Posts Tagged With: teens

Baffled by the White Van of Life

Friday Letter to My Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

Do you remember that white van we owned? The gutless wonder that could barely make it up an overpass without overheating? The one little L christened on our first road trip by barfing all over the middle seat? The same van big J ran over the high school parking lot curbing with and blew out two, or was it three, tires in.

Ours didn't look this bad on the outside. The problems were all mechanical.

Ours didn’t look this bad. The problems were all mechanical.

Yeah, that one.

It had all sorts of fun problems. The muffler issue comes to mind lately. The world could hear us coming in that vehicle from a good half mile away. Not sure why we didn’t replace or repair the muffler. Actually, I’m pretty sure we didn’t have the money to fix it for a while.

When either of the J’s would finally come home from wherever you’d been, work, a friend’s house, an unapproved “date,” we’d definitely hear the van coming. That is until one of you thought you’d figured out we wouldn’t hear the unmuffled engine if you turned it off before coasting around the corner and into the driveway.

Problem was we’d still hear the van coming from further out in the neighborhood, before the engine was turned off. Also, that sort of parking style raised some eyebrows from neighbors who were out and about late at night who mentioned it to us. We should have come down harder on you, grounded you from driving. Seems like most discipline had little to no effect on you.

Go figure.

The most infamous sneaking about done by any of you came from little J.

You climbed out your second story window onto the strategically placed garbage bins below the roofline and out to frolic in the middle of the night. The funny part happened when you couldn’t climb back the way you climbed out and had to ring the doorbell to get inside the house at, what was it, three a.m. Your story that you forgot your key after “going for a walk to be alone” missed the fact that we had a deadbolt lock on that door that could only be locked with a key.

You gotta love the logic of teenagers whose brains haven’t quite yet fully developed.

Honestly, you all know at this point that true logic doesn’t really even exist in a teenage brain. It’s all hormone driven coupled with the “logic” of a three-year old.

I’ve been hanging out with our favorite three-year old lately and she reminds me so much of each of you as teenagers. The main themes are as follows:

  1. I want it.
  2. I want it now.
  3. No I can’t wait.
  4. I need to go pout and feel sorry for myself if I can’t have items one through three and I’ll make your life miserable until I get what I want.
  5. The way I see the world is reality and nothing you say will change that. If I say a dinosaur lives behind the desk that’s the truth of the matter.
  6. Why?
  7. Why not?

Pam, from Oklahoma, used to say about teenagers. “You don’t like them very much for about five years, but you still somehow manage to love them.”

That stage lasted longer for some of you than others.

Honestly, you all weren’t horrific all the time. You each seemed to need to take your turn being difficult to live with in one way or another. And I hate to lump you all together in one crowd because you’ve each behaved so differently from each other.

speed bumpsI remember big J saying you’d bring your friends over to the house if only we had a VCR and a decent TV. So we scrounged and sprung for both and you still didn’t bring your friends over. Much later we learned the real reason you didn’t bring your friends over. Still shaking my head over that stuff.

Little J had such charm and charisma I’m afraid she got away with way too much on cuteness alone. Changing clothes after leaving the house and “losing” your pager come to mind as just a couple of minor sneaky things you did.

Big L used to purposely incite skirmishes with little L out of sheer boredom or revenge. It didn’t matter than I begged you not to bother the sleeping giant, you did it anyway. And yes, I can still hear your revengeful heh heh hehhing in my head.

Little L you provided the final exam to my parenting experiences with the other three. Since I’d learned a few things by then, you had to pull out some never before seen situations that I’m still reeling a bit from. Your need for TIGHT bed covers that never were tight enough and your other need for an always spotlessly clean and organized house, which I failed to provide, come to mind.

Sorry, I didn’t measure up.

Most of what I feel about all of your teen angst and rebellion and mistakes is regret that I couldn’t save you from going through it. I’d have given anything to keep you safe from your own teen dingbattedness. Somewhere I fell short with each of you and that, oh man, that really stings.

And yet, what makes me smile, other than the fact that I somehow managed to get through those parenting years without scarring any of you too badly, lies in the promise that each of you will get to experience parenting teens yourself.

