Posts Tagged ‘teenagers’

I got a new tattoo a couple of days ago, an early birthday present to myself. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have been adding to my collection over the last five years.

I’m up to 6 now, including the one I had covered up two years ago, and I love, love, love, my body art; it’s an expression of me and who I am. I went back to a shop where I went two years ago that had been recommended by friends. The artist who did my cover-up then was super awesome and I wanted to have him do this new one. Unfortunately, what I wanted wasn’t his style so he referred to another artist in the shop. After viewing the new guy’s work on Instagram, I felt comfortable that he would get it right and set up an appointment.

The tattoo turned out fabulous, just what I wanted, but it was the conversation we had that has been sitting on my brain for the past two days. I won’t tell you all of it, but the gist was that his family had not been supportive of his art when he was growing up. As with a lot of families, though, his family didn’t consider anything having to do with art as a “real” job. Now, this guy is talented. I wouldn’t have let him put his art on my body if he wasn’t. He loves what he’s doing, but I wonder what would have happened if his family had supported his dream, if they had encouraged him to follow his passion rather than quash it. He’s making his own art now, not in the way he originally wanted to, but it fits him at the moment. Still, he has “what-if” moments.

I immediately identified with what he went through. In my first year of college, it was made very clear to me that my aspirations of going into theatre would not be supported and financial assistance was withdrawn. I eventually took the safe route, managed college myself, and got a “real” job, but I often think about how my life would be different if I had been allowed to pursue my dream. Now, I think that Marty and I would still have met and we would have had the same kids because we were meant to, but I might have been happier, less prone to the bouts of depression due to work frustration. I might not have been wishing my life away every year, counting the days until my next break. Is this a grass-is-greener situation? Maybe. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I had majored in theatre and gone to New York like I had planned. I might not have made it very far in that world, but I would have at least tried. I wasn’t confident enough to really strike out on my own so I put my energy into getting a safe job. Plainly put, I was too afraid to try it by myself. I wish I had been braver.

Now, Youngest Child wants to be a jazz musician. He’s excellent, really, a very good musician, and that’s not just mom-bias talking. I see me-as-the-artist in him, except he’s more confident in his abilities, more proactive in following his path. We are supporting his decision. He’s making contacts that will help him in the future, taking as many private lessons as we can comfortably provide for, and I’m driving him all over the metro area. Is it a lot? Sometimes, but you know what? When I pick him up from a performance or a lesson, he’s happy. He’s doing what he loves to do, he’s challenged, and he’s driven. As a mom, that’s the best outcome I can hope for. Will he make it professionally? I hope so, but if not, at least he will have had the chances and opportunities. (I have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll do well, though.) We made it clear that he will have to support himself as an adult, but he’ll figure it out. We’ll be here for advice if he needs it.

Society tends to look down on kids who want to go into the arts, but, ironically, we pay billions of dollars into the entertainment industry every year. The arts are so important: music, theatre, painting, sculpting, these things all take an enormous amount of talent, yet parents discourage their kids from going into them full-time. I get it, it’s hard to get insurance or job security in the early days, not to mention a retirement plan, when one is paying their dues, but is that more important than being happy with life? Some people are willing to work a job that isn’t their passion and deal with it fine and then there are the rest of us who find it difficult to fit into that mold.

What is the point of all of this? If you have a kid who is interested in going into the arts, let them try. If they’re terrible at it, that will be evident soon enough and they’ll try something else. Relax and be supportive of their dreams even if you don’t think they have a snowball’s chance in hell of making a living at it. Don’t make them wonder, “what if?” later on because you squelched their ambition. They may not get there, but they will have the memory that you supported them and believed in what they wanted to do and that, my friends, is worth a whole lot more. You might be surprised at what happens next.



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We told Oldest Child back to college today after spending a really nice, but short, summer with him. His first year was wildly successful, he adjusted very well and did a lot of exciting things, like being able to attend a dinner where Bill Clinton was speaking. Early on this summer, he got to spend five weeks in the UK as a kind of class, boosting his credits up and making him a junior after one year of college. I’m proud of him to the point of bursting, so forgive me for bragging just a little.

