Are Moms With Older Kids Unrelatable?

02.22.13

I’m looking at who the mom bloggers are and, well, let’s face it, those of us who have been in the space a while are sort of fading away. I almost never write about my kids (which isn’t really much of a change) but I’m writing less and less about motherhood, which is a change.

When the kids were little there were universal experiences we mothers were having. We all have pregnancies or adoption stories, we all lost sleep, gained weight, got peed on, taught kids where to pee, worried about what they ate or didn’t eat, had first words and there were two ways parent at home or at work.

Now the kids are in school and I work but I’m not killing myself over here. I play tennis a few days a week, I have lunches with girlfriends, I hike and I’m branching out into blogger outreach. It’s really fun and fulfilling. This is a space that I understand well from both sides and I know what good work looks like. I get to reward those of you who excel with something other than a link. I like that.

My kids are on Instagram, my daughter insists Facebook is irrelevant (please don’t tell her that they own the ‘gram), twitter is where you follow celebrities and old people talk and when you say MySpace to them they snicker like you just said Leave it to Beaver.

I get pitches every day that offer me interviews with experts who will “Teach you how to keep your children safe from social media.” Sometimes I laugh before I hit delete, other times I want to scream at them and say stop selling fear. These people also sell books which is where the laughter comes in gales because in the 300 years it takes to get a book to press the information is obsolete.

When the kids are in middle school there are huge changes and many of these changes occur in the family too. Kids are going through puberty. After the first day back to school in 8th grade Jane marveled that all the boys’ voices had changed over the summer. I won’t be writing about my own son’s voice changing… I’ll just let y’all know that I suspect it’ll be sometime around 8th grade.

Middle school mothers start feeling like the victims of planned obsolescence.

I wrote briefly about Jane’s search for a high school and how she’s made great decisions and I’ve been left out of a lot of the process. I still make many of Alexander’s weekend plans but I don’t think I’ve arranged a weekend playdate for Jane in years. The kids choose their own summer camps.

When they were infants they were literally and figuratively attached to me. We weaned ourselves off of each other for some toddler years and now that elementary school is in the rear view mirror I’ve been relegated to the role of support staff. I’m here to help out, listen endlessly and to take over if there’s a crisis. Most of my time is spent listening and helping in increasingly small ways.

So the Mom Business changes quite a bit as they grow. There are very few women left who haven’t pursued part time employment, careers or all encompassing hobbies. We’re less of a homogenous group at this point. The kids have varied interests, everyone knows how to tie their owns shoes and no matter how many times I tell Jane that Coca Cola will make her fat, weaken her bones and rot her teeth I know she’s drinking gallons of it when she’s with her friends on weekends.

I could write about my tennis elbow or my recent need to nap and my overriding fear that the Simponi which gave me my life back is less and less effective but then I’d have to face the fact that it’s probably time to look at a different treatment. I could write about my husband’s new job and how our family will be missing him for the next six months but I find that ignoring a really difficult family situation that we all agreed we would take on is really for the best. I’m two for two on denial and that wonderful man deserves a wife who isn’t bogged down with self pity.

Us mothers of tweens and teens run out of universal experiences because the whys, the ways and the whens that the kids need us are so varied. Maybe the only common thread is that they still need us and we can’t wander too far even when they’re pushing us away. 

Do You See the Scrotum?

01.23.12

My stepbrother texted me last night to let me know that he’d sent Alexander a text saying “keep it clean”. I was out buying the perfect silk blouse so I couldn’t exactly be bothered with parenting at the time.

When I got home I asked Alexander for his cell phone. He looked sheepish handing it to me and we went through the text messages together. Most of the text messages were fine, funny even. There were links to chicken butt pictures.

chicken butt And then there was a note to his cousin saying, “This is you”. Along with this picture.

dickhead scrotum chin

There was also a WTF. Potty mouth… I wonder where my child would pick that up?

I sat down with my boy to talk to him about media use. I reminded him that Daddy and I would always be checking his texts, computer and emails. I told him that anything you write is public and you should want it so that even your mom could read it. Blah blah blah it was the same talk I’ve been giving Jane for years. Even I was bored listening to me.

I asked Alexander if he knew what WTF meant. He nodded his head and looked embarrassed. I told him that I knew it was funny and that it was a word I’d like him to not use but that I know everyone slips up. I also told him to NEVER write it so that people wouldn’t think he was a bad kid.

Take my advice, son, I won’t be needing it.

Then I asked him about the picture. Why would you send that to your cousin?

“Because it’s an ugly guy.” He said.

Is there anything else about it that’s bad? I asked him this in a thousand different ways. Finally I pointed to the chin. Is there anything about his chin that is bad?

“It’s long.” He said, and looked genuinely curious.

I didn’t punish him. I’m out of the business of punishment, being embarrassed with your mom is lesson enough.

Later in the evening I showed Mr G the image. “He sent this to his cousin.” I said. Mr G shrugged nonchalantly.

Apparently I’m the only one in the house able to identify a scrotum.

