New Year’s Greetings from The Cat

She had company on Christmas, and one of the visitors mentioned how much she enjoyed reading my updates.  I was touched, so much so that I let her briefly scratch my belly before reaching out with a warning slash.  That kind and intelligent visitor then asked why I hadn’t been posting any updates over the last few months,

I have much on my mind that needs sharing, but it has become difficult to use the computer. She used to be on a schedule that was easy to figure out.  Monday through Friday, she left the house early and was gone all day. There was plenty of time for me to explore, nap, look for food, and organize my thoughts for writing.  Alas, that schedule is no more.  Last summer she started staying home later during the day.  Now she sleeps in late and comes and goes at irregular times.  She might spend an entire day at home, not leaving once; or she might leave in the morning, be home briefly during the afternoon, and then be gone until late night.  It has disrupted my life and made finding time to write updates much more difficult.

Now, do not interpret what I have just written as an excuse; no cat would ever indulge in such self-abasing behavior. Excuses are what a cringing dog would do: “Oh, please don’t be mad because I piddled on the carpet, but it’s because you weren’t there to take me for a walk”.  Disgusting! I am not asking for your approval or forgiveness, simply stating a fact.

Her new schedule has affected every aspect of my life, and mostly for bad.  She’s up later in the morning by several hours, which means that my food bowl remains empty.  She has completely disrupted my nap schedule, and I’ve found myself getting a bit cranky from lack of sleep.  There were some rather delightful things I enjoyed doing when she was not around to stop me, and the opportunities for those activities have become more challenging to find.

Adding to my general frustration is that as my life has become more challenging and stressful, she seems so much more relaxed and, dare I say it, even happy.  Apparently, what she did was to retire.  I thought that word referred to the very wise idea of taking a nap, but now realize its meaning is to sleep late and look happier.

Good for her, but what about me?  I’m still waiting for that better mood to translate into something of value, like giving me more and better food, or not being so upset when I scratch that delightfully scratchy chair.

Damn – I hear her at the door. She was gone for such a short time.  Such is now my lot in life.  I wish all of you a very happy New Year, and my sincere hope that 2017 will be a good year.  For me, personally, my new year’s wish is that she purchases a huge bag of cat food, leaves it out on the floor, and then takes a long vacation.

My dad could kick Don Draper’s ass

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I am the same age as Sally Draper.  We both grew up a long time ago, in a galaxy far away,  in a world that no longer exists. Beyond that simple sharing of age, we have nothing in common.  My family did not have anywhere near the money the Draper’s had.  I never went on a vacation that didn’t end up at a relative’s house.

More to the point, my father was nothing like Don Draper, and thank goodness for that.  In my suburban upbringing, Dad left the house early every morning and returned every evening just in time for dinner.   No one thought that was unusual; it was just the way things were.

What was unusual was the degree of involvement he had in our lives.  Many of my friends ate dinner early, with their parents eating a later, quiet adults-only meal.  Not in my house, despite the number of times my father mentioned it  (usually after one of us spilled a glass of milk, or a raging fight had just blown over).

When bedtime came, it was Dad’s turn to take over.  I have no memories of my mother ever putting us to bed; that was his job.  He was great storyteller, and bedtime was a chance to hear his range of voices and accents.  Many of his choices were adult classics; I can still hear him reading Rudyard Kipling, complete with British and Indian accents.

My mother slept like the dead; when I had a bad dream or woke up too late to make it to the bathroom, it was Dad who fixed everything and got me back to sleep.  Later, in my teen years, he was the one to greet me at the door when I tried to sneak in past curfew.

To me, as a child, my dad was amazing.  He’s a small man, but compactly built and strong (even today, in his mid-80s, he lifts weights every morning).  My father was into exercise and healthy living long before it became fashionable. During the same years when Don Draper was drinking a 3-martini lunch, my dad was running the track at the downtown Chicago YMCA (this was so long ago it that the term “jogging” hadn’t yet been invented).  He hung chin-up bars on the door frames of our bedrooms, and tried in vain to convince us to use them every time we went in or out of the door.

