We Are Putting Too Much Responsibility On Our Kids

I have three kids.

Most of you know this, if you are new to my blog …well now you know. Two are girls, aged 15 and 11. And my one boy is 2.

My 15 year old has been gearing up to get her drivers permit this fall, and thinking she would go for the driver’s license right away upon turning 16.

But as the months have inched closer to her written permit exam, she’s made a lot of other decisions with regards to her education that ultimately made her choose to put driving on the back burner.

That’s a long winded way of saying that she’s decided to graduate early and wait on driving until closer to 17. Maybe later.

Beyond having homeschooled since she was in 1st grade (so being pretty ahead of the game all along anyway), she really needs some time between graduation and life to figure out exactly what she wants to do and how she wants to go about doing it. We don’t live in a time where kids can just go off to college and everything works out perfectly …kids have high debts and shit jobs when they graduate if they don’t have a clear path in mind. And a lot of times, they do all of that to go into a field that didn’t even need the degree (and high debt).

Doing this will give her a couple years to figure out her real plan for college and/or beyond, and she can start that next step in life (whatever it looks like) at the same time as the rest of her peers. Because she’s a minor she can take some for-credit courses at the community college for free, she can explore volunteer and internship opportunities…and after years of homeschooling with minimal breaks and no summer vacations, she can also relax (for once). It’s a win, whatever way you look at it.

So the exam to accomplish early graduation as a homeschooler in California is administered the March after she turns 16. You guys see the timing is such that it really does make sense for her to focus 100% on that.

And after all, what’s the rush on the driver’s license anyway, right?

When I started mentioning it to people as they brought up her driving in less than a year, I got a backlash from a handful of people (3, to be exact) in one of two veins.

Either 1) they assumed it was really me saying she should wait, in other words sheltering her from the big bad scary roads and growing up; or 2) her not taking responsibility for herself.

People just can’t make decisions for anything anymore without someone waiting in the wings to criticize them.

I shouldn’t even reply to the first point. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I was 17, and in fact California has many laws that restrict what and who can be in the car with teenagers at the outset because of the high incidences of teenage deaths behind the wheel. I am not the catalyst behind her decision whatsoever; but if I were, it wouldn’t be abnormal.

And anyway, my kid my rules.

But to be clear: it was her decision. Hers. Not mine. HERS. 100%.

And it was a decision I found to be rooted in maturity beyond her years. Not all kids would decide on school and studying over the thrill of getting behind the wheel.

As to the responsibility.

Even if it were for fear or not being ready for that level of responsibility, what is this idea that kids under 18 are not still… kids? That their feelings or fears or concerns are completely invalid and they should just man up and grow up?

Repeat after me: they are still children.

And beyond that, has anyone taken stock – truly – of how much responsibility falls upon our older kids, today, as a culture? The shooter drills. The intense college admissions competition. AP exams. Competitiveness in sports. Plus looks, bullying, dating, peer suicide, all-time high incidences of mental illness…

Granted some of that is eliminated because my kids homeschool. But in many ways (because my kids are still very social, have relatively large friend groups, are out in the community daily, and have many of the same goals as their peers), they experience it all to varying degrees.

And in the case of my children, you also have to consider how much responsibility my two older daughters already have and take of their own accord around the house (which, I am sure, is common in other households as well as the business world molds and changes, and local, 9-5 jobs for parents have largely ceased to exist).

My husband works overnight shifts for a marketing firm that contracts with Disney. He’s an editor, so it means long hours, unpredictable hours, and a lot of overtime. When he gets home in the morning, he goes to bed and sleeps all day until it’s time to go back and start it over again. He works weekends and holidays often, and he almost never uses his vacation time. He basically is uninvolved in our lives unless he can actually be off for Christmas or Easter (but of course then he still sleeps half the day, either catching up or just on that different schedule).

That leaves me as the sole caretaker, housekeeper, financial planner, grocery shopper, child care provider, car maintenancer, schedule manager, meal, snack and every in between preparer, launderer, problem solver, medical care provider, educator, ride-giver…and so on…

My kids, being more responsible than some adults I know, have taken it upon themselves to pitch in for the sake of my husband’s dreams and my sanity.

It’s killing me to allow, and yet sometimes I feel I have no other choice; and even other times I realize that letting your kids have responsibility around the home has been proven in study after study to raise kids more capable of managing their lives as fully formed adults.

