Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Smell Something Funny

I’m having some trust issues with my teenager. I won’t get into the details, as I do respect her privacy. She’s almost 16 (does anyone know how to stop time?), and I count my blessings that I don’t have HUGE problems with her that involve sex, drugs and alcohol. Still, I suspect she’s not always telling me the truth, and it makes me crazy sometimes.

So I understand (well, sort of) how some parents who DO have suspicions that their teens might be doing drugs would go crazy enough with worry to hire Sniff Dogs (, a New Jersey-based company that unleashes drug-sniffing dogs into teenagers' bedrooms in search of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and ecstasy.

It's a little rash, I'll admit, but I gotta admire the entrepreneurial spirit behind this company!

They claims the dogs’ snouts are so sensitive, that they can detect a marijuana seed from as far away as 15 feet! Parents can rent these dogs for about $200/hour. When you consider the cost of rehab or worse, the emotional cost to a family from a teenager’s drug overdose, that $200 is a real bargain.

Critics argue that teens will feel violated and never trust their parents again. Parents who have hired Sniff Dogs say that this very unconventional surveillance method saved their teenagers’ lives.

What do you think? Does the idea of hiring drug-sniffing dogs to keep your teens drug-free stink or not?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ask . . . And You'll Be Surprised What You Learn

Sunset, Playa Flamingo, Costa RicaImage by Mark Sun via Flickr

I hear so many moms of teenager complain that their children never tell them anything. I wonder what exactlyis "anything" and I wonder if their children wonder the same thing.

Well, I'm hear to challenge those information-starved moms by asking, "When was the last time you asked for anything?" No, really. When was the last time you asked your child something specific and engaged in a way that told them that you really wanted something in return? You don't do this when you are driving and talking on a cell phone or fighing traffic with a younger sibling in the backseat. No, as a parent of teenager, you must find the right time, the right place and engage with 110% interest and presence of mind.

Granted these times are difficult to find when we are shuffling kids from school to basketball to ballet and trying to fix dinner and complete homework all in the same hour. But that's what makes parenting teenagers such an adventure. It's as much about finding the perfect time to chat, as it is getting the teenager to open up and share.

I found one of these rare moments recently in a pool in Costa Rica. There's a lot to be said about leaving the country to find time to talk to your teenager in a place where they cannot communicate with anyone in English and their iPhones don't work. You might say, it's an experience worth paying for! I not only got a tan, but got to hear about my daughter's teen experiences -- lucky me!

We were in the pool floating through the labyrinth of canals, just my 15-year-old daughter and I. Suddenly, I brought up the fact that she is currently the same age that her birth mother was when she first gave birth. Peering around my umbrella drink, I surprised her with a simple factoid. "Do you realize that you are the same age that your birth mother was when she gave birth to her first baby?

I had a difficult time determining whether it was the factoid or the randomness of the conversation that startled her most. She was very surprised, so I went for the grand slam. "How would you feel if you were pregnant right now?' It was a great conversation starter but one I am sure not many teen moms have asked.

She described how she would feel scared, worried and confused, which was my opportunity to make it even more relevant. We talked about how understandable it was for her birth mother to give her up for adoption, and how difficult it would be if she were a mom right now. Clearly, we wouldn't be floating in a pool on an exotic beach in Central America sipping non-alcoholic umbrella drinks.

Factoid #2: If my 15-year-old were pregnant, I might need alcohol. The conversation took many turns -- from friends who were actively having sex to feelings about abortion. In the short 10 minutes of conversation, I learned more about my daughter on a deeper level than an hour riding in the car exchanging yes and no answers.

I believe being a mom of teenagers makes us take a step back and approach parenting a little differently than when our children were toddlers or preschoolers. It's a time of evolution not only for our teens, but for us as mothers. It's time a time not to want just anything, but to want everything.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Wisconsin Plague

Well, my teenager's friend, Chris from Wisconsin, has come and gone. All those weeks of anticipation, building up to the moment he stepped off the plane on Friday and was attacked by my bear-hugging teenager and -- POOF! -- he was outta here Sunday at noon. You could say that time FLU by . . .

