Category Archives: Parenting

Trusting The Chaos

When my daughters were little I remember feeling slightly sick to my stomach when we would visit large, outdoor playgrounds.

Wiltshire Park in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania

Their chubby legs would teeter up the steps of the slide and climb, fall, reach, miss, fall, reach again, fall again, etc. while they gained their footing.  I realized that they had to learn how to navigate around other kids that were pushing, shoving, running, teetering and just as uncoordinated as they were.  Tripping and falling was part of the package and like it or not, I had to allow that to happen if I wanted them to grow physically, psychologically as well as socially.

So I did what any conscientious parent would do in this situation.  To keep myself from freaking out, I frequently  turned my back on them.  I would get lost in a conversation with a friend and let my kids play instead of shrieking, reaching, grabbing and otherwise choreographing their every move.  I tried to alternate between being close with a helping hand and giving them the freedom to create a muscle memory and explore.

When we moved to an urban area they were forced to spend all of their play time on even more complex equipment involving higher slides and older kids that would teach them cool tricks like how to sway through the monkey bars or worst yet, climb on top of them.  Again, my stomach was in knots.  My kids that used to play with a few children on a backyard play set were now one of 50 kids of various ages trying to stake their claim on a metal jungle gym.  It was chaotic, frankly but instead of nervously anticipating that my kids would fall, I tried my damnedest to anticipate success.  I decided to assume the best and keep the entire experience in perspective because although my kids appeared to be seconds away from a head injury, in actuality, every kid there was moments away from serious injury.  And yet in all my years of public park visiting, never once has an ambulance been summoned.

This chaos continued when I returned to my apartment.  From my 10th floor window I would watch cars commuting north on 1st Avenue as they barely missed side swiping, clipping and crashing into each other.

Photo by Beggs

I wondered how the traffic below would change if the pedestrians realized how close they were to harm or if drivers knew that they were mere inches away from paying towards their $1000 deductible?

This memory is helping me now as my husband and I teach our daughter to drive.  I keep reminding myself that like the playground and 1st Avenue, although danger is lurking – closely – it somehow keeps it’s distance.

And even though chaos theory,  (the butterfly effect) tells me otherwise…that initial conditions are so sensitive that small changes in a nonlinear system can and may result in vastly different outcomes, i.e., the presence or absence of a butterfly flapping its wings could lead to creation or absence of a hurricane…I’m surprisingly calm.  Not because I’m trying to control the chaos. That would be futile because as controlled chaos theory tells us, even if you can successfully stabilize a system, the change you insert must be small, as in extremely small, so as to only affect one outcome and not derail the entire system all together.  

In other words, calmly telling my daughter to “slow down a little” will help her avoid a crash.  But if I scream “SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!” while stomping on her foot to slam on the brakes – sure we’ll avoid crashing, but I risk derailing the entire system, i.e., scarring her for life, making all driving situations stressful rather than exciting, fracturing her foot,  and putting us both at risk to be rear-ended by the car behind us.

Thus my only option is to follow my own theory which I like to call, trusting chaos  while remembering that like all of the combined worst case scenarios involving kids from the playground and cars from the city  – in the end, everything worked out fine.  I simply remind myself that we’re in a non-linear system which means that even though the idiot next to us is texting, a lot of things have to happen before he’ll actually wreck into us.  

Likewise, I’m finding that this new found calmness, is carrying over into other areas of my psyche.  For example:

  • Even though I enjoyed a deliciously, fattening salted caramel cupcake from Angelcakes last Tuesday (and a Snickerdoodle flavored one, last Saturday), my entire metabolic system will not be derailed overnight and force me out of every pair of pants that I own.  Quite a few things must happen before I need to go up a size, so I’m not going to sweat celebrating my birthday with baked goods.
  • Although the economy is in the shitter, a very specific sequence of events must happen in order for me to find myself living under a bridge. Considering that I’ve always had enough and have never been homeless, I highly doubt that will change any time soon. 

Suddenly, and maybe for the first time ever, I’m finding comfort in the chaos and wondering if my lack of acceptance and complete avoidance of pandemonium has been the problem all along?  Has my inner control freak been secretly wanting to chaotically wave her freak flag all this time?  Could it be that, flying by the seat of my pants and embracing the commotion around me, has been the answer all along.  I’m not 100% convinced of this – but for whatever reason, all the signs are pointing in this direction right now so it’s certainly worth exploring.

