There is nothing that rings more true for a single mom.
I chose to be a single mom. When I wasn’t married at 34 – and there were no prospects on the horizon – I decided I would go ahead and have a kid using a sperm donor. I also knew I would be on my own raising my child and I decided early on that my journey would embrace anyone who wanted to participate.
The Power of We
became a rallying cry for me. I found a care provider for Katie who had worked in early childhood development and taught me ways to parent and guide her (in particular about the RIE method* that has helped me with Katie and so many other children).
The Power of We
was a promise my old college roommate, Sandra, made when she jumped in and helped me when Katie got colicky. She’d walk in to check on my around 6pm every day and I could walk out and get some fresh air and a break. Thirteen years later Sandra is still very involved in Katie’s life providing a welcome respite from a driving mother (me) offering different energy and an fantastic extended family (she’s Creole with six sisters and a zillion relatives).
The Power of We
brought my mom and me together around a common goal as she taught me to master all the operational issues associated with being a mom – from feeding to sleeping to mastering the bath. Over the years I have called her with every kind of problem looking for advice or just a shoulder to lean on.
The Power of We
is just another way of saying “It Takes a Village” and anyone who has raised a child knows you really, truly don’t do it alone. It takes an orchestra of teachers, coaches, friends, family, and so many more that provide guidance, direction, inspiration and correction to both you and your child as they grow.
The Power of Weis what I teach Katie now that she’s old enough to start giving back. It started with her friends and teaching her how to listen and offer support and help. It moved into taking action in the community with Girl Scouts and the Second Harvest Food Bank. And now I am seeing her consider “the greater good” as she thinks through ideas for her science project or thinks about what she might want to do with her life.
In a world where so many want to emphasize individual achievement and rugged individualism, I believe The Power of We is our hope for the future. Not to sound too “Obama” about this, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family, friends and community.
That is The Power of We.
*Interesting, I did RIE with Katie nearly 12 years ago and loved it. I always told Katie what I was going to do with her before I did it and I still do it today. Even as an adult, there’s nothing I hate more than one someone tries to make me do something without a heads-up. No wonder kids always scream when someone shoves a Kleenex in their face without warning! In searching for a link to REI now, I see that somewhere mid-2000’s, it became a “fad.” Whatever you read, know you can adapt REI to fit what works for you. It’s the intentions that are meaningful.
We attended one the best events about college finance and planning last night at Santa Cruz High School.
Steven Shapiro (who I met with privately) had told me I needed to go and he was right. Lynn O’Shaughnessy was amazing. While Katie started to wear out, I think I could have stayed for another two hours. The information was that good and her speaking style was fantastic.
I’ll do my best to share the highlights – which is to say those things that I took notes on. I think it’s safe to say subscribing to her blog and buying her book The College Solution are two good bets. I believe almost everything I heard is in her blog or book in one way or another.
Financial aid is accessible for nearly everyone. You just have to know how to be a good consumer. I believe this is where her book/blog can really help. She has so many insights on how to approach aid. Oh yeah, and those sports scholarships everyone thinks exist, the really don’t. 2%. That’s how many kids get sports scholarships. But there are a ton of schools that give merit-based aid.
Where you go to school doesn’t determine career success. She cited studies that compared Ivy League kids with non-Ivy League and the biggest predictor of success is the nature of the child, not where they went to school. Duh. It also doesn’t affect grad school. Here’s her write up from a study on where kids who go to Harvard Law did their undergrad work.
She spit out a ton of websites that can help you figure out costs, search colleges, even help kids figure out how they rank against their peers and their chances of getting into specific colleges. I found this blog post from Lynn that lists most of what she shared with us. She’s screened the (apparently there are tons more) and she likes the ones she’s listed and spells out her caveats.
