Heartbreak of Parenting, Pt. 1

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I am having difficulty lately accepting the fact that my son is going to be 14.  He is a freshman in high school, has a nice group of guy friends and hobbies I don’t understand.

Oh, and he has an official girlfriend.

As you can imagine, my thoughts race to my freshman year in high school, and I begin to reflect on all of the debauchery I was a part of.  I smoked cigarettes with my friends, swore a ton, kissed and made out with boys and lied and hid things from my parents.  These were not horrible, and certainly were typical of my age, but when I try to picture my son in all of these situations, I freeze mentally.  Could my son be doing these exact things under my nose?

The truth is, with the exception of swearing with friends, he isn’t.  As a matter of fact, he is going real well for his age.  He is growing up and going things very typical of a teenage boy.

And that is where my heart breaks.

I will be turning 40 in just under five months, and that is a lot to comprehend.  That compounded with watching my son mature, it forces me to cherish the little things that happen with him.  The time that he holds on longer than I do in a hug, when he thinks something I say is funny, when he wants to share that story about his friend with me.  I’m Mom, so I am already uncool to the boys, so I will take any morsel of attention or information I can get!

I feel as though this has all happened so fast.  One minute he needed me for everything, and now he knows everything and handles everything on his own.  I do still inch my way in to see if everything is all right and ask if he needs anything, but now the problems will be going to Dad.  Dad is cool.  Dad knows it all.

And that is ok.

My husband is a wonderful role model for my son.  There is not one character trait that he possesses that I think, “Man, I hope he doesn’t do THAT when he is older!”.  My husband has schooled my son on the ways of boyhood, sex, girls and life.  That makes it a little easier for me to handle being put in the corner.

I am watching people have babies, celebrating all of those firsts, and I am counting my lasts with my son.  Granted, there are a lot of firsts yet to be celebrated, but those baby/childhood firsts are over.  I mourn that and long for my own youth.  Watching him makes me long for those days of self-discovery. It is when I met my husband, after all 🙂

Driving home from work yesterday, this song came on my radio and it immediately tugged at my heart.  Though I was not unhappy about finding out I was pregnant (like the beginning of this song says), the premise of “There Goes My Life” is the same.  I need to find me before I lose him. ❤  I love him with all I am and all I have.

10 Day Blogging Challenge – Days 8 & 9

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I have not been blogging on consecutive days, but I love this challenge put out by Sharons Book Nook.  I intend to finish 🙂  So here we go!

Day 8: Three things I want to say to three different people right now

  1. To My Husband:  How lucky am I to have married such a wonderful man like you?  How fortunate am I to have a man for whom I have known for more than half of my life, who knows the ins and outs, the ugly and the beautiful, the sad and the happy of me and still stays to accept and love me?  You are the only person walking this earth who knows every single molecule of me.  To be cliché, I married my best friend, literally.  You are a strong and caring man who sets a wonderful example for our son.  Even if he grows up to be a quarter of the man who you are, he will be amazing.  (But we both know that he is more of you than that!)  I am so thankful that, through all of these passing years, you have remained true to who you are, no matter what strife that the world has thrown at you.  You make me want to be a better person every single day.  I adore you, babe.
  2. To My In-Laws:  I love and care for you all more than you realize.  When I married Dan, I was excited to be gaining a family of people who seemed so close to one another.  Unfortunately, my baggage affected me, and that manifested in how I treated some of you. There is nothing else I can say in this situation except I love you guys.  Sincerely.
  3. To My Son:  Buddy, you taught me that the world does not work exactly how you hope it does, and that every winding road life takes us on is worth the ride.  You are an intelligent, caring, eclectic young man who this world is fortunate to have in its lifetime.  Your ability to adapt to life in the face of your struggles leaves me awestruck.  You are much more than your struggles, and they do not define you.  You are so smart, bud!  You make me shiver at the math you understand (I think we both know that it would make me cry!)  You are an amazing young man who I learn from every single day.  I am so lucky that God thought I was the best mom for you.  I love you very much!!

 

Day 9: Two Recent Pictures

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These are my beautiful doggies, Mika and Shae.  They are so loving and fun!  They really do make our house a home 🙂

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And this is me – a recent picture of me.  This was taken a couple of weeks ago – a work selfie.  Now, usually I don’t like pics of me, but this one I actually like!  So, hell friends!!

Fathers

I am sure that there are a lot of “ode to my father” posts going on today, but this one is different.

