Why You Should Schedule Some One-On-One Time With Your Kids

I don’t know exactly when we began doing it, but for the past several years, my wife and I have been scheduling one-on-one time with our three children. Once a month my wife spends a couple of hours each weekend, one on one, with one of our children. I do the same the next month, and we just alternate months. We have three kids, so that’s three weekends (and on the fourth weekend, Mel and I go on a date).

Ultimately, the child picks what we do. Before COVID-19, we might go ice skating, or swimming at the pool, or to see a movie. It’s something our children have always really looked forward to, but ever since things got locked down because of COVID-19, it seems like this one-on-one time has taken on a new level of importance.

Sure, there isn’t as much to do outside of the house at the moment. Most of the time, we just end up finding a room that’s unoccupied and streaming a movie together. Two weeks ago, I took my 13-year-old on a drive around town so he could play Pokémon Go. But it’s not what we’ve been doing on these outings that matters anyway; it’s the fact that it’s been giving my children something to look forward to, and it’s giving them time to chat with someone. With all the stress of learning from home, and not being around friends, and living through a pandemic, this is pretty important — particularly with my oldest two, who are 11 and 13.

Last weekend I was scheduled to spend time with my 11-year-old daughter, Norah, and she decided to watch the high school musical “Zombies” on Disney Plus. Before the movie, we were driving to pick up a food order from Target, and listening to the “Zombies” movie soundtrack. She knew every song, which kind of surprised me considering she claimed to have never seen the movie. I asked her about that, and she gave me this very simple response, “I’ve been saving it.”

“For what?” I asked.

“To watch it with you,” she said.

I don’t know how long she’d been wanting to watch that movie, and I don’t know how long she’d been listening to the songs. But what I do know is that when she said she’d been saving it, she gave me this bashful smile, and it seemed clear that she wanted nothing else but to watch this movie with her father. The real kicker was, this was the most anticipation and excitement I’d seen in her eyes for months. Like all kids, this has been a difficult time for her, so it was a refreshing change to see her excitement.

Going back to the aforementioned outing with my 13-year-old to hunt for Pokémon: We started out by hitting up KFC. Once again, this was his suggestion. Then we drove around our small little Oregon town, his face glued to his phone, giving me directions, as we searched out for the coveted “shiny” Pokémon. We found Pokémon gyms, and we participated in Pokémon raids, and I’ll just say, I had no idea what we were doing exactly. But I wasn’t really in it for the Pokémon. I was in it for the conversation. As we drove, we talked. We talked about how much he missed his friends, and we talked about how hard it was to learn from home, and how he was tired of Zoom, and wished we had been able to go swimming at the community pool this summer. We talked about soccer practice, and that he hopes he will get to play again next summer. We talked about his best friend, and how he’s worried about him because he’s been depressed recently.

It was just my son and I, chatting as we drove. He had a good vent. And when you’re dealing with a teenager, getting them to open up like that is no easy task, and I don’t know if it would have happened with anyone else in the car. By the end of our time hunting for Pokémon, I could tell that he’d been able to get a lot off his chest, and it just felt good to let him tell me about his problems.

As a family, we are all we have right now. We work and learn from home, and my kids need someone to talk to. Setting aside this time with them one-on-one has really given them the opportunity to open up. It’s given them something to look forward to during a dark time, and it really isn’t all that hard of an investment. Just an hour or two on the weekends can make an unbelievable difference.

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When Do You Separate Your Teen From A Friend Who’s A Bad Influence?

When my son first started high school, he was drawn to a group of boys who got in trouble quite a bit. This was a lot different from the friends he had in elementary and middle school. He went from wanting to play all the sports with his friends and going to the movies to getting in fights, smoking pot in front of the school at 7:00 in the morning, and being really mouthy to me.

While he didn’t hang out with a lot of these kids outside of school– they were too young to drive and apparently I was way too strict and embarrassing for any of them to come over– he had one friend who he did do stuff with.

At first their friendship seemed healthy and good. They’d go skiing together and my son was fine with having him come over here, which made me feel like he wasn’t going to try anything sneaky; my son knows I call that shit out and I don’t care who you are, you follow rules and are respectful when you are in my house.

But things took a turn really fast when they got caught smoking pot in my basement. Then over at his house. Then at school. 

My son went from doing well in school to not doing well. He was getting in more fights and lost all motivation to do things like ride his bike and ski, things he used to love to do. 

The two of them got caught videotaping a teacher and putting it on Snapchat — and his freshman year, he was suspended twice in a matter of months. 

However, I didn’t tell him to write off his friend. One, I knew I didn’t have complete control over the situation because they still saw each other at school. And I also knew my son wasn’t innocent. Even if his behavior had changed drastically, he was still a 14-year-old who’s in charge of his actions. 

I could sit here and say this boy was at fault, just as his parents could say my son was at fault. I’m not here to cry that my kids are innocent angels, because that’s not true. 

I needed to guide my son. He was going to have encounters with so-called ‘bad influences’ his whole life. I wanted to give him the skills to navigate that. 

We had a lot of talks about being friends with someone and making his own choices despite what they’re doing. I wanted him to know he didn’t have to be an asshole to be liked by anyone — and if he was doing something that felt uncomfortable to him, that was reason enough to stop doing it. 

I could tell he was unhappy and certainly didn’t love being suspended and having phone and friend privileges taken away. And my heart went out to his friend as well, who was obviously struggling in life.