She recommended two more books:
Colleges that Change Lives which talks about the value of smaller schools. It was interesting to hear her talk about this because I went to USC for one semester as a freshman in 1980 and I HATED it. I was so miserable. I was lost in a sea of students with no access to my professors, teaching assistants that barely spoke English and no personal experience at all. I transferred to UC Davis where I fell in love with school, my major was small and intimate (Rhetoric) and even my minor in Psych which was much larger, was still close and inviting. Big schools can really be a challenge for a kid who needs to feel like they belong.
Students’ Guide to Colleges. She really likes this book because the kids actually write up the reviews and provide insight on how things really work, the nature of the professors and much more.
Okay – that’s the big picture. Happy to answer questions if you have them. I feel like we can do this now. There’s a lot of research to do to find the right schools with the right financial aid packages but at least now I know how to “play the game.”
UPDATE: this infographic just came out summarizing student loan debt in the US. Very interesting.
The crowd was soothing and peaceful. It’s always interesting to walk alone and drift in and out of other people’s conversations. Overhearing memories of Shannon, discussions of the crime, talk of being hungry and what a nice day it turned out to be.
I took pictures and just felt at peace. I am happy knowing I live in the kind of place that could come together at such a moment. A few tourists were in town and I explained what was happening. I assured them they were safe and this was a good place to visit. I went to my car to to sit a moment and look at the photos I had taken. I wanted to post them to Instagram and so I had to move my car to get signal. I left the parking garage and parked on River Street across from the pedestrian bridge.
At the base of the footpath, there was a crowd of transients, or homeless, or hobos as my daughter would say (why are kids using that term, it kind of bothers me). They were in an animated discussion about the walk. One man was extremely upset that Take Back Santa Cruz has staged the walk and lamented that now there were going to be attacks on homeless people because of our action. That there had already been an attack (in fact true) and that more were going to happen because of these activists.
I sat there feeling kind of surreal. I had just walked. I want Santa Cruz to be safe. But I had never heard the strident feelings of this crowd before. These men were articulate. They knew what they were talking about and they were clearly concerned that being in Santa Cruz was suddenly going to be harder for them. I have to say I had a hard time feeling compassion for them. If they were bright enough to understand the politics of the situation, I felt like they should be bright enough to conduct themselves in a way that didn’t scare or intimidate other people.
If anything, I wish they had been part of the walk.
In an instant, the group disbanded. I don’t know if someone broke them up or they could see the police on the way or what happened. They just evaporated all going different directions.
It was a strange evening. A Santa Cruz evening to be perfectly honest. With all sides presenting themselves. With everyone having an opinion.
In the neighborhood on Broadway where the attack happened.
“Mom, you have to stop,” Katie tells me firmly but still calmly. Thank goodness she’s patient.
“You know,” I said, “I think I am having an epiphany. I need to unlearn how to parent you. I have been doing these things since you were born and now I need to stop doing them. And that’s going to be hard.”
I went on telling her that from the beginning, I had to anticipate what she was doing, redirect her or tell her what to do almost all the time. From brush your teeth to look both ways and everything in between. As I broke it down – and as she caught on and started thinking of things on her own – we both realized how many things parents do all day to help their kid grow up.
But, as a very smart therapist once taught me, the habits we learn that once served us well, often become bad behaviors when they are no longer needed. This was truly one of those moments. I realized I need to unlearn parenting.
It’s super hard.
I am basically trying to break habits that I have worked hard to cultivate to keep Katie safe, to teach her to be a good person, to care for others, to stand on her own. Now I need to shut up because I did my job. She’s good. Really good but me telling her what to do now is driving her crazy. And I can see how parents fall into power struggles with their kids at this age – 13 (almost) – because we have been telling them what to do for ages.
But now, it’s time to trust them and let them figure it out. They know. Seriously, I know she hears me in her head. My work here is done. If I want to have a relationship with her going forward, I need to stand back and let her go it on her own. Will she screw up? I certainly hope so because that will only positively reinforce my voice in her head.
Of course I’ll be there if I see her making big mistakes.
