Parenting, Serious stuff

Celebrate the small victories

Raising teenagers is tough work. Every parent knows this. Much of our time is spent in constant battle about homework, attitude, fashion, showering and a million other endless and mind-numbing topics. Most days I consider it a victory if I make it through the evening with only one of my two teenagers not speaking to me.

Communication is so difficult at this age that I find myself yearning for their younger selves. Who would have thought I’d miss the days where Elmo and Max and Ruby were topics I’d want to talk about? I remember thinking that my brain was going to turn to liquid and pour out of my ears if I had to watch those two rabbits one. More. Time. Now, I’d give my left arm to have anything to talk to them about that made them WANT to converse with me.

I got my wish today with some of the saddest news the music industry had to suffer. My oldest son and I share a love of music, much of the same music, an eclectic taste that my husband does not understand. Jimmy called me.

“Mom, did you hear that David Bowie died?”

“Yeah, I did. It’s sad. He was only 69.”

We talked for a good fifteen minutes about him, about his music and his influence on culture. We talked about his songwriting and his collaborations with other musicians and the career that spanned decades.

He ended the conversation with, “I just wanted to talk to you about this. I know we aren’t huge fans, but I thought we’d need to talk about this. To process it.”

My 15 year-old son brought me to tears with one word. We.

It occurred to me that this was one of those moments parents need to cling to, one of the small victories. My mind hung on those two letters like a drowning man to a life raft. In this sea of teenage angst, wandering in a forest of parental confusion, we became a sliver of light at the end of a pitch-black tunnel. My heart soared.

Find your moment, parents. Find your “we.” And cling to it with all you have.

 

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Parenting, Snark

7 Reasons It’s Great Being the Only Girl in a House Full of Boys

There are so many reasons that females find it difficult to live with males. However, everyone overlooks the plus side to being with them. I am drowning in boys at my house. I’ve learned to love being the only woman. Here are my top seven reasons it’s great being the only girl in a house full of boys.

1. I am the only one in the house who has a period. This means there is no sync up with cycles, no dually bitchy days. It’s just me and Aunt Flo facing off. The other upside to being the only one with a period is that boys are afraid of that monthly occurrence. One raised hand and an “I’m on my period. Do you want to re-think that eyeroll?” is all it takes to stop the shenanigans. Whether it’s the fear of my hormonal wrath or simply the gross factor, I don’t know and I don’t care. All eyerolls cease to exist for 5 to 7 days.

2. Humongous savings in toilet paper. Think about it. Boys only need paper to wipe once, maybe twice a day. Us girls can tear through some shit paper. So all those families piled high with girls are sending off their hard earned cents to the cheap toilet paper, because splurging is a cost they can ill afford. I’m over here with the happiest asses in town because the expensive butt paper is what I buy. I get the final say in that because I use it more. Bonus!

3. I get to avoid watching how my kids sit when they are really small. Every mother has to worry about table manners and teaching their kids to be polite, but women with girls have extra worries. They have to constantly monitor whether their legs are closed and they aren’t lifting their dresses to display their underpants for the world to see. I don’t have that worry, thank God. Boys are so wiggly and loud that just getting them to sit still is enough. As long as their butts are touching the seat, we are good to go.

4. My clothes are all mine. Relatives with teenage girls are constantly complaining that their daughters are stealing their clothes. I don’t have that worry. That peach colored scarf with the sparkles and fringe is mine, all mine, baby.

5. I get a free pass to enjoy guy movies. When my girlfriends ask me what I’m going to see and I tell them, I get the sad look. “Poor thing. All those boys. It must be tough not having a girl around.” Yeah, sure. Have you SEEN Thor? Iron Man? An entire two hours with Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Hemsworth is just breaking my damn heart. Now pass that rag so I can mop up all this drool.

6. I own the only Get Out of Uncomfortable Conversations Free card in the house. Basically, this boils down to my not having a penis of my own. When topics related to penises pop up, excuse the pun, I have my Get Out of Uncomfortable Conversations Free card. It comes in the form of “Go ask your father.” Seriously, I have no answers when my kid comes to me and asks why his penis is hurting or how one should place one’s penis when trying on tight jeans. And, while I have the answer to one of the most embarrassing questions I’ve been asked (“Why does my pee pee keep standing up when I play with Amy?”), I still pass that shit on to Dad. I was never intended to answer these hard questions. All my goodies are on the inside, decidedly unsquished by the seams of my jeans.

