Parenting, Politics

Whose Fault Is It? Yours, Most Likely. Own It.

School-cartoon

It’s amazing how things have changed over the years, especially in the realm of education.

Once upon a time, there was this magical concept called personal responsibility and students were expected to do their homework, study, work hard, and get good grades.

When a student doesn’t do their job or work hard to get good grades it’s the teacher’s fault, not the kid’s incredibly flabby work ethic.

This lack of personal responsibility is why we have a future generation of self-entitled knuckleheads making a career out of being on welfare.

This applies to adults, too.

Parenting

Epic Motivation

My favorite line, “the only thing holding you back is YOU.”

Yep. I concur.

So Brandon has finally gotten sick to death of his dishwashing gig. He comes home every day smelling like overripe food, nearly soaked from head-to-toe and did I mention that he’s allergic to the dishwashing soap they use? His arms look like a week-old heroin addict.

It’s not pretty.

In addition to the physical discomfort, he’s not getting breaks OR lunches, which honestly, I’m not sure how his employer is getting away with that – isn’t that against labor laws or something?

Anyway, he’s been doing this job for about 8 months now and he has finally decided he’s had enough. He’s been talking about quitting for about 6 months now (he has always hated this job), but was never motivated to DO anything about it, until recently.

We were sitting down to dinner the other night and when I called him to dinner, he said he couldn’t right at that moment because he was filling out an application for a popular retail store.

That’s when I knew he finally met business.

The store called him this morning to set up an interview. (Did I mention that his restaurant called him and hired him all within one week of him putting in his application at the place? He has scary luck with filling out applications, though there was a period of time he tried a few months back and didn’t get any bites and sort of gave up. But I’ve always had pretty good luck with filling out applications and getting interviews right away, too. Not sure what our secret is … other than WE’RE AWESOME! ha!)

He is interviewing for an overnight position. Granted, not ideal, but it will get his foot in the door and he’ll make $1.00 more an hour for the inconvenience. His interview is at 11:00 p.m. with the night manager this upcoming Tuesday.

I PRAY HE GETS IT! Not only will it be a better job overall, he’ll meet more people, he’ll get a discount on household items (more on that in a minute), and he’ll be able to transfer to a more cushy day shift at some point.

If he ends up working overnights, it’ll be quite an adjustment. We had a pretty good talk about how he’ll have to discipline himself to sleep whenever he gets off work, even if he doesn’t feel like it. And if he takes any classes in the fall, he’ll have to take early morning classes so he can just go to class as soon as he gets off in the morning.

AND maybe, at some point, he can put in a good word for Blake and Blake can work there on the weekends to make more money, give him something do on the weekends and to hopefully meet people and make friends. (I.E. GIRLFRIEND?!?)

So yes, I’ll be praying that he gets this job as I think it’ll be a really good move for him. He indicated he was willing to work full, or part-time on his application, so if he gets on full time, then we can get him on their insurance and take him off my insurance, thereby saving myself a little money, too. (Now if we can only figure out how to get Blake off my insurance. Because you know, he can only be on my insurance for another five years before he’ll HAVE to get his own insurance.)

And now back to the discount on household items perk …

We’ve been SERIOUSLY talking to the boys about moving out into their own apartment. It’s time. It’ll be a HUGE reality wake up call for them. Kevin has been taking Blake around to area apartment complexes and they have been going to their websites to get an idea of how much it’s going to cost. Then, they’ve been breaking down budgets and talking money to see if they can realistically make this happen. He can’t on his own but if both Blake and Brandon move out and split the cost, they can. (Though it’s going to be tight – hence another reason we’re encouraging this – to motivate them to either work more, and/or get better jobs that pay more).

We found an apartment complex literally down the road from us. This complex is within walking distance of a grocery store, a Chinese restaurant (Blake’s favorite food), Walgreens, Price Cutter, a coffee shop, and Sonic. WIN-WIN. They could even walk to our house if their cars broke down. AND, this apartment complex allows pets, which is something Blake is DYING to get – a Corgi. He LOVES those dogs, for some reason. The catch? If they want a pet, they have to pay $300 bucks UP FRONT, and then it’s an extra $25 per month. So though they can’t afford the pet right now, it’s an option at some point in the future.

That REALLY warmed Blake up to the idea.

I think the boys just assumed, when we first started talking about them moving out a few years ago, that they would move out and we would simply write them off. “Have a nice life!”

Um, no. They will be welcomed to come over and eat with us, they can bring their laundry over, they would still have keys to our house … again, when we explained all of that to them, they were both pretty excited about the prospect of being their own men … sort of.

Baby steps.

And if Brandon gets this retail store job, then he will get discounts on household items – furniture, cleaning products, etc.

Brandon really perked up when I mentioned that.

And to sweeten the pot … though I’m not sure how I feel about this option …

They pretty much grew up with the boy next door. The boy next door doesn’t live next door, but his grandparents do. So he would come over pretty regularly whenever he stopped by to visit them.

His grandparents are moving today (which is another story … should we buy their house as another investment? The big answer is NO for now, not sure we want to dig ourselves into that hole) and this boy is over there today “helping” them move, though he’s been over here most of the day catching up with the boys.

