Categories
Self-Improvement

I Ain’t Got Time for That

Getting Real with Tammy Torres

Why is it so hard to admit when we do something people don’t like or misunderstand in our society? Have we built ourselves up so much that we can’t even admit to ourselves or others there might another solution?

I never realized how much time I spent trying to take care of the world around me with my “my” way attitude.

Bulldozing got things done, but how many moments have I missed because of it? Some of my strengths turned to weaknesses because of what I have been taught, followed or made up myself.

Being creative taught me how to come up with quick solutions for answers, projects, etc. Where they right? I don’t know but stuff got finished.

Being loyal got me jobs…but how many of those were longtime commitments without growth?

Taking medication covered feelings and emotional pain, but how much time did I waste not facing my realities?

Living this way led me to three escapes: Food, cleaning and writing!

Where did that get me? Medicated, in counseling and fckd-up! Talking to my Physical Therapist, he says we spend our 40s and 50s trying to figure out what we did to our minds and bodies in our 20s and 30s as we transition from our grown families and head towards retirement.

I ain’t got no time for that as I am heading toward the top of the hill and 50! I need to make time, as I am running out of it! I need to live for me. I don’t want to be part of the fun suckers club anymore.

Deciding to rip band-aids off my wounds of life was one of my best choices I made this year.

This morning my husband and I had a conversation about my way…Was it right or wrong? I can be pretty defensive about my thoughts and opinions, because I was told most of my life I was right when there was other ways of doing things, but people didn’t stop me as they depended on me to get shit done. Was that right or wrong? Who knows or cares at this point in life?

For me, it goes back to, do we fight to win or do we fight to understand someone else’s way of seeing or doing things? I thought I did it to understand but I don’t think that so much today. I have always fought to be a winner in life.

Today, I start to fight to understand.

This part of my life and year has come full circle on a self-discovery journey, getting back to the basics of being a good human – being rewarded with myself by standing, speaking my thoughts. It’s time to be the Executive of my life.

Categories
Adult Children Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Teens and Tweens

Don’t Expect Your Kids to Have all the Answers at 18

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Do you have all the answers? If you don’t, why should your kids?

The career I chose at 18 is not anything close to the career and business I have built today. But I grew up with a dad who got a job when he was 18 and stayed in the same industry his whole life until he retired. He was with the same company my entire life, so I tried to do the same. A dozen jobs later, I finally realized there was no corporate fit for me, especially not with all the atrocious (read: misogynist) bosses out there.

So why should I expect my own kids to choose a path at 18 years old? Between 18 and now, my path has changed a more times than I can count, and I would have never predicted that I would be where I am today (in motherhood, in my career, in my location, in my future goals). But it’s easy to forget that as our children graduate high school and are expected to launch their own lives.

The second our children step foot into middle school, the interest inventories begin. When Kira first took these tests, she wanted to be a professional cheerleader. Parker wanted to be a musician, then a filmmaker. Anika wanted to be a dancer, then an actress. Those career choices don’t fit neatly into the school counselor’s box. My interests happen to include painting, something I didn’t even take up until I was 40.

Your personality and interests are then cross-matched with your career testing, which measures your skills. The test results tell you a list of fields you should consider, all of which require college for at least 4 years. The school counselors certainly aren’t going to encourage a non-traditional path like “move to Hollywood and try to break into the movie industry, or move to New York City and work as a waitress while you try out for plays.” But by the time you’re in your junior year of high school, you’re expected to know what your life plans are. You took all the tests, so it should be easy, right?

When has standardized testing ever offered a reliable answer?

Our children’s brains haven’t even finishing developing by the time they’ve graduated from high school. Most young adults are well into their college degrees by the time the frontal lobe has fully matured, and at that point, decisions have been made that make many kids feel obligated to keep going in the direction they started – and with loans that keep them bound to work to keep paying loans. These students feel locked into careers and choices that they made because they were forced to have all the answers when they were just kids who really just needed more recess time. Turning 18 somehow is supposed to mean that you know what you want to do with the rest of your life.

Whatever.

