The Making of a Suburban Santa


I take pride in my shopping efforts. In fact, I refer to myself as the Suburban Santa because over a 12-month period, I amass a closet full of presents for darn near everyone I know in Sugar Land and beyond. Seriously, my closet is bursting in gifts from antique jewelry to silk scarfs to vintage rare books. Yes, I admit that is at least one standard deviation from normal (probably two), but I have my reasons. First, I am pathetically poor at remembering birthdays, and so Christmas is my way of making up for this gift-giving blunder. It’s not that I don’t remember when, say, my brother’s birthday is because I do. Unfortunately, I remember a day too early, or 6:30 AM or 10:30 PM the actual day when it is way too late to send a gift or way too early to make a phone call. My brothers and longtime friends do, however, enjoy a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” the following day. Well, sometimes. That is, when I can remember.

Second, I grew up attending a church called the Church of the Epiphany. The Epiphany is a day that celebrates the three kings or magi (I almost never say wise men for fear of using an oxymoron) and their long journey to meet the Christ child and bring him precious gifts. I like to believe that the magic of the Magi has rubbed off on me because I feel everyone deserves a little something for Christmas. By everyone I mean Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders, basketball coaches, neighbors (even ones I’ve never met), the guy who sold me my minivan, my pharmacist, all the mental health people I touch base with weekly, my phlebotomist, the garbage lady, the grass mowers, the parish priest, my hair dresser, my favorite barista, and the lawn crew. (I might be exaggerating just a wee bit.) People are often shocked that I give a gift to all my children’s teachers (e.g., band, computer, PE, art), the school staff members, and the office personnel. This year that came to 39 people.


I’m sure that in therapy I would find that this excessive gift-giving to school folks stems from my teaching days when I received more snowman mugs than I care to count and almost as many dollar-store statues of everything from puppies to iridescent hands holding, you guessed it, iridescent flowers. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an ingrate. I truly did appreciate all the gifts my students gave me, especially since most were 9th graders who usually spent their own money on these treasures. Besides, I was just thrilled that these 13 year-olds would even think of someone besides that person they would see in the mirror every morning.

Another reason for my neurotic generosity is my children. The Turner kids are not the quiet students sitting in the back of the room dutifully taking notes and keeping track of all their assignments. Nope. My kids come from a long line of knee-jigglers, pencil-tappers, and mindless hummers. Annie, Katie and Will tend to be like their mama who is a bit scatter-brained and talkative. Believe me when I say I spent many a recess in Mrs. Kearny’s kindergarten punish chair because I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. Later detention would replace that punish chair. I’m currently working on this same issue with my kids, especially my daughter Katie. I’m always telling her, “It’s okay to have a thought you don’t express.” This has cut down on priceless statements such as, “Annie, your hair is, like, SO super greasy,” and “Mom, this chicken looks just gross.” My favorite example of the importance of holding one’s thoughts came from my oldest daughter. At her first middle school dance, some poor boy walked up to Annie and asked her to dance. Her most gracious response was, “Oh gross, NO!” (I signed her up for Junior League Cotillion classes the next day.)

I digress. *Sigh!*

What I’m trying to say is any teacher or staff member that spends more than 15 minutes a week with my children should be thanked properly.

My husband believes that I am just bat-%*&$ crazy with all my gifting. Just last week another Amazon box smiled at me from the doorstep. (No, really, the box smiled at me.) Unfortunately, Mike was home when it arrived, and he asked what I was doing with the same 10 small books. “Oh, they are presents for my prayer group.” I could read his mind. He was thinking, “You give presents to your prayer group?” But, Mike never asked that question. He’s given up trying to talk any sense into me, and we are years past guilt strategies. Now I only get the dropped-head-slow-shake response.

woman-with-santa-cap-in-office-cartoon-business-characters_fyadx1du_lBefore you sensible people start a petition to have me committed, I want you to know that even though I manage to play the Suburban Santa, I have honed my shopping and bargaining strategies so well, that I spend very little per person, AND each still receives a nice little present. So, I encourage you to check back in a few days to learn just how I do it.

Vulnerability and Misogyny


The other day I was in a prayer group on cultivating spirituality in our daily lives. One of the questions at the end of the chapter asked, “Who are the most vulnerable in our society today? In what ways can I or we reach out for help?”

