A Southern Boy Turns 50

I wish I could remember the day my parents brought my brother home from the hospital, but I can’t. I was seventeen months old, and I was angry. According to Mother, I avoided her and wouldn’t talk to her when they came home. I’m not a silent-treatment kind of person, but apparently, I was then. My life had changed forever. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a change for the better. See slideshow:

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Today, that baby brother turns 50. I don’t want to embarrass him, but I do want to celebrate him.

Growing up, we were polar opposites. Mother used to say, “No matter how long you were outside…five minutes or two hours…you came back in clean, and he came back in dirty.” He was all boy…snakes, snails…you get the picture. I was all girl. He was always funny; I wasn’t so funny. I made mudpies, but he made mudpies to have a mud fight. I hated to get in trouble; he didn’t mind getting in trouble. I was a rule follower; he was a rule breaker. I evaluated situations before getting involved; he threw all caution to the wind. I wanted to do well on standardized tests; he wanted to make patterns with the dots on standardized tests.

When we were kids, Brother (I call him Brother, and he calls me Sister) loved playing outside. And I mean he loved it. He loved fishing, hunting, baseball, basketball, getting muddy, Tonka trucks in the dirt…if he could be outside, he was happy.  He was always athletic. I think he could ride a two-wheeled bicycle before he was three; the neighbors in Brewton were amazed. He played baseball with the older boys in the neighborhood. He fished in the neighborhood lake. When we moved to Spanish Fort, he would talk me into going through the bamboo to the creek behind our house…where I once saw a gigantic rattlesnake swim past; I ran home and never went back after that, but he did. I would still venture into the bamboo with him, so he could show me green snakes eating frogs or black snakes slithering by, but I didn’t go back to the creek.

Daddy spent countless hours throwing a baseball with my left-handed brother. Oh, I was so jealous that he was left-handed; it got so much attention. We all had fun together, but Brother and Daddy were a team. They were both funny and appreciated each other’s humor, but Daddy was more serious and cautious than Brother.

Because he has always been adventurous and funny, there are stories. Oh, the stories! One of my favorites is about a phone call Daddy received one night when Brother was in ninth grade. It was from a teacher whose class I had been in two years before, Coach Long. I had always behaved very nicely in his class. And then along came Brother. That night, Daddy picked up the phone, and Coach Long said, “Mr. Parmer, I sure hated to have to call you.” I’m sure they exchanged pleasantries before Coach Long told him the purpose of the call. “Mr. Parmer, your son is a leader, but he’s leading my class in the wrong direction (emphasis on the first syllable..DI-rection).” Uh-oh. Uh, yeah…. Brother was in big trouble. Apparently, he had been quite the class clown during Coach Long’s class. For the rest of the school year, I had to visit Coach Long every two weeks and ask him if Brother was behaving correctly. He would laugh, and I would too, but Brother behaved well for the rest of the school year, and he and Coach Long developed a mutual respect for each other…later becoming friends.

When Brother was 14, Mother drove past a local church and saw Brother driving a friend’s car…doing doughnuts in the parking lot. When she asked him about it later, he told her everything was under control…he knew how to drive…at 14. Apparently, he had been driving a friend’s car…frequently…big trouble. Another time, after he could drive legally, he and a friend drove a truck into a construction site. It was a weekend, so no one was there. They drove the truck down a steep loose-dirt hill and then couldn’t drive it out. Daddy borrowed a truck with a winch to pull them out…more trouble…and a lecture about responsibility and self control. “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.” I know about the lecture, because I sat quietly at the top of the stairs and listened.

Brother is a lot of fun, with a contagious laugh and a sometimes warped sense of humor.   But Brother’s not all fun and games. He’s a licensed airplane pilot and skilled boat captain. He’s strong in a crisis. He helps folks on a regular basis and expects nothing in return. Over the years, he has helped stranded motorists on interstates and back roads; helped people move; and more. When we were young, we looked out for each other and felt each other’s pain. If someone slammed Brother’s fingers in a door, I cried. Mother told people when we were little that if something happened to her, since Daddy traveled with work, my 17-months younger brother would take care of me. We’ve been through life together. We’ve lost both parents together. Everyone else may not get us, but we get us. We are connected.  All his humor hides a big heart.

