Our Daughters: My Teenage Werewolf

Mom Embeds Self in Teen Daughter’s Life! (Read the Author Q&A)

My Teenage WerewolfAre you currently on a wild roller coaster ride with that charming/ alarming pre-teen or teen in your midst?  If so, Lauren Kessler’s book, My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, A Daughter, A Journey through the Thicket of Adolescence— just released in paperback — may save your sanity.  The award-winning author launches an 18-month mission, embedding herself in her own about-to-be teenage daughter’s life. From middle school classrooms to the mall, from summer camp to online chat groups, Kessler observes, chronicles—and sometimes participates in—the vibrant, dynamic and scary life of a 21st-century teen. With the help of a resident teen expert (her daughter), as well as teachers, doctors, therapists and other mothers, Kessler illuminates the age-old mother-daughter struggle from both sides,  interweaving personal experience with journalistic inquiry.

Why did you write this book, Lauren?

The short answer is:  I had to.

I had to write about my feisty, moody, mercurial girl-woman and her generation of take-no-prisoners girls.  I had to dive into the deep end of teen girl culture and attempt to navigate the stormy seas of the mother-daughter relationship.  It was the only way I could figure out how to survive her teenage years.

She was 12 when overnight, it seemed, I toppled from my throne. I ceased to be Mommy the Genius, Mommy the Wise and Beneficent, the font of all things cool and fun, the curer of all ills.

That’s how little girls look at their mothers. But at 12, my girl was no longer little. She was already full throttle into teendom and had mastered the vocabulary: deep sighs, exasperated eye-rolling, monosyllabic responses, snotty retorts and stony silences. Mom (that would be me) was now the enemy. All of a sudden, it seemed to me, Lizzie and I were sparring over everything, from food to friends to fashion, school work, chores, screen-time, bedtime, you name it. Most mornings we would eye each other warily, waiting to see who would cast the first stone.

I had to do something.  I’m an immersion journalist, so that’s what I did:  I took it on as a major research project.   I’m a storyteller.  I told a story, a story I was in the midst of living.

So you embedded yourself in teen girl culture, in your daughter’s life. How did you convince your daughter to let you do this?

First let me assure you that I employed no coercion or bribery…although it did cross my mind!  In fact, although our relationship at the time was, shall we say, tempestuous, she readily – almost enthusiastically – agreed.  I can’t answer for her about her motives, but I can tell you my take on it. I think it was all about the balance of power. I basically asked Lizzie to be my expert, my source, my guide. She got to teach me. I was her student. This was particularly the case when she instructed me on her online life and taught me computer games, and when she helped me through my week as a summer camp counselor. But it was just generally true. She was empowered throughout this process, and she loved this position as “boss.”

What most surprised you about what you learned?

I was also astonished at how savvy the girls were about just the things that keep us mothers up at night: sex, drugs, internet predators. I am not saying they did the right thing, that they invariably made the right choices (blame at least some of this on that discombobulated brain). I am saying that they understood the terrain better than we think they do (and sometimes better than we do).

I sat through a week of sex ed classes at school, for example. During one session, the kids were asked to share what their responses would be if they were being pressured to have sex and didn’t want to. Only the girls volunteered responses – no surprise here – but if their mothers (all mothers) could have heard those responses…the intelligence and power and self-confidence behind those responses – well, we would all be sleeping better at night.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Lament of Motherhood

I Know I Lament Motherhood Often…

I know that I lament motherhood quite often. It is just that way in my household. Those boys of mine are maddening. Their struggles encompass me. They become my own by virtue of blame or guilt or just plain ol’ desire to help. When it comes to them, I guess one could say that I tend to be pessimistic, worrying about all that COULD go wrong, and in the last year a lot of that “could” “HAS.” I am not sure if this is a phenomenon every parent experiences or if it is just my neurosis, but I have been a worrier for my entire life and so I guess it isn’t a huge leap that I would approach motherhood in the same way. In a warped sense of logic, worrying about what could possibly happen makes me feel like I would then be prepared if it DID in fact happen—less surprised I guess one could say (You can stop shaking your head. I DO know how absolutely loony toony that sounds..really…I do.).

So when my typically shy-reserved-non-risk-taker son, Aidan, decided to try out for his first choral solo, well…I um…worried. First I worried that he wouldn’t get it. That he’d stick his neck out for the first time (finally) and it’d be chopped off. When he got it, I was ecstatic for him and honored (You see it was my favorite song from my favorite Broadway Musical which is why he decided to try out for it.). But after the initial elation, that familiar worry began to take over.

First I worried, that as a perfectionist, he’d never feel that it was just right. When things like this happen he tends to get surly. Surly brings door slamming and eye rolling and well…no one in the world enjoys that. Then I worried that as a former bullied kid, singing in front of the entire school would open him up to ridicule that, as his mom, I didn’t think he was strong enough to handle. Teen boy musicians tend to take on a certain stigma from the football type bully pulpit. I vividly imagined snickers and epithets even elbows and locker shoves. He’d internalize it and then never sing alone again (even though his voice is truly a gift.)

He spent many days after school with his angel of a chorale teacher practicing and practicing and perfecting. He walked around the house humming or working out a particular line. I sometimes even heard his full voice rise up from the teen palace in the basement. To me, the sound was breathtaking, but the anticipation of the performance itself seemed to be equally as breathtaking.

On the night of the concert, I stood in the back with my toddler daughter. It was easier than to try and get her to sit still in an auditorium seat, but in reality it also allowed me to pace and pace and pace and pace. The butterflies I was sure were so plentiful that they’d rise from my stomach and fly right out of my mouth even though my lips were pursed so tightly with nerves that they had turned white from lack of blood.

All at once it was time, and he stepped down from the risers with his duet partner. The piano washed over me the familiar and moving music and Aidan opened his mouth to sing.  Read the rest of this entry »

Spoken Word: Teens Define Responsibility

Defining Responsibility

My ultimate goal as a teacher was to turn teens on to themselves and to guide each of them to their own unique value in this world. One of the paths that I chose to accomplish this was through the texts that we explored.

In my last post, I illustrated how each of the “four obstacles” that Paulo Coelho expresses in his book, The Alchemist , could be applied to our own lives. One of the other books that I loved to teach from was Into The Wild, by Jon Krakauer, as I found that the themes and life lessons expressed within would be of much value to my 11th and 12th grade students.

One of the major themes I cover while teaching Into The Wild is that of Responsibility. Inevitably the class breaks into two factions: those who believe that the protagonist, Christopher McCandless, died on his journey in Alaska because he was irresponsible and reckless, and those who admire him for his courage and independent nature and blame his death simply on an unfortunate accident.

Trying to get teenagers to speak effectively on topics that they are passionate about can be quite the task, as they tend to simply rant narrow-mindedly about their viewpoint without any real meaty substance to support their opinion. In all discussions, I take the middle ground, many times playing devil’s advocate while instigating arguments for both sides of the coin. Especially when it comes to discussing their thoughts on “responsibility”, I try to get them to think deeper than their surface level which is mostly made up of ideals they’ve learned from their parents or peers, or their stubborn denouncements of those very ideals.

Today during this class discussion, all of the above is being highlighted, and the volume is getting louder and the voices more animated by the minute.

In a brief moment of regrouping, one of my students raises her hand.

“What exactly does responsibility mean, anyway?” she asks. “I mean, who’s to say that what you deem responsible I won’t deem careless. For example, I’m sure that Chris believed that he was being responsible as he trekked out into the wild of Alaska alone, but I just think he was ignorant to the power of nature and was simply gambling with his life. So, how do we truly define responsibility?”

These are the moments that I relish, when the student becomes the teacher.

“How many of you define responsibility with a positive connotation?” I ask.

Out of fifteen students, only three have their hands raised.

This brings us to the next question.

“For those of you not raising your hands, why do you view responsibility as a negative ideal?”

In an instant, hands shoot into the air… Read the rest of this entry »

Another Misguided Parenting Technique

The World Can Be Tough

The world can be tough. If you are soft or Pollyanna-ish, it can really do a number on you. I am beginning to believe that in our current days one of the most important things we can do as parents is to prepare, not shield, our children from the unfair and sometimes downright cruel things that take place whether worldly or locally, whether in families or with peers. Building an armor of awareness and teaching strategies for handling strife to our children, in my opinion, is paramount parenting. I just wish someone had told me this 17 years ago.

Raising my sons, I did nothing to prepare them for the inevitable hardships and the unjust. Instead when bad things happened, I wanted to spare them any negative emotions and so I sugar-coated, coddled and downplayed anything that might make them upset or uncomfortable or unhappy. Let me give you some examples:

  • “Gannan, you should have won that baseball game. That umpire was blind! Little Johnny was safe!”
  • “What do you mean the teacher yelled at you in front of the class? Just because you didn’t do your homework doesn’t mean it gives him the right to humiliate you!”
  • “Oh Aidan, of course they like you. They probably just didn’t invite you to the birthday party because they could only choose a couple of people.”
  • “I know you don’t like to read, so why don’t I read to you.” (Ugh. And I call myself a teacher?)
  • “Just tell them I needed a little more time in the hospital. Don’t mention my heart failure.”
  • “Just don’t talk to them anymore because they let you down.”
  • “He didn’t really mean it when he called you that name.”
  • “He didn’t really mean it when he made fun of you.”
  • “You didn’t make the team? I’ll have your step-dad call the coach. He’s a friend of his.”
  • “You are scared of not winning? Then you don’t have to compete.”

