Should I Have Another Baby — Or Am I Having A Midlife Crisis?

My one and only, Andrew turned ten in October. Months later I still cannot believe that he has been in my life for an entire decade. In ten more years he will be twenty and…wait, hold up. Oh my God, my baby will be twenty! In ten years, he will not be under my roof anymore. But I don’t even have ten years. I really only have eight. In eight short years, Andrew will graduate from high school and head off to college. He will leave me and I will be all alone (if my husband was reading this he would ask if he is chopped liver and then laugh at me for being dramatic).

Okay, so maybe I do need to get out of my own head. I need to think about something positive…something like the fact that my birthday is this month. I have a fun girls night out planned to celebrate that I am turning…40. I knew this day would come eventually so I was planning on taking it in stride by drinking from a shared fruity fish bowl and belting out “Sweet Caroline” and “Piano Man.” But now that I have only two weeks left in my thirties, I’m feeling less celebratory. I’m about to start a new decade of life that will probably include gray hair…a new decade where my one and only is going to leave me. What am I going to do?

Have another baby.

Whoa, where did that come from? Have a baby! Although I can tell myself that 40 is the new 30, 40 in reproductive years is old. Doctors use warm and fuzzy terms like geriatric pregnancy and advanced maternal age. I can’t have another baby.

But the thing is lots of women have babies after forty like Halle Berry, Gwen Stefani, Tina Fey, my cousin Emma, and my friend Kate. I guess God willing I could have another baby. But that would be more than a ten year age gap between Andrew and his sibling. The days of sleepless nights, changing diapers, toddler tantrums, and paying an arm and a leg for daycare are LONG behind me. Life with one ten-year-old kid is easy. Why would I want to go and make things complicated?

I know what may be going on here. Maybe I am having a midlife crisis. Is it possible to have one of those when you are happy and feel like you are living your best life? I have a great job, a caring husband, and a beautiful home. My extended family is supportive and I have a tribe of amazing girlfriends. I am a year away from completing my MBA and I get to take frequent vacations. Plus, I have my one and only…the light of my life. Nothing brings me more joy than being a mother.

Mom and son posing with sunglasses on
Courtesy of Angela Grossnickle

And now my baby is already ten. Every birthday celebrated means he needs me less and less. Don’t get me wrong, it has been an absolute privilege to watch him grow into the amazing young person that he has become. I am blessed and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for him. I am very important to him and we are close. He still cuddles with me, holds my hand, and tells me that he loves me to the moon and back. But I know that time is not on my side. His friends are becoming more and more a priority in his life. He is less excited to go on family outings such as bowling or mini golfing with just the three of us. Video games are now more fun than building Legos or making a puzzle with Mom. It’s only a matter of time before it will be uncool to be seen with me in public. And eventually girls will enter the picture and someone else will be the object of his affection.

Sigh.  

I miss being needed by Andrew. I miss being the center of his universe…when his face would light up when I entered a room and he would run and throw himself into my arms. Sometimes I miss pushing a stroller. I miss shopping for tiny clothes. I miss singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” I miss reading Goodnight Moon over and over again a hundred times.  I miss rocking him to sleep in my arms. So the question is, am just being nostalgic or do I really want another baby? How do I know the difference? Maybe this makes me sound silly. Maybe I sound whiny or even ungrateful. Or maybe this makes me sound selfish.

Sometimes I feel selfish…selfish that I didn’t give Andrew a sibling years ago. Guilt often rears its ugly head because I know that he would be an awesome big brother. Over the years, others have also made me feel guilty with their judgmental comments about only having one child, but guilt is not a good reason to have a baby. And I have to admit that while I absolutely love being a mom, it’s REALLY HARD sometimes! Andrew was a difficult baby and an even more difficult toddler. He was strong-willed and tested our patience constantly…he still does.

I guess all I can hope is that this internal struggle makes me sound human. That it is okay and completely normal to feel conflicted, emotional, and unsure of which path to take. I can take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in experiencing these types of feelings. That there are women of all ages out there who can relate because they are grappling with their own family size issues.

Have another baby.

I would REALLY miss wine though.

While my husband and I figure out which path we will travel down, I will embrace being 40. I will live a life of gratitude. I will fight off any feelings of guilt because at the end of the day there is no right or wrong decision. I will be present and enjoy every moment with my one and only…because the clock is ticking.

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An Open Letter To My Hormones And Anyone In My Vicinity

Dear waning estrogen and progesterone,

I’m not gonna sugar-coat things: you guys suck. Ass. I’d be falsely representing my feelings if I said anything other than, “Just fuck right off, ok?”

Look, here’s the deal. You used to give me a solid two weeks of semi-normalcy. These would be days where you’d find me bouncing through a field of daisies, blowing some playful bubbles or riding my bike in tight, white pants singing in harmony with the neighborhood sparrows. The children would be lovingly careened to bed while we recanted the highlights of our carefree days. Life was leisurely during those sacred two weeks.