Having all the answers is an unrealistic expectation that places unnecessary pressure on our kids. What do you want to do with your life? What is your next step? At age 18, why is “I don’t know” such a horrible answer? I wish I had had the guts to say that when I was 18, because I truly didn’t know.

I’m not saying you should let your kids graduate from high school and then sit at home playing video games all day long. Your kids should still be designing their own lives and learning to care for themselves, but rushing off to college and loans and debt may not be the answer. Let them get a job, an internship, or take some free online courses to help them define what they want to do. Let them spend a year backpacking across Europe. As long as they are doing something to help them learn about who they are, they’re doing the right thing.

The biggest mistake a parent can make is to expect their kids to have all the answers at age 18. Your kid may legally be considered an adult, but they still need you for guidance.

I don’t have all the answers as an adult, so no, I don’t expect my 18 year old to know everything either.

 

Categories
Parenting

College Isn’t Right for Everyone

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

College isn’t right for everyone. Sometimes it isn’t right because it’s the wrong college, but sometimes it’s the structure, the cost, or the ridiculous number of pointless classes you have to take to pad the tuition fees that make it unworthy. Yet college is part of the stereotypical rite of passage. Kids start being asked what they want to be when they grow up in kindergarten and start taking career assessments in middle school. By the time a student has graduated from high school, they’ve been inundated with college speeches, college prep classes, and a clear expectation that college is the only path forward. Graduate from high school, move out, go to college, get a job. Just like every other hamster on a wheel, you’re expected enter the workforce and pay bills, brain-washed to believe that you’re living the American dream.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there can be value in college. Dave and I both have degrees that have proven to be valuable, and I never grow tired of learning. I even think about going back to get my PhD someday. However, college isn’t right for everyone – and it’s definitely not always the right choice right out of high school! Although I have a degree now, it took me several years of my adult life to get there. When I graduated high school, it didn’t take me long to realize that college life was not something I was ready for. I dropped after one semester. Over the next several years, I would return to college, maybe make it through one semester, then drop out, sometimes mid-semester. What did I accomplish? Not much. At 34, I finally was ready to go to school, really embrace the experience, and learn.

Now, my son is at a similar crossroads. He graduated high school. He enrolled in college. He moved in to the dorms. It was not the right fit – that was clear after only one weekend. College isn’t right for him. Not right now. College was not, and never is, the package high school sold him. It wasn’t an open plain of adventure and opportunity, but instead proved to be a just different box that he was expected to conform to. Parker quickly discovered that the college life was everything about high school that he never liked, simply with new rules and without the security of home. He described it as high school with a prison setting (truly, the dorms have an austere look to them).

Our kids are not being taught to be individuals, and I’m raising individuals.

Rather than remain miserable in a college dorm, Parker was honest with us. The dorm life was not for him, and he couldn’t promise himself that the coursework would be worth his time or money. It’s a fair question, especially when thousands of students are drowning in student loans with little to show for their degrees. We’ve asked ourselves that same question many times before, as the student loan bills keep piling higher.

After only a weekend of orientation activities, which were more rules and regulations than ice breakers and welcome parties, Parker was not the first of his suitemates to leave. One of his suitemates realized almost as soon as he moved in that what he had been sold was not what had been delivered. This would-be student had packed up and left after one night. Parker left the next day. Rather than regret at leaving campus, all Parker felt was relief. He truly believes he dodged a bullet, and to be honest, we feel the same. The school was helpful in cancelling his dorm assignment and withdrawing him in time to avoid costs; we returned the books he had purchased, and lost nothing more than a dorm deposit. It was an inexpensive life lesson worth the money.

The traditional college path is not for everyone.

Even when I returned to college, I was as non-traditional as you could get: I lived off-campus when 90% of the other students lived on-campus. I was a mother of 5 and a homeowner, while all of my classmates were 20 and single. I only spent two years there, having transferred every credit possible in from the other universities I’d attended and taking 20-22 credits a semester.

There are many paths to success

By convincing our kids that college is the only way is limiting their capacity for a fulfilling life. College isn’t the right choice every time. There are still many trade jobs desperate for skilled workers, yet high schools that offer trade programs are rare, and the programs themselves are limited. Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that they achieved success without stepping foot into a college classroom, but they aren’t the ones invited to high school events to speak and inspire. And there is so much free education available online that you can learn almost anything you want to know without paying for it, but no one is going to tell you that.

