Math

You know what I hate?  Hate more than the one exercise I can’t do in my exercise video because my belly roll gets in the way? Hate more than the x-ray technician saying “I need to do the left breast one more time because I missed some tissue?”  Hate more than paying for car insurance for 2 teenage boy drivers (which is slightly less than the GNP of Madagascar)?

I hate math. More specifically, high school math.  Gimme back potty training, gimme back teaching to tie shoes, gimme back up every 3 hours to breast feed a screaming baby.  I’ll take it all to not have to suffer through my son struggling with his math class. I can’t do it for him, even if I wanted to. Not that he needs to “conquer this battle without Mommy’s help.”  I literally CAN’T help him. I can’t do the math. Sometime in the mid 90s, in grad school, I probably had a fighting chance to give him an educated guess, but not so much anymore. Starting around 7th grade, math has been his nemesis. His Voldemort. His kryptonite.  His Ivan Drago. He’s a pretty average kid all around, some things come easy, some things he has to work for, but in math he just feels like he is totally defective.

He has inherited (or been bullied into) our sarcastic sense of humor, he can be even more of a neat freak than me some times (yay!), he’s fun to be around, makes great popcorn, and loves our cats with a passion. I love him with all the love a Mom can possess. But nothing can bring down the party like an algebra homework assignment. We can be having a laugh filled family dinner, planning our summer vacation, talking about sunshine and unicorns, and then the dreaded question rears its ugly head:  “do you have any homework?” We go from smiling to miserable faster than 45 can tweet #alternatefacts to a CNN story.

My husband wonders why I like watching “My 600 LB Life” and “Hoarders”…I think I know why, at least 1 reason. Other than being what I would consider REAL reality shows, where else do you get to see such transformations, such progress, such success in under 60 minutes?  You go from shitty life to way less shitty life uber fast. It’s a pretty little success package with a bow on top. I love it. Algebra is not subject to such pleasures. It’s a nightmare, wrapped up in a bag of shit, delivered to your dining room table on a tray of rotting hamburger meat with maggots. Nothing is solved in 60 minutes. It’s everyday. Every fucking day. I hate what it does to him. I hate how it makes him feel.  And subsequently, how it makes us feel. It makes us all unhappy, frustrated, crying piles of math hating people.

Brendan is a trooper though. I honestly don’t know where we’d be without him. He sits with him, day after day, hour after hour, trying to help him understand.  He uses props, folks.  But he’s reached his breaking point several times.Then there is cursing. Because here’s the issue. If we are working harder than he is to help him succeed in math, then something is wrong.  And it’s the same conversation day after day, month after month, year after year. When you are bad at something, the only way to get better is to work at it.  Not just a little, but a LOT. Everyday. You have to do more work than the kid who breezes through math. Or even the kid who gets a B or C. Or D. The lectures, my God. It’s a CD on endless replay. He’s in 11th grade, there is no more time, there is only white knuckling til mid-June when school is done. And guess who doesn’t want to do the work to be successful?  And then guess who gets pissed that the other one doesn’t want to do the work?  And then guess who feels just sad and defeated and wants to make it all better with hugs and warm milk? Circle of hell.

He hates that he struggles and others don’t.  His internal dialogue is “I can’t do it. Studying won’t help. My teacher can’t help. I’m lost. I’ll fail no matter what.” And now on top of all that is college looming in the not so distant future.  You can eliminate all math careers from the mix easily enough, but it’s still another pressure to pile on top. For those who have kids where academics come easy, be so so so relieved, because this side of the aisle sucks. How do you convince your kid that they have worth even though they fail? Will a bad math grade keep him from success in life?  Probably not. But that doesn’t mean you get a free pass. You still have to push them to do better, do more, work harder.  I tell him that we do it out of love. Other kids get crappy grades and their parents don’t care. We are on your side, we want you to be successful, be happy. We will always be your biggest cheerleaders. Brendan’s favorite line:  We’ll work with you, but we won’t work without you. You HAVE to do the work. You can’t avoid it. It’s not going away. It’s mentally exhausting for everyone.

