What It’s Like To Be An ‘Early Bloomer’

early bloomer

I got my period for the first time when I was in fifth grade. It was early November, and I had a tummy ache that day at school. My stomach hurt so badly that I had to sit out at recess. I remember curling up into a little ball, sitting up on the asphalt hill while my friends played jump rope below me.

That night, I saw a swirl of blood in the toilet, and while I knew what it probably was, I was shocked. Although I already had budding breasts and had shot up taller than most of the other girls (that would be the last time I was among the tallest girls in my class!), I had no idea girls could get their periods that young.

Thankfully, my mom was super supportive. You may have noticed that I knew as soon as I saw the blood that it was probably my period. That’s because my mom had talked about this sort of thing for years. The way women’s bodies worked – and the male and female reproductive system in general – was no secret. And although my mother was just as surprised as I was about my early period, she didn’t freak out, or shame me in any way.

Getting your period for the first time can be an embarrassing, disorienting experience. But getting your period before most of the other girls in your school can be totally isolating and sometimes humiliating.

Although I’m certain now that other girls in my class had gotten their periods too (early periods are more common than most realize), I seriously thought I was the only one. And I’d been harassed a few times by the boys in my class because of my large breasts. It was as awful as it sounds.

But I got through that difficult time with my support – both from my mom, and from my best friend, whom I’m still close with to this day. I’d tell her each month when my period had arrived, and she’d accompany me to the bathroom, where she’d stand guard at the trash can while I threw out my pads. Just how incredibly sweet is that?

I’m a mom of two boys now, so I know I won’t be guiding my own daughter through puberty. Having had a mom who did it so well with me, I want to offer some advice for any parent helping their daughter through an earlier than usual first period.

1. Share The Facts

My mom not only talked openly about how female bodies work, but she also checked out a million books from the library for me with information and pictures. I devoured the books. They made me feel more normal, and it was empowering to understand exactly how my body worked, both inside and out.

2. No Shaming

It’s so easy to shame a girl for what is happening to her body, even inadvertently. Make sure your daughter knows that she did nothing wrong to cause an early period. She’s not weird or gross or “too mature.” Make sure she knows that there is a range as to when girls get their periods and she’s likely not the only one who has it this early.

3. Avoid Body Shaming

When you blossom early, you’re likely going to be curvy before most other girls. This can lead to embarrassment and body shame. I remember feeling so embarrassed that I hid in an oversized shirt for the rest of elementary school. Help your daughter know she is beautiful and her extra flesh is normal (it’s biology!). Never criticize her food choices or consumption. Help her to understand that her peers will catch up to her.

4. Don’t Freak Out

Our kids catch on easily to our own fears and stresses. If you are feeling worried or stressed about your daughter’s early period, discuss this with her doctor. They will let you know if there is anything abnormal going on. And if your daughter’s period is affecting your mental health, talk to a counselor. Don’t unload on your child.

5. Expect Your Kid To Freak Out A Little

Like I said, early periods can be really stressful. Expect your daughter to feel scared at times. Expect her to act colder or more aloof as she processes everything. Expect mood swings (from hormones but also stress). Just let her know that you will listen to her without judgment and that her uncomfortable feelings about her period are normal, okay, and will pass.

Pretty soon, the rest of the class will catch up with your daughter, and all this discomfort will be a thing of the past. But as she is going through this all, don’t underestimate your role in it. You have the power to provide the loving support she needs to get through this, to adjust and thrive, and to blossom into the amazing person she is destined to be.

The post What It’s Like To Be An ‘Early Bloomer’ appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I’m In My 50s But I’m Not Living The ‘Empty Nest’ Lifestyle

Being a mother of five-year-old twin boys at the age of 53 is a whole other level of tired. Like 4th-circle-of-eternal-boulder-pushing-with-Sisyphus-riding-piggy-back tired.

Some days I just don’t know where I’m going to get the energy.

The boys’ constant demand for attention is so… demanding. The endless bickering, boundless messes, bottomless hunger… it all saps my energy.

While they themselves are unending bands of the stuff, bouncing and careening over any and all semblance of peace and order. And Legos and PlayDoh. And happy meal toys and wrappers. And the last remaining vestiges of nerves that make up my life.

I wonder… can I steal some of that energy? Harness it for the stamina I need to entertain these green goblins of go-gettedness for the next fourteen hours? The next 15 years? Because I seem to have zero reserves of go-gettedness left. Zilch.

I don’t recall being anywhere near this kind of tired when my girls where little. But then again, I wasn’t anywhere near this kind of age when my girls were little. I was a young mom to young kids. Now I’m a — well, let’s just say an older mom to young kids.

Which makes my life way more than a wee-bit more exhausting. I would swear I’m anemic, but they’ve tested me for that.

Mercy. Most days I beg for mercy. And mercifully, most days, there’s the swimming pool.

Swimming is their favorite right now. They love to splash in the coolness, to feel the ripples across their shoulders, to dive beneath the surface and hear their warbling words come out in whomps that burst in bubbles above their drifting curls.

So I take them to the pool. For them — and for me. It gives them play. And it gives me peace.