But then, things got worse. My son became anxious, destructive, and depressed, a huge difference in his attitude. This boy was the only person he wanted to hang out with, but every time they got together, it was bad news. 

After stalking his friend’s Instagram and seeing photos of him smoking pot and talking about how much he hated his life, then learning he’d dropped out of school, I had to call it.

I had a phone conversation with his mom on Saturday afternoon after she reached out to me wondering if my son could come over. She said she’d drop them off at their favorite ski resort and let them ski.

It was a really tough decision for me, but I was honest with her and said I didn’t think the two of them were good for each other — at least not for the time being. My son was facing expulsion if he got another suspension that year, and I could tell he needed help.

After that, they still had communication but they didn’t hang out together. With his friend not going to school, my son’s teachers noticed a huge change. He stopped fighting and then, thank the Lord, he made it through the rest of the year without another incident.

My daughter recently went through something kind of similar. She has a friend who brought pot over to her dad’s house and they got caught smoking it. Then, I learned my daughter was cutting herself as a way to deal with her anxiety.

After talking to her friend’s mom, I learned she too had been cutting herself and I wondered if they were doing it together.

Again, I was faced with having my daughter take some time away from this girl. Not because I blame her —I don’t —but because the two of them aren’t good for each other right now, and her mental health is the most important thing to me.

Yes, she’s mad at me. But as a parent, we know when to make the call.

I’ve told my kids this is in no way a punishment. It’s me having their back. I want them to see how it feels when someone who might not be good for them is removed from their life, so that in the future, they can hopefully do it themselves.

I don’t want to control my kids’ friends. They are going to have all kinds of relationships in their lives that I may not love, and I’ll have to deal with that. But that’s much different than sitting back and watching them go down a dark path with someone when they are still young enough for you to do something about it.

When they are young, and living under our roof, and we are able to see what’s going on, it’s not only our right but our job to step in and remove them from a situation that’s not healthy. Whether they agree with us or not.

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Here’s To All The Seemingly ‘Ordinary’ Teens

I think we all can agree that, as parents, we want the best for our kids. And we want them to be happy. Sometimes, though, it seems like those things are at odds with each other.

I want my kids to be kind and hard-working, joyful and determined. I want them to know the satisfaction that comes from working hard at something you love. I want them to be creative and unique. I want them to find “their thing” and work hard at it. If it were up to my teen, however, his life would consist of video games, Office re-runs, and joking around with his friends. He would find his happiness playing Xbox for days on end, a mini-fridge by his side for late night snacking. His joys don’t include things like playing the guitar or reading YA books or computer coding or mastering how to pitch a good curveball.

Sometimes I worry that “his thing” might be figuring out how to just get by with the bare minimum, that he doesn’t know the joy that comes from working hard at something you love. His passion is basically laughing and shooting the shit with his friend and playing video games. By his own account, he’s not even all that good at the video games he plays; he just likes playing them.

Because I want what’s best for him, I worry.

I wonder if we should be nudging him a bit more. Should we be putting more parameters on Xbox time, which in the pandemic has basically been his only outlet with friends? Should we be forcing him to read before bed? Should we be getting him on more sports teams, finding a coach that will push him harder? Should we dangle the prize of a new phone if he gets all As or shoots hoops for an hour each day?

I know plenty of parents who ascribe to this philosophy. Truth be told, as a child of the ’80s, I was raised on a steady diet of high expectations and a strong work ethic. An athlete growing up, I was definitely pushed along the way – both by internal and external motivators. Sometimes I wonder if I should be pushing my son a bit more until he finds his “passion” and the intrinsic motivators take hold?

Maybe. But my gut tells me no.

My gut tells me to just let him be. My head tells me that society’s obsession with “finding our passion” is really just another way to tie our worth to productivity, to make us feel like we constantly need to be striving for more. My heart tells me that my seemingly “ordinary” teen is really quite extraordinary in all the ways that really matter.

Because let me tell you, despite my teen’s lack of extraordinariness in things like academics or sports or music, he has the market cornered on happiness. He is truly one of the happiest teens I know. He (and his pre-teen brother too) often declares, unprompted, “I love my life.” And he means it. He oozes joy. Truly. In fact, earlier today he was literally jumping with joy.

He doesn’t just love his life either; he shares that love with others too. He is empathetic and caring. He says, “I love you” to me and my husband all the time, unprompted, in front of his friends. Last week, when we were talking about work I had to do, his response was, “Wow, you really work hard, and you take care of us, and you volunteer too…wow.” To be seen and acknowledged by your teen… well, let me tell you, they should definitely give out an award for that.

It’s hard not to look back on my own teen years as I witness my son’s. I was a good student. I studied hard. I was a dedicated athlete, sometimes training 2-3 hours a day. I was a good kid and considered myself to be a relatively content teen. But never was I so happy that I declared how much I loved my life. I had (and have) a great relationship with my parents and appreciate all that they did for me (which was a lot), but as a teen, I kept my feelings for them fairly well guarded. I never hugged them out of the blue to thank them for taking care of me. I didn’t tell them I was proud of them or how amazing they were. So yeah, I do think my son is extraordinary in this way.

