Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mother's Legacy

I started this blog over a year ago, to express my views on motherhood. It is so easy when you start out on this journey of motherhood to believe that you will do it all differently. That you can avoid all the mistakes your parents and grandparents made and do it right. You start out young, (in my case very young) without thought to what legacies you bring with you, the things that are part of you ingrained from your own experiences. The ghosts of your childhood that will haunt you. I say all this because as I get older I see more and more the parts of my ancestors that I carry with me.

Last month my Grandmother died. She was 83 years old, and a strong woman till the very end when she had a massive stroke and died nine days later. In those final days I couldn't even bear to see her in the hospital because it was so difficult for me to see her as less than strong. She was "Nana Esther" and Nana Esther was made of steel. Even now, I know I have not grieved for her properly, I have shed only a few tears because after all this time there are so many obstacles to my grief, so many conflicting feelings, and still after all this time so much anger, and betrayal and just plain hurt. I did not think that when this time came that I would be revisiting these old wounds but like most funerals, hers ripped them open and my scars are oozing again. And because today is Mother's Day it has me reflecting on what kind of legacy I want to leave after me. What will my daughter say about me, and carry with her from me? Will it be a good or a bad thing?

My mom is nothing like me, she kind and gentle. She is forgiving, in my opinion too forgiving. She is non confrontational, and is always trying to make peace. I am nothing like my mom, I am more like her mother my Nana Esther; I am a strong and passionate. I am always ready for a fight. I have so many defense mechanisms that I am not even sure I know them all. I have always been this way, as long as I could remember.

When I was a little girl my mom used to tell me she wished I could be more meek, or more quiet, like my best friend Crystal. She was always trying to quiet me down. It didn't do her any good, I still can't be quieted down once I have gotten going, and trying to stop me only makes me yell louder. When my mom said those things to me, it always made me feel like she didn't like me, didn't like who I was. Because the truth is all those things they are exactly who I am, they are the characteristics that define me. I am this way because I had to be. It was the consequence of growing up with that family, in that house. They (my family) made me this way.
I always joke that is their bad luck that they created me, and now they don't like their product.

What legacies have been passed down from my great grandmother, to my nana, to my mom, to me? My Nana Esther I have no doubt loved her children. She did everything she could to provide for them despite her circumstances. She was a working mother in an era when mom's didn't work. She didn't work because her husband was dead or couldn't provide, but because even though financial he could provide, he was busy spending his money on his own interests, like his other family and his drinking buddies. She was a woman who had been treated badly by her own mother. She had expressed to her daughters, "My mom never liked me" her mother it was said was jealous of her, because she was very close to her father who was a wonderful man.
I think about these things, and I think, my grandmother felt that her mother never liked her, my mom felt the same way, and in some ways so did I . Is this our legacy? When I am dead will my daughter tell her friends, or her daughter, "my mother never liked me" I hope not. I so want the legacy I pass on to my daughter to be different. But how do I make it so?

My daughter is just like my mom in so many ways, nice, gentle and soft spoken. She is always embarrassed by my passionate outbursts, and I am always frustrated by her lack of fight when I feel she should be defending herself, and confronting something or someone. I worry that she may think like I did, and my mom, did and my Nana did that she somehow falls short in my eyes. When the truth is she doesn't, she is what I am most proud of in this world, and as I often say the only thing I have done right. At least I hope I have done it right, or at the very least, differently.

A lot of time has passed since I was a little girl, and I have forgiven my grandmother for how badly she treated me when I was little, and I can grieve for the pain she had in her life. Because even this hurt and anger will pass, because in the end I love her. I love her strength, and her wisdom, and finally her humility when she was older. The little ways she tried to show she was sorry, and that she loved me. By being kind to my child or telling me about her life. How could I not love her? Not to love her, would be not to love myself. She is part of me.

So I take her with me to the legacy I want to create for my daughter, I take her strength and the love, I'll leave the rest...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friends Part I

What would the trials of teenage life be without friends? Friends are forever, friends can be trusted, friends are loyal, friends keep your secrets, friends want what is best for you...friends would never flirt with your boyfriend.

What? Never? Not even if he is really cute? What if you have never went out with him, what if you just like him? What if he asks me for my number? Can I flirt with him then?

Friendship? How do you define it? I have been working this question over and over in my brain since my daughter became a teenager. Girls today don't seem to know what friendship is. We live in an age where "Besties" change every week, with every profile change on MySpace. The pics get updated and so do the friends lists. The bestie this week, can be your nemesis next week. How do teach your child to navigate that fine line, and determine who their true friends really are?

