It Always Comes Back To Boob Sweat.

I went through my My Dad is an EMBARRASSMENT! stage in Middle School and it peaked when he took me and my brother to a movie and I sat far away from them. Dad didn’t take us to movies regularly like I do my kids, it was rare and special and I was TOO EMBARRASSED TO SIT WITH HIM. I often apologized for being terrible to him later in life and he would just laugh and say I wasn’t that awful of a teenager.

YES I WAS, FATHER. I WAS TERRIBLE.

Anyway…

By high school I realized his “uncoolness” was actually kinda cool and I enjoyed it when he drove my friends places or stayed up chatting with my friends who came over to the house. He didn’t really approve of the idea of “slumber parties” – I think because he just felt like they were outside his skillset. BUT! Sometimes there were school events that would run late or start early and I would use those events as an “excuse” to have friends spend the night and he could get on board with that. Then there was a PURPOSE to the shenanigans.

I had a few friends he fondly remembered coming over and what he loved was how tickled we would get at the stupidest stuff, like putting together board games. Something about that mundane task would set us off and it would be non-stop laughter and he found it SO BIZARRE but also entertaining and I loved having him around in those moments.

BUT MIDDLE SCHOOL WAS VERY DIFFERENT.

I found him unfun and embarrassing and did not want him around for anything. I WAS A TERRIBLE PERSON.

I tell you all of this because I had my first “Mom, I’m embarrassed because of something you did…” moment this weekend. MY FIRST. I’m certain my kids have found me embarrassing, but they’ve shielded me from that knowledge until this weekend. See, I posted a picture of the chaffing line under my boobs from sweating on my 15-mile long run on instagram. It wasn’t salacious or anything, but a bunch of Nikki’s friends follow me on instagram (It’s not like Facebook, I don’t get a say, they just follow me) and she saw that they “liked” the photo and she was NOT amused. It has actually bothered her for awhile that her friends follow me because sometimes they see my pictures before they see HERS and she’d rather them see HERS obviously. But this was the icing on the cake of her irritation. It’s bad enough when they see my pictures before hers BUT NOW THEY SEE I SUFFER FROM BOOB CHAFFING.

(SIDENOTE: Almost all of her friends have instagram. They use the DM function to “text” since most of them don’t have phones, but do have iPod touches or tablets which is what Nikki has. Her account is private and we have to approve everyone she lets follow her, but she’s often “texting” her friends via Instagram. It’s a strange thing.)

But this was the first time she’s hinted at being embarrassed by something I’ve done. AND I AM FEELING TERRIBLE FOR DITCHING MY DAD AT THE MOVIE ALL OVER AGAIN.

I know it’s our job to embarrass our kids, so I’m not really too stressed about her reaction. And we had a talk about how I felt about her duck face pictures and how I realized I need to let her do her thing and I won’t interfere and maybe she needs to do the same with me. But it’s definitely a weird conversation to have. In all of the mental preparation I do thinking about how to teach my kids about social media, I never considered the fact that I’d have to defend the way I use social media. I mean, like someone on Facebook pointed out, I’ve been talking about boob sweat since before they were born! Nothing is going to stop me from continuing. IT IS MY BRAND AT THIS POINT.

Self-Doubt and Advanced Placement

There’s always crap going on in my life I don’t write about for various reasons and it sucks because writing is how I process things. I have written drafts I’ve never published (Oh, the draft folder on this blog is EPIC) but it doesn’t always help without the wisdom you all give me.

ANYWAY. Some of this crap has trickled into my life in ways unexpected. I’ve not been writing as much on social media in general lately and I think I’ve figured out why. It’s because awhile ago I wrote something on Facebook talking about some bullying my daughter was experiencing (Facebook is safe for more personal stuff as I limit my Facebook connections) and someone took that opportunity to message me privately using my status as an impetus to proceed to tell me how my involvement in another situation was actually me condoning bullying and they just couldn’t believe that ME OF ALL PEOPLE would do that.

The details of this are unnecessary, I’m confident I’m not condoning bullying in any situation, but the point is: Someone took something personal I wrote and twisted it around as an attack and it just shook me.