It’s the easiest part of my day right now. Demands diminish in the calm, soft ripples of silver and blue. The boys splash and play like sweet little sprites, and I’m granted a blessed disconnect from the harshness of my real — and really hard — world. Until…

My goggles are slipping! I’m hungry! My noodle is missing! There’s a frog in the pool! Parker won’t talk to me! Tate broke my head! I’m h-u-u-ungr-r-r-ry!!! 

The whines cut the calm like a chainsaw, severing it into the bloody little jagged pieces of pandemonium that is my life.

And it dawns on me. I’m not anemic. I’m exsanguinated. There’s nothing left to bleed.

I saw a story the other day from the Wall Street Journal celebrating a slew of women in their fifties, empty-nesters with newfound freedom to fly the coop and reinvent themselves.

One woman picked up and moved to the crater of a volcano. Another biked across the United States in a peace sign pattern. A third went snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. None, though, said, “Hey, I’ll raise a second set of kids.” None.

Many women I know commented on the article, saying they’d had their children early, and now they were living their best lives.

Well… I had my children early. And I had my children late. My nest is ragged and worn, with a whole lotta years left to go.

Perhaps there’s a reason God made sure most women don’t have babies after 40, much less 48.

And now, in my summer of 53, with school about to begin again, and Sisyphus and his boulder on my back, and my 5-year-old twins in my nest, and me on my own for the next six months while my husband resumes his football duties — I refuse to believe I can’t still reinvent myself. In my fifties. With a far-from-empty nest.

I will work even harder to make this writing dream of mine come true.

I will continue to carve out words from the smallest slivers of time. I will keep stringing stolen seconds into sentences. I will keep climbing the steep and thorny path of progress while keeping my nestlings as content as two five-year-old boys can possibly be. Which isn’t very. And not often.

But I will not give in. Because inside the exhaustion of it all, there is also inspiration. And there is also breathtaking beauty.

This morning, my little goblins came creeping into my bedroom at Seven-Zero-Zero, as my oldest son says. (They are NOT allowed to leave their rooms until that six-five-nine has flipped. And they waste nary a second once it has.)

For a minute, I so wanted to bark at them to go back where they came from and just let mama sleep.

But then, they are where they came from… curled up on my body like fiddlehead ferns, tentacles tracing my cheek, lips kissing my eyelids, chattering away like baby birds about their daddy and the swimming pool and the desperate need to water the garden before it rains. We have to GET UP… NOW. And how could I be mad at that?

They are where they came from, and they are where they belong. For this season. And for always.

And yes, there’s a reason God made sure most women don’t have babies at fifty. But you know what? I’m not most women.

I can raise these boys with the grace and the grit they deserve. With the same grace and grit I raised my girls with. I will. They deserve no less.

And I can also write my memoirs and my musings and murder my little darlings (it’s a writing metaphor, please do not be alarmed…) with the grace and the grit that I deserve, too. I can and I will.

Because I’m not most women.

I had my children early, and I had my children late. My family is beautiful and messy and more-than-I-can-handle most Mondays and a whole lot of other days, too. But still… I am absolutely living my best life and reinventing myself, too.

And while I’m not swimming with turtles off a Darwinian desert isle, it is still survival of the fittest in all its glory. It’s all fight and all flight. And while most days I feel I’ve been exsanguinated, I’m not dead yet.

Have Mercy!

The post I’m In My 50s But I’m Not Living The ‘Empty Nest’ Lifestyle appeared first on Scary Mommy.

7 Kids Shows From The ’90s That Were Revolutionary

It would take a lot of work to convince me that I didn’t grow up with access to some of the best shows in TV history. I was born in the early 90’s and the lineup was revolutionary. It sounds dramatic, but I’m serious. The shows from my childhood that debuted in the late ’90s and the early 2000s era of TV established a new norm. And I think it was a key contributor to why our generation has made it leagues farther in terms of authentic inclusivity.

The shows I watched as a kid taught me that the world outside of my neighborhood had a wide range of people. I proudly proclaim that we were the first group to have those examples in our lives. It meant that I had the chance to see examples of people who looked like me in the shows I watched. And while we have a long way to go in terms of reducing the mostly white (and straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied, etc.) protagonists in our shows, that representation meant the world to me.

It gave me a foundation that let me know I deserve to be seen and so does everyone else.

It’s also worth noting that the shows didn’t just have diversity of cast, they had diversity of content. We learned social skills and life lessons.

While this list is far from all-inclusive, each of the shows below are near and dear to my heart. Bonus: here are a few modern-day suggestions for shows that have a similar vibe.

1. Between the Lions

Between the Lions might be one of my favorite shows on the list. It centered around a lion family of four who ran a library and all of the chaos that came along with it. There were several musical numbers per episode that focused on sounding out words, reading, and phonics foundations. For someone who wasn’t paying attention, it was just a neutral show. But I knew it had an underlying Black aesthetic and low-key gospel twist. The Black culture references were in your face and I connected with it.

This show was so great I recently looked it up on YouTube so I could watch it from the beginning with my son.

