Why Religion Doesn’t Play A Big Role In My Family

My son and I walked into Rite Aid on the way home from school this week because I needed to make a pit stop in the card department.

“Go pick out your cousin a First Communion card while I head over to the Mother’s Day section, and we can get outta here quicker!” I commanded.

“Mom, what’s a ‘Communion’?” was my 7-year-old’s response.

Gah. This gave me that overwhelming feeling in the pit of my stomach, the one I hate.

I was born and raised Catholic, went through all the sacraments, and even spent many summers away on mission trips. I am still a very spiritual person, but don’t necessarily agree with a lot of the things I was taught growing up—or the way it was shoved down our throats.

So when my son came along, we decided not to baptize him. I just didn’t believe our sweet baby was born in sin. My husband wasn’t religious, and this was the right choice for us.

Since then, we have sent our son to religious summer camps on and off, and I’ve still educated him about things whenever he’s presented me with questions, but religion in general hasn’t been something that’s played a big role in our lives.

I didn’t think much about it until this situation arose, when his cousin, my godson, was experiencing something he wasn’t—something he didn’t know much about. Of course, I answered all of his questions as honestly as possible, but it struck me as extra hard, for some reason. Maybe because he is older, or maybe because he understands in a bigger way than ever before, but either way, it has left me questioning if I’m doing the right thing for him.

But the thing I realized is this: Every single day I try to do the right thing for him.

Will I ever know if my choices were the right ones? Well, yes, probably, if he ends up in therapy as an adult. But as far as things go right here and now, we are doing things in our own way—on our own terms—and navigating through parenthood as best as we know how.

Knowing what my son knows about religion, if he ever came to me and asked to learn more, to go to church every Sunday and experience what some of his cousins are, then I would do that in a heartbeat for him. But it would need to be on his terms, a choice that he wanted to make for himself. Because my biggest fear in all of this would be forcing something on him, the way that I grew up, simply because some people might see it as the “right” thing to do, or because it’s how I was raised.

I want him to learn how to make decisions for himself that are rooted in his feeling a connection to something, not a feeling of obligation. If it’s right for him, then it will be right for me—that will always be the right choice.

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10 Things That Happened When I Quit Yelling For A Week

Yelling.

It’s great if you’re looking for your child at a Chuck E. Cheese’s birthday party. It’s not so great for expressing disappointment with your mother-in-law for bringing Jell-O to Sunday dinner for the ninth week in a row. And it’s never good when it’s directed at kids—mostly because kids don’t listen anyway, so all yelling does is make them not listen, with tears.

Now, I’m not criticizing anyone or their parenting; I’m confessing. I’m admitting that I’m guilty of this on plenty of occasions. When I hit my patience or frustration limit, that’s what happens. I turn into a cartoon steam whistle until my head explodes into a yell. It’s not good for anyone.

In an effort to try to change this, I recently decided to go a week without yelling, and this is what happened:

1. When I stayed calm, my kids listened.

Sure, they were pretty confused at first—so was I. They looked at each other, then around the room for a hidden camera to see if they were being pranked. They seemed to understand instructions better without fire shooting out of my eye sockets.

2. I talked to myself a lot.

To keep myself from yelling, I simply went crazy. I wandered around muttering a lot of feelings to myself about the fact that no one would ever have their shoes on again, ever. That if they can’t put a shoe on in 15 minutes without getting sidetracked by a Fruit Loop on the floor, how would we ever survive a zombie attack? We wouldn’t. We will die because shoes.

3. No one got upset when I asked them to pick up their toys.

Probably because the gigantic vein in my forehead wasn’t throbbing and writhing like an alien baby ready to burst forth with a vengeance.

4. My yells were converted into epic dance moves and weird noises.

When I felt a yell coming on, I started to stomp around the room like an empowered chicken, and my kids were on board with the crazy gibberish noises that flew out of my mouth. I turned a potential scream-fest into an odd interpretive dance of frustration and struggle in celebration of the fact that, after 45 minutes, no one under 4-feet tall still had any pants on. And I stayed cool because it was kind of fun.

5. They were receptive to apologies when I slipped.

“That’s OK, Mommy,” someone would say. “Next time, just ask us in a regular normal voice.” There are few people more forgiving than small children; they make it so easy to implement changes—as does pinot grigio.

6. I took a lot of deep breaths.

I took so many deep breaths that I could have swum to the U.K. and back.

7. I got on their level.

When I felt that familiar frustration starting to climb into a yell, I dropped to my knees, looked them directly in their eyes, and explained what I wanted them to do. They, in turn, informed me that my eyes are brown, and I have a freckle on my chin.