But for some reason or another, you decided to fuck around with this schedule and I’m now living in a quasi hell. Read: one week of acceptable human existence, followed by a week of demonic outbreaks, finishing with a week of passing clots the size of golf balls. Like, I’m sorry! I should not have a google search history that includes “what’s the largest sized tampon available over the counter” and “hysterectomy recovery times.” I should be seeking out all the usual chick shit, like, “topless pics of Adam Levine” or “cheap nail salons near me.” But, no. Instead, you have me raging like some possessed woman whose cycle has been reduced to just 22 days. Even the moon can’t keep up with this goddamn blasphemy.

So today, after devouring a full sleeve of Pringles at my desk for no apparent reason, I drove to town in a fit of complete hysterics. See, in addition to eating Tim Horton’s carbs for breakfast and lunch, then chasing them down with that salty chip kryptonite, I found myself making a beeline to Little Caesars in search of some Hot-and-Ready Pizzas to serve the kids. Because carbs and I can only be described as life-long BFFs. Said no middle-aged woman EVER. I can feel my pants splitting open in protest. Amazeballs.

Listen here: I want to kill someone! I’m pretty sure that Siri or Alexa or Google should report me because I just shrieked those words verbatim as I typed them.

Recent examples?

Husband comes home from his day at the office, throws his work pants over my desk chair. TRIGGER!!! Daughter pokes her head in the bedroom to ask how my day was. TRIGGER!!!! Exchange student wanders upstairs in a loitering kind of fashion, leading me to believe she wants to talk. TRIGGER TRIGGER!!!!! The dog noses his way in (following his regular walk, I might add) to look at me with his ridiculous one blue eye, as if to say, “Bitch, are you EVER gonna feed me? That dry kibble doesn’t just eat itself!” TRIGGER TRIGGER TRIGGER!!!!!

And let’s establish some unwritten rules here. The only people, and it’s worth repeating, ONLY PEOPLE equipped to (1) comment on hormones (2) ask about hormones (3) bargain with you hormones… are those already subjected to your hormones. All sisters get a lifelong hall pass here. Men, although we are powerless to change your train of thought, we strongly caution you against verbalizing our feelings as “that time of the month,” or “must be your menses” (fucking huge-ass trigger… don’t ever say menses), and even more egregious, “Sam, you know you’re not thinking clearly right now.”

No. NO. and Literal BLOODY HELL NO!!!!!!

Just don’t even GO There. Your one job is to tiptoe around the house in a kind of skulking fashion. You want to go undetected. Completely stealth, under the radar, if you will. But there must be some sort of DNA evidence of your existence. Perhaps leave out your razor or keep Sportsnet on at a dull roar in the den. We may need something from you, such as an emergency run to Shoppers for sour keys, and on rare occasions, a dreaded scouting of the right pads and ‘pons! We just don’t want to see you, hear you, smell or feel you.

DO YOU HEAR THIS LATTER ONE? WE ESPECIALLY DON’T WANT TO FEEL YOU. HANDS OFF THE BOOBS WHILE WE BRUSH OUR TEETH. CAN’T YOU JUST ASSUME THERE’S AN INVISIBLE, IMPENETRABLE WALL PREVENTING ANY SORT OF GRINDING AND GROPING DURING THESE SPECIFICALLY HORMONAL TIMES? How would you feel if we were tugging on your balls while one-thousand tiny jackhammers were running 24/7 inside them? I didn’t think so!

And while we’re at it, let’s discuss the actual lingual root of the word “menopause.” For most of us, it literally means, “pause the men.” Say it with me, “Pause the men.” Very good. We do want you in our lives, but only at our convenience. And right now, is just NOT a very convenient time, haven’t you noticed? Further, we’d much prefer a back rub while watching “The Daily Show” instead of some creepy hand gesture luring us into a BJ. We’re not falling for it, ‘mkay? Tempting, but no thanks.

Apologies for all this ranting. But I hold you fully accountable, estrogen. Monthly flare-ups are especially common when merging into oncoming traffic, watching the Weather Channel, making kids lunches and during those soul-restoring Facebook hours. The slew of indignities will flow out of my mouth like I’m a seasoned trucker (no offense, truckers). In fairness, these outbursts are quite effective while standing in long bank line-ups. Innocent onlookers get a bit freaked out and tend to give up their spot in queue for fear of their heads being bitten right off.

Thus. I’d like it if we could please move along whatever this middle-aged-cycle process is, so that I could go back to my regularly scheduled one. I’m guessing that’s just not possible and you’ll have to run your dumbass course. Which could take years, I’m told. In the meantime, I’d like to acknowledge the following sponsors who have done all they can to get me through these sanity-stealing moments:

– Pringles, especially the Salt and Vinegar variety

– Red Wine (mostly JLohr)

– Netflix binging

– Hot baths

– Fuzzy socks

– Baroness Von Sketch episodes

– Retail therapy on impractical purchases

– Girlfriend bitch sessions

Yours sincerely,

Sam, on behalf of every 45-year old woman with raging hormones

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To My 16-Year-Old: You’ll Never Know I Cried As You Walked Away

To my son,

You’ll never know that I cried today as you walked away….

Today is your 16th birthday.

From the day you were born and even before that, I have loved you and cared for you and been the one to hold you and soothe you when you were little…

And today I just dropped you off at basketball practice for probably the very last time. Soon you will get your license and gain your freedom to go out into this wonderful world without me, and hopefully make it better, as I pray I have raised you to do.

