“Are you going to keep telling me stuff?”

Posted by on Apr 14, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Out of the Mouths of My Kids | 0 comments

9734370374_72d03b0711_o

That’s not the actual question my fourteen-year-old son asked me recently, though it may as well have been. We were traveling in the car (so often, it’s in the car), he was sitting beside me, in the passenger seat, and I was explaining the proper and safe reaction to some other driver’s behavior we’d just encountered.

“Are you going to tell me driving rules when we’re in the car from now until I turn sixteen?” “Jack” said. His words were polite, but his inflection said, Please, God, make it stop.

“You bet I am,” I replied. “And after that, if I think it’s necessary.”

Jack didn’t argue, thus demonstrating that he’s learning a little wisdom with age. Good to know.

In New Hampshire, kids can test for their driver’s licenses (a.k.a., Youth Operator Licenses) at sixteen. At fifteen-and-a-half, they can practice driving with “a licensed supervising driver at least twenty-five years old.” Kids need to have accrued forty hours of this behind-the-wheel experience—ten of those at night—before they can obtain their licenses,

Read More

Breaking Out More of Your Adopted Tween’s Story

Posted by on Mar 2, 2016 in Adoption, Growing Up | 0 comments

adoption-177427_960_720

For the adoptive parent looking for a map: there isn’t one. Our kids come with stories that predate their entries into our families, and we have to raise those stories alongside the kids who own them. Like anything else having to do with parenting, we figure it out as we go, and the approach that worked with little kids probably won’t work with tweens—or teens. It’s always new.

In preparation for a trip we will take later this year, we recently decided it was time to renew our passports.* In order to do this, we began a house-wide search for the kids’ birth certificates. (Don’t say it. I know.) Ten-year-old “Emmie’s” Certificate of Foreign Birth was located in a file box along with a treasure trove of paperwork and mementos from her adoption, including a piece of paper that included a few details about her birth parents I’d forgotten we’d ever been given.

I will not share the details of what was written on that paper, nor will I share why I’d forgotten about them. There are reasons for both. But I will tell you what I did with the piece of Emmie’s story I found myself holding in my hand.

As a younger child, Emmie had always been interested in her origins, asked questions about her background, even cheered for South Korea when watching the Olympics. There was never a time she didn’t know where she came from or how she came to be part of our family, and she’s always known questions are welcome. She happily donned hanboks, ate Korean food when we could get or make it, and looked for Korean culture wherever we could find it.

In the last year or so, however, she’s backed off from her interest in things Korean—except for food. (My daughter—I’m so proud!) She’s asked fewer questions about her adoption, too. Is this because she’s a tween now and too busy texting her friends and trying to figure out boys to spare attention for adoption-related matters? Is she completely comfortable with her identity and just doesn’t worry about it? Maybe she’s very sensitive about it and, taking a lesson from her big brother, doesn’t want to ask her parents about these things anymore because come on, who talks to their parents about anything important? Or is everything simmering in her very busy brain, sometimes in the front, sometimes in the back, and it will all come out sometime, someplace, when I truly don’t expect it?

Read More

Here Comes High School

Posted by on Jan 27, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up | 1 comment

high school sign sm

Tonight I attended the high school curriculum meeting for the parents of next year’s ninth-grade class, which includes my fourteen-year-old son.

Holy hell, when did my son get old enough for high school?

This is, of course, impossible. If I dig deep enough in his room, under the underwear and soccer uniforms strewn across the furniture, the shin guards and bedding on the floor (I don’t ask why), I’m certain I’ll find a leftover dinosaur or two from that old obsession. I know he no longer sleeps with the privileged quartet of stuffed friends that he used to consider sacred, but I also know they still live in that room. They’re just tucked into a corner of a bookshelf where he can pretend he doesn’t want them anymore. So “Jack” doesn’t cuddle with me any longer or call me “Mommy.” I can still trick him into get a hug when I really want one.

Next you’ll be telling me he’s going to be driving before I know it.

Oh, wait. He will.

I’ve got a secret to reveal about parenting my son at this age—actually, both him and my ten-year-old daughter. I love this stage of parenting. I waited for this. When I envisioned being a parent prior to becoming one, this is the kind of role I imagined.

To be clear: there has never been a moment in which I did not love my children. And I am not so foolish as to believe that everything will be clear sailing from this time forward.

But patience is not even close to my most abundant virtue, and the world of babies and toddlers was not the easiest world for me to live in.

Read More

The Lecture Years

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

Susi and Mom

 

“I want to talk to you about heroin. Our state is in the middle of a terrible epidemic.”

“Did you see that story about the kid killed in that horrible crash on the highway? You know they were drinking before they got in the car, right?”

“I want to talk to you about consent, and what it really means.”

“Your body has changed a lot in the past year. I suspect you’ve got a lot more changes in front of you this year. Let’s have a quick chat.”

“The only disease they mentioned in your health class was AIDS? We need to have a talk.”

