boogers on the wall next to their beds.

 

Some days, parenting is easy.

 

Honor Roll allows a kid to keep a cell phone.

A clean bathroom gets another out the door on Friday night.

 

Clearly my parenting philosophy doesn’t involve much head-scratching so I have to admit, I was ready for the adolescence of my children.  Growing up on Long Island in the unsupervised 80s, my friends and I had mastered the art of outsmarting authority and evading evidence of typical teen shenanigans.

 

I had this, I thought.   Bring on the acne.

 

I never imagined it would culminate with a composed call to the police, asking them to come get my child.

 

It was especially trying — and surprising — when my second born, a daughter, went through her head-spinning-Linda-Blair stage first, at fourteen.  While she was screaming and carrying on about calling Child Protective Services and attempting to bore holes into our foreheads with her fury, my oldest son just flew under the radar.  A junior in high school, he was a typical, well, boy.  Immature, uninterested in school and willing to eke by with the minimum of work exerted.  By most standards, the textbook teen.

 

He was always a bit young for his age but rather than dwell on his mediocre grades we tried to focus on his charm, and magnetism.  Extremely good looking, he was similarly well-liked, mainly due to his good nature.  He was —  mother’s pride aside —  a delight and I just loved the stuffing outta him.  Always have.

 

Turns out, this extreme love came in handy when I began to hate him.

 

I don’t recall exactly when the metamorphosis of my good-boy-gone-bad began but I do remember every detail of warning, every red-flag.

 

With each incident I tried to keep perspective.  I even rationalized.  I did this, too.  The drinking.  The pot.  The skipped school.  The scummy friends.  Wasn’t this typical teen territory?  I even admitted, at times sheepishly, I did far worse (thank you, 1988).  So I tried to keep a cool head and held firm with consequences.  Even though much of the time I felt like I was swimming against a tide (a tide of parents who unfathomably presented cars for sixteenth birthdays and provided smartphones through school suspensions) I did what I was supposed to do.  My litany of repercussions included (but were not limited to):  grounding, taking phones, taking plates off cars, paying for NOTHING (yearbook, class trips, clothing, toiletries, prom, car insurance) ….. Good God, we took away everything.  We joked with friends that my son lived an Amish lifestyle.

 

He Just.  Didn’t.  Care.   About anything, it seemed.

 

When enough was enough, we finally took his four-year-college off the table.  We had done our part:  attended freshman orientation, bought the sweatshirts and travel mugs, kept our hopes high for some show of maturity.   It didn’t come.  As senior year came to an end, he still hadn’t gotten it.

 

No way, we said.  There was no chance we were going to strap ourselves paying for a university when he wasn’t even getting himself to high school – for free. We told him he needed to get his act together, prove himself responsible and start with a junior college.  It was all we had left.  We privately envisioned that kid – that headline-storied kid each year – that ends up dead in a dorm room from alcohol before classes have even started.

 

Nothing seemed to work.  So we told him to rethink his plans for the future.

 

Turns out, our Great American Parenting Plan backfired because well, he left.

 

He just left.

 

He called it moving out.  But conventional wisdom would argue that throwing some clothes in a duffle bag and heading out the door without an inkling of what’s happening the next day is no such thing.  He had run away.

 

He had had it with our outrageous rules, our absurd expectations and our irrational belief that teens should be responsible and respectful on their journey to adulthood.  So — without any angry fanfare or slamming doors —  my oldest child left our home six days before his high school graduation.

 

The situation, as an understatement, was hard.  Devastating, in fact.  It was the ultimate in rejection for a mother:  a child that doesn’t want her.

 

And I didn’t pretend to understand it.

 

But he was a good kid and we were good parents.

 

And I guess I knew deep down that he’d be back one day.

 

He was.  After a long and fretful 47 days.

 

When he returned we spent what was left of the summer reconnecting as a family and licking our wounds.  Damage had been done and both sides were duly cautious about a recurring Groundhog Day of past occurrences.

 

But things were far from perfect.  In time, familiar nagging doubts started creeping in.  There was a level of distrust that I just couldn’t shake.  At times I seemed sadder now that he was home than when he’d been gone.  Things didn’t seem much better and I wondered if I would ever again feel joy when my son walked into a room.

 

Disrespect is a mighty deal breaker in my home and I do not believe a refrain of “This is my home and these are my rules” should be up for interpretation. When my beloved son’s behavior started down the slippery slope of insolence once again, I felt stronger and wiser when I addressed it.

 

Not long after he returned, he decided once again that our curfew was unreasonable and didn’t come home.

 

When he did…  his room was packed up, our locks were changed and we were waiting.

 

I told him since he wasn’t ready to resume living in MY home with MY rules, he needed to leave. He refused.   I showed him all his things.   He still refused to leave.  I then called the police.

 

I wasn’t afraid of the neighbors seeing, or knowing, or talking.

 

I wasn’t afraid of him actually leaving either.  I realized I’d survived the last time he left, and would this time, too.  And this time, it was going to be on MY terms.

 

I realized I wasn’t afraid of anything. And that the absence of fear was indescribably empowering.

 

We sat together calmly, in silence, and waited for the police to arrive.

 

I have to say, when they walked in they seemed surprised to encounter a domestic disturbance that wasn’t terribly disturbing at all.

 

The officer in charge kindly – but sternly – let my teenager know the deal:  It was 48 hours before my son’s eighteenth birthday, therefore by law, we were required to care for him.  But only for two more days.  After that, should they get called again, they would have to take him out of the home.

It is my honest belief that a couple of changed locks and a few police cars will do wonders for a teen’s psyche.   It changed everything for us.

 

My son learned a lot of things that day.  He learned we were absolutely done. And he learned (thank you, officer) that if you expect to live in your parents’ home, you should expect to follow their rules.  Period.

 

I believe – no, I know – that once this became clear to him, it may have been his personal epiphany.  It was as if his rebellion started to break away and let some clarity emerge.  Hell, maybe it was simply a badge … or a look of “Really, kid?” coming from someone other than his own parents.

 

I have absolutely no idea why it never sank in before that moment.  I likely never will.

 

It was a dark and rocky couple of years and – no joke – at times paled in comparison to my daughter’s fright fest at age fourteen – but we got through it.  Good parents raising good kids usually do.

 

It was excruciating and difficult to do what most parents don’t seem to have the strength to do:  follow through with consequences and demand respect.  But we did.  Even though it damn well felt as if our family was in tatters, we held strong.

 

The joy of my firstborn, while on hiatus for a heartbreaking while, eventually returned.

These days as he’s careening into manhood – an Air Force Reservist and college student —  I still love the stuffing outta him and my face lights up again whenever he enters the room.

 

But I am keenly aware there are still a couple of house rules that make him squawk.

 

Ah well.

 

Too bad, right?

 

 

I so hope this story gets to those sad parents in New Jersey because their beautiful cheerleader needs a reality check.  And soon.

 

 

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