Scary Things: How a picture and a threatening message scared our entire school.

My 16yo son came into my room after 11:00 Sunday night to wake me up and ask whether I heard about the potential shooter threat at his high school the next day.

I’d gone to sleep about an hour earlier, in my new effort to get more sleep (and pretty much overhaul my entire life #again) in the new year, and right before I’d turned out the lights I’d seen a text come in on my Apple Watch as I sat on the toilet. I’d noticed it was from someone on my football mom group text, but here’s the thing about Apple Watches and 52-year-old women: they’re not a natural fit. I was hot to get one for its looks but the reality is that unless I’m wearing reading glasses, which I wasn’t doing sitting on the toilet in the dark to pee before bed, then my old lady eyes can’t read what is happening on the tiny screen.

I could make out that the text said something like, “Did you hear about … “ but that was all I could decipher and I wasn’t curious enough to know more. I thought it had something to do with the imminent departure of the football team’s head coach, and I figured whatever was said could wait until the next day.

Unfortunately, this sound thinking did not prevent me from attempting to scroll through the text on the watch, sitting in the dark on the toilet, with my clumsy ogre fingers and then suddenly realized that I had inadvertently hit one of the emojis you can send in response to a text. Convenient feature, unless you are blind. I cringed.

“Shit,” I thought and hoped for the best as I finished up and got under the covers and listened to the fake waves hitting the fake sand on my sound machine, and drifted off to sleep.

The knock on my door 40 minutes later was jarring and I sat straight up and yelled something crazy and then my poor kid stuck his head in to tell me the news. “Mom,” he said, “have you heard there might be a shooter at school tomorrow?”

That question will wake a person up.

He then went on the tell me how someone had seen a picture posted by a student at his school on SnapChat of a gun and an ominous warning, and that the photo had spread like wildfire on social media and kids were freaking out.

I quickly stumbled to get my phone off my dresser – since my new “sleep better” initiative includes getting it away from my head all night – and saw that it had been blowing up with texts in the football mom thread about the potential danger the next day.

By the time I was aware of the issue, I read that the police had been notified and arrested the kid, a senior at the school, who posted the picture of what looked like an assault weapon – which looked to by lying on a bed – accompanied by the message “Stay tuned.”

After the football moms learned that the kid had been arrested, talk turned to whether he had been part of a bigger plan to attack the school and whether their kids would stay home the next day. A lot of the kids, it seemed, were really upset by the photo and the thought that their school could have been attacked.

Early the next day, while my son ate his oatmeal and I toasted the roll for his ham sandwich to take to school for lunch (this is a full-service operation), messages were still flying about who was and wasn’t going to school and that there would be an early-morning meeting for faculty and staff to report on what had happened. Our basketball coach had indicated at first in a text to the team and parents that he wasn’t going to school, then later that he was but that his son (who’s my son’s buddy) would be staying home. But a little after 6 a.m. I saw on the football mom thread that a board of ed member (and fellow football mom) was sending her son, and that confirmed my own sense that my son would be safe at school that day.

My biggest complaint was that it took police and school officials until late Tuesday morning to issue a press release to disseminate some facts and allay fear. Prior to that, parents had received brief messages from both sources informing us that a threat had been called to their attention and investigated and found to be unwarranted. That morning, I wanted more details, more reassurance, than “unwarranted.”

It turns out, the weapon in the picture was an airsoft gun and from what I gathered in follow up texts from football moms, the kid who posted it was pretty benign. Moms reported that their kids who knew him – who had worked with him at a local restaurant one summer – said he was a nice, quiet boy. That he didn’t seem like the kind of disgruntled kid who would go and shoot up a school. Most moms agreed he’d made a dumb decision, for whatever reason, and had paid a heavy price. We still don’t know what the post meant, if it was directed at the school or if it was just him fooling around on SnapChat and maybe threatening a friend who also has an airsoft rifle. Who knows?

My son had no hesitation going to school and I figured that with all the police swarming the school that morning, it seemed like the best day of the year for him to be there. And also, don’t most school shooters arrive after school has started and blast their way in? That’s kind of how the Columbine attack went down, not to mention Sandy Hook and Parkland. If this boy really had been part of a bigger plan, it seemed to me like the proverbial jig was up after the SnapChat snafu.

It wasn’t until I was sitting on the bleachers with my basketball moms at a game on Tuesday afternoon, that I realized my thinking was not in line with other parents. I overheard two moms talking about the incident and turned around and asked them if their sons had stayed home the day before and they both nodded. When I’d picked my own son up from basketball practice after school on Monday, he immediately reported he was the only kid from our town in his group of friends to go to school that day. I asked about a few kids in particular, whose parents don’t seem to be over-reactors, and he confirmed they had not been in school that day either.

I texted him when I pulled up along the front of the school after basketball practice Monday and watched him emerge from the windowless brick building that is our high school, where a school shooting would not provide many means for a speedy exit, and watched him approach the car wearing shorts and a tshirt under the cold January sky. I’d moved into the copilot seat so he could drive home, something I’d promised earlier in the day. He’d just completed the 6 hours of driving needed to get your permit here in New Jersey, and I’d told him (in a moment of deep love earlier in the day, which I deeply regretted at pick up) that he could take the wheel and drive me home after school.

If you want to know what I think is a much more imminent threat to my own safety, and I guess his as well, it is sitting helpless next to a 16yo learning to drive (it was just his third time behind the wheel). In fact, if you were to chart my heart rate over the 24-hour period between when I heard about the potential for gun violence at our school and letting my kid drive me home, I can guarantee – based on the amount my armpits sweat during that 5-minute drive home – that the ride was way more harrowing.

Apparently, according to my children, my stress level while they are driving is over the top and unnatural. They’d even warned their youngest brother to expect me to be white knuckling alongside him as he drove. Apparently, their father is a much more relaxed passenger.

It always surprises me when my thinking is not in sync with the majority. I was just as surprised to learn that so many of my son’s classmates stayed home on Monday as that other parents don’t grip the door handle for dear life when their teenager is at the wheel. And I think that if I had been a younger mom, I would have worried about being judged about sending my son to school that day.