I see Facebook posts of friends sharing the excitement of their kid winning a swim meet. I hear friends talk about their child getting into advanced math. I see videos on Instagram of kids playing a guitar solo or singing a song they wrote. I don’t begrudge these parents their pride or their kids’ joy in finding their passion. It’s just that these experiences are so different from my teen’s.

I can’t help but wonder: Have we gotten so trained into thinking that grades, musical talent, and athletic success is the only way to excel? What about those teens don’t have a passion, the teens who are fine with “just getting by”? Do we push them a little so they can reach their full potential? Or do we rest peacefully in the knowledge that they are happy?

Personally, I’m focusing on that inner spark of joy in my teen that the world hasn’t snuffed out yet. I want to nurture that as long as possible. And if that means letting him spend more time laughing with his friends or binging The Office with me, so be it.

That doesn’t mean we let him shirk all responsibility. Not in the slightest. He needs to stay on top of school work, get a little physical activity in most days, and clean up after himself. But it does mean that if he doesn’t want to do the extra work it takes to be better than ordinary at something… oh well.

Because even though, by most traditional measures, my kids are rather ordinary, they are absolutely extraordinary in all the ways that really matter.

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To My Teen Daughter: This Is The Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Was Your Age

Now that you’ve become a teenager, the landscape has changed. I navigated my teen years the best I could and I’m sure plenty well-meaning adults tried to steer me in the right direction but many times their advice didn’t sit well. “Be a good girl.” “Stay away from boys.” “Stop pouting.” “Don’t have sex ’til you get married.” “Listen to your parents.” “Do as you’re told.” “Drink your ovaltine.” Just kidding. It was the ’80s so I was chugging Black Cherry Kool-Aid and Capri Suns.

I understood this well-intentioned advice, but I wasn’t quite sure how or when to apply it. I wanted to know the why behind it all. The responses I often got were “Because I said so.” I’ve been a writer since I could pick up a pen and have been searching for a deeper meaning. To everything. I had to find out the why for myself, and that I did. I’ve learned many lessons along the way. If I would have followed all the advice I received I’m sure my life would have turned out quite differently and utterly dull. Below are some things I wish I would have known a lot sooner. If I could teach you anything, it would be to lean into these things and embrace them with all you have.

Love yourself.

Sometimes we become so concerned about what others are doing, we lose ourselves. Stay focused on you and your goals and what makes you happy. Everything else will fall into place, I promise. Don’t ever talk negatively to yourself. “Feed the positive, starve the negative.” Negative thoughts spread like wildfire and will destroy your soul. Always talk to yourself like you would a best friend. Be gentle. You teach others how you want to be treated, and if they see you talking down to yourself, they will do the same. I know it’s not right nor is it fair but this is how the world works. And the sooner you accept this, the better.

I remember my mom always telling me, “No matter what happens, hold your head high.” I didn’t quite understand it at the time. Now I do. You’re going to fail in life. You’re going to fall down. Hard. And it’s not going to be easy getting back up but you have no other choice. You will get back up and you will fight all the while holding your head high. Many times you will be the only one fighting for you as not everyone will know your battles but that’s OK. You’re strong and you got this. Lastly, when the fight gets to be a bit too much, ask for help.

Don’t worry about pleasing others.

This is a losing game. No matter how hard you try, you can’t win. Once again, you will lose yourself trying to please everyone around you. We all know happiness is an inside job and everyone is responsible for their own happiness. You don’t have to bear that burden for others. One day you may wake up and wonder why people aren’t trying to please you as much as you are them. You’ll be exhausted and bitter. And you might stop giving all together because you don’t feel like you’re getting anything in return. In this case, see point number one above, love yourself and seek your own happiness, everything else will flow from there. Put you first, above all else. When I say this I don’t mean be selfish. I mean feed your spiritual well-being and don’t be concerned with what others think of you. Look for validation internally, not externally.

Stand up for yourself and what you believe.

Don’t ever be afraid to speak your mind on important topics and matters of right and wrong. This world gets extremely noisy at times and everyone will try to speak over you. Don’t forget, you’re just as important as the next person and your opinion matters as much as theirs. Don’t let their loudness hush your spirit. It will also be important for you to educate yourself on matters of politics and social justice. You need to know where you stand on these issues because your values will flow into your relationships and they will define the person you are and what types of people you allow into your life. Never be afraid to speak your mind and don’t allow others to talk over you. Just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot to say.

If something doesn’t feel right in your gut, listen to that feeling.

A lot of times our body will have a physical reaction when something isn’t quite right. Listen to that feeling. Don’t ignore it. And if you don’t know what it’s saying, sit with it a while and it will become clear. When you ignore these feelings, that’s often when life is leading you down a dangerous path. Think of it as your body’s way of protecting you. Your heart may want to argue, but listen to your head and your gut. And if you still aren’t sure what to do, talk to your mom. Chances are I’ve thought about it or been through it myself.

Cheer for other women.

Times when I’ve felt the worst about myself were when I was putting someone else down. It’s easy for us to hate on other women or to be jealous because they appear to be more this or that. But the truth is we’re all struggling with something. If you could trade places with them tomorrow, you wouldn’t want to anyway. Our journey is our own, and as messy it gets, there’s beauty all around. You just have to want to see it. The times I was the most successful are when I was cheering on other women. That vibe spreads and gets passed from one person to the next. If you’re having a hard time accepting another female you have to ask yourself, why. Does she have something you don’t? Is she working harder than you? Stop comparing and remind yourself your journey is your own. The more love you throw out into the world, the more it comes back to you.

