A senior letter

This has to be one of the hardest letters I have ever written. xoxo

I’m supposed to be writing you a senior letter, probably without getting emotional.  HAHA!  Yeah, right. We both know better than that.

Starting with the most mundane, I’ll remind you how proud I am of you.  Words cannot tell you how proud I am.  You’ve become every bit of the man I had hoped you would when I met you 18 years ago.  I prayed you would take the good characteristics of your dad and me and mix them together with your own spin to turn into an amazing man, and you have done that plus so much more.  You’re better than I could have dreamed, God truly blessed me more than I deserve.  You have a beautiful heart and soul, more than you really know – don’t let life ruin that.  You’re more than just smart, you’re sincerely intellectual.  You consider all things and analyze the good and bad before making a decision or judgment.  That’s really the key to life, kid, so you have a one-up on most people already.

I’ve watched you learn to crawl, walk, talk, and read.  I’ve watched you learn to ride a bike, play soccer, play guitar, and drive a car.  I’ve watched you walk into your first day of pre-school, kindergarten, middle school, and high school.  I’ve watched you drive off to your first job.  I’ve watched you go on your first date.  I’ve watched you drive off for your senior prom.  Soon, I’ll watch you walk up on stage and receive your diploma.  Soon, I’ll watch you drive off for your next adventure in the Navy.  You have been a joy and blessing to watch and I cannot wait to watch all the next stages in your life.

I admit that when you first told me about your aspirations to join our military, my heart broke.  It was a selfish act, and it took a long, long time for me to come to peace with that.  I didn’t want to think about you leaving me.  You and I have had each other for 18 years, you’re my firstborn and I just wasn’t ready to face the fact that you’ve become an amazing man who doesn’t enter into things lightly.  It’s because of this and your infallible reasoning that I got on board and knew in my heart you would do amazing things with this opportunity.

I read somewhere that I’m supposed to tell you what I want for you or expect out of you.  Like so many parts of our family and relationship, my wants and expectations aren’t really traditional.  Of course, I want you to get an education, find a good job, meet and marry a great girl, start a family, and all that jazz.  But, Austin, I want so much more for you.  I want you to leave this little town, join the Navy, and see the world.  I want you to live with no strings attached.  You have such a great opportunity to do things very few people get the chance to do.  Since you could read (at the ripe age of 2½) you’ve been fascinated with the world.  You’ve been interested in all things history and science.  Go see all those countries you have only ever read about.  Go see, feel, touch the history of the world and let that experience blow you away.  Life is so short, baby, and you have the rest of your life for settling down.  Hold off on that day to day grind just a bit longer and make adventure your next path.

What do I expect out of you?  Greatness.  However, before greatness, I expect you to live your life to the absolute fullest.  Drink a beer with your new brotherhood and make stupid decisions that won’t cost you too much in the end – you know like an arrest and big ass tattoos that you’ll regret later (and coming from me that’s saying a LOT).  Get your heart broken a few times because until you do, there’s no other way to know real love when it comes to you.

You’re one of my greatest accomplishments in life.  If I have done nothing else in this life, I have raised a great boy into a phenomenal man.  I know that you’ll take part of me, your dad, your brother, and sister & papa and nana with you along the way and we will help keep you grounded…just enough – not too much.

You’re going to be scared, you’re going to be nervous, and I’m sure there will be days you’ll just want to come home, but those days will be few and far between.  You will succeed.  You will be ok.  You will overcome.

Go start your life, baby – it’s only just beginning.  I’m so proud of you and all that you’ve become.  I love you with all that I am and all that I have, son.

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Enough

When is enough, enough?  Is there ever a time, as a wife and a mother, that I can throw my hands up in the air and (not wave them like I just don’t care…) say – to hell with this, I’ve had enough!  Theoretically, I did just that the other day.  I went on “strike” *insert hysterical laughter here*.  What was I thinking?  That all of a sudden the kids and husband would hear the archangels singing and try to fix everything that I’ve been bitching about?  Pfft.  Yeah, right.

