Tag Archives: childhood

Ode to An ’80s Tan

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It’s that time of year again, when families with an average of 1.86 children* and access to some type of motorized vehicle migrate south for a week of fun in the sun, or rather, hopefully not killing each other while suffocating under three layers of UVB protective clothing.

I can’t help but get a little nostalgic as I pack a dozen bottles of hand sanitizer, ear buds, and my candy cane shiv for the flight to Florida. Things were much simpler when I was a kid, and quite frankly, more tan.

I will cut you if you take the last Grey Goose orange vodka mini-bottle on the plane. Image via Flickr.com

Despite repeated warnings from the Surgeon General and my preternaturally aged hands, I love the sun. In my book? Tan is good, and every single white-bellied resident of Cleveland playing cornhole on the beach this spring proves my point (by the way, if you happen to be a Facebook Robber and are casing my house, good luck getting through the copious piles of laundry, Halloween candy wrappers, and discarded LIVESTRONG wristbands blocking all points of entry).

This is a cornhole tournament. On the beach. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Image via pressofatlanticcity.com

When I was young, we didn’t have enough money to fly the friendly skies, so we drove to Florida for spring break in The Grey Ghost, our family’s unaffectionate nickname for my dad’s sometimes air-conditioned, often not, Thunderbird. With a piece of masking tape cutting the back seat in half and delineating sides that dare not be crossed for fear of losing a limb, my brother and I played the license plate game to pass time, which pretty much sucked after about fifteen minutes because every single car headed south was from Ohio.

Things changed once we crossed the Georgia-Florida border, though. With empty bags of pork rinds at our feet and the wind in our hair, we knew we’d arrived at a mystical place filled with lightning bugs, fudgesicles, and an unusually large amount of seedy lounges advertising Elvis impersonators.

Is that a camel toe you’re wearing or are you just happy to see me? Image via zonamilitar.com.

We all piled into one room at a value-brand version of a Holidome, and Mom doled out the quarters she’d saved all year long so we could have whatever we wanted from the vending machines. Eating Taco flavored Doritos in bed while watching Saturday Night Live was nothing short of awesome, and as soon as I could see sunlight filtering through the curtains the next morning, I was out the door with my tube of Bain de Soleil, a Teen Beat magazine, and a dream.

This was my dream when I was a kid. In many ways, it still is.

Back then, a tan meant you were going somewhere in life, like the mall, to get an Orange Julius and some sweet new parachute pants. Now, being tan can still take you places, but it’s pretty much limited to your dermatologist’s office, usually for some minor outpatient surgery to get a spot of precancerous basal cell carcinoma removed from your nasal septum.

This too could be you if you stay in the sun too long or inhale a lot of recreational drugs. Image via 4.bp.blogspot.com.

Today, my family boards a plane to go on vacation, which is great, except for the aforementioned need to carry a concealed weapon that looks like a piece of half-eaten Christmas candy. And the ear buds that plug into something that, while providing entertainment, makes us more co-travelers than anything else. And the lines.

In response to an overwhelming cry for change (mostly from parents), the airline industry will now allow you to kennel your children and buy a seat for your dog.

Hence the nostalgia.

But the only thing you can count on in life is change, so like every other pasty mother I know, I’ve packed the SPF 300 and a little something just for me that’s stashed away in the recesses of my luggage. No. It isn’t a baggie filled with the medicinal marijuana you can now buy on every street corner in Colorado to enjoy with your Caramel Macchiato before a great day at the beach.

It’s a bottle of  Hawaiian Tropic Diamond Strength Dark Tan Accelerator.

Apparently, my parents only had enough money to buy sunscreen for my little brother, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Apparently, my parents only had enough money to buy sunscreen for my little brother, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Old habits die hard, and if youth is wasted on the young, I’m pre-qualified to appreciate every fine line coming my way.

*According to the 2000 Census, the average number of children in families was 1.86. Apparently, a child isn’t considered whole until it threatens to run away unless you lift the ban on smart phones after 9:00 p.m.

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Are Our Children at the Core of the Next Entitlement Demographic?

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There’s nothing that tugs at a parent’s heart like the hollow face of a hungry child. On the other hand, there’s nothing that makes a parent’s eyeballs distend, roll backwards, and practically dislocate themselves, like witnessing the antics of a child who feels a little hungry, complains about it, and expects a custom-made meal to be delivered on the spot.

The child, in this example, is mine.

