WAHM on the Run: A New Approach to Ending Arguments and Getting Older Kids to Be More Responsible

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Moms (or Dads) of teens (and other kids that try their patience) need a place they can retreat to, at a moment’s notice, to get away from them.  To think before flying too far off the handle.  To de-escalate a situation, eliminate whining and cut the exchange of words short, with the promise of discussion at a calmer time.  To be alone in order to come up with really good consequences for certain behavior rather than “grounding them from everything for life” in the heat of the moment.  In other words, when the kids are too old to “go to their rooms” for a time out, you need to go to yours. Or take a walk outside.  Just get away… only, sometimes that’s not so fun to go to your room, like when your husband hasn’t picked up his underwear and socks for awhile… and, kids can still knock on your door.  Or yell outside it. Or worse, kick it. (Nothing makes a defiant kid madder than to have a door shut in his/her face!) And, while going outside can be refreshing, sometimes it’s too dark to walk, or the weather’s bad.  And again, kids can follow you  (no, let me re-phrase that…they will follow you!).  So I must say, once my husband gifted me with a laptop almost two years ago, it turned out to be the gateway for another kind of “parent retreat”– I’ve been having fun discovering all the local places that have free WiFi, good coffee, and long hours.  Lately, thanks to a nifty carry bag said husband got me for Christmas, that laptop, plus my planner, phone, and a couple of books, are “ready to go” at a moment’s notice, and I head to Starbucks, the public library, or other local spots, and take my work on the road.

It’s been interesting– I can now tell you which Starbucks within five miles of my house (and there are 10) has the most power sources, which are the least crowded at certain times of the day, which give you the most privacy, which have the best tables on which to work, and which ones have the best lo-carb food selections.  I can also tell you the best spots to get work done at the library and which coffee is the best out of their machine. I am a Freebirds Fanatic, a “My Panera” member, and carry a Cup of Joe punch card from Corner Bakery. 

While I haven’t gone to any of those places enough for their staff to know me by name, they might soon, because I’m thinking of making my office-away-from-home a regular gig.  At least in the mornings. 

See, as kids get older, they need to take on more responsibility, but I think when you’re a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) or Work at Home Mom (WAHM), they get short-changed a little on this. Because they assume that because you’re home all the time, you can always be their emergency back-up.  Not only are they more forgetful on remembering things because they always think there’s the slight chance Mom might bring to school whatever they forgot, they get lax in other areas as well.  They head to the school nurse’s office for minor hurts, not major.  They run late to school more often.  Did they miss their ride with Dad? No worries, they think, Mom is still at home and she can drive.  It doesn’t matter that that’s a waste of gas, that Dad goes right by their schools on his way to work…and Mom doesn’t.  The important thing is that Mom is there.  Did they “sleep in” and decide to skip a couple classes? Well, good ‘ol Work-At-Home-Mom is there to take them in the middle of the morning so at least they can sashay in and make it on time for third period.  No thought is ever given that maybe Mom has better things to do than re-arrange her schedule to accommodate theirs. But of course she will, because she doesn’t want kids lazing around the house all day!  (And as far as us using grounding, phone gone, etc. as punishments for being late or missing classes? Hasn’t changed the behavior!)

I’ve seen miraculous things happen on those rare days when I’ve had early meetings outside of the house.  The kids seem to move a little faster. They know Mom is going to be gone “all morning” so they get their act together.  There is no “sleeping in”, no whining to Mom about how they’re-running-late-so-could-she-PLEASE-make-them-a-lunch… On those days, things happen the way they should for two teens.  They take on more responsibility. So I’ve decided I’m going to re-create that scenario as often as possible from now on and start heading out each morning, whether I have a meeting or not, before the rest of the family crew is scheduled to leave, and head to one of my trusty offices-away-from-home. Which means I’d have to get there pretty early, but that’s okay– my favorite Starbucks opens at 5!  True, that means I’ll have to spend at least a couple dollars each time (I’ll take a tall regular of the bold Roast of the Day, thank you very much!) but it will be worth it.  I think it will force my kids to be more responsible on a regular basis and I will probably get more work done as well.  And if my husband (or child) calls to tell me that one of them “missed the boat”, oh, well, I guess I’ll just spend that day out. Maybe I’ll keep a duffel bag filled with workout gear in my car so I can head to exercise class in between stops at my “offices”…  

Does that make some of you sad, thinking I’m going to be missing out on those June Cleaver, stay-at-home moments by not being present when my family leaves for the day? I’ve had plenty of those moments. Of smiling and waving to the car as it backs out of the driveway; of running after it with shoes or lunchboxes or hairbrushes in my hands; of having crispy bacon or freshly-baked chocolate chip muffins ready for husband and children as they pass thru the kitchen on their way out the door…but in the sitcom of my life, kids being routinely late to class or skipping them all together is much more serious business than smiling and saying, “Wait ’til your father gets home.” And since our school district’s rules on unexcused absences are ridiculously lenient and aren’t providing the “natural consequences” that I’d hoped, this June Cleaver is going to have to go away.  Literally.  (But I still plan to hug each family member every morning before I do…)

Friday Freebie: Win a Gift Card to Sneakpeeq Plus 20% Off Just for Entering!