He does every assignment, he does some math everyday, but it’s still not enough. I tell him everyone struggles in something. Or many things. It all seems to fall on deaf ears though. His next bad test grade is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I failed because I told you I can’t do it. For those of you who haven’t had school-aged kids in the recent past, you can now get almost up to the minute grades online. It’s a blessing and a curse. If you are familiar with this and are on Team Math Sucks with me, you will know the feeling in your gut, as you log in, click on assignments and hold your breath, waiting to see the latest test grade. Hoping, fingers crossed, praying to the math gods that it’s not a failing grade. And then there’s the disappointment. It’s heart wrenching because you know what’s coming next. Another lecture, more tears, solidifying the mantra “I can’t do it.”

Sorry to say, I have no happy ending here. There’s no magic math pill. We are engaged parents, given him every leg up possible, love, support, encouragement. In the final analysis, is he just plain ol’ bad at math? If that’s true, I’m totally ok with that. I truly am. I’m not particularly good at it myself and I love him just the way he is. But the greater lesson here is that he has to try. God helps those who help themselves. Help me help you. Seriously, like The Little Engine That Could. Change the narrative in your head. Persevere. Hammer away. Make math your bitch. And if at the end of the the day, it’s a C, I’ll be the first to congratulate you because I will know you tried. Now I’m going to take my parenting pity party and have a glass of wine. Anyone have some math to do?

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Futzing and Other Mom Activities

Futzing:  defined as wasting time, idle or busy oneself aimlessly. In my house, it’s defined as walking in a manner which appears to be “wandering aimlessly” from spot to spot in your house picking up and putting away, moving, or otherwise taking items from one place and placing them in their correct and proper home. This alternate definition is a conglomeration of what I actually do and what my husband perceives that I do.  If you are anything like me, and I venture that most Moms are, you walk in the door to your house after work, or really any activity that has you out of the house for several hours, and it’s like you are playing “Where’s Waldo?” Except in this case it’s “Where’s the Mess?” or “What is Wrong With this Picture?”  A Mom’s very own living and breathing, hell on earth, Highlights Magazine activity.

Futzing is an art for me, and I am rarely done with my painting. Why, you ask? Because I have 3 children and a husband that live in my house. Enough said. I am not neurotic about it, but once I see something out of place, I can’t UNSEE it. It has to be taken care of.  Ok, maybe that is how you define neurotic.  I’ve been called worse.

It feels like I am the Predator, you know that movie? The alien has heat sensing vision so that he can see and kill his prey.  I am the alien with mess sensing powers (totally wish I had some other super power, like maybe I could turn dust bunnies into cash). Anyhow, it starts with the shoe cubby as I walk thru the front door. Typically most of the shoes are put away into the little boxes, but of course, it’s just easier to kick them off and leave them mere INCHES from their actual cubby home. Riiiiiiight. Bend down, pick up and put away. Then my vision settles on the living room to the couch pillows on the floor, the cups, bowls and wrappers from after school snacks, probably some socks, jackets and periodically a body or 2. I circle the coffee table, grabbing everything on my pass thru, kiss any lounging kids, put pillows back on the couch, gather dirty clothes in one arm and trash in the other. I make my way to the kitchen to drop off the dishes and trash and my purse and work bag that I am STILL carrying then go back towards bedrooms and drop off dirty clothes. It’s really quite graceful.

This is only the futzing that happens right after work. There is continuous futzing throughout the rest of the evening. Brendan will yell from the couch, “Nice Futz, Honey!” cheering me on. I am just not relaxed completely when things are not in their proper place. I literally find it hard to sit down and zone out if the kitchen isn’t tidied up, if there is random shit lying around on the floor. Damn cats NEVER stay where I put them. When I cook, I put stuff away as I go, whereas Brendan thinks “bigger mess, better meal.” He does clean up when he’s done though, so no complaints there. He even cleans the stove top, which I LOATHE, so he gets bonus points for that 🙂 I rarely will go from one spot in the house to another without taking care of something along the path. Typically 2 or 3 things.  And it is mindless, I just do it. And it probably explains why I forget what I actually wanted to do in the first place once I reach my destination!  I don’t get angry about it (unless I am first angry about something else, then there is carryover. Not my fault.) I actually feel good after doing it. More settled, like I have a better chance of getting into heaven if I get this paperwork put away. Right or wrong, who knows. It just needs to get done.

