Tag Archives: moms

All Men Are Dangerous

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She was probably 13 or 14 years old. Clad in black skinny jeans and forlornly meandering about, she pulled her tattered hoodie over her jet black pixie cut and walked away from us as quickly as her Chuck Taylor low tops would carry her.

But not before I noticed that in addition to way too much mascara, her eyes were red and swollen with tears.

A crying teenager seemed so out of place considering the night we were enjoying.

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7 Little Things My Mom Did For Me That Made a Huge Impact

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All writers thank mom around Mother’s Day. Usually it’s a predictable list of qualities filled with all the usual platitudes about moms one would expect from a generic Mother’s Day piece.

However, my mom is anything but generic.

I won’t lie, her style is not the norm and it’s not for everyone. I could easily write a Top 7 Things My Mom Did That Drove Me Nuts column, but just about any kid could do that about their parents. Instead, I want to celebrate some of the stuff my mom did that made her cool. And different. And completely insane in some instances. But whatever the case, these things I’m listing today are small things that meant a great deal to me. Things for which I never thanked my mom. Things she probably doesn’t even think I remember.

So happy Mother’s Day (and birthday) mom. And don’t worry, this isn’t your only present.

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7. ALWAYS BEING AT MY GAMES
I played three sports a year, and my mom went to all my games. I’m not just saying that as hyperbole either. It’s a fact. My mom went to ALL my games. Didn’t matter if it was 7-year-old rec league basketball, my all-star baseball teams as an early teen, or cross-country matches in high school. She was there. Always. Guaranteed. Even when we traveled to competing high schools she was there. Wanna know how she swung that? She drove the bus. Yup, that’s right. My mom was a school bus driver when we were younger and so she used those contacts to secure the gigs driving to all our away games in high school. I won’t lie, sometimes it made talking about chicks with the guys on the bus a little awkward with mom at the wheel, but having her there rooting me on was something I always appreciated. Even if I never let on before now.

6. SIGNING ME UP FOR THINGS AGAINST MY WILL
I know you guys won’t believe this, but I was a whiny kid. A REALLY whiny kid. I cried about everything, especially sports. If I struck out it was the end of the world. If I only scored 6 points in basketball I was a failure. After the season ended I always swore I was never playing again and I told my mom not to ever sign me up. Even when registration rolled around I’d maintain my stance and tell her under no circumstances did I want to play. But then all my friends would get excited about the season and team assignments, and suddenly I’d freak out because I’d want to play but it was too late to register. Except it wasn’t too late, because my mom had already signed me up, knowing I’d come around. Because she knew me better than I knew myself.

5. HELPING ME MY FIRST DAY OF MIDDLE SCHOOL
I don’t remember specifically why, but I was terrified of middle school. The thought of going to a new school and mixing in with kids from the other elementary school who I didn’t know, scared the bejesus out of me. I swore I wasn’t going to go. But my mom took me for a tour of the school beforehand, and since it was the same school she had gone to she showed me spots she liked as a kid and it made me feel a whole lot more at ease. Sometimes it’s the little things.

4. MAKING ME GO TO MY FIRST SCHOOL DANCE
At the end of 5th grade, we were able to attend a middle school dance. I was TERRIFIED (are you noticing a trend with me here?). In fact, when we pulled up to the school I started freaking out and refused to go inside. I didn’t know which of my friends were in there, who I could hang out with, where to walk in, where to stand, etc. My dad would’ve just kicked my ass out of the car, but my mom let me calm down while she walked in and performed some recon. She reported back to me which of my friends were there, where I was supposed to go, what the layout was, etc. It took me another 20 minutes but I eventually did it. Of course, her thanks was that I immediately waved her away because it’s uncool to have your parents dropping you off. But today I say thank you — even if it is 25 years late.

3. BEING COOL ABOUT MY FIRST KISS
My dad did not deal well when I started liking girls. When I told him I got my first french kiss at the age of 11, he nearly veered off the road and basically told me to stay away from girls. But it was my mom who came to me after everything calmed down. And while she gave me the talk and told me to be respectful and safe, she also congratulated me on my first kiss and told me she was proud of me. Mom has always been cool like that, and her attitude is the reason I felt I could communicate openly with my parents about almost anything. As a parent myself now, I see how valuable and important that is.