You get the idea. I spent the majority of those boys’ lives, trying to keep them from hurting. As if that is what a good mom does. (There’s that blasted phrase again! See previous column!)

Like so many other misguided parenting techniques, this one while it soothed in the moment has lasting consequences. My boys, you see, are absolutely, positively, and completely unprepared for anything bad to happen to them. The problem is that the older they get, the less natural it is for their mother to step in. Therefore that means that the consequences stay the consequences.

When this realization hits one or both of these boys, they crumble like a two-day old sand castle. Ummm….it’s much more dramatic than that. Let me try that again…They implode like a dynamited city building during a controlled demolition. There’s a lot of noise and all that is left is pieces after the dust settles. I realized a few years back that I had created this monster in the boys and have worked diligently to reverse it by slowly and gently introducing life skills that will help them with the old “life isn’t fair” adage. Trying to work against mindsets that expect things to go their way has been a difficult task, but one that I think is imperative if they are going to be successful human beings. So, like any other parent who has to right a wrong, I push along, hoping that through consistency even though they are ever so close to adulthood that a mind shift will take place. A perfect example happened a couple of weeks ago with Aidan. Believe me, it was excruciating for me not to try and fix the problem for him, but I dug in with nails and teeth and limbs and instead tried to teach him the necessary strategies to stand up for himself.

Aidan is working this summer at a very popular pub in a horse-racing town not too far from here. He was extremely lucky to get the job as bus-boy and food-runner. The pay is amazing, and I grew up with the owners so he is comfortable with his bosses. The first night was highly anticipated for its potential to earn a great amount of tips as this is THE pub that the racing clientele flock to after a long day at the track. Even I was excited for him as he left that first night, and I waited up to find out how he made out.

Hearing the car pull up in the driveway late that evening, I sat up a little straighter on the couch eager to give him my full attention. He opened the front door and I expected him to bound in with tales of cash, of tray carrying, of flirting with the waitresses and swearing with the cooks. (I know…I really need to reign in the imagining part of my brain.) But what came through the front door wasn’t at all what I expected. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bloomin’ Onion

An Awkward Dance

Yesterday I saw my youngest son for the first time in five weeks. He wasn’t away at camp or on vacation, and he still lived just a mere 7 miles away with his dad. But for reasons I won’t go into here, he didn’t want to see me or any of us who lived in the little house in which he used to reside. So it came as a surprise when he called wanting to attend his big brother’s play with me.

Just before I left to pick him up I was nervous as a middle-schooler going to her first dance, a combination of giddiness and anxiety crashed around in my stomach. He came out to the car hiding under his bangs which were down to below his nose. The mom in me wanted to shout, “Ever heard of a hair cut??” But the middle- schooler just wanted him to like me. So I put on a cheery smile and tousled that long hair and said, “Hey stranger! I am so glad to see you.” He blew the hair out of his face but avoided my gaze. Staring straight out the front window of the car smiling awkwardly as if he cut out a picture of the Cheshire Cat’s grin and pasted it on his face he answered, “Yeah.”

Luckily the drive to the theater where the play was being performed was a short 60 seconds, but the silence that loomed in the car made it feel like 60 years. So much to say, and yet I was so unsure of how, when, or even if I SHOULD say it. As we approached the school, I mustered a few comments about someone taking my secret parking spot. Perhaps I tried too hard…perhaps it was too cheery, but I got a multi-word response–progress.

Sitting down in the auditorium, I glanced up at the clock and realized that we had 30 minutes until the show started. Thirty minutes—an eternity with the way things were going. Still in middle school mode, my palms sweat and I searched for something “cool” to say–some area of conversation that we could find common ground, but my mind was blank. No. Not really blank. It was filled with all the things I wanted to say, needed to say, wanted him to hear, needed him to hear, and all of that was too loud and drowned out any clear thinking.

I was sweaty. I was mad at myself. I felt like a fool. I mustered a “How’s work?” question. He turned toward me, still not meeting my eyes, but answered in a short paragraph. Once again the silence loomed over us and I began to chastise myself. Then…well then Mark arrived, and well, I can only describe his appearance as a gift from the Universe.

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: T(w)eens and Leg Shaving

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

Brooke Norton writes, "I remember my mother giving me an electric razor with safety guards that did next to nothing."

J.W. writes, “Has anyone yet dealt with their t(w)een aged daughters wanting to shave their legs? My 13yo daughter has recently asked if she could. At what age do you allow a responsible girl to shave her legs? And how do you address the self-image issues that surrounds this topic with them? Any advice from parents who have already gone through this ‘rites of passage’ with their daughters?”

  • Jody Hadden writes, “My daughter is eleven and is already shaving/waxing. I think it depends on how fast they develop. Mine definitely needed to start. We talked and I showed her how. Shes a lot less self conscience about wearing shorts and tank tops now. She was embarrassed before and it was hurting her self esteem.”
  • Amy Meltzer writes, “I still remember the battle with my own mother around the same age. She said no, I did it anyway. I’m likely to say yes when my daughter asks, even as I continue to point out the many examples of women we know (including mama, from time to time) who either don’t shave, or rarely shave. I hope my daughter will grow up to have evolved ideas about femininity, but forcing them on her before she is ready won’t accomplish that.”
  • Tricia Love Walsh writes, “My conundrum is actually coming from the other direction… My 13 year old has not started shaving and has not mentioned an interest in it. Sometimes I wonder if I should encourage it (worrying that she may look unattractive to peers) or if I should just leave it alone since a woman really has every right to not shave. If I suggest shaving would I be shoving her into that ridiculous American sexy woman ideal?”
  • Annie Bob DeCoteau writes, “My daughter just started this summer. She just turned 12. I told her for now we just need to do below the knee. Her hair is very blond. But she has been asking since winter. I think I would have let it go if she didn’t ask. It wasn’t too too bad. Maybe you should ask her her feelings on it. If she doesn’t care then don’t push it. It’s most important how she feels about herself.”
  • Carrie St John writes, “If she asks, why not? Such a tricky age. Peers. Desires to fit in. So much more going on in her life than the right to choose and parent/adult ideas of femininity as mentioned above. Why not let her try? Is it better to impose ideas or let her figure it put? Seems simple.”
  • Brooke Norton writes, “I remember my mother giving me an electric razor with safety guards that did next to nothing.”
  • Glenda Spurling writes, “I remember when this topic came up in our home. but my daughter has two homes… one household said not until she gets her period, ours said why keep her from growing up. We let her at the age of 13. The world of girls is an unbelievable world… I recommend every parent reading: The Wonder of Girls. We want our children to stay little and young but watching them grow up and embracing it will create a better relationship for everyone. We are raising children to be healthy adults who we hope will make good choices for themselves. Let them get there, safely and reasonably, and they will want you to be there with them the whole way through.”
  • Laura Lucchesi writes, “Show them how! Or they will do it anyway! If they come to you, it’s because they really want to know more about it. Peer pressure can be a real reason, would you rather they do it with some other child?”
  • Judy Pancoast writes, “Our daughter is a dancer who began to be embarrassed by the increasingly dark hair on her legs at age 11. Rather than stick to some pre-set idea about the age at which this should happen we got her a razor and showed her how to use it. It’s not really that big a deal. At 17 she is still a sweet girl who said to me the other day, “I can’t believe I have to start looking at colleges. I feel like I’m still 14!”. So don’t make a big “rite of passage” thing about it and everything will be cool.”
  • Dana Wilde writes, “I think just keep a lighthearted open dialogue about it, encouraging her to articulate what she thinks about it and why she wants to do it. It’s also key to honestly explore and process any of your own issues/judgments ahead of time, so that you can really be present and helpful for her. I’d let her “try it out” to see whether she likes it/doesn’t like it, checking in to see if she has any misunderstandings about it as anything other than a personal style choice that you can pick up and drop whenever you feel like it. The most important thing is generally treating her in a way that reflects her value/goodness/intelligence AND having a variety of different female role models around her who have healthy relationships with their own bodies/choices/happiness/r​elationships. I don’t have a teenage girl, but I was one.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Todd Ehlers]

Spoken Word: The Four Obstacles

Alchemist – Four Obstacles

One of my favorite units to teach to my 11th/12th grade English classes was based on The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. There are so many life enhancing teachable moments within this text, that this journey would inevitably take us over six weeks to complete. If you haven’t yet read this book, you should. Slowly.

Things I kept reminding my students as we read:

  1. This is a work of fiction.
  2. If the religious material turns you off, simply replace the term “God” with “You”
  3. Believe some, all, or none.
  4. Stay present, with an open mind, and Listen to your Self.

An underlying current throughout this book is what Coelho deems “The Four Obstacles.” For the most passionate of souls who desire to actually obtain their “treasures” in this life, these obstacles must be faced, and overcome, time and time again. For my students, and all readers, it’s where our journey into this text starts. So, let’s begin…

Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: The Importance of a Parent’s Empathy

Why a Parent’s Empathy is Vital for a Bullied Girl
…and Why It Often Goes Out the Window

When I did the original research for Odd Girl Out, I asked every bullied girl I interviewed to tell me what she needed most from her family. The answer truly surprised me. It wasn’t having the best solutions, calling the school or trying to act like everything was okay.

