Dating and the Single Parent

I have tried dating. Either I attract mentally ill guys, or the good ones are taken. Over the past few years I’ve given up. I have found that I have more time for worthwhile pursuits and I’m happier. I play board games with my kids and I’m starting up a nonprofit.

So…I see very little need to date. Sure, it would be nice to have someone who could convince me I’m attractive and worthy of love, but that’s NO REASON to get into a relationship.

In addition, I have so little time with my boys as it is…dating me would be like robbing a hobo. I have only a few more years until they are both grown and out of the nest. Maybe that would be a good time to start the quality man hunt.

Are you a single parent who dates?

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Does Yelling Work?

When you jump into a cold pool or lake, it’s a shock to your body at first, but you adjust to it after a few minutes of swimming, right?

Are you old enough to remember that the news didn’t used to be so graphic? Or that sitcoms didn’t used to be sex-oriented and movies only implied sex. We never heard a curse word on the radio or TV when I was a kid. That only happened in R-rated movies and it didn’t occur very many times.

Today, we are inundated with graphic violence and sex and vulgar language. How did we get here?

The media has been desensitizing us for years. It’s like swimming around in the cold lake and not feeling cold anymore. We’ve gotten used to the sights and sounds of current pop culture.

Yelling is the same way. If I yell at my kids every time they don’t listen, or I want them to do something, or they’re out of my sight, or I’m just in a crabby mood, they become desensitized to my yelling. After a while, my yelling means the same as my talking used to.

So, what happens if I really have an urgent plea? Maybe my son is walking in front of a moving car. Or, he has his back to me and I’ve got the beaters tangled up in my tongue. If I yell, it won’t be translated as urgent to him. My yell won’t put him on alert. It’s been overplayed, overused, it’s been broadcast steadily for too long. The shock has worn off.

Plus, yelling sets off an angry response in the target of our tirade. Just because we’re angry, doesn’t mean the people around us should feel angry too. Why share the poison? Anger doesn’t typically inspire our kids to scoop the dog poop or clean up their room.

Who are you more happy to work for: Squidward, who yells and makes demands and clearly dislikes what you do, or SpongeBob who sees the good in you and is happy to lend a helping hand?

Yelling works when you hardly ever use it. Treat it like your fine china…pull it out only for special occasions. We, as parents, have lots of other tricks to get our kids to clean their rooms. :c)

What Would You Do?

Did you see the story about the youth football game that turned violent? The coaching staff of one team was unhappy with the referee’s call. A coach pushed the ref then one of the players ran over and tackled him. A melee ensued. It was a repulsive scene!

Jess did play youth football one season. I liked his coach because he was all about making it fun for the kids and teaching them the basic skills. However, on game days, some of the other teams were intense. It was all about winning.

How do we cross the line, from parents and youth mentors (like the melee’ coaches,) into a rabid, mindless mob? Are we feeding our kids too much violence through TV and movies? Are some of us (like the coaches and some of the parents I work with) modeling violence to our children: yelling, throwing things, showing a low frustration tolerance for disappointment?

If my son was on the team that started the brawl, I would have immediately plucked him off the field and gone home, never to play football on that team again. If he was on the other team, I probably would have allowed him to remain and hear what the coaches had to say, but at the end of the day, I may have removed him from the league. If the coaches had a substantive talk with them and made a big deal about how to handle conflict and violence, I may have let him continue his football career.

For the guys standing on the sideline, this is a big lesson in life. Do we join the crowd, or do we follow our conscience?

Watch For Teen Entering the Roadway

Jess got his driver’s license last week. You may be happy to know that Progressive can now hire a second spokesperson. With the rates I’m paying for a teenager on my policy, you should be seeing some very flashy commercials now.

In all honesty, I am pretty impressed with him! He learned to drive in a city of a few million people. He passed the written test the first time and the driving test the first time. He drives at night, on the freeway, on the highway between Phoenix and Kingman.

I took a lot of flack from other teen parents when they found out I was letting Jess get his learner’s permit. As I stood around a New Year’s Eve party with a bunch of “band parents” they went on and on about how they won’t let their kids start driving until they’re 18. It’s too dangerous.