In many ways, dropping him off today was remarkably similar to how it was last year, except that we brought Middle Child and Youngest Child along. It poured down rain again while we unloaded the cars, but with five of us, it went pretty quickly. The rain cut our planned walk around campus short, although we did all go out to lunch together and visited a wonderful old book shop that Marty Man used to frequent when he was a student there. All around, soggy students and their families were busy unloading, visiting, and saying their goodbyes, just like us.

But when it was time to leave, it was much more casual than it was last year. There were no tears, yet, anyway. Will I miss him as much? Yes, absolutely. I miss him already. We had a really good summer and I enjoy his company immensely. I love seeing this independent person getting himself up and out the door for work in the morning, doing his own laundry, taking charge of his own life. At this point, Marty Man and I are pretty much bystanders who help when we’re needed, but he doesn’t need us to do much for him anymore. He will be just fine.

Anyway, today has made me think of my job as a mother now as opposed to, oh, say, ten to fifteen years ago. Things have definitely changed. As a parent of young children, there is so much physical work that needs to be done: diapers, feedings, baths, carrying, dressing, car seats. Little by little, it gets easier physically, but it gets more difficult in terms of setting limits and guiding them through the process of growing-up. There are difficult ages. I’ve blogged in the past about the age of eleven at our house, but there are hurdles at any stage. Grades, girlfriends, friends, chores, and family relations can all be sticky topics. There are days that any frustrated parent can be tempted to walk out the door, but you don’t because you’re the adult, you’re the parent, and raising these kids is the most important job in the whole world, because you are their whole world. Then, the crisis is over and the tears have stopped, emotions calm down. There’s talking, there’s hugging, there’s love, and you start all over. It’s always a new day with kids and thankfully, they can be more forgiving than we are.

Our job isn’t done once they’re grown-up, of course, we’ll always be parents, but the job description is constantly changing. Someday, they won’t need us to provide for any of their physical needs, even money (please, let them eventually stop needing money.), but hopefully they’ll still want to come around just to talk and to spend some time with their parents. And not just on holidays.

There are things from when they were very small that I miss dreadfully, so much that it hurts: the baby smell (oh, that smell!), the sweet, sloppy, whole-mouth kisses, rocking them in my arms until their long lashes droop closed, kissing boo-boos, squishy little hands and feet, kissable cheeks, talking attempts, and my absolute favorite, the belly laugh. You know, the one that comes right up from their toes? It’s the best thing in the whole world and if you can’t at least grin at one of those laughs, you’re not human. These things are gone forever with my boys.

But there are things that I love about them as big kids/young adults that won’t disappear with time. Things like their sense of humor. All of them. They are just a weird as I am and we laugh at the same things. They can hold all sorts of fabulous conversations on any topic: current events, politics, sports (ugh), introspective, technology, and strange things. They are such interesting people and I love hearing their perspectives. They’re all bigger than I am now and the older ones are protective of their mama. While I think I handle myself pretty well, it’s nice to see that they have my back, just in case. My boys are turning into amazing young men and I love them so much, more than they can ever know.

Are they perfect children? Oy, no. We fight and argue over curfews and appropriate movies; they can say ugly, hurtful, things to each other and sometimes to us, like any other teenagers, but in the end, we still love each other. We’re a family, and we know that no matter what happens, someone will apologize and life will go on because that’s what we do. It’s all a part of them growing up.

We dropped off Oldest Child at college again today. Let the parenting adventure continue.


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My baby turns Thirteen tomorrow. He was almost two weeks late and beat the East Coast/Midwest Blackout by two hours. He was born purple, his umbilical cord tied in a knot and wrapped around his neck twice, but recovering immediately. He wanted his mama from the first moment and stays close to this day, but not too close. That would be completely uncool. I’m really not ready for this next stage, but it’s not my rodeo. Well, it kind of is. He is my son, after all, but the experience of becoming a teenager is his and his alone.

Thirteen has been seen as a rite of passage for a long time in many cultures, marked with parties, bar and bay mitzvahs, a step toward young adulthood, but also a time of confusion. Body changes, pressure to do well, and the desire to prove oneself can make turning thirteen more difficult than it needs to be.