But my approach will be different. Offering her suggestions and alternatives but shutting up in between so she can weigh the options and make her own sound decisions. Oh yeah, and I still have to shut up. Talk less. I tell that to myself all the time. It’s horribly difficult. I pride myself on being right. But that doesn’t matter. Right this time is backing off and butting out.
We ended our talk with me asking her to be patient with me. That unlearning takes time. That I would totally blow it and tell her to wipe her feet before going inside and to brush her hair before we leave and all the other little things we have done for so long to get to this wonderful place of self-sufficiency.
She promised me she’d cut me some slack. And she told me she’d be happy to start telling me what I needed to do on a regular basis. Sounds lovely.
I turn 50 tomorrow. I was fine with it until about six months ago went it felt like everything went sideways. My best friend got breast cancer, I got a thyroid infection and suddenly mortality was scarier than any Freddy Kruger movie.
So, being a writer, I had to make a list of 50 things that are bugging me. My 30 versus 50 list. I bet there something on here that might resonate for you – and it if doesn’t, you’re not 50 yet!
Please! Comment with your 30 vs 50 moments. Love to hear them.
The Old 30
The New 50
Examining my face for zits.
Examining my face for old man whiskers.
Fish oil for my cat’s hairballs.
Fish oil for my heart.
Perfectly full eyebrows.
Andy Rooney eyebrows.
Avoiding dirty old men.
Flirting with dirty old men.
Nursing my colon after a spicy meal.
Prepping my colon for a picture taking adventure.
“Are you a Cancer”?
Friends with cancer.
Not sleeping because the night is calling!
Not sleeping because monkey brain is calling.
Hitting the clubs at 10pm.
Hitting the sack at 10pm.
Where did I park the car?
Where did I put my keys?
I totally didn’t expect that!
I so knew that was going to happen.
Roller coasters are awesome!
Roller coasters mean whiplash.
The unexpected missed period (pregnant?!)!
The unexpected missed period (menopause?!)!
Friends talking about their hangovers.
Friends talking about their ailments.
Getting mail from Planned Parenthood.
Getting mail from AARP.
Needing to try everything.
Happy just watching.
Fear of falling (drunk).
Fear of falling (bones breaking).
Not getting why people like the Grateful Dead.
Not getting why people like Dubstep.
Knowing every brand out there cared about us.
Knowing nobody but pharma cares about us.
Finding a bra that looks good through clothes.
Finding a bra that helps me look like I have boobs.
Having cats because they are cool.
Having cats because they are easy.
Getting sun glasses to make me look cool.
Getting reading glasses because I freaking can’t see.
Sitting in a meeting that is taking forever.
Sitting in bed realizing another week flew by.
Planning to buy my first house.
Planning to retire and keep my house.
Being a flirt.
Being a cougar.
Posing for pictures to hide a double chin.
Posing for pictures to hide my turkey neck.
Fear of getting busted for having weed.
Needing weed so I can bust a move.
Getting excited about new technology – I am an early adopter!
Getting freaked about new technology – what? I have to learn something new.
I got cold because I refused to wear a jacket over my outfit.
I get cold because I got a chill and my huge coat isn’t keeping me warm enough.
Believing a President could change everything.
Knowing a President can’t do a damn thing with a hostile Congress.
Getting noticed when I drive around with the car roof down.
Nobody noticing me. At all.
My friends wanted to go for drinks.
My friends want to go for coffee.
Pulling my hair up to get it out of my face.
Tugging my hair down to try and get some near my face.
Trying to figure out all the things I should do before I die.
Trying to figure out if I can pay off my mortgage before I die.
Believing in opportunity.
Believing in hard work and a touch of luck.
Being called immature.
Being called “ma’am”.
Loving romantic movies (how sweet!).
Hating romantic movies (that so doesn’t happen!).
Checking my weight every day.
Checking my blood pressure every day.
Missing the happy hour freebies.
Not qualifying for senior citizen discounts yet.
Deciding if I should get renters insurance.
Deciding if I should get long term care insurance.