Without hesitation, all of us responded “Women—they’re the most vulnerable.” My voice was among these. I have been thinking about this issue with grave seriousness (to the point of depression) for months. We all know the on-going fights for equal pay, breast-feeding controversies, and annoyance over catcalls, but lately there has been a not-so-subtle culture of misogyny hovering over our country, nay the world.

For example, this past July CNN reported a story about an Indian woman who was brutally gang-raped, not once, but twice by the same men. The horror of that experience stayed with me for weeks, still does in fact. No one was there to protect this already scarred, vulnerable woman. She was attacked a second time coming home from college classes. There are hundreds of other international stories of honor killings, female genital mutilation, killing or disfiguring women with acid, and kidnappings of hundreds of girls around the world (e.g., Boka Horam) for torture and sexual exploitation. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around magnitude of this abuse.

And, it’s not much better over here in the “Land of the Free.”

The release of Donald Trump’s “musings” about his lack of control around beautiful women, that he deliberately tried “f***” a married women, and how he felt, as a famous person, entitled to grab any woman’s “p*****” was just the most recent example of how women are dehumanized in this country. What surprised me was my reaction to hearing this clip. I just shook my head in disgust. Just a year or two earlier, I would have been incensed, outraged. I think this is an example of how I, like many people, have become desensitized to misogyny.

In fact, during the first Republican presidential debate when moderator Megyn Kelly called Trump on his inflammatory, crude remarks about women, his response was to call her a “bimbo” and that she was so mad, “You could see blood coming out of her eyes…blood coming out of her wherever.” Her wherever? How did he get away with saying that? Of course, he insulted a lot of people that night including the sitting President and Congress. The media and the RNC made a huge mistake that evening. Trump should have been escorted off the stage for his inappropriate remarks. Shouldn’t there be some basic civility expected of our country’s leaders? That behavior should never have been tolerated then, because it just fueled his ego enough to let his mouth run amuck for months after. The man has said hateful things about darn near everyone, and it’s not that I think things like that are not said, it’s just that I’ve never seen anyone so public and unapologetic for such rantings and bad language. In the South we would say, “His mama did not raise him right.”

Trump is a spoiled, narcissistic loud mouth. He’s been making outrageous statements throughout the past few years, so that’s why, in my overexposure to this behavior, I simply rolled my eyes when it came out he felt he could get away with inappropriately touching a woman’s private parts, which by the way is sexual assault, which by the way is illegal. Cher summed it up best when she tweeted, “LADIES WE R NOT DISPOSABLE BLOW UP DOLLS,4RICH MENS PLEASURE.” Shame on me for my minimal reaction.

But, it is not just Donald Trump overtly demeaning, dehumanizing, and objectifying women. It feels as if our whole culture has agreed that treating women as “less than” and as pleasure tool is okay, fine, just boys being boys.

A Culture of Dehumanization
• Fox news and its environment of sexual harassment that started at the top with Chairmen of Fox News Roger Ailes is a recent example. Gretchen Carlson was the first to sue, but Andrea Tanteros has filed a suit as well. That’s dehumanizing women in the workplace.
• Pornography addiction is the number one addiction in America today. This is the objectifying of women as tools for one’s own pleasure. Scientist found that, like all addicts, people need to view more and more, cruder and cruder scenes to get the initial pleasure they first had when viewing pornography. What makes it an addiction is more than the inability to stop watching. People will continue to watch even though it negatively affects their job, social life, and marriages. Not only does pornography dehumanize the women who are filmed, by extension it dehumanizes all women.
• In 2012, researchers estimated that 26,000 rapes and sexual assaults took place in the armed forces, yet only one in seven victims reported the attack and only one in 10 of those cases went to trial. Dehumanizing women in the military.
• Stanford student Brock Turner received a “slap on the wrist” sentence for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Dehumanizing women by athletes.
• Bill Cosby’s long and sorted history of drugging and raping women continues to evolve in the news, and he is still a free man. Dehumanizing women in Hollywood.
• The commonness of campus rape. Just as an example, University of Michigan conducted an internal study of rape on its own campus, and found that 20 percent of the women had been sexually assaulted. Internal studies conducted at other universities show similar results, although I think 20 percent is a gross example of underreporting. Dehumanizing women at school, where they go to better their minds and futures.