The harsh reality is, I’m a single parent. None of them were. Due to economic strains, I had to move my family just outside the school boundaries about 3 years ago. I didn’t want to put my kids in a different school because I know how difficult that is, so I’ve been dropping them off and picking them up every day. My current job requires me to be in the office until 7pm. So, I would take my “lunch” break, pick them up, take them home, drive back to work every day.

With Jess driving, he can pick up his brother and get them both home. I can get my work day done in fewer hours. Plus, Jess can get himself to evening band rehearsal without me breaking my neck to be home in time to get him there.

OK. So that’s the selfish reason. The safety reason is this: Jess is a responsible young man, so he’s earned the privilege of driving. If I don’t let him drive until he’s 18, I won’t have much influence over his driving. Right now, he hears me say all the time, “You’re driving a lethal weapon.” He has also gotten talks about how most teenage driving accidents occur with friends in the car. I have to approve anyone he gives a ride to. He is afraid of the punishment that might befall him if he uses his cell phone while driving.

It also doesn’t hurt that I get to choose his vehicle: a 4-cylinder pickup truck with room for 1 passenger!! (The slightly newer version of my first vehicle :cD )

All this to say…I think I made a good decision in letting my son drive. He agrees. He’s LOVING his new-found freedom. I’m excited to see him gaining more independence. I pat him on the back frequently for being such a great kid. secretly, I pat myself too. :c)

 

In God I Trust…or do I??

 

This weekend is family camp for our Boy Scout troop. Jess and I weren’t able to go due to a marching band thing. Joey still wanted to go, which is typical for Joey. He is fearless when it comes to going away without me. They both are. (silent weeping)

The biggest problem I have isn’t that my kids don’t need me as much as they used to, it’s that I can’t protect them when they are out of my sight. I have to trust that the family he rides with is going to drive safely. I have to trust that the other campers will make sure he has enough food to eat, that he is accounted for at all times, that he’s not scared or hurt in any way.

And that is precisely my problem: I am trying to trust other people to watch over him. For a person who has control issues, who feels like she has to do everything herself or it won’t be done right, I am trying to give up that control to other people. That just gives me ulcers, sleepless nights, and gnawed off fingernails.

What I should be doing is trusting God. He has proven his trustworthiness to me every day of my life. He loves my kids more than I do, and he has the capacity to care for them whether they are under my roof or under the stars.

Jess was out-of-town by himself a couple of times this summer. Now Joey. It is happening pretty regularly. I guess I have 2 choices: Trust man or trust God. Well, I would have to give up the sleepless nights, gut-wrenching ulcers, and all-around-hysteria, but I’ll work on trusting God. He hasn’t let me down yet!

Single Parent Down

For you single parents out there, isn’t it hard being sick? It would be so awesome to lay in bed and have someone bring you juice and chicken noodle soup, wouldn’t it? But instead we have to make sure our kids have their needs met.

I’m not complaining about needing to take care of my kids. That’s the job I signed up for when I gave birth. I’m just saying it’s a tough day when I’d rather be laying in bed, but instead I go grocery shopping for lunches this week, and do laundry for school and work.

However, I need to stop complaining. I have a friend who is a single parent. She was diagnosed a few years ago with stage 3 breast cancer. She went through surgeries and treatments for at least a year straight. She had to stop working she was so sick. Yet, she never stopped being a mom…a terrific mom at that.

Hats off to single moms who press on through the good, the bad, and the ugly and continue to be the best parent they can be.

Priorities

I am pretty opinionated when it comes to parenting. TOO opinionated! I know this because I find myself shaking my head at things I see other people do. Maybe I’m really being judgmental. But, I tend to put myself in the kids’ shoes as opposed to the parents’.

I was sitting in the salon today while my son was getting his hair cut. The lady in the chair next to him was about my age, and from the sound of her story, she is the mom of a couple teen daughters. She was telling the hairdresser about her daughter who is in diving. The daughter asked her mom to videotape her diving practice so she could watch it later and critique herself.

Well, mom decided she didn’t want to sit through the practice, so she left to get her nails done. When she got back, practice was over and she wasn’t able to videotape.

Of course the daughter was upset or disappointed after the practice because she didn’t get the videotape. Mom was upset that daughter was upset because she had driven the daughter to school, then went to work, then took daughter to diving practice.

I’m curious to know your opinion on this.