Maybe the most troubling part of this whole story (other than my son having to see me stagger around in the dark in my underpants searching for my phone) is that this is the world we are now living in. Where we see a picture of a gun and ambiguous message and fear for our children’s lives. And the only thing we can do about it is keep our children close, because no one else is doing anything about it.

We do nothing to place any real limits on who gets to have a gun and just what type of firearm they can get.

This is the new normal.

And that really is so much scarier than sitting next to a teenager learning how to drive.

I know, things can seem scary. And frustrating. At least we’re not alone. Sign up below to get my recent posts, delivered straight to your inbox. That’s not scary at all.

Friday Faves: Mac & Cheese for a Crowd

I came downstairs a few weeks ago wearing maroon leggings, a black sweater and new trucker hat with our high school’s pirate logo, and my daughter looked me up and down and said, “Who ARE you?”

She was having trouble finding her mother — the one who favors all-gray ensembles and rarely wears hats — underneath the lady-of-a-certain-age standing in front of her decked out in our high school’s colors.

She hadn’t realized that nowadays, with her little brother playing on the football team, we take game day very seriously around here.

And since I’ve guzzled the high school football KoolAid, that also means I’ve started to embrace things like manning the ticket table at a BBQ and pitching in for pasta parties.

In the past, that would mean I’d bake these chocolate peanut butter crowdpleasers. But now that I’m a committed Football Mom, I even volunteered this week to make a pasta dish for the pasta party, which I considered the ultimate act of love for my baby football player since I don’t really have a go-to pasta recipe (and certainly not one to feed 40 hungry teenagers).

I went on Pinterest and threw ideas out at him while he ate his dinner but whenever he said, “That sounds good,” I’d check how many ingredients were called for in the recipe and then say, “Next.” This was not an occasion for impressing anyone. Just feeding them.

I scrolled some more and asked, “How about mac and cheese?” and he gave a happy shake to his head. I bypassed recipes that called for four different cheeses and any kind of seasonings, and then the word “Velveeta” caught my eye, and I knew I had found just what I was looking for.

So that’s how I found myself yesterday cubing four pounds of the weird, unrefrigerated cheese product to melt into a quick roux of butter, flour and a ton of whole milk. You pretty much pour it over your macaroni and throw it in the oven. I baked it halfway then pulled out and added some shredded cheese on top because, cheese.

What I loved about this recipe was that the site automatically adjusted the amount you need of each ingredient for the servings you’d like to make because, math. I plugged in 50, made four boxes of pasta and it filled up 2 big disposable lasagna trays.

Are you going to make this for your book club? Probably not. But for pasta parties, tailgates or block parties, it’s a home run — or a touchdown (I learned that this year).

 Mac and Cheese for a Crowd (Serves 50)

4 pounds elbow macaroni
3/4 pound butter
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 pounds Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 1/2 package (8 ounce size) shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the macaroni until al dente as directed on package. Drain and evenly distribute amount long, shallow pans (I USED 2 13.5 x 9 5/8 x 2 34 disposable Lasagna pans).

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the margarine. Stir in the flour until smooth. Add the salt and pepper and slowly add the milk, stirring constantly, until smooth.

Stir in the Velveeta cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni in the pans to evenly coat (I MIXED IN POTS BEFORE POURING INTO BAKING PANS TO COAT THE NOODLES). Sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the top of the macaroni (8 ounces per pan).

Bake the macaroni at 350 degrees F for one hour or until bubbly in the middle.

Got any good pasta party recipes up your sleeve? Share! We promise we won’t make it if our kids are on the same team!

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Football Mom

On Monday during my son’s junior varsity football game against the local Catholic school, he tackled a kid running with the ball who fell on top of his head and kind of knocked him silly. It was one of those situations where the game paused and all the players took a knee while my son sat there looking dazed, and then we all clapped when he got up and moved to the sidelines, where he immediately got pulled out of the game.

When I told my friend Dan a few days later that my kid had a very mild concussion from the incident, he asked, “Are you surprised?

“He plays hard,” he continued, as I pushed 10-pound weights over my head and thought mean things about him. “You had to know this was going to happen.”

This summer when I took my football player for his annual physical, we ended up seeing a different doctor than our usual pediatrician. He’s new to the practice, I’d never seen him before, and he was very tall and spoke with an accent that I pegged as Russian (which was later confirmed), based on how opinionated he was about everything. Especially football.

“You play American football and not the real football?” he asked all jokey, and went on to tell us that he would never allow his own sons to play America’s favorite sport, and then pointed to his head. “It’s very bad,” he said.

And I smiled and shook my head and was like, “Well, thanks mister. I guess I suck,” and we later made fun of him on the car ride home, doing our best Boris and Natasha.

The decision for my youngest to play football in high school was mostly my own. He’d never really played before, but I pushed him to try freshman football because A: I knew he’d like it, B: I thought it would be a good way for him to make some new friends and C: I envisioned myself in the stands wearing a shirt with his name on the back cheering for the team when he was a senior. His two sisters liked the idea, too, and helped me coerce him into showing up at the high school that summer for a workout with the rest of the freshman team.

And he loved it.

He’s a sporty kid and a decent athlete and has the great luck of good genetics, which has rendered him on the taller and bigger side of his peers. He’s also a total bro, and football is about as bro as you can get. He immediately bonded with his teammates and embraced the entire football culture.

And so did I.

I bought myself and my three older kids t-shirts to wear to the games and we embraced our baby’s efforts. I even started to learn stuff (read: pay attention) about football, like “What’s Up With the Punt?” and “That Yellow Flag Means Something Bad Happened.” I really started to care.

Fast forward to this year, he’s even started to get some varsity time as a sophomore, and it’s been exciting to watch him play under the lights. His sister came home from college last Friday night to see him play, and we monitored him on the sidelines, standing with his hands on his hips, helmet on, waiting to get in the game. Finally, my daughter noticed he wasn’t standing with the rest of the team. “Mom look,” she said, pointing to the field, “he’s in the game.”

