Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why You Should Never Sneak Chocolate

Some people drown their sorrows in drugs or alcohol. Some turn to the gym in times of stress. Still others take up yoga or listening to recordings of humpback whales to relax when things get tense. Me? I turn to chocolate. Or cookies. Or coconut cake. Or brownies. Or well, pretty much anything in the dessert family. My name is Dawn Meehan and I have an addiction to refined sugar and carbohydrates. 

This year I feel stressed out from my job. I told my boss I'd rather lose my house, live in a cardboard box, and eat dirt than to go back to work there in the fall which is really saying a lot since I'm not entirely certain I can live without the aforementioned dessert fix on a regular basis. Still, I suppose if I'm not stressed out from my job, I won't need those chocolate fixes and I can make do nicely with the dirt diet.

On the way home from work today, in an effort to destressify before picking up my kiddos, I blasted Duran Duran as I cruised along with my windows open. Sometimes you're just in a Duran Duran kinda mood. I was feeling better as I drove, the wind whipping my hair around and the scent of orange blossoms from a nearby grove filling my nose. I turned the radio up a little louder and sang off-key because I had no kids in the car to make fun of me. Then I got behind someone driving 20 mph in a 45 zone and slammed on my brakes. In a huff, I muttered something about buttmunch drivers and maneuvered my van around the Caprice. As I passed the car, I glance down to see if it was an idiot texting or a senior who couldn't see over the steering wheel and had the reflexes of a depressed sloth. That's the thing about Florida - you get the nice weather, but you pay for it in other ways. Like sharing the road with the bingo crowd who also migrate south to enjoy the nice weather.

Feeling stressed out once again, I reached for the candy bar stashed in my purse for emergency situations - hurricanes, nuclear war, getting stuck behind the Where's the Beef lady. I scarfed the chocolate while being very careful not to drop any little chocolate shavings on my light-colored pants. The secret to successfully sneaking chocolate is to make sure your kids don't hear you open the wrapper, and that you don't leave behind any evidence like chocolate smeared across your pants.

When I arrived at the school, I hopped out of my van, eager to scoop up my kids and hear about their day. I was feeling pretty good about myself. My hair lacked its usual Roseanne Roseannadanna look and was freshly straightened and smoothed. I was wearing a cute new top and a pair of pants I hadn't been able to fit into for nearly a year. I sauntered into the school, shoulders back, head held high knowing that anyone crossing my path was bound to whisper to their friends, "Who IS that amazing woman?"

I smiled at the YMCA director and chatted with her, giving her my usual countdown to the weekend. "Two more days!" I said. We chatted for a minute, then I looked at a dad waiting for his son. I smiled. He gave me an odd look. He must be trying to refrain from throwing himself at me because I look so good today. Brooklyn ran out and started chattering about her day. I made a brilliant reply then glanced up at the dad to make sure he heard how witty and wonderful I am. Did he just raise his eyebrows and smirk? I can't tell if that's a good look or he's scared of me.

Brooklyn and I moved toward the door as Clayton rounded the corner and met us. "Hey Clay! Did you have a good day?" I asked as we headed out to the car.

He gave me a quizzical look and asked, "Is that chocolate on your face?"

"Huh? Chocolate?" I asked. 

"Yeah. Did you have chocolate? What's on your face?"

I ran to the mirror and looked and sure enough there was chocolate smeared across my face. I don't mean a little spot of chocolate that might be mistaken for lip gloss or a freckle or even a booger. Nope, I had enough chocolate on my upper lip to look like Hitler. I couldn't have gotten more junk on my face if I'd tried! I groaned. So that's why I was getting odd looks! 

Great. Now I have to explain why I had chocolate and didn't save any for the kids. And, more importantly, I can never pick my kids up from school again. Yep, I am one class act.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't go to Sleep

Some families encourage and uplift one another. Some families spend time listening to each other. Some people respect each member of their family. I've been told that some families are actually nice to each other. In my family, however . . . Well, let's put it this way - it's probably not the best idea to fall asleep before your siblings. Or your mother for that matter.

