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Sometimes it’s really hard to be a parent and not necessarily just because your kids can drive you nuts — especially your teenage kids. No, I think it’s really hard because the letting go process, the process of watching your kids growing up, involves such heart tugging for parents. It is very difficult for most parents who genuinely care about the adults that their children will become to sit down or stand by and let lessons be learned however difficult those lessons might be and how much you see the hurt that comes from them reflect in your child’s eyes. It is difficult to teach your children to advocate for themselves, especially when the system might be stacked against them. It is very difficult to sit back when every molecule of your parental instinct makes you want to jump in with both feet and scream your head off about something that is not only inequitable but also inherently flawed. Let’s face it, it is something that most of us have been doing for the better part of a decade and a half or more — standing up for kids who may or may not have been able to stand up for themselves and make sure they are not hurt. It is very difficult for kids and parents alike when hurt can no longer be fixed with kisses and hugs and some lessons fall completely outside of any parental control whatsoever.
In a few of the recent situations it would be easy and less painful for the parent to throw around parental weight, especially when this parental weight comes with a law license. Easy to go in guns blazing, spewing threats of litigation and violations of due process and other legalese. Easy, but not then again not so easy. Sure, exerting pressure may have changed the outcome. What lesson, though, does my son learn when his problems were fixed by his mother or his father in that situation? What lesson, indeed. How heart wrenching for the parent-part of that lawyer to see what could be construed as an injustice being done and having to sit by idly.
Faced with decisions as parents we sometimes made a difficult choices looking out for the long term good of our children and the men or women they will become. The short term ramifications of the situations and those decisions can haunt us in the short term and cause us, as parents, to second guess what seemed so apparent at a specific moment in time.
Sometimes, however, we need to step by from the situation and not get wrapped up in the “hype” of all of it and realize that in the long term, it may not be as important as it seems this moment, but the decision that was made that preceded it and the lessons learned from that decision, may have an endless ripple effect throughout the child’s life — that is the real test, not some silly accolade, or title or piece of material.
A day where no one argues and you’re made to feel like a queen — oh, alright, a princess (since the Queen is rather old anyway). I personally still feel that Mother’s Day belongs to the mothers in my life – my mom, my mother-in-law – not so much for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was always so sweet to the point of tears when the boys would bring home so proudly the cards that they had made or the bead necklace or potted plant. As they get older, though, it gets more complicated. Someone at school didn’t tell them what this year’s Mother’s Day project would be. They are set to figure out, on their own, how to make it a special day. You have to love them for it. But seriously, a houseful of guys barraging me with questions “What do you want for a gift?” “What do you want to do?” “What do you want to eat?” I dearly love the men in my life, but seriously haven’t they gotten it yet, after all these years? Honestly, whatever they do that day is fine, whatever they cook or come up with or go out and get are all fine. The best gift is the fact that I didn’t have to think of it, plan it or clean up after it. The end result might not be the best or the most delicious (or surprisingly it could be both) but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that they made the effort, that they took the time to think about someone besides themselves, which is difficult at best for teenagers.
Tonight, I am getting a dinner and dessert cooked by the men in my life.
We had a delicious dinner of steak tips, rice and salad that Tim so graciously and deliciously cooked for me, set the table and decorated it with his Mother’s Day card.
TJ and Alex made dessert…….
The men are all cleaning up as I type this….. and then to snuggle up together for a family television show. A good day…..to be a mom.
It’s always challenging when the boys are off from school and I work from home. My schedule is thrown into a tizzy – attorney me collides with mom me and all sorts of guilt comes along for the ride. I remember when I used to complain (to myself mostly) about how crazy they made me when all they wanted was food and someone to play with them. Now, thinking back on that I realize that I did have all the power.
I could tell them when to eat, what to eat, what to wear, what we were doing and miraculously they listened and they did as they were told. These days, everyone has a mouth and an opinion. Even a simple thing like lunch or dinner takes on new levels of difficulty when everyone can actually voice an opinion about it. I honestly can’t really remember the last time I cooked something that I wanted – now almost every meal is to either conform to 1) a time schedule – it’s what we can make and eat in the allotted time between activities, pickups, drop offs and the like; or 2) who’s eating with us – they have friends and their friends have likes and dislikes – vegetarian – vegan – you name it and I am not the type of person to throw food on the table and demand the attendees to “take it or leave it” (mostly because I guess that they would just leave it and me with a load of uneaten food); or 3) dietary issues – different from likes and dislikes these are medically restricted things such as my one son’s allergies (no nuts, peanuts, sesame or white fish on the menu) or my husband’s avoidance of foods that trigger a painful gout attack (no tomato, no beans, no spinach, no shellfish and the list goes on). I adjust, I occasionally grumble and complain, but I deal.