Courtesy of Gina Bonifas

But you’ll probably never know, I cried as you walked away today. My heart was happy to see the young man you have grown to be. But a part of my heart broke as you walked away today because I know I won’t have that time with you anymore. Those few seconds on the road together, will be far and few between.

I loved our chats as we would drive to and from practice. I loved the way you giggled at me when I would sing along with the radio. I smiled inside when you would roll your eyes at me because your music was inappropriate, and not meant for your mama’s ears. I loved when we turned the music up and jammed to what I called the “good” songs and you referred to as “oldies.” And that smile, that smile you would flash me when you made a mistake practicing driving is something I will hold in my heart forever.

But most of all, I am going to miss all of those little tiny moments where you would open up and talk to me in the car. It was just you and me. No siblings, no life, no homework, no phones going off, no world around us, it was just us. Just us discussing your day, your friends, the good and bad of the world, or simply just a quick “It was a good day, Mom.” I will forever cherish those moments. They are some of my favorites.

Courtesy of Gina Bonifas

So, today I cried as you walked away from my car knowing that soon, you would get that small bit of freedom that you so desperately have been waiting for, and I have unsuccessfully tried to hold onto.

Dear God, please keep him safe and watch over him. Watch over his siblings and friends who will be riding with him and always bring him home to me.

Son, always know that I will be waiting for you to return and praying while you are gone. You are my whole world and I can’t wait for you to see what this wonderful world has waiting for you. I will always cherish and miss that little boy, strapped into his car seat, eating Teddy Grahams and singing the songs that I once approved of.

So yes, I cried today as you walked away from my car, but I know you are walking into so many wonderful things that I can’t wait for you to experience. Happy Birthday my dear child! And don’t forget to ask your mom to go for a drive every once in while. You will make her day.

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Why ‘The Golden Girls’ Stands The Test Of Time

When you hear the words, thank you for being a friend,” there’s only one thing you think of. Four sassy women old enough to be your grandma living in Miami. That’s right, you’re thinking of The Golden Girls. The show, which premiered in 1985, is a huge part of our social consciousness — and for good reason. In addition to being incredibly entertaining, The Golden Girls was groundbreaking. That’s precisely why it’s still so popular now, almost 35 years after its premiere.

There aren’t too many subjects The Golden Girls didn’t touch on during their seven seasons — from ageism to marriage equality to AIDS. Back in the late-’80s/early-’90s, many of these subjects weren’t societally acceptable to talk about. Not too many shows were brave enough to go there, let alone sitcoms. Even by today’s standards, most sitcoms aren’t tackling the same heavy issues Dorothy and crew were taking on way back when. The writers weren’t afraid to “go there,” and that’s one of the many reasons the show still stands the test of time.

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Of course, one of the most inspiring things the show does is prove that women over 50 are still kicking ass. In a world where youth is the focus and standard, they buck the norm. Each one of them is proof that women don’t have an expiration date — we are more than just our age. They’re out there living their best lives and giving zero fucks about what others think.

Never before had we seen older women who were still sexually active. And not just sexually active, but sexually voracious. The Golden Girls are sexual beings — giving us hope that you don’t shrivel up when you reach middle age. They’re unapologetic in their sexuality, and they never seem to compromise their desires. Blanche is the most perfect example of this, but they all get it in there. Even Sophia, who is an actual octogenarian, has boyfriends and briefly remarries. Their slut shaming of Blanche can get heavy handed, but it’s all in jest at the end of the day.

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The Golden Girls never shies away from social issues either. Yes, it’s a sitcom and therefore light and funny. However, they were able to blend the comedy with the serious realities people were facing at the time. These social issues are never presented as a “very special episode” either; they’re simply part of the storyline.

Several episodes on the show feature LGBTQ characters — most notably, Blanche’s younger brother Clayton. Not only does he come out as gay, he also marries his partner. This is something Blanche can’t wrap her head around. “I can accept the fact that he’s gay,” she says to Sophia, “but why does he have to slip a ring on his finger so the whole world will know?” Shockingly, Sophia is the one who makes Blanche realize she’s being totally ignorant.

Dorothy’s brother Phil, who we never see, bucks gender norms. Phil isn’t gay — he’s married with several children. He just likes wearing women’s clothing, especially lingerie. Even though this has been happening his entire life, when he dies, Sophia finally confronts her true feelings about it. She asks his widow why she never stopped “the dress thing,” as if being married could rid him of his desire. Rose helps her realize that Phil’s preferences weren’t something to be ashamed, but were just what made Phil who he was.

The Golden Girls is surprisingly progressive. Their treatment of LGBTQ+ people is probably why the show is so popular within the community. We queers love us some Golden Girls. At a time when the gay community was under intense scrutiny, the show never treated the community as “other.” The LGBTQ characters were simply people. Shows today don’t get it quite as right as the Golden Girls.

