Mommy Breaks

Sharon writes:

I have a confession. Yesterday, I was so tired that I lied to my child and said that I needed to go potty and then, I locked myself in the bathroom to take a nap on the bathroom floor. Keep in mind that my bathroom is not just small but extremely small. So small that while lying on a folded up beach towel (for comfort), I needed to bend my knees and lean my legs against the door. There wasn’t even enough room to fold my arms under my head because my elbows would hit the closet door on one side and the toilet on the other. So, therefore, I had to keep my arms above my head but slightly curved so that they wouldn’t hit the wall at the opposite end of the bathroom. After a quite refreshing 20 minute cat nap, I couldn’t feel my arms or legs because the “pins and needle” feeling was so bad.
You may ask why I didn’t just nap like a normal person on the couch or in my bed. It is because I have a four-year old with a mommy-tracking / sleep detecting system so strong that the military would be jealous. I could clean the entire house, wrap a million presents, or bake a wedding cake and I could probably get away with it with minimal interruption if I put on a Scooby- Doo video. But the minute I lie down and close my eyes my son is hovering over me. I can ask him to let me rest for a minute and he will agree that it’s a good idea. So good, in fact, that he will decide to join me. He’ll want to “cuddle”. And by “cuddle”, I mean lay next to me or on top of me. Inevitably, some part of his bony little four-year old body will be poking me, usually an elbow in the ribs or his chin in my back. I should also mention that he is not very still. Or quiet. He’ll talk continuously, saying things like, “Are you sleeping yet Mommy?” or “It’s always good to take a rest when you’re tired, isn’t it Mommy?”. This was not working so I went to the one place where I still have peace and privacy, but this place is usually where I make important phone calls, the bathroom. I know that I am lucky because some mothers don’t even catch a break in the bathroom.
The whole incident made me realize that I don’t make enough of an effort to take “Mommy Breaks”. I usually feel so guilty that I plan my “alone time” for after the children are in bed. But, honestly, after the kids are in bed I usually have to straighten up the house or finish the laundry and then I am just too tired to do anything. I need to make plans during normal, daylight hours to do something for me, whether it’s going to get a manicure, going out for a run, or just to take a nap. I think taking a “Mommy Break” once in a while will actually help me to be a better mother. After all, how can I take care of other people if I don’t take care of myself? Sadly, I know I am not the only mother out there neglecting myself so I hope my “napping on the bathroom floor” story helps other women recognize the need for a “Mommy Break” as well. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and in this case, a desperate mommy calls for the babysitter!

Rachel says:

Sharon, what a funny (and strangely familiar) story! My kids are now old enough so that I can lie down for a nap more or less uninterrupted but there were certainly times when I would hire a babysitter, put in some ear plugs and shut my bedroom door.

I can’t wait to see what the comments are on this one!

Audrey adds:

Ah, those days when I would have cheerfully boarded the next jet to India, leaving a little note,
“Sorry my dear children, you are wonderful, but I now realize it would be less stressful to be a street musician in New Delhi, than to spend one more day not being able to pee without someone watching me.”
Now I call my kids, not too often, and ask for a few news items about their exciting independent lives. No, I don't want company in the bathroom, but.....

7 Words

With the recent death of one of my heroes, George Carlin, I am thinking about words. George Carlin was a master of the English language. Check out his performances on Youtube to hear his flawless delivery. He was most famous for his piece on the 7 words you can't say on television. He recited these words like poetry, like a song. He made them approachable, friendly. He helped us to understand that the only power they hold is the power we invest in them from our own feelings about the human body and it's functions.

I remember my mom's technique with “bad” words. She would arrive at the word she herself had obviously chosen and either whisper or spell it. How odd! Her manner gave the word such mystical power! We all knew what she was saying, what exactly did the whispering or spelling do?

By the time my own children were growing up and attending school in inner city Providence, they heard every word, every day. Not that there weren't people, mostly the church-going folks, who would ostentatiously shush anyone who blasphemed in their hearing. I had by that time become a George Carlin convert, a relaxed Christian, and
a rather clumsy, do-it-yourself homeowner, so they heard a few obscenities and blasphemies from my very own mouth.

