Monday, March 31, 2014

The Sound of Silence

Mornings are not the most pleasant time of day around here. 

We have a teenager. 

(I understand you're tired. I realize you were up late studying math. I apologize that school starts at 7:50 am. I know life sucks. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.)

Today, as usual, my teen daughter grudgingly got herself out of bed and was puttering about in her room. I don't know what she does up there. The alarm (her second) goes off a few minutes before 6:30. Her father drops her at a friend's house at 7:05. In-between, I make her breakfast and lunch (the high school cafeteria "blows"). And, like clockwork, at 6:55, I call upstairs.

"Breakfast is ready."

Today, she came down and started one of those conversations that I hate, the ones where she requests that I change something we've always done. (BTW, she does this in a really condescending voice, like she's a Nobel Laureate and I'm the village idiot.)

"Mom, can I ask you something? I think I've asked you before."

"Um. What?"

"Can you not call and tell me breakfast is ready every day? I really hate it."

I had a hundred snappish comebacks on the tip of my tongue. For example ...

"Well, I wouldn't have to if you got down here faster. And, by the way, your room is a disaster area."

Or ...

"Well, excuuuuuuuuse me for trying to be a good mother and slaving away in the kitchen and making you a nice meal."

Or ...

"Well, that really hurt my feelings. I don't see why you have to be so hateful when everything I do is for you." 

Here's what I said instead ... 


That's it. Really.

I'm so proud of myself I could burst! I feel like I have reached some heretofore unattainable peak of maternal zenliness. I am patience. I am tolerance. I am composure. Look up "grace under pressure" in the dictionary and you will likely see a picture of moi!

My daughter is downright surly in the morning — that's on a good day. And, I do crave appreciation. (For the record, my breakfasts and lunches are quite nice.) But, if she wants to wallow in ... er, I mean ... ease into her busy sophomore life in silence, why shouldn't she? 

There's the rub. The silence is what kills me these days. When my daughter was little, we had such a happy, chattery routine. It included two-way conversations in the early hours and books read aloud together in the evenings. After I tucked her in, we had that little ritual beloved by so many moms:

"I love you.

"I love you more.

"No, I love you more."

Now? No more. 

As often as not, I go to bed while my daughter's still doing homework or studying. I give her a kiss (usually on the top of her head before she can pull away or grimace), wish her "good night" and get the hell out of dodge. When she isn't working, she's engaged with friends online or streaming a show on the iPad via Netflix. I used to get a few back-and-forth words in when I drove her to the stable every other day. But, with her brand new license in her eager hand, she heads off alone now.

When my daughter was little, I missed the quiet I had known before she came into my life. Now, I miss her stories, the jokes, the affectionate banter. I try not to sound desperate or repetitive. I try not to fill the quiet with gentle mom nags: "Have you got everything? Did you remember your permission slip for the photography field trip?"

I try to be silent.

After all, Thomas Carlyle said "Silence is golden." 

We choose our battles, and this ain't one of them. From now on, I won't announce that breakfast is ready. 

Or, as Belinda Carlisle (no relation) said, "Our lips are sealed."

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pass The Popcorn: Divergent

I have a lot of close friends who never had a child. I have others whose offspring are already away at college, medical school or out in the real world. Still another (a late bloomer, I guess) has a toddler. Think about that for a moment. Wow, is she brave!

Now, I love these women, I do. But, I also feel sorry for them.

How do my peers, women of a certain age, survive without a teenager on hand to tune them in to what's hot, what's not and what definitely-absolutely-positively cannot be missed?

How, for example, would any of these women know about Divergent? OMG.

Yes, Divergent is the latest pop culture phenom. (And I have my daughter to thank for my intimate knowledge of it.) First was Twilight. Then, The Hunger Games. Now, Divergent.