You are enough.

Above all else, never forget, you are enough. Stop telling yourself you’re too this or too that or not enough of this. That’s a recipe for unhappiness. Shine that beautiful light inside you no matter what anyone else around you is doing. Their battles are their own and not for you to be concerned with. You have so much to offer this world. Don’t ever let anyone destroy that. People will try. They will see the light you’re carrying and they will want a piece of it because they don’t have their own. Don’t ever give it away freely. Stay guarded and set clear boundaries to protect yourself. You have to be your own protector because no one is going to do it for you. You know right from wrong, lean into that, baby, and keep shining!

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How I Beat My Teens At Their Own Game

My husband and I have been playing a game with our children (ages 12, 14, and 16) we affectionately call “Adolescence.” It appears to be a brutally long game with no end in sight and because I’m fiercely competitive, I won’t rest until I win.

I’m in it for the long haul, so I coyly inhabited the role as dowdy, exhausted mom years ago. In reality, I’m an eagle-eyed, cunning investigator who has a gift for clairvoyance passed down from generations on my mother’s side. My husband chooses to portray the serious, responsible patriarch. He’s obviously not into creative role play.

Whether big or small, a win puts valuable points on a player’s letterboard. For example, a small win is when a parent has been easily duped, like the time my sneaky teen turned in early for the night telling me she was exhausted from a demanding day at school. I can now confirm she was feigning droopy eyes and a well-timed yawn as I found her online at midnight updating her profile picture instead. Her straightforward win screams that I need to sharpen my parenting prowess.

There is only so much time children should be left to think they rule the roost so my husband and I needed a gigantic win to restore some street cred in our home. I channeled the patience and observation to piece together some clues. I discovered a young guilty perpetrator in an incident We Shall Not Laugh About, yet we all immediately did. Yeah, I realize that’s another win for the kiddos.

The first clue I uncovered appeared when I came home to a clean house. Every dirty dish was washed, the living room was vacuumed, and I could see the countertops. Tidy houses with teens usually pair with the individual responsible seeking accolades, so when no one appeared to claim credit, the detective in me sprang into action. We appeared to be knee-deep in some multi-move, strategic play and I was prepared to decimate my younger opponents.

The second clue appeared minutes later. Another youthful player gushed about the shirt I wore to work, a simple black fleece. Fake compliment, I told myself, because everyone knows fleece is not fashion. Anyone with a shred of integrity would only acknowledge its comfort and warmth, not praise it for style.

Then, the third child boldly asked, “How was your day, mom?” Novice play, little man. No child asks a parent about their day at work before asking about snacks, dinner, and dessert. What a rookie move trying to butter me up like that. I’m nobody’s fool.

After a few days of waiting and watching, I finally noticed it sitting right in front of me. The ficus. My plant had been moved mere inches from its deliberate staging in our living room. It’s green, shiny leaves no longer hit the light the way it should. Even though my teenager opponents increased their competency and stamina seemingly overnight, I felt a big win in my immediate future, like one of those nights in Las Vegas where you finally think you’ve outwitted the slot machine and somehow scored free drinks in the casino.

Confidently, I brought my sweet, cunning children to the kitchen table and looked at each one for a very long time. I was filing away their micro-movements for use at a later time (professional parenting play) simultaneously attempting to intimidate my suspects like I see them do on crime television shows.

“There’s a gaping hole in the wall hiding behind the ficus,” I said with a slight sigh and arched eyebrows.

Their rehearsed replies came in semi-automatic, rapid succession. Huh? What? Wow.

“Yes. It seems the plant has been moved to assist the perpetrator in hiding a vacancy in the wall. Anyone know how the hole appeared?” My eyebrows moved into a menacing frown.

Again, a barrage of lies. No way. Nope. No idea.

I was being schooled by kids whose combined age was less than mine. The delinquent who was riding through the living room on an electric skateboard at a cruising speed of about 30 mph was not about to acknowledge that a structural wall got in the way of their joyride. My children gazed around the room avoiding my eye contact and protecting one another like a band of on-the-lam bandits. I was backed into a corner and the youngsters forced my hand.

Precisely at this moment, I saw the moves my children did not really know they were playing. They were full of secrecy, fanning their flames of independence, and trying to dismantle their parents’ authority. This was all part of the game of adolescence and their moves were textbook, like those parenting books I read long ago told me would happen.

I finally figured out who was the hole-in-the-wall culprit by simply being an observant parent who understands her kids. But instead of using my beloved, overplayed, and increasingly ineffective, “I told you so,” I made an unusual pivot for a move that caught everyone off-guard. I vowed not to be angry with punishment and marveled aloud at the elaborate measures used trying to hide what must have truly been an accident. That’s a big win for mom.

My husband and I often stress if we’re doing this parenting thing correctly because the boxes came without any instructions. Our wins remind us that we’re on the right track and the losses let us how much we still have to learn. We’re not quite ready for the next edition because we’re having too much fun hard-core gaming with our adolescents now.

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Teens Are Putting Their Social Media Info Into Pants Pockets At Stores

Picture it: Christmas morning. Your family is gathered around the tree, tossing wrapping paper and putting bows on their heads. Everyone is having a great time and enjoying their gifts. Your 12-year-old son opens up a pair of athletic pants. He tries them on and puts his hands in his pockets. Inside he finds a card. Thinking it’s a tag, he tosses it on the ground. You pick it up, realizing that it’s actually a link to a Snapchat profile. Curious, you grab your phone and end up at a young girl’s page. Huh? What is this all about?

