Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be A**holes

Back in the ’70s, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson warned moms not to let their boys grow up to be cowboys.  Today, I think the bigger challenge is not letting our kids grow up to be rude and arrogant a**holes.  I’ll take a cowboy any day.

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1978 hit record (on vinyl!)

Raising kids is tough.  They say parenting boys gets easier as they get older.  I don’t know who “they” are, and my oldest is only 11, but I think I need to call bullsh*t on that.  It seems to get harder.

I’m a worrier.  It’s not my finest trait, but it’s who I am.  When my kids were younger, I used to fret about them getting hurt on the playground or being kidnapped by some crazy lunatic.  Now as my boys get older, my worries are less about their safety and more about their character.  My biggest fear is that they’ll grow up to be bastards.  Not mass murderers or bank robbers (I’m pretty confident that the “no killing and no stealing” lessons sank in), just jerks.  Nobody likes a jerk.

This past weekend, while at a lacrosse tournament, my 8-year-old son learned two valuable life lessons after a boy his age stole a ball from him and then lied about it:

  1. Write your name on anything you don’t want to lose if you take it out of the house
  2. Some people are just jerk

Yes, I know it’s wrong to call a kid a jerk, but let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?  We all know the kind of kid I’m talking about:  the bossy one who argues every point because he has to be right all the time; the cocky one who thinks he’s better than everyone else so he talks trash on and off the field; the rude one who uses fresh language to both kids and adults alike; the brazen one who steals and then lies about it all too easily … Sadly, today’s stinkers are often tomorrow’s rotten eggs.  I desperately don’t want my kids to be that way.

Above all else, I want my boys to become gentlemen, so my standards for proper behavior are high:

  • Be polite (say please, thank you and excuse me; use “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” in responses; etc.)
  • Display good table manners (swallow before speaking; ask to be excused from table; etc.)
  • Be compassionate (say you’re sorry, lend a hand, etc.)
  • Be respectful (use kind language; take turns speaking, not over each other; etc.)
  • Act responsibly (think before acting; make mature decisions; etc.)
  • Be honest (own all mistakes; don’t lie, cheat or steal; etc.)
example of r house/family rules

No one ever became President with bad table manners

To me, these six behaviors are the mark of good character.  The character of a gentleman … like one of our kidsitters, C.  He’s a high school senior and member of the varsity football team.  He could be a cocky, trash-talking teenager, but he’s the complete opposite:  he’s friendly, kind, polite (very polite!) and respectful … and my boys think he’s super cool, fun and easy-going.  Win, win.

words to live by

words to live by

So strict as it may seem, I will continue to enforce my rules in the hopes of raising two wonderful, young gentlemen … and if they want to be cowboys, too, then so be it — no matter what Waylon and Willie say.

– LJDT

School’s Out For Summer … Hurry Up! You’re Going To Be Late For Camp

No more pencils, no more books.  No more teacher’s dirty looks.”

Does anyone else remember singing that ditty at the end of the school year?  Not the heavy metal, Alice Cooper version.  Just the sing-song, nursery-rhyme-like kids’ version.  No?  Maybe it was a Long Island thing.  Anyway …

Last day of school, 2013

Last year’s last day of school picture with neighborhood kids (2013)

Monday was our last day of school (1o days overdue, thanks to all the winter snow closings) and it was just like our first day –and the 180 days in between … marked by slow-moving kids, a rushed schedule and a frustrated mom.  Oh, and yelling.  Lots of yelling.  If I had a dollar for every time I screamed, “Hurry up!  You’re going to be late for school!” I’d have … $182.  Actually, I’d probably have more than that since some days I had to say it two, three, even four times before my kids picked up their pace.  Did I mention that I was a frustrated mom on school mornings?

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First day of school, Aug. 2013

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Last day of school, June 2014

But that’s all in the past.  School is out and summer vacation has begun.  Lazy days here we come … no more alarm clocks, no more rushing, no more yelling, right?  Not quite.