What happened to teen fiction? Somewhere along the way, the romances of yesteryear (how we all swooned over Healthcliff back in my day!) and the real-life real-girl narratives (Are You There, God? It's Me, Alex) morphed into these dark, dystopian sagas. It's not enough for a heroine to be a typical teenager, riddled with adolescent angst or — worse! — acne. Now, apparently, you have to be in a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf. Or be in a fight to the death with other teen tributes. Or be a square peg individualist in a round hole faction in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic, bombed-out version of Chicago.

That, my friends, is where Divergent comes in.

Last weekend, my daughter and I had second-row, center seats for the new movie based on Veronica Roth's bestseller. After a war which virtually annihilated the human race, the powers that be decided that the survivors' best chance of ... well ... surviving would be to restructure society into "factions," each based on its members' core personality traits, and each playing a prescribed role for the betterment of all.

Sounds orderly if nothing else, right? The problem is that our heroine, one Tris (née Beatrice) is an anomaly. Despite some standardized testing that makes the SATs look like a walk in the park with puppies and kittens and ice cream, her results are "inconclusive." She doesn't fit into one of the factions. She is, in a word, in a bestseller title, divergent.

So, what would you do if you found you didn't really fit in? Well, naturally you would risk your life to join the toughest group, right? Of course right. 

Tris selects "Dauntless," whose brave members serve as society's warriors. But, choosing Dauntless doesn't mean that Dauntless chooses you. So, Tris has to go through all kinds of initiation hell: leaps out of moving elevated trains, scaling an old ferris wheel, hand-to-hand combat with nasty characters who are considerably larger, stronger and just plain meaner. There's blood. There's guts. 

There's a hunky instructor.

Tris and "Four" (as one smart-mouthed initiate asks, "What, were One, Two and Three taken?") fall in love and foil a deadly coup driven by another faction, the "Erudite." But, even as they escape in the final moments of the movie, we know it ain't over. There are two more Divergent books and probably three more Divergent movies (following the examples of Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games, Hollywood will certainly split the last book into two installments).

Here's what I think my daughter and her peers find so appealing about all this. As teenage girls, they feel a lot like Tris. They are asked to conform. They are pigeon-holed as "brains" or "beauties." They may not be forced to fight each other in a ring, but things can get pretty brutal online.

Here's what I like. Tris is a girl. She's brave; she's strong; she holds her own. She even holds her own against boys. Does she ever!

Here's what I don't like. The way the studio felt the need to glam her up for the movie poster. Shailene Woodley was nowhere near as curvy or "come hither" in the actual film. Her hair was pulled back. And her stretch pants weren't quite that stretched.

Still, if Tinsel-town's executives are willing to produce bazillion dollar projects about a girl ... well ... stretch pants or not, things are looking up.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Road To Independence

Our Saturdays have just changed forever.

Typically, either my husband or I get up early to drive our teenage daughter to her work-study job at the stable. If it's my turn, I then go right to the Y for a Zumba class and my husband sleeps in. If it's his turn, I go to the Y for a Zumba class; he returns, goes back to bed and sleeps in. (Anyone notice a pattern?)

This has been the routine for a number of years, interrupted only by family vacations, the swine flu, major holidays, and PSATs.

This past Saturday morning, my darling daughter ate a quicker-than-usual breakfast, grabbed her permit and glasses, kissed us good-bye, and raced outside. An instructor from her driving school was waiting by the curb with a couple of other hopeful 16 1/2 year-olds. It was the day they had all been waiting for ... the road test! Within hours, their license dreams would be realized. Or, they would return in shame. 

Despite 30 hours of classes, 12 hours of instruction, 6 hours of observation, and seemingly countless hours of practice, my girl was nervous. This was something new. Of course, I was practically frantic. This, however, was not new

To be perfectly honest, I had conflicted feelings. Should I hope for success for her sake? Or cross my fingers that she would fail, thereby enabling me to retain my position as chauffeur and protector? I compromised, praying silently "Please let her stay safe." I figured someone upstairs would interpret that for us.

It would be a while, so I went to my class and came back to do some writing. My husband saw the text first ...