Another exclusive deal for Uncool Mom readers– a chance to try out home, food, and fashion at up to 70% off at sneakpeeq.com plus get an additional 20% off just for trying it out through the link below. And, everyone that tries out sneakpeeq through the Uncool Mom link gets entered in a drawing, just for Uncool Mom readers, for a $25 sneakpeeq gift card!!!

I’m excited to be partnering with sneakpeeq since they are the “largest and fastest growing social shopping company on Facebook”, with over 300,000 current users, and in December was named one of the “Top Ten Best Social Apps of 2011” right up there with Pinterest and Spotify.  They currently feature almost 20 different brands divided up into “boutiques” that change daily.

Of course being the techno-doofus that I am, I had no idea what “social shopping” is.  But really it’s a brilliant idea on their part– online shoppers head to sneakpeeq and browse items, as they might at other shopping sites, only at sneakpeeq, when they click on an item’s tag to “peeq” at the price and see what kind of discount they can get, sneakpeeq shares that deal with their Facebook friends. The more you “peeq”, the more “badges” you earn toward other discounts.

So, try it out and see what you think! It’s really easy to do– just click on this link: http://bit.ly/x4aOCr (If you’ve accessed Uncool Mom through Facebook, first make sure you “x” out of the toolbar/frame that Facebook throws around the perimeter of the blog).  Once you click on the sneakpeeq link, it will ask you to sign into Facebook if you’re not signed in already. And that’s it! No other information needed. You’ll receive 20% off if you decide to buy anything during this shopping trip, plus you’ll get entered in the drawing for a $25 gift card whether you make a purchase or not.  Drawing ends Monday, March 19 at 11:59 p.m. I’ll post the winner’s name in the comment space below. Good luck and have fun “peeq-ing”!

Discount and contest open only to new sneakpeeq users.

Wake Me When This Trend Is Over: Teens in Sleepwear

Have you noticed the latest sign that our great nation is taking yet another step toward being an “idocracy”? Teens wearing sleepwear.  All day, instead of “regular” clothes.  I first noticed it last month while shopping at Target—a couple checkout aisles over, a girl and her mom were talking loudly and getting ready to empty their cart onto the checkout stand. I think the girl had forgotten to get something and was wanting to go back out into the store.  She was dressed in full flannel pajamas, pants and top, with slippers on her feet, and wearing a short winter coat. At first I felt sorry for her. ‘I wonder if she just got checked out of a teen psychiatric ward of a hospital,’ I thought.  (Seriously, that’s what I thought!)  But then I remembered the fuzzy slipper craze from a few years ago, when kids were wearing that kind of footwear to school.   When I got to the car, where Allison was waiting, I asked her if wearing pajamas was a new fashion trend.  “No, why would you think that?” she said, annoyed. When I told her what I’d seen, she told me that was ridiculous, and she’d not seen anyone dressed like that at her school.   Emmie said the same when I asked her at home.  But a few days later, I saw this, an article from the Wall Street Journal online(http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204555904577168762962727568.html) that goes into detail about the pajama and loungewear craze among teens “across the country”.  ‘Aha!’ I thought.  My hunch was right!

“Now what do you say?” I asked my girls. “You’re crazy!” they said.  Then in the car one day, we saw a teenage boy walking down the street in pajama pants, and then an editorial appeared last Saturday in the newspaper written by an area teacher. “The Pajamification of America must stop,” wrote third-grade teacher Evan Engwall in the Dallas Morning News’ Viewpoints section. He’s been noticing the trend just like me, and chalks it up as another extension of the growing trend of informality in American society as well as purposely driven by the fashion industry.  (The WSJ article mentioned above cites Abercrombie and Fitch, Victoria Secret’s “Pink”, and Aeropostale as some of the retailers who are promoting pajama/loungewear looks. )

Allison finally admitted that a friend of hers wears pajama pants to school a lot, “but I think he’s just being lazy, not trying to be fashionable.” Um, knowing this kid, I think she’s wrong.   And I’ll bet there are more just like him.

At first I was surprised that the school allows it. Then again, they’re usually more focused on making sure skin is not shown, whether via short shorts, sagging jeans, or low-cut, spaghetti-strapped tops—at least flannel pajamas are usually  modest.  But good grief—what I’ve seen is just about the height of sloppiness.  And yet educators are worried that too many kids aren’t college-ready or job-ready when they leave 12th grade? What’s wrong with this picture?  Besides, how can teachers have a “Pajama Day” as an incentive for good behavior or good grades when the kids are wearing them every day already?