That class clown is all grown up now; he’s still an overgrown little boy, but he’s 50. He has a beautiful wife; two handsome, smart sons; and three awesome bonus sons. I’m lucky he’s my brother. Have there been times I’ve wanted to wring his neck? Yes. Have there been times I’ve needed his support? Yes. Now that both our parents are gone, we know it’s even more important to support each other. We talk almost every day  and often call each other with silly trivia questions.

I’m lucky my parents brought that baby home 50 years ago. Happy Birthday, Brother!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Too Young To Be A Grandparent!

Last week, I attended a baby shower for the daughter of some friends. The daughter is my friend too. It was great fun…food,  family, friends. As I sat talking with folks at the shower, I looked around, and as I looked at my friends who were about to become grandparents, I thought, “They’re not old enough to be grandparents!” They’re still young, vibrant people! But they are old enough. In fact, their daughter is a full-fledged adult with a great job, married to a great guy, and they are both contributing to society and paying their own bills.

A few years ago, as my husband and I sat watching the Heisman Trophy Award Ceremony from our living room, we loved the interviews with each candidate. One candidate, Amari Cooper, was from the University of Alabama, my alma mater. They interviewed Cooper, and he told stories about this youth in Miami. And they interviewed his mother, a lovely lady.

When the interview with Cooper’s mom came on, my husband turned to me and said, “Wow! She looks really good for an older lady!” I agreed. And then I started doing the math. At the time, Cooper was likely about 20 years old.

After a minute or so, I said to my husband, “Amari’s mother probably isn’t an older lady.” He pointed out that Amari was about 20 years old, so she had to be older. That’s when I reminded him that we are older parents, but Amari’s mother was probably younger than we are. I don’t remember if I grabbed my laptop or if they told her age on the segment, but at some point, we learned her age was several years younger than ours…and she had a son who would soon be starting a career in the National Football League! That year, he didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, but Cooper was the fourth pick in the overall draft and signed a fat contract with the Oakland Raiders. *Just yesterday, Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a first round draft pick.*

At the time of that Heisman ceremony, I was 47 years old and had an 11-yr-old daughter. My husband was 48. Because most of our friends who have kids the same age are about the same ages we are, we fell into believing everyone is that way. We lost sight of the fact that most people who have 11-yr-olds are younger than we are. According to this article in Allure magazine, the average age of a first time mother in the US is 28, considerably younger than I was when I gave birth at 36.

So our friends who have now become grandparents since that shower are old enough to be grandparents.  We just have a skewed view…thinking parents of grown children have to be older than we are. We are plenty old enough to have grandchildren. In fact, the average age of a first-time grandparent in the United States is 48. If I’d had a child when I was 25, and if that child had a child at 25, then I would be a grandmother right now…and I’d fit right in with societal norms.Since we were later than average having children, we are later than average having grandchildren, and we don’t plan to have them for at least ten more years. If our daughter is as old as I was when she was born, I won’t be a grandmother till I’m 72 years old. And that’s OK too.

Back in 2003, our friends were having babies in their late 30s, so we started thinking everyone was having babies in their mid to late 30s. Those same friends who were “late bloomer” parents are likely to be “late bloomer” grandparents too, so we will be in good company. We don’t fit into societal norms for the age of first-time grandparents, but we fit in with our societal norms, since lots of our friends are the same age we are.

The point? Any age is OK to be a grandparent! When you become a grandparent, you’re just happy to have a new grandbaby! If you need ideas for baby gifts for someone who’s having a baby, here are some ideas I talked about earlier this year.

We’re lucky to have these younger friends who have just become grandparents, and we’re lucky to know their daughter too. They bring joy to our family, and I’m not gonna lie…the new grandmother can cook!

Congratulations to our young friends on the new granddaughter!

