Dear Readers, This is prom season, and I have a hard time condoning the modern day prom. This is likely a controversial statement but bear with me as I make my case. I can only guess that many of you may serve on prom committees and have spent countless hours during this annual rite of passage. However, I believe that each educational experience that my child has during those crucial teen years, should be intentional, purposeful and God centered. Experiences that make them better adults, better people and in my son's case, a perfect gentleman.
At the school where we attend, there is a formal dinner and dance event that the high-schoolers prepare for each spring. There is a protocol class, formal dance lessons, and etiquette lessons. Many funny stories came home following the first of these lessons. For instance, there are many foods that are difficult to eat with your fork firmly in your left hand and the knife in the other. Precise timing must be exercised when assisting a young lady to a dining table, lest the chair be taken from under her unexpectedly, resulting in a pile of pink tulle on the gym floor. A gentleman must present his arm for the lady to take so that she may be assisted down the sweeping mansion stairs. Counting, while humming the Blue Danube is helpful for conquering the waltz, ditto for the two-step, polka, the occasional quadrille, and the foxtrot. Elementary .... but yet a puzzlement to the freshman class. I am pleased to say that my son got all this right.
There is a part of the evening set aside for a mother-son dance. It is an easy two-step, but something that I had not done in a long time. While I am a good dancer, I do need a good male lead to make me look graceful... at least that was my mind set when I was escorted on to the dance floor. Instead, I found that my teenage son was rather good at the two-step. He steered me away from bumping into other dancers, and kept time to the classical quartet. I think he is has learned the mechanics of his role a a gentleman, took charge, and owned each action.... whether on the dance floor, the dinner table or this next instance......
Every year, partner assignments are made and announced with a bit of fanfare. We knew well ahead of time whom he was going to escort down the grand staircase. However, due to an unexpected illness, there was one additional young lady who was going to miss out having an escort. Around mid afternoon, the host called and requested that my son be assigned the honor of escorting a very pretty blond, in addition to his original assignment. This was a last minute change and when all the parties arrived, the parents felt we had to explain everything to the young ladies involved, clear it up, and there were bits of small talk all around, by the adults, to compensate for what we assume would be confusion for the teens. Just then...
Finding his voice and knowing his role, my son cut right through the adult chatter and with a firm voice, said,
"Kaitlin, may please I have the honor of being your escort?"
She replied with a shy nod and a barely audible, "yes".
There was perfect silence afterwards.
The rush, hustle, bustle.... violin, ballet, basketball, swimming, library books.....something always gets left behind and no one realizes until we get to the destination, 10 mins later for soccer practice with no shin guards. Great! There has to be a better way. Well, there is, a long time ago when the kids were in grade school, my mantra was "If it is not in the basket, it doesn't make it into the car." We used to set large laundry baskets by the door and the kids would put the things that they needed for the next day into the baskets. Everything from backpacks to lunchboxes and extra boots or snow pants. I did not permit a haphazard dumping of random items into the baskets. They had to me only and excatly what they needed.
Today, 10 years later, the kids have inherited a system of organization and they pack their own stuff. They make sure that everything makes it into the car on their own. Next year, when the kids start to drive themselves to school, I am not there to fetch or retrieve any forgotten items. So, moms, start organizing early because that is what they will need to fend for themselves when you let go inch by inch and make them independent. At a Christian moms conference many years ago, one speaker said that we have 18 years to teach kids what they need to know before they leave home. When you think about, 18 years goes by... in a flash.
They have some nice baskets by Sterlite
I actually have about 6-10 of these Sterlite baskets stacked for laundry and to facilitate loading of stuff into the car. More about laundry sorting in an upcoming & yet to be written blog.
Vacations. I love vacations. Did you know that there are studies that demonstrate how the mind categorizes work vs. fun. If I go to an exotic place...say, Hawaii and "I have to go there for work", it instantly becomes less fun than if I paid actual money to go to Hawaii and take my family there. So, to maximize fun, do not accept a paid vacation! All that is gold is not as it seems. Yet, would I turn down a trip to Hawaii? Likely not.
Vacation with my children is the funnest sort of mental break. My teens and I have a great relationship and what I enjoy most is teaching them new things about the world beyond their normal bubble. When we go to a city, I hand the children the subway map, point out the destination and tell them to take me there. The same with airports and street maps. They are getting very good at navigating. I also try to teach them street smarts and situational awareness. Cautionary tales of sorts from pick pockets to carelessly lost luggage, and even once, there was an incident where we took time to gawk to officials escorting someone in handcuffs.
We have already established that I travel a lot for a living and I want to share that with my children. 10 things we learned on our last cruise....
1. how to snorkel
2. to respect the coral
3. swim with fishes
4. always wear your seatbelt.
5. pack only what we can carry
6. never forget to tip
7. always report to mom on time
8. watch out for each other and never go down dark lonely corridors
9. wash your hands
10. call an uber when everyone is hungry, cranky and ready to rip that street map apart
I recently volunteered to give a devotional to a group of high school girls and I started off the devo with “How many of you are asked on a daily basis….what do you plan to do after you graduate?” A good number of the young ladies raised their hands. Many did not have a solid answer for what they wanted to do in college or after school or for the rest of their lives. Some wished adults would not ask them that question. If we stop to think about it, it is an exceedingly intimidating question. Many adults still do not know what they want to do “when they grow up”. Many of us had a direction that they started out with and after many twists, change, and challenges that life throws you, the path is completely different from that which was in my 16 year old brain, so very many moons ago.
