Tag Archives: parenting

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

What (this) Mom really wants for Mother’s Day…

to…

• wake up and not need to immediately take the dog out because one of the Fabulous Lilly Boys (FLB) already has done the job

• make extra coffee and enjoy it on the back deck in the morning sunshine

• find the newspaper on the dining room table without having to actually leave the house

• sample an array of baked goods, thoughtfully selected by one of the FLB, from the Delso’s Bake for You

• take a walk along the Normanskill with the FLB and Jeter, too.

• not have to referee a single spat or argument between the FLB

• a brief nap and a long run, order of said events unimportant

• walk to the Capital City Gastropub without a single complaint from the FLB about how far it is (<1 mile)

• two (3?) glasses of wine at aforementioned dinner destination

• climb into a freshly made bed with a good book

It’s really that easy. I don’t want or need flowers, chocolate or jewelry.  A card, preferably handmade,  is always appreciated and saved forever.  Could someone please get this list to the FLB?

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Filed under Boys, DelSo, holidays, ideas, moms, sunday

My just deserts

DSC_0121We celebrated a birthday this week, in a fairly low-key fashion. While I generally write a birthday piece and devote it to the celebrant, I struggled with a cohesive message when it came to my middle son’s birthday and a litany of pithy observations and attributes just felt forced. You see, he is, as my estranged mother likes to assert, the one who is “just like me.” While she would like to believe that he is my punishment for all the terrible things I put her through during my own teen years, I disagree. He is my triumph.

When my first child was born, organized me was totally ill prepared. He was early, he was small and he arrived surgically rather than in anything remotely resembling the Bradley birth for which we had been preparing. He became critically ill, a consequence in my mother’s eyes of my own stubbornness and incompetence, rather than the fault of a medical team who failed to make a routine and simple diagnosis. Feeding him was a challenge and he missed milestone after milestone. With all of the necessary interventions, it was a long time before I felt like he was “mine”* and could confidently manage his care and develop routines that worked for us.

Griffin, though? He is my child, not my mother’s, not a medical patient, not an early intervention case to be managed. He arrived on the precise day for which I was hoping – the last day of April and not the first of May, my own mother’s birthday. He is a gift to me, my very own diamond, albeit one which remains in need of a little polishing.

I birthed this child and fed him from my own body for more than a year. Together with his dad, I dressed and nurtured him, feeling capable in my veteran mother status. He started running as soon as he was vertical at a mere 11 months. His first word was “Go!” which he yelled at the vehicle in front of us, after the light had turned green and the driver failed to step on the gas fast enough. He continues to be the child who most resembles his parents in terms of physical strength, coordination and interest in athletics. He can thank his Dad for his gorgeous curls and rue his maternal genes which came complete with freckles and a mild form of a condition known as pectus excavatum.

Mirroring my own personality, he is inclined to intolerance when it comes to bureaucratic educational nonsense and tends to be a bit of a fashionista. Like his dad, he has a mind for math along with a tendency to procrastinate and then respond with frustration when he finds himself overwhelmed by an avalanche of responsibilities. He’ll make it through, though. He’s smart and sensitive, social and funny as a hell, and I understand him in a way that feels completely intuitive and natural.

If being “just like me” means my son will find his own path through life, with the added benefit of two parents who love and support him, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the sweet “punishment” the universe has imposed. He is just what I deserve.

*When I say “mine,” in no way am I suggesting that he is more mine than he is his father’s. Of course, he is ours.

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Filed under birthdays, Boys, family, Observations