Goshen Rocks! Teen Initiated Arts Expo Comes to the Hilltowns.

Goshen Rocks: Youth Arts Expo Empowers Teen Artists through a Collaborative Network

Teens in western Massachusetts have outstanding skills, knowledge, and creativity to offer to the world! Celebrate their interests and accomplishments at Goshen Rocks: Youth Arts Expo, a collaborative showcase of music, poetry and visual art – all created and performed by local teens!

The Arts Expo is organized through a collaboration between Graffiti Cat Zine and People to Watch: The Next Generation – both are teen initiated arts-based resources that build creative community by connecting local teens with community venues and outlets for sharing their work. In keeping with this mission, Goshen Rocks offers the first event of its kind to western Massachusetts: not only does the expo combine visual, written, and musical creative work, it is the first community-based teen-specific creative event of its kind.

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Trail Crew Work Opportunities for Teens in the Berkshires

Teen Trail Crew Work Opportunities this Summer

Many teenagers do their summertime growing-up while working for minimum wage.  Structured activities (such as part-time jobs) with specific and clear expectations provide teens with more than just something to occupy their time – they learn responsibility, methods of effective communication, punctuality, reliability, and other useful real-world skills.  Important though such attributes are, most of the jobs available to teens involve spending time indoors (often hours on end) and, with the current economic climate, jobs for even the most inexperienced workers are hard to find.

While a first paycheck can be an important rite of passage, the Appalachian Mountain Club offers teens an incredibly worthwhile alternative to working retail or foodservice.  Teens looking to acquire life skills while accomplishing something both tangible and meaningful can participate in the AMC’s Teen Trail Crew weeks in south Berkshire County this summer. Participation in the program means working hard from Monday-Friday to help maintain and improve AMC trails, as well as working as a group to pitch tents, make food, feed a campfire, and completing all of the other tasks that come with wilderness camping.  Typical projects include moving rocks, cutting trees, and using tools to build trail features (including bridges and walk boards).

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Parenting vs. Pestering: Keeping Teens Drug-Free

A “Posh” Life

If you are an entertainment junkie as I am, you might have seen or heard about Demi Moore’s fateful night a few weeks ago. According to a released 911 call and several reports, the gorgeous movie star allegedly smoked an unknown “but legal” substance that caused her to go into convulsions. When asked about the report on a red carpet somewhere where I was not and probably will never be (but I digress), George Clooney chastised the media release of the 911 tapes for going too far and prying into a human’s private life. But I disagree with him. (Yes Mr. Clooney even with all your suave, debonair, handsomeness I won’t be swayed when it comes to this. But I could be swayed in other ways………….) Um…WHERE was I? OH Demi! Yes.

Apparently the substance that Demi was smoking at a party (that her daughter was also attending I might add), was called “POSH.” When Giuliana Rancic, E’s reporter, uttered this word my husband, who usually is uber bored with my E Entertainment News obsession, sat straight up and began shaking his head in a disgusted way vigorously. The attention to the story puzzled me and I assumed it was because, well, Demi Moore in all her brunetty-rockin-body way is EXACTLY his type. But it wasn’t that at all…it was that he somehow agreed with me in my disagreement with Clooney’s protestation.

“I am glad that they released the tapes.” He uttered.

“You are?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, it is about time that Posh gets some kind of media attention. You have no idea how rampant it is at school and since it is legal there isn’t really anything administrators can do about it.”

My husband is currently interning as a vice principal in a local middle school. Recently a student was caught smoking this “Posh” substance in the bathroom. When he was confronted about it in the main office, the red-eyed student was higher than a kite. He couldn’t contain his laughing, nor was he able to make eye contact with anyone or any object. Being as high as he was actually turned out to be an advantage to my husband and the other administrators because the boy was willing to say whatever and willingly give them the contents of his pockets. Here is what he handed over to the principal. Be sure to study it because what you are looking upon is quickly becoming an epidemic amongst teens for several reasons:

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Recognition of an Unbalanced Mother

