Month: July 2017
When I was growing up, I wanted to have a whole slew of kids. I believed that life was like The Brady Bunch and that I could choose three boys and three girls of my own. I always wanted a huge family.
I picked names out for the boys. All my life, I only had names for boys. In my college years, I decided I wanted to have six boys.
When I actually (finally) got married and had kids, I ended up with 2.5 boys. My stepson is totally awesome, but since I do not “parent” him, I usually exclude him from my blog. I was thrilled to watch him grow into the fine young man he is today, but he never, ever needed me. He had two perfectly wonderful parents of his own.
I like to be needed. For me, it’s what parenting is all about – even if it means being needed from a distance.
Now that I have kids of my own, and since I am too old to have any more, I regularly consider whether or not I really want another baby.
And when I really allow myself to ponder the question, I realize the sad and shocking reality.
I do want another baby. In fact, I want more than one. I still want (at least) those other four kids.
I want them in the worst way.
I regularly wish I had gotten married about 15 years earlier, so I could have had more kids. My husband didn’t want more children – and I was, of course, nearly 40 when I had my second child. Bill was worried about money mostly, and retirement. He’s ten years older than me.
I even considered adoption because of my age but, for us, that didn’t make any sense. So we got a dog instead.
Still, it makes me sad to know that I only have 2.5 kids, when I really wanted more. I don’t have that Brady Bunch life with kids all over the place. My boys are nearly grown, and there aren’t any new kids to replace them as they leave home. I wish it weren’t almost over, like it is.
It makes me sad that I waited so long to have kids. To be fair, I had no choice but to wait, in order to marry the right guy for me.
But still. It makes me sad that there was a gaping hole in my life for so many years, and I didn’t even know it was a gaping hole.
Or more accurately, it makes me sad that I tried to fill a gaping hole for many, many years – but didn’t realize that giving my time to my children was a more worthwhile endeavor than any of the ideas I had in my youth. My ideas for gaping-hole fillers were utterly pointless.
I am old now, and I know this. I didn’t know anything then.
I guess I feel the gaping hole coming back, as the kids are growing up. And to be honest, I don’t have any idea what to do with it now.
Dylan has been practicing his driving with Bill.
He’s driven for a couple of hours, and Bill told me Dylan has been doing really well.
I have not been practicing with Dylan. I didn’t think I could take it.
But Dylan has been acting responsibly.
For a teenager, Dylan is acting really responsibly. He’s been getting up on his own – and getting ready for the day. When he wants to do something, he looks at the calendar and figures out a time to do it. Then he asks. He knows which days he has to work – even if he doesn’t know his whole week’s plan – and he lets us know when he’s ready to go (on time). He usually even gets in the car with his stuff. If I give him a note with times that we need to do things, he sets reminders on his phone so he knows when to be ready.
So when he worked for hours last night (although he forgot to wash his uniform beforehand), and then he got in the car and asked to drive…
I said, “NO. You have to be kidding. Forget it. No way.” It was nearly midnight, and the road from his work to our home is mostly two- to three-lane highway which, not coincidentally, was also undergoing construction. I made all of these points very quickly.
And Dylan works at a concert venue. The concert had let out for the evening, so getting out of the area was an extra challenge. Nearby roads were closed for about a mile, except for those covered with special police crews directing traffic. Pedestrians swarmed places where pedestrians don’t normally swarm, and cars were stopped in long, long lines.
“I know a better way to go,” Dylan said. They say that people with ADHD would make great lawyers, because they are constantly negotiating.
“No,” I said. “I don’t need a better way to go. I need less stress and that means I will drive.”
So I drove – until we were about a mile from our house. Then I stopped the car.
“Ready to drive?”
“Okay,” he said, and got carefully into the driver’s seat. He made seat adjustments and checked the lights and put the car in neutral and slowly hit the gas. The car didn’t go.
“It’s in neutral,” I said.
He was already on it.
He put the car in drive, and pulled out. He drove slowly and carefully, like a new driver is supposed to drive. He knew when to turn on his turn signal (and did) and hit the brakes gently when he needed to come to a stop. When he got to a red light, he braked just behind the appropriate line.
I held my breath the entire time. My heart was stuck in my neck. But I tried not to say anything panicky.
And it worked. Dylan drove all the way home without incident, and parked the car in the garage perfectly.
My son is learning to drive.
We were at a hotel this weekend, and I wanted to give Shane an opportunity to “take charge.”
“Here’s the key,” I said, tossing him the key card in its envelope. “You can let us in.”
“Okay,” Shane said. We got off the elevator.
