healing

There’s a kind of funny thing where parenting, in the long game, done right, can help the parent heal from childhood trauma. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this summer, as the Bee graduated from high school and now has moved off to college. It’s funny, because for most people, raising a child to adulthood without having that kid ever run away from home probably feels like a low bar–but to me, it feels huge.

I succeeded as a parent, because even when our relationship was at its lowest points, she never felt like she would be better off living somewhere else, with the family of a friend, or her grandmother, or on the road with no fixed address. It might not sound like a big thing to you, but it’s a big thing to me, because my parents didn’t give me that.

For the past two months, we’ve been doing all the stuff that parents and graduated high school seniors do, to get ready for college–in short, buying all the things. I wrote a post here, a long time ago, about my own experience in going to college–and needless to say, I wanted the Bee to have everything that I did not. She procrastinated for a long time about buying her bedding (largely due to the problem of too many choices–the Bee continues to sometimes be paralyzed by decision fatigue), and when we were about three weeks away from her departure for school, I finally said, “look, this is triggering me, we either need to do this within a week, or I am just going to pick stuff so you have at least a starter set.” (The kids have heard the towel story, so she knew what I was talking about.) I might not be the perfect mother, but there will be sheets, dammit!

The Bee is going to school about 300 miles away from home so landisdad and I decided that when it came to move-in weekend we would leave the Potato with his grandmother and just take her ourselves. This division of labor meant that landisdad drove to his mom’s with the Potato on Friday night, and then the Bee and I left Saturday morning–and we got to spend the whole time in the car talking to each other. Right before we were about to take off, I ran back into the house to get some tissues to put in my purse, and the Bee said, “mom, you can’t cry today, only tomorrow.”

The Bee’s BFF had slept over the previous night, and the two of them had a tearful goodbye (at which point, the tissues got their first use). After we drove off, the Bee said, “was it this hard for you to leave your best friend when you went to college?” and I was so immediately struck by the difference between her leaving for school experience and mine that I actually couldn’t speak. She said, “Mom?” and I told her, “hey, you said I couldn’t cry today, so I’m not going to answer that question right now.”

I mean tbh, there was so much to unpack in that one question…for one, I didn’t get the luxury of having the same best friend from middle school through high school, because I didn’t stay in the same school system for all that period of time, thanks to my parents’ choices. The ability to do that was a gift I gave the Bee (and the Potato) (and, honestly, my past self).

We drove for a long time, and for a good part of the beginning of the ride, the Bee was reading something related to her college orientation. After she finished it, we talked a while, in the car and when we stopped for lunch about things both major and mundane. We ate at an amazing diner, and about halfway through lunch, she said to me, “You know, I spent a lot of time when I was younger wishing that I had been born into another family, but now I realize that the family I have is the right family for me.”

She could not have said a more perfect thing at that moment.

I said to her, at one point during that lunch conversation, something along the lines of “there is stuff that this whole college move-in is about for me, that isn’t about you.” She feigned a look of shock, like, ‘mom, how is anything not about me right now?’ and I laughed and said, “I mean, it’s about my baggage–but that isn’t on you to fix. But some of it is that it’s good for me to be able to give you something that I didn’t have, and felt the lack of.”

We left the diner, and she took over the driving, which was a different kind of luxury. We went out to dinner with landisdad that night, and then the three of us went to Target to buy some last-minute stuff, the three of us for a brief moment the family we were at the beginning. And then the next day, we got up and went to brunch and went to CVS to buy some even-more-last-minute stuff, and then we went to the college and brought all her things in and helped her set up her room. I took a picture of the Bee and landisdad making her bed, that might go down as one of my favorite family photos–not because it’s such a great picture, but because of what it represents to me.

Landisdad left before I did because he had to pick up the Potato on his way home, and when he left, he hugged me and said, “we did it,” and I just laughed and hugged him back and said, “we sure did.” I stayed through the convocation, sitting with the parents of one of the Bee’s new roommates. The roommate’s mom and I were sitting next to each other, each with tears streaming down our faces. It’s a weird thing to cry next to a relative stranger whose kid is about to become so significant to yours.

