Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Emancipation and Dishes and Pimps...Oh My!

One of today's challenges for parents is teaching our sweet emerging adults how to make good decisions. For most of their lives, we're charged with keeping them alive so we become really good at controlling things to limit the risks. Sound familiar?

In order to prepare them for flight from our orderly, safe nests, they need to know how to carefully evaluate options and use reasoning to solve problems and make decisions. If we tell them what to do and when to do and how to do, we rob them of the chance to hone these critical life skills. Let's not do that, m-kay?

I give you this prime example: a recent conversation with my 16 year old.

Me: Your job is loading the dishes tonight, okay dear daughter?

DD: Ugh...NOOOO!!!

Me: Your brothers unloaded and took out the trash. Just get it done before bedtime.

DD: Why do you hate me so?

Me: I don't. I do hate loading the dishes though.

DD: Mom. I want to be an emancipated minor.

Me: Oh...is this because of the dishes.

DD: Yes.

Me: You do realize that you'll then be responsible for both unloading and loading, right?

DD: No. I'll use paper.

Me: That's a lot of paper plates and plastic forks.

DD: Oh...I'll just hire someone. More environmental.

Me: Ok. That's probably a better idea. So where do you think you want to work so you can pay for the help?

DD: BLK Burgers. It looks fun there.

Me: You're right. And I love their garlic edamame!

DD: Me too!! And I'll probably get some free food. How much do you think they get paid there?

Me: Probably minimum wage plus tips. You might need a second job to make enough money to live on your own and pay for someone to do your chores.

DD: Then I'll be a madam like Greer in Reign. She makes tons of money. (If you haven't seen Reign, it's set in Elizabethan times in France and Greer is a lady-turned-madam. She's quite endearing.)

Me: Yes, I'm sure she does, but if you really want to go into that line of work, we better get you some target practice before you move out.

DD: Why?

Me: Well, because present-day madams are usually men and they're called pimps and they dabble in things like drug-dealing and weapons and human trafficking and I don't think they like competition.

DD: Mom, I have my black belt.

Me: Yes you do.

DD: I'll just kill all the pimps...

Me: That's one way to do it...

DD: And I'll steal their business and I'll be really nice to the courtesans.

Me: I'm sure they'd like that but do you really want to kill people?

DD: Not really. I don't like blood.

Me: Yeah, there's that.

DD: Hmmm...maybe I'll just work at BLK and live here for a while.

Me: At least stay until college. There's plenty of time to figure out what you want to do.

DD: Yep. I have options.

Me: Lucky girl. Oh, and thanks for doing the dishes while we had this very interesting chat.

DD: Sure! (With a smile.)

Decision-making process at its finest, people. True story.

{J}

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day Card - 15 Years Late

If I could write a Happy Mother's Day card to myself when I first became a mom, OH MY, there are so many things I'd say. But since time travel isn't possible, I'll address this letter to my friends who are newer moms, to those women who one day wish to be moms, and to my FABULOUS network of amazing moms who've helped me figure out the important stuff about this Mommy-gig.

Dear New Mommy,

Congratulations!! Your little family is such a gift. Life is so magical and good. I know that every little trip to Babies R' Us makes you giddy and that you've fallen in love all over again with your spouse and that you'll never understand what you did will all your time and money before your pre-baby life. But your past is nothing compared to this new, joy-filled, exhausting, terrifying and fulfilling phase of your life and there's no turning back.

So I'd like to share with you some things that I wish I knew before I started down the path of parenting. I really hope these tips will help make Mommyhood a little easier and a lot more enjoyable for you.

1. FOCUS. Don't waste time on your Instagram or FB persona. The way your life appears on the surface is much less important than your real story. Your marriage, your close, authentic friendships, being present for your kiddos, your passions, those things are worth every second and cent in your pocket. And you'll avoid that empty feeling of "less-than" if you aim for REAL, even when it's messy and hard and mind-numbing. I'll tell you a secret: those who appear to have all their $%*# together are some of the loneliest people I've ever met.

