‘Period Boxes’ Are A Great Way To Navigate The Puberty Discussion With Your Kids

On the day we were scheduled to find out the sex of our twins, I was ecstatic and so was my wife. As the wand glided from side to side across my big belly, my excitement grew. My wife held her breath, and the doctor said “Baby A is… a girl.”

He added more gel as he began his search for Baby B.

“Ah, there… Baby B is also a girl.”

With that my smiling wife said, “AH… two girls!” And a smile lit up my face. Two girls: I was ecstatic.

We reached the elevator, our blurry black-and-white sonogram photos in hand; the bell dinged and the doors opened.

“Two girls means two periods at the same time,” my wife said. We were months away from the birth of our twins, and the fear was already setting in. I hadn’t even thought about it, but she was right. Two girls, menstruating at the same time? Holy moly!

My wife vividly remembers her period talk and it was more of a nightmare conversation than a welcome one. As for me, I don’t even remember the talk I got when my body was changing and I transitioned into puberty.

For girls, puberty can begin at the age of 8 when the hypothalamus begins to release hormones. Then hair begins to grow in places… well, you remember. I won’t name them all here. It’s an uncomfortable situation. 

Our twin daughters will turn six this year, pushing them closer to hitting puberty. I must admit, I am not feeling quite ready. But I’m feeling a little less nervous about it ever since I heard of the period box.

What is a period box?

A period box is a wonderful resource shared by writer and blogger Sarah Smith. On her blog, Sarah suggests creating a box for your daughter when she turns 9. (Of course, the puberty conversations can begin years earlier.) As your daughter’s body changes, creating a customized box of your own for your daughter can also be used as a tool to help mom lean into the transition.

Each period box can be used to provide a sort of roadmap for the period discussion. Sarah says on her blog, “Making up a ‘first-period box’ for girls before they start their periods (known as menarche), helps them to feel prepared and by demystifying products that they may use, the whole experience becomes far less anxious for them. Making up the first-period box also allows you to discuss the different selection of sanitary protection (san-pro) available, so that she can make an informed choice about her preferences.”

You can use any box, but there are some nice eco-friendly options at The Period Store. Their site will also give you some ideas of the products you’ll want to include in the box.

For our son’s puberty talk a few years ago, we were somewhat taken by surprise. One afternoon, our son came home from sixth grade and said, “My teacher said we all need to buy deodorant over the weekend,” and before we knew it, we were in the deodorant aisle looking at Old Spice because that’s what his grandfather wears. But this wakeup call made us realize very quickly that it was time for that talk.

With our son, we relied heavily on books. The main book we used was “It’s So Amazing: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families,” and that book was quite good. We will absolutely consider using that one again with our daughters. But, while books can open the door and make those important conversations easier, it does not replace the conversations. We let our son guide the discussion, asking whatever was on his mind. It quickly became clear that if we brought up the topics ourselves — topics like hormones or girls’ bodies — we ran the risk of embarrassing him. So we let him come to us.

While it’s been a rewarding journey with my son, I am looking forward to a totally different journey with my two girls, and that will start with creating a period box.

The period box I plan on creating for my girls will have many of the suggestions from Sarah’s blog. I’ll include sanitary napkins, menstrual cups, tampons, Midols, a lavender heating pad, raspberry leaf tea, and chocolate. In the future period box, I’ll create, I’ll draw on the things that make me comfortable when I have my period. In my kids’ box, I’ll also include a note, an invitation of sorts to give them an open invitation to come to speak to me at any time or their other mom since they have two people to go to (thank God).

You can think of your tween’s period box as like filling an Easter basket or wrapping up a present for them. Period boxes should not only include the essentials but also include words of wisdom, a sense of comfort, mixed with a bit of education for your daughter. It’s better she learn from you than from her friends — or worse, hears nothing at all and must navigate it all on her own.

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ADHD And Puberty: What You Need To Know

The normal signs were there, a changing voice, a few pimples and a couple of extra inches. Puberty had arrived, but it brought with it a surprising change, my son’s ADHD was going bonkers. He was easily distracted, missing assignments, leaving his water bottle at home. The raging hormones were causing all kinds of chemical changes in his body and his meds just weren’t doing the trick. He had basically maxed out on the stimulant and his doctor didn’t want to try anything new due to his changing body, so we just trudged along.

The physical changes that mark puberty typically begin in girls between ages 8 and 13 and in boys between ages 9 and 14. I noticed that he was becoming more impulsive and pushing boundaries. He wanted to see just how far he could go before he got a reaction. I would try to ignore the behavior, but it would just go on and on until I blew my top. He wasn’t really behaving badly as much as he was challenging everything. I was at my wits end, so I started to do a little research. What I found was interesting.

We were right in this sweet spot. There was no denying what was going on. The physical and psychological changes that come along with this stage of life can be difficult for kids and parents to navigate. And the experiences can be different for boys and for girls.

What I was learning about boys concerned me, I’m not going to lie. A common behavior during puberty is a sudden refusal to take medication. Kids want to be like their peers and if those friends can get by without medication, why should they take it? I mean, I get it. Who wants to be different? When your body is already going crazy and suddenly you’re 4 inches taller than everyone and have a mustache, you just want to start to blend in.