The thing is, this boy comes from a broken home. His mother is … an interesting and thoroughly messed up character. She’s nice enough, but she’s been a TERRIBLE example to her son. And Kevin has sort of taken it upon himself to be his surrogate father, since his real father died when he was three. (He’s almost 23 now). This poor boy has had a lot of drama in his life. His newest drama is – he just signed a year’s lease on an apartment with his long-time girlfriend. Only, for some reason, she isn’t ready to get serious with him and wants to go out and party with her friends. This boy, (Let’s call him Cory), doesn’t want her doing that. He’s ready to get semi-serious and to focus on building a relationship. I’m not sure if this girl is on drugs or what, but she’s suddenly abusive. She pushed Cory though a window. (Granted, we’re only hearing one side of the story – so we always take what he tells us with a grain of salt. NO ONE can be that unlucky with life … surely?)

It’s gotten so bad, he’s filed a restraining order against her and goes to court in a few weeks to finalize.

His girlfriend has kicked him out of the apartment. So now, he’s trying to figure out how to get his name off the lease HE JUST SIGNED.

When he found out the boys were talking about getting an apartment, he perked right up. It’s possible he may end up moving in with them. Which … I have mixed feelings about. He has a really good job, he’s a mechanic at a car dealership (he’s super good with cars) and he makes pretty good money. So, he could afford to move out with them. And he’s a good kid when he’s with us – I think he enjoys being in a stable, NORMAL family atmosphere, so I think Blake and Brandon would be a good influence on him … the question is, what sort of influence would he be on Blake and Brandon?

Drama seems to follow this kid around. And I’m SURE we’re not getting the whole story whenever he tells us about the crazy things that go in his life. So I’m SURE he would bring an element of crazy into Blake and Brandon’s lives …

But honestly, maybe they need a little crazy. One, to toughen them up. Life is hard and their lives haven’t been hard up to this point. And two, they need to learn to live a little and I think Cory would definitely introduce them to some fun. (Hopefully, LEGAL fun). And maybe he would teach them some confidence so they will make friends and even meet girls … (providing they are the right type of girls … but they won’t be able to distinguish the right ones from the “wrong” ones until they live a little).

So .. I ‘m nervous about the prospect of this happening, but I think, ultimately, it could be a win-win for all of them. Cory has practically been a part of our family since the boys were toddlers, so we could take him under our wing and hopefully teach him to make better choices in life. (As long as we didn’t have to deal too much with his messed-up mother. She both disgusts me and scares me, if you want the God’s honest truth).

But I look at this as an opportunity to do some good and possibly have a positive impact on Cory’s life.

We’ll see where this goes. We’re in the talking stages right now. The boys both have nice nest eggs saved up, so that they have something to fall back on if/when something comes up. Honestly, I think it’ll be a fun, teachable experience whenever it’s time to start shopping for furniture and kitchen items for their apartment.

The boys both have good heads on their shoulders and they really are good people, so now it’s up to us to (gently) push them out into the real world and trust that we’ve done our jobs.

Life

Bad Day to Be Mom

This is the post I mentioned yesterday and it was originally published on my self-hosted blog, February 6, 2008.

Yesterday disturbed me. In fact, it’s safe to say that yesterday was one of the worst parenting days I’ve ever had.

And I’ve had some doozies.

It all started with the rain. We had had unusually mild weather for February, in fact, we broke a record high the other day, 71 degrees, which was set back in 1860. This makes me wonder – did we have Global Warming back in the 1800’s? After all, how does one explain the unusually high temperature nearly 150 years ago?

But I digress.

I was talking about my no-good-very-bad-parenting day.

It began raining about noon. I sat and watched the sheets of rain compete for an audience for nearly ten minutes before I heard it – the dripdripdrip of water. I froze. That’s not necessarily a sound one wants to hear in the comfort of one’s own home.

I turned my head and noticed that our fireplace stones were bleeding water. This sounds dramatic, and actually, it was. There is really no other way to describe it; the stone’s pores were oozing water. And the water was making a broken trail down the side of the fireplace and finally dripping off the mantel and onto the rocks below.

I sighed. This occasionally happens when the weather changes. I grabbed an old towel and began patting the stones dry while tucking a portion of the towel against the mantle to soak up the dribbling moisture.

I had just finished this thought, “I really hope it isn’t raining this hard when it’s time to pick up the kids,” when the phone rang. I stared at it. There is an ongoing family joke that if there is a sales call to be had, it will happen when I answer the phone. And this joke is rooted in truth for indeed, I’ve been ordained by the gods to be on the receiving end of every phone advertising campaign out there.

So, I ignored it. But I felt this funny little sizzle at the back of my neck. Sort of like touching bacon shortly after removing it from the microwave; it stings but isn’t necessarily painful.

I stood stock still and jumped when the phone rang again. And this time, I knew it wasn’t a sales call for who would be bold enough to irritate a potential customer twice in five minutes?

I answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Mom?”

My heart immediately dropped to my female regions. “Hey kiddo, what’s up?”

“It’s early release today, mom.”

It perhaps took me less than a second to digest what he was telling me. And in that half second, I looked at the clock. Early release meant two hours early – the kids got out of school at 2:45, it was now 12:58.

And in that half second time span, my eyes shifted to the torrential downpour outside and my mind immediately went to the two older boys that were most likely standing out in the rain, waiting for me to pick them up.

A lot of brain activity occurred in that half second.

“I’ll be right there!” I yelled and slammed down the phone. I rushed to put on my sweats, had the presence of mind to grab several towels, stuck my feet into my shoes and raced out the door.

I screeched out of my driveway and floored the accelerator. Keeping one eye on the road, I reached into my purse and yanked out my cell phone. I turned it on. No messages. I had expected to find a message from my oldest son sounding quite irate and very wet asking me where the hell I was. Having no messages was somehow worse.

I raced down the street, cursing my stupidity and praying the boys wouldn’t be scarred for life because mom forgot about them.