See, I never had a constant father figure in my life from birth until now.  I have had shitty experiences with father figures.  Let me explain:

 

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Oh yes.  A dad IS a daughter’s first love, at least that is the case with me.  I loved my biological father, with all my heart and soul.  I still do.  Growing up, he was tenderness, strength and laughter to me.  This was in my first four years of life, prior to my parents divorcing.  Even after the divorce, I still had a place in my heart for him.  A place in my heart even when he didn’t come to visit, when he showed up at birthday parties and only stayed for ten minutes because of the tension in the room when he arrived, when he only called (drunk) to talk to my mom because he seemed to miss her more than me.  Even after he said I couldn’t visit anymore because of his new wife and her attitude problem.  I loved him, cried for him, let the ghost of him ruin a piece of me, but I loved him.  Even when he looked me in my eyes, drunk and near death in a hospital bed after I saved him, and said “You should have let me die”, I still loved him.  Just in a different way.  From a distance.  Long distance.  Letter after letter, call after call, I would tell him off, hoping that it would shake him awake and say, “What am I doing to my daughter?!”  But it never did.  So I lived with that.

About five years ago I got a phone call on my birthday from my father, whom I have not heard from for years prior to that.  He was sober, apologetic and wanting to bury the hatchet and connect.  Thank God I did because I finally have a relationship with my father.  Granted, it is over the phone and texting; he seems apprehensive about seeing me, and that is all right.  I know that is his own issue, not mine.  All I know is that I hear from him than I do my own mother.  Funny how times have changed.

My stepfather entered my life at five years old.  He was a man my mother dated, who ended up moving in with us, and suddenly there was a male presence to answer to.  My mother made it clear that we here HER kids, but that never seemed to stop her from going to him when she thought we needed discipline.  I was struggling with the connection with my own father and never awarded my step father that title; I always called him by his first name.  After years went by, I began to love him like a father.  He was a quiet force in my life, always sitting in the background but knew everything that was happening.  We had fun, and I did learn a lot from him.  We fought a lot too within the past five years.  When I moved away from my hometown a year and a half ago, I never thought that six weeks later I would be flying home to bury him.  I was sad for the time we missed and the lack of connection we should have had when I was younger.  But, no matter how much I denied it, my biological father had my heart, and it was difficult to take away.  Though my step father walked me down the aisle and greeted my son when he was born, there seemed to be something missing.  But I always knew he loved me, even though he was quiet about it.  And I loved him.

I see other fathers in my life, from my father-in-law, to my brothers-in-law, to my friends husbands, to my own husband, and I watch how they are with their children.  They all have a different way of handling, disciplining and loving their children.  I wish in my lifetime I could say I had a constant of any of that.

But I get to see my husband father my son.  I watch him and how he explains things to him, how they are connected and how hard they love one another, and I am so proud of him.  My son is the luckiest child on earth for having my husband as his father, and I am the luckiest woman in the world having him as my husband.  God has blessed me with that, and I am truly grateful for it.

So yeah, I may not have had the solid “father figure” in my life, but I certainly learned lessons from all the men in my life.  I miss my step father and it is sad that I don’t have to buy cards or call him anymore.  And every time my phone dings with the notice of a text from my father, I smile.  I am loved, and always was.

Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers out there, step, grand, biological, adoptive, foster, single mom or otherwise.  Love hard.  Your kids will thank you for it.

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Happy Birthday!

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Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous.  Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

 

*** I haven’t written in a while, and I am about three assignments behind, so I decided to start with the latest assignment and work backward.

 

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You know what kind of cake I would always ask for when it was my birthday?  Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.  My mom was not exactly Betty Crocker when it came to baking, but I remember her getting a peanut butter frosting recipe from a girl at work and decided to use it.

I can recall the countless tries she gave this recipe.  Over and over, year after year, the frosting would come out different.  I remember peeking around a corner once, wincing at the sight of my cake.  The thing looked like a crocheted blanket with the frosting patched together, not spread, across the cake because it was so thick and she didn’t know how to fix it.  One year, there wasn’t enough peanut butter in it, the other, there was not enough powdered sugar.  Finally, she ended up adding peanut butter to vanilla frosting, and it spread better than the rest.  She never told me she didn’t do it from scratch, and I never asked.  It was delicious!

Birthday’s meant that we got to choose our dinners too.  Most of the time we would go to the restaurant, The Beach House.  We never went anywhere as a family, ever, except on birthdays if asked.  In fact, this was the only restaurant we ever had a meal at outside of my home as a child (aside from the McDonalds and pizza runs).  Going there was a special occasion.  It meant little quips and brief conversation, but it meant we were all sitting at the table having dinner together.  That is something we only seemed to do at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Even when I was young I ate in the kitchen and my parents ate in the living room.  Going out to dinner was a big deal.  It meant a Happy Birthday, even if everyone wasn’t in a good mood.