So my daughter doesn’t want to take on the “responsibility” of studying for taking the exam for her drivers permit, and the behind the wheel test and driving so soon, on top of everything else on her plate.

She cleans up my toddler’s toys every night when I put him to bed.

She helps cook dinner when I’m giving him a bath or nursing him (because, yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old).

She and her sister clean up the poop in the bathtub when he inevitably turns it into his large, personal toilet.

My 11 year old isn’t without added responsibility at home as well. She takes out the trash, regularly, when my husband has been too busy to change all the cans. She also helps keep the laundry moving, does dishes without being asked, and plays with her brother or feeds him breakfast when I’m driving my 15 year old to an appointment or tennis lesson.

Once a week, my kids and I spend hours going through all the laundry that has been done and sort, organize, fold, and put it all away. When my husband sees us doing it, he says “just leave mine on the bed.”

And this is the thing that I want to impress on all of you: my kids are not unique from other kids, and the amount that is expected of them today is phenomenal.

I get it. There was a time when kids did all of this and more. But there are two parents in this home, two adults responsible for it all, and my kids are at the very least helping to carry the load for one that is largely absent. Because they are already more responsible than a lot of adults I know.

So to suggest that my daughter needs to “start taking responsibility for herself,” and that the driving thing is just a sign that she isn’t doing that is – in a word – laughable. And this is what I am largely seeing happen with a lot of her and my 11 year old’s peers: that in the face of already doing it all and more, adults are still pushing the vice down even harder and demanding more of them.

And we wonder why so many kids have mental health problems now.

I feel like we have forgotten that under 18, they are still kids. And yet, at the end of the day, so many of them seem to have it more together than a lot of us did at that age. More together than a lot of us do today.

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Just Call a Cab (Mom)

Imagine one day you wake up to discover you are an Uber driver. It’s not what you want to do, and definitely not your career path. It takes away from your other responsibilities. And you don’t get paid.

But you have to do it anyway. There’s no way around it.

You put 200 miles on your car per day, 7 days a week. Sometimes more, never less. That 200 miles is spread out between the hours of 8 AM and 10 PM. 

You never have the time to go in and see what is going on that you are driving people to…because you have to go drive someone else somewhere else. Or someone forgot something. Or someone has to go to the bathroom. Or someone is hungry. Or you were so strapped with everyone’s schedules that you have to run home to brush your teeth still, or shower.

Of course no one outside of your situation understands that. In fact, you routinely find out that people say terrible things about how unsupportive you are for not always going in to see what’s going on.

You have a 2 year old who has to ride with you. He is miserable after 1 hour. He wants to play, instead he has to just keep riding and playing with what he can from his seat. If you do happen to go in and take him in with you, he bothers everyone with his noise and his playing and his toddler-ness, so you just don’t. You stay in the car, or he stays home (if someone is there to watch him and you had better believe you’ll be asked where he is with a disapproving look). Sometimes you take him to a nearby park, or other place he’d enjoy; but usually you have to be somewhere else to drive someone elsewhere and there isn’t time. Or you have to run home to take care of other stuff there that needs to be taken care of, like getting dinner in the oven or cleaning the toilets, because you already only get 4 hours of sleep a night. If that.

Also, remember, you are still missing out on what is going on where you dropped the other people/person off.

Your toddler has to usually eat at least one meal in the car. And did I mention he gets carsick? Also, he’s still breastfeeding, so that has to be done in between car trips, smashed in the backseat in some dingy parking lot too.

Your spouse drives 100 miles a day, roundtrip, in their commute to work at their dream job. Andd while others recognize you are busy, they regularly tell you that you are lying when you say you are driving 200 miles a day, even if you offer to show them your odometer. “Poor him he has it so hard… you?  …well you’re making it up stop telling stories HAHAHA” has actually come out of people’s mouths to your face.

People tell you all the time that they would love to help – JUST CALL! That ends up in one of three scenarios: 1. occasional help, which is awesome; though, more often it’s 2. the few times you ask, they are not able to 3. you get help, a little bit…just a smidge…but you feel SO GUILTY and have SO MUCH SELF-DOUBT about it all, that you feel bad asking again.