I could tell them that we were going out and they would get their coats on and go.. no grumbling, no complaining. Instead these days my plans revolve around their plans. Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful that they are healthy and I am forever reminding myself when I grumble or cry how much worse it could be and how lucky I am. Yet, school vacation is always a challenge – conflicting desires, emotions.
Today was a day spent running around, shuttling kids – dropping off and picking up and waiting around in between. It’s easy to be angry that pretty much all the daylight hours of today involved children, getting them up, fixing them breakfast, fixing them lunch, dropping each off at their respective spots and then beginning all over again to pick up, make dinner and now it’s dark. So much for that ski we planned. But it’s also easy to take it in stride knowing that these days, these days where we complain about the boys and how much a pain it is to take them here and take them there, are dwindling. Time to temper the frustration and annoyance at yet another trip to the mountain or Rutland or a friend’s house with the fact that soon, very soon in fact, the house will be too quiet, too still. They will have outgrown their needs for rides. Oldest son gets his license in a few months, middle son gets his permit and youngest son is only a year behind.
While we were waiting to pick up a son today from a sleepover, I took out the camera in the snow and took advantage of the scenery to play. Here are the results.
What’s new? Nothing. Everything. Life has been busy – things have come in increments – soccer and cross country started, then school and now most recently – CCD. With each thing that starts comes more responsibility – for the kids, for the parents. More schedules, more rides, more accommodating everyone. Somehow, it all works out although there are moments and days when I might disagree with my old statement.
Navigating teenagers is difficult, no doubt about it. Sometimes you just need to hear something good, something inspirational.
Here’s a good quote for the day:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
We’re all a little paranoid when it comes to our children. Not to trivialize it, but worrying about an infant or toddler as a new parent is nothing compared to worrying over an actual, thinking breathing and (often) disagreeing and disobeying child or teenager. Justifiably new parents are worried that their baby is being held properly, being fed properly and the like. I, myself remember the frequent crazed calls to the pediatrician’s office because a cough developed or the baby “just didn’t look right” or “wasn’t acting himself”. We have all done it and undoubtedly new parents will continue to do it.
However, what is even scarier to me (maybe just because it’s that stage in my life) is worrying about my children now. They are all teenagers, one has a permit and all tend to want to go places and do things without us (probably more than they want to go places and do things with us). I can no longer hold their hand when they cross a street or make sure that they don’t drive in a car without a seatbelt. I can only hope that they know enough to make wise decisions and know that no matter what, they can call us anytime, from anywhere. I cannot watch them every minute of every day and more importantly I cannot control their friends and acquaintances or the circumstances in which they may find themselves when I am not around.
According to NPR’s recent report based upon a study conducted by author Christine Barnes (“The Paranoid Parents Guide”) parents’ top five worries concerning their children are:
- School snipers
- Dangerous strangers
According to facts however, the top five ways that a child can get hurt veer pretty far from our collective parental anxieties. They are:
- Car accidents
I don’t know where you personally stand in comparison to the list, but fear of car accidents is definitely up there in my top 5. Far too frequently, especially here in Vermont, we hear about tragic accidents claiming children or teenagers just about the same ages as my boys. It’s scary. Even if they are doing everything right, now you have to worry about other people on the road. Many of my boys’ friends and their friends siblings drive or have their permits or will be driving soon. There will be times, more often than not, in the coming months and years when they will be in a vehicle by themselves or with a friend or sibling. We have a rule in our house that no one (and I mean no one) rides in a vehicle with a person who is not a parent (figuring that eliminates the older sibling or older sibling’s friends issue). Accidents happen, that is why they are called accidents, but I pray that they don’t involve my children or anyone else’s and that they are minor and inconsequential.
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- Parental Fears vs. Realities (schneier.com)
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There are those (and you know who you are) who say I take too many pictures of food reminding us all of a mutual friend who photographed everything he cooked and ate for weeks when he first started cooking on his own, but I couldn’t resist. Food is so easy to photograph, much easier than teenagers who have this very annoying habit of putting their hands up over their faces when I show up with a camera and who have the actual knowledge to take the camera and delete any pictures of themselves. (You’ll regret it one day, I’m telling you!)
Food doesn’t move, it doesn’t complain that I’m taking too long or I just want one more picture…so lately I like photographing food – plus I have this great camera that actually takes fantastic food pictures. You’d take lots of photos of food also if you were me.
These are freshly sliced cucumbers from the garden. They were sitting there on the cutting board just begging me to take their pictures. So I do apologize but in the weeks ahead, you’re going to have to put up with pictures of my garden accomplishments.
Today is a happy day – it’s Tim’s birthday! Today, my baby – the youngest of the gang becomes a teenager. He is the Last of the Mohegans – the last child to cross over the threshold into teenager-dom. He’s a great kid and it’s so hard to believe that he is now 13 years old. Seems like only yesterday….
The tides in the Heffernan house have changed with this birthday – no longer a house of boys – rather we are a house of teenagers.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIM – WE LOVE YOU!!!!!
