Trying to squeeze yourself into the wrong advice


My youngest son had to register for junior high this week. The nerves he displayed while touring the school and deciding which classes to take blew my mind. My usual Mr. Bold wasn’t. Oh he raised his eyes every time someone yelled out his name, giving a wave and a “Hey.” But then his gaze dropped right back to the floor. By the time we got back to the car, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“What’s your deal tonight?”

“My teacher told us that junior high will be the toughest years we will experience. And if we didn’t want to have problems with other kids, we should keep our heads down and just trudge forward.”

I laughed. “Oh, sweet love…”

Yes, junior high are some of the worst years for any kid, but I couldn’t see the teacher’s remedy being the right one for my son. Such introverted behavior for someone so extroverted like his mother would only make him unhappy.

“There are other things you can do than just keep your head down. Use that outgoing personality of yours to your advantage. Befriend everyone, and I mean everyone. When you show open kindness, refusing to exclude anyone, you’ll be so well liked nobody will bother you. Not even those that end up hating you because you are so well liked.

Think about all the kids in there that just shouted your name while walking around. You already have a big group of kids that like you, just keep building on that base.”

His eyes lit up. “I like that idea better.”

“Of course you do. The only way to be happy in life is to stay true to yourself.”

It’s something we all need to remember. Though listening to people older and wiser than you is a good idea, advice is never a “one size fits all” answer. Take the time to consider if the advice is a good fit for you.

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The Parent Crystal Ball

I often have a houseful of teenagers in my home on weekends. I don’t mind. It’s a great way for me to observe and eavesdrop on conversations. Hey, it’s for my young adult writing. Don’t make it weird.

Anyway, a couple of weekends ago, I noticed two of my daughter’s friends sitting close together. The long gazes that boy and girl shared bordered on “super cringy” for everyone else.

After everyone left I told my daughter. “Now you know you’re going to have to stay neutral when those two break up. Right?”

At first, she tried to play dumb, like they weren’t going out. I just raised my eyebrows until she finally caved. “Okay, they’re together. But they really like each other. I don’t think they’ll break up.”

My years of high school dating experience said otherwise but it wouldn’t hurt anything at this point if she kept those rose colored glasses on. “You’re welcome to believe that. But if it does go south, stay neutral and stay out of it, or you’re likely to lose not one, but two friends.”

This week she stomped into the house after school. “How did you know those two would break up?”

“Oh, just my crystal ball.” Yes, as a mom, I tend to try funny before allowing any gut wrenching serious to take over. “More importantly, what did you do about it?”

“I did just as you said. I stayed neutral, and boy am I glad! Everybody’s in upheaval over it. Each of them is going to all of their friends trying to get them to take their side.”

“And they will… Just continue to say you have no opinion on the subject, no matter how many friends press you. It’ll all blow over in a couple of weeks.”

“Are you sure?”

I pointed to myself. “Crystal ball, remember?”

Not really. The older I get, the more I realize I’ve watched or lived through every high school scenario. If only I’d had this super power in high school, I could have avoided so many social landmines. At least my daughter can benefit from my past. Well…if she continues to listen to my advice. But I also know that becomes sketchy the older a teenager gets.    

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Score one for the mean mom

I have a crazy follow up to my last post. My thankless job as the mean mom received an unexpected moment of appreciation. One of my nieces asked my daughter to play the piano for her at a string festival over the weekend. We were given the accompaniment music months ago. It was more than enough time but I made sure my daughter practice those songs every day.

We arrived a day early for the competition to make sure both my daughter on the piano and my niece on the cello would have no issues playing their parts together. The first song they practiced sounded so off it hurt my ears. I asked them to do it again but got the same result. I took both of their sheet music and compared them side by side. The song was the same except the key signatures didn’t match. My daughter had been given the accompaniment for a different instrument than the cello. My panic level inched up but the situation was still fixable. My daughter at least had a comfortable understanding of how the song should sound once we found the music in the right key.

Then I decided it might be wise to look at the second song they were supposed to perform. The titles written at the top of the music said both sheets of music were the same song, but my heart dropped at the sight of the different metered times. They couldn’t be the same song. My daughter had learned a completely different song than the one she needed to perform.

After about an hour of scrambling we finally had the right music for both songs. I feared the task ahead for my daughter. She had never performed with so little time to practice, and she had to perform these in front of judges. I’ve never seen my daughter focus harder and complain less about practicing the piano. She became the self-motivated child I’d been trying for years to get.