Another example… Brendan’s thing is not shutting his dresser drawers all the way. I seriously think he closes them 90% of the way JUST so he can watch me close them the remaining 10% of the way.  Does it NEED to be shut all the way for the world to keep spinning on its axis?  No, but don’t you think you’ll feel better if it IS shut all the way?  I know I will feel better. Just shut the drawer.  MOVE, I’ll do it!

Until recently, I was convinced the kids simply don’t register the problem. It’s not even on their radar. Do the smaller human beings in my house just not SEE the stuff that needs futzed? What appears to me as small fires scattered around my house that need putting out, are simply part of the decor to them. When Architectural Digest visits my home one day, this is how it will play out–Why yes, Mrs. Arble, we love the Italian Renaissance Dirty Sock and Nutri-Grain bar wrapper style you have going on here.  And the classic Towel Strewn on the Floor rustic theme in the bathroom just accents it beautifully!  How ever did you come up with these ideas?

The boys are so singly focused. Eat, watch TV, Twitter, Instragram, homework, whatever. I’ve seen them make an ice cream shake and leave a dirty blender, melting ice cream, chocolate sauce, dirty spoon and milk on the counter, while they float off to la-la land enjoying their creation. They just focus on THEIR world, not all the white noise stuff that Mom takes care of. Because they know the magic futzing fairy will come by and clean up what’s left in their wake (see previous Mom enables kids post). Like a tsunami and I am the Red Cross. Although USUALLY with a quiet reminder, they will come back and clean up quickly. As a Mom, I guess I don’t need a reminder, it’s auto-pilot futzing.  See=Do.

UNTIL recently. There is hope, my friends. I saw Riley futz. I almost cried. It appeared to be an absent minded putting away of some water bottles and pushing in a chair on the way by. It was GLORIOUS! I ran downstairs and told Brendan
“Riley is futzing, Riley is futzing!”  Granted he is the cleanest of the 3 boys in general, but I feel like we really turned a corner here, people.

So maybe it just comes with age, an awareness of the people and things around you as you become less self absorbed. For example, I’ve found that kids are much more aware of your driving once THEY are drivers (damnit). Kids will imitate what they see their parents do more than what they say, for better or worse. So I will happily keep futzing away, moving, wiping, cleaning, shifting, doing my little futzing dance, knowing full well, the second I turn my back, it will all spring out of its happy little home and need to be futzed again. Because maybe one day I will have 3 little futzers of my very own.

I Give Up. (Who am I kidding, no I don’t.)

You ever see that saying, motivational moniker, inspirational BS thing about teenagers that says “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent.  I will stalk you, haunt your dreams, yell, scream, and otherwise make your life a living hell so you get out of my house sometime before I retire.”  It might not go exactly like that, but you get the idea.  I LONG for the days of losing a binky, potty training, teaching how to tie shoes, how to hold the pencil correctly, 1s, 2s and 3s on a report card (even though we all know they actually are As, Cs, and Es, you aren’t fooling anyone, Mr. Superintendent), and recess. Please, give me back diapers, breast feeding, car seats, and Johnson’s baby shampoo.  Because teenagers suck.  Hard.

Although I suppose there is another perspective I may want to consider.  Parenting a teenager sucks. Hard.  My God, I question almost everything I say and do.  My husband and I don’t see completely eye to eye on the best route to take toward raising non-Maury Povich Episode 256 adults who we hope can get a paycheck and pay rent one day.  But thankfully, we are always willing to talk it out and try our best to blend our two opinions.  We grew up somewhat differently and let’s face it, a Mom is going to have a different perspective than a Dad.  It’s just science. He’s more of a hard-ass, and I’m more of a soft-ass (literally and figuratively).

But sometimes it just doesn’t matter what we decide is the best route to take, the best way to punish, encourage, and otherwise move our boys forward in life.  The result is usually one of two things:  seemingly passive acceptance with a perfected eye roll or arguing.  Is it even possible to win in a negative situation with your teen?  I think not.  (and yes, it’s about winning…).