It was empathy.

Before you say, yeah, yeah, I figured that, hear me out. Now that I’ve been working with parents for a decade, I have seen up close how easy it is for empathy to go out the window. There are two reasons why parents struggle: First, when the alarm bells go off, we want to put out the fire. We assume – understandably – that we can make a child feel better by making her problem go away. Parents are habituated to this from the moment of a child’s birth: feed when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, hold when they cry. We bypass empathy and go straight to the problem solving.

But as your daughter grows more independent, and her peer culture becomes more influential, it becomes almost impossible for you to make her problems “go away” (in my experience, most girls come to accept that long before their parents do). In fact, peer aggression is one of the first moments many parents come to that painful realization: I’m not going to be able to control her world. I can’t fix it.

Second, empathy is painful. It involves slowing down to acknowledge and think about your daughter’s feelings of hurt, rejection or sadness. This can be an anguishing experience for parents. Connecting with these emotions can make you feel powerless and overwhelmed, so it’s understandable why many parents would prefer to spring into action.

Your daughter is hungry for empathy when she is struggling socially. Remember that girls live in a peer culture that often denies or invalidates feelings: you’re being too sensitive, I didn’t do that, you took it the wrong way, I was just kidding. Still other girls are hurt by peers who deny what they’ve done in the first place. Your empathy tells your daughter, I know this happened. I know it hurt. I see you, I love you and I’m here.

An empathic response to a bullied or targeted girl might sound like this:

  • “I’m so sorry this happened.”
  • “That sounds awful.”
  • “If I were you, I would also feel really ______.”
  • “It sounds like you’re feeling pretty _______.” That makes a lot of sense.

Empathy isn’t the same thing as expressing emotions. It’s not about sharing your feelings – it can be really uncomfortable if a parent cries or loses strength at the moment her daughter needs it most. The message sent is that you need to be taken care of, not the other way around.

To help you achieve the right balance in how you respond to your daughter, think back to when she was learning to walk. If you showed fear and panic when she slipped and fell, she’d usually sense it and wail. If you chortled, “Oops! You’re okay! Up you go!” and plucked her up calmly, she probably kept on trucking. Your concern and reassurance motivated her to continue. That’s what she needs from you now. Your courage will help sustain her when she can’t access any on her own.

Empathy isn’t the only tool at your disposal, and it’s hardly the only thing you’ll do when she’s hurting. But it’s the first step, and one not to be missed.


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

This post is based on sections of the newly updated and revised Odd Girl Out.To get four new chapters of anti-bullying strategies and insights for girls, parents and educators, pre-order the new OGO now!

Q&A: What to Do With Teens Reluctant to Participate in Family Outings

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

What do families with TEENS do when they do not want to participate in family outings or summer vacations? Do you force them along? Let them stay at home? Find outings that appeal to them? Bring along a friend?

  • Glenda Spurling writes, “We always (usually always) have her go, memories are being made, and always let her bring a friend. Usually the same friend will go, our family members know her friend (by this point) and have made their own personal relationships with our daughters friend. ‘The more the merrier'”
  • Megan Rubiner Zinn writes, “All of the above.”
  • Amanda Saklad writes, “We have a ‘tween’ (age 11 1/2) and he is CONSTANTLY complaining about going places with his younger siblings (ages 6 and 9). I force him to come along and he usually ends up enjoying himself. I TRY to find stuff that appeals to such a wide age range, but tend to go with the younger stuff. When he is a little older, I’d probably let him stay home for certain outings. I find that OUTDOOR places work best for the age spread.”
  • Kara Kitchen writes, “My parents let me bring a one friend-only consolation…”
  • Jo Duran writes, “Lesson Learned: If I could do over, I would have forced my oldest to go. Bring a friend too if there is one to bring. Feel like things would have been a lot different had we done so. As parents, we are compelled to want to give our kids everything we didn’t have as kids. Not always a good idea. Besides, look how good we turned out. :)”
  • Sue Lowery writes, “Bringing a friend makes so much sense – they have someone to relate to during the trip, and you have much less pouting! I have never regretted having my kids bring a friend. That said, I am talking about driving vacations, not plane tickets. But I think the same thing would hold true.”

[Photo credit: (ccl) Ed Yourdon]

Trial and Error Parenting

What Makes a Good Mom?

Do you have a running reel in your mom brain?  You know what I mean.  Words that you say to yourself, questions you are constantly posing, reprimands with which you punish yourself?  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I should be called Sybil.  Who knows?

My running reel is lengthy and complicated and persistent, and includes a pesky question that really has become my mantra for motherhood.  “What would a GOOD mom do?”  I am not sure about other moms, but quite often I’d come up blank on that question.  Typically when coming up short with an answer, I’d ask anyone who would listen to the situation what THEY would do if they were experiencing something that I was with my teen boys.  I was perpetually gathering knowledge with that constant question dogging me; “What would a good mom do?”

But lately I have been pushing against that question.  I guess you could say I was questioning the question.  I am starting to believe (after extensive research on my part…after all I have been mothering those boys for 17 years) that it may not be the correct question to ask when trying to parent or solve those adolescent problems and dilemmas that often show up.  As I said previously, if I came up blank when trying to solve or do the “right” thing for my boys, I would go out into the world and ask other mothers.  But I wouldn’t just do that, I’d read every book, article, and website on the subject, and I would try it all—like cutting open Grandma’s feather pillow in a windstorm…I’d fling out my good intentions and hope, pray, that one of those feathers would land in the right spot.

And that is just it…when searching for what a “good mom” would do I would get as many answers as there are feathers in that pillow.  Could all the moms, books, articles, websites, be right?  Could they all be wrong?  When trying to mother under the guise of “What a good mom would do,” most of the time I was more confused than when I started searching for answers and strategies.  And I am sure that to those two boys of mine I seemed schizophrenic, non committal, flighty.  I mean if one thing didn’t work within what seemed to be a goodly amount of time, then those rules went out the window only to be replaced with something else.  And if that didn’t completely work…which often times it wouldn’t…some new technique would come to take its place.  When those boys are thirty, I hope against all hope that they’ll be able to look back at this trial and error type of parenting with a fondness and understanding that I was trying.  REALLY.  I was trying.

Nowadays, I am still trying-just in a different way.  Read the rest of this entry »

Parent for a Day: A Teen Lesson Plan in the Birds & the Bees

My Back and Help Please Instead of the Birds and the Bees

Our teens are bombarded with images…constant pictures, messages, videos, television shows that promote promiscuity and sexual exploration. I recently ran across a particular show that glorified teen moms, and while the show didn’t sugar coat the trial and tribulations that come with parenting, the mere fact that these teen couples are on a very popular television station makes it tempting for other teens to replicate and mimic or be like their new favorite reality stars. But it isn’t just reality shows that sends our teens wrong messages, there are actually television series out there that are written around the idea of high school students sleeping with various members of their clique or group. The most recent one (that thankfully was canceled due to losing many sponsors) was called “Skins.” This was the tagline that accompanied their website, “Be it sex, drugs, the breadth of friendships or the depth of heartbreaks, Skins is an emotional mosh-pit that slams through the insanity of teenage years. They’ll crush hearts and burn brain cells, while fearlessly confronting every obstacle head on…or slightly off.” These kinds of messages constantly bombarding our teens fuel their natural curiosity and raging hormones, setting them up to perhaps face horrible consequences.

Now, I’m not a prude, not prudish one bit. How babies are made was a discussion I had very early with both of my sons under the assumption that it was essential for the conversation to happen when what Mama said still held water. Safe sex methods are also topics of conversation in my household because, of course, knowledge is power. I want my boys to be armed with as much knowledge as possible so when the day comes (and moms-the day WILL come) they will know how to be sure that their health and future aren’t ruined because of one hormone-raging-devil-may-care-all-encompassing moment of teenage passion.

Hey, I was a teenager once. (Yes boys REALLY I was.) I remember how difficult it was to be in those types of situations and fight against peer pressure, and well, body pressure. I remember. (Don’t you?) I remember all reason and clear thinking flying out the window of that parked car…ehem…and so I know…I know that abstinence is unlikely, which of course opens up a world of possible trouble for THEM and a world of worry for ME.

So as my son’s relationship with his girlfriend develops and moves towards their half year anniversary (eons for teens!) I find myself worrying more and more about what that closeness means. I also find myself unable to find the right words, the right way to broach the topic with my son. (Shocking isn’t it? ME not being able to find words??? Someone call the papers!) But as it turns out, I really didn’t need to after all. Sometimes fate intervenes and reminds me that ACTIONS speak MUCH louder than words.

This past Sunday, friends of mine from Florida were coming for a cook out. I am always so happy when they visit and I wanted everything to be perfect for them. So, I went overboard. Making macaroni salad, cleaning our outdoor porch, rearranging the furniture that inhabits our backyard space, a little landscaping, dip-making, keeping Ila entertained made for one-pooped-mama. As it neared the time that they would arrive, I went to tidy the kitchen. I filled the dish washer and bent down to put the detergent in, and snap. I mean SNAP! Something on my lower back plucked like a guitar string and down onto the ceramic tile I went, paralyzed with pain that radiated from my back to my hips and down my legs. I couldn’t move.