I remember Thirteen and it wasn’t that great of a year, but then it was also a year where some exciting things happened. I remember being really jazzed to become a teenager. I have a late birthday and was always one of the youngest ones in my class, so turning thirteen and catching up with my friends was something that couldn’t come soon enough for me. I wish that I had had the gift of hindsight back then, to see that Thirteen was not all it’s cracked up to be. I still wasn’t an adult, much to my dismay, and I still had a LOT to learn.

It was during that year that I made the colossal mistake of calling one of my friends a bitch, and not even to her face, but in a note to a mutual friend. I wasn’t quite that brave and it was my first stab at speaking my mind. I didn’t even write out the whole word. If I remember correctly, I wrote, “B_T_H.”. In fairness, as I look back, she kind of deserved it, but that was not the best decision I ever made. Of course, I was ratted out by the mutual friend and popular opinion rained down on me for the rest of 8th grade, only letting up when we went to different high schools the next year. I learned a hard, valuable, lesson on social niceties and never wrote anything like that ever again.

Thirteen was also the year when I fell in love with the discipline and opportunities in marching band. I am a proud band geek, through and through. Thirteen was my first year of Band Camp, and it will be for Youngest Child, too, next summer. Band Camp was definitely a rite of passage. I had always loved music, I still do, but the late nights, early mornings, sweat, aches, heat, and sky-high diving platforms into the lake made me confident in my abilities. I met new, life-long friends (“Hi, I’m George.” “I’m Ringo.” “I’m Paul.” “I’m John. I’m dead.”) who knew nothing about the “bitch” incident and when they did find out, didn’t care. I found people who didn’t think I was weird, people who I fit in with. I was lucky that way. I loved everything about Band Camp and marching band and still do, even all these years later. I’m so glad that my boys have been through band and it makes me smile to see those friendships continue to grow.

Thirteen saw my first “real” boyfriend, whom I took to my first Homecoming Dance, and I am still friends with him to this day. I won’t elaborate too much, but it was an exciting time for me and that experience began teaching me how to gauge and handle future relationships in a good way. I always expected the respect that I was given with that first dating experience. I don’t like to think of Youngest Child dating at the moment, but the Italian mama in me does want him to find a nice girl someday.

Thirteen allows you to start forming the person that you will eventually be. That wonderful new ability to think abstractly makes you question ideas and beliefs that you’ve always had, in both good and bad ways. Boundaries are pushed, limits are tested, and while it drives parents crazy, it’s actually a good thing. It’s good practice for making adult decisions one day. As for parents, Thirteen means we can’t be with them every second, we shouldn’t be, and that we have to trust that they will make the good choices. Sometimes they won’t, and that part really sucks because we think we failed, but it helps to breathe deeply and to keep going. (A nice glass of wine at the end of the day doesn’t hurt, either.) Every day is a new day, a fresh day, and they need to know that. They need to know that they are loved, mistakes and all, and that we are the people they can count on, even if we overreact at first. We’re both going to screw up, parents and Thirteen, and if we understand that from the get-go, it’ll be easier to forgive ourselves and each other when it happens.

I hope that Thirteen is kind to my boy. He’s been through some storms this past year and I think we’re on the right track, but Thirteen can be tricky. I want him to be happy, but I want him to choose wisely. There’s  a reason why Thirteen was celebrated as a rite of passage; you’re not a little kid anymore and people really start to hold you responsible for your actions. People can eye teenagers with distaste and suspicion, myself included, and sometimes with good reason. Teenagers can be horribly obnoxious and even threatening. There’s something about the infusion of hormones, I think, that entices you to do stupid things sometimes. (Getting kicked out of JC Penney in Southland for jumping on the elevator rings a bell. Group mentality.) It isn’t fair, to be sure, especially to the kids who are amazing, like Oldest and Middle Children’s friends, but it remains and that’s something that Youngest Child will encounter as he turns Thirteen.

What do I wish for Youngest Child this year? I wish him wisdom. I wish him grace. I wish him some of the best memories he’ll ever make, and the friends to make them with. I wish him the fortitude to withstand peer pressure and to remember what we’ve taught him. I wish him love and acceptance. I wish him love. I wish him love. I wish him love.

In the meantime, I now have three teenagers and will appreciate all prayers and good thoughts.

Happy Birthday, Youngest Child. It’s gonna be great.




