On parenting teens

At this point in time, Soleil is close to becoming a 14 year old. Luna will hit 12 soon. This is a fascinating time to parent children. We have a political mess in the US. Our children see it and are old enough to comprehend what hatred is being spewn from the other side. They see others pushing their ideas on people. They see their friends being pushed down with words and they are not happy.

Things parents need to manage with parenting teens:

  1. Bullying. It has never gone away. Zero tolerance doesn’t work. We push the kids to stand up for others, but goddamn that is hard to do. All kids are bullied and most kids join in on bullying even if you don’t think yours do. Yes. Mine do too.
  2. Sex. What? But Nance, your children are only 14 and 12 (rounding up). How can you talk about sex? We need to because the schools can only give so much information and we have to fill in the gaps. It’s our moral ground. There’s a rumor that a kid in 7th grade (in between my kids) has been caught sexting and she has had sex with several boys. A few boys have bragged about their sexual exploits. THESE THINGS EXIST. I have promised both kids that if they ask for a condom, I will hand one over, no questions asked. I will admit that I will ask if they want to talk about it.
  3. Gender. What is gender? Why do we not only have male and female? What does it mean to be transgender? They already have gay friends. They will meet a transgender person in their lifetime. Time to start building up the laizzez-faire attitude we want them to have. It doesn’t matter. It’s the other person’s life.
  4. Racism. It’s real. Kids don’t always see it. We address it often. We talk about systematic racism and blatant racism. We talk about how our economic system has worked against People of Color. We talk about how there’s little cultural history compared to European families. How does one deal with the entire group of blacks, who are mostly from different cultures 400 years ago, as one group because they have the same skin color? We talk about that.
  5. Rape. I’ve got two girls. They need to know when they can say no and how to keep saying it. They also need to know that yes is okay, but no has to be listened to. It’s scary out there. I know more than a few women who were date raped as teens. I’d prefer my kids not be in that group.
  6. Politics. Teens are starting to learn about politics. Whenever our kids start parroting us, we will suddenly start with the opposite side’s argument. This keeps them on their toes and forces a bit of thinking to happen. Yeah, thinking. We’re evil parents.

What do you discuss with your teens? I have more that we deal with on a daily basis (including Hamilton, the Musical), but these are the important ones.

The one about parenting children of a different religion

*I know I owe you all a post about work, but there are things that I can’t put out here. Let’s just say I am back at work and there have been some changes implemented, but I am in the same job with the same supervisors*

So it is December. And all of the retail places are kicking our butts with holiday music. Seriously, it started before Thanksgiving this year. If I hear “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time” one more time, I will have to go postal.

December in the Casa de Space means the endless questions of why don’t Jews get even time in the holidays (2% girls! You’re part of the 2%) It is hard for me to really get their concerns because, well, I was raised Christian in a Christian society. I may now be atheist, but growing up, the whole Christmas thing made sense and it was my holiday. Now as a cynical adult, I can split the religion from the secular parts of Christmas and deal. I can tell that my kids can’t.

We don’t do both. We’re not both. We do Hanukkah. Every year, since Soleil was young, we’ve had a Hanukkah party. We make a ton of latkes (traditional fried potato pancakes) put out some other foods and roll with it. Sour cream? Fattening latkes and jelly donuts? Oh yeah, we’re all over that! We even have some drediels out to play that traditional “Let’s teach the kids how to gamble with chocolate”. Seriously, who decided that was a good idea? We don’t do electric lights, we don’t do trees, we just do Hanukkah.

So when Luna found out the competition she was attending in December was canceled, she wanted to do the holiday show for the Learn to Skate club that she works. Of course, she’ll be gone the week of the holiday show and the coaches suggested something for Hanukkah. In 1 hour, this girl got her coach to download the song “Candlelight” by the Maccabeats and she designed a routine to go with it. Amazing.

She’s still upset about Christmas dominating her world. She doesn’t know what to do with it or how to relate with others. I am at a loss. How many people out there parent a child from a different religion or culture? How do you handle these sorts of issues?

The one about summer camp

This summer has been crazy with summer camp. We started week 1 with a lovely trip to Barcelona, Spain. I would not have traded that for anything in the world. Then a few weeks of sleepover camp, one week with both girls gone, and back to day camp and other things.

Camp has been interesting this year. We started with Girl Scout Day Camp. We quickly realized that both girls have kind of out grown this camp. It’s sad because it is close to home and easy to get to on the way to work. However, I have to accept the plain and simple fact that my girls are getting older.

