Monday, March 29, 2010

A Right of Passage

(Written in August, 2009)

We just dropped our son off at college yesterday. A right of passage, I know, but not an easy one. I’m told it’s the first step toward adulthood, but, to quote my sister-in-law, it’s a doozy.

My husband had been dreading that day for six months, knowing his first born, his only son, and the only other testosterone-laden family member would be leaving him to fend for himself in a house full of females. I am much better at living day-to-day. With two other children in the house, 2 dogs, and too many volunteer positions, I was able to postpone my worry until the last moment.

After all, someone had to plan the graduation party, and shop for the college supplies, and wash the sheets, and pack the clothes, and supervise the packing and then… cry.

I can vividly remember being handed this screaming, 9-lb baby boy 18 years ago and thinking, now what? What am I to do with him? How am I to take care of him? As a parent, you nurture, clothe, feed, protect and love this child for 18 years, and then suddenly, in the time it takes to unpack a dorm room, you leave them to fend for themselves, hoping you told them everything they will need to get by on their own.

Did I remind him not to wash his new red t-shirt with his whites? Did I explain to him how to change his sheets? Did I show him where I put his extra towels?  Did I tell him I love him enough?

Driving out of town, leaving our first born behind (never mind that he is 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds) was possibly the hardest thing I have had to do yet.  We drove there with three children in the car, and are leaving with only two. It was like leaving an arm or leg – part of me was missing.

Grant it, we will see him in six weeks. Parent’s Weekend is as much for the parents being left behind as it is for the kids. And I know that the tears are really selfish on our part. We are crying for ourselves, not him. He is about to embark on a new, exciting world – full of self-discovery, parties, football games, girls and hopefully, academics!

No, we cry because we realize that our little boy is no longer little. Our family is forever changed. Our table for five is now a table of four. And soon, much sooner than we want to think, even that number will shrink.

 And that is good. That means we are doing our job as parents – encouraging our children to grow and spread their wings. But boy, is it hard.

So, behind our sunglasses, we cry, with a smile on our face and a tug on our heart. We say a prayer, as we drive away, that we raised him right, taught him everything, and that maybe, he will miss us just a little.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just because you can...

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Eight small words that pack a big message; a message I try and teach my kids daily.

 Just because you can eat four cupcakes in one sitting, doesn’t mean you should. (It’s not good for you.)

Just because you can wear a short skirt, doesn’t mean you should. (Respect your body and yourself.)

Just because you can finish your homework in five minutes, doesn’t mean you should. (Spend more time reviewing and hand in your best work.)

You get the picture. If only more people lived by this rule. (If only – another column for another day.)

Just because you can wear a bikini, doesn’t mean you should. (Perhaps you’re too big up top, too skinny, or just too large.)

Just because you can stay up until 2:00 am, doesn’t mean you should. (You have school /work in the morning and you need your sleep.)

In today’s world, too many people take their freedoms – of expression, speech etc., to the limit, and beyond. Common sense has gone out the window.

Just because you can skip classes now that you’re in college, doesn’t mean you should.  (You’re there to learn. Attend class!)

Just because you can go to work/school when you’re sick, doesn’t mean you should. (No one else wants to get your cold/flu. Be considerate and stay home until you’re better.)

It certainly isn’t a new adage. It’s been around for years. And yet, so many still don’t follow it.

Just because you can drink a bottle of wine, doesn’t mean you should. (You’ll thank yourself , and me, the next morning.)

Just because you can smoke, doesn’t mean you should.  (Your lungs will thank you when you’re older.)

And while many people don’t always follow this simple rule, I will continue to preach it to my kids. Perhaps they will remember ~

Just because you can ignore your mother, doesn’t mean you should. (Sometimes she knows what she’s talking about.)


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Putting out the Fires

 Being a parent is much like being a fire fighter. You are constantly putting out fires.  And just when you think you have one put out, another pops up; and another; and another.

You fight the fire with everything you have, but often find it smolders and the embers can re-ignite when you least expect it.

