Why Is My Kid Such A Punk?

bratty girl

More than once this past week I have asked myself this question. Why is my kid such a punk?

No really, she is.  She’s behaved in a way that I would expect from a two-year old.  Only with better language skills.  I’ve truly been trying to stay calm and respectful and not lower myself to her level by responding in an immature way, but I have to admit that I have flipped her the bird behind her back more than once. I don’t like to do it, but sometime it’s really the only appropriate response.

I’ve read all the parenting books (there are a lot) and followed their instructions so I wonder how this could have happened.  We’re a pretty normal family.  No major issues or problems.  And I’m not a mean parent.  Although, I’m pretty sure she thinks I am.  Usually after I’ve said something like.

“No. For the tenth time, we can’t go to the park because I’m tired and it’s cold.  End of discussion.”

That’s not really mean is it?  I see it more as establishing my dominance .

When it comes to dealing with an eight year old with attitude I am not alone.  Last night I had an enlightening text discussions with some very savvy moms.  When asked about their girls of the same age, they all responded quickly and enthusiastically.  I was a bit overwhelmed actually.  Aside from the usual “I hate you” and “you’re ruining my life” I got this list of recent altercations.

  • This may take me a while to rank all the bad stuff to find the worst
  • “Yuk, I hate that” to literally every meal, for as long as I can remember
  • She told me that I should move out
  • She face washed her little sister with peanut butter and jelly toast then proceeded to tell me it was an “accident”.  I hid under the stairs
  • Every day about the damn crop tops.  No, it’s not appropriate
  • She yelled at me “You’re just a little piece of poop”.  I’m assuming she wanted to say shit but knew that she wasn’t allowed to swear
  • She told her little brother that everybody in the family had super powers except him
  • She said “I’m not trying to be rude.”  Holy crap can you imagine what it would be like if she was TRYING to be rude

One mom described them as “a bunch of cheeky little shits who are testing the boundaries”.  Yup, she hit the nail on the head.

So what to do with these little punks that won’t be moving out for another ten to twelve years?  Someone suggested an air horn.

airhorn

“Every time they start their crap we just blow it in their ear.”

That got a lot of support.  Others suggested a good supply of wine and tequila and regularly scheduled girl’s weekends in Whistler.  Lots of support for that one too.  Waiting it out was brought up, but wasn’t well received.

After an hour or so of laughter and commiserating I realized that what we had just done was really the only solution.  We had vented our frustrations and come to the conclusion that we are all in the same boat.  Doing our damnedest and trying not to kill them.

At the end of the day they are good kids and we are good parents. So next time your kids being a punk….grab a glass of wine and call a friend.  It’s The Best Thing in Life.

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Silver Linings

silver linings

Do you ever have a thought, feeling or emotion that rattles around in your head for, oh, let’s say, weeks?  Maybe months?  The problem is your not sure how to express it.  Or even if you should?  Here’s mine.

This year my son will turn twenty and I’ve missed half of his life.

Let me explain.  If I can.

I left my first husband when our son was three months old.  Within the first year I agreed (begrudgingly) to a custody arrangement that was a 50/50 split of time.  Over the years that has meant alternating house every three days, four days or seven days.  At times it was confusing (mostly for other people) but it seemed to work.  Bottom line, my son has spent half of his twenty years living away from me.

There’s no blame here.  No looking back in anger.  It was what it was and its history.

But here’s the thing.  It’s a weird feeling knowing that so many things that your child has experienced were not with you.  That during those days away you had idea where he was, who he was with or what he was thinking.  There are so many experiences, emotions and moments that I have no history of.  No pictures, no memories, no knowledge what so ever.

I’m not wallowing in pity either.  I know that he grew up loved by so many people and so far has had an amazing life.  It’s just an observation I’ve made in the past while.  I was struck one day by the fact that for days at a time I had no contact of any kind with him.

The hardest thing to do every week was not to pepper him with questions the minute he walked through the door.  Sometimes I was successful and sometimes not so much.  I just wanted to know what he had done.  What had he eaten.  How had he felt.  Had he been happy?  Had he had a hard week?

at school

Boys, as some of you may know, can be….um….lacking in details when it comes to what they’ve been doing.

“How was school?”

“Good”

“What did you do?”

“Stuff”

“Who were you with”

“Dunno”

Sound familiar?

I’m not sure if it is despite of or because of our arrangements that he has grown up to be a smart, caring, happy young man.  There have been trying times for him but I believe the same could be said for other boys his age who have grown up in a more conventional setting.

He’s not home much anymore.  Between work, school, friends and having his own car we are lucky to get a dinner once a week.  Oh and the odd “what can I eat?” at 1:00 pm after rolling out of bed.  Again, not judging, just observing.

