Now I’m Getting Nervous

Now I’m getting nervous…

It’s no secret that I have been looking forward to my daughter’s high school graduation. She has been at the same independent school since she was four years old, so she really thinks she is ready for graduation. Plus, she is an only child, so when she graduates and goes off to college, we become empty-nesters. We start a new phase of our lives. It’s a phase we are excited about.

And up until now, I’ve been nothing but excited. I have been looking forward to summer vacations. I have been excited about how much she is going to love college. I have been looking forward to the adventures my husband and I will have…traveling to different places…the possibility of living somewhere else (not right away, of course, because we know our daughter needs to be able to come back home during her freshman year). There’s a lot to look forward to.

But earlier today, I was talking with a friend whose only child, a daughter, is a sophomore in college, and she gave me a warning, “No matter what you think right now, you are going to miss that girl when she goes to college.” And it hit me. She’s right. I’m going to miss her. I’m going to miss her like crazy. We have been together almost every single day of her life. Soon, she will be leaving me behind. I’m happy for her, but now I’m nervous for me. It’s uncharted territory for me.

I wrote recently about how I have one job. I’m a mom. And that has been my one job for eighteen years. But now that’s about to change. I’m not officially being “fired” from that job, but the job description is going to change. She won’t need me daily; frankly, she probably hasn’t needed me daily for a long time. However, once she goes off to college several hundred miles away, I will likely go months without seeing her in person or giving her a hug! She will be fine. I’m worried about me.

God prepares us for this. As they grow up, kids gradually become more independent. Even in elementary school, they start going to friends houses without us. They go to sleepovers with friends. And then, before they can drive, we drop them off at places to meet friends regularly. Then, they learn to drive, and everything changes. As soon as our daughter turned 16, she was off to the races…we hardly saw her anymore, because she had the freedom to move around the city at will. Four months after she got her license, though, COVID hit. Because she couldn’t spend as much time with friends, she did a lot of driving around. She even invited me to go for drives with her. We looked for places to drive around…sometimes just driving around town, and other times driving into South Carolina to see what it looked like when states started to re-open during the pandemic. South Carolina opened way before North Carolina did, and we drove around looking at the lines outside restaurants!

Because teenagers are social creatures, we were not particularly strict about the COVID restrictions. She needed to see her friends. She needed to spend time socializing, so we let her. I joked that she spent the summer of 2020 trying to catch COVID but never caught it. I felt sure she would bring it home to me and my husband during those first few crucial months, but we never got it. Actually, I did have it in late January of this year, but I didn’t get it from my daughter.

Pandemic restrictions lifted, and school eventually went back to “normal.” She has been going to school dances and sporting events. Her social life has resumed in full force. She is hardly ever home, but we usually see her for at least a few minutes a day. Lots of times, I don’t even know when she will be home after lacrosse practice.

And now, she is taking another step toward independence…and so are we! We are going to have lots of free time on our hands. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be fun. But even while we are having fun, I’m sure I will miss our little girl who’s not so little anymore. She is three inches taller than I am and ready to face the world. We just have to get ourselves ready to face the world in a different way…and really, that’s the scary part. I’m going to have to reinvent myself!

Yes, God prepares us by making their independence gradual…so gradual that we hardly notice till they’re ready to fly the coop! And now it’s almost here…

Once we get her to college, we plan to take a nice, relaxing vacation to “celebrate” our new status as empty nesters. Hopefully, we embrace the freedom…

The future is bright!

Why I Drive to the Game

Why I drive to the game.

