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Tuesday, December 30, 2014


As hard as it is to believe, 2015 is almost here. The year is drawing to a close, and ready or not, a new one is upon us.

2014, undeniably, was rough. I lost a sister, very unexpectedly in August. Dropped out of college in the Spring semester. Had kids flounder in school.

Theresa never missed a moment of life. She was always
up for new adventures. She was my hero. 

There were also flashes of sun from between the clouds. I restarted college this fall. Thing1 finished middle school successfully in June and started high school in September. Babygirl entered a program that will let her graduate from high school early and she's looking forward to starting college in January 2015.

I'm not a big fan of resolutions, because they seem like a flash in the pan, something you declare with a lot of bravado in January, and fizzle out by March.

This year, however, I'm making one for myself: This year, I resolve to be more positive. To appreciate the incredible blessings we enjoy and to stay focused on the goals for the future. Since my marriage fell apart, I've been determined not to become "that person"; the woman who obsesses over her ex and his new life and hates him, using him as a scapegoat for everything bad that happens to her post-divorce.

In ancient times, a goat was symbolically burdened with the sins of the people,
and driven off into the wilderness, to cleanse the tribe of its guilt. 

I don't want to carry this anger anymore. I'm tired of being angry. Tired of his name bringing a flare of pain and disgust. I am angry, and have every right to be, about the way he handled our ending. His deception made the parting much more painful than it needed to be. His behavior since leaving hasn't helped. He's hurt my kids, and for a Mama Bear, that can be an unforgivable sin.

There comes a time, though, when you have to let go of old disappointments. Holding a grudge is like holding a hot coal and expecting it to burn the other person... you're only hurting yourself. What harm does my anger do him? None, of course. He's off living his life. Staying angry is only letting him still have a say in my feelings, whether he even knows it or not. I'm SO ready to cut those strings. My ex is no saint, but I've moved on and my life is no longer bound to his choices. It's time to embrace freedom, and like Elsa, "let it go". 

Do you have any resolutions for 2015?

I am so ready to see what a new year will bring. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Five Reasons I Don't Want My Son to have Sex

There are so many blogs out there about why we don't want our daughters having sex. Many of the lists contain similar themes, many of which also apply to our sons: Because they're not ready. Because there are emotional connections that come with physical intimacy, that can really screw you up later. Because disease. And babies. And because they're not ready.

Can we stop this madness? Please?
What's wrong with our teens being allowed to be kids? 

We don't have as many conversations about, or with, our boys. And those moms who do say they don't want their boys having sex too young are often seen as women-hating slut shamers, who are trying to raise Mama's boys, forever tied to the apron strings.

In fact, anyone who calls for balance in this discussion with our teens about having sex is likely to be attacked by one of two sides: Those who believe teens should have lots of wild, crazy sex as soon as possible, with no regrets, because YOLO!, or those who think you shouldn't ever have sex until you're married, preferably in your 40s, with the lights off and as many clothes as possible still on. And don't enjoy it. It's for procreation, not for pleasure, you sick pervert.

You Only Live Once.
So... do it right the first time. 

What ever happened to middle ground? What ever happened to personal responsibility? What has happened to make our sons believe that they are less of a man if their belts aren't notched by the time they escape the confines of high school? Why do we make teenage sexuality so damn complicated?

I've been thinking about this since before my son decided that girls don't have cooties. I've been through this stage with Babygirl. My reasons, with both my kids, are pretty much the same. This isn't a gender thing. This isn't about slut shaming, or about not raising a rapist. This is not about trying to control my kids. This is about empowering them to make good and healthy decisions for their own lives.

My reasons for not wanting my son (or, for that matter, my daughter) to engage too early in the mattress mamba:

1) Babies are expensive. Duh. Yes, birth control is cheaper. A LOT cheaper. But. The failure rate for a male condom? 18%. EIGHTEEN PERCENT. That's very close to 1 in 5. Yikes.

Let's break this down, shall we?
There are somewhere around 400 teens in my son's high school. According to the CDC, about 35% of those kids are having sex at any given time. So, if the math plays out, that's about 140 kids. 18% of 140? Twenty-five. Mathematically, about 4 of those kids will be gay. (3.6% of the population identifies as something other than "straight".)

Assuming that the rest are boy/girl couples, that's an average of 10.5 girls. Let's round down to 10- that's ten girls per year having babies. That's about right, from my personal knowledge of my kids' friends and what's going on in the school in general.

I'd rather my son was not one of those ten baby-daddies who find themselves, at fifteen, in sudden need of a job to keep their new offspring in diapers.