Visiting him at work was always fun.  There were the fish tanks filled with guppies, the desk drawer stuffed with candy bars Mom would never let us eat, and the great view of Chicago out the window.  I’d always surreptitiously look for the paperweight I made for him back in first grade; it was there prominently displayed on his desk for every visit from early childhood through adulthood and until his retirement.

My dad didn’t dress as well as Don, and certainly never earned that kind of money; but I knew that I could always depend on him to be there when I needed him.  And he always has been.   He took us fishing, brought us to museums, went on family picnics, and showed up for every single school event.

Dad’s older now, and my relationship with him, as with my mother, is shifting from receiving support to giving care.  I take them grocery shopping most weekends, and I’m getting a lot of phone calls asking for help on certain items.

Still, there are times when he remains my dad, the guy who can take care of anything scary and make the world safe.  When I was little, he made sure that my room was free of the monsters I was sure lived in the closet.  At Rick’s funeral, as I was getting ready to leave, my Dad walked up to me and asked if I needed help paying for it.  He’d brought his checkbook.  I loved him for doing this; for being ready to help out just in case it was needed.  He was there, just as he’s been there for my whole life.

 

Lessons from my mother

I wrote this last year, in tribute to my Mom.  Mom’s still going strong at 85; I realize now how lucky I am, not only because she’s still around, but because of what a great job she did in raising the three of us.

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My daughter is fully grown, so I’m at that stage of motherhood where I know everything and never had any problems. Yup, my memories of those years are crystal clear, and there were never any melt-down tantrums in the grocery store at 6pm, no rude behavior in front of people, no problems. At all.  Ever.  For 18 years I spoke to my daughter in a friendly, helpful manner. There were never any fights and she wouldn’t even recognize what my voice sounds like if I was yelling. Umm… yeah. Not really.

Whether because of me, or in spite of me, she’s happy with herself, has a knack for choosing good friends, and leads a decent life. That’s a win in my book. Being as there really is no way to determine how much of her success is due to me and how much is just her, I’m planning on taking full credit for it; after all, it is Mother’s Day.

Here are my sure-fire rules for parenting. And, by the way, these are the same rules that my mom used on the three of us, so these aren’t just my made up ideas – they are from my mom. And you better not be saying anything bad about her, because I think she’s pretty great.

1. Perfection, schmerfection. One of the hopes we all have for our children is that they do better and be better than we were. It’s a kind of ongoing evolution. If you struggled with school, you hope your child will be a better student. If you grew up in a poor family, you want your kids to have more. Make this easier for your kids by not being perfect. Let them grow up knowing there’s at least one area where they can be better than you.

2. Don’t make home too comfortable. I’m a boomer. When I was in high school, my parents and I didn’t listen to the same music or enjoy the same activities. Living at home was not fun, and I couldn’t wait to leave. I was willing to live in dumpy, squalid apartments with roommates who came and went (often with my LPs) because it seemed to be an improvement over moving back home. Make your kids anxious to leave at 18 and feel that they are willing to put up with substandard housing just for the chance of being on their own.

3. Failures are good. Remember when your kids were learning to walk? They were short, already close to the ground, and their bones were pliant. It was the perfect design for gravity deficiencies. Most of the time, a toddler falls, looks surprised, and then starts right back up again. Imagine if you waited until your child was a full-grown adult to teach them to walk; how much more painful the falls would be. Let your kids learn from mistakes early, when the missteps are less harmful. If Junior didn’t turn in his work and isn’t being allowed to attend the school’s movie day, that’s great! He’ll cry and be upset and feel sad – and learn that not finishing work has consequences.

4. Pick your battles. I am always amazed when parents of teenagers get into heated battles over minor issues like hair styles. If you turn yourself into a perceived enemy on small things, you’ll never know about the big things.

