All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nothing good ever comes from the full name

Nothing good ever comes from answering my phone and hearing my formal name. Professionally I use my maiden name, so the second I pick up the phone to, "Uh, hello, Mrs. L... ," I know, no good awaits. It could be a discipline issue. It could be the umpteenth request for a volunteer gig. Sometimes it's the school nurse reporting that someone's braces broke. It's not that I wish orthodontic ill on my kids, it's just the nurse's voice doesn't raise hair on my neck like the principal's.

The boys changed schools this year and all appears to be going swimmingly. The IEP's seem to be adhered to as best as any school I've heard of, friendships are being forged, grades have been good. "WOW!" I thought last night when looking at the upcoming teacher conference schedule, "I'm kinda looking forward to this for once." And then this morning, it happened. "Mrs L....? Uh, good morning." Groooaaan. Why don't I keep a flask at work?

"Oh alright. What did Son1 do now," I fretted. My 12 year old is a continuing source for school calls, so his Social Studies teacher on my phone was unwelcome, but not a surprise. Five minutes into telling me how many homework assignments he's been skipping, I blurted out, "but we just met with his IEP case manager and none of this came up? How could (Son1) have 5 zeros and we're just hearing it?" (insert confused labrador head turn) "Um, no, I do not teach him. I teach (Son2)." This was about the point where I felt like Mother of the Year AGAIN. For not only did I jump to the conclusion one child pulled a stunt only to be surprised, it was clear to the Social Studies teacher that I didn't know my kid's teachers' names.

I could hear his mental tsk tsk through phone line. Give me a break pal, we're all getting used to the new school, and the hubs saw you on back to school night. We were among the massive group of 10 parents in the room. I'm involved. It's just Son1 has been the source of over 70% of this blog. The mind leaps. I tried to chalk it up to that annoying habit of flipping kids' names while speaking, the way I always call Son2 by Son1's name, or my husband reverses his daughters' names. I even chuckled about calling Son2 by the dog's name. He either didn't care, didn't think it was funny, or had 13 other parent calls to make. Or all three. After I got off the phone and reflected, I had two valuable takeaways:

1) Trust no one
2) Learn caller ID for individual classrooms vs. the office

WTH do those have to do with the above? Well, for starters, Son2's been skating I realized. He bats those big blue eyes at me and I'm so mesmerized by the lashes I would never have that I believe what he says. I'm much more skeptical of his brother who has the iffy reputation from school years past. "Is your homework done?" "Yes" (So I check, and it is.) But that only works if the homework planner is written out. It seems Son2 has decided homework on elections, is, in and of itself, elective. NO. Trust no one to fess up to selective homework, even when so cute you'd think they'd never lie.

And what of the fancy schmancy online interface the school has to post everything from lunch menus for the next six years to tonight's homework? Trust no one when it comes to schools actually enforcing procedures. In an attempt to show this man I was not a totally detached mom, I went on line while talking and saw, YET AGAIN, there was no homework posted. Nothing entered = nothing displayed (does not) = no homework. No, it just equals a teacher who shared with me "yeah, I don't really use the homework page. I've been teaching a long time, and my students have always had it posted on the board, so I don't use it. I wouldn't bother looking there." Can you think of EVER saying this to a boss, a client, a colleague? Thanks to NJ's teacher tenure laws, the district stands zero chance of enforcing that teachers use the tools. But I digress. Son2 has no tenure protection. And for this morning's "trick or treat" phone call, Son2, be afraid.

As to the caller ID... There's a pecking order in parent phone calls. Had I known the number was not the office number, I may have eased a bit. When you go from teacher call to Vice Principal, there's an uptick in subject matter. Bump to Principal, and you have a definite escalation. Get a call from the Superintendent, and you're at parental DEFCON 5, war game buzzers tripping on your cell phone. I think there's an app for that. Had I known it was but a lowly classroom, I would have felt a little better. I would have listened, but without the palpitations. Homework lapse or test bombs may be waiting, but generally, nothing that ends with the phrase, "in the next occurrence, law enforcement may be called."