Next to Normal

The piano started--a ballad--and I sat up a bit straighter, leaning in, in order to hear the lyrics clearly. “So Anyway” was the title. It was a song written for the lead, a mother…an unbalanced mother…I leaned in even closer identifying immediately with the sentiment of the song, with the sadness and regret, and it happened…

Last night I attended a benefit for our local professional theater. I smiled and laughed at dinner with my sister, her husband and friends. I rocked back and forth, even danced a little in my chair to the INCREDIBLE live music coming from the talented Cabin 3 at the front of the bar. (Okay…a shameless plug for a talented friend.) But if truth be told in the very center of my solar plexus there was an all too common sphere of sadness, dread, rage, anxiety–perhaps it’s a psychotic being–as it seems to be living and breathing. You see, life with the teens, with the hubby, heck—life with the family has not been a picnic lately and the weight of all that disappointment, frustration…resignation pulled upon my limbs as I crossed the street to the theatre making my legs feel like they were wading through thigh-deep mud.

I continued wading through the wine and cheese and small talk of the local elite. I pressed on with my persona of the dutiful mother and happy wife. I rallied hard to ignore the sadness that engulfed me, and refused to listen to the continuous worry reel that was rolling through my mind. Like a Chinese acrobat, I kept spinning those plates high above me and hoped that they wouldn’t come crashing down on some unsuspecting head—forging forward in my familial fog feeling utterly and completely alone with my thoughts.

A writing acquaintance of mine, Katrina Anne Willis (okay okay another shameless plug) recently wrote a blog post in which she stated,

“My marriage, my children — those are the relationships I’ve vowed to hold onto forever. Those are the people, no matter how much they change, to whom I’ll always hold fiercely, always fight for. Those core family relationships are different — at least to me.”

I adore this woman and her incredible writing, but I gotta tell you that sometimes lines like the ones above make me feel utterly inadequate as a mom and as a wife because if I was being truthful, there are days that the changes and challenges brought upon by my marriage and my children seem to me to be a continuous barrage. And that barrage has exhausted me to the point where “holding fiercely” and “fighting for” are the last things I want to do. Maybe it is because I am tired of fighting; fighting to keep those sometimes wayward boys of mine on the straight and narrow, fighting against my selfish nature, fighting to be a better mother, fighting for honesty, fighting against disappointment, fighting to be heard, seen, appreciated just a little and of course the never ending battle for good old fashioned respect and understanding. And while I am at it, I am tired of fighting the incredulous feeling that all of those sacrifices, all of that thinking, all of that effort…was for what—for what? Where I am—where my family is—is exactly where I didn’t ever want it to be, and it’s there despite all the fighting, despite all the thinking and despite all the effort. Read the rest of this entry »

Intergenerational History Project in the Berkshires

Southern Berkshire Community Coalition
Senior Life History Project for Teens

The Southern Berkshire Community Coalition is sponsoring a unique intergenerational history project!  The Senior Life History Project pairs teens (ages 12-18) with seniors, and the pair will together create a life history project.  Together, the senior and their teen will use writing, photography, and video to tell the story of the senior’s life- the end result of which will be a scrapbook (including mixed media, if the pair chooses).  Teens who participate in the project will get to hear a firsthand account of what it was like to live in their community during the past 60+ years- they will learn how local culture has changed over time, and what it was like to live in the Berkshires during important eras in history (During the Civil Rights movement, for instance.).

There are two different meeting locations for the project, and those participating will be expected to meet weekly at either Monument Valley Middle School or the Sheffield Senior Center.  The program begins on January 12th in Sheffield, from 3-4pm, and on January 17th at the middle school from 12:15-1:10pm.  For more information or to sign up, call 413-528-1919.

Reasonable Expectations of a Teenage Son

An Ode to the Eye Roller

I am a reasonable human. What I ask and expect is so small, so piddly. My familial desires are quite mundane…and yet, and yet. Each time one is voiced or expected it seems that what I’ve uttered is the most unimaginable, unintelligible, and unreasonable thought, request, plea that any human has ever put forth into the universe. Well. I’ve. Got. News. For. You.