He’s playing tight end, and we watched as he blocked the other team during a few plays, and then after another snap, we saw the quarterback draw the ball back and launch it into the air towards my son, who grabbed it and ran for the first down. As he was tackled by the other team, we heard the announcer say his name over the loudspeaker and my daughter and I looked at each other, she had tears brimming in her eyes, and we clapped and cheered. All the other players’ parents sitting around me stood to give me a high-five and I immediately got texts from friends further away in the stands, cheering for my son with lots of exclamation marks and emojis.

It was thrilling.

Our team ended up getting clobbered that night after a brilliant opening drive in the first quarter where we made an easy touchdown. The other team came back and scored and repeated that about four or five times, while we were thwarted at every attempt. We’re a public high school in an area where everyone sends their kids to private schools, so it’s a rag tag football team — kinda the Bad News Bears of football — playing a team who had a kid drafted as a sophomore by Notre Dame. An uneven match, at best.

But the thrill of watching my son’s catch and his run was what I left that game remembering, not the miserable score. I loved watching him, and his teammates, play with their whole heart.

I watched him all summer working towards that moment on the field. Heading off most mornings for 7:30am practices to lift in the weight room and work through plays on the school field under the hot summer sun in full pads and helmet. Earlier that summer, he’d been working out with his lacrosse team, going to crossfit two mornings a week at 7:30. He never complains. He never balks at going to a workout or a practice.

So of course, when he gets the chance, he’s going to give it his all, even if that means diving at another player and knocking his feet out from under him, and suffering a blow to the head, as had happened at this week’s JV game. Athletes sustain injuries when playing hard in any sport — I know a woman who’s daughter suffered from chronic pain after sustaining a concussion playing lacrosse and I’ve watched a boy fall hard on his head during a basketball game — but there’s lots of evidence that puts football at one of the worst for an athlete’s brain.

I knew all of the risks going in and still, I let him play. In fact, I strongly encouraged him to play football.

The day after the game where my son made his fateful catch, my college girl and I went into New York City to meet her sister to check out her new office in one of the new World Trade Center buildings and explore her new neighborhood. We ended up eating brunch at a restaurant in Le District, kind of the French answer to Eataly, and sat at a table along the water overlooking New Jersey across the river.

The girls split a carafe of white wine and we talked about my younger daughter’s classes this semester and reviewed my older girl’s new office digs (amazing), while picking at the salty fries that came with their burgers. Suddenly, my college girl stopped and said, “Oh my God, Annie! We didn’t even tell you about Nick’s catch!” and she recounted the whole play. How he easily caught the ball and ran along the sidelines to get the first down. And then how we heard his name announced over the loudspeaker, and how my younger daughter cried watching her little brother play so hard and well.

I looked up from the plate of fries and saw my older girl beginning to blubber over the news. “Stop it, “ she said, her face starting to mottle and tears welling in her big blue eyes, “now you’re making me cry.”

I told this story a few days later to the varsity football coach as we stood in the athletic trainer’s office after that JV game. As she assessed my son for a possible concussion, I told the coach about how proud we were of him. About how thrilling it was to watch him play.

In the end, our doctor determined he’d been mildly concussed from the hit, mostly due to a continuing headache he had the following day. He’s been taking it easy ever since and sitting out of practices, and will remain on the sidelines during this week’s game.

But next week, he’ll be back on the field, giving it his all. It’s really a brutal sport, all these big men charging at each other and trying to take each other down, while we all sit on the sidelines and cheer. And I’ve embraced and encouraged my son’s role as a gladiator in the game.

I hope it was the right decision.

Do you channel your inner Connie Britton and embrace your high schooler’s Friday Night Lights experience? Do you regret letting him play? I mean, I’m involved now, but would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Embracing the Last Teenager in My House

It’s just me and my 15yo son left living at home and I find we make quite the odd couple. He wrinkles his nose at the quinoa I keep trying to make us for dinner and I am mystified by the noise he calls music that thumps from his bedroom.

Like, is Lil Uzi going to seem like the Beatles to us some day? And if so, I don’t want to know what’s coming down the pipe for my grandchildren.

But my son and I have found that watching movies together is where we can meet in the middle (luckily, I have cinematic tastes akin to a teenaged boy).

You can read about it here on Grown and Flown.

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The Dog Days of Summer

This summer, when he’s not working out with the freshman football team or playing basketball or trying to get something popping most nights of the week, my 14yo son has been making his way through all 8 seasons of That ‘70s Show.

It’s impressive watching the kid plow through all 200 episodes, which — at 22-minutes apiece — clock in at around 73.33 hours. At the rate he’s going, I’m feeling confident he’ll be done by the end of the month. Maybe even this week, if he really buckles down.

He should be this dedicated to his summer reading.

Honestly, this has never been a show on my radar. I mean, I know it’s how Ashton met Mila and where that chick from Orange is the New Black got her Big Break. But it ran from 1998 through 2006 and coincided with some of my prime baby making years. Or, if I wasn’t exactly making a baby, then I was nursing it or cleaning it or driving it to preschool. In other words, I was too busy for TV back then.

Funny story: some time during that period, the house phone rang a little after 9 p.m. and it was another man in town looking to talk to my husband.

“He’s asleep,” I told the guy, annoyed that he’d even be calling the house so late.

“Is he okay?” the man, who only had one child, asked in alarm.


What I probably did was laugh and say he was fine and had just fallen asleep a little early. I probably failed to mention that I wasn’t that far behind him.

So now, thanks to Hulu, I guess I’m making up for lost TV time. It seems at all hours of the day the “Hanging Out” theme some is playing in our TV room followed by about 21 minutes of double entendres and a cheesy laugh track. Every once in a while I find myself pausing as I go past the room and watch for a minute or two. The characters always seem to be hanging out on couches in someone’s basement and talking about getting laid. Or not getting laid. Or wanting to get laid.

I forget how racy primetime TV has gotten over the years. Cheers and The Cosby Show seem downright Disney-like compared to what aired in the following decade.

And I wonder, not for the first time, whether I should suggest that my child get off the couch and go find something better to do. But that’s the great thing about my youngest. When I strongly suggest ask him to do something, he usually just does it. I pop my head in and tell him he’s had enough TV for the day and to go outside and throw the lacrosse ball around and he says, “Okay, Mom,” and turns off the TV and goes out into the heat of the day.

