If you don’t want to know the answer. . .

question mark shadowAs I was writing a short bio for a post I was submitting where I had to ‘name three things you like to do’, my son walked into the kitchen on his eternal quest for a snack. Watching him rummage through the refrigerator, I wondered about his teenaged view of his middle-aged mom. Seen through his lens am I just some one-dimensional obliging automaton, existing to simply fulfill his needs for food/clothes/money/a ride/just about anything? Or does he see me as living, breathing, flesh and blood human being with my own needs, dreams, personality and life to lead? Does he even notice what type of music I like to listen to, what my interests are, how I take my coffee? Curious, eager, and maybe a little scared to find out, I asked him:

“What are 3 things you think I like to do?”

Pensively swirling his spoon in his yogurt, he seemed caught off guard by such a question – is she serious?/is this is a trick question?/am I gonna get in trouble?/what time of the month is it? were all easily read on his face as he sized up the situation. What does mom like to do? Is that such a novel concept?

“Welllll, you like to be happy.” Awww, that’s sweet and besides, the alternative sucks. Yes, it’s all fun and games until your happy hormones start drying up – it’s good to know that he doesn’t think I’m some miserable troll as I roller coaster my way through this perimenopausal minefield.

“You like to buy stuff at Sephora.” Okay, that’s true and at least he’s observant about it – Mother’s Day is coming up so that should make gift-buying a no-brainer.

“And. . . you like asserting your control over others.” Say what now? By ‘others’, I’m assuming he means him. Still, the comment sounds a little Fifty Shades of Grey – I’m going to have to check that kid’s Kindle. Liking to exert control over all things aside, isn’t part of the parent/teen dynamic a test of wills, a battle over control? If telling him that:

No, 30 degrees is not shorts weather even if the calendar says it’s spring; and

Yes, you have to put your name on your homework every single time because you are not so ‘swaggy’ that your teachers will just recognize your handwriting; and

No, having the closed-captioning on while watching ‘Let’s Be Cops‘ does not count as independent reading; and

Yes, proper aim and flushing is always required bathroom etiquette all fall under the auspices of being controlling, then I’m guilty. Call it control, rules, boundaries, discipline, whatever – at 14, he doesn’t realize or appreciate the chaos his life would be without it. While being deemed a cheerful, cosmetic hoarding control freak is no Hallmark card, I embrace it – it’s a small price to pay for turning out a responsible, productive human being.

My heightened snarky senses can already feel the ‘Jeez mom – if you don’t want to know the answer then don’t ask the question’ forming in his smart-alecky little mind, just waiting to jump onto his tongue and spring forth from his lips. I can’t argue with his assessment so I’m going to let this one go. Better I should just let him finish his yogurt – he’s probably delusional from adolescent hunger. I make a mental note to get more probiotics into his diet.

“Um, can I go now?” he questions, trying to slowly edge his way out of the kitchen to safety.

“Yeah. Go. Now.” I say in my most non-controlling, happy tone of voice as I continue typing and notice that my nail polish is chipping, which reminds me that I’m almost out of my favorite shade and a trip to Sephora is in the near future. . .

Walking Tall

mom & son
Something upset my son recently, and it took me rather by surprise. None of the usual suspects were to blame, like me snooping through his iPhone, or subjecting him to my passive-aggressive parenting techniques (yet again!) or me nagging him to put his dirty clothes in the hamper for the bazillionth time.
What propelled him into a moody funk was something quite small, measuring merely one-quarter of an inch.
When the nurse measured his height at his yearly physical the other day, it was confirmed that he is a full 1/4 inch taller than me.
Yep, my baby, my one and only, the love of my life, was officially taller than his mom.
I can attest to the fact that all the clichés are true – kids grow up so fast, don’t blink or you’ll miss it, the days are long but the years are short. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I reveled in his squeals of hysterical delight as I pretended to be the Cookie Monster, munching on all his delicious little cookie toes? Today you couldn’t pay me enough to go near those very non-cookie smelling feet, but I digress.
Actually I’m kind of excited that soon he’ll probably be quite a bit taller than me – any day now I can retire the step stool I use in the kitchen to reach stuff in the high cabinets; I’m always tripping over that damn thing.
But while I was figuring out all the ways I could use his height to my advantage, it turns out that his view on this recent development was less than positive.
When I called him for dinner later that day, I found him in his room going through a pile of Matchbox cars that hadn’t seen the light of day in years – not really playing with them, but just turning them over in his hands – considering them.
“Honey, what are you doing?” I asked.
“Nothing. Just visiting my childhood” he answered.
Ugh. Smelling the angst in the air, I asked him what was up.
“I don’t want to be taller than you” he said quietly.
“That’s what’s bothering you? Not wanting to be taller than me?” I responded.
Shrugging his shoulders, he said “I guess I’m just not ready to grow up.”
Ah, there it was. He wasn’t considering the cars. He was considering what they represented. The journey to grown-up is a bumpy one, and you never know what might trip them up along the way. Just as my heart swells with pride and love and joy for my teenage man-child,  right then it ached with the growing pains he was experiencing, perhaps more child than man at that moment.
“It’s okay to feel this way; there’s a lot going on with school and friends and other stuff, and sometimes it’s nice to think back to when times were simpler. We just have to talk about it when you’re feeling this way, okay? “
Having witnessed enough push-up and arm-wrestling contests to realize that we’ve arrived at the competing-with-dad portion of the program, I attempted to lighten the mood by asking, “Well, how are you going to feel when you’re taller than dad?”
Brightening at the bait he said, “Oh no, that’s different –  I can’t wait to be taller than dad!” Who, by the way, is considerably taller than me – I guess logic doesn’t play well with puberty!
Being one half of a mother/son bond equation himself, I sought my husband’s perspective when I told him about our exchange later that evening. He wasn’t surprised at all by our son’s reaction. Raising his hand up over his head, he explained, “Because in his eyes, you’ll always be up here.   :)