And you just know that if you were to write something like this, the single mothers of the world would be waiting on bated breath to pounce in the comments section with “…at least you have a…”

You should be able to handle all of this, right? If only you were managing the schedules better. Or had a tougher mentality about it all. Maybe you are going in a circuitous, illogical way.

The house, the housework, the grocery shopping, the schoolwork, the bath times, the bedtimes, meals, snacks, scheduling doctor’s appointments, holidays, the bill paying – you should be able to do it all plus take everyone to everything they need to and want to be at, on time every time, with a smile on your face.

Your budget for gas is $200 a month. You are using $120 a week (that’s $480 a month for those that cannot math). 

You don’t get paid for any of your time driving (duh). And you have to figure out that extra gas budget on your own with absolutely no help from anyone. Including the people getting rides from you.

OH ALSO: this free driving labor that has turned you into a terrible mother and a resentful person is giving you lower back problems to such a degree that you think you may need to see an orthopedic. (PS, just for fun let’s add in that you had back surgery for scoliosis when you were 13 years old, have Herrington rods on your spine, and definitely do not need back problems because they WILL result in surgeries.)

But wait…you can’t make it to any of your own appointments because someone else has to be somewhere else, and their thing is much more important. Always.

This is my life right now.

Every, single detail of it.

I completely understand that a large part of parenting kids over 10 is driving them from thing to thing.

However, a lot of people have a partner that helps them. I don’t.

And I know that will make a lot of single mothers angry, because I am married. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a partner, though. He’s just my husband. He works all the time, overnight, in his dream job. When he isn’t working, he’s sleeping. On weekends, he sleeps or works too. Last Saturday, he slept until 7 pm. If he can, he sleeps between 10 and 13 hours a night. He is working on Easter. He worked during our 11 year old’s birthday party last year. After I had major abdominal surgery (a c-section), he went to work two days afterwards, the day I came home from the hospital. With three kids to wrangle myself, stomach staples and all. He is, for the sake of discussion, not involved at all. When I hear other parents talking about how they “tag team” their multiple kids – split up events and such – I seethe in bitterness and resentment. It kills me to hear it.

A big big BIG factor in this is that I ALSO have a 76 year old man that I have to drive from place to place. That would be my dad, who lives with us. At the present time, he is unable to drive, leaving me the lone Uber driver. I had no idea how much work it was being retired and old.

A lot of people have SOMETHING – some sort of a break from it all. I don’t.

I think to myself regularly about how stressed out and tired and overworked and sick of being in the car I am, and I think that one day I will look back on this and wonder how I made it through it all. Originally I thought talking about it to people was the answer. I was wrong.

When I try to define what is going on for others, I inevitably offend people. I’m not a single mom. A solo mom? That pissed off a few people, so I stopped with that too. Absolutely no one wants to hear that my husband is absent in daily life.

This leaves me a bit of a Debbie Downer. Debbie Downer the Uber Driver.

I hate driving. When my kids are older and my dad doesn’t need rides places anymore, I’m going to move somewhere urban and never drive another car again.


STFU Fridays, with our special guest: STFU Socrates

This morning I woke up and looked on Facebook, wasting time while trying to figure out (like usual) how exactly to get through the day. Much to my happiness, the “I fucking love science” page shared a quote that could not be anymore relevant and important, both to my day and us as a society:

This was Socrates’ mantra, and why he was called the wisest man on the Earth. He wasn’t wise because he was a great philosopher. Nor because he knew how to get into the pants of just about everyone in Ancient Athens, despite his garish appearance. He was the wisest man on Earth because when he was told this, he couldn’t believe it. Quite frankly, he told the Oracle at Delphi to shut the fuck up. (I always like to imagine Socrates saying “shut the fuck up, bitch – I ain’t no wise man!” with one of those ghetto, Jerry Springer snaps of the hand.) After that, he went out on a search to prove that he wasn’t the wisest by questioning everything he and others thought they knew (and in doing so, proved the Oracle’s statement absolutely correct).

What happened to Socrates you ask? He was put to death by those dumb motherfuckers who thought they knew everything for trying to prove that he, himself, did not know shit. Talk about ironic. This is the theme for our STFU Fridays, and I have three groups of people that deserve a resounding “shut the fuck up.”

STFU Socrates is joining us.