My opinion is that, if mom didn’t want to stay, she should have told the daughter she couldn’t videotape that day. But secondly, WHY couldn’t she help the daughter out? She’s tired? She needs some “me-time?”

I may be an extremist, but I took the responsibility of having kids. My kids had no choice in the matter. So, until they have flown the coop, it is my responsibility to support them in every way. Of course I have to work and make sure we have food and electricity. But I do those things to fulfill the obligation I have to my kids. I owe it to them because I brought them into the world. If my son has an interest in music, I provide (within my means) the opportunity for him to play music. If he wants to play music, football, soccer, and be in the photography club, I put my foot down. Focus on one activity and do it well. I’ll support him in every way to ensure he has the opportunity to do that activity to the best of his ability. AND I support him emotionally by attending every performance and making sure he gets to rehearsals on time.

If I’m not cheering for him, who is? If this is something he loves and I act like I don’t love it, he is getting the message that I don’t love HIM.

If my son had a band practice and asked me to videotape it so he could watch the tape and improve himself, I’m not going to blow it off for a manicure. That is my opportunity to tell my teenager, in a language he can totally understand, “I love you! You’re important!”

What do you think?

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We Are Worth More Than We Know

I was sickened by a recent story in the Phoenix area. A 10-year-old girl was punished for sneaking a popsicle from the freezer. She was made to run around the back yard for 2 hours. It was 107 degrees! Then she was locked in a small footlocker by her father and step mother who promptly went to bed. The little girl died alone, in the dark, locked in that box.

Information trickled out about the treatment she had received while alive. She was chronically hungry and the target of abuse at home. Her mother abandoned her when she couldn’t stand how the other adults were treating her (the mother!) So, she left this child and her 2 other children with these people and left.

In my profession, I see family dysfunction every day. But it’s in varying degrees. The footlocker would be a 10 on the dysfunction scale. I know I fall somewhere on the scale (because no family is perfect,) but I’d better be close to a 1.

MOST of the kids I see are struggling in life because of the relationship between them and their parents. Again, we have some extremes of abuse. But I also see kids who are suffering because dad doesn’t seem to listen. Or mom is always spending time with friends and is never home. Or dad works all the time and never goes to his kids’ games or performances. Sometimes the mom THINKS she is doing everything she needs to do to protect the kids and love them, but she is smothering the heck of out of them, not letting her teenager out of her sight. She’s even suggested that when the teen graduates and wants to go to college, mom will divorce dad and move with her.

I know we are all dysfunctional in some way, but the most important thing to me at this stage in my life is being the type of parent who recognizes what my kids need from me as opposed to doing what makes ME feel fulfilled. What they need changes as the life “seasons” change. When they were young, they needed much more hands-on stuff from me: combing hair, bathing, tying shoes, wiping faces…and, at that point, I wanted more time to myself. Now that they’re teens, they need me to stand on the sidelines and cheer, and, strangely, what I want is to spend more time with them. Of course we get in the huddle at home regularly. I still hug and kiss them and tell them I love them. I still make dinner and expect everyone to sit down together (even if it’s frozen pizza.) I still listen to them talk about the things that are important to them.

But, when we leave home, I have to let them go out on the field without me. Sometimes they get knocked down. But the lesson is in getting up and running the play again…better this time.

It’s painful to watch, but it’s rewarding to be the person they say hi to when the camera is on them.

I know I’ve got to let them go to hold on to them. It’s really hard! But if I love THEM more than I love ME, I’ll do it.

First Day of School

Today, Joey is starting 8th grade, and Jess is starting 10th grade. Middle school and high school. I have been dreading this day. I know many moms dread the first day of school because they’re little darlings are growing up. But I dread the schedule.

Jess is in marching band. If you think the football team is tough, you should check out the marching band! Jess has morning practices before school. He wakes up at 4:00am and I drop him off at school no later than 5:30am. On Monday nights he has a late practice: 6-9pm. They perform on Friday nights at the football games, and Saturdays are often competitions.

I LOVE marching band, but I hate early, early mornings!

Then there is Joey. His school changed their start and end times. His school starts at 9am and gets out at 4pm. We don’t live on the bus route, so I have to drop him off…3 hours later than I drop Jess off. By the time I get to work, I’ve been up for 5 hours and I still have a 10-hour work day! THUS…I dread the school year!