It is not unreasonable for a mother to not want her house to smell like a sewage treatment plant due to the foul filth that penetrates the air coming directly from your bathroom.

It is not unreasonable for me to ask you to clean a bedroom that currently smells like the inside of a gas station urinal…not the inside of a gas station bathroom mind you, but the inside of a gas station urinal.

It is not unreasonable for me to feel and express anger when the beautiful clothes that your grandmother bought you, an entire wardrobe, is covered with black mold and full of holes due to the MONTHS that they stayed wet and dirty in the now also moldy two canvas hampers that are ruined as well.

It is not unreasonable for me to ask you to take part in the college application process. I can do certain things, fill out paper work, find a way to pay the fees, but I can’t get your references, can’t decide where you want to go, can’t study for the SAT’s and ACT’s for you. It is not unreasonable to ask you to do those things…in a timely manner. Which brings me to…

It is not unreasonable for me to remind you of deadlines and due dates for homework, college applications, job schedules, bills, for anything for that matter. If you don’t want a reminder, start showing me that you are responsible enough to remember and stick to those deadlines.

It is not unreasonable for me to want you to return phone calls and the like. It isn’t unreasonable. It is called courtesy my dear, courtesy. It is NOT unreasonable for me to expect that you will be courteous to others. If you are expected to be some place, then you should be there. If you can’t make it, then people expect notification. It is courteous. If you have been hired to work somewhere, it is absolutely necessary that you WORK. That you call for your schedules. That you show up on time. I don’t care if the job is at a famous fast food place that you believe is beneath you. If the employer has put her time and energy into checking references, training you, working around your schedule, it is not unreasonable to be disappointed, no…absolutely disgusted..that you didn’t follow through and let a perfectly good job slip through your fingers. And THIS would be a logical time to transition to…

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My Teenage Hypochondriac

Hypochondriac

Dictionary.com defines the word hypochondriac as someone who is excessively preoccupied with and worried about their health. But really I didn’t have to look up the definition. I could have told you what that meant without even turning on the computer. You see I grew up hearing that word over and over again. One of my grandmothers was afflicted with this disorder. I distinctly remember the phone ringing at all hours of the day and night, my grandmother on the other end needing to speak to my father—right away—lest she die while waiting for him to get out of his easy chair. I often listened to conversation after conversation between my mother and father about these phone calls and the imagined diseases and maladies that always came with them. The first time I heard the word, “hypochondriac,” I immediately ran upstairs to our shelves of books to pull out ol’ Webster’s and looked it up, and although the definition wasn’t comprehendible for such a young mind, I knew that the connotation of the word was not a good thing.

And so, it was no surprise to me when one of my sons started displaying the same signs and symptoms of my grandmother at a very young age. (Dear geneticists, if you are looking for your next gig perhaps locating the hypochondria gene would be a worthwhile venture. Trust me, the people who endure the drama would forever be in your debt.) And because of my experience with good old Grandma…I was prepared. I knew the remedy to such nonsense. Ignore it. Plain and simple. Put no credence in any ramblings of a neurotic son.

I have to tell you that most of the time, pretending that I didn’t hear statements like, “Mom, I think I have MERSA.” Or “Mom? Could I be dying of a heart attack? My chest is really tight.” Or “Mom, I’m pretty sure that I have some kind of cancer. Feel this lump! Am I going to die?” worked for the most part. And if ignoring didn’t stop it, usually a simple, “No you don’t have cancer.” Or “No you aren’t having a heart attack.” Or “No, you do NOT have MERSA” coupled with an “I promise” did the trick. For years I fended off affliction after affliction after affliction by using just these strategies, and for years that simple promise worked because…well…it was a promise that was really never broken. He never did have cancer or a heart attack or even MERSA and so those promises held enough credence to calm the obsessive compulsive consistent and constant health related panics. That is until…  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: Your Daughter’s Online Social World

The BFF 2.0 Tour: Welcome to Your Daughter’s Social World Online

What is your daughter doing there, hunched in front of a computer, phone beeping to one side, mp3 player buzzing to the other, earbuds streaming music or video or the latest drama? Do you ever feel like she’s in another world, one you don’t understand, are too old for, or can’t figure out?

