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Muddle Through the Middle

1 Mar

When my kids were infants, babies and toddlers, there were many parenting books written that highlighted “quality time” with your child.  These moments were most often orchestrated and had the heavy feeling of importance.  For a while, as a VERY young mother, trying to do the VERY best, I bought into this notion.  No interactions or “moments” were significant unless they were planned weeks ahead of time, involved moving the moon and the earth and involved elaborate interactive detail and lengthy amounts of one-on-one time.  As a mother of teens, I can now admit, this quality time idea is a complete crock of shit.  Quantity of time takes the cake every single day.  Show up, be present, know you need to pay attention when the moment arises.  Know your kids.  You can only know your kids if you are there…not for the “quality time” picnic planned in advance for a Saturday way out on the calendar.  You need to be there when they need you and that is never, ever when the calendar dictates.

Children are sponges, they are ever changing and they are their own beings.  A few hours of “quality time” each week or month is fabulous.  This time helps foster relationships and create bonds.  However, children need so much more. Day to day interactions that often seem humdrum or even boring are the ones that truly form our little ones into the people they will become.  Celebrating the accomplishments, teaching morals during dinner and honing politeness at the parent/teacher conference or doctor’s office are all necessary.

But, as Anna Quindlen (one of my favorite modern American ladies) writes, “Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on.  It is about muddling through the middle.”  Muddling through the middle is the real life, nitty gritty, messy, necessary stuff.  Kids have this. They know this. Depending on their age this nitty gritty can involve who pestered who on the playground to whose dad said something weird during a playdate.  As they get older it involves who went to a party to get drunk and whose parents are not even home for the weekend.  But, you  don’t know when they will feel like sharing.  You have to be there for THEIR moments, not the ones you planned.  The most eye-opening conversations I have had with my kids have been in the kitchen late at night or on a generic walk with the dogs around the neighborhood.  This is the middle, this is the muddling through.  As a parent, you have no idea what topic is being thrown at you and you have no time to prepare, but you are there. You are present and you do you very best.  Would children have shared so much during a planned outing where we both felt pressured to bond and enjoy?  I don’t think so.  Time is important.  Kids grow fast. I hope we don’t waste our time being busy or planning quality time because quality time may be missed in the making…and we don’t always get it back.


Life Skills

24 Feb

I volunteered today at an M.U.N. (Model United Nations) conference at Princelightningbolt’s high school.  I didn’t have M.U.N. at my high school so this was all new to me when he first started high school.  This program is right up Sirlightningbolt’s alley (he loves history, politics, being up in front of people and writing a mean essay).  I am impressed I can discuss topics pertinent to the world with him because he is educated about current events.  He now knows that behind the Orange Curtain does not lie the entire world.

What I really enjoy about these conferences is seeing hundreds of smart, educated, interested teens all dressed up at 6:30 in the morning on a weekend day, ready for action.  Why doesn’t this make the news?  Hundreds of sleepy, overworked  teens are up at the crack of dawn, dressed to the nines and ready to debate issues pertinent to our world today.  What could be better?  When I drop Princelightningbolt off in my pajamas and  the sun has barely cracked the horizon, I am impressed.

These kids are going places.  The skills they have as teens will serve them well.  Get up, be prepared, show up, make a good case, dress the part, engage your audience, have the endurance to do it for 10 hours with a small lunch break.  Doesn’t this sound like a day of meetings at a real job?  Follow through, knowledge, preparation and presentation (of both information and of self) are key.  But, more important than all of these life skills, these teens seem happy.  They smile, they joke, they obviously have camaraderie.  This is important stuff.  This is life, this is relationships, this is communication.

We hear there are no jobs, kids are denied college entrance even with GPA’s well above perfect, their majors are impacted and worse.  However, there is a legion of teens out there ready to take on the world…head on.  These kids can dress the part, they can argue a point, they can commit and they can put it all down on paper.  Be ready, they are coming and they are strong.  If they keep developing this skill set, us parents will be in good hands when we age and are depending on someone younger to care for and make decisions for us.

And we will rest easy knowing they are productive, engaged and happy in their lives.  We all need to remember to hone these life skills and validate their importance at a time when most of us are checking their grades daily and forgetting that the grades are a very small part of the package.  Truly, do you even remember your high school GPA?  Probably not.  But, I bet you remember how you felt in high school and what you learned that you still know and utilize to this day.  I bet it mattered if you were happy and involved and I bet that still matters today.