Soleil is now 10. She is quite capable of handling some serious situations. She did a 2 week sleepover in NH this year. 2 weeks away from me. That’s HUGE for her. She was excited to see us during the break, but she did great! Luna is now 8. She’s very whiny as of late, but she is doing more sleepover camp and really starting to enjoy the independence.

I am torn about summer camp. When I was a kid, mom was a teacher. Camp was rarely an option. When we did do camp, I had some pretty bad experiences. I will never forget the treatment by some other kids.
However, this seems to be much better. Soleil and I were able to talk about some of her issues at camp, including a girl with a severe lack of coping skills. “J” was difficult and Soleil tried to work with her, but it didn’t work well. In fact, “J” hit her once. However, there were twins who begged their mom and dad to come to the session last week only because Soleil was in that session. That was cool.

Luna is still unsure about camps. She would rather be on the ice. She’s in an ice skating camp this week and coming home exhausted. She loves it. I am glad she is there, but man, she is tired.
She is suddenly blooming in her maturity on some items (but not her humor…that stays at the 12year old boy level), but back sliding in others. The fall will be a big test. She enters 3rd grade and the upper Elementary school. That is a BIG change for her.

Next year, Soleil has requested to go to overnight camp all summer with weekends home. We’ll see. Luna wants to do more overnight camps… Again, we’ll see. Me? I want to be off all summer… AH!

I suck as a parent

Yep, you read that right. I suck as a parent.

In October, I was going through that breathing issues crap. At the same point, we were trying to get Luna into more ice skating lessons. She was planning to meet with a coach on Tuesday afternoons, after school. Suddenly, I realized we needed more than the school after care. I managed to hire an afterschool sitter/driver.

Our interview was the day after I had the anaphylatic reaction to contrast dye. I was very wiped out and resting on our couch. It was also the start of Snowtober. She was prompt, as her references indicated she would be, and she was a tad older than I expected. I would say she was in her late 50s. She was very polite and straight forward. C had raised 5 children, one who was premature and had learning disabilities, and was looking for this sort of part time work. She had firm expectations on the kids. I was concerned about her being too firm, so we tried to lay out a good routine.

From the start, both girls challenged her. There have been days when I find out that Soleil totally ignored her and left trash on the ground just to see what C would do. This is behavior that I don’t condone, but I think we may have contributed.

You see, I was raised in a Christian household. Dr. Jay was raised in a Jewish household. Okay, no big deal, right? Well, no. Christians are raised to believe. You follow the rules. You listen to authority, especially the big guy. You don’t question what the Bible teaches, you adapt your life to Christianity. Judaism? Well now, that is different. Some Jewish heroes question G-d. By questioning, you learn. Don’t follow blindly. Read and interpret the Torah. Take a Torah reading and 3 Jews and you have 3 different interpretations. Question, think, reason, fit. Very different.

We are raising our girls to think, question and reason. I am trying very hard to instill respect. Really really really. I was recently visiting another blogger. I made a comment about respectful arguing. The daughter looked at me and asked how you do that. So I explained that just because a rule is there by us, the parents, we do allow the girls to respectfully argue the rule. An example would be “No feet on the table”. Soleil’s arguments have been, “Mom, I am much more comfortable with putting my feet up when I eat” My argument back is “Soleil, feet pick up a ton of germs, some kids (LUNA’s) feet smell, and it is not socially acceptable to put your feet on the table.” I enforce the rule, but I explain it. The daughter stopped and thought about this. When her mom told her to not put her feet on the chair, the first reaction was a whine. Then the daughter stopped and said “Wait, I’m going to argue nicely. Mom, I like my feet on the chair. Can I stay this way?” Her mom laughed and said no because it could ruin the chair, but then we both praised her for not just whining, but instead thinking through the problem. I am not sure my friend appreciated my view, because authority starts to diminish with questioning.

We allow questioning. Our parents claim “everything is a negotiation.” Our response is “No, when they try to negotiate, the answer can be no, you do it our way.” I find many adults find questioning authority to be disrespectful. I don’t. I feel you can respectfully question authority. You need to question the request or order, not the person. When you get the explanation, you can’t answer with “that’s stupid” and you do need to stop and follow through if the person says so. We’ve done this multiple times with the girls. It’s hard and not consistent. It means that sometimes you change your mind and other times you need to say no.

I got an email from our sitter last night. The line that hurt was from her about the girls:

I am not viewed as an authority figure – at best, I am viewed as a peer – at worst, I am viewed as a servant.