Evidently this is a thing. There are TikTok videos of teenage girls stuffing cards with their personal information into pants, shorts, even underwear in sporting goods stores. This is how they are getting followers. Random people. There is so much wrong here. Where do I even start?

@aquast13How to get a boyfriend 101 ##singleladies##foryou##viral#Dicks##sportinggoods##snapchat##desperate @mallorymeilicke @amanduhmorse88♬ Single Ladies – The Superstarz Kids

The above scenario happened this Christmas to the son of a friend of mine. The pants in question were a youth large. A YOUTH large! This card was intended for a young person to find. Let’s say that the linked profile is real. That means a teenage girl is out looking for male followers. Kids or men who are not very big!

Let’s address the creep factor first. There is no guarantee those pants are going home to a teenager. There is also no guarantee that the person who finds them isn’t a total whack job. By putting that card in a random pair of pants, this girl is opening herself up to a world that she probably isn’t ready for. Even if the profile is set to private, she is intending to add total strangers to her account. That’s scary stuff.

What if in fact it does end up in some creep’s hands? There are so many scenarios that could play out here. It’s terrifying. It’s dangerous. Sex trafficking is very real and it’s happening every day. You see it on the news all the time. Young girls go missing. They are lured away by adults that they think that they can trust. As adults, we know that it’s pretty easy to get information online. A couple of Google searches and you can find out just about anything about anyone. When young people start getting involved in social media, they are creating their online footprint. And that needs to be done carefully. You must keep your cards close, protected. You can’t just let anyone into your circle.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my daughter putting cards in underwear boxes with links to her social media. Granted, she’s only four, but where does this stuff end? What will it be like when she is a teenager? I am legitimately scared. Not just for her, but for any girl that feels that she needs to be validated by total strangers. We need to be building our girls up. Letting them know that they are smart and they are strong and that they can do great things. They are not just the persona that they exude on social media.

There are memes that say things like, “How girls dress today vs. how they dressed me when I was a kid.” There is a stark difference between the two. I was a teenager in the ’90s — you’re talking overalls and flannels. Today, things are tight and low cut and pretty age-inappropriate. But that is what society has created as the expectation of a teenage girl to be. Our world is image obsessed. You’ll never be skinny enough, pretty enough, have big enough boobs, or wear enough makeup. But if you are, make sure that you show it off. Get as many followers as you can. That will fill your cup. That will make you feel better. Likes and followers make you worthwhile. It’s so sad.

As a mom of three boys, I want them to respect girls. I don’t want them to equate their worth to the physical. But, I am not naive. I know what boys like and that’s fine. It’s normal. It’s OK. And it’s OK for girls to want to feel attractive, but there has to be a happy medium here. We have to be able to find a way for our teenagers to feel good and respect themselves at the same time and to be smart about all of it.

I am just entering into the teenage world with my oldest son. But I have cautioned him to think things through before he texts anything or posts on message boards or makes comments places. It never goes away. A stupid mistake will follow you for the rest of your life.

So what do we do to help our kids? How do we make them understand that a stupid Tik Tok video playing “Single Ladies” by Beyonce is not where you should be picking up dating tips. How do we help them to understand that social media is to be taken seriously and it needs to be done safely? I’m not sure that I have the answers, but it’s becoming a serious talk that parents need to have. I don’t believe in scarring my children with horror stories, but a few small scares isn’t such a bad thing.

We need to be honest and forthright and help our kids to understand that at 40 you never want your children to find something about you online from when you were younger that embarrasses them. You don’t want to embarrass yourself and you positively don’t want to put yourself in a situation that you cannot handle. Social media can be a wonderful way to communicate, and share photos, and stories, and things about your life — but not with some guy who just bought new boxer briefs.

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Single Mothers Of Teens Are The Real MVPs

My son sent me a text after he got off work the other night. He was going to stop and get gas, a bad slice of pizza, then be home. I went up to bed and was fighting off sleep until he was home safely.

After brushing my teeth and doing my lengthy skincare routine, I knew he’d be home soon so I turned on the television to keep myself awake. 

After an hour, my son still wasn’t home. He works 12 minutes away from our house and I knew his stop didn’t take long. I was sitting alone in my bedroom and called him. No answer. I sent him a text telling him to call me. Nothing.

Maybe he was talking to a friend. 

Maybe he had to work a bit later and forgot to text me.

Maybe his car is flipped over on the side of the road and he’s not going to call me but a police officer will any second now.

These are the thoughts that go through a mother’s head. And when she’s a single mother, they go through her head alone. There’s no one sitting next to her on the sofa to calm her down. There’s no one there saying, “You stay here next to your phone with the other kids and I’ll go out and look for him.”

You sit and marinate in all your worst thoughts without anyone there to bounce them off of.

A few minutes later, I got a text saying,”Mom, I got pulled over for speeding. I’ll be home in five minutes.”

When he got home, I had to be calm enough to not yell at him so I wouldn’t wake up his brother and sister and scare them, yet stern enough to remind him he had screwed up and I was really worried.

I had to process all my thoughts and feelings alone. I had to be the mother and the father. I had to be the voice of reason and the support system for my son. 