***Our friends’ granddaughter was born on October 15 and weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces!***

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Things About Adulthood

Remember when you were a teenager? I vividly remember being a teenager and all the stuff that went with it. I remember thinking adults had it made. I thought all adults had freedom to go wherever they wanted for lunch. I thought they had it made, because they could choose how late they wanted to stay out. I thought adulthood must be the best thing ever.

What I didn’t consider at the time was that adults have real responsibilities. We have to provide for our families. We have to pay bills. We have to worry about our children when they are with us and when they aren’t with us. We lose sleep when our children are sick. We feel every bit of pain our kids feel…and on and on.

But there are some great things about being an adult, and here are some of my favorites:

  • We can eat lunch wherever we want, some of the time. Of course, if you’re working in an office, it has to be somewhere near your office, so you can get back quickly, but still…choices. Sometimes, I’m so busy with meetings or errands that I eat lunch in a hurry…like a protein bar…but I guess that’s still getting to choose where I eat. I remember when I had to eat in the school cafeteria. We thought it was the worst thing ever. I actually try to remember that sometimes when I’m enjoying a lunch at Ilios Noche or Cafe Monte. I try to “relish the moment.” My 14-yr-old self would be so jealous.
  • We can stay out as late as we want, as long as we don’t have to be back in time to get a babysitter home safely, or as long as we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning to get our kids to a soccer game. Sure, we can stay out as late as we want, but usually, we don’t want to stay out later than 10pm. I remember when my nights (in college) didn’t even start till 11pm. We are officially adults. We can even drink whatever we want, as long as we aren’t driving, and again, as long as we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning.
  • We get to decide what’s for dinner. The catch? We have to prepare it…or pay for it. Either way, it’s our responsibility. But yeah, we get to decide. If I want to cook chili for dinner, then I get to make that decision. I might be the only one who eats it, but I decide it. My daughter might make herself a grilled cheese instead (but maybe I get her to make one for me too since it would go great with chili).
  • We get to pick vacation destinations. Yep…almost every time, but most of the time, we discuss it as a family. There are times we’ve done exactly what my daughter wanted to do for vacation, because I will admit, it’s fun to see her face light up about being at a special event.
  • We have the freedom, and we feel the freedom to be who we are, be who we want to be, and be with whom we want to be. We feel the freedom to say “no” if we don’t want to do something, but we also know sometimes we have to do some things we don’t want to do. We have wisdom…wisdom we use to help others and help ourselves. That comes with age and experience.
  • For me, the greatest thing about being an adult is that I get to be a mother. There’s no catch here. I really love being a mother. Yes, I only have one child, but she has the energy of three. And I love almost every minute of it. I love talking with her. I love laughing with her. I love traveling with her, and I even love helping her with her problems. I love watching her play sports, and I love seeing her learn new things. I just love being with her while she’s growing up.

I just love life, in general. Sure, there are bad things that happen and bad things about life (those bills I mentioned earlier), but adulting is not all bad.

Frankly, I’m just glad I am an adult. We should be thankful for every day we wake up. Every day is a gift.

Relish the moments!

Can’t You Control Your Child?!?

We’ve all been there. You’re in a store, shopping with a toddler. She isn’t behaving correctly, and you need to be firm. People are looking. You know you look like a sucker. You know they think you can’t control your child. And they’re right. You can’t control your child. And you know why? Your child is another human being who isn’t supposed to be controlled by you. Your child is supposed to learn to control herself. It’s a tough lesson for parent and child.

I was in a big box store at the beach with my daughter when she was about 2 1/2. I don’t even remember why we were there. I don’t remember if we were trying to buy groceries or what. I know she was in the seat in the grocery cart, and I was not happy with her behavior. Honestly, it has been thirteen years, so I don’t even remember what she was doing. Was she yelling? Was she throwing things? Was she crying? I just don’t remember.

I do remember my reaction.

After countless efforts to get her to behave correctly…talking with her, reasoning with her, bribing her…she was still not complying. I stopped the cart, picked her up, and carried her out of the store.