Within the hour, she bounded in, beaming head to toe. I swallowed my panic and congratulated her. 'Turns out, she didn't just pass the test. As her instructor told her on the way home, she "Killed it!" Here's what the inspector had to say:

"Are you a professional driver?"


"Are either of your parents professional drivers?"


"Well, I've never had anyone do such a clean, efficient test before. Well done."

My daughter's performance on tests has always been important to me (just ask her). So, this should make me very happy, right? Well, yes and no. I'm very proud of her. But, I'm still a bit of a basket case over this whole thing.

My daughter on the other hand is thrilled. She loves to drive, and she equates having her own license with unlimited trips to and time at the stable with her beloved horse. This is more perception than reality. She still has to put schoolwork first. And, it's not as though I said "No, I won't take you" very often.

More than anything, I think having a license makes her feel she is finally growing up. It's freedom. And, I just have to get used to it — suddenly, my heart is not just walking around outside my body. It's driving away.

As soon as she had lunch (her appetite miraculously returned once the test was behind her), my daughter borrowed the keys to one of our cars and headed off. There were conditions: cell phone in the glove compartment, ringer off; a text when she arrived at her destination; another when she was ready to head home. Most of all, I implored her "Please be very very careful." To her credit, she didn't groan or roll her eyes. She promised that she would be and happily left. 

To my credit, I managed somehow to breathe for the next three hours until she was safely back again.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sophomore Semi-Formal

When you grow up in New York City, you're exposed to a much bigger world than your peers in the suburbs. Diversity and show business and street crime and nightlife. 

On the flip side, you miss out on a lot of the typical teen rituals. Like football games, cheerleaders, malls and "parking." 

And proms.

'Never had one. 'Never missed it. But, now I get to live vicariously.

Tonight, my daughter and her classmates are having a pre-prom of sorts, the Sophomore Semi-Formal.

Organized (as so much is) by the always overachieving class officers, the event will take place at a small hotel in Salem, one town over. There will be a buffet dinner and dancing. There are assigned seats. Everyone has to be at the high school by 6:15 sharp to board two buses that will make two trips apiece. Students will return to the school (by bus, again) at 10:30. They will not — I repeat, not — be permitted to attend if they arrive by any means other than the official buses. No rides from parents, no horse-drawn buggies, no bikes, no pedicabs. No way, no how.

(An aside here: growing up in NYC was different, for sure. But, growing up in the groovy 1970s, even more so. Where did all these rules come from? Sheesh! For heaven's sake, my daughter is in a plain old public high school. Not juvie.)

These kids have had a lot on their plates for the past few months: schoolwork, the polar vortex, Justin Bieber's issues with the law. But, Sophomore Semi-Formal (as with "Prom," the "the" is unnecessary) has risen to the top in terms of attention paid. Even our daughter, who is not and never will be anyone's girly-girl, has been lured into the madness.

The biggest issue, of course, is ... the dress. It isn't simply a matter of choosing one. The stakes are much higher. You need to choose one that no one else has chosen. Or ... sacré bleu! Or, more appropriately, given the demographic we're discussing ... OMG!!!!!!!!!!!

There are only a couple of stores in our town that might have dresses appropriate for this shindig. The nearest mall, about 20 minutes away, has maybe a dozen more. There are about 125 girls in the sophomore class. The chance of dress duplicates is likely and ... well ... it's just too, too horrifying.

Thank goodness for social media! An intrepid young sophomore created a Facebook page where girls can post pictures of their dresses. Some are catalogue shots on professional models. Most are dressing room selfies. The funniest are the ones depicting a pretty girl in a gorgeous dress on top and athletic socks underneath.

My daughter was fortunate. Not only is her mother preternaturally understanding (and quite handsome for her age), but we were spending February break 1,400 miles away in New Orleans. Shopping is always a fun vacation activity. We would make it our quest to find the dress.