Campus rape is not a new thing. When I was an undergraduate at a large public university, I woke up one Sunday morning to learn that the Delta fraternity found a battered, naked woman unconscious in the their back yard. She had been gang raped and beat up, she had cigarette burn marks on her thighs, and she had the word, Delta carved into her leg. My blood ran cold because I had been to a party at the Delta house the night before. I think every woman on campus was thinking, “It could have been me.” What really happened is even worse that the original scenario. It turns out the boys (legally men) from the Pike house right next door, did all of these heinous things and tried to put the blame on the Deltas by “marking” with their frat name and dumping her, yes dumping her over the fence.

I’ve never forgotten that, and when I was a high school teacher, I often warned seniors heading off to college: Don’t go anywhere alone, especially at night; don’t wander into a boy’s room alone; watch your drinks so no one puts a date-rape drug in your beer; never leave a party or club with a man you just met no matter how safe you feel. The onus is on you I would tell them. Now, I taught at a girls’ school. I wonder if anyone was ever talking to the boys who were off to the same colleges, and what they were told. My guess is that they were told nothing; all the messages they received about how to treat women they learned from the media, big brothers or their fathers. It begs the questions,

What are boys learning about their gender counterpart? When do they stop seeing women as human beings, people with souls who should be respected, and see them as merely tools to satisfy a sexual urge? If rape, assault, pornography, sexual harassment is so prevalent, then where are the strong male voices trying to counteract this travesty?

Right now, the only strong voice boys (and girls), men (and women) are hearing is a loud mouth pseudo-politician who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to call women fat, bimbos, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals, and just plain ugly. And, no woman seems to be exempt (except Ivanka and Melania) because he has publically insulted Rosie O’Donnell, 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, Angelina Jolie, Heidi Cruz (Ted Cruz’s wife) and even supermodel Heidi Klum. There are plenty of women speaking back, like Secretary Hilary Clinton, Megyn Kelly, Cher and other noted people, but I wonder if their message is falling on deal ears.

I am no historian, but I can’t help feeling that in this country we have taken 15 steps backwards in the fight for equality. Women are more vulnerable, suppressed and demeaned than they have ever been. The irony is that all of this is going on just as woman has a real shot at the White House. I know it is no coincidence, just as race relations have taken a tragic turn for the worse while our sitting President is an African-American.

The second part of the question posed to our prayer group has me stumped: What can I do to help the vulnerable? I always feel helpless in the face of overpowering cruelty. Just writing this piece for my blog is one way to help. Another is to exercise my right to vote (a right that women in this country have had for less than 100 years) and send a message that I won’t stand for dehumanization as a political or bullying technique. Finally, I have to talk to my children: my girls will know they are worthy of the same rights, that they are children of God put on this earth to love and be loved, and that they should be warriors against anyone or anything that sends a message otherwise. Similarly, my son will know that girls and women are their equal, their partner under the law and the eyes of God, that the only way to interact with a girl or woman is with respect and reverence, and that any other action would be a betrayal to their manhood and their humanness.

Aren’t these basic things we teach all our children in preschool?
• Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
• Don’t interrupt anyone.
• Wait your turn.
• No name-calling.
• Tell the truth.

It seems to me that a lot of people need to be sent back to preschool to relearn these basic tenants for living in this world. All I can say is school’s open. Enroll your misogynist now.

Teaching my girls about the face of evil


When my first child was just a few weeks old, I spent many-a night rocking and soothing her, trying to get this sweet baby to understand that one sleeps at night and not 13 hours during the day. One of those nights, I went downstairs and turned on the TV for some bleary-eyed diversion. At the time we had the cheap cable package so my choice viewing options were junk and more junk. What captured my attention was an hour-long infomercial for “Girls Gone Wild.”

