Let Them Be Kids

IMG_5663Our trip to the beach last week was absolutely perfect.  We stayed in an old cottage that belongs to some dear friends of my parents.  I love everything about that place.  There is only one television, which I believe was turned on only once very briefly during the entire week.  The remainder of the week was spent rocking in the rocking chairs on the front porch or just laughing around the table together as a family.  I imagine that cottage has seen many nights of endless laughter and bottomless wine bottles.

The kids were happy and they didn’t even need all of the modern conveniences that we are all so accustomed to in our lives today… we just needed our family.  They never even asked to watch television.

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We spent a LOT of time rocking on the front porch

When we first got to the cottage, I went upstairs to put our stuff in our rooms and I made a quick stop in the little upstairs bathroom.  First off, this little bathroom is UHHHH-MAZING!!!!  It has a claw-foot tub and has wood paneled walls.  There is a cute little brick doorstop that is decorated with some fancy needlework, but what really caught my eye was that the door lock did not work, so there was a small hook and eye lock.  Just like the bathroom at my grandmother’s cottage in Minnesott Beach.

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Brings back a lot of good memories…

Then I went downstairs and saw the little closed in back porch with a clothesline across the room and I felt like I had been teleported back to my childhood.  All of a sudden I could visualize myself at my grandmother’s cottage.  I could even smell the smells.  And those were the smells of summer…

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Back porch of Gran & Mammy’s cottage in Minnesott Beach

Waking up early in the morning the cottage always smelled of bacon.  What an amazing way to wake up in the morning to the sound of bacon frying in the frying pan in the room with you!  The cottage had two small bedrooms, but my brother and I slept on the twin beds that were in the family room which was open with the kitchen.  There was no air conditioning, so the blowing fans would increase the tasty smell of bacon as it oscillated back and forth.

Midafternoon, after spending the entire day swimming in the tide or fishing on the pier, the house would most likely smell of crab.  Mammy would usually boil a pot of crabs every day and cocktail hour would be spent on the front porch looking at the gorgeous view of the Neuse River while picking crabmeat.  Mammy knew that I loved to help but my labor was more selfish than anything else and there would not be much left in my bowl once my task was complete.

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It wasn’t that color, but that’s the cottage!

I recall that it would be warm at times, but most of the time the breeze coming off the river would keep the cottage a moderate temperature.  Of course we were typically sunburned after a day on the beach, so we may have felt a chill because of that anyway.  If a storm blew in it would cool down quickly… I remember learning how to tell when a storm was coming by how far we could see down the river.

Our summers were spent with freezer pops and sand spurs and catching fish off the dock.   If the wind was blowing in the right direction then we could spend all day filling holes in the sand with jellyfish to make our own homemade “jelly.”  A day without a jellyfish sting was a lucky day in our book, but if we were stung we always knew there was someone nearby with a cigarette so we could rub tobacco on the sting.

Our feet were tough like leather from the hot pavement, our skin on our backs was peeling, and our hands had cuts from crab shells, but the memories I have of my childhood will be carried in my heart for the rest of my days.  Childhood is supposed to be just like that… carefree and fun.  When parents divorce, we feel like we have “robbed” the childhood from our kids.

I think that the theory that divorce robs a child of his/her childhood is not definitive.   I agree that it is certainly possible since some parents choose to burden their children with “adult issues.”  Divorce in and of itself does not have to rob anything from the children if the parents behave correctly.  Talking about money issues or trying to explain your divorce reasoning to a child is not appropriate.  If you focus on the children and making sure their innocence remains, then they can grow through a divorce just the same as we can.  They can even be better than before.

In our case, we have not robbed our kids of their childhoods.  Joe’s kids have memories of their lives with their mom and dad together just like my kids have memories we made before Joe and I got together.  We all enjoy sharing our memories and in no way do we minimize time that was spent or is spent with the other parents.  My stepchildren like telling stories about when their parents were together and rather than get quiet when they do, I engage them in conversation and smile and listen to their stories.  Those stories are what have made them who they are.  And I LOVE who they are.

More importantly now, we focus on making new memories as a new family.  We are still new to this, but we have already established new traditions that we want to continue to do each year.  We focus on our kids BEING KIDS…

When they are my age, I want them to remember how much fun it was being kids.  I want them to talk about fishing on the lake across the street or running on the greenway with Joe and me or our yearly trips to the mountains and the beach.  I want them to fondly remember going to concerts together and Durham Bulls baseball games.  I want them to think about how much fun we had at supper club cookouts and church and eating together at the table.  I know they will never forget when Joe asked me to marry him during a fun game of flashlight tag on the golf course.

If you are divorced, don’t let parental guilt creep in to make you think you are robbing childhood from your kids.  Just spend all of your energy in making sure you focus on your kids and make new memories with them.   No one ever says on their deathbed, “I sure wish I spent more time working,” but they do say, “I wish I spent more time with my kids.”

Even as a single parent, you can do plenty of things to create memories that don’t cost money.  You don’t have to go on extravagant trips to create memories.  One of my children’s favorite memories so far is when I woke them up in the middle of the night and we climbed out onto the roof with blankets and watched a meteor shower.  It didn’t cost a thing but they will remember it for the rest of their lives.

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Fishing is free

And never minimize the memories they have of you with their other parent and never minimize the new memories they are creating with their other parent.  Show interest if they want to talk about fun things they do with the other parent, but do not be intrusive.   Show them you love them and are interested in everything about them and they will be able to enjoy their childhood in spite of the divorce.   They should never feel like certain topics are taboo.  They should be able to talk to you about anything without fear of your reaction.

LET THEM BE KIDS… they will have their chance to worry about adult problems when they are adults.