I don't advocate the use of these words by or in the hearing of children who are too young to have a good command of the English language. Both of my children understood that the use of such words in public places and outside of one's peer group must be weighed carefully. They never used the words in front of their paternal grandparents; a minister and his wife. My children are both articulate, intelligent people with large vocabularies. They also understood that those 7 or so words, which seem to have such power over so many people, are no more or less powerful than any other word. And that giving them power is indulging in a kind of Victorian bowdlerism that makes hypocrites and cowards of us all.

So thank you, Mr Carlin, for your authenticity and wit. Thank you for always urging us to take a fresh look at our words and our world.

And the next time I stub my toe, or hammer my thumb instead of the intended nail, after everything else I say, I'll thank you once again.

Childhood Memories

While sitting around a campfire this weekend, I was reminded of all the wonderful things that I used to look forward to during the summer months when I was a child. I knew summer had arrived when my sisters and I ran around outside with no shoes on from dawn until dusk. And on those hot summer days we would get giddy just hearing the sound of the ice cream man’s bell far in the distance. We would wait on the curb, with our dollars in hand, for what seemed like hours. Eventually, we would be rewarded with an Italian Ice or a Nutty Buddy.

My family also spent a lot of time at the beach. We would leave early in the morning in order to stop at Allies Donuts along the way for what was the best and biggest donut I had ever tasted. On the Fourth of July we would stay well after dark and light a campfire. We would toast marshmallows and make S’mores. Nothing beats the taste of a crispy marshmallow with a warm, mushy center smooshed between chocolate and graham crackers. I get chills just thinking about it!

When I think back to all the beach houses we rented and the campgrounds where we slept in tents, I always find it is the little things I remember. Like Kool-Aid mustaches, burying my feet in the warm beach sand, and trying to catch lightning bugs in jars. Now that my babies are growing up (the boys are four and my daughter is nearly two!), I look forward to sharing these little things with them all summer long. I can’t wait to see the smiles on their Kool-Aid stained faces.

Having a Baby, Raising a Person

17 teenagers at Gloucester High School made a pact to get pregnant. 17 girls made a decision that, one way or another, will change the course of their entire lives. What were they thinking? Well, I'm sure they weren't thinking, “I'm going to get pregnant and then raise a person!”

No, they were each thinking, with dreamy visions of sweet pudgy toes and chubby tummies, “I'm having a baby!”

I don't want to seem flippant about the sad, foolish pact these children made. Doubtless there will be ongoing debates about the best way to change a girl's circumstances so that she doesn't think a baby is the only way escape an otherwise grinding existence.

But maybe we could start by owning that motherhood is a 25 year journey. We do give birth to babies, but we have those babies for under two years at the most, and then they are toddlers, frequently willful, loud, egocentric toddlers. Then we are parenting school children, for 12-16 years. Then, if we've done a reasonably adequate job, the young adults we've loved and nurtured begin to make their own way and we are left to figure out the second half of our own lives.

We don't have babies, we have people. If we are lucky, we spend perhaps 1/25th of our mothering lives with real, cooing pudgy babies. Often our babies are bawling, frustrated, smelly, violent egomaniacs. I know this to be true and I love babies. I love motherhood, but it's not a Disney colored dream, it's difficult, sometimes dirty, sometimes heartbreaking, joyous work. Perhaps one of the most powerful things we can do to curb teen pregnancy, and to legitimize and prioritize the work of parenting is to rename it:
We are not having babies, we are raising people.

Kathy’s response:

Wow! What a topic. I saw this on the news and it just floored me.
What could these girls possibly be thinking? Or is it rather that they are not thinking? Either way, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend and doctor who is the mother of 2 girls. I respect her opinion very much. We were discussing the mistakes our children would inevitably make and how best to handle them.

She told me that she had mentioned to her girls that there are really only two mistakes you might make that you can’t change, fix or take back. One is killing someone. Nothing you ever do will bring that person back. The other is becoming a parent too soon. Once you become a parent, you will always be one, whether you take responsibility for that or not. It will change your life forever. While many of those changes are miraculous, most alter the course of your life and temporarily limit your options.

