I Am Not Raising Dead Fish

With four girls in the house, the subject of boys – usually, relationships with boys – comes up almost every day in some form or another. I see them trying to wrap their minds around this incredibly murky and elusive subject – the male species – as if it’s a thousand-piece puzzle they have to solve overnight, and I want to help.

Sometimes I’m asked to play the role of listener, but more often than not, they want to know WWMD (What Would Mom Do). And honestly, at least on this specific topic, I vacillate between being thrilled that they’re asking for my opinion, and sweating bullets because I don’t know jack about relationships and the male species. Oh, I know what I read in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, in The Rules many years ago, and in all the other marriage and relationship books I’ve been through, not to mention just about every Cosmo article on the topic. I even know what societal norms and good etiquette are, too.

After all of that, and 44 years of time in the trenches, you’d think I could get it together enough to offer wise counsel when they ask for it, but nope. And my lack of confidence in this area is apparent in the inconsistent feedback I’ve been giving to the girls. Behold, the evidence.

Scenario 1:  Then 9 year-old says she is going to ask a boy out. I explain very gently that, traditionally, the boy asks the girl out. She says she thinks he likes her but is too shy to ask. Yeah, I say. In that case you may just have to club him over the head and drag him back to your cave.

Scenario 2:  Twin tells me that a little boy she briefly dated in 2nd grade wants to date her again. What should I do, she asks. Don’t do it, I say. Move on, move forward. Never go backwards when it comes to relationships.

Scenario 3:  Oldest explains that she really wants to go to Homecoming with this kid, and asks us what she should do. My answer: “I don’t know.” Greg: “Drop subtle hints.” He proceeds to give her his definition of what a subtle hint looks like. I’m more confused after this demonstration, and all I can come up with is, “Let him make the first move.”

Recent events in our house have caused me to re-think my usual brand of feedback, which as you can see is generally just a brain-to-mouth-and-out kind of a response. And what comes out really depends on how I’m feeling that day, emphasis on I’m, and not what I really want for my girls to hear and know in their heart. So I feel the need to do them a solid and get this one right.

I ran across this poster yesterday on Hey Prints, and it resonated with me in a big way. I had a moment of parenting clarity so I thought I’d share it, because we all know how brief those moments are. Talk about murky and elusive.

Only-Dead-Fish-v2-l_largeSo here’s the thing: I’M NOT RAISING DEAD FISH, Y’ALL! I’m not raising dead fish! I want them to swim wherever and however they want. I want them to choose their course, however impossible I may think it is, or however challenging it proves to be. Doesn’t matter, because they will be swimming, and choosing, and LIVING. Most importantly, they will be living, and living authentically.

So my message to them going forward, when I’m asked for advice on this topic, is so very simple and consistent.

I want you to do what feels right to you, Emily. I want you to do what feels right to you, Madison. I want you to do what feels right to you, Cameron, and to you, Quincy. Stay true to yourself. And I’m going to do the same. No exceptions.

Love, Carmen (a.k.a. Mom)






Thank You T-Pain, Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen

I signed and sent in Emily’s paperwork today to get her enrolled in middle school.

Seventh grade.

I’m a ball of nerves over it.  A flesh bag of conflicting emotions.  I stood in the shower this morning and cried thinking of how little she once was and how much I miss being able to hold her that way.

*heavy sigh*

I think she’s excited, though focused more on things like having a locker, getting to choose electives, the broader range of food choices in the cafeteria, and older boys.  While I, however, am frightened by things like bullies, protecting her academic record, that she’ll start her period at school suffering great embarrassment, and older boys.  Older girls, too, because sometimes those older girls wield a power greater than any other.  The influence they can impose upon our sweet, innocent angels, and the knowledge they can and do impart may very well be at odds with what we think is right and/or age appropriate.

I’m dumbstruck sometimes by what I hear my kids have learned/read/heard at school; whether it’s something that came out of another kid’s mouth or ended up on the side of a bathroom stall.  I’ve always been a fan of educating my kids and not keeping them in a bubble so that they’re well-prepared.  With things coming at them so quickly, my fear is that I will miss something.  I simply won’t be able to stay in front of it.

Speaking of staying in front of things, I’d like to say a special THANK YOU to T-Pain, Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen for prompting an important conversation with Emily about the word “horny”.