7. When the kids are teens, school mornings are so much faster. I don’t have to waste time checking for modesty. There are no long conversations about hooker makeup and socially acceptable amounts of cleavage. I just give the boys a good, healthy sniff as they walk out the door. As long as no one smells like a goat, all is well.

So, now you know why, when approached by other women who ask me, “Oh, don’t you want to try for a girl?” that I shiver with disdain. No, I don’t want to try for a girl. I’m absolutely happy over here with my perfectly pampered butt, drooling over the latest big screen superhero.


 

 

(Video posted by heat on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 and shared here.)

 

 

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Parenting, Writing

Lose The Cape: Never Will I Ever (And Then I Had Kids!)

The big day is nearly here! Wednesday, December 9, 2015 is the release date for the latest anthology in the Lose The Cape series! An essay from Yours Truly appears in this gem. It’s the perfect gift for any parent out there. Be sure to grab one for the reader on your holiday list this season!

 

Lose the Cape! Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!)12036843_10153591622049757_8920000926856798482_n

Most of us had grandiose ideas of what we would be like as parents; what we would allow our children to do and all those things we would never allow our children to do. We may have sworn we would never let our child watch more than 30 minutes of television, or sleep in our bed, or eat chicken nuggets or God forbid, cheese from a can (gasp!). Yet, the moment those little bundles of joy entered our lives, reality took over. Soon enough, we realized that before children, we knew nothing about being parents.

From breastfeeding to co-sleeping, pledging to feed our children all natural, home cooked meals and so forth, there often comes a point in time where surviving parenthood supersedes your views and your “nevers” slip away. Right?

Never Will I Ever is a collection of essays by mothers (and one brave dad!) who share their stories of how they evolved as parents and learned that when it comes to raising children, we can never say never. This is the second book in the Lose the Cape! collection, dedicated to providing support and encouragement to parents in the most difficult stages of bringing up children.

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Parenting, Snark, Writing

Goodbye, linear phone conversations

I was never a huge fan of talking on the phone.  I’m a highly distracted person to begin with and walking around with a phone attached to my ear is not something I enjoy.  However, I never knew how much I’d miss a straight forward phone conversation until I became a mother.  No one understands that more than your friends who have children.   Other moms have gotten the pass to the club and the secret decoder ring that makes linear phone conversations as stimulating as decaf coffee.

Just the other day I was on the phone with my writer friend Sarah Cottrell.  She has two young boys so she is totally a member of my tribe.  We were talking writing and the conversation went like this:

Sarah:  Just checking in to see if everything is alright……Hey, I’m on the phone.  Remember, we talked about this.

Me:  Oh, yeah.  I’m fine……. Tony, stop putting your face so close to Rosie’s.  Do you want to get bitten? Again?……  I’m just taking a short break to get focused on my writing goals.

Sarah: Is Rosie your dog?….Who wrote on my wall?!

Me:  Yeah, She’s ten years old and grouchy……I’m not going to yell at her for biting you if you don’t. Get. OUT. OF. HER. FACE!….I haven’t written anything new in weeks.

Sarah:  I was wondering…..Finn, you need to keep that in the Kung Fu Corner, do you hear me?…because I saw your Facebook post…..IN. THE. CORNER, MISTER.

Me:  Yeah, I just get overstimulated….Seriously?  Jimmy, did it occur to you to just ask?…by social media sometimes.  You know what I mean?

Sarah:  Yeah, I can see how that would happen. (Muffled talking that I can’t comprehend)  We probably all should take a break.

Me:  It’s crazy, isn’t it?  I should be concentrating on the essays……..Where did I put my pen?  Jim, have you seen my pen?.…….. with deadlines that are coming up anyway.

Sarah:  I have so much writing to do.  I’m swamped…..Alright, now you have to sit on the bottom step and think about what you did.

Jim:  Hey, is that your friend from Maine?

Me:  Yes.

Jim:  Good, she can kick you in the butt and get you back on track.

Sarah:  Is  that your husband?……..Yes, I love you, too.

Me:  Yes.  He and the kids are equal opportunity annoyers…..Geez, Rosie!  Just step all over my feet!  Ow!

Sarah:  That’s funny….Oh, don’t cry……Hey I’ve got to go.  Poor, Max is crying.

Me:  Aw, poor guy.  Talk to you soon.

