Younger Moms: Don’t Be Too Nice to Your Kids

check out timeTo all my younger mommy friends, I am sorry to report the following: it never ends.

I know. Take a deep breath and let me explain.

When you had your first baby, you managed the terror of what you were about to take on by reassuring yourself that it was merely an 18-year commitment. All you needed to do was keep that little chick alive until the end of high school and then you could release him into the wild and return to more pressing matters, like reading books and your long-neglected husband. You told yourself that some day, that baby would leave for college and that would be the end of that.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Brace yourselves, mommies, because I have some shocking news: THEY. COME. HOME.

A lot of them, anyway. A few do make their own nests after graduation but for the most part, the baby chicks – who are no longer babies and not nearly as cute as they were 18 years earlier – come back to the proverbial roost.

And these now-grown, college-educated children are expecting – nay, demanding – the same services they received in middle school. Like nightly dinners and a well-stocked pantry.

But these grown babies would also like to continue the co-ed lifestyle post-graduation. They get annoyed when you ask them to alert you should they not be returning home after a night out partying. Should they stumble home from said party, they also think nothing of raiding your well-stocked pantry in the wee hours and leaving a trail of Tostito crumbs in their drunken wake. They’d like to have their proverbial cake and scatter its crumbs all over the floor as they eat it, too.

And you think to yourself – not for the first time – as you stand in the middle of your kitchen surveying the carnage, “Why are they still here?”

Didn’t we already have our emotional “Good-Bye and Good-Luck” moment?

Younger mommies, it’s not too late for you to rewrite this all-too-familiar script. There’s still time for you to head off this raw deal in parenting and prevent your little chicks from assuming they are entitled to the many services you’ve provided throughout their lifetimes. Or perhaps, you should rethink providing all those services in the first place. Encourage them to make their own meals and clean up after themselves. Baby steps.

Don’t be too nice to your children, I might suggest.

And I would really like to continue offering this sage advice – like maybe you should consider getting out now and joining the Witness Protection Program — but I’ve got Tostito crumbs that need to be swept.

When I’m not sweeping and making dinners I write about being a mom to grown, and almost grown, kids. Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 

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Me and the Boys

Me and the men in my life.

Me and the men in my life.

About six weeks in, I continue to be amused by the shift in my surroundings. Or, more accurately, life with a big helping of sons versus a life sprinkled with daughters.

I took my two lads – 22 and 12 respectively – to visit their sister at a giant university at a nearby state to see one of their legendary football games.

There was a marching band. Cheerleaders. Dancers. A tumbling mascot. Waving pompoms in the stands and fireworks each time the home team scored. Yes, fireworks exploding off the tops of the two scoreboards flanking the field.

It was pretty epic.

I had downloaded the new Mindy Kaling audiobook to listen to during the over four-hour drive there and that was my first mistake. Because while my little guy – who spent a lot of time surrounded by just women when his older brother was away at school and thus is familiar with and open to the funny lady canon of books we all like to listen to – my oldest son was like, “Absolutely not.”

He somehow missed that feminist boat.

So instead we listened to mutually agreed upon music. Billy Joel’s “Billy the Kid” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Some Kings of Leon for good measure.

It was a far cry of all the sugar pop tunes my youngest daughter used to play for us on road trips. All that Beyoncé and 1D. One trip we listened to the entire “Frozen” soundtrack twice and belted out dramatic interpretations of “Let It Go” (although my grasp of all the words to the song is lacking I make up for it with plenty of feeling).

We got into State College and grabbed my girl and had a great dinner but the boys balked when we wanted to do a Wal-Mart run and load up on paper products and chips for the next day’s tailgate. “Why do you always need to shop?” they grumbled.