Looking forward to Christmas because it was magical.
Dreading Christmas because it comes around too damn fast.
Thinking having kids will be so hard.
Thinking having my kid leave for college will be so hard.
Waking up at 11am and thinking, just one more hour.
Waking up at 6am and thinking, crap, I gotta pee.
Working hard because I am building my business.
Working hard because I need to earn while I can!
Buying hair color to cover the bad blonde I chose.
Buying hair color for “gray hair” so I don’t look brassy.
Saving to buy that thing I really want.
Hustling to give more crap to the Goodwill.
Hating change because they way we were doing it was so cool.
Hating change because I just can’t adapt that easily.
That pain in my chest is heart ache. The jerk.
The pain in my chest might be a heart attack. Crap.
I am way too cool and too hip to be such a dud. I realized, while driving home from dropping off the kid at school, that there’s some insane super-ego voice in my head providing a constant narration of what everyone else is doing wrong.
Don’t try to hide, I saw you!
On the 2-mile drive this morning, I saw the following violations (in quotes as narrated by the insane voice):
“You are driving way too fast near this school, in the rain. Slow down chump.”
“Ha, ha, ha! When you cut through the gas station to try to avoid making a more sensible right turn at the light. Yet you still lose! Too slow!”
“Does your mother know you left the house in just a tee shirt when it’s pouring rain outside? Now you are going to be wet all day. How in the world can you learn if you are dripping and cold?”
“Trash cans are supposed to be out of the street within 24 hours of pickup. Now these things are road hazards in this darn rain.”
“How can your parents let you ride your bike in the rain? And without a helmet? Is this Darwin’s theory at work?”
See? I need to settle down. When did this happen to me?
I am not authoritative by nature. I am proud of my self-actualized existence; righteous in my commitment to acting on principle rather than rule. I can spout Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to explain away much of human behavior. But how do I explain the paradox of seeing myself as being principled but requiring everyone else to follow the damn rules?
I see my reactions playing out in how Katie is looking at the world. She was born an old soul and actually does a pretty good job thinking things through (and questioning authority). Generally, she uses principled reasoning but she can be a rule follower when her friends are around. Being a role model is so hard. I can hear that voice yelling at me to stop screwing her up.
Aww crap. It’s time to go pick up the kid.
Do you have this voice in your head? I would love to hear your stories! Comment!
Yep. Totally true. She thought she might do soccer but on the free trial day, she was clobbered in the head and never went back. She kind of likes basketball but not enough to commit. Instead, she’s been a dancer and an artist. Now fast forward to sixth grade and sports are happening at middle school. Her friends are on all kinds of teams but still nothing really called her name.
Then I had a great idea: what about softball?
We have a great league with a terrific reputation, plus I could walk while she practiced so we would both be “working out” at the same time. C’mon, I pushed, let’s give it a try. She acquiesced. Of course, that’s where the story gets interesting.
Our great local league sacrificed a virgin.
It started with the web site. Apart from figuring out how to register, there’s no way to know what we are really signing up for! When should I expect practices? When are games? I know they can’t commit to exact days and times but a little expectation setting wouldn’t hurt. Katie also had to attend a “pre-team selection screening” (my term not theirs). That was scheduled for last Saturday. Fine.
We arrived at the screening and immediately told the folks there that we were virgins: we have never done anything like this before and didn’t know what to do. They told Katie to warm-up. Hmmm, what the heck does that mean? Jumping jacks like Jack LaLanne? Throw on a blanket? We didn’t recognize a soul, we just looked at each other – lost. Katie was nervous as hell but to her credit, she hung tough. Finally, a woman spotted us struggling and she got Katie involved.
Then the actual “screening” began. Katie got in line and waited to do her first task: fielding a ground ball and then catching at first base. She was able to stop the ground balls just great but disaster hit at first base. Mind you, my daughter has never even held a glove before that day. The only reason she knows anything about softball is because the Giants won the Series and we made her watch every darn game. Otherwise, she knows nothing.
