Putting Family First

My hand has been twitching all day…I’ve been dying to get to my computer and vent. After all, that’s what blogs are for, right? I’m warning anyone who is looking for a comedic vent…you’ve got the wrong bad mommy tonight.
Having children is not a God given right. I know MANY women who have suffered from infertility (myself included) and would give anything to have a child. People go through hell to have children and it galls couples suffering from infertility to no end to see children abused, neglected and mistreated. Those of us who are blessed enough to have children better damn well appreciate it. I’m not religious, but I do thank God for my darlings every single day. Yes, my kids piss me off. Yes, they drive me absolutely insane. Yes, they make me considering running away on a daily basis. But there is not one single day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for them and would never consider my life complete without them. If you have kids, you need to stop and appreciate them every day because regardless of how crazy they make you, YOU ARE LUCKY.
Grandchildren are not a guarantee either. You could have six kids and never have a grandchild or not be lucky enough to live to see your grandchildren born. Grandchildren are even better than your own kids. You get to spoil them with Happy Meal toys and have fun with them and fill them up with candy and soda and then send them home to torture their parents. If and when I am ever lucky enough to have grandchildren, I am pretty sure I will want to be in their lives as much as humanly possible. After all, most grandparents aren’t in their grandchildren’s lives for too long, unfortunately. I want my grandkids to remember me and cherish their time with me. I want them to remember my presence in their everyday lives, not as the woman who sent them a card with $20 on their birthday or the woman their parents made them visit in the nursing home who smelled like canned green beans. I have such fond memories of my grandparents; it seemed like they were always there. They didn’t miss too much of my childhood, but unfortunately they all passed away by the time I was 25. I would give anything to spend one more day with them.
Which is why I cannot for the life of me understand people who can chose to miss important milestones in their grandchildren’s life. Some grandparents live too far away to make it to every birthday and every school play. Mine didn’t and I remember that they were there. I especially remember my grandmothers’ faces in the audience of practically everything that my siblings and I did. I remember their smiles beaming over every birthday candle I blew out. I remember feeling like I could tell them anything, that they would always be there for me. I’m actually in tears writing this because I couldn’t imagine if they had not been the ever present fixture in my life that they were.
Maybe my memory is cloudy. Maybe they missed my eighth grade graduation or a soccer game when I was ten. But they were around often enough for me to think they were always there. They both raised their kids and even when their grown children were out of the house, they did not stop being parents and grandparents. Did they have a life outside of ours? I’m sure. But we always seemed to come first. I’m sure my grandmother was annoyed when we bugged her to play scrabble with us during Scarecrow and Mrs. King. But she did it anyway because she knew her time with us was limited. That we would go home and tomorrow she could watch her show uninterrupted.
Some people with grown children are breathing a sigh of relief because their kids are finally out of the house. And they see it as “their” time, time to do for themselves. I know when my kids go off to college or get married and leave home, I will cheer, too. For about ten minutes until I realize I miss their voices and a night time snuggle and story. I may even miss the constant bickering every once in awhile. But with grandchildren, you get that back. And even better, when they drive you to reach for the corkscrew and wine glass, you can send them back to their owners! And I can see wanting time to myself…hell, I want to lock myself in my room at bar the door at least twice a day. But once you have kids, you need to put them first 95% of the time. It doesn’t matter if they are 3 or 33. I’m sorry, once you give birth they are your main priority. FOREVER. And that includes their children. Yes, it’s okay to be selfish and want a day to yourself or go on vacation. Absolutely. But for the love of God don’t be selfish at the expense of those little faces. Don’t miss a single candle being blown out on a birthday cake because nothing in life is guaranteed and you don’t know if you’ll be there for the next candle.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane! No, wait! It’s Just My Helicopter Parent :(

So school has been in session for nearly two weeks now and I’ve born witness to a childhood affliction at the middle school that I know is common in elementary schools, but had no idea that it was carried through to the older grades. After talking to other parents of older children and getting an overwhelming response to my status on Facebook regarding this phenomenon, I have come to realize more and more children are suffering from this condition and in fact, it is becoming a widespread epidemic. No, it’s not the plague, head lice or bed bugs. It’s by far worse because apparently, once you have this, there’s no getting rid of it. It’s called “helicopter parents”.
