Parenting: It Is Not My Job

Lisa writes: It is not my job.

Being a parent is a really tough job. Many argue that it is the toughest job. Yet, speaking only for myself, I made parenthood far harder than it needed to be by taking on jobs that were not mine. My job is to love and care for my kids, to make them feel safe and teach them to navigate the world into which they will venture. My job is to teach my sons the set of values, rightly or wrongly, that their father and I hold dear. My job is to launch educated, good, responsible men.

girl in snow

That is a tall order without adding a whole list of other parenting challenges, that frankly I am not certain can be achieved.

It is not my job to find my child’s “passion.” Passion by its very nature is deeply personal and individualistic. One person simply cannot find it for another. If my kids want one, they will have to find their own Not everyone has a passion and the notion that everyone does is a middle class artifice of the late 20th century. I promise, many people have lived and died having wonderful lives without beholding a “passion.” I do not have a passion, and honestly, I am okay.

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The Real Reason I Love Longhorn Football

Mary Dell writes: Fall is my favorite season. Along with the just-turning foliage comes the return of my preferred spectator sport – Longhorn football. My passion stems from the Friday Night Lights elements of my upbringing and the four years I spent in Austin as a student at the University of Texas.  I am a genuine Texas fan and spent many happy game days at DKR – Texas Memorial Stadium.  But the real reason I love Longhorn football is that our son is a big fan, too.  Now a fun and shared pastime, following the sport during his teenage years was more like a lifeline that kept our relationship afloat.

UT Football, Longhorns, college football, UT stadium, Texas Longhorns

While he was in high school, he developed the evasive skills that all teenagers acquire fielding questions from well-meaning neighbors, family members, and perfect strangers. Where do you want to go to college/ have you taken your SATs/ what do you want to major in? Against that backdrop of inquisition, we had moments when our disagreements over studying, tests, and college applications would have made for excellent reality television.

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Prom Commandments

Mary Dell writes: As the mom of a teenage daughter, I occasionally feel like I am parenting on a separate planet from my friends who have teenage sons.  At Lisa’s house, sports are in full swing, and the mountains of standardized tests and specter of finals loom ahead.  At my house, we have all of that plus what can only be referred to as high season for the high school prom.

For Lisa, it has been three sons, three trips through 11th grade and barely a word about the prom.  Fifteen minutes to rent a tux, a five-minute phone call to order a corsage and yes, the sum total of time boys spent on the prom…twenty minutes.

With the biggest attire decision a boy has to make is peaked lapel or shawl, there is little to talk about except for the invitation. The onus of asking, despite so much about our gender roles changing, still lies with boys so whom to ask and how, are the important questions concerning young men.

But at our house, talk of the high school prom pops up with my daughter’s group of friends with the regularity of a favorite TV show which, at times, the conversation resembles.

 

prom commandments-prom date-high school prom

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Motherhood: It Doesn’t Get Easier

In the world of blogging about motherhood, there are few writers who make us laugh at our mom selves with more genuine skill than Jill Smokler, aka “Scary Mommy.” A mother of three (5, 7, 9) and mega-successful blogger, Jill’s first book was on the New York Times bestseller list.  Her second book, Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies,) is equally entertaining and genuinely hilarious in detailing all the ways motherhood doesn’t get easier!

Mary Dell was lucky enough to meet Jill this week at Alice’s Tea Shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Afterwards, Grown and Flown created a list of “Vicious Lies” for the teen years and a few reality checks on motherhood.

Motherhood Comes Naturally

1. Kids need to be grown and independent by the time they leave for college, able to balance their checkbook and do their own laundry.

Reality Check: Some kids are independent at six, others find their independence for the first time at 2 am in the laundry room of their dorm when they do not have a single item of clean clothing left to wear.

2. Going back to work will be a snap once your kids are in school all day.

Reality Check: Years out of the workforce will mean you have to relaunch. Few jobs end at 2:30 pm right around the corner from the carpool line.  Sick days, snow days, vacations and summer…don’t worry you just need a back-up plan for about 200 days a year.

3. It gets easier.

No, not for a minute. Sure, your little kids may not have slept, may have barfed in your hair and thrown tantrums in the grocery store, but teens still throw up, only now it is a much bigger worry and good luck picking them up and putting them in their rooms when you want to change their behavior.

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College Decision

Lisa writes: Over on the Motherlode blog at The New York Times, writers KJ Dell’Antonia and Hope Perlman discussed the importance, or lack of importance, in attending a prestigious college. The two thoughtful back-to-back pieces laid out the opposing viewpoints on chasing admission to an excellent college, a process that begins early in high school, versus chasing one’s passions and seeing where that might lead.
Perlman’s piece focused on the benefits that can accrue from attending a well-known college in terms of contacts, and later jobs, and despite hoping her daughter becomes a happy well-rounded adult, she would like her to have this opportunity.

Dell’Antonia’s rebuttal stated that ambition would lead to success and that it ultimately matters what you do with your education, not where you obtained it.  She theorizes that she will not care where her kids attend college when the time comes.

College, College Decision, College Admissions, Motherlode
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Golden Birthday

Mary Dell writes: “Golden Birthday”  was an unfamiliar term until our daughter recently clued me in,  “Mom, that’s the birthday when your age is the same as the date on the calendar. So, when I turn 17 on November 17th, it will be my golden birthday.” Not sure where I will get my information after she goes to college, leaving me in my empty nest!