Yeah. Sorry about that kiddo. But really, who could resist? Hmmm, I should probably sleep with one eye open from now on, huh?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why Being Left Out Can be a Good Thing

I wrote a post about how my son took his little sister to the annual father/daughter dance at her school. It just happened to work out for him to take her, but I was prepared to occupy my daughter with alternative activities had she not been able to go. And last year I wrote a post about how my other daughter didn't attend the dance. I got comments on both posts from people who were shocked and disappointed that a school would hold an event like a "father/daughter dance" in this day and age, knowing that some people would be left out because there are so many complicated families. In fact, it seemed to be the general consensus. But I have to disagree.

Why should a school stop holding events like father/daughter dances? It’s a heart-warming tradition. You should’ve seen all the fathers lined up to get in the school. Dressed in suits and ties, they held their daughter’s hands, smiled from ear to ear, proud as can be, and snapped dozens of pictures to remember the night. The little girls looked up at their dads, seeing their heroes who had taken time out of their schedules to shower time and affection on them. Why would you want to cancel that?

Because not all kids have a dad? That’s ludicrous. Should they cancel it because maybe one girl’s dad works nights so she wouldn’t be able to attend? Should they cancel it because one girl’s dad is in the military stationed overseas so she can’t attend? Maybe they should cancel it because there’s a dad who wants to attend, but he only has sons, no daughters. When did we become such a nation of whiny brats? Why do we think everything should revolve around us? Why are we so stinking adamant that no one ever gets hurt or offended? Why must everyone always be included? Why?

Remember the old days when you didn’t have to invite the entire class to your birthday party? Or how about when the winning team got the trophies and the losing team only got a “good game, better luck next year”? Does anyone remember what real life, with its ups and DOWNS, its wins and LOSSES feels like? Does anyone remember how sometimes life isn’t fair and sometimes you get hurt and sometimes you’re disappointed? And most importantly, does anyone remember how to deal with disappointment, shrug it off, and move on? Disappointment does not equal the end of all life as we know it. It’s a part of life.

So why is it that people work so hard to keep disappointment out of their child’s world these days? I mean, don’t get me wrong – I don’t like to see my kids sad anymore than anyone else. But I think parents today really go out of their way to ensure their children never get hurt. Everyone must be included and everyone must experience fairness and happiness at all costs. When a child gets a poor grade on an assignment, instead of experiencing disappointment and learning the importance of studying and putting forth effort, mom gets on the phone and complains to the teacher how unfair she is. Instead of losing the football season and taking home the experience of playing, working together, and learning, along with the determination to “get ‘em next year,” kids take home trophies for being mediocre. And instead of feeling disappointment that you can’t attend the father/daughter dance, the school should cancel it altogether so no one is left out. Heaven forbid anyone should have to simply feel the sting of being left out or disappointed, before getting over it and moving on. That’s crazy talk.

No matter how hard you try to get rid of disappointment, it will always be present.  And what favors are you doing your kids by trying to protect them from it instead of arming them with the tools to deal with it and move forward? There will come a time when your child will feel left out. Instead of demanding they be included, teach your child to enjoy their own company, to brainstorm alternate situations, and to simply say, “Well this sucks and I feel sad, but I know it’s not the end of the world.” There will come a time when your child doesn’t win. Teach them that winning isn’t everything, that losing gracefully is commendable, and that perseverance is a good thing.

Being left out isn’t a tragedy. It’s a chance to practice life skills that will equip your child with the ability to deal with life’s hardships in a positive, healthy way. What do you think? Should schools cancel activities like father/daughter dances to avoid needlessly hurting some kids by leaving them out? Or do we make too big a deal out of stuff like this, trying to protect our kids from pain at all costs?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And Then Sometimes They Surprise You

Recently I’ve had a problem with Jackson thinking he’s 40. He’s 14. He’s gotten into this habit of running off with friends whenever he wants. A couple weeks ago, I gave him permission to walk downtown with his friend. I told him to be back in half an hour for dinner. Apparently “be home for dinner” translated to “go out to dinner with your friend and his family and don’t bother asking first and don’t answer your phone when I call or text until you’re halfway through dessert” in Jackson’s language. I was fed up with that so I grounded him for a week. A week of not going out with his friends was pure torture for Jackson and I thought he’d learned the lesson. I was wrong.