5. The ability to make good choices may be the most important lesson to give your children. Let your kids practice making choices, and then see what happens.  Start early; toddlers can pick their own clothes from a pre-selected group. This one is tied closely with number 3, because part of learning how to make good choices is to find out what happens when you make bad choices.

6. Keep your eye on the prize. What’s the easiest kind of child to raise? The kid who dutifully does whatever he/she is asked to do, who never talks back, doesn’t question anything and can’t come up with an independent idea. Is that the kind of adult you want your child to become? If not, then let them practice early. On you. Yeah, it’s tough; but if you want your child to grow up and be the kind of person who is willing to stand up and point out when things are wrong, you can’t raise her/him to blindly accept authority. Even when that authority is yours.

7. Self-respect is earned, not given out on the end of a ribbon. Everyone knows when they are being patronized, even small children. If you want your little future adults to have a good sense of self-worth, then make sure they earn it. Constant praise for doing nothing just creates a sense of entitlement.

8. Ice cream is a fine dinner, once in a while. Look, being a kid is hard, and they have some horrible days just like you do, and sometimes it is good to break the rules. One of the best things about being an adult is that you get to choose a lot more. Sometimes do the crazy fun thing and take your kids out for banana splits instead of eating the balanced meal you were planning on making.

9. Teach your kids to think, and then respect their decisions. My Mom’s favorite saying as we grew up was that she was trying to teach us how to think. When we were older, she let us make a lot more decisions than many of my friends were allowed to make. By the time we were young adults, her mantra was “I tried to teach you how to think. I might not agree with your decision, but I respect how you got there”.

10. The days are endless, but the years go by in seconds. I was a single parent for most of my daughter’s childhood. It was grueling at times, and there were moments when I felt that I’d never have a chance to have time to myself. It seemed endless and exhausting and then, just like that, I was driving to a high school graduation. Somehow those long days of parenting were over, forever, and I had to say goodbye to that part of my life. My memories of small moments: looking out the window at 3am as I was nursing; waving goodbye on the first day of kindergarten; junior high dances;those harrowing driving lessons: all seem present and as clear as though they just happened; and yet, it was a generation ago.

Ghosts of Past Christmas Eves

Dec 24, 1977
I’m alone in the house.  The tree is decorated and I think it’s gorgeous; it’s the first Christmas tree I’ve ever had. The day drags on as I wait for my roommates to return from family obligations; I’m the only one with no places to go.

Evening comes and the 3 of us are back for dinner.  We make ham, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I’ve made a pie for dessert.  It’s not fancy food, and looking back I realize that we were not yet the most skilled of cooks, but that meal that day was a first; the first time I’d ever participated in Christmas in a house where I lived.

Dec 24, 1982
I’m feeling emotionally alone. There is a small tree, more of a shrub, on the coffee table; it was our compromise. I have a 6-month-old baby who doesn’t yet sleep through the night.  My marriage is not doing well; my husband spends far too much time out at bars, seeing bands, hanging out with friends.  This was supposed to stop when we decided to have a baby, then when we got pregnant, then when the baby was born.  I realize now it will never stop.  I’m working 3 nights a week from 5 to midnight in an industrial kitchen.  It is hard, physical work and just adds to my exhaustion.

We’ve invited friends over for dinner.  I will cook the entire dinner, and do all the clean up afterwards, while caring for the baby in-between.  I am deeply unhappy, but mostly tired.

Dec 24, 1992
I’m alone in the house.  There’s no tree; a few Chanukah decorations are still up, but that holiday is over.  My daughter is at her Dad’s house celebrating Christmas with him.  Deciding on the holidays was easy when we divorced; she will spend Thanksgiving with me, Christmas with her father.