In addition to an increased desire to stop taking meds, boys may be more prone to risky behaviors due to changing testosterone levels. “Testosterone also interacts in complex ways with dopamine and other hormones that are relevant to ADHD,” said Dr. Joel Nigg in an interview with ADDitude Magazine. “Thus, we might speculate that boys with ADHD may be more susceptible than other boys to the risk-enhancing elements of pubertal testosterone, and this may be related to greater risk for substance abuse among youth with ADHD.”

ADHD in girls is different and can also be tricky. According to ADDitude, It has been found that girls with ADHD are more likely to have academic problems, mood disorders, early signs of substance abuse problems and aggressive behaviors than girls without ADHD.

According to Verywell Mind, as an adolescent girl’s body is changing, so are her hormones. This can be a tricky causing an emotional roller coaster. In addition, girls may find that they are having sleep problems, more difficulty focusing and being organized or even just being overwhelmed, may be more prevalent. This can all lead to self esteem issues.

Girls with ADHD can struggle during their menstrual cycle while progesterone and estrogen levels vary. These changes can create unpredictable, and sometimes intense, ADHD symptoms through the 28-day cycle. If that weren’t enough, girls with ADHD also tend to experience more PMS symptoms than girls without. Silver lining? Treating ADHD can aid in treating those PMS symptoms, according to ADDitude.

Along with the hormone changes causing difficulties with mood and impulsivity and aggression, classic ADHD symptoms listed by Healthline are present for boys and girls too. Being easily distracted or fidgety. Not remembering to bring your lunch to school or totally tuning out a friend when they’re talking to you because you have a song in your head. It’s all just exacerbated and it makes things really tough for adolescents dealing with all of these additional hormone-induced bigger challenges.

A commonality among girls and boys is that children with life-long ADHD may feel isolated from their peers during puberty and will latch on to other children who don’t always fit in. Oftentimes, these adolescents will band together and engage in alcohol or other substance abuse. It can be a scary time for kids and for parents. Adolescents with ADHD may also find this time of life difficult to stay motivated. They may be struggling at school or at home and feel helpless and just quit. It is important to try to lift them up.

So what do you do? How do you manage the symptoms and the behaviors? It’s all about creating the proper strategies for your family and your child. Nigg advises a series of risk-reducing steps, emphasizing excellent parent-child communication. “The communication must be non-judgmental,” Nigg says. “Educate your teen, in a minimally-invasive way, on how to handle herself around major risks — internet use, social media, drugs, friends engaging in delinquent pranks or more serious illegal activities, peer pressure, automotive safety, and firearms safety for youth who are or might be exposed to firearms.”

There are also some simple steps you can take to try and ease this transitional time. Make sure that your child is eating well and getting enough rest. Proper diet and sleep are critical to being healthy. It is also important for you to help your child to minimize stress that may lead to risky behaviors.

ADHD is a complex thing. It is a challenge for parents and for kids, but working together and having open lines of communication are key. Medical News Today reports that on average, puberty lasts between 2 and 5 years. This gives parents and kids time to change and to grow and to learn the best ways to deal with ADHD. With a solid plan, parents and kids can navigate ADHD and puberty together, while looking forward to a happy adulthood.

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The Text From My Teen I Didn’t Want To Get

I was a three-hour drive from home when I got the text from my 16-year-old. “So, I think I’m going to that party tonight,” she wrote. “And if I do, I think I’m going to drink.”

I tried not to panic. I was with a group of women friends at a rustic retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains. We were just finishing dinner and about to head back to our cabins for the night. At home, my husband was out for the evening, so asking him to barricade Sadie in her room wasn’t an option. Sadie and I had talked about the party, and the fact that there would be alcohol involved, a week or so before my trip. But I’d conveniently forgotten about it until I got her text.

Experimenting with drugs and drinking comes with the territory when you’re a teenager. Most survive their adventures unscathed. But from the moment I learned I was pregnant with Sadie, my only child, I vowed to do everything in my power to keep her away from booze. Ideally, forever. If that wasn’t possible, I figured 21 was a reasonable goal (ha!). At least her brain would be more fully developed by then and—fingers crossed—she’d have better impulse control.

By now, you’ve probably pegged me for an overprotective helicopter mom. Guilty as charged. But there’s a reason I obsess over my teen’s drinking: My husband and I are recovering alcoholics. Though we’ve been sober for decades, alcoholism runs rampant on both sides of our family tree. Fear that any child of mine was destined to be a drunk drove me to postpone motherhood until it was almost too late. While I was elated when I gave birth to Sadie, I couldn’t help worrying that along with our genes for brown eyes, she’d likely inherited our predisposition for abusing liquor, too.

I took my first drink at 13. More like, got obliterated for the first time. From the get-go, I was hooked on alcohol’s magical power to wash away my paralyzing anxiety. By the time I was Sadie’s age, drinking until I passed out had become a weekend ritual. I came to on golf courses, in cars and in strangers’ backyards with boys I didn’t know, baffled and humiliated. After high school, my friends ventured off to college, then embarked on careers, marriages, and started families. I accumulated DUIs, botched relationships and a series of dead-end waitressing jobs.

