Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Thowback Thursday, Sunday Night version. (Remember Sunday Night Meltdowns?)

September 25, 2017

Quite a few friends of mine have just had babies or are about to have babies, and so I’ve found myself in the middle of conversations lately where I’m the Official Extender of Hope. Don’t worry. They’ll sleep soon – and so will you. They won’t always be toddlers. You’ll get to be a person, too, very soon. Because I looked up one day and my little toddlers, my loving little energy-drainers, were teen- and tweenagers! How did that happen?! Not to say teens aren’t without their own problems. They certainly are. Just…different ones from toddlers.

With toddlers? The brand of person my friend lovingly refers to as tiny terrorists? It used to be that by the end of the weekend, the bastion of hope that our time together enforcing rules and refusing sleep, the symbol of Sunday Night we lovingly referred to as Sunday Night Meltdowns. Without fail. Either the toddlers hosted the meltdowns because mom is nothing by unfair all the time. ALL THE TIME! Or else I was the one snapping and crying because I was never going to get a break. Never, ever, EVER.

My kids had just about eased out of the phenomenon when we were graced with the Xman. And hoo boy – then I really learned the meaning because Sunday Night Meltdowns lasted all weekend long.

Then, last Fall, that problem was quite suddenly solved. And if I grieved over losing the person I thought might have been The One, it was soothed a little by also losing the constant battles.

Last night, though, we had a throwback Sunday night.

Gracie started it. She texted me to celebrate our win and as thrilled as I am to know she’s following football from home, I thought maybe she was going to ask to come home early. Alas. So I was already a little sad when she texted about an hour later to see what we were having for dinner. That’s when it really began. Chicken? She didn’t want chicken! They just had it for lunch! And for dinner last week! And she hated chicken! [Uh, that is almost verbatim. I am so not hyperbolizing for once.] I snapped back that when I made pasta – our household cheat meal – they had both complained too! No matter what I cook, everyone complains!

At least she had the grace to keep her mouth shut.

Bee-girl started in when she got home. She didn’t like dinner. (That one I was expecting.) She didn’t want to go grocery shopping when I was done. (I was expecting that too – usually I’ve gotten that done during the day and we just netflix and chill after dinner.) But you know what? Thems the breaks. And when mama says to stop whining? Stop. Whining. And if you don’t have the sense to do that? Then you better definitely stop if she threatens to take away privileges.

Privileges were lost. In fact, the girls were lucky to escape with their lives by the end of the evening. They sniped all night about the tiniest little things that were bothering them. They kept trying to boss each other and one-up each other while we were out. I very nearly put my 11-year-old in Time-Out in the middle of Target!

Of course, by the time we got home and bedtime was near, the girls saw the light. Gracie made the peanut butter no-bake squares she’d talked me into buying. Bee-girl waited until five minutes before bedtime to start making her lunch for today – something I had stopped reminding her to do because she’s been buying lunch.

It was a little too late. Gracie tried to recoup bedtime by offering to play cards with me – something that nearly always works. Bee even offered to have a sleepover – something she knows I’m a sucker for after a weekend filled with scary dreams [sidebar: do not see Mother – it’s horrible and irrational in a completely unfun sort of way].

In short, I was glad to see the night end. And only slightly surprised when I saw a text from Bee-girl this morning…

Bee: Mom, I grabbed your lunch by mistake.

I’m making my sacrifices to the Gods of Monday Morning right now, before the rest of this morning slides down the incinerator shoot…

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It’s going to be a very long month.

July 11, 2017

It’s only been three days. Wait, no – scratch that. Two days. I saw the girls the day before yesterday. But two days feels like three days; it feels a long longer than even “just” three! The girls are spending their month of summer visitation with their dad, and it feels like an eternity.

When the girls were little – those late toddler years and early school years – July was a much needed respite from broken nights of sleep and exhausted late evening hours filled with whining and bickering. I could sleep in sometimes as much as 45 whole minutes on work mornings if I didn’t need to drop the girls off at daycare, or, later, twenty minutes if I didn’t need to drop them off at Stepmom’s. I could spend evenings hanging at Crisanna’s pool, or on my own patio in a lounge chair reading a book. I could cook grown-up meals with herb-crusted chicken and asparagus or mac&cheese that didn’t involve shapes. It was a delirious month-long staycation, even though there was still work and responsibility. I still got to see Bee and Gracie for dinner two nights a week, and I still got to keep my weekends, and that was just enough time to enjoy fun summer activities, but take a break from each other so we could leap into each others’ arms and finish off the summer with gusto and renewed appreciation for one another’s company. And that’s just how it worked out.