After the convocation, I walked the Bee back to her room, and she said, “are you ready?” I told her, “no, I’m just going to climb into your bunk bed and hide there, is that okay?” and she laughed. We hugged goodbye for a long minute, and I told her I loved her, and I was glad to see her happy–that made it easier. I only cried a little, and then I let her go.

 

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August 28, 2017. thoughtful parenting. 1 comment.

blocking and tracking

One of the challenges of modern parenting is definitely teaching your kids how to be safe on the Internet.

But I don’t worry about online predators nearly half as much as I worry about their privacy being stolen by marketers and the government.

As they move more and more into online space, I feel like I have to spend more and more time lecturing them about keeping themselves safe from intrusion. It’s not just privacy settings that I’m worried about–it’s making sure that they have ad-blocking extensions set up on their browsers, and monitoring the Bee’s instagram and vine feeds to see if she’s posting inappropriate things.

It’s wearing, to be honest.

That’s why I was very excited to read about Disconnect’s new service, Disconnect for Kids. Mobile marketers, you can kiss my kids’ data goodbye.

August 15, 2013. thoughtful parenting. Leave a comment.

moving

After months and months of looking, I’ve finally found a house to buy, back in the town where landisdad & the kids still live. Fingers crossed, I’ll be closing and moving in mid-January.

As the kids get older, especially the Bee, their lives are just increasingly not about spending every weekend moment with me (or their dad). Living in a different town has made everything harder—weekend play practice, hanging out with friends, soccer games—you name it, we’ve gotten stuck in traffic on the way there.

For most of the summer, I looked at houses that seemed like they would require a ridiculous amount of work, but they were all I felt like I could afford.

For most of the fall, I didn’t look at all, because I was consumed by work.

Finally, my real estate agent made me look at a house that was a little outside my price range, and I did some new math, and decided to take the plunge.

I’m not really looking forward to moving, but I am looking forward to moving out of my apartment. Two years has been long enough to live here, for sure.

And I’m not really sure what it will mean, long-term, with the custody situation.

I’d like the kids to be with me more during the week, although I need to figure it out in a way that balances my work travel with their need for stability.

And the Bee still hasn’t told everyone she knows that landisdad and I separated (and in fact, are now divorced). So it’s kind of hard to imagine that she’s going to start staying with me during the week.

But it will be nice to never again have to sleep on the couch in my former house, when landisdad is out of town.

December 22, 2012. the new normal, thoughtful parenting. 2 comments.

Sweet Potato, budding feminist

It’s sometimes easier for me to figure out how to impart feminist values to my daughter, than it is to my son. I don’t want him to grow up thinking men are bad (or that feminists think men are bad), but I tend to talk about sexism in a negative frame—i.e., by referring to the limits it places on women.

 

But there have been a couple of incidents lately that stopped me and made me realize that he’s picked some things up…

 

The first was when we were having a conversation about the kids in his class, and who liked to play soccer at recess. He named a couple of boys, and then one girl. I wanted to ask, is she the most tomboyish girl in the class, but about half-way through the sentence, I realized that I didn’t want to use the word “tomboy.” I paused after “most”, searching for another way to describe her, and the Potato looked up at me and said, “athletic? Yep.” And then just carried on…

 

The second was about a week after that, when he was telling me about his day at school, and some quarrel he’d gotten into with some of the kids in his class. “Prima and Segunda were making fun of me, and then they called me a girl. And I told them, ‘why are you making fun of me by calling me a girl. That just makes you sound like you’re worse than me all the time.”

 

The phenomenon of kids (of either gender) calling each other “such a girl” as an insult is one that bugs the crap out of me, so I was especially proud of him for that one…

 

November 20, 2012. thoughtful parenting. 1 comment.