I had heard of this before, and had seen some tamer commercials for it. I would shake my head, and simply change the channel. I wanted no part of the sexual exploitation of drunk college women. That night, however, as I rocked my innocent baby girl, that commercial seized my heart and injected terror in my veins. Suddenly I was transported 20 years in the future praying that my little girl would never be involved in something like that. Watching these inebriated young women lift their shirts for the camera and accept dares to participate in sexual acts, made me cringe.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m a prude, and I certainly can’t say I made the best choices when I had had a few too many beers (or wine, or shots). Quite frankly, I can think of a few situations, especially when I was a young college student, in which I was remarkably lucky that I was not sexually assaulted. But, motherhood changed me. I went from disgust to plain fear. In my head I kept asking myself, “What do I have to do as a parent to make sure my daughter does not feel she has to use her body to be accepted, liked or admired? What can I do to protect her from men who only want to use her or see her as a source for their pleasure?” I do not have a definitive answer, but figured out that so much of her safety is related to self-esteem and good choices.

Reading about Brook Turner, the Stanford student who was convicted of raping an inebriated, unconscious woman behind a dumpster, has renewed those fears I have for my daughters. Often “experts” spend a great deal of time talking about what women should or should not do to put themselves in the position to be raped:

  • Don’t walk alone at night.
  • Don’t dress “like a slut.”
  • Don’t drink too much.
  • Only drink from a bottle at a club so you don’t accidentally or otherwise ingest a drug like roofies (or Quaaludes), making you easy prey for sexual predators.
  • Be aware of your surroundings (e.g., parking lots, empty streets).
  • Don’t party alone. Always bring a friend who can watch your back.

These are all great suggestions, and when the time is right, I will make sure my two daughters understand them. But, I will also be sure to tell them that even if they do dress provocatively or drink too much, they are never the ones who are at fault for a rape or sexual assault. That blame only rests squarely on the rapist.

The rapist is the one who does not recognize a woman as a human being, but rather an object of pleasure. The rapist is the one whose sick need for dominance leads him to violate and demean another person. The rapist is the one who perverts his sexual desires and his moral reasoning to allow himself to touch a woman’s body however he wishes and without her consent. I will let my daughters know that they not responsible for other’s actions just as they are responsible for their own actions and choices.

And, when the time is right, I will show my daughters Brock Turner’s face, and talk about how this seemingly harmless, Howdy Doody look-alike is the face of evil. They need to know that evil is not necessarily the villain dressed in black, lurking in dark alleys. Rather, I will tell them than evil comes in so many shapes and sizes and colors and backgrounds.

  • Evil can come from “nice homes” raised by “nice parents” and go to “great schools”—like Stanford.
  • Evil can look like the funniest of all-American dads, a TV icon even.
  • Evil can look like a star athlete with potential to compete in the Olympics.
  • Evil can even be disguised as their caring boyfriend or husband whose mask of a loving person will melt away to reveal the dark overpowering villain that he is.
  • Evil can sound like a middle class dad who makes excuses (like he was a victim of a culture of campus partying) for his sociopathic son.
  • And evil can look like a civic-minded judge who is nothing but complicit with the entire system that dismisses rape as “boys will be boys” or it was only “20 minutes of action.”

Just as important, I will sit my son down and tell him how he should treat a woman, how women were not put on this earth to satisfy men’s sexual issues, how women are smart and accomplished in thousands of ways, and how all women (all people) deserve his respect. I will also let him know that, just like the PhD students from Sweden who chased after Brock Turner, it is his responsibility to protect those who are weaker than he is, and to alert authorities when he sees or senses that someone else is in danger. And, I will tell him this is just common sense and common decency.

In some ways I think it is pathetic that I would have to make all of these things explicit to my kids. Shouldn’t they just know this? Don’t people know they should treat others with kindness and compassion? After reading about Brock Turner and how he has never admitted to any wrong-doing and how his father is more torn up about his son’s poor appetite than his victim’s pain, I think this is now a world where knowing right and wrong cannot be assumed. After reading that Brock Turner’s friends and siblings believe he is not a danger to others because he is a shy and hard-working young man, I have to be very clear when I tell my children that psychopaths can be shy, hard-working and bright with a glorious future ahead of them.

My daughters are no longer babies. The oldest will be 13 in a few days. This rape case has made me realize that now is the time I need to have these conversations with them. I’m not relishing these talks, but I know that this conversation is just as necessary as teaching them other fundamentals like using crosswalks, not talking to strangers, locking doors at night, and not engaging with strangers on the Internet.  One day their lives may depend on this lesson.

Winning not everything, but can be a lesson


IMG_3858It was the first day in almost a week that we weren’t bombarded with heavy thundershowers. The First Colony Little League was use to unpredictable spring weather, so rescheduling the championship games was nothing new. But, to a wiry 10-year-old the wait was unbearable.