8. I did a lot of counting.

Counting to 10. Counting to 20. Sometimes, my kids even counted with me and made up a dance so awkward it belonged on public access television. I counted softly and fiercely. I counted like a crazy person with maniacal laughter like I was some kind of evil mad scientist on the brink of losing my mind. I counted until I couldn’t count anymore or until a welcome distraction came along—like the baby eating a four-day-old chunk of banana pasted to the wall. Hooray for never cleaning!

9. I left the room.

Some moments, I just needed to find a nice, quiet, dark room to get my shit together.

10. It brought my children and me closer together.

It might sound corny, but it has. No one likes to sit next to a fire-breathing dragon. So, when I transformed myself into a less abrasive teddy bear, it was a much-welcomed change and a better place to snuggle.

Not yelling is a constant work in progress for me. It’s a daily effort to remember that my communication toward my kids is the communication they learn as “normal.” Yelling is a lot less effective for my family and my parenting—unless my end goal is to create the human equivalent to a barking dog that just doesn’t shut up. Learning to respond instead of react has been much easier for all of us.

It still takes everyone forever to get their shoes on though. So when the zombies come, we’ll see you on the other side because shoes.

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20 Signs You Are Officially DONE With The School Year

Each school year begins with the best of intentions. This year will be different. This year we will get our act together. This year won’t go down in flames like last year.

Slowly, though, the demands of the school year wear me down. Until eventually, at some point, I break. I am done. I run out of fucks to give for things like homework and permission slips and reading charts. I let shit slide. Because I am done.

If, like me, you are feeling a bit over the whole school thing right about now, don’t worry—you aren’t alone. It happens to the best of us. We start off the school year with visions of dropping our kids off to school on-time wearing real pants. We devise elaborate schedules, chore charts, and plans to carve out homework time without nagging or yelling or throwing pencils across the room. And then somehow those plans break down, and it is all about survival.

In case you’re wondering if you have crossed over to the dark side, here are a few signs that you are officially done with the school year:

1. You are late to everything. Everything.

2. You are out of fucks to give…about things like playdates, playground drama, and which kid made it on the travel team.

3. Your kitchen has been taken over by a forest of dead trees. Papers, papers, papers. Yearbooks, forms for class T-shirts, permission slips, and so many art projects.

4. You have already used up all of your days off on snow days, field trips, and spring concerts. Which means you’ll be calling in sick with the flu for your weeklong summer vacation.

5. You are either dreading an upcoming field trip or still recovering from a recent field trip. Because who wants to take a day off work to spend the afternoon reminding a group of second graders not to throw food into the bear exhibit at the zoo?

6. Your kid’s pants are 2 inches too short. Since shorts season is right around the corner, you don’t want to invest in pants that fit now but won’t fit by the time next school year rolls around, so high-waters it is.

7. You have a credit card bill that rivals the GDP of a small country. Those summer camps and activities you scheduled for your kids after you panicked about entertaining them all day sure ain’t cheap, but it beats having them home all day.

8. The thought of summer break is thrilling (and terrifying). No more lunches to pack! No more homework! No more racing out the door every morning! Yes! (But—ohmigosh!they will be home all day too. What are we going to do?!)

9. It’s Pajama Day, Crazy Sock Day, or Backwards Day at least once a week—for you and your kids.

10. You stopped helping with homework last month. Do they even still have homework? I thought that ended when standardized testing started in the middle of April.

11. You haven’t looked in your kids’ backpacks in three weeks. It’s anybody’s guess what’s in there. Homework assignments? Lunch boxes? Permissions slips for a field trip?

12. You’ve stopped packing lunches. Your kids know that if they don’t slap two slices of bread around a piece of floppy bologna, it will be a hot lunch day.

13. Your motto is “Good Enough.” Homework is half-finished? Good enough. Kids are wearing a clean-ish shirts? Good enough. You filled in the entire month’s reading chart on the last day of the month? Good enough.

14. Your car has been taken over by soccer and baseball equipment. Muddy cleats, smelly socks, and equipment bags that could fit a full-grown adult have taken up permanent residence in your already packed minivan.

15. Bedtime gets later and later, which of course means mornings are harder and harder.

16. Your eyes glaze over when you see an email from your kids’ school in your inbox. Other than the ones coming from the teacher (“Field Trip Thursday!”), they are probably about testing, luncheons, class pictures, yearbooks, the pre-summer social, and other stuff you didn’t care about at the beginning of the year and care even less about now. (Seriously, a pre-summer social?! WTF!)

17. School projects are the epitome of independent study. You’re pretty sure your third-grader has some kind of project due next week, but you haven’t seen it, much less helped him with it. You think it might be a book report, but can’t quite be sure. Maybe a science project? Oh well, that’s how they learn independence, right?

18. You have a list of regrets a mile long. You regret that you didn’t do a better job of keeping up with the reading chart. You regret that you signed up for committees. You regret that things like pre-summer socials exist.

