Category: teen/tween

Once Upon a Time at the Department of Public Safety

This is a true story. (Cue the “Law and Order” music: DUN DUN!!!!)

This is my rendition of our trip to the Department of Public Safety.

Or as I commonly call it: Hades.

My daughter finished Driver’s Ed and had been driving with her permit for about a year. We were ready to take the final road test and get her license.

All my friends had given me advice. Somehow, Friend A just “walked on in” to this office and was out in 20 minutes. Friend B arrived very early to the Supercenter and was one of the first ten “walk-ins” so they were in and out quickly.

Apparently, I am Friend C, because I didn’t have this skip-into-the-office-with-a-basket-of-goodies-and-come-out-with-a-shiny-new-driver’s-license-for-my-child experience.

It began on the phone—not talking to anyone, mind you—just listening to ringing, busy signals and a system that tells you to press this and press that and then transfers you to an office in Botswana that

How Reading to My Kids Changed Our Relationship

Reading to children


I love spending quality time with my kids, but the hectic pace of life gets in the way. From their school activities to my work, it’s rare that we get to do more than just pass each other on the way to our respective engagements.

But I’ve discovered one thing that lets me to carve out time with my children, and it doesn’t take (much) time or money: Reading a book together.

Reading a bedtime story every night has actually changed my relationship with my kids.

When my wife and I were first starting out, money was tight. I was in graduate school full time and also working full time when our oldest son was just three years old. I knew the time I was putting into school and my job would create a better life for him, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out on some

Morning Comes Too Early

The cell phone alarm chimes at 6 a.m. I can never locate my cell phone at 6 a.m. At some point in the night the phone fairy came into my room and moved it like a chess pawn.

I find the source of my annoyance and slap it to “SNOOZE.” Eight more minutes of blissful sleep.

But 6:08 a.m. rolls around. It’s time to wake the sleeping bear.

There was a time when I couldn’t wait to wake up my son, even for all of the hell he put me through as a newborn, toddler and preschooler: The countless hours of wakefulness during the middle of the night. The days when he decided he was simply done with naps. The nights when he just wasn’t tired and insisted on staying up. “Just five more minutes, PLEASE?”

Walking him back to his room, I would chant over and over again: “I can’t wait until I

Raising a Teenager

It’s time to leave for my vacation: a warm beach, the hot sun, and Corona with lime. A much-needed break from my parental responsibilities.
I knock tepidly on Richard’s bedroom door, and enter with his consenting grunt. For an 18-year-old boy who favors tattoos and can fit 17 straws through the holes in his ears, it’s fairly clean. It’s the mystery of what’s hidden in drawers, boxes and under the bed that entice me but keep me from searching. Better not to know.
In my left hand is his list of reminders; the boy does have ADD tenancies.

My goal is to make sure he hears me and understands me, then to place the paper securely where he will have frequent access to it–the refrigerator door.

On my list is the following:
1. In an emergency, call Aunt Dawn.
2. Feed the dog. Daily.
3. Prepared meals are in the freezer. They are microwaveable. Do NOT use

Apples? Oranges? Sperrys?

Where you your kids leave their shoes? Not in the fruit bowl we hope.

In Between with Tweens

Since everyone on this planet hovers somewhere between life and death, aren’t we all tweens of one kind or another? In our twenties, we’re tween hook ups. In our thirties, we’re tween marriages. And in our forties, we’re tween meds that keep us coming home each night.

When my children were ten, they were almost always between homework and wondering, out loud, why they can’t have pizza for dinner each night. I didn’t call them tweens; I call them contributing factors to psychosis.

No matter how we label them, though, this subset keeps us on our toes. My sons’ teachers sent guidelines home: “Tips to help you understand your tween.”

I would have called it, “How to live with these creatures without killing them or yourself.” Let’s take a look, shall we? (The parentheticals are mine.)

1) Tweens truly appreciate all-or-nothing logic; they see the world in black and white and have great difficulty

Let The Good Times Roll!

Remember the story about Goldilocks, who theoretically trespassed on the private property of those three bears, unmaking all their beds and eating all their porridge? And remember how that Mama Bear came home and knew instinctively that there had been some unauthorized crap going on in her house while she was gone?

The longer I’m a mother, the less plausible it seems. Do we really think some Random-Little-Blonde-Girl wreaked all that havoc on her own? Isn’t it more likely that those idiot bears left their Teenaged-Son-Bear home unsupervised?

I’m betting that, just like me, Mrs. Bear arrived home after a lovely weekend and bearly had time to set down her purse and overnight bag before she noticed the tell-tale signs that something was amiss.