So from now through, oh, the end of college I suppose, I will not assume poor effort from Son1 and great effort from Son2. I'll be on guard for Mr. Social Studies-skipper. And I have a plan for the phone # screening. Election day is coming next week, and I'll have the chance to be in the school. I wonder if they'd notice me going room to room to test call my cell? Armed with all those incoming numbers, I could easily prioritize the calls to take. Maybe I'll bring donuts and pretend to hand them out to the teacher, VP and principal to get to their desks. You know, I'd be all, "job well done, Mr. Whoever the Hell you are!"- then quick stealth call. It could work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What to Expect When Expecting (a Mammogram)

I’ve done the 3Day Breast Cancer Walks twice, run fund drives, and bought countless pink ribbon t-shirts, pens, candles, etc. I've truly tied one on. The ribbon I mean. So why did it take me 3 months from the time the OB/GYN gave me the referral slip to actually set the date? No good reason. Just that mom-stall we seem to do when we get everyone to the doctor before ourselves. This wasn’t my first time. At 39, my doctor sent me for one as the base-line recommended for women “40 and over.” I was traumatized not by the mammography itself, but by him rushing me to 40. “It’s only two months early, so may as well.” That was easy for him to say, the wicked bastard.

So, anywhooo… it got me to thinking that many may not know what's going to happen when the girls are ready for their close-up. As a public service, I would like to prepare any of you who have not had one yet, and remind any of you who may be due. Male readers, I ask only for laughs with us, not at us. Imagine someone ghoulishly doing this to your man parts. Without further delay, here is Jersey Diva Mom’s What to Expect: Mammography Edition:

1) They will tell you no deodorant. This will seem like no big deal until you instantly become self conscious and convince yourself you now smell like the gym bag of a 13 year old boy. You will eye the courtesy cans of Secret on the shelf like frat guys eyeing kegs. Just breath. At least, until they tell you to stop.

2) Shave. For the love of God, think of the tech staff doing these all day.

In Process:
1) They will squish you this way and that, all while surreally chatting about the weather and traffic, as if every day, your chest is grabbed, fondled, pulled, and pushed accompanied by mundane chatter. Perhaps it’s good you don’t really start these until 40. Were this done to my 20yr old girls, there would have been more resistance. At 40, there’s a little more pancake-ability. Well, that’s at least a little silver lining.

2) Just when you think an appendage could not be any flatter and still be attached, it will get flatter.

3) Let’s touch upon the imaging plates. They are ice cold slabs that leave you feeling like a gummi bear under the metal spatula wrath of a Coldstone Creamery worker with anger issues. Is it the worst pain ever? No. But you’ll think twice before manhandling the chipmunk cheeks of a cute 3 year old next time.

4) They will tell you, “don’t breath.” Really? I was so busy trying not to yelp like when someone steps on the dog’s tail that I forgot to breath.

5) When they say don’t move, don’t. I laughed at that because it seemed so impossible. I couldn’t really double over laughing seeing as how I was intimately attached to something that looks like it’s used to assemble Chryslers in its spare time. However, my painful outburst caused a retake. Oh joy.

1) Know what you don’t know. I, for one, can not read imaging pics to save my life. In utero sonograms are like optical illusions to me, so I’m not sure what I thought I’d decipher in my mammo pics. As fate would have it, I appear to have a Rorschach test in my breast. It looked like a squirrel with a big nut. Or maybe a witch leaning over a cauldron. How very Halloween of you, left breast. I had no bloody clue what I was looking for, and nearly worked myself into a panic at the solid rounded spot on the tip. My brain cleared, and it occurred to me that was supposed to be there. Whew.

2) Treat yourself (or the girls at least) to something nice. Just as you would reward a child for a brave trip for shots, show some love to your body parts as they desperately try to bounce back into shape. Mine were treated to Victoria’s Secret and a pumpkin spice latte (for nurturing inside and out).