In which the Bee proves she is the toughest 13-year-old on the planet

It’s been a long time since I posted…and I have a post I need to get out about the Potato…but first, a follow-up to my last post. 

The kids had off from school today. I had to go on a one-day out-of-town business trip, so I took the Potato with me—the Bee stayed home, because she had rehearsal for the play. Despite the drama of casting, she sucked it up and took the part she won in the audition. And she’s been diligently rehearsing and learning her songs and dances. 

In the middle of the afternoon, landisdad texted me to tell me that the Bee had twisted her ankle at rehearsal. The drama teacher (yes, the same one) told her to continue practicing. She didn’t get her ice, or call either of us. She let the Bee walk home, alone, at the end. A walk that normally takes her 20 minutes took her an hour, because she was in so much pain (& for some reason, she didn’t call her dad till she got home). Landisdad took her to an urgent care center, and the upshot?

Her leg is fractured.

I’m so angry I can barely type. 

Landisdad and I were texting back-and-forth, and talking on the phone, this afternoon and evening. After he told me that her leg is broken, the Potato came over and sat next to me and said, “you look sad.”

I told him, “I am sad, because as a parent, when you send your kid to school, you expect them to be safe. If you get hurt at school, I expect to get a call from the nurse or the principal. I don’t expect that you will have to deal with it by yourself.”

I have never in my life wanted to get someone fired so badly.

I’m not going to try to get her fired. But I really, really want to.

November 8, 2012. thoughtful parenting. 6 comments.

in which the Bee learns an important, though bitter, lesson

I was driving to work this morning, when my phone rang. It was the school nurse at the middle school, calling to tell me that the Bee was having a nose bleed, and was freaking out all out of proportion to the situation. The nurse said, “she’s screaming and crying, I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s clearly something else going on, but she won’t tell me what it is.”

When a middle school nurse says she’s never seen anything like it, I pay attention.

I explained that the Bee lives with her dad during the week, and that I hadn’t seen her that morning–but that one of us would come get her. I frantically called landisdad while I changed directions to head for what I still sometimes think of as home, but he was getting ready for work himself and didn’t hear the phone.

When I got to school, the Bee was sitting on a chair sobbing with a mass of tissues in her lap, and the nurse said, “I found out what’s wrong–she’ll tell you…”

We walked to the car, and she burst into hysterical sobbing again–and told me, through her tears, that the cast list for the school musical had been posted that morning. And that not only hadn’t she gotten the part she wanted–but she hadn’t gotten any part at all, just a role as a featured dancer.

In addition to that, the teacher who is directing the musical told the kids yesterday, “Now you can’t get upset when I post the cast list. It’s not professional.”

This morning, when the Bee went to look at the cast list with her friends, she cried. And the crying made her have a nosebleed (which happens to her from time to time), and it made her cry harder, because she was afraid that she was looking unprofessional.

When the Bee told me that, my heart broke a little, because I knew that a lot of what was going on with her at that moment was the fact that she was filled with shame about the fact that she was upset, and was therefore letting a teacher down by doing something she had been expressly told not to do.

I took a deep breath, and I said to her, “Bee, I never ever thought I would say this about a teacher, but fuck her. It is not okay for anyone to tell you that you are not allowed to have the feelings that you have. It is okay for you to be upset, and disappointed.”

We drove home, and she sobbed some more. I told her she didn’t have to go back to school today, if she didn’t want to, and she said, “please don’t make me go back.”

We had a long talk about why the “being professional” metaphor sucks when you are talking about middle or high school theater–the first part of which being, of course, that you are not getting paid, and therefore not a professional. How professional actors get to audition for something more than once a year, and therefore can afford to feel disappointment less keenly. How professional actors get to find out they didn’t get a part in the privacy of their own living rooms, not in front of the friends who got the parts they wanted.

And that professional actors get angry, and sad, and they cry when they don’t get roles. But they don’t  have to spend the rest of the year working with the director who didn’t cast them, because that person is their teacher.