I had to slow down two times because OF COURSE, there were not one, but two cops waiting like patient predators for stupid people like me to be in a hurry and breaking all sorts of laws.

After making several life-altering deals with God to not be stopped and given a speeding ticket, thereby pouring salt into my wound and making me even more late, I reached my youngest son.

He was standing on a street corner, his small hands wrapped around the umbrella rod, his little body shivering, his shoulders hunched over. Even from a distance, I could tell his lips were blue.

I’ve never hated myself more than in those few seconds.

I punched on my hazard lights and pulled over to pick up my son.

“What the heck!” He yelled as he threw in his backpack, collapsed his umbrella and fell into the car.

I didn’t even wait for him to buckle up before I sped off once more.

“I’m sorry,” I sobbed. “I’m so sorry. I totally forgot about early release today. I’m a bad mother. I should be hospitalized. You have my permission to put me in an old folks’ home. I deserve it! I deserve sitting in my own drool and smelling like pee!”

I couldn’t help but feel just a wee bit better when my son sighed heavily. “It’s okay, mom. It happens.”

Not to me, is what I thought. I hadn’t thought I was a bad mother. Sure, I occasionally yelled at my children when I’m tired or hormonal, but I always apologized afterward. I didn’t baby them too much, but I always made sure they felt safe and secure. And I had never forgotten them … until today.

My self-loathing was interrupted by my cell phone. I knew who it was without even looking.

“I’m on my way!” I yelled.

“We’re standing in the rain,” a deep, man voice said into my ear. “We’re soaked.”

“I know. I’m so sorry. I forgot about early release. I’m on my way. I’ll be there in five minutes.” I paused to breathe in a shaky breath. “Go stand by the building. It will give you a little shelter.”

“It’s raining,” said my son. He sounded both stunned and wounded.

Somehow, I kept my voice firm and ignored the tears running down my face. “Five minutes. Seek shelter.” I snapped my cell phone shut – the sound triggering the closure of my esophagus; I couldn’t breathe.

Traffic was bad. I began cursing people’s stupidity. It was RAIN. It wouldn’t KILL you. Move your ASS. My son and his friend were COLD and WET! The boy’s mother would be furious with me for being so careless with her son’s care. I ground my teeth as I got stuck behind a truck. We crept along at 20 miles an hour.

Nearly ten minutes later, I pulled onto the street that would take me to the boys. I released a sigh of relief and scanned the area for them. I saw them huddled together, just over the bridge and up next to the building. They were trying to act tough; they looked cold, miserable and young. My chest hurt with each beat of my heart.

The person in front of me wouldn’t turn left. I needed to go right. The person in front of me chose to ignore several opportunities to turn left. Finally, I had had it. My nerves were close to snapping and if the person in front of me didn’t move soon, I would get out of my car and grind them to a pulp. I laid on my horn.

As if awakening from a deep sleep, I could see the driver jerk in surprise and the next second, his car jumped into motion. I screeched around the corner and finally, reached the boys.

They got into the car, their teeth chattering, their hair matted to their heads, beads of water dripping into their eyes.

I cranked up the heater and tore off as soon as they were settled. I had to drop the friend off at his house before his little brother got home or he would be stuck outside, in the rain, wondering why his safe, secure little world was crumbling around his ears.

Traffic was backed up and bumper to bumper, but it allowed me plenty of time to beg for forgiveness. The boys didn’t say anything – I would have preferred they yelled at me.

We finally reached the boy’s house. We had beat his little brother home and I sighed with relief. I kissed the boy’s feet, told him how incredibly sorry I was for being such a poor excuse for a human being and waited until he had safely let himself into his house before we headed home.

My oldest son didn’t talk to me for quite some time after that. I threw their clothes and shoes into the dryer and tiptoed around the house, feeling dirtier than the floor behind the water cooler. It wasn’t until I heard my oldest son throw his books and papers across the room and curse that I knew the ice was broken. His school papers were soaked. I blew them dry with the hair dryer. I apologized, yet again, and helped him right his world.

We all learned a valuable lesson that day: I learned to make myself notes and pay more attention to the world around me.

And my sons? Learned that mom is human after all.

Christmas song #10 A Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney

Parenting

Parenting: Pity Fest

It’s been a pity-fest at my house this week.

Biding Time

The boys survived their punishment. Actually, MK is off groundness (is that a word?) today – GD still has another full week of no video games or computer. I’m sure I’ll be forced to endure yet another few days of heavy sighs and stubborn silence from the boy as he’ll be so jealous of his little brother having his privileges back that he won’t be able to keep his eye on the ball of reality.

In case you’re just stumbling into my block of cyberspace – we had a pretty ugly scene at my house last Sunday. The boys not only tested their boundaries, they erected a tent and tried to camp out on the other side of “let’s see how far we can piss mom off before something bad happens.” I won’t go into the sordid details again, you can read about it if you wish, but suffice it to say, this past week … sucked.

Both boys watched more TV this past week than I think they have in the past year. My boys are not into TV, at all. They LIVE for their video games and online interaction with their “friends.” So, when they do something unacceptable such as, oh, I don’t know, hit me or curse in my face, then you bet we’re going to step in and take their precious LIVES away from them.

Humpf.

The first few days after the incident, and they realized their punishment, were torture. None of us spoke to each other. We were all walking on pins and needles – GD was nearly impossible to be around. He sent me so many hate looks that I’m surprised I’m not a walking, smoking skeleton. Which I don’t quite understand considering he was the one who disrespected me and who, in my opinion, got off pretty light with only being grounded two weeks. And at first, I felt pretty guilty about my participation in the ugliness. I’m a fair person, I absolutely take responsibility for my part, in anything I screw up in.