I also know that going forward there won’t be as many family vacations, day trips or ski days and that’s okay.  I’m happy that he is happy and moving on into his adult years.  A parents job is to ready their children to make it on their own in the world and I am confident that he will do just that.  I’m hoping that when that happens there will be the odd phone call home to say, ask how long to roast a chicken?

walking away

It’s so hard to put these feelings into words.  The feeling that I’ve missed a lot but have still been given so much.

I suppose in some ways it has prepared me for the next stage of our lives.  I’m not that worried about him not being around all the time.

The Best Thing in Life is silver linings.

 

A Boy Becomes a Man

dirty laundry

This past weekend I taught my son to do his own laundry. Well, I tried to. Yes, I know, he’s eighteen and should have been doing it himself for a while now. I have no good excuse really, other than he spends half his time at his dad’s house and well, it’s just been easier for me to keep track of his clothes this way. Lame excuse, but it’s all I have.

It went well. The concept of sorting seemed to confuse him a bit but once we got past that I think he caught on. I still have my doubts as to whether he will actually remember to go back and move the wet clothes into the drier. There’s a big empty space of time between washer and dryer that could suck him back into the vortex of YouTube videos and Game of Thrones episodes. He will learn. Damp socks and underwear are no fun.

He’s already pretty good at feeding himself. Given the right ingredients he can actually make a decent meal. FYI – Having a girlfriend is a huge incentive to learn how to cook. Apparently teenage girls swoon over boys who can cook. I don’t think a boy cooked for me until I was well into my twenties. He has been making his own school lunches since he was in grade six. I did get some pushback on that one.

Him: I don’t have to do this at my dad’s house.
Me: That’s too bad buddy. Make your lunch.

I suppose I could just keep doing all this stuff for him. It might be easier in the short-term. Realistically though, one day I won’t be around to pick up his dirty socks or the towel he leaves on the bathroom floor. I won’t be around to make him breakfast or a snack after work. He will need to know how to do this stuff himself. He will, eventually, move out. Won’t he?

I’ve always known that I wanted him to be self-sufficient. I don’t want him to be the thirty year old man that doesn’t know how to boil water. But what’s more important is that he needs to know that HE can do this stuff. He needs to feel independent. It’s actually not that much different from when he first went to the bathroom on his own. He needs to do it alone and I need to trust that he will. (We are still working on the toilet flushing component of this by the way)

It feels like it’s one of the last steps towards independence. A last-minute check before he becomes a man. A man. My son is a man. A man who can make his own meals and wash his own clothes. No, no. I’m not getting sentimental and weepy. Okay, maybe a little.  Really I’m proud and happy that we have made it this far.

The Best Thing in Life is that I still have my seven-year old daughter to fulfill my need for someone to mother. She doesn’t know it yet but she will be helping to ease me into the whole empty nest thing.

Oh My God I’m An 18 Year Old Boy!

Me and Everett June 2104

In my ongoing search for my “thing” in life I have come to a startling realization. I am way more like my eighteen year old son than I ever thought. Last June he graduated from high school and has spent the past nine months working. He has three jobs right now, all in different fields. He got all three jobs on his own and has been incredibly responsible in keeping track of his schedule and being on time. Mostly. He is not sure, however, of his next steps. He has looked at some university programs but isn’t 100% committed. I left my job a year ago and have spent the last twelve months keeping track of my traveling husband and my active seven-year old. Oh, and writing this blog. Where are the next few years going to take me? I don’t really know, but I do feel a need to find something to set my sights on.

So, how are we alike?

1. We both feel, deep down, that we have some unique, creative thing to offer the world but we just don’t know what it is or how to get it out there. While writing this blog has been great and I continue to enjoy the process and the opportunity it has given me to reconnect with old friends, I can’t help but feel unsure of where I am heading with it. My son had thought that he might pursue a career in video game design and animation. He took a number of courses in high school and looked at continuing that into college. As its turns out, it is really more of an interest than something he felt he wanted do as a career. I think that this was largely because he is not a strong drawer. Being creative means being judged subjectively and we are both wary of that.

2.  We both gravitate towards things that offer us instant (or close to it) gratification. Probably why I never went back to school. I have, for many years, berated my poor son on his ability to sit at the computer for hours playing video games. Not the shoot ’em up kind but the multi player on-line battles like Defense of the Ancients. (go look it up) When I asked him why he loves them so much he said it was because they gave him instant gratification. Honestly, I rolled my eyes and sighed but I am now slightly embarrassed to say that I get it. I think that I too look for things in my life that give me regular reinforcement and encouraging pats on the back. I think it’s why I enjoy running so much. I can do it and instantly know exactly how far and fast I have gone. If we can’t see the goal we lose sight of the meaning.