My son did not fail. He tried something new, realized it wasn’t the right path, advocated for himself, and ;earned a ton about himself. Now he’s regrouping, and we are more than happy to help support him as he finds his way.

College isn’t right for everyone.

Your child doesn’t have to fit in the pre-established box. Success comes in many packages. Let your child write their own story.

 

Categories
Parenting

I’m a Millennial Mom Living with My Parents

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I think every mom knows at this point that kids are expensive. Holy crap. I’ve never invested so heavily in anything, and I have many more years of expenses. But according to whatever life timeline I’m supposed to be living, I’m doing it all wrong.

Apparently, I was supposed to go to college (check), get a good degree (check), and enter into the workforce with my own career and living space (double check). I did all that, and still ended up crashing and burning in my own special way. I circled back to my parent’s home for what was supposed to be a temporary stay as I gathered my wits and started again.

That was three and a half years ago.

Not only do I still live with my parents, but so does my husband, our daughter, and soon to be newborn son.

I’m just grateful that I’m able to live with my parents at all. Not every millennial has the luxury of returning home and having the family support that I do. Without my parents, I would be pretty toast as far as being able to support my own family.

So how dare I have children? Don’t I know that children are supposed to come after the marriage and the home buying and career building? Except, every millennial knows it’s not that simple.

And guess what? I don’t want kids when I’m 40. Women are doing that now, which is super awesome. But I don’t want to do that. I want kids now, while I’m in my late twenties or early thirties.

Shouldn’t I have that right? Or are children a privilege of the wealthy, too?

I owe $90,000 in student loans and can get a job that maybe pays a third of that. Even working full-time, my family is eligible for every government assistance program under the sun. We aren’t poverty level, thank goodness, but we are considered poor by government standards.

There’s no way my husband and I would ever be able to afford a house. We’ve got plans to move to England (hence living with my parents) but if we were to rent a home, we’d barely be able to afford it. Life would be paycheck to paycheck. Living in a multigenerational household is mutually beneficial financially, so why would we do anything different?

I wanted to do everything “the right way.” I truly did. But this country has saddled millennials with crippling debt and zero opportunities. There is no right way. Now it’s just survival. And I deserve to have a family. I deserve to have health care. I deserve a good paying job for busting my ass in college for 6 years. I took all the right steps, yet I would never be able to afford to provide for a family without the help of my parents.

Sometimes, I do feel guilty. My parents didn’t ever expect to be living with another round of newborns and toddlers, especially so close to an empty nest as their youngest children head off to college. Yet, it seems to be working out perfectly. This living situation has more than financial benefits, with a lot of love to go around. Will we live with my parents forever? No, definitely not. Am I going to be thirty and still living with my parents? Probably. But this is the right path for my family. These are the right steps for our situation, and as a millennial, I don’t have many alternatives.

Categories
Adult Children Keeping Marriage Strong Love On Motherhood Parenting

Empty Nest, Here We Come – Like It or Not

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I have been so blessed to have a full house from the time I met Dave. He already had three children, and they quickly became my own as our relationship developed. Once we were married, we added two more, with a total of five children occupying our time.

As kids get older, it is expected that they’ll move on eventually. My youngest son, Parker, is headed off to college this fall. Our youngest child, Anika, will be graduating next year and doing the same. Although our second-oldest, Kira, came back and then stayed after leaving for college, this is a temporary situation. She and her husband have plans to settle in England, and their time in our household is limited.

This will leave Dave and I with an empty nest, finally. However, this does leave us thinking, “What now?”

I will miss my children. I will cry (and have cried) many tears at the idea of them moving out and starting their own adventures, and I will look forward to future gatherings of our family. I’ll acknowledge that our nest will feel a little empty, and the stillness and quiet will shock both of us a little bit.

At the same time, an empty nest is something to look forward to. Dave and I have prioritized our relationship during the busy lives of our five children, and he is still my best friend. We work together, travel together, have raised kids together, and delight in our grandchildren together. We will always be there when our children need us, but once they are all moved out, it will just be us.