But enough is enough. Stop with the pouting and stop acting like a spoiled brat. What happened, happened. You can’t take it back, we can only learn from that bitter experiment (and I’m including myself in on that hard lesson learned, too), and move forward.

It’s our fault, really. We’ve spoiled our boys. They have everything they could possibly want. They get nearly everything they want, either from gifts (birthday or Christmas, we rarely buy them anything any other time), or with their own money they’ve saved up from their grandmas’ generosity. They are content, and believe it or not, happy, most of the time. And we’ve told them that we’re happy to spoil them as long as they follow the rules, do well in school, and just BE good people, step outside those guidelines and all bets are off.

But we’re in the teenage years. And even though I hate labeling or making excuses for irrational behavior, it is what it is. GD is trying to push out of the box that I’ve had him trapped in for most of his life. I know this, I get this. I WANT him to exert his independence and I’m trying really hard to give him a little rope, but to be THIS pissed off, to be THIS bored and refusing to even TRY to take an interest in anything BUT his games/computer, has me a little worried. No, scratch that, I’m worried. Is it healthy to be THAT focused (as the hubs calls it – I prefer OBSESSED) on just one thing in your life? Shouldn’t he have other interests? Shouldn’t he CARE about anything – something – other than one aspect of his life?

But GD has always been this way. Even as a baby, I couldn’t get him interested in ANYTHING outside of trains. The boy was positively obsessed with trains. It seriously worried me. But what can you do? The boy liked his choo-choos. Finally, he outgrew trains only to divert his obsession to Pokemon/Drazon Ball Z/Yu-Gi-Oh.

This phase lasted for another handful of years. He collected cards, he had every game, he dressed up as a Dragon Ball Z character for Halloween, he went to Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments and “battled” other kids. It was insane. I tried to get him interested in other things. In fact, a few summers, I MADE the boy take breaks and tried to interest him in paint-by-numbers, reading, or doing something physical, like shooting hoops or going swimming.

And though GD would do these things, he only did them because I made him. He had one eye trained on the clock the entire time, just biding his time until he could back to what really interested him.

*sigh*

MK likes his video games, but he’s more diverse. He at least makes an ATTEMPT to enjoy other things. In fact, give the boy a stick and a rubber band and he can entertain himself for hours. Not so with GD. The boy is focused. The hubs keeps reassuring me that this is a good trait, I’m not quite so sure, if you want the truth. There’s being a perfectionist, then there’s irrationally obsessive. It’s all or nothing for GD.

When GD and I talked about “the incident”, I apologized for my role in the theatrics. I opened my heart to him and told him things I’ve never told him before. GD now understands me a bit better. He now realizes that I’m weak in so many ways and that I’m not only human, I get hurt and am hurt by the way he acts sometimes.

Instead of being compassionate, which is normally his reaction, he’s been cold and rude. I think he sees my confession as a sign of weakness. I think he thinks that he can now walk all over me and is looking for ways to take advantage of me at every turn.

Does this boy never learn? I can’t believe he still doesn’t know me well enough to know that that will NEVER happen. I’m fair, but I’m stubborn. I’m still his mom and he still has to live by our rules. We may negotiate and re-evaluate those rules as he gets older, but the bottom line? They are our rules and he must respect that, take it or lump it.

I’m all about tough love, baby. I’m all about teaching my boys respect, courtesy and getting along with people. Even if that means they hate me for a while until they learn those lessons.

*sigh* Is it time for school to start yet?

*Update: To add insult to injury, GD went and had his elastics put on his teeth today. He’s about three months shy of having his braces removed and apparently, elastics are the final stage. As a result of these rubber bands being in his mouth? He’s TERRIBLY self-conscious. So, to say the boy is cranky would be putting it mildly. AARGH!

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Parenting

Parenting: Making Sense Out of Chaos

Believe it or not, it’s not all cotton candy, singing unicorns or shimmering rainbows at my place. I purposefully don’t tell you the awkward/ugly moments because well, I don’t like to air my dirty laundry and the problems that we may have are really no one’s business but ours. Though you rarely hear about the bad stuff, trust me when I say, it happens.

Now before any of you get the idea that I have more angst than I can handle, let me explain something. My life is pretty great. I know you don’t want to hear that because it’s like reading a story with no conflict, how totally boring, right? But I’m being quite honest when I say, I have an amazing, hard-working husband who patiently allows me to stay home and pursue my interests (which, coincidentally may or may not make money) and two boys who are sweet, caring, smart and work really hard please us. My life, for about 98.9% of the time, is conflict free. We all peacefully coexist and as long as everyone does what I say, we’re all happy.

Heh.

BUT …

We are FAR from perfect. Especially me. If I were to be perfectly honest with you, and this post? It’s going to be brutally honest (in a reveal-not-too-much sort of way); I’m probably THE single, and biggest, problem in my family. I have a RED HOT, FIERY temper that gets the best of me. Hot lava spews from my mouth when my temper flares and I’m left grabbling with a guilty conscience for a long time afterwards – years even. In fact, when I’m “a mood”, I KNOW it’s happening. And I KNOW what I’m doing is irrational, asinine and totally over the top. And I even TELL MYSELF to shut up, to calm down, to step back and breathe because I’m going to do something I’m going to regret and …

I ignore that voice of reason and afterwards? Chock the experience up to yet another one of my incredibly stupid, lost-my-head, wife/parent moments.