When you are a single mother of teens, there’s no one to share these duties with. There’s no one to say, “I’ll handle this, you are too upset.” There’s no one to talk it through with you when you find out your teenager is having sex, smoking pot, vaping, or just being an all around asshole.

Even as a divorced woman who has a healthy co-parenting relationship with her ex, I can tell you raising teenagers is lonely as fuck.

Sure, there’s people to talk to, but they have their own lives.

Yes, I can reach out to my ex and he will come over, call his kids, and do whatever it takes to share this parenting burden of raising teenagers in this day and age. But single parents are still doing it alone. Because when something comes up suddenly —  which it does, because your teenagers don’t say, “Hey mom, I’m going to miss curfew tonight,” or “Just so you know, I’m going to start cutting myself,” or “I think I’m going to stop doing my school work and see what happens” — you have to think quick. You have to deal with it. You can’t ignore it, or postpone your reaction until you dial up your ex.

You don’t have someone standing next to you to reach out and grab your hand because they sense you are going to lose your shit.

Nope, it’s all you.

There’s a lot of things that can’t be put on hold when you are a parent. Catching your kids drunk or having one of them fall apart because they got their heart broken doesn’t allow for you to step away and say, “I’m dealing with this alone, so I need some extra time to process this and think about what to do.”

Teenagers need you immediately. Teenagers get into big shit. Teenagers have huge feelings. Teenagers can fuck up your day faster than ten toddlers. Teenagers can make you feel like you literally don’t know what you are doing as a parent.

And as their mother, you want so much for them. You want to do right by them. You want to handle it all. 

But this is exhausting — this taking everything on alone, without the second opinion of someone you love and trust. Someone who sleeps next to you, and them, and wants it all to be okay just as much as you do. 

Even if you have a supportive ex-partner, it’s extra work to keep them in the know about what happens when the kids aren’t on their watch. It’s a lot of back and forth and explaining. It’s an energy-suck to constantly check in with each other and make sure you are both on the same page. And even in the best of circumstances, it’s rare that you are both going to handle things the same way or agree on how to fix something.

Single mothers of teens, you are the real MVPs in this life, especially as we head into another phase of this pandemic and try and take care of our families and keep our teens close and safe. Don’t you ever forget it. And don’t you ever feel like you suck as a parent. This is the toughest shit I’ve ever been through, and while my kids are completely and totally worth it, that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize its challenges.

Lord knows being a single mother to teenagers has a ton.

The post Single Mothers Of Teens Are The Real MVPs appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Didn’t Expect My 15-Year-Old To Break My Heart

I am a proud mom of an 11-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a 15-year-old. I am consistent and confident, yet flawed in my parenting. I am proud of all of these things. The flawed parenting gives me an opportunity to learn and grow and meet the needs of each child as appropriately as I can. It’s my lot in life, like the majority of moms, and it is my life’s purpose to be the mom each of my children need me to be. Another thing I am is human. I am caring. I am loving and I wear my heart on my sleeve.

My oldest, my 15-year-old, the one who made me a mom and showed me that I was capable of loving someone so deeply, had broken my heart. I believe it was always unintentional, although in the moments I was never so rational as to believe so. Around age 13, she became dismissive of me. She became passive when it came to me and therefore it seemed nothing I did or said really affected her. I no longer mattered and although she never was so disrespectful as to say it, her actions certainly spoke loud enough.

Friends who have gone through this would reassure me often that this was all very normal and that she would come back to me in a few years. I had read enough to know that the teenage girl years could be rough. I never expected her to continue to dote on me as she did when she was younger or to even like me a lot but this was different. This was daily behavior that confirmed that I didn’t matter, what I said or did made no difference, and that she could nearly cut me out of her daily life and have zero feelings about it.

My husband would tell me almost daily to try not to take it personally. My response was always that I was trying but that I wasn’t a robot. I knew I had to be the steady and unaffected one but as hard as I tried, I wasn’t successful.

I walked around with a broken heart for 18 months while doing my best to pretend it wasn’t. Still cheerfully driving her to her club volleyball practices and tournaments, to her high school practices and games, and to all social functions. I walked a fine line of interaction and parenting without wanting to upset her or push her further away. I even found myself being my own hype man before some interactions with her. Like, “C’mon Ashley, you got this. Just go in there and tell her the next time you find a wet towel on the floor she’s responsible for washing all towels for the next two weeks. You’re the parent. Don’t be afraid of pushing her further away. Just go in there.” It was absurd, and terrifying, and lonely. Especially for this consistent and confident mom. I felt oh, so flawed, but not in the way I had before. I felt deficient and useless and flawed as a person, not just in my parenting.

One night the three kids and I had walked in the door after I had picked them each up from their respective practices. This was early March, right before everything shut down. My daughter said something as we walked through the door that was just a deal breaker for me. I don’t even remember what it was and it may have been my mood that day where I was feeling extra sensitive with her but it broke me.

She immediately started to walk upstairs and I yelled at her to stop. The other two kids stopped in the foyer. I stood at the foot of the stairs and dropped everything that was in my hands and I sobbed from the bottom of my gut.