Welcome to BFF 2.0, your daughter’s online social world… I’m taking parents on a tour. Don’t worry: this tour has no technical information whatsoever. I’m going to speak in real English and keep it simple. I’m offering some big picture points about why girls are so obsessed with social media and why so much of it is making them anxious and insecure.

Stand on the edge of any playground and you’ll see a scene play out day after day: most boys play games, and most girls linger on the edges to talk. The same is true online: social media is social, and girls use technology to connect and share. Check these stats out:

  • Girls typically send and receive 50 more texts a day than boys.
  • Girls ages 14-17 are the most active, churning through 100 texts a day on average.
  • Girls are more likely than boys to carry their phones on them at all times.

It wasn’t always this way. In the beginning, technology helped connect girls. It was an adjunct to relationship, filling the gaps of contact that opened up between home and school. Today, technology is part of relationship itself. With gadgets more portable and accessible, the average kid ages 8-18 spends up to 8 hours a day using an electronic device. Girls move fluidly between virtual and spoken conversation, texting to each other in the same car and conducting real and virtual conversations simultaneously.

Real life is frequently experienced as a new opportunity to post or share online. A high school girl told me that the phrase “take a picture of me” now simply means, “put it on Facebook.” Another girl told me, “People go to parties in college with the intention of just having [Facebook] pictures for the night. If someone makes a joke at a party, a person will be like, oh my God, that’s the perfect title for my album.” And in 2009, a teen told Teen Vogue, “You’re not dating until you change your relationship status on Facebook.” A year later, “FBO,” or Facebook Official, became the new measure of dating legitimacy.

Many parents suspect that what’s happening online is some crazy, altogether foreign world than the one you know your daughter to inhabit. Think again. All social media does is magnify the feelings and dynamics that were there all along. In the real world, girls are obsessed with their relationships. They know a big part of their status is defined by who they sit next to, which parties they get invited to, and who they count as a “best friend.”

The same thing is happening online. Every time her phone beeps, or someone “likes” her status on Facebook, she gets a tangible message about how well (or not) her relationships are doing. Today, a socially aspirational girl must be vigilant about not only what happens in real life, but her virtual reputation — and on a new, uncharted plane of connection and coolness. That girl sitting at her laptop, working three machines at once? She’s doing a new kind of social work. It takes time, and it takes access.

That’s why girls claim they “don’t exist” if they lack a Facebook account. This is why parents sleep with confiscated laptops under their pillows; they know their daughters will do anything to get them back. And this is why girls show levels of rage and anxiety hence unseen when they lose phone or online privileges. It is precisely the value that girls place on their access to technology that illuminates its position at the heart of girls’ relationships.

But just because girls love social media doesn’t mean they know how to use it responsibly. The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that a girl “gets” technology in a way that an adult does not. Looks are deceiving. The world of BFF 2.0 has presented girls with new, unwritten rules of digital friendship, and it has posed a fresh set of social challenges.

What does a one-word text mean when someone usually types a lot? What if you and your friend are texting the same girl, but she only replies to your friend? Does she like you less? How should you handle it? Online social interactions generate situations that demand sophisticated skills. Without them, girls become vulnerable to online aggression and worse…

Related post:


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.

The Language (and Fees!) of College Applications

College—Can I Get a Translator??

When I was in school, (although I hid it well) I realized at an early age that I had a penchant for language. ANY type of language study whether it be reading it, writing it, learning French, Latin and Spanish, came extremely easy to me. What’s more, I enjoyed it. (I hid THAT nugget as well in high school!) As I got older, I continued to study anything that would feed the ravenous verbal monster in my mind who always wanted more, more, more. Words to me, reading and writing, song lyrics, monologues and quotes, book after book after book became solaces, comforts, soul food.

