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.
To ensure that they all eat their vegetables when I am traveling, I tend to favor salad bags in a kit. All the big grocery stores have some and they are actually rather tasty. But salad in a bag has become more than a just nutrition, in our family, it is flag for things to come ......
Teen: [standing in front of open fridge] Mom, are you going away? Why is there bag salad in the fridge?
Me: Hahaha. No. It's for the potluck at Phil's house on Tuesday evening.
Teen: Phew! I thought you were going away.....but there was nothing on the calendar. But, you never know, I had to ask.
The lesson in this is that your teens are always watching and observing for the little nuances & patterns in your behavior. Nothing slips their notice even if there are earbuds in their ears 24/7. Don't forget to eat your vegetables!
So, my middle schooler is going to camp with her class next week. It’s a week away from home with her teachers and friends. She’s been going for 3 year and this is the last year that she will be able to attend because she will be in high school next year. Parents and siblings are encouraged to write letters because of they receive a letter at camp, you have to kiss a stuffed moose. After all these years, I still have no idea why this is fun or why the moose deserves so much love when I’m the one doing all the work. Some years, I haven’t sent letters at the specific behest of the kids..... I don’t know why.... maybe they broke up with the moose and are not on speaking terms.
On Monday, I left for Australia for two full days of meetings and on Saturday, it’s time to turn around and go home. Sometime during the 31 hour journey, in the 3rd maybe 4th airport lounge, I start texting my soon to be camper....
Me: I didn’t send any moose letters for camp wolverine. Should I?
Camper: Yes please send letters. It's my last year. Tehe
Me: You are getting sentimental in your old age. They can go out in the mail Monday but not sure if it will get there on time by the time you leave Friday. I’ll see what I can do.
Me: How many pieces of mail does one need to get “Moosed”?
C: One but u can send as many as u want. Last year Amy (names have been changed to protect the innocent) got 8
Me: You are killing me can’t keep up with Amy’s family.
Dear reader, we have to pause the text recount for now because I have to tell you what is going through my head at this point. The rant goes something like this ....
... oh no, I’ve failed (again) as a mom. Even if I send the letter now, it is never going to make it on time. It is in the woods and someone probably has a ride a horse to the post office to retrieve mail. Oh wait. Amazon can deliver anything. Prime can surely get it there in two days. That’s it!! I’ll send her this pseudo board game called FastTrack. It’s one where you shoot little wood coins through a slot with your finger. Face off with your opponent and first one to get all seven pucks through to the other side, wins. $15. Done. Let’s see about delivery. What? Oh no. Friday? Oh no, there’s no time to saddle the horse! Shoot. I mean, not the horse. Hurumph.
Quick, I need a plan B. Google the post office closest to LAX. Yup, there’s one right next to the Hertz rent a car place. I can take the free shuttle to Hertz and then walk to the post office. But what should I send her?
Me: I can go to the Delta lounge, grab a bunch of free cookies and mail that to you from LA. . I found a free banana. Not sure if it will make it.
Me: It’s raining like crazy. Trying....To....make....it ...to ....Post....office. Gush.....rain....wet. Yeeeeass. It can be done.
Me: Actually, I’m waiting till rain stops in 20 mins.
C: Wow mom
Me: Yup, I’m a fish. That’s means ... you’re a guppy.
Ok. This is how I worked it. Pulled out my TSA precheck, went to security, bought gift which were (overpriced) socks with little bowls of ramen printed on them. Googled the post office location. Caught FREE Hertz rental car bus to get there. Sit down, waited for 20 mins for rain to stop.
Mailed squishy banana, I mean, socks.
They said it will arrive Tuesday but might be Wednesday by the time horse is saddled. One package is all I could manage. This globe trotting uber Dr. Mom can’t keep up with the 8 letters that Amy’s stay-at-home mom sends her.
Then catch free shuttle back to terminal. Go through TSA precheck again. It’s 0900. Plane leaves at 1145. So plenty of time.
Oh, and I was too cheap to buy a card to go with the gift so I wrote a note on my Virgin Australia Melbourne to Sydney boarding pass, kissed it and stuck it in the envelope. There! Uber working mom with cape!
Click here to see the funny Ramen socks that I bought for her.
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 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.
My first name is : Oh yeah...
My last name is : Mom
When the kids were in kindergarten and pre-school, they were required to tell me 3 things about their day as soon as they got in the car and buckled up. “Tell me a story.” Then, they got a piece of gum. Yes, I am a bad mom, gum is likely not a good thing. But then, we didn’t wear seatbelts when we were children - so there! Alright, back to the 3 items of conversation. I made it easy ... “was there outdoor recess?, who did you sit with for lunch?, etc.” That gave me ammunition to ask more questions as they divulged.
“Tell me a story. Everyone’s got a story”
Let’s fast forward to today.
“How was school?”
Italics [Moms, In case you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s a silly question. It’s close ended and stunts conversation]
“Tell me something funny that happened.”
Italics [Usually, I can see my kids thinking hard and seeing scenes of the day in their heads]
“Oh Yeah! Mom!......”
Italics [...and the story follows suit]
In my field of work, there are many introverts (as am I) and to an extent, extroverts can annoy us when they wish to “process out loud”. Thinking is a cerebral occupation and as as such, we introverts believe that it should remain in the cortex! Now, imagine a family of introverts where sharing is not a preferred activity, how much harder we must work to solicit meaningful conversation as opposed to what we perceive to be space filling chatter. Oh, but what a treasure you have when able to extract both meaning and purpose from everyday conversations for Listening is Love.
My mom does not live close to me and it is rare that we get to spend a lot of time together. We are very close and do talk to each other regular. We spend a good 30 minutes each week chatting. Recently, I managed to squeeze into an already hectic schedule, an entire week with her. She’s in her 70s and when she’s on a mission, she can maintain a walking speed that is faster than mine. She slows down to let me “catch up”. The best times of the week were spent sitting in my childhood bedroom with her telling me stories.
When I was 12, I consciously decided that I needed someone to talk to and clearly remember coming home and saying, “Mom, I want you to know all my friend so I’m going to describe each one of them to you.” What I really wanted to do was tell her about my day but as I started to talk, I realized that it was not possible to tell her about my experience if I didn’t first provide a description of the context, cast and crew. I believe that our children want to talk to us about their feelings, life, and loves.
It made me ponder over the nature of the relationship with my own daughter and what the future holds. What am I doing today to build on that relationship?
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.