Climbing Trees and Hoping for the Best

If you know me or read this blog regularly, you know I’m a (recovering) control freak and worrier, which makes me a little overprotective as a mother.  I’d like to think I’m somewhere between a free-range parent and a helicopter parent, but I know I lean more towards helicopter at times — despite my best intentions.

When my oldest was in kindergarten, he fell out of a tree.  The same tree I watched him climb nearly every day after school while I chatted with the other moms.  Each day he’d climb that tree with a group of kids, always without incident … Until that one day when his grip simply gave out.  I was there that day, too, chatting and watching.  Needless to say, I felt horrible.  I also felt guilty, despite knowing that it wasn’t my fault.  It’s not like I pushed him or anything!  To add salt to the wound, my guilt swelled a week later when I finally took him to the doctor and learned that his ankle was broken.  Yep, Mom of The Year Award for brushing it off with an Ace bandage and ibuprofen for nearly 10 days.  In my defense, the kid never complained of pain!

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A broken ankle didn’t slow this tough kid down (January, 2009).

Fast forward almost seven years and I’m still trying to protect him and his younger brother.  Not from falling out of trees per se, but from bigger missteps.  The stakes get higher as kids get older.  I sometimes worry that a poor decision will have serious consequences.  I know my boys are good kids, but getting them to think before they act can be challenging.  Getting them to see beyond the next 10 minutes even more so.  I no longer feel guilty when they get hurt, make a mistake or mess up, but I do worry and stress.  Am I telling them the right things?  Am I setting a good example?  Is my message getting through?

Enter friends with older kids.  It’s a blessing to have friends with adult children who are willing to share their knowledge and experience.  It provides perspective.  At a party last weekend, I met a man with two college-aged boys who told me that fretting over every action and decision our kids make is natural, but you have to keep it in check.

“You send your kids off to college and hope that they make good choices.  That they don’t drink and drive, use drugs or jump off a cliff because someone dared them.  There’s a lot of finger-crossing and hoping for the best.  You spend years teaching them right from wrong and how their words and actions have consequences.  You just hope they were listening.  But in the end, kids are going to do what they want to do.  You can’t stop them from climbing trees.” – Phil

Phil is right.  I can only give my kids the tools they need to make smart choices and hope for the best.  No matter how good they are, they will mess up and choose poorly from time to time.  Hopefully, their mistakes will be small and the consequences minor.

So tomorrow night, when I send my kids out on Halloween to trick-or-treat on their own with their buddies in neighborhoods that are not my own, I will remind them of basic safety rules and proper behavior, then hope for the best.  I’ll have my fingers crossed, too, for good measure.

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– LJDT

Just Say No! Why I am the Nancy Reagan of Volunteering

Let me start by saying thank you to all those moms and dads who volunteer to coach, manage, organize and otherwise get involved for our kids’ sakes.  Truly, I appreciate your time, effort and dedication.  I used to be one of you.  I used to be a volunteer slut.  I didn’t know how to say no.  Class mom, team manager, spirit wear coordinator, committee chairperson, field trip chaperone … I said yes to it all.  Repeatedly.  For years.

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At first, I enjoyed spending time in the kids’ classrooms and being productive on the sidelines.  But after a few years and a few too many volunteer posts, the joy was gone.  I was over-committing and becoming resentful.  As I became a more seasoned mom, I realized that I wasn’t always saying yes for the right reasons.  I wasn’t always saying yes because I wanted to.  I was often saying yes because I felt I was supposed to.  That’s what stay-at-home moms do, right?  We volunteer.

But not anymore.  Not me.  Now, I hardly ever say yes.  Now, I am a volunteer prude.

As a freelance writer with a corporate background, I am the PTO’s wet dream:  I have the time, the skills and the resources to help.  What I don’t have is the drive or the desire, for three simple reasons:

  1. My kids don’t care.  Back in the day, my boys used to beg me to be in their classrooms to help out.  Nowadays, they practically beg me not to get involved.  I guess it’s just part of growing up.  Fair enough … You don’t have to tell me twice.
  2. I’m not interested in impressing other moms.  Let’s be honest … Kids don’t care if cupcakes are homemade and Pintrest-worthy or store-bought and prepackaged.  They just want cupcakes.  There are, however, a handful of moms who are prone to judging and think that as a stay-at-home mom, I should be baking Duff Goldman-quality treats.  I’m not even close, but it’s all good because I’m also not trying to impress anyone.  I’m too old for that crap.
  3. I don’t know how to do it casually.  As a perfectionist, I stress over everything being done right and I end up treating my volunteer posts like full-time jobs.  I invest way too much time, energy and money and as a result, become bitter.  Ironically, volunteering makes me mean and that’s not good for me or my family.