For a long time, I believed the best way to help Sadie avoid following in my footsteps was to terrify her into not drinking. My scared-straight tactics seemed to work when she was younger. Or at least that’s what I told myself. Sadie nodded, glassy-eyed, at my anti-alcohol rants and swore she’d never touch a drop.

Then came high school. When curiosity about drinking tempted her two best friends in their sophomore year, Sadie regurgitated my “alcohol is pure evil” message. It did not go over well. They dumped her. Eventually, she made new friends through her school’s drama program. I praised her for turning down alcohol at occasional get togethers where she was the only kid without a drink in her hand. She glared at me and said she was tired of feeling like a freak. She asked me, sometimes, if maybe, just maybe, she might be able to handle alcohol even if her father and I couldn’t. One evening, as she was getting ready to hang out with friends, I launched into my usual you-are-doomed-if-you-so-much-as-take-a-swig-of-beer spiel. Sadie lost it.

“I’ve only been saying I never want to drink because I’ve been brainwashed by you! I don’t want to get drunk, or even have a drink every time I go out. But I’m not you. I might want to drink once in a while when everyone else is, just to be social.”

She reminded me that she’s always been a trustworthy kid. That she could have been drinking behind my back, and lying about it, like some of her peers had been doing since middle school. And I knew she was right. Sadie has her flaws. But they don’t include lying or being sneaky. We may not agree on everything, but we’ve always had a close relationship. We talk. A lot. About everything—drinking, smoking, boys, sex, annoying teachers, her hopes and fears. I knew how lucky I was to have that kind of connection with her. Especially at an age when it’s natural for kids to start shutting out their parents.

As much as I wish teenage drinking wasn’t a thing, it is. I didn’t want to risk pushing my daughter away by painting her into a corner with my rigid views. I needed to let go of trying to stop her from turning into me. I needed to just let her be Sadie. Maybe giving her room to make her own mistakes with alcohol, as frightening as that felt, would be healthier for both of us.

Back on the mountain, I typed a response to her text. “You know I’d prefer that you not drink at all. But I’m glad you told me. Call me.”

In spite of spotty reception, we mapped out a plan for the evening. I told her she had to be home at 11:30 on the dot and could only get a ride with her friend’s dad, not any of the party-goers. I warned her to pace herself, to try and nurse just one drink the whole night. And to skip the shots and sips from random bottles being passed around. Before hanging up, I told her I’d check in with her by text throughout the night. And when I did, I expected a response. Right away.

As it turned out, she contacted me first.

“I think I’m tipsy,” she wrote.

I took a big gulp of cool, pine-scented air and tried not to read too much into this news. Sadie’s not you, I reminded myself.

“How’s it feel?” I typed back.

“Kind of good, I guess. Not that exciting, really.”

The tension in my neck softened.

A year has passed since that night. Sadie doesn’t go to a ton of parties, but when she does, she decides beforehand if she’s going to drink. I know this because we talk about it. She’s discovered that she’s sensitive to alcohol—a few sips and she’s lightheaded. Unlike me at her age, that’s more than enough for her. She opts to skip the booze almost as often as she partakes. She’s never been drunk, failed to come home by her curfew or gotten in a car with a driver who’s been drinking.

We both know that could change in the future. College, young adulthood and endless opportunities for binge drinking are right around the corner. This scares the crap out of me. But if alcohol does start to derail my daughter’s life, she knows who to turn to for help.

 

Originally published in Your Teen Magazine

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If You’re Struggling With Your Teen’s Behavior, They Need Boundaries

My youngest son who is in 8th grade just started going back to school two days a week a few weeks ago. The transition has been good for him and he seems like he’s come out of his 14-year-old slump a bit, which makes me happy.

He asked if he could stay after school last Monday because he and two other students were going to help his science teacher set up for his English teacher’s birthday.

I immediately thought he was up to something. Last year I found a few joints in his room. The story was, one of his friends had given them to him — the same friend he was caught throwing food with in the cafeteria. 

I’m giving his friend zero blame for these instances; my son is capable of making his own decisions, and he knows what acceptable and unacceptable behavior is. He also knows the power of the word no, because he uses it on me all the damn time.

It’s been a year since he’s been out in the real world and while he’s been virtual learning and not seeing any of his friends, he’s gotten in zero trouble. However, I know my son — and to me, something was up. I told him he could stay but only after I cleared it with his teacher, the one who he told me was staying after to help.

My son wasn’t making something up so he could stay after school and raise hell. I was relieved (to say the least) when his teacher got back to me to tell me he’d be there with the kids for an hour after school. 

After I told him he could stay, he let me know he knew I was going to check up on him, so there was no way he’d lie to me.

I’m not telling you this because my son is an angel sent from the heavens above and I’m #blessed by a well-behaved child. I’m telling you this because I’ve made the mistake (many times over) with my three teenagers of not giving them proper boundaries when they break the rules – and my trust. 

And while it’s finally sunken in for my youngest (he’s been the most stubborn of all), that doesn’t mean he’s not going to try to pull something over on his mother again.

I’ve tried to be the “cool” parent and give my kids second chances too soon. I was burned every single time. My oldest had a friend he used to hang out with and they’d always get caught smoking pot together, yet I gave him a few more chances.

