are today’s parents selfless or selfish? (or, why are so many parents taking kids to adult venues these days?)

Who could avoid the story all over the news a few months back of prominent parents buying their kids’ entrances into elite universities, some going as far as bribing school officials, having others take their kids’ standardized exams, and lying on applications by superimposing images of their children’s faces on student athletes’ bodies? Society felt they were part of a trend of helicopter parents risking their own careers and lifestyles to get the very best of everything for their children. Some called them selfless.

But another trend in parenting is also prominent these days: taking kids along to rock concerts, brewpubs, tony restaurants, and R-rated movies, to name a few,  for no other reason than because Mom and Dad want to go. Several theater chains, including AMC, have implemented a “no 6 after 6” policy, meaning no children under age six will be admitted to R-rated movies after 6 p.m. even when accompanied by an adult. Regal enforces the same rule but without a time limit. Is it because six- and seven-year-olds are so  much more mature than kids five and younger? Oh, no. It’s not that. The rule was instituted to make the movie-going experience better for the adults in the theater, presumably to keep them buying tickets. kids in theater

So, don’t worry, Mom. As long as they’re at least in the first grade, Kaedan and Jaelyn can sit right there next to you when Bruce Willis’s guns are blazing, scar-faced Chucky is tormenting children, and that hunky actor drops his drawers.

And if you want to take your three-month-old to a concert or next Sunday’s 49ers game, you’re in luck! Baby Banz makes noise-cancelling headphones for every tot.

My husband and I were at a brewery last night, meeting up with friends who knew one of the band members performing in the live show. The music was pretty tame, mostly ’80s tunes, and the concert was outdoors, so the noise wasn’t deafening. Still, it was nighttime and beer was flowing. My friend, looking at the three-, four-, and five-year-olds playing on the ground nearby, turned to me and said, “Did you ever bring your kids with you to a place like this?”

I told her, “Nope, just like you, I never left the house from the time I had baby number one until the last one was about in middle school. Plus, the kids wouldn’t be welcome. It’s a different world these days.”

And indeed it is. The only socializing we did with other adults occurred while cheering on our kids from the sidelines of soccer games and swim meets. We would hash out our lives since the week before while ripping into Frito-Lay snacks and cut-up oranges and cracking open an ice-cold Aquafina.

If a team banquet happened to be at a restaurant, we might have a margarita or a Blue Moon with our meal, but that wasn’t until our kids were well into high school and the younger littles were left at home (supervised, of course).

So what’s changed? Families are smaller, for one. Taking a kid or two to Ruth’s Chris in the Prius is about as expensive as it was herding the family of six into the minivan and off to the Ponderosa. And with the constant exposure to the world’s events and pop culture through social media these days, our kids are growing up sooner. Nowadays, the f-word can be heard and adult behavior can be witnessed on the TV screen any time of day. Add to that the fact that current culture has become less childcentric, it is no surprise to see kids digging into a lobster tail and a juicy steak, swaying to tunes at an Elton John concert, or staring at Keanu at John Wick: Chapter 3

As long as the kids are well-loved, supervised, and taken home at a reasonable hour, their being at the brewpub or the restaurant shouldn’t matter to other people. Toting a toddler to Lambeau Field, even with headphones, isn’t the worst thing a parent could do (unless it’s minus-twenty degrees).

Who knows? Maybe parents have it right these days in not sacrificing their lifestyles for their children. Still, the maxim of kids being seen and not heard has taken on a whole new meaning these days.

 

when an adult child moves in, it’s rough on everyone

My son in his mid-twenties is moving home today. He had been living with three other guys in a house within walking distance to the beach. The lease is up on the house, and the landlord can make more money with other tenants. So, on his way home my son comes. move back home 1

And the move will affect us all.

It’s not the first time we’ve had an adult child return to the nest. Our second born and her roommate had to move out of their home when it was invaded by pests. Since they couldn’t scrape up the dough just yet to move into another apartment, they each went back to their respective parents’ homes.