She sat down right where she had stopped on the stairs and was just watching me, no expression. I sobbed for a bit before I could even talk and then I just told her that she can continue to hate me this way forever if she wants but it will never change anything within me as to how I love her and will stand behind her ALWAYS. I told her that I will always continue to say yes when she wants to have all of her friends over. I told her that I will always continue to stop at Starbucks before I drop her friends off at home. I told her that I will always continue to be the first parent in the entire gym for every single game, home or away. I told her that I will always volunteer for everything I can at school that helps to support her.

I got in her face, while sobbing, and said I WILL CONTINUE TO SHOW UP FOR YOU FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER because that’s what you do when you love someone more than you love yourself. I said that my heart has been broken for a long time and I’ll deal with that forever if I have to, but I will never change those things and I will SHOW UP until I die.

My other two kids were crying. Then my middle, my only son, screamed at her, “I TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE KILLING HER!” and I actually cried harder than I ever have in my life. His words to her meant that he had tried to talk to her about it and that touched me so deeply.

She calmly got up and walked to her bedroom. I was spent and had said all that there was to say.

The next morning she came in and laid on my bed while scrolling on her phone. She said nothing, and neither did I. That was the beginning of this new chapter.

It’s funny because I really had my guard up when she started being “normal” with me again and I had to make a solid, intentional effort to not have my guard up. I needed her to see and feel that I was open and ready to receive whatever she felt like giving me. My heart had been broken, and as anyone who has had their heart broken knows, it’s an innate response to protect yourself after the fact. As her parent, I had no choice but to fight that and be open and willing. In the end it’s what I had dreamed of. It didn’t take long for the guard to disappear. I believe I can speak for her when I say that that was mutual.

2020 is a year so few people will care to remember. Except for me. 2020 is the year that I got my baby girl back. Not long after my breakdown and her change of heart, the world shut down and our chaotic, crazy life of two schools and four sports teams came to a standstill. We learned to be together again and we had an abundance of time to do so.

My heart is healed and I am grateful.

If you are struggling with something similar, hang in there, mama. Remain consistent and confident. And trust me when I say that you are not flawed in the ways your broken heart may tell you that you are. I promise.

The post I Didn’t Expect My 15-Year-Old To Break My Heart appeared first on Scary Mommy.

What To Know About Teens And ‘Sadfishing’

Having teens in this day and age, with social media is front and center in their lives at all times, means I have to stay afloat on what’s going on. This includes (but is not limited to) all social media platforms and ways of communicating with people, the latest terms and abbreviations and what they mean, how often my kids are on their phones, and what their friends are posting.

Sounds like a full time job, right? Yeah, it kind of is. I learned some tricks of the trade throughout the years so I’m not sitting down for hours upon hours stalking their social media. Believe me, I tried that and found out what was actually happening. I had my nose in a device each day trying to figure out what was happening in their lives rather than spending time and talking with them.

A few shortcuts: If my teens are acting strange it’s because something is up. I try to talk to them first, but if that doesn’t work, yes, I’ll snoop in their phones and it will go a bit further than just checking out their social media posts.

My son was having a lot of trouble a few years back. He was anxious, depressed, and couldn’t stop getting in trouble at school. He was hanging out with one boy all the time and didn’t seem to have an interest in broadening his friend group. After a little snooping, I saw his friend was posting a lot of pictures of him smoking pot on his Instagram. There were also a lot of posts about him skipping school and how much he hated his life and the world in general. He was getting quite a lot of attention for it, too.

While I realize this may have been a cry for help, I had a feeling his problems were leaking onto my (very empathic) son. He was having trouble separating their two lives and I had to step in and do it for him. I did this by only allowing them to hang out under my roof when I was home so I could at least keep an eye on the situation and try to spread some positive light on the situation.

Our teens are so impressionable. I’d say my young adults are more influenced at this age than I’ve seen them at any other age. 

I realize this isn’t true of all kids, but it certainly is with a lot of teenagers I know. And since they spend so much time on their phones, you better believe they are influenced by what they see on that screen — even more so, I’d say, than they are when they see something in person.

If you haven’t heard of the term “sadfishing,” you aren’t alone. According to Your Teen Magazine, It’s a new term by writer, Rebecca Reid.

In short, it’s basically when someone posts a really sad picture (sometimes they are crying, or have a really sad look on their face) while telling an emotional or heart-wrenching story or event that happened. Sometimes these things are true and, well, sometimes they are simply to get some attention.

While many of us feel stories like this have their place — who hasn’t related to a mom posting a picture of herself just barely holding it together to let the world know how damn hard this job actually is? — there are those who are doing it simply to get attention or sympathy.

It’s becoming common among teenagers to do this on their social media platforms. Everyone loves an affirmation, so it’s tempting to post something depressing so that their peers chime in with comments; this type of post often gets a lot of engagement, and for teens who place a lot of weight on the number of “likes” and views they get, it can be intoxicating.

As parents, we should know if our teens are putting a cry out for help or simply dabbling in an online pity party.

Even if they are acting completely normal and seem happy in your presence, a social media post about depression or anxiety definitely warrants some deeper digging. Parents magazine reports, “When a teen is posting song lyrics that are blatantly depressing, sharing about how hopeless their life is, or even referencing self-harm and suicidal ideation, they want your attention—whether it’s a conscious desire or not.” Jelena Kecmanovic, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Arlington, Virginia tells Healthline that all posts where your kids are crying for help should be taken very seriously, and your children shouldn’t be punished.