After an initial panic from my teen (he thought I had a heart attack) he eventually came around to asking what I needed. After he helped me off the floor and onto the couch, I burst into tears. He then begrudgingly (after all he IS a teenager) inquired how he could help. I am POSITIVE he regrets that phrase…but hey, he asked so I went with it. I immediately turned into the couch dictator instructing him on how to clean the microwave, mop the floor and pick up Ila’s toys, and although my understanding friends rescheduled our visit, Aidan wasn’t off the hook. Thirty minutes after my fall, my 22 month old woke from her nap and that is when the real work started.

Read the rest of this entry »

Spoken Word: Desire for Truth

Dispelling Fear

I’m sitting and basking in the moment as Jenny, a seventeen year old student, performs her final “goodbye” poem for her weekly “spoken word” assignment in my English class:

“Spoken Word has been the greatest present I’ve been given,
Giving into fears I thought misgiving.
You always say to “go there” and I
Never knew where “there” was, just a
Place with apparitions and monsters
Existing
In the back of my mind,
Easier to hide,
Than find, and euthanize…”

I’m truly humbled, because of all the topics in the world for her to write about, she’s chosen to express her own growth, and gained wisdom, and gratitude for my guidance as both teacher and mentor.

Although I always relish a student’s appreciation for the work we accomplished together during the semester, this moment is different. For being a part of Jenny’s journey has proven to be an enriching experience filled with many life lessons worthy of retelling.

Six months ago, Jenny’s fears of being vulnerable and of exposing her true self almost forced her to take a much different path. I believed and expressed to her that her written words were some of the most real and poetic I had ever read from a student her age, but she simply refused to actually perform her pieces out loud.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: Lemon Juice in Paper Cuts

BFF 2.0: Is Technology Making You Insecure?

In the latest episode, Rachel looks at the way social networking and texting can make girls compare themselves to others..


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Motherhood: Get Me Off This Ride!

Crazy About Being A Mom

So I have been struggling with what to write this week because, well honestly, I don’t want to sound schizophrenic, psychotic, crazy, loony tony…you get what I mean. You see looking over that last few columns it sounds like life has just been peachy here in teenage boy land. But well that just not true. It truly is a see saw here, or a roller coaster, or our household is bipolar. I don’t know, I can’t think of any other analogy for “up and down.” But would you know what I mean if I said that Paula Abdul’s “Two steps forward, three steps back” song plays over and over in my mind lately.

I mean there seems like there is so much to celebrate. And I have mentioned those. I mean there’s the new girlfriend who really and truly is every mother’s dream. There’s the fact that Aidan got a job. Then of course there is my determination to be at peace with Gannan’s decision to live with his father (and well, gulp, live LIKE his father as well.) There’s the fact that we are planning for college and prom has come and gone. Summer is here and with it comes new jobs for each boy making them independently wealthy and in need of less gas money.

But with every good thing, every rise of the roller coaster, height of the see saw, every manic mood (okay, I’ll stop with the analogies,) there is something or some things that inevitably pulls me back down to the depths of despair and blackness and worry. No it’s more than black desperate worry. Quite often it is anger and frustration and an incredulous feeling that those teenage boys could be so damn disrespectful, so damn exasperating, so damn stubborn and entitled.

Here’s an example: Read the rest of this entry »

A Possible Remedy for Mom Guilt

Guilty Mom

I can’t watch the new Rice Krispies commercials.  They make me sick with guilt.  Do you know the ones I am talking about?  They usually portray a very attentive mom and a toddler/preschooler on her lap.  She is helping the child stir marshmallow into the bowl of Rice Krispies.  She’s talking quietly, face beaming.  The child is enraptured by his or her mama…and after watching this mommy bliss the tag line says something like, “The best treat is the one you get at home.  Rice Krispies.  Childhood is calling.”

It’s commercials like these that cause me to feel completely inadequate in the mommy area.  I mean it isn’t that I didn’t bake with my kids.  (At Christmas time it is a family tradition to bake treats together.)  It’s just that honestly (well, I vowed to be honest…) life wasn’t really like this in my house.  In MY house if we made Rice Krispies treats the scene wasn’t ANYTHING like the link above.  It was madness.  It was chaos.  It was fighting.  (I want to put the marshmallow in.  NO I want to put the marshmallow in.)  It was screams of agony when the comb came out to saw away at sticky hair.  It was more marshmallow on limbs and naked stomachs than in the bowl.  (Hey! How else could the boys try and stick their belly buttons together like some kind of twin super heroes?)

Connecting with as many moms as I have connected with over the years, I know, (intellectually I know) that most households are more like mine than the commercials we see on TV.  But still.  But still…somehow that mom guilt-guilt that my sons didn’t have an idyllic family life–eats away at me.  It has an uncanny ability to withstand any attack by rational thinking or clichés.  “I did the best I could with the circumstances that I was in.”  OR “I grew as a human being and righted many parenting wrongs so that they weren’t detrimental to my children had they continued.”  OR “No mom is perfect.”  OR “Experiencing hardship puts hair on their chests.”  (Okay…maybe not that last one…)  ANYHOO…the fact is that looking back over the years should be a celebration.  Momentous occasions to revel in overcoming strife, making good decisions, and equipping my boys with the will and the smarts to become adults.  And, damn it, I did that.  Those boys are good kids.  They stay away from alcohol and drugs.  They are empathetic to those less fortunate.  They have optimism about changing the world for the better.  One’s personality lights up a room.  One’s brain will figure out how to light a room using less energy.  There is so much good.  I am not sure why I (and many moms like me) can’t just concentrate on that.  It’s the bad….and you all know there are a few minor imperfections that those sons of mine acquired over their relatively short lives…that causes me a great deal of guilty rumination.  My mind’s running reel of shame sounds something like this, “If only I had….If I had just insisted on….If I could go back I’d….How did I miss that….I wish I had…”  Sound familiar anyone?

It’s an age old question isn’t it?  How to get rid of that pesky mom guilt?  If I made a sort of cathartic list would that help? Read the rest of this entry »

Spoken Word: Nowhere to Hide

Inspiration

I can’t believe what I just saw, heard, and experienced. Standing in front of me is a seventeen-year-old young man who, for the longest time, considered himself worthless, dreamless, lifeless. From my seat in the back of the class, I sit for a moment in awe. Having to give this student a critique on his first “spoken word” performance, a weekly assignment for my English class where students perform their own poetically creative pieces, I am briefly at a loss for words, for there is none that could do justice to what I am feeling. None, but one…Inspiration.

“You are a Poet, in the truest sense of the word,” I hear myself say. Now finished with his recitation, he stands in front of the class, awkward and trembling. As I look down at my hands, I find that I am trembling too, but for different reasons. I close my eyes and realize that I am in the presence of true greatness, of a prodigy. And I am trembling.

“Where did that come from?” another student asks. For, up until he opened his mouth and allowed this volcano of truth to erupt from his soul, he had always presented himself as nervous, insecure and inferior, albeit intelligent, with an inability to even make eye contact, let alone sustain it.

“I don’t know,” he answers, “I guess that’s what I’ve always wanted to say.”

I relish in this moment, as I believe that this is how it must have felt to first experience the genius of Mozart, DaVinci, Angelou. As if I just struck gold, my first instinct is to selfishly protect the treasures of his words. But the more it sinks in, the more I selflessly want others to experience this teen’s talent as well. My mind is racing with how to make that happen.

School performance? No, for I don’t think the majority in attendance would understand or appreciate his words.

YouTube video? Nah, too many would comment negatively based on their own close-minded attitudes.

And then it hits me…Open Mic Night in Northampton. What better audience to share his space than those who will also be airing themselves out on the stage. What a sense of connection, of community this kid would feel for once in his life. To recognize and accept the fact that he’s an Artist, a Writer, an Individual. No longer confined to playing the role of the Hermit, the Loser, the Nobody. I have big dreams for this kid.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: Being Snarky Online

BFF 2.0: Is She Really Kidding? The Problem With “Joking” Online

In the latest episode of her new series on friendship and technology, Rachel talks about how “just kidding” and “no offense” can start drama online.


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

When Teen Boys Are Left Alone You Never Know What Will You Come Home To

Together for Better or for Worse

I used to be afraid to leave them alone—together. It seemed that every time I went grocery shopping, to the dentist, over to a friend’s house, I’d come back to what was equivalent to Armageddon. Chairs would be tipped. Food on the counter, on the table, down the stairs, all over the basement couch. Wrappers littered the living room floor, the front steps, the driveway, front lawn. Something was always broken; mirrors, furniture, windows, toys…limbs. Occasionally, while I was gone my cell phone would ring and when I’d answer it, there’d be blood curdling screams on the other end. One boy was threatening to kill the other. One son had pummeled another. Most of you might’ve jumped from the dentist chair, left the groceries in the middle of aisle 12, or politely told the friend that you had diarrhea and took off fast in your car towards home. And…like you…I would do the same thing. Right-down-to-the-diarrhea.