Our daughter wasn’t any trouble. She worked full-time and hung out with friends while she saved up for her next place, so she wasn’t around that much. She was home for nine months or so, which although a relatively short period of time, still entailed giving up the freedom she had had in her own place. She’d become accustomed to sharing a two-bedroom, one-bath cottage with just one friend before moving back into a house where four other people, three of whom were adults, already resided. And she was stuck in a small bedroom again.

I had been using her room as my office, the first time in forever that I had a room of my own. So, I had to move my desk, computer, files, and office mess to my bedroom. She slept on the folded-up IKEA pull-out bed already in the room instead of setting up her own bed, which we stored in the garage.

Today, I moved that same pull-out bed back into my office to make room for my son’s full-size bed. Since my daughter had come back home, my mother-in-law had passed away and in the garage are now stored some of her possessions, including furniture. There’s not enough space for my son’s full-size bed.

So by myself, I played musical furniture. I removed two mattresses from the base of the pull-out bed, plus a 2.5-inch memory foam topper. I folded the bed frame back into a seat and inched it into the room next door. I squeezed the foam topper into a vacuum-sealed bag (not as easy as it looks on TV, folks) and did the same for two of the pillows and the down comforter. I also had to move the wicker settee from my office back into our bedroom, which had gone into my office so my husband could put his desk into our bedroom. He had been using my son’s old room as an office. move back home 2

Needless to say, I’m very achy. One of the mattresses belongs on the IKEA piece, but the other does not. I had to do the best I could to roll it up and keep it in a semi-rolled state with Dollar Tree bungee cords. The closet in that bedroom is now packed with all these extra items. And my husband and I had made it so nice when our son left.

These are the easy things to do when an adult kid moves back in, though. What will be hard with the move will be a bruised ego to our son, who is still looking for fulfilling work after graduating college. It’s also an adjustment for his younger brother, who became used to being a fourth-born “only child,” and to my husband and me, who will have to accommodate one more person’s mess, noise, and presence.

Moving is never fun, but it’s especially not so when it involves emotions.

 

and the hits just keep on coming (finding a new job is tough, period)

job wantedWhen I left my last part-time job in December, I believed the part-time life was behind me. I thought I’d go back to just freelancing, not thinking about what I’d be leaving behind. But it became apparent soon after the revelry from my birthday, anniversary, and the winter holidays came and went why I’d taken a part-time job in the first place: to get out of the house and to supplement my oftentimes meager freelance income.

Now I want my job back.

I have applied to several positions in the past twelve weeks, some freelance and some not. I’ve had two interviews, one just yesterday, of which I already found out I did not get the job, and one of three weeks ago that’s still pending. It’s with a city agency and the wheels of city hall do indeed turn slowly. I’m beginning to believe, though, that I didn’t get that job either. It’s a position I’ve applied to for years and years, nearly every time the city accepts applications, which occurs every six months. I did pretty well in the interview, but I’m not a kid anymore. I’ve always looked younger than my age, but there’s no denying I’m a mom of thirty-year-olds, not a thirty-year-old myself. I now have to be aware of age discrimination. It’s a fact of life.

There were 120 people being interviewed that week for who knows how many open positions (no one was saying), though I’m thinking it’s no more than a dozen. Now I’m second-guessing myself that I probably didn’t check off enough boxes on locations I’d desire to work at or I didn’t pick hours that included all seven days of the week. I used a friend and a superior as a reference and he’s supposed to let me know if he gets contacted, but so far crickets.

I get the blues, mostly because I’m longing for a feeling of belonging again, which I had when I was recently working and something that you lose once your kids age out of the house and you no longer fill your days with soccer games and swim meets and cross-country races. There are always other parents to chat up at those events.

There are times I feel guilty for getting so down, though. My son has been looking for a permanent full-time job since graduating college three years ago, and a week ago one of my daughters got word she either needs to relocate with her company or find a job here. She’s looking for work here first. If nothing comes her way in the short span of two months (!) the company gave her to decide, she’ll pack up her belongings and head more than 3/4 of the way across the country.