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It’s that time of year again: graduation season. My FB newsfeed is full of announcements, plans, invitations to graduation parties, and happy pictures. I remember Oldest Child going through this last year and next June, we’ll go through it again with Middle Child. It’s a wonderful, exciting (expensive!), time for the grads and their families and I really can’t wait for my other two boys to experience it, even if my bank account can.

As anyone who has graduated from anything knows, it can be daunting and overwhelming. It seems like everyone has such high expectations of you, but you might not know what comes next. Now, Oldest Child knows exactly what he wants to do and he’s set about it with admirable tenacity. Middle Child is thinking about it, but he’s undecided at the moment and that’s okay. There’s time to figure it out. Youngest Child bounces from being an FBI agent to working with animals in some capacity, but he has quite a while yet. We don’t put pressure on them to be one thing or another, but we do make it clear that they are expected to be able to support themselves after college, not as easy of a prospect today as it was fifty years ago. I want their college years to be good, to be well-spent, to help them into a fulfilling career, but most of all, to do something that they love.

It’s tough, though, this growing up business. College or work? What to study? How to pay for it? Community college or university? Commute or live on campus? Drink or don’t drink? Do what your parents want you to do or follow your heart? Focus and study, or party? High school graduates have so many options and possibilities, including ones that they haven’t opened themselves up to yet. I look at all of the happy pictures and wonder what’s ahead for these kids, these young adults who have their whole lives to live. This is the time that they can make adult decisions, sometimes affecting a single evening, sometimes affecting their whole lives. Good choices and bad, they will all contribute to the adult that they will become.

Me? I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school. I was overwhelmed in my first year of college and didn’t do very well, except for my theatre classes, which I loved. I had skated through the high school honors program with no problem, but my first year of college was a wake-up call. I didn’t know how to do anything for myself. A couple of years later, I started back to community college part-time, class by class, honestly applying myself this time, using up my savings bonds and acquiring (many, many, many) student loans. I decided on teaching because that’s what everyone told me I should do. Even though it turned out to not be the right decision for me, I was proud that I graduated from college even though it took me 15 years. Would I do it all over again that way? Not in a million years, which is why I’m trying to make sure that my boys are prepared.

In the end, though, each graduate has to decide what they’re going to do. They’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to screw up royally sometimes, some more than others. At this age, they’re very smart and savvy about certain things, but they really don’t understand what’s ahead. They don’t know how fast circumstances can change, how even though they think they have life figured out, they don’t. When that reality hits, it hurts, not only them, but their parents as well. We can’t just kiss the boo-boo anymore, they have to live with their decisions.

I remember, as I’m sure many of you do, those feelings of insecurity, but also of invincibility. It’s that feeling that contributes to the risky behavior that teens are famous for, although to different degrees for each individual. Some teenagers are just more mature than others. Brain studies show that the decision-making part of the brain isn’t finished growing until around twenty-one years of age and with some kids, that’s easy to see. I am definitely worried about the group of boys I saw in Kroger yesterday. Obnoxious in the store, reckless in the parking lot, their actions put other people at risk but they didn’t see that. They were only concerned with having a good time. I’m sure that if they would have hit someone with their cart or while fooling around in the parking lot, they would have felt terrible, but that regard for others was obviously not in their heads. I feel for these kids, although that kind of behavior is exactly why I did not want to teach high school and why I walk the other way from a group of teenagers unless I know them personally. Part of what makes me cringe is that I remember acting like a teenager and, as an adult, it embarrasses me. That’s one thing I would wish for our graduates: Try and understand how your actions affect others. If someone had told me that back then, though, I don’t know if it would have sunk in.

There are other kids, though, that seem to be light years ahead of the others in maturity and I feel for them, too. It’s tough to see what your peers are doing and make the choice to take the high road. I commend those kids, but I’d also like them to know that it’s okay to screw up once in a while, that even adults screw up a lot. That’s how we learn and as long as we know enough to not make those mistakes again, we’re doing all right..

Graduating high school is an achievement. Becoming an adult is really hard. I would love to tell our grads, my own included, that life, real life, for them is just beginning. This is one of the most exciting times of their lives, but they might not realize it until later on. Don’t waste it, don’t study something you hate or are ambivalent to because people tell you that you should. Don’t spend these years in a haze of intoxication or laziness. DO something to make your mark on the world in a good way. Be a force of light in the world. You are the next generation. What will you do to make life better?