My daughter went through a stage where she was so nasty to me at times, but then she’d turn into the Glinda The Good Witch Of The North, and I’d treat her to new makeup, or let her have a friend over, even though she didn’t totally deserve it. Honestly, what started to happen is her attitude got worse and she disrespected me even more.

That’s the way it works when you don’t set clear boundaries with people. They will get away with what they can, and teenagers are especially susceptible to this (at least all three of mine are). If I let them walk all over me, they do.

As parents, we teach our kids how to treat us. 

I understand they are also moody and have things going on in their lives that cause them to be grumpy, irritable, and shut down. I can be understanding and empathetic, but also show them I respect myself, and our relationship, by having clear boundaries and consequences so they know what to expect.

If they are being sassy, that looks like asking them what is wrong and letting them know I am here to help, but not here to be a human punching bag.

It looks like taking away their phone and restricting social time if they can’t follow curfew rules or they aren’t where they tell me they are going to be. I’ve also learned if they break that trust, checking up on them after I let them go back their social life doesn’t make me an overbearing mother. It’s a reminder to them they need to work harder at earning my trust back. If I didn’t do this, believe me, they would go right back to shady behaviors and try to get away with stuff.

I know this because my mother turned a blind eye to everything me and my siblings did as teenagers. We lost respect for her, we ran the show, and we knew we could get away with things with zero consequences.

Boundaries also look like not wasting my time, because my time is precious too. For example, when I go to get them from their father’s house, they don’t make me wait for a half hour in the driveway; they are ready. One of my friends is struggling with this with her daughter. Every time she goes to get her from her dad’s house she makes her mother wait in the driveway for at least a half-hour, sometimes more. 

If they ask for something special at the grocery store and I make a trip to get it yet it gets wasted, they know I’m not going to get it for them again.

There has to be a happy medium. Everyone makes mistakes or has a shit day, of course. I don’t want my kids feeling like I’m running a bootcamp, and I do want them to like me and spend time with me in the worst way.

 Yet after raising three teenagers I’ve realized something the hard way: If you don’t dole out the boundaries and remind them of them all the time, they will take advantage of you … and your life will be a lot harder.

Remember, you are doing this so they learn how to treat other people. It’s not fun, but it will be worth it — because I guarantee if they are raised without boundaries, they will have a really hard time once they are out on their own. And if we can avoid that by setting a few firm and clear boundaries, I’d rather have them not like me very much now than pay for it later.

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I Don’t Want An Empty Nest

Growing up, there was always this dumb joke amongst adults about breaking their kids’ plate on the table and kicking them out when they were 18. My parents and their friends used to laugh just as hard about it at each dinner party. It didn’t matter that they’d been saying the exact thing my entire childhood. They thought it was a riot.

Meanwhile, I remember thinking how stupid it was to break a plate as I looked over at my siblings who didn’t seem to be fazed by this notion that as soon as they were 18, they’d be kicked to the curb.

Obviously, it was a joke and meant to be funny. And no, my parents didn’t kick us out when we were 18. Actually, I think I was the only one out of my four siblings who willingly left after I graduated high school and never came back home. 

When I had my first child, the notion that he’d someday leave our home hit differently. I’d never make him think I was watching the clock until the day he left. I looked over at him in his clear bassinet next to my hospital bed. All I could think about was the day he would leave home. I’d wanted him so badly it consumed me. Now that he was here, I was so afraid of losing him I began dreading the day he was going to move out. 

I’ve told myself I have so much time with my kids over the years. I’ve tried not to think about an empty nest. Yet, here I am, getting ready for my firstborn to move out, and I’m not okay.

I don’t love his messy room. I don’t enjoy how he left his ice cream container on the island last night to greet me this morning. I don’t like seeing his old tires and rims he’s left on my lawn, telling me he’s going to sell them on Facebook (it’s been a month, kid. Now Mama is going to sell them on Facebook and keep the money.)

There have been days when I’ve been so overwhelmed by having three teenagers. There never seems to be an end in sight with things they need, keeping up with their school work, their mental health, their junk in my yard.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m excited for them to leave. I’m not looking forward to waking up without them on the weekends or hoping they will make it home for Christmas. 

Last week, I saw a post on social media with two empty nesters celebrating the fact they had the house to themselves at long last. Stuff like this triggers me every time. Not because I think these parents are wrong for celebrating the fact they’ve done a hell of a job raising their kids and they are now out on their own, but because I am dreading this time in my life in a way I can’t describe.

It’s hard for me to think about, and I wonder if there’s something wrong with me for having feelings of sadness and dread while other parents seem to be waiting on the edge of their seat to get their kids out of their house.

I don’t feel like celebrating at all. My son is graduating in June and I keep telling myself I need to put my sad feelings about the next stage of his life aside because really, this isn’t about me. It’s about him and the fact I’ve raised a capable adult who will be just fine on his own.

I will miss my kids terribly when they go. I wanted all three of them and it’s going by too fast. For the past 18 years almost everything I’ve done has been about my babies. Who will I be when they leave?

No one can really prepare you for motherhood. And certainly no one can prepare you for the teen years. So, how are we expected to deal with this sudden shift in our lives? When our homes go from being full of life to being full of quiet, empty spaces?