Heh, heh, heh.

I was no saint as a teen. Oh my. Not. At. All. So I probably, well okay, definitely, deserved the thrashing I got from parenting all of you through those same years. You’d think I’d have done better, seen the warning signs, been harder on you, or gentler, as needed. My own experiences should have taught me to be a better parent than I managed.

Didn’t work out that way. Dang. Turns out being a teenager does little to prepare you for raising one.

To quote Pumbaa who’s misquoting Timon, “Ya gotta put your behind in the past.”

So what did I learn from not applying what I’d learned as a teen to my parenting career?

  • I wish I’d been more direct with each of you.
  • There’s no such thing as balance between parents. There needs to be agreement. One parent’s hardness can’t be softened by the other parent’s squishiness. And vice versa. Bad cop, good cop only works on TV shows and the movies.
  • I’m the grownup in the relationship with my kids.
  • It’s okay to expect the best, but I should have been more eyes-wide-open about reality. It’s not easy reconciling the two. It can hurt, big time.

If all parents learned from the mistakes they made as teens, we’d have a perfected society by now. Obviously, we’re all slow learners.

I take heart in seeing what kind, patient (mostly), generous, optimistic and loving adults you each have turned into. Ya’ll came preprogrammed with some great stuff that sat latent for a while. Now look at you.

I couldn’t be more proud.

engine interior

It may as well be Greek, engines baffle me.

That white van reminds me of teenage life. It got us where we ultimately needed to get to, most of the time, but not without some bumpiness and noise, breakdowns and mind-boggling struggles. I can’t tell you how often I stood before the open hood of that van completely snookered as to what went wrong and what I could do to fix it. Same goes for each of you. I’d stand there looking into your face and wonder “what the flippin’ heck can I do to make this work?”

I wish you well in your personal parenting adventures, especially the teen-fraught years. I hope your own version of a white van serves you better than mine did.

Good luck with that. I’ll be praying for you.

 

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

 “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” ~ Robert Fulghum

 

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Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cat Highways

When we first moved here to the Arizona desert eons ago I had a learning curve to scale. It took a bit of time, but I got used to the oddities. Lizards, crickets, scorpions,  white flies, warm water coming out of the cold tap, the juxtaposition of police helicopters at night and roosters crowing in the morning,  running errands after the sun went down or before it rose in the morning, the pungent odor of dairy farms, pine trees in the same yard as palm trees, and monsoons that involved no rain whatsoever.

Portrait of a Wall lizard (Podarcis muralis

Portrait of a Wall lizard  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Assorted other desert adaptations for survival became necessary, but I think I’ve blocked those from my memory.

One of the first things I said to myself when I made the mistake of running to the grocery store at noon was, “who in their right mind would start a settlement here and then stay in this inferno?”

No one answered me.

I figured whoever decided that this was a good place for a town, and then another town and then a dozen or two more, most likely was suffering from some heat exhaustion or heat stroke. That was the only explanation.

I imagine the land was a great deal too.  Kind of like those real estate plots in the Everglades.

But I digress. Sorry, it’s been a long, long, long, long, long, long summer. I think someone mentioned breaking records, but I’m sure they meant CD’s or DVD’s.

Anyway.

The point I was trying to make was there’s this oddity I don’t recall seeing in other parts of the country where I’ve lived.

Most everyone in the country appears to believe Robert Frost’s adage that “good fences makes good neighbors.”

Chain Link Fence

Howdy neighbor!

Oklahoma had chain link fences, but then, they’re a really friendly bunch. They pretty much adopt you into their family right after you’ve made introductions. So the fence is really more of a dog deterrent than anything.

There were long expanses of six-foot tall wooden fences in North Carolina. Mine, mine, mine seemed  the word each nail punctuated in those fences. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the people alright, but boundaries seemed very important and well-defined. But then I lived there less than a year. I’m open for discussion on this one if you’re from Charlotte, or parts thereabouts.

The Seattle area employed a combination of wood and chain link depending on the neighborhood. Those fences seemed more of a suggestion than a real threat or barrier.