She screamed. Loudly. She thrashed wildly. People were staring. I didn’t care. I needed to get out of there with her. By the way she was acting, some folks probably wondered if I was taking someone else’s child. But mothers knew. They knew she was mine, not only because she looked just like me, but they’ve been there too. They’ve had to make a decision on how to handle a situation in front of other people, and they knew people were staring then too.

She screamed and cried and yelled all the way to the car. I even saw someone I knew as I was buckling her into her car seat. I got her buckled in and quickly closed the door…so I didn’t have to listen to the incessant wailing. I spoke briefly with the friend I hadn’t seen in seven or eight years, explaining my child was having a meltdown. This particular friend doesn’t have children, so she probably thought we both needed to be locked up.

I got into the car, and my daughter was no longer screaming. She was just sad. I didn’t even speak till we got back to the condo. When we stopped in the driveway, she was calm. She was exhausted, I’m sure, from losing control. I unbuckled her from her carseat and sat in the back seat with her, holding her in my arms and explaining that I love her, but I didn’t like the way she behaved in the store. I told her I was sad too. We cuddled for a while before going inside…and cuddled some more when we got there.

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As much as I hated that scene at the store, I loved the later result. Any time we were in a store, and she started to misbehave, all I had to do was say, “Remember that store?” She would look at me with those big brown eyes, and I could see that she remembered. She knew how to behave correctly, and she would prove it to me immediately.

Did I feel terrible about the incident? You bet…at the time. I felt like a terrible mother. Later though, I realized we both learned from it. I still hated that she had been so upset, but I was glad she remembered it, and I was really glad I never had to do it again. Yep…I never had to drag her out of a store kicking and screaming again. She remembered the lesson.

Sometimes, we have to do things we don’t enjoy in order to get to a better place. That day, my daughter and I both learned that lesson. It was a painful way to learn, but we learned.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Daughter Is 15 Today

It’s difficult to believe. Our daughter is 15 today. As I type, she has about 15 more minutes to sleep before getting up for school…ninth grade, a high school freshman. How did we get here so quickly?

It has been 15 years since she changed our lives. Wow. We had no idea what we were doing as new parents, and we have no idea what we’re doing as parents of a teenager. We take it one day at a time. Even last night, she asked me if she could go to some concert in a couple of months, and I answered, “Can’t we deal with that when it gets a little closer?” Sometimes, I refuse to believe she is old enough to go to concerts.

Getting here has been a journey. Our daughter was never a sleeper. Even as an infant, she didn’t really nap. She was always wide-eyed and always moving. I’ve always said she is just like my brother. He was always on the move and still is. It serves our daughter well in athletic endeavors. She has lots of energy, and the athletic field is the perfect place to use that energy. Of course, all that energy disappears when I try to drag her through a museum…but that’s OK. Museums are usually quiet places, which is why she doesn’t enjoy them. I get it.

When she was two, our pediatrician told me, “What you have here is the classic strong-willed child. It will drive you crazy, but it will serve her well.”

I remember milestones…her first day of preschool, when she was ten months old. I needed a break one day a week, so she went for three hours to the preschool at our church. The first time she went, I cried as I walked away. And then her first day of “real school”…transitional kindergarten at an independent school. I didn’t cry that day. I was excited for her. She was four years old. She would turn five six weeks into the school year. But on that first day of “real school,” I drove up, and she got out of the car like a pro and walked up the sidewalk to her new classroom. I can remember what she was wearing. I wanted to watch her walk up the sidewalk and into the building, but it would have caused a logjam in the carpool line, so I drove away.