She caught the first ball.
Amazing. She used the glove and managed to catch that first throw. But the second one was well-thrown, fast and hit her full on in her stomach. The whole place gasped. She stood strong, tossed the ball home and walked off the field. Then, very quietly, she started crying because it hurt so badly. I managed to get her off the field and to the car without any fanfare (she was already humiliated, she so didn’t want folks to know how badly she was hurt).
I got her home and at that point, I think I was crying harder because I felt so damn guilty. I couldn’t believe I put her through that. I couldn’t believe they were making someone who had readily admit she sucked, said she was inexperienced, acknowledged she should be “last pick” on the roster, I couldn’t believe they would put her through that. To top things off, she got hurt. It was one super-crappy parent moment. Eventually we ate some lunch and Katie started to recover. Then she blew my mind.
“Mom, let’s go buy a softball,” she said.
“Really?” I looked at her completely shocked. Yep, she wanted to get a ball and head to the school to practice. So we did. We got two used balls, some cleats, went to the school, and started to practice using that glove. I could not have been more pleased with her. And she’s still practicing!
So the teams haven’t been decided yet and hopefully we’ll have a good season and a great “team sports” experience. But officially I implore team sports teams to make space for the virgins! Here’s what we need:
On your website or brochure, tell us how things work. About how often are practices? When are games played? Where?
What are the volunteering commitments?
What kind of things does the child need to buy? Uniforms? Shoes? Equipment? What should we NOT buy until we talk to our coach first?
Are novices welcome? And if so, can we get a “pass” on the tryouts because we are likely to get hurt or humiliated in front of our future team members.
Please, please make sure you don’t use league code on things regular people read. I don’t know what a 12U is – just go ahead and use the extra words so we new folks can understand.
First impressions matter and taking time to help us understand not just the rules but also the culture is so important! We really want to join you and I know you want us.
Patricia Heaton as Frankie Heck on ABC’s The Middle.
I was extremely moved by the events in Arizona last weekend (and this week). I listened to President Obama’s speech, hanging on every word about the incredible people who died and those who survived the brutal attack. And I have been caught up in the national frustration this week of those of us who want everyone to settle down.
“All of us — we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.” – Barack Obama (transcript)
I feel like Patricia Heaton’s character, Frankie Heck caught in The Middle. The show often opens with; “out here in The Middle…” referring not just to the middle of our country but also to the great unwashed masses of us who are simply doing our best to live day to day, trying to raise our children with good values with a hope they will be positive contributors to society; so much like those people in Arizona simply attending a political get-together.
I feel like Frankie Heck because I have no idea how to have an impact on my world beyond my small sphere of influence. I don’t want people to stop having opinions – I actually love a good debate. But I would like to regain our civility. And I do want us to live up to my daughter’s expectations. Just like Frankie who goes out of her way to make sure she’s there for Sue’s cross country track meet – no matter what she has to sacrifice to do it.
So I wonder, given this situation, what would Frankie do? And I realize, she would look at this situation the same way so many of us would: I need to operate within my sphere of influence. Based on that, I came up with a short list of things I can actually do:
Turn off morning news shows. The network morning shows focus on the vitriol as entertainment. Don’t think so? Take a closer look. I want Katie to know about the news, I don’t want her to hear pundits and talking heads speculating and sparring. I used to have GMA on in the morning while we got ready. No more.
Stop rewarding bad behavior. I am simply not going to support television people, radio people and others who offer no substance but a lot of hype. I have my list of who they are; you can choose your targets, but either way you slice it they need to be turned off. They don’t need to be on in my home. And if enough of us turn them off, they won’t sell advertising and maybe, just maybe, they will go away all-together.
I vow to limit my vitriol. Most parenting is modeling. So I am making a concerted effort to monitor my reactions. When I disagree with someone, I am trying not to use a label (eg “that idiot”) and focus on explaining why I disagree. I am hoping Katie will learn more about my thought process and less about my extensive “off color” vocabulary.