19. It takes 15 minutes to find a sharpened pencil. And don’t even think about looking for a pencil with an eraser.

20. You decide that next year will be different. You’ll buy more pencils. You’ll do a better job of keeping up with the reading chart. You will not sign up for the pre-summer social committee. You say this every year, but next year really will be different.

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7 Things To Know About Families On Public Assistance

In the winter of 2011, my husband got the news that there had been budget cuts at work, and he was being laid off from the job he’d had for 10 years. The shock I felt at hearing the news was physical, a sick panic that coursed through me. We had a 5-year-old son, and I was pregnant with our second child. In one quick instant, our family lost its main source of income as well as our health insurance.

My husband had just completed a program to become a certified teacher, but he hadn’t found a teaching job yet. While he looked for work, he was able to collect unemployment, and he subbed when there was work available. Our 5-year-old wasn’t in full-time school yet, so I cared for him during the day, and worked evenings and weekends as a postpartum doula and lactation counselor.

But it wasn’t enough. Our second son would be born soon, and we didn’t know how many more months we could tear through our savings, or rely on whatever help our families could afford to give.

So, we did what we never really imagined we’d do. We applied for government aid: SNAP benefits (food stamps) and Medicaid.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t known anyone who relied on public assistance: In fact, both my parents and in-laws had used food stamps for some period of time in their early years of marriage. But I simply didn’t think my husband and I would ever get to that place. We were two college-educated, successful adults: It just didn’t seem like something that would be in our future.

Financial hardship can happen to anyone, at any time—no matter what your life looks like or what hopes, dreams, and aspirations you have. Receiving government aid doesn’t mean you aren’t trying your best to provide for yourself and your family. Most people on welfare are trying really hard; many are working more than one job and still not making ends meet.

Until I began receiving government aid myself, I wasn’t fully aware of the myths that are out there about families who receive it. And I didn’t realize how many misconceptions I myself had. Although my husband did get a job about a year later, and my family is now in a more stable position than we were, I am forever changed by the experience.

I no longer assume anything about a family who is on welfare. I don’t know their story, and it’s not my place to judge. I have learned that a lot of what happens to people financially is out of their control, and that many more people than you might realize are struggling financially.

Here are other facts I learned about poverty, the process for receiving aid, the stigmas, and the often flawed realities of how some of the programs work:

1. Applying for government assistance can be a time-consuming, difficult process—a full-time job in and of itself.

My husband and I had to go back to the SNAP office several times to complete the process. We had to get childcare for our son, my husband had to miss days of job hunting and interviewing, and we had to wait in epic lines only to be turned away because we didn’t have correct paperwork.

2. Sometimes the stigma of receiving government aid stops families from getting benefits that would greatly improve their lives.

I know several families who would have qualified for aid, but didn’t want to apply because they feared the judgment of others. It pains me to hear this kind of thing, but I don’t fault these families. It’s all of us who are responsible for educating ourselves about welfare, and choosing compassion over judgment.

3. SNAP benefits (food stamps) don’t always cover a family’s whole grocery budget.

Families get different amounts based on income and family size, but it often doesn’t meet the needs of the entire family. Even after cutting our grocery bill down as much as possible, we still had to pay about half of our grocery bill out of pocket. We were lucky to have some savings we could use for that, but not all families have that to fall back on.

4. Often, families on SNAP will choose less expensive, lower-quality foods simply because the spending amount allotted is too low to allow for better choices.

It’s a big myth that families on food stamps are going out and buying fresh steaks or cartfuls of organic produce. The reality could not be further from the truth, and the misconceptions about this one need to end right now.

5. People on unemployment must be actively looking for jobs in order to continue receiving it, and there are processes in place to ensure this.

Here’s another one where people assume those on public assistance are taking advantage of the system. Our family got more than one threatening letter from the unemployment office (it was because of a clerical error that took some time to clear up). Unemployment never felt like an easy “handout.”

6. Medicaid is a wonderful service, but it also has problems.

It can take months to get insured (it took us close to two months to get our coverage certified), and there are fewer choices in terms of medical specialists. We couldn’t find a covered pediatric dermatologist in our area; thankfully, we weren’t facing a medical emergency, but I wondered what would have happened if we were, and coverage for our specialist wasn’t guaranteed.

7. Poverty affects many more people than you might think.

As of the 2014 Census, 47 million people in America were living in poverty. 15 million were children. Think about that for a second. Let it sink in. That’s more children than you can imagine. That’s millions of children whose health and livelihood are in jeopardy every day. But it’s not just impoverished families who seek public assistance. Financial demise can strike any kind of family; it doesn’t discriminate.

We have real work to do. The government assistance programs we have in place are wonderful, and I was grateful they were there for me in my time of need, but we need more programs, better programs, more accessible programs.