2. RELAX. Filling all your free time with errands and cleaning and to-do's gets really old really fast. Leave the dirty dishes in the sink when baby takes a nap and catch up on your own sleep. As the kiddos get older, leave some of the work for them - laundry and dishes and trash are real life skills. Don't run yourself ragged (see #3 and #4 for more on this). Put your feet up when you can. You're less likely to lose your $%*# when someone in your family gets sick (or worse-lice), gets in trouble, or needs a homemade costume for school, tomorrow.

3. RECRUIT. You can do it all, for a little while, but you'll kill yourself in the process. And your spouse won't like living with you. True story. But, if you've worked on #1, you'll have a network of friends and family willing to share the work and come to your aid. Ask for help when you need it, and offer it in return when you see your friends exhibiting signs of being maxed-out, i.e.: eye-twitching and head-jerking and drooling. There's a reason they say it takes a village. Because it does. Make sure you're one of the village people, not one of the zombies.

4. PRIORITIZE. It's not just okay to say NO to things, it's a necessity. Figure out what's truly important and then make sure there's a buffer for emergency situations (AKA: illness, injury and LICE). This takes a self-awareness that you may have to work to attain but if you make that a priority too, it really will help everywhere else. I'll go a little further and remind you that it's OKAY to take time for yourself. Don't be a martyr. It's BAD for everyone.

5. FORGIVE. Not just your kids, who will press you beyond limits you ever imagined, not just your spouse, who will come up short every once in a while (we all do), but yourself too. If you work outside the home, if you spend hours on Pinterest, if you sometimes indulge in coffee, Diet Coke, Netflix, novels, wine, shopping, chocolate, Hobby Lobby, or name-your-vice, if you curse or yell or hide in the closet on that rare occasion, LET IT GO. We are fallible and this job is HARD. Harder than anyone ever admits. Tomorrow is another day and as you figure out how to do #1-4, you'll need #5 less and less.

6. SAVOR. This is probably the one that you'll hear the most: Savor every moment. And it's true. But the way you do this is important too. Please don't make the mistake of trying to record each milestone and every event that you spend all your time looking through the lens of a camera. Your baby, your pre-schooler, your pre-teen, your graduate...they want to see YOU...not just present, but aware. They yearn to witness the joy stretched across your face, the tears in your eyes, the pride when you point and say, "That's my kid." And if you're hiding behind a recording device focusing on downloading the moment instead of living it, you'll miss it. And then the moments will be gone.

New Mommy, I hope my hindsight perspective is useful. Congratulations and Godspeed. This truly is going to be the BEST part of your life.

Happy, happy Mother's Day to all!

{J}

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"Peace is this way," said one kid to another...

"Mom, my friend told me something today that he hasn't told very many people."

"Do you want to share it with me?"

"He told me he's a Muslim. He said that he doesn't tell people because some kids at school say Muslims are terrorists and they tell mean jokes. Mom, I've heard some kids make fun of people with different beliefs."

"That's really sad. But how nice that he trusts you and knows you're not like that."

"Yeah. He also told me he's not a terrorist."

"I'm sure he's not."

"He told me that the terrorists who say they're Muslim are impostors and that Muslims are peaceful. Why do so many people think all Muslims are bad?"

You guys, initially I wanted to say some nasty things about people who tell racist jokes or blatantly judge an entire religious or ethnic group, but at the same time, I didn't want to be like them, putting negative generalizations out into this fractured world. So instead, I kept things simple and direct.

"Son, sometimes people are afraid of what they don't understand. And sometimes it's easier to believe what your friends say or what you see on Instagram than it is to seek out the TRUTH. And that's probably what's happened with the kids at school who aren't being nice. But do you know what our only job in this life is?"

"To be nice to everyone?"

"It's to LOVE others. ALL others. And that includes our friends as well as the ones who are scared and confused. Even when it's hard. So make sure to thank your friend for sharing his truth with you. Because that's a gift."