I’m a good mother, I’m not a great mother. And if you know me, please don’t sit there and think, “Oh, what are you talking about. You’re a great mother.”

No people, I’m not. I’m very, very human; I’m incredibly short and impatient with people, perhaps more so with my family than with outsiders, and I make mistakes. Not all the time, I have a bit more self-control than that, but when the mistakes happen? THEY ARE WHOPPERS.

My family is WELL AWARE of my temper. In fact, it’s safe to say that my guys are pretty much experts at walking on eggshells by this time because though I’m a pretty reasonable person three weeks out of four, it’s that fourth week that’s the killer.

My hormones don’t rage – they have a freaking war. Again, there is a part of me that KNOWS this is happening. And that part is constantly trying to soothe me down and coax me away from the pit of hell, but it’s like one person speaking in a normal voice in a room full of shrieking babies – I just don’t hear it most of the time. And okay, since we’re being honest here, sometimes I ignore it. I succumb to my physical war and everything EVERY. THING. sets me off.

“I’m sorry, did you just give me a dirty look?” ROAR.

“You did NOT just say that to me.” ROAR.

“Don’t take that tone of voice with me, young man.” ROAR.

“Did you just SIGH at me??” ROAR.

Really, it’s that stupid. I know this, my family knows this and yet, I fall into that stupid trap nearly every month. And sometimes, I can’t even blame Moaning Myrtle, sometimes I’m just simply touchy.

And just think, I’m not even menopausal yet. (Well, actually I could be … but that’s a different post and a different set of problems).

I have my boys under my thumb. I control them. Wow, I’m not proud to say that. But it’s true. We’ve always had a pretty strict routine, one which the boys have followed, whether they liked it or not.

Now that my boys are teenagers, the control thing? Doesn’t fly with them, things have changed. Even though I’ve fought tooth-and-nail to keep our lives the same, I’m losing control. I don’t like it, and it drives me insane at times, but it’s a necessary part of life. I can’t control them anymore. I shouldn’t have to and quite honestly, I don’t want to. But gosh darn it, I don’t know HOW to let go of that control. When they were controlled, I could protect them from life’s unpleasant moments. I could shield them from being hurt, both physically and emotionally.

And now? There are too many things, too many factors, both physically and emotionally, and I can’t juggle them all. I’m losing issues, one-by-one, the balls I’ve been juggling all of these years? Are beginning to fall.

And I REALIZE this is how it should be. The rational part of my brain WANTS these kids to be independent, to make their own decisions, and yes, even make their own mistakes. But the MATERNAL instinct in me is having a really, REALLY, hard time coming to terms with this.

Sunday night, GD was playing Halo with his good pal and buddy. He was trying to walk him through a difficult storyboard and it was lasting forever. In fact, it lasted well past his bedtime. And I warned him, repeatedly, for 40 MINUTES that he needed to wrap it up, say goodbye, it was time to get off. We have rules, and the boys know these rules.

After 40 minutes and I couldn’t see any end in sight, I lost my temper. Now the situation had morphed into a question of control. GD was pushing his limits. He knew it, I knew it. I had warned him that if he didn’t get off the game in five minutes, I would unplug the router and he would lose his internet connection (which, btw, I unplug every night so the boy doesn’t sneak back onto his computer).

I unplugged the router and the boy lost his connection. He also completely lost his temper. GD is a pretty passive sort of personality so the fact that he got that mad, that quickly, threw me for a loop. He told me, in no uncertain terms, to go do something, something I won’t repeat here. I was shocked. He had never spoken to me like that before and I reacted. He in turn, hit me.

It wasn’t a punch but more of a slap. And I think it surprised him as much as it surprised me. Again, I was shocked and immediately lost my cool. Suffice it to say, things REALLY escalated from that point on (nothing physical, but a lot of shouting) and I had to walk away or I would kill the boy.

I stuck my feet into my flip-flops and I left. I drove to a church parking lot and listened to music for an hour to give myself time to cool off. Because I knew, that if I had stayed, given my temper, things would really get out of control.

The husband had slept through this whole thing. He had gone to bed because he needed to get up and go to work the next day. He had no idea any of this went down until the next morning.

I said some things that I really, truly, honestly regret. And GD? If you ever read this, please know this. I felt small, vulnerable, hurt, and fragile. I had lost control of the situation, of myself, and I wasn’t sure how to make it better. What now? This was a pretty serious thing. A child does NOT hit his mother. Though I understand his anger, his frustration and that what happened was in the heat of the moment and he was certainly goaded, the bottom line was, he disrespected me.

But didn’t I do the same thing to him?

The next morning, I sat down and talked to MK (he was up before GD). Unfortunately, MK witnessed the whole ugly scene because he was playing the game with this brother. In fact, he was caught between a rock and a hard place – he knew he needed to get off, but he knew that if he quit the game before it was over, his brother would be furious with him. We talked about how there would be times in his life that that happened, that he would have to make a decision, the one he knew was right in his heart, even if it meant upsetting someone. It was a life lesson he’s not likely to forget.

And then GD woke up. And we talked.

The conversation took an unexpected turn. I had expected to rant and rave and just be a total dick to my son, but actually, I ended up explaining why I am the way I am to him. I apologized for my behavior and asked him for help – I needed help letting him go. He also apologized for the way he acted and explained to me why he lashed out the way he did. There was a lot of crying, a lot of soul searching and I think (hope) we cleared the air on a lot of issues that had been building up over time.