Hipsters

This weekend in Los Angeles, we’re having the second edition of Carmageddon. If you were around the news or LA last year, you know what this meant. A section of the 405 freeway was shut down, and despite the fact that there are a bagillion other routes people normally take anyway, as well as the fact that it was a goddamned weekend and wasn’t going to be a big deal, the city acted like it was the end of the fucking world. End. Of. The Fucking. World.

Hipsters everywhere came out of the woodwork, celebrating local and bike riding tandem. Yuppies organized a 405 shutdown tandem bike ride. I shit you not, everyone talked on the news about how great this was to re-embrace LA. It was a foodie’s wildest fantasy: what a great opportunity to stay put and eat locally grown organic produce!

Yay local! Yay tofu! Yay Pitchfork!

I’m not sure how shutting down a stretch of the freeway turned into the biggest convention of ugly pants-wearing hipsters ever, but it did. Coachella didn’t even compare. So earlier this month when I saw on the freeway the dreaded sign that Carmageddon 2 was upon us, I immediately prepared myself for more self-aggrandizing, pompous assholes to make their way into the limelight in their lime-colored sunglasses and wearing stretched out, oversized tank tops.

With their cool sense of irony and $99 “vintage” American Apparel hoodies, hipsters annoy me in such a way that I can’t even really describe accurately. It isn’t their ugly taste in clothing. It isn’t their lack of understanding of the term irony. It isn’t even their shitty taste in bubble-gum pop, pseudo-dance music played by morons with 12 inch ear gauges and barely more than a junior high education.

It’s their fucking arrogance.

Hipsters think they know everything. About everything. They have an understanding of music that you just don’t get. They have a taste in fashion that you would never understand. Your deep thoughts are mere blips on the stream of consciousness that is their deep, emotional, and ironic thinking.

I think if Socrates were alive today, he wouldn’t waste his time questioning hipsters. He’d just beat the shit out of  their neon orange skinny pants, bike riding through Carmageddon asses.

What do you have to say to the hipsters, Socrates?

Hypocrites

Hipsters are kind of hypocrites because they embrace cheap and vintage and local, and yet pay a big price in places that manufacture goods in Guadalajara for 5 cents an hour wages. But not all hypocrites are hipsters, so this is a different group. A different STFU.

A hypocrite is someone that quite literally says one thing and does another. A great example of hypocrites are people that go to church and preach fire and brimstone, then go home and drink a case of beer while beating their wives. Another great example of hypocrites are people that say they want a relationship with an honest person, but when the person is honest they call the person an asshole.

A hypocrite is someone that wants women to have equal rights and be treated with respect; yet, at the same time tells her she has to clear things with him first, or have no control over her own things.

I feel like I am surrounded by hypocrites in my daily life. From my misogynistic husband that, indeed, got just as upset about my mentioning how much of a pig he is in my grocery blog as I thought he would; to my trailer trash mom, who complains when I don’t go to family parties but then dumps on every time I offer to host them at our home.

What infuriates me so much about hypocrites, though, isn’t just their hypocrisy; but really their arrogance paralleled to the arrogance of the hipster. The hypocrite knows better than you – that’s why he can be a hypocrite. The hypocrite just has a much better understanding of life and whatever he’s doing that makes him so hypocritical; and you are just too stupid to realize that it isn’t hypocrisy, but the right thing.

What do you have to say to hypocrites, Socrates?

Foodies

I’m really starting to dislike foodies. I don’t mean people that like to eat. I also don’t mean people that like to eat new things.

I mean these motherliving assholes that know more than everyone about food. EpicureansFood connoisseurs. Foodie fucks.

I talked a little bit about this in my Food Nazis STFU, but now I want to touch on these foodie assholes that think their feta don’t stink just as much as the next guy.

I’m talking about the foodie that won’t shut the hell up about the tannins in the wine. The foodie that sticks her large, fucking schnoz into the wine glass to smell the flavor and aroma, as if she really knows what the fuck she’s sniffing for. I’m talking about the foodie that sits there and comments on all the distinct spices that he can taste in a dish. I’m talking about the person that says “ha ha ha … oh, that’s precious and homey!” when you bring over a regular square cake with normal fucking frosting, instead of some berry-infused, fondant-covered plate of shit.