We walked to the coffee shop in town, and I bought her a chocolate chip muffin, and talked about how this meant that she wouldn’t have to quit field hockey. And she cried. We got home, and I sat down to do some work and she sat on the floor and leaned against my leg, as I stroked her hair.

We’ll see what happens, how her thinking evolves–I am guessing she will stay in the play, because she does love being on stage. But with a director like that, I wouldn’t blame her for quitting.

September 21, 2012. growing up, thoughtful parenting. 6 comments.

practicing patience

The kids and I are on vacation this week, and I’m trying to use it as an opportunity to practice patience, both with myself and with them.

I had to work late on Friday, and when I came home, I did about three hours of prep for the trip, including reading and responding to a bunch of outstanding work email, so I wouldn’t feel like I had to do it while on vacation. And after that, I still had about two more hours of prep to do—but I decided to quit while I was ahead, and just enjoy what was left of the evening.

On Saturday, I got up early, but didn’t push myself to get out the door in a hurry. When I got to landisdad’s, the kids weren’t really ready yet—but instead of getting upset, or even really nagging them, I tried to relax and let them get packed on their own pace. Did it take longer than it would’ve if I had nagged them? Maybe. Did we get on the road later than I had initially wanted to? Definitely. Was the 8-hour drive less stressful, because I didn’t inject stress into the beginning of the journey? I have no doubt.

The kids were great for the whole ride, and the only part of the journey that was at all difficult was when we were nearly here, and stopped for ice cream. There was a cute boy serving us, and the Bee got quite annoyed with me for existing. After all, who wants to be seen with your mother when there’s a cute boy around, even if he’s a boy you will probably never see again, and is at least three years older than you?

But I soldiered on, and just ate my ice cream in peace…

They’re tough, sometimes, the sacrifices you have to make as a parent.

August 19, 2012. thoughtful parenting. 1 comment.

the Potato is 9….

Belatedly.

He’s turned into a super-interesting kid. Loves Legos still, but into Mad Libs, too.

He’s developing something of a sense of style…but mostly it involves having messy hair that he hates getting cut…and t-shirts with skulls on them. Or SpongeBob.

He loves chess, and will play 10 or 11 games of Chess with Friends at a time…

And at the end of the day, he’s still my cuddly boy.

August 13, 2012. thoughtful parenting. 3 comments.

It’s funny how there are

new fads at camp every year. For the past few years, the game of Foursquare (not the mobile check-in app) was a daily camp obsession. Every night, I would hear endless stories of the day’s victories & minor defeats.

This year, though, Foursquare has become passé. The new daily report I get is on the game of Mafia, which has the Potato enthralled. He tells me elaborate stories, every day, about who he aligned with and defeated.

The Bee, as one of the oldest campers, seems to be above the fray of that one. But she’s become addicted to weaving friendship bracelets, like this one that she made for me. Yesterday, she cut her own “loom” out of cardboard, ransacked my yarn drawer, and spent the ride to camp making a bracelet.

July 12, 2012. thoughtful parenting. Leave a comment.

hot

We’re experiencing a major heatwave here at Chez Landismom. I live in a four-story brick apartment building that is over a hundred years old. It kind of retains heat. In addition to that, the wiring is…questionable. 

Last year, I just had a portable air conditioner in my room, and the kids and I all slept in one room on the hottest nights. If I forgot to turn it off before I made coffee, or one of the kids made toast, it would kill the power for three rooms in my apartment. A week ago, the portable died, and a guy came to fix it, failed, and took it away. Hoping to get it back Monday.

At this point, I have a window unit in my room. The Bee now has an AC in her room (thanks, new love!)…and so far, the electrical grid has held up. 

The Potato will sleep in my room until the portable comes back, and then we’ll experiment with moving the window unit into his room. If the power holds, I’ll be a happier mama. 

I feel a little bit like Mr. Scott from the old Star Trek. “She canna take it, Cap’n! I need more power!”

July 6, 2012. thoughtful parenting. Leave a comment.

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