A more believable story: Once upon a time there was family. A Mom, A Dad and three little Girls.

Were these girls DRAMA? Of course they were! Did they cry

Right Place, Wrong Time

It’s the end of the 4th quarter and we’re losing the football game, but not by much.

The Coach calls an obscure play, “The Wedge.” While it may sound like a salad, you know it’s a football play because your son has talked about it.

The Quarterback hands off the ball to your son, to run it in, for the greatly needed six points! YOUR SON!!! The fans (parents and grandparents, all) are cheering from the bleachers!

A win against the Middle School down the block is within our grasp. Because YOUR SON has the ball. The very ball he has never touched in the six years of playing football, except to snap it to a boy named SOMEONE ELSE’S SON. The ball your Other Son never touched in HIS nine years of playing football, except when he tackled the boy who did have the ball, also named SOMEONE ELSE’S SON, and then

How I Won the Morning School Rush

It’s Thursday morning. I’m in the bathroom doing my morning things. Time to flush and mush!

My kids haven’t had a full day of school since last Friday thanks to winter storm Wilfred or whatever. Today’s the day, though. They are back in session, baby. A productive day awaits. I might even get a chance to scrub the tub. I’ve got ricotta cheese and turkey meat. I’ll be making lasagna for dinner. Cheese. Oh yeah.

I flush, wash my hands and go pour coffee. The radiators are scorching. But outside, it’s five flipping degrees. I tell my middle child to “put on freaking coat.”

BAM! Middle child slams the door as he leaves to catch the bus telling me how horrible I am for making him wear a jacket.

And returns through the same door three minutes later to tell older brother, who’s standing there with three pieces of bread clenched between his teeth,

Flip-Flops and the Teenager

When my son was a new adolescent, he was still willing to hold my hand, accompany me to the movies, and join me in a friendly board game.

This period of acceptance preceded his teenage years, when he naturally attempted to assert his independence–never to be seen in public having physical contact with his mother, never to willingly discuss any detail of social events involving girls, and never–NO NEVER–to wear any footwear other than flip-flops.

When the flip-flop phase began, I expected it to be just that–a short-lived period. I was certain that when the leaves changed color and began to slowly disappear, so would the flip-flops. As happens each year, the weather grew colder and the first flakes of snow fell; the flip-flops, however, remained a constant. They nestled on the mudroom floor between the sneakers, cleats and, eventually, snow boots of my other children.

Initially, I urged my son to wear

7 Things I Want To Tattoo On My Teen Daughter

I have a teen daughter. There are certain phrases and warnings I would like to have permanently inked on her. Some of them are for others to see so she can avoid situations she is not prepared to handle, and some are for her, so maybe I won’t have to repeat the same five phrases over and over again anymore.

1. Underage!
This goes on her forehead where every male over the age of 10 can see it clearly. I see the way they look at her. She doesn’t seem to notice much yet, but when she puts on a bikini in the summer she stops traffic at the beach–I have seen it happen. She can have the tattoo removed when she is 30; I’ll even pay for it.

2. Look Up
This is a reminder that once in awhile she needs to look away from the screen, take her headphones out of her

Surviving the Morning Child

Beep beep beep beep.

A grumble and a groan, another day of this crap.

It’s the daily face off: Not-a-morning-person vs. the-morning-person.

I’ve never been one to enjoy mornings. Bring me my coffee and back away slowly.

I have never bounced out of bed, ready to start my day. The alarm going off is greeted with a curse word and slapping in the general direction of the alarm clock. Coffee allowed me to get out of the house before 7AM, in a somewhat good mood. Well , it did before having a kid. Coffee earns its nickname name “liquid sanity” since I became a mother.

Why, oh why, then was I cursed with a morning child? This child is awake and singing at 6AM. My first response to that is not very Motherly at all. It’s normally something along the lines of: Shut the F up.

My daughter greets the morning like Cinderella does. The birds’ early

The Moment My Children’s Fashion Sense Blindsided Me

I believe I have a good fashion sense. I have clothed all my children without someone questioning my taste. Even my own clothing has earned occasional positive reviews.

So I wasn’t prepared for my children to rebel, making shopping a grueling nightmare. I’ve had more fun at my yearly OB/GYN visits.

My thirteen-year-old son refused to wear

Drama Queen, Party of One… Your Spider Awaits.

Last night I asked my 14-year-old daughter to throw a load of clothes in the washer (including her dirty volleyball uniform which she needed for a game tonight). Then I went out to pick up my 17 year old from her boyfriend’s house.