Face/Off, Grandma Edition

mom's mouth

As moms, we’ve all experienced this phenomenon at one point or another – your kid does or says something maddening, disrespectful or just plain gross and you respond with something you’ve heard pop out of your own mom’s mouth a million times – ‘if you keep doing that your face will freeze that way’ or ‘finish your food – there are kids starving in Africa (at which point I’d offer to send my food to the kids in Africa and that would start a whole new battle) and the hands-down worst ‘because I said so, that’s why!’ When that last one flew out of my mouth I looked around to see if my mother was standing behind me, I was so sure there was no way I would have ever said that – but there it was. It’s happened to all of us.
And I can live with that. I can even live with the fact that, sometimes, some of that stuff actually makes sense to me now (as in ‘one day, you’ll thank me’), and eventually my kid will probably experience this special joy with his own children. It’s the circle of life.
But I’ve reached a point in life where, not only am I channeling my mom’s words, apparently she’s broken out all over my face.
I’ve always borne a strong resemblance to my mom; growing up I bristled at the often repeated phrase ‘you look so much like your mother!’ echoed by family, neighbors, friends and strangers, which contrasted to mom’s quiet pride upon hearing this declaration. Like any teenager I wanted to have my own identity, my own unique look – not be a replica but more a combination of features that added up to a new edition in the family library, not a reprint.
My son, though, doesn’t mind his resemblance to me at all. I’ve heard history repeat itself with ‘oh, you must be S.’s mom – you two have the same smile/eyes/insert feature’. One day we were looking through some family photos and my son proclaimed in no uncertain terms:
“Mom, you look exactly like grandma; not grandma now, but a younger version of grandma. Like maybe when she was fifty.” (Full disclosure, I turned fifty a few months ago). And as I looked closely I couldn’t deny it any longer – I had to admit he was right. In words, features and probably so many other ways, the past collides with the present every day. As moms it’s up to us to capture the best of both worlds, crafting the next chapter as we each write our own imprint for the family library. Looking at my son just then I thought of another mom-ism, and I delivered it not with the threat it sometimes implies when moms utter it in anger, but with a promise for our future together as time winds its way inevitably forward:
‘When you have kids, I hope they’re just like you!’

dots divider

You don’t know these folks, but can you spot the resemblance?  Let me know in the comments!



Passive-Aggressive Parenting 101: Study Tips

index cards


Me:  Why don’t you put your science notes from this week on index cards so it’ll be easier for you to study for your next exam?

Son:  Is this one of those things where you ask me a question and make me think I have a choice but really you’re just going to tell me what to do anyway?

Me:  Yes.

Son:  Okay, good to know.



So An Owl Walks Into A Bar. . .

As I was busy making dinner recently, my son sat at the kitchen counter with his laptop surfing the internet for ‘funny videos’ – feats of daring, epic fails, anything to while away the time before dinner was ready. He came across a video with an intriguing headline and read it aloud to me –
 A Popular London Bar Has a New Waitress, and It’s An Owl
Puh-leeeze‘, he sneered sarcastically, “how can an owl be a waitress? What do they do, carry little glasses in their talons?’ At almost 14 he’s developing that snarky cynicism that’s part and parcel of being a teenager. Determined to get to the bottom of this curious claim, he clicked on it and watched the following video:

Just as suspected, the video didn’t feature any owls dive bombing bar patrons with chocolate martinis at some Hitchcockian happy hour.
His disappointment evident, he lamented, “Why is it they always make things seem soooo exciting and then you click on it and it’s not exciting AT ALL?!?!
Upon hearing those words sail out of his mouth, I felt my parenting senses tingling.  As I stopped chopping peppers and turned around to face him, I heard a clarion call to action, an order to march forth into the minefield that is parenting a teenager and heed the following command –
{Insert Teachable Moment Here}
During these precarious teenage years, broaching almost any subject with your teen can be tricky. So in my most casual, non-judgmental, un-preachy, make-him-think-he-thought-of-it-himself mom tone of voice, I said “You know, you bring up a good point. Sometimes things aren’t what they seem.  I hope you can remember that when you’re, like, at a party some night and someone offers you, um, say {here it comes} a beer or a joint. . .” I trailed off, giving him what I hoped was a subtle prompt as I held my breath expectantly.
And with a requisite roll of his beautiful brown eyes, he continued my thought with, “Yeah, I know, it might look like fun but it really isn’t fun. I get it.”
“Okay then”, I breathed, and, with a smile on my face, continued preparing dinner. And made a mental note to send a donation to The National Audubon Society.
For the owls.


