Tag Archives: parenting

I wish that I could be like the cool kids

Image: Echosmith.com

Image: Echosmith.com

Have you heard this catchy little tune by Echosmith? When it comes on the radio Quinn always ask me to turn it up “like a party” and he sings along to the lyrics:

  “I wish that I could be like the cool kids,

‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids,

‘Cause all the cool kids they seem to get it.”

It breaks my heart a little bit each time.

Don’t you remember those kids? The ones who seemed to always have the right clothes and the right hair and could always say and do the right thing? Their shiny perfection made everything a regular kid did seem dull in comparison.

I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Although I had plenty of friends, I certainly wasn’t in the upper social stratosphere. Somehow I survived school, and even eventually went back to revisit those days for a couple of reunions – the 10th, the 21st (don’t ask), the 25th. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is we all have more in common than we ever would have allowed ourselves to imagine when we were fellow students. We each have strengths and weaknesses, parts which are attractive and some which are less appealing and successes and failures. We’re human.

Every September is a reunion for school kids. I want my children to understand that being one of the cool kids in school isn’t a guarantee of a lifetime of happiness. Summer experiences and growth have the potential to impact every child. Attitudes and preferences change and each new academic year is a clean slate of opportunity for everyone. Getting that is ultimately far more important than fitting in.

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Filed under aging, Boys, musings, Summer, Uncategorized

Travel school

The first time I went to Florida was in 1983. I was 17 and we drove in a Winnebago, leaving New York on Christmas Day. I think we were in Maryland before the ice on the driver’s window thawed enough for the driver, my friend’s dad, to be able pay tolls without having to open the door.

The drive south was all new to me – the slow pace of the fast food workers, the miles and miles of hype for South of the Border, palm trees and the gin we dipped into after we drank all of George’s Heinekens. While the weather was a bit of a disappointment, I saw so many new things it might as well have been spring. My world grew.

The flight to Florida which Quinn and I took was not his first plane trip, but it has been a few years since his last flight. The awe on his face when the plane took off was unforgettable to me and worth every penny I will spend on our Mom & me adventure. Once we landed, he was a great helper as we made our way to baggage claim and the correct carousel, retrieved our luggage, located the car rental company with whom we had reservations, checked in using their kiosk and picked a car.

image

Despite the map app I used taking us a bit out of our way once we were on the highway, he remained excited and in good spirits. We decided to stop for a bite to eat, a couple of miles before we reached our hotel, and Quinn gave no argument about respecting my “no chain restaurants” policy. We came across a joint that looked promising and he had no hesitation at venturing into Andy’s Drive-in. It was classic and he soaked in the turquoise Naugahyde booths and squeeze bottle condiments along with his hot dog and milkshake. When we found ourselves needing a late afternoon pick me up the next day, Andy’s was his request.

Our hotel breakfast was buffet style and he happily made his own waffle. I encouraged him to start with only one waffle because he could always have more, but couldn’t put things back. We talked about not being wasteful and about other hotels he’d been to, the Embassy Suites in Alexandria with its fish pond being a favorite. We planned our day.

Often we return from vacation feeling heavy, like we’ve gained weight because we’ve overindulged. I’d like to think that at least some of that weightiness is the result of information and knowledge we’ve learned from our travels. Skills like navigating through an airport and along new highways, how to spot a place where the locals have been eating for almost 60 years and knowing how much is enough.  As Mohammad said: “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.”

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Filed under Boys, travel, vacation

Some Girls

image: amiright.com

In the sweet old country
Where I come from
Nobody ever works
Nothing ever gets done.”

There was a summer a long time ago, in the mythical (to some) town where I grew up, when it seemed that the Rolling Stones’ album “Some Girls” was in constant airplay. It didn’t seem possible that so many good songs could all be on a single piece of vinyl, but they were.

When I look back at that particular summer, it seems like I spent a lot of time hanging out in a gas station right in town. Those were the days when gas stations were places where the bays were devoted to car repairs rather than being set up as mini markets. There was an office with a big desk, a cash register, a phone which rang a surprising number of times a day and an old (even then) soda machine that had been jerry-rigged to dispense nips of beer instead cans of cola. I absolutely cherish these memories.

Over the years, the gas station was owned by the fathers of two different friends, I still am uncertain of the order. One of those fathers lost his child, my friend, to a motorcycle and a sense of invincibility decades ago. The other is now close to being lost to his daughter, and his other children, at what still seems to be too soon. It’s made me sadder than I ever imagined.

You should know that fathers were a bit scarce amongst my friends and me. Many of them were absent in one way or another, something we never explicitly questioned or discussed until years later. This particular Dad, though? This man was present. I came to know him and the quiet and amused manner in which he accepted me, always made me feel comfortable in his presence.