Now that I put that out there, it seems kind of sad doesn’t it?  Wow.  I never thought of it that way until I saw it in black and white.

Damn.

Evolution of Parenting Part One: Losses Are Really Victories

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Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.  Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.  

*Does not have to be a depressing account of loss

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When my husband and I were dreaming up our lives together, we thought about what kind of home we would have, jobs we would work and how many children we would have.  One boy, one girl (because that can be worked out, you know lol), one a hockey player, one a writer/teacher, both with degrees and would be rich and take care of us in our old age.  Sounds like the perfect scenario, doesn’t it?  Ah, the joys of blissful ignorance!

So, in our quest for the Norman Rockwell experience, we got married right after we both had at least one college degree.  YAY!  Perfect!  Because we were together for so long prior to our wedding, we decided to ditch the birth control and go forth with procreation.  Why not?  We have jobs, are married, and are responsible adults now!  Let’s go for it!

Thirteen months after that conversation, our son was born and we could not be happier!  He took his time coming into the world, but he made it!  As an infant, he was the cutest baby I had ever seen with fingernails like Freddy Kruger.  Even his first photo in the hospital looks as though he is beginning a Wolverine-esque pose, fingers stretched wide, nails facing the camera, ready to fight.

Ever since he was born, he has taught me some big lessons in life.  When he was three, a daycare provider encouraged us to have him evaluated for some concerns they had for him.  At first, we found out that he was having sensory issues, and we went forth with the proper appointments and therapies that would allow him to become a more relaxed and worldly kiddo.

In pre-k, two months before Nathan was to transition into Elementary school, his teacher called me at 8pm to discuss some other concerns she believed he was having.  She encouraged us to have him evaluated as soon as possible for a possible Aspergers Syndrome diagnosis.  This rocked my world.  Aspergers Syndrome? What?!  Then you take your concerns to the internet and see a barrage of words thrown at you that make you freeze with fright: autism, high functioning, low incidence, fits, night terrors, loneliness, withdrawal, solitary, lack of empathy etc.  It was an overwhelming experience for my husband and I, navigating through the bureaucracy that would allow our son to have the services he needed and still maintain a level of “normalcy” to his life.  The years would test him, and we were right there along for the ride.  I am proud to say that my son is currently a thirteen year old, eighth grader who is moving into high school next year!  Oh how far we have come!

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Approximately ten years ago, my husband and I entertained having another child.  That was what our dream was, remember?!  Because of our son’s diagnosis and then therapies and attention he needed, we had to make that decision: do we want to have another child?  We agonized over this decision for a while.  In researching the probability of having another child with these kinds of struggles, we found that it was 50% likely that our next child would be on the Autistic Spectrum, and would possibly be lower functioning than our son.  Wow, 50% is a huge gamble!  So, after soul-searching, weighing what would be in our son and family’s best interest, we decided to only have one child.  Our logic was not to take anything away from our first-born, if for some reason he needed more attention or had additional challenges as he grew older.  It would not have been fair to him, to us as his parents, or to the new little bundle we would bring into the fold.  So, a family of three it was!

 

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Having one child has its benefits.  You don’t have to have multiple children’s birthday parties, only have one child to buy for at holiday time, only have to worry about his needs and not spreading yourself thin between two or more children and wonder if you are doing them a disservice.  (Well, as a mother you worry about that no matter how many children you have!)  But, the drawbacks as parents is that every first experience that your child has, is the last you will experience as a parent.  Every celebration can cause immediate nostalgia of the years past.  Transitions into higher grade levels, and phases of maturity are heartbreaking (at least they are to me).  Every little thing that happens to your child is a BIG thing, even if it is small in actuality.  There is no “trial” older child to test methods of parenting on, before lightening up on the younger siblings.  You have to do it and do it right the first time.  No second chances, no take backs.  Just do it right.

I am blessed in that God allowed my family to have our son, and I am thankful for that every single day of my life.  It is heartbreaking to hear stories of infertile women who have nothing but love to give, but cannot conceive.  I know how blessed I am.  But I cannot help but feel heartbroken immediately after the celebrations of my son’s successes.  This is it, I think.  This is the last time I will have a child that…. or, no more school parties, no more PTA, no more cuddles.  It is as though I am having empty nest syndrome every time he does something independently.  Lately, his voice has deepened, his  mustache darkened, his jokes are witty and his gait more stoic.   I miss my baby, but celebrate my young man.

