Tag Archives: tweens

Check it out! I guest blogged!

29 Jun

Ordinarily, I eschew exclamation points in my writing but, golly gee, someone asked me to write for his blog and I did it! You can check out a bit of my experience parenting my son through one of the darkest times of both of our lives here:  http://blackboxwarnings.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/a-tale-of-two-meds-and-one-teen/

Read the other posts, too. The man who started the blog is also dealing with a son with ADHD and the meds that come along with it. And there are others who posted as well. It’s a valuable, developing resource for those of us taking drugs with black box warnings (means they can lead to all kinds of nasty side effects, like suicidal ideation and other fun things) and parenting kids taking those drugs.

What Do Gloria Steinem, Beyonce, The Avengers and I Have In Common?

14 May

They are all mentioned in my column this morning. I wrote it after a truly astounding event in one of my third grade classes: boys laughing at girls who like The Avengers. Kind of patting myself on the back for mashing history, feminism, pop music and superheros into one 500-word opinion piece. Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothin’ on me!


Bras, Condoms and a Drive in the Country

22 Mar

In the past week, I went for a drive, shopped for extra-large condoms and bought a training bra, all in the name of helping others. Before you picture me doing favors for unfortunate strangers though, I should note that these were not random acts of kindness. Each of the others I helped is intimately related to me.

From the time I became a mother, helping others has been a primary focus of my life. Admittedly, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes I’ve even resented it. Babies can’t feed themselves, change their own diapers, move themselves from place to place. And they can’t control when they need any of those things done. They don’t care if you haven’t slept more than two hours at a time since they were born. They need what they need when they need it and, if you’re any kind of decent parent, you help them get it.

Aging parents are, indeed, like children. Right now, my dad needs help moving from place to place, dealing with toileting and even feeding himself. The difference between caring for him and caring for my babies? Dad does care about who’s caring for him. He knows it’s tough and apologizes regularly. I sometimes wish he wouldn’t, but in the middle of a night where he’s gotten up three or four times convinced he needs to get ready for a meeting with an architect, it helps.

Being cute is a baby’s way of making its care less onerous. Dad has a sense of humor and even when he’s not trying, provides ample amusement. He can’t seem to remember his surgeon’s name, so calls him everything from Dr. Ballerina to Dr. Bubbalongname. The doctor’s name is Billimoria, but Dad’s names for him make me laugh, so I call him Bubbalongname, too.

Amusing Dad is far more difficult for me than caring for him. He doesn’t read, can’t really walk far, favors watching golf over cooking shows and doesn’t want to learn how to knit. I haven’t lived in my hometown for more than thirty years; I have no idea what to do there anymore. Neither does Dad.

There is one thing Dad has always loved to do though: go for a drive. Since I was a child, Dad’s been driving. Vacations were spent driving from Illinois to Florida, a two-day trip that Dad relished. I realize now that the drive was probably the most enjoyable part for Dad and not just for the thrill of making good time.

Dad loves driving for the process, not the destination. He doesn’t care where he’s going, as long as he’s going. I am goal driven; I hate the process. At the end of a long drive, there better be something worth my while because I’ve just spent a good deal of precious time doing nothing. So, getting in the car and having Dad say, “Drive out Route 14,” then promptly fall asleep is my idea of hell. Still, I get on 14 and drive, passing numerous turnoffs that look to offer promising destinations. Dad needs help satisfying his wanderlust and I provide it.

Helping my son has become complicated and conflict-ridden. This brings us to the condoms. Sometime ago, I bought my son a box of condoms, intending that he would check them out in order to be familiar with them when the time—preferably far, far in the future—came. There were three. He took one to school, put it (wrapped) in a friend’s sandwich and enjoyed the hilarity that ensued.

So, there were two condoms in my son’s side table drawer for quite a while. And then there was a girl friend. And then there was one condom. That afternoon, I met my son in the driveway and said, “Get in the car. I need to talk to you.” “Why?” he asked. “Get in the car,” I said. “We’ll go get ice cream.” Maybe my Dad is onto something with the driving thing, but a car ride is my go to parenting tactic when I need to confront—I mean—talk to, my son.

In the catalog of things a mother doesn’t want to hear, I think “I didn’t use it because it didn’t fit” is way up there with “I didn’t know the gun was loaded” and “You can’t get addicted to heroin with just one use.” I still can’t figure out how a condom doesn’t fit, but my son was insistent and is gloating about it to his dad. I find this rather unseemly, but figure that’s between the boys. In addition to stern lectures and profound disappointment, I provided condoms that should be large enough for my son, ego included. If he doesn’t improve his grades, I suppose Porn Star could be his fallback career.

And now we come to the training bra. My daughter is perched precariously on the verge of puberty. She can be as smart-mouthed as her older brother one minute and talking baby talk the next. She’s convinced she’s beginning to bud, but her pediatrician and I disagree. Still she’s tremendously modest and I was reminded of this when her shirt obeyed the laws of gravity, revealing most of her upper body as she hung upside down from the neighbor’s monkey bar. We hustled off to Target and secured “bralettes,” which are actually more like cut-off camisoles than bras.

She was understandably and adorably eager to wear one when we got home. In her haste to remove her shirt, she got stuck with it half over her head. Helping her was so easy, I nearly cried; I untied the sash she’d forgotten about. She popped on the bralette, threw on her shirt and ran outside, shouting, “I’m wearing a sport bra!”