Modern Option for learning phonics: SuperWhy

2. Maya and Miguel

The show focuses on twin siblings who were always getting into trouble in their local community. I was drawn to the bilingual nature of the show and I would watch glassy-eyed as they addressed cultural customs, terms, and dishes that I was familiar with. But Maya and Miguel offered so much more than cultural exposure — the show had plenty of universal life lessons.

Modern Option for bilingual kids shows: Nina

3. Zoboomafoo

I wanted to be a veterinarian before I lost my cat in a tragic accident. I wanted to know about all animals and Zoboomafoo delivered that knowledge and offered a chance to learn about animals from all over the world. There were moments that were  scary, like when spiders were involved — *shudders* — but the information was invaluable. It was also one of the first shows to let me know that some adults had “non-traditional” jobs.

Modern Option for animal education: Wild Kratts

4. Sesame Street

I don’t have to spend too much time telling y’all about Sesame Street. Thankfully, it’s still going strong several decades later. But now, as I watch my son grow up and learn from S2, it’s impossible not to remember when I first saw the show as a child.

Modern Option: No need, It’s still going strong!

5. Zoom

“Come on and ZOOM. You know the tune. Come on and ZOOM — we’re starting soon. Come on and ZOOM ZOOM ZOOMA ZOOM.” I still remember the theme song of this awesome show.

Google says there were 200 episodes and seven seasons of Zoom but it didn’t feel like it was around nearly that long when I look back on things. The kids on the cast were a wide range of colors. It introduced me to social and educational skits. On one episode alone, you were introduced to tons of STEAM-related topics. This show was definitely ahead of its time.

Modern Option: Sid the Science Kid

6. Adventures from The Book of Virtue

ATBOV taught me a ton of great messages that folks of all ages could benefit from. Most often, the show centered around moral conflicts. The two main characters were white, but what it lacked in racial diversity it made up with key life lessons. The only potential downside was that it was religious – specifically Christian-based. But despite growing up and being done with organized religion, I still enjoy the show.

The best part? It’s still on TV from time to time.

7. Cyberchase

Cyber Chase helped me understand math principles when tutoring missed the mark. And seeing a Black girl as one of the protagonists solving math in high-risk situations meant the world to me. The best part is this show still comes on PBS. Talk about nostalgia.

These shows from my childhood played a significant role in shaping who I am as a person. It means the world to know that several of these have been preserved and are still accessible now that I have a family.

The post 7 Kids Shows From The ’90s That Were Revolutionary appeared first on Scary Mommy.

This Is The Best Part Of Sharing My ’80s Childhood With My Kids

I grew up having homemade pizza and watching Star Search every Saturday night with my parents and sisters. We always watched game shows together after dinner, and when we went to the lake, we stayed all day. My mom would fry up chicken the night before, make a big thermos of Kool-aid, and get a bag of Pecan Sandies. If we were good, there was ice cream on the way home.

Courtesy of Katie Smith

For my birthday, my mom would take me to the mall and we’d rage for hours. Then, a few days later, I’d have a friend spend the night and we’d open gifts, and she’d make a special dinner and my favorite cake — chocolate cake with chocolate icing and Hershey kisses on top with chocolate and peanut butter ice cream.

Courtesy of Katie Smith

They were some of the best days of my life and there isn’t a day that passes me where I don’t think of a few of the memories cultivated from our family traditions. You can have a less-than-perfect childhood with the desire to forget about certain times and places, while still hanging on to those special memories you do have.

So, when I had kids of my own, the thing I was most excited about was reliving some of the experiences I had as a child. I had hopes they would enjoy them as much as I did, and they would shape their childhoods the way it had shaped mine.

Courtesy of Katie Smith

I also have to admit, I couldn’t wait to do these things over again and relive some magic too. Sure, I had done some of them with my husband, but it’s different when you throw kids into the mix and you can see the wonder and excitement flowing out their eyeballs, and hear it coming out of their mouth.

I made a list when my first child was cooking in my belly because I didn’t want to forget a thing:

Stocking before gifts on Christmas morning — don’t forget the gold wrapped chocolate coins. Carrot for Rudolph and raisins on the floor to resemble deer poop.

Lake: don’t forget the Pecan Sandies

Saturday night: pizza!

And on it went.

Courtesy of Katie Smith

Our memories, and what we take from them, really do shape us. When we experience something that feels so good and right, we naturally want to share it with those we love the most. I wanted to give some of the gifts I’d been given as a child back to my kids and it has been one of my favorite parts of being a mother.

Of course, it doesn’t always go as planned. Like the first time I took them outside to play in the snow and my daughter cried because she was so cold and my son was obsessed with keeping the snow off his boots and our family dog kept taking their hats off their heads and running away with them. I was hoping to rebuild the epic snow fort my sister and I made during a snow day and hoped my kids would think I was an amazing snow artist, but it didn’t quite pan out.

And when I started making homemade pizza we would eat in front of the television on Saturday evenings after they were bathed and in their pajamas, they reminded me (over and over) how much better it was when they got to eat pizza from a restaurant and fought about what we were going to watch.

Traditions last because they are shared through generations, but of course they morph and take on a life of their own along the way.