 

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I feel a loss of time faster with one child.  Like I am that much closer to retirement and he from having children of his own.  About a year ago, I have begun taking the steps to slow down my thought process and not see these wonderful events as losses, but to see them as the beautiful things that they are.  My son is becoming more and more independent, when originally I read he wouldn’t be.  I never thought he could drive, own a cell phone or even have a clock in his bedroom.  Now, I don’t remember what those worries felt like.  Those are the losses I should concentrate on: the losses of stigma’s past; stereotypes of A.S. that he does not possess, and concentrate on those that still need guidance.  Celebrate him, live in his world while he is still under my roof and wants me there.  Breathe and take it slow – time has already passed way to quick.

So, I no longer mourn the loss of the baby, but instead I am celebrating my young man and the lengths he has come into young adulthood.  Yes, I will shed tears of joy and nostalgia once in a while, but I no longer see the time as lost.  I see the time past as victories won.

My son, the winner.

 

 

 

The Cleaning Calendar & Earning an Allowance

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Weekends can be hectic, right? As much as we scream, “TGIF!” on a Friday afternoon, our weekends are often filled with birthday parties, weddings, baby showers etc. Then, add in the time you need to grocery shop, do laundry and clean your house, and you will be wishing that the weekend had a third day. This is indicative of my home as well.

The internet has a ton of ideas for getting yourself organized, keeping a schedule and helping you have a happy life, doesn’t it? Have you ever read at one of these articles and thought, “I can do that!”, only to recycle the magazine or click on Facebook or Candy Crush and forget about those ideas all together? Yes, me too. But once we bought this house, this bigger house, I was finding that house cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping took up almost the entire weekend, between the outside and inside upkeep. Being first time home owners, we were used to taking a couple of hours, tag-team cleaning our apartment and having the rest of the weekend to do with what we wanted. That is not necessarily the case with the new house. I am sure you have felt the same!

My husband and I are a great team, and my son is wonderful in participating in household duties as well. He has not earned an allowance up until now, and has expressed interest in doing so to save up money for a new cell phone. So, our need to streamline our household duties and my son’s want to earn some money resulted in the production of the Cleaning Calendar and Work for Hire board! I saw ideas of these things on the web, some Pinterest, some by Googling. I combined a couple of these ideas and adapted them to our household needs. My husband and I sat down and mentally walked through the things that we do around the house and our weekly schedule for a typical week. Then, I took that list and began making our calendar.

One of the sites that I liked had a simplified list that broke tasks down by daily, day proper and weekly increments. You can find the original post here.  We appreciated this because it was not overbearing, it gave us tasks every day and even included two FREE days a week! Here is what our Cleaning Calendar looks like:

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Our “Chore of the Day” section lists daily tasks that are in addition to the daily chores. They do not seem too invasive when they are separated like this, as opposed to throwing them all into one day. Then, our, “Swing Day” activities are larger tasks that do not need to be done on a weekly basis. Scheduling these tasks on a monthly basis almost eliminates the need for your typical spring cleaning; you are already incorporating these tasks into your routine! The three of us are aware of this calendar and we will follow it in order for us to stress less and play more!

Now, I mentioned that my son wanted to earn an allowance, and my husband and I wanted to afford him that opportunity. I combined two different ideas into one to make his earning potential the greatest it can be. We began explaining to him that he will earn a base allowance of $10/week, to be paid if he participates in the Cleaning Calendar and stays on task in his schoolwork. Then, we added a section to our board called, Work for Hire. This is adapted from this original post.  It was a wonderful resource and even offered free printables! Easy!

Here is what ours looks like:

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We offered our son six different money earning opportunities that were above and beyond his base allowance. We selected chores, some little, some big, that he can do to earn money on the spot because each job has a dollar amount attached to it. We have yet to do so, but the money for the task is pinned to the task itself, so that upon completion and approval of his “boss”, he can take his money. (Money is not attached in this pic simply because we forgot to go to the ATM.) There are rules to this, however.

  1. He cannot take on any, “Work for Hire” tasks until daily chores are complete.
  2. He cannot take on any, “Work For Hire” tasks without asking a parent (Boss) first
  3. He cannot take his money until his work is checked.

 

His Work For Hire tasks include: Cleaning out the inside of the cars, washing cars, doing a load of laundry, cooking dinner, cleaning the windows where the dog’s nose prints are and sweeping the deck and front porch. Some of these tasks are worth $1 or $2, while others are worth $5 or $10. The jobs will be replaced with new jobs as well.