How I wish someone had pointed that out to these girls! While they will no doubt love these children, they could have done better, for themselves and for their future children.

My husband mentioned when discussing this that these girls had no hope in their home. It’s not the schools fault or the town’s atmosphere; it’s their homes, and what they feel there. Had they had hope for their future and all they could accomplish, they might not have had such a hopeful romantic view of parenthood arriving too soon. Maybe, while we are raising people, we should focus on the hope of all they can be and accomplish. We can raise them to be smart adults, who when able, are well equipped to raise people.

Sharon also responds:

Not only was I shocked by what I read in the newspapers, but I was saddened. Sad for the girls and all the fun they would miss, sad for their parents and siblings who will surely have to share the burden, and. of course, sad for the babies being born. I am not saying that all young mothers are bad mothers. I am just saying that any girl who enters into a pact to have a child without recognizing the consequences is definitely too immature to be a good mother. Being a mom at any age is difficult but I can’t even comprehend what being a mom at sixteen must be like.

I don’t understand why anyone would choose to do this. I fear it is because some celebrities in Hollywood are becoming pregnant at such a young age and without partners. Does having a baby seem glamorous? Trust me, it is not. Maternity clothes, hemorrhoids, poopy diapers, and spit-up are anything but glamorous.

Summer Fun and..... Chores?

As of this Tuesday, I have 4 boys home for the summer. I have many fun activities planned. But, I have discovered one thing that has really helped to keep me sane when we are all together, and make our fun times even more fun. And that is…..CHORES!

We start each day with a list of things that need to get done before we head out for the day. You wouldn’t believe the list I had in my head before they were even out of school! I am actually excited about it! We will spend about an hour together every morning, making sure the usual stuff is done: beds made, bathrooms and kitchen cleaned. In addition, I always have a project: clean the garage, basement, fridge, pull weeds in one of the gardens, pack up old toys for Savers etc. This really helps to keep my house somewhat clean when all six of us and the dog are home, and it does a lot to keep me sane. I enjoy my time with my kids when I know we are on top of things at home. It also helps my sons realize the amount of work involved in keeping a house orderly and they have learned to take great pride in a job well done.

They also have learned to give back to me. They know that 75% of my day is about them and keeping them busy and happy. They can give me an hour of their time to get things done that are important to me and the maintenance of our house. And when we are done… we are off to
have fun!!!!

Audrey responds:

Chores, what Chores? Probably because I resented the huge amount of work I, and especially my older brother had to do as children, my kids had very few chores. I decided that I didn't care about unmade beds and that it was less trouble to clean the kitchen myself than to do battle at 7pm.

Have there been dire consequences? I don't think so. My adult children work hard for their goals and pitch in with chores when they visit. If I don't like the state of their kitchens when I visit them, we can always eat out.

Lies, truth, consequences

Hi 4Moms,

I am concerned that my child’s “little white lies” are becoming a problem. Does anyone have suggestions for “curing” my nine year old of this horrible habit? My mother used to tell me when I was a child, “If you’ve done something wrong and tell the truth about it, I will be easier on you than if you lie about it when I ask you about it”. I convey this message to my kid and she stands firm that she is telling the truth. It infuriates me to think that she is not telling the truth and yet part of me always doubts her even when she seems to be truthful.

We are not talking about a kid who is constantly naughty or spoiled rotten. This kid has rules and boundaries that I am consistent with and I follow through on the punishments I give. This issue is just a small one now but I worry if I don’t nip it in the bud, I will be threatening my 22 year old that her nose will grow if she tells a lie. Any pearls of wisdom or unique tricks to solve my dilemma?