A presto.




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I was ready to post about another topic today, something light, but my heart is too heavy for that. You see, a friend of Oldest and Middle Child died and I just don’t have it in me to be flippant right now.

I don’t know any of the circumstances, except for that he was riding a motorcycle at the time, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that his family is hurting, our band kids are hurting, many of them dealing with real loss for the first time in their lives. I didn’t know this boy as well as I do some of their other friends, but I saw him at all of the events: band camp, concerts, Homecoming pictures, and more recently, prom and graduation. My kids hung out with him, went to his house, did all of the normal things that teenagers do, and now, he’s gone. Just, gone.

It’s unfathomable really, when this happens to someone so young and full of promise. Death is a part of life, it’s inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less sorrowful or tragic, especially when it claims someone who’s just beginning his life, someone who could have changed the world. My heart absolutely aches for his mother right now. The thought of losing any of my boys terrifies me, it always has. It’s made me the overprotective parent and has earned me the title of “second strictest mom” (according to them) out of their friends’ mothers. I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now, knowing that she’ll never again be able to kiss that sweet face, never hear his voice again. Her worst nightmare has just happened.

Again, death is a reality and in many cases we sadly accept it, as in the cases of old age or a long illness. But to have someone taken so young, so violently, so quickly, shocks us to our very cores, leaving us stunned. It always seems to happen to someone else, a story that we read in the paper, a blurb on the news. We shake our heads, murmur how horrible it is, and go back to our lives. When it happens in our circle, our family, it’s a different experience. It becomes intensely personal and we wonder how the world will ever go back to normal. It will, eventually, return to normal, but it will be a new normal, one with new perceptions and the reality that we are not invincible. It’s a sobering lesson.

In your prayers today, please remember this boy’s parents, his family. Please remember all of these wonderful, amazing, kids, his friends, who are grieving right now. Above all else, hug your kids today. Tell them that you love them. Show them that you love them. Life is too uncertain and there are no guarantees of the future for any of us.

Peace and love.

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I sent two boys to the Homecoming dance this last Saturday. For Oldest Son, it was his third year going and for Middle Son, it was his first. Of course, they went with to different groups, so picture-taking beforehand was a bit sticky. I did make it to both in time to take tons of pictures, but the contrast between the two groups was so intriguing that I wanted to try and describe it.

Oldest Son’s group has been together for years. It’s a humongous group. They eat and move as a unit, moving from class, to band, to theatre seamlessly, with perpetual, fluid, motion. They text and visit constantly, young men and young ladies both, sharing world views, philosophies, and countless doughnut runs. I admire them. There is a tight-knit core group with others who pop in and out along the way. Unable to get out of work most times, I watch from a distance, occasionally chauffeuring to the movies or other outings, too awkward and stilted to really join in with them, like some of the other moms do. But, I ardently admire their youth, their optimism, their opportunities that are now arising as they prepare to leave for college next August. Most of them are spreading their wings for far-off places, but I believe that they will keep in touch for a long time. I hope they do. They’re wonderful kids with good grades and good families. These are things that I’ve observed in the years that I’ve stood in the background, loving to watch them as they grow and change.

They looked stunning, the girls in a variety of dresses from long and formal to short an cute. Oldest Son’s date wore a dress that I could have possibly chose, although her shoes, adorable on her, would have killed me. The hair was spectacular: curls, up dos, and sparkly-things ran rampant. The boys were handsome in their suits and ties, some all cleaned up from the muddy cross-country meet that morning and ready to go out on the town. This is the most organized, self-sufficient, group I have ever seen, although my best friend from high school, Jenny, would have given them a run for their money.