I’m also surprised that any parent allows it, especially if they foot the bills for their kids’ clothes. They’re letting their kids go out in public like this? Engwall has noticed “pajama people” in airports, attending soccer games, everywhere…

Engwall says one sure way to kill the trend is if adults start following it.  But I couldn’t do that. I don’t want to look like a lunatic, and I sure don’t want to wear a bra under PJs.

Maybe we ought to just leave it alone and see it as a statement, that kids today are just too stressed out, busy and sleep deprived from activity-filled schedules and mounds of homework that they might as well just walk around in pajamas…  ? Yep, there were the Baby Boomers, the Gen Xers, and now, the Pajama Generation…

Uncool Parent Hall of Fame: Madonna

Just had to share a video (see below) after seeing Madonna perform at yesterday’s Super Bowl XLVI.  It’s a video I discovered a couple months ago, released last fall for a promotion going on at the time at Macy’s.  It shows Madonna and her 15-year-old daughter, Lourdes (“Lola”), talking as Madonna gets her hair done, and while you gotta think it’s probably scripted at least in part, it’s still pretty funny seeing her daughter call herself “part of the cool world” to set herself apart from her mom, who in Lola’s eyes is “old”, and Madonna shooting back at her with the word, “timeless” as an alternative to “old”.  Makes us uncool moms feel good that we’re in such celebrated company!  (Guess if even Madonna is considered uncool by her kid, those of you still trying hard to be cool better give it up!)

Yes, the Material Girl showed us yesterday how “timeless” she is and how great middle age can look and move.  I’ve never been much of a fan before, but — WOW! If you saw it, weren’t you impressed?  Sure didn’t look like a body double doing those cartwheels– and when she got to comically sing the line, “I work out!” with the guys from LMFAO, you knew she wasn’t lying!
Definitely inspired me to keep up my exercise classes.


Empty Promises: Are We Failing Our Kids By Telling Them They Can “Do It All”?

In January and February, it’s “roll out the red carpet” time here in North Texas for area middle schools, junior highs and high schools.  Which means if you’re entering one of those illustrious institutions next fall, you get to attend a welcome night at said school, and if you already attend one of those schools and are involved in any elective/extracurricular activity that can “show off” in three minutes or less, you are invited, sometimes required, to be a part of this welcome.  And if you’re a parent of a kid in one of these categories, you attend, too, to sit on gym bleachers and either learn (“Umm, is that a beard and sideburns I see on that senior?”) or watch your child perform (“Should I wear my photo button?”).  Over the past six years that I’ve been attending these dog and pony shows, one mantra has been repeated louder than any other.  No, it’s not “Hooray for Making it This Far” or even “Our School is the Best!”, it’s “You Can Do It All!!”  To further underline this, coaches and administrators take to the microphone again and again to point out those students who are obviously involved in more than one activity: the drummer who’s also wearing a cheerleader uniform; the student government member who’s wearing a volleyball T-shirt.  Some kids are active in three or even four major activities.  Or more.  Having one child in jr. high and one in high school, both who perform in various groups at welcome night, I’ve heard the message again and again over the last couple weeks, so much that it made me want to scream.  But, somebody else was already screaming.  It was a principal, loudly informing the crowd as if she was at a political rally: “WE’RE NOT GOING TO TELL YOU THAT YOU CAN ONLY DO ONE THING! HERE, WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO BE INVOLVED IN AS MANY ACTIVITIES AS POSSIBLE!” She went on to say something about how we all know that “an involved kid is a kid who keeps out of trouble”.  (Thunderous applause. Cue the orchestra next, who’d picked out their best catchy rock song to play…) 

I just shook my head, because I now know all too well that this kind of almost maniacal encouragement by the schools, that our kids should get involved in numerous electives/extracurriculars, does not come with the coordination and support from the schools that’s needed for a plan like this to work well, and our kids suffer as a result.   They naturally want to participate in as much “fun stuff” as possible and so they happily buy into this “do it all” message, yet at the same time, they’re expected to get all their homework done every night or face detention the next day; get in trouble if they nod or fall asleep in class from staying up late and doing that homework; and get good grades or risk not getting into the college of their (or their parents’) choice.  The unsympathetic demands on today’s “involved” kids are incredible.