Tuesday, the first day of summer vacation, was marked by a fierce irony.  For 8-1/2 months, I had to pry my children out of bed in order to get them to school on-time.  But on Tuesday, they did it all by themselves … and before 7:15 A.M.  Did I mention this was the first day of summer break?  WTF?!  There was still some yelling that morning, but at least not about being late.

Wednesday, day #2, was a bit better.  A 7:30 A.M. start for the boys with less yelling by me.

Thursday, day #3, was the best yet.  The boys didn’t come out of their rooms until after 8 A.M.  It was a beautiful thing.  I have no idea how long they had actually been awake before venturing downstairs, but I don’t really care.  I had my morning alone time and they had more pleasant dispositions.  Win-win.  Fingers crossed Friday brings more of the same.

But all good things must come to an end.  Camp starts next week so we’ll be back on a schedule.  No more sleeping in.  No more watching ESPN during a leisurely paced breakfast.  No more dawdling.  For the next three weeks, it’s back to setting alarm clocks and yelling, “Hurry up!”  Ah, good times.  I can already feel the frustration building.

Serenity now!

– LJDT

Eleven: The In-Between Year

A few days ago, my first-born turned 11 years old without much fanfare.

Unlike his first birthday 10 years ago, there was no elaborate celebration, no oversized cake, no massive pile of gifts and certainly no fuzzy red monster or balloon-making clown to entertain his friends.  Nope.  We ushered in year #11 with a birthday banner, an omelette and banana chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, a small collection of gifts and later, a quiet dinner with Grandma (who drove down from NY to surprise him … how awesome is she?!).  We kept it all very much on the D.L. (that’s “down low” for all you kids who don’t know the lingo), partly by design (we’ve been downgrading the extravagance and expense of birthdays each year) and partly by chance (our schedule last week involved multiple lacrosse practices, baseball games and school activities, including three class parties, field day and a school history skit/drum performance, so we didn’t exactly have time to add in a crazy birthday party).  And you know what?  He was okay with it.

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1st birthday – June 2004

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11th birthday – June 2014

I was feeling guilty about not making such a tremendous fuss as in years past, but the truth is he’s no longer a little kid and he doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.  Don’t get me wrong, he still wants to be the center of attention on his birthday, but it doesn’t need to involve balloons, streamers and noise-makers.

Turning 11, “graduating” from elementary school and going through puberty all signal the end of childhood.  Is my eldest really entering the next phase of his life … adolescence?  I think so.

Here are 8 signs my 11-year-old son is closer to a teenager than a little kid:

  1. He no longer believes in the tooth fairy … this became evident when, upon losing his last tooth, he handed it to me and asked for his dollar
  2. He is starting to get pubic hair … if you count 4 short armpit strands as hair
  3. He smells when he sweats … deodorant after practice and games is no longer an option
  4. He has become more modest about nudity, both his and mine … I have actually regained my privacy in both the bedroom and bathroom
  5. He is embarrassed by my public displays of affection … a kiss goodbye at the bus stop?  No way, Jose!
  6. He can finally sleep in past 7AM … so far, the record is only 8:30 on a (non-sports) weekend, but I’ll take it
  7. He wears man-sized sneakers … I just bought him size 9 cleats, which sucks because now his shoes are as expensive as mine!
  8. He’s moody, like every other teenager I know … can you say hormones?
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adult size cleats are not cheap

However,  for every step closer to adulthood that he takes, there are still signs that he’s not quite there yet.