Courtesy of Katie Smith

I don’t make pizza anymore. I save myself the trouble and get take out. My kids are right; it is better and so good the next morning for breakfast — a new tradition we’ve come up with. (I wonder if my kids will share that with their children when they have them.) There have also been times my kids wanted to give up a tradition, like the family birthday party, so they could have a big slumber party with their friends instead and I’ve let them lead the way.

But, I’ve also made the mistake of stopping something that was sacred to them, like hiding jelly beans on Easter morning, because I assumed they’d outgrown it and, Oh Mylanta, I never heard the end of that one.

Honestly, after such a major screw up, and practically driving my youngest (who was 11 at the time) to tears because there were no jelly beans on Easter morning, the tradition took on a funny twist and is even better now.

Courtesy of Katie Smith

I think traditions are less about getting a thing or an experience, and more about the way they can make you feel. Somehow having something you can count on over and over, like decorating the Christmas tree while Chex Mix is in the oven, or coming home on a hot night after picking berries and turning on the fan as you make a pie and filling your home with the sweet, sticky smell of dripping berry juice, is the most comforting thing we can give to our children — and to ourselves.

They can keep us going through a rough patch, give us something to look forward to, and they seem better knowing they’ve been in the family for decades or generations, and will continue to be passed along long after we’ve left this earth.

The post This Is The Best Part Of Sharing My ’80s Childhood With My Kids appeared first on Scary Mommy.

To My Mom: From Your Almost-Grown Daughter

An almost-grown daughter’s response to “To My Almost Grown Daughter, I’m Sorry and I Love You

To my mother, thank you and I’m sorry.

It’s a Friday night and on this rare occasion, you are going out for a night with friends. A much-deserved event, spending time as you — not a mom, not a wife, not in charge or liable — just you. The same you that stole your mom’s car to skip out on lunch in high school with Tori. The same you who ran track like a boss, danced like a queen, and mothers like a hero.

It’s 7 p.m. and I watch from your bed as you put on makeup. Only a little — again, it’s just for you. And I touch your sparkling jewelry with the reverent awe of a museum goer, smell your perfume like I touch petals of roses, with pure, unwavering love. And we chat like friends, laughing as the sun goes dim and your eyes dance with the flicker of young possibility I don’t recognize in you. A part of you I only know through pictures and stories from grandma, told over cups of sweet summer tea. In moments like these, I meet the you who I will one day, maybe today, look like. The you who met dad when he was just Cory. And these pieces of you that used to be, shattered the day you met me.

Courtesy of Allie Hypes

I’m sorry. And I’m so fucking grateful. Because the echoes of you breathe life into me. They furnish your soul with the tapestries of your past, the you that you let go of for me. And while they left or changed, they still remain. They live in me. How could I become a person without you? The you who I ushered into motherhood. The you I made exhausted with nights of infant cries or late returns home. The you who I can only hope to become.

I’m sorry I made you grow worry lines and weathered your wallet. I’m sorry I changed you, changed your story. And yet, for all the pieces of you that may have changed for me, I find in the mirror.

Thank you mom, for my green-blue eyes and bold voice. I may never have know the little Loren that stomped over to the neighbors, demanding to ice skate. But I got to be some version of her. Because of you.

I will never meet the Loren who backpacked through France by the seat of her pants. But I get to be the daughter of that rebel. I get to be the life that yours made possible. I’m sorry my arrival, the first of three, determined the type of mom you would be. Not the mom you dreamt up or swore to be. But the mom I made you.

I’m sorry I changed all your plans. But God, am I glad I did. Because where you thought you would grow organic tomatoes, you grew bubbling laughter with bunnies in flower boxes. Where you thought your lazy days in bed may have negatively impacted me, they actually taught me the importance of rainy days in bed, allowing yourself to sleep and breathe and recharge. You taught me some days need to be slow and silly, spent deeply cradled. Sometimes we need a break.

For all the days you wish you’d been different, I rejoice for how they were. Because it was there, in the cicada summers and freezing falls — in the faults, frets and failures — that you made me me.

Because when I go out on Friday nights and look in the mirror, I feel like the woman I watched with adoration and awe from bed when I was a little girl. I feel like you….

The post To My Mom: From Your Almost-Grown Daughter appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Nobody Warned Me About Rogue Chin Hairs

I wish my mom would have warned me about the weirdness of growing older, as I got older. When I was in sixth grade, I remember having talks about periods and boobs, but that was the end of discussion on body changes. Nothing but radio silence after I reached puberty. I would have appreciated a sit-down conversation or even watched an outdated video in my twenties on what happens to your 30-something year old body. Granted, my hot and blissfully naïve self would have eye-rolled the thought of aging or being anything other than hot, but at least I would have tucked it away somewhere in my carefree (and likely hungover) mind. It could have softened the blow at least a little.

I’ll just be blunt; I’ve sprouted a black chin hair when I turned 32. It’s a beast and becomes unruly if not managed properly. I can vividly recall key moments when this hair impacted my life. How can a single strand of hair do that? Well, it’s persistent and is determined to stay despite my attempts at abolishing it. It perseveres, and if given time, flourishes. It’s unlike any other facial hair and it doesn’t hide well amongst its light-colored peach-fuzzed friends.  This jerk of a hair likes to remind me that I’m no longer twenty-three, as if I didn’t already know this by my slowed metabolism and crow’s feet.