I’m not sad or depressed; Christmas never was my holiday.  I’m watching old movies on TV, cooking a nice steak for dinner with a bottle of red wine.  There’s a fire roaring away in the fireplace.  It’s peaceful and quiet.  The next day I’ll go to a friend’s house for dinner.

Dec 24, 2004
I’m not alone.  It’s my first Christmas with Rick.  My dad is in the hospital having heart surgery.  Rick and I sat with my Mom in the hospital all morning. We were planning on spending Christmas with his family, but he’s told them he’ll be with me instead.  When the all clear comes from the surgeons my Mom suggests we should leave.

It’s a strange Christmas Eve.  I’d grown used to being alone, having my nice meal and watching old movies.  Instead of my peaceful, quiet reverie, I spent the morning worrying about my father, and then off to a family I barely know.

Dec 24, 2013
I’m alone in the house.  There is no sign of Christmas, apart from the cards resting on the mantelpiece.

I’m back to the same Christmas Eves I had for the past 35 years, but I’m not the same person.

It’s a Wonderful Life – Isn’t

Of all the movies considered holiday classics, It’s a Wonderful Life is the odd man out.  Christmas movies generally center around, well, Christmas.  Plots focus on the holiday, and conflicts are resolved with everyone ending up with what they want.  In A Christmas Story, Ralphie gets the air-rifle and has the best Christmas of his life.  He doesn’t know that, but we do.  This is the one that he’ll remember years later.  Clark does get the bonus check in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Kevin’s parents come home. These are happy movies.   Even the granddaddy of them all, Dicken’s A Christmas Carol,  ends the same in each and every version, with a reformed Scrooge providing a feast for the fecund Cratchit family, and the audience assured that Tiny Tim will end up healthy.

Which is why It’s a Wonderful Life is so different.  The movie doesn’t have a traditional happy ending.  At its start we meet George Bailey and get an introduction to his life.  He is smarter and more ambitious than anyone around him, and wants out of the stuffy town of Bedford Falls.  His plans are waylaid by a combination of bad luck and bad relatives.  His father dies unexpectedly as George is readying to leave town.  The family business is a partnership, but the partner is the semi-moronic, most likely closet-alcoholic Uncle Billy, a man who provides the answer to the question “Why is nepotism bad”.  Instead of waving goodbye, George ends up promising his mother to watch over the family business until his younger brother retunes from college.   Harry Bailey, George’s younger brother, turns out to be as dependable as Uncle Billy.  Instead of holding up his end of the bargain, he returns from college with a rich new wife and makes a clean escape from the stifling burg of Bedford Falls.

George has a decision.  He can stay in the town he finds boring with job he despises, or he can leave.  He feels the call of duty and stays, ending up marrying the girl next door who never had any ambition in life other than being Mrs. George Bailey.

That’s where we come in to the movie.  George is now middle-aged, still running the Building and Loan, still employing the worthless Uncle Billy, still dreaming of excitement and travel.  He’s content with his life, but not really happy.  The crisis that George goes through is manufactured; it happens only because Uncle Billy is a moronic halfwit who probably would be challenged by which end of the brush to use in scrubbing a toilet.  It’s the weakest part of the movie, and acts only to move to the story to the denouement, when George discovers that his life of lowered expectations and unmet dreams is actually good, that in fact he has a wonderful life.

The scenes of Bedford Falls without George act to assuage his sense of frustration in having sacrificed all his dreams.  George, and the audience, sees the consequences that would have arisen had he not been there to lose his dreams.  The Building and Loan would have failed, leaving his mother a poor widow.  Uncle Billy and Druggist Gower both spent time in institutions.  Bedford Falls is a party town, and (oh Lordy no!) there appear to be jazz music and Negroes.  Worst of all, of course, is the fate of Mary, who has become… gasp… the town librarian (apparently the most horrible thing that could befall a woman) and, judging from her clothes, perhaps a Lesbian as well.