“Mom, do I have baseball today?” Will would ask before the car door even snapped shut in carpool.

I almost dreaded seeing him at 3:30 every afternoon because it was painful to see the disappointment on his face when I would say, “No, it’s supposed to rain pretty bad later,” or “No, the fields are soaking wet and unplayable.”

Last Tuesday, however, the supreme Little League guru sent out an email blast that finally, the championship games were on for 6 PM that day. Dad and grandma were notified, and plans began to take shape. Will was so excited he raced around the house gathering the various necessities of his uniform: red belt, Cardinal shirt with a number one on the back, sliding shorts, hat, twice-washed white baseball pants with impenetrable grass and clay stains smeared around the knees.

Fully dressed and packed two full hours before the game, Will became a clock-watcher. “What time is it?” he would call every three minutes or so as he tried to complete his spelling homework.

“Don’t worry,” I would reply, “I’ll get you there early, just not this early.”

This has been quite a season for my little baseball player. If I include the brief stint at tee ball when he was 6 (the season I affectionately call the Playing-in-the-Dirt season), this makes Will’s 5th season playing baseball, and to date it has been the best one yet.

During “tryouts” this year, I really noticed the difference between those kids who have been playing some form of select ball and those who play recreationally like my son. It was like watching middle school players try out with the pros. Those in the pro camp could hit the ball over the fence (I kid you not) even though they were the same age as Will. Those kids were the ones who seemingly flew across the field to catch a pop fly and snap a ball to first base like they were simply flicking a piece of lint off their uniform. And, the pitching…Let’s just say, I am not sure my husband would have been able to get a hit off some of these pitchers. They were sharp, fast, trained, and consistent. I was certainly impressed.

But, I was also concerned. As much as Will likes to play sports (How shall I say this?), he is a casual athlete. Will is in it for fun and the camaraderie. He just isn’t that kid outside throwing a ball with a neighbor to get in some more practice. No work on muscle memory there.   Also, Will isn’t beefy like some of his teammates. He’s of average height for his age with giant feet and hands. One season a coach likened him to a Great Dane puppy, which I thought was a perfect description.

So, it was not all that surprising that Will had not had an official hit in any game he ever played. Sure, he had made it on base if a pitcher walked him or hit him with the ball, but an actual hit that goes into the infield or outfield escaped him. Sure, he looked good at the plate—bat up behind his shoulder, cleats planted in the batter’s box, helmet tight and glasses on straight—but almost every time a pitcher released a ball, Will would take a step back. He was terrified of getting hit by the ball, which unfortunately happened the very first time he was at bat two years ago. Some people never forget their first kiss, but with Will it was his first hit—literally the ball hit him, hard, in the ankle.

Then there was this new coach, who seemed to take his job very seriously. As soon as his team was formed, Coach set up practices at 7:30 on Saturday morning. He insisted all boys were white baseball pants instead of the typical grey, and he would not let the boys on the field until they had their cap on their heads. I thought to myself, “This is going to be a long season,” because Will has the laisse faire approach to practice:

In uniform? Oh, you mean I have to have cleats too?

Run the bases for warm up?  Is it okay to skip second?

No eating in the dugout? Do nachos count as food?

And, he is not being a smart alleck. That is just his personality. Most of the time he has gotten away with bending the rules because all he has to do is flash those giant dimples and adults just cave; that is, until this year.

Will seemed to sense that he needed to up his game. His coach had these grand expectations, and by golly, he was going to meet those expectations (with the littlest amount of work possible).   I think it was the first time Will’s charm took a back seat, and motivation moved front and center. He liked Coach, and wanted to do well. Also, Will really wanted a new bat. His father had been saying to Will for a full year that he would buy Will a bat when he got his first hit in a game.

Progress was slow. At first, we all praised Will if he just stayed within the batter’s box. Then, we lauded him for actually swinging the bat. Then, the only step left was to make contact. By mid-March I had a feeling Will would come through at some game this season. Coach, as it turned out, was actually a gentle giant of sorts. Every kid knew when he screwed up at that moment, but in the dugout and during the post-game pow-wows he stirred plenty of praise in the mix. One night after a game, Coach told the boys that if they slept with their bats by their sides, there was a good chance they would get a hit the next day.