He can't even drive a car yet.
Can you imagine this kid with a baby?? 

2) Romance and relationships. I love my son. I think he's just about the peachiest little dimpled bundle of giggles to ever have graced the world with a goofy grin. He's a great kid. A seriously great kid. I get compliments from other parents about how polite and kind-hearted my kids are. But. He can also be a bit of a douchebag. Hey, he's almost 15. His social skills, along with his brain, are not fully developed. His emotional stability is on-par with a lemur on crack.

So, entering into a relationship that includes the emotional fall out that comes with sex? Not the best thing for my handsome little bundle of hormones. He's still learning to navigate friendships. Romance is far more complicated, and that's an arena he's not ready for. The kid can barely keep a lizard alive. He's so not ready to make a serious emotional investment into a relationship with a girlfriend.

3)  Disease. Ok, so only 35% of kids are having sex. Chances of my teen catching a STD from his first partner might seem slim, but... 1 in 4 sexually active teens have an STD. Those aren't odds I want him to chance. If that makes me an over protective mom, so be it.

Incidentally, 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys, will be a victim of a sexual predator before they are 18. A whole other conversation, but important for parents to know, so that they can take steps to protect their children.

4)  Brain development. I won't pretend that I begin to understand the complicated processes that happen behind my kids' skulls. I can't even tell you why they don't pick up after themselves or why they can't retain instructions I've given them for more than 3.4 seconds, but can recite the entire list of their favorite video game stars. And their birthdays.

The bottom line is that, though I don't understand much about the teenage brain, the experts at the American College of Pediatricians say that engaging in behaviors like sex before the brain is fully developed can change the way the neural hookups get established, creating addictive behaviors and tricking the brain into needing more stimulation to achieve an appropriate response to the release of dopamine and other "feel good" hormones.

Seriously. His brain is amazing, but... yeah. Not developed. 

5)  I want him to have a fulfilling sex life. A recent study showed that there are long-term consequences in marriage associated with behaviors that go along with teenage sex:

"Rhoades and Stanley hypothesize in the report that "more experience may increase one’s awareness of alternative partners." In other words, people who have a number of prior relationships may become dissatisfied more easily."

Yes, I admit it, this one has a selfish component.  I want my son to get married, 
and, hopefully, give me grand-babies someday.
He might not. I accept that too, and I'll love him, no matter what his choices are.
Bottom line? I want him to be happy. 

Does that mean that having sex as a teenager will mean that my son is more likely to be unhappy in his marriage? Not necessarily. And having partners before marriage isn't always a negative or traumatic experience, for men or women. For some, it's a learning experience. 

But... you never forget your first. Sometimes relationships, especially when teens and their emotions are involved, are complicated. Throw in some typical teenage lack of judgement, and there's a pretty good chance things could go south in a drastic way.  

Why would I want him to risk that, while he's young and impressionable and his hormones are raging like an off-shore storm? Why would I want him to dive head-first into such a momentous first, when the benefits of waiting are so well documented? 

I don't, of course. And, I say that with a caveat- I recognize that he's not my little toddler any longer, and I can't redirect or distract him, or simply tell him "No!" and put him in time out. This is not a choice I can make for him. This will be his decision, and, ultimately, he will make it without my input, and perhaps hopefully(!) without my knowledge. All I can do is talk to him, give him the information, assurance of support, and guidance he needs, and hope he makes the right choice for himself when the time comes. 

How about you? Have you talked to your son about sex?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Is Your Teen a Mean Girl?

Not long ago, a friend of mine from high school posted a Facebook status asking if anyone remembered who the "mean people" were back in high school, and names immediately came to mind. Twenty years later, I can't tell you the names of most of my teachers, but I can remember with painful clarity the girls who gave me sidelong looks and asked "innocent" questions like, "Why do you dress like that?" in a tone of amused disbelief. The adult knowledge that Mean Girl behavior is born of insecurity doesn't change the fact that the scars run deep.

 As much as I want to emulate Elsa, I can't just Let it Go.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

I drove several of Babygirl's friends home from a concert the same week, and listened in on their conversation. To be perfectly fair, Babygirl didn't, herself, say anything "mean". She's usually the first to jump in and defend anyone who comes under attack. She is the champion of the underdog, the hero to the downtrodden. Normally, an unkind word spoken in her presence is shot down quickly, with grace and style.