But then this thing happened when my daughters morphed from little kids with all the trappings of early childhood (tantrums, stubbornness, grouchies, minds of their own, the Up And Down Bedtime Brigade, , vivid imaginations in the middle of the night, picky appetites…) into imaginative and delightful kids in the thick of middle childhood, and then Young Adults and burgeoning Actual People who I would be honored to call my friends. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m their mama, not their friend. I am not afraid to pull rank or put my foot down. I set the rules, and I expect them to be followed. Without fail. There are consequences for rule-breakage. And there are rewards when toes stay on the right side of the line. And for the most part, that’s how it goes, generally. I have good kids. Kids I enjoy spending time with. Kids I like watching – and discussing – movies with, or participating in readathons with, or going adventuring with. It’s fun! It’s not fun all the time, but enough of the times.

Enough of the time for me to feel it keenly this year. More this year than other years. Because my house is really empty this year. This year there is no boyfriend or boyfriend’s extremely willful kindergardner-who-acts-like-a-toddler. This year there is no puppy-dog to hang out with, or cuddle with, or talk to, or go on runs with. It was more than two years ago when I picked out the boyfriend, and more than three years ago when I adopted the puppy-dog, and that long ago the girls were still in the blossoming stages of middle childhood. Young enough that I still needed the break. Long enough ago that things were different.

And so July is passing by turtle slow. There are 90 minutes left before I’ll see the girls again and enjoy my mid-week sleepover. A week-and-a-half before my next weekend with them. Seventeen more sleeps before vacation. And after vacation, July will be over and I will have survived it for one more year! And, if my memory serves, almost immediately after that, there will some sort of incident that comes with an inevitable rock re-entry that will make me wish we were still back in July.

But that, like July, will pass. My girls will be home and all will be well.

All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

Or, so I’ve been told.

My creative little giggle-monster.

June 6, 2017

Parenting is a tough business. The return – in smiles and hugs – is priceless. But the clarity of whether you’re doing it “right” is always murky at best. Still, there are moments. Tiny glimpses when you are sure when you did something right, that your children are listening, that everything will be okay.

Sunday night, after a very fun bonus weekend with the girls (their dad and stepmom took a much-deserved vacation, just the two of them), Bee interrupted our Sunday-Night Wind-Down Time to tell me she had something to show me.

Now, I was sitting down, relaxing. I didn’t want to get up and go see what it was. But, rather than snap at her, I said yes. I’ve been working on just saying “yes” more often and I’ve found I’m much happier for it. So I got off my lazy keister, walked over to where she was standing and took a good look at my girl.

That’s when I realized that this was something special. My Bee-girl’s eyes were dancing with mischief, delight, and – yes – magic. Shenanigans were afoot! And that’s when my sweet girl handed me this:

TreasureHunt

The “Oh, wait what? You didn’t know that,” just KILLS me! That kid!

I solved the riddles and followed the clues, my heart swelling with each one. At the next-to-last clue, there was a $5 bill. My heart cracked a little bit – I was going to have to lecture Bee that we don’t give away money. It killed me to think that I was going to have to cast a shadow over this beautiful game she had created for me. Then, my last clue directed me across the room we were in, and there was $20 with a piece of paper that just said, “Let’s say I owe you $24.99…” My heart soared and I laughed out loud. I wouldn’t have to talk to Bee at all! She had bought an MC2 secret journal while we were on our Target run, and was supposed to pay me back. I hadn’t asked for the money yet, and here Bee was – being responsible and using the excuse to create a game so we could all have a little fun.

I could have hugged the smooshiness right outta that girl! (And I think I tried.) I knew in that moment that my daughter was paying attention. She listened when I talked – about the things that were important and mattered, and things that were fun and goofy. She listened to all of it. And not only did she listen, but she processed it. She was able to think of a fun way to return the money she owed me. She didn’t try to skimp on her “owesies”, and she remembered all of those fun treasure hunts Auntie Kim and I made for her and her sister when they were younger. I know now it’s something Bee has added to her bag of tricks, and will use when (if) she has kiddos of her own. The tradition lives on!

Yes, I am definitely doing something right with that girl!

Mayfesting our Saturday away.