In short time I hear the TV go on again in the TV room and I go in to investigate and find what looks like a scene from a soft porn movie unfolding on my flat screen TV with my 20yo watching from the couch. She’s been bingeing the HBO series “True Blood” and with 80 approximately 60-minute episodes, is giving her little brother a run for his money as she wiles away the hours watching television when she’s not at work or food shopping for me. There are shoes scattered all over the small room and an empty plate on the coffee table from the muffin she ate for breakfast hours earlier.

Unlike earlier summers, I’m trying to be a little less agitated about all the TV watching, provided the children are doing all the other things they really are supposed to be doing. Sure, I’d rather they still just watched shows on Animal Planet or better yet, read a book. But that ball’s in their court now. I’ve modeled plenty of good reading behavior over the years and monitored their TV viewing when they were younger with the same zeal Tipper Gore brought to what the youth of our nation could listen to in the late ’80s.

And, with everybody growing up and moving out, it’s only a matter of time before the only sound in the house will be my fingers on the laptop or my dog crying to come sit with me.

I guess the good news is that all this TV-watching gives our puppy someone to snuggle next to and helps him forget that I’m in another part of the house, trying to write.

And not get distracted by the television.

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Adios, Middle School

If my calculations are correct – and really, feel free to check because I am not known for counting, much less calculating – my youngest child’s last day of 8th grade this week brings our family’s 19 years in our town’s public school system to a close and ends what for me has been a lovely era of my life.

Of course, that’s how I remember it now. It’s easy to feel all gooey about school Halloween parades of days gone by from the comfort of the cozy chair in my office. Back then, I could have done without having to find a parking spot about a mile from the school (#alwayslate) and hauling myself – and whoever I was pushing in the stroller or dragging by their sticky little hand – behind the elementary school to squeeze through the crowd so that our little cherub dressed as a ninja/ghoul/sexy witch could see us as he/she made their way along the parade path.

As you would expect, I am a very different person now as a 50-year-old lady than I was when my oldest started kindergarten in 1998. I was 32 with three little kids at home and kinda excited about letting somebody else take care of at least one of my children for a part of the day. I was getting tired of filling those days with story time at the library and hauling everyone in and out of the car seats in our mini van for a trip to the grocery store. And, I thought, it would be nice to go to the gynecologist without hearing a small voice close to my feet trapped high up in the stirrups saying in horror, “Mom … your fanny” (I did not make that up).

Alas, our town still had half-day kindergarten back then, so it wasn’t until the kids hit first grade that I started to see some relief of the constant mothering. In fact, about 10 years later, and after about 16 years home with children full time, I ended up shipping my fourth off to a full-day program when our town’s half-day situation just wasn’t enough. Let me tell you, that little bus that came and scooped him up every morning and then deposited him home nice and tired in the afternoon probably saved at least two of my older children’s lives.

When the oldest began kindergarten, I think I was about as clueless as he was in the ways of Big Kid School. I had no idea how things worked. I mean, I was still trying to figure out preschool. For instance, I didn’t realize that those pastel-colored flyers that came home in my son’s backpack at the end of each day, tucked between pages of penciled letters and numbers, contained vital information. Back before school websites and CODE RED ALERT texts and emails, moms had to rely on finding and retrieving sheets of paper to find out, say, when to expect Back-to-School-Night.

I learned about my child’s first back to school night while standing one morning at the bus stop when another mom – you know, the kind of mom who somehow made you feel bad about these things – informed me it was later that evening. The same night I had plans to take a train into the city to meet my old work-wife for some fancy fashion thing she’d asked me to, and I cried at the conundrum; the injustice of something standing in between me and a night away from washing squirming little bodies and enjoying conversation about things other than children’s sleeping habits and grisly details about a recent stomach virus.

In the end, I put on a pair of high heels and toddled into the city for a lovely, grown-up evening, but inside I felt like a Bad Mom. Way before it was cool to be a Bad Mom.

And who knows? Maybe it made me an even Better Mom. I certainly never missed another back-to-school night, and with four kids, I had a lot of them.

Of course, I still have four more years of Back-to-School nights when my youngest enters high school in the fall. But there are plenty of things – annual events and activities – that have defined the pattern of the school year around here for as long as I can remember. Some ended when the kids timed out of our elementary school and moved to the middle school in fifth grade, and some have been traditions since our family’s Ice Age. Here are a few:

  • Box Tops: For as long as I can remember, I have religiously clipped little squares off boxes of cereal and Ziploc products to earn the kids’ schools 10-cents-per-square. I even bought toilet paper megapacks at Costco for the bonus 5-Box Top coupon. I’d tuck them in a sandwich bag taped to a side cabinet near my sink in the old house and send them in when the bag got full. In the new house, the Box Tops started in a sandwich bag in our junk drawer and now they seemed to have spilled out and float amongst all the rubberbands, matchbooks and mystery screws. Let me know if you’d like them.
  • Band and chorus concerts: Since 2001, when my oldest was in third grade, spring and holiday music concerts have been a staple in our school calendar. Singing and learning to play an instrument wasn’t even an option for the kids. It’s something I made sure they did, with varying success. My oldest daughter swears she mimicked playing the clarinet throughout middle school, and my younger daughter used her reluctance to play an instrument as an excuse for her near-daily visits to our school nurse during my divorce. After my umpteenth visit to discuss my girl’s agita, the nurse patted my hand and said, “Mom, let go of the flute.” And so I did. But I’ll miss sitting in a darkened gym listening to a bunch of kids play the theme from Star Wars and marveling how the music teachers get them to do that when I can’t even get my own kids to learn what day to put the garbage out. What I won’t miss is the panic that set in the morning of pretty much every concert ever looking for black bottoms and white shirts that fit and weren’t a wrinkled mess.
  • Class trips: Back in the day, every grade piled into a bus and went somewhere over the course of the school year and as a busybody parent who was often and Class Mom for one of my kids, I often got to tag along. Over the years, I went pumpkin picking and visited museums both near (in Newark) and far (Natural History in NYC) and a zoo in The Bronx. We visited sites of historical significance and attended local performances of The Nutcracker. I sat at long tables in museum basements that smelled of old sandwich to eat our bagged lunches and got to know the kids’ teachers and their classmates. Later, I’d do overnight stints with my three older kids to a state park where they performed team-building exercises and square danced in the lodge at night. I rode along on the bus for a few nights in Washington, DC with my daughters and chatted with parents and teachers as we herded our group of teenagers through our nation’s capitol like a litter of kittens through a yarn factory. My most recent chaperoning gig was to Six Flags with our middle school band and really, nothing brings two mothers together like a rollercoaster ride packed amongst a bunch of overheated teenaged boys on a 90-plus degree day in May. I’ll always remember the taste of that freshly-baked cider donut they handed out after picking pumpkins with my daughter’s first grade class, or all the snow that fell the year my younger daughter’s seventh grade class had their three-day outdoor adventure in the woods. How it floated down as we hiked to our various activities, crunching under our boots and added magic to an already special outing. But mostly I’m thankful that all those trips let me get to know so many of the teachers who were an important part of my children’s lives.
  • First day of school: Before we had to worry about maniacs coming into our schools – when parents could just pop through the front door to drop off homework and lunches without undergoing a screening process akin to trying to visit an inmate at Riker’s – parents would gather each year in the multi-purpose room of our elementary school to watch our kids line up with their classmates on the first day of school. They’d form little clusters along the walls with nametags pinned to their crisp polo shirts and sundresses – clutching their new Transformer and Lisa Frank backpacks – to meet their new teachers. At the appointed hour, they’d rise and line up and say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing a few patriotic songs and every year, as I stood packed in the room surrounded by all those little voices, I’d lose it. Nothing makes me choke up like a rousing rendition of “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag.” Then they’d file out to start their new school year and I’d wipe my eyes and go home and get on with my day, happy to have one less person in my shopping cart.
  • Everything else: Field days, Christmas tree lightings, Memorial Day parades and band performances, Family Fun Night (an oxymoron if ever there was one), Art shows, Book fairs, fruit sales, Rec sports and summer camp, paper report cards (RIP), picture day, bake sales, aforementioned Halloween parade, school dances, our 8th grade graduation ceremony and probably lot of other things I’ve already forgotten.

Now that all four of my kids have graduated, it’s probably time for me to graduate from middle school, as well. I knew it was time, too, when I realized not long ago that I’d become one of those parents who was resistant to change. Who liked things just the way they were. The same ones who annoyed me when I was a young upstart and thought some of our school traditions needed tweaking. Now, some of my beloved traditions are starting to change and I’m glad to be getting out when I am and before I say something I regret on Facebook.

Now, there are probably only a handful of parents left in the school system who remember that sweet first day of school ceremony for the little kids or even paper flyers. Who filled out forms for countless gift wrap and cookie dough fundraisers or manned the sand art room at the dreaded Family Fun Night. We are a dying breed. The Brontosauruses and T-Rexes of our school system.

To all you younger parents I say: take good care of our schools. Go the the art shows and encourage your kids (boys, especially) to sing in the chorus. Volunteer when you can. Get to know the teachers. Even run for the school board. It all seems like such a pain now, but I promise you’ll never regret it. All the concerts and tree lightings and meetings will add up to countless happy memories. At least they did for me, times two (I think I just did algebra).

Everything looks shiny as I look behind me. Everything, that is, except Family Fun Night. That just made me sweat.

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Letting It Go

Two of my kids embarked on very different adventures recently and all I could do was hope that one of them posted a photo or two on social media so that I knew he was still alive. But, this being 2017, if the kids did post anything on social media, it would be on Snapchat – where I’ve been blocked from seeing either’s Snap story – or on their Insta story, where I have also been banned. So basically, I was just hoping for the best for a few days.

While it’s just a weird coincidence that the trips overlapped, I’m beginning to understand that I compensated for not having any control over one of the trips by crazily micromanaging the other. I don’t think my youngest child – a boy who taught himself to tie his own shoes and ride a bike when he determined at a young age that everyone around him was too distracted to step in and help – had received that much attention since the time he fell as a toddler and knocked his tooth back up into his gums. You can always count on blood to get me to sit up and take notice.

My oldest left for an overnight flight to Barcelona for a week’s vacation with a friend, and I didn’t even know what airline they were flying on. I mean, I know he mentioned it at some point, but I was busy trying to memorize other details, like arrival and departure dates and where they were staying. So I guess that fairly major one slipped through my mental cracks. I tried Googling it but didn’t have much luck finding a flight that left Newark bound for Spain at 11 p.m. the night he left.

After about 10 minutes of searching, I realized I was running behind schedule if I was going to prepare the special breakfast I’d promised – a porkroll and egg sandwich – for my 14yo who was leaving early for the iconic 8th grade trip to Washinton, DC for three days.

I’d gone on that same trip with his two older sisters years earlier and had hoped to continue the tradition this year with my baby, my one-last-middle-school-hurrah. Alas, the administration did not feel equally nostalgic about inviting me to come along. In an uncharacteristically organized and prompt manner, I’d sent an email to the principal on the first day of school announcing my desire to chaperone the trip and enumerating my many qualifications. I hit SEND and then sat back and waited for my anointment.

Instead, I got a note from the school secretary about a month later thanking me for my interest but informing me that there just wasn’t enough room to accommodate all of the requests they received.

“Don’t they know who you are?” my 20yo daughter asked in horror when I reported my rejection over glasses of rose.

“Apparently not,” I told her, taking a long sip. “It seems I’ve been running on fumes these last few years and I got passed over.”

Note to younger parents interested in nabbing a future spot as a school trip chaperone: you’re only as good as the last fundraiser you ran. Or race you organized. Or three-years spent on your school board (that was my golden ticket for a number of years).

I’d run into other moms of other 8th grade boys at our local Bilabong store where we all flocked after learning our sons needed to wear collared shirts for touring, and we agreed that boys were so easy to dress. I ended up buying my guy three pairs of shorts and two shirts and honestly, I won’t have to buy him any more clothes until he transitions to longer pants in, like, December.