Obama ended his speech speaking about little Christina who died so tragically last weekend. He spoke of the book being written about the children born on 9/11. He said:
“Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. “I hope you help those in need,” read one. “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.”
If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.”
My hand is over my heart. I am committed to working toward this goal. I look forward to having you join me – out here in the middle.
Here’s something to remind you of connection we share with our children:
I am talking pop-culture here. Those movies we have all seen that people reference in comedy routines. I am not worried about television right now (I know that’s another whole can of worms) but really looking for movies that kids should know about so they can relate to grown-ups!
Post a comment here or tweet it to me @jcarole. I will pull together the list and post it shortly.
Here’s what I have so far:
Annie Hall Breakfast Club Back to the Future Caddyshack Dirty Dancing Ghost Busters It’s a Wonderful Life Karate Kid (original) Rocky Horror Picture Show
Yeah, that’s a Menorah AND a Christmas tree. We get around.
Katie was groaning the other day about going to another holiday party. “I don’t hate the party mom, I hate all the dumb questions the adults ask me!” she lamented.
I think I am one of those adults!
It’s terrifying when you realize you have crossed over to the other side and are now one of the adults asking kids stupid questions. So I thought I would try and make up for the error of my ways and list the top five questions Katie (and her friends) have said are the most dread questions adults are most likely to ask.
On behalf of my college bound young friends, I have also added a bonus question.
When you look at these questions, they really are horrible. They are kind of “dead ends” that leave the child very little room for answering in an interesting way. And as Katie reminds me, making conversation is hard. So maybe we need make a little more effort to help them chat with us in a more meaningful way.
Here are the five things NOT to ask (read the question and then the response that runs through the head of the young person you are talking to!):
1. How’s school? Um, it’s fine. What do you want me to say? Anything I have to say that’s interesting would require a half hour of previews just to get you up-to-speed. And then you still wouldn’t understand.
2. What do you like to study? or What are you studying?
I am 11 [insert age here]. I am studying what the teachers say to study. I don’t have a lot of choice here.
3. What do you want to do when you grow up?
Are you serious? Did you know the answer to this question? Don’t you listen to the news? There aren’t any jobs out there. Things are a mess. And I just have to get through history!
4. Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Yes. But I don’t want to tell you yes because then you will say something to my parents. Or the flipside: No. Now you know I am a total loser.
5. How is your [insert hobby or sport here] going? It’s fine. I like it, that’s why I do it. I get to see my friends and it’s the one thing I can do that doesn’t involve getting a grade so it’s cool. What else can I tell you?
Bonus: Where are you going to college? I don’t know; I wish I did. I have lost sleep over this. It’s not like I have any control over the situation. I sent in all my apps but don’t you know that no one is getting the schools they way anymore and that it’s going to cost a fortune and I still have to get through midterms and keep my grades up and do extracurricular activities and not do anything wrong before I can even find out that I didn’t get my first choice, my second choice or my safety school?
Now, here are five questions you could ask that may still challenge the young person but might stimulate a bit more conversation:
1. What the best movie/TV show you’ve seen lately? And you can follow-up with why. Great ice breaker and will reveal to you what they are interested in. This might require you having a clue about recent movies and television shows.
2. What’s something you would change about school this year? Chances are you’ll get a speech about homework, but don’t let it end there. Ask why or how they would help kids learn differently.
3. Who is/are your favorite teacher(s)? Kids have lots of opinions about their teachers and this is likely to lead to a good discussion of who, why and who doesn’t make the list.
4. What’s the coolest thing you have done with your friends lately? It’s way easier for kids to talk about their friends. As you listen to them talk, you are likely to learn quite a bit about them as well.
5. What are you doing for [insert upcoming holiday here]? Apparently this question is asked most frequently among the kids so they should be able to come up with an answer for you!
I know there are a million more questions on both the good and bad side. Love to hear your ideas and suggestions.