May 8, 2017

Saturday was Mayfest, a carnival held down on the river in the cultural district. There are rides and games and several music stages. Bee’s After Care program (all of them in the city, in fact) were putting on a show on one of the stages. Since Bee is the captain of the step team, the After Care director had been asking me since Christmas if Bee was going to be there. She knows we’re responsible and that many kids flake out and don’t show up to Mayfest because: traffic. The traffic is a nightmare. Last time we went, it took two hours to make a 20 minute drive.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to Mayfest, because on top of the lovely drive ahead of me, I also still had my bronchitis to deal with. My plans had been to just cuddle up with a book in bed and never change out of my pajamas. But: Mayfest. It was my Ex’s weekend; I could have laid Mayfest at his feet. But they had other plans and it was important to me after promising the director all year that Bee be there. And Bee’s best friend’s dad wasn’t able to take her and her mom was working, so now we were bringing Zari*, too.

So, Saturday rolls around and I pick up Bee-girl and then Zari. We headed out to the festival two hours early because I was a little paranoid about parking, and we wanted to have time for some carnival food and maybe a ride before we had to meet up with the group to practice.

And you know what happened, don’t you? Traffic was a piece of cake. I face worse traffic coming home from work every day. Sigh. So we enjoyed our extra time. We found the stage where we’d be performing and checked out all the rides and food tents (because the ground were laid out in a circle and our stage was the very last one). Then we all grabbed ice cream and drinks because 86°, all the sunshine, and we were all in pants. (Whoops.)

Then, because I’m a good mama who likes to let loose every once in awhile, we splurged on more than a few rides:

The girls loved the bungee jumps (and that’s good, because it was the most expensive ride there!). They did flips and jumps and I have no idea how they had energy left to stomp after all the jumping! They also demanded video, so I didn’t have memory left on my phone to get pictures of the rest of the rides. (They’re all on Bee’s phone and I haven’t gotten them from her yet.) They did a Superman-type ride where they laid down and did a tilt-o-whirl type thing on their stomachs like they were flying. (EESH!) They did the really high swings. They did a mirror maze that I thought looked fun and crazy enough that I’d have to go in there after them, but they were pretty good. [Bee-girl even said to me when we were pulling into the driveway that she hoped I wasn’t too lonely waiting while she and Zari were on all the rides. What a sweet girl to think of that!] The girls had a blast and I enjoyed being able to give them a bit of fun while we waited for the group to get there.

We also stuffed ourselves with food (ice cream, funnel cakes, roasted corn, turkey legs, beer, and so many cold sodas) and took advantage of all the freebies. And I have to say – the festival was really wonderful at having enough to do without spending tickets! (I guess to make up for $3 drinks?) There was a splash station, give-aways and free treats (we all got apples, yogurt, and won tshirts, towels, and sunglasses), and a stilt-walking station that gave lessons. The girls were surprisingly adept at stilts! I was amazed that after a time or two, they were walking up and down the walkway without a single falter! Their favorite freebie tent, though, was the art show.

Mayfest2

We spent a good half-hour in there, cooling off and examining technique on all of the drawings. They looked for and found their classmates entries, and Bee lamented that she hadn’t entered. (Her obsession with art mediums – especially drawing – has grown recently and I’m starting to wonder if art won’t play a larger role in her life. She has an aunt and a great-uncle who are both professionals, so there’s a strong possibility!)

After the art tent, it was time to wander back to the reason we were Mayfesting to begin with – the dance competition. The girls were impressed with the few shows we got to watch (I loved the traditional Mexican folk dancers), and they killed it when it was their turn!

You could see their faces light up when they heard the audience gasp and cheer them on. No one else had done anything outside of traditional “dancing” since it was a dance competition. But stepping is what our school wanted to do, and so that’s what they did, and I’m proud of them for it. I don’t think they won anything more than a participation ribbon, but they weren’t in it for a prize. It was wonderful to see my flighty, funky, hilarious little spazz monkey get up there and shout out the call-outs and lead the steppers with a loud, commanding voice and confidence in every movement.

It was a good, good day. Even if I went through three travel-packs of tissues and got a little sunburnt. I wasn’t planning on walking around a carnival for four hours, but I’m glad I got to spend some more time with my squinky, and that I got to give her a day of fun with her friend. Not a bad Saturday at all!

 

*Not her real name.