When we discussed these with my son, he was excited to be able to earn some money! We explained how it is important that he learn these responsibilities so that he can be an independent, self-sufficient adult. He is thirteen years old, and the thought of having any independence is exciting to him right now, so we wanted him to capitalize on that. Plus, this helps him be a part of a community (the Cleaning Calendar, doing it as a family), respect his surroundings and earn money. He will also be opening his own bank account along the way to learn how to save and spend responsibly.

We posted our completed board on the inside of our pantry door.  We chose this because we are in and out of the pantry everyday and it is not in the open for everyone to see.  Here is our completed board:

 

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My household has always run as a team. My husband and I do almost everything together, making it easier on one another. I feel like this way working together not only makes tasks easier, but it eliminates any possibility of resentment on anyone’s part; if we all are working together, no one person is contributing more than another. We all can be equally proud of our home. It was also a teaching opportunity for my son, and I am glad we found a way to combine these two things. I am fortunate to have two guys that agree with this philosophy and are willing to participate!

Do you have a routine that readers can benefit from?

 

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What Homework? & Blessings for Ben Sauer

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I do believe I just had my first exhausting fight with my teenage son.  Yes, I do believe that was it.

Every week and a half or so, my husband or I take to the school website to check his homework assignments and grades to see if he is keeping up and doing what he should.  He is a great student and we really do not have too much to worry about with him, unless he chooses not to do what he is supposed to.  This is the case tonight.

His grade in one class was lacking because he has chosen not to do four homework assignments.  My husband and I began a discussion over dinner with him about this, and it took an emotional teenage-dramatic turn.

“Why are you focusing on the ONE THING I DID WRONG when I have all A’s and B’s in the rest of my classes?  I just don’t understand”, he yells at my husband.

See, we like to think we are reasonable parents.  We ask him if he has any homework, when his next tests are, and believe his answers.  We check the website, like I mentioned, to follow-up and make sure he is on track.  We tell him that if he receives a bad grade, but studied his ass off to get that bad grade, then he tried he hardest and that is all we can ask for.  If he gets straight A’s (and he has, multiple times) we celebrate like it was the first time, not taking his hard work for granted.  But we, like any other reasonable parents, refuse to allow him to choose not to do homework or slack in studying.  We tell him that he is CHOOSING his grades and consequences when he does this.

So, after his outburst of epic teenage proportions, I broke it down like this:  If I did three-quarters of my job perfectly, but a quarter of it I sucked at, my boss would write me up for that quarter I am doing wrong.  Why?  I am choosing not to do my job right.  That is life.  He seemed to understand that metaphor, and accepted it.

But when he said that tonight, after I mentioned to him about his homework, that he started to finish it tonight and chose not to finish it all, I lost it.  Seriously?!  You know I know you didn’t finish, you know that your father is going to ask you at dinner, and you say, “Hmm, well I’m not finishing this tonight”.  Needless to say, he is finishing it as we speak, after he was finished with his chores.

There was much more back and forth, voice raising and explaining going on, but I am exhausted to even thing about writing about it.  Then I remember…..the curse.

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We all know it – the curse that our parents put on each and every one of us at one point in our lives, joking or not, that we are going to have children who act exactly like we did.  I was a right fighter.  You were going to hear my side, even though you have the final say and there is nothing I can do about it, I was going to tell you my side and ask you, “Do you understand where I was coming from?”  Come to think about it, this still happens sometimes today.  But I digress…

So my son, the right fighter, was going to have us hear his side.  And we let him tell his side every time, as long as he is respectful about it.  But that doesn’t mean I accept his side.  He knows he is choosing not to do what he is supposed to, thus choosing the ‘no electronic during the school week’ punishment handed down to him.  We are those parents that don’t allow our child to video game all week, but sometimes he can go on his laptop or iPod.  He is regulated.  Now, he is forbidden.

So I sit here, exhausted, replaying the banter back and forth with my husband and I think to myself, I just had my first fight with my teenager.  I survived.  But it’s only going to get worse.  Should I start hitting wine sales now or just buy them by the box?  JUST KIDDING, but it is always a thought. Haha =)

I love my son for keeping me on my toes, and am lucky to have him around to have these memorable moments with him.  Too many children are gone way too soon.  Tonight in Buffalo, NY, little 5yr old Ben Sauer lost his battle with cancer.  The city rallied around the Sauer family and supported them as Ben’s mother blogged about the experiences her, Ben and her family were going through.  A city’s heart breaks for this family.  I followed this story online; I am from Buffalo, NY and followed all the posts friends were posting on Facebook and got involved that way.  I will say a prayer for them tonight and wave hello to little Ben in heaven.  God bless the Sauer family.  You can read read about the blog of this heartbreaking story HERE.

Hold your children tight and always kiss one another goodnight.  Tomorrow is never promised.

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