Yesterday, during the big East Coast Earthquake, I was outside with my youngest and therefore didn’t feel a thing.  Apparently you had to be inside your 4 walls here in Frederick to experience it.  So when I returned home, I asked my daughter, the new driver of the family, what the Earthquake felt like.

“I didn’t notice it,” she replied.

“How could you miss it?  Our neighbors on each side of us and across the street felt the rumbling and heard/saw things shaking in their houses,”  I said.

“Well, honestly, I blast the music when you’re not here.  I had the volume up to 10 on the stereo.  The house had been shaking pretty much since you left, so I didn’t feel a thing,” she admitted.

So basically her self-created chaos, camouflaged the natural disaster chaos which allowed her to avoid any internal, fear-based feelings of chaos…Interesting.


Digital Dieting

I sat my daughter down yesterday and as difficult as it was, told her the truth.  She needed to go on a diet.  A Facebook diet.  She’s gaining some serious informational girth.

For the last month or so, she’s been photo-loading, binging on comments, and compulsively over-liking the pictures and status updates of others.  Clearly she has some form of an oversharing disease.  I tell her all the time to: Tone it down;   Stay under the radar:  Remember, people like a little mystery.

I’m being ignored.

Some of her FB friends have their own compulsive over-sharing issues as well and yesterday was the last straw for me.  She posted this picture of herself decked out in a Steelers hat and shirt.

No big deal.  Except she tagged 15 people on the photo which lead to  a Steelers VS Ravens FB fight between middle schoolers which ended when I logged in with the following:

Just an FYI – this entire conversation was sent out to everyone tagged in the above photo. Jarin’s parents. Her grandmother in Pittsburgh. Her adult neighbors. Here’s the thing people. Facebook fights/disagreements/talki​ng smack, call it whatever you want, are a bad idea, especially when people that don’t care are watching/listening. Everyone will be untagged as soon as Jarin wakes up.

It is my humble opinion that many FaceBookers are getting a little portly with their info.  And although she didn’t do anything wrong, this time, she along with many people on FB, could benefit from some slimming down secrets.  I’m not out to create a 12-step program or get famous from writing a self-help book, just a mom that needs to teach her daughter a few things.

Also, I’m not here to point fingers.  I’m simply going to describe some character traits that I’ve noticed on FB and if on some intuitive level you feel I might, maybe, possibly be talking about you – feel free to do something about it.

Cryptic Messages:  I’m not a big fan of the cryptic for various reasons.

  1. I’m lazy.  I don’t want to guess at what the hell you’re talking about.  Say what you and mean what you say.
  2. I’m also blunt which I know many find annoying, but I guarantee you, you’ll never walk away from a conversation with me and wonder, “Hmm…what was Linda, really trying to say?”  You’ll know.  Trust me.  I would like the same courtesy.
  3. I (like most people) have to actually hear your voice to understand if you’re kidding or not – especially if we haven’t spoken since high school.  If you post, “I know why people consider suicide…” it freaks me out.  Should I call the cops or not?!  If your day is that bad, call your best friend in lieu of messing with the minds of 297 of your FB friends scattered around the globe.

Liking Everything:  I have no doubt in my mind that you really like all the shit you “like”.  But after a while, if you like everything you see, your stamp of approval loses it’s power.  It gets diluted a little.  Instead consider:

  1. Reposting the link to your wall and sharing it with others in lieu of telling me how great it is.
  2. Maybe only “like it” if you truly “love it”.
  3. Getting an occasional “like” or comment from you , makes you seems discriminating and hence a better judge.  If however, you like everything I say or do, it feels like you’re my mom (who’s sort of required by law to like everything I say or do whether it’s deserving or not.)

Constantly Revealing Your Location:  This one really concerns me.  I’ve threatened my children with a complete end to their FB accounts as well as bathroom clean up duty for a year if they EVER put their location out on Facebook.

Newsflash: This applies to adults as well.  I shouldn’t know that you’re at the Jiffy Lube, or waiting to be seen at your gynecologist’s office or hanging out at a nude beach in France.

First off that’s clearly too much information.  I don’t want or need to know about your yearly pap and pelvic exam.  And unless you enjoy being burglarized, telling me that you’re away from your home is a bad idea.  Do none of you people watch, Criminal Minds?  Did no one see the episode when the unsub tracked down all of his victims via their social networking sites?  Spoiler Alert – HE KILLED THEM!  And posted videos of their killings to his social networking site. Oh and kept their bodies for his own sexual pleasure – ugh.  So to avoid being the victim of a serial killer, consider the following:

  1. Post your vacation pictures AFTER you’ve returned home.
  2. If you must tell me where you’re going, just say, “I’m off to the beach”.  Don’t post,  “Can’t wait to get to the Marriott in Ocean City, Maryland tomorrow!”
  3. If you must tell me the status of your uterus..And truly, I do not need to know, but if you must…tell me after you’re in for the day.
  4. Turn off whatever tracking shit you have set up between your mobile phone and your FB account.  Do you realize that I not only know where you are, but I’m given a map to your exact location in real time!?  I would crack my kids in the skull if that did.