So for awhile, I stopped leaving if they were both home. I held up like a trapped animal in my tiny master bedroom, ears perked, legs ready to run to break up a fight, mouth ready to scream to halt some destructive action. My husband and I were prisoners because of my “fear” of what might happen if I wasn’t there to control the outcome. My sons’ hatred for one another wasn’t going to ruin the house or the things I worked so hard for. I was determined to have a “happy” house. I was tired, so tired of the fighting and the bickering and the chaos. I was frustrated with their disregard for the peace I so desperately demanded.
Like I mentioned in the column last week, peace did come — however, not in the way that I expected. Gannan moved in with his father. Many said to me I should rejoice in the freedom that his absence offered. No longer would I have to worry about the violent fights and the shouting matches that had so permeated seemingly most moments of the day. But, I didn’t feel that way. I couldn’t see ANYTHING positive in Gannan’s leaving. Mothers are the greatest martyrs. They love. Even in the face of the most horrific pain, they still love.

Over the last 6 months, we have seen Gannan periodically. Every other weekend he came to “visit.” Most times, I didn’t have to worry or even think about that old problem of not being able to leave the house. Aidan, after all, has a very nice girl friend, and so much of the weekends were spent with her somewhere (ANYWHERE) but home. But last week, Gannan’s father went away and Gannan stayed with us for a longer stretch of time than those brief weekend “visits.”

Days before he came, that old fear began to creep into the cob webby part of the corners of my mind. I started to steel myself on the notion that for several days I’d once again be a prisoner in my house so that I could be there to control my sons’ behaviors. To be sure they walked the line. To be sure they stayed away from each other. To be sure that there was peace in the house.

The first night, the boys begged me to let them play the X Box together. Nothing violent, just an innocent game of NHL. And sticking to my word (written in the last column) I tried to focus on the positive and gave them ONE chance to get it right. I didn’t hear from them for the next four hours. I take that back…I actually DID hear from them…but it was laughter and giggling and jovial competition that shot up the basement stairs like lightning. The next day, I got home from work to find them out into the street playing a game of one-on-one basketball. Humming the song, “You’ve got to ACCENTUATE the positive…” I pasted a smile on my face and asked who’s winning?  “Awww. We’re not keeping score. We’re just playing around.” Gannan replied as if non-competition was some sort of everyday occurrence.

That evening, I needed to run to the store. My husband was out, and once again, that old scared feeling took over. Instantly, my positive attitude melted away to the pushing resentment that seemed to enter every pore of me. Here I was again. Not able to leave my OWN home because those boys of mine fought as often as a child eats a peanut butter sandwich. However, a little bit of that positive voice remained and it whispered, “Give them a chance.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Accepting My Teen: A Shift in Attitude

Winter was Forgetting. Spring is Remembering

Spring is in the air.  Yesterday every window of my home was wide open. I usually love to watch the sheers in the living room billow out with a cool breeze and gently lay back down over the windows, back and forth, over and over.  It is usually such a peaceful sight…Usually.

While playing on the floor with my toddler, I could hear the annual peals and squeals of the neighborhood kids as they rode their bikes and skateboards past the house, racing and daring each other, reveling in the rebirth.   This happy sound bore a hole in my soul.  A hole.  The sadness puzzled me.  Usually spring’s sun and warmth and smells bring me out of winter’s gloom and gray….usually.  But instead of feeling light, I felt suffocated.  For awhile, I wondered why…for awhile.

Later on, returning home from a visit to my parents’ house, I rounded the corner and saw those same neighborhood children standing on the side of the road, a kickball in their hands and my instinct–a split instant thought–was to look for my son, Gannan, king of kickball, prince of warm weather, skateboarder extraordinaire.  However, reality set in quickly and I realized that I wouldn’t see him.  He wouldn’t be there, out on that road, in the front yard, up a tree because he was no longer a part of this neighborhood.  It dawned on me then that his essence was what was missing, and that absence was making me sad.

But this column is really not about the wheres, whys and hows of his leaving.  If you want to read about that you can do so at my blog. Instead this column will serve as a reminder to parents of teen sons.  Sometimes the trials and tribulations, the battles and the bitter, the disrespect and the dirt can cloud our thinking and we forget to or won’t notice the beauty of our boys.  We get so involved in “trying to fix them” or “teaching them life lessons.” We get so preoccupied with keeping them out of trouble or with our disappointment in their adolescent decisions that the negativity can mire us down in a bog of muddied intentions.

And I will fully admit that this fall and winter my mindset had been exactly that; disappointment, worry, doom and gloom, gloom and doom.  My mind kept a constant vigil in reminding me that Gannan WASN’T this or that.  His life choices were so WRONG.  What if….what if….what if…he got in serious trouble, stayed on this brambly path, what if…what if….what if?

But the presence of spring and his absence has made me realize that he is so much more then this little adolescent bump in the road (alright maybe not so little…okay okay…it’s a crater!)   Anyhoo, my point is that I had forgotten that his energy, especially in spring, is infectious.  I had forgotten that the stories he deftly tells at night of his outdoor adventures make us smile and look forward to dinner.  I had forgotten that he was my husband’s companion in the evening on the couch talking sports and all things baseball, high-fiving over a homerun, ribbing each other when their favorite teams held the lead.

I know that although our children may make poor decisions and get lost, even very lost on their way to adulthood, I must try and remember, as all moms should, that our sons are made up of layers and layers of characteristics both bad AND good that make them the unique individuals that they are.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: Using Facebook to Air Conflict

BFF 2.0: Using Status Updates to Hash Out Conflicts

In the second episode of her new series, BFF 2.0, Rachel talks about using Facebook and AIM status updates to deal with friendship problems.


Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Dawn of the College Years

We’re Ready

On Thursday we embark on our first trip to visit colleges with our 17 year old, Aidan.  We’ll travel to Boston to check out BU, Emerson and Salem State University.  By now you know that I am a tad bit (just a tad) on the high strung side.  (My children are rolling their eyes at the word “tad” I am sure.)  Therefore, I bet that you think since I have that tendency to be just a wee bit anxious, that I am mourning the end of my son’s childhood. Knowing me I am probably lamenting Aidan’s absence even a year before he leaves.  I am sure that there is a consensus out there that I have already built a shrine that I will bring alms to on a daily basis to ward off the evil that may befall my first born while he is away.

Normally, I’d agree with you.  I will admit that I expected this monumental moment—finding a new “home” for my oldest—to be a three-box-of-tissues sort of occasion.  And I tried.  I really tried.  While looking at Boston University’s website, I sighed and sighed wistfully.  After making a tour appointment at Emerson I slumped in my favorite chair ready to feel sorry for myself and how “old” I must be since I would soon have an offspring that would be a college student.  But…but…I am just not feeling it.  In fact, there is excitement in the air.  Now stop…I know what you are thinking…who IS this woman that is pretending to write Logan’s column this week.  It is me.  Really it is.

I know it is surprising, but right now there is just no sense of sadness.  I am ready.  I am ready.  (Right now) I have this sense of peace and a sort of awakened anticipation.  I am ready.  Ready to see where he will go.  Ready to see what he will do.  Ready to see who he will become.

Perhaps it is because I have a toddler at home who will help keep me busy.  Perhaps it is because of the colossal changes that this household has been through in the last year.  Perhaps it is that I am getting wiser in my old age…(okay that one might be a stretch!)  More likely, it is the fact over the past few months, I have seen glimmers…slivers…a tad bit of a change in Aidan too.  Never mind the fact that physically he has morphed into this gargantuan manly man.  It is the decisions he’s been making, the dulling of his hormonal sharp edges, and his excitement and participation in the college planning process that makes me realize…he is ready.  Ready to see where he will go. Ready to see what he will do.  Ready to see who he will become.  HE is ready!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

The Many Things Mom is to Teens Other than Mother

I Am Mother

I am not a woman. I am not a scholar or someone with even a brain for that matter. I do not have feelings, or a master’s degree. I haven’t lived a long life or gathered wisdom. I do not have anything to offer the world except perhaps Chap Stick in the winter, and ice cream money in the summer.

However, I AM a paycheck, backpack holder, note writer, Advil provider and a whole HOST of other inanimate objects and random people when it comes to my sons.

Sometimes I am an alarm clock. It seems that some days the only words that my 17 year old wants to hear from me is to tell him “when it’s time to leave.” Or wake him “up for school.” Or tell him “when dinner is ready.” Well, I AM slightly round and I have two hands and perhaps my voice is a little ringy and high pitched, so I suppose it isn’t a stretch that he mistakes me for a timepiece.

Sometimes I am a detective, scoping out missing items, solving puzzles and dilemmas. Why just yesterday I found my 17 year old sitting on my bed in my bedroom. He was looking serious. I knew that he needed my services. “Mom,” he said gravely. “I can’t find ONE sock. Not one sock ANYWHERE.” I took out my trusted magnifying glass and went to work. In the end, the socks I found weren’t a match, (ok– one was pink and one was black) but hey, my client wasn’t specific. Then came the puzzle; How to spare the 17 year old from the ridicule that might come if his buddies found out about his mismatched socks? This detective was able to solve that too. We covered them with his sneakers. Brilliant aren’t I? It’s all in a day’s work ma’am. All in a day’s work.

Sometimes I am punching bag–a punching bag that even after a brutal beating, still stands. Have a fight with your girlfriend? (“How was your day?” “Just shut up mom!”) *WHAP* Get a D on a Social Studies essay? (“Sweetheart, how did the social studies go today?” “Mom can’t you just leave me alone?”) *POW!* Get bullied by the local punk? (“I HATE you mom!”) *BLAM BLAM BLAM!* Don’t have any money to join your friends at the local Taco Bell? (“Why did I have to be born into THIS family?”) *KAPOWIE!* Luckily this particular brand of punching bag has an extremely thick skin!