First, we looked in all the boutiques of the French Quarter. Most dresses weren't worth trying on, and the first few that were turned out to be "Meh," in the words of my offspring. We finally found one that I liked a lot and she, grudgingly, took a selfie. Not quite committed yet, she sent it to just a select group of buds. The response was positive. Then, my daughter decided that the gold braiding on the bodice of the dress looked like "a uterus." (Say what?!?) And, it was no longer in the consideration set.

We found another dress shop on the corner of Iberville and Dauphine. There, my daughter found something: a cute dress, sleeveless with a short, flaired skirt, made out of turquoise lace over a nude slip. A quick digital convo with her gal pals, a quick credit card transaction, and — Voila! — the dress was hers.

Success. So, one might assume we were done. No, no, no. The next day, we ventured uptown to Magazine Street. There, amongst the galleries and bistros, we found another store with another dress. This was a different look. It was strapless, black and metallic on top with a gauzy "high-low" skirt. It was, happily, marked down about 50%. We decided to use our savings to take it to a local tailor and have the dress hemmed into a "high-high." The "high-low" is, after all, so last month.

Two dress-success. So, again, one might assume we were done. No, no, no, no. Back home, my daughter found yet another dress, this time online. I agreed because (a) it really was quite a bargain, (b) we're going to London in June for a big bat mitzvah and there will be multiple dressy events, and (c) as per usual, I was distracted when she asked. With Sophomore Semi looming, we ordered it in two sizes, planning to return whichever didn't fit.

The third (and final, thank you very much) dress arrived and was deemed "Perfect!" Her BFF came over and agreed with great enthusiasm. In fact, the enthusiasm was so great that I ended up giving her the other, matching dress. (It saved me the return postage and a trip to the post office.) 

I laughed and said, in my most Shakespearean voice "On pain of death, just DON'T wear it to Semi!"

And, here's the catch. The girls have now decided that wearing the same dress will actually be hysterically funny, so they are. 

After all that? I can only take their lead and shrug. Whatever.

But, I can't wait to see the selfies.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


"Oh, say it ain't so, Juliette Gordon Low!"

One has to wonder what the legendary founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA would think about the new strategic partnership her organization has forged with Mattel.

Years (and years) ago, I was a Brownie and then a Junior back in New York City. I loved it. The uniform, the handbook, the field trips.

Being a type-A child with a rather compulsive streak, I particularly enjoyed earning merit badges. It wasn't easy to qualify for some of the more outdoorsy ones (they don't actually allow you to camp overnight in Central Park), but the academic ones, the artsy ones, even the community service ones ... mine, mine, mine. The troop leaders finally issued an edict (in my honor) that we could only earn one badge a week. Nevertheless, my sash was damned impressive.

When my now teen daughter started elementary school, I was tempted to sign her up for the Girl Scouts too. I didn't, partly because of our schedule (my husband and I were both working in Boston at the time, 45-75 minutes away depending on traffic). But, mainly because my would-be Daisy Scout showed no interest. None whatsoever.

Despite giving my offspring a pass, I've always admired the Girl Scouts. The aforementioned founder, Juliette Low, was a remarkable woman and well ahead of her time. Not only did she create an organization that allowed girls the same opportunities for recreation and self-reliance as boys, but she also promoted business skills. Girl Scout cookies were a smart way to raise funds for troop activities. But, more importantly, it helped girls understand how to manufacture and sell something. Low had faced her own economic hardships when her marriage dissolved, and she was determined that girls learn how to earn and manage their own money.

So, what does Barbie bring to the party? Let's see, there's the ideal — if impossible — figure and associated eating disorders. There's the glamour, the wardrobe, the hair and the make-up. Then, there's all those fabulous careers! Or, as Alexandra (nice name!) Petri decried in The Washington Post: "You can be anything (as long as it's pink!)."

Barbie is big business with a capital B; the Barbie brand is worth an estimated $3 billion. But, the Girls Scouts aren't exactly twiddling their thumbs. According to the organization's website, "The $790 million Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led business in the country and generates immeasurable benefits for girls, their councils and communities nationwide."

It's all about empowering girls? Yeah, maybe.