Creative Block

Cement block wall. More than just a fence between neighbors. (Photo credit: lukeroberts)

By contrast, here in the desert, the fences are really walls. Six foot high cement block walls. I still haven’t figured out what that means. Go away and leave me alone? I’ll stay on my side and you stay on yours and we’ll get along just fine? I have a room full of guns and I’m not afraid to use them?

What I noticed, early on after moving here were the cats on top of these lovely interconnected walls. The cats made really good time from one section of the neighborhood to the other and stayed well out of reach of any dogs. In fact, I believe they stopped and taunted dogs as often as time and speed allowed. I took to calling the walls “cat highways.”

Just last year I realized that teenagers had adapted and learned by watching the cats. They frequently scale the walls and run along the tops to get to where ever they want to go. Not sure if they taunt the dogs, though.

It’s important to know that the top edge of the wall is only six inches wide. The kids I know who do this seem oblivious to the possibility of falling, trespassing, irritating a rabid neighbor or injuring their often bare toes and feet. But then, most teenagers are oblivious to most things not orbiting their own personal universe. (No disrespect intended, just stating a fact.)

I guess if you live in the desert you adapt, change, melt a little, and do whatever it takes to survive.

You use what nature and construction offer and you run with it. Or, in this case, you run on it.

My take on it all? Extra good fences make good neighbors and in some cases, really good shortcuts.

_________________

Just in case you were wondering, here’s the actual poem by Frost that I was referring to. I consider it an astounding work of art. Enjoy. Read it out loud! It rolls in a warm wave and fills the room with the scent of an open meadow, pines and apple blossoms. At least in my mind it does.

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Robert Frost
Categories: Humor, People, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Toast to the Younger Generation, Some of Them Anyway

It’s Gratituesday! Today I am grateful for those good kids, the ones that disprove the “teenager’s are all rotten theory.”  I know some amazing teens who are respectful, kind, thoughtful, conscientious, giving, selfless, happy, easy-going and still fun to hang out with. They continue to step up that way even when others their age revert to two-year-old behaviors of selfishness, tantrums. disrespect and disruption.

I want to hug these out of the norm happy wonders of the human race! I want to thank them for trying so hard. They deserve kudos and congratulations. They give me hope for our future.

gratitude wallpaper_16:9

(Photo credit: dontstealmypen)

These kids volunteer without complaint. They show up for assignments without whining. Listening without interrupting or texting is one of the most respectful things I’ve seen. They smile or wave at grownups without getting embarrassed. They say “thank you” and “please” and “sure, I can do that.” They show up to class on time, prepared, with homework done. They babysit siblings and neighbors and can be trusted to be responsible and reliable. They don’t back talk or make snide remarks or respond with sarcasm or a demeaning tone. They use appropriate terms like “Sir, Ma’m, Mrs. Ms.” They express appreciation to others. They want to make a difference where they can.

Being in the “betweenness” of childhood and adulthood isn’t easy. It looks easy to the adults because they have selective memory of their own teen life being all fun and hanging out. But if they’re honest with themselves they’ll also remember how tough it is trying to figure out who they are, what they want to become, where they’re going, how to manage the maze of hormones and emotions and angst and homework and social insanity.

If you are a teen who’s giving it your best shot, trying to make good decisions, working to help your family, being a good friend, being respectful to the adults and others in your life, pat yourself on the back, buy yourself a shake, give yourself some well deserved credit. And know that you’re noticed and appreciated and yes, even loved!

If you have a teen in your life who is one of these great people, please let them know you appreciate how hard they work at being a good person. Let them know in real, tangible, out-loud ways, that they are wonderful and cared for and doing a great job.

Don’t blow smoke and make something up either. Praise the real things you’re seeing. And don’t sandwich it between criticism of what they aren’t succeeding at. Just let it be out there all by itself. Here’s a few suggestions:

“You are doing a great job at being kind to your brother.”

“I love how you hold the door for people!”

“Thanks for helping out with dinner today, it means a lot to me when you step up like that.”