3) Be honest when people ask you how it feels, but don’t be a drama queen who scares friends away. Bottom line, mammograms are super important. In the scheme of things, they’re just uncomfortable, and over in a jiff.

Don't believe me it's not so bad? Compare it to some of the other things we do, VOLUNTARILY. It took less time than getting my nails done, and seriously I sit there like a zombie while some woman cackling away in a language I don’t understand comes at me with a Dremel sander for that. There are no noxious fumes or chemicals to overwhelm you, like we do to our hair each month. And when it comes to pain, it’s not even a fraction of the ever-frightful Brazilian bikini wax. I still shudder at the thought of the howling emanating from that room at the salon last time.

And really, when was last time you heard of a Brazilian saving a life?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Divide and Conquer

Nothing brings peace and tranquility to a house like the removal of children. What I have recently seen though is totally removing all children may not be necessary to achieve peace. That may be overkill. It appears merely reducing the number of the herd does the trick, or so I am finding out. Son1 is off for 4 days for a retreat, rendering us an only child household. We've divided the melee, and for fleeting hours conquered the overwhelming volume boy households seem to generate. It     was   sooooo    quiet. At first it was like Buddha overtook my home, and he was carting xanax.

The big thing that runs through your brain is, "Holy Toledo- there's no bickering." It's not like Son2 is going to start bickering with his stuffed animals. At least I hope to God not.  There's no "stop touching/pushing/kicking/stealing the Wii/making fun of me/making faces/breathing more than your share of oxygen than critically needed." No tattle has been relayed. No fights over who got to pick which show last night, the night before, the night before that etc etc all the way to prime time of January 1, 2003. Breakfast was so much easier without syrup "somehow" working itself into a sibling's hair. There is no stereotypical older sibling bossiness/ younger sibling narking going on. For the first weekday in months (summer camp week to be exact), the hubs and I looked at each other and smiled between the hours of 7:00 and 9:00 AM.

Man- the whole power balance from 1 kid to 2 does this to a household?

But then, there are some other things creeping into the home that are as disquieting as the usual racket. It seems our blissful partial respite has a definite, "be careful what you wish for" thing going on. While we love the lack of commotion, Son2 is crawling the walls. He thinks we're here to entertain him 24/7. What the hell? Is Son1 a circus monkey that he occupies his brother so much?

Having suddenly found himself in solo status, and craving all sorts of attention, Son2 is also showing his unease in being alone. So, whatever room in which you happen to find yourself, you will soon find Son2. If you've ever had a labrador, you know they have a tendency to ALWAYS stay within a pace of you, making it easy to trip over them. That's Son2. Kid- seriously- I need some breathing room. I'm used to you ignoring every word I say not clinging to them like misplaced Easter basket grass.

In a frightening development, he's now just begun chattering. And he makes you feel like DIRT, lower than dirt, when you try and nip it. Don't you see I'm busy working from home? making dinner? or watching 80's music videos on Youtube wondering where my life went from 16 Candles to 30 days of Crock Pot recipes?  I love the munchkin, I do... but there is a point in conversation where there is a lull. He lets no lull lapse without chiming in, even if just to say "huh, guess I'm talking a lot." He's gone to the old standby of "ok, I'll just sit here. Not saying a word. Nope. Won't hear anything from me." I'm not sure but I think he may have been talking in his sleep all night long.

The funny thing is that when Son1 is back on the scene, Son2 will lapse back to being the more quiet one. I think the absence of incessant, goofy, 12 yr old brother chatter is causing him to fill the void by himself, and for himself. I have no frame of reference, having been raised in house with 4 kids... Are all only children like this? Or is this his attempt to make up for the sudden lack of bossy/loud/whirling dervish of a companion that he has in his older brother? Man, if this is what life would have been like had we only adopted 1 child, I'm glad we went for the two-fer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In My Ideal World...

I would sound more like June Cleaver, less like Yosemite Sam when speaking to my kids.