Sometimes I am a stylist. I am often needed to remind about color combinations. That navy and black dilemma gets him every time. Before a date, I am outfit approver. For the record, my favorite is the mint green Izod Sweatshirt with the melon polo underneath. I am a hair stylist, trimming when necessary, shaving the backs of necks and making appointments at the salon for major reconstruction. I mend holes in collars where tags have been ripped out and sew on missing buttons. Recently my services were required for a more formal something. When shopping for a prom tuxedo, my opinion was actually asked for and used in the final decision.

I’ll admit that there are sometimes that the boys make me feel like an “it” –insignificant in this house in the world, in their lives. The car door that slams and leaves me saying “Have a good day,” to the air, the eye rolls, the disdain for any word that leaves my mouth, the fact that my mere presence sometimes seems like a colossal burden leaves me bitter sometimes, and I wonder what my purpose is. But as I reread this narrative, it dawns on me. Whether it be piggy bank or stylist, a safe place to figuratively punch or a skilled detective, a mother’s purpose is to be for her children what they need her to be at any given moment. And so I confidently add to my list of things that I am: Mother. Sometimes an unhappy mother, but mother no less.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

  • Become a Hilltown Families Contributing Writer/Artist
  • Our Daughters: Texting While Hanging Out with Friends

    BFF 2.0: She’s Texting While We’re Hanging Out


    Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

    Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

    Six Rules For Teens

    Bill Gates Would Make a Great Parent!

    I recently joined a blog network full of moms who write about their kids. Being new there and in order to find some connections, I started a discussion group called “Got Teens” for moms of adolescents. Pretty soon the moms started coming out of the wood work to join–mostly to commiserate with others about their teens. I have to admit at first it felt good to realize that the adolescent experiences that we have in our home are not unusual.

    Over and over I have heard stories of sons and daughters yelling and screaming at their parents, refusing requests and, of course, the daily, hourly-heck-by the millisecond-slamming of doors. At first, it satisfied me that perhaps I hadn’t done anything “wrong” when raising my sons, but instead perhaps it was generational or “normal” for kids between the ages of 14-18 to torture their parents with explosions that rock the house over something as simple as an innocent comment like, “Whew, Aidan your feet are stinky!” At first it satisfied me…at first, but then Bill Gates got involved and now I am back to thinking that parents of this generation ARE partially responsible for the lack of respect, lack of work ethic and just a general lack of politeness that perhaps other generations had to a degree.

    Bill Gates? You ask. Yes, Bill. Last week I received an “urban legend “ email that was an excerpt of a high school graduation speech that was supposedly given by Bill Gates, which was later proved not to be the truth. However, WHOEVER wrote the list was a parenting genius, pure and simple. In it was 11 things that are never taught in school (and I contend at home as well.) I will give you the link to the whole list at the end of the column, but I wanted to address SOME items of things of which I (and perhaps other parents…or maybe it’s just me…anyhoo…) was guilty of NOT teaching or allowing my sons to experience.

    Rule one was Life is not fair – get used to it! I get sweaty reading this one, mostly because I know that for many years I shielded my boys from the bad and unfair. Not only did I shield them from it, if something unfair happened, I would vehemently try and right it so as to spare them any feeling of discomfort. Although I meant well, it backfired on me and unfortunately my boys. Instead of raising obliviously happy-go-lucky sons, I instead created two little men who think that they are entitled for things in this world to ALWAYS be fair and equal. And, like Bill says, we know that just doesn’t happen. Instead of making things happy and shielding them from the sad, I should have equipped them with a sense of balance that sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to, but there will be other chances if perseverance is their guide.  Read the rest of this entry »

    A Letter to My Teenaged Sons

    A Letter to My Sons (Or “Everything I Ever Wanted to Say About Dating but Couldn’t Keep You Long Enough in a Locked and Moving Car to Tell You.)

    Hi guys. It’s mom. I’d like to take this opportunity to share a few important tidbits about dating from a woman’s point of view that I think all boys should know.  Now stop rolling your eyes.  I know you have been blinded by my “momminess” all these years, so you probably haven’t noticed that I am a female; but I assure you there is much more to me than just being your mother and therefore the knowledge I have on this subject just might be useful for your current or future relationships.  Do your ol’ mom a favor and humor me while I give you my lists of do’s and don’ts when it comes to girls.

    D0’s

    1. Do listen—really listen to what she says.  Give her eye contact, ear contact and mind contact.
    2. Do tell the truth–no matter how hard, no matter how damaging because nothing is more detrimental to a relationship than distrust.
    3. Do take pride in the way you look.  Girls love a well dressed man.
    4. Do have goals and chase after them.  A motivated driven guy is a one who wants the best for his future.
    5. Do be chivalrous.  No matter how far equality of the sexes has come, every girl loves the car door opened for her or a coat on her shoulders if it’s cold.
    6. Do stand your ground and up for yourself.  Girls aren’t right all the time and a man/boy/guy who knows his own mind is a man/boy/guy that can be counted on when push comes to shove.
    7. Do fight fair.  No matter how mad you get, it is never okay to use words that hurt.
    8. Do show her that she’s on your mind with spontaneous gestures.  A quick note, a Hallmark card or fresh flowers picked tells her she’s important to you.
    9. Do have a life separate from her.  Individuality is essential for a healthy relationship.
    10. Do know when things aren’t working.  The world is a big place.  There will be others who find you worthwhile.  Love is work, but shouldn’t be laborious.

    Don’ts

    1. Don’t ditch your friends in order to spend every waking moment with her.  Relationships when you are young don’t tend to stand the test of time; you’ll need your friends when the end inevitably comes.
    2. Don’t think it is the end of the world if she breaks up with you.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the world is a big place.  Even if you think she’s the last girl on the earth, she’s not.  There will be others.
    3. Don’t bad mouth your mother or hers.  Respect for the women in your life tells a girl that you will respect her as well.
    4. Don’t put out negative energy.  A “poor me” attitude gets old.  A positive person is so much more attractive!
    5. Don’t ever pressure a girl to do ANYTHING that she doesn’t want to do.  Respect her wishes and her moral character.  At your age, what boys want and what girls want are infinitely different.
    6. Don’t smother her.  When she wants to do things with her friends, then that is what she should do without any complaint, constant calls, or texts from you.
    7. Don’t hide your feelings.  If she hurts you, tell her.  If she makes you happy, show it.  If you are angry, let it out appropriately.  Feelings will come and go but should be shared honestly.
    8. Don’t ever be physically aggressive.  Ever.  ‘Nough said.
    9. I love to be able to say, “Don’t have sex.” But I am not so naïve that I think you’ll be able to follow that advice.  So instead I will say, don’t forget the protection.
    10. Don’t ever give up on or change your dreams because it is what a girl wants you to do.  You deserve all that you can imagine.  Someone who truly loves you will never ask you to sacrifice your life’s vision to fit into theirs.

    Love is hard, boys.  There will be ups and downs. No relationship is free of hardship and work. But ultimately your significant other needs to make you happy.  If you have that then you are on the right track.  Let life’s experiences guide you and help you to know what it is you want when it comes to a partner and don’t settle for anything less than your ideal.

    Love,
    Mom


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Logan Fisher

    Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

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  • Teenage Boy Meets Magical Fairy Princess

    A Magical Fairy Princess

    She walked out of the school’s front door hand in hand with my son. I looked closely as they approached me and interestingly enough, she wasn’t flying, on the contrary, her feet were firmly on the ground. I offered to give her a ride, not only to get to know the girl who had enamored my boy so much that he wasn’t embarrassed to hold her hand in front of me, but also to look for signs to confirm my suspicions about who she REALLY was. Through the review mirror, I, of course, sized her up. She portrayed herself as the typical teenage girl. Well… not quite typical. Above average I’d say (but I may be biased!). Her strawberry blond long hair was perfectly coifed, curled under at the shoulders. However that lovely style prevented me from finding out whether or not she had pointed ears. She wore an impeccable red wool coat, double breasted. The fitted nature of it seemed to make it impossible that she had tucked her wings under it, but they could have been small or removable. Her boots were polished and high and quite pointed, therefore a positive sign that she was what I assumed. She sat demurely while we small talked. “What color prom dress are you thinking about?” “How is school?” She answered politely and intelligently. I watched closely as she moved and gestured waiting for pixie dust to suddenly cascade from her fingers. It never happened, but she may have been able to control her output of the sparkly stuff. As she exited the car she thanked me for the ride and sweetly said goodbye to my son. She grabbed her backpack and I noticed that it was big enough to hold a very tall and thin wand. Then she walked gracefully up  to her door, the picture of a 16 year old girl. But she didn’t fool me. NUH UH! NO WAY. No matter how hard she tried to hide who she really was she would never pull the wool over my eyes. I knew better! This was no ordinary adolescent girl. This was a fairy princess, a fairy princess who possessed strong magical powers. And she has cast quite a spell (or several spells) on my eldest child.