2. NEVER GOING THE SAME WAY TO AND FROM PLACES
Driving with my mother is — an adventure. She has very little sense of geography and routinely ignores or miscalculates the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. And one thing she does that drives many people batty is refuse to go back the same way she came. She ALWAYS takes a different route. It used to make me insane, but as I’ve gotten older, well, I find I do the same thing. I take back roads because she taught me to enjoy a little diversity and find the beauty in the scenic route. So what if it takes a few minutes longer? It’s better to enjoy life a little.

1. THE BEST/WORST SEX TALK EVER
Every parent worries about kids when they become sexually active. Most of them are hesitant when it comes to discussing it. But not my mom. On December 25, 1996, I unwrapped a present on Christmas morning and discovered — a 36-pack of Trojan condoms. They were from my mom — her way of making sure I was being safe. I wrote about it in full detail here, but it was an especially brilliant move because every time I needed a condom I was forced to think of my mother. Can you say “deterrent?” Interestingly enough, this also tops the “Things My Mother Did That Drove Me Nuts” list as well.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better mom. Happy Mother’s Day, happy birthday, and thanks for always being there — even when I wished you weren’t. I love you, mom.

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Forget “Having It All,” Parents Need “Good Enough”

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Ever since Anne-Marie Slaughter posited “Women Can’t Have It All” in 2012, every group out there has been asking themselves if they do/can have it all. Including parents.

Can moms have it all? Can dads have it all? Can working parents have it all? Can stay-at-home parents have it all? Can all the kids of parents trying to have it all possibly end up having it all themselves? Frankly, between talk of “having it all” and “leaning in,” I’m a little put out. I mean hey, I appreciate quality discourse as much as the next guy, but have you really stopped to think about the question of having it all and what it is we’re really asking?

I did. And I believe merely entertaining the notion that we can possibly have it all is arrogance of the highest order.

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Why I Let My Son Fall & Fail

will_playgroundWill loves the playground. And not just because it’s a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but also because it’s challenging.

The one by our house has a cool plastic climbing structure that really makes Will work. It starts off vertical with holes throughout for hands and feet, before it twists down horizontally and then back up again before reaching the platform on the other side. It not only forces Will to think about where his hands and feet go, but also whether he wants to traverse the top portion or go underneath.

The result is many attempts that fail spectacularly.

As you can see in the picture, slips and falls are guaranteed as he learns the best ways to make his way along the structure. When we went yesterday, he fell off close to a dozen times before he finally made it. As you can see, the highest distance he can fall from is roughly 4 feet, and the entire ground is soft mulch that makes for a cushioned landing. So while I offer him plenty of cheerleading and advice when he asks for it, that’s the extent of my involvement. Because as long as you make sure they’re safe (which Will was), I think it’s important for parents to let kids find their own way without babying them.

Today there were a bunch of kids there with their parents. One mother of a boy who looked to be about 2 years old caught my eye, mainly because she couldn’t take her eyes off Will. Each time he fell she winced and looked disapprovingly in my direction. I’m used to that, as overprotective “playground moms” are unfortunately pretty common. But I did not expect what happened next.

Will tried to go on the left side to climb, got halfway there, and thought twice about his decision. So he attempted to go back to the platform to start over, then slipped but caught himself. The end result was him hanging from the top with one tippy-toe on the platform as he struggled to make it back to where he started. He whimpered a little bit and called out for me, but I told him he was doing great and he could figure out on his own if he stayed calm.

And that’s when “Playground Mom” decided she had enough because she walked briskly over to him and said “You need help sweetie? Give me your hand.”

I was furious but not exactly shocked since I had seen it building to that point for the previous 10 minutes. But I still wasn’t about to let it go without addressing it.

“Excuse me, but he doesn’t need your help and he’s fine. I’m his dad and I’m right here.”

“Well clearly he does need help because he’s about to fall,” she said in full condescending mommy tone.

“Maybe, maybe not. But either way he’ll be fine. I can parent my own kid.”