Yesterday, my daughter’s high school lacrosse team had a game 125 miles away in Durham, North Carolina. Her school had a bus taking the team, but as always, I drove my car too. When I was talking to a friend, she asked, “If they can go on the bus, why do you drive up there?” There are lots of reasons…

  • I have one job. Seriously, I have one job. I don’t work outside the home. I manage parts of the household, and my husband manages other things, but we have a very nice lady who cleans our house for us. So seriously…I have one job…to take care of our daughter. It is a job I have always taken very seriously, and for me, it is the single most important job in the world. I said “for me,” so don’t come at me if you work outside the home and think I’m judging you. I’m not that person. Again, for me, this is the most important job I could ever have. I’m not a helicopter parent or tiger mom. I looked up “7 Signs You Might Be a Helicopter Parent” on WebMD, and I don’t fit the description. You can see the article here. I readily admit that when our daughter was younger (elementary school age), I did call a parent after lots of issues (#1 on the WebMD list), but there were lots more times I told our daughter to handle things on her own. I learned a valuable lesson from that call and taught our daughter some key words and strategies to use when fighting her own battles…even practiced using those tactics with her. The six other items on the “7 Signs…” list do not apply. I’m definitely not a helicopter parent. I encourage her to take chances. I let her make her own mistakes. She makes her own decisions. And I’m definitely not a tiger mom, which is defined on Wikipedia (yes, I know I shouldn’t cite Wikipedia, but their definition is accurate on this one) as a “strict form of parenting, whereby the parents are highly invested in their children’s success.” I’m not that mom. First, I’m not strict. I encourage fun and living well. I want her to have academic success, but mostly, I want her to have a good life. So no, I’m not a helicopter mom or a tiger mom. But I’m trying to do my one job the way I want to do it.
  • My daughter wants to get home quickly. Again, I have one job. Our daughter doesn’t even ask me if I’m going to the away games, because she knows I’m going. I know she wants me there so she has a faster, more comfortable ride home. I remember being a teenager. I remember how important my social life was to me. I understand why she wants to get home. And honestly, I understand why she doesn’t want to ride home on a school bus. Don’t get me wrong. Our school has nice buses and super-nice bus drivers, but it’s nice to ride in your own car. If she wants food on the way home, I’ll stop for her. If she needs a bathroom, I’ll stop for that too. I remember when she was riding a team bus years ago and texted me, saying, “I need to go to the bathroom.” I said, “Tell the coach.” She didn’t want to tell the coach. I think she eventually had to tell her, and they stopped, but she was embarrassed. She’s never embarrassed to tell me she needs to take a bathroom break.
  • I want to see every game. I think I have only missed three or four games in her entire sports career…since she was four or five. Any missed games were due to valid reasons…my husband’s brain surgery, my mother’s emergency surgery, running a team errand…and once I missed a field hockey game, because I simply needed to get out of town with a trip to California after months of being home during the COVID pandemic. Of course, I missed seeing her cheer at some high school basketball games, but only because no spectators were allowed during the pandemic. I watched the games on the livestream, though.
  • She’s only a high school senior once. I have been saying this for years. I remember when she was eight years old and wanted to go to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. My husband thought I was nuts when I mentioned it to him, but I explained to him, “Come on. She’s only eight once.” And we went to the Kids Choice Awards in Los Angeles that year and a few more times too. Some special event has come up every year for her, and I catch myself saying, “She’s only 11 once” or “she’s only 14 once.” Now, I’m saying, “She’s only a high school senior once.” And honestly, this is the end of her sports career. She won’t be playing a college sport. I will never get to cheer from the sidelines for her again. I am savoring every moment.

Does it mean I think every parent should be driving to away games? No. In fact, I am very much in the minority on this. I just love watching her play, but I also just love watching sports and competition. It’s what I grew up doing. My parents would stop at any sporting event anywhere. Random high school track meet? Yep. Random tiny college baseball game? Yep. We watched sports all the time, so it’s just what I do.

Tonight, we don’t have a lacrosse game to drive to, but I did just discover the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards are on at 7:30! Seriously! While I was typing, a commercial for the KCAs came on! I don’t know what our daughter’s plans are for tonight, but I’ll be recording the KCAs for us to watch together later! It’s a tradition. It’s what we do.

And that’s why I drive to the game. It doesn’t mean I think other moms should do the same. It’s just what I do.

Holiday Travel 2021

Holiday Travel 2021

Travel is back!

