Tag Archives: Parent

To Get Up or to Zzzzzzzz

alarm clock, bought from IKEA

Image via Wikipedia

Monkey started 7th grade this year. When I think back to 7th grade, I recall I awoke each morning at 6:30 AM with the help of my digital alarm clock which I had carefully set to 62 WHEN the night before.

Once showered, I made myself breakfast — either a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal or a bagel with cream cheese — and by 7:15 AM, I quietly walked into my parents’ bedroom, took four quarters from my father’s dresser (with his permission), so I could buy lunch. I then kissed my mother and my father who were sprawled in their king-sized bed beneath a giant comforter. I was generally met by sleepy sounds, sometimes a little muttering, and bad breath; it was a daily routine, and it worked. They got a good night’s rest, and I got to watch The New Zoo Revue on our 7” black and white television, uninterrupted, for about a half an hour.

Eventually, depending on the weather, I put on the most appropriate outdoor coat — if it was cold, I popped on mittens and a hat. Since UGGS had not yet been invented and boots were totally uncool in 1978, I always wore my clogs. From there, I made opened the front door carrying whatever I might have brought home for homework (read: nothing) and walked about 1/4 mile from my parents’ little house to the closest bus stop and waited with a cluster of other neighborhood kids.

Fast-forward 30 years. Monkey completes a similar ritual where he wakes, dresses, makes his breakfast, gathers his stuff — paper stars, drawings of dragons, pencils, books, two huge binders filled with worksheets and completed homework — and crams it all into his backpack.

I hear Monkey moving around starting at 6:20 AM, and I stick my pillow over my head. Unlike my parents who stayed in bed, confident in my organizational abilities — or never really even thought about if I had everything I needed or not — I feel totally guilty for staying in bed. I mean I suppose I could drag myself downstairs at that unseemly hour, but I am just so dang tired.

And warm.

I don’t know why I feel I should go downstairs and smooch Monkey before he leaves the house. Maybe I feel like I should make sure his clothes match – because he’s not very good at that. Or maybe I feel I should check to make sure that his hair is brushed – because, to be honest, he is pretty lax in that area, too. Maybe it’s his teeth I’m worried about. You know, I just like to make sure that he in minty-fresh before he heads out the door because, again, the whole hygiene thing is currently not his forte.

I don’t do this though.

So typically Monkey does just what I used to do. He comes upstairs to announce he is leaving.

Except some days, he doesn’t.

Some days, the kids he walks with show up at our sliding glass doors and I hear the glass doors roll across the floor followed by a slam. I lie there, imagining him walking down the back steps, towards the enormous school that looms in our backyard. (I know it was designed to look like a dairy farm; still, it looms.)

On those days, I miss him.

My husband wonders what is wrong with me.

He says I should be thrilled that we have raised an independent person who can make cereal and bagels and waffles and eggs and (sometimes) remembers to brush his teeth and hair.

And I am.

But it doesn’t mean I’m not working against some weird maternal energy that wants to “just check” on him.

My parents never sweated over this stuff.

At what age did your parents step out of the picture so you could start doing things independently? How are you about completely stepping out of the picture? And more importantly, what morning TV shows did you watch while your parents were sleeping?
© Renée Schuls-Jacobson 2011. All rights reserved.

A Different Kind Of Punishment #twits

Save Sprinkles has been a wonderful and constant commenter of my blog in the Blogosphere. When I started following her, I learned she has two daughters and she has a couple of years until she becomes an empty nester.  She also comes with one husband and two lazy cats.

Sprinkles has a cool list titled “50 things I want to do before I turn 50,” but I think she has only actually generated about 40 or so items. One of the things on her To-Do list is “sew something.” I think she needs to sew a pillow and cross that shizzle off her list. But I think she means she wants to sew something elaborate that she could actually wear. Like out. I’m not sure. She also wants to add 10 words to urbandictionary.com and get something published. Okay, so these are a little harder than making a pillow. You can check out Spinkles’s list on her blog “How Can I Complain?” HERE.  Also, you can Twitter-stalk her at Sprinkles1234_.

Here is her teacher memory.

• • •

A Different Kind of Punishment

At nearly six feet tall, Mrs. Larson towered over her fifth grade students. I had never noticed just how tall she was until the afternoon she stood above me on the playground holding the back of my shirt in one hand and the back of Dawn Cooper’s shirt in the other.  She had just separated us from a ferocious girl fight of nameless origins. It may have started because Dawn said my shoes were ugly or because I stuck my tongue out at her in the lunch line, or because Dawn and I just never got along. The starting point didn’t really matter because now we were both dirty, scratched up, and in BIG trouble.  Mrs. Larson stood us both up against the ancient school building and told us to choose a brick on which to touch our noses. As my nose rested against the rough, baked clay, I worried profusely about what my punishment would be. It was Friday and the weather was beautiful. I was looking forward to a weekend of bike riding and I didn’t want mean, old Mrs. Larson to screw things up for me.

Sprinkles in 5th grade

I knew from prior offenses that Mrs. Larson was a “mom caller” and nothing was a worse punishment than a poor behavior call from the teacher.  In my house, if you got in trouble at school, you got in ten times more trouble at home, and I wasn’t looking forward to that!  When playtime ended Mrs. Larson calmly told us to report to her room during recess on Monday for our punishment. I spent the rest of the school day striving for perfect behavior, in silent hope that she would forget to call my mother.

My stomach ached on the bus ride home. Had Mrs. Larson called my mom already, or would she call once I got home?  The entire weekend passed slowly as I nervously anticipated my mother to call me from my play at any moment and banish me to my room. Each time the phone rang, my heart stopped for a brief moment, but Mrs. Larson never called.