Then, just as she looked like she would blow her top, my boy came through big time and shut her up in the best way possible. Still hanging there, he politely said “No thanks, I can do it myself!” and proceeded to climb his way back to the platform without help from anyone.

“Imagine that,” I muttered with a victorious smirk as Mrs. Know-it-all Mommy McMommerson huffed away, no doubt to get more bubble wrap to insulate her poor son from every bump and bruise on the horizon.

Look, you can parent however you want but I have multiple problems with what happened. First of all, it’s just another in a long list of examples that show some moms think they know everything — especially compared to dads. To openly step in and insert herself with me — the kid’s actual parent — right there? Maybe she would’ve done the same to another mom, but I doubt it. It’s a shitty attitude and I’m unbelievably sick of it.

Second, we are raising a generation of kids who know nothing about taking risks. Even on the monkey bars and playgrounds of America, the minute they hit some turbulence and adversity mommy and daddy are there to rescue them — and give them a trophy in the process. It makes me ill. My son won’t be great at everything, but he’s going to try his damndest. Because every attempt ends in failure until it doesn’t. Every fall builds determination to finish. Every setback is a lesson learned that gets you one step closer to your goal.

I let my son fall — and fail — so his future accomplishments will be that much sweeter and well-deserved.

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The Most Important Thing?

work_life“Is this the most important and impactful thing I can be doing right now?”

That’s the fundamental question we all ask ourselves at my day job to figure out which projects should be prioritized. There are lots of things that need doing, but working on a little bit here and a little bit there leaves us scattered and unfocused. So whenever we get spread too thin we stop, ask that question, and then get back to work on the most important thing.

Unfortunately it’s not so clear-cut when you’re a parent — especially a working parent.

An average day for me consists of leaving the house at 7 a.m. just after my son wakes up, and getting back around 6:30-7 p.m. which is an hour before he goes to bed at 8. That’s thanks to long hours and a really shitty commute that averages roughly 80-90 minutes — each way. And I really love my job. I do. And not just because the salary I derive from it keeps our family afloat. I love the people I work with, I get to write and edit every day, I’ve learned countless new skills switching from print to digital and I’ve grown personally and professionally because of it. I hope to stay and thrive there for many years and I enjoy immense satisfaction from almost every part of it.

And yet as much as I love work, there’s a little voice chirping in the back of my head: “Is this the most important thing I can be doing?”

I come home and I see arts and crafts projects MJ and Will have done together during the day. I see Facebook pictures throughout the day of places they go and things they do. And when I get home I listen to them talk, close as can be with inside jokes and things that can only be had from spending all that time together. MJ knows the intricate details of what’s happening on a daily basis at preschool, which friends Will is having a problem with at the moment, whether Batman, Power Rangers or Transformers is currently his Favorite. Thing. Ever.

These things might seem insignificant, but they’re not. In fact, I think these little nuggets are the things that really make parenting worth it. They are quite literally the most important thing a parent can be doing.

Working parents know this. We do. We know we’re missing out on so much good stuff, and yet there’s almost nothing we can do about it. Because the simple fact of the matter is our salaries from our jobs keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Sure we can try to work from home or cut back our hours, but that comes with risks too. Fair or not, the truth is people (men especially) are punished for missing work, and often thought of as lazy for asking for leave or time off related to family.

Being a working dad is a constant battle for me. I’m trying to advance my career so I can better provide for my family, while also remaining present enough as a husband so my wife doesn’t feel like a single parent, and as a good enough dad so my kid still remembers who I am and doesn’t see me as a novelty.

It’s an absolutely exhausting tightrope walk in hurricane force winds, and all too often you end up feeling like you have one foot in each world and you’re not performing well in either role.

While I’m not sure if I could hack being a stay-at-home parent, I do envy them in one big way. I really do believe that while their job is immeasurably difficult, they can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they are absolutely doing the most important thing they can be doing by raising a quality human being every single day. It doesn’t make the work itself any easier, but the peace of mind that comes with it has to be a relief.

Meanwhile working parents are left with a paycheck that never seems to cover all the self-doubt when trying to figure out if we’re doing the most important thing.

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