Dr. Jay reminded me that C is quite old school and would assume any questioning of authority is an affront, but still, it hurt and my parenting feels questioned.

This is why I suck as a parent. It’s hard to raise our children to think and question, yet be respectful at the same time. I need to work on the respect more. Part of this is also school. We’ve had a rough year with Soleil in school with respecting her teacher. This is just further evidence that we need to stress respect.

How do you teach respect in your house?

Totally and completely fried

  • It’s not the work. It’s the amount of items that are all #1 priority and I always select the wrong one to attack first
  • It’s not the activities. It’s the time it takes to get the girls ready for them. The girls want to go, they just take their damn sweet time.
  • It’s not school. It’s the homework.
  • It’s not the homework. It’s the fighting and screaming and the "it’s not fair" over the homework assignments.
  • It’s not the housework. It’s the lack of recognizing that putting things away when done makes it so much easier.
  • It’s not the laundry. Oh, wait, yeah, it is the laundry.
  • It’s not the commute. It’s the time spent idling because there are too many people on the roads.
  • It’s not the money. Because I don’t think it’s worth it anymore.

Don’t call me a hockey mom

The activities for this school year:

  • violin, Saturdays 9:30-10:15am
  • ice skating, private lessons, Wednesdays afternoon
  • ice skating, theatre on ice, Wednesday afternoon for 6 weeks
  • hockey, 2 practices a week, 1 game a weekend
  • Girl Scouts. Both girls, and me
  • Hebrew School, Wednesday 3:40-5:30!!! and Sundays 11-1:30(both)
  • 3/4 day of school on Wednesdays.

I have far too many things on my plate to be a hockey mom. Just call me mom.

Slipping and Sliding

Visitors can be fun:

My parents visited this past week in conjunction with Luna having a skating competition. If you remember, her last competition was a disaster where she simply went out there and skated half heartedly and ended up last and decided to give up skating. This time, her grandparents came to cheer her on. It’s always a bit difficult when family visits. My parents are a bit more authoritative than I am. Both girls got into fights with my mom. Lovely. However, we did get a trip down to the USS Salem and Dad showed us around. He was on the USS Newport News (same class) and was able to show us how the turrets worked. Then he ran into two guys that work on the USS Salem who were on the Newport News the same years he was!

Skate and Skate some more:

Luna’s competition was Sunday. We went over her skills several times. When it was her turn, she went out there and NAILED it. Totally, completely NAILED IT! I am so proud of her. Over and over, all she heard was ‘I don’t care if you get 1st,2nd or 10th. Just do the best you can and pay attention to your moves!" She was ready to quit 2 months ago. Now she is planning to skate in the next competition on June 12 as part of a team. Her rink is called "The Edge" and the 4 girls decided to call themselves "The Sparkling Edge". Awesome. Now I need to get some stretch fabric because we have to make costumes that match!  Sigh…

RBT update:

Not much on this front except I got a little disappointing news today and I just need to suck up and move forward on this. No biggie in terms of the overall RBT, but those one steps back sometimes take more energy than the two steps forward.

Can you hear me now?

Luna had a hearing test yesterday. I really wasn’t happy with it and I want her to see an audiologist and an ENT. When she has a cold or allergies, she has a harder time hearing. When there is background noise, she tunes out or maybe she can’t hear. There’s a few things that I want to have checked before we declare that she is okay. In another week, I am going to want to get her referred.

The Race To Nowhere:

Our town hosted a viewing of the film "The Race To Nowhere". It was a very thought provoking film. For those who are unaware, this documentary covers the stresses that kids undergo in school and life. Starting in younger grades, kids are piled on with homework, standardized tests, pressures to attend the "right" college, high expectations in extracurricular activities. The parents and kids in the film were truly overwhelmed. The film was dedicated to a 13 year old teen who committed suicide, presumably from the pressures of school.

Two factors that were focused on were the over abundance of homework and AP classes. Studies cited in the film point towards a zero correlation between homework and advancement in the lower grades (K-5), yet my daughters both had homework last night. In the middle school years, this is a slight correlation and in high school, the correlation is positive up to 2 hours worth. We all know that homework is much more extensive than that.

Last night, I spent 1 hour with Soleil working on fractions. I have no clue what her teacher is doing, but she was in hysterics about fractions. Eventually, I pulled out money and we did fractions of dollars. I think she understood, but this was after tears and sobs about how stupid she was and how she wanted to just not have to do this.