“Which way do we go?” I asked. “What’s the room number?” A large, handwritten “504” was inked with bold, black marker on the envelope.
Shane took the card out of the envelope. He turned the card over a few times.
“I don’t see any room number,” he said.
“Where else might the number be?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He put the card back in the envelope. I could see the black marker from where I stood, four feet away.
“Do you see any numbers on there at all?” I asked.
He fumbled for another minute. He hemmed and hawed. He turned the card over and over, flipping to and from the black-marker “504.”
Finally, with great pride, Shane said, “504! It says 504!”
We started walking toward our room.
Then Shane said, “I thought it said, ‘SOY.'”
When I looked back at the envelope, indeed the “5” looked like an “S” and the “4” looked like a “Y,” so I could clearly see the word, “SOY.”
Why on earth, I thought to myself, would a key card say SOY?
Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t matter. We laughed about the SOY card all weekend long.
Getting old is not easy.
I ran into some friends last week. We talked about our health issues, our friends’ health issues, and our friends who recently died.
“The days of weddings and baby showers are over,” I said.
“Yeah,” someone agreed. “Now it’s just funerals.”
I’m on my way to one such funeral – but this time, it hit closer to home. This time, it’s my uncle – my dad’s older brother – who is gone.
And that’s what it feels like; he’s just gone. He always lived far away from me, but he was always there when we went to visit. Now he’s not even there, and quite honestly “gone” just doesn’t seem fair, or right. It doesn’t even make any sense.
But I tried to make sense of it to my kids – to explain the sadness – so that they would understand.
I looked at them: 13 and 16 years old, full of energy and life, questioning how things are, who they are, brimming with excitement for the next challenge. They don’t really know – thank God – what it’s like to have a close family member die.
“It’s very hard,” I told the boys. “Because you don’t feel different when you’re older. Your body may look different, but your mind and your soul are the same. You don’t change that much by getting older, except on the outside. Your feelings don’t change.”
They looked at me blankly. Shane looked at Dylan, to see what he might do. Then I remembered: Shane idolizes his older brother. Every breath that Dylan takes has meaning for Shane.
Like many younger brothers, my dad idolized his older brother, too. In fact, he still does – and why not? His brother was an awesome man.
For years and years and years – for his whole life – my dad has turned to his brother for advice, ideas and conversation. And now, that decades-long conversation is over.
There is no replacement for that.
But how do you explain that to someone who hasn’t lived long enough to appreciate it?
“Shane,” I said. “It would be like if Dylan died.”
I saw a flicker of understanding on Shane’s face – and another flicker on Dylan’s – like they’d been smacked hard, but very briefly, in the face.
“Oh,” Shane said. Dylan looked down at his phone.
They didn’t say much about it after that.
And I didn’t have much more to say.
With the kids at camp, I roll out of bed every morning whenever I want. I stay up as late as I want, too. I don’t have to get up and feed them, or take them somewhere, or go anywhere with them.
So I eat whatever I want, wherever and whenever I want. I go wherever I want, whenever I want. I could have gone on a three-day cruise, and the kids wouldn’t even have noticed.
But I did not go on a three-day cruise. In fact, if I were to go on a cruise, I would want to take the kids with me. They would love that. I would love that.
Instead, I am rolling around in my bed till 10 a.m., with absolutely no reason to get up. I don’t see any reason in the world to get out of that bed. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nobody needs me.
Luckily, I have a dog, or I might have been in that bed all week.
I get up and let the dog outside, feed her, watch her go back to her position next to me on the floor. She sleeps all day.
Now I see why.
No one depends on the dog. If anyone says, “Let’s go!” she leaps to her feet and gets in the car first. But if no one says “let’s go,” she just sleeps.
I’ve discovered that I can’t stay in bed for more than ten hours without getting a headache. And I don’t enjoy all that sleeping. I just don’t have anything better to do.
This is one week out of my life. It feels like a life utterly wasted, but with softball season over and my husband back at work and my job taking place during the school year, I have absolutely no reason to be.
This does not bode well for when the kids move out. In fact, I sense impending doom.
The kids were ecstatic after summer camp last year. They clamored into the car, smiling and chatting non-stop for the entire ride home. They were joking, deeply philosophical, funny, and mature. Both boys had grown at camp – in a very good way.
So, after camp last summer, we signed up the kids for the following year. By doing this, we saved $100 each, and scheduled our low monthly payments to be automatically paid with a credit card so we wouldn’t have to think about it.
And we didn’t think about it – at all. In fact, when we changed the kids’ schedule from Week 2 to Week 4, we didn’t even notice that the automated payments stopped.