I don’t have it so bad. I do have some work, though my freelance career has begun to tank royally, and I am married to the main earner in the family. Plus, there’s plenty to do around the house in repairs to make, walls to paint, and more, so I don’t want to feel sorry for myself when the kids are in much more dire straits than I am. Still, it doesn’t diminish how I feel.

My son will be moving back home at the end of the month. (Will my daughter soon follow?) The lease is up on the place he shares with three other guys and the rent is going up. He can’t swing it on his part-time job.

The media have been putting out plenty of stories about how the economy is picking up and there’s a galore of jobs. I just did a Google search and nearly 200,000 new jobs surfaced in March alone. 200,000 jobs? Really? That means one for each able-bodied worker in the country. Sorry, that’s a fabrication. It has to be. I’ve been searching the jobs boards for nearly six months now. I see the same jobs pop up or never leave the boards. So, I doubt these “200,000” are new jobs, but more rehashed old jobs or jobs that employers stick out there to check out the current field of candidates, without the intent of actually hiring anyone.

Yep, it’s hard to believe there are hundreds of thousands of jobs available each month when three out of six of members of my family can’t find a singe one.

will we be living with our kids forever? the possibilities of multigenerational living

The morning paper has a story of a San Diego, California, couple who sold their three-story home in a very nice part of town to move into their rental apartment building along with their grown kids and their children. As a mom of four in that same very-high-rent, high-cost-of-living area of the country, where two-bedroom apartments currently rent for over $2,000 a month on average and where buying an average-priced home means needing a $120,000 down payment (!) and an annual income of nearly $105,000, I am intrigued by this idea.

multigenerational picture

Unlike the couple featured in the story, however, I don’t have a handy apartment building to set everyone up in. I do, however, have a house and a small yard, and I’m starting to consider the possibilities. A tiny house, for one, stationed in a corner of the backyard could become home to a single adult or a couple. Even a large camper might do.

We also have one bedroom on the first floor whose wall was removed by a former owner that could be put back into use as a bedroom. It’s directly next to a full bath. A little engineering of walls could make this a cozy section of the house for one or two people.

Add to that a two-car garage that possibly, with a little insulation and installation of plumbing fixtures and more electric, could become a comfy 500-square-foot dwelling with its own entrance. People do stuff like this to open up airbnbs all the time. Why not make your home a complex for the family, especially if the possibility of your kids every buying diminishes by the year? It sickens me to think that cumulatively, my three kids who are out on their own fork over nearly $3,000 in rent every month. That’s money they could be pocketing and possibly saving up for a home of their own one day. Of course, if this idea of mine ever came to fruition, I’d charge the kids for rent, but it wouldn’t amount to an annual outlay of $36,000, that’s for damn sure.

The matriarch and patriarch of the Haven family featured in the article are in their seventies and eighties, so while they currently enjoy their separate apartment in the building, they know that one day, if needed, they won’t have far to look for help from family. That, to me, is a big bonus too. Sure, I want my kids to have their independence and the feeling of accomplishment of living on their own, but I’m a little selfish too in wanting them close by.

 

 

if you don’t see yourself in lady bird, you never were an american teenager…or her parent

lady bird and marion

                                  Lady Bird  (Saoirse Ronan) and Marion (Laurie Metcalf) 
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is impetuous, impressed by popularity, self-absorbed, and at times mean-spirited. In other words, she’s a typical modern-day American teen. If you don’t see yourself in Lady Bird, the nominal character in the Greta Gerwig-written and -directed movie, you may see yourself in her good-girl best friend Julie, or in mean-girl and popular Jenna, or pessimistic but privileged Kyle, or secretly gay Danny,  or as her parents…or all of the above. Because what Lady Girl doesn’t do is  people. What it does do–and wonderfully so–is take a pretty ordinary girl and view her struggles in her world and her family’s world and her school and give an accurate encapsulation of what life is like in these United States, circa the early 2000s, though it could be anytime in America.