I have teens.  I don’t have really young kids.  In less than 6 months I will have an 18-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 13-year-old.  Oh, and a 38-year-old…*ahem*.  Yet, at some point these four individuals must have fallen and smacked their precious heads on some sort of hard surface and have completely and utterly forgotten how to use their senses.  Particularly the sense that tells them there are chores to be done – your bathroom looks like it’s growing something in the sink, the dogs have no water, you might have worn that a time or two since the last wash cycle, there’s a smell coming from your bathroom that is going to disturb the neighbors, and OMG you must be sleeping with a zombie because that’s what your room smells like!

So, I lost my shit.  Again.  I explained how absolutely tired I was of being the maid.  Because that’s how I feel…blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda (like Charlie Brown’s teacher only more life-like).  Most days it’s not worth the fight and I just handle it all myself – working, cooking, cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping and mopping, doing the leftover dishes that must have been wearing an invisibility cloak the night before, cleaning the house, and doing every stitch of laundry Mr. EMT and I own because otherwise he will attempt to ‘do’ laundry and we’ll forever be throwing shit in the dryer on wrinkle-free.

The strike lasted a day and a half.  The day I lost my shit, Mr. EMT was home from work and school, a rarity these days.  Thus, I sent him a message and explained what I saw that morning and that I was on strike until I saw the rest of the family learn to pick up after themselves and do their chores.  He had them clean, and clean well – for exactly one day.  It lasted for one day.  Because the dishes wore an invisibility cloak yet again last night, I refused to cook.  Make yourself something to eat, I said.  Heat up leftovers, I said.  AND DO THE MOTHERFUCKING DISHES, I said.  Well, not so drastically, but that’s how I wanted to say it.

I woke up in a little better mood today and I decided I would rather be pissed off and bitchy than to live in a crappily maintained home.  I was going to buck up and do all the stuff I didn’t do since Tuesday when I got home today.  However, insert a call from The Little’s school and I’m right back to wanting to scream ‘Enough is Enough’!  He got into trouble….again….albeit the first time in 3 weeks.  He’s a work in progress, but that’s for another post in the future about dealing with middle school kids with two parents who don’t often agree on parenting style.

With all that being said, I realize I cannot actually give up.  I have to remain married to Mr. EMT even though I wanted to punch him in the throat this week; I have to remain a mother to three unappreciative adolescents and try to remember that one day they will thank me for this shit; and I have to remember to buy another bottle of wine before I get home….because enough may very well be enough, but that does not count for wine.

1996

March 5

Buffalo nickel

Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

1996

I rummaged through the crap mess in the console of my truck and not only realized I desperately need to clean it but found a dime and on it was stamped 1996.

It was 1996, the year I graduated high school.  It should have been a time in my life of festivities and prepping for senior prom and senior skip day with my best friends while making memories of a lifetime; instead, I saw it as utterly painful.  I didn’t realize then that I was still making memories of a lifetime and that I would make a new friend to carry with me the rest of my life.  I lived in Ohio at the time because my father was transferred there during my senior year.  I met one of my very best friends there.  Both of us were dealt the horrible fate of spending our senior year away from our original high school and all our friends.  I moved from Atlanta and she from New Jersey (though originally from Alabama).  We formed an instant friendship.

We both had to leave high school boyfriends behind, obviously and neither of us was too pleased and we bonded over that quickly.  We became a quick cliché of Misery Likes Company and we kept to ourselves for the most part.  To make sure everyone knew just how miserable we were, we dressed in head to toe black on Valentine’s Day because, well, why not.  It was still the grunge era so we had a lot of black hanging around.

I graduated in May and by that time my father had been transferred again, this time to Florida though I was convinced I would be stopping and staying in Georgia.  I was eager to get back to Mr. EMT and could see no reason why I couldn’t stay on with a family member and attend college there.  1996, coincidentally was also the year the Olympics were in Atlanta so my parents rationalized that it wouldn’t be a good time for me to move back, and I should just wait a little while longer.  I didn’t realize at first that it was a ploy to try to keep me in Florida where they knew my future would probably be brighter since I would be in college.  They were smart, my parents, they knew me far better than I knew myself.