There are so many memories. I remember her crawling at breakneck speed. Her first tooth emerging when she was 10 months and 2 days old…later than most. Her first steps when she was 11 months old…she walked and then ran all in the same day. The joy on her face on Christmas mornings. She always loved Santa; she was the little girl who would sit on his lap and talk his ear off. How she was afraid of the Easter Bunny…a giant bunny coming into her house was terrifying, so he always left her basket just inside the door. I remember when she fell at preschool when she was three, popping her lip open. I remember walking on the pier with her at our condo on the bay, alligators in the water beneath, holding her hand so tightly it turned blue. I remember watching a nutria forage for food underneath the same pier. Our girl loved digging in the dirt in my parents’ yard and running back and forth across the bridge in their front yard. She would catch the giant black and yellow horse lubber grasshoppers that populate the Gulf Coast with her bare hands. 1200px-Horse_Lubber_Grasshopper_(Taeniopoda_eques)When she was little, she loved Easter Egg hunts year round. She loved playing outside with her older cousins. She has always loved being outside. We still remember the look on her face during her first trip to Disney World when she was four. We spent countless afternoons over the years with our playgroup…having fun with friends. We’ve gone on road trips with friends and other vacations with friends…New Orleans, Upstate New York, Maine, Puerto Rico, Atlanta, Chicago, Kentucky (slept in a wigwam!), San Francisco, Louisville, and more. I remember when the admissions counselor at her school told me how sweet she was during her visit (she was four years old) when they asked her, “If you break a cookie in half, how many pieces do you have?” She answered, “I would have two, but I would give one to my friend, Caroline, because she’s in the hospital.” I remember when she was taking swimming lessons as a toddler, and every week, she helped a scared little girl walk to the pool, taking her by the hand and walking her over. I vividly remember dropping her off at the airport in New York last summer for a two week trip to Iceland, and I can still remember the joy I felt when she was back in the USA. My husband and I have watched hours of soccer, field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. We went to dance recitals when she was a little girl…cute little yellow tutu with temporary tattoos all over her arms. I can still see the look on her face the first time she went to an Alabama football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium…it took her breath away. She has always loved rollercoasters…we were regulars at Carowinds Amusement Park for years…going almost daily when she was two, three, and four.  I’ve taken her to see concerts: Miranda Cosgrove, Matty B, Selena Gomez, Big Time Rush, One Direction…even One Direction opening for Big Time Rush. She has met some of her favorite athletes: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Teddy Bridgewater, Tony Romo, Evander Holyfield. I should mention she also met Squishy Paws from Ricky, Nicky, Dicky, and Dawn, but only because I recognized the sweet little pooch when we were touring Paramount Studios…a proud moment. I’ve taken her to Los Angeles at least once a year since 2011, and she never gets tired of it.

On the journey to fifteen, she has lost two great-grandmothers and two grandparents…most recently, my mother this past December. She has had broken bones (wrist and shoulder) and multiple sprains. When she was ten, she came down with the flu on Christmas Eve. Yes, Christmas Eve. Since she was awake sick all night, Santa had a tough job that year. After a couple of nights at home with the flu, she and I moved to the Ballantyne Hotel for the next three nights and ordered room service till she was well. She has endured the stress of trying out for sports teams and standardized tests at school. She has watched her daddy go through brain surgery. And now she’s in high school. She is enjoying the transition from middle school to high school, and one day, I hope she will enjoy the transition to college just as much.

Before she goes off to college, I plan to make lots more memories…and afterward too. But since I know she leaves for college in less than four years, I want to make these high school years the best they can be.

One thing I know for sure is that she teaches us far more than we teach her.

I can’t believe she’s 15.

She’s Growing Up, But She’ll Always Be My Baby

My little girl isn’t so little anymore. In fact, she’s the age at which she would be mortified if she knew I’m writing this. But she doesn’t know. Ignorance is bliss.

Right now, she’s upstairs with a friend getting ready for her last middle school dance. She’s finishing up eighth grade. Her school has two middle school dances a year, one in the fall and one in spring.

It’s hard for me to believe this is her last middle school dance. Truly, it seems like just a few months ago she was excited about her first middle school dance…in sixth grade. Afterward, she and all her friends could hardly wait to tell me how many boys asked them to dance! But it has been two years. Wow. She’s not even excited about this one. These eighth graders have one foot in middle school and one foot in high school.