And the time has come to let go of my son. Not completely, it’ll never be completely, but enough so that he can breathe. Enough so that he can start making his own decisions and simply live his life without fear of bumping into me at every turn. He’ll be a sophomore this year. He’s about to face a lot of grown up issues – issues that he insists he needs to make on his own. Issues I will try my absolute best to let him make on his own. He knows I’m there if he needs me, I’m his backup plan, his safety net (which is something I’ve always pounded into the boys’ heads – always have a plan B), but wow, this is going to be hard on me. I hope I have the strength to back off and allow whatever needs to happen, happen.

The hubs was not happy with the situation. In fact, I’m very grateful he had the strength to dole out the punishment because I simply felt too guilty to do it. But children can’t be allowed to act that way toward their parents without some repercussions. MK is grounded for a week (because he didn’t make the right decision – he continued playing when he knew he shouldn’t have been) and GD is grounded for two weeks for the way he treated me. Neither can get on the computer, or play video games.

This has been especially hard on GD because games are all the boy lives for. But as I explained to him, sometimes it’s necessary to stop and breathe, to step back and gain some real life perspective. And that includes anything that takes our complete attention away from reality (like blogging, for instance. And yes, I’ve been setting examples by shutting my monitor off, walking away and doing something else for a while).

I don’t know who learned more from our nasty Sunday night episode – GD or me.

Parenting

Parenting: To Push, Or Not To Push

For those of you new to this blog (WELCOME! By the way), my oldest son, Game Dude, GD for short, is 15 going on 12. Catch my drift? He’s a MITE immature for his age.

At least I think so. And I think maybe that’s a large part of my problem.

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GD hit puberty, at full speed ahead, at the age of 13. It was so weird, and you hear this all the time, but I swear it’s true in my case, he suddenly grew two inches overnight. He used to whine and complain about the pain in his legs and would have to sleep with a heating pad just to help alleviate the pain. When I asked the doctor about it? “Growing pains.” That’s how fast he physically grew. His bones could barely keep up with his pubescent demands.

In addition to his sudden growth spurt, his voice dropped ten octaves and his body took on a plastic, gangly appearance. His walk changed from an uncertain little boy stride, to a big uncertain boy strut. His arches fell and his suddenly cute, narrow, little feet turned into big, thick, ugly flat man feet. (I’m not a big feet person in general so really, I think all feet, especially men feet, are nasty. Except for baby toes. I have a weakness for baby toes. Go figure).

After the initial shock wore off of seeing my baby (who was born 8 weeks early and who the doctors warned us might never catch up to his peers both physically and mentally *snort*) suddenly sprout into this unknown being, I was left grappling to understand this new … person. My boy has evolved into this strange, emotionally explosive, obstinate, mysterious …. MAN. I can almost pinpoint the day the changes happened, that’s how drastic they were.

He started high school last year. And he appeared to be in the top ten percent of his class as far as puberty progress. His voice was (and still is to a large degree) much deeper than his peers. He’s terribly self-conscious about his deep voice and in fact, told me in a rare sharing moment with me the other day that he thinks one big reason he doesn’t actually TALK is because of his voice. When I asked him if anyone had made fun of his voice, he said no. But that whenever he met anyone new, or talked to an old friend after a certain time period had elapsed, he/she nearly always commented on his voice.

I’ll be perfectly frank with you, the boy has a sexy voice (that almost makes me gag to say that out loud because this is my son we’re talking about, but I’m trying to be impartial and look at him as a young girl would look at him). It’s deep, not baritone deep, but pretty gosh darn close. And I’ve told him that girls really dig a deep voice and dark, mysterious bedroom eyes. (His iris’ are so dark brown, they look nearly black and you can’t see his pupils – they’re dark and foreboding and he’s got one HECK of a death stare, let me tell you).

He stopped me there. His face was flushed with embarrassment and his breathing was erratic – that’s how uncomfortable I had made him feel (and to be honest, again, I wasn’t exactly hip on telling him these things. I don’t WANT some floozy thinking my baby is sexy). And yet, I could tell, by his small, satisfied smile, that my words had indeed sunk in and he was … pleased with himself.

Of course, he’s a teenage boy – that feeling MIGHT have lasted three minutes, if I’m lucky, before the insecurities came pouring back in.

But even after witnessing these changes in him, after being a reluctant passenger on his emotional roller coaster for the past two years, I was still in denial. I refused to budge an inch on bed time and on other various rules we had established for the boys growing up. I looked at him and saw my adorable, shy, charming little boy from yesteryear …

Until we went swimming this past Sunday.

The place was packed. Our park board has made some changes and now our favorite pool, the one where the boys and I went nearly every day, is now only open Thursday through Sunday (that’s another issue – don’t get me started).

It wasn’t until GD peeled off his shirt and jumped into the water to play catch with his little brother that I saw it.

And I’m pretty sure I gasped because it caught the hubs’ attention. GD had a thick patch of dark hair under each of his arms.

And his legs … were so hairy! And is that … omg, is that the beginnings of a mustache I see on his upper lip?! Why did I not notice that before?!

I sort of freaked out, if you want the truth. For you see, GD is at that stage where he’s very self-conscious about his body. So, he wears jeans, all the time. So I’ve never really noticed how his legs have changed. In fact, there is a lot about GD’s body I haven’t noticed before because he’s always been dressed around the house (which as it should be, thankyouverymuch).

So looking at him, at the pool, in just his swim trunks, was … weird. WHO WAS THIS PERSON?! WHERE DID MY LITTLE BOY GO?! I know this sounds cliché but dad gum it, that’s exactly how I felt. It felt like someone had punched me in the chest – I couldn’t breathe and I had little black spots in front of my eyes.