Now, Will did not sleep with his bat, but his neighbor and best bud, George, did. The very next game I was driving the boys to the warm-up practice before the game, and I could feel a heightened sense of hope. Both boys said this was their game. They were going to catch a grounder or make a play at home or get an awesome hit. Their enthusiasm filtered into my blood.   I too began to think this was Will’s big game.

That evening was unusually hot. All those storms had blown the clouds away and took the wind with them. The game was close—most of them were—and at the bottom of the third inning with two outs, Will got up to bat. After letting a few wild ones go by, Will seemed ready. I don’t know if it was his posture, or the weather or the sounds the other parents were making, but something that night signaled to me to pay attention. So, I bent over, placed my elbows on my knees, clasped my hands together, and just whispered, “Come on, Will. This is it.” Then, as if by Divine intervention, Will took a swing and made contact. A loud thwack filled the infield, and the ball made a line drive for the pitcher. At that moment, all the parents and fans stood up and screamed. Everyone seemed to know this was a big moment for Will. Even the other team’s parents stood and cheered because most of their boys had played with Will at one time or another. Everyone rejoiced. Unfortunately, the pitcher caught the ball so Will did not get on base, but none of that mattered to him or his coach or his dad or me. I just marveled at watching the outcome of hard work and luck coming together in the form of a hit. Long story short, Will got his new bat the next day.

It may be my imagination, but I think Will’s first hit had a powerful impact on the entire team. At the beginning of the season, they were just a bunch of kids who liked to play baseball. Some lived and breathed baseball, and others thought it was just fun. Some could get a double off of every pitch, and others, like Will, were just happy to make it on base. But, after that one moment, it seemed as if the team gelled. They started playing like a team, working together, cheering each other on. And, because of that, they got significantly better. They got so good, in fact, that they ended up the number one seed in the Minors, the age division in which they played. There was an air of surprised confidence in this little motely crew. They knew they had improved, but didn’t quite know how they got to number one.

So, the boys were quite disappointed after so many rain delays. After the first inning adrenaline wore off (that’s when Will made a fabulous catch in the outfield), the weather delays seemed to suck a little energy out of them. The night of the championship game, they seemed a bit off. I’m not sure what it was, but they appeared droopy or limp. They lacked the spark they had during the play-off games. Could it be that the crazy weather had stolen their mojo? Although in the third inning, the Cardinals were up by four points, it just didn’t feel right. All the parents kept mumbling about was the need for more runs to cushion the lead. And, they were right.

There were rules for the championship game that did not apply to the regular season. For example, there was no time limit, and the boys had to play out 6 innings. Moreover, there were no substitutes. If a player was sick, the team could not call on a replacement player from the pool of substitutes. We had lost two players this season because their parents moved out of town, and we were working with a skeletal line up. I’m sure the coach was praying no one would come down with strep throat.

During the fourth inning, the opposing team the Nationals, rallied. They had several great hits, and we had some colossal errors, and the next thing we knew was that at the top the 5th inning, we were losing 5 to 7. But, the coach’s son, a very small but mighty kid, replaced the weary pitcher, and the Cardinals managed to hold the Nationals. That was exactly what this team needed. Having a three-up-three-down inning lit a fire under these kids, and in the bottom of the 6th inning, the Cardinals earned three runs to win the game.

IMG_3844That night, the First Colony Little League representative awarded the boys two trophies: one for first place in the regular season, and one for winning the championship. This was Will’s first real trophy—not a medal everyone gets for showing up most of the time or a token trophy to say we are all winners, but a true symbol of the fruits of one’s work.

I personally am not a competitive person, at least not compared to my husband and his mother. I’m the mom who focuses on the experience, not the win. However, I have to say that it does feel pretty good to be in the winning circle. For Will, I think it was transformational. (At least, I hope it was. I mean, I hope he makes that connection between working hard and accomplishing something. But then again, he is a 10-year-old boy who’s already onto the next activity. Who knows?)

A Letter to My Preteens from Your Embarrassing Mom


To my dearest preteen children,

Welcome to puberty! There will be few other times in your life when your body goes through such dramatic changes, when your social standing will be like walking around on quicksand, and your brain will do the exact opposite of what you want or need. Despite what you have heard, you can survive it. Some even thrive.