Fast forward to the end of 1996, after a few new friendships and entirely too much partying, I decided it was time to go back to Georgia.  I secretly bought a bus ticket, gave my 2-week notice at my job, and was prepared to leave my parents in almost a haste.  I knew they wouldn’t approve.  I knew they would be desperately disappointed, but I missed Mr. EMT so much that I felt I would lose him completely if I didn’t return.

My mother, being the brilliantly smart woman she is, somehow found out that I was leaving and she drove me there.  In almost complete silence.  It was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life.  I could feel her anxiety, I could feel her fear, and I could feel her love.  She was going to let me go, but it was going to break her heart.  She knew the struggles I would face, but I was 18 and I wouldn’t hear anything about it.

1996 was a monumental year for me, almost as much as 1997 when Mr. EMT and I welcomed The Eldest long before we were prepared to be parents and started going through the struggles my mom knew were coming.

To be or not to be…transitioning

My friends over at Merriam-Webster define transition as such:

     a:  passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another :  change

     b:  a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another

I suppose I am speaking about definition ‘b’.  You see, in 8 months The Eldest will be 18 years old; he will be an adult – legal age.  He will also be a senior in high school and, in my humble opinion, this makes him still a kid…cause he’s still in school…duh.  All this brings me to a conversation he and I had on the way to school this morning which I will share shortly.  (No, he doesn’t drive yet which is another kid thing)

He’s been moody this week.  Not disrespectful, but not his normal, chatty self.  He’s also been grounded from phone and Xbox use due to a failing grade.  Granted he’s struggling in the subject, but he failed to bring this to his dad’s or my attention before we found out about the grade.  We don’t punish if a kid is genuinely struggling as long as we know and they are seeking additional aid in the subject.  Neither has happened, thus he is grounded until the grade is passing.  Simple, no?  Well, not for him – evidently.  Mr. Grumpy Gills (to quote one of his favorite kid movies…) let it be known today that he disagrees which got me thinking about this whole transition from kid to adult thing we are going through.

Me: What’s with you this week?  You’re unusually grumpy.

The Eldest: I’m still upset.

Me: Ok, I’ll bite.  Why are you upset?  Let alone still…

The Eldest:  I’m grounded.  You realize I’ll be able to vote this year, right?  And I’m grounded like a kid.

Me:  There’s not an election this year so you can’t vote.  You’re 17, in high school, and I’m driving you to school – you’re kinda still a kid.

The Eldest: I’m probably joining the military this time next year, I drink coffee, and I could vote if there was an election this year…and you’ve taken my phone from me, I’m almost not a kid.

Me: ….

The Eldest: ….

Me: Ok….but since you’re almost not a kid and you’re absolutely failing a class and you’re definitely not paying for said phone because you don’t even have a job…you’re still grounded until the grade comes up.

The Eldest:  *sigh* *facepalm* You never understand me!

Me: Haha…there it is, the adult conversation I was looking for.  Nice try, kid…go to class.

So, the normally articulate one wasn’t able to pull off a good enough reason to not be grounded.  Maybe it is because it was first thing in the morning, maybe it was because he didn’t take but 2 sips of coffee because he didn’t add enough caramel creamer to give a diabetic a coma, or maybe…just maybe he realized his mom is right.  HA!  Fat chance.  I think it’s because even though we are transitioning from kid to adult, he is still very clearly a kid.  I don’t remember this transition when I was his age, but I’ll bet my parents do.  This next year should be entertaining at the very least.  Wish me luck.

Parenting, it ain’t for the light hearted

Going into parenting, I was a nervous wreck.  I got pregnant young, almost too young to be a parent.  I was an adult, but only just barely.  Looking at my 17-year-old son today, I cannot imagine him becoming a parent in a couple years, like his father and I did.  I was a wreck somewhat because of our ages, but mostly because I had no idea what the hell I was doing.  I was going to be responsible for another life.  How was that going to work?  I still could hardly separate colors successfully and not turn white underwear pink.