Digitally documenting EVERY moment of your day:  I don’t need to see every photo you took today.  Just post the highlights or at least, delete the blurry photos or crazy closeups of your nose hairs.  A nice one of you and the family ocean side, is plenty.

Look, I had diarrhea of the mouth at 13.  But 13-year-old Linda had to dial a phone, keep the phone calls within her area code and could only talk to one person at a time.  Since she didn’t have call waiting and was attached to a wall, her talk time was limited in case others in my family were expecting a call or my conversation in the kitchen was interrupting the TV watching in the next room.  I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I had the ability back then to share my every fucking thought with everyone I knew while roaming the streets with a mobile device.

My daughter’s diet is going to consist of a few levels:

  1. We’ll start via a cold turkey approach.  She’s to go 1 week without posting, liking, or commenting.  She can log on, read and enjoy all the idiotic stuff  that her middle school friends post, but I’m asking her to merely be an observer.
  2. Then will move on to moderate postings where she’ll be asked to think a thought and then wait 15 minutes or so before posting it to see if she even cares enough to post it at all.
  3. She’ll also be barred from posting from her phone.  She’ll have to stop what she’s doing and if she has to post something that badly, post it via the desk top computer.  This distance between thinking the thought and sharing the thought would be the dieting equivalent of wanting a Ho-Ho but forcing yourself to wait to see if you’re still even craving the damn thing or forget all about it completely.

If you’d like to join her feel free.  And if you have any other ways to stay a lean, mean Facebook machine, let me know.  I’d love to hear about them.

Bravo Momma! Bravo.

Quite possibly  the greatest blog post I have read – ever.

Bullies, Bullshit and Middleschool

Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s last day at her home middle school. Next week she ventures out of district to see if a fresh start at a new school will fare better for her.

Last year she was bullied and threatened physically. This year the bullying was verbal but in the end, more damaging. This year my daughter and hopefully her classmates learned that the adage, “Sticks and stone can break your bones, but names will never hurt you” isn’t quite accurate. Name’s might not hurt you – but they can ruin the hell out of a person’s reputation.

To rehash the dirty details at this point would be fruitless.  Suffice to say, for no clear reason whatsoever a kid decided to call my daughter a hooker in front of a large group of middle schoolers and it took on a life of it’s own.

Not that it would ever be okay to call someone a hooker, but she was simply walking through the gymnasium when her reputation started to unravel.  It’s not as if she was caught under the bleachers with a boy.  I can’t imagine what happens to the girl that makes that mistake because apparently once you’re called a hooker, just like in the real world the assumption is that it’s okay to disrespect the hell out of you.

Questions about “How much she charged” to “Wondering if she really had slept with an 8th grader” eventually lead to pretty vile and sexually charged comments/suggestions being leveled at her between classes, during class and on the walk to/from home.  Finally she went to her guidance counselor and I must say, the higher ups at her school did everything right.  But when word got out as to what had happened, instead of getting empathy from her peers, she got put down even more for being a snitch.

We realized that she needed a fresh start with a new group of kids where she wasn’t labeled and could have a “do over” of sorts.  That do over starts on Wednesday.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Middle still school sucks as bad as it did in 1982.
  • Kids don’t understand half the shit that comes out of their mouths at that age, but it doesn’t stop them from saying it.
  • They also don’t understand that their comment alone might not seem like a big deal, but when lumped together with other comments can become pretty damn oppressive to a person.
  • Kids are allowed to fuck up at this age but that being said, they need to own what they do and say.  Schools can only do so much.  Parent’s are the ones that need to follow up and make sure that their kids makes it right.
  • The names didn’t hurt as much as the realization that friends she’s known since kindergarten were okay with treating her like shit – And that other friends were okay with witnessing this treatment.
  • To the parents that made their kids apologize: Thank you.  It made all the difference to my daughter.
  • To the parents that didn’t make their kids apologize:  You dropped the ball big-time and did a huge disservice to not only my kid but to your own.
  • To the kids that stood back and said nothing, I apologize the we adults didn’t better teach you the power of “group think”.  Sure this power can be used for bad (bullying) but it can also be used for good (ending bullying) and we dropped the ball when we didn’t teach you that’s it’s okay to get involved if it’ll help another kid’s situation.
  • Teachers have a hell of a lot of power.  The ones that use it well – I salute you.  You’ve been wonderful.  The ones that don’t, I can’t even begin to tell you how fucking annoyed I am with you as I exit your school.  The fact that I have to craft a separate email this weekend and tell another adult my age that telling a kid that’s transferring that you’re going to throw a party once she’s gone, is a shitty thing to say.  You don’t kick a 12-year-old girl when she’s down, asshole.

