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Do you get all up in their grill?

Categories: Mommy Angst

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I love the internet. It’s a kittentastic parade of memes, catchphrases, and Urban Dictionary-isms. I would hardly know how to talk to anyone between 11 and 29 if it weren’t for the internet. In fact, it is the internet that reminded me of today’s title phrase, “All up in my grill.”

All up in my grill = Someone who is “in your face”. Being excessively annoying or bothersome.

I think that defines parent (from a teenager’s perspective, anyway), don’t you?


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Telling my kids I have cancer - again

Categories: Mommy Angst

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I hope none of you ever have to have a conversation with your kids like the ones I had this week.

To Jessica, 28, via text: I was admitted to hospital last night from ER. I have a mass in abdomen that looks like enlarged lymph node. Having biopsy and further CT scans in the next couple days. Should know more soon.

To Nathaniel, 16, who emailed me about flying out to visit me this week: I am in the hospital having tests and then later, The cancer has metastacized, I’ll be in treatment, I don’t know what’s next.

To Serena, 12, on Skype: The cancer I had is back. It’s Stage 4. That’s really, really bad. The medical community doesn’t give much hope and doesn’t know how to treat this very well. I will be doing all I can.

To Eric, 8, who has Down syndrome: I love you, sweet boy!

I believe our children should face the tough stuff with us. Families go through hard times together. I wished I had known as a teenager that my parents were rapidly losing money in their multi-level marketing endeavor and had three mortgages before the pressure caused them to divorce and suddenly I had to request financial aid for college. I could have made different choices. I could have supported them. At the very least, I would have known. Knowing makes a difference.

Do you tell your kids the tough stuff?

When is it okay to be the bad-guy parent?

Categories: Mommy Angst

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I had an appointment this morning with my daughter Serena. She’s 12. We had plans to Skype. 9am came and went and she didn’t appear online. No other contact. I Facebooked and checked email and finally took the shower I had postponed so I could make sure I made our 9am commitment. At least, I had made the commitment. Serena? She lost track of time, she said, 45 minutes later when she finally came online.

I got angry. I IM’d her:

I set aside time this morning to talk to you, to devote just to you, and you weren’t there.  Let’s set another time a different day, and make a commitment to be available at that time.

Living 3000 miles away from your kids is tough. You have to schedule talk time and connecting time. No matter how much to schedule, there is never enough time. It’s not like I can pop my head in her door and ask her to take a walk with me or see if she wants to go to the store so we can have a heart-to-heart. You know the sage parenting advice “pick your battles”? When you live 3000 miles away it means even more.

I felt bad. Disrespected. Angry and sad that I was going to miss talking to her. I had so many questions. Should I make this a teaching moment? Am I making too much of this? How much can a 12 year old take? What standards do I hold my kid to? Is making a big deal of this worth risking alienating her? When is it okay to be the bad-guy parent?
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Kids should hear bad news too

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My Parenting Mistake #1542 was not telling my kids about 9/11 until years after it happened.

Not telling them made sense at the time. We were a Waldorf School family. All that terrible day at my kids’ Pennsylvania school there was intense whispering in the halls — teachers and parents trying to make sense of a world suddenly falling apart. Figuring out What To Tell The Children.

In the end, school officials opted to ask us parents to tell our kids nothing. This was a burden adults should bear alone, they said. So I went home with my children and tried not to watch the horrible images on CNN. Turned off NPR. Refrained from hugging my kids too tightly. Kept adult whispering to secluded late nights and early mornings. Tried not to think of the families who had suddenly lost someone. Tried not to wonder if the world was going to end.
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Are middle names throwaways?

Categories: Mommy Angst, This is Supposed to Be Fun

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All my life I hated my middle name. And then a year ago I changed my name — first, middle, last, the whole shebang — and that was that. But growing up, I NEVER told anyone my middle name. Never. (It was Sue. Bleh.)