April 26, 2017

Dear sweet baby girl,

I always get rather emotional on your birthday, but this year, this year that you officially, formally, instistantly become a teenager, I am even more of a loving, teary-eyed mess than usual. I can’t believe I get to be your mom. I can’t remember life before children, and I can’t remember why anyone would try. Being a mother isn’t my entire reason for being, but being the mom of you and your sister is by far the most important piece of me. It’s what I love the most. And that you were my first baby seems to be the rightest and truest thing that has ever happened to me.

You’re exactly what the universe decided I needed, my own special gift. A pain in the ass, sure, but a gift all the same. And I can’t even tease you too much about your teenagery, sarcastic, over-achieving, lazy, helpful, eager-to-please, confident, anxious, full-of-laughter, loyal, football-crazy self because, well, I sort of nudged you in that direction, didn’t I? You’re my mini-me, which helps (I hope) in helping me parent you. But I hope it doesn’t hurt too much. I am always trying to do my best by you because you exceed my every hope, sweetheart. You still seem to be so many steps ahead of me, funnier, smarter, braver, YOU-er than I could ever have hoped. It makes me want to smoosh those cheeks and embarrass you with how much I love you (truly, it makes me shriek with laughter every time you [mostly] jokingly “MOMMMEEEEEE!!!!!” whineyell at me, when I jokingly [mostly] go too far); and it makes me want to throttle you, too, at times, when all my knowledge (because: mini-me!) doesn’t give me any advantage at all. Because for all that you’re my mini-me, you are wonderfully, gloriously, wicked awesomely your very own person, Gracie-girl. And you’re stubborn, so you ain’t budging off being exactly who you are!

I’ve been stricken dumb, so often, during this past year, as I watch you grow and mature, and robbing me of my words isn’t easy to do. You continue to keep track of your own school work, study schedule, and homework. I might ask, as part of engaging you about your day, but I don’t double check. I don’t think you’ve required that since second grade! You have surprised us all with your progress in tennis (you joke as much as any of us at the idea of you and physical coordination belonging in the same sentence), but haven’t really entertained the idea of entering into any of the competitions – and given your proclivity to enter into and join everything else, I’m grateful for that! What hasn’t surprised me is your domination in band. You’re second chair in percussion and the feminist in you loves bragging that first chair is the only other girl in your section. You’re consistently asked to perform some of the trickier parts during performances, and the first thing you comment on afterwards, when I catch up with you, is the one part where you think you messed up: ever the perfectionist.

It’s funny, seeing which of those pieces (like the perfectionist at school) remain the same, and which parts of you are evolving. You were so quick to say yes when your crush asked you out, after for so long expounding on how you weren’t dating until high school. Ha! You’re quick to help out when I really need you to (putting away groceries without being asked, taking care of chores when I don’t feel well, offering to take care of Bee’s chores when she has a migraine); offering to pay for so many of your own expenses now that you have an allowance; coordinating all the details for transportation, etc., when you and your friends want to go somewhere and you need rides. In fact, watching your social life blossom and evolve has been one of the more intriguing and reassuring aspects of this past year. You are fiercely loyal, but you know what is Drama and what is Worth Working Through. There are a few exceptions, but you are still doing an excellent job of picking out good people to add to your village. I might make good on my threat of taking away your phone at night if I hear about any more 2 a.m. text-capades, but I get that you thought you were being there for a friend during a critical time. What makes me trust your judgement is that you don’t have any time for drama. You don’t like making scenes. You don’t like being subjected to gossip or getting shafted. You won’t stand for unfair behavior too many times. You’ll go to the end of the earth for your friends (and twice as far for The Boyfriend), and you’ll hand out chances, but only so many. I like that. It makes me feel like you’ve been listening. Like when you bop me on the arm (our accepted consequence) and lecture me when I call myself an idiot (for whatever reason). You know I won’t stand for you doing it, and you’re sorting out when to hold me to the same benchmarks. And I let you, because how else will you learn? And it does do my heart good to see that you’re taking it all in, baby girl.

There are other ways teenagerdom is settling in for you. You were never really one for keeping your room ship-shape, but GOOD LORD, GIRL. Cinderella’s woodland creatures who could tidy an entire house in the blink of an eye would keel over dead if they saw your room. It takes it a couple do-overs before I don’t keel over! And I’m not that fastidious! You’ve adapted well to my recent decision to ditch cable, but what you do miss is football…and awards shows. Like the Oscars, the Grammys, and that sort of thing. I remember getting all twirled up in it when I was in junior high, so there’s still hope for you, sweetheart! (And even if you continue to enjoy them, I promise to allow you to be your own person, no matter how ridiculous I think those shows are.)

