Archive for May, 2008

Ice Cream

Friday, May 30th, 2008

I have the ultimate solution to getting your teenager to talk!

Ice cream.

Yesterday I take Peter to Coldstone Creamery after his hellacious History exam and we talk about the graduation trip. Turns out, it’s all no biggie. He just felt silly for forgetting to get the permission slip signed.

So much for my fears of a weirdo-loner lurking in a dank basement for the rest of his life. Turns out he’s just a kid who forgets stuff, and feels bad about it.

Surprises

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

What do you do when you have a kid who doesn’t talk to you? You get nasty surprises.

I just discovered by total accident that my 14-year old son isn’t going on the “fun” white water rafting and  amusement park trip with his graduating class because, “I didn’t get my permission slip in on time.”

Okay. Number one: I immediately feel bad. I am supposed to sign that slip. How come I never saw it? How come I didn’t ask him where the slip was, given the trip starts on Sunday? First instinct: blame self.

Number two: Why is he making this lame excuse? Does he not want to go on the trip because he doesn’t feel comfortable with his “friends?” (He’s only been at the school a year and it’s been a rough ride.)

Number three: Does that mean he’s been lying all year claiming that he does have friends, even if he never sees anyone from his new school or calls them or even talks about them….?

It is my responsibility to get to the bottom of this, because otherwise no one else will. I want him to bond and have fun, just like all the other kids. I don’t want him to become  some sad, pale-faced, basement-dwelling loner! I know I can’t control or dictate all aspects of his life (and believe me, I don’t want to), but I also know I can and want to help him navigate these tricky waters.

Blaming or second-guessing myself doesn’t help anyone and frankly just ruins my day. So, enough of the self torture. To work:

Instead of an angry call to the school (WHY DIDN’T YOU CHECK WITH ME ABOUT THE DARN SLIP?), I will ask, politely, if they can shed any light on this situation.

Then, I will take a time-out with Peter. We will leave the girls here, and I will go somewhere neutral with him — maybe the ice cream store or CVS, his favorite places in the universe — and see if I can get him to talk.

Talk talk talk. I’m also going to dig up that indispensable book, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen. Although what I really want to know, is how to get my kid to talk. Ideas, anyone?

The Ego

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

This morning, deep in the vortex of technology hell (printer won’t work, cell phone is frozen, couldn’t get on e-mail, you name it, I had it), I went on a walk with a friend.

Now I feel sorry for her; I whined for a full ten minutes before even stopping to take a breath.

She talked a lot about the Oprah book pick, A New Earth by Eckert Tolle. Apparently it talks about the ego and how we have to let go of it in order to achieve greater happiness. (I think there’s a hint in there somewhere, huh?) What made me laugh was looking at the picture of him and realizing I’ve seen it before. While researching Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too, I came across quite a few great quotes from Tolle.

I didn’t know who he was back then, and digging a little deeper (this is pre-Oprah, remember) I found a photograph of him. I thought… hmmmm… this guy looks pretty w-e-i-r-d! Is he part of some strange Mormon sect or does he gnaw on body parts as snacks?

I guess he has no ego. Why else the truly disturbing facial hair?

Slow Pokes

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Anyone else out there ready to go to bed waaaaay before their kids are?

I remember when they were babies and I’d sometimes get them down as early as 7 pm so I could enjoy a nice glass of wine with my hubbie. Now it 9:32 pm and ALL THREE OF THEM including my nine-year-old are all still up.

The good old days of time outs at night, wine in hand, watching an avidly-followed TV series in real time, are long gone.

So instead, I take my time outs at the movies as often as I can. Friday, I’ll be going to see Sex and the City with a friend. My kids can veg at home, while I pretend to be a hot, big city big shot, with a big paycheck, big hair, big heels and big plans.

The Good Old Days…. ?

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I was talking to my best friend Catherin the other day. She’s German and lives in France. We were discussing kids. Each time I told her another tidbit about my son, Peter, she had an aha! moment about her daughter.

“Ah! Oh! Wow! That’s JUST like Leonie!”

Then when I got to the part of the story where he is diagnosed with ADHD–and how we’re having trouble getting his teachers to understand that he’s not being a lazy slacker, but that he’s got issues with his frontal lobes, thank you very much–she was utterly perplexed.

“What’s ADHD?” she asked.

I almost fell out of my foaming bathtub and chipped my perfect red nail varnish. What? There’s a mother on this earth who hasn’t heard about the ADD/ADHD epidemic? How is that even possible these days?

I started wondering about the advantages and burdens of these kind of diagnoses. On the one hand, knowledge is power, right? Now that we know he’s not just being a lazy slacker, we can stop chaining him to the desk and whipping him when he forgets his pencil for the ten millionth time.

BUT… in the old days, his behavior would have been dealt with too, just without involving a doctor, a neuro psychologist, a nutritionist, a therapist, a pharamacist and a mom racking up miles in the car and endless time on the phone and in bland offices with beige wallpaper and tinkling (supposedly soothing) water fountains.

We talked to a group of 70 working moms yesterday and when we asked if they thought the old days were easier for moms, almost all of them raised their hands. Hm. Am I happy to know the issues my children are struggling with in their everyday lives and trying to help them deal? Of course! Moms are fixers, but we can’t always make everything right.