They say getting old is not for sissies – well neither is parenthood. You breathe a sigh of relief when your child is potty-trained. You feel you have made it through the rough stuff when they finally sleep through the night.  However, while babies are physically exhausting, teens are mentally and emotionally exhausting.

My mother always said, you are only as happy as your unhappiest child.  Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that you never have three happy, content children for more than 3 days!  Just when you think you have it down, you’ve solved their problems and you can relax and get a good night’s sleep – bam, another crisis pops up.

Report cards come home; friends fight; curfews are broken; rules are ignored; another fire needs to be put out.

It helps tremendously to have a partner when going through this. It also helps to talk it out with fellow parents. You need someone who can tell you, “It’s okay. You will get through this. This too shall pass. Your child is not a juvenile delinquent.” All clich├ęs but, in times of crisis, all acceptable  - and welcome -phrases to a frantic parent.

I have often found myself doubting my abilities as a parent when I am dealing with my children. Yes, they are that good at battling.

“Maybe they’re right. Maybe I don’t know anything. May be I am trying to ruin their lives. Maybe I never was a teenager. Maybe I am being too hard. Maybe no one else’s parents are this mean.”

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever questioned (not your sanity – we all lost that years ago) your parenting skills? When this happens, when doubts arise, I have one piece of advice – call a fellow parent! (And not one of those who are trying to be their child’s best friend!) 

Call your brother or sister, your neighbor, your best friend – anyone with a child the same age. It’s called commiserating and it is not only helpful, it is necessary, especially during those tween and teen years. Your child does it – why can’t you?

A good ally will always be on your side. “Yes, you are right. Yes, they are trying to drive you crazy. Yes, you should tell your 13-year-old she has a curfew. Yes, a bad grade does allow you to take away their cell phone/computer privileges. Yes, you are a good parent - no matter what your child says.”

In the mean time, we will continue to put out the fires. We will continue to do battle. And while we may not win them all, we shall put up a good fight, and pray we make it through the teenage years. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's My Turn

Blog – who ever came up with that word? It certainly isn’t the most flattering word. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what a blog was until recently. Sure, I had heard of blogs before, but I never realized I could sit down and start my own.

It started out innocently enough. I mentioned to someone I was interested in writing my own column, and they suggested I start my own blog. This piqued my curiosity so I did a little research and, voila, here I am.

It’s not a difficult process. Honestly, the hardest part was deciding on a name for my blog. Since I hoped to have followers other than my sisters, I wanted something catchy. And, since I wanted to cover subjects more exciting than what I ate for breakfast – or what my children ate for lunch – I wanted something appealing.

Hence,  “Kate's Peace of Mind” was born.

I have always wanted to be a writer. I have been writing stories since I was 7 years old.  My first novel was a tale about my father fighting in the Civil War with Abe Lincoln. (Sorry Dad! Obviously history was not my strongest subject.)

At age 12, I started a neighborhood newspaper. College saw me as editor-in-chief of our school newspaper. I interned with a publishing company in my senior year of college, and was promptly hired to be a writer for a trade magazine in this same company. Writing was my passion.

Then, I had kids. And a new passion emerged. Writing suddenly took a back seat as I immersed myself in swimming lessons, Gymboree classes, playgroups and music lessons.  I became a mom. And for 18 years, I was quite content. I knew I would get my life back when the kids were older.

Well, here I am, almost two decades later. It’s my turn and, to be truthful, I’m not quite sure where to start. I think this is true with many moms. We give so much of ourselves to our families, we loose ourselves in the process.

But I’ve realized I have never lost that passion for writing – it’s just been on the back burner for a few years. I’m back, and ready to start again. So, here I am. Starting my own blog, brushing up on my writing skills, and hoping it will take me somewhere. It should be an interesting journey.

They say to write what you know, so that’s what I’m going to do. Motherhood, in all its glory, is not an easy profession. It’s given me many stories and insights into the world around me - some funny, and some not so funny.

I invite you to come along, listen to my stories, and share some of your own, as I embark on this new phase.

It’s my turn. Here I go…