And that’s what I find most encouraging about this past year: even as you grow up, even when we disagree and have those types of fights that everyone’s warned me comes with raising a teenager, we always find our way back to being okay. We both have Irish tempers that might need to cool off first, but you’re good at knowing who you are, Gracie. You’re good at putting your feelings into words, and expressing yourself and your perspective. You’re good at explaining why you were fighting, and apologize when it’s called for. And you’re not too proud to share that with those who matter. You know that family matters.

And I hope you know how much you matter to me.

I love you, Gracie-girl. More than any birthday letter can say. And I always will.

Love,
Mom

In which I finally caved and said yes.

April 4, 2017

I had A Day with Miss Gracie yesterday. It was one of those golden days that I’m sure I’ll look back on a hundred times later.

It didn’t even start out all that extraordinary. I picked her and M. up from school. I dropped of M. and got Bee-girl from After-Care. The coordinator there loaded us up with cookies and desserts they had leftover from Panera – it pays to be a nice parent, you guys. And while we were driving, I told Gracie about my crazypantsbananatown day, and she told me about all the drama going down at her school. Something about a text-storm at 4 a.m. [good lord – yeah, if that continues, the phone is outta there] and then a bunch of smack being talked about her at school. I listened as baby girl told me all about it, and agreed (mostly) with how poised her responses were. Gracie’s doing fine. I’m parenting fine. All is well. …At least on that front. …For now.

Our evening…meh. It seemed pretty average. Bee had a headache, so she laid down for awhile. Gracie did her normal just-got-home things: played with the dog, changed into comfy clothes, texted all her friends. Told me more about all the drama. In fact, I remember quite a bit of her following me around as I tried to transition out of my day. Earrings were getting shucked, shoes getting put away, hair pulled back. Finally I told her I was changing and just stopped caring if she was in the room. Tell you what – as soon as I unbuttoned my slacks, that girl was gone.

We had a good dinner (shrimp scampi and salmon and garlic button croissants. And pretend we had a veggie) and the girls and I laughed our way through some household chores. And it was Bee who came and hung out with me in my room and watched TV with me; she and I started putting together the Ghostbuster’s Ecto-1 Lego car. But then it was bedtime and Bee went to bed without a fuss (because: headache earlier) and I made Gracie come entertain me while I cleaned the kitchen. So I rinsed dished and loaded the dishwasher and recycled 93284032 cans and wiped the counters and cleaned the sink and checked on my pet ants, all while Gracie told me stories and more about her day. It made me think of when my mom would be cleaning the kitchen and ask me to entertain her. It’s a good way to sneak in some bonding time.

I should have sent her to bed after the kitchen was clean. But the wiseass I raised kept trying to convince me that we should flop down on my (comfy, comfy) bed and talk or watch Bones instead of cleaning. So I told her we could hang out in my room for a bit. She immediately flopped down on the bed and started making herself comfy while I got ready for the next day, picking out outfits and jewelry. Then I got the grand idea of letting Gracie help me to game out my outfit for my date on Friday. She adjusted a few things and I went with her decision, so we’ll see how it plays out. In between all of that, Gracie took alllllll the selfies. I’m sorry, World: there are no selfies left. Gracie took them all last night. Sheesh.

That’s when the begging began. About just staying right there and sleeeeeeeeping. I can count the number of times that child has slept in my bed, and two of them were after times she ended up in the trauma hospital.

I can’t believe I gave in.

I know the girl kicks in her sleep. No one wants to sleep with her on vacation because we know she is a restless sleeper, she snores, she drools, and she kicks. And coughs! I made the girl get up and take some cough medicine. God, I was tired by that point, but she thought it was Christmas morning, getting to sleep on the NASA technology mattress she’s in love with. Lights went off. And then the moving began. Over and then the other way, and shuffle this way, and that arm… It was a nightmare! I put a hand on Gracie’s upper arm. Told her rather firmly to stay still (because the girl was out – dang, she can sleep!) and she stopped.

So I did get some sleep after all. My little girl is growing up so fast, it’s nice to have those moments – or an afternoon of moments – while we can. Even if those mean I have to deal with a bonkers teenager who sleeps like monkeys are jumping on the bed.

This is getting to be a Sunday night ritual.