And so we leave George at the end of the movie, with family, townspeople, and the bank examiner all in his living room.  He’s still a middle-aged guy who will never travel or leave Bedford Falls, and he still has to work with people who are far less competent and intelligent than he is.  He’s no better off than he was before; but now he’s learned that he is personally responsible for making everyone else’s life better.  Talk about guilt.   He’s everyone who ever turned 40 and wondered what the hell happened.

Merry Christmas from Sarah, Bill and me

I don’t celebrate Christmas, which of course makes me less of an American in the eyes of Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly and all the other notables on the Fox News/Tea Party side of the great American political divide.
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To them this is clearly and obviously a Christian country, and always has been since Jesus and George Washington first wrote the Constitution.
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I was shocked, really truly deeply , to find out a few years ago that there is a war going on, and that I and those like me are the aggressors against the poor, overwhelmed and terrified 90% of individuals in this country that identify as Christian.  Apparently, my status as a non-Christian is an affront to the real Americans, of whom I am certainly not.  I am sorry.

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My sins are vast and many, and as the first step in my atonement (and I hope use of the word “atonement” doesn’t too clearly mark me as being Jewish) I am listing a few for which I ask forgiveness:

  • When I was in third grade, our December art class activity was creating Christmas tree ornaments.  I threw mine out on the way home.  I wasn’t the best artist, but more to the point we didn’t have a Christmas tree and I couldn’t see any use for them.  I realize, now, that in doing this I was assaulting the decent God-fearing, Christmas celebrating kids in my class and in this nation.
  • When out shopping for gifts, I’ve been known to say a cheery “Happy Holidays” to people.  It was intended to be friendly, but Bill O’Reilly has opened my eyes to how painful this is to people that celebrate Christmas.  As I find it hard to tell who is Christian and who isn’t just by looking at them, from now on I will shun eye contact to avoid insulting anyone by stating the wrong greeting.
  • Some of my favorite movies play this time of year.  While Christmas-themed, I never thought that “Christmas Story”, “White Christmas”, or even “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” were religious.  I was wrong.  These are deeply spiritual movies that touch on timeless Christian themes such as tree decorating and air-rifles.  I will keep that in mind while watching.  Shown here is a scene illustrating how God rewards the holy.

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I offer up this public apology to make up for my years of atrocities. If you want to find me, I’ll be baking butter cookies and watching “A Christmas Story”.  And, to all my blogging friends, a very Merry Christmas!

Saving money and alienating family; how to have the best holiday season ever

I’m not one to rush the holidays, but I’ve already seen a few Christmas themed ads, Starbucks has switched over to the holiday cups, and the magazine racks are filled with ideas on how to do the holidays.

Before you rush off and spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on gifts for people you wouldn’t spend 10 minutes with if they weren’t family, before you amass credit card debt greater than the yearly salary your parents earned in their first years of working life, stop. Take a minute to consider ways to do the holidays in a quieter, more rational manner. To relax and enjoy them without stress.

I’m here to help with some hints on how to limit the amount of money spent on holiday gifts. Throw out those catalogues and spend your time online watching cute cat videos, and don’t even think about driving to the mall. Figure out the right tip for each person on your gift list and then sit back and start counting the money you’ll save.

1. Go green. For anyone on your gift list that espouses environmental consciousness, give them some random piece of crap you found lying around your house. Don’t even bother wrapping the item, just stick it one of those grimy cloth bags that you’ve been using for groceries over the last 2 years and haven’t washed once. After all, the motto is “reuse, reduce, recycle.” Be sure and point out how the gift reduces your carbon footprint.

2. Establish feuds with friends and family. Start your vendettas in October, and end them in March. If you’re no longer talking to your sister, you don’t need to send her or anyone in her family a gift. Bonus move: create an unforgivable breach with enough family members that you can spend the holidays somewhere with good weather and no relatives.

