Posts Tagged ‘teenagers’

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.



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.

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!

The Great Text Debate of 2016.

February 22, 2016

When Gracie set out for 6th grade and her dad and I decided to gift her with a cell phone, we set quite a few rules and, like half the world, made her sign a cell phone contract. We did it knowing that even as Gracie was tripping over herself agreeing to these rules, eventually her tweenagery brain would fail to think through some consequences, and that part of leaning about responsibility means learning some things the hard way.

So I was a little bit unsurprised when Gracie messed up big time.

One of the rules involved in Gracie being the proud owner of a cell phone was that she could only text the parentals and her older stepsister. It allowed for greater management of what Gracie needed to do (stay late after school, check in from a friend’s house, check on obligations and calendars from the other parent’s house, keep up with school reminders…) and had the bonus of extra bonding because apparently tweens gotta text, even it means being chatty with “just” mom and dad.

Things were going well. Gracie is ultra-responsible and was handling this new privilege with so much grace and wherewithall that I felt a little foolish having doubted giving it to her. In fact, things were going to well that when her aunts asked if they could have texting privileges with the Gracie-girl, I thought it would be a good idea to widen Gracie’s circle a little. So I broached the question with her dad: let Gracie text with all of her aunts and uncles and grandparents. And cousins, if she wanted. It would be a good way to help her stay in touch with cousins she doesn’t see that often, and definitely her aunties back east. Her dad agreed, but then It Happened.

“She’s texting her bff anyway.”

And that’s when I discovered that knowing your kid is going to mess up is different than it actually happening.

I confronted Gracie, who immediately started crying and said that her friend had gotten her number and she didn’t know how to tell her that she wasn’t allowed, and she didn’t text her that often. I made Gracie hand over the phone and I scrolled through her texts. Nothing. Oh, because Gracie had been erasing them so she wouldn’t get caught. I reminded her that her dad could – and would – be checking the cell phone records to see what was said…was there anything else she wanted to tell me? And that’s how I found out that she was texting five other friends, too. I felt like a fool for trying to extend Gracie’s circle while all the while she was abusing my trust, and I told her so. She took it pretty hard, unused to being the one letting someone down. I finished my lecture and moved into recovery mode, reminding Gracie that it’s not the only time she’s going to mess up – although I really hope there aren’t many more times. It was up to her to show us again that she could be trusted. And that she wouldn’t have her phone for a week other than for emergencies. Oh, and she had to tell her friends that she couldn’t text any more, although they were welcome to call.

And that was that. Gracie dutifully handed over the phone each day after school. She apologized and didn’t complain about her punishment. Now all I have to do is figure out what happens next. During the untangling of events and discussions of repercussions, Gracie’s dad mentioned he thought by Gracie’s birthday (in two months), she should be able to start texting friends. I was aiming more for junior high in the fall. I don’t think any 6th grader needs to be face-down in her phone all the time. But maybe letting her learn how to be responsible in a smaller pond with people she knows for the last month of school isn’t the worst idea.

I don’t know. I don’t know what I think. We’ll definitely talk a lot more about it, and see how Miss Gracie does between now and then. Obviously my baby girl is just as human as the rest of us and needs some practice as this adulting thing. And who can really fault her? I’m not so sure I know anyone who really has it down and we’ve been doing it for ever so much longer.

And doing her best impression of a teenager is…

March 6, 2013

This weekend. Oh, I had big plans for this past weekend! I was going to be productive! And tackle big cleaning projects! And maybe go to the zoo as a reward! (And possibly also to keep the girls from arguing and throwing a coup and generally driving me nutsy.) And then came along Gracie with her packed social life and rearranged everything. But hey – at least we tackled my biggest project: Decontaminate Bedroom Disaster Zone. I have no idea why my girls skipped past the Keep Our Room Nice and Neat Because We Are Sweet Little Girls phase and headed straight to Bedroom Disaster Zone of Teenagery Doom, but they did.

Saturday actually got off to a great start. The girls let me sleep in and I got to drink my coffee in peace and quiet. That is the holy grail of weekday mornings right there. I told Gracie as I was passing through the living room where she was zonked out in front of Saturday morning cartoons that as soon as I finished my coffee, we would begin cleaning her room. She would help me clean their room, and Bee would help me clean the front room after that. Both were disaster zones. (Hey, now that I think of it, maybe the ‘We’re going to clean!’ proclamation had something to do with my peace and quiet. Hunh.) Gracie indicated that she heard me, and, even better, didn’t even complain when I decided it was time to finally start.