I brought his bag of new clothes into my room for safekeeping, so the crisp new shorts and shirts with tags wouldn’t get swept up into the detritus littering his floor or, one of his favorite tricks, stuffed into his dirty laundry hamper. Later that night, I laid them all out on my bed and added underwear and socks to create an outfit for each day, which I then showed my son before packing into his suitcase.

“Should I get post it notes?” he asked, obviously getting into having a mom who does things like, pack his suitcase and create outfits for him.

Earlier, we’d gone to pick up some snacks and beauty items for him to take and we unwrapped the zit cream from its package and popped it into his dopp kit along with his deodorant and sunscreen. I could tell he was taking it all a little more seriously than his usual slapdash packing jobs – you should see the crumbled mass of clothing he brought with us for a recent long weekend in Boston – because he was even packing a toothbrush. He didn’t bother to bring one to Boston.

In the meantime, I kept an eye on the clock and considered the best time to text my oldest to give him a speech about safety overseas without coming off as crazy or, worse, that I didn’t have faith in his decision making abilities.

I’d messaged him on Facebook an article I’d seen earlier in the week about what to do in the event you find yourself in a terror attack. Tips like “Don’t use the elevator, take the stairs instead,” and “Don’t play dead.” Useful things like that. But just six months ago, the kids and I had spent a lovely afternoon walking over the London Bridge and poking around nearby Borough Market – eating Scottish quail eggs over greens and crisp Asian dumplings – before we headed to a nearby pub for a pint. The same path terrorists recently took to attack innocent people. Tourists like us.

So of course, I worry.

This isn’t the first time one of my children has traveled to another country solo. Both my girls – who are bookended by their brothers – flew to Europe over spring break with their high school during their respective junior years. This spring break, my younger girl visited Italy as part of a class she was taking in college to study European hospitality. She initially balked at my request that she text from time to time to just let me know she was alive but in the end, we were in constant communication.

I saw her on Instagram sitting with the hills of Tuscany in the distance and she texted photos of amazing meals she was enjoying . Thanks to SnapChat, I also saw her holding one of those giant drinks – you know, the kind that comes with a bunch of straws – late at night surrounded by a bunch of other kids. Apparently, hospitality was alive and well in Tuscany.

I was happy she was having fun but also couldn’t stop thinking about that Amanda Knox documentary I watched on Netflix and tried to slide in texts to her like, “Fun! Don’t leave the bar with a stranger!” and “TTYL! Oh, and pay attention if you wake up and there’s blood all over your bathroom!” I tried to be cool, I threw in some emojis for good measure, but it’s hard as a mom not to worry about your kids getting, like, implicated for murder in a foreign country and shit.

When my older daughter went to Italy during high school, things were pretty chaotic at our house. By then I was divorced and working full time at a relentless job and had four kids in four different schools and – as an added bonus – three teenagers living under my roof. This was probably around the time that the baby took matters into his own hands and learned to do things for himself.

After my daughter left, I realized I had no idea when she was expected to return. I mean, I knew the day – thank God – but not the time the buses would pull back into the high school parking lot. School was closed for the break and I didn’t really know any of the other parents well enough to call up and make a joke about the whole thing. No one who would laugh and be all like, “Been there.”

No, instead I had to call the parents of a boy with whom my daughter had gone to grammar school. The kind of parents that really seems to have their act together. The kind of family that sends all three of its children to Ivy League schools. The dad, who I knew even less well than the mom, answered the phone and had a hard time hiding his dismay when I confessed my sin. “It’s in all the paperwork,” he told me.

“LOL. Paperwork,” I thought, wondering how I could still have in my possession Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons that expired three years earlier and not papers containing vital information for this Italy trip.

The dad gave me the arrival time and then assured me it was accurate as he’d confirmed when his son called the day before. Then it was my turn to hide my surprise that he’d actually heard from his child on the trip. All I got was radio silence and then some some slightly stale biscotti upon my daughter’s return.

I mentioned all this to my friend Dan, how I worried about my oldest navigating a foreign city and whether I’d taught him everything he needed to know to stay safe.

“That’s how we learn,” Dan reminded me, and I thought about my own maiden voyage overseas. How, following a terrible breakup, I enlisted a pal to travel super-low-budget to Europe for 10 days and, having only been on a few jaunts to Florida during high school, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. And that was 100 years before the Internet and cell phones.

We were so clueless, we even got on line as soon as we entered the International Terminal at JFK to have our baggage searched, not realizing it was for people flying to, like, the Gaza Strip or some shit. And I packed an actual suitcase for the multi-city journey, which was sans wheels, and ended up lugging that thing through train stations in Milan and Paris and up and down the cobbled streets of Trastevere and Nice looking for cheap hostels.

My friend and I learned the hard way that beer in Europe was much stronger than the Busch beer we were used to drinking at fraternity parties, and that Italian men were good kissers but terribly persistent (we had to dodge a pair for a few days who’d come back to take us to the beach that we’d drunkenly agreed to visit the night before).

Upon our return to New York, tired and pretty broke, we discovered that the subway back into Manhattan from JFK could get a little dicey, circa 1990, making stops in Bushwick and Bed Stuy. But we survived with nary a scratch (but maybe a few hickies that we tried to cover up with our new Parisian scarves) and learned going forward to always go easy on the Italian beer and – for the love of God – pony up the extra 20 bucks for a cab out of JFK.

I ended up texting my oldest guy after work the night of his departure and reminded him to call so I could wish him a bon voyage. When he called a little while later, he quickly got annoyed and told me he felt like I was judging him, which I probably was. He was leaving for the airport way later than I would ever leave to catch an international flight. (Interestingly, the only time I am never, ever, late is when flying.) But my son sensed my vibe, the one I tend to put out when people aren’t doing things the way I think they should be doing them. I get a tone. For those who love me, it makes them nuts.

But I apologized and asked a bunch of questions and we got back on track. After a few minutes, he told me he was going to finish up eating dinner and get ready to go.

I wanted to say, “Watch out for terrorists,” or “Keep your wits about you” or at the very least, “Can you send me your travel itinerary?” but in the end, just told him to have a great time. And then, because I just couldn’t help myself, asked if he’d just text me when he got to his gate. And maybe again when he landed.