That is until I began the college application process with Son1. I have to tell you that before this process began I felt quite self-important when it came to all things reading and writing. Writing a unit plan for school, a blog entry for Muddled Mother and editing a school paper for hubby took no effort at all to do in one afternoon. The computer was my friend. The pen was my friend. And words….sweet words…well I never met one I didn’t love—until now!

I’ll just come out and say it because there is really no other way to put it…the college process MAKES-ME-FEEL-STUPID. Phew…there…I said it. I mean is there anyone out there who can tell me the difference between “early acceptance” and “early admission?” How about a “universal application” and a “common app?” Words like “aptitude”, “transcripts” and “FEES” “FEES” “FEES” make my head swim. And don’t even get me started on the bleepin’ abbreviations. You can take your G P A’s and S A T’s, you can take your A C T”s, your A P’s, and your F A F S A and shove them well…you know…

It doesn’t help matters that Son1 seems to not have any compass or desire when it comes to this process. We took him on visitations last April, have offered to take him on more. Heck, his grandfather even took him to college night at our local state university. But nothing has really helped. He seems to be just as mired in this process as I am. And that makes me wary. There are plenty of parents I know that just tell me to fill out the applications for him, have him write a “Common Essay” and send them off. The decisions can be made later. But, for someone like me who is on an EXTREMELY fixed budget, the “FEES FEES FEES” that these applications demand could break the bank pretty quickly, and for what? For Son1 to say, “Nah…I really don’t want to go here or there…” So I am reluctant. If HE doesn’t know what he wants to do…how can I move forward?

Inept. I feel inept. I listen to parents around me whose kids seem to know just what they want and just where they want to go…or they at least have a bit of a plan such as the SIZE of the college or even the location…jeez…I’d even settle for a class Son1 really wants to take. But I feel like there is a “college cloud” over both of our heads and it has soaked us in a procrastination puddle. The deeper I wade the more confused I get. As October turns to November which seems to quickly be turning into December (according to the giant blow up Santa our local hardware store is already displaying as a decoration) one other word keeps dogging me—a word that probably weigh more heavily than all the other college terms that muddle my mind—and that word is—DEADLINE!


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.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Brian Talbot]

One Mother’s Readiness for College

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.

To Rescue or Not To Rescue: Teaching Kids Life Consequences

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

9:30 pm—I had just finished cleaning the dinner dishes, sweeping, and packing lunches for school the next day.   Like most moms at this time of night, my bones were weary, my muscles were weary, but my mind was weariest.  The house was as quiet as it ever gets.  Two sleeping boys in their separate quarters and a basketball game droning on in the living room, I decided to get in some reading time before going to sleep.  The only thing that kept me standing through the nighttime routine was the heavenly pair of pajamas that I knew was waiting for me at the end of my bed.  I tiptoed down the creaky hall hoping not to wake the sleeping beasts determined to put those pj’s on and get into reading position.

No sooner had I put my arm through the second sleeve of the luxurious top did the door bang open and slam against the wall.  Son1—nine at the time—was standing in his boxers, hands clasped to his chest, mouth stretched as tightly as a rubber band across his mouth.  “Mahhhhhhm!” he throatily cried, sheer panic making his voice deep and low.  “What is it?”  I cried equally panicked, my voice equally throaty, deep and low.

“I forgot to do my REEEEEEEEEEEdin’ project!!”  he sobbed.   I then asked something that I am sure many moms ask–even though they know full well what the answer is– “When is it due?”

“ToMORRow!  ToMORRow!  ToMORRow!”  He yelled repeatedly (just in case I missed it the first time.)  Saying all the mom-stuff like “How long have you had to do this project, and why did you wait until the last minute,” didn’t help the cause at all.  Instead it just added to Son1’s utter terror.  He began to cry hard.  Do you know that cry?  The ugly one where the snot starts to river out of their noses and into the little divits above their lips.  The one where the tears have enough gusto to make it not only down their cheeks but to roll over their necks and onto their clavicles.  The one where it is so impossible to take a breath from the heaving that they begin to cough which in turn makes them gag, which then of course leads to a mucousy puke right on the carpet of your bedroom floor.  Yes…THAT cry.