 AP classes are something that I don’t worry about yet. Too many kids are being told to take AP classes so they can make the right school. Really? The claim is that there are 100 college spots for each kid. But too many people feel they need to apply to Harvard, Yale, etc… That’s disturbing. I really don’t think anyone needs that pressure on them. I’ve told my girls over and over to do their best. Don’t worry about the grades, don’t worry about the numbers, worry about doing your best.

But, when the state mandates a test given to 3rd graders to see what they can do, I feel sick. When Soleil panics and cries about said test for 2-3 weeks, I feel sick. Now the math version is coming up in 2 weeks and I am just beside myself on that.

One person wanted to point out that only stressed out kids were interviewed, but then I wonder, how many kids aren’t stressed? I want my kids to be able to play hockey and figure skate. But is that too much stress? I don’t know.

The one good thing out of the evening is that the upper elementary principal announced that he was going to bring up the possibility of eliminating homework in his school to the staff. I think that’s a great start. Now, if we can only move this forward.

Trying the weekly thing:

This week at Chez Space:

LCE or THE REALLY BIG THING: I haven’t decided if I should call this the "LCE" (Life Changing Event) or the "RBT" (Really Big Thing). I think I like RBT better. There are changes coming to our lives. Nothing bad, nothing that involves babies (seriously folks, 2 is more than enough), but changes are coming. I hope this will make a lot of things in our lives smoother and easier. I can’t put the details out. I don’t know how long this will take, but it is something we’ve been talking about for a few years and now is the time to deal with it. Once things get moving and firm up, I will write about it more, but I may need to write about it a little, hence the RBT.

Hit the Ice: So, Luna has an ice skating competition on Sunday. Dr. Jay took her to the rink this morning to practice. She’s doing much better with small wobbles. I have promised her a new skate bag (she wants THIS(but not this color) and new skates for her next skating session. Her current skates are getting tight and I HOPE we can just reuse the blades, but I am not sure (yes, blades and skates are separate). Dr. Jay was helping her perfect her crossovers and she showed him that she can sort-of do a Waltz-jump. She fell the first time, but she nailed the second. Wow.

Hit the Ice II: Yes, Soleil made a hockey team. She’s doing a skills clinic for the next 8 weeks, so hopefully this will help her skating. In the fall/summer we need to get her goalie pads of her own. I want to wait because she’s going to have a growth spurt soon. At least I hope she does because so many kids are taller in 4th and 5th grade. They just TOWER over the 3rd graders.

Fiddlin’ Around: Soleil’s first concert was earlier this month. She was the only 3rd grader in the 4th grade string orchestra. Cool.

Woof: I have been going around the net looking for a dog. Yes, the SpaceFamily will soon have a dog. The girls have been begging and I agreed when they were 5&7. Um, they turn 7&9 this summer. Woops! Eh, I think this is better! We have an insane May, but I promised them that we would start looking in June and I promised Dr. Jay that I wouldn’t fill any paperwork until after our meeting in May (AAS meeting, Boston). We’re looking at a beagle, but, I saw this little guy today. She’s missing a leg, but she is so cute… I hope she is adopted by the time we are ready. I would hate to think of her waiting that long.

Fractional: Can I just ask why the hell we are teaching 3rd graders fractions? They haven’t covered long division, but we expect them to know fractions? WTF, Massachusetts, WTF?

The Picture Perfect Kid

She doesn’t exist. That Picture Perfect Kid. I’ve never seen her. I’ve hoped and looked, but the damn truth is, all of our kids have flaws. And we all have flaws and the world has flaws.

This weekend, Soleil found an old drawing from a once friend. It showed that her friend had a broken heart and Soleil was angry and her friend said "I love you even if you hate me. Guess Who?". It was drawn 2 years ago. Her friend is also a gifted child. She falls into the twice exceptional category which means she is gifted, and has ADHD (gifted with a learning disability).  This makes it hard for Soleil. She wants to be friends with this girl, but the girl is emotionally younger than Soleil. She is as quirky as Soleil is, but in different ways.

I’ll put the honest truth out here. It’s raw and painful. Soleil has been downright mean to this girl. Soleil finally acknowledged this Sunday night when I returned from my trip. She cried for almost a half hour. We talked and discussed and the truths came out. The girl doesn’t always give Soleil the space she needs, but Soleil sometimes doesn’t want to hang with her because she’s afraid this will lower her social standing.