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This is especially true when talking about the AIDS crisis. The United States government was barely acknowledging it as a real thing, but The Golden Girls took it head on. It was most prominently featured in an episode where Rose has to have an AIDS test years after a blood transfusion. “I’m a good person,” Rose declares in a moment of self pity. “AIDS is not a bad person’s disease, Rose,” Blanche counters. At a time when there was so much misinformation, such a simple statement made a huge impact.

Since it’s a show about older women, ageism is something The Golden Girls deals with several times. More than once, Rose face ageism while searching for a job. When her dead husband’s pension runs out, no one will hire her because she’s a woman over 50. She goes to see a TV consumer reporter about taking on her age discrimination case, only to face discrimination when she asks if she can apply for an assistant job.

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There are so many other topics The Golden Girls focuses on. Teenage pregnancy (both through Dorothy and another character), homelessness, prescription pill addiction, suicide, sexual harassment, and elder abuse, to name a few. Then there’s the complexity of adult/child relationships and friendship. As much as they may have their spats, there’s no doubt of how much they love each other. You can tell these women are willing to die for each other. It’s hard to successfully capture the nuance of such close friendships, but they do it so well.

Television and the world have come a long way in 35 years, but The Golden Girls still feels as relevant as ever. Perhaps that’s why it’s never gone out of syndication. The four women on the show taught an entire generation what growing older can look like. It taught us how to be the friends who turn into family. Now it’s teaching a new generation the same thing. I’m grateful to live in a world where Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia exist.

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This Mom And HR Professional Has Excellent Advice On Helping Kids Navigate Technology

I don’t know about you, but I’m in a constant state of conflict about my kids’ technology use.

On the one hand, everyone in my household is clearly addicted to their devices, and it can be disturbing at times. Just yesterday I came into the dining room, and my husband and two sons were sitting at the table, eating, glued to their screens, all with headphones on so they couldn’t even hear me when I asked a question.

It was one of those thrown-together, middle-of-the-week dinners, so I wasn’t excepting my family to be doing too much socializing. But this was totally absurd and seemed like the perfect illustration of how zombified the entire world has gotten since personal hand-held screens were invented.

At the same time, you can’t really get away from technology these days—and there are some amazing things that happen with their usage. Not only do my kids use their phones and iPads to zone out watching videos and playing video games, but they use them to chat with their friends (no one talks on the phone these days!), complete homework assignments, and learn about prime numbers and the solar system (well, at least my nerdy kids do).

Their teachers tell me that learning to code (which my kids also use their screens for) and becoming technologically proficient is the future of our world. Tech is where all the jobs are, they tell me. Anytime I try to pry my son’s phone out of his hands, he’ll go to town with that argument, telling me that he’s going to get rich as a computer programmer someday, so I should really just relax. Sigh.

All of this is why I was so excited the other day when I came across a post on Facebook that offered some really concrete advice about how to put a more positive spin on tech use for our kids—and offered tips for making their technology use more intentional and practical. It’s totally refreshing and packed with really good ideas (which I’m definitely stealing!).

The post was written by Melissa Griffin, a Human Resources Director from San Antonio, TX and mom of three: two boys (aged 15 and 11) and a girl who is six. Griffin tells Scary Mommy that she was inspired to write this post in response to many of her friends and fellow parents who have struggled with their kids’ technology use.

“I’m a member of many parenting groups where I notice parents are giving their kids smart phones and laptops earlier and earlier,” said Griffin. “It’s often not long before these same parents are in the group lamenting that they’ve basically lost their kids to these devices.”

Ummm…I can definitely relate to that.

“I wanted to offer some practical ways for parents to use these devices to connect with their kids,” she added. “It’s up to us to help our kids use technology not just to consume, but also to create and to contribute to the family.”

As part of Griffin’s job, she often hires young adults, and her post is partly a response to what she sees as some of the difficulties these young people are encountering. In a nutshell, they may know the basics about how to operate their phones and computers, but they have very few practical skills.

“We hire so many young 20’s who are downright addicted to their phones yet don’t know the absolute basics of using technology and struggle with making and receiving phone calls,” Griffin wrote. “The anxiety levels these ‘kids’ (new hires) face when they encounter even small amounts of conflict or gray areas on a customer call can be debilitating for so many of them.”

Yup. I know I have a few years left before my kiddos venture out into the work world, but I can also say that I am sure I have not done enough to prepare them for something as basic as making a phone call (and no, I don’t mean a FaceTime call). It seems kind of bonkers to say it, but I know I’m not the only parent out there who has not taught this skill to their kids.

I’ve rationalized it to myself thinking my kids don’t need to know how to do it now—after all, there’s texting and emailing. But I see Griffin’s point that when they get older—and definitely when they enter the work force—that’s a practical skill they will need to know.

Griffin goes on to share a whole bunch of simple and smart things you can do with your kids—with technology—to teach them the basic adulting skills they will need when they leave the nest.

My favorites include having them call tech support for you the next time your internet goes down (my kids are way better at this shit than I am and actually enjoy it); making them do online grocery shopping for you during their summer breaks (genius); and calling to make their own haircuts, doctor, and dentist appointments (yes, please).

Clearly, Griffin’s post has had an impact on parents all over. Her post has been shared on Facebook 87K times since it was first posted and parents all over are thanking her for sharing her inside perspective on some of the tech skills that kids will  need when they grow up.