Cheerios would have the same calming effect as wine, or...

Wine would be socially acceptable over breakfast.

My sons’ ADHD would, for even just a day, become ADhD.

7th grade Math would seem easier the second time around.

Eminem could record a song without the F word, and my son could be drawn to that one.

I would have a dime for each text message chime in the house.

My credit card companies would realize I’m far too nice a person to be charged loan-shark rates.

I could travel outside of NJ and still avoid pumping gas.

Women in their 40’s would get the same amazing, totally natural highlights as kids under 10.

Santa would make a comeback for me.

Politicians, physicians, and school principals would not all suddenly seem younger than me.

At least one of the 70 billion cellulite products marketed would work at all.

My kids would be as tuned to my moods or migraines as my dogs seem to be.

My 12 yr old would go from Point A directly to Point B- ever- without one of those Family Circus cartoon map routes.

Fade-proof lipstick wouldn’t fade.

My 10 yr old would listen to me.

Ok, my 10 yr old would at least acknowledge me.

I could spend a day with the wonderful cherubs teachers, neighbors, and friends tell me about.

I wouldn’t have to leave the room my kids are in sometimes to avoid losing my mind.

…. And lastly… In my ideal world, Dr. Oz would feature Snickers as a cure-all for breast cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimers. And maybe cellulite.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Beyond Bamboozled Babysitters

We’re at a tricky parenting crossroads, at which our kids are a little too old for most local babysitters (Son1 tries to get their cell #’s), and too goofy to be left alone. It’s not that they’re too young to be home alone. As wonderful as they can be when out from  all reports I hear, at home they’re morons who would destroy my house. I literally would trust Son1 more with the infant next door than I would with his own 10 yr old brother. Our search for current viable options has caused me to look down memory lane at child care options past. It’s not easy finding coverage for 2 hyper wolves in sheep’s clothing.

You can only go to Grandma so many times before you feel like you’re imposing. She may not have felt that way, but I often did. There are also times my parents have a social life, so it’s not like she was sitting around waiting for my call. The boys LOVE it, but I just feel badly hitting her up all the time. Soooooo, off to the competent caregiver search we went time and again. The odd thing is that we found the recently-minted teens were solid, while their adult counterparts seem more prone to the con artists lurking inside every five year old.

We went the referral route. The snag there is people guard the name of a good babysitter like gold, and the ones you learn about are already working for 6 other families who must book 10 weeks ahead.

We went the internet match site route, and found a good one here or there. But the good ones are like free agents who always seemed wooed to houses with one bookish, craft-loving 6 year old girl. The one we ended up with seemed way more interested in our flat screen TV, had car problems every other week (which always happened COMING to our house rather than going?), had zip control over the kids, and nearly left in tears one night when I told her she should have questioned why the boys were playing with duct tape. 

We went the uncle route. My younger brother is 10 years my junior, and falls into the “cool young uncle” category. Sons1 & 2 were all hepped up to spend some quality time with him while he was home on leave once. One brisk autumn Saturday with my two probably had him Mapquesting his return to Fort Drum. Of course, they had floated the idea that they love hiking and climbing in the woods by Grandma’s where he was staying. He fell for it, but I think they regretted it later, for their bluff had been called. The fun loving uncle from Easter and Christmas was then seen to be a disciplined, highly organized fitness fanatic who ran their butts off for eight hours, with out a video game in sight. They were whipped. For his part, he seemed stunned- STUNNED- that Son2 would swear, letting the then 6 yr old blurt out multiple F bombs before realizing Son2 was saying what he thought he was saying. He assured me he handled it swiftly and with time outs as we would. I then learned he doled out one hour timeouts to the kids. I’m sure Son2 spent most of it dozing or plotting the demise of this once favorite uncle.