Again, just like hipsters; just like hypocrites – foodies think they fucking know everything. I was on a date once where I brought wine because the guy was cooking pasta. I brought white; a white that World Market said would go well with any pasta or other Italian dishes. I walked in and that motherfucker told me that it “technically” wasn’t the appropriate wine for pasta. I told that arrogant prick he should “technically” call World Market and tell them to change their pairing cards.

The Ancient Greeks were all about eating and drinking. Have any of you ever read Symposium? Those motherfuckers drank wine out of jugs. Jugs! They lived well into old age (for the most part) too, and they weren’t all as fucking arrogant as people are now. I cannot for the life of me imagine a bunch of guys standing around in the Agora sticking their noses into their dirty wine jugs and talking about tannins and shit.

So with that, I think STFU Socrates is the best person for the job on this week’s final STFU. What do you have to say to foodies, just like you did to the hipsters and the hypocrites, Socrates?

Reasons #Carmaggedon Could Be A.K.A. Yuppy-fest 2011

It’s my worst nightmare come true:  a festival of yuppies, hipsters, and yupsters banding together in a festival of – dare I say – epic proportions.  That’s right, it’s Carmaggedon.  It’s the weekend we’ve all been dreading, when the section of the 405 freeway between the 101 and the 10 interchanges is closed.  How is Carmaggedon – the event KCET is calling the “freeway apocalypse” – the same thing as Yuppy-fest 2011 you ask?  Well before I get into why, let’s look at some facts first:

Fact #1:  The major Los Angeles 405 freeway will be closed for roughly 12 miles, for about 53 hours, over the weekend.

Fact #2:  This weekend marks the end of the most-traveled time this summer, meaning that most people will have been (and will continue until the end of the weekend) be out of town anyway.

Fact #3:  For those that are in town, alternative routes (including the Pacific Coast Highway) are already common place on weekends, due to plans, scenery, beach-related activities, and other similar recreational factors.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s make the connection.

The Midnight Ridazz

That’s right, the hipsters have named their attempt to do a massive 300+ person walk/ride on the 405 freeway Saturday night the Midnight Ridazz.  The plan is to have this cadre of cyclists (no doubt in their mod outfits, their heads headbanded, all wearing their neon-rimmed glasses) make their way up the 405 North on one of the only times you will see the freeway completely desolate.

Except for a couple of things.  First, the freeway isn’t going to be desolate because it’s been closed for construction work, which not only means a crew of workers and trucks, but a major danger to the unprotected pedestrians.  The second is that the California Highway Patrol has already stated it will have a force just as massive as the hipsters out there, ready to ticket and arrest anyone on the freeway, and out of line.

The Bikers Versus Jet Blue Race

And in come the yuppies.  After Jet Blue announced it would be offering flights from the Long Beach airport to the Burbank airport for a measly $4 a flight, something that deserves a section of its own, some jokesters on Twitter suggested that the bicyclists could beat Jet Blue in a cross-town race during Carmaggedon.  And now, it’s apparently on.  Beyond the sheer stupidity of taking an airplane across town, this really begs the question:  don’t these people have anything better to do with their time?

The Buy Local Yupster Explosion

Now, I’m all for buying local, and supporting local businesses; but the yupsters take it way too far on a normal day.  From their organic farms, to their locally manufactured clothing, support of the local market has been a hallmark of the yupster mentality.  But since NBC LA came out with its 405 Things To Do During Carmaggedon list, emails, Facebook notifications, and Twitter announcements have been made by the hundreds for special “buy local” deals going on over the weekend.  Pictured here is the email I received just today – a huge sale at New Balance LA in honor of the weekend.

Photo credit ME!

With the yuppies, the hipsters, and the yupsters in full force this weekend, Yuppy-fest 2011 makes me crave a good old fashioned L.A. riot – at least then the “countdown to carmaggedon” media coverage of this “historic event” would be justified.

The real deal is this:  sure, the 405 freeway is going to be closed for the weekend and that sucks.  Yeah, the commute time anywhere in or around town will be longer, so you need to make sure you have enough gas in your tank, and snacks on hand to avert crankiness.  Other than that, it seems that the media and the yuppies have again created a hype that is going to end up embarrassing for no one but them.  This evening on the news, the broadcaster said “… well, if you are on the 405 northbound right now, you have reached the point … of no return.”  Sure, traffic is going to be bad, but it’s L.A … what else is new?