My son has turned into a man and I was still treating him like a little boy! NO WONDER we’ve been at each other’s throats these past months.

Granted, he has PHYSICALLY matured, but he still has a long way to go EMOTIONALLY. Or at least, I think so. And there again, I’m uncertain. He’s immature according to what standards? Mine? Since when did what I think, or my personal standards or definition of maturity become the norm for everyone else?

I keep telling you that I don’t want my little boy to grow up. But now I’m not so certain that’s truly how I feel. I think, a big reason we’ve been prickly with each other is because I want him to grow up faster than he’s ready for. I think, unconsciously, I’ve been pushing him to think about his future, to accept more responsibility, to take his learner’s permit test, because I have subconsciously seen what my conscious mind refused to acknowledge. He is physically maturing, naturally, his emotional development would be maturing, too.

But I don’t think it has. He’s still just a little boy inside and I’m scaring him by trying to push him into adulthood.

And what exactly is my hurry, anyway? WHY again is it so important that he learn to drive right now? Aren’t I opening a can of worms when I don’t necessarily have to? He doesn’t want to learn, he has taken virtually no interest in wanting to learn to drive. We’ve gone shopping for cars, he could only force himself to work up a small amount of enthusiasm and I suspect that small amount was only for our benefit. The husband has printed off the driving manual from the DMV online, and he has only glanced at it. Why are we pushing this issue with him?

I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to who have told me that they either knew someone, or they themselves, didn’t start driving until they were 17/18/19. I think I actually didn’t start driving until I was 17. I don’t remember having a BURNING desire to learn to drive at 15/16. Why am I so hell-bent on pushing GD into driving?

Why am I so hell-bent on pushing the boy to grow up? Because I want him to? Because I think this is how he should behave? Am I really THAT controlling of a person?

Geez. How pathetic. When I step back and look at this issue, really look at it from a practical standpoint, it’s asinine. As a parent, WHY would I want to put myself in a position where I’m wringing my hands worrying about whether he’s okay out there in the “wild” with his friends. WHY would I want to put myself in a position where I’m worrying about him being out, alone, with the opposite sex. WHY would I want to create stressful situations when I don’t have to?

So he hasn’t expressed an interest in driving. So what? He’s only 15. It’s not like he’s 25, jobless and still living at home with us. He’s 15. He’s still trying to navigate his way through life, why am I forcing him to think about navigating our city streets? (And the crazy, stupid drivers that we seem to have an abundance of in these here parts).

This isn’t a contest. There are no winners. He doesn’t have to do everything before, or even the same time as, his peers. He’ll do it when he’s good and ready to do it. I just need to step off, relax, and enjoy him right now, as is, and stop trying to make him into a person I THINK he needs to be.

I honestly don’t understand my problem. I don’t understand my need to push other people into doing what I want them to do. (I don’t just do this with my sons, I find myself doing this, on various levels, with virtually every person I encounter in life). It’s crazy. I realize I’m doing it, and yet, I do it and then am disappointed when people don’t respond the way I want them to.

I really must chill.

I guess I’m just scared of missing that window of opportunity, you know? For example, when kids are little, there is a certain developmentally appropriate age to teach them to ride a bike. And if you miss that time frame, then it’s harder for the kid to learn to ride a bike. Or when an adult reaches a certain age, it’s harder for him/her to learn a foreign language. I don’t want to be so reluctant for my kids to grow up that I miss that window and then they never want to grow up. They end up being slackers, living at home and playing video games in dark rooms, you know?

I guess I’m so focused on wanting him to be successful that I’m pushing him too hard too fast. It’s maddening to me to NOT KNOW when to push and when to back off. I’m going to try, very hard, to back off and follow GD’s lead from now on. I will try, but I’m not making any promises.

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Parenting

Parenting: Do You Like Your Childrens’ Friends?

I have to admit, most of my boys’ friends are pretty cool. And by cool, I mean respectful, smart, funny and generally well-behaved and well-rounded kids.

But I also have to be honest – there are a few that make me uneasy.

GD – My Oldest Son

GD is a quiet, shy, introspective boy. He rarely initiates conversation but it’s pretty obvious when something is on his mind and he wants to talk (he chooses to hang around me, asks me questions about what I’m doing, etc. I’ve come to recognize that as his need to talk to me about something).

GD has always had a handful of friends, and about three really good friends throughout his young life. They haven’t always been the same three friends, but their personalities were very similar in nature. He either simply didn’t want to make the effort to get to know more kids, or he was too shy to make the effort (I suspect the latter). And the friends he’s made over the years were pretty good boys, save for the one friend in the bunch who was sort of a rebel – i.e. crazy hair, tough talker, rough and tumble attitude; he’s always looked up to that sort of personality – again, I’m assuming because he’s simply NOT that way.

GD met our neighbor’s grandson when he was quite little, I believe he was two and this little boy was three when they first met in our backyard. They have become fast friends over the years. The little boy, let’s call him Dan, would come over every Friday night, when he came over to visit his grandparents, and play with GD and later MK.

Dan doesn’t have a father. I don’t believe his parents were married, but were planning on getting married shortly after Dan was born. However, Dan’s father committed suicide (we really don’t know much more than that because we’ve never asked – it’s not exactly something you bring up in casual conversation) and as a result, Dan has always sort of looked on the husband as his surrogate father growing up. Though this has made the hubs a bit uncomfortable, he has understood the boy’s need to have a male role model in his life.