But the real dividing line separating life with women versus life with men came when me and the boys crammed into our Hampton Inn room for the night and the effects of their massive pizza burgers moved through their digestive systems. And I’m not saying we don’t all have to move our bowels and all that (Everyone Poops, you know), it’s just that things got real smelly, real fast. Like, I had to employ the fancy Oribe hair texturizing spray I probably spent over $20 on as a makeshift air freshener to keep the room from smelling like a barn.

And for some reason, dudes can’t share beds. The girls and I would squish into double beds in hotels and make do (well, actually, I make it a point to never share — I am paying after all — but the girls deal) but the boys could not abide and my little guy ended up sleeping on the floor between the beds that first night and we called down for a cot the second evening.

But the next day made it all worth it.

My brother, an alum, made the drive from his new house about 90 minutes away and we got the full tailgating experience, including a spot in the parking lot a stone’s throw away from the stadium. My daughter joined us with a few of her new college pals and we drank cans of beers as my brother manned the grill. We played KanJam and listened to music on a wireless speaker. And about an hour before kickoff we packed up and headed inside to watch the team warm up and then see them come onto the field for the game (cue the fireworks).

After the game (we won) we walked into town and the boys filled up on chicken wings and pizza piled with sausage and sliced jalapenos and you can imagine how that exploded in their digestive systems.

Cue the Oribe spray.

The next day we availed ourselves of the free breakfast situation at the Hampton Inn where I ate a banana slathered with peanut butter and the boys made Belgian waffles topped with sticky syrup and a big dollop of whipped cream with a side bowl of sugary cereal for good measure. Before we headed out, my oldest asked if it was okay if he drove home and reader, it’s been a long time since anyone has driven me anywhere (although recently the kids’ dad drove the car home after we dropped our daughter off at school). It was nice to just sit in the passenger seat and close my eyes. It even took the edge off listening to the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Drake.

The fun thing about all this is that I now know that nothing lasts forever. My time in Manville is just another chapter in my life. I’m sure within the year my oldest boy will move out on his own, only to be replaced by his sister who graduates from college in the spring. Then the estrogen levels will again outweigh all that testosterone that’s flowing around here.

Maybe then I’ll finally get to listen to Mindy Kaling.

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100 Days

DSC_0894After 73 days and a lot of breath wasted on telling me there was “nothing to do,” my youngest child went back to school today.

And while a little over 10 weeks doesn’t sound so long in theory, when you’re trying to maintain a freelance writing career as well as attempting to keep things lively over here on my blog, that’s a lot of time trying to set up 12yo play dates and lining up rides to the beach.

But his older siblings got out of school in mid-May – a full month earlier – so if we add those additional 30 days to the mix, it brings the total number of days I’ve been interrupted by people making smoothies at 11 a.m. or catching up on all 10 seasons of “Friends” for days on end to a little over 100.

“That’s a third of 2015,” I told my pal the Girl Whisperer as he held onto the giant rubber ball I was squatting on top of yesterday morning.

“I thought you were bad with math,” he said.

I stopped to turn around and look at him and told him, “I had to learn how to figure out percentages of things after I got divorced.”

Maybe I would have fared better at math in school had I more at stake than just a bad grade.

But I’m not in the clear just yet. I still have my college grad home a few days a week as he tries to figure out how to be a grown up. Or at least, start taking steps towards adulthood.

It’s not easy.

But if he tells me he’s bored and that there’s nothing to do, I just might snap.

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Welcome to Dudeville

The denizens of Dudeville.

The denizens of Dudeville.

Aside from my TV viewing habits – which skew towards zombies and bald methamphetamine dealers – I am a girly-girl.

I like manicures and gossip and shopping. I’m afraid of spiders. I am not adverse to long conversations about the benefits of Keratin treatments and waxing and discovering the latest Ballard Designs catalog in the mail makes my pulse race a teensy bit.