January 30, 2017

Last night was a good, good night. I made my Twice-Stolen Peruvian Roast Chicken for dinner, and the girls didn’t even complain. I warned them we’d be having more family dinners, and they said they didn’t mind – even though they preferred “easy” dinners where they could have waffles or heat up leftovers. They don’t even like chicken right now, but they didn’t complain. And don’t say anything, but I think Gracie liked the Peruvian flavor. It does make a difference when you cook your chicken skin-on.

After our sit-down dinner, Gracie sat down to watch the SAG Award show. I offered up the big TV, and asked Bee if she wanted to come craft in my bedroom with me. It’s what we did the last time there was an awards show, and we had a lot of fun. Bless that girl, she did want to hang out with her mama. So she grabbed a sew-your-own pillow kit she got for Christmas, and I grabbed some scrapbooking supplies, and off we went.

sundaynight

Here’s my partner-in-crime. You can see the friendship character on the pillow kit. Bee looks all serious because she’s trying not to knot her string because it was awfully tangly.

We watched the rest of Anne of Green Gables and the Bee-girl really got into it (and my heart rejoiced!). I answered her questions best I could as I worked on my own projects:

And then there was this one, which kinda encapsulated all the scrapbooking I had gotten done this weekend:

The journaling reads:

This is the first I’ve scrapbooked in a long time. More than a year. And there are… There are pictures I’m not using. Pages I’m not creating. It’s a choice. A conscious choice. It hurts to think about Jeff and X-man. It hurts to even write their names. Trying to recreate 2016 – with them or without them – is painful. The absences and gaping holes are painful. The pictures that include them, even if I leave them out of my running commentary – those are painful. I have no way of knowing, right now, what is more painful or less painful. It’s all painful. All of it.

So.

So my choice is to not include them in as many things as I can. My energy in faking happiness in the journalism prompts is low. I save it for hte few I feel I can’t skip.

So.

So there are gaping holes. So what. And I’ll keep pushing through. Because at least I’m scrapbooking at all. At least I’m me again.

I find it’s much easier to be Brave when I have my Bee-girl around. She and I had fun. I like hanging out with her and seeing how her mind turns. It’s an important year – she’s right on the brink of growing up and becoming a tween. And besides that – she’s Bee! She’s sneaky and devious and hilarious and she has this way of unsettling you any time you feel like you have the least bit of balance. You never know what you’re going to talk about. And she has a terrible poker face, so you can always see what’s behind all the machinations of her thinking. It’s like playing in a giant funhouse, these nights full of conversation.

The fact that it’s all happening during a night of crafting? That’s just icing on the cake. Mmmm….cake.

Teenagerhood is coming. It is coming.

January 18, 2017

<….sound of goblin drums…>

<Oooh, wait…maybe of Twister violins….>

Because it’s already here!

Yes, go ahead and ask me how my day was yesterday. Oh, I’m so glad you asked! My ex-husband called last night. On the home phone, no less. We never use the home phone any more. The only peeps who use that are my parents and telemarketers, neither of whom usually call that late. (It wasn’t that late, maybe 8ish?) I don’t know what made me look at the home phone, because I never do that any more either. But I did. And it was my Ex. So I answered.

Gracie was insisting she had to bring her lunch to school the next day (today). Did I know anything about that? Uh, no. But yesterday was her first day back to school since the weekend. So maybe something popped up? Oh, but she was refusing to tell him why.

Oh, yes – you read that right. Refusing to tell him why. REFUSING.

You can see why steam was pouring out of my ears.

Anger wasn’t even my first response though. I was so happy my Ex had called! I love this whole Pull Together, Win Together thing. It bodes well for the next few years. You know, the Tough Teenagery Years that were suddenly dumped right in our laps.

After I cheered a little in my head, I moved right on to confusion. Because Gracie hasn’t once ever pulled anything like that. She’s a goody two-shoes. She might whine when she’s in A Mood. And yeah, there was the whole “lying about texting her friends” thing. But one bump in all the tween years we’ve braved so far? Not bad. So what was with the sudden obstinence? And how the heck were we going to deal with it?!