Although it has been many years since those days, I’ll never forget them. Time passes and life changes. It all becomes much less simple. Parents get divorced, they get sick and a future without them to look to guidance and validation becomes imminent. The memories though, the feelings of happiness and appreciation that can be summoned by a song on the radio, will be there always.

Some girls are really lucky.

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Filed under aging, family, friends, relationships

Trains, boats and buses

imageThose of you who have children know that a big part of parenting seems to revolve around  transportation. Like us, kids have places to be and must get to them. Whether it’s sports practice, school events or to social activities, we, as parents, are usually on the hook to drive them to where they need to be. At what age do we begin letting them get there on their own? What about when where they want to go is more distant than just a couple of miles away?

My oldest son has always had a remarkable sense of direction. When he was still preschool age I began to rely upon him for help while driving, asking him which way to turn. He’s always been obsessed with transportation, particularly trains, yet, as a city kid he has no interest in getting his driver’s license. I’m fine with that, trust me. Last year, on our first day in Amsterdam we bought 24 hour hop on/hop off passes for the canal boats. After we boarded the boat we consulted the map to determine which stops we should take and quickly determined we were interested in doing different things.

After a quick discussion, Liam and I decided to split up for a couple of hours. He would remain on the boat and loop back around to visit the Maritime Museum and I would get off at the next stop to troll through one of my favorite flea markets. We’d been in Amsterdam for less than 18 hours and were without cell phones, but I was confident that he could, in case of an emergency, find his way back to the hotel. I clambered off the boat and watched it depart, thinking that his Dad would be mighty pissed if this venture didn’t go well…

But, of course, it did go well. My 16 y/o and I met at the designated spot essentially on time and all was well. I was definitely a little apprehensive, but I knew I had to give him a little independence, even in the vice capital of Europe, and I didn’t regret it. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

There have been other occasions when I’ve trusted the boys to get somewhere on their own. When Griffin was 13, I put him on the bus at the Port Authority to ride out to the Meadowlands to meet friends for a Jets game – on Thanksgiving afternoon. The ride home caused me more anxiety, particularly after my son disregarded the instructions to wait inside for me and instead was walking around 8th Avenue. We figured it out.

Liam has taken the train solo to NYC, switching lines at Poughkeepsie to arrive at Grand Central Station. Griffin’s latest triumph was making his way from Albany to the ferry dock in Woods Hole, via Boston. These forays can definitely be a little anxiety-inducing, but I know that teenagers need to learn to navigate their way through the world and I’m much more comfortable giving my kid a ticket to ride than a license to drive.  You?

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Filed under aging, Boys, family, road trips, travel

World Cup recap – bonding over balls and beer

Are you a soccer fan? Prior to the recent World Cup tournament, I certainly wouldn’t have declared myself to be one. When I answered Matt Baumgartner’s call for temporary employees to assist during the tournament, I was responding as a worker, not a soccer fanatic. But, something has definitely changed. This whole soccer thing? I think I like it.

Although two of my boys play soccer, I’ve avoided the moniker “soccer mom” with the skill of a teenager ducking household chores. Not me, no way. I attend games and cheer enthusiastically from the sidelines, but I certainly have no interest in driving around in a minivan with a soccer ball decal stuck to the back window. You know me, I’m not much of a joiner or follower.

The first match I worked was Team USA vs Portugal. The crowd at Wolff’s Biergarten was tremendous – pumped up and loud, but in no way aggressive or obnoxious. I loved their enthusiasm and the excitement was contagious. This was definitely going to be fun.

As “our” team advanced, along with Team Germany, the team of my maternal side of the family, I realized that my soccer playing middle son needed to be part of the scene. I arranged to bring him and a couple of his friends down to check out a match. They were awesome! In a crowd of hundreds, they hung out, clad in red, white and blue, mesmerized by the game and the other spectators. I was impressed by their poise and comfort and knew that Griffin and I would become regulars for the duration of the tournament.

As the matches came fast and furious, so did the communication between my family and me – emails, Facebook messages and status updates. Knowing that my family in Germany were occupied watching the same event as we were, was intensely comforting. Who knew that a ball game could make the world seem so small? I absolutely loved it.

When Team USA was eliminated, we placed our energy into cheering on the motherland, Deutschland. Our German flag accompanied us to the subsequent matches and I cherished the opportunity to be proud of being German in a world that doesn’t always perceive us as being worthy of admiration. The hefeweizen flowed and steins were raised amidst shouts of Prost! and Griffin and I hung out, side by side, united in our interest for 90+ minutes.

Photo: Wolff's Biergarten

Photo: Wolff’s Biergarten

Four years from now, my son will be 19, perhaps not as inclined to hang out in a sports bar with his mom as he was this year. I’d like to think, though, that he’ll someday tell his own children about the times he and I spent together watching the World Cup. If he doesn’t, believe me, I will.