THIS IS 3rd GRADE FOLKS! IN 3RD FUCKING GRADE, they already care about being the popular one. Dr. Jay and I were on the "everybody knows us, but only a few want to be friends" groups in school. We also were guilty of not wanting to hang with friends that made us look "uncool". We wanted to be with the popular ones, but we’ve grown up.

While I snuggled my really getting big 8.5 year old, Dr. Jay drew a bell curve. We talked about what is happiness, what is friendship and what makes a person successful. We marked where Soleil was on that graph in terms of social standing, where Dr. Jay and I were and where her friend was. We looked at the populations that she can draw friends from. I laid it out for her that "You will NEVER be the most popular kid in school. You will be known by everybody. You will have friends. But NEVER expect to be the popular one because THAT IS NOT WHO YOU ARE." It hurt to say that, but it is true. Soleil will have her group of friends, she will be in the geek group, but she won’t be in the queen bee group.

Then the ugly part came. I am making her apologize to her former(?) friend. I talked to the mom today and explained what we were doing. I explained how I don’t want to have a mean girl. How the apology was for both girls, to help Soleil get it off her chest and to let the other girl know that what Soleil did was not okay. From here, Soleil has to make a choice: Does she want to be friends or not with this girl. If yes, they have to work it slowly. If no, she still needs to be kind.

I hate parenting. I want it to be easy. I want my kids to be healthy, happy and have the lots of friends. I’d like a million dollars while I’m at it and a chef and a maid. But that doesn’t happen. So the next best thing I can do is help my girls understand the social pecking order, where they fit in and when to stop and say "NO. This is NOT okay to do." Especially if they are the ones doing the mean girl tricks.

Pressure…

Pressure pushing down on me

Pressing down on you no man ask for

Under pressure – that burns a building down

Splits a family in two

Puts people on streets

 

Ah, the sun starts to shine, the snow melts and all we feel is…Pressure?

Last week, Soleil had her first taste of the stupidity known as standardized tests. She had the 3rd grade MCAS (Massachusetts) in reading. In May, she has the math MCAS. She was…freaked out, to put it mildly. No homework for her class. Teachers asking kids to get extra sleep. Parents coming in to help the kids learn relaxation techniques. She was getting so upset that I finally explained that the tests are for the schools to understand how well the teachers are teaching. She was relieved on Thursday night when it was all over.

Luna, my ice skating queen, has decided to quit. Yes, I’ve been saying that I would let her quit if she wanted. And yes, I am reneging on that promise. Why? She has chosen to quit skating because she came in last place on her last competition. Even though her coach has admitted that it was not the right time for her to compete in it. Even though we’ve explained that she needed more work on those steps, she is ready to give up. Unfortunately, we aren’t letting her. That’s the easy way out. She is doing another competition in May. This one is not a full program with music, but instead, it is going through the elements for that level one by one. She doesn’t want to do it. She’s angry. Angry with us, Angry with her coach, Angry with herself. I hate to see her go through this. I really do. But… what lesson are we teaching her if we say it is okay to walk away just because you mess up once? She has 4 medals. 3 1st place medals and 1 4th place. She can do this, but she needs to mature to do it. And she doesn’t want to.

I did have Luna teaching me how to stop on the ice Saturday. I promised to take ice skating lessons one day and here I am, taking ice skating lessons. I’m in the low class with a bunch of kids. When Luna was trying to help me, she said "Mom, you just need confidence!".  I couldn’t help but smile.

Last night, Soleil did her first hockey try-out. She is going for goalie. She’s not the greatest hockey player, but she loves it. I hesitated letting her try-out because, well, she’s not very good at it. However, we decided to let her. Dr. Jay took her last night and she did okay. There were about 30 players in the second session. Probably the same amount in the first session. That means about 75% of the girls trying out won’t make the team. That’s pressure. We went over the odds with Soleil last night. There were 3 goalies in her session. One was the goalie last year and is pretty darn good.

This morning I got an email saying that Soleil should be ready for the 7pm tryouts for tomorrow! Oh, and could Goalies please come to both sessions! I think she’ll be thrilled. I have told her that after seeing her video from last night, she is skating even better than ever. She may not make the team, but she is trying. The difference of 2 years of maturity.

There is another pressure going on with our family, but one I cannot discuss yet. It’s nothing bad. Nothing that should worry people, but it’s a "big thing" that I need to spend some time and mental effort on and Dr. Jay have really been great at supporting me on it.

What’s your spring pressure?