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I hooked up to play a late afternoon front nine (keep in mind that I didn’t know what “front nine” meant until I was about thirty years old) on our neighborhood course (also keep in mind that, growing up, the closest thing our family had to a neighborhood course was, well…nothing). As we repeatedly made our way from the rough to the fairway, into a sand trap, and over the green, my twelve year-old son, Taylor, began to shank his drives. The more balls he shanked, the testier he got, the testier he got, the more he shanked. Why the male gender has failed to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between these two variables is beyond me. But he’s young and I digress.

Even though his facial expression is familiar, that’s not my son. Image via sportsillustrated.com

Exhausted by a transition from summer to middle school that pushes him out the door every day by 6:45 a.m., frustrated, and possibly a bit disinterested, he stood on the green ignoring a view that could have inspired the creation of the earth itself and asked a simple question.

This is the view my son couldn’t see. Image via ccatcastlepines.com

“Where’s the beverage cart?”

“I don’t know. It’s late in the day, but I’m sure it’ll be around soon,” I said.

“I can’t believe it isn’t here. This is ridiculous,” he replied, grabbing his ball from the fairway and storming toward the next hole (keep in mind that if I had pulled a move like that on my mother, she would have coldcocked me before I had the chance to take a step…by the time I staggered up from my face plant into a bunker, stunned and babbling course etiquette backwards, she would have finished the hole and moved on, with or without me).

That’s not my mom. That’s a vampire. Image via http://www.reasonforchange.com

At the time, my reaction to his mini-outburst was much less measured than I’d like to admit, but I can say in retrospect that he was having a moment. We all have them. Even Oprah. In fact, I have about a dozen an hour on that fateful day each month when standing anywhere within my peripheral vision holds the equivalent danger as juggling molten-hot machetes on a tightrope (keep in mind that if you mess with me on the Tuesday before the Thursday, you’re taking a risk that’s not worth the reward). As the saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Image via mszigzag.typepad.com

In hindsight, Taylor was as within his rights to complain as any kid invited to walk a beautiful golf course with his parents could be, which is to say, not at all.

And that’s where I have a problem.

My problem rests on the premise that even though he knew it wasn’t right to lose his temper, he didn’t know that the reason he lost it, contextually, was wrong.

The math breaks down like this: every time we play golf, we walk the course. Every time we walk the course, the beverage cart comes around at about hole five or six. Every time the beverage cart rolls up, Taylor gets a snack, often something more spectacular than anything he could ever pull from our pantry. Every time he gets a snack, we sign the bill.

My husband likes the beverage cart too. Image via golfdigest.com

We do this because we want him to experience things that we didn’t as kids. All parents hope their children have more than they did growing up. By popular definition, “success” is another way of saying “Congratulations, you’ve achieved the American Dream.” The words are practically interchangeable in our culture, even if they sometimes sound hollow.

But I’m finding that for a generation of children being raised today, “have more” doesn’t necessarily mean “do more”, and that’s not good (keep in mind, that our kids will most likely need to “do” a lot more than we did to get ahead when they’re adults).

What did Taylor do to earn a one-on-one trip to the golf course with Mom and Dad? Nothing. Yesterday, that’s pretty much how he treated it. Like nothing. The instant gratification he derives from getting a snack-on-demand wasn’t there, and because of that, he lost sight of the things around him that are much more important.

In many respects, our children are growing up in a world that we never knew existed when we were kids, because it didn’t. Where we played with blocks, our toddlers manipulate touch screens. Remember the days when your Dad schlepped you to the library so you could spend an hour deciphering the Dewey Decimal system to look through an ancient card catalogue and find the one book in the entire city on yellow-bellied marmots for a report? Taylor doesn’t, but he can pull up more images of that nasty rodent than you’d ever want to scroll through on his phone. Do you channel the Von Trapp family and sing songs with your children in the car? Me neither, because my kids’ headphones are shoved so far into their ear canals that they automatically de-wax themselves pushing them in and back out.

The Dewey Decimal System is almost as old as Joan Rivers. Almost. Image via http://www.afterelton.com

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. With the best of intentions, we damage our children. Keeping that thought in mind, I can’t help but wonder if parents who are willing to give their kids anything also take away something critical that means everything. Do I fall into that category? Sometimes. There are things I do well when it comes to raising my children to become responsible adults, but today I’m focusing on what I do wrong.

As the debate around our nation’s entitlement state roars down a bloated, bipartisan road toward a November 6 collision with itself, perhaps, instead of simply targeting the entitlements already being given, we should also focus on how we ensure that our children avoid this path. Does the current road need repair? Yes, but future generations can get a better start if they walk down a street that begins with chores and ends with education. Or begins with education and ends with validation. Or begins with validation and ends with communication. Or maybe our kids should just take out the trash.