The day will come when I need help the way my loved ones do now. I hope it’s later, rather than sooner. When it does, I hope it doesn’t involve extra-large condoms and training bras.

Why I’m sick of the self-esteem blame game

19 Mar

Here’s my column for the week at Naperville Patch, where I write about anything parenting related. This week, I write about “Am I Pretty?” videos that tween and teen girls are posting on YouTube.


Number Nine, Number Nine

24 Oct

My little girl is gone. The bashful baby, so cute she stopped traffic in the aisles at Whole Foods, has left the building. In her place is a creature who alternately cartwheels joyously around the house or howls in anguish over hurts imagined and otherwise. In short, my daughter has turned nine.

Actually, my daughter has been nine for two months now. I didn’t think anything of it while planning her birthday party. Granted, she wanted a sleepover party with a Hollywood movie theme. That seemed a little more grown up than last year’s Flower Power party with its gardening-related outdoor activities. But, she’s been having sleepovers for a while. Nothing portentous, then, in this year’s birthday extravaganza. I didn’t even make much note of the playing with makeup and pretend fashion show that were highlights of the festivities.

It was at work one evening that the enormity of my daughter’s age hit me. Three evenings each week, I put my very expensive Illinois state teaching credentials to work providing enrichment in language arts and math to children. I teach every grade level from Pre-K through middle school. By and large, I love my classes. The students are respectful, cooperative and, on the whole, a pleasure to teach.

There is one class I dread every week, though: the fourth graders. My third graders are a delight. My fifth graders are beginning to show the spirit that will mark them as adults; we have interesting conversations about the work at hand. My fourth graders are a disorderly lot of boisterous, impulsive, barely-controllable hooligans. Every class is a test of my ability to retain my composure while imparting at least some of the learning I am expected to deliver. I’ve developed a style of teaching them that owes more to fencing than to Piaget. I allow a certain amount of pandemonium, then lunge in with a bit of instruction. We continue this way throughout the lesson.

Recently, during an off-task moment, I happened to ask one of the students her age. “I’m nine!” she said. Well, gob smacked me. I was able to retain the outward appearance of a professional educator, but my brain was screaming, “She’s the same age as my daughter! How could I not have realized that!? How much time do I have before my daughter becomes a howling, uncontrollable hooligan?”

I didn’t have much time at all. As if aware that I’d been awakened to the true nature of her tribe, she began swinging from sweet to foul faster than a cup of milk left out on a hot day. Happily playing outside with the neighborhood children one minute, she’d come flying into the house in hysterics the next, howling incoherently as she ran to her room and slammed the door.

When she was little, my daughter would say some of the cutest things. At night, after being put in her bed, she would pretend to read herself a story, beginning each with “Once up a time. . .” My heart would melt. When she got a little older, her mis-sayings still had the ring of innocence to them. Dancing with me to some old disco music, she loudly sang out, “Shake your boob thing, shake your boob thing. Yeah, yeah!”

Now, she’s beginning to sound like an old soul. Her room is a disaster of epic proportions. She has taken to sleeping in the day bed in my office because she can no longer find the top of her own bed. I have cleaned her room. My husband has cleaned her room. My sister has cleaned her room. Within mere hours, her room looks like Japan after the tsunami.

“Mom,” she said to me recently, “my room is too small.”

“Why do you think your room is too small?” I asked.

“Because there isn’t enough room for all of my stuff.”

“Oh, but there is enough room for all of your stuff. Everything in your room has a home, you just never put things back where they belong.”

She sat still, looking down at her hands, considering my words. Without looking up, she said, “Maybe I have issues.”

One of the issues she has is a fascination with her ability to wail. Crying is no longer enough. Everything must be done on a grand scale these days, leading to fits of seemingly out-of-control sobbing. I say “seemingly out-of-control” sobbing because I now have admissible evidence that some, if not all, of her hysteria is histrionics.

This weekend, my husband and I determined that we would present a united front to our children over getting chores done. Never having succeeded with full family meetings, we held separate semi-family meetings with each of our children. Our daughter went first. We worked out her responsibilities and the consequences for not meeting them. For instance, anything she leaves on the kitchen table will be confiscated if not removed before dinner. She can buy it back for 25 cents per item. This sounded fine in theory. She was pretty upset about the execution, but I believe a consequence isn’t effective until I’ve seen fear strike their little hearts. Still, she left her conference calmly enough.

When her brother sat down for his and we engaged in a little pre-torture conversation about Batman, she insisted the three of us cut to the chase. “Get back on topic!” she shouted at us. We continued to talk about the Dark Knight just a few minutes longer. She exploded. “It’s not fair!” she howled. She howled, in fact, for quite some time. We ignored her, going about our meeting with our son. “No one’s making me feel better!” she wailed.

I ignored the caterwauling until I thought I heard two cats wauling. About a week ago, my daughter spent her allowance on a spy kit, complete with digital recording device disguised as a makeup case. What I heard was the sound of my daughter crying into the recorder then playing back and crying along with her own crying.

Ironically, my daughter has begun requesting that she be comforted in the midst of her meltdowns. At first, I resisted, not wanting to reward the behavior. I relented, though, and fought through the wall of wail. I held her in my arms, rocking her as I did when she was a baby.

Being a grown up is hard; becoming one is even harder. So, I’ll hold my little hooligan if it helps her. And I’ll pity my husband and son living with a tween and a woman struggling with menopause.

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