First, in my own opinion you must define friendship for them. It is also important to ask them what they think friendship is, and what their expectations are from their friends. This is crucial because if they know what their expectations are it will save them huge heartaches and betrayals. Below are the standard definitions for friendship.


1. the state of being a friend; association as friends: to value a person's friendship.
2. a friendly relation or intimacy.
3. friendly feeling or disposition.

or in my opinion a better definition...


1. The state of being friends; friendly relation, or attachment, to a person, or between persons; affection arising from mutual esteem and good will; friendliness; amity; good will.

The first set of definitions to me represent how most people seem to view friendship. This is true even of adults. Most people consider their co-workers their friends. In some cases they are, the relationships have developed over time and become true friends, in other cases these are relationships that will last only as long as the job does. So it is hard for some parents to teach their teenagers what friendship is because they may not have true friends themselves. However, most people have had at least one true friend in their life and can relate to what I am going to say.

The first set of definitions define a general positive feeling towards another person, that you have friendly relations with. Does that make them your friend? In my opinion that makes that individual a friendly acquaintance. Let me explain. To me an acquaintance is someone you have met or have known for a while that you like well enough to talk with, smile with, tell a joke or two. You might know small details about their personal life and can ask them about their family and chat about day to day life stuff. Maybe you even hang out once in a while. You like this person, are generally friendly and do not have bad feelings toward them. However, you could not call them in the middle of the night with a personal crisis, and probably wouldn't welcome a call from them in the same manner. The relationship has not achieved that intimacy between friends that defines true friendship, the kind of friendship where you know you can call on each other.

The second definition is closer to the mark because it states "...there is an attachment between persons that arises from mutual esteem and goodwill." What does that mean, that means that first there is a bond of caring between the two people, second it means that both individuals feel the attachment, and third it means that they want what is best for the other person.

"...there is an attachment between persons that arises from mutual esteem and goodwill."

A friendship occurs between two equals that care for each other and respect each other, you will note that this caring and respect must be present on both sides of the relationship. Friendships are not relationships in which one of the individuals is the lackey of the other. If you have a "friend" that always asks you to do them favors but doesn't spend much time with you otherwise, they are not really your friend. This person does not respect you or your time, and in most cases they don't even really appreciate what you do for them. Now if you are the person that has a lackey you might want to defend yourself and say, I appreciate them, I say Thank You! Sheeesh! But ask yourself this, what if they needed a favor from you? Would you be as available? Would you drop what you were doing, to help them? What if it was inconvenient for you? What if helping them causes you to miss out on something you are looking forward to? Would you sacrifice for them? If the answer to any of those questions is no, you are not their friend; your relationship is one-sided.

Goodwill is wanting what is best for another person, it is loving them through the tough times. It is honesty, and respect, and the willingness to face uncomfortable situations and conflicts together. It is being willing to have a conflict. In real friendships, you can tell the truth. Now for most people that statement is the killing blow to most of their "friendships" Most people either choose not to have the confrontation and just cease being friends, avoid phone calls, and talk s*** behind the other persons back. Or, have the conflict and as a result one or both parties decide that they no longer want the other persons friendship. These situations though painful generally result in purging you of a bad relationship, and later you will be relieved to be free of it. This does not mean that telling the truth is always easy, or it won't result and hurt feelings and maybe a fight, but real friends will get through it. Real friends can also admit they are wrong without the fear that their apology will be thrown back at them, or used against them to gain power in the relationship.

Finally, the last point I want to make for now, your friends should always allow you to be exactly who you are. You should not have to make yourself over for a friend. This includes accepting your friends limitations and understanding their character faults. Being a real friend means respecting each others individuality. That means not expecting all of your friends to be exactly the same, or worse to be the same as you. They may not react or do the same things your other friends do. Each friendship is a unique relationship; treat it that way.

p.s. more on this subject later;)

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Problem with Butthead and other Boys

Is there anything worse than watching your beautiful teenager daughter struggle with the issue of boys? This is the hardest thing in the world to me. I just want to tell her what to do, I mean I do tell her what to do, she just doesn't listen;) So let me rephrase, I just want to tell her what to do and make her do it! But I know I can't, I won't, and most importantly I shouldn't.