Although I’d love to believe that MY kids are different when it comes to consequences.  I envision conversations between my oldest and his friends going something like this:

Riley:  “Yeah, my Mom and Dad took away my phone and computer games during the school week because I didn’t try my hardest in school and didn’t meet the totally reasonable GPA they expected of me. I admit, I could have worked harder, but I made that poor decision and now I’m getting my just punishment.  I’m not particularly happy about it, but I get it.  My parents just want me to learn the value of hard work and I appreciate that. I will be a better person because of it.”

Friend: “For sure, your parents sound WAY more loving and accepting than mine. I sure wish I could live in your house.”

Reality?  “My freaking parents took away my only reason for living, my phone and computer games. It’s SO stupid.  I mean the bad grades weren’t MY fault, my teachers never even passed back the papers til it was too late. I’m going to just be a total a**h*** to them until I get my grades up to where THEY think they should be.  Total jerks.”

Friend: “You have an iPhone 6 AND a car AND your OWN computer and really nice clothes. You are so lucky!”

Ok, so the friend response was more fantasy, but it’s what we often fall back on when our kids start complaining about their really tough lives.

So how bad would the GPA have been had we not put the conditions on it?  Is that all that separates us from the parents whose kids who get all E’s?  Us being jerks to them and requiring an adequate amount of effort from them?  I do truly believe that kids crave boundaries, from a toddler until teenage-dom.  Then they start craving independence, after all, they know everything about everything for all time. The trouble is they don’t ever ADMIT they want boundaries. It’s just a thing we read in parenting magazines that becomes a parenting mantra I tell myself to feel better.  I don’t want to wait for my kids to say “You were right Mom, I see that now.”  I believe that will happen one day, I just don’t know when. And meanwhile I just feel like a big ogre.

(Let me take a moment here to say to MY Mom, “You were right.  Among other things, I still only buy clothes on sale. I have you to thank for that life skill.”)

I see what happens when parents ARE friends with their kids instead of a strong guiding force in their life. It’s fun for a while, but a larger problem looms in the future. I know what happens if I let my kids slide in life and get away with murder, I watch Dr. Phil. We are edging closer to a 35 year old jobless, basement dweller “holding out for management” every passing day.  But it doesn’t make it any easier in the moment to follow through on consequences.  Dr. Phil would say I was going easy on my kids because it makes MY life better, not theirs.  He’s right.  It is easier to gloss over the bad stuff and make excuses for them.  Decide that it’s their life, if they want to screw it up, so be it. Cover up their mistakes, allow them a free pass instead of grabbing hold of a teachable moment.  I get to enjoy a lot more restful nights and my calendar would clear up a ton, that’s for sure.

Buuuuuuuut we all know that’s not going to happen. 16 years and 3 kids and I still haven’t accepted my role as the bad guy.  I’d so much rather be the “fun” guy.  Honestly, I think I’m both, but it’s the bad guy persona that keeps me up at night. It’s the bad guy that I am afraid my kids will ONLY remember and cry about to their therapist. They won’t remember all the vacations, the movies, the books read at night, the hugs, the kisses, the help, the food in their bellies, the cool phones in their pockets. Think about all the things us parents HAVE to provide (due to state and federal government mandated laws, grrrr….) and WANT to provide out of pure unadulterated love for our kids.  Will they remember that good stuff, too?

So no, I’m not giving up.  But I will continue to second guess myself, question my every decision, and celebrate each passing week that I don’t strangle one of my kids, with a large glass (or 4) of wine.

“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do.” -Matt Walsh

Anger much?

I had big plans for my latest blog.  But those plans have been set aside, washed away, and forgotten for the time being.  Spring break in Michigan, it doesn’t get any better than that.  Oh wait, yes it does.  Granted, I don’t work this week, kids are off school, I get to sleep in, but the weather still blows. Everyone I know drove to Florida. Not that I want to drive to Florida, but still, the weather disparity makes me green with envy.  So I’m already starting off on the wrong foot here in unbalmy, sunless Michigan.