Poor, poor Chris. He traveled clear across the country, for the first time without his parents, only to spend most of his Big Adventure convalescing on my couch with the stomach flu. (And I was worried about the two of them being lip-locked all weekend!)

Thank goodness he and my daughter decided not to attend the Valentine's dance on Saturday, which was the whole reason why he was going to come out here to begin with. He was not in any condition to do much dancing, trust me. It was like a reverse Cinderella story. There was no limo, no corsage, no wearing of a beautiful pink dress and a suit with a matching pink tie. No dancing under the light of the moon, or in their case, a mirror ball.
Instead, they spent Saturday afternoon and evening lounging on my sectional – separated by fear of contagion – watching videos, drinking 7-Up and eating saltines, and sharing music on their cell phones by the flickering glow of the TV.
Sometimes life kicks you in the gut . . . literally!
Before Chris became ill, though, we managed to show him a few of Orange County’s highlights. On Friday night, we had the bright idea of introducing Chris to his first In ‘N Out burger – an absolute must-experience for any out-of-towner, wouldn't you agree? Chris told us he wasn’t hungry, even though it had been eight hours since his three peanuts and a coke on the airplane. But we insisted. In the morning, we breakfasted at The Sugar Shack, the legendary diner in Huntington Beach where all the surfers hang out. He ordered a ham and cheese omelette, but said it tasted weird. I noticed he didn’t eat much, but didn't think twice about it. New in town. First-breakfast-with-the-mom jitters.
Then my teen took him to the beach where they had planned to meet up with her friends. She had baked him some special Valentine’s double-fudge brownies. He took one bite, said they were too rich and didn’t eat them. After a few hours in the sun (the teens AND the brownies), which everyone knows is GREAT when you have a stomach flu, I picked them up at the beach and drove them to -- what else? -- a place where they serve more food. They don’t have El Torito Grills in Wisconsin, and Chris said he liked Mexican food, so I imagined this would be a real treat for him. He ordered a quesadilla, took one bite and pushed it aside.
Wait . . . someone from Wisconsin turning their nose up to cheese? OK, now I was starting to think there might be something wrong with him. Come to think of it, maybe I’m the one who got him sick trying to shove food down him at every turn.
So as my teen, the entertainment director, was making plans with her friends for a night out at Knott’s Berry Farm on the way home from El Torito, Chris was looking pretty green in the back seat of my car. He went from my car, to the bathroom, to the couch, and now you're all caught up.
Funny thing, Chris' mother said he's usually a very healthy kid. Last time he was sick was about eight years ago. Chris blames a girl he sits next to in school, who was out with the stomach flu last week. I'm sure she's going to hear all about his Big Adventure in California, whether she wants to or not.
Chris' mom sent me and my teen that beautiful flower arrangement you see in this post to thank us for curing her son of the Wisconsin Plague. Very classy lady!
And I've posted a picture of Chris below. You can't see his face (I'm protecting his anonymity), which I think is apropos, considering that we didn't see much of it either.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Rock!

View of the Disney Magic. Taken at Cozumel, Yu...Image via Wikipedia

On the Disney Cruise last year, my teen met a boy named Chris from Wisconsin. Though they met just two days before the cruise ended, they hit it off immediately and have been chatting on the phone, texting and IMing ever since, and as a result, a strong friendship has blossomed. She once even told me that Chris was her best friend. How sweet, but how sad, too, I thought. She finally meets a really nice boy and he lives clear across the country.

A month ago, my teen told me she wanted to go to her school’s Valentine’s Dance. It’s a tradition for the girls to ask the guys, and she didn’t know who to ask. I suggested she ask Chris, knowing deep-down that it really wasn’t geographically viable, but I thought it would at least make her feel better that she had someone to ask. Well, to my great surprise, Chris said yes, that his parents would let him fly out here from Wisconsin to go to the Valentine’s dance with her! Then she asked me if it would be OK if he stayed with us because he doesn’t know anyone in Southern California.