Really, it's all about the money.

This is a blatantly commercial partnership, and I assume the powers that be at both organizations see it as a "win-win." Mattel has access to a captive market of girls, tweens and teens — a serious (trust me!) consumer segment. And, obviously, the Girl Scouts get much needed revenue. So, everybody's happy. The only losers may be the girls themselves.

But, maybe the news isn't all bad. Going forward, the Girl Scouts will have a chance to earn a special Mattel-sponsored badge: the "Be Anything, Do Everything!" patch. The color? 


Of course.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Teens And The Mighty Mistake

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” 
― Albert Einstein

When you're a teenager (or the mother of one), mistakes pretty much come with the territory. The teen years are a time of trial ... and error. In some ways, they're one long dress rehearsal for grownup life. Teens by their very nature are boundary-pushers, experimenters. At the same time, adult wariness, caution (and fear of mortality) are not yet developed. This means that many of the mistakes teens invariably make are not just dumb or ill-advised; they're downright dangerous.

And, the consequences can be significant and far-reaching. What's the worst threat we used to hear in high school? Our behavior would be reflected "on our permanent record." (Have any of you ever seen this so-called record of permanence? Me neither.)

“Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” 
― L.M. Montgomery

I always say that once you're a mother, you're everyone's mother. Usually, I'm talking about a crying baby on a crosstown bus or, more seriously, a child who is missing, ill or the victim of an accident. In moments like that, my heart goes out to the child's parents. It isn't difficult to imagine myself in their circumstance.

Right now, I'm thinking about the parents of a particular young man in our own town. The police (with the cooperation of the anonymous-badmouthing social media app Yik Yak) tracked the recent bomb threat at my daughter's high school to a particular "juvenile." He was questioned and confessed. Charges are being sought for one count of disruption of a school assembly (a misdemeanor) and one count of a bomb threat (a felony).

That's right. A felony ... FEL-O-NY. 'Talk about a potentially permanent record.

Okay, I don't know this young man (although my daughter and every other student now does). He may be a basically good kid. He may be a troublemaker. He may have good grades. He may not.

He may have been showing off for his friends. Or frustrated with a teacher or the school administration. He most certainly did not have a bomb. But, his mistake (motive and character aside, he can only now look at his ridiculous post as exactly that: one mother of mistake) is going to haunt him. 

Would my daughter post a bomb threat. Of course not. But, has she — and the school's other high honors students — posted inappropriate things in the past? Of course. It's not like this particular boy is 100% stupid and my daughter is 100% smart. Teenagers don't work that way.

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

In the news last week, there was a story about another big mistake that a teenager made using social media. 

One Mr. Snay, a former prep school headmaster, had sued his old employer for age-discrimination when his contract wasn't renewed. He won the case. His award was an undisclosed amount, which is now disclosed thanks to his daughter's inability to resist crowing about it on Facebook.

"Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT."

All right, let's ignore the boasting, the nastiness, the unnecessary use of the word SUCK (in all caps, no less). Let's instead focus on the fact that the settlement of the case included a confidentiality agreement. The Facebook post breached it, and a Court of Appeal in Florida reversed the ruling. Papa Snay gets nothing.

I'd hate to be that teenage daughter right about now. ("No vacation to Europe for you! EVER!")

Today's teens know a lot about living out loud. What they don't seem to know is how to filter themselves, think before they type, or — sadly — consequences. It's too bad that "bomb scare boy" and "suck it girl" can't go on the road to warn others about their experiences. 

But, teenagers have to learn from their own mistakes.

That way, they can make even better mistakes tomorrow.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Putting The A In AADHD

Teenagers get a bad rap.

All right, I know. As a blogger who has blogged a blog about raising tweens and teens for the past three years (!), I am very much a party to this bad rapping. There's just so much material! Homework and fashion and cafeteria drama and technology.

The single biggest thing on my contemporary complainers' radar is teens and technology.

We've all heard it (and most of us have said it) ...

"My son plays too many video games."