Signed, Dreaming of the truth

Audrey answers:

Kids lie, yes they do. And so did we. I'm not an expert on the stages of growth but it seems to me that we all had that “Aha!” moment when we realized that we could withhold the truth or lie to our parents. What power! Perhaps all we can do is model honesty and authenticity with our kids. So, we don't get to lie in front of them, saying, “ I'd love to come!” to an unwanted invitation and then making up an excuse later on. Kids can sense a line of “malarky” from a mile away, so we can't say, “No, your Uncle Theodore does not smell!” when both you and your 6 year old have had to share a long car ride with said hygiene-challenged uncle. It isn't always easy. At some point, some friend is going to lie to your daughter. If you are lucky, she'll come to you and then you both can talk about how lying hurts. Or, the next time you know she's lied, wait a couple of hours and then tell her that you made her favorite dessert. When she's eaten her dinner, and looking forward to her big, delicious piece of chocolate cake tell her, “Sorry, I lied!” That should get a dialogue started, while the two of you make the chocolate cake together.

Rachel responds:

For a very brief period, when my younger son, Emmett, was about 5, he told a few lies. When I caught him in one, we talked about how important it is to build trust, and how easy it is to lose that trust. When I asked him if he had told other lies, he remembered 3 or 4 times. To this day, if we have a conversation about honesty, he remembers those incidents.

If your daughter isn’t willing to fess up, I think it is time to begin discipline. Make it dramatic, like sending her to her room for a whole day. It is critical to impress upon her the importance of honesty. I only had to send my older son, Noah, to his room for a whole day once. After that he knew that I meant business. With Emmett, I never had to do it because he saw what a bummer it was for Noah and learned from his brother’s experience. (Would that we all could do that!)

(Incidentally, I have Noah and Emmett’s permission to share this!)

Kathy adds:

I confess I am going through a little bit of this myself right now. I have a 10 year old who literally will be caught in the act of doing something, and deny, deny, deny that he is doing it. Then he gets incredibly offended and teary that I don’t believe him when he says he wasn’t ….pushing someone into the pool. When I clearly saw it with my own eyes! I have decided to play hardball and take Rachel and Audrey’s advice, because this makes me crazy with anger. I just don’t get it! We are going to have a heart to heart about it, discuss issues of trust, and come up with a plan for the consequences going forward. I am also going to start making statements and stop asking him questions that give him an opportunity to lie to me. For example, rather than saying: “Why did you push Jack in the pool? I will say, “I saw you push Jack in the pool. You and your friends are being too rough with each other and it’s not safe. You are also setting a bad example for your little brother and his friends. Someone is going to get hurt. If I see that behavior again, we are leaving.” I am hoping it works! I will let you know how it goes……

Don't Forget to Waste Time

How old are you? If you are around my age; a child of the 50s or 60s, you may remember long aimless bike rides, endless hours by the lake or pool, whole afternoons spent in a hammock with a book. Or maybe you're a city kid and spent summers on the stoop in day- long conversation with the same friends you'd talk to the day before. You'd come in for supper to the usual:

“Where have you been?”
“What have you been doing?”

Do kids waste time any more? Perhaps it's impossible now. With both parents needing to work, with the lack of unscheduled time and the pressure to succeed, maybe there's no space for children to “waste” their summer.

I urge parents; don't over-schedule summer. Even in our performance driven society, surely, one sports team membership, one “enriching” activity is enough. Don't be afraid of your children sometimes doing “nothing”. And by nothing, I don't mean watching TV or playing video games. I mean breathing, looking, listening, dreaming. Childhood and summer is so short, make sure they get to “waste” at least a little of it.

Summer Sanity Savers for Stay at Home Moms

Rachel writes:

I admit it. There are 4 days left of school and I am beginning to experience the annual “Oh my God, what am I going to do with the kids all summer?” blues. Every year since they started school I have faced the summer with a sense of low level concern that I am going to be certifiable by August.

Here’s the thing, though. After a few years of this, I am finding ways to keep sane and even have a great time. Here are my sanity savers for the coming summer months. What are yours? Feel free to comment!

The beach bag.

I am not a beach person. I am a redhead. Redheads cower from the sun like vampires. But I have learned to overcome my phobia of old Sol by being well prepared. At the beginning of the summer I pack a big tote bag with essential beach items. SPF 6000 for me. Kids sunblock for the boys (who luckily have darker complexions.) An old tablecloth that doubles as a blanket. A couple of mismatched old towels from the back of the linen closet. With the bag I carry a beach chair and an umbrella. These things live in the back of the minivan all summer so that when we get the hankering to go off to the beach, we just jump into our suits and go. This could just as easily work if you joined a pool or have a lake or pond in the area. Throw in a gripping novel and you have a day in paradise.