Middle Son’s group at Homecoming was a mix of old and new friends. While Oldest Son’s group has always been a close, co-ed, group, Middle Son has always run with the boys. He didn’t go to Homecoming last year and only made the decision to ask a friend of his a couple of weeks before the dance. She was already going with a group of girls and a dress had already been purchased, so no fashion worries there. That was my first concern when he told me that he was going to ask her. “Girls need time!” I protested, answered by an eye roll. We went suit shopping six days before the dance, since he hadn’t worn one in, well, ever. It all worked out fine, though, especially since his date’s parents made the first move and we helped them get organized. Flowers were ordered, her father drove them to all of their stops that night, and a few sets of parents had dinner at the same place as the group, a local casual diner in town. The group of six seemed to get on well together at their separate table, talking, laughing, and texting in their fancy party clothes, having fun, but in a different way than the senior group. While they got along in a way that exuded old familiarity, this group was testing it out. It was so interesting to see the differences. We adults got along well, too. We had known one of the couples since Middle Son was in preschool and Marty knew one of the other mothers from when they were in high school together. It was really a pleasant evening and I’m glad I forced my introverted self to do it. The kids went on to the dance and we took Youngest Son home to revel in being the only child for the night.

That night was bittersweet and emotional. My boys are growing up and it showed. One is gone in a matter of months, the other in less than three years. My babies that I used to delight in scooping up and cuddling have turned into strong young men in suits who are thisclose to embarking on their on life journeys without Marty and me. I hate this part and I love this part. I love their independence and I hate their independence. I love them. And their friends.

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I am now the proud (and scared) mama of a new driver. Yikes. I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked. I mean, I’m well aware of the boy’s age, having given birth to him and all. Sixteen and learner’s permit go hand and hand. And everyone tells you when they’re newborns, no, when you announce that you’re pregnant, how fast the years go by and in between 2 AM feedings, potty training and lost teeth, you don’t believe them, not for a minute, because you are TIRED. You love kissing those tiny hands, chasing the monsters away and soothing the boo-boos that usually look much worse than they actually are. You nurse them through fevers, upset tummies, and failed friendships only to look up one day and there’s a young man standing there, not that chubby-cheeked cherub you’ve been accustomed to. And he wants the keys.

The past year of steady college mail should have been a warning, as should have been the visit to UM, buying clothes in the men’s department instead of the boys’ department, and a sense of humour that gets a bit more sophisticated every day. My head knew all of this, it really did. My head was practical, helping him talk through which colleges that he wants to go to (soon) and being various scholarship options. My heart, however, seemed to have ignored all of that, reasoning that college was more than a year away and that problem would be dealt with when the time came. Therefore, my heart was floored when driving school was completed, with the highest score in the class, and it was time for him to drive. With me. And no set of brakes on my side of the car.

All of a sudden, the prospect of him leaving is very, very real and while my heart, and my head for that matter, are so very proud of him and want him to make all of his dreams come true, there’s also the realization that world can be a not-so-nice place. There are people he will meet who will abuse his trust, people who talk on cell phones while driving and could crash into him, times when he will make the wrong decisions that come with tough consequences, and the tug-of-war between the values that we’ve raised him with and the temptations of the world away from home. We won’t be there, physically, to tell him what to do or to protect him; he’ll have to decide for himself.

While I would hope that he always makes the right choice and follows the example that we’ve tried to set, realistically, I know that it won’t always be so. It wasn’t with me, Marty, or any of my siblings and cousins. Grown children are going to make mistakes. They’re going to do things that, if they were still living at home, they would never do. That bothers me, as I’m sure it bothered my mother and all of the mothers since the beginning of time. What I worry about the most, however, is that he’ll make a decision that could change his life in a bad way, or, God forbid, end his life. Some teenagers do. My father was one of them and he died at the very young age of 20. The specifics aren’t clear, but there were drugs involved and the choices he made that night led to him crashing his car into a tree, leaving his family without a son, a grandson, a brother, my mother without a fiancée, and me without a dad. The bad choices that he could possibly make have much higher stakes than they used to.

Now, the boy has a pretty good head on his shoulders. He usually makes very good choices and has a good group of friends, so the chances are that he’s going to be just fine and will be able to fret over his own child one day. This is just all really, REALLY hitting me now and I’m struggling to not be a clingy mom and to let him find his way, all the while balancing the parental control. I’m probably not done posting on this topic, as we go through the next few years. In the meantime, new parents, I know that you won’t understand this, but I feel it is my sacred duty to tell you to cherish those babies, snuggle them to pieces now, because you’ll blink and they will be towering over you with big shoes. And they’ll be asking for the keys.

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