I left work on Friday and drove to the school to pick up Clay and Brooklyn. As I was driving, I received a text from Jackson. “Mom, can I go downtown?”

A few minutes later, “Forget that. Can I go to Jake’s house instead?”

Another few minutes passed and he sent, “Change of plans again. Can I go out to dinner with Perry?”

At a red light, I quickly scanned his texts. I didn’t respond while I was driving; I planned instead to talk to him when I got home.

When I got to Clay’s and Brooklyn’s school, the cafeteria was all decorated for the Father/Daughter dance. Brooklyn rushed up to me squealing, “I’m so excited to go!” The only problem was – I hadn’t gotten tickets. About a month ago, Brooklyn brought home an invitation to the Father/Daughter Dance at her school. We talked about it a little and Austin offered to take her, but Brooklyn didn’t sound like she really wanted to go so I put the flyer in my I’ll get to it later pile and promptly forgot about it.

I admitted I hadn’t gotten tickets, and I told Brooklyn that Austin was probably at home asleep. She started crying. When I got home, I walked away from a crying Brooklyn to talk to Jackson about his plans before deciding whether to bribe Brooklyn with cookies, a movie, and nail polish in place of the dance, or to wake up Austin and ask him if he was still willing to take her as long as tickets were available at the door. However, Jackson wasn’t home. I called him.

“Where are you?”

“I’m in the car.”

“Whose car? Where?”

After much stalling from Jackson, he admitted he was already on his way to the restaurant with his friend and his family.

“Are you KIDDING me?!” I yelled. “You were JUST grounded for a week for taking off without permission. I guess you didn’t learn your lesson. This time you can be grounded for a month! Maybe then it’ll sink in!”

“But I asked you, Mom. I texted you.”

At this point, my head exploded. “Asking is not the same as getting permission!” I bellowed into the phone. “I’m on my way to get you now. You are not taking off without permission again and getting rewarded for it with dinner out.”

Meanwhile, Brooklyn had calmed down and was just sniffling. “How about I go rent a movie and I’ll paint your nails and we’ll hang out here and have fun, okay, Brooklyn?” She seemed amenable to my idea so I left to get Jackson from the restaurant.

As I drove to the restaurant, I talked out loud to myself like a crazy person. “Where did I go wrong? I’m a parenting failure. I’ve taught this kid nothing. First, he leaves without permission and next thing you know, he’ll be doing drugs and knocking over liquor stores. And I’m not even going to talk about the pigsty he calls his room.” In my head I started composing an apology letter to his future wife.

When I got to the restaurant, I’d calmed down. Brooklyn seemed happy, and I wasn’t quite as mad at Jackson. I apologized for yelling at him on the phone, but confirmed that he was once again grounded. I explained that not only is he still a kid who needs parental permission before leaving the house, but making your own plans and taking off is inconsiderate no matter what your age.

Jackson was surprisingly contrite; he didn’t argue or try to bargain at all. Jackson’s friend’s mom texted me to apologize because they’d assumed it was okay that Jackson went with them. I assured her it was fine. It wasn’t their fault; Jackson is old enough to know better. And honestly, this friend and his family are wonderful. They’ve kinda adopted Jackson and I’m super-thankful for their friendship. They’re a good, positive influence on Jax. I thanked Jackson for not throwing a whiny fit, but told him he was still grounded until I believed he’d learned the lesson about not taking off whenever he felt like it.

I arrived home with Jackson and found Brooklyn sad once again. “I really want to go,” she sniffled. I glanced at the couch where Austin was fast asleep. I looked over to Jackson. “Hey Jackson,” I said tentatively. “How would you like to take Brooklyn to the dance? You don’t have to, but if you want to, I know Brooklyn would really appreciate it.”