I’m not looking forward to my empty nest. I won’t feel like celebrating when my kids are grown and gone. I’m not even cheered up by the thought of having less laundry, fewer dishes, and no more closing the door to their rooms to block the mess.

So, this one is for all the parents who aren’t looking forward to their empty nest years. You won’t be crying alone, I can assure you. 

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6 Things That Surprise Me Most About Raising Teens

We’ve all heard the jokes about raising teens. The cliches. The stereotypes. It seems like I had been a mom for all of two hot minutes before the warnings about “the teen years” started.

I’ve gotta admit, I’ve been simultaneously dreading and eagerly awaiting the teen years since before I was even pregnant. I thought I had a general idea what raising teens would be like – I mean, after all I had been a teen myself at one point. I was prepared for the eye rolls and the slammed doors and the sheer terror at the thought of my teens driving. But there’s so much that has come as a complete surprise to me.

Hooooooboy! I had no idea.

Here are just a few of the things that have surprised me most about raising teens:

1. The teen years can be lonely at times.

Sure, it can get a little lonely when our teens are out with their friends or consumed in a video game or hibernating in their rooms. But that’s not the kind of loneliness that surprised me. I was surprised at how lonely the teen years made me feel in other relationships, especially my friendships. Our kids no longer need us to be gatekeepers of their social calendar –they make their own plans. Gone are the conversations that happen and friendships made at playdates and sports practices.

But even more than that, we can no longer vent about the gory details of motherhood because those stories aren’t really ours to tell anymore. We have our kids’ privacy to protect. There is something about your kids’ struggles with school and first heartbreaks that is far more vulnerable and personal than sharing stories of tantrums and diaper blowouts. It doesn’t feel right to share these things outside of our homes, so we shoulder these challenges alone. Even if we can share these things with our partner, it can feel lonely sometimes because without that “me too” commiseration that comes with sharing our struggles with others, it can feel like you’re the only one. But you aren’t.

2. You laugh. A lot.

I have never laughed so much than in the past few years. My kids did some funny shit as toddlers and preschoolers, but my teen’s witty and sarcastic humor is absolutely hilarious. And it’s more fun because we’re laughing at something together.

3. All of the stupid shit you did as a teen comes flooding back with crystal clarity.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent lying awake at 2 a.m. replaying past mistakes, embarrassments, and regrets. What really surprises me is that it isn’t just the really serious and downright scary stuff that I remember, but all the times I did something that was embarrassing or hurt someone’s feelings or made me look like an ass. These are more of those “par for the course” experiences of life. We are human and we make mistakes. But these things hurt. BAD. They stick with you for the rest of your life. In fact, I have forgotten most of the truly dangerous mistakes I’ve made but those other ones? The times when I said something hurtful or I made the wrong choice or I was rude or whatever…I will regret them forever. These are the mistakes that keep me up at night, because I know how painful they are and I don’t want that pain for my teens.

4. Raising teens is terrifying.

This one isn’t necessarily a surprise. I did expect raising teens to be scary. But what surprises me is just how terrifying it is. And not just because teens have an undeveloped prefrontal cortex and make colossally bad choices, but terrifying because you realize just how fast time is going.

5. You learn a lot from your teens.

I sometimes thought I would forever be teaching my kids how to do things, but a shift has definitely happened in the past couple years. My teen teaches me about TikTok and new music and World War II history. Teens also teach us how to be better humans. In the past year, they’ve taught us how to be flexible and resilient and navigate a world of uncertainties with an open mind.  They took on the challenges of the past year – social distancing, virtual school, missed graduations – like freaking rockstars. We could all learn from them.

6. Parenting teens is actually a ton of fun.

I truly had no idea just how fun raising teens would be. People have been muttering things about “kids these days” since the beginning of time, but you know what? Teens are really amazing. Sure, they drive us mad when they leave cups all over the house, spend way too much time scrolling through TikTok, and need to be reminded approximately eight thousand times to clean the bathroom. But they are also funny and caring and awesome little humans.

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A Mother’s Survival Guide For Life With A Teen Boy

Any doubts that human beings evolved from apes can easily be dispelled through examining the behavior of a young teenage boy. The distance between animal primate to human teenage primate is quite small. (Don’t believe me? You can borrow mine for the weekend. No, really!)

If you are fortunate enough to live with one of these human teenage primates, you know they can disappear inside their room/cave for days at a time. Which means you have to occasionally check on them to make sure they are still breathing. When the time comes for you to enter their cave, the first thing you notice is the smell. It is a maleficent odor that defies description; suffice it to say, it must have evolved as a defensive weapon to keep human adult primates at bay. As you focus on breathing through your mouth, you spot your primate in a nocturnal state beneath a pile of clothes and dirt in his sleeping corner.

You first attempt to awaken him by lightly tapping his hairy back; after several minutes of no response, you resort to shaking his shoulders and screaming his name. You are then forced to pull out a blowhorn and pour a bucket of water on his head (which is likely the first time he has come into contact with water in weeks.) He finally awakens, screeching and flailing his arms and legs about in protest.