I told my Ex that I would call her (he was out with Bee), and see if she would talk to me, and get back to him. So I called Gracie-girl, who sounded as confused at a late-night call (I never call either – we’re a texting family) as I was. I explained what was going on, using my best concerned voice, and she still sounded confused. And maybe a little whiny. She had told Dad, she said. She hadn’t refused, she said. She told him she wanted to take her lunch to school, just because. Not that she needed to take it.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if she just kept saying she needed stuff from the store to take for her lunch, and when pressed for a reason she said just because, and the manner in which it was delivered came across as less than straight. Or if her version of what happened was completely different from what actually happened. I have no idea. And that’s between my Ex and Gracie.

However: I explained to Gracie that she can’t ever not answer, if that’s what happened. I patiently explained to her that her dad must have been so worried and concerned if he called me. She seemed to understand. I told her that if it’s a want, not a need (language we use frequently at home), that she can’t expect her dad to drop everything to go to the store if he doesn’t want to. That it’s selfish to even get whiny about it. She could negotiate it, ask nicely, trade chores, whatever, but it’s not something he has to do. And that she probably owed him an apology when he got home. That they needed to talk it out.

I called my Ex back and told him what I had found out. He said he would talk to that Gracie-girl of ours.

And I spent much of the night texting my bestie whose (amazing) daughter is a senior in high school. They have had a very similar relationship as Gracie and I. I knew she would have ninja mom answers for my new teenagery kiddo issues. She not only had all the answers I needed, but she immediately asked the obvious question that I had completely overlooked: was Gracie feeling left out, or was she being teased for buying her lunch? Which, dude, would explain so many things. Kathy gave me the best advice, talked me off the ledge (with a later assist from my sister Rhi), and made sure I was able to sleep instead of mulling over the problem all night long. AND Kathy did it all in the late hours of Eastern Standard Time, and I know she’s not a night-time person. Because I needed my friend. And my sister finished up our talk with the magic good-night tradition – a magical incantation she would say to everyone every night before bed when she was a teeny tiny toddler. Those magic words actually were just what I needed to hear before bed, and I didn’t even know until I heard them. My village is awesome, you guys!

So, I guess Gracie and I will be having a conversation tonight. I don’t care if she takes her lunch every day or some days or whatever – as long as I’m not making it! All that matters to me is that she eats, and not just junk food. If she’s being teased for buying her lunch because she’s the only one, then she can take it. That’s never been an issue. I just want her to be honest with us. And for sure she needs to answer when we ask questions. Or some poor pitiful penguin with be without a phone for a certain length of time. Not answering is a no-go.

The teenagery years. I thought I had more time. But at least I know I’ll have a lot of help as I muck my way through them!

Another glimmering upside to Life With Tween.

January 9, 2017

The nicest part of living with another grown-up – back when Jeff was living with me, and then when Kim was visiting for three weeks at Christmas – wasn’t just the peace of mind that comes (for anxious-type people) with knowing there’s another grown-up in the house that you can bounce ideas off of, whether it’s a tor:con alert, a dog barking under your window and scaring you witless at 1:30 a.m., or planning out the week. Those were all nice, but they weren’t the nicest part. The very nicest part was getting to go to bed whenever I needed to.

Those who have read the blog for any length of time know about my battle with insomnia. It pairs really well with my anxiety. (Damnit, where’s that sarcasm font?) Before Jeff, I’d hit a brick wall, finally be ready for sleep – invariably at 6:30 p.m. some random evening – and the girls would whine that they didn’t want to go to bed early that night! And, true, as the girls got older and were able to handle 9 p.m. bedtimes, it seemed silly to ask them to shutter themselves in their rooms at 8 p.m. Especially when I couldn’t really let go of my issues long enough to trust them to notice when it was bedtime and turn off their lights. So one of us always ended up mad that they couldn’t get to do what they wanted. And usually that was me, because I’m a good mama.

The first time I hit the brick wall after Jeff moved in, I told the girls I had to go to sleep and I met with the chorus of groans and pleading…and I explained that Jeff was there and they could stay up until they noticed it was bedtime or he reminded them. And cheers went up over the land! I got sleep, they got freedom. It was lovely.

Last night wasn’t exactly one of my infamous brick walls. What happened was that my tween wanted to watch the Golden Globes on the “good” TV in the living room, and my other girl-child rolled her eyes and asked if she could watch “real” TV in the front room. It worked out well. I remembered caring more about awards shows when I was in junior high and high school (at least until I met my crowd in high school that was against such blatant popularity contests) because they were all everyone talked about. I wanted to make that possible for Gracie. At first I imagined sitting in there with her, not caring but working on my cross-stitch quilt, sharing the evening with her at least. I remember my mom doing that for me. But me and live TV, man – it just doesn’t work. After I left and dragged myself back three different times, I gave up the ghost and crawled into my bed to read.