This is about real people, real lives, and real children. Judgments do not belong here. And this goes beyond politics: It is simply unacceptable to think that there are millions of children living in poverty in 2016, in America. We need to strengthen the systems we have in place so that no mother will ever wonder where her family’s next meal will come from, and no child will ever have to go to sleep with an empty belly.

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My Kids Eat Fast Food (And I’m Not Ashamed)

I made the mistake of counting. Five times. Five times a week, my kids get fast food. We always go to the same chain, which features kale salads and fruit cups and grilled nuggets. But the fries. Oh, the fries. The kids always want to snarf the fries, and I can’t blame them, because I throw down a size large myself. They drink sweet tea, in the South, with all the sugar that invokes. All I can say for myself is that they don’t get dessert, because they’re allergic to gluten and can’t have an ice cream cone.

Yeah, it’s a lot. But I have my reasons. I don’t cook beyond microwaving and scrambling eggs. I could dish up a nutritious meal, if I knew how, so fruit salad and fries it is. At least then I’m not nuking nuggets or doling out sandwiches of suspicious meat products, the kind whose provence you don’t want to request. Even the Animaniacs say you should never ask what hot dogs are made of, and that happens to be another skillet-dish I can manage. If we’re staying home, I shoot for PB&J and some sort of fruit, canned or cut or otherwise.

But usually we’re not staying home, because I’m in a hurry. On Mondays, before their homeschool PE class, I often run out of time, between, you know, actual homeschooling, and dressing myself, and dressing three children, at least one of whom prefers to be naked. And dammit, sometimes I just have to have a shower, for myself if not the good of humanity. Soon we’re out of time, and the fast food place it is. I feel the spirit of a thousand sisters here—I might be rushing to homeschool PE, but they’re running to soccer or dance. They need to nourish their kids before the big swim meet or the recital or karate. They don’t have time to feed them. Neither do I. No guilt from this mama.

If we’re really late, we run through the drive-thru and snarf fruit cups and fries and tea somewhere between the restaurant and the gym parking lot. The kids are pretty decent at downing a good meal in 10 minutes, much like every other kid in America. Some moms might feel shame about this. I think my kids, and the other ones shoveling down french fries in car seats, are American culinary wizards. No mama guilt here either.

After class, we always return to That Fast-Food Place because it’s a good place to meet a friend. At that hour, the restaurant is deserted. We can snag a table next to the play place. I get the kids a snack: fries, shared fruit cups. I get myself a snack: fries, a kale salad. They eat as fast as they can possibly manage so they can rocket into the plastic-tube-filled, rubber-floored kid jungle. Even the 2 ½-year-old goes. This gives my friend and I blessed kid-free time—as much as an hour. That’s why so many moms groups meet at fast food places. We can say the word “fuck.” We can talk about things salacious. Mostly, we can renew our friendships without kids tugging on our hems. It’s a precious gift.

On another day, my kids have music lessons. Both of them have ADD, with a touch of hyperactivity, and concentrate much better after they’ve run off some of their energy. The play place is the perfect venue for that. I can feed the kids lunch—nuggets, split, a small fry each, split fruit cups—which saves me time at home. I can eat lunch myself (two kale salads and some fries). And then I can loose my three sons on the climbing, racing, sliding paradise that is the play place. I let them run for an hour while I sip tea and play on my phone. Then it’s off to their lessons, where they concentrate better, sit more still, and generally behave better.

They eat in the car on other occasions. Often, I need a damn tea. I need it like I need a needle in the vein, and I need it now. When I cruise into the drive-thru line (wrapped around the building), the orders start. “Ma-ma, I’m hun-gry,” they whine. Doesn’t matter if they ate 10 minutes ago. Doesn’t matter if I made my best PB&J effort. They want lemonades, which are basically real lemons and sugar, so no better than tea. They want fries. I try to push the fruit cup, but it’s not happening. They demand snacks, and since I can’t say no to a hungry child, I cave.

Then, they get breakfast. We go to a local place, and it always starts out simple: I just need a tea. But by the time I get to the window, despite having just roasted 12 pieces of toast, I’m ordering hash browns and eggs and sides of bacon. I know I’m not the only mom snagging the Most Important Meal of the Day via drive-thru.

Yeah, when I add it all up, my kids eat a lot of industrial-fried potatoes. They drink a lot of sugary drinks. But it makes our lives run much more smoothly. My husband comes home every night and cooks attractive, nutritious meals, which the boys eat. So they do get their colors and their greens and their meat. During the day, Mama gets her convenience. We couldn’t function without it. And I know I’m not alone.

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Our Journey From Secondary Infertility To Vasectomy

After my son was born, my husband and I expected to get pregnant easily again, but secondary infertility settled in like an unwelcome relative. Several chemical pregnancies, one miscarriage, many fertility drugs, and 28 months later, I gave birth to twin daughters.