“Sure,” he readily agreed. He may have been thinking that saying yes would get me to change my mind about grounding him, but honestly, even if he hadn’t been in trouble, I’m pretty sure he would’ve offered to take her anyway.

Jackson and Brooklyn quickly changed their clothes and I dropped them off at the school. I waited to make sure they could get tickets at the door then drove home. When the dance was over, I pulled up to the school and found a little girl who was smiling ear to ear and a teenage boy who looked like he’d not only endured the evening for his sister’s sake, but that he’d actually enjoyed the time spent with her. “Were there other brothers or moms there with the girls?” I asked.

“No, I was the only one.”

“Did any dads come up to you and compliment you or say anything nice because you’d taken your sister?” I wondered.

“Nope,” Jackson replied.

“Well, I’m super-proud of you and you should take a look at my Facebook wall because a few hundred people have liked and/or commented on the picture of you and Brooklyn.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t completely failed this parenting thing. Yet. And maybe I won’t ground Jackson until he’s old enough to carry an AARP card. And maybe I’ll treasure this picture of the two of them forever.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to Live in the Happiest Place on Earth

My friend Ally and I spent the day in the Magic Kingdom on Sunday. I generally visit the Disney World parks with my kids, seeing the place through their eyes and finding it nothing short of magical. On Sunday I had the opportunity to view the Magic Kingdom through the critical eyes of my friend who is a director of human resources for a major corporation. And you know what I learned? Disney World truly is the happiest place on earth. Companies like Delta, IBM, Chrysler, and GM have spent lots of money to learn the secret to Disney’s success from the Disney Institute which has been teaching companies about customer service and brand loyalty since 1986. Here, for the bargain price of free, I’ll tell you how you can incorporate some of Disney’s strategies in your own lives at home or at work or wherever you are.

Ally and I arrived at the Magic Kingdom, excitedly approached the park entrance, and waited in line for the next available cast member at the ticket booths. As soon as the folks in front of us stepped away from the window, we walked up. We didn’t follow directions and wait to be called because apparently we were too stupid excited. The cast member who had been there was actually just leaving and a new person was taking her place. Instead of offering a snippy, “Give me a minute to get ready. Go back and wait until you’re called,” the cast member said, “Oh, no problem at all!” with a smile. “I’ll be right with you!” And he was.

As we paid for our tickets, he made friendly conversation, asking us where we were from, etc. I gave him my license to get the Florida resident discount and when he handed it back to me, he exclaimed, “You didn’t tell me it was your birthday! Here!” he said, handing me a button that read Happy Birthday, and a pen so I could write my name on the button. In talking, he learned that it was my friend’s first visit to Disney World so he gave her a button that read First Visit.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Another Proud Moment

Maybe I shouldn't make light of this, but well, that's how I work. What can I say? Some families talk and hug and tell each other how much they love one another. Other families give gifts or share delicious home-cooking with each other. My family expresses our love for one another by mercilessly making fun of each other. It's what we do. If my kids all grow up with serious complexes and a decade worth of material for a psychiatrist, I'll feel like my job as a parent is done. So, when I saw Savannah's test corrections for a test she took in her genetics class, I just had to blog about it. (Keep in mind, Savannah is my  straight A, 4.5 GPA, National Honor Society kid.)

Her teacher offered the students extra credit to write the test question they got wrong, put the correct answer, and explain why they got it wrong. Savannah started making the corrections by writing things like Amino acids aren't even part of it and double helix is the actual structure. But somewhere along the line she apparently gave up and started writing such gems as I just need the extra credit, If you love me enough, you'll just give me the points, honestly, how were we supposed to know this, and I am not a medical researcher therefore I should not have been penalized for this question, and it's stupid.

Yep, I'm feeling pretty proud right about now. I think it's safe to say that Savannah will probably not be a geneticist in the future.

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