The National Audobon Society

Barn Owl – The National Audubon Society


Check out the more plausible story Owl-themed cocktail bar to open in London  from The Telegraph.

“Born In The Wild”? My Teen Says No, Thank You!

Have you seen the ads for the new Lifetime reality series “Born in the Wild”? According to their website, in this new series “families take one step beyond homebirth and make the powerful choice to experience childbirth in the great outdoors. No inductions, no epidurals…just expectant mothers facing and giving birth in the arms of Mother Nature. They’ll take on the unique challenges of their natural environment, tackling every obstacle the wilderness can dish out in order to realize their dream of an outdoor birth.”
Quite possibly the best birth control video ever, my 14-year-old son thought the commercial was pretty graphic, which depicts a woman laying in “Mother Nature’s arms” (aka the dirt), with the baby literally bursting out of her vajayjay (the action was blurred but it was pretty obvious what was going on). “I can’t unsee that!!” he moaned, covering his eyes with his hands and worrying aloud about the possibility of retinal scarring. Unable to hide my amusement, I quipped, “Hey, what goes in must come out, right?”
Clearly horrified that perhaps I was about to launch into yet another TED talk (Terrifyingly Embarrassing Discussion) about human sexual reproduction (and all its attendant responsibilities and consequences), he deftly dodged the conversation by profusely apologizing for any pain and suffering he caused me during his birth. Considering that he was born into the arms of a fully licensed medical professional in a nice clean hospital and with the assistance of an epidural, his apology was accepted. He is however trying to figure out how to block the Lifetime channel from our TV lineup. And taking mercy on the poor guy, I tabled any further discussion on this topic for another day.
The show premieres on Tuesday, March 3rd at 10 pm on Lifetime.  My son won’t be watching. Will you? Let me know in the comments!

A Well Visit Wake Up

courtesy of Google images

I recently took my 11 year old son for his yearly well visit with the pediatrician.  At the end of the appointment, and after being assured all was indeed well, the doctor handed me a nifty little printout detailing the visit.  The first page listed current height and weight, any labs and tests ordered, results from vision and hearing screening, and any follow up appointments that needed scheduling.  How nice to have all that information neatly summarized on one page for easy reference – thank you, electronic medical records.

Then I turned the page.

The next page was captioned “11-14 Year Old Adolescent Visit”.  Adolescent?  My visceral reaction to reading this was “Holy sh*tballs! For reals?  Where did that come from?” I was just getting used to the term tween.  Tween is cute.  Last week he was still 10 years old.  This week he’s 11 and suddenly the word adolescent is being bandied about?  That just has a clinical ring to it I’m not sure I’m ready for.

And “11” is light years away from “14”.  In my inner panic all I could picture was a sullen, monosyllabic sleeping and eating machine who is six inches taller than me, at risk for trigger thumb from too much texting and suddenly interested in commercials for Axe deodorant.  This is a far cry from my sweet little boy who still reaches for my hand whenever we cross a busy street (if no one’s looking, of course).

I don’t know why I was so floored.  From infant to toddler to preschooler to big kid to tween (and technically I think I can still hold on to that one), my son’s new identifier as “11-14 Year Old Adolescent” is just the next step, right?  But there it was in black and white, mocking me as if to say “ready or not, here I come!”

The document went on to list information and guidelines about topics such as school performance, immunizations, testing, nutrition and oral health, physical, social and emotional development, and talking to your newly minted adolsecent about “risk behaviors” – you can just imagine what that’s about.

“Doctor,” I said, “Don’t get me wrong, I think this handout is great, but that ‘11-14 Year Old Adolescent’ thing kind of grabbed me by the throat.”  This man, who has been my son’s pediatrician for 10 years, laughed and said, “Yes, I know it’s a shock, but it’s here.”

And the hormone talk, like spring, must be in the air.  A few days later as I was looking over the curriculum topics to be covered in his class after the spring break, I noticed that “Puberty” was nestled in there between the Latin American Unit, Rocks and Minerals, and Essays and Fiction Writing.

I turned to my son and asked him if he knew what puberty was.  “I don’t know”, he shrugged “something about growing up, I guess”.

I have this tucked away. . .

Like the doctor said, it’s here.

It’s really here.

Have you had “the talk” with your kids yet?  How did you handle it?  What’s in store?  I really want to know!