I was 41 when I had the twins and wanted my tubes tied after the C-section, but the religious hospital I delivered at harbored far different ideas about birth control. Postpartum, I hoped that nursing would keep my ovulation at bay for a while, but that idea was short-lived as my reproductive system went back to its normal monthly routine after just four months despite of my round-the-clock nursing regimen. Abstinence, however, is foolproof. The twins were all-consuming, and any time we found ourselves suddenly alone, the only thing we could think of was sleep. Marital relations became an oxymoron for us.

At long last, we emerged from the fog of sleepless nights and complete immersion in everything baby. We were finally getting some shut-eye, the twins detached from my nipples, and my own needs and wants slowly blinked back into focus. I started to lose the baby weight and gave away every last piece of my maternity wardrobe. With my childbearing years behind me, I looked forward excitedly to the next stage of our lives. I began to dream about next autumn when the girls would be in preschool five mornings a week. I could get so much done with three and a half hours to myself every day! Untethering from my children felt so liberating.

Lo and behold, my libido emerged from hibernation as well. No one could have been more surprised than our condoms, which had long since given up hope and expired. It was time to revisit our birth control strategy. We needed a permanent solution. After a long discussion, my husband volunteered for a vasectomy. However, I was concerned about whether or not he truly felt comfortable with the procedure. In the event of my untimely demise, I wanted him to keep his options open: to fall in love again, get married, and have more kids. But he reassured me that even if I were to prematurely expire like our condoms, he felt his family was complete and his life was full.

And then I waited. I would occasionally ask him if he made the appointment yet, and the answer was always “soon.” I figured this was something he needed to take charge of so I stood back. One day in November, he told me he made the appointment to meet with the doctor, and soon thereafter he had a vasectomy scheduled for three weeks later. I patted myself on the back for being an awesome non-nagging wife who gave her husband the time and space he needed to make this choice.

This post originally appeared on The Washington Post.

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5 Ways Technology Makes It Easier To Be A Mom

Empowering Parents: How Technology Helps Moms

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Everyone complains that technology has made our lives busier, louder, and less engaged. Parents lament that their kids are addicted to their screens and that our kids have deserted neighborhood yards in favor of video games and texting. Restaurants are filled with couples and their screen-lit faces as they wait for their dinners to arrive, and subway cars are filled with people who never look up from their phones.

But for all of society’s complaints about technology and its dangers, I have to be honest: As a mom, technology has made my life so much easier, and frankly, I don’t know how moms in the ’70s survived planning a PTA party without email.

When I think back to the things my mom had to do to get through her day, I am stymied by how much time and energy she had to expend. Frankly, I don’t think I’d have survived the toddler years without Google. If you ask me, technology is empowering parents. Here are some other ways technology has made my life easier:

1. Classroom Party Planning

Old School: My mom made 25 phone calls to plan a simple classroom party. Her friend Jane’s phone just rang and rang. Snotty mom Sandy’s phone was picked up by the 4-year-old and put down on the kitchen counter as the sounds of a dog barking met my mother’s ear. Hippy mom Roberta’s son took a message but failed to convey that hard-boiled, not raw, eggs were needed for the Easter party. The party took three weeks to plan, and my mother was headed for the funny farm by the end.

Now: I send one email listing the classroom party needs to 25 people. Aside from the two morons who reply all 15 times, the party is planned in between stoplights on the way to dance practice. And I don’t have to talk to snotty mom Sandy.

2. PTA Meetings

Old School: Meetings were held once a month and attended en masse by well dressed, highly coiffed women. Dues were collected, parliamentary procedure was followed, and homemade refreshments were served. Meetings were filled to capacity, because if you missed one, you had no idea what was happening in the school. And how else would you find out the local gossip?

Now: I follow my kids’ schools on Facebook. I can read the PTA minutes online in my car as I wait for soccer practice to end. Pfft, does anyone actually go to PTA meetings anymore?

3. Grocery Shopping

Old School: My mom trolled the aisles of the local grocery store for items like Wonder Bread, fluff, and bologna. And Tab, so much Tab. She hauled all of it home in her un-air-conditioned beater station wagon and screamed for us kids to unload everything. Of course, none of us were helpful and the entire process took approximately five hours.

Now: I sit in my pajamas on my couch with a glass of wine and order my groceries online. A nice delivery person shows up at my door and deposits the bags to my counter. A tip, a thank-you, and a door slam later, all I have to do is put everything away. The whole process takes 20 minutes, and I secretly laugh at my mom. I still order Wonder Bread though.

4. The Workday

Old School: Back then, my mom went to a job and stayed there all day. She wore grown-up clothes, got to use her real name instead of hearing a chorus of “mom”s, and functioned all day in her professional role with minimal interruptions. She had a lunch break, actually got a paycheck, and was respected in her field.