If life’s about the journey, our children had better develop strong calves. Image via media.knownew.com

As humans, we’re a complicated mixture of nature and nurture, and it’s the combination of the two that makes us who we are to become. Yesterday? Taylor wasn’t the kid I wanted him to be, but most of the time, he is. He now understands (more fully than he’d like) that a trip to the golf course is earned, not given. I’m not writing this to embarrass him, rather, I’m putting this out there to call attention to myself, with the hope that through my children’s eyes, I learn the exact lessons I’m supposed to teach.

I Think I’m Smarter Than You

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No, not you. The you I’m referring to in this post is my seven-going-on-seventeen year-old daughter, Essa.

Running short on time and long on things to do, I had a simple conversation with my little girl the other day that went something like this.

Me: Essa, we’ve gotta pick up Taylor and Grace. Get in your car seat and let’s go.

Essa: Seriously Mom? Car seats are for babies.

Me: No, Essa. Car seats are for kids, and even though you like to think of yourself as someone who falls outside the National Highway Traffic Safety guidelines, you don’t.

Essa: Fine! (cue heavy foot stomping, something large and likely expensive crashing in the laundry room, and an exaggerated door slam)

It takes me about an hour to locate my car keys on any given day, and by the time I’d wrenched them out from under the bin-organizer-thingy in the hall that everyone ignores as they toss their shoes on the floor, I wasn’t in the best mood. When I got outside? This is what I found:

Here’s the thing. On paper, Essa did exactly as I’d asked. She got in her car seat. Never mind that she planted it on top of Taylor’s longboard, raced down the driveway sans-helmet, and flew across the street without bothering to look in any safe direction, raising her arms in some kind of “take that mom” victory cheer at the end.

Technically, she didn’t do anything wrong.

And this is where I detect the germinating seed of a growing problem.

My daughter, in many ways, is a lot like me, but her singular brand of Essaness is emerging about twenty years ahead of schedule…just in time for me to deal with it for the next ten.

So in an effort to keep both of us alive, I’m offering her a one-time only Guide to Getting Through the Next Decade Under the Same Roof as Me. Otherwise? Life as she knows it will exist solely within the confines of the four walls better known as her room, and we’ll both bear the pain of incarceration.

 Ten Ways to Act Like You Respect Me Even if You Don’t

1. Don’t be so obvious. It’s a lot easier to steal my wallet while you’re patting me on the back.

2. Compliment me. I’m especially vulnerable when being told I look younger than I am. Twenty-eight is a good place to start.

3. Tell any adult you encounter how much you admire me: your teacher, a friend’s parent, my therapist…kind words, even if completely fabricated, go a long way.

4. Timing is everything. If you can work it so I hear about this fake compliment right after you’ve told me I don’t look old enough to have had three kids? You’ve earned an entire week’s worth of heavy sighs and exaggerated eye rolls.

5. Pretend to be nice to your brother and sister. When you coldcock your brother in the head right in front of me it stresses me out. Hit him when I’m not around.

6. Don’t do drugs. Period. If you put any substance in your body that I’ve never let into mine? It won’t matter if you fake like me or not because I will kill you.

7. Synch your calendar with my cycle. There’s one day a month when you’re better off camping out in the scrub oak behind the house with a flashlight and some beef jerky rather than crossing my path.

8. Force those huge, expressive eyes to lock meaningfully with mine and channel a vibe of “wow mom, your wisdom just blows me away…thank you for being so magnificent” when I’m trying to teach you something rather than “I’m so blah, blah, blekity blah bored and stuff, and like, anyway, who do you think you are, and you so don’t get me and all that and are you done yet because I have better things to do.”

9. Use your Montessori education to your advantage. Less drama + more smiling = more peace = less restriction = more fun. See? A + B = C = D = E. Simple math that makes no sense is genius.

10. When in doubt, always tell the truth because I’ve not only been right where you are, I’m a step ahead of you. My genetic code is responsible for all the back alleyways and side streets on your map, and there’s no place you might dare to go that I haven’t already been.

I understand the theory of evolution, that my childhood took place in the Mesozoic Era, and you’re way ahead of wherever I was at your age. But slow down. It seems like only yesterday when you climbed into my lap, looked directly into my eyes, and asked if fairies were real. You’re an amazingly intuitive, intelligent little girl, and if you’ll take my hand and hold it over the next ten years like you’ve done for the past seven? I crisscross-applesauce promise I’ll let you go when it’s time for you to fly.