Monday, May 23, 2011

What Planet Are You From That You Think It Is OK to Live This Way?

         Just the other day, my recently turned thirteen year-old asked, "Why do you make us clean our rooms? None of my friends parents make them clean their rooms - they are always messy when I goto to their houses." I was so taken back that my request to see that carpet actually existed on the floor of the bedroom my daughters share was out of the ordinary. Literally, I stood frozen while my brain processed the fact that I was actually going to have to explain WHY it is not acceptable to live like a slob. 
         “Well,” I said, stalling a little while my brain formulated an answer that my newly-crowned teenager might process in a productive fashion. This is my third and final child to hit the charming age of 13. Who was I kidding - there is no reasoning with a teenager. You’d think my brain would have evolved by this time…? Help me Darwin!
“Well,” I repeated, still recovering from the questioning of the OBVIOUS. “…Because it is my job to teach you that you need to pick up after yourself. It is not ok to wear clothes for a day, stink them up, throw them on the floor and proceed to walk all over them for a days and then pull a pair of jeans out of the filth that has been rumaniting on the floor for a week and wear it again. If you would at least throwing them in a pile it would show me you possess a motor skill."
“Besides,” I continued, “after a week, you forget what is clean and what has just been strew on the floor as you paired 15 different Hollister t-shirts with the same pair of jeans to produce the perfect outfit to impress your homeroom boyfriend. Then you can’t remember what is clean or dirty, and you put it all in the dirty laundry. You’ve got no respect for Mother Earth and her precious water – nor me and your dad who have to go to work to pay for that water to wash your clean clothes…Do you get it now?”
The response from my less than captive audisnce? Nothing of the verbal persuasion, just a glare, a roll of the eyes, and a quick exit from the room on my part.
Cleaning the room has been an issue since the age of 10-ish, when children should really be able to pick up after themselves. Why is it a daily battle? I mean, it has been four years of entrenched warfare on this front. It is really the most frustrating part of parenting.  
I’m not THAT strict – I do NOT make my kids make their bed before they leave for school. I work full time, they have until 5:00 p.m. to get that bed made…why is it so hard? A neatly made bed is an easy way to make a messy room look clean!
My daughters play the blame game because they share the room. Whatever. I know whose clothes belong to who, who was using the computer last, who’s dresser had shirts, papers, ponytails shoved behind it. Children, I am not BLIND. Have you not realized I have eyes in the back of my head?
Did I mention we have been entrenched in this warfare for years now? My teacher friend helped me create a Rubric grading scale for the cleanliness of the rooms. We used it for a nearly two years…until I deemed my children old enough and mature enough to stop using a grading scale. I was undoubtedly pre-mature in the cessation of the Rubric.
Why, Why, Why, Why, Why have I had to repeat myself, oh, let’s say, 800 times, "Yes, you can go to the mall, or a sleepover at Katie’s, or long as your room is clean first.  Why don’t they clean their rooms before they ask? Why do I have to go and check? They KNOW the answer!
To be fair, my oldest, does clean her room before asking to do something at least 15 percent of the time. So, perhaps that extra year of me pounding it into her thick skull, has finally helped it sink in.  CLEAN YOUR ROOM FIRST.
If I happen to pass by her open door…open on a very, very, very, rare occasion, and I can see the once beautiful oatmeal wool carpet, I know something is amiss, there is a plan in the works, movies, starbucks, she wants something, she wants to go somwhere, anywhere. It may be that every last item from on the floor has been picked up and shoved willy-nilly into the closet, which is now bulging with dirty laundry and other not-to-be-imagined contents. Still, it looks clean. Ahhhh, progress.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tales from the Trough

I am surprised when people tell me that our family is a rarity in that we sit down for dinner together every night. We make jokes about The Bush Years and “Family Values”, and aren’t we “old school”, but truly, this is the only time of day we all sit together and get to know what is happening in each other’s lives. Yes, even a Democrat mom, an Independent dad, one budding democrat, one “on the fence” and one completely undecided member of our family embrace the good ‘ol family values of nightly dinner.