Uh-oh. I hadn’t planned on this outcome. Should I let a boy, who my 15-year-old really, really likes, stay with us for two whole nights and three days, though I don’t know him at all myself? The protective, Emily Post side of me said, “No. This doesn’t look proper.” But the historian in me, the one who looks back on my own teen years and wishes I had more unforgettable moments to recall, as this one surely will be for my daughter someday, said, “Sure, why not?”

“Mom, you rock!” My teen likes me. She really likes me.

So Chris comes out tomorrow, Friday the 13th. (I am so excited for them!) And while the two decided not to go to the dance after all, we plan to give the Midwesterner a short, but grand, tour of Southern California.

While we're busy making memories, I’ll keep you posted. Emily Posted.

Oh, and the sleeping arrangements? Chris will be slumbering in my teen’s bed, and she’ll be sleeping with me.

And I’m a very light sleeper ;).

(I'm curious: What would you have done in my situation?)

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Friday, February 6, 2009

19 Ways She Loves Me

Avril Lavigne at the Los Angeles premiere for ...Image via Wikipedia

How much does my teenager love me? Let me count the ways: Jason Mraz, Hoobastank, Avril Lavigne, Chris Brown, The Fray, Natasha Bedingfield . . .

Last weekend, I got an early Valentine from my teenager, and it surprised the hell out of me, to be honest. (I haven't received a Valentine from her in, well, NEVER!) While she was at her father’s house for the weekend, she made a CD for me featuring 19 handpicked songs that she thought I would like. Mom Music, she called it. (The last thing she ever made me was a macaroni necklace way back in Kindergarten. I still have it!)

To fully appreciate the selflessness of this gesture, you have to understand that my teenager and I hardly ever see eye-to-eye when it comes to music. In fact, we fight about music in the car constantly. I yell at her to turn off the rap crap. She berates me for listening to Cher ( I LOVE Cher! “Do you believe in life after love . . .").

“Follow the music into the light, Mom,” she pleads. “Right into the 21st century.”

What touched me most of all was that the songs she picked were DEAD ON perfect! They were exactly the songs that I would be listening to had I not been stuck in a musical time warp.

As I played each song, unwrapped each gift, my tween in the backseat yelled over all the beautiful music, “THESE SONGS ARE TOO SLOW!” To which her sister spun around in the front seat like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist" and snapped back in my defense,“Shut up! It’s mom’s CD and she likes it slow!”

Ahhhh . . . she knows me. She really knows me!

That CD with the 19 “I Love You’s” burned into it is now my new favorite thing. Goodbye Credence Clearwater. So long, Cher. Thanks to my teen, I am moving on, into the light.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Three Top Fears Facing Teenagers Today

Facebook, Inc.Image via Wikipedia

We're going to try something new today: a guest blogger! I noticed a lot of other bloggers feature guest bloggers from time to time, and I think it's a great idea to spread the Internet real estate around, invite more voices into the mix. It will make this blog a lot more interesting, I think. So please welcome our first guest blogger EVER, Vanessa Van Petten! She offers a lot of insight into how teenagers think and why they act the way they do:

I have posted about the top 5 things teens worry about, but how about what teens fear? I asked a bunch of my teen friends and groups what they worry about most and summarized them here for you below:

1) Fear of Failing: I know, sometimes we act like we don't care. We act like getting a C on a test is no big deal, but usually this is a cover. We want to succeed and do well just as much as you want us to. We fear failing on an academic level, in our relationships, in our friendships and even on home projects. I think as a teen, our self-esteem and self-confidence are extremely delicate, so when we fail it is a real blow and we cannot recover as quickly as most adults.

2) Fear of Disappointing You: Yup, parents put a lot of pressure on us. Whenever I did badly on tests, I had to not only deal with my own disappointment of not doing well, but then announcing it to my parents and dealing with their anger/ disappointment/ punishment -- it's really rough. We also know that if you do not like our boyfriend/girlfriend, set of friends or art project, we also hear about it. If you do not like something we do, it feels like you do not like a part of us -- and that is something we fear.