Trying to decipher some sort of understandable language during this crying spectacle, my mom-ears detected horrific words like “trouble” and “teacher” and “missing” and “recess.”

When my children were in this state a mountainous force of making it better filled every crevice of me.  I hated to see Son1 so beside himself.  I couldn’t bear the thought of him up all night–sick with worry–anticipating the trouble he was going to be in with that “mean ol’ teacher.  It tore me to shreds that he’d be embarrassed in front of his friends when they all skipped on out of the lunchroom door for recess while he trudged back to the classroom—a prisoner with his privileges taken away… Read the rest of this entry »

That’s What an Outhouse is For!

The Hallow of Hell

For 16 years we were a one bathroom house. For 16 years, I was the sole woman trying to pee amongst three men with the bathroom couth of a drunken gorilla. In order to well…do my business in a lady like fashion I would perform a necessary ritual before sitting um…on the throne so to speak.

I’d first take out a box of Lysol wipes. Standing with my feet shoulder width apart, I’d straddle the front of the bowl and bend over at the waist. Lysol wipe in hand, I’d clean the floor in the front and the side of the bowl searching for stray drippy-drop marks since inexplicably it seemed that boys…or perhaps just the boys in my house…don’t use toilet paper after going number one—as the kiddies all like to say.

As soon as the floor was safely germ free, I’d grab another Lysol Wipe and swipe along the back of the toilet where the cover stood erect. Evidence of a poorly aimed stream would be erased away with a few swishes here and few swishes there.

Despite the lemon-scented antibacterial wipe-down, I would still instinctively plug my nose while I—well–did what one does in the bathroom in order to spare myself from the overwhelming and seemingly inerasable gas station restroom smell that always seemed to originate somewhere to my right, probably coming from the shower curtain that nearly touches the toilet due to the miniscule bathroom that with which the builders of our home blessed us.

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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 »

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]

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]

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.

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.

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.

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.

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  • 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 »

    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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    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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  • Driver’s License: A Teen Rite of Passage

    Give Me a D! Give Me an R! Give me an I V E! But Put Your Seatbelt on First!

    Late Breaking News: Aidan Wright, resident 16 year old of the Fisher household, will be taking (and hopefully passing) his driver’s license test on November 2, 2010. All drivers in the upstate New York/ Massachusetts area take note and take caution. Just sayin… Am I nervous you ask? Let me spell it out for you.

    D is for doubt. Can my son really be old enough to operate an automobile…a heavy piece of equipment—a careening cannonball on four wheels-on his own? Without me sitting on the passenger side slamming my foot down on the imaginary brake, barking out orders and white knuckling the handle on the door? Is he ready for the responsibility that comes with not only ensuring his life and the life of the passenger in his car, but the lives of other drivers on the road? D. The doubt is deafening.

    R is for rejoicing. I have never seen my tres chic-tres-cool sixteen year old dance a happy little jig, but I am telling you he came close the moment we made his driver’s test appointment on line this week. The corners of his mouth turned up. His eyes twinkled. His face softened. I mused, “What do you call this look I see on your face dear teen? Could it be that elusive smile I have heard much about? I was told such a thing existed. But until now, I didn’t believe I’d ever see it.” A major 16 year old eye roll followed my teasing. But even that wouldn’t damper his mood. I think I saw him skip as he went down the stairs to his bedroom.