Friends, we are inundated with negative, finger-pointing, mud-slinging, ugliness all over the interwebs and in the news, and SO ARE OUR KIDS! Most of us have the maturity and sensitivity to filter the hate out but that's not so easy for kids. They're seeing grown-ups behave badly, hearing political rants, witnessing nasty memes, and many of them are believing that crap as TRUTH!

PLEASE...pay attention to what your kids are ingesting through six-second Vines and 140-character Tweets and every other social media platform they have access too. TALK to them about what they're hearing at school. And think about what messages you're putting into the world. We have to be the truth-tellers and love-spreaders and the hate-diffusers. That's our most important job.

Love to all!

{J}

Friday, April 8, 2016

Entitlement is a Choice

Parents, listen up. We can make a difference in the world and this is how: Don't let our kids fall into the entitlement trap. THEY are kids, and their brains are not fully developed so they really don't have control over their unreasonable expectations, epecially when so few of them ever have to wait for what they want/need. In fact, even their environment is fighting against us ALL the time. Instant access - typically via a mobile device - is conditioning them to be impatient.

I'm serious. Do your kids ever get crazy when someone doesn't text them back right away? The other day I was running errands and I left my phone off while in the store for all of fifteen minutes. This was what my daughter sent me:

are you almost home (notice lack of punctuation and capital letters)

where are you (12 seconds later)

hellllooooo!! (30 seconds later but hey, she's using puctuation here. There is hope!)

ARE YOU HOME YET (I should tell you now that SHE WAS HOME so asking if I was where she was indicates some break here, as do the shouty caps.)

I WANT A DONUT (Okay, this is new information and now I know she's hungry-crazy. Did I mention this is approximately 72 seconds after the first text?)

AND THE FRICKIN WIFI ISNT WORKING AND I CANT FINISH MY HOMEWORK WHERE ARE YOU!!!!!!!!!!! (Hungry, crazy and something isn't working. This is an emergency!)

When I finally saw the text fit, I simply responded: Just got these. On my way. No donuts. Make a smoothie and try unplugging modem.

A few minutes later my sweet child emerged: thx that worked YAY xo

If your children are more civilized than this, you don't have to read further...Facebook awaits.

So, pure panic when feedback isn't immediate...that's not good. Nastiness when something doesn't go their way...also NOT good. Parents standing by, or worse, perpetuating it...REALLY BAD. And we don't always do it on purpose. The other day, I sacrificed my morning tea because my son wanted to get to his friend's house as soon as humanly possible. He followed me around, pestering with his overflowing excitement, until he wore me down. And he wasn't being selfish, he was irresistibly sweet. But I chose to answer his immediate need instead of taking three minutes to make my tea and making him wait. So I allowed his needs to trump mine, even though neither of us thought about it at the time. In isolated incidents, it's ok, but if my default is constant catering, I'm losing the opportunity to teach my children the great importance of hearing NO.

And you know what? There's just not a lot of NO going on out there. I don't think we're consciously trying to ruin them by over-yesing them, but it seems that kids get more and more of what they want, when they want it. I'm not just talking things, they get us as their personal assistants and chauffeurs and short-order cooks. And they don't even pay us!

But we've put a spin on it, haven't we moms and dads? We're just "doing what we can for our kids," who are too busy with activities and school and friends and keeping up, they can't possibly do any of it for themselves. Right? I've done it. I've said it. I've waved the white flag of exhaustion with a sick sense of pride. If we're not all running around wearing UBER-BUSY like a badge of honor, we're not doing everything we can for them. If we're not sacrificing our sanity, our identities, ALL of our free time, then we aren't good parents. No one says it out loud but it's surely implied.