Eventually, he crawls away from his sleeping quarters, scratching at his chest and armpits while batting at the flies buzzing above his head. As he ambles about, his movements stir up other pungent odors in the area, and a gag reflex arises in your throat (which he takes as a sign of victory and flashes his biggest, toothiest grin.) Upon exiting his cave, he jumps down the stairs, extending one arm up towards the chandelier, attempting, as always, to swing from it. When he enters the kitchen, knowing he needs constant nourishment, you immediately throw him a banana, which he inhales in two large bites.

After consuming eight additional bananas, five bowls of cereal, four apples, three cheese sticks and two bags of potato chips, he leaves the kitchen, announcing with pride that he has to poop. He has a feeling this could be a good one, and starts reminiscing with his teenage primate siblings about past favorite bowel movements. There was the one that was so enormous it refused to flush down the toilet—even after multiple attempts—so he fashioned a tool out of several sticks and cut it in half. There was the one that came out in the shape of two conjoined strawberries, which amazed and delighted them so much they snapped pictures of it on an iPhone, which they proceeded to share with all of their friends.

The teenage primate’s curious fascination with poop has lent itself to long, lengthy conversations with friends in which they gleefully analyze the shape, consistency and odor of their movements. When not pontificating on the merits of a good poop, they communicate with one another through play, which mainly revolves around the throwing of various objects. Some are tossed back and forth to each other, others are simply thrown right at one other (which always results in long, loud screeches from the players.) These games are enjoyed both in person and online (a skill this species has recently acquired); the latter appearing to be their preferred method of late.

This doesn’t always sit well with human adult primates, as we know they learn best through playing outside in the jungle. Whichever game they play, they all seem to follow the same basic principles—lots of screaming, farting, and hysterical laughter—and always concluding in the consumption of additional nourishment. Discussion of the opposite sex occurs strictly in code, with all of the conversations resulting in rounds of uproarious laughter and teasing.

Human adult female primates know better than to ever ask direct questions about this sensitive topic, as this will result in immediate banishment from the teenage primate’s cave. However, since they need to learn at least a modicum of socialization skills in order to eventually mate, adult female primates hand this topic off to adult males. They advise them to try and relay to the teenagers the importance of an emotional connection when it comes to mating. If and when this concept does not compute, at the very least, they should know it is frowned upon for teenagers to try and hump everything in sight (including both animate and inanimate objects.) The adult female does not yet introduce the topic of verbal communication, as it would only be in vain, since she is still working on this skill with the adult male primate.

There comes a time when the adult and teenage primate hit a wall in their relationship, and the adult turns to the research in an attempt to break it down. Luckily, there is an abundance of available research on the topic, as there are many human adult primates who have made careers out of studying young primates. One of the central components of this research often examines the similarities and differences between human adult primates and teenagers.

Occasionally, a researcher will explore whether or not we will ever be successful at cohabitation. Judging by anecdotal evidence alone though, although there are many similarities amongst the two species (including an almost identical DNA structure), it often appears we are both happier residing in separate dwellings. From the perspective of the human female adult primate, there is only so much poop, farting, jumping on and off of furniture, loud noises and horrible odors she can take without feeling a strong desire to return her primate back to the jungle.

It is at these precise moments though the teenage primate will often surprise. Perhaps because they sense they are in danger of losing their food and shelter, they are known to suddenly start exhibiting such odd behaviors as hugging, making eye contact and, occasionally, even smiling at their adult primate. The adults, in particular the females, are often then reminded of how cute and sweet their primate was as a baby, and, current disgusting behavior aside, the overall experience of parenting their primate has been pretty awesome.

They remember that in what will seem like the blink of an eye, the teenage primate will be off on their own in the wilderness, and it will be an even bigger jungle than either can imagine. This thought softens the emotional and physical blows of living with a human teenage primate—that is, until the screeching and poop jokes start up again.

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Here’s How To Recapture Some Of That Easter Excitement With Your Teens

I hated Easter when I was a kid because we had to go to church, it was still really cold where we lived and I couldn’t even rock a new spring dress and jelly shoes, and my parents only let us have two pieces of candy from our basket each day. It sucked, to say the least. Also, I hate ham and that’s what we had and we were expected to finish out plates.

When I had kids I decided to do Easter differently and I started to love it. The holiday is so much better now that I’ve adjusted it to my liking.

My ex-husband had a great tradition from his childhood we did with our kids: You hide jelly beans all around the house and the kids come down first thing in the morning to find them. Also, we let them have as much candy as they wanted, so that definitely added to the enjoyment.

But just like a lot of other holidays, once your kids reach the teen years, Easter loses a little bit of its luster, which makes me want to cry in the corner. It seems like my teens don’t care about the day that leaves me so nostalgic; I’d give anything to hear those six tiny feet come in my room before the sun comes up so they can find the jelly beans.

I figured out a few things to do to make Easter with teens feel celebratory (and fill the void in my soul) and get my kids involved.

Hide Money In Easter Eggs

But here’s the catch: Don’t tell them there’s money in those eggs. I realize this only works for the first year but it will be worth it. I did this for the first time last year and my kids stuck their noses up at finding eggs. 

Then, my daughter took pity on me and started collecting a few. When she opened them and saw there was money stuffed inside, her brothers quickly changed their tune, and let’s just say I’m lucky no one got hurt.