I first discovered the start to my chia pet chin a few years ago while at work. It was shockingly long and thick. Each time I tried to pull it with my fingers, it curled. I imagined it flapping in the wind, waving to all I’ve crossed paths with, discrediting any image of self-beauty I had. Instead of dealing with it privately, I burst through my co-worker’s door and informed them of my disappointing discovery. I just needed comfort and reassurance that everything was going to be alright. I demanded my peers point out their own sporadic hair growing spots. Only two fessed up, but it was likely lies just to make me feel better. I needed a hug (and tweezers) badly.

Is this how it starts? Is this me aging? Is this the beginning to gross new findings from now on?

I had so many questions as to what this meant. I needed to find out if there were more surprises on my body. I came home from work, grabbed a mirror and locked myself in the bedroom desperately searching for any other new foreign parts sprouting, and then my husband knocked on the door. Shit. Do I tell him? I emerged from the bedroom; ego deflated. One look and he knew something was wrong.

I did the silent treatment at first. I shrugged and shook my head when asked if I was upset. I mumbled, “nothing,” repeatedly. Even though my husband had seen me in labor on all fours with an open-ended hospital gown as well the insides of my abdominal cavity, the thought of telling him of my rogue chin hair was completely out of the question. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t keep this inside. I lasted four minutes and caved. I died a little on the inside as I recalled the long, turned curly, chin hair discovered that day. To his credit, he did what any good husband would do; he laughed and then tried to see it.

From that day on, I added chin hair plucking to my grooming routine. However, life gets busy with three kids and sometimes the chin hair plucking routine takes a backseat.

I recently had taken my oldest daughter to dance class. I waited in the halls with my son and youngest daughter. Other parents waited as well and we causally small talked. I could tell my son was getting antsy, so I picked him up and sat him on my lap. He rested his head on my chest and watched his younger sister play with a toy. I resumed small talk with a nearby father.  And then, my son spoke.

Emerald Raindrops/Reshot

“Mama, I see a Mila hair on you.”

Mila is our dog.

He attempted to grab the dog’s hair from my chin, but I didn’t make the connection in time. Naturally, the hair stayed in place because it wasn’t the dog’s hair, but my very own wiry strand. Steadfast and strong it stayed despite the desperate pulls from my four-year old…and it stayed because I’m destined for torture and humiliation from this stupid black hair.

“Mama, the hair is stuck to your chin,” he said loudly, because children speak the loudest when they embarrass you.

It was evident I had neglected my chin hair, and based on my son’s reaction, it was approximately two months’ worth of neglect.

I grabbed my son’s tiny fingers away from my asshole of a chin hair and did what any 30-something mother would do. I smiled politely at my parental peers and buried my chin into my sweatshirt. Besides, what could I say? I knew there was no way of saving face, or in this case, chin.

The post Nobody Warned Me About Rogue Chin Hairs appeared first on Scary Mommy.

This Is The Struggle Of Being A Mom Of Older Kids

There are so many wonderful articles written for moms of younger children. Stay-a- home moms. First time moms. Childcare for working moms. Breastfeeding. Bottle feeding. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate. Potty-training. Teething. Tantrums.

What about us?

Pinterest is loaded with ideas for themed birthday parties and what to do with Elf on the Shelf. Science Fair project ideas. How-to-cut-sandwiches-into-cute-shapes-so-that-lunch-won’t-be-boring ideas. Fun crafts to do with your children ideas.

What about us?

Moms don’t stop being moms when kids are older. When they’re old enough to stay home and we don’t need sitters anymore, we are still moms. When our kids get sick, we have to decide whether or not to call out of work to take care of them or if they can stay home alone. Well, it’s just a small fever. She isn’t throwing up, so she should be okay alone. The guilt is like a weight in the pit of our stomachs while we try to do our job as employees, when we really want to be home doing our job as moms instead. We pretend not to be worried. But we are.

Instead of making sure we arrange playdates so that our littles are socialized by the time they start kindergarten, we wonder if anyone will sit next to our children in the school cafeteria at lunch today. Will someone tease them? Middle school is a brutal time and socializing is everything to them. Hopefully, he won’t come home sad today.

When the phone rings at the office, we cringe as we see on the caller ID that someone from the school is calling. Our hearts race as we pick up the phone. Is it the nurse? Or maybe the counselor? Maybe it’s the math teacher to tell me he is missing homework again today. Oh thank goodness! It’s a positive call from a teacher to let me know about a perfect test score!

When our daughters ask to go to a friend’s house for a sleepover, we screen all of the worst case scenarios in our minds. Will there be a responsible adult there at all times? Is there an older brother or creepy uncle or alcoholic dad? Are there any dangerous dogs in the home? Is it clean? Having older children means that we have to let them out of our comfort zones and teach them independence.

Those Friday night skating rink sessions and bowling alley gatherings have started. And we worry. They want us to drop them off. Alone. We hope someone doesn’t convince them to sneak off to another location. Or kidnap them. We wonder if they aren’t really too young for the things they might see. I know that kids make-out in the dark corners of those places.