Listen, WE are the grown ups here and we need to bring back some perspective and balance into our homes, for everyone's sakes. That starts with choices. Sometimes hard choices. You might be afraid of being judged. But THIS IS OUR ULTIMAYPTE ASSIGNMENT, to prepare our kids for the real world. I think about this a lot with a sophomore, especially when she shows me her Pinterest pages for her fancy wedding, where she wants to travel and her future luxury beach house. Without shattering her dreams, I want her to know that the grown-up starter kit does not typically include a blog-worthy beach house. That things aren't always going to be easy. I want my kids to be prepared for hard work. And more than anything, I want them to have some of those experiences now.

And they need us to expose them to these life experiences, instead of making everything easy for them. When we say no to getting back in the car after two hours of carpool just to take them to see a friend, they learn how to compromise their wants for those of someone else, like a parent who desperately needs to NOT be in the car for ten minutes. When we say no, you can't go do that fun thing because you've been out doing fun things all weekend and you need to do some chores, we show them the necessity of balancing their obligations and learning important life skills, like laundry and work and budgeting time. When we ask our children what they could've done to better prepare for that test, project, game, etc., instead of telling them they deserve better, they learn that the world is filled with people who don't know them like we do and that their choices reveal their character.

Raising entitled children who don't know the meaning of "not now" or straight out NO, is a choice. Preparing them for successfully living in the real world, is a better one. The best thing we can do is give them the experiences to find growth through grunt work. To show them how to start at the bottom and EARN their accomplishments instead of being "gifted" the best, newest, most expensive. To let them falter a little and support them as they rebuild instead of constantly rescuing them, even if it was with the best intentions.

Hard work, I tell you. For them AND for us. But we can do hard things and the world will be a better place for it. Who's with me?

{J}

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Passion for Pinning, Anyone?

You guys, have you been on Pinterest lately? A couple weeks ago, I spent quite some time perusing Pinterest (I was sick, that's a valid excuse, right?) and oh-to-the-em-to-the-gee...PINTEREST IS AWESOME!! I am aware that this isn't breaking news, it's just that I had forgotten the mood-enhancing qualities of pretty pictures and happy memes. I'm truly SAD that my kids are out of elementary school and I don't have the need for creative crafts and holiday inspiration like I used to. But now I realize that nothing good can come of me neglecting the beauty and joy that exist on Pinterest.

So, if you haven't visited the wonderful world of everything pretty and inspiring, please do so very soon. Here are some of my favorite finds of my recent journey:

Don't you just HAVE to make these for St. Patrick's Day? And check out the blog, Three Kids and a Fish. Cathy's lovely.

Okay, and check out these winter outfits. I'm in love! And YES...it's still winter, friends. Even though it was 78 degrees today, I'm holding out hope that El Nino will deliver before the season's through. Because I really want to replicate THIS!

Speaking of the weather, we've been at the beach LOTS. San Clemente is one of our favorite local spots but look at all these other cool beaches across America. If you're planning your Spring Break or Summer vacations, maybe one of these will make it to your list.

And if you don't have time for travel because of your kids' sports schedules, you're not alone. But never underestimate the one sure way to escape without leaving the comfort of your coziest, fireside (or court-side) chair. I ADORE this book challenge!

So you see, Pinterest can sweeten up life, keep you warm on a cold, El Nino (they swear it's coming) day, motivate you to find your happy place, and inspire your literary side, all with a few clicks.

What are your favorite Pinterest finds? Do share.

{J}

Friday, January 22, 2016

2016...The Year of Equilibrium

Happy New Year, all! Wow...2016 is here already. The years just seem to slip on by, no matter what I do to slow things down. And with a sophomore on the verge of taking flight, it makes me a little sad. Scratch that. A LOT sad.

Joni Mitchell says it best in the song, "Carousel of Time."

"And the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down. We're captives on the carousel of time."

Captives. Prisoners. Victims of time's great march. In 2016, it's my plan to challenge that theory and retain some influence over my carousel.