When word got out that she was transferring, one of the boys asked if she was leaving because of what he had said to her.  When she verified that his actions definitely lead to her changing schools he said, “What’s the big deal?  I said that stuff to you weeks ago!”

Lets look into our crystal ball and imagine this punk at 25, shall we?  Why do I picture him cornering some poor Executive Assistant in the copy room at work? Or worse yet, imagine his sleazy defense lawyer admitting into evidence the miniskirt worn by his victim while trying to drag her reputation through the mud during this idiot’s trial someday.

I give my daughter a lot of credit.  Once she was told she could transfer, a huge weight was lifted and she left her old school with a smile on her face and without any hard feelings. She’s hopeful about her new school and ready to get back to studying and having fun without worrying about such grown up situations.

I’m very grateful that she’s comfortable telling adults when she’s bothered and upset.  Her willingness to be open and tell not only her parents but her guidance counselor, enabled us all to monitor the situation.  Thus we were quick to realize when the problem at hand became unsolvable and transferring became the best option and were able to pull her before she got depressed or gave up on school entirely.

So that’s my final observation. Stay involved.  Hound your kid.  Be a pain in their ass.  You don’t have to have all of the answers as much as you simply need to have all of the information.  The answers will came later once you have all the facts.

The Girl Effect

When you have a 12-year-old and watch this video, it really pulls at your heart and hits you in the gut –  especially the parts where she’s running from the creepy hands that are chasing her.

Macleans Magazine

macleansI did an interview with Julia McKinnell of Canada’s Macleans Magazine last year and it went to print this past week.  I absolutely LOVED the article and the picture, although if children and youth services calls I wont be surprised.  They may not share my sense of humor about my early mothering skills.

You can check out the article here.  If you’re interested in the book you can click on the cover at the top right hand corner of this blog or click here.  And if you want to testify to my fabulous child rearing abilities by all means leave a comment – I just may need you to take the witness stand.

A Woman’s Right To Choose

I believe that every woman has a right to choose, even if that means choosing to birth 14 children.  Of course, I also believe that choosing to birth 14 children in 8 years makes you certifiable, but regardless, Nadya Suleman has the right to have as many kids as she wants.

And since she’s in the international spotlight and will be watched like a hawk for years to come, the state of California certainly has the right to take those kids from her if she neglects any of them.  Her parents, whom she’s apparently taken advantage of for years, have the right to kick her and all of those kids out on the street.  And the medical community that enabled this mess has the right to judge the physician that performed the procedure and decide if they should change any of their policies and procedures.

Personally it’s the level of entitlement that’s rubbing me the wrong way and I think that the actions of this mother are hitting a nerve with all of us.  We’re simply tired of folks justifying poor choices.  Whether you’re cheating on your spouse, spending money that you don’t have, eating cake and not checking off the points on your Weight Watchers plan or having 14 kids without a job, it’s this feeling of “I can, therefore I will” that is personally driving me crazy.

Another issue for me is Suleman’s inability to wait for what she wanted.  Perhaps she was supposed to be the mother of a large family. But maybe she was going to meet and marry a widower with seven kids after getting her degree and landing a job.  By insisting that all of her hopes and dreams happen on HER timetable, she set things into motion that she isn’t prepared to handle and she quite possibly missed out on another amazing opportunity.

Finally, I just wish she’d tell the truth rather than be in total denial about her dire circumstances.  She only wanted one more child, yet she implanted 6 embryos?  She was struggling financially with six kids yet she spent all of her extra money on fertility treatments?  She plans on caring for her kids once she has her master degree, but “trusts that it’ll all workout in the meantime”?   She screwed up – big time – if she would just admit it and ask for help she’d probably get more that way.

I think she’s a great example of all that’s wrong in our country right now.  We got so used to having it all that we actually though we were entitled to it all.

We’re not.  I think it’s time we all figured that out and acted accordingly.