As part of their upcoming eighth grade moving up ceremony (graduation), the school had parents send in pictures of the kids from kindergarten. Since my daughter started at the school in transitional kindergarten when she was four, I used that picture instead. She looks so sweet and so unjaded.

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September 2008, age 4 (almost 5!)

She started transitional kindergarten about six weeks before her fifth birthday. I remember that first day of school like it was yesterday. I remember watching her get out of the car in carpool with her tote bag and walk up the sidewalk by herself. I remember trying not to cry.

Today, when I turned in the picture for them to use for the ceremony, I told the middle school administrative assistant how I had to convince my daughter to wear a bow in her hair on picture day in transitional kindergarten. My child was the little girl who at 18 months declared, “Ruffles are for babies.” She has always had very definite ideas, and she sticks to her guns. When she was two years old, her pediatrician declared her to be a “classic strong-willed child,” telling me, “it will drive you crazy, but it will serve her well.” But on picture day in TK, I was able to convince her to wear a bow in her hair. I told her she didn’t have to wear it all day…just till after pictures. I reminded her that one of her friends (the daughter of my friend, Leah) regularly wore bows as big as her head…we are in the south, after all. When I picked her up after school on picture day that year, she didn’t have the bow in her hair, but she assured me she wore it for the picture.

I look at that picture and remember that sweet little girl who thought her mommy was the best mommy on earth and her daddy was the best daddy on earth. She thought we knew everything and could do anything.

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December 2007, age 4

Now, at age 14, she knows we don’t know everything, and she knows we can’t do everything. She’s more jaded than she was at four, because she has more life experience. She sees the world isn’t the perfect place she thought it was then. She knows the agony of defeat. She knows what it feels like to get a less than stellar grade. She knows injuries can end a sports season. She knows some people don’t have places to live. She knows there is no Santa Claus. She knows more about brain surgery than she should, because she watched her daddy suffer through it. She knows what it’s like to lose a grandmother. She knows what cancer looks like, since she has watched my friend suffer with it. She knows everybody isn’t nice all the time. She knows some friendships aren’t forever.

But as much as that life experience has jaded her a little, it has also made her appreciate the great things about life. She knows she goes to a great school in a fun city, and she’s fortunate to live in the United States of America. While she hates the agony of defeat, she loves the thrill of victory, and she knows it takes hard work, a good attitude, and confidence. She knows what it feels like to make an A+ and how great it made her feel when her history teacher told her he was impressed with the essay she had worked hard on. She knows there is a spirit of Christmas. She knows her daddy survived brain surgery. She knows sometimes kindness comes from  unexpected places. She knows most people are nice, and sometimes, friends we thought were gone come back around.

She knows that while parents can be embarrassing, we love her unconditionally. She knows we want her to live a good life in her own way. She knows experiences are far more valuable than things. She knows people may be able to take things, but they can’t take memories. She knows if she isn’t feeling well, her daddy and I will try to make her feel better…physically or emotionally. She knows we support her, but sometimes she has to be her own advocate.

As she finishes up middle school and prepares for high school, we continue to be her biggest supporters. We continue to tell her we love her every single day. We cheer her on at sporting events. We listen to her. We spend time with her and her friends. We read over her essays before she turns them in. We show her the world is full of different cultures and special people. We become her audience when she needs to practice a presentation. When she doesn’t feel well, we wish we could fix it. We remind her God will take care of us.

Tonight I will drop her off at her last middle school dance. The eighth grade girls don’t seem excited about it, but they’ll be glad they went. Like I said, they have one foot in middle school and one foot in high school.

And just when I think she is spreading her wings and flying away too fast, she surprises me. Last night, my husband was out of town, so our daughter crawled up into bed with me to watch TV for a little while. She cuddled up next to me, wrapped her arms around me, and said, “You’re the best mom in the whole world.” She cuddled for little while, and she said it several times, reminding me of when she was four years old and thought I knew everything. While I make her hug me once a day, those impromptu moments are hard to beat.