Griffin tells Scary Mommy that the response to her post has been amazing and gratifying, and that people who have read her post are actually trying some of her tips, with success.

“The response to the post has been incredible,” she said. “I’m hearing stories of kids helping around the house more, taking ownership of researching purchases, ordering groceries, and signing themselves up for school events.”

That. Is. Awesome.

Her list is so good. I am definitely printing in out and making a point of tackling some of these things with my kids over the next few years. And I’m going to try to take the perspective that technology use isn’t “good” or “bad,” but it’s all about how you use it.

Oh, and my kids are going to learn how to talk on the phone if it’s the last damn thing I do.

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The Challenge Of Parenting A 12-Year-Old

Sometimes, the laughter that roars from her mouth breaks boundaries.

I open my eyes and she makes faces at her phone screen. Pouty lips and mascaraed eyes, naive and bold. The world is her oyster, and she is on the edge of discovery.

She is as moody as a 12-year-old should be, but she bounces back, and crawls into my soul. She is every-day lounge wear that is comforting and warm. A safe space. A quick curl of her lip, and we are giddy — laughing over nonsense.

In my eyes, she shimmers. Her easy ways. Her silliness. Her wanting me around (usually). She is an athlete, a smart-ass, and a swearer. Two out of three she gets from me.

But sometimes, I open my eyes and she is grown, this child of mine.

Lately, she leaves her bedroom door open just a crack. I push, and it creaks to a stop; there she stands in her fourth outfit of the hour. On her bed are two pairs of jean shorts, and three similar looking yellow shirts. Each one would have worked. Each one cute and clean and new. Now crumpled and messy and heaped — they are not to her liking. Not today. Maybe tomorrow.

I shut my eyes and she is a child, this girl of mine. Dipping her tanned feet into an overflowing bucket on the sand. Crinkling her nose in the bright sunshine. Holding her hands out to me knowing that I will steady her. Freckles blooming. Behind my eyes, she is six, or five, or four. Blonde hair, blue eyes holding my heart and whispering her stories. Today is a day for silliness — not seriousness. Not today. Maybe tomorrow.

I open my eyes and she is leaning over to steer the wheel. She is sprawled over my body, trying to feel the driver within her. Her arms entwine with mine and she throws confidence to the air. She is 12, and wants so badly to drive. It is our nightly ritual, learning the ways of the world over the ways of the car. I try desperately to impart hidden life-lessons along the way. She swerves, and I shudder and am reminded of the quickness of it all. It can all end in a blink.

I shut my eyes and she is dancing across the room. She is seven, or eight, or nine and giddy and lackadaisical. Her dance moves, made up on the spot, make me giggle. She is the heroine in her own musical. Her hair flips and shines and twists. She bolts from couch to chair to couch again, collapsing into fits of childhood.

Sometimes, we dance through this world together, yet she is such herself. She overflows my heart.

She is strong-willed and stubborn, but can’t hold that pose for long. Every time she tries to hold anger, she turns to hide a silly grin. She is, at times, annoying — she is 12, after all.

She lives for basketball, a good rumor, and raucous joy. She knows everything. Hears everything. Sees everything. She is around every corner. For now. But sometimes…

Sometimes, sometimes she is still. Sometimes she closes her door and begs to be left alone. Sometimes she shuts me out. Sometimes I see the pattern of every 12-year-old child on the brink of change. Sometimes she is soft music that quakes my being. Sometimes she is lightness and tiptoes and secrets.

Yet sometimes, sometimes, she is a one, two, three, four-year-old climbing into my lap, nuzzling her softness into the crook of my arm, breath hot on my neck, child of my soul.

I shut my eyes tightly and try to rein her in. It is such a small amount of time that we have. I open my eyes and try to loosen the reins. The emotions ebb and flow, and we glide forward. Tomorrow she will be 13 and 15 and 20. It is how it must be, this child of mine.

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Why Going Gray Is Right For Me

My mom started going gray in her mid-30s and like most women of her time, she began dying her hair right away. I remember her bathroom sink perpetually stained with hair dye. It seemed like she was always having to re-dye her hair or touch up her roots. It was a real pain-in-the-ass and she would even mention here and there that she wished she had the courage to just say fuck it and go gray.

In my latter teen years—during my “au natural” hippie phase where I shunned make-up and even stopped shaving my legs and pits—I decided there was no way in hell I was going to dye my hair once I started going gray. Screw that, I thought, I’m not going to be like my mom and try to defy my age. I’m going to embrace my gorgeous God-given gray locks.

Eventually, the extreme phase of my teenage hippiedom passed. I started shaving my legs and pits again, wearing make-up occasionally, and just generally conforming to the beauty norms of the culture a little more. In my early 20s, my first few gray hairs appeared and I even remember plucking them out right away. It wasn’t that they looked terribly bad: I didn’t like what they symbolized. I wasn’t ready to be “old” yet, for crying out loud!

Still, those gray hairs were few and far between, and I was able to avoid the question of dying my hair until just a few years ago, when I hit my mid-30s, and—just like my mom—the gray hairs started multiplying all over my head.