Lately I find myself flashing back to dinnertime with my mom and sister when I was growing up. My mom was like a broken record – quit saying LIKE! I remember, I didn’t realize I even said LIKE so much. When did I finally break that habit? Please tell me it was by the time I turned 17, because I don’t know how much more LIKE I can take!

What is it about teenage English that gives the work LIKE so much power? “…and I was like…”, “and she was like…” The same goes for the word ALL,”and he was all,”, “and I was all…” I have counted on my hands under the table, and if it is a decently long story – the word LIKE might be used upwards of 20 times. Have I mentioned two of my daughters are taking high school honors English? I would bet someone a million dollars that either one of my honors English students can’t speak for two minutes without using the world LIKE improperly.

Then there is the speed of delivery. Is it excitement that makes the words tumble out so quickly? Again, flash backs to my very own mother, “SLOW DOWN!!! I cannot follow along when you speak so fast!” Amazingly, I still have the knack to understand my daughters in their quick-speak, but I find myself translating for my husband a lot. Bringing up the tail end and fighting for air time is darling 13-year old 7th grader who loves to follow up most sentences with “… and stuff,” clearly adding an intelligence factor not to be equaled. Even her brightest comments lose that je ne se quoi when followed by “…and stuff”.

On a high note – and taking a clue from the Kardashians, to whom we have no aspirations of keeping up with…we’ve recently started going around the table talking about the peak and pit of our day. It is fun, because everyone participates, and everyone gets to be center stage for a bit. It distracts me from seeing bad table manners like shoveling food into one’s mouth, eating hunched over one’s plate, slurping, elbows on the table…all those lovely and attention-getting bad habits that a mom must learn to ignore at times, or else the entire time spend dining would be one tirade after another of Miss Manners gone Mad.

Seeing the big picture, until one of the girls embarrasses herself in front of her peers in the dining hall at collage, table etiquette appears to be a lost cause. But at that embarrassing ah-ha moment hopefully all the years of carefully picked Manners 101lessong during dinnertime will come flooding back, and all will be right in the world. Hope is a mother’s best friend.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Living with Teenage Aliens and Other Rantings from a Mom on the Edge

I was out with my girlfriends the other night and was giving them a play-by-play of some of the insanity I deal with on a daily basis raising 16, 15 and 13 year-old daughters. They asked me to write a survival guide for their kids are all a few years younger than mine. I came up with the following outline for a book...and I'm making it into a blog - so anyone who joins my blog will see the writing process along the way.
I think if it as Chicken Soup for the Souls of Mothers with Teenagers.
Living with Teenage Aliens
and other Rantings from a Mom on the Edge.

Rough Draft of Chapters to come:
1. Love is Truly Blind – or I would Never have married a man with Three Daughters.
2. The Family Dinner – tales from the trough.
3. Having THE talk. (The WEEKLY talk about sex, boyfriends, dating, how to avoid the hussy label and other mind-boggling things 13-year olds know about these days.)
4. My Space, and other places you can go when you don't live under my roof
5. Math homework and other complexities of daily life.

6. She's a Little Runaway, by Bon Jovi, and other theme songs for daily life.
7. And then there was therapy.
8. Back-to-School night - What not to wear.
9. What planet are you from that you think it is OK to live this way?
10. I do not want to see your bra strap or your underwear when you are dressed – I'm pretty sure, if you thought about it, you don't want to see mine either, so why don't you get it?
11. If you listened in science class you'd know that the world revolves around the sun. It does not revolve around you, you self-absorbed little teenage twerp.
12. D.A.R.E. education - Self Medication, and other survival techniques.
13. And I quote, "When I was a Kid…"
14. And then there was more therapy…for me this time
15. "Happy" Holidays? Dealing with THREE families during the holidays. Jolly Jolly!
16. Keeping up with Teenage Pop Culture…I'm so hip it really does hurt.
17. Lets talk about Texts, Baby.
18. When did I become Mommy Dearest?

My goal is to use humor to help me survive the next 7-10 years bringing up three girls in these very technologically advanced and trying times.