3. Become religious and deeply spiritual. It doesn’t matter which one; the point is that you have realized the shallowness of material items. Offer the meaningful gift of spending time with loved ones explaining your new spiritual insights. Don’t worry; no one will take you up on your offer.

4. Lie. State that this year you’ve decided to donate the money you would have spent on gifts to a worthy cause, and then mention that you’ll be providing the giftee’s name and address for future contact. Make sure to specify a group that completely horrifies the person with whom you’re talking: that way you can skip making the donation, pocket the money, and no one will be the wiser.

5. Channel your inner Martha Stewart (not really; that would be insane.) The point is to do something cheap and easy that looks makes it look as though you cared. There’s a world of ideas for fake hand-crafted gifts. I’ll give you two to start with:
a. Get a piece of poster board and some watercolors. Spend about 10 minutes randomly splashing paint around; be sure and cover the entire surface. When it dries, cut the poster board up into greeting card size pieces and sign the bottom right corner of each. Voila! Hand-crafted individual paintings.
b. Go to Costco and buy a giant container of some fancy-ass popcorn and a box of sandwich size plastic bags. Divide the popcorn and attach a little card to each bag with your name and some statement like “Hand made from my kitchen with love”.

6. Whenever anyone starts talking about gifts or the holidays, adopt a superior, world-weary tone and start putting them down. Make it seem as though the very idea of shopping for gifts is just so very, very gauche that you couldn’t bear to be associated with it.

7. Make up a heart-breaking story about a personal tragedy that completely prevents you from giving gifts. Look for something that can be resolved in the future and is just embarrassing or gross enough that no one will ask for evidence or want to know too much about it.

8. Fake a religious conversion. If you’re Jewish, tell family that you are now Christian and therefore no longer celebrating Chanukah. If you’re Christian, inform everyone that you’ve just converted to Judaism and will not be celebrating Christmas. Explain that since you’ve become a (insert any religion other than what you were raised in here) you are no longer participating in family gift giving traditions.

9. Send everyone a heart-felt note stating how much you love and appreciate the people in your life, and how buying something just wouldn’t be as meaningful as telling them how much they mean to you. Be sure and use BCC when you sending your heart-felt and personal note, so it looks as though you are sending each one out personally.

10. Pretend the gift was lost in the mail. On the big day, ask everyone about the wonderful gift you sent. Tell how long it took you to pick out the perfect item, and how excited you are to see the reaction when it’s opened. When you’re given the news that no such gift arrived, be outraged and then deeply despondent.

Daily Prompt: Halloween treats from “And now for something completely different”

 If bloggers had their own Halloween and could go from blog to blog collecting “treats,” what would your blog hand out?

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Sweet-tarts.  Those addictive little morsels start out sour and almost unbearable.  Bite into them to find the sweetness.  The result is a luscious blend of sweet and tart, what I like to think of as a more adult, sophisticated treat.

More than just a candy, they are a metaphor for life after loss.  The sweetness comes eventually.   The edge never fully goes away, but it comes palatable, and eventually you realize that the sweet is that much more appreciated because of the tartness that still lingers.

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Plus you can string them onto a necklace that you wear and eat.  Which is awesome.

10 steps to being a great mom; what my Mom taught me

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My daughter is fully grown, so I’m at that stage of motherhood where I know everything and never had any problems. Yup, my memories of those years are crystal clear, and there were never any melt-down tantrums in the grocery store at 6pm, no rude behavior in front of people, no problems. At all. Ever. For 18 years I spoke to my daughter in a friendly, helpful manner. There were never any fights and she wouldn’t even recognize what my voice sounds like if I was yelling. Umm… yeah. Not really.

Whether because of me, or in spite of me, she’s happy with herself, has a knack for choosing good friends, and leads a decent life. That’s a win in my book. Being as there really is no way to determine how much of her success is due to me and how much is just her, I’m planning on taking full credit for it; after all, it is Mother’s Day.