Courtesy of Wendy Wisner

At first, I didn’t make a decision about whether or not to dye my hair. I still have that hippie, rebellious streak in me and I don’t like to make beauty decisions based on what society says I should be doing. I use makeup when I feel like it, wear whatever the heck makes me happy, and groom myself in whatever way I see fit. I’m all in with the you do you approach to this kind of stuff.

I decided I would see how I felt at each moment as the gray hairs started to come, and if at any point, I wanted to dye my hair, I would go ahead and do it. If not, I wouldn’t.

Soon enough, my grays started to appear in photographs, white streaks against my jet-black hair. I’d find white hairs on my pillow, or mixed in with the hair I’d rescue out of the shower drain. At first, the gray hair kind of freaked me out. Again, who wants to be reminded of how they are aging? It’s kind of creepy when you realize that your body is becoming less and less capable of doing seemingly basic things, like producing melanin.

Courtesy of Wendy Wisner

But I also found that I was starting to fall in love with the gray—or at least make friends with it. My 42nd birthday is coming up now. I’m by no means all gray. At a distance, I still look like a woman with black, wavy hair. But if you look right at me, there’s no mistaking the fact that I’m a salt and pepper kind of gal.

And guess what? I realized the other day that I’m all in with the grays. I’m loving each phase of the way my gray hair has taken over. Of course, the possibility still exists that I’ll change things up and dye it someday. Maybe one day I’ll want purple hair—you never know.

But for now, I’m loving watching the gray-haired-me take form, and I’ve been eyeing those older women who are rocking a head full of silver locks. To me, they look awesome and hot AF. And I want in.

Courtesy of Wendy Wisner

Aging is a very strange thing. So many of us do everything we can to get away from it. Dying our hair is probably one of the top things we do—and the majority of women do this, pretty much as soon as their first gray strand appears. I totally get that, and I think there is nothing wrong with wanting to dye your hair—or looking into botox, getting a facelift, a tummy-tuck, whatever floats your boat.

But for me, embracing my age has been freeing. I have loved getting older because it means I’ve lived life, learned from it, gained wisdom. I have so many fewer fucks to give, and they diminish each and every year. For me, my gray hair goes along with all of that. The grays are beautiful to me and give me a refined sense of beauty.

I don’t want to hide my age: I am proud of it, and I want the world to see that I’m a 42 year-old badass silver-haired lady who takes no shit.

Again, I’m all about the “do what works for you” mentality when it comes to choices we make about our looks, our bodies, our fashion choices. As for me, I’m saying fuck it, going gray, and loving every last second of it.

The post Why Going Gray Is Right For Me appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Minecraft And Fortnite Are Breeding Grounds For Online Predators

My son is a major gamer. Not only does he spend every free second he has playing video games, but they have become a major way for him to socialize. I used to roll my eyes every time I’d find him stuck in his room playing Minecraft, but over the past few months, I’ve realized that this is how he hangs out with his friends.

Back in the day, I would sit on the floor with a long corded phone wrapped around me chatting away with my friends, but I guess things just look different these days. I’ll walk past my son’s room, and I’ll hear him live-chatting with his friends as they build whatever the heck it is you build in Minecraft. I hear them laughing, making inside jokes, and even making off-handed remarks about school, life, family, you name it.

I decided a few months ago to make peace with this. Yes, the kid plays too many video games, but if this is how he bonds with his friends, then so be it. It can’t hurt, right?

Everything was hunky-dory until a few weeks ago when I ran across a bombshell expose in The New York Times about video games and online sexual predators. I was lying in bed on a Saturday night scrolling through my phone, and this article stopped me in my tracks. As I began reading it, I felt like I was going to throw up.

The article explained that it’s not just social media sites like Instagram and Tik Tok that have become favored places for sexual predators to hang out and coerce kids into sending nudes and engaging in other horrifying behavior. But video games, video game chat rooms, and other apps and services are crawling with this sort of thing.

As The Times describes it, sexual predators meet tweens, teens, and even younger kids in the in-game chats, or on outside chatting apps where players commonly connect while gaming (like Discord, which my son and his friends are on all the time). They pose as other young gamers. Often kids assume they are someone they know—a friend of a friend, maybe—and they slowly build the trust of those around them.

“The criminals strike up a conversation and gradually build trust,” The Times reports. “Often they pose as children, confiding in their victims with false stories of hardship or self-loathing. Their goal, typically, is to dupe children into sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves — which they use as blackmail for more imagery, much of it increasingly graphic and violent.”

It’s called “sextortion” and it gets ugly, fast. The predators weave their way into your kids’ reality, gradually and seamlessly grooming your child, desensitizing them to sexual imagery and sexual language, and then hoping for sexually explicit pictures and videos that they can then blackmail you with.

“The first threat is, ‘If you don’t do it, I’m going to post on social media, and by the way, I’ve got a list of your family members and I’m going to send it all to them,’” Matt Wright, with the Department of Homeland Security, told The Times. “If they don’t send another picture, they’ll say: ‘Here’s your address — I know where you live. I’m going to come kill your family.’”

This. Is. Terrifying.