Since there will be a host of things you will not be able to control, I thought I would give you a break and help with some things I can control. Given that you are now in the phase of life where everything your parents do is “like so embarrassing,” I want to offer you this truce, so to speak.

As your mother, I promise the following:

  1. Never to turn up MY music (e.g., the soundtrack to Les Miserables, Dixie Chicks, Barbara Streisand) super loud as you exit the car during morning carpool.
  2. Never to pick you up from school, basketball practice, or Girl Scouts wearing curlers or my yoga pants.
  3. To refrain (as much as humanly possible) from thrusting my head up and down while blasting Led Zeppelin; or pretend to play the air guitar to other rock classics such as The Who, Boston, the Stones, the Steve Miller Band, etc.
  4. Never to coach you from the bleachers with motivating words such as “catch the ball,” “throw the ball,” and the old standby “hit the ball.”
  5. Not to move my shoulders, wiggle my hips, bounce and bob to “Footloose” at every stop light in town; and not extend my arm, point my finger diagonally out the window and bellow, “Oooo, ooo, ooo, ooo, stayin’ alive.” (I make no promises about singing “Rapper’s Delight” in its entirety.  Never mind, before your time.)
  6. Not to scream out loud, “Wow, that’s the biggest pimple I’ve ever seen,” when you are having acne issues.
  7. Never to say “You hoo,” wave to you, or call your name while you are on stage for a school performance.
  8. To walk six feet in front of you so that no one knows (God forbid) you are out with one of your parents in public.
  9. To drag out embarrassing baby pictures of you during your slumber party and talk about your infant reflux/gas issues.
  10. To sing opera at Girl Scout campouts, in between baseball and softball innings, when your friends are over, while chaperoning on the bus to school athletic events, when you are playing outside with the neighbors, while you are in the house, or even while you are within a mile of me. (Cross my heart.)
  11. Not to thrust my arm between you and the boy you are dancing with at the middle school dance and say, “Hey, make some room for the Holy Spirit.”

Now, in case you didn’t know this, I am here to tell you that nothing comes free. Therefore, if you would like to live a humiliating-free pubescent life, you must agree to do the following for ME—your mother:

  1. Flush! Not once in a while, not when you feel like it, but EVERY time you use the restroom. (And, for your brother, take the extra second to raise the seat and put it down when you are finished.)
  2. Wash your hands—with soap! Not just when I catch you walking out of the bathroom wiping your hands on your jeans, but EVERY time you use the rest room.
  3. Brush your teeth twice a day and your hair before you go out in public. And no, dabbing a bit of toothpaste on your tongue is not the same brushing your teeth.
  4. Shower/Bath every day, and no, swimming in the pool does not count anymore.
  5. Change your clothes—not in the living room, not in the downstairs bathroom, not in the kitchen, and not in the garage—but in your bedroom.
  6. Pick up after yourself. I know it may seem that God put me on this earth to pick up your cheese wrappers, put your clotted milk cups in the sink, and hang up the wet towels that you throw on the floor, but he didn’t. Believe it or not, there are other things I like to do that do not involve cleaning up your messes. I know it’s a shock, but you will get over it.
  7. Don’t stand there with the pantry door or refrigerator door open and say, “We have nothing to eat.” Yes, we do. It may not be the processed, dyed corn crunchy thingy you like. Its primary ingredients may not be sugar and hydrogenated oil. But, we do have food. I promise. It may have come from the ground at one point, but it is totally edible.
  8. Put away your clean laundry. Don’t throw it in a pile in your closet, leave it in the basket, or sweep it under your bed only to put it in the dirty clothes hamper because it is now wrinkled and has been sitting under your bed for a week. We are blessed enough to live in a house with closets and dressers, so use them.
  9. Get out of bed when I wake you. Do not fall back to sleep, leaving me to scream up at you every 10 minutes for the next hour so you can rush out the door five minutes before school starts hysterical as to why I didn’t wake you.
  10. Give me time to help you with projects. Do not tell me at 8 PM that you need to make a working, explodable paper mache volcano for first period class tomorrow. Remember, my bed time is 9 PM.

I firmly believe that if we all abide by these rules, you and I will both skate freely through the next few years. If not, just remember that embarrassing my children is one of the few perks of parenting.