Sunday, March 29, 2009

Windbags And Airbags

A car crash in Colorado Springs, Colorado.Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, my teen turned 15.5. Here’s the irony: On the day that she became old enough to get her driver’s permit, I attended traffic school. (I was caught speeding. It’s about time they caught me!) And let me tell you, after watching one video after the next of horrible car crashes and families devastated by the loss of loved ones, who were tossed from cars and twisted around metal, I am not in any hurry to get her signed up for Driver’s Ed. No thanks. I think I’ll keep my daughter permit-less and alive a little bit longer.

I’m just hoping that she stays so busy with school, track and everything else she’s into, that she forgets all about it. But I don’t think I’m going to be so lucky.

By the way . . . for anyone who has ever been to traffic school, you have my deepest sympathies. Those two words are akin to “root canal.” I’m not sure what was more painful – sitting there for eight excruciatingly boring hours or writing a check for $321 for the privilege of giving up a beautiful Saturday afternoon to clear my driving record and keep my insurance rates down. When I rounded the corner at 7:00 in the morning (yep, that early!), I was STUNNED at the line of people snaking around the courthouse. A quick headcount multiplied by $300 put the revenue pumped into the courthouse that day at around $200,000 – just for one Saturday! What a racket traffic school is!

But I did learn something cool: Did you know that airbags deploy at 200 mph?

And there were some funny moments. Like, when it was over. When the instructor dismissed us, all these so-called “reformed” traffic offenders were stampeding out of the building and running as fast as they could to their cars because they didn’t want to get caught up in the inevitable traffic jam in the parking lot.

Let’s see, some of the worst drivers in Orange County coming together in one spot in a mad dash to get their Saturday nights started – I lost track of how many traffic infractions were being committed right there in the parking lot: tailgating, cutting people off, pulling out in front of someone with no signal, nearly running over pedestrians. I decided to hang back, turn on my radio and just wait until the chaos left the building.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Perfect Day For Vampires

It's a hazy, overcast day in Southern California. No sun in sight. A perfect day for vampires. (Isn't today the first day of spring??) I just made a pizza run (2 large pepperoni-and-sausage pies) for two teens and two almost-theres who are huddled around our flat-screen TV watching the movie "Twilight," which was just released on DVD last night at 12:01 a.m. Let the stampede begin!

My teen had been BEGGING me for two weeks to reserve a copy. I didn't feel the same urgency, knowing full well that Paramount, or whatever greedy movie studio owns this movie, has made sure that supply will well exceed demand.

When I surprised her with the DVD today (a spontaneous purchase, on my part), she squealed. No lie. And then she invited a friend over to watch it. I was amused at how excited they were to see a movie they had both already seen, one that had so much hype behind it the first time and exhausted her so emotionally, how could there possibly be any thrills left?

I tried to remember what movie made me feel that way when I was a teen. "Grease?" (I loved the sexual tension between John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John!) "Wizard of Oz?" (Nah, didn't stir up my hormones quite the same way) Oh, OK . . . "The Way We Were" with Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford. Yep, that movie was my "Twilight." I still recall the palpable longing and desire the two had for each other in the final scene when Redford is hailing a cab in New York and catches a glimpse of Streisand across the street. She turns toward him, their eyes meet and BINGO! We witness a rare moment: true love.

Maybe that's what is keeping these girls so quiet in the next room. A chance to witness that miracle for a second time. We all dream of true love, no matter what our age. (Some of us even pray we get a second shot at it!) I can only hope for my teen and tween that their real-life encounter with true love someday will be well worth the price of admission.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not Bad . . . For A Kid!

My teen is really growing up. I know this because she is starting to seriously narrow down her career choices. She's gone from wanting to be a fairy princess to an American Idol to a child psychologist and now there's some buzz about international business. I've enjoyed being an eyewitness all these years to my child's metamorphosis. Of course, what she decides to do with her life is up to her. It always has been.

But if you ask me, I think she has some real talent as a photographer, as you can see for yourself. Keep in mind that these pictures of her are self-portraits. She posed for the camera while holding it at arm's length at the same time. She's both Tyra Banks and Annie Liebowitz all at once.
What do YOU think??

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Stab At Bad Parenting

Maryland state welcome signImage via Wikipedia

Well, I'm all done moving, unless you count the two boxes crammed with toiletries that I have absolutely no room for anywhere. (Perhaps I'm a tad high-maintenance...) A special thank you goes out to Sherra for stepping in as a guest blogger last week while I got all my affairs in order. (Check out her blog at

And to answer your question, Sherra, I think I do my fair share of lying to others about the real state of affairs in Teen Land. Not because I'm trying to paint a rosier picture of life with a teen, but because many of the situations that I deal with suck up so much of my energy that I am too battle-weary to rehash them. I'd rather just move forward.

Even so, it's no secret that raising teens is a battleground at times. We parents can get so frustrated and overwrought over the smallest act of defiance. Take this father in Maryland, for instance. He and his teenage son were sitting in church together and the father asked the 19-year-old to remove his hat out of respect for church rules. The teen refused.

OK, we've all engaged in a battle of wills with our own teens more than a few times. What would you have done? Taken away the car keys, refused to pay his cell-phone bill, maybe told him that you were leaving?

Any of those responses makes a lot more sense than what this dad did. He got out of the pew, walked out to his car, grabbed a knife (how handy to have a knife in the car!), came back into the church and stabbed his teenager in the buttocks. Then he did the only thing left to do . . . he fled! There is an outstanding warrant for this father's arrest.