If even 50% of us moms are of the stay-at-home variety, why then is it necessary to go to college? As you read this, I am sure you are mentally screaming at me and at my ivory tower snobbery. But wait, please stay the hate mail…. it is merely a rhetorical question. I think that every person capable of learning should engage in as much education as they are able to gain. Why? Very simply the - we exist to serve & teach the next generation, to build God’s kingdom with a the best possible minds. There is one caveat… that education must serve God’s purpose. For example, let’s examine Rebel Mom who has homeschooled all 6 of her children I would believe that her college education has served her well in enhancing learning in her children.
When I first read Proverbs Ch 31 on The Wife of Noble Character, I always thought that it was an impossible standard. The woman in the story did everything from feeding her family, to planting a vineyard and clothing them in purple. Ugh….I’m allergic to purple. But as I grow older, I realize that many of you moms are as accomplished as this proverbial woman.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting.” If this is so (and why should be doubt the Bible?), then what do we teach our daughters? Aristotle was of the opinion that the purpose of education is to make citizens, virtuous. Teaching & learning are about a disciplined inquiry into some aspect of reality. Too often, as women, we rely on our emotions and perhaps, the practice of disciplined inquiry is a good thing as we apply purpose and structure in our homes.
An actual image of my dissertation at work. On a 4 hour ride to a family wedding in 2014, there was enough time to read, write and eat some chicken nuggets.
I have a dear Jewish friend who used to tell me this joke....
Q: Do you know what most Jewish holidays are based on?
A: It's simple -
1. they tried to kill us
2. they failed
3. let's eat !
It's funny but really it is about dealing with adversity and celebrating when we come out of the worst. It's 2 am and I am having a hard time sleeping. Thoughts run through my head, occasionally anger, sometimes regret... conversations are on a constant loop... should have said this, should have done that. Why? Why wasn't I given a chance at that promotion? Where did it go wrong? When will there be another opportunity? Will there even be another opportunity? They picked another man over this skirt. I have tried to prepare myself for the inevitable and yet, when it does arrive, it hurts more than expected. I was passed-over.
As I was tucking my youngest offspring in at bedtime,
I sighed, "I want to cry but somehow I can't"
"Well then, maybe it doesn't matter as much," came a thoughtful reply
I was touched. "Hearing you say that makes me cry."
"Maybe God wants something else for you," said my little Sage.
As a parent, it is difficult to teach a child how to deal with adversity when I can't even remove my own blinders. Maybe I can't cry because it really doesn't mean that much. Maybe children learn by example. Maybe we face adversity so that they can watch us go through it. Maybe they learn to be encouraging by lifting us up. Maybe it is Divine providence. We should celebrate.
I will go back to work tomorrow and show them that they failed to dampen my spirit. Chin up, shoulders back, and soldier on. Because in reality, only my ego was bruised and not the ones I love most.
They tried to bruise me
My oldest child is ready to get his learners permit and very soon could be ready to take the test for a drivers license. In my earlier imaginings, it was always my husband who would be the patient teacher and mentor but alas, reality is quite different. He was the nail biter and I became ....zen.
We did share the goal of wanting to make sure that the new driver got as much practice as possible under his wing before his first solo flight. There were a lot of hairy moments. The latest being - winter driving. Even for experienced drivers, this is a challenge. I put him behind the wheel on a day when there was black ice and as we left the house,
I quietly said, "be sure to have plenty of stopping distance."
"OK mom," came a calm confident reply
A little later, "Whoa, whoa....too close!"
"It's OK Mom, I'm not a horse." [all in good humor]
Not 30 seconds later, a big SUV in front of us steps on the gas and fish tails to the left and then the right. It sacred everyone within spitting distance. The driver was visibly shaken.
"Wow Mom, I guess you were right."
When your teenager acknowledges you are right, you shut up and simply bask in the moment. I unclenched my jaws and knew we were going to be alright.
Every Sunday during the lunch after church, we have a family meeting to go over the week’s events. Not sure how it started, but it has carried on for a few years now. All stakeholders must be present, and we insist that there is quorum before we make major schedule changes. CEO (husband) and CFO (me!) have omnipotent veto rights. First order of events is to go through the calendar for the week. Next, we pair up the logistics for how to support each those events - meals, wheels, transportation of everything from sporting equipment to musical instruments, homework schedule, etc. Lastly, it’s around the table for any comments or concerns. Then, we proceed with a hearty round of fart jokes and the meeting ends when someone laughs so hard that one to two beads of rice accidentally shoots out of their mouths. Really, I’m not making it up.
On the home front, sports season has begun and there are practices 2 to 3 times per week until the end of October. The dilemma occurs when both parents work, and the pick up schedule varies every day. As a back up, working moms like me have a few options for hitching a ride including:
1. Asking the in-laws for help
2. Piggy back a ride off another mom to the game
Can't go with option one since it is birthday week for one of the in-laws, and it would be mighty rude and to ask. The mere mention might turn me from an in-law into an outlaw. Option two it is...... now all I have to figure out is how much "goodwill" do I have vested in one of the other parents.
Team uniforms? Yup.
Water bottles? Yup.
What time does the game end? Oh boo! No clue.
Weather? Double boo! Rain.
That means standing in the drizzle with a small commuter umbrella, dress clothes and Bog rain boots. Nothing matches - nothing looks glam in the rain, unless you are Audrey Hepburn. Well, I guess it's chin up and call me "Audrey" ... make that "Dr. Audrey".
The real deal about what it’s like to be a working mom. I often hear the following phrase, “I don’t know how you manage it all.“ The reality is, I don’t even know. Deep down inside, I’m wondering the same thing about them. I have two kids, a wonderful husband, a normal suburban life. I’ve always been achievement oriented and simply love to tackle things that sometimes make other peoples eyes glaze over… in boredom. I’m a researcher and my view on the technical stuff is that nothing is difficult, merely complex.
Flat Stanley at the Changing of the Guards.