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Silly girl

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Get Off Your Phone and PUT A SHIRT ON!

I know I have written about it before, but teenage boys are such an interesting breed of crazy.  I remember feeling a little fearful when the ultrasound revealed that we were having a boy.  I remember thinking, “I don’t know what to do with a boy!”

He has been ALL BOY from the beginning...

He has been ALL BOY from the beginning…

And admittedly, everyday, I still think that.  Boys are such different creatures than girls.   At least I understand the feelings and thoughts my daughter has, but I don’t get boys at all.

My sweet boy at 13

My sweet boy at 13

And I love my son. So much.  Even though he smells like a weird mix of fish and grass and dirt most of the summer.  I love him.  Even though he won’t talk to me about anything I am interested in but insists on talking to me about every little thing he can think of that I do NOT want to hear.  I love him.  Even though he is most of the time just a smaller version of his father.  I love him.

We were on vacation last week at the beach and where was I while the rest of the family went to the aquarium with my parents?

I was sitting in my car at the park while my son practiced basketball.

Here I sat...

Here I sat…

While he was at the AAU National Championships in Myrtle Beach a couple of weeks ago, Bobby Cremins, a well known retired college basketball coach, spoke to the boys and told them that if they were not working out 5-7 hours a day in the summer, then they weren’t truly committed to advancing to the next level.  So all I hear from my boy these days is,. “That’s fine that he doesn’t do drills… if he wants to stay on the same level.” or “She must not care about practicing because she just wants to stay on the same level.”  He is all about advancing to the next level and his desire to work out constantly is proof.  Every night at the beach from about 9-10pm he was on the street in front of the cottage doing ball handling drills.

He’s also all about shoes.  If I hear another thing about LBJ’s or KD’s or Kobe’s, I will scream.  I get texts from him with screen shots of the shoes he wants next.  He has even started trading shoes with friends if he likes their shoes better than his.  I try to block out his talking when he starts telling me about how many pairs of Lebron’s his different friends own.

Apparently he has "SHOE GAME"

Apparently he has “SHOE GAME” – two pairs of MANY

He says he plans to have a shoe room when he gets older.  Not a shoe closet, he said… but a shoe ROOM.  I wish I could have seen my face when he was telling me about that for the first time.   Incredulous is a good word.

I may need to call the plastic surgeon to take advantage of their botox special….. because I feel like I use that face pretty much every time he speaks.

He knows this look well... I may need to take up my plastic surgeon on their botox special this month!

He knows this look well…

Hey, at least I listen.  Most of the time.  It’s not like he listens to me!  I feel like life passes him by because he spends a majority of his time with earphones in listening to Spotify.   Last Tuesday night we were pulling out of Bojangles and I saw a hot air balloon, so I pointed to it and said, “Look at that hot air balloon!” And he plainly said, “It looks like a hot air balloon.”  As seems to be the norm lately, I looked at him with that same incredulous look… and he said, “What?”  Turns out he had not heard me and only saw me point.

Sometimes I wish I could tune him out like he tunes me out.  13 year old boys want to fill you in about the new Call of Duty Map Pack and all about Jay-Z and Beyonce being part of Illuminati.  They are either “starving to death” or they won’t eat saying, “I’m fine.”   I sometimes feel like a recording on repeat alternating between, “Put your phone down” and “Put your shirt on.”   He cannot understand why in the world it is important to me that he wears a shirt while we are sitting at the dinner table.   I’m often called into the basement while he is playing X-box so that he can show me some sort of “kill shot” or a video of his alter ego on the screen jumping off a building on a skateboard and landing into a crumbled pile of pain on the pavement below.

It seems that everything revolves around the shock value.  It’s the fart in the car or the “What the freak?” with a little too long of a pause on the beginning of freak…  He wants to keep me on my toes.  Yesterday he called me at work and started the conversation with, “Have I told you today how beautiful you are?”  Yeah, he wanted a friend to spend the night.

On my way into work this morning, I started talking to a lady in the parking garage elevator.  We chatted as we were walking to our offices and she said, “Have your kids started school yet?  My son started kindergarten yesterday.”  I could see the fear in her eyes and I remember that fear all too well.

It made me think about how far we have come since my sweet boy went to kindergarten.  He was constantly being moved and we had to go to parent/teacher conference after parent/teacher conference.  I can’t tell you how many times in elementary school I heard things like, “I hate to use the word ‘class clown,’ but….” or “He seems to work better by himself away from the rest of the class” or my personal favorite, “He can be sitting next to a friend, so I move him to sit next to someone I know is not one of his friends, and by the next day, they are best friends too…”

This same kid moved to Raleigh four years ago and decided to run for Vice President of his new school in fifth grade… and won.  He volunteered to be the manager of the basketball team in 6th grade (since you can’t play until 7th grade) and then made the team in 7th grade.  This same kid ended up making all A’s & B’s in the final quarter of 7th grade.  After years of worrying about his behavior and grades, he finally seems to have found his routine and it is working for him.

Summer of 2002 and Summer of 2013

Summer of 2002 and Summer of 2013

I am so proud of my boy… and even if I never understand why he tries daily to shock me and even if his underarm hair is now getting too plentiful for me to count, he is still that little boy who used to like to sleep in my tennis shoes and insisted on wearing belts (even with gym shorts) so he would have something to hang his light sabers on.

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And I cannot wait to see the man he becomes…

Help Needed…..

I have been working on a new blog that’s a Q & A about blended families.  It has morphed because I have gotten more questions on single parenthood and dating than I expected.  

I need you all to send me any more questions you would like me to answer.  Either post them here or “like” my Facebook page and send me a private message through FB.  Thanks!!!!