I was given this awesome book, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.  I read it cover to cover 3 times before I ever laid eyes on the kid growing in my stomach.  Then, when he came I read ‘What to Expect the First Year’.  Again, I read it cover to cover countless times.  I was ready.  I was prepared.  Turns out there was no way I could turn him pink during bath time (well, except that one time with the bath paint, but let’s not go there).  We were good.

I went blithely through colic and the toddler stage to preschool and then had a couple more kids along the way.  I was becoming a pro at this.  I was raising three kids and no one turned pink again.  We taught them ‘stranger danger’, how to escape during a fire, where to go if they got lost, code words for people claiming to be sent by us, and all the likes of parenting 101.  Parenting magazines were a Godsend during the younger years and we thrived as a family.  We read advice columns, we exchanged ideas between our friends, and we relied on the past experiences our parents had and combined them all for super parenting, like a superpower.

All those years, all those books and not one time did anyone mention what could really hurt your kid.  Adolescence and hormones.  I didn’t read anywhere about what to do if your child experimented with cutting.  I didn’t get any advice about what to do when your child withdrew and started listening to questionable music and wanting to dress in all black.  Nowhere in those books did I read what to do when your sweet children are replaced by kids full of eye rolls, blank stares, deadly stares, exaggerated sighs, unanswered questions, phones glued to hands, and mood swings that would make even the scariest roller coaster jealous.

Cellphone etiquette wasn’t listed in those books, either.  Sure, we made rules as we went, but this isn’t something that was an issue during our upbringing so we were just winging it.  There was no parenting book that told you exactly how to handle apps and social media and sexting.  There’s no ‘What to Expect’ about those things.  We try to be reasonable parents, trusting parents.  We take lessons friends have learned and parents have learned and we try to apply them as best we can.  There are all types of parents out there.  I know parents that are too lax, I know parents that over-parent, I know parents that try to be somewhere in between, and I know parents that seem to have all the answers and they just seem to do it right.  However, then I learned those parents, the ones who appear to have it all together and have parenting as their superpower are just as scared and are going through just as much as the rest of us.

Maybe there’s no ‘What to Expect’ book out there for adolescence because no one really knows what to expect.  No one has mastered it well enough to write it all down.  There’s no way someone can prepare for your child to admit they’ve been a “cutter”, there’s no way to prepare for your child to make a decision to share intimate images of themselves to someone on the internet, and there’s no way to have all the right words and all the right actions for things you never thought could or would happen.  I’ve learned that as a mom I just have to admit when I don’t know what the hell to do and then I have to rally with other moms who are experiencing the same thing.

In my advice and edition of ‘What to Expect’ during adolescence, I will say this – expect everything and befriend the parents of your children’s friends.  They are your only hope to getting out of this alive….well, them and a nice big bottle glass of wine.

The ugly truth, as I see it

Soapboxes – everyone has them and here’s one of mine…

 

I am sure, by now, you’ve heard of the horrific California shooting.  If you haven’t, please go google, I’ll wait.  The twisted individual who committed these acts of violence stated he blamed the ‘cruelty’ of ‘vicious and evil’ women for his actions.  Moreover he blames his virginity for part of his hatred and that women would refuse him was shocking to him.  This man was vile and insane.  He was a misogynistic lunatic.

As with each new tragedy where the sick bastard uses a gun, the discussion comes up about more severe gun laws, mental health connections, and the like.  I don’t jump on this bandwagon at all, but I admit there’s a flaw somewhere.  Is it with gun control?  Is it mentally unstable people who purchase the guns?  Is it society and the news media?  Is it parenting?  These are the recent questions and comments I see after these events.  So, which is it?  I don’t know I don’t have the answers, just questions and my own opinions.