Remember those days?
I do.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

This talk felt different... It wasn't the kind of full-on cut down I normally associate with bullying. I wouldn't even go so far as to call what went on "bullying" behavior. The conversation was a critique of a peer's singing performance, and the comments wouldn't have been unkind, if not for the tone and very-public setting. If the same conversation had taken place with the girl, it might have been constructive criticism. I've often heard the same girls speak with each other with sympathy and empathy, offering support and advice. Not this time. I actually winced at hearing that the singer had a "Disney voice," especially when the disclaimer was added that,
"You can only do so much with a Disney voice."
"This song is too high for her. She's actually a Soprano 2."
*snort* "More like an alto."
"She's straining."
The talk wasn't kind or helpful. It was born of a competitive spirit, and it happened behind her back, which made it gossip. Worse, the conversation was carried on at full volume, in a public place, where it was sure to be overheard, and possibly probably repeated to the singer.

If I tried singing Let it Go, the audience would be straining... to be first out the door.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

I heard the conversation through the hyper-alert ears of a Mom who was also once a teenager, who couldn't have imagined singing in front of a crowd on my best days. My heart hurt for the singer, imagining how she would've felt, overhearing her classmates' rather unkind critique of her efforts.

These kids are being taught by a world-class singer, Mr. G. He's traveled around the world, appearing in operas and stage shows professionally for years before settling down to raise his family and teach high school. I am grateful that my Babygirl has had an opportunity to study with this man. Even if she doesn't go on to become a professional singer herself, she has certainly absorbed the urbane quality of his confidence, and has learned to take pride in hard work and self-improvement through his lessons. Unfortunately, she also seems to have become familiar with the diva cattiness that is sometimes associated with the profession. When I mentioned later, how mean the conversation had been, she said
"It's just something that happens with musical people, Mom. We talk like that all the time."

We talk like that all the time.

Mr. G has taught Babygirl to sing... to soar with her voice, above her insecurities and self-doubt. He's taught her to work hard, to practice, and that applause only comes with hours of practice and dedication. It's not his job to talk to her about always being kind and mindful of her conversations; that task is left to me... And, it seems, I still have talking to do.

Am I being too sensitive? Maybe. But my friend's question, which generated a conversation some 200 responses long, and the memory of my own Mean Girl ghosts from the past, seem to say not. The entire incident has left me wondering, if I could be a fly on the wall to conversations I had as a teen, if my words were ever unkind enough to stay in someone's memory. I wonder if I have former classmates who would remember me as one of the "Mean Girls", and if I've done enough to teach my daughter not to be.

How about you? Have you spoken to your kids about how their conversations affect others? Have you talked to your child about bullying, not just from a victim's point of view, but about how easy it is to speak unkind words that might have lasting ramifications? Are we doing enough to teach our kids what kindness and empathy mean?

Photo courtesy of LittleHeartsBooks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Chaos With the Wild Things

So, last evening, we decided to put up our tree. It's a tradition for the teens to do most of it themselves.

We got the tree- And Thing1 did the manly job of trimming the base and putting it up. He did great, as always!

It's a beautiful example of symmetry and life. 

It didn't take long for the cat to take up her place under the tree. She's saving the spot where her presents belong, of course. 
The Pumpkinater has staked her claim. 

The kids had the lights and tinsel on in no time. 
Fabulous Decorating Services at work.

I love this angel. She's graced our tree through a lot of years. The bird was one of the kids' yearly ornaments. They each get one every year, so that when they have their own homes and trees, they'll have a start on their decorations. 
Apparently the Angel will be guarding last year's leftover candy cane.

The tree was finished. All was well. The kids went to take the dogs out while I sat, admiring the tree. It looked great... for about four minutes, before it came toppling down. Turns out we were missing one of the four bolts that goes with the tree stand.
Annnnnnnnd then the tree tipped over. This is me holding it up while Thing1 adjusts the stand. 

We got it back up... and it fell again. So now it's leaning up against the wall, until I can crawl under the tree and adjust the stand again. Just another typical Christmas with the Wild Things!
No matter what happens... I believe in the holidays. I believe in family. I believe in us. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

The Future Threat

“When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?” ― Chuck Palahniuk

Who wants my kids? I'm giving them away... Cheap! Free, even...

How many times have I said that over the years? No offers came forward, so I don't know if I would ever have followed through on the threat, but Lord knows I fantasized a time or two about giving them away!

The other day, I called my Mommy. (Yes, really. Shut up. She's my Mommy.) I talk to her several times a week, to keep her up dated on what's going on around here. She moved to Florida a couple years ago, when I was still freshly divorced and struggling to piece together a new life for myself and the Wild Things. She worries, so I call.

My mom, Gloria, with her sisters.
Mom's the second from the left. 