You see, it’s phone conversations like that that make private messaging on Facebook so much easier to follow.  Granted, I have to write down my every thought, but the person I’m chatting with doesn’t have to be exposed to the mundane details of my life.  I recently chatted with my best friend, Renee, about an upcoming event that I’m excited about, and she missed out on me having to remind Tony for the nine millionth time to use a pot holder when pouring the water for hot chocolate.  She also missed out on me reminding Jimmy that it was trash night and the cans needed to go to the street.  And she didn’t have to be exposed to Rosie’s vocal stylings while Tony practiced the clarinet.  That private message made me sound so much more together and with it.  So much more like a real person.

Oh, well.  I’m a writer so text messaging should be right up my alley, right?

For more about my antics as a mother to this crazy brood, check out my book Lemonade and Holy Stuff sold at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow me on Twitter @MirandaGargasz or on Facebook at Miranda Gargasz, Writer.

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Parenting, Serious stuff

EMBARRASS THEM, PLEASE #1000Speak Building from Bullying

  While my youngest son was at physical therapy, I read a People magazine.  I know, it’s no great literary endeavor, but it helps to pass the hour of coma inducing waiting.  There was an article about some of the families that have recently lost their children to suicide over bullying.
    A few weeks ago, we had conferences at Jimmy’s school.  When I spoke to the teachers I told them about Jimmy constantly telling me that the kids at school don’t like him.  His face instantly went scarlet and I thought maybe I had overstepped my bounds.  The teachers ensured Jimmy that he was a model student, that they wished more of their students were like him.  While I know Jimmy is a really good kid, I couldn’t shake the fact that I probably embarrassed him, so I apologized the minute we got home.  He didn’t say anything more about it.Take a stand

    I read the article that day with tears in my eyes.  The gist of it was simple:  Open a dialogue with your kids.  Make bullying something they can talk about.  Give them the place they know is safe to air their troubles.  Let them know that they are not alone.
    I handed it to Jimmy and said, “I embarrass you because I don’t want to be these people, who question whether they did enough to help their kids.  If anything happened to you, I’d be devastated and unable to rest at night if I thought for one second that I didn’t do everything I could to help you.”
    Jimmy read the article and turned to me.

    “Mom, there’s a kid who is doing the same thing to me at school.  He calls me fat and gay every day.  He won’t leave me alone.”

    I was never so happy to have been reading a garbage magazine in my life.  I told Jimmy we’d talk to dad and tomorrow I’d call school.  I also told him that if the school doesn’t have the correct response to him, Monday would be the day Mom goes to school and literally shows her ass.

    “That’s why I hate telling you stuff.  You’re overprotective of me.”  I felt pain like no other stab my heart.  Have I overstepped again?

    Tony took that moment to comment.

    “Jimmy, I like that about Mom.  She’s willing to come down on people like a ton of bricks, even if it makes her look stupid and overprotective, because she loves us so much.”

    Jimmy, for the first time in Tony’s short life, said nothing to his brother.  He only looked at him.

    When we got home, I had to cancel plans I had made in order to talk with Jim (he works bizarre hours and our time together is very limited).  This morning I called the school.  They said they’d talk to Jimmy.

    When Jimmy got home he said, “The school counselor came to get me today.  I thought I was in trouble, but we talked about that kid and she told me, that no matter what time of day, if I have to be late to class or miss a class altogether, I could come to her immediately the second he bothers me.  She said she’d give him a warning this time, but next time he goes straight to the assistant principal.”

    “How does that make you feel?  Better?”

    “Yeah.  Better.”

    I didn’t say anything further today.  But a little while after, in true Jimmy fashion, he quietly gave me a hug.

    “Thanks, Mom,” he whispered in my ear.

    Thankfully, he couldn’t hear the tears falling down my cheeks.
*****This piece originally appeared in Lemonade and Holy Stuff:  Collected Essays.
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Parenting

On Valentine’s Day, My Son Part 2: Tony

Dearest Tony,

You have always been my sensitive guy, wearing your heart on the outside where it’s more vulnerable.  I am convinced it is simply too big to be contained within your chest, and that’s why it breaks so easily.  Because of that sensitive heart you’ve taught me so much about love.

You are a rare find, my son.  Your empathy for those around you is a virtue few share.  There was a time when you were very young that you saw a commercial on television about a little girl who was six years old, very close to your own age at the time, who was dying from cancer.  Her wish was to see a real princess.  I remember the tears that poured down your cheeks because it was the first time you realized that children could die.  You didn’t cry out of fear that this could happen to you or someone you love.  You cried because you realized for the first time that life is as delicate as butterfly wings sometimes.  You said to me, “Mom, I’m glad that she got that last wish.  She was able to see how beautiful life is before she died.”  You never fail to see the bigger picture.