“Mom,” he said, “I’ll text you when I can.”

So I woke up early the next morning and remembered my child was somewhere in the air over the ocean and that’s when I tried to figure out what flight he was on before making breakfast for my other guy. While I was flipping his egg, my phone dinged and I looked down to see a text from my oldest son. “Just landed. Here safe.”

And that was that. I’ve seen daily photos on Instagram and a whole album on Facebook, but haven’t really heard from him again.

In the meantime, I received an all-points bulletin when the 8th graders’ buses departed and my girlfriend got a text from her kid reporting that they’d made it to Maryland.

Ten years ago, when that same boy who is in Barcelona traveled with his 8th grade class to D.C., there was no communication until the buses pulled back into the school’s driveway three days later. There were no CODE RED texts and emails and he certainly didn’t call or text. I don’t even think they were allowed to bring cell phones with them back then.

So maybe I’ve just become conditioned to be able to contact my children at any time of day or night over the last decade. And, thanks to location sharing technology, I can even stalk three out of the four kids to see where they are at any given moment. But the person I really want to keep track of – my wily 14yo – is the hardest to pin down as he’s usually blown through his allotted amount of data about four days into our Verizon billing cycle, rendering him unable to text or be tracked until the 20th of the following month.

And maybe I should be glad for that. Maybe in the end it helps me let go of trying to control and monitor his every move. Give him some latitude to figure things out on his own. Kind of like he’s always done.

I’m thankful I didn’t have the technology available today around when my oldest child was still in the grip of my highly-involved parenting style. Back then, I would have put a chip in him if that was an option. And I think I was so up his butt when he was younger that by the time high school rolled around he spent a good deal of time trying to shake me loose. It wasn’t pretty.

Ten years and three kids through high school and two kids through college later, and I’ve managed to reign in my desire to micromanage my kids’ every move. (Almost.) I’ve learned to have faith in their decision making and, more importantly, to learn from their mistakes. (Pretty much.) I’ve decided it’s much healthier to adopt a “let it go” attitude. (Well, not so much.)

But I have my limits. I still want to know when their plane lands after a long flight or they’ve arrived at their destination following a lengthy drive. I’m not a worrier in general but do fret when they’re in transit. I need to know when they’ve dodged the travel bullet.

I guess everything else is gravy.

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Naughty Pictures

freakyfriday-290My 14yo hastily cleaned out his backpack before school the other morning and after he’d left, I found a neatly folded sheet of loose leaf paper sitting all alone on the kitchen table tucked under a planter. Upon opening it, I discovered a quite impressive pencil rendering of the male anatomy leading me to wonder – not for the first time in my almost 25 years of parenting – why I hadn’t been paying better attention to my children growing up. I mean, the thing even had a few hairs sprouting out from its undercarriage and shading on the, er, shaft.

There was also some writing, including the name of one of his buddies, indicating that it was probably something they were fooling around passing back-and-forth in class instead of actually learning but from the looks of the picture, someone had at least been paying a little attention during health class. And here I was assuming they were all still into Pokemon.

I considered sharing a picture of my baby’s artwork on social media, so I folded it back up and put it in a wire basket next to my sink that ostensibly is supposed to be holding apples and bananas but ends up instead stuffed with things like remote controls and a box of Celestial Seasonings (Tension Tamer) and anything else I like to keep handy and remember that I own. If I could, I’d try to put my sanity in there for safe keeping but fear at this stage of the game it would just slither to the counter between the wires and get lost under the basket.

The boy came home from school and, in an unusual and ironic move, pulled some schoolwork out of a folder in his backpack to show me. Honestly, there are times when I’m not even sure the kid goes to school when he walks out my door each morning in his hooded sweatshirt and cuffed khakis (what better way to show off his impressive collection of weird socks, regardless of the weather?). The kid never seems to have homework or to require studying. He never even asks me to go to the CVS and buy him poster board, which would at least signal he’s got a project due. If I wasn’t certain the authorities would have reached out to me by now if his seat in homeroom remained empty day-after-day, I’d be convinced he went and sat on a curb somewhere in town and watched YouTube videos on his iPhone all day. His monthly data usage would definitely support that hypothesis.

But he seemed pretty eager to show me an illustration he’d made for social studies class that day. They’d been talking about editorial cartoons and then the kids got to draw their own and my son chose to riff on that basketball player who recently floated the idea on some podcast that the Earth was flat. In these end days of alternative facts and rampant conspiracy theories, this assertion doesn’t even seem as crazy as it might have seemed even a year ago. Apparently, and thankfully, my own child agreed and drew a pretty good likeness of the dude spinning a flat basketball on his finger. Well played.

“What do you think?” he asked, all smiley as we stood next to the kitchen sink and, alas for him, the wire basket, from which I began to pull the folded sheet of loose leaf.

“I think you’re a pretty good artist,” I said and handed him the paper. “Here’s how I know.”

He gamely began to unfold the paper and as he opened the final flap his face registered that he knew what he was about to see.

“Well, Mom,” he said as he quickly crumpled the note in his hands, “that was weird.”

He slid open the trash that sat between us and threw the paper inside before closing it and walking away with a tight smile on his face that said, “Let’s never talk about this again.”

I’m sure he was afraid that I’d see the drawing as the opening to yet another one of my spontaneous conversations about sexuality that I’m always trying to start with my children. Much to their horror, I’m always looking for teachable moments, opportunities to have frank discussions about stuff like periods and contraception. But I’ve learned over the years that my children would rather learn everything there is to know about sexuality from their idiot friends or websites like Don’t even ask how I know something like that exists.

But he escaped that day unscathed from any of my “sexual curiosity is healthy” speeches. I’d given a moving talk about pornography not long ago so backed off and let him slink up to his room and hopefully not hunt for milfs.