I also don’t put money in every one. I stagger in their favorite candy too — makes it more interesting.

Get Takeout

I don’t want to cook a big Easter dinner. I just don’t. We all love pizza or Chinese food, so that’s what I order since so many restaurants are open on Easter. I don’t want to get dressed up and go anywhere to enjoy it. 

However, I do like setting a pretty table and sitting down with my kids to eat it. This makes me happy. We order it early and I get a little extra so there’s always plenty of leftovers for us to snack on in front of the television later. This way, I get two quality chunks of time with my babies.

Keep Doing The Easter Baskets

Even if they act like they don’t care about it, I think they do. I do one large basket for all of my kids and I include their favorite candy, and a few other things like a small stuffed bunny for each of them. 

Yes, they act like they don’t want a toy. The truth is, getting a tiny stuffed animal for my kids on Easter has always made them happy. It reminds them of when they were younger and even if they don’t admit it, I’m sure they still sleep with one or two.

Easter isn’t Christmas 2.0 by any means — I don’t want to go overboard. I do that on Christmas and once a year is enough. So, I don’t buy a lot, but I always tuck some small things in my kids’ Easter basket, like face masks since we all love a nice charcoal mask. I started doing this a few years ago, and it’s been another tradition we always look forward to.

Do Some Of The Things You Used To Do When They Were Little

I still hide the jelly beans for them. On the plus side, I can do it in the morning before they wake up — and I don’t have to do it in the predawn hours, because they no longer storm in and interrupt a delicious sleep. I still buy the same candy I did when they were little, and I already mentioned the stuffed animal thing. 

I refuse to make Easter into another holiday where my kids get new clothes, technology accessories, or other expensive items. I didn’t do this when they were little and I’m not going to start now just because they are older — weaving the money into the day and a few small things is enough.

Keeping it simple and implementing some of our old traditions honestly makes me and my kids pretty happy.

More importantly, we all enjoy the day … and I get to see glimpses of their younger selves when they grab for their stuffed animal and get excited about finding an egg. And as any parent of teens knows, that’s the best part of all.

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My Son’s Broken Phone Turned Into The Best Day Ever

Number three, my baby, is 17 going on 25 and almost six feet tall. I barely see him these days. A junior in high school, he works at a local supermarket, drives, has a girlfriend, goes to the gym five times a week, snowboards, fishes, and is very social. In his free time, he sleeps and eats. On the extremely rare occasion that I catch a glimpse of him, he might utter a sentence or two to me, but there is no guarantee. He is a train that has left the station, and is picking up speed with each passing day. I feel like I am standing at the landing watching him roar off on a great adventure.

Don’t get me wrong: although I may be sad, I am simultaneously excited and honored to be a part of his journey … even if it is from a distance.

He is independent and wishes he was 18 so he could move on. He has asked me about emancipation. (Which terrified me, to be honest). He then thought about it and decided since he was headed off to college in a year that he would leave that alone. Phew!

I miss him. When his brother and sister (who are 18 and 19) had moved on from hanging out with me, I still had “the baby.” There is something very different about the baby. Somehow you suddenly cherish the most mundane interactions. You slow down, put the “to do” list aside, and take it all in. I mean all of it! When it comes to the baby, time seems to slip through your fingers.

This amazing human requires very little from me. He might ask me to make a doctor’s appointment or pick up some toothpaste. Which I do enthusiastically, of course. But that is pretty much the extent of our interactions these days.

Last week, his phone broke — and I felt like I had won the lottery. He was upset and did not want to spend his money to get it fixed for the second time. I remembered we had insurance on the phone and told him he could go to our carrier and use the insurance. Turns out he needed the account holder to go with him (you guessed it: me). It was my lucky day. He had no choice but to hang out with me, and we all know these things usually take a long time.

It was also my luck that there was a long line, and we got the new employee who was unable to help us. Darn, we had to go back again. So far I had spent 30 minutes in the car with him and at least an hour at the store. We listened to his playlist, talked about his siblings, and he even told me about his work. We connected for the first time in a while — all because of a broken phone.

I was on a winning streak; how did I get so lucky? Next we were referred to a third party who could fix our phone while we waited. This was at a different location, and we had to drive another 30 minutes.

More time on the clock, more listening to music — this time it was my playlist — more talking, more connecting, more driving, and I took it all in. Every last bit.

He parked the car and we waited in line again (amazing, I must say). We were told the wait time was an hour and we could wait on some chairs close by. He was visibly irritated, and under different circumstances, I would have been too. But I would have waited in line for 2+ hours just to hang out with him, and he really needed a working phone. Win-win.

We found two seats next to each other and I showed him a photo from his 4th birthday at Disneyland, when the family was together celebrating the baby’s birthday. I remember it like it was yesterday; so did he. We took a trip down memory lane and scrolled for an hour through all of the photos on my phone. We laughed a lot and he recalled fun times from the past.

Suddenly our name was called. It was time to get the phone fixed. I knew this cherished time together with my baby was coming to a screeching halt. We signed the paperwork and were told to come back in two hours. I thought my day could not be getting any better. I would be able to spend two more hours with my favorite 17-year-old!