This is huge on my list of sanity savers for summer. For a long time I was a member of a church that basically shut down in the summer. Sunday school was canceled until September. There were no summer activities for the kids. My new church, on the other hand, has started offering all kinds of things for adults and kids all summer long. For example, our high school and college kids are going to run a Sunday school ‘camp’ so that parents can continue to participate in the adult religious education programs before the services. This happened because parents talked to the priests and asked for things for the kids. Summer is the time we need it the most! If you don’t have a religious community, check out things like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs or any other kind of program available for kids and adults.


I am a person who needs some kind of schedule or I go crazy. If left to my own devices, I wouldn’t be ready to leave the house until noon. During the school year, this isn’t a problem because I have a reason to get up and out every day. (School, church, etc.) But in the summer, I can find myself in my jammies at 10:43 am and wondering where half the day has gone. So this year, I am going to create a schedule for myself that requires me to be up and ready to face the day by 8:00 every morning.

Me Time.

Yes, I am going to hire a baby sitter once or twice a week so I can have some time to myself. Maybe I’ll go to the gym. Maybe I’ll do the grocery shopping. Alone. Maybe I will take a nap, take a drumming class, take a walk. Whatever it is, it is worth the $7 or $8 bucks for an hour to myself.

And speaking of grocery shopping: In my area there are stores that deliver now. So for that same $7 or $8 you can order your groceries online and the next day they show up on a truck. How cool is that?!

Summer is here. Let’s have some fun! Tell us in the comments what you do to stay sane.

Summertime Fun

Sharon writes:

My children and I like to play outdoors all year long, but the warm weather let’s us incorporate some “messy” fun into our routine. Here are some suggestions for some good old summertime fun:

Use small cups of plain water and some paint brushes and let kids “paint” on fences, driveways, or sidewalks. The water will dry quickly enough so that they will always have a fresh canvas on which to paint.

Fill beach pails with sand box sand and add water. Your kids will spend hours making mud pies. When they are finished, dump out the mud on a patio or driveway. When it dries, sweep it up and put it back in the sandbox.

Fill empty plastic soda bottles with a little water. Arrange them like bowling pins and have an outdoor bowling game.

Use sidewalk chalk to draw roadways on a patio or driveway. Be sure to draw in an area for a “car wash”. Children can take turns washing their tricycles and bikes.

Set up obstacle courses in your back yard. Include a tunnel to climb through, a hoola hoop, a jump rope, bouncy balls, and a ring toss. Kids can take turns rearranging the course or making up new uses for the equipment.

If you’re looking for some new toys to add some fun to your summer, here are my favorite picks. They are my absolute favorites and my kids love them too!

Favorite Toy for Turn-Taking:

Stomp® on the Launch Pad and a blast of air propels the Stomp Rocket® over 100 feet in the air! The kit comes with 4 foam rockets. The Junior is designed for ages 3 and up.

Favorite “Make-Pretend” Toy:

Let children’s imaginations run wild when they play with this tent. With the look of 2 castle towers and a connecting passage there is plenty of space for them to play with friends or alone. Closeable doors and windows help to keep the castle private, but don’t prevent airflow. The castle also provides a place to store toys and stuffed animals.

Favorite Ride-On Toy:

PlasmaCar Ride-On Vehicle
• Kid-powered ride-on toy is set in motion by your child’s energy• This unique vehicle moves with gravity, centrifugal force and friction—no batteries required• Turn the steering wheel from right to left to propel it forward• Made of sturdy plastic with a contoured seat; holds up to 220 lbs. on smooth surfaces, 120 lbs. on rough surfaces• For ages 3 yrs. and up; 16.5Hx31.13Wx14.25D"• 2005 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal
Available at Target.

The Best Bubbles Ever!

Five bubble ports are the secret to making oodles of bubbles with one easy blow. Set includes one easy-grip wand, a non-spill tray and four ounces of Bubble Oodles formula. Through play, children develop the self-esteem, coordination and social skills necessary to grow. Use Bubble Oodles to develop your child's fine motor skills and cause and effect cognitive skills.
Available at Gymboree.