Now: I get to work from the comfort of my home in my yoga pants while my sticky kids demand snacks and I have to drown out the sounds of the Disney Channel so I can think clearly. I have to remember to shower before video conference calls, and my workday never really closes thanks to email. Come to think of it, my mom might have had it better in this respect.

5. Communication

Old School: My mom didn’t have email, texting, online support groups, social media, or an answering machine. She had to have face-to-face encounters with anyone and everyone in order to get her daily work done. She had to “people” all day long in addition to being trapped at home with three small kids. She’s still friends with everyone she knew in high school and attends her reunions.

Now: I don’t have to talk to a single human all day with modern technology. And I can be very selective about whom I actually talk to, thanks to Caller ID. Playdates are worked out via email, and I interact with my friends via text. I attended my high school reunion via a Facebook group set up by our president.

Yes, my mom had it harder, and technology, for all its faults, has allowed me to balance work and home better than my mom could. Has technology made my life feel a little impersonal and lonely some days? Maybe. But at least I don’t have to show up fully dressed to a PTA meeting and miss Grey’s Anatomy.

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5 Stages Of Finding Out Your Kid Was A Jerk

5 Stages Of Finding Out Your Kid Was A Mean Girl

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When your phone dings at 10:58 p.m., you should never look. It won’t be good.

“I hate doing this in e-mail, but I can’t find the courage to call,” a mom wrote to me and three other women. “My daughter came home crying yesterday about something that happened at school. I spoke to Mrs. Smith about it, and apparently she saw it play out. I just felt the need to reach out.”

And that’s when my heart started to beat a little faster. She was telling me my kid had been an A-hole to her kid.

As I continued to read, this mom, whom I know casually, described some serious mean girl behavior—exclusion, name-calling, borderline bullying. And my kid was in the mix of it. Apparently she was not the ring leader, but she didn’t stop it either, which is just as bad.

“I know my daughter is sensitive and can be a lot to handle, but the kids have to go to school together for the next several years. I am hoping we can work to make their relationships better. I’ve told her to apologize for some of the poor things she said, and I want to follow up to ensure she did.”

I had to hand it to this mom. She was all class. She did not point fingers or engage in any name-calling. She didn’t judge and took some accountability. She stuck to the facts, and I genuinely believe she wanted what was best for all the kids involved.

As I lay awake in bed that night, I, however, was an emotional roller coaster. You say you want to know when your kid does something wrong, but when you find out, especially from another parent, well…it turned out I was a lot happier before I read that message.

In the hours that followed, I experienced the five stages of finding out my kid was kind of an A-hole. This is how it went down:

Denial: There is no way my sweet child would do that. This mom must be wrong. Maybe she confused my daughter with the other girl in the class who has the same name.

Anger: Oh, I’m going to kill her. I’m seriously going to kill her. How dare she pick on another kid. I brought her into this world, and I can take her out.

Bargaining: Maybe it was a misunderstanding, or the girl lied, or the teacher lied.

Depression: Why? Why did my kid have to be the jerk? Where did I go wrong? It must be all that Minecraft!

Acceptance: OK, what am I going to do with this kid? Time to dole out the punishment and hit her where it hurts.

The next morning at breakfast, I talked to my daughter about the “incident.” I’d barely uttered 15 words before she burst into tears.

“Mom, I didn’t know what to do, and I feel so bad. It started off as a joke, but then she said something to Sara, and then Jenny said something, and then there was this big yelling match, and I didn’t know what to do.”

I was skeptical, but as she told me the rest of her story, it seemed to match up with the other mom’s version. I was relieved that she didn’t participate in the bad behavior, but disappointed she didn’t stop it either.

“Well, where do you think we go from here?” I asked.

“Mrs. Smith made us write apology letters as homework. Here’s mine,” she meekly replied as she slipped a paper out of her tattered orange folder.

“Do you think that’s enough?” I asked using my sternest mom voice.

“Not really. I already told her I was sorry after school, but maybe I could do something nice for her too,” she responded with her eyes cast downward.

“Good call. Maybe we could both do something nice, like treat her to Starbucks with the money you’ll earn from doing chores this weekend?” I mentally high-fived myself for getting her to put away the laundry and garner myself a Mocha Frappuccino in the process.

“OK, Mom. I get it. And I’m really sorry,” she said.

And I believe her. I was even a little proud of her for owning up to it on the first try.

We all say we want to know if our kids are behaving badly, but it kind of sucks when you find out. This incident was minor, but it is a good stepping stone for when my kid messes up next. Because she’s going to. And maybe next time I’ll zip from anger to acceptance a little faster.

The post 5 Stages Of Finding Out Your Kid Was A Jerk appeared first on Scary Mommy.