Then, there are shopping sprees at the mall. And make-up and nail salons and requests for highlighted hair. And homecoming dances at school. But there are also hurt feelings when no one wants to go to the dance with them. We sometimes have to watch them silently suffer while they envy their peers. I really wish I could afford to buy her those shoes.

Just as all of those things become the new norm, there will still be Friday nights at home too. We hear the video games blaring from the bedroom. We hear siblings teasing and retaliating. “Mom, can we have a snack?” And we sigh with relief because they’re still sort of little.

Artem Maltsev/Unsplash

We are still moms when our kids don’t need us as much.

Before you know it, it’s senior year. We worry about whether or not he will graduate high school. I hope he wasn’t serious about dropping out. And when she exhausts herself with advanced academic classes and clubs. And marching band practice, private lessons, and symphony rehearsal, which take up most of the evenings of the week. We hope she isn’t doing too much, but we are so very proud.

It’s summer vacation and they sleep past noon. When they wake, they whine and complain about boredom. And do absolutely nothing all day while we work. We wonder where we went wrong. Maybe it’s my fault for not giving them enough chores to do when they were younger. We wish they would just once ask us if they can do anything to help us.

When they turn 16 and prepare for getting a driver’s license, we worry. When they are over 18 and we can no longer know what goes on behind closed doors of a doctor’s office, we worry. We wonder about the things they could be hiding from us that we have absolutely no control over anymore. We wonder if they know how to make good decisions like we taught them.

Being mom never gets easier. It only gets different. Some of us can’t wait to be finished raising them. Some of us will feel depressed over the thought of the nest becoming empty. None of us are wrong.

The worry moms feel is the same, but the things we worry about are different. On top of that, we question whether or not we have done a good job. Did we do enough? The anxiety and self-doubt doesn’t go away, but we keep being the best moms that we can.

Because we are still moms, and if we got this far, we are good enough.

The post This Is The Struggle Of Being A Mom Of Older Kids appeared first on Scary Mommy.

This Is When Everything Changed For My Daughter

12 years ago, 7 pounds of perfection was placed in my shaky hands. I didn’t know what I was doing but looking into that baby’s eyes I knew I’d do anything for that sweet girl looking back at me. I was but a baby myself. And whether I was brave or naïve, I didn’t hover. I parented with care, but not caution.

I took her hand in mine and for a season we grew together. I nursed her. She nourished me. I taught her to walk and she helped me find my feet. We shared laughter, ice cream cones and moments. We made memories. As she grew, I showed her what life was and she in turn showed me what it was all about.

Then came the season it all changed.

Her body, the one I gave her, attacked her brain. And overnight the life we’d built together was gone. She seized so hard and so long I thought we’d lost her. Her eyes were vacant, she couldn’t speak and a feeding tube nourished her. Helpless as I felt and as weak as she looked, she held on. And I looked into her eyes, as I’d done so many times before, and promised I’d do anything to keep her safe.

She left the hospital immune deficient, physically weak and experiencing seizures at every turn. I left traumatized. Afraid of seeing death through her eyes once more. For a final time. And, again, with a mix of naivety and bravery I vowed to keep her safe.

I tried. I removed extracurricular activities and had a tutor work with her at home for school. She visited with friends on FaceTime, but seldom face to face. She wore a mask to her outpatient therapies five days a week, and even around her brothers. And as it turns out, it still wasn’t enough. I took her out for her birthday to a low key “princess tea.” I called ahead to ask about the presence of lights and sound and sure the menu was gluten free. And with a mask for protection and noise cancelling headphones she met Belle and Moana. Then, a little girl twirled by in light up shoes. And my girl seized. And seized. Until it took her breath away. And for the second time I carried a limp, lifeless daughter through the ER doors.

The shoes caused the seizure. But it could have been anything. Her medication levels were off, ever so slightly. Insurance had delayed treatment and she was “susceptible.” And she had a hint of a cold. It was the perfect storm. And it struck. Again, changing the season.

She spent just a week in ICU that time. Once they stopped the seizures her breathing normalized. And as they pumped chemo through her veins, targeting the b cells attacking her brain, light returned to her eyes.

But this time I didn’t take her home to a bubble. Because the fear I felt changed me. It reminded me how fragile life was and how much she deserved to live it. Because as she stared death down, all I could think is how much she hadn’t done. And I realized her last memory, whenever it may be, shouldn’t be one of captivity.

For most parents, this is natural. We strive to launch our children into the world. With Gracie, it was more complicated. Because letting her live meant risking her life. And that fought against my only instinct as a mama, which is to keep her safe.

But that’s the crux of parenting a medically fragile child. Your desire to protect them is juxtaposed with their desire for life. And it feels incompatible.

Your heart says, “Safety first.”

Theirs says, “Let me live.”

And in the end you must meet in the middle. Because though a child may be sick, they’re alive. And they deserve to live. And life doesn’t always take place between four safe walls. So, if that’s all a child sees, they’re not living. And if they don’t live, they’ll never know what we beg them to fight to live for.

I want my girl to have forever. And I’m going to fight with all I have for her to see it. But now, more than ever, I know the importance of giving her today. And that will never happen if I’m into the “what if’s” tomorrow holds.