Before she went to bed that night she hugged me. “Thank you, mom. Because you always make me practice, I was able to learn that music so fast.”

Nothing could have made me happier—except maybe a voice recorder to document the moment.

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Yeah, I’m the mean mom

Being a mom is often hard. Since I’m a demanding mom it’s even harder. But it’s all worth it when I see my children soar. Those moments don’t last forever, though it would be nice if they did. So, I tuck those precious times in my memory and pull them out when my kids whine.

“So-and-so’s mom doesn’t make them do chores.”

“Jeez, Mom, it’s just a “B”, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“So what if I played the piano piece wrong. I can practice it again tomorrow.”

Yes, I push, not because I don’t love them—I see their potential. And for some crazy reason teenagers, like every other person on this Earth, want to take the path of least resistance. Even I sometimes want to just let them coast. Oh, it would be so much easier for me. But then I remember those soaring moments and find the strength to be the “mean mom” who demands more from my kids.

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The “last times” of life

This week, for Valentines, I helped my youngest son make his last Valentine’s Day Box for his class party. He stopped being so excited about the project when I mentioned this.

“What do you mean this is my last Valentine’s Day Box?”

“You’re going to junior high next year.” I don’t how he had forgotten. He talked of little else lately. “You won’t have class parties anymore.”

“Oh…” He bowed his head and scrunched the material I’d cut for his box in his hands. “Maybe getting older isn’t so cool after all.”

“Didn’t I keep telling you not to wish your youth away? The good news, it isn’t all bad. Growing up means, you’ll also get to drive a car one day. Date girls. Get kisses.”

“Ew, mom!”

Honestly, I’m glad that’s still his reaction, though I know it won’t last forever. Growing older is something none of us can stop. And it really is good news that age brings more opportunities and independence, yet it also closes doors. That’s why you should always live in the now, trying everything the age you’re in has to offer. Eventually, all, like my son, will experience a “last time” that no amount of wishing can stop from happening.

Here’s to the end of an era…

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Oh the flowery words I should have said…

After cutting my youngest son’s hair this week I told him to take off his shirt before hitting the shower. Hair spread clear across the floor from my kitchen to his bathroom is the last thing I need. But when he pulled off his shirt, I noticed a large lump on his back. One I’d never seen before, and I’m a wrestling mom, so I see his naked back pretty often while he takes his singlet straps off and on between matches.

It takes a couple of days to get into the doctor, but I keep pretending like it’s no big deal. His little imagination has already decided the worst, so it’s up to me to keep a level head.

In the office, the doctor lists off three possibilities for the lump. Two are not life threatening. The last option is not good.

“The only way to know for sure is to open him up and look,” the doctor says prodding the spot some more.

“What?” My son pushes up from where he lays on the exam table. “You mean like right now?”

The doctor nods. “Unless you want a dermatologist to do it, but you’re going to have a scar either way.”

My son goes into panic mode, trying to escape out of the room. I push him back down on the table.

“Quit being a wuss. We need to know what this is.”

My son survived the procedure, and the doctor confirmed that is wasn’t cancer but a fatty tumor. He removed it, stitched him back up, and we were on our way home.

In the car, my son says, “Why do you have to be so mean?”

“I’m not mean. Do you really think I’d let the doctor cut you open if I didn’t trust him? I would never let anybody hurt you if I didn’t think it wasn’t for your benefit.”

He crossed his arms and looked away. “Maybe you should have said it that way instead of calling me a wuss.”

I rolled my eyes. If only my life worked like my stories. I could hit delete a thousand times until everything I said held the perfect weight of words choice and clarity. But sadly, I have to function within whatever moments life throws at me. And in that moment, ‘quit being a wuss,’ felt right.

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The negative will eat you alive

I had a recent conversation with a young woman about being happy. She claimed that society and the world in general is so awful now it wasn’t possible to find anymore. She could list more than a dozen things wrong or unfair, probably more if I had let her go on. I stopped her in the middle of her tirade.

“I don’t disagree about the things you’ve pointed out, but there is also a lot of good in the world too.”

She didn’t even considered my words, going right back to the many complaints she thought cancelled out any good. I wish her well but I worry about her mental health. A constant focus on the negative in our life drains our capacity to cope with the many challenges we face. It is better to put your energy into seeing the good. Trust me—the bad doesn’t need your constant focus to thrive. You, on the other hand, won’t survive if all you see is doom and gloom around you.

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