I wake up, have some coffee, talk to a friend on the phone, then hear the garbage truck…F**K!  Riley’s car is in the street on trash day.  Of course we got a ticket.  And then to pour salt in the wound, MY car in MY driveway got a ticket for blocking the sidewalk.  I had moved it back yesterday so my kids and their cousins could play basketball since I was hosting Easter dinner at my house. The horror.  So now I’m raging.  Cursing, crumpling up the tickets.  I call Brendan, curse at him.  I rant on Facebook.  I don’t feel any better. The doorbell rings when I am in the shower, the phone rings off the hook.  Do I NOT have 3 able bodied children who can answer the door or answer the phone?!  It would appear that I don’t. So now I’m screaming bloody murder at them.  Then my youngest comes in from his run after only 8 minutes complaining that his knee hurts.  I tell him I guess you have to quit soccer and track now.  Not an unreasonable response, I think.

I get in my car to drive to the post office.  I am behind someone going 23 MPH.  Who gave this guy a license?  Are you kidding me?  Get out of my way!! Then I park behind a guy who is obviously going to the Tiger’s opening day game.  He’s wearing shorts (in 43 degree weather–genius), he’s bathed in cologne which chokes me to death, and I hate him just for his existence.  I’M not going to the Tiger’s opening day game.  More jealousy.

Now my negative self-talk is really wound up– I’m fat, I have crows feet, I need new jeans, but no way I’m going to a store to try them on (see previous “I’m fat” statement), I’m cold, why do I have to dust my house, my life is a miserable piece of crap and everyone on Facebook is living the dream.  I start blocking people and unfriending everyone who posts a picture of a palm tree, because they don’t deserve my friendship.  I text a couple of my REAL friends, who are here suffering in Michigan with me, and demand lunch out.  Don’t tell me no, I may kill you. Some boneless wings and a yummy salad later, I’m vented out and feeling better. I even left a good tip.

I was really twisted up in anger this morning over 2 parking tickets. It clouded my everything, I was in full lash out mode, at my kids, strangers, people in cars near me, everyone I know who is on vacation in a warm place, and my cats. Just because I could be, damn cats being all cat like.  And rationally I know I was only mad at my local police department for 2 stupid tickets that were completely valid, I just don’t happen to agree with their methodology. I wasn’t mad at my kids, or random people, or anyone who is on vacation or the Tigers game.  I go on vacation, just not this week. I go to Tigers games, just not today. My kids weren’t doing anything wrong, just being normal annoying kids. The guy with the cologne at the post office, he really is a jerk, scale back on the Drakkar, save the ozone, okay?  He deserved my evil stare.

I am Greek Orthodox, so this week is my Holy Week and Easter is this coming Sunday. This week more than any other, I really should be better. More insightful, more forgiving, more thankful, less envious, less angry, less self-absorbed.  I don’t get all roid rage angry like that very often, it’s unbecoming of a lady such as myself. And I do feel much lighter now that I’ve let it go. Oh sure, I’ll get angry again when I have to write the checks to the city (AKA Nazi, Germany), but not like I did this morning. What purpose did my anger serve? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I obviously didn’t deal with the whole situation very well. Shame, guilt, disappointment ensue. What a vicious circle anger is.

So lesson learned? Instead of spreading my anger to those near me, I will count the blessings in my life and spread happiness. Too simple of a solution?  Not this time 🙂 I will stop wishing for rain in Florida, I hope the Tigers win for all my friends who are there rooting them on, I’ll hug my kids and apologize for yelling at them, and I’ll thank my friends for letting me air my anger at lunch. It truly is good to be me. I’d do well to remember that next time I make a presidential bid for the looney tunes farm.

My Life as a Spy

Picture it:  Antarctica, 2012, middle of January.  We are deep underground, hidden in the most desolate prison known to man.  I’ve been captured by the Antarctic Intelligence Agency (totally a real thing).  Everything they’ve accused me of is true, I’m an international spy, my aliases are varied, “Crazy Lady, Elaine Benes, Mom, Wife, Bitch.”