"My daughter's addicted to her iPhone."

"Social media ate my teenager's brain."

And, how many of us can resist an opportunity to say something along the line of ...

"When I was your age, we didn't have laptops."

"When I was your age, we didn't have cell phones."

"When I was your age, we didn't have email or texting, Facebook or Twitter, YouTube or Instagram."

It's all part of an unspoken conspiracy, a collective-selective memory process. As adults, it's our job to look back through rose-colored glasses. For just about any criticism we lay on our offspring, there's a corresponding — contrasting — example from our past. We never forgot our homework. We always cleaned our rooms. We never smart-mouthed our mothers. We always observed our curfews. We never experimented with drugs or alcohol. We always studied and got good grades.

And, we did — or didn't do — all of the above without digital technology. 

At least that part is true.

Well, I'm here to tell you that we seem to be making up for lost time.

This morning, I attended a marketing industry symposium. There were several esteemed speakers and about fifty-odd attendees. The average age of the audience was maybe 40. There wasn't a teenager in sight. There were, however, digital devices. Lots of them.

Each person seemed to have at least two pieces of equipment with them. A smart phone of some brand or other, plus a tablet or a laptop. We had all spent good money to hear from experts about industry innovations. And, what were we doing? (Here's a hint "listening with rapt attention" is not the correct answer.)

Let's see ... the guy behind me was typing away furiously. I sincerely doubt he was taking notes. A woman in front of me was reading The New York Times on her iPad. Another, to my left, was checking Facebook on her phone. I myself checked emails more than once. Meanwhile, the poor speaker is plodding through his PowerPoint slides, fully aware, I have no doubt, that he had about half the room's attention, about half the time.

What message are we sending really? "Yes, I can afford the latest gadgets, can't you?" Or, "Ooh, look at me. I'm so important I can't be out of touch for sixty minutes or my company will go under, the stock market will crash, and the world as we know it will end." Or, "Aren't you impressed with my ability to multi-task?"

Actually, no. Not really.

We complain that today's kids can't concentrate or focus on one thing at a time. Apparently, we can't either. We reminisce about the good old days, but we are totally, completely, utterly engrossed in the toys of today. We tell our teenagers to "Do as I say, not as I do." But, honestly, when has that ever worked?

All I have to say is this. People who carry glass tablets, shouldn't throw stones. 

(No, they really shouldn't. Replacing cracked touch screens is a b*tch.)

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Boys In The Band

I've done it again, folks. Qualified for the Mother of the Year Award. (I have yet to win this award, btw, but I do qualify quite often.) This go round, it was based on a selfless gift of time, an inordinate amount of hassle, some expense, and superhuman (or at least super-mom) understanding.

Yes, I am all that.

Several months ago, in a state of fatigue or stress, or merely an unguarded moment, I agreed that my teenage daughter could go to a concert. Not just any concert, but "Imagine Dragons." At an arena about 60 miles from our town. On a school night.

As per usual, my daughter borrowed my American Express card to order tickets online. In theory, she pays for these events herself with her own money (actually, between babysitting, and two different weekend jobs, she tends to have more cash on hand these days than either my husband or I do). In reality, I think I lose track of all that she owes me and a lot become gifts by default. Soon, she received plain, old, ordinary tickets; special "Memory Tickets;" and a tour tee shirt. (I began to wonder what kind of V.I.P. package I — er, I mean she — had sprung for.) And, before we knew it, the long-anticipated day was upon us.

I mentioned that the concert venue was some 60 miles from our house. I did not, however, explain that the route there ran through the city of Boston at rush hour. The GPS on my iPhone said that the trip would be 90 minutes.

Not exactly. Try two and a half hours. 

Excited anticipation turned into mild concern into downright anxiety as the clock moved and we didn't. It wasn't merely the thought of missing the opening act. The stakes were much higher.