We were some of the odd people who traveled last Thanksgiving…during the pandemic. I just couldn’t take staying home anymore. Call me reckless, but when we got home, we didn’t have the virus…all my teenage daughter’s friends did, because they had gathered with local people. Travel was pretty easy back then, because the airports simply were not crowded. Same in February, when we flew to New Orleans over Presidents’ Day weekend, and we were still unvaccinated. Again, the airports weren’t crowded, and we got lucky and avoided the virus. When Spring Break rolled around in March, I was half-vaccinated, but I was determined to try to enjoy a vacation with our daughter and some of her friends in Miami. Success…we came home illness-free.

Soon after that, the whole family got vaccinated, and we moved around all summer. Sure, we were careful to wash our hands and wear masks indoors, but we lived life again. And it seems lots of other folks are doing the same.

We just returned from a Thanksgiving trip to California, and the airports were packed again. We flew out of Charlotte the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the Charlotte airport was wall-to-wall people. Same thing when we flew back…wall-to-wall people in the Los Angeles airport. But most people were wearing their masks correctly in the airport and on the flights. I had some concerns before we traveled, because of recent airline issues. I was afraid our return flights would be canceled, so I purchased some one way refundable tickets on another airline for the return, just in case, before I realized I could stay an extra few days and enjoy more vacation for the amount of money I was spending on those tickets!

We ended up having no issues during our travels. But I planned things carefully. To avoid issues, here are some tips for Holiday Travel 2022:

  • Book Early. This advice goes for airline tickets, hotels, and even rental cars. As availability decreases in each of these areas, prices increase. You can thank supply and demand for that. So book early. I just realized today that I had not booked a rental car for our Christmas trip, and when I looked, I knew I had made a big mistake. I will likely use Uber while we are there, because I refuse to pay ridiculous prices for a rental car. If you are going to need a rental car and haven’t booked it, book it now.
  • Try to travel on off-peak days. Everything I have read says the peak days around Christmas for air travel are December 22 and December 28 this year, but I’m guessing the 26th is going to be a busy day for those who have to get back to work on Monday. Try not to book your flights for those dates. I’m guessing December 24th will be a little crazy too, since Christmas is on a Saturday this year. My family will be traveling on Christmas Eve, so if you see us in the airport, we can commiserate.
  • Arrive at the airport early. You have likely heard it for years when you were traveling during the holidays: arrive early. Well, this year, you absolutely need to arrive early. There could be personnel shortages at the airport, causing a backlog in so many different areas of the airport. While the usual recommendation is to arrive two hours before your domestic flight, I recommend arriving three hours before, especially if you’re flying out of a busy airport. Obviously, if you’re flying out of somewhere like Pensacola, Florida, you don’t need as much time, but I flew out of Birmingham recently, and even with my TSA PreCheck clearance, I was in line for a while at security…longer than I’ve ever waited in Charlotte. I know, some will call arriving that early excessive, but what is it going to hurt for you to get there and relax for a little while before your flight boards? I can’t relax till I’m through security, but once I’ve cleared TSA, I feel so much better. A long security line gives me anxiety, if I’m pushed for time. Save yourself some anxiety…arrive early.
  • Do not check bags. I say this with a little hesitation. When I say “do not check bags,” I mean pack in appropriately-sized carry-on bags. Do not carry on the kitchen sink. My daughter and I each had a carry-on bag and a backpack for our recent trip to LA. We didn’t want to risk losing our luggage, and we didn’t want to have to wait in baggage claim forever when we got there. In the past, we have waited a long time for luggage in LA and Charlotte, so we avoid it now. Again, with personnel shortages, wait times could be longer. But whatever you do, please stick to the appropriate size limits and number of bags…that means one carry-on bag and one person item. Check airline websites for size restrictions. Obviously, if you are traveling with gifts for friends and family, you will likely need to check bags, unless you consider shipping everything (keep reading).
  • Pack medications and necessities in a carry-on. If you do opt to check luggage, make sure you have all your medications and any necessities in a carry-on bag. It’s always a good idea to have a change of clothes and a toothbrush/hairbrush in your carry-on, as well. Things happen. Connecting flights cancel, and bags are not accessible. Bags get delayed or lost. Trust me on this.
  • Consider shipping luggage and gifts ahead. To cut down on the amount of “stuff” you carry with you, ship any gifts, and possibly your luggage, ahead of time. That way, if you want you can wrap them ahead of time too. Otherwise, wrapped gifts will need to go in checked bags, and if TSA decides to open them, they can. You can ship via UPS, the United States Postal Service, or FedEx, or you can use a luggage shipping service like ShipGo. See their website here.
  • Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. If you’re traveling domestically, make an appointment now to get TSA PreCheck. It will save you lots of time and stress at the airport. You don’t have to take off shoes (unless your shoes cause cause the metal detector to “beep”). You don’t have to go through the body scanner. The lines are shorter. And if you’re traveling internationally, Global Entry can save lots of time on re-entry to the US. To make an appointment for TSA PreCheck, click here. In most cases, you’ll have your Known Traveler Number within two weeks after your appointment. For international travelers, Global Entry appointments can be made here.
  • Download MyTSA App. On the MyTSA app, you can store favorite airports and see up-to-the-minute wait times at various checkpoints at different airports. The app also includes a list of things you can bring onboard aircraft in checked bags and carry-on bags. There are also ways to request passenger support for travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions. The app is a great place to get lots of information.
  • Carry snacks. December is prime time for weather issues. Be prepared. Always have some snacks (including some with protein) to keep you going when airports are full of people and it’s difficult to get food. You don’t want to get hangry.
  • Traveling by car? If you’re traveling by car, check your tires and oil before you leave. And if you’re traveling in cold climates, have a couple of blankets in the car, just in case. I used to think my daddy was crazy when he made me keep blankets in the trunk of my car, but I have friends who have had to sleep in their cars when they got caught in ice storms and/or snow storms. One was even caught in torrential rains/floods and had to sleep in her car. Having some bottled water and a few snacks on hand would be a good idea too. You might think it can’t happen where you are, but a few years ago, my daughter and I made it back to Charlotte from Birmingham, Alabama, just ahead of an ice storm. And be patient. The roads are going to be crowded. Have some backup routes in mind too. One year, when I was coming back from Atlanta, I realized it was going to take twice as long as it should if I stayed on the interstate, so I opted to take some “back roads.” It was quite an adventure, but I got home more quickly…and on less crowded roads. I wasn’t jockeying for position the whole time.