You are the only little boy I know who cries when his fish die, insisting that they be buried properly.  At first I was frustrated because I couldn’t soothe your hurt over a dalmatian molly’s demise, wishing we’d flush it and move on.  But then I realized something.  To you, all life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is precious, a gift to behold, a loss to be lamented with vigor.  In that instant, wiping away the tears on your cheeks, I knew that you loved that fish as much as I loved you.  There aren’t enough rivers in the world to contain my tears if the tables were turned.

You see the overwhelming value in the relationships you have.  When someone has wronged you and sincerely apologizes you are quick to forgive and forget.  You love the way we all should–without barriers, without question, without condition.YOU (1)

You are keenly aware that words matter, and how easily they can hurt.  You are the first to offer encouraging advice, the first to lend a helping hand, the first to help soothe a wounded heart.

Caring for others is so much a part of you.  You’ve had numerous pets that you’ve loved and cared for all on your own.  The desire to love something is strong in you. It’s what makes me certain that you will be an amazing husband and father someday.

You are willing to do everything possible to save the relationships you have.  I saw that when you quarantined your fish in a bucket and fed it antibiotics, changing its water daily, spending upwards of thirty dollars to save the life of a 99 cent fish.  This part of you makes me certain that you will fight just as hard for the people you love.  That’s a rare treasure to find in someone these days.

You are willing to give of yourself even if it comes at great cost to you.  You had saved for months to buy a new dinosaur, something you talked about so much that Dad and I were beyond tired of hearing about it.  Then the Pennies for Patients campaign came to school.  Without a second thought you donated every cent you saved all those months for to the campaign because “kids with cancer need help more than I need another dinosaur,” you said.  You broke my heart with pride that day.

You may only be twelve, Tony, but you are someone I aspire to be more like.

We should all love without measure.

We should all exhaust every possibility before giving up on anything.

We should all treasure and respect the love we receive, regardless of how small.

We should all be filled to overflowing with compassion

We should all love with our hearts on our sleeves, making us vulnerable and more in touch with those around us.

That’s what love is, my son.

And I learned that from you.

Love,
Mom

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Parenting

On Valentine’s Day, My Son: Part 1: Jimmy

Dearest Jimmy,

Since you were born you’ve heard countless times about how much you’re like your dad.  You do resemble him quite a bit, so much so that I’m still not sure any of my DNA exists in your body.  You are stubborn like your dad, and you have a tendency to break down most ideas to their lowest common denominator like him, too.  You have many of his good sides and a few of his bad, just like any child of any parent.  It’s the little nuances that are uniquely you, the subtle differences between you and your dad, that I cherish most.  They make you the awesome boy I’ve loved since you were but a twinkle in my eye.

I want you to know that I see you.  I see you below that cold demeanor you wear like a shield.  I know that somewhere under it beats a warm and loving heart.  I’ve seen it a few times when I was hurt or you were scared.  I’ve seen it when you’re with your friends and their birthdays roll around or one of them truly needs a friend.  You are there for the people you love when they really need it most.  It’s that quality that makes you a treasure to anyone privileged enough to call you friend.You are a treasure to anyone privileged

I see you when you are hurt and you try to hide it.  You get crabby and argumentative and that’s how I know that something is wrong.  You play things close to the vest, never revealing too much, always guarded.  I know it sucks that I know this about you, but, what can I say?  I’m your mom.  You and I have instruction manuals that are cosmically linked, a cord that ties us forever, unbreakable.  Because of this, and because I love you, I hurt when you hurt.  My heart breaks when your heart breaks.  When I see those brown eyes of yours begin to tear up, my own overflow.  There’s no fighting the urge to wrap you in my arms and make it all go away.

I see you as you grow up, each day morphing a little more into the man you were meant to be.  I am constantly surprised by the changes I see.  Where once stood my cute little boy, so small and curious beyond measure, now stands a tall, handsome fellow asking grown up questions about adult subjects.  Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of my wide-eyed little boy hiding in the shadows of your semi-adult self, glinting like the treasure only I can see.

I see you, Jimmy.  I see all the curiosity from when you were a little boy.  I see the stubbornness and the independence that you exhibit now.  I see the potential in your grown up self.  I see the awesomeness that is you.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

Just know, on this Valentine’s Day, that you are so very loved.

Not because you look and act like Dad.

Because you are uniquely you–a masterpiece that I am proud to call son.

Love,

Mom

 

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