The girls like the song 5 O’Clock by the aforementioned artists so I usually let them listen, but I do my own censoring if the radio station isn’t kind enough to do it for me.  They’re usually pretty good about it, especially in that after school time slot.  The girls all think its funny when I censor stuff, and I’m sure it creates more of a buzz because then they all wonder what the word was that was so bad that mom had to turn the radio down.  But I like the song, too.  I’m not so old that I can’t/don’t still appreciate good music.

Anyway, the other day in the car after school it was on the radio and I must’ve been doing something else because I forgot and at the last minute rushed to turn it down.  I looked over and caught Emily giggling beside me in the passenger’s seat.  So of course I realized right then that she knew what the word was and apparently it was funny to her.  So I made a mental note.  By the way, the other girls – clueless.

A week or so later, it was just Emily and me in the car going through the McDonald’s drive thru and the song came on.  Instead of reaching for the volume to censor it, I just let it play on and seized the opportunity.  She asked,

Emily:  Why didn’t you turn the volume down?

Me:  Because I know you know what the word is.  Do you know what it means?

Emily:  Well, yes, I think so.

Me:  How do you know what it means?  Where did you hear it?

Emily:  A boy at school.

Me (internally):  WTH???!!!

Me (externally):  And under what circumstances did “horny” enter your conversation?

Emily (completely embarrassed):  Well, he told me that when his brother looks at me he gets horny.

Me:  Ew, that’s disgusting!

Emily:  I know!

The conversation went on and started to spiral downward, but I managed to save it by back-tracking a bit on the “Ew, disgusting” comment, and by saying something about it not being disgusting in the right context.  And then we discussed what the right context would be.  So I think she’s got the point now that it is a totally normal, natural thing.

I’m, frankly, relieved to check this off the list of things I need to cover with Emily.  Never in my life did I think I’d be having a conversation with my 12 year-old about such things.  At least not until middle school…


P.S.  I googled the word when I came home just to see what she would’ve found had she done the same.  Reading the entry in urban dictionary was so frank it made me blush.

Of Friends and Friendships

We received the girls’ teacher assignments for this year in the mail today. As I opened each letter, one by one, their faces lit up and they squealed when I read the name of their teacher. Even Emily whooped and did a happy dance, and she is going into the sixth grade.  As soon as she finished her celebration, though, she turned quickly on her heels and ran toward her cell phone, grabbed it and went off to type texts and make calls to all of her friends to see if they had received their letters yet.

And to think that just the other day she was distraught over some insane belief that she only had one friend in the entire school. And this particular friend was surely not going to be in the same class and…oh-my-god-what-am-i-going-to-do-because-people-tease-me-and-i’m-not-going-to-have-any-friends-mom?! And then she fell into a heap on her bed in tears. I just cannot believe that anyone in their right mind would dislike this beautiful creature, but I am her mother after all. So putting that aside, I laid down with her on her bed and tried my motherly best to take her by the hand, lead her through the drama and hormones with my words and tone, and introduce her to logic and reason. Of course I would like to think I was successful in this attempt, but that is the tough thing about parenting.  They will say they understand what you mean, but it isn’t until you later see them negotiate a situation on their own that you really know if anything at all managed to sink in. 

We have had several serious discussions lately about friends and friendships.  I read a really good article today about building good friendships that I think underscored some of the things I have told her during the course of our conversations; and really, these are things I have told her throughout her young life.  You can read the article here.  I sent the link to her and told her I thought it was a good article that she should read.  I’ll have to ask her about it in a day or two to see if she actually read it. Of course, we were in Barnes & Noble yesterday and I recommended she pick out a Judy Blume book because I loved her books when I was her age, and she turned her nose up at them.  I mention that only so you know that I am not holding my breath.

Anyway, the article includes a lengthy list of items which, while I’m sure daunting to an 11-year-old, hopefully impresses upon her just how difficult finding a good friend and being a good friend really is.  More importantly, I hope it gives her a better idea of what a good friend should “look” like.  And because she is still very literal, so very black-and-white, I will have to do my motherly best to make sure she understands that there are grey areas.  To remind her, when a “friend” divulges a deeply held secret of hers, that nobody is perfect. I will have to help her find the right words when, as a friend, she too falls short.  And very carefully help her understand her frustration when she is giving more than she is getting in return. 

I am sure that this school year will offer many an opportunity for her to measure the friendships she has, make some new friends, and for her to work on being a good friend. I’ll be there watching, and waiting to help her pick up the pieces when things go bad or she needs some support. Here’s to hoping we have very few, if any, of those instances. Let the sixth grade begin!