It’s Happened. I’ve Turned Into My Mother

television

Image via Shutterstock

My mom loves to tell the story of how she bowled the best game of her life the night before she gave birth to me. Clearly a safe choice, (as was the whiskey sour a day that she confessed to having throughout her pregnancy — but I’ll leave that for another day). I still have the “Most Improved Bowler” trophy that she won.  It’s pretty awesome. An impressive four inch high marble base, with a silver statuette of a very elegant lady in a skirt — bowling.

As luck would have it, they also invented the microwave that week. And my mom won it. The very first microwave in existence. It was enormous — about three feet long by two feet wide. And loud. And so powerful that it dimmed the lights when you used it. That enormous piece of imperfect counter top radiation came into our house when I was a newborn, and didn’t make its exit until my sister bought my mom a new one, somewhere around the year 2000. I was 27.

Appliances are not meant to last that long. That alone makes its presence in our home during all of the formative years of my life f-ing terrifying.  I would love to blame all my bad decision making on the fact that I used to love to rest my forehead on it and watch my food cook. But I’m pretty sure my sister did that too  — and she’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. So, yeah, no luck.

Of course, we tried to buy her one sooner, but you don’t know my mother. Not only did she not want a new one, she absolutely refused to allow the replacement of the damn thing.  My sister had to sneak it out of the house — literally. I’m pretty sure my mom started to cry when she saw its shiny, digital replacement. And they weren’t tears of joy. Imagine taking the old family dog away from a nine-year-old, killing it in the night, and trying to replace it with a bunny. Now imagine that look on the face of a 60-year-old woman.

The microwave wasn’t the only archaic appliance we had in that house. Yes, it’s the only one I blame for my inability to conceive for many years, but now I have my kids, so that’s neither here nor there. Our TV was fodder for legend.

Remember when electronics were also furniture? That was brilliant. Why make a necessary piece of household equipment small and efficient when it could be enormous, and also a piece of non-functional furniture? Our TV sat about five inches from the floor, on a swivel base. The TV itself was about a 40 inch. The size of the shiny wood siding that housed it was about a three and half foot cube.  It was enormous. We got it in 1978 when we moved to California. My mom didn’t get rid of that one until we refused to pack it for her move to Florida in 2003.  Only one button worked on the remote — the channel up button. Do you know how incredibly frustrating it is to have to cycle through 52 channels to get to the one you want? Very. I mean, never enough to make us get off our asses and walk to the TV, but very.

My mother still brings that TV up. When we finally convinced her not to pack her 300 pound soul mate up for the move, she gave it to a tenant she was renting a room to. Boy is she pissed that it’s still working, and not in her possession.  I saw Mike when I went back to San Jose. Do you know that he still has that TV?  He loves it.  He says its the best TV he’s ever had. It really did have a nice picture. And it was so different — the way you could watch it in the living room, and swivel it around an also watch it in the dining room.  

They don’t make things like that anymore. 

I kept the first Mac power book I bought way longer than I needed to.  A 27-year-old microwave, and a an 9-year-old Mac are basically the same thing.  I didn’t turn the computer off for three years, for fear that it wouldn’t turn back on.  Seriously.  And I didn’t do any software updates either, because You know they put viruses in those. Apple does. They don’t want their products to last that long. In case you didn’t catch on, that would be the inner dialogue of my brain.  Also, if you unplugged it, you’d have to fiddle with the power cord for about five minutes to get it to work again. Why did it take me so long to buy a new one?  Genetics, clearly.  I’m hard-wired to exhaust the shit out of anything that can be plugged into a wall.

In 2012 I still had a TV was bought for me by my mother in 1998.  It was a Sony 32 inch traditional boxed TV. It was old. And huge. And my friends had been known to tease me, relentlessly, for still having it. My husband bought a flat screen one day, and set it up in the living room as a surprise for me when I got home from work. Oh. Wow.  Yeah- great. The picture is nice, but it’s a little too clear- isn’t it?  I mean, everyone looks kinda haggard.  And the sound, it’s tinny isn’t it?  But great. It’s great. Thanks! 

The night he brought it home, I lay in bed — visions of my old workhorse just sitting sadly in the corner of the living room were too much for me to bear. I mean, I was really bothered by this. I just kept thinking I like my TV better. It’s old, but so what? And who cares if it juts out two feet into the only path through our front room — not me!  Suddenly I realized I was laying awake thinking about my TV. Ridiculous!

But, with the clarity that only comes when you are lying awake in the middle of the night: I learned something about my mother — and myself.  Of course a new flat screen would be better, in every way. But it’s not the thing itself, it is its quiet, unwavering presence in your life. In other words, welcome to aging.  Welcome to your youth slipping away. Welcome to memories attached to things that were around, when you were younger and better in every way.  And who wants to give those up?

Needless to say, my husband’s flat screen lived in his office for a few years, and my beloved television took up residence in the most important room in the house — until I was finally ready to say goodbye.

They just don’t make things like that anymore.