My daughter had reached out to a radio producer she'd met at a smaller House of Blues concert last fall. The woman had told her to stay in touch, and she had done so, politely but persistently. Lo and behold, the morning before the concert, my daughter had finally heard back from her. "Okay," read the email, "You and your plus-one be at the box office at 7:10, and whatshisname from the record label will take you back to meet Imagine Dragons."


Of course, all of this fortuitous gift from the gods stuff would be null and void if they missed that 7:10 appointment with whatshisname. And, while I can control neither nature nor weather nor traffic, it would be all my fault. It didn't help that mobile technology allowed us to constantly — and I do mean constantly — check our progress, miles left and estimated arrival time.

We finally pulled up in the "Drop-Off/Pick-Up" lane outside the arena at 7:00 p.m. The girls jumped out and I managed to yell "Meet me right here after the show!" A cop motioned for me to move along. Then, I was left to my own devices.

I figured I had four or four and a half hours to kill, and I had done my homework. There was a fairly close, fairly renowned regional theatre that was presenting Cirque Eloize, a French performance/circus arts troupe. I was able to score a half-price ticket for a single seat in the mezzanine. I figured that would kill two hours. The closest Starbucks was open until 10:00 pm. At that point, I could head back to the arena and live park somewhere. I'm not a napper by nature, but I thought I could listen to music or read a magazine.

The first part of my plan worked. I was ten minutes late for my 7:00 performance, but the show didn't really have a beginning-middle-end narrative, so aside from annoying the guy in the seat next to mine, my lateness was okay. Starbucks was clean and bright and friendly. When they kicked me out (cordially, of course), I drove back to the arena and parked outside the same "Drop-off/Pick-Up" sign, congratulating myself on my master plan mastery.

I was there maybe five minutes when a different cop rapped on the window and demanded that I move. "Now!" I did what any self-respecting middle-aged mother would do. 

'Played the middle-aged mother card.

"I'm so sorry, officer," I purred. "My daughters are in there and I don't know this town. Is there somewhere else I can wait?"

He was suddenly all sweetness and light (it occurs to me, with horror, that I may have reminded him of his own mother). He suggested that I circle the arena and then pull up to a meter on one of the side streets behind it. "There's no overnight parking," he advised, "So just be sure you stay with the vehicle, ma'am." Yeah, right, like I'm going to leave my vehicle on some random back street of some random little city that I don't know from a hole in the wall.

His recommendation was apt except for two complications that were beyond his control. The first was a bona fide drug deal that I had the pleasure of witnessing. The other was the 55-minute (I am not exaggerating) dead-stop, grid-lock, traffic jam I was stranded in when the show ended. Thank goodness for cell phones. I was able to call my daughter, change rendezvous plans, and while we still didn't move for a very long time, the two girls were safely in the car with me. We weren't going anywhere, but at least we weren't going there together.

Since that evening, my daughter has been appreciative and responsible. She has very much lived up to her end of the bargain. It was a huge schlep (huge!), but I felt good about following through after making a — let's face it — downright idiotic agreement. I got to see a show. I got to see an illegal transaction. And, I learned something pretty remarkable about my daughter.

For someone who is often too shy to talk to anyone in the cafeteria, that girl can hold her own with radio producers and bona fide rockstars.

And, she has the photo, drumstick, signed CD and exhausted mother to prove it.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

Saturday, March 8, 2014


There are two things I remember clearly about Kindergarten Orientation. The first is skipping.

It was spring, and my now teenage daughter was in her final year of preschool (technically, pre-kindergarten). As usual, I picked her up at her daycare provider’s house when I returned in the evening from my office in Boston.

“What did you do in school today?” I asked her as we headed home.

“Skipping,” she told me.

“Cool. What else?”

“Nothing. Just skipping.”

After a few consecutive days of similar (and so succinct) reports, I asked her teacher about it. Turns out, the children were skipping considerably more than usual in preparation for Kindergarten Orientation. The year before, the teacher confided, many of the aspiring kindergarteners had failed. Skipping, that is, they failed skipping. So, this year, the school wasn’t taking any chances.