Yes, I miss that little four-yr-old who didn’t want to wear hairbows, dresses, or tights with her dance leotard. I miss that little four-yr-old who was so sweet and innocent. I miss that four-yr-old who thought Mommy and Daddy were the greatest people ever. But I love the big person she is becoming. I love that she wants good things for people. I love that she is already talking about college but loves hanging out with me…sometimes. I love that she loves college football as much as I do…and knows way more about it than I do. I love that she has good friends. I love that she is athletic. I love that she loves rollercoasters. I love that she enjoys travel. I love that she becomes more independent every day. I love that she has an appreciation for music. I love that she discovered a passion for art this year in school. I love that she is compassionate. I love that she is outgoing. I love that we have real conversations. I love that she expresses her opinions. I love when I do something for her, and she says, “Thank you, Mama.” I love this 14-yr-old.

Every night when I go upstairs to kiss her goodnight and tell her to “go to sleep soon,” I sit on the loveseat in her room and have a quick chat with her to reconnect one more time. If anything’s bothering her, she will usually tell me then. If she’s upset about something, it can be a long conversation. But if all is well, after we talk a little while, I stand up and walk to the door, turning around to say, “Goodnight! I love you! You’re my favorite!”

And when I see her walk across the stage at the eighth grade moving up ceremony in two weeks, I will think of that little four-yr-old who made her mommy happy by keeping that bow in her hair till after pictures.

My mother used to say that her goal as a mother was to raise compassionate, independent people who contribute to society. That’s my goal too.

So far, so good.

She’ll always be my baby. She’s my favorite.

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Let’s Hit the Road

As the end of the school year approaches, it means the summer travel season will be gearing up quickly. It’s one of my favorite times of year…the summer I mean, not the last weeks of school. Any time we have extra days, weeks, or even months to go somewhere, I’m happy.

I have one daughter, who is now 14, and travel is pretty darn easy with her.

Of course, there was a time it was a little more difficult, but that didn’t stop me!

Frankly, there’s not a lot of fun in traveling with an infant, so there weren’t lots of great vacations in that year, but things ramped up after that. I did take her to visit family regularly, though.

Infant travel was always a crap shoot. I vividly remember one flight when my daughter was about ten months old, and she wasn’t happy about being stuck in a car seat on the plane. She wanted to get out of that seat, and she let everyone know it. She cried. She fussed. And she cried some more. The man sitting across the aisle from me had the chutzpah to reach over, tap me on the arm, and tell me she needed a bottle.

I wanted to throat punch the guy, but I resisted the urge.

I gave him my legendary stinkeye and didn’t say anything. As a former flight attendant, I am aware that sucking on a bottle will help open a child’s ears at takeoff and landing. My child didn’t take a bottle. She was breastfed, and I knew she wasn’t needing that. Her ears weren’t bothering her. I knew what she wanted. She wanted to get out of that seat. If I had taken her out of the carseat to breastfeed, she would have wanted to get in the floor, and the crying would have gotten louder.

Stupid, stupid man. Bless his heart.

We all survived it. And every time I’m on a plane and a baby cries, I sympathize with the mother. I remind everyone around me that we’ve been there before…we were all babies at one time, and lots of us have survived it as parents.

When our daughter was a toddler, we traveled. We traveled by plane, and we traveled by car. I even traveled alone with her on a regular basis. My husband doesn’t like to travel as much as I do, so often, we were traveling on our own. I remember regularly trekking through airports, pushing my one-yr-old in a stroller with the carry-on bag in the bottom of the stroller, all while carrying the car seat strapped to my back. I felt like a warrior, and I must have looked like one too, as I would hear multiple times, “You go, girl!” or “Wow! You know what you’re doing!” I felt tough, and frankly, I was…and still am.

That carry-on bag that was tucked into the bottom basket of that stroller held all the tools of airplane survival. Keeping a toddler happy on a plane is the key to your own happiness and the happiness of the passengers around you. I always had “special treats” in that bag. I would go to Target and arm myself with lots of little things from the Dollar Spot…anything that would keep her entertained, and I would take cards and books with pictures of animals, cupcakes, and babies. My toddler loved pictures of animals, cupcakes, and other babies. Any little trinket she had never seen before was fun.