“I know it isn’t easy holding down a job while going to school, you’re da’ bomb!”

“I appreciate how respectful you are to your mother and other adults.”

How glad I am to see such good stuff happening in the lives of young people. I’m making it a priority to send out more appreciation, live and in person to these good kids. I hope you’ll join me.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Hope, People, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Good, The Bad, The Not So Pretty of Parenting Moments

The statute of limitations has expired on this one, so I think I can safely share this story with you.  Why I am sharing a moment of weakness is beyond me.  I must be tired this morning.

At the time this story occurred, time, repetition and lack of forward motion worked against me.  Keep those three points in mind. Also, please note that I am normally a calm, well behaved citizen.

Also, it had probably been a more stressful morning than usual.  What could have caused additional stress at our house at that point in time could have been one of hundreds of things. It was probably several dozen of a hundred that put me in a dither that morning.

Why do I feel like I’m presenting testimony in a court hearing? Enough!  On with the story.

My daughter  who shall remain nameless, was needing a ride to school.  Fine.  We’d done that countless times.  This particular day she or I, let’s just say we to simplify things, were running a bit late.  But, if we didn’t have to stop for too many long red lights she’d still make it to class on time.

Arriving on the school property I slowed to the requisite 8 mph.  A sigh of exasperation crossed my lips as I saw them.  The dreaded orange cones.

It was encouraging         0603100930

I hated the stupid orange cones.  We called them the orange cones of death.  Why?  The cones were school security’s way of directing traffic the way THEY thought it should flow.  I’m sure if you have hundreds, nay, thousands, of parents driving whichever direction they wanted whilst dropping off their beloved offspring for a day of molding and shaping their ever eager minds, it could become a traffic jam of epic proportions.  I understand that.  I really do.  So I would dutifully follow the path of least resistance that occurred by following the orange cones.

The flow of traffic, however, made little sense to the sleep deprived parental mind when there remained only 2 minutes until the tardy bell rang.  Looping all the way around the parking lot, over countless speed bumps designed to destroy what little alignment remained in the car was a waste of precious time and sanity. What made the traffic flow even more ridiculous was that the drop off point was a mere twenty feet away  from where the orange cones of death began their path.  A simple, quick left turn would allow a nearly immediate drop off with minutes to spare.  That would free up time for the child to amble off to class, helping little old ladies across the hallway, shaking hands respectfully with the principal and offering to carry a heavy box for a teacher, if she so desired.

A quick left hand turn would ease the stress of certain parents, would improve the morning race to get everyone out the door, and would, in fact, lend itself to beginnings of world peace.  A quick left hand turn would be logical and there was little logic in this traffic pattern which required a circuitous route.

I might add here that there were very few cars driving this gauntlet of ridiculousness with only a couple of minutes until classes started.  The parking lot was nearly void of moving cars, there were virtually no students in the area, and the security golf cart guys were off having their morning laugh together.

Normally I would simply resign myself to the fate of another bumpy slog over the river and through the woods of the parking lot to drop of said child at the doors to the halls of learning.

That would be a normal reaction.

This particular day was not normal.  (Reference the above one hundred or more reasons for stress.)

This one morning of many something in me snapped.

“Stupid! Orange! Cones!” I yelled.  “Not today!”

I raced my engine up to 12 mph and turned the wheels sharply to the left and simply drove over the stupid orange cones.

Yes, this was in full sight of the front office.

I didn’t care.

I felt triumphant.

I felt victorious.

I had stuck it to the man.

I felt a little embarrassed.

“There ya’ go, my love,” I said as we pulled neatly up to the curb.

My daughter was laughing hysterically.

I stifled my own laugh.

“Have a nice day!” I chirped.

“I love you mom!” she said through her laughter. “Get a nap today, I think you need it!”

I watched her amble in through the doors of the school and drove off into the sunrise.

*****     *****     *****     *****      *****

For the most hilarious read you’ll have in months, I can assure you laughter with tears if you follow this link, written by a brilliant blogger from South Africa. Parenting for Dummies by 23 thorns.  Enjoy!!

Categories: Humor, Traffic | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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