Happy Holidays and Happy Trails!

First Day of Sophomore Year

Today is the first day of school at our daughter’s school. She will be starting her sophomore year of high school. Seriously…only three more years of school before she off to college. How can that be?!?

She survived…even thrived in freshman year! She learned a lot academically, socially, and athletically. She got good grades. She loved her teachers. She made new friends. She had some solid extracurricular activities. In fact, she played varsity field hockey and varsity lacrosse, and she was a basketball cheerleader. The cheerleading part is a big deal. She is not one who likes to perform. She likes to play sports. She isn’t looking at her “audience” when she plays sports, but cheerleading is different. I was very proud of her for trying something new. And it wasn’t just new to her. Her school hadn’t had cheerleaders in years, so she was a part of a new team altogether.

And now she begins her second year of high school. She has already had a few field hockey games. She had school orientation yesterday, and after a rough morning of “I have nothing to wear,” she rebounded after orientation, telling me she was thrilled with her schedule for the year. Even though she had no idea which of her friends were in her classes, she was happy with her schedule. Whew! That’s a win!

The first couple months of school, my husband will drive her to school, or she will ride with friends. I will pick her up after field hockey practice most of the time, and I’m sure she will get rides with friends when she can. But in October, she should be getting her driver’s license, and life will change for all of us. She will drive herself to school and home from practice in the afternoons. She will be able to meet her friends on weekends on her own. I won’t have to take her where she wants to go, because she will be able to drive herself. It’s going to be a big change, and though I’m sure I will worry every single time she drives away, she will be gaining some independence.

Independence is the goal. Our little girl is growing up…that’s for sure.

Last night, before going to bed, she made sure she had everything she needs for school today…notebooks, paper, pens, pencils, books, book bag, etc. We made sure she is prepared for a new school year. After forcing her to take “first day of school” pictures, my husband drove her to school this morning, and they stopped at Starbucks on the way. I feel sure she reunited with friends she hasn’t seen this summer, and right now, she’s likely meeting her new teachers. She’ll eat grilled cheese from the cafeteria at lunch, and if she doesn’t get a ride home with a friend, I’ll pick her up after school.