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Why Can’t I Survive A Week Of Meal Planning?

Why Can’t I Survive A Week Of Meal Planning?

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To make life easier, some people follow the once-a-month meal planning and cooking approach, where you basically buy, prepare, and cook a month’s worth of meals in one day and then freeze them until you need them.

I am not one of those people.

I like the idea of stockpiling 30 days of ready-to-heat dinners in my freezer like it’s an end-of-the-world underground bunker. But that would require way more planning than I’m capable of—and a Costco-sized freezer. Besides, even my best-laid plans usually fall apart with my family’s hectic schedule. Top that off with the typical craziness of the meal-prep witching hour and you can understand why I shy away from once-a-month cooking.

But I figured I could handle seven days of meal planning. So I buckled down one Sunday afternoon to tackle the weekly chow plan. I knew that weeknights would run smoother when I planned what to make for dinner and stocked my kitchen with all the necessary ingredients. It sounded simple enough.

But the reality of meal planning took a turn for the worse mid-week, as my carefully crafted meal plan morphed into a meal ban, one dreadful dinner at a time.

Here’s how it all went down:

Meatless Monday

I make a no-fail Vegetable Soup for Veggie-Haters, falsely believing that my take-no-prisoners recipe will convert my meat-loving men to healthier eating at least once a week. My carnivore clan (less than thrilled with the lack of a dead animal in their entrée) immediately starts dissecting their soup. My husband stealthily pushes all the carrots to one side hoping no one notices. In between looks of disgust, the boys pick out the onions while asking, “Ew! What’s that green stuff floating next to the potato?” I lie and call it parsley, knowing I will burn in hell for trying to conceal chopped kale. After much cajoling and a few spoonfuls later, my finicky teens push their half-empty bowls away and claim they’re both “full” as they grab a couple more slices of bread and bolt upstairs. Day One: Fail.

Tasty Tuesday

Tonight, I tempt taste buds with gourmet cuisine, taking my cue straight from the Barefoot Contessa herself. I channel my inner Ina Garten as I whip together an elegant meal of chicken with Asiago cheese and basil, oven-roasted dill carrots, and penne pasta with roasted red peppers, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s piping hot and ready to serve—until family plans go awry. My husband needs to work late, my older teen has to help with a group project at school, and my younger teen has his soccer practice rescheduled. After an extra two hours of keeping dinner warm, my epicurean entrée and sumptuous side dishes meld into charred chow. I’m 0-2.

Win-Them-Back Wednesday

I attempt to appease everyone’s picky palate with a family favorite: a crockpot full of chili simmering all day. I toss a couple pounds of beef in the slow-cooker, add some chopped onions, herbs and diced tomatoes and we’re good to go—perfect for our super busy day ahead. Eight harried hours later, we walk through the door, anticipating the spicy aroma of chili to welcome us home. Strangely, we smell nothing. I head to the kitchen and see the cord dangling next to the crockpot like a lifeless snake. Crap! I forgot to plug it in before we all left today. The opposite of last night’s overcooked dinner, tonight’s meal sits raw and bloody in my cold crockpot, practically mooing when I crack open the lid. I grab a bag of tortilla chips, dump salsa in a bowl, and dub it a Tex-Mex appetizer. I suck at meal planning.

Thankless Thursday

After three failed attempts, I’m cursing the meal plan and popping open cans of condensed soup, wondering if anyone will even notice it’s not homemade. Trying to make me feel better, my sons both remark how delicious the soup is and encourage me to “make this more often.” Yeah, I’ll hold on tight to that Campbell family recipe. Dear God, why do I even try?

Free-for-All Friday

With everyone on a different schedule tonight, I ditch the idea of a home-cooked meal together. My older son eats at the mall food court with his friend before they see a movie. My younger son eats a PB&J in the car on the way to his soccer game, while I chug some water, grab a cheese stick, and pop a few pretzels in my mouth as I drive him there. My husband (if he remembers to bring cash) hopes to eat a concession stand hot dog at halftime. My meal plan is dying a slow and painful death.

Suck-It Saturday

By the weekend, the boys are fighting, my husband is cursing his way through a plumbing project, and I’m crying into my cookbook as I throw frozen fish sticks at the kids and run for the front door, pretending not to hear their pleas for “just one more chance.”

Sanity-Saving Sunday

Tonight I’m dining alone with a glass of wine and my head buried in a copy of Erma Bombeck’s Aunt Erma’s Cope Book, reminding myself that I cannot divorce my family or just opt-out of dinner for the rest of my life. I eye-up the stack of menus on the counter and realize it’s time we start supporting the small businesses in our community. I pick up the phone, dial, and hear the words that bring joy to my ban-the-meal-plan heart: “China Wok, may I help you?”

I applaud all the organized meal planners who’ve got their act together. But for the rest of us? We’re forever grateful for takeout.

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