Here are my sure-fire rules for parenting. And, by the way, these are the same rules that my mom used on the three of us, so these aren’t just my made up ideas – they are from my mom. And you better not be saying anything bad about her, because I think she’s pretty great.

1. Perfection, schmerfection. One of the hopes we all have for our children is that they do better and be better than we were. It’s a kind of ongoing evolution. If you struggled with school, you hope your child will be a better student. If you grew up in a poor family, you want your kids to have more. Make this easier for your kids by not being perfect. Let them grow up knowing there’s at least one area where they can be better than you.

2. Don’t make home too comfortable. I’m a boomer. When I was in high school, my parents and I didn’t listen to the same music or enjoy the same activities. Living at home was not fun, and I couldn’t wait to leave. I was willing to live in dumpy, squalid apartments with roommates who came and went (often with my LPs) because it seemed to be an improvement over moving back home (note: I am not talking about people in financial straits, but those with a choice.) Make your kids anxious to leave at 18 and feel that they are willing to put up with substandard housing just for the chance of being on their own.

3. Failures are good. Remember when your kids were learning to walk? They were short, already close to the ground, and their bones were more pliant. It was the perfect design for gravity deficiencies. Most of the time, a toddler falls, looks surprised, and then starts right back up again. Imagine if you waited until your child was a full-grown adult to teach them to walk; how much more painful the falls would be. Let your kids learn from mistakes early, when the missteps are less harmful. If Junior didn’t turn in his work and isn’t being allowed to attend to the school’s movie day, that’s great! He’ll cry and be upset and feel sad – and learn that not finishing work has consequences.

4. Pick your battles. I am always amazed at how many parents of teenagers get into heated battles over minor issues like hair styles. If you turn yourself into a perceived enemy on small things, you’ll never know about the big things.

5. The ability to make good choices may be the most important lesson to give your children. Let your kids practice making choices, and then see what happens.  Start early; toddlers can pick their own clothes from a pre-selected group. This one is tied closely with number 3, because part of learning how to make good choices is to find out what happens when you make bad choices.

6. Keep your eye on the prize. What’s the easiest kind of child to raise? The kid who dutifully does whatever he/she is asked to do, who never talks back, doesn’t question anything and can’t come up with an independent idea. Is that the kind of adult you want your child to become? If not, then let them practice early. On you. Yeah, it’s tough; but if you want your child to grow up and be the kind of person who is willing to stand up and point out when things are wrong, you can’t raise her/him to blindly accept authority. Even when that authority is yours.

7. Self-respect is earned, not given out on the end of a ribbon. Everyone knows when they are being patronized, even small children. If you want your little future adults to have a good sense of self-worth, then make sure they earn it. Constant praise for doing nothing just creates a sense of entitlement.

8. Ice cream is a fine dinner, once in a while. Look, being a kid is hard, and they have some horrible days just like you do, and sometimes it is good to break the rules. One of the best things about being an adult is that you get to choose a lot more. Sometimes do the crazy fun thing and take your kids out for banana splits instead of eating the balanced meal you were planning on making.

9. Teach your kids to think, and then respect their decisions. My Mom’s favorite saying as we grew up was that she was trying to teach us how to think. When we were older, she let us make a lot more decisions than many of my friends were allowed to make. By the time we were young adults, her mantra was “I tried to teach you how to think. I might not agree with your decision, but I respect how you got there”.

10. The days are endless, but the years go by in seconds. I was a single parent for most of my daughter’s childhood. It was grueling at times, and there were moments when I felt that I’d never have a chance to have time to myself. It seemed endless and exhausting and then, just like that, I was driving to a high school graduation. Somehow those long days of parenting were over, forever, and I had to say goodbye to that part of my life. My memories of small moments: looking out the window at 3am as I was nursing; waving goodbye on the first day of kindergarten; junior high dances;those harrowing driving lessons: all seem present and as clear as though they just happened; and yet, it was a generation ago.