    I is for I-will-soon-have-my-very-own-gofer. “Let’s be positive,” said my ever chipper husband, “whenever you forget something at market, you can just send a very willing driver to do the errands that you hate.” He may have a point. Did I ever mention how I hate the winter cold? This impending license gives me visions of sitting cozily by the fire saying things like, “Aidan, please go pick up your brother.” Or “Aidan, could you please run to the store to buy me some hot chocolate? Run along and don’t dawdle…”

    V is for velocity and verification. Velocity….need I even explain this one. The mere mention of the word makes my toes curl in my new gray cowboy boots. I have visions of a car speeding swiftly down a country road in a game of chicken with perhaps a pickup truck, a van, or worse an 18 wheeler. This nightmare has me thinking about how I can keep tabs on my newly mobile teen, which brings me to VERIFICATION. Some parents, (whom I shall keep nameless lest I give away family secrets) told me about a very nifty gadget that you can put under the hood of your car that acts as a GPS babysitter. Said gadget would come with an application for your cell phone that a parent could check at will to find out the location of the family automobile. Part of me relishes the fact that I can check up on him. That part of me screams… “Run lady! Don’t walk. Where can we get us one of those?” But on the other hand, another part of me feels like that nosy neighbor we used to see on Bewitched, wringing her hands and peering into the front door…saying, “What’s IS going on in there!” And then there’s this: If he ever has a girlfriend, do I REALLY want to know he is parked somewhere on a deserted mountain road or a highway rest stop???? Ummm…I think I’d rather skip that kind of knowledge.

    E is for Eager Earning. On the bright side, all this talk of driving and cars has motivated my usually oh-so-unmotivated teen to work many hours at a shall-we-say very popular sub place. I have been impressed with my son’s ability to save (not a trait he inherited from his shopaholic mother.) His bank account over the summer and fall has grown substantially. He is actually at the point where he is looking at cars that he could possibly purchase off of the internet. Of course there is also the fact that we the powers that be at home insist that he pay for his own gas and insurance. But at the rate he is going, that won’t even make a noticeable dent in his cache of cash. “Ummm hey honey…son of mine…could I borrow a 50? There are these to-die-for shoes I can’t live without calling my name.”

    R is for REALITY. Despite my reservations, (HA! Another R word) I know that every day brings us closer and closer to November 2. There is no way around it, just like walking, kindergarten, or riding a two wheeler, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage that every human should experience as they journey towards independence. I know in my heart that Aidan is ready to take this next step towards adulthood. There is no question about that. The real question is am I ready? After all, by now you know how vivid my imagination is. So you won’t be surprised when I tell you that on the day my eldest takes his driver’s test, I will be waiting patiently, but sadly envisioning the moment that that boy of mine who takes up so much of my heart will leave home driving down the road that we call life.


    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 Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed.

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  • Unexpected Last Days of Summer Play

    Running on Empty

    He runs—five to ten miles per day with his cross country team. He jumps-before and after cross country practice-on a super charged pogo stick. He flips-on a trampoline before sunrise and way after sunset. He skates, scats skedaddles—up and down the street and around the block on a skate board, on a long board, on a bike, on two feet. He never stops; not even to fuel all that movement with food or drink.

    It’s a typical summer scenario. Gannan, the quintessential boy, wakes up at the crack of dawn to soak up every single second of play time that he can wring out of a sweltering sunny day. Breakfast, if eaten at all, is usually a piece of fruit or a granola bar that he can shove down his throat as he’s whipping open the backdoor (only to throw the wrapper on the lawn as the back gate slams.) At lunch time, I scream my voice hoarse trying to locate my Prince-of-Playtime. He comes reluctantly, shoulders slumped, smelling of sweat and dirt and grass, but will stubbornly stay out on the front porch until the food is absolutely ready–not wanting to let one second of fresh air miss his awaiting nose. Somehow it is as if all that playing has caused his legs to forget how to bend him to a seated position. So he stands…and bounces…up and down… and wolfs a half a sandwich in one bite. He runs toward the front door. I yell “Halt” and hand him an 8 ounce glass of milk. Foot tapping, he drinks half and then those tapping feet bolt him out through the portal-of-play. Dinner is much the same. Even though I require that he must spend at least ten minutes at the family dinner table, he still will eat a half of a hot dog in a great big chomp and shovel a handful of fries into his mouth so that they stick out like the whiskers of the Energizer Bunny. Feigning a stomach ache he says he can eat no more and then bounces his right leg up and down, keeping the engine revving, looking at the clock, sighing with head in hand, blowing his long bangs out of his eyes, doing whatever it is so that he can get away from that table and back out to paradise. As he bolts once more, I again demand he drink “at least SOMETHING!” He dramatically takes in a gulp of milk and dashes off to greener pastures with his mother smiling after him, marveling at his energy.