The information I hold in my head is wanted by everyone in the world.  I possess answers to questions you didn’t even know you needed the answers to. Want to know why your husband’s $600 phone went thru the washing machine? I got you covered. Curious as to the cost of hair products and acne control for a 16 year old boy? I know that number. Do you lay awake at night wondering where 1/2 of all your kids’ socks went?  (not matching sets of course– the 2nd sock of each pair).  I will ease your mind.  I even know how many seconds you have between a child telling you they don’t feel well and getting them to the toilet or the nearest “not fabric” surface.

They try everything to get me to spill the beans. Withholding french vanilla creamer from my coffee, not letting me charge my iPhone, making me wear brown shoes with gray pants. Total nightmare. Did you see Misery with Kathy Bates?  It’s that scary. On the parental black market, my secrets are priceless. I don’t want to tell, I feel that it is every person’s rite of passage to find out the answer to these questions on their own.  I don’t want to spoil the surprise.  So I hold on, I don’t give in.  I’ve had several mammograms, 2 c-sections and a vaginal birth, you can’t do anything to me that will make me talk.

Or can you.

Continue to picture:  I’ve just gotten back from a weekend away, a long drive after outdoor soccer.  In March.  In Kentucky. We didn’t win. Although Brendan kicked major ass in the bathroom renovation, it came at a cost of a pretty messy house. But I don’t mind, because I’d rather do laundry than tile a bathroom floor. So I spend several hours getting my palace back to livable status (i.e. no underwear on the floor and wiping up the paw prints that decorate the drywall dust carpeting I just had installed).

After watching The Flash with the fam, knowing it’s back to work in the morning, I’m happy to be in my bed for a restful night’s sleep. I curl up with 50 Shades for a bit (round 2, horrible writing but still turns me on), then it’s lights out. My mental state before drifting off to sleep on a Sunday night is usually one of dread.  Gotta get up early, start the grind, make dinners instead of order out, time to make the donuts kind of feeling.  All the activities of the week feeling monumental, don’t forget this appointment, pay this bill, buy tampons, hope Alex passes his algebra test. There is one thing that can put it all into perspective. One thing that makes me feel like Sandra Bullock on her worst day. I’m unstoppable, just watch me parent the shit out of my kids.

And that is….drum roll….

A hot shower.

So simple.  5 people in my house, 1 showers at night.  Often only 3 of us shower in the morning because Brendan showers at the gym.  I live in an industrialized nation, the richest if I’m not mistaken (reminder:  Wikipedia that later today), I pay my bill, my water heater works just fine.  Today 1 person had a hot shower.  1. One. Uno. Singular.  And apparently it was a long one.  And it wasn’t me.  And I was pissed.  I have a master’s degree, I’m really good at my job, I can speak Greek (kinda), but I can’t get my 14 year old to take a short enough shower so that the rest of the family (but mostly me) can enjoy the wondrous and rejuvenating effects of bathing in steamy hot water.

So I stand in my lovely shower that was handcrafted by none other than myself, Brendan and our volunteer contractor extraordinaire friend Alan, naked, wet and shivering, washing only the bare necessities, cursing my son’s name, because I know exactly who is responsible.  Brendan warns the kids that Mom is going to go ape-shit on them when I come out because Alex used up all the hot water, doing God knows what in there and I had to take a freezing cold 60 second shower. But I don’t freak out, because there isn’t enough time to kill him and bury the body before I have to leave for work. I’ll calm down before I get home, calm enough to have a rational talk with Alex about not being selfish and how he either learns to shorten his morning showers or he is getting put on nighttime shower duty.

Back to Antarctic National Prison.  I’m on day 3 with no creamer, they threaten to make me drink white zin instead of a delicious 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon with my dinner and I’m starting to sweat, but I don’t cave. Then they figure it out. They give me a towel that clearly was not put in the dryer with a dryer sheet and some dollar store shower gel, I’m getting nervous.  They tell me to take a shower, I’m starting to offend the torture guy.  I step in and there is no hot water handle. I beg, I plead, don’t make me do it!  Just let me get my Clinique Happy perfume from my overnight bag, I can smell better, I promise!  But they know they’ve got me, my number is up.

So I talk.  I tell them everything, I am Kim Karsashian on speed. Now they can’t make me shut up. A cold shower is my Achilles’ heel.  And a cold shower on a Monday morning? Are you fucking kidding me?