Yes, teenagers drive us crazy at times. But stabbing them? That's just insane.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who Lies More? Parents or Teens?

I have three teens living in my house right now so I think this makes me imminently qualified to share the results of an unscientific study I've been conducting for several years.

The burning question for me through these tumultuous teenage times is why this is the season of parenting when parents start lying.

Mostly to each other.

During the infant and toddler years, we helped each other. We swapped babysitting and recipes. We gave each other tips on the best pediatrician and how much pudding you can legally feed a 3-year-old. We exchanged funny stories about what our darling children said. We celebrated not just birthdays, but milestones, too -- when Johnny slept through the night in his big boy bed, when Susie was potty-trained and what special toy we bribed them with.

Then something changed.

Johnny and Susie weren't so cute anymore. The milestones became scary.

Middle school peer pressure. Study habits changed. Johnny got a D in math. Susie wore too much makeup and was "in love" with a boy you didn't like.

High school brought more milestones. The dreaded driver's license that meant freedom for them and more responsibility -- rather, liability -- for you. And more peer pressure. The dreaded 4 D's…dating, driving, drinking, and drugs.

The playgroups stopped. Healthy snack choices became the least of our worries. And we started retreating and lying to each other.

"Johnny is doing great."

"Susie is so busy at school!"

Lying by omission is still lying -- or that's what I've been trying to teach my kids for all these years.

Sure, there is a privacy issue. Keeping things private in your family and respecting your kids' privacy are important considerations … especially if it puts you, your teen or your family at risk.

But when we lie to each other, we're lying to ourselves.

When we internalize our fears about parenting this next generation and don't share what's going wrong and how to deal with it, we're doing each other a grave disservice.

You know the family who all appear perfect in public. I'm always a little relieved when I find out Ward and June's kids were caught __________ (you fill in the blank).

Well, at least it makes me feel a little better.

It's not a reflection of parenting. It really does take a village.

I absolutely believe we help each other so much by telling each other the truth rather than when we pretend everything is perfect. I'm not perfect. My kids aren't perfect. This parenting gig is the hardest job on the planet and I need all the help I can get.

Let's stop judging each other and start helping each other during this season of parenting teenagers.

Am I the only one who needs to hear the truth?

A BIG thank you goes out to Sherra Humphreys, our guest blogger. Sherra is the mom of four, a speaker and a writer in her "spare" time when she's not keeping track of where the three teenagers are, who is in what car, driver and passenger names, location, departure and arrival time and other annoying details she asks her children daily. You can read more about her trials and joys of being a stupid mother, tried-and-tested teen dating tips and how proud she is of her twin daughters' recent decision at can also find her at

a stupid mother
Teen dating tips
twin daughters recent decision

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

We'll Be Back Next Week!

HALLANDALE, FL - MARCH 20: Giovani Guzi who wo...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I've neglected you, and I'm sorry. This is moving week for me and I've been busy packing, with not much time for anything else. Look for some fresh posts next week.

Oh, and moms . . . you'll appreciate this. We're surrounded by boxes, and my teen knows we're moving this weekend. Lots to do, and I desperately need her help. So she asks me: "Is it OK if I go shopping with Tania on Saturday and then meet everyone at the beach on Sunday?"

Like I said . . . different planets.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bending The Rules

My teenager went to a winter formal Friday night with a 15-year-old boy she met a few months back at a dance. They’ve met up a few times since then, always in a group situation. And they text-message, e-mail, IM and post on each other’s Facebook and MySpace pages. Back in my day (GAWD, I sound like an old crone!), I would wait for (and agonize over) one phone call. Now, as Drew Barrymore says in the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You,” there are SO many ways to be rejected!

I had always told my teenager that she wouldn’t be able to date until she was 16. It’s the law in my household! But I allowed her to go to this formal because, well, it really wasn’t a date, per se. More like a bending of my rule. Yes, he picked her up (with his mom at the wheel); yes, flowers were exchanged and they wrapped their arms around each other for pictures (and her date looked very nervous doing so. It was cute.) But it was more of a group date, really.

About 20 of her date’s best friends rented a party bus and they gathered for a potluck dinner at someone’s house. Then they all went to Knott’s Berry Farm together -- the guys in suits and ties, the girls in short prom dresses and heels – in 50-degree weather, mind you! Forget my worries over teenage pregnancy. My overriding concern was hypothermia.

I picked up my little Cinderella at midnight. All the other kids rode around in the party bus for two hours, but I drew the line there. A 15-year-old girl, in my opinion, shouldn’t be riding around in a party bus until 2:00 in the morning, especially one that has a stripper pole smack-dab in the middle of the aisle on which, I hear, a number of girls and guys were dancing seductively. (What the hell is wrong with these kids??)

On the way home, my teenager told me that Bob (not his real name) “asked her out.” I reiterated my Golden Rule: “Honey, you know you’re not allowed to date until you’re 16.” The generation gap widened once again. “No, mom. ‘Asking out’ means that he asked me to be his girlfriend.” Whoops, my bad! (Translation: Oh, dear God!)

What a fine mess I’ve gotten myself into! Let me summarize: I let my teenager, who isn’t allowed to date until she is 16, go on a group date with a boy who asked her to be his girlfriend that night. I'm sure they’re going to want to see each other all the time, group situation or not. So technically, she’s now dating, right?