Here are 8 signs my 11-year-old son is still just a child:

  1. He won’t get rid of Mikey, his purple, stuffed monkey … he may not sleep with it anymore, but he won’t throw it away either
  2. He is still losing baby teeth … although I think he is down to the final 2 molars
  3. He needs to be reminded to use actual soap in the shower, not just water … “tubbies” were never really his thing
  4. While he is more discreet when dressing or showering, he still doesn’t close the bathroom door … having his own bathroom makes this a bit less disturbing
  5. He still likes to be “tucked in” at night … and I do get hugs and kisses in private (just not near the bus stop)
  6. He still wakes up too early on days when he’s excited about something, like a birthday, trip or sports tournament … the big test will be Christmas morning
  7. He might wear man-sized sneakers, but he still doesn’t tie his shoes (or untie them when he takes them off ) … a big pet peeve of mine
  8. He still thinks butt jokes are super funny (the words balls and Uranus still get a hearty laugh, too) … between him and his brother, it’s like living with Beavis and Butthead (yes, I get the irony in the name)
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“Mikey” back in the day when he was a bedtime buddy

Eleven is an in-between stage and like all phases, it too will pass.  Some days I miss my chubby-cheeked, snuggly little boy, but more and more I’m enjoying the almost-as-tall-as-me, sometimes somewhat mature kid that took his place.  And these days, I cherish his hugs and kisses even more … even if I only receive them in private.

As my mother always says, no matter how old your kids get, they will always be your babies. Truer words were never spoken.

my first baby, c.2003

my first baby – circa 2003

– LJDT

Having a Penis Makes You Blind

I live in a male-dominated house, so a few things are all but guaranteed:

  1. In at least one bathroom, the toilet seat is up and there is still pee in the bowl (Yes, I know this is gross.  Despite having taught the boys during potty training to put the seat down, they seem to ignore this policy — especially in their own bathrooms)
  2. SportsCenter is on ALL THE TIME
  3. Only Mom can find things in, near or around the house
the men in my life

the men in my life

It is this latter point that has me baffled.  So much so that I think having a penis might actually make you blind … Okay, I know this isn’t actually true, but it’s the only explanation with which I can come up.

In the Tarr home, when something is misplaced (like the book that was “put away,” read: left somewhere), “hiding” underneath something else (such as the field trip permission slip that’s tucked under the current issue of Sports Illustrated), or even in its usual resting place (e.g., the peanut butter jar that is always in the same spot on the same shelf in the pantry), the males of the house are undoubtedly mystified about how to locate it.

“Where is the (fill in the blank)?”

“Did you move the (fill in the blank)?”

“I can’t find the (fill in the blank).”

When asked if they even looked for said item, the response is always “Yes,” when really what they mean is, “It’s not in my direct line of vision so I can’t see it.”  Argh!

Why is this?  Does having more testosterone cloud your vision?  Does having a penis make you blind?  Is the power of sight only in the X chromosomes, making it twice as strong in women?  Or maybe it’s not a gender issue, but just another Mom Superpower, like our ability to clean a dirty face with nothing more than a firm thumb and a little spit.

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Maybe the problem lies in a misunderstanding about the word “search.”  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, search is defined as a “verb: to carefully look for someone or something.”  Hmm.  To carefully look …

See, to my boys, searching involves simply standing in place and scanning the room for the “lost” item.  No looking under things or inside things.  No moving things around or even moving themselves around to look for it.  If it’s not in plain sight, it’s “missing.”  The funny thing is, whenever I announce that he who cannot find the “lost” item must pay me a finder’s fee if I locate it first, miraculous things happen.  Pillows get moved, drawers get opened, magazines get lifted, and the XY chromosome family members even move about house, looking in other rooms until whatever was previously reported as lost is found.  Amazing!

I’d like to think this is just a childhood phase that they will outgrow.  My boys are just 8 and about to be 11, so I know I should cut them some slack.  But when I think about it, I see that my husband is often guilty of the same offense — albeit to a lesser degree.  He claims that when he cannot find something it is because I move things around all the time.  Touchè!  I do like to organize, purge and reorganize (remember, I’m very Type A).  So on some level, he is right and I guess I should take some of the blame.

But honestly, with a little effort, a monkey can follow my organizational logic — especially if that monkey is a female … or a mom.

– LJDT