Tag Archives: parenthood

What is Wrong with the Youts Today?

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80's day at school...doing her best impression as me as a teen...she actually DOES those silly school days activities...weird

When I was pregnant with my first child, I remember being worried that I was going to give birth to a cheerleader. Not literally, I went to lamaze class, I sawthe videos of what babies looked like when they popped out. They were naked, not dressed up in clothes to give us parents an idea of who they would be come. But wouldn’t that be nice? If our babies came with a clue as to the kind of kid they would become? I was not a cheerleader as a kid. I was a freak, an “alternative”, a crazy punk. I was deep, I was an activist, my concerns were far bigger than the football team and if I had latest the Benetton sweatshirt.

So, if I gave birth to a kid who didn’t share my view of the world, a kid who was only concerned with how she looked or whose only “cause” was to campagne for universal boob jobs, what was I going to do? I knew that I would have some influence on the type of kid my kid would become. But I also knew that some of who she was destined to be was already programmed as soon as she was conceived. My mother was a normal teen. She had normal friends, her biggest “FTW” (contrary to popular belief that does not stand for For The Whales…) moment was when she and her friends hid a bottle of vodka in the toilet tank on her class trip to Washington DC. No, they didn’t get caught, no they didn’t get so drunk they almost died. But boy oh boy, did they believe they were totally bad ass for that one!

Me, on the other hand, well, let’s just say that I didn’t go on any stinkin class trip and I never hid my vodka. I went to marches on the President’s front lawn for animal rights, I protested wars, I hung out with skin heads (although I didn’t agree with their philosophies). I had ANGST. I listened to the Sex Pistols and the Descendents and the Ramones. You could find me  in seedy places just to hear bands. My life, as a teen, was about as different from my mother’s as it could be. So, different that she didn’t know where to begin when it came to setting limits or punishments. I think I confused her. If I had been a marching band kid, or involved in school government she would have probably been able to raise me with her eyes shut and one arm tied behind her back.

Now, back to my kid. She is beautiful, smart, funny, and kind. She is also 15 years old which means she is  a total teen sometimes. She watches Keeping Up With The Kardasians….seriously. She went through a stage where she was obsessed with Paris Hilton. She spray tanned herself orange in an effort to look more like a “star”. The people she aspires to are slackers who have billions to spend on being slackers. She is not a cheerleader, although sometimes I wish that she was. At least cheerleaders are cheering for SOMETHING!!! My kid seems to have all of my FTW attitude with none of the “Save the world” spirit. This is our biggest bone of contention.

How did I raise a kid who doesn’t know (or seem to care) what she believes in? Who doesn’t use her “cause” to get under my skin? How did I raise a kid who listens to rap (when she wants to piss me off)? Where did I go wrong? I have tried so very hard to give her my values and views on all things worldly and spiritual. Quite honestly, it wouldn’t even bother me if she had gone in the extreme opposite direction of what I have taught her. ANYTHING would be better than this lack of caring. What she does care about is  who won Next Top Model or who has the newest Abercrombie jeans. What did I do wrong?

When I went through confirmation class at church I argued and disagreed with what I was being taught. I went though confirmation because my mother said if I wanted to stop going to church, I had to be confirmed so that I was making a well-educated decision on exactly what I was rejecting. That sounded pretty fair to me. I did it. And promptly stopped going to church. I rejected my religion and began exploring “alternative” religions and concepts of faith. Partly to piss my mother off,  happy Lutheran church lady that she was, and partly because I was interested. I wasn’t one to be spoon fed anything and just believe it was right. I was one to test and re-test everything I was presented with and then decide if it was right for ME.  

My kid will be confirmed soon. She has to write a statement of faith. We worked on that yesterday. Or rather, I told her to write it, she claimed a case of the I-Don’t-Knows and that ended with me so frustrated I think my head spun around. I mean, come ON!! She’s a TEENAGER!!! She HAS to have an opinion, a view, an idea about what she believes? Nope. Why not? you might ask? Because she is MY teen. And the surest way to push my buttons is to act as if you just don’t care. She knows this. She installed my buttons so she knows exactly how to push them. And, after all, isn’t that her job as a teen, as MY kid? Is she not just carrying on the tradition of “pissing off your mother by being something she isn’t”?

She gets my sense of humor, she will support my causes, she loves much of what I love and she values much of what I value. But she is her own person. She is not a mini me and her path is not the same one I traveled. She has lived through just as much tragedy as I ever did and she is a pretty centered kid. I guess I have done something right. They say that the way your kid behaves as a toddler is a great indicator of how they will behave as a teen. And sure enough, she is using all the same stubborn tactics she used when she was 2. It is just way more frustrating now that she is 15.

She laughs at me when I yell at the Glenn Beck and Michael Savage on the radio. She really listens when I explain why I believe the things I believe. I know she is hearing me, I know somewhere inside of her is a person full of ideas to change the world. Just like my mother knew that someday I would be taking my own kids to confirmation class. I hate it when my mother  is right.

So, no, I didn’t get a cheerleader, I didn’t get a crazy punk, I got a kid who is brilliant in her own right and who knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt exactly how to make me go insane. After all, isn’t that what I wished for? No namby pamby mamma’s kid for me! A kid with an independence and attitude! Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!

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Parenting, the Teen Years (can I be done now?)