3.  We are social but not social butterflies. I love a good party and feel that friends are an immensely important part of anybody’s life. I am also quite comfortable being alone and have been known to pass on social invitations in favor of my jammies. While my jammies are comfortable and all, I have been burnt and some times I use them as an excuse to close myself off a bit. My son has never had a large circle of friends and I often felt that he needed to be more assertive in going out and creating relationships. Now I see that he is also okay being on his own. In the past few months, through his new jobs, he has developed some friendships which is great. But I also see him holding back a bit. Not wanting to dive in too deep. Just in case.

4.  We are more than willing to work hard so long as what we need to do is clearly mapped out in front of us. Or organized. Love a well-organized project. You tell me what to do and I will work my ass off until it is done. Conversely, If I don’t have a set plan I tend to wander off and end up being unproductive. The past year has shown me that in spades. If I am being 100% honest with this I need to say that for my part,this is probably due to a of lack of confidence. In high school if my son had a project assigned to him he tended to leave it until the last-minute and then panic. Not because he didn’t want to do the work but because he often didn’t know how to get started. He is, however, happily holding down three jobs with not one complaint. In fact he has never been happier to be told what to do and get paid for it.

As I read this back to myself some things become clearer while other are still unresolved. Have I managed to make it to fifty without ever really growing up? How can I expect him to know where he is going when I don’t? Have I done enough to foster a feeling of confidence in my son?

How can I move past what is holding me back and in turn show him the way?

The Best Thing in Life is that learning never ends.

Michele

whistlerbiking26sep0808-0[1]

A few years back I was part of a group of women who would head out onto the cross county biking trails of the North Shore mountains as often as we could. We were all moms of varying cycling and fitness abilities but we enjoyed each other’s company, the exercise and the time away from our angelic children. Typically Sunday morning we would meet at about 8:00am and ride for a couple of hours or until the need for coffee kicked in. It was on one of these Sunday morning rides that I met Michele. Michele is a police officer.

Recently Michele and I got together for a drink with the purpose of talking about divorce for a piece I’m writing. We did talk about divorce, but we also talked a lot about her career, relationships and parenting teenage boys. What I took away from our conversation are some great additions to my piece on divorce, some excellent parenting tips, but more importantly, I learnt about the life of a female police officer and how her career has been instrumental in her personal growth.

When Michele and I first met, she had just recently moved to the Vancouver area and was looking to get hired by a local police force . She was going through a separation (potential divorce) but totally seemed to have it together. Having been through a divorce, I admired how rational she seemed to be when it came to talking about her soon to be ex and their relationship. Was I assuming that as a police officer she was probably pretty tough and could handle herself in any situation? I guess I was, because I know now that in her own words she was a mess. Living in a new city, no job and a failing marriage. Yipee!

Things did turn around pretty quickly for her career though. She was hired by the Vancouver Police Department and started to settle in. When I asked her about harassment on the job she said that it has never been an issue, mostly because of the way she has handled it. She told me a story about how, as a new member of the VPD, a fellow officer had made a sexual comment to her after a drunken Christmas party. The next day when she figured out who had said what, she didn’t get mad, she got even. She walked into the morning briefing with a sealed envelope in her hand. Looked the guilty culprit in the eye and told him that she didn’t take these things lightly. She put the envelope down in front of him and said. “You’ve been served” implying that she would sue him. Inside the envelope was a picture of a huge set of hooters with the caption “Next time you want to look at a set of boobs, look at these.” Classic.

Dealing with the end of her marriage proved to be more difficult. She was seeing a therapist but still struggled with feelings of failure and self-doubt. At this time Michele was working with the domestic abuse unit of the VPD. While on a follow up call to a battered woman’s home she suddenly realized that she was saying all the same things to this woman, that her therapist was saying to her. It’s not your fault, you are a strong person who can do anything and do it on your own. The lightbulb not only went on for her, but it made her realize what these women were dealing with and how best she could help them. I’m pretty sure that this is what Oprah refers to as an “ah ha” moment. As she continued her work, not only did she get stronger herself but her ability to empathize and help the women she worked with grew immensely.

After a few years Michele moved out of the domestic abuse unit and into homicide. How cool is that? She is confident and knows that whatever life has to throw at her she can deal with it. Her sons are in university now and she is venturing into a new relationship. She is grateful for the time she spent with the domestic abuse team and knows how much it taught her about life and handling adversity.