When I was in school, I wasn’t a Lady Bird. I was a Julie, the nice girl, who’s a good student, well-behaved and shy, and not at all worldly. I was the sidekick. If Lady Bird characterized herself as living “on the wrong side of the tracks,” Julie lived even farther from the tracks as her friend and, unlike Lady Bird, who felt the world owed her something, Julie chose to accept the world, as unfair as it can be at times, and live within the boundaries set by it. Julie was a much better student than Lady Bird, but Julie ends up at the local community college, while Lady Bird sets her sights on an upper-scale East Coast liberal arts school.

As much as I can relate to Julie, the character I see myself as today, however, isn’t either of the two girls; it’s Lady Bird’s mother, Marion McPherson. I am not sure there’s been a character in any movie I’ve ever seen who doesn’t resemble me more because she resembles many moms. And what’s really interesting is that my elder daughter, who was coming of age at about the same time as Lady Bird is in the movie, told me that she saw herself in Lady Bird and, equally so, me in Marion, whose name, by the way, I had to look up on IMDb because in the movie it’s rarely, if ever, spoken. Why? Presumably because Marion is above all else “Mom.”

Marion is the hardworking, loyal, and at-times angry and put-upon Everymom, handling double shifts to pick up the slack while her husband loses his job and the family struggles financially. She lives in a basic, boring, circa 1970s-furnished house, but has a hobby of checking out open houses just to ooh and aah at the beautiful homes that are within driving distance but still way out of reach for her. Teens, including Lady Bird, sometimes feel (maybe oftentimes feel?) as though their parents’ world–where they live, what they drive–is what it is because that’s who they are, that’s how they want it to be, that’s what they made it, not realizing that dreams become deferred and desires are put on hold when raising a family. Think back to your teenage-hood and tell me you didn’t feel that way about your parents, that they just didn’t get it. Now come into the modern world and tell me everything is exactly as you always wanted it to be. See? This movie hits a cord.

I love Marion. I am Marion, the martyr Marion who comes home from a double shift in the morning and slaves away to make her family a decent breakfast only to be told the eggs are too runny; the frank Marion who is honest with her daughter, letting her know that of course she deserves to have her (selfish) dreams, but at the same time should be more aware of her family’s circumstances; the victimized Marion who sends her daughter to a pricey Catholic school because the local public school is unsafe only to have her daughter pull a stunt that gets her expelled for a few days; the misunderstood Marion who has a good heart (we see it many times) but comes off as the bad guy and in a constant struggle to keep the family afloat.

This movie is not heavy-handed at all and it doesn’t dumb down. There aren’t good guys versus bad guys because there’s a little good and bad in all of us.

 

brad’s status–a lot of us can relate, i’m sure

brad's statusWe might all learn a thing or two from the new film Brad’s Status. The movie explores middle-class discontent and the way comparing ourselves with others in this world of ubiquitous reminders via Facebook posts and Instagram stories can drive us to be miserable, when most of us are way more fortunate than we think and maybe more than we deserve.

In the movie, the middle-class Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) contemplates/overthinks what he deems to be his boring, unassuming life. On first look, Brad has it pretty good. He runs a nonprofit and his wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer), is likable, smart, and has a decent, busy career herself. His son, Troy (Austin Abrams), is not only a good kid, but bright enough and musically talented enough to be applying to and interviewing with top-notch East Coast universities, including Harvard. Brad lives in a tidy Craftsman home in a nice neighborhood of medium-sized Sacramento, California. So, what’s not to like about all that? Let’s ask Brad.

The audience learns through Brad’s voice overs just how unhappy he is. To Brad, his life pales in comparison to his college buddies’, one a successful movie producer featured in Architectural Digest for his lavish home; another a hedge-fund owner with an equally wealthy wife, four blond, rambunctious kids, and one private jet; a third who made it big in the dot-com craze and is now retired and living with two young girlfriends in Maui; and a fourth who is a successful pundit and author who is pulled in many enviable directions.  What’s prompted Brad’s over analysis is his and Troy’s East Coast trip, where Troy is to tour and interview at some of the schools on his radar, including prestigious Harvard. We learn that Brad hadn’t been accepted into his first-choice school, Yale, and see that he’s surprised (and envious) that Troy has a good shot at Harvard.