It’s interesting that here I sit, a 50yo menopausal lady on one end of the sexual vortex living with a 14yo boy who’s on the completely opposite end. Like, if you were to divide our brains into pie slices based on what we thought about most days, the piece from mine devoted to sex would be a tiny sliver – you’d probably want some ice cream alongside it – whereas my son’s portion would need a pretty big plate to accommodate it. You might as well just get a fork and eat right out of the pan. As for my brain, it’s pretty much split down the middle between worrying about my midsection and waning mortality.

Now that would be a funny premise for an updated Freaky Friday. I would morph into a horny teenager and be reminded of just how mesmerizing sex can seem and he would spend time as a tired old lady who’d really just rather read a good book and not have to worry about somebody pawing at her.

Somebody call Ron Howard.

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Best Audiobooks for Long Drives With Teens

It’s graduation season, so in preparation for my final journey eight hours south to the big state university my two oldest children have attended over the last five years, I downloaded a couple of audiobooks to help make the time hurtling down a major interstate pass as quickly as humanly possible.

Over those years of driving down for orientations, football games and settling kids in for fall semesters, we’ve listened to a number of excellent books but it’s been a challenge trying to find something that appealed to every passenger in the car.

Okay, let’s be real. When I first started visiting the school about six years ago, I picked stories that interested just me, as I’d come to terms with the fact that I would be the only one listening. I had three teenagers, after all (and one very cute 7yo).

I knew that all of the teenagers along for the ride would be reclining in the back of our SUV, thoroughly ensconced in whatever loud music was blaring from their white headphones. As soon as I turned the key in the ignition, the children would slip into their own worlds and spend the following eight hours intermittently napping and taking Snapchats of themselves — framed by whatever geotag we were passing through — while some misogynistic lyrics blasted into their young ears. (Okay, there probably wasn’t Snapchat six years ago but you get what I mean).

51ySC5A5-NL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_So I listened to Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken which, at about 8 hours long, was perfect for one leg of the trip. Not only was the story of overcoming insurmountable challenges incredibly inspiring but I also learned a lot about the Pacific theater part of World War 2, in particular Japan’s deadly attacks in China. Like, who knew?



61sHQfg18hL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_For an ensuing trip, I decided to really go for it and downloaded the second Girl With the Dragon Tattoo book (The Girl Who Played With Fire), which clocked in at 18.5 hours. This is when I discovered that some books are better to read than listen to. Number One, I do not have the attention span for all of that storytelling and it was so long I had to finish listening upon my return while driving to soccer and making dinner. And Number Two, while all those Swedish names of people and places were easy to differentiate while reading, you could tell by sight who or where the reference was, but listening was a whole different story. I couldn’t discern a Blomvkist from a Lundagatan and I have been known to speak the Swedish language.

413XudZK0tL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_Eventually, through some kind of miracle, the kids started listening along as we drove. We all enjoyed Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and while she totally embraces the “F” word, which probably wasn’t the most appropriate language for my elementary school child, I loved her kind of Smart, Girl Power message and figured that would outweigh some of the naughtier language. And honestly, that’s probably what kept the kiddies listening, thinking they were kind of getting away with something.

And our love for Tina set us down the road to listening to a bunch of humor audiobooks on long drives up and down the Eastern Seaboard. We loved Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please and Jim Gaffigan’s Fat Dad. We listened to both Mindy Kahling books and Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. Of course, Nora Ephron helped us pass the time during one trip with her essays from I Feel Bad About My Neck. And I discovered Mike Birbiglia listening to This American Life and downloaded his poignant and hilarious album Sleepwalk With Me. We seriously laughed our asses off.

41dfXsZcQDL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_We listened to some kid/teen-centric books as well. My little guy and I enjoyed Wonder driving down to move his sister into her new apartment one August and my two daughters and I adored Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Elenor & Park. Maybe a little too much.

But listening to books during long drives was not a novel (get it?) idea for my children. When they were young, I was always popping in a cassette – and later a CD – for us to listen to while driving. We loved Roald Dahl’s Magic Finger and Fantastic Mr. Fox and thrilled to Shel Silverstein’s slightly creepy, thoroughly wacky readings of his poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends.

One of my favorite family stories is the time we were all heading out on a long drive home from skiing and I popped in Mary Pope Osborne’s child-friendly version of The Odyssey, which was greeted by groans from the back seat. My oldest was probably around 12 or 13 and was way too grown up and cool to be subjected to his mother’s campaign to create lifelong readers in her children.

He grumbled and eventually settled down to hear about Odysseus’ struggles with wooden horses and one-eyed giants and as the first disc ended, I heard, “Wait, that’s it?” from that too-cool-for-school son in the back seat. Too old, indeed.

That same son – who, at 23, is an avid reader and counts East of Eden, which he read last summer while commuting, as one of his favorite books – was my travel companion for this weekend’s graduation festivities, so I kept him in mind as I perused iTunes to download stuff to listen to and kind of think I killed it.

tumblr_mav95sJmYi1rg9ssco1_250Driving down, my son, 19yo daughter and I listened to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – clocking in at 6 hours – and then couldn’t stop referencing the story throughout graduation weekend. We joked about the lovable yet often frustrating main character who has Asperger’s and mimicked the British-isms sprinkled throughout the story. I think the rest of our family, who was not in our car, was kind of annoyed by our going on about the story but yesterday, the graduate started reading it and I might encourage my youngest to do the same. Great story.

41diKbNSQSL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_For something completely different, our drive home was filled with the beautiful and profound thoughts on what makes a life worth living in the gorgeous memoir When Breath Becomes Air. An excellent contemplation of life and death written by a 36yo neurosurgeon before he succumbed to lung cancer and about 5 and-a-half hours long. Lovely.

My son and I listened to the end of Paul Kalanithi’s beautiful words and quickly followed up with a Game of Thrones podcast chaser to finish out our trip, thus balancing the heaviness of the memoir with the airy ponderings on the fate of Winterfell.

I will miss having a reason to trap my children with me for such large chunks of time and getting to listen to stories together. More than the stories – though I do love them – it’s the shared experiences I’ve enjoyed so much over the years. The inside jokes. The references to pet rats and dead dogs and sisters for sale.

However I will never miss I-81 or stopping to use sketchy restrooms in the middle of nowhere. Some experiences are best left in the past.

When I’m not driving up and down the East Coast, 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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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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