I truly have a new respect for police officers and how they approach their work. Michele became a police officer to help people and ended up helping herself. How is that not one of The Best Things in Life?

In Response to “Surviving Seventeen:

After sending my son an e mail of my post “Surviving Seventeen” I got a text saying “I like it. I’m writing a response”. Here is that response.

There is no cheat sheet, no universal way to understand a teenager and there is definitely no grand plan. The world is a scary place, as all you adults can agree ( if you remember ). It’s not easy facing everything for the first time. I do enjoy playing video games. It’s were I go to get away from everything I cant put out in the real world. Its funny because no one that I have to explain it to understands.

Having drive is a problem for me as it is for most teenagers. I have told my mom this. My mind works for instant gratification. If I get a good feeling out of it now I’m going to take that over something that will make me feel good months or years down the road. With this in mind, college, and a lot of planning, is a struggle because I cant see the end of the tunnel at all and when nothing comes from it, my brain puts it on the back burner. I do, however, want to thank my mother for pushing me to get stuff done and I know that she only wants the best for me. It’s the teenager inside me that thinks it’s nagging but I know it’s not.

Another thing is, when you ask your son or daughter what they want to do and they say ” I don’t know” you probably accept that as they just don’t care. The truth is we just don’t know. We don’t have any experience with anything like this and a lot of people just expect us to know exactly what we want to do with the next 60 some years for our life. We are, in all honesty, scared. We are scared to leave the people and places we know behind and find “our path” that makes us happy and makes enough money. A lot of us will only get the latter of the two. We don’t want to flip burgers or pack grocery bags for the rest of our lives but we are scared we will and the weight that is put on us to not do that just adds to that feeling. Even when parent say “We don’t care what you do, we just want you to be happy” we know that’s a lie. Yes, you may mean to say it but deep down we know you want use to be that lawyer or doctor or business person. The last thing we want to do is let our parents down. I’ve kept things from my parents (I later told them) that I thought would make them disappointed. At the time it felt a lot better to lie to them then let them know I had failed.

The way I see it friend, girlfriend and boyfriend all finish with “end” but family doesn’t. Your kids NEED your help. They may never ask for it and yell at you if you give it to them sometimes, but they do appreciate it so always be there for them because parents are the one thing that we can always count on.

I’ve now decided my son should be a writer.

 

Surviving Seventeen

My seventeen year old son is graduating from high school this year. It’s a big milestone by anybody’s standards. In a few months he will turn 18 and will legally be an adult. He is interested in video game design (we think) and has applied to a local university with a good 3D Animation program. He has his drivers license and a steady girlfriend. No worries right? You would think so. So why do I feel this anxiety about what is going on in his life? Why do I feel the need to push him in a more productive direction?

In the grand scheme of things he has never been a problem. I’m proud to say that he has made it to grade twelve and there are no drugs or alcohol involved, no classes failed and nobody is pregnant. Woohoo! Honestly, in today’s high school environment that is no small feat. He does, however, spend (in my mind) an inordinate amount of time playing on-line video games. Some days he gets out of bed, comes downstairs and is on the computer for a couple of hours before he even stops to have something to eat. If it were not for me giving him the stink eye he would be on-line all day.

I’m sure he will get into university and pretty certain he could get a job if he tried. This is not what keeps me up at night. My husband (his stepdad) and I have made every effort to help him make decisions about his future. Taken him to interviews, open houses and forwarded him information on deadlines and programs. He’s interested in it all but once we are out of the parking lot the need to think about it is gone. The need for attention and follow up just doesn’t seem to be sinking in. Or maybe it is. Why do seventeen year olds not come with cheat sheets like the video games they love so much?

What was I doing at seventeen? I thought that I wanted to go into the hotel and restaurant business. A family friend of ours managed to get me job at the Banff Springs Hotel. I worked there for a couple of years on and off with a year of very unproductive university in the middle. Oh, then I went to Europe for four months. Wow, by that time I was 21 and no closer to having any idea what I was going to do with my life. It wasn’t until I had worked for a couple of years at dead end jobs and then finished two years at BCIT that I realized what I was capable of and what I wanted to do. I was twenty five! So I guess my son has a few years to go before I really need to kick his ass. I hope he doesn’t read this.

So what to do? I do what I do every time this feeling overcomes me. I go to my “in” box and retrieve a piece of paper. On that paper is this saying.

“My prime job as a parent is to see my children not as who I want them to be or who I hope they become, but who they really are.”

Enjoy your kids for who they are. They are one of the best things in life.

Last night I emailed this to my son. I didn’t want to put it out for the world to see if he wasn’t okay with it. Later today I will post his response.  It took me completely by surprise.