She has reached that wonderful age where she is beginning the journey of trying to figure out the opposite sex. You know how it goes you try to assign meaning to every word, gesture, and look; and usually you get it all wrong. Sad but true. This is such a difficult situation I haven't wanted to burst her bubble and tell her that never changes...

Oops I guess I just did!

The Problem with Butthead

My daughter has had her first kiss in the last year, shocking but true. It was a requirement for her to have a quinceanera that she would not date, or kiss any boys until after her Quince. This was something she agreed too. She was not prohibited from having a boyfriend (the truth is you really can't stop them if they want to), it was just that she was given a choice to either have a boyfriend, or have a quinceanera. She knew her mama knows how to throw a party so she chose the quinceanera (which was a beautiful event). However, since her Quince this past July she is officially available for courtship.

As a result she has had her first major romance, minus the romance. The boy in question is affectionately known as Butthead in our house. This is a great name for him since being a boy of 16 he is frequently a butthead. This doesn't change the fact she loves the kid, she can't help it. Sadly, this is also true of me. I love the kid too. This is a major weakness for me, it prevents me from banning him from the house because he made her cry, or all other kinds of parental behavior that would be briefly satisfying and then disastrous. So what do I do? I have no choice but to let her try to work it out.

Working it out is a slow process. It is frustrating and difficult for me, I can only imagine how it feels for her. I have tried all kinds of helpful advice like, Move On, Like a new Boy, once (well more times than that) in a fit of desperation I even told her kiss a new boy, then you will get over him!

The problem is that she's shy, and Butthead is the only boy that ever really pursued her. He was brave enough to keep trying without much encouragement on her part, he even was willing to wait until after the quince to be her boyfriend. He was willing to put up with me her crazy mama, and he even liked me. But then it just didn't happen. He never asked her out. He comes around, cuddles with her, and occasionally is really sweet. Then he ignores her. He is a master of the game. Sometimes I want to choke him, but it's illegal. So I have to settle for picking on him which doesn't phase him in the least.

The problem with Other Boys

Now the problem with other boys, none of them are confident enough to pursue her. She is a beautiful girl, I don't say this because I am her mom, other people think so too. But once again she is shy. I think most mistake this as unavailable or uninterested, or maybe even stuck up. Who knows? In a world full of girls that are showing you their whole bodies on MySpace, and sending dirty text messages she is the odd one out. When these young boys have all these forward and sexually available girls out there, that require so little effort, who are they going to choose? You know who, so do I, and so does she.

How do I help her understand that it is not her. That she lacks nothing. That boys of that age are just driven by hormones, and fear of rejection. I talk to her, I tell her stories, I tell her all the consequences and pitfalls of promisicuous behavior and teenage sex. We talk about the consequences she has seen in the lives of her own friends. She knows my story... pregnant at 17 in high school. She knows all these things logically, but does her heart know it?

So what's the problem with Butthead and other Boys?

They are Boys, just trying to figure it out too. Boys that are learning the rules of this game in the same arena as our girls. Boys that have been conditioned to this outrageous mating behavior, that they think is normal. Boys who believe it should be that easy. Boys that don't know that anything worth having is worth working for. What are we teaching our boys? We spend a lot of time trying to teach our girls Purity and Self Respect; but fail to teach our boys the same things. We need to teach them how to respect themselves, what relationships really are, and how to respect our beautiful girls.

Welcome Shawbully;)

I have invited my daughter to my blog. This is her opportunity to disagree with me publicly about what she sees on the blog. I mean after all she and her friends are the source of all my material. Occasionally I will use things from my own past since I was ... how can I say this, well since I was a much wilder kid then she is. I think I will even invite her friends, two of them have already starred in the blog. She will probably never participate (she's shy) but I thought I would extend the invitation. I think it will be interesting if she decides to argue with me, don't you? I don't fear conflict:)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Electronic Exhibitionism

Yesterday, my daughter sat at the table reading her May issue of Seventeen magazine she was reading the typical dating advice these teen magazines give. On a list of Do's and Don'ts I saw my favorite piece of advice...

"Don't be a Textrovert!"

This is a subject I have discussed at length with my family and friends. Text messaging seems to me to be the axis of all evil when it comes to communication. Don't get me wrong I love technology, I am a gadgety kind of girl, I always want the new technology... but text messaging? It breaks down any kind of real communication, and usually breaks down normal boundaries as well. Before going further I want to define the term textrovert. According to the Urban Dictionary textrovert is defined as:

1. One who feels an increased sense of bravery over texting, as opposed to in person.
2. One who will often only say what they really feel over text messages.
3. When someone you know is a completely different person through texts.