But because Dan doesn’t have a consistent male role model in his life, he’s a bit on the wild side. He routinely gets into trouble and I think it’s largely due to the fact that he’s alone a lot (his mom works a lot of long hours) and he needs attention. Case in point: The boy got his learner’s permit. And then raced a buddy of his through his neighborhood (his mom bought him a car so he could drive himself to school, even though he didn’t have a licensed driver with him – his mom is a bit on the immature side herself, she tries to be more his friend as opposed to his mother). Dan and his buddy crashed their cars. The police came, gave Dan four tickets and now he can’t get a license until he’s 18.

GD and I talk about this boy’s wild nature – A LOT. We talk about his mistakes and the possible reasons WHY he does the things does in the first place. I am constantly telling GD that I think he’s a good influence on Dan because he’s a lot more calm and level-headed than his friend is – they complement each other. And I think Dan might be good for GD on some level because he helps GD not be so … timid about things, to take a chance once in a while (which could both be a good thing and a bad thing). I think I partly encourage the friendship because A. the few times I’ve voiced any sort of harsh criticism about Dan, GD has shut down and become obstinate, so to continue to discourage him from this friendship might actually backfire on me and B. I feel sorry for Dan. He doesn’t really have a “parent” in his life, per se, and I sometimes feel like he seeks me and the hubs out for guidance. I can’t let him down by turning my back on him.

GD is a great kid, he truly is. He has a level head on his shoulders, he has a strong sense of right and wrong, and we’ve helped instill a firm spiritual balance in his life. But, he’s quiet, and shy and I often wonder just how strong he really is when it comes to peer pressure. He’s already told me that he’s witnessed quite a few drug exchanges at his school, in the hallways and in front of oblivious teachers, but he has assured me that none of those so-called “friends” have ever offered him anything; I only pray he’s right.

Sometimes I wonder if his reluctance to grow up, to take on more responsibilities is so that he won’t have to put himself in a situation where he’ll be confronted with peer pressure. He doesn’t hang out with anybody from school and I pick him up from school everyday so he’s not hanging around long enough for anyone to approach him. I often wonder, if/when he’s in a peer-pressured situation, just how he will handle it. Given his quiet, shy personality, I worry.

MK – my youngest son.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know my boys are polar opposites. One boy likes jelly, the other doesn’t. One boy is blonde/blue-eyed, the other brown/brown-eyed. Their personalities are totally different and their choice in friends are totally different. MK prefers to hang out with friends who aren’t afraid to be … different. They are a bit zany, goofy, have a huge sense of humor and don’t really care what other’s think.

MK’s friends are loud – I don’t do loud very well. As a result, I honestly can’t handle his friends hanging out over here very often because it just grates on my nerves. But they are nice, sweet kids – they’re just LOUD.

MK has a lot of friends. Well, he has a lot of people he calls friends; I’m not so sure these other people have lumped MK in the same category. MK also wears his heart on his sleeve and gets his feelings hurt really easily. We’ve talked, at length, that there will be times when you simply have to give up. You’re nice to someone, you bend over backwards for them, several times, and yet, they continue to take advantage of your good nature. There are people out there that will simply walk all over you if they sense they can.

MK has learned a lot of tough lessons these past years when it came to his friends. Now that he’s in middle school, he’s especially aware of how people change when they start hanging out with a different crowd of kids.

Case in point: His best friend all throughout grade school, let’s call him Abe, started hanging out with the “cool” kids at school. And by “cool”, I mean the kids who make fun of other kids, who wear a lot of black, curse just to show off and who are generally mean kids but who everyone has, for some reason or other, labeled “cool.”

Abe’s personality began to change. He no longer goofed around with MK, in fact, he started ignoring MK. Though (to my knowledge) he was never one of the kids to make fun of MK, he didn’t exactly come to his defense, either.

This change broke MK’s heart. I remember picking him up from school, his face downcast, his normally bubbly personality subdued and I knew, I just knew, the other kids had been mean to him. But I was patient and after a while, he opened up to me. He explained the situation with Abe and he told me that it really hurt to have his best friend reject him like that.

Since then, Abe has ping-ponged back and forth, between this “cool” group of kids and being MK’s friend. I can’t tell you the NUMBER of long, heart-felt conversations we’ve had about this situation and I’ve been impressed with how much MK really understands – about Abe’s insecurity and his need to be something he wasn’t. I have to admire MK for his conviction to remain true to himself. Though it’s hurt, MK has never once tried to “conform.” He’s taken it on the chin and then kept on going. If anything, this experience has taught him to be himself and he’s learning that if people don’t accept him for him, screw ’em.

This past year has been a real eye-opener for both of my boys in the friendship arena. They have learned a lot by watching their friends and (hopefully) learning from their mistakes. I’ve taken advantage of these experiences to teach them some valuable life lessons – I pray they’ve been listening.

So far, I’ve been pretty lucky in the fact that I haven’t had to deal with my boys’ difficult friends. The friends I’ve met have been pretty cool kids. And the “friends” I’ve heard about have had problems, but my boys seem to be focusing more on trying to help these kids as opposed to trying to be like these kids.

Letting your kids go, to allow them to be influenced by so many different personalities, is so hard. It’s the unknown, it’s the not knowing what exactly is going on or what is happening around my kids while they are at school that sometimes keeps me up at night. I pray to God that we’re being a positive influence on them and that they aren’t tricked, coerced, or charmed into doing something they know is wrong by any so called “friends.”

Your turn: Tell me about your childrens’ friends. Do you like them? Do you think they are good influences?

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