I wasn’t really looking forward to the task either. Because OH MY GOD. Just look at the before picture:

Room1 Room2 Room3

I just wish I had taken a “before” pic of their closet, for that was the messiest area of them all. It even narrowly beat out under the bed, and that’s saying something!

Off to work we went, aimed with dusters, a large trash bag, and endless runs to both the recycling bin and a designated “donate” pile. We sorted through buckets, under-the-bed storage buckets, cleared out the desk, put away 3984809834 books, picked up twice as many beads, emptied out everything from under the bed (hooray for children who still can squeeze under there!) and found 11 socks and bunch of other stuff, and emptied out the closet.

After vacuuming and wiping down every visible surface, even Gracie admitted how good the room looked. I wish I had taken more than one “after” picture (of the closet, natch), but just as we were finishing, Gracie’s friend texted in a moment of divine timing and asked if she could come over to play after lunch. So Gracie changed and scarfed down a sandwich and went off to play with her friends, and Bee descended on her nice, newly cleaned room to play with her dolls. So no pictures for me!

While Bee was playing quietly all afternoon (someone had obviously figured out that if she bugged me, we were going to start cleaning the other room and it would be her turn), and I was having some quality “me” time while Bee was being so good, the girls’ step-sister texted me to say she had tickets to the college basketball game that night, and would it be okay if Gracie went with her? Of course! I answered, pretty sure that Gracie would be over-the-moon excited to go out. How awesome is their step-sister?! Not many 19-year-olds would ask to take their almost-9 year old step-sister out to a college basketball game. And that is how it happened that Gracie came home from one outing, showered, changed, scarfed down another meal, and went right back out again. I had given Gracie some money to buy a snack from concessions for her and her step-sister, explaining that since SS was taking her, it was a nice way to say thank-you. And I reminded her to text me when she was on her way home, thinking to myself it would probably be about 9 p.m.

Of course, 9 p.m. comes and goes and no word. Step-sister texted me at almost 10 p.m. to say that the game was over, but they were getting a quick bite to eat. I was starting to wish I had given Gracie a curfew, but I had no idea I needed to since the game was so early! It wouldn’t have mattered, except Gracie had to get up for church the next morning, and I knew she’d be Ms. Grouchypants if she was up too late. Not to mention that I was dragging, having been on allergy meds all day. Finally, Gracie-book came through the door at 10:30 p.m. and sleep-walked her way through getting pajamafied and climbing into bed.

It was a small preview of the teenagery years to come, I’m sure. Messy rooms, out all hours (well, for her age, at least), flitting from one social group to the next. Let’s just hope she’s as good-natured about the mama-imposed cleaning when the time comes!

Oh god, the fighting has already started.

April 16, 2012

Yesterday we spent over two hours looking for Gracie’s shoes.

Well, not shoes, exactly, so much as her flip flops. Fashionable multi-colored peace-sign bedeckled flip flops. Her new flip flops.

I should mention that her little sister has a great affinity for these flip flops – for all shoes, everywhere – and that Bee’s feet are almost as big as Gracie’s. And Bee has taken a liking to wearing her sister’s shoes around the house.

Yes, at the tender ages of almost-8 and almost-6, we’re at that stage when one sister (usually Bee) will wear the other sister’s shoes, clothes, purse, jewelry, etc, and then the owner of said item cannot find it. And holy hell rains down all over us poor Casa de Katie inhabitants.

I really thought I had more time before this happened. I was thinking, oh, say – 15? 13? Some time half past EIGHT AND SIX for sure. But, no. It’s already here.

We found Gracie’s flip flops late yesterday afternoon, after running the errand that required shoes to be worn. They were in the one place we didn’t think to look: the food pantry, on the floor next to the trash can. Because obviouslywhen you’re throwing something away or pondering what snack you’d like to beg your mother to please let you eat, you must stop and take off your shoes mid-strategy session.  …

All pleasant little white lies I was sweetly whispering in my head that this was just an aberration died a rather violent death a few hours later when the girls were cleaning from a weekend of being indoors. Gracie picked up one of her tie-front shrugs from under the couch – one that Bee had been wearing, coincidentally – and started shrieking at the top of her angry-voice, “BEE! IF YOU’RE GOING TO WEAR MY CLOTHES, YOU HAVE TO PUT THEM AWAY!!!

There was no pretending after that. It’s here. The teenagery clothes-fighting has smote me down already. And now I live in fear.