My spying days were over. But they soon regretted their decision, let me tell you.  I left a scathing review for them on TripAdvisor. I’ll make it through the day somehow, someway, don’t you worry. And Alex will live to see another day, but I guarantee you, there will be no more cold showers for this princess.

First Post Jitters

Well now I’m freaking out that I don’t have anything to say.  Or that I’ll say it wrong or badly or it won’t be interesting.  This blogging thing might not be as easy as I thought.  But here goes…

Working as a secretary in a middle school for the past 7 years has given me such perspective on parenting.  I live in the district where I work, and we moved here on purpose.  It has great schools 🙂  Getting a job in this district was just a bonus after being a stay-at-home-Mom for 8 years.  It’s your pretty standard, middle of the road, average income, nice neighborhood where 95% of the people take pride in their lawns and care about their community.  Among the other 5% are homes with too many lawn decorations.  But nice lawns don’t always mean nice families.  Most days I love my job, but a lot of days I leave here in bewilderment at how some people define parenting.  At home I watch My 600 LB Life and hoarding shows, they help me feel skinny and clean.  My job typically helps me feel like a rock-star parent.  CPS comes in on average 1-2 times a month.  Parents with expensive cars, phones and manicured nails ask for handouts for field trips.  I get yelled at for failing to notify kids that the homework that was faxed over to me wasn’t given to the student in time.  Accountability and responsibility are words that seem to have lost all meaning, for parents and students alike.

Oh, I’m a helicopter parent, no doubt about it.  I like to think of myself as in constant recovery though.  The question I am always asking myself is how do I help my kids without doing it or solving it for them, therefore scarring them for life and unable to fend for themselves should they find their cell phone battery dead in the middle of a suburban mall.  Oh the horror.  I said to Brendan just a few days ago, my fear is that WHAT IF, just WHAT IF that ONE time I tell my kids “figure it out yourself,” is the time that they fail beyond repair.  My kids aren’t drug addicts, I’m not bailing them out of jail regularly, they aren’t being suspended from school.  But in MY world, the problems they face often feel like a disaster in waiting.  It’s not life or death, but the older they get, the consequences of failure become more significant.

How does one let their kid fail? Can I get a signal from God maybe, where he says this is the one, let them fail this time, I promise it will be ok. And damn it all, I KNOW I shouldn’t be doing it.  I know what happens if my kids don’t learn now that they are responsible for their choices, their decisions, their forgetfulness, their laziness.  It’s my job to prepare my kids for life beyond the walls of our home. I won’t always be there to rescue them, or will I?  I’m 42, I still need my Mom and Dad.  And guess what?  They are still there for me should I come knocking on their door.  I know 100 years ago, kids were working full-time in the factory, there were no cell phones and all their homework was in Latin, but I bet their parents were still there to help them conjugate verbs or milk the cows.

I worry about my oldest, Riley.  First kid syndrome and all that  We did everything for him. Sheltered him from everything.  I only lost him once. That was unpleasant. But kudos to the zoo workers who saw a 2-year-old with no parent nearby.  Nice job, Mom.  Do kids with a stay at home Mom or Dad have more overbearing parents than kids who have 2 working parents? Is he lazy because of us or is it just his personality or maturity? He’s 16 now, almost a senior in high school, and we don’t feel he’ll be ready to go away to college, be on his own and responsible for himself.  Can a lot change in a year? Sure it can.  But right about now I’m feeling pretty lousy about my parenting choices. Here comes that fear again, did I ruin his chances at being successful because he doesn’t know how to balance a checkbook, scrub a toilet or feel comfortable in a job interview yet?  Will he be able to manage his time in between classes and get his work done? I know, I know, don’t compare your kids with the valedictorian or the other kid who made his first million by age 14, but gee whiz, can he just come out of the basement every now and then?

As usual, more questions than answers.  I kinda feel sorry for Riley, he’s the guinea pig.  The other 2 will be slightly better off, I hope.  I will know the answers one day, probably when it just doesn’t matter anymore. By then I’ll probably have grandkids I can over-parent, my boys will be off the hook. For now, I promise to never fax my child’s homework to their school.  Because that’s just crazy.