Real or contrived, this form of sharing (especially if it isn’t accurate) can be very influential and toxic to the teens who are on the other end of it. Like all other behaviors, sadfishing can be contagious. Not to mention that if their peers pick up on the attention-getting nature of the sadfishing post, they may get humiliatingly called out for simply wanting attention.

The best way to handle it is to talk with your child one on one and get them professional help if they are struggling with thoughts of hurting themselves, according to Parents.

The bottom line here is that there’s something new to keep track of all the time. It’s our job as parents to stay on top of it and realize social media is a huge outlet for many of our kids. Just because we don’t understand it, or we wouldn’t post something like that doesn’t mean we should sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen.

We can have a talk with our teens about the effects of posts like this, and how they can attract people who want to prey on their emotions, without shaming them. We can also show them we are there for them and can get them the help they need — but it’s important they aren’t exaggerating their emotions to simply get attention from outsiders.

Like all other things in the parenting world, this social media monitoring is a balancing act, and all we can do is our best. 

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Parents, Stop Acting Like What Is Actually A Privilege Is A Necessity

Last week, in a private parenting group I’m in on Facebook, a parent posted asking for advice on buying a car for her teenage daughter. She wanted to know what other parents considered when shopping for their teen’s first car — how did they find good deals, how much did they spend or plan to spend, how much did the teen contribute to the purchase, how do they shop with confidence about the car’s history, etc.

Some of the commenters gave great advice, pointing to a couple of car buying websites where you could get a complete history of a car and even do all the negotiating online. Some discussed how their teens had a savings account and helped contribute to the purchase of the car or a job to pay back a portion to mom and dad or to cover the monthly gas and insurance expense.

But a few parents popped in to say, basically, that they’d bought their kid a really nice car and didn’t ask for anything in return from the kid. Parents were buying their teens new or almost-new cars, sometimes taking on a whole extra car payment, paying for insurance and gas on top of that, and not requiring the kid to have any kind of income to help out because “school comes first” or “they’re too busy.” One mom said she’d bought her kid a car and “had” to spend $12,000 because there was no way she could get anything cheaper than that and trust it to be safe enough.

Listen, I try not to judge other parents’ way of raising their kids, and really, knock yourself out spoiling your kid if that’s how your family does things and you’re relatively sure you aren’t raising a sociopathic douchebag. You do you, boo. But… it’s that last comment, the one about safety, that raised my hackles, especially since few other parents popped in to agree with it — you simply cannot get a safe car for under $10,000. No way would they let their kid drive an older model car. So dangerous!

Do these parents even hear themselves?

The car I drive is probably worth about $5,000 at this point. I bought it almost-new 11 years ago and plan to use it until it shrivels up and dies on the side of the road because I love not having a car payment. Also, it runs great, because I’ve taken care of it. Not that I’m knocking anyone who has a car payment or pays a shit-ton for a car. Whatever. It’s your money, spend it how you want, obviously. But… my car is not safe? It’s not good enough to drive my kids around in? My teen is still a year away from getting his license, but am I, like, a bad parent for not leveling up? Do I not love my kids and worry about their safety as much as these parents who feel it absolutely necessary to spend a minimum of $12,000 on a car for a 16-year-old? I guarantee neither of my kids will be driving a car worth more than whatever I’m driving. But by these parents’ logic, I am not concerned about their safety, or at least, not as concerned as they are.

These one-percenter parents have keyed into this idea that they “can’t possibly” subject their kids to what they perceive as an unacceptably dangerous situation. They present this outsized fear about their children’s safety as if it’s the most obvious, normal fear in the world that simply must be mitigated. It’s a small price to pay for my child’s safety, they insist, probably with their hands clasped over their chests, as if the other 99% of the population doesn’t have to basically just take whatever option is most affordable and hope for the best.

Fellow parents, if you have the money to throw around to get the best of all the things, please understand, that is a privilege. A luxury, even. It is not a necessity like food, water, and shelter. Recognize that. If you’re announcing to a group of parents of mixed financial means, many of whom may not be able to afford a car for their kid at all, whom may not even be able to afford a car for themselves, that you wouldn’t dare spend less than ten grand on your delicate angel baby, because “safety,” you sound incentive and privileged AF.

Seriously, get whatever car for your kid you want, spend as much as you want. But don’t throw “safety” into the conversation to validate your spending as if other parents who can’t afford to spend that much don’t also worry for their kids’ safety. All parents worry about their kids’ safety, but not all parents can drop several thousand extra dollars to increase the likelihood of that safety. If you’re paying extra to keep your kid safe, fine, but don’t talk about it like it’s a necessity, like you must love your kid more than other parents because you’re “willing” to fork over the extra cash. Not everyone has extra cash. Parents are doing the best they can with the resources available to them.

Whether it’s the best snow boots to keep their kids’ feet dry in winter, the most expensive violin to give their kid the extra oomph for those youth symphony auditions, or expensive outside tutoring to ensure a kid passes Algebra II — these are all awesome if you can afford it, but every one of these things is a privilege and a luxury, not even close to a necessity. So please don’t present them as one. It’s gross. It makes other parents who care about their kids’ success and safety just as much as you feel like trash. If you can afford those extras that give your kid a leg up, that’s what they are — extras that give your kid a leg up. Not needs. Not proof that you care enough, or more than other parents.

Seriously, do what you want. But have a little self awareness when you talk about this stuff, otherwise you look like an oblivious, insensitve jerk.

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