Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Relax When Stressed About School Starting

Hang out in a papasan chair, wearing your bathrobe, and meditate to completely tune out your mother asking if you have finished your summer reading.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Upstairs & Downstairs

Our summer is winding down. We can count the days left before school starts on one hand now. My oldest seems to be melancholy, with thoughts of his final year at his K-8 school, impending high school applications, being the big man on campus. At four months from turning 14 years old, he is quiet, thoughtful, and fairly serious. Usually a voracious reader, he has even had a hard time focusing on his summer reading for school.

I commented to him tonight, "You seem to have a lot going on upstairs these days." I was hoping to draw him out a little and find out what is going on in his head. In his non-verbal teenage way, he acknowledged with a nod, when his 10 year old brother blurted out, "Yeah, he's got a lot going on DOWNSTAIRS these days too!"

As usual, my youngest knows what's what. And tells it like it is.

I did not ask for details. On second thought, maybe I don't want to know what's on his mind.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Let's Face It

I have always imagined that one of the most pivotal moments as a parent is when your child grows taller than you. It seems like a weighty, significant change. You, the parent, always taller and wiser, able to easily hug or put an arm around the child. The child, who has always looked up to the parent, is suddenly staring you straight in the eye, and soon will be looking down on you. It becomes much easier for them to hug you than for you to hug them. And they are less inclined, at least as teenagers.

We are not quite there yet in our house, but it's close. My middle son is about an inch shorter than me, my oldest maybe another half inch shorter. They can almost look me straight in the eye. Every time we are standing near each other my husband teases, "OHH! He's taller than you!" Every time I have to stand up straighter and we stand back to back, measuring. We have already passed the point where two of the boys have feet bigger than both me and my husband.

It turns out there is an even stranger crossroads in the parent-child relationship. It's when your child starts getting more email than you do on a daily basis. Two of my boys have reached that crossroads this summer. It is not insignificant. I get a lot of email. But now they get more. And since I somewhat loosely monitor their email traffic, it is quickly turning into a more than full time job for me.

I know the fact that I monitor their email may be controversial, but I still feel it is necessary in their cases. I don't comment or act on anything I read (I have not yet had reason to do so). I respect their privacy. But I also know that email is not private, and the fact that they are now on Facebook, with my permission, means they have a more public presence that needs to be protected and guided, at least for a time, until they understand the culture and the rules.

Teenagers, no matter how smart, are not always the sharpest tools in the shed. In the age of email and Facebook, when they make a mistake, it is a very public one. I didn't grow up with email. The most embarrassing thing that could happen when I was growing up was a note passed in class intercepted by a teacher and read out loud to the class. And that meant that only 30 people at most would experience your humiliation. At the time that number was enough for me to not pass notes in class. Today the consequences of a mistake are bigger and more public, but somehow kids don't see it that way.

After two days on Facebook, my middle son has 45 friends, from kids he plays Little League baseball with to kids in Japan and Korea he met at camp, and most of his relatives, including his grandmother. Both he and his brother are even now friends with some of MY friends on Facebook. I expect the number of friends to grow substantially as they are social kids who are a part of a lot of different circles of friends.

Now, posting something thoughtless, that you should have thought twice about, has a much larger audience with the ability to react instantly. It's not a stupid note in class anymore. An unfortunate email can be forwarded and before you know it, it can reach hundreds or thousands of people. This kind of public presence is definitely something kids and teens need to experience with guidance. They have this persistent and unintelligent notion that they have some sense of privacy, and they just don't. What's interesting to me is that they seem to value privacy much less than people of previous generations, but that might just be part of being a teenager.

So why do I let my boys join Facebook and text and email? Why do I kill myself trying to keep some sort of handle on what is going on? Because Facebook and email offer an unprecedented and very powerful way to communicate and connect with others. Savvy use of social media is an essential skill for them, and they need practice and help to use it in a responsible way.

And really, how cute is it that some of the boys' friends are sharing pictures of friendship bracelets they are making, inspired by their recent week at camp.

I know, I know, the pictures won't always be that innocent.

My two older boys are poised to match and pass me in height very soon. I'm sure they will surpass me in their knowledge of how to use Facebook. Probably by tomorrow.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Call Me A Fruit!

Every once in a while I venture into the food blog arena. Cooking and being a part-time foodie are very useful endeavors when you are the mother of three hungry boys and a husband.

Tonight though, I cooked something just for my husband. The kids are at camp this week, and I wanted to make him something special to mark the first full day of our stay-cation without kids. Never mind that he had to work all day, and after dinner had to go back to the office. At least I know his tastebuds were happy.

We each had two servings.

I made a tomato tart tatin from Bon Appetit's August 2010 issue (I've been a subscriber for about 20 years). My husband loves fruit desserts, and my theory is "Why bother with dessert unless it has chocolate?" When we want dessert to share in a restaurant and he orders the dreaded apple tart (boring but he loves it), I can be heard muttering almost under my breath, "Not the fruit shit . . ." While I cook daily, I hardly ever make dessert, as my family loves ice cream and we have a killer bakery in town. And really, who needs the calories?

When I saw this recipe, I thought it would be perfect, a fruit dessert that is slightly demented enough for me to embrace. It was easy to make, made easier with my perfectly, proudly seasoned cast iron pan. The lowly terrible supermarket roma tomato is transformed into something really delicious and unusual, if not altogether healthy. Both my husband and I really liked this dessert. I bet my kids would like it too. I can't wait to make this for a dinner party. Anyone throwing one? I'll bring the dessert!