We can cook whatever we want, watch whatever we want on TV, go where ever we want on vacation. We will get to enjoy our time together, without the constant interruption that is a natural consequence of children. I’m sure there will still be days that I cry and miss my children terribly, but there will also be days when I rejoice in having the quiet companionship of my husband.

Dave and I have loved every second of raising our children, but we are so excited to have uninterrupted time together. I will welcome visits from children and grandchildren every day, but I will also welcome the month-long jaunts through new countries. I will welcome the brand-new adventures that are much more affordable with two people than with seven. I will welcome the quiet, and yearn for the noise, all in the same breath.

Although our children will always be our pride and joy, I am grateful that Dave and I did not neglect our own relationship over the last 20+ years. Children do grow up and start their own lives. Invest in your relationship every day, because this is your life partner. To keep marriage strong, you must be able to survive with the kids and without them. The empty nest will sting a little as your children leave, but it doesn’t mean that your home and heart won’t still be full.

 

Categories
Adult Children

17 Kids to Zero…Are We Free at Last?

The last thing a parent wants to say to an adult child is “Get Out!” but sometimes they need additional push to go live out in the big bad world after being given many chances to live under mom and dad’s roof. I am happy to say, the last set of our children have moved out; my youngest Shannon (21) and her wife Savanna (23) and our recent guest (Allen’s daughter) of a month, Iliah (22) and David (32) are gone. Now, it’s Grandma, Allen, me, three dogs, and a fat Garfield cat named Frankie.

Between Allen and I, we have 17 children. He has five biological and six step children. I have 3 biological, two daughters-in-law and one whose mom passed away that I have adopted.

We love our children dearly and would do anything in our power to help them, but the transition from children to adulthood for us has been a rough one!

However (you knew this was coming), the house is quiet, the kitchen table is broken down to seat four, the rooms are bare, and the remodeling has begun.

And we feel ammmmmaaaazzzzziiinnngggg!

No more interrupted evenings of I need this! Don’t you have money? Why can’t I?

No more drama, crisis, power struggles, attitudes of “I know more than you” or “I can’t pay rent here but I can pay at my friends…”

WTF is that logic?

Raising Kids Is Tough

I am an only child! Raising three kids (Mitch 23, Scott 23 and Shannon 21) was a struggle from the beginning. I didn’t know how to be a mother. I was independent and took care of myself. Me, myself and I! I felt like I lived in a coma for the first 10 years of their lives. I was lucky these kids stayed alive. Then my children married, and Savanna (23), Houstin (23), and Aundrea (19) came into my life.

Allen was the baby of four, picked on and protected by his older siblings. In his first marriage, he had two children Justin (29) and Misty (27) and adopted Josh (35). He later married a lady who had six children: Ben (26), Hannah (30), Mindy (33), Jenny (34), Beth (28) and Alina (25). Together they had two children, Levi (23) and Iliah (22).

Our family is unique, like yours.

We have a little of everyone: Air Force…Autism…Caregivers…Law Enforcement…Medical Assistant…Moms…Computer Geeks…Globe Trotters and those still learning the ways of the world (the ones who still come home, staying a bit, and leave again).

We actually enjoy and are proud to say we have parented or helped 17 children to adulthood. We love them all and wish them then best on their journey of life! But, wow we are tired!

Free at last? Not likely…

Categories
Adult Children Let's Talk

Kids Grow Up and Move Away – Then What?

My husband and I are raising five children together. Three are his from a previous marriage and two that we’ve added to the family. I’ve been Mom to all five for so long that we no longer really think of the older kids as “his” and both of us were equally pained when our son, Derek, graduated from high school in 2005 and immediately shipped off to Army Basic Training. This summer was even worse, because our daughter Kira, now 22, decided to live in Long Island for the summer instead of coming home at all.

Parents always joke about getting their kids to 18 and regaining their freedom, but the fact is, it is emptier without them. Certainly, we keep in touch by phone (more with Kira than with Derek; Kira faithfully texts at least once per day and calls each week; Derek confirms that he is alive when we finally can’t stand not hearing from him long enough).