And even though I was married to a guy who played football in college and favored clicking on sporting events whenever he had the remote, and have sat in the bleachers cheering on my four children in a wide variety of games over the years – basketball, soccer, lacrosse – I can’t get a handle on any of the rules. I get the fundamentals – like, you’ve got to get past the guys on the other team and put the ball in the net – but that’s about it. I don’t understand “off sides,” “box out” or what it means to “foul” somebody. And because I’ve figured out how to master complex endeavors like caring for my swimming pool and driving into Manhattan I’m betting this deficiency stems less from stupidity and more from a general lack of interest.

All of this is not to say that one needs a penis to understand and enjoy sports. Plenty of women do. My college girlfriends are enthusiastic fans and even one of my daughters took a liking to football after spending last winter surrounded by big-screen TVs in the bar of the restaurant where she hostessed. She figured out “downs” and “holding” in between seating parties for brunch on Sundays.

The point of all this is that I tend to adhere to gender stereotypes even though I’ve tried to be all Free to Be You and Me with my kids. “Boys, it’s really alright to cry,” and all that.

Wasn’t I lucky, then, to be blessed with not one but two daughters? We all like to shop together and get manicures together and happily eat kale. When my older two kids were away at school and it was just my high school daughter and middle school son left at home, our weekly menus were definitely directed by her self-imposed dietary restrictions. No red meat or pork. No dairy. And absolutely-positively no cheese. Like, don’t even try to sneak one of those ingredients in or it will be met with tears.

Our weekly meals consisted of a lot of ground poultry and Gwyneth Paltrow recipes like Thai Chicken Burgers and sweet potato hash. We even ate kimchi.

But that picky girl flew the roost Saturday for her freshman year at college and now the onus of coming up with meals that adhere to her strict guidelines lays on her university’s food services staff. I’ve hung up that apron for a bit.

Because now I am living in Dudeville.

Now I am the only girl living in a house of boys. My oldest son – who graduated from college in the spring – is living at home with his little brother and even though we’re only about 36 hours into this new arrangement, I can already feel the shift. I can sense the very manly vibe going down around here.

When their sisters lived at home full time, there was definitely a more feminine feel in the house. Belching in my presence was discouraged and if you HAD to pass gas you needed to go outside and cut the tail before you reentered. I didn’t want anyone dragging the fart back into the house with him or her and stinking the joint up.

But now, all bets are off.

I’ve decided to embrace this new manly dynamic and surprised the boys yesterday morning with blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Later that afternoon we reclined in a darkened movie theater and ate Reese’s Pieces and drank root beer while watching “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and went home to eat paninis and potato chips. My older son explained the intricacies of his pending fantasy football league draft and when he disappeared downstairs to try to snag a worthy running back for his team, his little brother and I watched the new zombie TV show “Fear the Walking Dead” (which I loved). And when he expelled a long string of farts during an especially suspenseful part of the show, I didn’t even tell my son to go outside and cut the tail. I actually laughed when the explosion occurred.

It’s calmer again with just two children at home. It gets hectic when all four are here and vying for my attention. It’s nice to be able to focus on just two and I sense the boys quickly felt the shift as well. They walked arm-in-arm through the parking lot on the way into the movie theater and my oldest guy – who’s not always willing to engage in any lengthy conversation with me – happily discussed fantasy football and the latest John Oliver show while I made our paninis.

As we ate our dinner, we put together a menu of dinners for the upcoming week. Over the next few nights we will be enjoying pork tenderloin, beef stir-fry and pasta with meat sauce.

“We don’t even have to use ground turkey,” I observed while eating a chip.

“Yeah!” said my little guy. “We get to eat REAL meat.”

I fear all this manly fare may take a toll on my figure but am willing to take my chances. It’s the price I have to pay to live happily in Dudeville.

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Abandon Ship! Leaving Your Kids Home Alone for the Weekend

Harbinger of things to come discovered four years ago behind the cute little hedge of mini boxwoods along my front path.

Harbinger of things to come discovered four years ago behind the cute little hedge of mini boxwoods along my front path.