More pictures from the tournament here.

http://www.timesunion.com/seen-events/slideshow/SEEN-U-S-A-vs-Belgium-World-Cup-at-Wolff-s-88979.php

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Filed under Albany, beer, Boys, Events, family, Germany, soccer, Summer, television

A rich summer vs. summer enrichment

For those of you with school age children – what are your summers like?  Are they a time to explore new interests, further develop skills and pad college applications?  Are your children busy with summer jobs or camps?  Maybe they’re already tackling their summer reading lists to get a jump on things for fall.  All good things I suppose.

Around my house, though, things don’t look quite like that.  My oldest son has been busy re-watching episodes of Murder She Wrote and mastering the art of making omelets.  He also has a part-time unpaid internship set to begin in another week or so and I know he is looking forward to that experience.  Liam also learned recently how to pay by phone for Chinese food when I forgot to bring my wallet when I picked up the Chinese food, which meant he needed to call in my credit card information.  I think that’s an important life lesson, don’t you?

The middle guy has been occupied with playing lacrosse and watching the World Cup.  He’s been working on his game, both on and off the field, and I had a weird sense of pride when I saw his photo in a recent Seen gallery shot at Wolff’s Biergarten.  He was rocking his red, white and blue and appeared completely comfortable taking in the match while surrounded by beer-fueled adults.  I believe he finally may now understand that spending a little time each day doing homework eliminates the need to spend 10 more months taking Spanish 2 because you failed the class with a 62.5.  My walk last night with Jeter also taught him that I may just unexpectedly come around the corner when he is out hanging with his friends in the neighborhood – a good lesson for him to absorb, don’t you think?

As for my youngest, well, this week he mastered making his own pbj and has been taking even bigger steps towards independence.  Last weekend, for instance,  he attended an afternoon birthday party a couple of blocks away and walked home solo.  Sort of.  The birthday girl’s mom texted when he was leaving and there may have been an older cousin who walked him partially home.  The bottom line is he felt a sense of accomplishment and independence.  That is the kind of summer enrichment I’m looking for.

Summer, for me, is a time to catch up on things – some tasks around the house, a few books I’ve been meaning to get to and visiting friends I don’t often get to spend time with during the school year.  How about you?

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Filed under Boys, Education, SEEN, soccer, Summer, vacation

Expectations

What are “reasonable” expectations?  Are you comfortable with those you have and, presumably, honor?  I was thinking about some of the expectations I have and considering their degree of realism.  I think I do ok with most of them.  My problem comes when I allow something external to start putting the squeeze on me – like Hallmark or Madison Avenue.  That’s when I’m sure to be dissatisfied.

When I recently wrote my list of Mother’s Day wishes, I didn’t think I was asking for all that much.  Most of the items had more to do with thoughtfulness than money.  I thought it was a reasonable list of expectations. Shall I share how many I received and how it made me feel?

There were 10 “things” on the list.  Three were delivered, a number  I can accept.  Well, was actually more like 2 were completely met and two were partially met, which I decided to count as three.  I’m almost always able to see the positive, and the overall spirit of my wish or expectation was met.  For instance, I didn’t have to get up prematurely to take Jeter out, because he wasn’t home yet from Center Square.  That sort of thing.  So, three done with one more  that I’m going to nail before the day is done.

Today, in the morning, I was disappointed.  There was very little showering of attention and there wasn’t a single sweet bakery treat.  I washed and folded four loads of laundry and thawed some chicken for dinner.  I decided I no longer wanted to go out.  I did some puttering around the house, a little garden weeding and then spontaneously joined friends for a glass of prosecco.  The day started to shift.

kale, pears, roth bleu, craisins, sunflower oil, salt

kale, pears, roth bleu, craisins, sunflower oil, salt

I came home and prepared a beautiful dinner of slightly charred chicken with two marinades, grilled local asparagus and a fantastic kale and pear side dish. The boys set the table with minimal protest.  They helped to clean up following dinner, as well.  When the kitchen was tidied up, I headed down to the Normanskill for a walk, minus any FLB, but Jeter with riding shotgun.

Normanskill

Normanskill

I saw the end of my day in sight.  A walk, some writing, a run, a shower and in between the fresh sheets.  My annoyance with the FLB and their fail for Mother’s Day began to roll off my shoulders.  What did it matter?  Why are flowers or candy any more special because they arrive on a specified holiday?  Isn’t it more enjoyable to receive some acknowledgement of our value on a day when our children are inspired, rather than pressured?  Who cares?  Or, more specifically, why should I care?

So, Jeter had his first swim (not as much of a natural as Cassidy), I had a walk in the sunshine and now, my run beckons.  The day didn’t go as expected, but it still was a day of sunshine, good food, new experiences, friends, bubbles, exercise, and being a mom to three “boys.”

Hope your Mother’s Day expectations were met equally well.

not really sure about how he got here...

not really sure about how he got here…

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Filed under aging, Boys, Eating, family, holidays, moms, musings, Normanskill, sunday