So now I follow Nancy Reagan’s advice and just say no.  At first I felt guilty, but I’m over it.  I’m even getting good at it.  Last month when the homeroom parent sign-up sheet came around, I politely passed it along.  When the JV football team searched for a team mom, I graciously declined.  When the PTO requested book fair helpers, I nicely and unapologetically said no thank you.  This doesn’t mean that I won’t do my small part when asked.  I will happily contribute money or supplies when I can.  I will even help out at the occasional class party or team dinner if my kids want me to and time permits.  But if you’re looking for someone to spearhead the upcoming Halloween party or organize the next fundraiser, I’m no longer your girl.  Worker bee, yes.  Queen bee, no.

Am I a slacker?  Maybe, but it’s for the best.  I know my family would agree.

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– LJDT

Rough and Tough and Moving On

This past week and a half has been rough.  Emotionally draining and exhausting … and unproductive to boot.  My floors are filthy, my refrigerator is empty and my blog has been stale all week as a result.  I’ve been so consumed by my own issues that I’ve neglected everything and everyone around me — except when I was a raving lunatic, screaming at someone for something trivial.  Can you say misplaced anger and anxiety?

It may not have been pretty, but I’m better for it.  The turbulence of the past 12+ days was the final step I needed to close an ugly chapter in my life.  It was tough, but necessary in order for me to move on.  What got me through was a lot of “me time” that included the following:

  • Mornings at the gym
  • The occasional afternoon nap
  • Dark chocolate covered almonds
  • Old school music played way too loud
  • Date night with my husband
  • Phone calls and texts with my besties
  • Open and honest communication with my family

Life isn’t always easy and bad things happen to good people.  Truth be told, everyone is dealing with something and sometimes we need to do what’s best for ourselves in order to survive.  Even if it seems selfish.  For me, writing this blog and going to the gym are what I need.  Sharing my thoughts makes me feel less alone, and being stronger physically makes me stronger emotionally.  I am a better person thanks to HPATC, Force Fitness and my computer.

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But I am also lucky to have a strong support system.  My husband is my rock.  He’s pragmatic and calm — the complete opposite of me.  He may not always verbalize what he’s feeling, but his actions speak volumes.  My girlfriends are my sisters.  They know when to make me laugh, when to let me talk and when to just let me be silent.  They each provide me with something different, and it’s always what I need.  My sister is my inspiration.  She knows how to let things go and she doesn’t dwell in the past.  I’m trying to be more like that, but it’s not always easy.  And my parents … They are simply amazing.  Their unconditional love and support was exactly what I needed to close this chapter and move forward.

So yes, it was a rough week, but I survived.  I’m back to being productive (I cleaned the house, bought groceries and wrote this post) and even upbeat.  In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche and Kanye West, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Word.

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– LJDT

Fundraiser Overload

I love autumn.  The weather gets cooler, the leaves turn colors, football season is in full swing and fundraising season is winding down.  Yes, I said it — the dreaded “f” word (and this time I’m not talking about the 4-letter “f” word that rhymes with ‘art’ and makes my skin crawl).  If you have kids in school, be it elementary, middle or high school, then you know what I’m talking about.  ‘Tis the season for school spirit wear sales, book fairs, magazine drives, wrapping paper campaigns, team car washes, mattress bargains (yes, that’s a real thing) and boosterthons (be it a run-, jog- or walk-athon).  Even the annual fall class picture day event is a fundraiser.  Multiply these activities by the number of kids you have and the requests become overwhelming.

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I get that these fundraisers are necessary in order to provide our children with cool and unique experiences not covered in the school budget (insert commonly expressed, “What do I pay taxes for?” remark here).  And while I appreciate that most of these campaigns are highly localized, reaching only our school community, it’s the larger appeals that stress me out.  The drives and -thons.  The ones for which teachers bribe students to guilt out-of-town family members and friends into ponying up money for a magazine subscription or pledging $1.00+ for every lap they run (knowing full well that every kid is encouraged to complete 35 laps) in exchange for some small prize.

Problem is, those of us with kids (or those of you with grandkids, nieces, nephews or even just friends with kids) are inundated with the same requests.  Every kid in every school comes home with the same magazine drive, the same boosterthon campaign, the same candy/wrapping paper/tchotchke sale.  Maybe if schools started selling wine or raffling off useful commodities like a night of free babysitting or a reserved parking spot at Back to School night, they’d see a better return.  I, for one, do not need any more wrapping paper and will most likely never buy my mattress from the high school football team … and I’m pretty sure neither will my parents, sister or friends.

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So if you recently got an email from me about a school fundraiser, know that I sent it against my will and do not expect you to contribute.  Really.  But if you are so inclined, thank you, thank you, thank you!  I’ll try to return the favor so your kid, too, can come home with a new boomerang or wrist band he’ll never use.

– LJDT

P.S. This hysterical Texas middle school fundraising letter (shown below) has been making its way around the internet to the delight of parents everywhere … Genius!

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