So this season we’re weathering the storms. We hunker down when it rains, and we bask in the sun. Because though she fights a relentless disease, it will not take her childhood.

The post This Is When Everything Changed For My Daughter appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I’m 40 Years Old And I Still Check In With My Mom

Remember back in the ’80s when you would ride your bike around town and Mom wouldn’t worry? You’d probably raid your family’s junk drawer — stuffed to the gills — to find change for the ice cream truck you could hear a block away, some creepy carnival music booming from it. I loved the ScrewBall. The one with the bubble gum at the bottom. Oh yeah, those were the days.

Then the shit hit the fan in 1989, when I was 11, and Mom’s anxiety changed from overprotective to put-my-child-in-a-bubble worry. I’m from Minnesota, so October 22nd of 1989, when Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped while riding his bike with his brother and friend in a small, rural community, the “safe” world as we knew it was ripped from us. Jacob and I were the same age, both born in 1978. He lived farther north than me, and we had never met, but his family felt more like neighbors than strangers. I watched as my mother cried over the news and prayed for his safe return. We wouldn’t know for nearly 27 years that Jacob was assaulted and slain the night he was taken.

Before we knew it, the ’90s rolled around. The teen years for me — or as my kids like to call it: The Ice Ages. Back in the day, we didn’t have cellphones. No Facebook. No Insta. No Snapchat. No VSCO. No Twitter. We did have — drum roll, please: the PAGER. A little black box with a clip on it that had a registered number people could call to page you to have you call them. No, you couldn’t call them on a pager. That would be a PHONE. You had to hit up the closest pay phone (long story) or find a friend’s house and dial up said number that needed you.

I taught Mom to page me “911” when it was important for me to call home, which meant it was an emergency. One would think that would make a 16-year-old jump to find a phone to check in, but that drive-in movie was WAY too good and that boy was WAY too cute. Needless to say, when I finally rolled in at 3 a.m. and Mom was sitting up waiting, she was PISSED.

So Mom survived my teenage years, bless her heart. And on came my 20s. New boyfriend, new life, new place to live, so much new that Mom had no other choice but to go along for the ride, even though she was still worried sick. I was an adult now; she had less control and had to adjust accordingly. I was only fully able to appreciate her worrisome personality and over-hovering when, at age 26, I became a mother. Before that, she just seemed like a batty, over-protective looney tune.

I remember her saying to me, “Once you become a mother, you’re always a mother.” And you know what? She’s right. The day my son was born, the entire universe changed for me. And then when my daughter was born two years later, the universe changed even more. My heart was so full of protectiveness and love — that I finally — after 28 years on this earth — understood the love my mother had for me.

Now I’m in my 40s and my children are growing too fast and Mom is getting older, but I have to admit, I still check in with her. Because — even though I don’t feel like it most days — I’m  someone’s little girl. Her baby. Even in my 40s, Mom still worries about me. Because time has passed and I’ve become my own adult and have my own little people, but Mom is still my mom. She’s still mothering. Once a mother always a mother, she said. So on the days I work late at night and she needs me to call her to make sure I’m safe in my car, I call her. Or if Mom and Dad stop by to help me close up at night and walk me to my car, I treasure it.

Yes, I know that I’m enabling my mother’s anxieties and worst fears, but I’m okay with that. Because she’s been the best mom anyone could ask for. No magical background, no picture-perfect upbringing. Not perfectionism. She just loved me the way I love my own daughter and son, and I know that love — there is nothing more extraordinary.

If you would have told my wild 16-year-old self back in 1995 that one day I would cherish the times I checked in with Mom, I’d have probably rolled my eyes and re-applied my frosty lip gloss. But now, I honestly look forward to those check-ins. Because I know one day I won’t have the opportunity. The phone will be quiet, and my heart will be significantly empty.

So for now — even in my 40s — I’m checking in, Mom. Because once a daughter, always a daughter.

The post I’m 40 Years Old And I Still Check In With My Mom appeared first on Scary Mommy.

6 Things From Our ’80s Summers That Are Frowned Upon Today

I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. On weekends and in summers, I listened to NKOTB and Boys II Men via a cassette tape while crimping my hair. Then I’d pull it up into a ponytail and secure it with a neon scrunchie, apply strawberry Lipsmaker, and pop another watermelon Jolly Rancher into my mouth. Next up was plopping onto my twin bed to browse the latest issue of Teen Beat. I yearned to catch a glimpse of the love of my life, Jonathan Taylor-Thomas.

On Friday nights, it was TGIF. Two solid hours of sitcoms. Saturday evenings were reserved for our VHS rotation of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Beethoven, and Back to the Future while we snacked on Pop Qwiz or Pizzareias chips.

During the school year, we’d head to our K-5 school where my friends and I would play endless games of four square and tetherball. When we were bored with those, we’d zoom down the 1000 degree, steep metal slide —  with non-existent sides. Or we would hang upside down from the hexagon-bar contraption. Yes, the one that resulted in multiple broken arms from stunts-gone-wrong.

Those were the days.

I’m a mom of four now, and summer is in full swing. The 1980s nostalgia is not only back, but on trend. Fanny packs, scrunchies, and Caboodles are back in circulation, after all. But some of my childhood summer faves are big no-nos today, and for good reason.