Case in Point: Our 17-year-old is currently involved in drill team, theatre and choir. All the drill team and choir kids were highly encouraged to try out a couple months ago for the school’s annual musical– this year, our high school is one of only a handful across the nation who have been granted the rights to produce “Phantom of the Opera”, so it’s a big cast, and all who made it in, including my daughter, are very excited to be a part of this special show.  School administrators likely approved it because it would be not only a phenomenal experience for the kids, but a huge feather in the school’s cap, a public relations gem, that has already generated media attention. So, with all that in mind, you’d think that teachers, coaches, etc. might give the kids involved some breaks.  Several nights the kids have rehearsed until very late (my child didn’t get home until about 11 last night; for others, it was well past midnight) as is expected, especially the week before the show opens.  Our daughter said she couldn’t do her homework between acts as she was always either changing costumes, doing her hair, or helping others with their hair and costumes, and so around midnight, she settled in here at the house to finally work on some physics.  Yet she was still expected to be at drill team practice at 7:25 a.m. the next morning, as she is on every school day for the next several weeks…and she is just getting over a very nasty bout with brochitis, so what she really needed was a good night’s sleep…and I just read a quote from Dr. Oz about how people who get less than six hours of sleep a night have a 50% higher chance of getting viral infections…but drill team “contest” is coming up soon, and there’s lots of work to be done…

Second Case in Point: Our 7th grader started off her first year of jr. high this past fall with a bang.  She was fired up about being involved in as many activities as she possibly could and was determined to do good in school as well.  She made “A” team volleyball; made the top band; earned first chair in the percussion section, being told she was “the first 7th grader anyone could remember” that’s beaten out the 8th graders; participated in choir; auditioned for “Encore” (the “Glee/New Directions” of her jr. high) and earned a spot in that; ran for an office in choir and made that; did respectably on the Cross Country team; and kept up her grades, not to mention participated in several activities outside of school.   At one point in the fall, she was assigned her first big jr. high class project, involving a lot of research, printing, cutting, and pasting.  I was pleased by the way she planned ahead, starting well in advance (over a week before the deadline) and worked on it every day, squeezing it in among all her activities.  Yet the night before the project was due, after coming home from playing in a volleyball game, she was still working on it. She worked until 1 a.m. and finally decided to go to bed and finish it in the morning. Which meant she would have to skip her weekly percussion sectional, a group class, scheduled for 7 a.m.  She finished her project, but a few hours later was notified that because she’d missed the sectional, she’d been dropped to last chair.  LAST CHAIR, which in her section is eight spots down from the top.  She dejectedly told me after school that day that she knew she’d probably never make it back to the top during the school year, no matter how hard she tried, because they don’t have chair tests that often…and I thought, this kind of punishment from a program who once told her, “You Can Do It All!” …???

It’s definitely time for administrators, teachers and parents to take a hard look at the messages they’re sending kids and how they’re following up on that message. For starters, can’t parents “just say no” when kids say they want to “do it all”? Well, it’s tough.  We say to our kids, “How can you?” and then they remind us of the numerous upperclassmen who were trotted out and praised mightily on welcome night, who appear to “do it all” and are alive to tell about it.  Kids figure, if that high school boy and girl can do it, so can I. And the parents let them give it a try…It’s not until the kids and parents are knee-deep (or is it waist-deep?) in several activities that we realize that “lifestyle” is a lot harder than it looks, and a lot harder to change.

As mentioned earlier, to help ease the pain of a
multitasking teen, there needs to be more coordination of schedules and sharing of information between coaches, directors, teachers and administrators.  Surely in this computer age there’s a way to at least coordinate activity and testing schedules.  For example, when football players, trainers, cheerleaders, band members and the drill team are required to be at an “away game” on a Thursday evening, from right after school until late at night, couldn’t teachers at least push their Friday quizzes or tests until the following Monday, or extend the Friday due date for a major project? Should kids really even have homework due on a Friday like that? 

At the same time, if administrators are going to keep using super-involved kids as examples of how to be a good, well-rounded high school student, then they also need to let them inform the newcomers, both kids and parents, how it’s really done so they can make more informed decisions when choosing classes, and get needed tips to help during the year.  Let us have a Q and A with those high-achieving kids. Let us find out about how they cope, or maybe how they don’t cope.  Are all of their core courses advanced? Do they have room in their schedule to attend tutoring, or have they had to hire a private tutor in order to keep up their grades? How much sleep do they get on average? Do they have a job? How do they handle all the fundraisers involved with their various activities? How do they stay organized? How do they keep up with basic stuff like keeping their room clean and doing laundry? (Our high school has just started a once-a-week class for freshmen called S.O.S., which brings in senior girls and boys to teach about how to be successful at the school, and I’m hoping that what they cover is similar to what I’m talking about…)

More than anything, I think we need to start valuing quality over quantity. If a kid is involved in only one, maybe two, activities, yet does them well, and keeps all their grades at a B or higher and manages to “stay out of trouble”, isn’t that praise-worthy? Isn’t that the kind of kid who’s probably the most balanced, because maybe they’re healthier, and maybe they’re also spending time with their families and friends, or exploring their community, or just enjoying life instead of being stressed-out all the time?

Might not make for a very exciting dog and pony welcome show, but it sure would be a meaningful one…