Approaching the Teen Age Years

09.3.11

Jane is twelve. This autumn she will be thirteen and I’m pretty sure what we’re experiencing here is not unique. The elementary school years were pretty easy, there were no big upheavals, just a bit of mean girl behavior in third grade that got nipped in the bud, but nothing monumental. Sixth grade was pretty much a cake walk too. This summer there’s been a change in the air.

Jane is pissed at me because I have limited her phone access. After 10pm she can only text us and her grandparents, the same goes for phone calls on the cell. Further, her computer time is limited to ninety minutes a day, the computer simply shuts off after ninety minutes. These simple steps save Mr. G and me from policing screen time.

Jane came to me with tears in her eyes. I treat her like a baby and none of the other parents have time restrictions for their kids. In fact some of her friends are scared of me.

Good.

I had to explain to Jane that I hadn’t recently called any of these other parents for advice on how to monitor social networking and child-rearing. I had to explain to her that unrestricted smart phones for 12 year olds means that a parent isn’t doing their job. I then got to remind her that I’m not her friend and her friends are not allowed in the master suite at any point in the day, not even to pee, there are bathrooms downstairs.

Something horrible happened. Instead of tears her eyes turned a steely blue and her lips pursed shut. We were nose to nose and I got a curt, “fine then”. My daughter turned on her heel and walked out of the room, composed but seething.

I told Mr. G about the event and I asked him what he thought. I told him that she’d said that none of the other girls had media restrictions and that I’d told her our position on it. I asked him what he would have said to her if she asked him to lift the nighttime texting and social media bans. His response? “Drop Dead.”

At least I have an ally. I really hate that it’s so clear that we’re going to have prolonged battles.

Elementary School Sports As Ambassadors

10.22.09

Jane is in fifth grade, and like her, the school she attends is growing and changing. I’m fairly certain both kids will stay there through the eighth grade, but I’ve got to do my homework and look at all the other local schools. In our area there are openings for new students in the sixth, seventh and ninth grades. On my living room table is a stack of admissions packets for various schools in the area.

One school in particular stands out as being the next step. It’s rigorous but nurturing, reasonably affordable and has a good sports program. I mentioned it to Jane and she said, “No, I won’t even look at that school.”

“What? Why?” I asked her, I was stunned. They have a stellar reputation and I’d really like to see both my kids there.

“Those girls were awful. When we played them in Volleyball last year they were teasing us and making fun of us. I don’t want to have to be around them.” She went on and on to detail the manner in which the girls from the Volleyball team had displayed bad sportsmanship and how the coach had ignored their bad behavior.

I tried to tell my daughter that the Volleyball Team was not necessarily representative of the school as a whole. Jane stared me down with a look that I’d previously thought I owned and said, “That volleyball team is the school.”

Case closed. We’re not even touring.

Kissing Boys Is NOT Gross

07.5.09

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, and I spent a good bit of the afternoon cross legged on our daughter’s floor marking her clothing with a Sharpie.

Jane.

I wrote Jane on her socks, her toothbrush, her beloved skinny jeans and  a few tank tops. Then, I sobbed. Not like a little bit either, but the sort of sobs where you stop breathing for a moment and you think you might pass out. The sort of sobs that are typically reserved for a death.

Yesterday it felt like childhood died in my home.

Our daughter left for summer camp this morning. Sleep away summer camp. Summer camp that your Mom is not invited to. Summer Camp where you are responsible for what you wear, what you eat, making your bed and playing nicely with others.

She is fearless. She is ready. She was excited and joyful and fairly bounded out of my husband’s car, and toward the bus that would take her into the mountains of Southern California. The bus that would take her away from us. As she started towards her gaggle of friends I had a horrible realization.

Boys go to camp too.

I ran to catch up to Jane, grabbed her left arm and spun her around to look me in the eye. Her blue eyes sparkled and opened wide. I was panicked, she could sense it.

“Jane, there’s something I forgot to tell you.” I started urgently, “There are boys here, and there are going to be girls and boys holding hands and kissing. You are too young to kiss.”

“Oh Mom,” She began, but didn’t make eye contact with me, “Boys are gross.”

“No Jane, boys are not gross. Boys are wonderful and handsome and smart and they will make you feel wonderful. But you are too young to kiss anyone. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mom, but really they’re…” she started to say gross, but I interrupted.

“Don’t lie to me Jane. We both know boys are great. Promise me you won’t kiss one.”

“I promise.” She met my eyes.

She ran off to join her friends, and I realized that I’d blown it. I tried to take what should have been months of preparation and cram it into 27 seconds.

Sometimes things like this make me feel like a horrible parent, but after dinner my husband confessed that he had given Jane the “child molester” lecture while taking her to the bathroom, it was just three minutes after I gave her the don’t kiss one. Most often I’m convinced that my husband is the better parent. Today we’re on equal footing. Squarely behind the eight ball.

It’s a quarter to ten and I’m wondering if my daughter is sleeping well. I don’t know what she ate for dinner or if she brushed her teeth before bed. I hope she uses the good sunscreen I packed for her on her face, and the spray on her arms and legs. I worry that she misses me. I worry that she doesn’t.

We’ve closed her bedroom door. We miss her, and although I love that my daughter is maturing into an independent young lady, the worst part of me wants her to need me a little more than she does.