The biggest coup by my kids was when we went the aunt route. My sister, bless her heart, was a made mark the second she walked in the door. I’m not sure how the boys knew a push over was to be had, but at 3 and 5 they did. I think she gets the award for Most Bamboozled Babysitter. Now what you have to know is my sister is a successful attorney with litigation experience. Show her contaminated drinking water and she is ON it. Show her a preschooler and all bets are off. I guess she thinks dishonesty is the domain of adults alone, and saw only goodness and light in her nephews. Excuse me while I devolve into laughter.

My sister once watched the boys while we went to a wedding. We came home just after 12 and were assured the boys went to bed by their summer bed time. Since they were in preschool, there really was no summer vacation or adjusted time. But of course, the little ones had assured her there was… about an hour and a half after the norm. She did comment they may have been in bed about 10 minutes late, as she hadn’t planned enough time for their 2 books each (2? what?), nightly bubble baths, and ice cream. “Huh?” was my only reaction. Son1 had announced that Mommy always gave them plenty of time to play, "like a half hour" in the tub each and every night. “With bubbles!” chimed a then 3 yr old Son 2. Still, the ice cream comment intrigued me, so I inquired. Her answer had me questioning her NY & NJ Bar approval. “Well, right before bed, (Son1) said I forgot their bedtime snack they have every night- ice cream. (Son2) was upset about skipping it also. They said you gave them ice cream every night.” And with that acceptance of the conniving words of a 3 and 5 yr old, she took the crown of Bamboozlement.

Hopefully, within another year or so, there will be some clarity to the “when to leave them/ when not to” debate. For now, I’ll at least take comfort in knowing how much time, money, and energy I’ll be saving soon in the great babysitter hunt. They’ll probably end up babysitting themselves. They should. They’d probably see right through their charges’ stories. God knows they’ll already know every trick in the book.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Shut Up, Suck It Up, and Move Along

In my unending effort to toughen up my sons and eliminate as much whining as possible, I'm going to admit I probably cross the line. I probably pole vault right over said line, actually. Before I became a mom, I used to picture myself trying cure every painful little scrape with a gentle mother's kiss. I saw myself hugging and holding, chasing tears away. Can I tell you, these kids are drama kings? I'm spent. I'll gladly come back on duty when true crisis strikes, but boys, for all these minor papercut level ouches, from now on, it's time to shut up, suck it up and move along.

As a mother to sons, I have spent my fair share of time in the ER. I've looked into frequent shopper cards, and recognize the night admission desk staff. Mostly, this is Son2's doing. While Son1 is a 12yr old tornado at every turn, he somehow stops short of pushing the injury limit. Son2 is agile, though. He's quick. He's quiet. I've said before, he's like a 10 yr old Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief. He also tends to get a little ahead of himself. There was the time he raced around the playground and monkey bars in the dark. He met the low bar, and subsequently was met by 6 stiches to the eyebrow. He decided to shimmy up the armoire. Why? Well to see what was on top of course. Then it tipped over. He flung himself sideways and thank GOD had it hit his foot only. Eight weeks of pediatric orthopedics ensued for that poor foot. A year later, same ER, same foot, same xray machine. The list goes on. Each time, he has screamed, then nearly hyperventillated the way kids do (and grown women), and been a trooper.

But see, so in lies the problem. If an armoire can nearly crush your toe and you're playing kickball on crutches the next day-- I'm not really buying the sympathy plea for day ten of the orthodontics. No, you're not having McD's milk shakes every meal for the month of October. No, I'm not getting you ice cream every six hours because "it helps your mouth" and, lastly, no, I am not going 3 towns over to the high end market/caterer and calling you with what soup selections they have.  E-NOUGH. I'm done. I'm gaining 20 pounds on the impulse ice for myself (pumpkin soft serve? yum). The McD's drive thru guy knows me by name now. I'm going need the tires rotated after non-stop schlepping for soup. And that noise you keep making that you say you can't stop? STOP. For all that is holy, STOP.