The world is full of textroverts. Especially, amongst the young. My daughter and her friends spend alot of time texting. It seems to have replaced talking on the phone, and even talking in person. Communication is not about only the things we say verbally, but how we say it. Facial expressions, body language, tone, all of these are important aspects of communication. Text messaging which does not include all these important aspects of communication leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. There are somethings that emoticons just can't express. Let's explores each of the definitions above.

One who feels an increased sense of bravery over texting, as opposed to in person

Since text messaging and camera phones have become so overwhelmingly popular there are has been a rise in electronic exhibitionism. Times have changed, now we can take pictures and see them instantly , presumably without anyone else ever seeing them. We can then immediately share them with our friends and family with the click of a button. This has two effects: first with this kind of convenience at our fingertips we can send these images out into the world without giving it a whole lot of thought first, resulting in embarrassing mistakes. Second, this availability to take a picture anywhere gives people a false sense of privacy. For example, when looking at myspace you see a ton of photos uploaded from mobile phones of girls in their bathrooms or bedrooms taking pictures. So there they are, in a place that feels both private and safe but they are making it public, for the whole world to see. They don't seem to grasp the concept that once that image is out there in the public, or on the Internet, or even on someone else's phone they no longer have any control of it.

Then there is the underbelly of electronic exhibitionism, the unwanted photos! I recently was talking with one of my daughters friends when she received a text message from a boy she knew. She opened her phone, and closed it immediately and said "Gross!" I asked her what it was and she told me that he had just sent her a picture of his erection. Prior to the picture being sent they had not even been texting each other. There was no conversation that led to him exposing himself, I guess he just thought it would be funny. She then told me that this wasn't the first time, that she had told him it was gross and not to do the time before. This goes back to my earlier point. He feels brave and safe that he won't get caught, (because how many kids do you know that would tell their parents or another adult they got a message like that, most wouldn't) and he doesn't need to experience rejection because he doesn't have to see her expression or hear her tone. It doesn't matter what her response is, he imagines it to be what he wants it to be.

Ask yourself how many inappropriate and unwelcome pictures and messages have your kids received?

One who will often only say what they really feel over text messages.

This one is funny. How many people do you know both teenagers and adults who try to have serious conversations over text. Everyone knows about the dreaded "Where is this relationship going" conversation. Well it's gotten easier because many people do most of their communicating through text. This is convenient because it is must easier to lie when you don't have school your expression. It's much easier when your audience can't hear the sarcasm in your tone when you say, "I love you too." Now I am not suggesting that everything said over text is a lie, I am just suggesting that important conversations should probably happen in person.

The other side of this issue is, the honest person that is just trying to escape an unpleasant or uncomfortable conversation. For example, the "this relationship is over" conversation; or the "I have met someone else" or any other guilty confession. Maybe you are thinking: Hey, what's wrong with that?

I understand the thought process... I mean of course it's much easier to reject someone, or let them down when you don't have to experience their reaction; there is infinitely less guilt. But does that absence of guilt result in less concern for the other person's feelings?

If you are the type of person that can only say how you really feel over text messaging, maybe it's time to examine your motives for having the conversation in such a sterile environment, is it avoidance, fear, or just nerves. Just know why you do it, and be prepared for the possibility that the person on the other end may not have to same motivations as you. Always be prepared that they may not take what you say seriously.

When someone you know is a completely different person through texts.

This is usually a result of a lack of confidence on that person's part. Maybe through text they feel more comfortable showing their playful or flirtatious side, which isn't always a bad thing. However, it is a bad thing if that individual is pretending to be someone different then who they are. This will inevitably lead to disappoint either in themselves; (because of bad behavior) or disappointment for the individual on the receiving end when their expectations are not met. It is still true that the best policy is to be yourself.

My Rule: If you wouldn't say it, do it, or show it in person... Don't do it in Text!

So finally my conclusion is that although technology is wonderful, it is important that the use of technology and the electronic media age doesn't erase our sense of basic boundaries and our expectations of responsible and decent behavior. The rule in my house is that if you wouldn't do it in person don't do it in text. Or there is always the grandma rule...

Grandma Rule: If you can do it/say it/show it to your grandma you can do it, say it, show it to your date!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Helicopter Parent?