Yellow roses, birthday roses, dozen roses

In anticipation of her upcoming GBD, I began thinking about birthdays past. When my sister and I were little, our parents hosted traditional, circa early-1960s, parties at home with our school friends and neighborhood kids, cake and ice cream. During my teenage years, my girlfriends  all held slumber parties to celebrate our big days. Though it meant we could be served alcohol legally, I don’t recall any special drink-fest marking our 18th birthdays. Neither do I think 21 was any different from 20 or 22.

But as my 25th year drew to a close, I was in school far from my Texas family, feeling homesick and stressed-out from classwork. On October 26th, my GBD, a gorgeous bouquet of 26 yellow roses arrived at my dorm room. Neither my dad nor I knew it was a “golden” day for me; he simply wanted to me to know he was thinking of his daughter and sending love, long-distance. This was a birthday I never forgot.

By 30, I had graduated and moved into Manhattan. A group of friends threw a party, making me feel like I had dropped onto a Woody Allen movie set, in a good way.   Five years later I married and moved to the suburbs. So long, Woody!

At 39, I was pregnant with our second child and began to plan my 40th birthday “bash,” dinner out with my husband and our five-year old son. I remember what I was wearing – a pink maternity dress – and recall how the three of us celebrated.  My husband had a glass (or two) of red wine and our son and I, ice cream.

Our daughter was born three weeks later and she remains my very favorite “birthday gift.”  The yellow roses come in second.

So, in three weeks, our now nearly grown and flown daughter will receive roses from her father. While I’m not sure what color he will pick, we all know how many he will send.

special cupcake, gold cake,



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Teaching Teens to Drive is Driving Me Crazy

As we write this we are teaching our youngest children to drive.  This is a path we have been down before, but as our impulse for self-preservation is undiminished, we still find it a bit frightening this last time. Learning to drive may be one of the great adolescent milestones but, for parents, it represents a major push back from our kids as they claim their independence from us. Truthfully, the whole process is driving us crazy.

Learning to Drive, inexperienced drivers, driving age

Mary Dell is teaching a daughter and Lisa is teaching a son, so in effect we are living on different planets. The one thing we share is the deep scary realization that we are placing a lethal weapon in the hands of children we love, but who we know to be only part way on their journey to maturity.

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Cheating at School – Start the Discussion Early

Lisa writes: The first few weeks of school are special ones.  Kids are still finding their way among classmates while trying to gauge their teachers’ approach and expectations. Slates are clean and possibilities hang in the air.  Parents often take the time to express to their children their own hopes and concerns for the school year. In looking back, I wonder why I never discussed cheating at school.

Cheating in school, academic dishonesty, cheating, EDS, educational testing service

I start every September giving one son the you-must-do-your-best talk.  Another son has just outgrown the annual you-need-to-be-more-organized talk and the third I prodded to move out of his comfort zone socially and extra curricularly.  But I can say with some certainty that I never kicked off a school year with a conversation about academic dishonesty. And in the wake of cheating scandals this year at Harvard University, Stuyvesant High School, and a Long Island SAT testing center, I am pretty sure I missed an important opportunity here. Did I fail to discuss cheating at school because I didn’t think it was a problem in their classes or was it because I didn’t think it would be a problem for my child? [Read more...]



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I Photographed My Children at All the Wrong Times

Lisa writes: I photographed my children at every big moment in their lives, the staged spectacles that seem so important at the time. We know that we will want to see weddings and showers, births and birthdays, school performances and graduations again and again.

I photographed my children, children swinging, siblings

Recently I was watching the video of a class performance of one of my sons that took place 12 years ago. There he was, his little seven-year old self, sitting among his classmates, singing away at the top of his lungs and glancing over occasionally to see if I was still watching. His smile, to me, was the most beautiful thing on Earth, and the little movements that I know so well yanked hard at my heart.

But in a blinding flash I knew that I had recorded the wrong thing. For although I thought this concert was a big moment, one that I would want to revisit, I now see that I was entirely mistaken. There are moments I want back, moments I would give anything to relive, and they were not staged, not expected and I never saw them coming. [Read more...]



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In Training for the Empty Nest

Mary Dell writes: Sitting on the sidelines, I have long been jealous of my husband. He coached our son in baseball and football, sports into which they both poured their high school energies. Our 16-year-old daughter is now in training for preseason soccer and I am finally sharing a sport – running – with my child. Since she will be off to college in two years, and we will have an empty nest, I am savoring these mother-daughter moments.

running with kids, training with your children, pre-season
Several times a week we drive to our high school track. After a little jogging and stretching, we sip from water bottles, our warm up now complete. I fumble with the earphones on my iPod while she races off, motivated by twin goals of a sub-seven minute mile and a spot on the varsity team. Waddling down the track, I admire my daughter’s athleticism and discipline. I can’t imagine what superhero capabilities the teenagers who compete at the Olympics are born with and perfect through their years of hard training.

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A Hotel Room of One’s Own

Hilton Hotel, Blogher, A room of one's own, room serviceI feel like I should preface this with telling you how much I love my husband and kids but am going to skip straight over that and tell you how much I love staying in a hotel without them.  This little lick of luxury does not happen very often but when it does, I savor every minute.

What’s so great?



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Only as Happy as Your Least Happy Child

As a parent, are you only as happy as your least happy child, regardless of his age?

crying baby, vintage childhood illustration, only as happy as your least happy child

 

This is true in full and empty nests alike according to Karen Fingerman, University of Texas Human Development and Family Sciences professor. She speculates that parents are especially sensitive to a child’s failure simply because that indicates failure on their part: it seems to reflect the effectiveness of their child-rearing skills. Read about her study in

Parents’ Happiness Linked to Their Least-Happy Child’s | The Alcalde.



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