And then I had kids, which felt like a huge gift in the naming do-over department. I could give them awesome names that rocked! If I loved the names I gave my kids, hopefully they would too. So far, the feedback is that I did okay, even in the middle name arena. In fact, I was so surprised by the middle names we parents are handing our kids. They’re so…middle-y. Which leads me to wonder whether we need them at all. Are they just a syllable filler between the first name and the last name? Are they a way to let the kid know he has REALLY transgressed (”John Michael Smith, you come here this minute and explain the peanut butter on your sister!”)?

Do we need middle names?

Top three middle names for boys and girls, according to Babble.com:
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Explaining pop culture to kids makes you old

Categories: Mommy Angst, This is Supposed to Be Fun

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I suspect that there is nothing that ages us parents more than having kids. Oh, I don’t mean the gray hairs that appear overnight from weeks of colicky 4am wee-of-the-night “bonding” with a newborn. Nor do I mean the heartstopping moments when your toddler’s sticky little hand slips purposefully out of your grasp followed by gleeful shrieks and a short-legged dash for the open car-studded street. Nope. I mean popular culture. Explaining it to kids. That’s when you suddenly see how impossibly OLD you are, light years away from hip in any of its incarnations. Oh ell dee old.

It all started with an IM conversation with my daughter Serena. She’s 11, that bershon age where every eye roll is a commentary on my hopeless inability to approach coolness even with a ten-foot pole. She had accidentally typed the word teh.
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Dating advice for daughters

Categories: Mommy Angst

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The day is coming. I can deny it all I want, but it is coming and there is nothing I can do about it. My daughter is hitting puberty. And likely she is going to date. Boys. Maybe girls. Whatever. Either way she needs a mother’s advice about dating. Right?

Part of me wants to hand out phrases like “They only want one thing!” and “Keep your legs together!” but not only does that place me squarely back in 1956 (maybe 1856) but it also misses the point entirely. Want to hear what my mom’s dating advice to me was? When she found out I was, at 15, headed out for my first date, she pulled me aside, lowered her voice, looked around conspiratorily, and asked, “Do you NEED anything….?”
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Teaching shades of gray

Categories: Mommy Angst

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My heart broke this past weekend thinking about the families who had planned for a Rapture that did not occur: the plans they made, the financial resources they gave away thinking they wouldn’t be needed, the unnecessary fears foisted upon children. As 6pm last Saturday approached, my Facebook stream filled with humorous pokes at the prophecy, and while I laughed at the foibles of humanity I also felt a growing sense of discomfort at the implication that just because we don’t agree with someone else’s beliefs, theirs are wrong. I believe that as parents we are obligated to share our beliefs with our children as a part of sharing ourselves as people, but I believe it is just as important to teach that other people have beliefs that differ from our own. It’s not a black and white world. We owe it to our children to teach them shades of gray.
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Right age for a first laptop computer?

Categories: Mommy Angst

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I type that headline, “Right age for a first laptop computer,” and suddenly my head is swimming with images of toddlers hurling banana-and-Cheerio-encrusted Macbook Pros off high chairs, and I cringe. But only a little. Because my baby needs a laptop.

Here’s the deal. Serena is eleven. She is already planning what her Middle School Experience will be like, which in her district is next year. Sixth grade. (omg, my baybeeeee….). And she has both me and her dad convinced that in middle school, a computer is de rigueur. Which may or may not be true. But I suspect she is right. It might rankle her older brother Nathaniel a little, who was the ripe old age of 12 when he received his first computer (a gift from me so we could stay in closer touch), but younger siblings almost always get privileges sooner than their older siblings. Right? That’s how it was for me, which must have irked my older brother considerably, but I knew exactly how to employ it to my best advantage. Ahem. Not that your kids would do that.
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Best first job for a tween?

Categories: Mommy Angst

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My daughter Serena, 11, needs a job this summer. Or maybe next year. Her older brother Nathaniel is heading off for a year in France and she will miss him terribly, so I am conspiring now to help make her life awesome instead of lonely while he is away.

I already suggested she get a kitten. But a kitten will only go so far and won’t pay her any money. She needs something more, something Super Awesome, something that will capitalize on the sense of responsibility she is building this year as a top-of-the-elementary-school 5th grader.

Yes, my kid needs a job*. But what?
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