Much to my delight, Bee-girl asked if she could get one of her new books she got for Christmas and come read with me. So we got all pajamafied, grabbed our books, and crawled beneath the covers of my bed. Bee and I read for an hour…and that’s when it happened. My eyes started drifting shut. I fought it as long as I could, but that’s still an hour more reading than I’ve gotten most nights lately! Eventually I reminded Bee that she had to get up early the next day. It was 15 minutes before her “school night” bed time. She needed to brush teeth and start getting ready for bed.

Gracie, on the other hand…that’s where this glimmering upside sort of snuck in. I could have made her shut off the TV. But she rarely asks to stay up, and I really do remember how important staying in touch with such things was for me at that age. I don’t want my kiddos to be odd-man-out at school. So I dangled the carrot of opportunity: I would let Gracie stay up and watch another 30 minutes of the awards, if she promised to put herself to bed at 9:30 p.m. and shut off all the lights.

You would have thought I offered baby girl the moon.

Bee went to bed without complaining (it helped that she really didn’t care about the stupid awards)(and I suspect because she’d just had heaps of one-on-one time with Mama), Gracie swore she’d do what she needed to do, I set the alarm and reminded the Gracie-girl not to let the dog out again…and then I put myself to bed, too. I read for maybe 20 more minutes, but then I was out like a light! When I woke up an hour later, I sat up in bed to see if I could see the lights from the living room peeking under the door – but all was pitch black. I got up to check, just in case. The lights were off, the TV was off (all 37 buttons worth, good gravy is that system complicated) and the thermostat was where it was supposed to be.

All was well.

Gracie-girl keeps growing up; every time I turn around there’s another milestone. I don’t remember when my bed time outpaced my mom’s for the first time, but I certainly remember many nights in high school when she’d wish me a good night and go off to bed, leaving me to shut down the house. Seems like those days are just about here at Casa de Katie, too.

Good god, they grow up fast.

Back to life, back to reality.

January 4, 2017

Yesterday was A Day at our house. Back to school for Gracie-girl. Back to work for me. Bee-girl and Auntie Kim…went to back-to-back movies because not so much back to reality for them. (Sometimes being in different school districts means different winter breaks, which worked out because one-on-one time with Auntie Kim.)

Because it was going to be A Day, I thought last night would end with both Gracie and I carrying around heads filled with brains that rather resembled bowls of mashed potatoes.

That was true for one of us.

I had something like 10,000* emails, and I got through a leetle more than half of them. I handled a gabillion “Great! You’re back! I really need x, y, z!” requests, and covered my turn in the rotation for another certain project. I couldn’t remember my name by the end of the day; I was too tired to even be grumpy. Exhausted, yes. Grumpy? I hope not.

Gracie,  on the other hand, she who would not – could not – get out of bed before 10 a.m. the entirety of break, she was almost chipper about returning to school. Because the new reality she’s getting back to has a boyfriend. Oh yes, you read that right – a. boy. friend.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this.

I knew my babies would grow up one day. I hoped that grown-up thems would have loves who would adore and worship them right back. You want to be loved in this world. It’s one of the brightest, happiest, important-est things. But having an abstract hope for your children is so much different than the present, in-the-moment worrying that gnaws at you constantly when you’re living those moments in the right here and now.

My 7th grader has a boyfriend. One with a real name instead of a code name; one she’s gone out with on a group date (chaperoned by parents) to Six Flags; one she actually talks to and gushes over (so much as Gracie gushes). I’m excited for her! And happy for her and her self-confidence! And thinking how much better this could be for her versus how it went for Seventh-Grade Katie. (Yeah, a comparison that promises nothing but good and healthy things. I know. I KNOW.)

It’s just…I feel so old right now. I’m old enough to have a daughter who’s dating. Okay, yes, it’s true that Gracie responded with “Ew! No!” when I asked if she had kissed him, and an equally indignant “No!” when I asked if they had held hands. So “dating” is still an age-appropriate idea, if not expression.

It’s adorable. It’s cute. It’s not all about me. My daughter has a boyfriend. I’m just…still unpacking my feelings and reactions to this new reality. Something that might be easier when my brains aren’t mashed potatoes.

 

*Sadly, only a slight exaggeration.