    Okay, so to some of you this description of a boy and his love for summer will conjure some smiles and make you wistful for the days of Andy and Opie walking to the “crick” with their fishing poles slung over their shoulders. However, after what happened this week, the description makes me feel ashamed. Yes. That’s right. I said ashamed. Not sunny. Not whistly. Not reminiscent of days gone by….nope. Ashamed. Here’s why.

    Last Saturday, I awoke to a very ghostly looking boy standing at the foot of my bed asking me where the thermometer was. His arms were holding his comforter tightly around him, pathetically and weakly whispering, “I don’t think I feel good.” Since this is not a phrase that typically is spoken by Gannan because he knows it is one that would seal his fate INSIDE for the day, I immediately pop the thermometer in his mouth. It reads 103 degrees, and so I begin all the “mom” things that we do when we have a sick kid. Get him set up on the couch, ply him with Advil, coo and coddle. I suggest to him that he sip a little ginger ale and I wait for the protest. But to my surprise, he doesn’t. Instead he asks for water, and I give him water; glass after glass after glass. It seems as if he is a bottomless pit and can’t get enough H2O. That’s not the only thing that is unusual. He practically begs for food. I question my husband….”What’s that saying? Feed a cold-starve a fever. Or is it–starve a cold and feed a fever?” No matter. He wanted food; an egg and cheese sandwich to be exact, and then a bowl of cereal, and then a strawberry milkshake, and then another. All eaten in the span of two hours. He was ravenous. He was severely parched, very odd behavior for a sick kid. Or was it?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    The Timetable of Growning Up

    On Their Terms

    I know this is a column about teenage boys, but indulge me a minute while I talk to you about my 11 month old girl. I promise it will be a nice segue into a “boy tale.” My daughter Ila has been slow to develop physically. She was a preemie and so we kind of expected that she’d be delayed somehow. Cognitively she has impressed us with her massive vocabulary cheered on by her ever adoring two brothers who think that she is the most brilliant baby alive. But, she was slow to gain weight in the first few months. She was extremely late to roll, and even when she finally did, it was only one way (a habit she continues to this day.) We never thought we’d see her sit steadily let alone push to a seated position…but those skills came eventually although not adeptly. This past couple of weeks however her physical ability’s flood gates opened. She reaches, she points, she bangs on her piano like Liberace, she crawls faster than our old dog can run from her and has now discovered the many virtues of pulling up to a standing position; all this done in a matter of three weeks. Unbelievable!

    What does this have to do with teenage boys you ask? (Here is the promised segue!) Aidan, my 16 year old, is having a “flood gate” summer of his own. Not physically mind you, (although I am not sure when he got taller than me. It seemed to happen overnight.) But like my 11 month old, things I worried would never happen for him; goals I thought he might never reach seem to have come upon him all at once. Read the rest of this entry »

    Teen Girls Can Submit Writing/Art to Teen Voice

    Submissions Welcome to Teen Voice

    If you’re a girl between the ages of 13-19, you can submit your writing, your art, or a description of your activism for publication in Teen Voices. Teen Voices is an intensive journalism mentoring and leadership development program for teen girls in Boston, MA whose mission is to support and educate teen girls to amplify their voices and create social change through media.

    • Click here for more information on publishing your work with Teen Voice.

    Stereotypes Can Fuel Teen Misbehavior (Study)

    Stereotypes Can Fuel Teen Misbehavior

    Drinking. Drugs. Caving into peer pressure. When parents expect their teenagers to conform to negative stereotypes, those teens are in fact more likely to do so, according to new research by professor of psychology Christy Buchanan.

    “Parents who believe they are simply being realistic might actually contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Buchanan, who studies adolescent development and behavior. “Negative expectations on the part of both parents and children predict more negative behaviors later on.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

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