We got to talking about my sister, who passed very unexpectedly this summer. It's been a devastating few months for all of us, but it's been hardest on her kids. They lost their father last year, and now Theresa. Even though they're all grown, with kids of their own, nothing prepares you for facing life as an orphan. Mom mentioned that they've been struggling to settle her estate- not because of any disagreements, they've worked together beautifully, thank God, but because my sister didn't leave a will.

My beautiful sister, Theresa, and our Mom. 

I said, Who has a will at 53? She was just building a new life. Divorced just over a decade, and out of college only 5 years, she's been teaching littles in a school that has a mostly-disadvantaged population. All her time, energy, and love has been poured into those children, and she's been making a difference, making real changes in the lives of kids and their families. She never considered a future in which her own children would have to dispose of her worldly goods and settle her personal accounts. Not at her age. Not when she had everything going for her, and the pieces of her life were just beginning to fall into place.

"Do you have a will?" Mom asked. "You should, you know. You know, to protect your kids. Who would take care of them?"

The truth is, I don't have an answer to that question. I'm sure my ex would step up if something happened to me. He'd uproot my kids, move them half-way across the country, and turn their lives upside down, bringing them into his new life, his new home, and his new family, something they have no desire to be a part of right now. Not having a will leaves my kids' futures in the wind.

If living through a tornado taught me anything, it's that life can change in an instant.
Image courtesy of Pixabay

I love my family, but I'm reluctant to pick from them and say You. You are the one I would trust to raise my children, to make the decisions that would need to be made, and look after their best interests.

How do you make a choice like that? And yet, how do you not?

My sister didn't plan to leave her kids with the burden of dealing with her affairs. I own a home, my only real asset, and Babygirl is turning 18 next week. Would she be able to take on the responsibility of running a house and raising her 14 year old brother? Thing1 is a freshman in high school. They're close, but at 18, I can't imagine Babygirl being left to shoulder that burden.

These two, on their own??
I love my kids, but they're not ready for that kind of responsibility. 

The ex and I put off writing our wills years ago, because we didn't want to choose someone to look after our kids if something happened to us. The dilemma hasn't changed, but our situation has, and it's time I created a piece of paper I don't think I'll ever need, as insurance against a future none of us wants.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, The future depends on what you do today.” 

How about you? Do you have a future plan in case the unthinkable happens? Have you designated someone to take over your parental responsibilities? How did you choose?

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Wheels go Round and Round

Remember that song? The wheels on the bus go round and round... round and round.. round and round...

Video by KidsTV123

Drove you crazy, didn't it? Until the day the big yellow bus came for the first time, to gobble up your precious babe and carry her off to the first day in a big school. For a moment, even if it was just for a moment, you wished you could hear her two-year-old voice piping that song endlessly... just one more time.

Even if you thought you were totally prepared, and even if she was so excited and couldn't WAIT for her first bus ride, and let go of your hand without so much as a look back and stepped proudly up those stairs... Even if it was the proudest Mama moment you'd had to date, you've got to admit it: Just like every other Mama sending their precious babe off for the first time, you cried.

Or, if you're like me... you held on to that smile for dear life until the bus rolled away, before you burst into ridiculous harsh sobs right on the front lawn, clinging to your second child until he spotted an earth worm and squirmed to be let down. Then you let him go and sat sniffling, vowing he'd never be allowed to get any bigger, only slightly comforted by the fact that you still had a toddler to cuddle, for just a little longer. The first week was the worst. Eventually, you got used to the morning routine, and, by the time the second one took his turn climbing the steps and rolling away, you began to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Well, I am here to tell you that the Big Yellow Baby Eater has nothing... NOTHING, on college.

This picture was taken just last week... in 1997. 

 Babygirl has received her first college acceptance letter. She'll graduate in January, a plan we've been talking about for over a year, since her guidance counselor suggested it as an alternative. She'll walk out of the high school she's been attending for four years (with one year off for homeschooling), as a high school graduate. 

Unlike most kids who leave high school, she won't even wait the usual 2 months to start college. There will be no buffer, no last summer during which I can pretend her laundry will always litter my floor and my pitiful collection of makeup will forever disappear into the black hole of her bag. 
She'll pick up her studies, as a matriculated college student, in January.  
In case you can't count, that's less than a month away.

My heart can't take this kind of abuse. Can't we just rewind time? Suddenly, I miss the kindergarten days... and I wish she'd just keep riding that big yellow bus for a little bit longer. 

I'm not ready for this. But she is... and  I have to let go. Even if this is who I see walking away from me and disappearing into that huge campus:

No matter how tall she gets, she'll always be my Babygirl.