But then came the mic drop: “Mom, I’ll drop you off at home. Thanks for your help. I’ll go back later to pick up my phone.”

And just like that, it was over. I resisted the urge to tell him to buy protective case for his phone … because maybe, just maybe, I will get lucky again.

Who would have guessed a mom and her “baby” could connect over a malfunctioning phone? I guess sometimes it takes something broken to bring people closer together.

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I Wasn’t Ready For My Kids To Outgrow Their Picture Books

“These all have to go,” my tween daughter declared.

She pointed to the slippery mountain of picture books on her bedroom floor. I glanced over at her bookcase. Three of the four shelves had been entirely cleared.

“I’m making room for my books.”

The heap was only a fraction of the picture books we had owned at one time. It was made up of our favorites, the survivors, the books that had escaped periodic culls that sent the rest of our collection to donation bins. The books’ last remaining territory was in my daughter’s room, because she was the youngest.

But now their time had come, too. Off went “Room on the Broom,” “Days with Frog and Toad,” and “The Paper Bag Princess.” On went the Hunger Games trilogy and “A Court of Thorns and Roses.”

I stared at the pile, trying to decide where the evicted books should go next. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them. Would it be weird to keep them in my own bedroom?

It was the official end of the picture book era in our family, and I was surprised by how bereft I felt. I’m usually able to purge outgrown clothes or toys without feeling too bogged down by nostalgia. I treasure my memories of the little-kid days, but I wouldn’t want to go back. I appreciate the independence of teens. I enjoy learning about the world with them, instead of always explaining it to them. I love being taught a TikTok dance rather than leading them through a round of “Wheels on the Bus.”

But seeing those discarded books tugged at something inside me.

There was so much magic contained in that jumble on the floor. Fairies, wizards and monsters. Softened portraits of daily life (just as fantastical). The absurdities of Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems, which make perfect sense when you’re reading them with a small child. Julia Donaldson’s skillful rhymes that propel your voice like it’s motorized. Each book in that pile had some special quality that kept it on heavy rotation for years. “The Pocket Dogs.” “Harry’s Home.” “Plum Tree Cottage.”

But the books’ artistic value wasn’t the only reason I was reluctant to see them go.

Once upon a time, when the kids were very young and the days long and relentless, picture books were my lifeline.

We always hear how beneficial it is for children to have parents read to them, never about how good it is for parents to do the reading. But looking back, those books were like therapy for me.

A mouse went strolling through the deep dark wood/He saw a nut, and the nut was good. (“The Gruffalo,” by Julia Donaldson)

Therapists recommend guided imagery exercises to take oneself to a calmer mental space. Picture books are even better. They’re the original virtual reality. To read one out loud with children is to grab their hands and plunge into a self-contained tiny universe. When we opened “The Gruffalo,” we entered the mouse’s hushed wood, breathed in the cool still air between the trees. By the second page, our own world — the one with knee-deep toy clutter and spilled Cheerios and unwashed breast pump parts in the sink- was already far behind.

Winnie lived in her black house with her cat, Wilbur. He was black too. And that is how the trouble began. (“Winnie the Witch,” by Korky Paul and Valerie Thomas)

Therapists teach us how to be mindful, to be fully present in the moment. As anyone who has ever gone for a walk with a toddler who takes half an hour to go twenty feet (the ants! the sidewalk crack! a candy wrapper!) knows, mindfulness comes naturally to kids. Book illustrators know it, too. The images in picture books are packed with details, enough to withstand repeated readings. We noticed something new in Winnie the Witch’s house — the tiny lizard on the wall, the pitch-black toilet — every time we read her story. A slow, focused trek through a picture book slows you down, centers you.

Then I dreamed I was sleeping on billowy billows/Of soft-silk and satin marshmallow-stuffed pillows. (“I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew,” Dr. Seuss)

Therapists encourage self-care. Cuddling up with a book and a few warm kids was as close as I got in those frenzied times to a spa visit in the middle of the day. The kids and I would get snuggly, their wild kinetic energy on pause. A kid or two burrowing into my lap, another leaning into me on the sofa, a small head pressing into my shoulder like a Swedish massage. Words from the pages warmed as I murmured them over fuzzy heads. I’d make sure we had a stack of books in easy reach so we could stay cozied up like that for a good long time.

You’re not awake/it’s six o’clock. You hear a ring, you hear knock-knock. (“The Birthday Monsters,” by Sandra Boynton)

Therapists advise going easy on yourself. The best thing about picture books for a wrung-out parent is that the authors have already done the hard work. On the days I zombied around the house after another fragmented night with my terrible sleepers, I had no capacity for play requiring creative effort on my part. Like Hide and Seek, or even an art project. But when you read out loud there is a path from eyes to mouth that circumvents the brain. I’m pretty sure I read some books to the kids while I was, neurologically speaking, asleep.

Sometimes people would tell me what a great job I was doing with the kids, by reading to them so often.

But here is my confession. If all that reading had really been for them, like trying to get them to eat vegetables or practice the violin, I wouldn’t have done nearly so much of it. I don’t have that much good-parent energy in me. That whole time, I was doing it for me.

And so I’m hanging on to our collection of favorites, like an emergency supply of sanity, in case I’m ever called on to take care of little humans again.

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