When I got home, 14 was talking to herself as she was coming up the stairs from our basement (where our washer and dryer reside). I asked what was wrong.

Turns out, a spider is ruining her life.

A brief history: We have a utility sink next to the washer, a sink that gets very little use. Maybe once a year when we paint a room, we use that sink to wash paint brushes. Other than that, the sink is home to empty Tide bottles, old paint brushes… and one very harmless spider.

We’ll call him Bob.

Bob doesn’t really bother anyone. He sits in his sink and looks up at me

One Of THOSE Moms

It’s happened. Other than being a human vending machine, my tween kids find me pretty much uncool.

I knew it was only a matter of time. I had been warned by the moms who had paved the way before me, but secretly hoped I would be exempt. Still, nothing quite prepares you for it until it actually happens to you. My kids are officially embarrassed of me.

I remember the days of clingy children, when no one else but mom could soothe the anxious soul. Not so much anymore. A text message from a bestie works just fine.

On the rare occasion I have to physically enter my kid’s educational institution (a tragedy in their sweet minds),
I am given the following instructions:

Do not say anything to anyone.

Do not make eye contact.

Do not speak to my teacher.

Do not try to hug or kiss me.

Do not introduce yourself to the class.

Do not bring my lunch in late

I Can See September From Here

1, 310 days.

That’s the number of days between January 6th, 2010 and August 3rd, 2013. That’s the number of nights I’ve slept with a small, warm body snuggled up against me, nursing and pawing or rolling around and kicking me. One thousand three hundred and ten is the number of nights I have woken anywhere between three and thirteen times, depending on variables like feeding, fever, vomit and night terrors. Five is the number of the longest stretch of hours of sleep I’ve gotten until now.

Contemplating these numbers makes me wonder how I made it through. I’m strong. And I’m ordinary.

It’s August in Texas. If you live here then you know that this is the longest time of year. It’s the time of year when everything is brown and baked hard and at risk of crumbling to dust that blows away and leaves only the bones of whatever it was.


Returning to Kabul

In days I will say goodbye to Sabira at Logan Airport in Boston. She will have a long journey ahead, with a 24-hour stopover in Dubai before boarding the flight to Kabul.

“Will you be able to sleep in the Dubai airport?” I ask.

“No, Liz, it is too dangerous. I could get raped,” is her response.

I am Sabira’s host mother in the U.S. She just graduated from a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts, and in August she will begin college on full scholarship at Trinity College.

Our relationship began with both of us wary. After volunteering with a non-profit that supports educating Afghan women, I took on the responsibility for a real live girl. It was one thing to be a Skype tutor for girls in Kabul, quite another to bring one into my home.

According to my adopted 20-year-old Chinese daughter, Lili, I went crazy when she went away to college.

“Yes,” she

The Preteen Color Palette

2014’s color is radiant orchid, according to the color site Pantone.

And that’s too bad because we just painted my preteen daughter’s room 2013’s color: emerald green.

The whole thing was a huge effort, maybe even a waste of time. We put on four coats of paint and had to leave the windows open. One week later, suffering from dangerous paint fume exposure and colds, the pay-off is that the crack beneath the door glows poisonous green when afternoon sun hits the walls of the room just right. If I didn’t know about the paint, I’d swear she was brewing up something weird in there.  Something way worse than the typical disrepair of her room.

Maybe it’s a potion to slip into her parent’s coffee the next time we say “no” to her borrowing $20, and the car, and some other stuff, for a night out on the town with friends.  Other parents

The Pre-teen Shopping Wars

I have found six key phrases to keep my pre-teen girl from buying clothing that I don’t like:

1. Wow, that is really cute! I love it! So cute!
2. Doesn’t ______ have that shirt, too? (Fill in the blank with any friend’s name or Miley Cirus.)
3. Super, they have that in my size too!
4. That reminds

The Bittersweet Spot

My daughter has gone away. But it’s not just the school camping trip that propels me to stand in her bedroom and sigh like the tragically attractive mother in a Lifetime movie about crib death. Tallula is 12 and has, unfathomably, gone away–from me.

I see the boobs and braces. My hair is blown back by the spiraling moods. My heart is cleaved by her squirming away from my touch; it aches for her hyper self-awareness. But she is still in there, my sweet little girl. She is gentle when pointing out that an 8th grader has the same pants I’m wearing. The reminder that I am 23 years too old to shop at Forever 21 is delivered kindly.

I should have seen this change coming, but I cannot help but wrap my infantilizing arms around her sweet-smelling shoulders and reject it. I somehow didn’t know I’d miss the detritus