The recent events in California have caused the state to fight to restrict guns for people who are suspected of having mental health issues.  One report mentioned where they would like family members to be able to go to the police to warn them and then the new law would prevent them from purchasing guns.  Sure, that’s one step, but is that enough?  Is that going to fix anything?  The asshole who committed these acts of violence did so with a gun, killing 3 and injuring 13 more.  He also killed 3 with a knife.  Here in my local town, a man was recently beheaded in his home and the same happened a few years back to a young woman on a walk.  In Pennsylvania a kid went on a stabbing frenzy at a school.  Last week a 16-year-old was arrested in Oklahoma after stabbing another student.  Yesterday a young girl lost her life when her classmate stabbed her to death.  My point is these acts of violence happen all the time and with any weapon of choice.  Maybe it’s not a question of the type of weapons.

Let’s touch on the mental health issue.  Currently, unless someone is involuntarily held in a mental institution, there is nothing a family can do to stop a family member from purchasing a gun.  How do you get mentally unstable people involuntarily committed?  It’s harder than you think.  While it varies by state, usually either a court or doctor has to do it.  If you go to a court you’ll be asked some questions and they will decide if they feel there is an immediate threat, then there must be a hearing, then that person can get a second opinion, if they are declared mentally unstable.  Do you see where this would be a bit of a snag?  The family of the idiot in California went to the police who did a ‘care visit’ and didn’t find him a threat.  Obviously, this guy was a threat and obviously his family knew, but there’s not a lot that can be done quickly.  Keep in mind if the person is mentally unstable, but able to manipulate, a court or doctor or police may never be convinced they need to be detained.  It seems to be a pretty fair assumption that this part of the ‘system’ is flawed.

Now, what about society and news media?  It’s evident that the news media is covering far more than they used to 20+ years ago thanks to social media and new technology outlets allowing news to travel quickly.  I think it’s pretty clear, also, that the news media will paint any picture they want about a victim, an assailant, a business, whomever and whatever.  The most recent, in my mind, is that of Treyvon Martin who was shown in media as a 12 year-old, not a 6’2” 17 year-old.  Does that make the loss of someone’s child easier? Absolutely not!  At the end of the day he was a 17 year-old kid whose life was over way too early.  Of course it’s tragic whenever a family loses a loved one no matter the situation, but the truth of the media painting a picture, is no less true.  The media needs to be held responsible for fueling issues that their stories ignite.  However, freedom of speech is just that – freedom of speech and painting whatever picture gets the most views.

Lastly, parenting…I see many flaws in this particular system.  Parents need to step up and do their damn job.  Technology is fantastic and it’s giving us possibilities never thought of 20+ years ago, but it’s destroying the minds of our kids at the same time.  Computers, Smartphones, Tablets, Video Systems, and Televisions are NOT responsible for raising your children!!!  I am a mother.  I have every one of those items mentioned in my home.  I also, however, have restrictions set on them at all times.  To name a few, there are time limits, there are rules, and there are limitations to the types of games and movies allowed to be played or viewed.  There are 4 and 5 years between my oldest and my 2 youngest.  What we allow our nearly 17 year old to watch and play has changed as he has, but all of our rules are set based on not only age, but on what that particular child can grasp.  Do I think violent video games and movies cause all the violence we see, especially in schools?  No, obviously not – but it’s a contributing factor and you’re living in a fantasy world better than mine if you believe differently.

Parents are lazy now.  Not all, maybe not most – but enough for our country to notice the difference.  I don’t think technology is to blame, but I think it’s a huge factor.  Even ‘ol Eminem says it plainly in one of his popular songs he made with Rihanna, ‘Love the way you lie’.  Remember that song?  It went viral, after Rhianna was bludgeoned by her then boyfriend, as an anthem to those in abusive relationships.  The line I’m referring to is,

“You don’t get another chance

Life is no Nintendo game”

Kids don’t think like that much anymore.  They are too caught up in extra lives for their games that they are losing touch with reality, with life and how precious it really is.  Parents aren’t doing a good enough job instilling a sense of fear, of awareness, of responsibility, of knowledge, of love.  Parents are failing their kids.  I’m not perfect, I’ll never claim to be anywhere close to it, but at least I recognize what the real issue is – and haven’t you ever heard…it takes a village to raise a child.  If our village and our parents are flawed, what happens to our kids?