To Grill or Not to Grill

22 Feb

My spoiling days are over.  Great big SIGH.  I am now thinking of dinner prep, actually grocery shopping and cooking and…arg…cleaning.  We were spoiled for over four weeks.  Wow, that part of Peg Leg-dom sure flew by.  It was very, very relaxing.  I had almost forgotten how much time and energy us mamas (and some papas) spend each day planning meals, prepping meals, buying food, cooking food, cleaning up after cooking food… and then all the snacks and desserts.  I don’t mind it, honestly.  I am just really out of practice and I thoroughly enjoyed having others do the work for me (Thank you, dear friends!!!)

Tonight I made chicken kebobs (recipe thanks to one of those dear friends who brought dinner), roasted red potatoes and salad.  I was kind of excited to do a full dinner for my sweet brood. Princelightningbolt arrives home starving around 530 after running practice, Princessenpointe is home for only 45 minutes between dance classes at 615 and Sirskatesalot wanders in sometime after that.  I have to coordinate creatively to make sure everyone has some sort of warm or ready to be heated up meal.

Last spring, Sirskatesalot got rid of our outdoor gas grill and decided he was going old school and bought a charcoal grill.  I don’t understand this at all.  What is cool about having to wait 20 minutes for the heat to be ready and then watching as half your dinner burns and half is undercooked?  This vintagey grilling idea is lost on me.

Once I marinate the meat and slice the veggies I start to think that firing up the coals is a bad, time consuming idea.  I google how to cook kebobs in the oven, but that seems lame.  How do you enjoy a kebob without the grill marks?

And this is where I come to my confession.  Yes, this is embarrassing.  I dug out my George Foreman Grill. I swear I have only used it three times.  Even more embarrassing …I bought it with a Groupon.  I know, you now think my kitchen is stocked with Spaghettios, canned soup and green containers of parmesan cheese.  These assumptions are far from the truth.  But that George Foreman Grill is now going to be a staple instead of a dust collector in the back of the pan cupboard.

George is onto something.  Our kebobs looked like they were grilled out of doors by The Marlboro Man…The Marlboro Man with a microbrew not a cigarette.  Gorgeous, delicious and I was in the warmth of my kitchen the entire time.  I won’t complain about how tiny it is, nor how long the ordeal took because I made a gazillion kebobs.  Beggars can’t be choosers and when you buy a George Foreman Grill with a Groupon, you definitely qualify as a beggar…or at least a cheapskate.

Pegging Those Teens

7 Feb

Peg Leg here has two teens.  And, even amongst friends, sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable admitting that I really like my teens.  If you listen to the news, most teens are pregnant, drug addicts, drop-outs or gangsters.  If you listen to most of my friends, they are snotty, spoiled, selfish, oblivious, absentminded and irresponsible.  I confess that I can easily jump in and participate with my mom-friends in an hour long conversation about the negative character traits of teens.  You should see how we feed off of each other’s stories…we are like 5th grade girls with girlfriend drama.

In general, though, my kids are pretty awesome.  I am frequently surprised by how much I like them.  When they were sweet babies, toddlers and dirty-faced, school age critters, I never imagined it could be just as good, and, sometimes, better with teenagers.  Yes, they are big, demanding, loud, messy and stinky, but they are also clever, witty, smart and down right hysterical.   Sirskatesalot and I stare at each other wide-eyed when one of our offspring uses an epithet while telling a story at the dinner table, searching the other’s face for how to respond.  But then the punch line is so funny we break into laughter and forget to reprimand the storyteller.  It reminds me of when they were first graders telling jokes they had made up that were so NOT funny, but made us bust out in fits of laughter.  Only now, they are older, wiser, funnier and the jokes and stories are spot on.

While sometimes their decisions or attitudes are maddening, watching my teens grow into themselves is fascinating.  The path from teen to adult is a curvy, windy one filled with hills and valleys, but I think it it is important to let the teens do the driving.  I am enjoying these last, fleeting years with my kiddos.  I’m trying to give them credit, to back off, to let them do the driving, to let them set the pace and to let them choose the destination.

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