1. Drinking from the hose.

When I was a child, my mom would kick us out of the house for the entire summer morning. See you at lunch, kids. If we were thirsty, we had an easy option. We’d turn on the spigot and drink well water straight from the grass-green hose.

During today’s summer, I carry around four 64-ounce BPA-free water bottles, one color per kid, filled to the brim with filtered water. And no, I’m not being extra, because hoses can pose significant risks. They can release phthalates, flame retardant, lead, and BPA, all of which are toxic. Hoses also house bugs, bacteria, and dirt, all of which flow right into your child’s mouth. Gross? You bet.

The other issue is that hoses left in the summer sun may contain dangerously hot water, posing a burn risk to users. A nine-month-old in Las Vegas suffered second degree burns over 30% of his body last year when he was sprayed with hose water. Stagnant water, which sits within a hose in direct sunlight, can heat to a terrifying 130-140 degrees.

2. Skipping the sunscreen.

My mom insisted my siblings and I wear sunscreen, re-applying every few hours as directed. Her brother, my uncle, died of malignant melanoma when I was a child. She wasn’t playing when it came to sun protection. But none of my friends’ parents bothered to buy sunscreen — instead, allowing their teen daughters to go to tanning beds to get golden brown before prom.

The reality is, even just one blistering sunburn during childhood doubles a person’s melanoma risk. Scary? You bet. Sun protection is that important.

Thankfully, there are hundreds of sunscreen and sun-protection options for families. Just please, don’t use DIY your sunscreen. Research shows that online sunblock recipes are unreliable.

3. Eating artificially-dyed foods.

Red, white, and blue popsicles and cherry push-up icy pops were all the rage during my childhood. Apparently the cheaper and more brightly colored they were, the better.

But today we know better, because the proof is in the pudding. One of my kiddos has all-out-rages about 20 minutes after consuming anything with artificial red dye in it. He’s not alone.  Many kids struggle when they consume foods containing artificial dyes such as Red #40, Yellow #6, and Blue #2. Artificial coloring isn’t just in sugary treats like birthday cake, candy, and slushies. They can be found in condiments such as ketchup and salad dressing, cereals, sports drinks, and baked goods. Some kids might react to dye consumption by vomiting, complaining of a headache, or becoming agitated or hyperactive.

Artificial dyes are generally found in unhealthy foods, but buyer beware. There are artificial dyes in some “healthy” foods such as whole grain granola bars and even vitamins. Parents should learn to read ingredient lists, and swap their kid’s favorite orange chips for a healthier, dye-free brand.

4. Hiring a too-young babysitter.

I started babysitting, without adult supervision, when I was 12 years old. I spent my first summer as a teen caring for two elementary-age children full-time, making a whopping $20 a day.

Hiring a young sitter can save parents big bucks, but the risks are significant. Is the sitter experienced, mature, and CPR certified? How trustworthy is the the sitter? With teen cell phone addiction, parents may justifiably worry that the sitter is too busy interacting on Snapchat to keep their eyes on the kids. And in some states, such as Maryland and Illinois, there are laws stating how old a child must be to stay home alone — which would also apply to being the caregiver to children.

Selecting a sitter to keep your kids safe and entertained is no easy task. It’s a good idea to consider finding a sitter via a professional child care service and conduct extensive interviews. Ask for references and conduct a few trial runs before officially hiring.

5. Applying toxic bug spray.

Many kids in my generation skipped the sunscreen, but their parents sure didn’t skimp on bug spray. We all walked around summer camp reeking of a cross between gasoline and eucalyptus. Sprays promised we wouldn’t be bitten by a single pesky mosquito.

DEET, the main chemical in many bug sprays, was found in one study to cause symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, rashes, and issues concentrating in 25% of participants. Over the years, DEET has been vehemently debated due to claims of toxicity.

Of course, protection from mosquitoes and ticks can be very important. In fact, Alpha-gal syndrome, a condition in which a person becomes allergic — sometimes deadly allergic — to red meat, is believed to be initiated by a Lone Star tick bite. And Lyme disease is no joke. Luckily, there are many more natural repellents available than “back in the day.” Citronella, anyone?

6. Play on merry-go-rounds.

The puke-your-guts-up wheel was by far the playground favorite during my elementary years. Even better, much to our teacher’s dismay, was the day after it rained when the path around the merry-go-round was sheer mud. The mess wasn’t the biggest issue, though. The hot metal burn factor and inevitable peer-trampling were downright dangerous, both leading to several ER visits every year.

Good luck finding an old-school merry-go-round on a playground today. There’s only one in our entire town, located in a neighborhood park, and of course my kids and other park-goers adore the simple and thrilling game of spin-and-ride. I haven’t banished my kids from enjoying it, but I do watch them like a hawk. And I admit, I’m thankful I don’t have to worry about them on school playgrounds.

The reality is, almost anything our kids do can turn dangerous in the blink of an eye. However, there’s no reason to tempt fate. Now that you’re armed with updated information, you know better.

Now it’s time to do better and clink our glasses to a fun and safe summer.

The post 6 Things From Our ’80s Summers That Are Frowned Upon Today appeared first on Scary Mommy.