I really do sound like a heartless witch I'm sure. But has a child just ever abused your caring side to the point you see a pillow and think "smother" not "fluff?" The child has just worn me down, and I was a willing participant all along. Son2 is blessed with these cherubic features, and gets away with murder for it. He sucks everyone into his cuteness orbit, from grandparent to teacher to store clerk. And then he goes in for the kill. Because though he's small for his age, he's a crafty little bugger, like Benjamin Button on a sugar kick. A Sunday school teacher once said to me, "He is such a little angel." She was a little put off when I reminded her that was Lucifer's first gig.

Because I felt sorry for little imp, I started blurting out offers for every ice cream retailer I could think of in Northern NJ when the tears started rolling at the orthodontist. He has a contraption now that is expanding his palette, straightening teeth and realigning his bite all at once. It's got a lot of moving parts, I know. I also know they were making his mouth tender. But in between hitting me up for more ice cream and specialty soup, I spied him scarfing a piece of apple pie and candy. Funny~ no mouth pain. Huh. Cut back to our family dinner scene that night, and quiche was too "hard to chew." Uh huh. Busted, wee one. So busted.

At that point, once I saw that was absolutely being played, I absolutely had it. The overexaggerated breathing noise now grates on my nerves every time I hear it. My blond hair/ blue eyed child sounds straight out of a Fantasy Casting Star Wars search with the incessant suction/ rush of air routine. I feel like waking him each morn with the words, "Lord Vader, rise!" But that will give him a title with power. After being strung along on emotional heartstrings the last 10 days, I'm done with deference.

Son2 is now going to find out what happens when you get nabbed tricking Mommy. I fight dirty, and hold immense power over your daily life. Ah, Grasshopper, so much to learn you have. So until I find my optimal payback opportunity, please do not rush to me with minor or imaginary pains and drama. Unless it's bleeding, broken, or boasts impact of nuclear-scale, shut up, suck it up, and move along.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Guess Passing Notes is Passé

You'll recall just a few weeks ago, I was worrying about Son1's entrance into the hormonal Shark Week that is the 7th grade dating scene. I honestly, truly, and naively thought he was driving headlong into his first crush, first romance, and sadly, first heartbreak. What a jackass I was. I forgot. I'm raising a boy. I'm coaching for the other team now, and seeing 7th grade through the head of a 12 yr old boy. You know what? They're goddamn idiots. This only sounds harsh to those of you who have not had a 12 yr old son. To my horror, I'm not watching a replay of my adolescent heart break in my son. Hell no. I'm watching it as a replay BY my son.

To an outsider, Son1 may seem as cold as any boy my friends and I agonized over every school day through sleepover night. That would imply an ounce of forethought, or any thought. But they just don't think. In hindsight, I wish I knew all along that all boys weren't cold, heartless pricks. Nope. Just clueless, emotionally-immature, morons. They're tall children. They're not young men, not fully teens even. I now see them as the children they are, merely strecthed by a couple of good growth spurts under their belts. They weren't methodical adults trying to hurt feelings, if Son1 is any indication. They were just bulls in acne-rich china shops. They'd still whale each other with light sabers in a heartbeat. But these poor girls won't see this for many years to come.

While this makes me feel better about my own past boyfriends, it makes me feel horrible for the girls cast off before they knew what hit them. Boys used to have to call you (on *gasp* your parents' phone), wait for you after school, or send a note through a friend. As bad as it was when we were kids, today's crew is used to an immediacy that it startling. It renders teen heartache with a steely efficiency of a CIA drone over Taliban strongholds. Today's teen boy has a weapon of ice so fast, so decisive, so stinging, it would make Dr. Evil drool. He has texting. And this, my friends, is where all hell broke loose for us this weekend.

It is with head hung low and heavy heart that I report that my beloved Son1 crushed a girl BY TEXT this weekend. I was horrified that I am morally and legally responsible for a person who would do this. Break up by text? In 3-three word phrases? Hello- Paging Mr. Cold Miser. I am in charge of raising one of the clueless baffoons that thinks, "yup" and "kk" are acceptable, well-parsed replies to any query.Yes, I am raising a cold-ass-text-breaker-upper. Go ahead, take my mother of the year tiara, and un-follow me now.