    Let me give you an example. For years, we have been trying to get Aidan to wake up with an alarm. We bought alarms for people who were hard of hearing, alarms that connected to the mattress and gave the sleeper a jolt when it went off, alarms that flew around the room until you turned it off, even an alarm that was a popping jigsaw puzzle that wouldn’t go off until you found and replaced the pieces on the top of the unit. Nothing, not one single alarm worked. He slept right through them, right through the buzzing, jolting, flying, popping, annoying sounds of each and every one. We had given up finding a clock that worked and resigned ourselves that part of our morning routine would be to schlep ourselves downstairs to the teen palace and pound on the locked door over and over until we heard the tell tale teenage grunt that meant the hibernating bear was awake. (Even with the grunt, sometimes we’d have to return just to pound again because the bear apparently wanted more sleep.) But then the magic fairy princess came along. I am not sure you know this but it seems that these magic princesses need a ride home from school which therefore means that the sleep-like-the-dead 17 year old has to get up early to drive ME to work first so that the car is available for him to use after school as her chariot. Lo and behold, using a plain ol’ alarm, nothing fancy, just digital numbers and buttons at the top, that “I-can-sleep-through-a-very-large-forest-fire” adolescent has been up and at ’em, chipper and peppy WAY before my toe even hits the shower. “Come on mom. You’ve gotta move faster.” Come on? And so I ask you, what other explanation is there for the miracle cure of Aidan’s failing ears and teen deep sleep disorder? Magic!

    Okay. How about this one? Read the rest of this entry »

    “You’re Grounded!” Taking Away Teen Privileges

    Who Am I Punishing?

    When I was young it was the telephone, time inside, or the dreaded television punishment that had us shaking in our boots. Three measly things our parents had to choose from to use as fear tactics to get us to behave. I can still hear my mom’s voice saying things like “That room is a mess! No telephone for a week!” This punishment never affected me too much. After all, our house was miniscule and for most of my life we just had one phone in the kitchen. The cord (although colossally stretched) didn’t reach my room and so privacy was nil. Therefore, I wasn’t a big phone fan. If my grades were less than what my parents expected, I would typically get grounded for five weeks. This consisted of the inability to leave my home, go outside or hang with friends until the grades were up. Secretly I relished this punishment. I have ALWAYS been a homebody and this kind of discipline tactic allowed me to sit in my cherished black pleather bean bag in the finished basement and watch TV for hours.

    Back then, I guess the worst thing that my parents could do to me was to take away the TV. That was like death. No Little House on the Prairie on Monday nights? No MASH? No Wonderful World of Walt Disney? Even worse was not being able to watch my stories. (That was what my mother called them.) After all everyone knows if you miss a day of General Hospital you’d never be able to figure out what was going on because the plot was so complicated! (Snicker.)

    Today however, it is different. There seems to be a veritable smorgasbord of punishment choices for mothers like me to choose from. No Facebook, no AIM, no cell phone, no computer, no texting, no Xbox 360, no Playstation3, no WII, no skyping, hand over the IPod Touch, give me the car keys, even the old standby, no TV. I could go on and on. My boys rue getting new privileges and toys because as they say, “I LOVE to take things away from them.”

    I try to explain that I am not the one doing the taking but instead they are the ones making the poor choices that cause the privileges to vanish. They insist that I am the only mother who sees these new fangled toys and communication systems as things to hang over their veritable heads.

    In a rather heated discussion between me and my 17 year old he insisted that taking away say the computer did not in any way coincide with motivating him to do his homework. He revealed that my tendencies to forbid the things that entertain him are not logical consequences for his lack of effort. Another startling revelation that came out of the argument (okay who am I kidding it was a shouting match) was that the very fact that I punish him in that way makes him dig in to the trenches a little deeper and refuse to do the very thing he is being punished for. He’ll show me. The problem is…  as far as grades… he’s doing himself in. In reality the bottom line is that I have already taken and passed high school courses. His decisions-poor or good-affect his life, not mine. But isn’t it my job to be the guide when the decisions he’s making are detrimental to his future?

    It is absolutely positively impossible for me to know that my son is down in the “Teenage Palace” playing on the Xbox with friends, chatting on Facebook, or simply watching TV when I know that his math teacher is afraid he might not pass the class due to the fact that he NEVER (ok, rarely) does his homework. Life just doesn’t work that way. We work first and play when our responsibilities have been fulfilled. Isn’t it my job as a mother to teach him that? Some say I should let him hang—that failing grades are the logical consequences of not doing school work. But the thing is failing grades have consequences too. No college, no scholarships = no empty nest for me. I want him to be successful. Surely teaching him to have some semblance of a work ethic is a necessary thing? Was that meant to be a question? Let me try that again. Surely teaching him to have some semblance of a work ethic is a necessary thing! (She says emphatically. Well sort of emphatically. Ok… you are right. I am just not sure.)

    Here’s the thing: I vacillate constantly on this subject, not sure if I can find a happy medium. It doesn’t feel right to do nothing. My son has already proved that if that is the case, he’ll do nothing too… happily… with NO reservations. But it isn’t working with me on his tushy 24/7 either. All that gets me is a kid out for revenge on his nagging mother. Lately I have tried a sort of medium—A nonchalant mention to do his homework before playing here, a suggested nudge to do a weekly internet game for Spanish there. He nods his head as he confidently states, “Got it under control ma.” Then I hear the distinct tone of the Xbox turning on and the familiar murmuring of game communication with friends. I grit my teeth. I stomp around. I spout to whoever listening. I lock myself in my room for an hour or two hoping that at some point he’ll dive into the required work. I tiptoe toward the Teen Palace door and open it slightly. The sounds of guns and aliens and bombs and other video game noise fill my ears and make my temples throb. I tentatively ask, “Got that work done Aid?” “Nope!” He responds sarcastically. “Nope. I. Don’t.” And then I lose it. The rationality of letting him learn from logical consequences flies out the window. The temperance of taking a medium stance hides in a corner of my enraged mind. And then I do what so many mothers have done before me. I scream out that ancient aphorism used for hundreds perhaps thousands of years by mothers all over the world, “You are grounded!”

    “From what!” He yells back.

    “From the Xbox for a week!”

    Hey! It could have been much worse! He could have lost the TV.


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Logan Fisher

    Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

     

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  •  

    What’s Worse? A Group of Teens in a Car on a Saturday Night After 11… or the Imagination of a Worried Mom?

    Runaway Cars or Runaway Thoughts?

    What is it about teenagers that make any rational parent turn into a suspicious, hand wringing, worry wart? And what is it about a group of teens… in a car… on a Saturday night… after 11 that makes a mom sit on the edge of her bed, bouncing a nervous knee, chewing her finger nails and imagining all kinds of mutilating scenarios and terrible trouble that adolescent boys could get into?

    Perhaps it is all the horror stories we hear on the news. Perhaps it is because deep down moms know that the mere fact that they have a 17 year old means that there is bound to be trouble. Perhaps it is none of these. Whatever the reason or reasons, I was feeling the pressure of fret last Saturday night when my 17 year old climbed into what looked like one of those circus cars filled with a never-ending stream of clowns, except the clowns-in this instance-were a mixture of adolescent girls and boys four of them to be exact jammed into the crevices of a compact car. Did I imagine that the driver peeled out of my driveway? Maybe I should have looked to see if he left skid marks.

    For the most part while Aidan was out, um, well being a teen, I distracted myself with dishes and the baby and folding laundry and writing. But in the quiet moments just minutes before his curfew my mind began to plague me with anxiety, especially when there was a jolt, a vibration and jingle of a bell. “It’s 11:15 who could be texting this late?” I asked myself when really I knew the answer in my gut. Shakily I looked down and Aidan’s text read, “Can I stay out ‘til 12?”

    I considered. I pondered. He is with good kids. He has never given us a reason to worry about poor choices like alcohol or drugs. And so, even though his curfew is 11:30 I answered,

    “Yes. 12. Not 12:05!”

    Feeling satisfied and trying hard to concentrate on the fact that my son was having fun and doing what kids his age do, I popped on the TV and snuggled down under my blankets. And then a jolt, a vibration and a jingle of a bell. This time, Aidan’s text read: “If I go to dad’s for the night, can I stay out later?”

    I read. I was puzzled. This is unexpected. I raised an eyebrow while I recited the text to my husband. He and I decide that we are not playing this game of back and forth between whichever parent is more lenient. I answered a resounding, “No! There is nothing that you can do after 12 that u can’t do b 4!”  (Getting good at this texting thing aren’t I?)

    I felt satisfied, but it only took one comment from my husband for the suspicion to creep into my bones and under my skin and swirl through my mind. “Why do you think he wanted to stay out later? He’s never asked for that before?”

    And my thoughts were off. The first imagined reason for needing to be out so late flashed through my mind — my son in a passionate embrace. Gulp. Yikes! I quickly wiped that thought away only for a whisky bottle in a brown paper bag being passed back and forth between the passengers and the driver to immediately take its place. Trying to calm myself down, I forced my hand to pick up the clicker and I absentmindedly started surfing through the channels. I stop at COPS. Oh good lord! COPS. THE COPS! What if they are in trouble with the police and he’s trying to hide it from me by claiming to go to his father’s house. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had a chance to talk myself out of THIS particular frenzied thought before a jolt, a vibration and a RINGING of a bell. My phone ringing. RINGING. No text. Actual voice to voice communication coming from my son’s phone. This must be serious.  Read the rest of this entry »

    The End of the Happy Cluttered Household

    It’s Memé Clean!