The U.S. government reports that sextortion crimes have been increasing exponentially, with huge spikes in the past few years. There were an average of about 50 reported crimes six years ago. Last year, however, the number of reported crimes jumped to 1500—and authorities believe there are many more cases that simply do not get reported.

The gaming platforms and apps mentioned in the article include Minecraft, Fortnite, Discord, Twitch, Steam, Facebook Messenger, Kik, and Skype. But it doesn’t just stop there. Virtually every platform kids use these days is at risk. And some of the stories and “chats” shared within the article are downright horrifying. Absolutely stomach-turning and awful.

After I read all of this in utter disgust, my first thought was, “OK, so what on earth can I do to make sure nothing like this happens to my kids?”

And yes, much of the onus here seems to rest on parents’ shoulders. As The Times, explains, while the gaming platforms and various apps all periodically make public statements saying that inappropriate and unlawful activity is absolutely banned, it seems they can do little to stop it.

“There are tools to detect previously identified abuse content, but scanning for new images — like those extorted in real time from young gamers — is more difficult,” says The Times. “While a handful of products have detection systems in place, there is little incentive under the law to tackle the problem as companies are largely not held responsible for illegal content posted on their websites.”

Ugghhhh.

As for me, my initial instinct was to tell my son that video games and electronics were banned completely from now on. But obviously, that is unrealistic, and unlikely to help. As The Times describes it, banning video games and social media usually does nothing but make these platform more enticing to kids, leading to more potentially risky behavior.

So, I did what I usually do with my son. I had a very frank discussion with him. I told him what I’d read. I gave him as much detail about it as possible, including the fact that nude pics and sexual language were involved.

We talked openly about how scary and dangerous this all was and what sort of safeguards he could take to ensure that nothing like this happens to him. We talked about only engaging in a personal manner with people he 100% knows in real life, never sending nudes to anyone ever, and just being mindful about the language and tone his fellow gamers use.

“Don’t ever say anything online that you wouldn’t say in real life,” I said, “And don’t allow others to speak to you that way, either.”

As a parent, I feel like the more open I am about this stuff, the less likely it is for my kid to be interested in sneaking it and going down a dark path. Obviously, I can’t fully prevent this—and I would never blame any child for feeling drawn into the world of a sexual predator. But it seems like making sure kids know what all of this is—not making it be some big secret—might help, at least a little.

But the most important thing I said was this: “If something even a little bit weird happens to you online—something that makes you feel like your boundaries were overstepped in any way—you can tell me. I don’t care what it is. I will never be mad at you. You will not be in trouble. We will deal with it. And it will be okay.”

Then I crossed my fingers and toes that nothing remotely like what I read in The Times would happen to either of my kids, ever—and that if anything were to happen, we would tackle it right away, contact the authorities, and make sure everyone was safe and okay.

That’s pretty much all a parent can hope for, right? Big sigh.

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How Getting My Kid A Cell Phone Helped Him Improve His Grades

When most of us think about cell phones for tweens and young teens, the general assumption is that they are a distraction. A distraction from the family, from “real” life, from school and other obligations. I thought that too and resisted getting a phone for my son, especially since he has ADHD.

Even just a few short years ago, if you had asked me if I would let my 13-year-old son have a phone, I probably would have told you no. My answer would have been about more than all the usual reasons given by parents who are strict with electronics — that 13-year-olds don’t need phones, don’t need social media, don’t need the Internet. All that constant connectivity is terrible for a developing brain. It’s too much stimulation.

For me though, the resistance was more about how much a phone would distract my son. The hallmark symptom of ADHD is being easily distracted. My son Lucas was diagnosed in the third grade, though even as early as preschool he stood out from his peers in a way that made us know that something more was going on. Surely, giving him a phone would mean he’d be extra distracted. He already had a hard enough time paying attention and getting his homework done, especially since, by the time homework time rolls around in the evening, his ADHD medication has worn off.

There are a couple of things that came up to change my mind with the cell phone debate though. The first was that I separated from my former husband. We both wanted a way to quickly communicate directly with our son whenever we wanted to. We were also having issues with transportation to and from school — sometimes the bus would arrive late, and my son would have to borrow a friend’s phone to let me know to arrive later to the bus stop. Sometimes there wasn’t a friend around to borrow a phone from, and there would be no way to communicate. I’d be sitting at the bus stop waiting for his bus with no way to know what was going on like it was 1997 or something.

So we went ahead and got him a cell phone — my former husband’s older model phone that was still in pretty good working order. My son’s dad put some limits on the phone as far as what my son is capable of doing with it, and we have made it clear that we can open the phone anytime we want and read anything within it. There is no right to privacy with this phone.

None of that has been an issue though. We put that contract in place to be responsible parents, but it honestly wasn’t the main concern. I was most concerned that the phone would be a huge distraction when it came to schoolwork. I worried my son would have his nose in his phone constantly, never wanting to hang out with the family, putting up a fight whenever I asked him to put it away.

Not only has none of that happened (okay, sometimes he does get annoyed when I make him put the phone away), but something really amazing also happened that I couldn’t have predicted — my son is using his phone to communicate with his friends about schoolwork. Having the phone has actually improved his grades.