So… is ignorance bliss, then? In some way, I do envy my friend Catherin. ADD? Huh?

London, California, Boston: Getting Kids Outdoors!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I get grouchy this time of year. Growing up in London, I was spoiled by the transformation that spring brings to that part of the world. Suddenly the streets are shining in the bright sunlight after months of dismal rain, and the flowers go bonkers. Wisteria, daffodils and other colorful gems sprouting from every stoop and windowsill.

Here in Boston the story is a little different. Cold. Frost till June. A few brave yellow daffodils here and there, but mainly inchworms eating up the leaves that are frantically trying to bud after six months of arctic weather.

The kids go crazy this time of year. Finally they can actually play on the playgrounds, walk the streets without getting frostbite, jump on a trampoline, play their sports outdoors. But here they shiver in their shorts until well into June.

In the summertime, life changes dramatically for both them AND for us. Isn’t it heavenly to get their little paws off those Wii games/ X-Boxes/ remote controls/ mouses and watch them running around, getting out of breath, PLAYING WITH EACH OTHER?

In the summer, there is much less mother guilt. The kids can be independent without being glued to an electronic device.

Interestingly, while we were doing our focus groups out West last year, some mothers complained because the weather is so good the kids never have an excuse to just veg out. Children and parents are supposed to be doing healthy things outdoors 100 % of the time without much room for indoor lazing around. Mothers there said they feel incredibly guilty whenever they hang out indoors.

Hm. They have a point. But, I’ve got to admit, I think I’d prefer that problem…

I Forgot to Remember

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Sometimes, I feel like I am in a special hell all of my own. I can’t be alone, can I? This hell involves that dream where you are trying to do something, and no matter how hard you try you NEVER succeed: you keep running, or searching, or screaming and yet you make absolutely no progress. None.

I got home from picking my son up at a game yesterday and he noticed his lacrosse gloves were missing. While he was busy punching his bag, tearing at his face, screaming in frustration, I calmly went to the phone and made two calls: one to the school where we’d just been, and one to his school. “Um, have you seen a pair of lacrosse gloves….” I asked sheepishly.

Later that night, I ask him, “So what’s wrong with your cell phone? Let’s make sure we figure that out, because I need to know when to pick you up.” (Meanwhile I’m thinking, thank god for that insurance plan I was duped into buying.)

Hmm. Wait a minute–the cell phone?! Where IS that dratted cell phone? At this point, it’s late. I tell him I’ll look for it in the morning.

This morning, we’re in a rush. He has a new bus driver who turns up two minutes earlier than the old bus driver. That two minutes has turned our lives upside down.

As we head for the door, he grabs his sports bag. “Where’s my other cleat?” he says, mildly freaking out.

“In the living room,” I say, sipping my coffee (where you kicked them off in a fury last night, I don’t say, because I know by now that doesn’t help).

“My helmet? Where’s my HELMET?” he starts screaming.

Missing, that’s where it is. Like all the other things any of you kids ever touch in this household, I wanted to yell. But I didn’t.

Now we have four minutes to get to the bus stop. It takes six minutes to get to the bus stop. I drive 80 miles an hour on the highway. Good thing I’m European. Good thing I like coffee, too.

All this before 7 am this morning.

Commercialism

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

So… I thought a lot about the Mother’s Day money making machine this year.The commercialism of the event. The way expectations lead to disappointment.

Why?

Because, I have to admit, almost every year I’m just a little disappointed by Mother’s Day. Every year I persist in thinking, oh, maybe I’ll get whisked away for a night! Oh, maybe I’ll get a massage! Hm, maybe we’ll go out for dinner!

It frustrates me becuase I always have very nice, low-key days on Mother’s Day. I get breakfast in bed, I laze around without feeling guilty and then my day goes on as normal. Which is nice. But not much more than nice.

Isn’t nice okay? Why do I expect more than nice? Because of all the ads screaming at us for weeks  beforehand that we deserve something super special, something expensive, something that represents what we really mean to our families.

It’s a bogus expectation.  I want to get back to the basics. Let’s just enjoy our families and be together and forget about all the frou frou.

To My Mother: How Can We Ever Say Thank You?

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

The Lanyard
By Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Mother’s Day…

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

We were on New England Cable News yesterday, promoting the book. At the very end of the interview, Karen Swenson — a drop dead, gorgeous anchor — asked us,  “What’s the best Mother’s Day gift you’ve ever gotten?”

We blanked. (I may have been a little dazzled by Karen’s pearly whites.)

I laughed, widened my eyes, frantically wracked my brain and stalled for time.

I thought to myself, hmmm, I don’t get gifts from my husband (his explanation is that I’m not his mother) … so… do you mean the drawings I get from my kids? And anyway, when IS the last time I’ve been given something special for Mother’s Day?

Then I got home and felt like a total idiot. My kids make me breakfast in bed every Mother’s Day and it’s a treat that I love. It reminds me of the good old days when I used to sleep until 10am.

I sure wish my brain had snapped to attention and I hadn’t been so darn side-tracked by worrying about whether or not my arms looked fat.