And chances are, she will tell me very little till she is good and ready to tell me.

But I’m embracing this 10th grade year, even though I prefer an eternal summer…and I’m already planning vacations for the holidays, spring break, and next summer. It’s what I do. We always need something to look forward to. Because I want her to know that life is meant to be lived NOW. Do the things you have to do so you can do the things you want to do. See the world. Enjoy your friends. Learn new things.

I’m not going to pretend I’m happy the school year is starting. I’m not. If I could do it, life would be one big adventure. But reality is that she needs to go to school…for lots of reasons.

Our baby is not a baby anymore.

Let’s get this school year started…and I’ll be looking forward to the next holiday!

 

 

We Finally Made It

Has there ever been somewhere you wanted to go but just never made it happen? I don’t mean a big trip. I mean a little place somewhere you wanted to visit when you were in the area, but circumstances kept you from going?

A few years ago, I embarked on a road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, along with her three kids and my daughter. We started in Charlotte and drove al through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania…and straight home from there. We saw most of the things we wanted to see, but we missed a couple.

The first one we missed was Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. You can see the website here. It’s a giant cheese store about 45 minutes from Chicago. It’s actually more than a cheese store…it’s a gift shop, an ice cream parlor, a restaurant, and a big photo op! Of course, it’s shaped like a castle, but it’s not made of cheese. We found out about it when we were looking at information about something that might be fun to visit just over the Wisconsin border from Chicago…it would be a way to make a quick visit to Wisconsin so our kids could add it to their lists of states they had visited.

Alas, we didn’t get to go while we were on that trip. There was so much fun to be had in Chicago on that trip that we never made it to Mars Cheese Castle…never even crossed the border into Wisconsin. And I’ve always regretted it. I used to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, all the time, and I loved it. The people were always so nice, and well…the cheese! So I especially hated my daughter didn’t get to go. She, of course, didn’t care. She was 11 years old when we took that road trip, and Mars Cheese Castle just didn’t sound that interesting to her.

Yesterday, we flew into Chicago…me, my daughter, and her friend. The girls are going to a small concert early today, and then we are going to Lollapalooza in downtown Chicago. We are staying in Schaumburg, because the early event is near here. We will Uber into downtown later.

But when we landed yesterday and got our rental car, I told the girls I wanted to make a quick trip up to Mars Cheese Castle. They grimaced. They moaned. They complained. Actually, only my daughter complained, grimaced, and moaned. Her friend was very polite about it. My daughter asked if I could drop them at the hotel and go by myself? I almost agreed to it, but then I said, “Come on. You’ve never been to Wisconsin, and it won’t take long.” She rolled her eyes but gave in, asking only if I would stop and get them food on the way.

After a quick stop for food and a 45-minute drive north, we found Mars Cheese Castle! It was everything I had hoped and more! Seriously, I had wondered if we would get there and just see shelves of cheese curds, but whoever built it knew what they were doing. Of course, it looks like a castle on the exterior, and there is a big electric sign out front. I made the girls take pictures of me in front of the sign and the building when we got out of the car, and to my surprise, they wanted pics too! Winning!

We walked in with a family who had visited many times before. They were practically giddy! They had lived nearby at one time but had moved away, so they were there for a visit…and they were stocking up on the cheese curds! Of course, I grabbed some cheese curds and put them in my cart too. The girls disappeared as soon as we walked in, but in a few minutes, they came back to me, eating ice cream cones and wearing paper crowns with the Mars Cheese Castle logo on the front. We shopped a little; I grabbed a hoodie for me and some t-shirts for all of us, and we took some photos inside the store. I also got myself a cup of Superman ice cream and a paper crown.

As we walked to the car, we were laughing and taking more pictures. As soon as we started to drive away, my daughter said, “That was a lot more fun than I thought it would be!” Whew! One day, they will learn that I do my research ahead of time.