We were grateful last Christmas that Derek was able to arrange leave and come home for Christmas while his sister was home on her break from college. We had all five kids under the roof for a change, and it was wonderful. We may actually be able to pull that off again, since Kira will still be coming home for college and (fingers crossed) Derek will not be deployed overseas this time.

But how do you stay connected when your grown up kids move away and do their own thing? Oh sure, you say…Facebook.

Except that neither of our kids participate in their generation’s social media frenzy. I know, really? Their grandparents are on Facebook and they aren’t. What’s up with that?! (Same goes for Twitter). Texting is the only thing they both participate in.

We have to make sure they know that we love them from a distance, even as we support the adventure they’re taking in their own lives.

Both of the kids are in dorms, whether military or college, and have limited space. Neither have kitchens of their own. Food makes a very special gift that lets them know we’re thinking of them, so we send regular packages. We call often and try to Skype when we can.

Mostly, though, we don’t spend too much time lamenting their choices – do we wish Kira would have come home for the summer? Certainly. Do we wish Derek would pick up the phone a bit more often? Of course. But we raised our kids to be fiercely independent, to pursue their passions, to explore the world, and to pave their own paths. We will not be the roadblock that keeps them from doing it now.

We joke about the smaller grocery bill without Derek and the much smaller water bill without Kira, but mostly, we’re just proud of the adults they’ve become (and bite our tongues when the trails they blaze go unexpected places).

Categories
Adult Children Let's Talk

Checks Aren’t Safe and Neither Is the Post Office – Generational Differences

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Our 21-year old daughter is moving to Long Island for the summer. On the one hand, we think she’s crazy to spend every drop of her money to live in the most expensive place in New York for a three months. On the other hand, we’re incredibly envious of the opportunity she has to stretch her wings and have such a wonderful adventure.

Ostensibly, her decision to move to Long Island rather than coming home for the summer is to conduct a thorough search for the right grad school, but the fact that her boyfriend lives there certainly doesn’t hurt.

She’s been searching long and hard for the perfect place to live, and finally settled on a furnished room in a house overlooking the beach. The home is in a very safe area and is owned by a wonderful woman who makes us feel that Kira will be in good hands.

They agreed on the rent and the terms and the length of the stay and the rules about company (no overnights, woot! but her best friend from high school can come visit).

And then, the woman had the audacity to ask Kira to drop a check in the mail for the deposit.

A check.

In the mail.

Kira became rather irrationally insane about the idea.

Dave and I were pretty well dumbfounded. Of course you would send a check. In the mail. The cashed check would serve as proof of payment, a form of protection for the housing.

What we discovered was that Kira does not write checks. Neither do any of her friends. They send money through Paypal. They don’t trust the post office. They don’t use it.

Mailing a check seemed like the riskiest choice in the world, to the girl who is moving to a city she’s never lived in to live with a person she’s never met.

Times are changing – electronic payments, electronic media, and electronic conversations are replacing paper money, checkbooks, and mail.

The post office is already struggling, and if this youngest generation of adults has anything to say about it, it will likely cease to exist.

Have you seen this trend with your older teens or young adult children?

Categories
Let's Talk Making Memories

Keeping Christmas Spirit When the Kids Get Older

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Christmas was so much easier when all the kids were young. The holidays were hardly over and they were counting down again. Now three of our kids are adults and the other two are tweens with ‘tudes. I don’t want a house full of holiday scrooges, and I’ll do anything I can to keep the magic alive – you know, the magic that used to envelope the entire family but is now “lame” to your teens and tweens. Last year, I didn’t even feel like putting up all my trees (there’s usually 11 or 12 of them). Keeping the holiday spirit alive takes more than just tradition these days.

With five kids, the budget is never as big as we’d like it to be at Christmas, but we’ve hopefully made the point by now with our kids that it’s not about the gifts. While we always end up feeling like we bought too much when all is said and done, we do try to focus on the family time. Most years, Derek is able to get leave from the military and be with us (including coming once from Iraq and once all the way from Japan), so if nothing else, Christmas is ALWAYS family portrait time.