So when the deadline for payments was looming, and I discovered a hefty amount was still waiting to be paid, I kind of freaked out.
I called the camp. “We thought it was paid off,” I said. “We don’t know what happened! What can we do? Is there some way we can still pay in installments?” We had just come back from a very expensive vacation, and suddenly paying two almost-entire camp tuitions seemed rough.
“This is odd,” said the camp representative. “It looks like your automated payments stopped when your kids changed from Week 2 to Week 4. I’m not sure why it did that. Let me look into it and call you back.”
A few minutes went by. She called me back.
“We are so sorry,” she said. “The system just didn’t transfer over automatically like it should have.”
“That’s okay,” I said, “but what can we do? If we could have another month….”
“No, no,” said the woman. “We really appreciate you pointing out this glitch in our system. To thank you, we’d like to take care of the balance for you.”
“What?!” I nearly toppled over in my chair. “That really isn’t necessary!”
“We want to pay the balance for you. If you hadn’t pointed this out, we wouldn’t have known it existed, and you’ve kept this from happening in the future. We are happy to pay off your balance in full.”
They paid hundreds of dollars for my kids to go to camp this year. I couldn’t thank them enough. And while I tried, and wrote them letters, and thanked them profusely, I think a plug for this incredible camp is in order.
My kids love this camp. The counselors are phenomenal; the activities are thrilling, and the electronics-free zone gives the kids a chance to experience life the way it should be experienced: actively, in the outdoors, with new friends, with all the necessary comforts and all the freedom they require.
Maryland’s River Valley Ranch is an absolutely fantastic place.
Dylan came downstairs on Saturday morning – morning, not afternoon – 100% showered, clean hair, dressed and ready to go.
We weren’t going anywhere.
Then he did his Saturday jobs – a few simple chores that the kids are required to do once a week. As far as I know, Dylan has never – until this past Saturday – done any of his Saturday jobs without being reminded. And usually by the time he gets around to doing his “Saturday” jobs, it’s Sunday. Or even Monday.
But on this day, he did all of his Saturday jobs immediately.
Then he did his weekly vacuuming. He does one floor one week, one floor the next week. This week was the “upstairs” week – so, without being told, he got the vacuum, took it upstairs, and vacuumed the entire floor.
I was still in my pajamas, unshowered, watching this happen. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
After all of that, Dylan went into the kitchen, took his vitamins and made himself breakfast.
It was a little bit like living with an adult – a mature, responsible adult, who does his part and knows how to take care of himself.
I don’t understand it, but I sure do like it.
I can’t imagine that this will ever end.
My teenager insists that he is being responsible. I’ve given him a list of maybe forty things that need to be done consistently, that will prove that he’s responsible.
Dylan doesn’t do those things. Yet, he insists he is responsible.
“The substrate in your crab tank needs to be changed every six months,” I told him – three years ago. He never changed it. So I put it on the list, “Change crab tank” – to be done “by July 13.”
On July 12, since he’d made no effort to do even a little bit of changing the crab tank early, I highlighted the entry on the list, and left it by his door overnight. Still, he did nothing.
At 3:15 in the afternoon, I reminded Dylan about the crab tank. In spite of myself, I reminded him to get it done. The note outside his door was insufficient. The highlighted list was insufficient. The original list was insufficient. The reminders throughout the years were all insufficient.
Dylan said, “I’ll do that right now.” Because now, his back was up against the wall. Prove that you’re responsible. DO the crab tank by the end of TODAY! There were no more excuses; there was no more time to delay. Dylan hadn’t done it, and now he had no choice but to do it.
Unfortunately, crabs molt. And when they are molting, they can’t be disturbed. So having three years (and six weeks) to add substrate was also insufficient. A crab was molting, so the crab tank was not going to get done ON July 13.
Dylan panicked. “I looked it up,” he said, making yet another excuse to “prove” that he’s responsible. “I can still do it today and it won’t hurt the crabs.” (It’s always good to find a place on the internet that agrees with you.)
I pointed out that Dylan also didn’t do other things on the list. He was supposed to be regularly practicing for the SAT tests in the fall. Dylan claims that he has done that several times this summer. (Odd that he’s never done it when I was around.)
He was supposed to wear his retainer every night. The list said it “should feel weird going to bed without it.” I can count the number of times on one hand that Dylan’s worn his retainer. In fact, when he went away for a week, he didn’t even bother to take it with him. Dylan’s response? “I made a plan by myself that will help me remember to wear my retainer.” It’s been more than a year since Dylan stopped wearing braces. And he’s just now devised a plan that will help? I sure hope this one works!