Now a few years ago, I wasn’t even familiar with this term. In fact, I’ve only heard it in the recent months so I checked out the “formal” definition on Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines this as “a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.” This is common practice in elementary school, especially with kindergarteners and first graders and is completely understandable. Your baby is going to school for the first time, and in some cases, they’re going to be there all day without you! They’re going to have to eat lunch without you cutting it in tiny squares so they don’t choke, they’re going to have to zip up their pants on their own and they’re going to have to talk to people without you telling them, “Say thank you to Mrs. Sherman.” It’s nerve wracking for sure. I get it. The entire first few days of their school experience you are a bundle of nerves, worried about how your offspring will do on his or her own. You check the phone obsessively for calls from a teacher, principal, school nurse and are relieved when there are none. When they get home, you bombard them with questions about how their day was and are much to your dismay, you’re usually met with a generic “fine”.
And other than checking to see that they are doing their homework every night and keeping on top of their assignments, making sure they are getting along with everyone and are not being bullied, this where most normal parents’ intrusion in their children’s daily grind ceases.
Oh, but not helicopter parents. They need to be in the thick of it constantly. Their lives revolve around their precious darlings and its unclear if they think of anything else in their six and a half hours away from them during the day. I hate to make a blanket judgement, but I think most of these parents must be of the stay at home variety. Because I cannot imagine how they would have so much free time to obsess about their children otherwise. I’m barely able to remember to give my kids their vitamins in the morning. (Oh crap, I forgot to do that today…) Helicopter parents probably have a chart they fill out. Nothing like over obsessive parents to make you feel like you’re slacking.
Working in an elementary school, I am often faced with parents who eat, sleep and breathe their kids. I go on my lunch break about an hour and half before school ends and believe it or not, there are several parents waiting in their cars already, eager to pick up the little darlings and carry them home. SERIOUSLY??? Wouldn’t your time be better spent elsewhere? Cleaning the house? Grocery shopping? At the gym??? (Ahem, just a suggestion…) I know if I was not working while my kids were in school, I would be that parent running up just as the bell was ringing to end the day since I’d be trying to fit in every last ounce of child free time I could. And these people are sitting there for over an hour waiting? It’s not like the school day is a guessing game and you have to show up early on case they let the kids out at a different time. The bell rings at 3:30…no need to show up at 2. You’re kids are just fine without you hovering outside the school.
So anyway, back to these helicopter parents at the middle school. What I saw every day the last week boggles my mind. A group of four or five parents were pulled up in front of the middle school (in the fire zone, no less), standing outside their cars, coffees in hand, chatting as they watched their middle school children waiting to go inside the building. Now these “children” are teen and Tweens, desperate for a life at middle school. Mommy and Daddy standing outside every morning, waving to them as they go into the building and blowing kisses, is surely killing their chances of a social life. They’re probably being tormented by their peers already. Yes, is it petty…of course. Middle schoolers are even more petty and ridiculous than toddlers. But this is THEIR world. They don’t want parents standing outside witnessing their failed and successful attempts at socialization amongst their own. Drop them off and LEAVE! You are embarrassing the crap out of them; when they do get bullied and shoved in a locker and harassed, you can know that it’s all YOUR fault!
I for one, barely slow the car down to let my kid out. We have a routine. He offers me the top of his head for a kiss if there is no one around. If, God forbid, another middle school is within a half a mile radius of the vehicle, I get nothing. Except a grunt as he leaps from the car. And I’m ok with this. Because, unlike these psychotic helicopter parents, I remember being 12. There is nothing that your parents could possibly do to make you want to be around them in front of your peers. It doesn’t matter how cool they are at home…no one’s parents are cool in front of their friends and no middle schooler wants their parents up their ass, treating them like a baby. I bet Ozzy Orborne’s kids didn’t want their dad dropping them off at school.
I get that you’re nervous for them. Of course you are. But at some point in time, you’re going to have to let them go and trust that you taught them well. And don’t be insulted that they don’t WANT you hanging around. Deep down in their cold black teenage hearts, they still love you even though they don’t think you’re cool anymore. Chances are, you’re NOT cool anymore…so get over it.