However…we have a new twist in our routine this year. Jess turned 16 over the summer. He is eligible for his driver’s license. He’ll take the driving test this Friday. When he passes the test, he will become Joey’s chauffeur, picking him up from school every day. That will make life a little easier for me in the afternoon, but mornings will be tough.

We only have one vehicle. So, I will have to take Jess to school while the rooster still sleeps. Many hours later, I’ll take Joey to school, drop our one-and-only vehicle off at Jess’s school, then take my bike and some public transportation to work.

Did I mention, I’ve been dreading this day? Some moms dread the first day of Kindergarten. I dread the first day of every school year. Not so much because my kids are growing up, (they remind me of it every day!) but because I don’t get to do my favorite thing…SLEEP!! 🙂

Oh…one more thing…Jess came home from a week at band camp and was noticeably taller! THEN I happened upon a picture of Jess and Joey together a year ago and Joey was seriously 6-8″ shorter than he is today. So…this, my friends, this is one of the ways they remind me every day that they are growing up and not needing a mom as much. Life is a wild ride! (and I love it!) Although they don’t need me as much, I can take pride in the totally awesome young men I have helped to mold. 🙂

Joey is WAITING for me to finish this blog and take him to school!!

The Power Struggle Pit

Every parent has gotten stuck in this pit. We want our child to do something, but they don’t want to do it. It’s a tug of war between our will and theirs, and someone is going to lose.

It happens multiple times a day: “Brush your teeth.” “Finish your homework.” “Eat your peas.” “Scoop the dog poop.” “Turn off the video game.”

If they don’t want to do it, that’s when the power struggle escalates. We can’t really make them do it, so we threaten, yell, or lecture to try to strong-arm them into doing it. But, in the end they have to CHOOSE to do those things.

Fortunately for our kids, we are cunning, child experts. We don’t need to flex our parenting muscles to intimidate them into doing what we want, we are gong to give them simple choices…choices that will make them WANT to do what we ask.

He doesn’t want to brush his teeth before school, let him choose between brushing his teeth or getting the dessert item removed from his lunch bag. Afterall, if he won’t brush, you’ll need to cut down on his sugar intake. You’re looking out for his best interest. “Would you rather brush your teeth or have me take the Rice Krispie Treat out of your lunch so you don’t have to eat too much sugar?”

She doesn’t feel like doing homework right now. Fine. She can choose when she is able to use the phone, or the TV, or the video game, because she won’t be able to do that until her homework is done. “I’ll do my homework later.” “OK. I’m going to hold on to your phone. When you’re done with your homework, I’ll give it back to you.”

He won’t eat the peas. OK. He can choose between peas and dessert with the family or no peas and no dessert. “We’re going to have ice cream sundaes for dessert. If you finish your peas by the time I serve the dessert, you can have some. If not, you can be excused at that time.” 

She doesn’t want to scoop the dog poop. Who does?? Again, no use of the thing that is most important to her (phone, TV, games) until it’s done. [daughter is sitting in front of the TV and ignores your request to scoop the dog poop.] “I’m going to turn the TV off until the dog poop is scooped. When that’s done, I’ll turn it back on.”

He won’t turn off the video game and it’s time for dinner. He can choose to turn it off or lose the privilege. [Another incident of ignoring the wise parent when asked to turn off the video game.] “OK. I’ll give you 2 minutes to decide. You can either turn the game off or have me turn it off. If I turn it off, you won’t be able to play until this time tomorrow.” [You could set a timer. If the child is still playing when the timer goes off, you reach behind and unplug the game, taking the power cord to a safe, secret location. If the child turns the game off while you’re unplugging, it’s too late. Continue on with the consequence. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated in that way. He had 2 minutes to comply.]

When you give him the choice, it’s time for you to let go. You need to demonstrate that you don’t really care which he chooses. If he wants to lose his video game privilege until this time tomorrow. That’s fine. You’ll give him the cord back then. She doesn’t want to scoop poop right now. OK. You don’t really care if she can’t watch TV right now. No more discussion. The choice has been made. Time to go about your day.

Giving your child choices allows him to make decisions and feel more in control of his world. Allowing him to choose to follow your direction or lose a privilege should relieve your frustration.

Avoiding the power struggle pit is a win-win situation for both you and your child.

And don’t forget the Top Parenting Tip: consistency!!