Dylan’s also supposed to not be using his phone during family times. When I pointed out that he was still lapsing into phone usage during family times, he denied, denied, denied. “Whenever you tell me to put it away, I do!”
So, the way Dylan sees it, the list says:
- Clean crab tank whenever it’s convenient for you (which is really never)
- Practice for SAT tests once in awhile, and only when trying to prove that you’re responsible
- Wear your retainer whenever you remember (which is almost never)
- Make a plan to wear your retainer, which should hold Mom at bay for awhile
- Put phone away quickly when asked during family times
This is not the way I wrote the list. And yes, I remember the blog I wrote a few weeks ago, about his ADHD behaviors making him seem irresponsible.
It’s no less frustrating.
We are nearly exhausting ourselves with GREAT things to do to make sure we’re not bored during “no electronics” time.
We have played charades, Zombie Fluxx, Sorry, Rat-a-Tat Cat, Whoonu, Apples to Apples, Family Feud and Zooreka. We’ve even played a version of the Game of Things, which Dylan had to make since we didn’t own the actual board game. Board games seem to be our first choice of things to do when we’re bored – and even Dylan has been on board.
We’ve seen three matinee movies and gone out for ice cream twice afterward. Two of the three were even good movies! We’ve also had movie nights at home. Dylan’s worked a lot at his job, and Shane’s done a lot of volunteer work for community service hours.
We’ve gone kayaking and seen free concerts AND Shakespeare in the park. The kids have hung out at the mall, and I’ve been actually taking some time to read my book – like I do on beach vacations sometimes. I’ve done laundry a bit more willingly than I did when I wasn’t using the computer, although I haven’t done it nearly fast enough for my liking.
We’ve gone to lots of baseball games (mostly because Shane is the mascot) and I’ve played lots of softball. Thanks to my parents, there’s been bowling and ping pong and an all-day amusement area. Today, we’re heading into Washington, D.C. – a place we rarely visit, even though we’re half an hour away – to see an interactive art exhibit. Oh, and on the side, we met an absolutely wonderful author who spent the afternoon with us.
We didn’t want to be bored. As a result, we are utterly exhausted. We are doing a lot! Some people would say it’s maybe even too much.
I can’t say that all of this activity is a bad thing. Sometimes it makes life feel like it’s going too fast. But most of the time, even though life is flying by, without the electronic interference, I’m enjoying every minute of it as it flies.
Our first week on electronics restriction was an easy one.
We have determined that we will have four-hour blocks, four days a week, when no electronics are allowed. Somehow we circumvented this entirely, while still following the “rules.”
The first day, we played a game of charades – then Shane headed out to an amusement park with his cousins, and Dylan took his driving test. The next day, we went to see a movie. (Somehow, this still seems electronic.) Then Dylan spent two days touring D.C., while Shane and I played lots of board games, and went to the library.
When our non-restricted time came, we did not actually race to use the computer. Surprisingly, we’ve gotten used to doing less on the computer and more with each other.
One day, Dylan made lunch for his brother – actually cooked – and then cleaned the kitchen. Then he went to the mall with friends. I played softball. Shane read a couple of books, which not only fulfilled a summer homework requirement, but prepared him to meet a local author.
The hardest thing for me is when I don’t know something, I want to look it up online. But I can’t. I started keeping a list of things to look up next to the computer, but (surprise!) by the time I was “allowed” to look them up, I didn’t care about the answers anymore.
At one point, I needed to return some shoes to Zappos, which is notorious for its exceptional customer service (and the best way to buy shoes, in my opinion). I got special permission (from Shane) to look up the phone number, so I could call them – rather than doing the bulk of the return online.
“May I have the order number, please?” asked the customer service representative.
“No,” I stammered. “I would, but we’re having ‘no electronics time’ in our house and….”
“No worries,” said the rep. “At my house, we have ‘no electronics’ time and we eat dinner together five nights a week. If anyone even looks at their phone during those times, I get to keep it for a week.”
She is raising four teenagers – so to say that she understood would be an understatement. She looked up the order numbers for me.
Overall, it’s gone rather well – so far. Dylan actually said he was looking forward to having the time off – and has been staying surprisingly close to us for family games and such. During movie night this weekend, he didn’t even bring his phone to the show.
In a few weeks, the kids go off to camp for a whole week without electronics. Last year, it was the most productive, wonderful week of their summer. And this year, they’ll be even better prepared.
While they’re gone, I plan on continuing the non-electronics restriction on myself. I’ve found that it is far more challenging for me than it has been for them.