Friday, May 8, 2009

Learn Something New Every Day (May 8, 2009)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Learn Something New Every Day (May 7, 2009)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rules for Teens & Cell Phones

There are good reasons for giving your teen a cell phone. I can think of two:

  • their safety and your peace of mind;
  • your convenience.

Latchkey kids, kids whose families have given up on land lines, kids involved in sports and extracurricular activities who need rides at unpredictable times, and kids forced to walk uphill, three miles, in snow, ice, and heavy traffic through a seedy red light district at midnight - yeah, they need a cell phone.

Let's not confuse "need" and "want." That's almost as bad as losing sight of the difference between "tool" and "status symbol." I don't need to pay $20 a month for my child to have a status symbol that's going to cost me another $300 the first time it's dropped in the toilet. My daughter washed hers - on hot, regular cycle, with jeans. Kudos to LG - it survived. But not one of her cell phones made it to the two-year, free upgrade mark.

So here's the deal - far be it from me to tell anyone else how to raise their children, or what rules of the road they ought to lay down before handing over the high tech toys. I'm just going to throw these proposed "rules" out there with the caveat that I wish I'd thought them up years ago, before switching over to "shared rollover minutes" with my teenaged daughter. She pays her own cell phone bill these days, and I laugh when I hear her say things like, "Mom! Slow down. I'm glad you've learned how to send text messages, but they're not on my plan..."

With her off the plan, I can afford unlimited MMS. She can't. Revenge is sweet.


Do not waste your callers' time with inane, long, loud, rude voice messages or ten minute punk rock songs. "Hi, this is Ariella Bombast. Please leave a message at the tone and I'll call you back as soon as my mom lets me," said in a pleasant, cheerful, clear, and upbeat tone of voice would be perfect.

Check your voice mail regularly and respond to it - at least if it's from your mom or dad.

CLEAN your voice mail box frequently to ensure that mom and dad are able to leave a message.

Screen your calls, by all means, but you'd better answer when it's mom or dad - preferably on the first ring - unless it's during school hours. If your phone is confiscated during school hours, you will have to write a letter of apology to your teacher, the principal, and your mother in order to get it back - unless your school was in lock-down and you were in fear for your life.

I can hear you roll your eyes over the phone. And yes, I do have eyes in the back of my head.

You can think what you like, but I do not want to see it on your face nor hear it in your tone of voice. You may flounce, pout, make faces, and roll your eyes all you like - in your room. Having a crappy attitude is normal at your age; inflicting it on others is just rude and makes you look asinine. Trust me, you'll be embarrassed about it later. I'm just helping you to save face (before someone says "enough is enough and breaks your cute little nose").

The phone is MINE from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. MINE.

If you miss curfew, or if I cannot find you when I need you, and you don't answer the phone, and it turns out you're NOT lying dead in a ditch somewhere? Your A$$ is mine from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM, and you will not have a cell phone. (Parents take note: A home alarm with sensors on every window works both ways - they prevent break ins AND break outs.)

"My battery died!" is not an excuse unless your battery fails and needs to be replaced. Did you know that cell phone techs can easily tell if you dropped your phone or battery in water? There's a little sensor there - you cannot lie about these things. You are responsible for ensuring that your phone battery is fully charged and stays that way when you're outside the home.

If you drop or misuse your phone, it may be replaced at my option - depending on your behavior and attitude at the time. You will be required to reimburse me for it, including the cost of phone insurance on the new phone. If you do not have money in savings or an allowance that I can garnish, you will be doing manual labor - yardwork, laundry, scrubbing toilets, whatever I ask - cheerfully. Or see "the phone is MINE" (above) but change "10 PM to 6 AM" to "24/7."

Think I'm bluffing? Try me. I love you, and don't want to be the death of your social life, so your phone is cooler than mine. Just give me half an excuse to switch SIM cards...