And lately? I’ve been filled with self-doubt because of this.

How much do I share anywhere? Am I strong enough to open these wounds to the world and then sometimes have negative fallout? I am very open about my struggles in many areas but maybe I shouldn’t be? Maybe if someone sees those vulnerabilities and realizes those are great places to attack, maybe I’m not strong enough for that?

And it has me constantly doubting anything personal I share lately. I feel good sharing it, but what if someone then says, Oh! Look, that’s obviously a vulnerability. Let’s use that to hurt her.

I wrote yesterday about anxieties and lists and how sometimes putting things on the “NEVER” list allows you to take them off the “WORRY” list and SO MANY of you assured me that you do the same thing and it was VERY helpful. But then, the self-doubt started and I began looking at that entry and my admission of vulnerabilities from the point of view from someone who didn’t care about me, and suddenly I doubted everything and I moved it to draft.

Actually, for a moment I thought about taking the whole blog down.

But this morning I’m fighting that self-doubt because I really would love to hear your thoughts on something.

SO! WE WILL PROCEED! SELF DOUBT BE DAMNED!

My daughter got into a special magnet program here for academic achievement and they try to put some 6th graders from this program in Algebra I. Of course this means they would take Calculus as SOPHOMORES and who knows how many collge credits they’ll graduate with at that rate!

Now, ALL 6th graders in this program are in at least advanced 7th grade math, but some go to Algebra I which is advanced even for 8th grade. So basically she’s already guaranteed to be on an advanced math track, but the placement in Algebra I would put her on an EVEN MORE advanced math track and y’all? I told her I don’t give two flying shits about it.

And that is a direct quote.

I struggle with the idea of advanced placement. I was on an advanced math track and it caused me a lot of stress (I even pushed to get into the honors version of that track) when I was taking Calculus as a Senior – A LOT OF STRESS – and it gave me no benefit in the long run. What? It saved me a math credit? Well, I ended up changing my major so many times that I had so many wasted credits that saving me one math did no good.

Maybe if I knew for sure she was destined for a math career – maybe it would help? But I don’t. And I don’t want her to feel bound to any track just because of a test she took in 5th grade. I want her to be challenged, so if they put her in it I’ll support it, but I don’t buy into the need to start college with credits already accumulated. To me? 90% of the college experience IS ABOUT THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE and I believe she will learn more taking a class in college than in high school. Not necessarily about the subject, but about academics and life and if she’s on a math track, meeting other freshmen on that same track is beneficial and skipping to sophomore or junior level classes as a freshman doesn’t not put you in easy friend-making situations.

So, I’m letting her take the test (I could have asked she not be tested and just be put in regular advanced math) because I want her to be challenged or she’ll get bored. But as she was stressing about the test last night I told her 100 different times in 100 different ways: IT DOES NOT MATTER. If you don’t get into Algebra I? You will be FINE, maybe even BETTER in my opinion.

What are your thoughts on Advanced Placement courses? ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO SETTING A KID ON A TRACK IN 6TH GRADE. Uggg. I just want her to not worry about college for a little while, is that too much to ask?

Parenting In The Age Of The Duck Face

“I don’t know about all of the duck face, Kim. It’s killing me.”

This was something my husband said about my daughter’s instagram feed awhile back. Right now it’s private and we have to approve everyone who follows her, but yeah…there’s a ton of duck face selfies.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones often done with a peace sign thrown in and always done at an interesting angle.

THE ONES WE ALL HATE.

And by “we all” I mean, “anyone who didn’t go through puberty with social media to help them document it.”

If I’m honest, her feed has been bugging me too. The duck face selfies are PERPETUAL. If she’s bored she has an instagram story feed full of them, but there’s at least 1-2 a day if she hasn’t had her iPod taken away. And every one of them has me saying to myself, “This is not my daughter.”

I wanted to figure out how to make it stop. How do I talk to her in a way that lets her see this is not a good thing to do – to make your “public” persona so different from your “real” persona.