Often, I shared those “special treats” with other families on the flights who were not as prepared. I clearly remember sitting behind a family with their toddler daughter. She was whining and restless, till we started sharing our animal picture cards. She got happier, so her mom could relax, and we were happier too!

I also learned early to let my daughter wear whatever she wanted. When she was two and three, she flew many times wearing a Snow White costume top, a yellow costume skirt, and a pink plastic grass hula skirt pulled on over that, but she was happy…and she was proud of that crazy outfit she had put together. She loved all the compliments she received. I have a friend whose daughter wore her Daphne costume (from Scooby Doo) for months on end…but she was happy.

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My 2-yr-old daughter wearing her Snow White top and grass skirt while enjoying ice cream with my daddy.

Two and three- year- old girls also love to play with makeup. I discovered this one time when we were flying to visit my parents. You know how grocery stores have those tiny toy sections? I had been in the grocery store the day before we left, and I saw this cute little makeup palette for little girls. I grabbed it, thinking it might be entertaining for her on the plane.

Was it ever! We were only taking a one hour flight, but it kept her entertained the whole time! It was like “peace in a packet” for me! She put on eye shadow. She put on lip gloss. She put on blush. And of course, she overdid it…all of it. But it kept her happy and occupied, and therefore, I was happy. She looked like a two-dollar hooker when we landed, but I didn’t care. I had been able to relax for one full hour!

Traveling by car with an infant or toddler can be more tricky. Road trips less than four hours were OK. In 2004, when Hurricane Ivan was threatening the Gulf Coast of Alabama, we were visiting my parents, who lived near Mobile Bay. We had flown down, but we ended up renting an SUV to drive back to Charlotte, because flights were cancelling. We opted to drive overnight, so our 11-month-old would sleep all the way home. It worked out fine, till we got home, and she was wide awake, but we were groggy. We took turns taking care of her that day.

I discovered age five was the golden year…the year travel became super easy. Kids are more self-sufficient and can entertain themselves really well at five. Plus, they can manage their own carry-on bag of “stuff.”

When my daughter was seven, I took her on her first transcontinental trip. We went to Los Angeles, and it was one of the best trips ever. Not only could she entertain herself on the flight, but she could keep up with me all day without fussing! My friend, Leah, and her daughter met us there on that trip, and we still talk about that fun trip. I had learned years before on other trips the the secret to keeping a child moving is food. When my daughter was under age ten, I always tried to stop, sit down, and get her something small to eat every couple of hours…maybe an ice cream cone…maybe some yogurt…maybe some fries…maybe some peanut butter crackers…maybe a banana…anything that would give her energy so she could stay on the go. Now that she is older, she knows when she needs to grab a little something to eat, and she lets me know.  Also, stay hydrated…crucial.

Now that she is fourteen, we have taken countless trips together by plane and by car. We have walked many miles in lots of different cities and locales. We have climbed waterfalls, zip lined through rainforests, climbed a rock scramble, hiked a mountain, visited landmarks, toured cities, climbed lighthouses, and made lots of great memories.

We have made lengthy road trips with friends, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. We’ve learned about this great country in which we live, and we have learned what is necessary for a pleasant road trip…snacks, minimal packing, beverages, lots of quick stops, games for the car, and lots of laughter.

I no longer have to take a carry-on filled with treats for flights, but now, she always wants to take a friend or two. That’s perfectly fine with me. I truly have a “the more, the merrier” approach. I have found that if there are more people around, more events get locked into long term memory. Funny things are funnier in a group. Exciting things are more exciting with other people.

Now, our summers are shorter as she enters high school. Starting in ninth grade, varsity and junior varsity fall sports start practicing at the beginning of August, a few weeks before school starts. So, we have to cram in a lot of fun in less time. This year, all new adventures await, and I can hardly wait to get it started. I’m counting down to the last day of school.

Travel safely and have fun this summer!