So what do you do when you live in a frozen tundra, travel is usually out of the question, and the same old holiday routine isn’t going to cut it anymore? We’ve started making changes. First, the traditional ham or turkey dinner got tossed out, around the year that Thanksgiving and Christmas were as close together as they’ve been in a while. Now, we have lasagna and crusty, garlicky Italian bread. A few years ago, we started going to the movies on Christmas day. With the kids old enough that we’re no longer spending the day putting together toys and installing batteries, we needed something to do with our time. Luckily, Alvin has a third installment hitting theaters this Christmas, and the kids are ready!

Things will change again IF AND WHEN (hint, hint) we ever get grandkids. Until then, we’ll keep looking for new ways to create memories together.

Has Christmas changed for you over the years? How?

Categories
Adult Children Let's Talk

The Trouble with Exes

MomsGetReal™ Contribtor Belinda Hulin

The gumbo had just started simmering when my cell phone rang. The name on the readout came as a surprise: My son’s ex-girlfriend. I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in a couple of months and I’ll admit, I felt a little surge of happiness—tinged with wariness—seeing her name there.

I stirred the pot, took a breath and answered with a cheery “hello.”

On the other end, Dylan’s ex (we’ll call her Jane) couldn’t talk fast enough. “Walgreens called me to say Dylan’s prescription is ready. I told them to take my name and phone number and all my contact information off his account. But I thought I should tell someone his prescription is ready.”

I didn’t know he had a prescription at Walgreens; much less that he had ever listed her as his contact. He lived with us the entire time he dated her, and she was here so often we felt like she lived here too. “Uh, oh—ok Jane,” I said. “Thank you.” To which she replied, “Yes ma’am” and promptly hung up. I kept stirring.

The breakup was less than amicable. All of Dylan’s breakups are less than amicable. My son seems to attract women who bond to him in an instant, stay glued to him literally or via electronics 24/7, then dump him weeks, months or years later with a swiftness and viciousness I find shocking. Of course, I love my son. He’s got a good heart. But I can see why a young woman might find a 23-year old with ADHD, limited employment possibilities, very limited means, no car and a room in his parents’ house to be a less than perfect catch. Mostly, I’m confused by the fact that he is never without a girlfriend. And these women always seem committed to excusing his lack of initiative, accepting that better days are around the corner, and convincing themselves that their love will turn him from a misunderstood geek to the next czar of poi, of fire spinning, of Halo, or of whatever else he’s obsessing about at the moment.

Jane was by far the biggest enabler of all. She had an independent income, plus support from wealthy relatives. She wanted to go out, to travel, to buy things—and she wanted someone to do it with and for. Dylan was in hog heaven. But here’s the thing: Much as I try to ignore Dylan’s girlfriends (I value my privacy and I figure they’re just passing through anyway), I came to love Jane. She was quirky, funny, awkward in some ways and incredibly sophisticated in others. She loved Dylan in spite of his flaws and she seemed to love us as well. I embraced her. I even took her to New Orleans for Christmas to spend time with my extended family! (And we all know that’s a stretch on the vulnerability scale.)

So when Dylan told us she’d just announced (by phone) that she never wanted to see him again, I of course comforted my distraught son. I wondered what could cause someone to abruptly dump someone she’d dated for two years, including a month in China for which she paid the bills. I wondered what Dylan had said or done. What had happened?

Then I heard she had another boyfriend. Dylan moved on. Within a week he was dating. Within a month he had a new girlfriend. I didn’t have to worry about him—well, beyond the usual amount.

But am I wrong to feel betrayed? I know, I know: It’s not about you, Mom. Yet, I let this young woman into my home, into my life, into my family—and through no fault of mine (unless you want to blame me for Dylan’s foibles) she removed herself. …without so much as a “thanks for the memories.”

I guess this is the mini-version of what parents feel when their children divorce. Since Dylan has moved on and there’s nothing more at stake, I’m not really entitled to grieve over this. It’s just life moving on. However, I hope you’ll forgive me if I indulge in a really big helping of gumbo. It’s my comfort food and after being abruptly dismissed by someone I hugged and encouraged, I need it.