A few weeks ago I attended a big blogging conference in New York and was excited to meet the ladies behind Grown and Flown face to face. Their site focuses on parenting issues for those of us with kiddos in the 15 to 25 age range. In other words, parents who thought — all those years ago when we had babies and toddlers and didn’t know any better — that our parenting responsibilities would be lightening up by this point. Things would start to be slowing down as the kids got older, we thought.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

But I think the Grown and Flown tagline really nails it: Parenting never ends. I didn’t understand that all those years ago.

Grown and Flown hits all my sweet spots as a mom, writer and blogger, and that’s before you add in the fact that the ladies have been interviewed by both Katie and Savannah. They’ve got it going on.

As we walked around checking out the goodies at the Blogher expo (I did fondle and whisper sweet nothings to a Wolf oven that would be perfect on my countertop), I mentioned to Mary Dell and Lisa it was the first time I’d ever left my kids home alone for the weekend.

“You should write about that for us!” said Lisa, snapping me out of my Wolf reverie. “You could call it ‘Home Alone.'”

And so I did.

Read about how I found the courage to abandon my ship for three nights and to return home to find nary an errant ping-pong ball or beer bong (but did discover some mighty clean bathrooms), which is featured on Grown and Flown today.

The site is also chock-o-block full of very timely musings on sending kids off to college and things you definitely shouldand should not be — packing to outfit their dorm rooms. Good stuff.

As for me, I’m thinking about changing the name of my site to “Grown and Hasn’t Flown.” Maybe that’s what I’ll write about for them next.

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When Can I Quit Cooking Dinner Every Night?

so-glad-i-don-t-have-to-keep-calm-anymoreLast night, my son – the oldest, who’s 22 – emerged from his camp down in the basement to ask me if I was making dinner.

“I grabbed lunch out so am eating the leftovers for dinner,” I told him, which was met with plenty of foot stomping, cabinet banging and muttering.

When the kids were young, my role here as official stay-at-home-mom was pretty well defined. I did everything.

I bathed them and dressed them. I took them to the park and pushed them on the swing. I tucked them into bed at night and read them stories.

And I fed them.

I soft-boiled eggs and buttered toast and carefully cut the crusts off their grilled cheese sandwiches and their hot dogs into tiny, non-chokable bits. I tried to plan healthy meals, too, taking into consideration the many and ill-founded self-imposed dietary restrictions of my diners. I stuck to poultry. Avoided cheese. Didn’t add too many peppers. We went from Hamburger Helper and Manwiches to quinoa and Thai Curry Chicken with enough bags of snacks in our pantry and frozen items in the freezer to feed a Ugandan village for a month.

All of this does not take into account the combined two years of breastfeeding I devoted to my four children, a task I at once loved and resented the shit out as I watched QVC for the zillionth time around 3 a.m.

The point of all this is to say, “I’ve done my time.”

I have planned and shopped and cooked and tried to keep everyone alive and healthy almost every single day for the last two decades.

This week, I’m back down to two children living at home. As previously reported, my little girl has shipped off for an early start to college for the summer and my baby is away for the week at sleep away camp. That leaves the two oldest kids – a recent college grad and soon-to-be grad — under my roof. In other words, two legit adults.

While I was approaching this week as an opportunity to get some solid uninterrupted work done, without worrying about keeping a 12yo occupied or time-consuming trips to the supermarket, my oldest son just thought things would be business-as-usual. He’s pissed that for the last few nights he’s been forced to fend for himself and cook some frozen Trader Joe’s product for his nightly meal.

I can tell he’s resenting me just as much as I’m starting to resent him and his reluctance to see me as more than his live-in cook.

I’m torn. Am I being selfish, not wanting to chop or stirfry anything this week? Or is it okay to let grown up children fend for themselves sometimes?

Coming up with an answer to “what’s for dinner?” has been my problem for over 20 years. Can’t I take a week off?

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