On Monday morning I solemnly completed my schoolwork and avoided the sneers and snooty faces that Dawn made at me from across the classroom. At noon, I could hardly touch my lunch. Although it was years before Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released The Waiting, it certainly was “the hardest part” of this punishment.

Finally, the hour arrived and Dawn and I made our way back to the classroom walking on opposite sides of the hallway.  Mrs. Larson was poised in the doorway, waiting to usher us in. She directed us to the table where we normally sat for group work, and instructed us to sit side-by-side. As I reluctantly sat next to my nemesis, I noticed two soup bowls of soapy water on the table and a zippered cosmetic case. Not wanting to prolong the suspense, I blurted out, “What are you going to make us do?”

Mrs. Larson suppressed a smile. “I’m not going to make you do anything,” she said. “I’m going to show you how to do something.”  Then she told us to place our fingers in the soapy water.  As our hands soaked in the sudsy warmth, she explained that Dawn and I were going to give one another a manicure. Step by step, she guided us through pushing one another’s cuticles gently back with an orange stick. Patiently, she showed us how to use an emery board to shape each other’s nails. When it was time to choose a polish, Dawn and I chose the same lovely pink color, and with painstaking neatness, each painted it on the other’s nails. As we waited for our polish to dry we found ourselves chatting, then laughing and making plans. When Mrs. Larson was sure that our nails were dry, she sent us out to enjoy the last few minutes of recess.

As simplistic as it was, Mrs. Larson’s punishment stuck with me. I learned far more from it than I would have from a lecture, from a spanking, or from a weekend spent grounded. Mrs. Larson didn’t just show me how to give a manicure.  With her gentle guidance, she showed me how to make a friend.

What lessons have you learned from punishment?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece of writing for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.

Last week: Jessica Buttram: “Hard Ass”

Lessons From An Only Child & Three Dead Fish

Calvin is an only child

Sometimes I’d really like to flip Granville Stanley Hall the bird.

Problem is, the dude is dead.

About 120 years ago, Hall established one of the first American psychology-research labs and supervised the 1896 study “Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children,” which described a series of only-child oddballs as permanent misfits. Hall concluded only children could not be expected to go through life with the same capacity for adjustment that children with siblings possessed. “Being an only child is a disease in itself,” he claimed.

Thanks, Granville.

You, like, totally rock.

And by rock, I mean suck.

While much work has been done to debunk the myth of the weirdo only child, most people still think one is the loneliest number. And, shockingly, strangers continue to ask me, over 10 years after my son was born, when I plan to have another. As if having just one is the worst, most unthinkable thing I could ever do.

You’re hearing it here first, folks: I’m not having any more kids.

The womb is closed.

Meanwhile, Hubby and I are doing our best to raise our singleton son, now 11 & 1/2 years old, and we think we are doing a pretty good job of it. I was recently thumbing through a journal that I kept when Monkey was very small, and I stumbled across an anecdote that seemed apropos to share here.

When Monkey was about 3 years old, he won three identical goldfish at a carnival. Actually, he didn’t win them so much as acquire them; the man at the booth said it was late in the day, that it was the last day of whatever festival we were attending, and he basically wanted to unload the fish. So when Monkey’s dart popped one balloon he became the “big winner” of the day and we came home with a plastic baggie o’fish.

Monkey promptly named the trio the best names he could think of: “Mommy,” “Daddy” and “Monkey.” And he fed them (sometimes). And he watched them swim (sometimes). And he disappeared when I cleaned the bowl (always). And for a while, things went along swimmingly. The fish were nice to have, but he didn’t seem very invested in them.

One morning, hubby and I awoke to the sound of Monkey screaming, “Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!”

Husband and I jumped out of our bed and ran down the hall to find our son standing on top of his bed staring into the fishbowl.

“Mommy and Daddy are dead,” he announced.

Now these were three completely identical goldfish. There was absolutely nothing to tell them apart. no telltale spots, no interesting marks, no places where anyone had been chomped, so I had to ask.

“Monkey, how can you tell that it’s Mommy and Daddy that didn’t make it?”

My son looked at me like I was an alien. “Well, because as you can see,” he said, pointing into the tiny little bowl, “Monkey is right there. He’s fine.”


Hubby and I looked at each other. Our child didn’t seem to be traumatized. In fact, when we asked him what we ought to do with the two fish that had gone belly-up, he replied pragmatically, “Probably flush ’em.”

Like most only children, Monkey has hung out with his cousins and turned his closest friends into pseudo-siblings, knowing it’s not the same as having real brothers or a sisters but not necessarily missing what he doesn’t have. For him, siblings are kind of like the floating goldfish we flushed away so long ago: they were nice while they lasted, but he prefers having the bowl to himself. He has seen siblings who get along beautifully, and he has watched siblings claw at each other like cats. He realizes that just because a person has a brother or a sister doesn’t mean that relationship will be a close one. These days, he also knows that being an only has its perks: No one will mess with his many collections, or go in his room to snoop around, or kick him unexpectedly in the twigs and berries. But he couldn’t have known this back then.

The day the fish died, my husband explained the bowl had been too small, that there had been too much urea in the water and not enough oxygen. He asked our son if he wanted to get a bigger tank, more fish.

“No. One is good.”

Recent studies show that only children are no more messed up than anybody else’s kids. In fact, only children tend to do better in school and get more education — college, medical or law degrees — than other kids. Source Material

So everybody can stop worrying.

The only kid is all right.

Where do you fall in the birth order? Has birth order impacted you? Do you think birth order matters at all? Or is it all a bunch of hogwash?