3) Fear of Being Misunderstood: I mean this on many levels. Many of the teens I asked, said they feared friends not liking an outfit or the way they looked. They feared someone defacing their Facebook page and having gossip spread at school. They feared their parents over-reacting and freaking out about something they did. I call this fear of being misunderstood because, as teens, everything we do is about experimenting with our image, identity and persona. We want to perfectly portray who we are…yet, we do not even know that ourselves!
I think that parents can address these fears head-on with their kids. Ask them what they fear, bring these fears up -- even if they disagree with my list…at least they are talking to you about a deep subject!

Vanessa Van Petten is the teen author of the parenting book "You're Grounded!" She writes a parenting blog along with 12 other teen writers from the kid's perspective to help parents. Her work as a young family peacemaker have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, Fox 5, CBS 4 and much more!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Guns And Gators

Two American Alligators (Alligator mississippi...Image via Wikipedia

Knowing when to let go is one of the most difficult decisions a mom has to make in raising her teenagers. Is it okay to let them stay out until midnight? When should "no" be the answer to sleepovers at the homes of friends who you don't know well? Or, as I had to ask myself this week, "Is it smart to allow my teenage son to go duck-hunting in the Everglades with another family?"

There are quite a few things to consider in this one question. First, the obvious one: guns. Second: wading through alligator-infested water at 4:00 a.m. Third: doing all this without my supervision.

The decision should be easy. My brothers shot their first rifle at 12 years old when they went hunting with my father. I shot my first rifle about the same age as my son is today. However, we are talking about my son, the little baby that took me over two years to conceive and the little guy that somehow grew up overnight. My first response was a resounding "Yes, you can go," but as the morning approaches, I am starting to second-guess my decision.

I keep having thoughts of what the headline might be if there's a freak accident. I can't help it, but the "what if's" overtake my confidence. I have to remind myself that in just three short years he will be doing these kind of things without me even knowing.

Perhaps it’s the knowing that makes us worry. We raise our children emphasizing in them the importance in good decision-making. We attempt to lay the foundation for them to keep themselves safe when we are not around, yet when the time comes to allow them to exhibit their skills, we hesitate to let them go. It's ironic isn't it? I'm going to allow him to go hunting and I'm going to worry until he returns, but the reality is that I've been preparing for this moment his entire life -- alligators and all.

Fast-forward 12 hours. My son has returned in one piece and happier than I've ever seen him. He had a great time. Enjoyed every minute of the experience. He didn't kill a duck, which doesn't hurt my feelings, but he did gain a great deal of confidence. Something I could have shot down, and how grateful I am now that I didn't pull the trigger on letting him go.


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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Where Are All The Mens?

Jock cookingImage by Saintbridge via Flickr

It's Super Bowl Sunday, and you know what that means?? It's THE best day of the year to run errands and get all your items checked off your "TO DO" list because there is NOBODY around, Ladies!

Today was multi-tasker heaven! I was the first car at all the traffic lights; I zipped through the express lane at Ralph's with more than 10 items and didn't feel guilty about it; and best of all, there were very few cars in the drive-thru at In 'N Out. I literally got in and out -- and that, my friends, is a small miracle at the most popular burger joint in Southern California.

It's a ghost town out there because everyone who calls himself an American is plopped in front of a flat-screen TV somewhere spooning up chili and watching that overrated match-up between the Steelers and the Cardinals (at least I think that's who's playing!) Including my teen and tween, who are with their dad at his annual Super Bowl gala, but probably wishing they were with me. (They're not big football fans, either.)

I'll admit it's quite nice to have the whole town to myself, practically. While there were a few other women out and about, with whom I exchanged that knowing "aren't-we-the-smart-ones?" glance, I did miss seeing men around. Especially in Home Depot.

A world without men. It was a little eerie.

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