On the trip, Brad finds out how out of the loop he has become. He wasn’t invited to his L.A. friend’s opulent wedding, for one, and he feels his status, already teetering,  has not plummeted.

Of course, our Everyman does get a rude awakening, when he, of course, discovers that his friends’ perfect lives are really not so much. But the slap in the face comes late and one gets the sense that Brad may end up dipping back into the pool of despair on occasion but, for the most part, will stay on dry land.

A show of hands on who can relate to this scenario? Although we are witnesses to how good Brad has it–for God’s sake, he should be happy alone that he has just one kid to worry about and one college education to fund–we can see where he gets off feeling in the dumps about his life. Haven’t we all scoured Facebook pages, drooling over photos of our friends’ European vacations, their kids’ graduations from great schools and with exemplary grades that got them a choice of several jobs to turn down in order to take the one with the most amazing pay and benefits, and the new house/grandkid/car/kitchen–fill in the blank–that we wish we had? I know I have. Looking at my life as a married, college-educated homeowner and parent of four healthy and good kids, I think quite a few people would be envious, but the way you hear me talk of it on occasion, you’d think I lived on skid row and had a mountain of insurmountable problems to climb up and over each day. Truth be told, if we have a roof over our heads, our good health, and someone to love and be loved by we’re doing OK, my friend.

If we’re to learn anything from Brad’s Status it’s this: Be happy with what you have, be thankful for what you’re given, and stop envying those you think have it better than you. Everyone has his or her own problems or internal demons to work through even if on the surface they look like gods and goddesses.

 

 

a son not going to prom brings back icky high school memories

Prom is this weekend, but my son isn’t going. prom

He’ll be the first of my four kids to not go to the annual senior dance that is somewhat of a rite of passage. He’s never been to a high school dance either, so it’s not like he’s had his fill of them, and I think he wants to go, but none of his friends is going and thinks it would be awkward if he went. His not going is bringing up feelings I had thirtysomething years ago when I too didn’t go to prom. And it’s unsettling.

I had wanted to go to prom. I grew up back East and moved out West with my family before the start of my junior year. It took me quite some time to get accustomed to the differences on the left coast, but by the end of senior year, I had made some friends, not many, but a few, including two guys I hung out with in Honors English. I was hoping at least one of them would ask me to the senior prom. But no, the invitation never came. In those days, only couples could go to the prom, no singles and no groups of friends. It was a male and a female couple. I’m guessing the rules do not hold up today, nor should they.

My other kids all went. My first daughter was asked by a handsome, popular young man. My second daughter went with a male friend who was actually a grade behind but was taking extra classes to finish out his senior year as a junior. My older son, the athlete, went with the cute cheerleading captain, and they then started dating. But my youngest, whom I’d always pictured as going, being that he’s well-liked and, having sisters, is pretty comfortable aroundthe opposite sex, is not. My husband and I as well as his brother and sisters have encouraged him to go, but here it is, four days away, and it’s become pretty evident that he’s not going.

I hope it’s not something he regrets, as I do. Difference is, as a senior, going was out of my control. I had to be asked. He, however, could have asked a girl or just gone with friends, but I guess it doesn’t mean that much to him. Fortunately, my kids aren’t ones to need to be with a member of the opposite sex to feel validated. Of the four kids, three of whom are adults,, only one is dating someone right now.

Come next week, I’m sure seniors will be buzzing and Ben will hear stories of how great prom was. I would guess he’ll feel a little let down that he didn’t go. And I know I will be. In fact, I started talking about prom to him and my friend’s daughter way back when they were in the second grade, joking that they would be going together one day. Trouble is, by senior year she had had a boyfriend, and it wasn’t my Ben. But he is OK with the way things are. He will find something fun to do, and I will reward him with some sort of treat, considering the great amount of money he’s saved me by not going. For a seventeen-year-old, he’s pretty mature. I wish I could say the same for myself.