I did not exactly come off as a super supportive mom advocating for him. He seemed a little taken aback by that.  It all goes back to: they just don't think. To the girl in question, if she would like any comfort, she should know I read his text, went off the deep end reading how hurt she was and seeing his quick one-syllable-only bursts. She should know I then laced in to him for her... for me... for my jr high, high school, college, and post grad friends... for female family members... and for any woman who was ever a smitten pre-teen. Fear not, sweetie, when all is said and done, Hell really has no fury like a woman scorned, 30 years removed. I had your back.

While I know this is very much about this girl, who articulately and in language much more PG than I mustered gave him a piece of her mind, this is also about me. I don't mean the heartbreak part. I've come to terms with my childhood breakups and put the voodoo dolls away years ago. Mostly. But there is the thought about how it reflects on me as a mom. It raised that fear as moms that we will be judged by the crappy things our impulsive tall children do. (BTW-If I keep calling him tall child I will not affix every horrid ex-boyrfriend tag on him, so humor me.) Yet, I know my son, and I know the bubble of unseen consequences that he travels in, and I know he wouldn't willfully hurt someone. I'll readily admit to having visions of her parents watching her cry thinking, "What people would raise a boy to do this?"

Son1 is now intertwined in a love triangle spanning the 6th and 7th grade, and has gotten himself into quite the sticky mess. While trying to woo this girl to a dance for his friend who liked her, he truncated and abbreviated one word too many. He kept asking her if she was going to the dance, and in the digital crossfire, she accepted going with him. Not the friend. Oops. It could have been like every Three's Company episode, based on an overheard/misheard/misunderstood snippet. But then he was a little flattered she wanted to go with him, so he double checked (ok, quintupled checked) with his buddy if he really really really liked her. "Ya know bro i mean like like hr." "Uh yeah." (Shakespearean, isn't it?) So then not wanting to hurt his friend (see he really is a good boy), he came up with the hot idea to tell her they had been joking all along. Because each girl wants an older boy to ask her out as a joke. That went over well. Package this all with the incessant need of Son1 to sound like JayZ in text messages, and it did not play out well. The whacky sitcom morphed instead into a "very special Full House."

So now, we've laid out some thorough ground rules for the use of text, like don't ask out OR break up via text. They each deserve a voice. Don't assume the role of gangsta when chatting up girls. You're a lacrosse-playing child in a Lily Pulitzer-laden section of Morris County, NJ. It just looks stupid, like when Ralph Lauren tried selling saggy jeans and puffy jackets. And lastly, keep out of someone else's relationship. Fiascos are assured.

I think for now we've put the kibosh on text break ups. Young ladies (and their protective parents) of NJ, rest assured, one clueless guy habit at a time, I've got your back, and I'm trying to put the kibosh on those too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Somewhere between Ward Cleaver and Billy Ray Cyrus....

While we do limit TV time, it is watched. Think of me what you will. I grew up on it, and feel as adjusted as my peers who were denied it. My two are past the little kid shows with their mind numbing sing alongs and are now into the “tween/teen” shows heavily rotated on Disney and Nickelodeon. At 10 and 12, Sons1 and 2 have hit the demographic for this huge wave of kids programming out there filled with creative, ingenious, and at times flat out sneaky and obnoxious kids. Primetime TV is overrun with idiotic reality shows. Truly crackling, scripted dialogue appears the domain of 13 year olds now. There must be over a hundred shows. Employment in the youth acting marketing has got to be like 99%.

Mine are big fans of shows like Suite Life, iCarly, I’m in the Band, etc. It’s fairly easy for me to monitor the programs since our laundry room is on the same level as the rec room. (I’ve been told by the 10 yr old they are now too old to have a “play room.”). As if unceasing laundry weren’t penance enough for my desire to parent, I get to do it listening to Alex cast spells on Wizards of Waverly Place, Zach demean his twin Cody on Suite Life, and Carly and her buds create their web show. Um… kids of TV land… where the hell are your parents?

