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November 21, 2012

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Mother daughter

Connie Matthiessen, Associate Editor

It was one of those mornings. Everyone was running late and rain was pounding outside. My older son refused to wear a raincoat or take an umbrella (way uncool) but was incensed when I said I couldn't couldn't drive him to school. My daughter was in a huff because she couldn't find her soccer bag and unaccountably blamed me ("What did you do with it?" she demanded).  My younger son, who isn't a morning person, was more cantankerous than usual, and got out the door late for his carpool. As I walked my daughter to school we squabbled about something trivial, I don't remember what — she just turned 14 and finds my existence exasperating much of the time. "I don't believe you!" she said as she stalked into the school building without saying goodbye.

As I headed for the subway to catch a train, the slam of the school door still clanging in my ears, I had a sudden, vivid fantasy about running away. I'd spent much of the weekend working on college applications with my older son and high school applications with my daughter; it wasn't even 9 in the morning and I was already exhausted.  I was worn out by the schlepping and the complaining and the logistical details that create a constant blizzard in my head, and it all caught up with me that morning. I imagined a powdery white Hawaiian beach, a big stack of books, solitude. Feeling martyr-ish and sorry for myself, I told myself that perhaps my job here was done. 

Off the rails

Then, on the train, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen for a while.  He told me about a kid we both know, I'll call him Jesse; a bright, gentle boy who grew up in a dodgy part of town and doesn't have much parental supervision. When Jesse graduated from high school a few years ago, he was accepted at a college that offered him a scholarship, but he didn't submit the paperwork on time so he couldn't go. Now most of his friends are off at college and he isn't working or going to school. One of his relatives was shot recently, and my friend thinks Jesse is depressed. "I'm afraid he's just going to keep doing nothing, or he's going to get into trouble," he said.

After my friend got off the train, I thought about how fragile kids are and how lives can so easily be derailed. Later that day, my son texted to let me know he'd received a high grade on a difficult test. It occurred to me that even as an adult, my parents are among the first people I call when I receive good news, and they're always there for me. It put my role as a parent back into sudden focus. Just showing up isn't enough, of course, but it's an essential part of being a parent, and you have to it do over and over — even on the most trying of days. 

We want to hear your thoughts about parenting — the trying, the sublime, the hilarious — so join us on Twitter at  #parentingis and follow me on Twitter @CMMatthiessen.


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My way of helping my child cope with her Tourette syndrome, while being a therapy for me.

Hoping to get this book in schools to teach accepttance of others.


Hi, I'm Sharon, I have twin-daughters, age 14, turning 15 in 2 months. They're both ADD-children, Marshann reached top 10 in her standerd this year, but I am concerned about her choice of 'a boyfried'- it gives me nightmares! Tonnisha had the same problem earlier this year, but it's solved now- don't know for how long. Their age-group-choice of a boyfriend is approximately 18-21 years of age! This is the main-topic that cause lots of tention at home between the twins and us, as their parents. We've had talks about this subject, fought about it, but currently the situation just can't seem to be solved, permanently. It is okay to have (maybe!) a 'boyfriend' their age, but 18 years and older is definately NOT my idea of a healthy relationship! PLEASE GIVE ME ADVICE ON THIS TOPIC??? Our advice to them were ignored, and they don't take us serious at all. We even had a talk to the 20-year old by prohibitting him from seeing Marshann, BUT she'll lie to us by 'taking the dog for a walk', just to meet up with this 20 year-old! Obviously the 20 year-old doesn't take our demands seriously, either. We explained to him that Marshann is a minor, and he an adult, which will get him into big trouble by the law, but he ignore us. What am I suppose to do, next, without having conflict with our daughters about this. Why the lies, and betrayal, from both parties? Are we not strickt enough, or are we too strickt parents, where did we fail? Anyone in a similar situation, please reply? Thanks, concerned parents.

Hi Sharon - thanks so much for your letter. I'm not in a position to offer advice, but was wondering if you've considered talking to counselors/administrators at your girls' school? They may be able to help, or at least point you to resources that can. Keep in touch and let us know how it goes. Thanks again for writing.

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