This is the coolest thing. My son has always struggled so much, not only to get his homework done, but to remember that he even has homework at all. I would constantly remind him to check his backpack, to look at his binder where he was supposed to write down his assignments, and even with my reminders, he would somehow miss assignments.

But now, with his phone, he’s in regular communication with his friends from his classes. In addition to their usual chit-chat, they’re asking each other how they managed different problems on their homework. If one of them isn’t sure which pages they’re supposed to be working on, they’ll text the group. Not only is my son getting reminders about the homework, but he’s seeing, in a group conversation, all his friends’ feelings about their work. He is seeing a visual representation of everyone else’s determination to complete their work and complete it well. He’s seeing their tenacity in black-and-white, literally. And it motivates him in a big way.

My son is being both reminded to complete his homework, as well as inspired to care about it in the first place. And all because we got him a cell phone.

I know there are a lot of problems that come along with technology. The Internet is a scary, dangerous place, and we definitely have to mitigate those concerns. But I’m so happy I made the decision to let my son get a cell phone, because this connection to his friends has made all the difference. It has literally changed him from a B-C student to an A student. I never would have believed it, but getting my kid a cell phone has turned out to be the best thing we’ve done for his grades since medicating him for his ADHD.

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I Don’t Check My Kids’ Grades Online Or Monitor Their Homework — At All

‘Tis the season for parent teacher conferences. The teacher starts: “So you know the grade is ____, so that is because….”  And I think, “Wow, well this is sounding really good. My kid is killin’ it.” Or sometimes I’m thinking, “Well, this doesn’t sound good at all. My kid’s really being lazy here?”

But I don’t know the grade they speak of, so I ask. The teacher replies, “Don’t you check the online app?”

I ask, “Should I be? I figured you’d tell me right now if something is going so poorly that you need me to interfere. They’re not my grades.”

Then silence. Pause. Disbelief. After some thought, the teachers thank me for allowing them to do their jobs and allowing kids to get the grades they deserve. Sometimes, they have told me, “It’s time to interfere.” And I do.

But most often, the teachers are glad to hear that they are getting an accurate picture of what my child, their student, can do versus a picture of what their student can do with constant reminders from their mom.

I have worked in public schools for 18 years. I know as a parent that the best thing I can do to help my own kids at school is make them independent. Oh, the tears of the kindergartners who have never done anything without help. Oh, the rough start for the kids each new school year who are used to their parents doing everything for them.

I was at a basketball game the other night and all the parents were talking about an upcoming project that was due for their 6th graders. I asked what it was, as I hadn’t heard him talking about it and hadn’t seen anything. They said that they hadn’t either, but they had looked online and saw it was coming so they had encouraged their kid to get started. I said, “It’s not my project.” Shock from the parents. Do I not care what grade my kid gets? Oh, I sure do care what grade he gets, without help from me. They are his grades.

My gifted and talented 6th grade son in advanced math got a D on his report card this first quarter, along with a C and a bunch of B’s. His ability lever is definitely straight A’s. I didn’t check online once all quarter. I knew it probably wasn’t going to end well, as he never brought home a backpack for an entire quarter. I could’ve easily looked online, hounded him about what was due, created a huge relationship and connection around his laziness, delivered consequences based on his lack of effort…but those all would’ve been extrinsic motivators.

They’re not my grades.

I myself could’ve helped him and we could’ve gotten straight A’s. But I got my own grades, when I was in school. These were his grades. And I was glad that he was able to see if he could make it just by getting 100% on the tests. He couldn’t. I was able to see, after I looked when the report card came out, that teachers gave him a chance, sometimes even two, to turn in homework and assignments. He didn’t. He deserves the grades he got. Now, he will have a quarter of more check-ins from mom before I let him have at it on his own again next quarter. Eventually, he has to be intrinsically motivated to do well. Getting good grades to avoid consequences, or to get the latest iPhone or a car as a reward, are grades based on extrinsic motivation.

If you have to ask your kid, every night, after you looked online three times, if they have that project turned in or when they plan on studying for the upcoming test, your child is what we educators call cue dependent. We know they’re cue dependent because they need constant cuing at school to do anything. And so we educators know the grades they are getting are because of you, and not their ability. Teachers are seeing your combined grades.

Let them flail in middle school. It’s the prefect opportunity for them to see what will work, and what won’t. My freshman son got straight A’s this first year of high school. I never glanced online; I waited for the report card. Out of the 12 quarters of middle school, about ½ weren’t awesome. Even though with some reminders and cues from mom, it could’ve easily been 12 quarters of all A’s. But, they’re not my grades.

Now let me say, learning comes pretty easy for my kids. They don’t have any sort of delays or disabilities. But they’re normal kids; they want to do as little as possible in order to get the A. That makes them efficient. That makes them self-motivated, intrinsically desiring an A.

It’s time to rip the band-aid off. Your kid is their own person. Their grades are their own. Let them handle it, and quit emailing the teachers every day about the confusion over the grade not being in for the homework you and your child worked on the previous night. If you let your kid handle it on his own, the kid might have been listening when the teacher said that he wouldn’t be putting the grades in for a few days. But your kid just waits for you to handle it. No need to listen, you’ll send an email. Hover much?

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