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She is doing a "peace" sign...NOT giving me the finger

I became a mother young in life. Not a teen or anything, but younger than many these days. I come from a long line of women who waited to have kids. My grandmother who was born in 1907 was over 30 when she had her first child. My mother got me when she was 30. Both of them had careers and lives and then added children to the mix. I chose to have the child and build my career simutinously. And I have never regretted that choice. I suppose it is the harder way to do things, but neither my grandmother or mother had it easy either.

Now, when my first child started pre-school, I was the youngest mom. But, I was totally accepted and always felt like a part of the clique. For the other moms, this was their youngest going to school, for me it was my oldest. There were a couple of moms who had been the young mom with their first, and now of course, as happens when we age, they were no longer the young mom, I was.

When my oldest started kindergarten, I was shocked that her teacher was younger than me by a year or two. Teachers were always old. How could this be? This meant the people I had graduated high school with were now the grown ups. That meant that I was now officially the grown up, the parent. I knew I was the parent prior to this revelation. No one goes through 13 hours of hard labor then pushes out a nine pound baby and forgets they are the parent. But this was the next level of parenting. And I was still so young. Growing up along with my child.

I think we all grow up with our child no matter the age we were when we came to be parents. I remember looking forward to turning 30 so that I would be a legitimate parent like my parents were. But being older and more established did not insulate my parents from life. They divorced, they experienced all the hard things that go along with raising a child. I was a “challenging” child and a holy horror as a teen. It didn’t matter that my parents were well loved, respected members of our community. I didn’t give a flying fig about them when I was a teen. So, why then do I think that my 15 year old is supposed to give a flying fig about me and my life? Why do I think that just because I am closer to her in age than my mother was to me that she and I share this special connection? Cause we don’t.

I swear sometimes I still feel like I am 15 myself. I know exactly how and why she lies. I just choose to not call her out on it every single time I catch her. Part of parenting is denile. If we never denied what we know, if we punished our kids for every single thing we know they are doing wrong, the kids would never leave their room. I have to let some things go. I have to pick my battles and pray that the universe takes care of the infractions I choose to over look.

Now, picking my battles was so much easier when she was 2. Don’t argue with a 2 year old about what clothes she wants to wear no matter that they don’t match or are too big. Just don’t argue. Work with it. Layers usually forgive all fashion choices. But yes, she has to use the potty and cannot just pee in the corner if she feels like. No she cannot stay up all night. Yes she can pick out the special toy she wants to bring to show and tell. See? Simple.

Today, it is about boys and clothes rather than potty training and clothes. And some days I am totally lost. And I know it has not a thing to do with my age. It is all about her age. I know this because I am still friends with the ladies who knew me as the young mom and despite the fact that they are 15 years older than me, they are just as confounded by their teens. We are still sharing the same experiences despite the difference in our age. Teenager-ness is universal, like the plague and natural disasters. No parent is immune to it and there is currently no vaccination or escape plan. We just have to hunker down and try to survive.

 I always knew I wanted children. I knew as I was traveling as a teen and very young adult that I was collecting these experiences to share with my future children. And I do. And I was always of the philosophy of  Have Child Will Travel. I brought my oldest everywhere with me. She went to her first off broadway musical (Lust…how inappropraite) when she was 6 months old.All the old ladies were so impressed with how quiet she was for being so young. My children went to very fancy restaurants and to work with me, they went to grown up parties and meetings, operas and master classes and major rock concerts. That isn’t to say that we always did grown up things. We have made the trip to Mecca (Disney World) twice and we will again I am sure. And we hit every kid movie that comes out and they do all the after school activities that other kids do. But my world is a balance of kid stuff/adult stuff and that is just the way it is.

My parents did lots of grown up things but I was usually allowed to go to my grandparents house because grown up stuff is BOOOORRRING. And my grandparents were in their 70’s and retired. With my kids, my parents were  still working. They still had a schedule and a life. So, it is totally different for me. Because I was younger having my kids, my parents were  younger grandparents and that is very different. Also my parents were divorced which also threw a kink in the traditional extended family. My grandparents were married for over 50 years. They were always available to pick me up, babysit, make dinner, and keep me overnight. With my parents I had to schedule consult with them as far as babysitting.

 I had my last baby when I was 30. I do not feel that my age has made me a better mother to her than I was to my eldest. I am a more experienced mother, a wiser mother, but that is just the way it goes. Now I am the average mom when I go to my youngest child’s school functions. And the older moms who’s oldest is in my youngest’s class are saying and doing the same things I was when I was a first time mother. Ofcourse, I was 28 at the time and they are 48,but our age  makes no difference in our love for our child.

When we decide to bring a child into our lives, when we decide to become a parent, we decide exactly how we are going to raise this child. We decide how our child will be. We determine what kind of child we will have, if they will be sporty or arty or studious. We decide exactly how and for what we will meter out punishments. If we will spank or use time outs, if we will breast feed or bottle feed, cloth or disposable, Ferber or Sears, if our parents way was the right way or the wrong way. And that is all before we actually become parents. And then it happens and we try to stick to what we had decided. But we can’t because there is now an anomaly thrown in which skews all of our well laid plans. And we realize that it doesn’t matter if we are young or old, if we give birth or adopt, if we have a family bed or let them cry it out. None of it matters at all. Because life takes over and the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.

What unites us is far more powerful than what divides us. And I know if I sat down with the Rajo Devi Lohan, the Indian woman who gave birth to her first child at age 70, she and I would have much more in common than not. She would have the same fears, joys and expectations that I did. We are parents and our children, not our age, is what links us. I wonder if she would be interested in raising a 15 year old girl……