Underage Drinking

Dear 4 Moms,

I recently arrived home from work to find my 19 year old son with his feet up casually drinking a beer. When I tried to calmly address this with him, he used the excuse of having a tough day at work. He just moved back from college two weeks ago and began working for a landscape company. He believes that because he is working and behaving as an adult, why shouldn't he be able to have a cold one if he wants to. As our conversation turned to argument and I started to lose my cool and composure, he laughed at me and told me how cute I am when I am angry. Any advice on how to handle this?


Audrey replies:

Hi Tracy,
I won't answer your question directly, instead I'll talk about my own experience.

Early in his college career, my son came home for a weekend to help me with heavy yard work. I like to think that he and I have a good relationship and that he feels he can talk to me about pretty much anything he needs to without fear of censure or withdrawal on my part. He'd already told me about being arrested for graffiti and my reaction had been to ask if they were using electronic fingerprinting now, as opposed to back when I was arrested, for civil disobedience, in the 70s. I listened calmly while he described being in New York City's central holding overnight. See, I'm a groovy mom.

During that same conversation, I also took it upon myself to ask him if he'd tried various drugs, other than pot, which I knew he smoked. We had pretty educational (at least for me) conversation about that subject. I was proud of my open-minded accessibility, I can tell you.

Then he came home. I had bought a small chain saw and was wearing gloves, safety glasses, and jeans whenever I used it. My son laughed at all that stuff (see previous “Helmet Wars” post) and wouldn't use it. I didn't make him.

That night he went out with some friends. The next morning, when I got up to go to work, I found a cigarette butt on my kitchen floor. There went the “groovy” mom. Now, you've got to know 3 things: I'd just bought my little bungalow all by myself, the kitchen floor is carpeted (came with the house), and I am a runner and a singer and I despise cigarettes. I saw that butt and went ballistic. It was about 5 am and I'd heard my son come home around 2. Well, he was going to lose some beauty sleep.
I knocked on his door and when I heard the sleepy, “Come in.” I went in, stood over his bed, and yelled like I've never yelled before. Really, my kids know where I stand on things, but I'm not a yeller.
In no uncertain terms, I allowed myself to tell him how disappointed I was with his behavior, I expressed my anger at his callousness about fire and the risk to my property, and most importantly, my fear at the idea of him being a smoker. If it sounds like I spoke politely, let me correct that impression. I didn't.

A few days later, I was at the therapist who was helping me process my fairly recent divorce. I told him the whole story I've just related to you and he said, “Well, he pushed and pushed, and finally got your attention didn't he?” Duh! I felt the proverbial lightbulb go off above my head. I was relearning that old lesson, ie, my son does not need me to be a friend, he needs me to be his mom. At that point, with the divorce, adjusting to college, the move to a house he hadn't grown up in, my son needed to know that at least one thing hadn't changed; he needed to know that I was who I had always been, his mom.

Tracy, look at your son's flagrant behavior, his language. Think about when he was 2 or 3 and would act badly and then glance over at you to make sure you were looking. The saddest children I've seen are those whose parents want to be their friends. Our growing sons desparately need us to be moms, even if they'd deny it with every breath. We cannot control or shelter them but we can let them know what we believe and were we stand. We can, we should, they want us to.

Kathy responds:

Wow! I dread this day and I know that as the mother of 4 sons, it is going to come. My husband is a big fan of beer, not to excess, but does enjoy it after a long day. Okay, sometimes short days too. So, my kids have seen this behavior. We also have alcoholism in our family, which makes us very cognizant of setting an example of responsible drinking behavior. I write this the morning after 2 glasses of wine during dinner with my husband, which I am thinking might have been one too many for me. :-)

I am learning as I get older that when I don’t know how to respond, or am aware I am going to respond badly, to step away for a minute and regroup. This helps me to be less emotional and hopefully clear speaking and rational. The conversation I would hope to have would start out sympathetic. You are working really hard, it’s tough I know. Then I would let him know how proud I am of that behavior, his responsible attitude and the path he is taking toward becoming a responsible adult. Then, you drop the bomb. He is not a responsible adult yet. Responsible adults don’t live with their mommy. They don’t break the law, which he is doing by drinking underage. (Correct? Is it still 21?) Responsible adults honor their parents, and aren’t disrespectful by breaking the law in their mother’s house and telling her she is cute when she is angry.