Learn Something New Every Day (May 6, 2009)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Learn Something New Every Day (May 2-3 Weekend Edition)

Mother, Touchstone, Friend

We mothers – we are merely rudders, guiding our children’s ships through the storms and over the turbulent seas of life – we guide them as steadily and as best we can, but we are not the only influence that determines the outcome of the journey...

Who am I today? I am a woman, a daughter, a wife and mother, a writer. I am confident with unexpected moments of self-doubt, calm with occasional thunderstorms, selfish but generous, affectionate but reserved, intelligent with a few Swiss-cheese holes in my brain, rational but prone to flights of fancy, a dreamer with her feet planted on the ground – and I see none of that as contradictory. I am my mother’s daughter.

My mother nurtured me with love and learning. My parents married young, with the understanding that both would attend and graduate from college. Did having a baby at nineteen deter my mother from her commitment? No! She told me once that my earliest bedtime stories were chapters from her college Psych texts. If I am determined, efficient, and able to multitask, it’s because I was raised by a woman who could study, cuddle an infant, and read to her child simultaneously!

Astrologers might argue that the Pisces child, born on a Sunday, so near the pull of the ocean’s tides would naturally be gifted with creativity and a vivid imagination. But I contend that any innate creativity and imagination I possessed was nurtured by a mother who got down on the floor and played with me, allowing herself to be cast in the thousands of roles I invented for her. My love of writing was sparked when she installed a bulletin board in my room, and daily pinned a writing prompt – a quote, a photo, some whimsical item – to it, and supplied me with endless reams of paper and a variety of pens. She later insisted that I learn to type; much, much later, I thanked her for it.

I have a great appreciation for languages. If I can’t speak fluent French today, it’s not my mother’s fault! My mom’s answer to a whiney eight-year-old who cried out, “I’m bored!” was to enroll her in private French lessons at Berlitz. Latin was a 7th grade elective; my mom elected it for me. If I believed that college was just an extension of a child’s compulsory education, it was my mom’s doing – she was still working towards her Master’s degree when I was twelve! She made studying seem as natural as breathing, as essential as eating. Blame my mother for the fact that I started college at age twelve – the early French lessons, her schedule of classes from Kent State lying open on the bed, and my natural curiosity combined: “Do you think they’d let me take French I?” Well, why not? With three years of French under my belt and my parents there to support my request, doors opened – and I was enrolled in summer school!

Okay, maybe I can’t speak French fluently today, despite eight years of lessons - but I have learned to entertain myself! If I love Oldies, it’s because my mother handed down her 45 RPM records and a phonograph; if my tastes are eclectic, it’s because she also made sure I attended the symphony and the ballet, met Beverly Sills, saw Linda Ronstadt and The Irish Rovers in concert, and took piano lessons. If I can appreciate fine art, it’s because one of my mother’s most cherished books was Jansen’s History of Art – and because she saw to it that I got to tour the Louvre.

While my mother built my confidence and self-esteem, she took care never to talk down to me, never to sugar-coat the truth, never to inflate my ego unrealistically so that the world at large could tear down what she had so carefully built. All her life, I could rely on my mother to be a trustworthy touchstone: she was an honest critic as well as a staunch supporter. If I am happy, content with who I am, it’s because my mother never allowed me to believe that my best wasn’t good enough. If I am able to appreciate constructive criticism and learn from it, it is because I had a mother who dished it out with love.

Twenty years ago, I became a mother, myself. When I held my daughter in my arms, I realized the awesome responsibility my mother took on at the tender age of nineteen. For the first time, it hit me just how much I was loved. And that’s when I knew that the debt I owed her was marked “payable to my grandchildren.”

When my mom died – on Valentine’s Day, 2002 – I lost not only my mother, but my best friend. Though she always insisted “It’s not my job to be your friend – I’m your mother,” she couldn’t help but be both. I miss her, but because of her, I am strong enough to wipe away the tears, smile, and go boldly forward in my own journey of motherhood.