But there was always this voice…this voice who said to me, “You are just old. You don’t understand. Trust your parenting. Let her do her thing.”

I posed the question first to Twitter about how to deal with your child’s social media presence when it doesn’t reflect who they are in your mind. Was this something I needed to address? Or was this the same as when my Dad got SO MAD to hear me talk with that Valley Girl tone when I was around my friends? Is the perpetual duck face selfie just today’s version of putting on purple eyeshadow when I got to school and washing it off before my Dad picked me up in the afternoon? Is this just how today’s generation shows a different side to their friends than to their parents?

Twitter said: It’s the same.

It still bugged me though. (I mean, I’m SUPES old.) (Definitely too old to be using the word “supes.”) So, I brought it up with other friends over breakfast this weekend. And then my friend Chelsea, who is young enough that she has actually grown up with digital photography to document all of her awkward phases, said that she and her friends would spend hours getting fancy and taking pictures of themselves when they were in middle school. “Selfies” weren’t a thing – but they definitely spent an annoying amount of hours prepping their digital persona.

So now I’m swinging more to the, “You are just old. You don’t understand. Trust your parenting. Let her do her thing.” side of the response spectrum now.

And then today there’s an article being shared around Twitter talking about how people who take too many selfies have mental health problems. And I’m back to being worried again.

But here’s the thing I keep remembering: I dropped F-bombs all the time when I was around my friends. I smoked. I did drugs. I was flirty and promiscuous. I did a lot of things to seem “cool” that I look back on and question their authenticity. I wore giant t-shirts and long flowing skirts with Birkenstocks even though I wasn’t really sure I liked that style. I did like the anklet with the bells on it, but I stopped wearing it when someone said that’s what “Fake Deadheads” wore. I made a lot of decisions about how I presented myself to the world based on how I wanted to be viewed…sexy…interesting…fun…bold…adventurous…

But was that me deep down? Who knows. Can anyone between the ages of 12-20 really be authentic? Aren’t we all still learning who we are during those years? Hell…some days I think I was in my 30s before I could truly be authentic because I had no idea who the hell I was until then.

So I’m going to continue teaching what I want her to learn and let her keep expressing herself how she sees fit. I’ll periodically point out other “cool” people on social media that maybe have a VARIETY in their photos and maybe she’ll be inspired in other ways…but you know what? She’s beautiful. And I’m glad she sees her face as something worth sharing with the world. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and try to encourage her to remember that these platforms will be all some people know of her when we decide she’s old enough to stop policing her account. I’ll always remind her to spice things up, to show more of herself than just the duck face selfies. But I won’t judge her mental health or post articles snarking on the same behavior because the girls behind all of those selfies that annoy us so much…they could all be my daughter…and I refuse to judge them based on this small window into their lives.

I don’t want to force her to hide a side of herself from me because I don’t approve.

I don’t want her waiting to put the purple eyeshadow on after I’m gone.

The Swing of an Afternoon

Wesley often greets me at after-school care by running down the hall and jumping into my arms with a giant smile on his face. IT IS THE BEST. I love it so much. Then, 99% of the time, he and his sister start fighting (they do NOT get along) and we are in FULL anger-meltdown mode by the time we make the 5-mile drive home. It’s a thing that makes me CRAZY and I try to handle it in different ways so that these sibling-induced anger fits don’t ruin our evening. I’m never consistently successful.

So, yesterday was one of those days.

On the way home the kids had to tell me that they had their screens taken away because of a fight they had in the morning. This fight evidently stemmed from Nikki telling Wes he sucked. Wes was already cranky at remembering he couldn’t watch screens when he got home, but then remembering his sister had been a jerk that morning and he went full-on “THIS IS THE WORST DAY!” mode. Now he was just angrily saying how much he hates his life. Remember…this is just a few minutes after the warm hug and smile. JUST A FEW MINUTES TO SWING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.

I calmly pointed out that I was having a bad day too, but I was SOOO grateful at how he hugged me when I picked him up because it improved my mood 100%. He didn’t care.