Next, lay out the consequence for that behavior. I don’t know what that would be in your family, but I am assuming he is somewhat dependent on you for something other than shelter. Maybe this time he gets a free pass, as your expectations weren’t discussed prior to this incident, but now he knows. So how will you handle this going forward, and are you prepared to follow thru? You are still the Mom, no matter how old the kid is. It is your job to point out bad behavior and help your kids get thru it. You also have the right to be respected throughout that process. You won’t get that respect if you don’t do your job well.

Rachel chimes in:

Lately there have been a rash of deaths here in RI associated with underage drinking. In many of the cases, parents were either directly involved in supplying the alcohol, or they willingly turned a blind eye and allowed the kids to drink in the house. As parents, we have to be very clear about our position on this issue. It really is a matter of life or death. And while I don’t think Tracey’s son is going to get hurt having one beer, it is clear that he doesn’t take Tracey or the situation seriously. I agree with Audrey and Kathy that it is time to set very clear boundaries.

Letting Go

Audrey writes:

Last month, when my dear 25 year old daughter didn't respond to 2 or 3 phone calls over the course of 3 or 4 days, I got anxious. It doesn't make any sense. She's terrifically competent, widely traveled, and was in the Peace Corps for 2 years. She can take care of herself. And between law school, work, volunteering, and a rich social life, she's pretty busy. Still, after not hearing from her, my mommy brain kicked in. It was obvious to me that she was dead. Yes, I'm going to use that word.

When she first got her driving license and negelected to honor our agreement that she would call me when she'd reached her destination, I explained my “reasoning”,
“When I don't hear from you, I'm not thinking, gee, she's stopped to talk to friends, or she's just forgotten. No, I'm thinking:

I think that this over-the-top behavior is a vestigial primitive glitch that comes with your baby's birth. That baby's birth also brings the frightening realisation that we cannot always protect our children from this vast, dangerous world. This sense of helplessness can be taken way too far. At the nursery schools where I work, it is not the children who have separation anxiety, it is definitely the moms. Moms who come back for one more hug after the child is busy with her friends, moms who won't leave the classroom at all.

When my daughter left for the Peace Corps, after having already been away at college, there were folks in my town, including a couple of her high school teachers who said, “How can you let her go so far?” I didn't respond by saying that I thought her leaving was preferable to an alternate situation I've seen way too often; having one's child, his lover, and their baby living in one's basement.

Yes, letting go hurts. Yes, I cry. My son just graduated college and is living in New York City. My daughter just bought a scooter (and helmet) to commute to school and work. I miss both of my children and I understand that I need to stretch myself to cope with their widening horizons.
Me? I've just started a blog.

Kathy replies:

While Audrey was watching her son graduate from college, I was DC with my teenage sons. We were there to watch the younger one compete in a national competition, but decided to spend some time looking at colleges for the older one.

This is my first experience with this, and I’d like to think I handled it well. But on the inside, I was frantic. He wants to be in a city, he wants to travel abroad, DC is so far away! Of course I want all these things for him. I don’t know any boy more capable of handling it than him. But what if something like 9/11 happens again- we need to have a plan for him. I though about that all weekend, which kept me from thinking about the bigger issue. He will eventually leave, they all will. I can’t even think about it, without being reduced to tears. He is my first of four, and I can’t imagine not seeing him everyday. I can’t imagine going days without speaking to each other. They are my whole world. Thank God I have 2 years to get used to the idea. But will I? Ever?

But it does beat the alternative, as Audrey pointed out. Isn’t this what we want? To raise independent responsible people who can take care of themselves; adults who are not dependent on their parents for food, shelter and clothing well into their 30’s!

Maybe we just want them to check in and let us know they are alright. Pretend that they still need us. If they do that, maybe letting go won’t be so hard.