Sometimes you’re having a good day and then blam-o, it turns to crap and it puts you in a crappy mood. That’s the kind of day I’m having this evening. I was having a good day most of the day, getting work accomplished, laundry under control, managed to get kids everywhere they needed to be when they needed to be there and cook dinner and eat in less than an hour. Real food, mind you, not something we grabbed along the road somewhere – I planned on making chicken piccata (the boys love it) so in between picking up from school and dropping off at guitar I pounded the chicken cutlets and put them aside so all I had to do later was cook them up. That, rice and salad and presto-dinner. While I was doing that I was testing oldest son on his French in preparation for his oral exam tomorrow. We ate and then were right back out the door for scouts. Normally Tom usually takes them but he is away this week, so I am pulling double duty. Got a few minutes there to read my book and then back home – and that, my friends, is where it all fell apart.
Evidently oldest son was annoyed about having to look up what a “score” is (as in Gettysburg address) and copped an attitude. They wanted to stop somewhere on the way home – Doreen’s, Cumby’s but I forgot and when he brought it to my attention, well then I asked “where?” and no one answered me (which they know —or at least should know by now– really ticks me off) I guess I have a thing for being ignored and rude kids. I pulled over and waited for someone to say something about where they wanted to go. No one answered. ARGHHHH!
Well, home was the ultimate destination – a cold, stony, non-talking ride back up the hill. Talk about putting me in a bad mood, then I get a cheery phone call from Tom telling me about his great evening and trip and everything that I am NOT doing and places that I AM NOT and probably will never be. I get the cold-shouldered kids and he gets dinner in Wisconsin. What’s not to be in a crappy mood about?
I am hitting “publish” crawling into bed and hoping that tomorrow brings happier children (I doubt it since its the middle school picnic and its supposed to pour – so soggy kids aren’t necessarily happy kids) but we can always dream……
BTW, the photo is a picture of middle son refusing to allow me to take his picture – where did my cute, adoring children go? I want them back!
Last night we did something that I bet a whole lot of people didn’t do. We went to watch a band, consisting of four 13-15 year-olds play at a coffeehouse. The band which calls itself Southern City Heros consists of a drummer, 2 ukulele players and a banjo player –so definitely not your typical teenage band. They were good – they performed original music and covered some ballads by Jason Mraz and Green Day. We got to enjoy a great cup of cappuccino and hang out with our boys, which is a rare treat in the presence of their friends. The band is a group of the boys’ friends who came back to our house for a sleepover afterward. They performed well and provided us with a treat for a Friday night out of live music.
They were so much easier when they didn’t speak, didn’t demand, didn’t pout. Even when they did speak with their demanding little tones, there was no affront to their demanding little commands – they were simple “I want water, juice, a cookie” “I want to go to the park”. Their world revolved around them as far as they knew, but I knew it too. I knew that they had no idea that their commands were rude, and I knew enough that it wasn’t going to hurt my feelings. And then….
and then they grew. They blossomed. They learned about the world around them. They learned empathy. They learned that others had the same feelings that they had and that others can feel the same things and words can sting. I remember their concerned faces and chubby little hands touching my face, asking if I hurt, or I was sick or I was sad when they sensed something not right in their world. In a strange way it was comforting, that they knew enough to know that others had feelings and sometimes those feelings could get hurt. And then….
they grew some more. They have become bigger, stronger, funnier. They also started to come full circle. Their sentences, when spoken at all, are now short and mostly self centered. “I want to go to the movies” “I want to have friends over” “I don’t want that for dinner”. They became concerned once again with themselves, their looks, their lives, their friends. Their hearing became faulty or so it seemed, since simple comments, questions or attempts to engage in conversation were ignored. Direct commands to something or answer – went ignored.
So now they are needy, but needy in a different way. They are self-centered, their empathy I am sure is still there somewhere buried under all the adolescent web of egocentricity that envelops their lives. Their commands and desires take the forefront. The little chubby hands that used to rub concerned against an arm or a cheek are gone, although I suspect that they will re-emerge when they break out of the cocoon of adolescence.
I only hope that I survive…..
This past week has been hectic – this weekend has been no exception. We have three boys and they all seem to be doing different things in different places. I feel like I spend the better part of my life lately in the car, driving someone to someplace or picking someone up from someplace or waiting for someone. In between there has been cooking and doing laundry for those same someones. I was just cooking dinner for those same kids (well, and us too) and grumbling about how this whole day has been spent either dropping kids off or picking kids up – or at least so it seems.
I came in here and picked up my computer to see a tweet that a boy from Colchester (a young man actually, he’s 24) who had bone cancer and was due to marry his high school sweetheart in a couple months, died from his cancer. A smack in the side of the head – God telling me to quit my griping and enjoy my children and my life. I thankfully have healthy children that can be pains in the butt, but the alternative – well is just unthinkable. I am grateful. I promise not to complaint – at least for the remainder of today.