So I was able to mark Mars Cheese Castle off my list of places to visit, and my daughter has now been to Wisconsin! She has the paper crown to prove it! But don’t get me wrong…given the opportunity to visit again, I will be going back to Mars Cheese Castle!

The other place we didn’t get to visit on that road trip in 2015 with Mary Ann? Oram’s Donuts in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. See their website here. We made it to Beaver Falls, but we didn’t go to Oram’s because we had a car full of cranky kids that day…well, mine was cranky. It was the last leg of our big road trip of 2015, and we were all tired. But one thing I know for sure is that Mary Ann and I will get to Oram’s Donuts…without our kids.

So if you find yourself in Chicagoland or southern Wisconsin, visit Mars Cheese Castle. Think of me as you walk around eating your ice cream cone and squeaky cheese (cheese curds) while wearing your paper crown (they’re free at the ice cream counter).

Let’s Talk Curfews

My 15-year-old daughter went to a Travis Scott concert called Astroworld with some friends last weekend. An adult who had been to a previous show assured me it would be pretty tame. My daughter doesn’t have a driver’s license, and almost all her friends can’t drive yet either, so I dropped off four of them at the concert with the understanding they would be sleeping over at one house.

A few hours before the concert, the mother with whom they would be staying texted the rest of the moms, telling us, “I told my daughter they had to be home by midnight. She acted like I’m the mean mom. What do you think?”

I assured her that I agreed with her, and the other moms did too.

Before we picked up all the others on the way to the concert, my daughter and I had this exchange:

  • Me: You understand that you have to be in by midnight, right?”
  • Daughter: Yes ma’am.
  • Me: Even if the concert isn’t over, you have to be back to your friend’s house by midnight. Understand?
  • Daughter: Yes ma’am.
  • Me: That doesn’t mean you can wander around uptown after the concert if it ends at 10:30.
  • Daughter: What?!? Why would we wander around uptown?!?

Whew! She does have sense! Sometimes, when you’re the parent of a teenager, you wonder if they have sense, and sometimes, you wonder if you’ve lost your mind.

So all that curfew talk led to more questions from her. She is rapidly approaching driving age. She asked what would happen to her if she misses curfew when she can drive.

I explained to her that I would rather have her get home a couple of minutes late than drive too fast trying to get home. She has been in the car with me three times when a teenager in our neighborhood nearly ran us off the road trying to make it home in time for her curfew. (For the record, if you’re reading this, the teenager is not yours.) I told her that the best case scenario would be for her to call me if she is going to be late, and of course, she asked, “What if I’m driving?” I told her she should know before she leaves somewhere if she is going to be late, but if she finds herself stuck in traffic, it’s OK to use voice text and let me know, but do not pick up the phone.

We discussed the fact that curfew isn’t just to make her come home; it’s also a way for me to know she is safe. If she doesn’t make curfew, I will start worrying, and we might need to start looking for her…not because we don’t trust her, but because something might have happened.

In addition, I explained to her that if she frivolously or repeatedly misses curfew or breaks other rules along the way, the gravy train stops. She will stop getting to do things she wants. She will stop getting things she wants. She will stop having so much freedom. We don’t reward bad behavior. As long as she follows our rules, she will continue to have “privileges.”

Oh my gosh…I am my mother.

It made me think of when I was a teenager back in the 80s. Good times. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones, so our parents didn’t always know where we were, and they couldn’t always get in touch with us. Back then, if I were going to be late, I had to call my parents from a pay phone and let them know. I’d be hard pressed to find a pay phone now!

My little exchange with my daughter about curfew didn’t turn into a lecture or argument. It was simply a conversation outlining expectations. It is a conversation we will have many times before she goes off to college, and frankly, I’m glad we’re talking about it now.

Maybe that Travis Scott Astroworld concert was a good thing…a good opportunity for the two of us to talk about expectations. And she even texted me from the concert, sending me video clips and saying how much I would have enjoyed it. Seriously, it looked pretty tame. And for the record, they were home a little after 11:00.

Thanks, Travis Scott. Who thought I’d ever say that?!?

 

 

 

*