2015 gave us some of the best, new research on our culture of over-scheduling, over-stressing and overwhelming our teens. (Not to mention ourselves.) Doctors stood up and said, "Enough of the madness, parents!" Educators posed the questions, "How much of your child's well-being are you willing to sacrifice? How much of your relationship?" We learned about the rise in depression and anxiety disorders among our young and emerging adults. Stress, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer were more closely tied with lifestyle than ever before. And lifestyle is a CHOICE, is it not?

So can we make different choices?

Did you know that colleges all over the nation are reevaluating their admission standards and high school counselors are rethinking student education tracks? That means that brave parents everywhere are getting creative, challenging the means and methods by which to help their kids be, not just competitive, but successful. After all, those two things can look very different.

Can I let you in on a little secret? This is where we get to reclaim control, friends.

My #oneword for 2016 is EQUILIBRIUM. Defined, it means "a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced." And let's be honest, we hear how important balance is but people talk about it like once you achieve it, you're in the clear. Not so easy with all the moving parts of life. But I can make the choice to look at the "opposing forces" in every day and actively "balance" them out. And more importantly, I can teach my kids how to do that.

So as my daughter plans her final two years of high school and my sons look forward to their own plans, I'm going to do my damnedest to positively influence what we focus our time and energy on. Not just the school and the work and the responsible stuff, but the fun and the downtime and the spirit-fueling stuff.

Yes, AP and honors classes can be important as you're planning for college, but it's my responsibility to weigh the cost. And it's true that activities and sports can contribute to well-roundedness and physical/mental health, but it's my job to take a holistic approach to family scheduling, to consider our weekly time bank and leave enough for a buffer. In the end, the values I hold high, they will too, and I want my family to seek out, recognize and always strive for equilibrium.

So as you enter the new year, list of resolutions aside, I hope you find your #oneword. And more importantly, I hope that it acts as a constant beacon that guides you through the ups and downs of your carousel ride.

Happy New Year, friends!

{J}

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Spirit of Giving

The spirit of giving can be very powerful, especially when we include our children. Last weekend, our family delivered gifts to some families in need. Soccer balls and legos, blankets and shoes, gift cards for grocery stores and other essentials.

As we walked up to each house, our kids commented on how, on the outside, these families looked like they were well taken care of. The homes were adorned with lights and decorations, a car was parked in each driveway and it was easy to fall into a false sense of comfort that maybe things weren’t so bad for these families after all.

But everything changed the minute we were greeted by our first mama-in-need. We didn’t know her story - we didn’t need to - but we physically felt her relief as she squeezed her sweet baby girl and thanked us through tears. At the second home, it was a proud papa who hugged us and introduced us to all of his adorable sons, each wearing the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen. And as we walked back to our car, hands linked and feeling a mixture of happy and sad, each one of our kids put words to their realization that things can look okay and be far from it.

“Maybe someone’s sick and can’t work right now so they don’t have enough money.”

“Maybe they only have enough money to pay for the house and electricity and gas for the car but nothing else.”

“Maybe someone has a mental illness. Sometimes people can’t work when they’re sick like that even though they look okay on the outside.”

“Maybe they’re taking care of other family members and don’t have enough to go around.”

“Maybe they lost their jobs.”

Michael and I agreed that all of those were real possibilities and pointed out that sometimes things aren’t what they seem, that these kind strangers were truly missing something substantial, that we should never judge because, in life, we will have our own crosses to bear. After our good deed and some deep conversation, we had brunch and went to the beach, keeping close the awareness of all of our blessings.

And then, this happened…

Noah decided he wanted to donate all his legos to charity, not pass them down to family friends like we usually do because (his words) “our friends can all afford to buy their own legos and they’re probably getting lots for Christmas.”

Evidence of an impact. It doesn't get much better than that.

So as you enjoy your Christmas (or another) holiday, I hope you have a chance to be something for someone in need. Whether it's through charity, an intentional connection with a loved one, or just a hug, remember that each is an opportunity with the power to shape us. And if the kids can be involved, even better.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

{J}