“Another unarmed, young black man was killed by a police officer. Why? Well, let me explain what’s been going on.”

“So here’s the thing about the recent burglaries on our street. The way they’ve occurred—it was probably people looking for cash or things they could easily sell to get cash to buy drugs. Because this is what happens when people get addicted to drugs.”

“All of those people are fleeing terrible violence in the Middle East—mostly Syria—and Europe doesn’t know what to do with them. No one does, including us. Many of them have died. There is a history…”

“Do you have any questions about _____?”

Silence.

If you have a teenager living in your house who loves to discuss topics ranging from difficult to embarrassing with you, then you aren’t cringing right now. Also, please call me and tell me what that’s like. Because I haven’t got a clue.

My own teenager, fourteen-year-old “Jack,” is of the eye-rolling, oh-God-not-another-Talk-please variety. When he hears anything in my words or inflection begin to veer in the direction of a Talk, I can see his upper body subconsciously settle into place. He’s learned he will receive Talks whether he wants them or not, so he tries to prepare himself and hopes the imminent one will be quick and that he won’t have to answer too many questions.

I deliver my brief lecture, punctuated with “uh-huh” and “no” from Jack whenever required. If I ask him for more, it’s like I’ve asked him to solve the problem of time travel. (Actually, he’d probably prefer I ask him that.) Occasionally I can lighten the atmosphere with a joke—presidential politics comes to mind—but that’s not always the case. When I’m satisfied I’ve been understood, I ask if he has questions, he says no, and one of us leaves the room.

Obviously, this is not the way I’d like for these things to go. But I can’t ignore these topics. Jack is not a little kid anymore.

Read More

5 Things I Accomplished This Holiday Season

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Growing Up, Holidays, The World We Parent In | 2 comments

liste

Welcome Back! I hope your holidays were a welcome respite from the craziness of the rest of the year. Or, if you like to keep things going at a good clip, I hope you eggnogged-gifted-skiied-partied-relatived-toasted-feasted-gingerbreaded until you could barely eek out a “Happy New Year” when the time was right.

As for me, I managed to squeeze a few parenting-related accomplishments under my expanding belt this holiday season. Some I anticipated; most I did not. Here goes:

  1. I taught my fourteen-year-old son how to binge-watch a TV series into the late hours. I’m so proud.
  1. I got a glimpse of what my ten-year-old daughter will look like when she’s sixteen via the dressy pants, blouse and shoes I bought her to wear for her fifth-grade chorus and band concerts. It was tough to find appropriate clothing that wasn’t awash in glitter, but when we finally did—wow. Who is that sophisticated kid?
  1. I decided that my goal of changing my lifestyle in several ways to be healthier overall by my next birthday wasn’t challenging enough, so I ate my way to a few extra pounds in December just to make things more interesting. Okay, so it wasn’t so much an actual decision as it was outright gluttony. Alas, the result is the same.
  1. I talked to my kids about Donald Trump. Why is this an accomplishment?
Read More

“The Gift of Failure” – From Book to Real World Lesson

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

This weekend, my son forgot his soccer cleats. We had traveled an hour away from home; there was no way to retrieve them.

“The one day you don’t ask me if I’ve got every little thing is the day I forget them.” Thirteen-year-old “Jack’s” voice rose as his eyes, shoulders and mood plummeted. The next few hours of Jack’s life began to take shape in his mind, and they didn’t look good.

Not a coincidence, I thought. I bet you don’t forget your cleats again. But all my husband and I did was tell Jack there was nothing to be done about it now. We didn’t get upset, or raise our voices. We simply informed him that he would have to present himself to his coach, tell him he’d forgotten his cleats and face the consequences.

As soon as Jack skulked out of the minivan in his uniform and his sneakers, I grabbed my phone and sent a message to Jessica Lahey,* author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. I told her what happened, letting her know that she’d inspired me to stop running through the “Do you have…?” list with Jack as I always had prior to his soccer games. He is, after all, just a few months shy of fourteen years old. Shouldn’t he be able to collect all his gear for a game on his own?

Yes, I believe he should. But I’d never given him the chance to carry this responsibility before.

The Gift of Failure takes on the American trend—one might even call it a crisis—of overparenting. Writer, speaker, middle-school teacher and mother to two boys, Jessica expands on her excellent writing in the New York Times and The Atlantic to offer breathing room to parents and kids struggling to keep up with crazy schedules, hyper-competitive parenting and other pressures that never seem to let up. In The Gift of Failure, she explains how our kids are capable of more responsibility than many of us parents allow seem willing to let them take on. By not granting our kids that responsibility, we’re depriving them of the much-needed experiences of trying, failing and learning how to recover. Our kids need to build, over time, the necessary skills and confidence to succeed on their own so that they don’t end up living in our basements when they’re thirty-five years old. (My words, not Jessica’s.) And that means we have to allow them to fail.

How does this philosophy play out in practice?

Read More