We got home and he didn’t want to get out of the car because the day sucked and he hates his life. I let him stew and went inside and sat by the window to watch him. Eventually he came in and went to his room. I sat on the couch in the living room and listened to him bang something repeatedly against the door. Over and over. I was pretty sure it was one of his giant nerf weapons that are not as soft as you think they should be. I calmly reminded him that this was an apartment and we needed to make sure we didn’t damage walls or doors. He banged harder and louder. I asked him AGAIN to stop. I told him I understood he was angry but he needed to find another way to process that. HE BANGED HARDER. At this point I’m now angry too because I can tell he’s about to bust a hole in something so I go into his room and rip the nerf weapon out of his hand.

THIS IS WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.

He starts screaming just to scream, and then screaming at me to leave. I mean – SCREAMING. This resets me and I think back to the source of all of this. There’s always something else behind the anger. There’s anxiety or shame or jealousy. Or a combination of the three. And while I couldn’t find the exact source I could see evidence of it all – Nikki telling him he sucked, him feeling like he sucks compared to her, him getting in trouble and feeling ashamed, etc. So I took a deep breath and tried to hug him while he was screaming at me. “GO AWAY! GO AWAY!”

And here is the moment where I’m really torn because I want him to know I’ll never leave him, but I also have taught him to take time to calm down if he needs it. So I hugged him and kissed him and said, “I’m leaving you alone because I think you want to calm down but I want you to know I love you and I’d rather sit here and hug you.”

“GO AWAY! GO AWAY!”

But, those last screams? A tad softer. Just a tad.

Those are the moments where you see a break-through and you take a deep breath and muster up the patience because it’s working, you just have to let it happen.

I go back to the living room and he immediately stops screaming. I just sit and wait and it doesn’t take long and he comes out and he says, “I’m sorry. I’m just really sad Nikki told me I sucked.”
“I know, Wes. But she apologized so can we try to forget about it?”
“But you always tell me you can’t forget words easily when I say mean stuff.”
He’s listening! He’s really listening!
“That’s right, Wes. But haven’t you said mean stuff you’d wish we could forget? Do you remember how sorry you were when you said the awful thing? Don’t you think your sister feels that way now? So can we shake it off a bit?”
“Maybe.”
“Listen, I’m having a rough day too. You know what I like to do when I just can’t shake stress off? I like to color. Coloring calms me down. Want to color with me?”

So we did. He got his notepad out and I got my coloring book out and we centered ourselves around our pens and markers. We ended up having a really nice evening together. We colored, he rubbed my feet for money (He gives THE BEST foot rubs), and we watched Sing.

Some days I honestly worry that he’s never going to mature emotionally to the point of having successful relationships as an adult. But then other days I see how much progress he has made, how far we’ve come from the days where he tried to hurt me both physically and with his words. And yes – I can’t easily forget those days – but days like yesterday are like medicinal salves over old wounds. Those days, those swings, they are too much sometimes…I’ll be honest. But when the pendulum stops and we settle into the healing process I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are making our way through it, together.

Here it comes.

I think E was about a year old in this picture which means I was 20. He is currently 22 so he is 2 years older than me in this picture and that is TOTALLY freaky. I’ve been torturing myself lately with old pictures of him as he is just two months from graduating from college. He is getting a degree in Mass Communications and if you are located anywhere closer to me than Brooklyn and are hiring – PLEASE HIRE MY KID.

Because right now his plan is to head to Brooklyn where he has found a bedroom to sublet for the summer and he hopes to find enough opportunities to make money that he can find another apartment with other friends at the end of the summer. Either way – it looks like he’s heading towards New York, at least for a little while.

I think he’s way braver than that girl in the photo above who had a baby at 19.

He told me I’d have to come visit and I told him that only if he held my hand the whole way because I’m terrified of traveling and big cities and people, so a trip to NYC might actually kill me.

And I know he belongs some place bigger than Huntsville, AL. I think I was just hoping he’d settle on something like Nashville.

My heart is not ready. It’s a good thing I have so many friends with kids spread out around the country because I’m going to need some Mama Bird therapy after my Baby flies away.