I nodded solemnly, and reflected on my tuition dollars at work.

The second thing I remember about Kindergarten Orientation was a fairly long form I had to fill out. It included my daughter’s medical history, education to date, family life, hobbies, napping and eating habits. The final question was this:

“Choose one word to describe your child.”

Tough. There were so many words I wanted to write down. Bright, beautiful, funny, sweet. But, the one word I finally chose was: compliant.

I figured they were looking for something remarkable about each student. More than any other child I knew, my daughter was a good listener. She followed directions. She was cooperative and obedient. In a word, at five years old, she was ... compliant.

You may ask “And now, at sixteen, is she still compliant?”

I may answer. But, I may not because I may (probably, certainly, definitely) be choking on my own laughter so hard that you’ll have to call the paramedics. Stat!

Here is a partial list of all the things that my darling daughter is not compliant about: bedtime, cleaning her room, writing thank-you notes, getting homework done, time limits on any technology device. Don’t get me wrong, all of these tasks are eventually completed. But, in terms of following a direction when said direction is given? Nada.

Actually, it’s particularly frustrating because our typical pattern goes as follows. I ask. She says “Okay.” She doesn’t follow through. I ask again. She says “Okay” again. She doesn’t follow through again. By the third or fourth (or seventeenth) time, she is rolling her eyes, audibly sighing and even responding with “I heard you already. Stop nagging me.”

Winning situation? Not.

Anyway, one would still hope that my once compliant little daughter would take authority figures other than her loving mother a little more seriously, right? Alas, no.

After the bomb scare at her school this week, an email was sent out from the principal, outlining some changes in protocol for the following days. Students were not permitted to bring backpacks or lunchboxes (the better to hide a bomb in, I guess). They had to bring all their supplies and belongings in a clear plastic bag. And, their cell phones were not to be used on school property all day. It was suggested that the kids leave their phones at home, but — since that was not going to happen in anyone’s wildest imagination — if they did bring them, the devices had to be out of sight and turned off for the duration. Otherwise, it would be confiscated and only released if and when a parent made an appointment to pick it up.

Many of my daughter’s classmates (and 52% of the high school’s students overall) chose not to go in the next day. My daughter made a fairly solid case for joining the army of truants, but I said I’d consider it only if she spent the entire day studying AP World History (no texting, no laptop, no Netflix). My goal, of course, was to convince her to go. To her credit, she complied.

Over breakfast (having packed her lunch in a clear plastic bag), I reiterated the no cell phone rule. “Keep your phone out of sight,” I reminded her. She nodded. We picked up a friend and I dropped them off at the front door of the school. “I’d say, ‘Keep me posted,’” I joked. “But, you can’t use your phone.” She nodded.

With very little traffic, I was back home in about five minutes. As I walked in the door, I received a text from her friend.

They took her phone. Call and pick it up.

Five minutes.

Of course, my first thought was to call the school. But, then I realized that there was no way I would have known my daughter’s phone was taken unless she or someone else contacted me, which they were not allowed to do. My call would basically implicate my daughter’s friend.

At my 2:35 pick-up that afternoon, I finally called and spoke to someone in the office. Sure enough, I would have to come in and meet with the principal if I wanted the phone back. “You’re coming with me,” I informed my daughter. “You’re going to have to apologize to him.”

“It’s not my fault,” she moaned to me. “So-and-so was supposed to be my lookout. Plus, school hadn’t technically started yet. I thought the rule was only for school hours.”

“Then why did you need a lookout?” I countered.

Ha! Busted.

The principal was surprisingly nice about it all. My daughter, he told me, had the distinction of being the first student caught that morning. He reminded her about the policy (which was going to continue until further notice even though backpacks were back). He told us to have a nice day.

On the way out, I think my daughter was waiting for some sort of lecture or punishment. I did tell her that I’d rather not be called into the principal’s office again. “Ever.” But otherwise, I was pretty chill.

Being the first to have her phone confiscated may have been a dubious honor.

But, at least I can say she was first.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at