    One summer, when the boys were little… say around 10 and 7… we had quite a fly problem in the house. It seemed no matter what I did — spray, fly paper, clean, clean, clean every day — there seemed to be more and more flies bouncing off the windows and zoom-buzzing by my head, seemingly taunting me with their existence. I became obsessed with ridding the house of them and spent hours on end… (Okay… it SEEMED like hours) with a New Yorker magazine rolled in my tight fist trying to sneak up on the little buggers to whap the life out of them. (Dear Editors of The New Yorker, please don’t let the fact that I used your literary greatness to squash flies influence your decision to one day let me write for you. I hope you can empathize with me after reading this column. And HEY… if you happen to like the writing… give me a call!)

    Anyway, one morning, I noticed a couple of flies coming from our finished basement (otherwise known as the boys’ encampment).  That was puzzling because the boys had just given it a good cleaning. I inspected it myself. I had been impressed that even the sticky spots on the coffee table had been wiped away clean. The flies couldn’t be originating from this room… or could they? My super-mommy-sense was tingling and despite the horrific screams from the voice of reason in my brain (“For the love of god don’t go down there!”) I let my feet take me down the stairs. When I got to the bottom, I started sniffing. Don’t ask me why. It just seemed to make sense. If I could find something that smelled, perhaps I could find the source of the flies. As I mulled around, nostrils flared, bent over at the waist lifting pillows, hefting the couch to see underneath it, I became more and more convinced that I was not going to find anything that could produce that amount of flies. After all, to the naked eye, everything was orderly, tidy and quite clean. As I trudged up the stairs seemingly defeated, I noticed a pair of flies soaring out from behind our console television. Again, despite the terrorized screaming of my voice of reason, I walked myself back down the stairs to inspect. What I found dear readers shook me to the core, made me double over with nausea, and caused purple rage to blast like a freight train to my throbbing temples.

    When I became a mother at the young age of 23, I can remember that my one goal… the single goal I had was to not be a slave to the cleanliness and orderliness of my household. Growing up, the spotlessness of my childhood home was such a major thing. With four girls, my mother (whom my boys call Memé) quite often would become extremely irate at the messes we’d leave. Looking back, we didn’t appreciate how difficult it must have been to be sure the tiny three bedroom cape we lived in was tidy. But, what stuck with me was the constant tension that it caused and so, I was going to be a “different” mother. Not live in filth mind you, but to at least teach the boys to relish the clutter, convincing myself that a cluttered well-lived in house meant a house full of love. Had I steered them wrong? Could that be what caused the sight in front of me?

    Then of course there is that age old adage that boys — if left to their own devices — will live hand and hand with filth and garbage. I mean how many of us have heard of the horror stories of a bachelor’s apartment? Not one respectable woman would be caught dead in said apartment’s bathroom. Men and boys just seem to have an affinity for the gross and disgusting. Could that affinity be what led my boys to think that sight before me was an acceptable method of making sanitary?

    All right you’ve been patient with my diversions and have waited long enough. It is time to reveal the revolting fly-breeding scene that I discovered some ten years ago perpetrated on an innocent house at the hands of my marauding little men. It seems that my sons believed the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” and had been piling all the basement garbage for god knows how long behind the console television. No no… don’t misunderstand me. There was NO garbage can there. Nope, just TV wires, an electrical TV cord and a carpeted triangular piece of floor. But you couldn’t see any of that because the trash was vast and waist deep. To the point that all the scraps of food, paper, soda bottles, used tissues, candy bar wrappers and any other item of trash a boy could possibly conjure up was LEVEL, that’s right I said LEVEL with the top of the television and buzzing with flies.

    Well what happened after that will forever remain locked in a vault of untold stories of the Fisher household, but let’s just say there was a lot of tension reminiscent of my days as a young girl growing up in my childhood household. I invoked many phrases and tones of my dear mother, the boys’ beloved Memé, that day and every day since. But still getting my sons to clean thoroughly has been an uphill battle and one I worried would never be won. Each cleaning day would bring such carnage that I dreaded each and every moment of it. It was as if the boys were blind to what needed to be tidied. They’d call me downstairs, chests puffed out at the pride of a job well done just for me to burst that bubble and point out that the rug looked like the streets of Time’s Square after the ball had dropped. “But we vacuumed!” they’d exclaim as if that made the debris disappear. “Did you turn it on before moving it?” Was a favorite response of mine.

    But this Christmas Eve my choice to leave the “happy cluttered household” behind and to take on a more dictatorship stance on the cleanliness of our home paid off in a big way and gave me some hope for the character and the capabilities of my eldest son. In preparation of guests, I insisted that he clean the basement. After an hour or so he came up the stairs looking like a rooster crowing about the “fantastic” cleaning job he had accomplished. I tentatively descended the stairs bracing for the fight and the eye rolls that would inevitably come. But to my astonishment the room was spotless; miraculously spotless-not even an ounce of Times-Square-confetti-like paper on the carpet.

    “Aidan, this is REALLY clean! Nice job! I exclaimed.

    “It’s ‘Memé clean’ isn’t it mom?” And so it was. Mom would be proud.


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Logan Fisher

    Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

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  • A Classic Case of “Not Fair!”

    This Hurts Me Much More Than It Hurts You!

    Aidan failed his driver’s test today…for the second time. It is an interesting phenomenon the heart of a mother. It hurts just as much when your child leaves you as it does when they have what we know are minor life disappointments (but they seem HUGE to them and maybe we hurt for that reason.) My heart is broken for Aidan, as is his own. The test was at 9 am this morning. I had missed a whole week of school last week due to a flu that kicked the snot out of me so I was unable to miss more work and therefore couldn’t bring him. I was so anxious and of course feeling guilty. But he was in good hands. My mother (Aidan’s grandmother) took him and after all he specifically requested her. So all morning I rationalized that he’d feel safe and secure on the way to the test knowing that in his mind if he couldn’t have his mother, he had mine. I also reminded myself that if he failed that she would be sure to soothe him in any way possible. She’s always had a thing for Aidan. Maybe it is because it is her first grandchild. Maybe it is because she was there when he was born. Whatever it is, Aidan feels connected to her and she to him.

    But the option of failing never entered my mind. Aidan is a superior driver. I am not just saying that because I am his mom. Nope. I am brutally honest when it comes to my kids. If they aren’t doing something correctly or have a severe flaw I don’t sugarcoat it. Nope, this “ain’t” sugarcoating. He truly drives responsibly. It is his nature to be cautious and careful and it isn’t any different when he drives. I feel no qualms putting my one year old in the backseat and letting Aidan drive. He is competent…no no… more than competent, especially for his age.

    So what happened? The perilous inconsistencies of life, that’s what happened. As all moms will tell their children, life “ain’t” fair. (There’s that word again. Twice in one column… sheesh!) And yesterday’s driver’s test was a classic case of “NOT FAIR!” Aidan drove perfectly. Had a nice round 100% going into his final move; the dreaded parallel parking. But he was confident. The night before Aidan and I must have parallel parked on every car parked on the side of every street in Glens Falls. Each time he did it adeptly. Never hitting the curbs or coming too close to the car. I said… CAR. Singular. One. Uno. As all mom’s of teenagers know the driver’s test has the adolescents parallel park using just one car so as to not put the young driver in jeopardy of hitting another car that they may be trying to squeeze between. Every single person I have EVER spoken to knows this to be a fact. A fact? Nope… fact no more. My son apparently is the only kid in the UNIVERSE that was told to parallel park between TWO… DOS… cars.

    He panicked. He FREAKED. He-had-never-done-it-before! He tried his hardest but just couldn’t pull it off. The first attempt he hit the curb. The second, nerves frazzled, he couldn’t even get it remotely NEAR the curb.

    When the story was retold to me by my sobbing mother who just felt so incredibly awful for the… (I am quoting here) “the best teenage driver she has ever seen!” (Ok… she may be a TAD biased.) I got furious. My stomach started to roll. I cursed creatively in the girl’s bathroom for 10 minutes. I had half a mind to call up the DMV and report this man who obviously has ice in his veins. But the voice of my trusted (and probably beleaguered) therapist whispered in my ear, “A good mother helps her children see the lessons in all of life’s ups and downs and acts as a go between to help teach them to solve problems.” So I told my flipping stomach to knock it off. I spit out my last swear word and went to pick up Aidan at school. I braced myself for the ranting and raving that would sure to be coming. Teenage boys can be pretty out of control when things don’t go their way. As he approached the car I tugged on my seatbelt as if preparing for the storm to come.

    “Hi Mom.” He said with a smile on his face. A smile? Really?

    ‘I am so sorry Aidan,” I said stroking the back of his hair.

    “Don’t be mom. I drove perfect. It was not my problem that the guy decided to ask me to do something that he knew he shouldn’t be doing. He even admitted that to me! I did a good job mom and I’m ok with that.”

    “You’re not upset that you failed again?” I asked.

    “No. You always say if I have done my best and things don’t go my way then I should be happy that I tried my hardest. Besides, Meme (my mother) bought me an Abercrombie Sweatshirt because she felt bad. So what do I have to be upset about?” What indeed? Two life lessons rained down upon me in that moment. The first and a firm note to me, my words actually penetrate the fierce wall of the rolling eyes of teens. Good to know. Secondly and possibly a more important lesson (wink wink) is that retail therapy works not just on the mom’s of teenage boys but on the boys themselves.


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Logan Fisher

    Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, andAppleseed.

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