Except, of course for me. I know I’m cool. And in a few years, maybe my 12 year old will remember it.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

So it’s officially the last day of summer vacation (for the kids anyway) and I’ve just put the little one to bed and I am soon going to begin the fight to get the older one to turn in. The summer seems to go so fast no that I’m older. I felt like it lasted forever when I was a kid. And I never seem to be able to cram everything into the time off that I want to anymore. Most of the summer was too rainy, too cold, too hot and too busy. When we weren’t running around from baseball game to football practices, we were trying to make the best of our days and nights. Despite this, I still think it was a pretty good summer because the kids told me it was. Apparently that’s all that matters when you’re a parent anyway. So I am sitting here a little misty eyed, feeling rather nostalgic as I reflect back. Or maybe it’s the sangria I made…but anyway, I’m thinking about what I’ve learned this “vacation” and I’d like to present it to you, in no particular order.
#1: “Never wake a sleeping child” is probably the worst piece of parenting advice I have ever received. In all fairness, I think the saying is actually, “never wake a sleeping baby”, but still, crappy advice. Because sleeping preteens will actually sleep until noon. Which would be fine except the fact that they are then up at midnight. And well beyond. And you spend much of your night climbing up and down the stairs screaming for them to shut their light, go sleep and stop posting pictures on Instagram. Every night is the same battle, same threats, resulting in one exhausted mommy the next day and one chipper kid when he finally wakes up in time for a late lunch. And it’s a vicious cycle….until the day school starts. Man, is his head gonna hurt tomorrow!
#2: Never say to your family “Let’s do something fun today!”. Their idea of fun and YOUR idea of fun are two totally different scenarios. Their idea of fun is tossing all your clean blankets on the floor and building a fort while spending 14 hours watching the same episodes of the same stupid Disney channel shows over and over and over again. On a beautiful sunny 82 degree BEACH day. Or in a husband’s case, sitting with his feet up at the computer, clicking his pen while making “dire” financial decisions (not really). Did I mention my husband is home almost every single day in the summer with us??? How I haven’t driven a stake through his neck yet boggles my mind.
#3: Your children will never want to go in the very nice pool you maintain in pristine condition for them in the backyard. They will only want to go in everyone else’s pool, leaving your pool very sad.
#4: Kids need more food in the summer than any other time of year. You can buy a gallon of milk on Tuesday and it will be gone on Wednesday. The chips you cleverly hid for company will be detected by the little scavengers when you go to the bathroom and they will devour the bag before you can even zip your pants up. Because they are constantly snacking and not waking up till noon, will also not want to eat meals at normal hours or when you want them to eat. They will announce “I’m hungry” as you are backing out of the driveway on your way to the mall or to run errands. Even though you TOLD them to eat before you left the house.
#5: If you give your husband a project to complete before summer is over, you must be more specific in your instructions. For example, “please have this done by July 31st of THIS summer”.
#6: Sunblock works best when applied on BOTH sides of your body. Similarly, holding a crying child, scream child tightly against your body outdoors in the sun will result in imprint of crying, screaming child on your lap, chest, etc.
#7: Sleep overs that involve multiple 12 year old boys are ALWAYS a bad idea. Something or someONE always ends up broken.
#8: Always bring extra flip flops and sunglasses wherever you go. Yours WILL break. And then you’ll be limping along on the sand with a floppy flip flop and cockeyed sunglasses. And you’ll look drunk.
#9: Preteens do not like for you to make small talk with their friends when you are playing taxi cab all day and night. They prefer if you stare straight ahead and drive the car. They do not like if you tell corny jokes, sing along with the radio or fart while shuttling them around. Apparently, those are embarrassing. Oh and dancing to any song that comes on the radio is completely grounds for filing for emancipated minor status. Especially “Baby Got Back”.
Finally, #10: Do NOT, under any circumstances let a third grader pack her own book bag, no matter how many times she tells you, “I’ve got this”. The night before school starts you will discover her pencil case contains 2 lip glosses, 5 hair bands, 16 pencil toppers, an extra pair of earrings, 7 nickels, a dry erase marker, half used tube of glitter, a stuffed bunny and absolutely NO pencils, erasers or anything remotely useful for school. You will sigh in frustration as you unpack the bag and tears spring to her eyes while she tells you she “needs” that stuff. You know she is going to shove all of it back in when you leave the room and part of you is annoyed, but the other part of you hopes that she stays so young and innocent for just a little bit longer. Soon, she will refuse to let you talk to her and when she does it will be to tell you off. That’s when you will wish for those days of arguing over nonsense in a pencil case and reminiscence about when they were only 12 and 8. Ok,you’ll have to excuse me while I go cry now. ( and dance a little jig).