Remember when parents seemed to have brains on TV? While it disturbed me the kids never mentioned their deceased parents, I will say Mike and Carol Brady were bastions of calm logic. Donna Reed and June Cleaver were overly ideal, but seriously Wilma Flintstone had a better grip on Pebbles than these MIA parents. Lucy Ricardo showed crazy judgment, but you got the impression Little Ricky saw her, or at least thought about her, from time to time. The shows my kids watch, though, are filled with absent-minded or totally absentee parents. I know divorce rates are high, but they have a disproportionate number of single moms who are all painted as easily bamboozled morons. By and large, parents are either never mentioned, or shown as complete buffoons. TV Producers- could you cut us a LITTLE slack?

If you’re not up on your programming for 9-14 year olds, let me help:

Zack & Cody lived the “Suite Life” with their on-site hotel manager mother. It was weird enough they never ever mentioned a dad. Then one day, the gurus at Disney TV decided they shouldn’t live in a hotel with just their mom. Right. They should live on a cruise ship WITHOUT their mom. See that right there is better TV.

“I’m in the Band” follows the travails of a 15 year old boy who convinces his single mom to take in an aging, faded trio of heavy metal musicians from the band “Iron Weasel.” I don’t know about you, but I have just a wee bit of a hard time picturing single moms I know opening their home to three washed up musicians as “role models” for their sons. Has this woman never seen VH1’s Behind the Music?

“Hannah Montana” lives with her father, and to their credit they did address more than once that her mom is deceased. The bad news is she’s supervised by her father, Billy Ray Cyrus. Moving right along…

Not to be outdone by their mouse eared colleagues, the fine folks at Nickelodeon bring you their own unchaperoned programming for pre through high school. Good luck scaring up some parents there. And they start their characters off on the solo path at a tender age. Case in point, Dora wanders off with her backpack and inane singing map. They call it “exploring” but she’s a bigger flight risk than a mob kingpin or the dementia patients with whom I volunteer. Perhaps if she stayed with adults, she wouldn’t be perpetually lost? I think los padres de Dora need one of those kid leashes. And can someone please call the cops on the sticky-fingered fox?

Fast forward to teen years, and over on “Zoey 101,” Zoey goes to the boarding school Pacific Coast Academy. In this case, they rarely encounter any adult supervision unless entering a classroom. No one seems to remind them about being respectful, calling their parents, or even that they have parents. What would Mrs. Garrett think? The remaining “Facts of Life” jokes are just too easy, as they were learned by the marginally-supervised teen star, Jamie Lynn Spears. Cancelled, the show lives on in chaperone-less reruns.

And iCarly… where to begin? If you haven’t seen the show, it’s about a teen girl who lives with her brother in a gaping loft apartment creating webisodes of her online show all afternoon. Because each teen girl should be up in her bedroom-turned-web-studio with lights, a mic, a green screen, and way too much free time. And have you noticed the bar? I know we are supposed to suspend reality, and that cartoons in our impressionable youth were violent blah blah blah. Cry me a river. Did any of you actually try to move an anvil off a cliff to squash a neighbor? I’m thinking no. I am thinking there are a lot of kids who think it’s perfectly normally to shoot TV shows from your room. And what says youth safety like web cams in a bedroom?

I’m sure to my kids, I will sound lame; so be it. I simply think there has to be some happy medium between Father Knows Best and Bill Ray Cyrus. There has to be. If not as a civilization, we’re screwed. Until such scripted examples for the kids, I guess I’ll steer them toward Wizards of Waverly Place, where the parents are only half-moronic and shown as hardworking in the restaurant they own. A mom tired from managing a family business that lets her kids out of sight maybe five minutes longer than she should, but sends thunderbolts when crossed? Yeah, there’s one who’s real to me.