Today I am having an identity crisis. I have this view of myself as a parent that I'm pretty cool. I always say my parenting philosophy is "Keeping it Real,"and talk to them (and listen to them)like they are adults, this is especially important if that is how you want them to behave. I am direct and I don't pull any punches, usually this works for me. According to my daughter's friends I'm pretty cool. I'm not sure she agrees, but then she has to live with me.

I was just surfing the web when I came across another parenting blog and it had an article about Helicopter Parenting. Helicopter Parenting is defined as a parent that hovers over their child's life trying to protect them from any negative experience. Helicopter parents generally are the parents that try to prevent their children from suffering the consequences for their choices and actions, and defend their children against every perceived injustice regardless of their child's responsibility in the situation. These are also the parents that micromanage every aspect of their children's lives. At least that was my definition of what a helicopter parent was.

I immediately dismissed the idea that I could be a helicopter parent, I mean after all my daughter has never had a bed time in her life, she gets herself up in the morning, she goes to bed at reasonable hour. In fact I make fun of her because she likes to be in bed by nine. I sometime don't know how I produced this child, she is so different from me. So clearly I don't micromanage. I don't rush to get her out of situations she has gotten into. I don't check her homework everyday... in fact I dislike helping with homework. And I try, this is hardest part for me, to let her work out her own issues and fight her own battles. Now, she might disagree with this statement primarily because I let her know what I think and I am not always as level headed as I should be.

But then came the example that pierced my heart... Surveillance Helicopter parenting mode. It described parents that check their kids text messages, and facebook, and myspace messages. That review their kid's friends profiles to see if they are a good fit. This one hurt. Let me explain... I do some of this.

My Space. Have you been on my space and have you seen the things the kids put on their profiles? First let me say I did allow my daughter have a my space page once she was Jr. High. My reasoning for that is that she would likely have one any way, and I would rather know about it. Also, this allowed me to set some limits. For example, she was not and is not permitted to accept friend requests from people she does not know. Her profile is private so if you don't know her you can't view it or her pictures, and the kicker she has to have her password saved on the machine. This is just to let her know I can check if I feel the need to. This is not an option I exercise regularly. I have my own myspace account and my surveillance generally includes viewing her profile page and her posted comments. My view on this is that the rest of the world can read them, so I can too. I want to know what message she is sending to the world about who she is. That message will determine not only how the world will view her, but also determine how the world will treat her as well.

I do not read her private messages or email, or even her text messages. She has not given me any indication that she cannot be trusted, and I do not want to violate her privacy in this manner. When I was a teenager my parents read my diary, and I promptly got in trouble, and what I remember most was the feeling of outrage I had that they had read my personal thoughts. I wasn't even sorry for what they discovered or what I did because I was so angry about the invasion of my privacy. I do not want to invade my daughter's privacy in that manner. This is not to say there aren't times when I parent may need to do this. But it should only because you feel your child is in serious trouble or in danger.

The final piece of my surveillance, I also check her friends pages. This is made easier by the fact that many of them have friend requested me, which I find funny. I do this because I want to know the kids she hangs out with. There is an old saying that says, show me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are. People hang out with people that share their views, and values. Her friends are an insight into her world. Plus, their pages are often good conversation starters about the messages they are sending to the world and what the consequences of those messages might be. For example, I recently saw a picture on a friends page where the girls were taking pictures of simulated sex pose, I'm sure they thought this was a funny joke. I explained to my daughter that the message they are sending is that they are willing to do those things, and that other people will see that and form an opinion on their character based on the message they are sending. The message being they are sexually promiscuous. The consequence of that message is that boys will then only see them as sexual objects for fun and not as nice girls that deserve to be treated with respect. Later these girls will wonder why nice boys want nothing to do with them, or people expect them to be sexual with them very quickly. These are mistakes I hope she can avoid.

Do you think it's inappropriate to monitor her page as well as the pages of her friends? Is this so wrong? I don't think so.

The truth is the Internet is awesome, but it can be a dangerous world. If my child is going to have a presence on the Internet, I want her to use caution and good judgement about what information and images she is making available. I don't want her full name listed, if you know her you already know it. And I don't want her sending a message about herself that will negatively impact her opportunities, or even her social standing amongst her peers. And most importantly I don't want her to put herself in danger inadvertently. Frankly I think that as a parent if your child has an Internet presence. It is your responsibility to monitor it.

Does that make me a helicopter parent? I don't know.