Posts Tagged ‘parenting


Mama Bear’s First Date

After updating my Facebook status with today’s bit of bitterness, I realized that I still am not ready to watch the news again.  I cannot talk about anything current if I am banning the news – which I am – so gotta talk about Mama Bear and Daughter Number One.

She went on her first date for Valentine’s Day.  I have anticipated this event, expecting to wait another year or two, but Number One has begun to date Mr. Wonderful.  My husband and I adore this kid; he golfs, skis, travels, ballroom dances, and has the most impeccable manners.  The manners have been impeccable since third grade when we met him.  He has also looked at Number One with sheer devotion since third grade.  Did I mention that he’s grown up to look like Christian Bale?  No mother could deny her child a budding romance with this young man, and I had no reason to.  Their match is a parent’s dream, other than the fact that they have not yet crossed the threshold of fifteen, which is why the young man’s dad arranged to drive them to and from the movie.

Enter Mama Bear.  I always think I am rational, but lately I have had to rethink everything, including my sanity.  It started with a phone call from Mr. Wonderful’s dad.  He wanted to check with me because he had been called away on business so he made arrangements for his close friend of over 20 years to drive the kids.  He made the arrangements, he said, because he didn’t want to deprive his son of the first date experience.  He felt it was important that he set a chivalrous standard for his son and ensure that the young man knew it was expected that he pick up his date.

It is evident that this child has been raised to be chivalrous.  The poor boy has run, on more than one occasion, from one end of the school to another to retrieve Number One’s books, violin, lunch box, or otherwise.  He always opens her car door and he greets me with a smile, look in the eye, and firm handshake.  Considering this example set over the past six years, I made the obvious assumption that this man had not made arrangements to ensure these teens had a date.  Instead, I was convinced that he made arrangements to sell them into a life of pornography.  I replayed our entire conversation again and again in my head until it became undeniable.  It never entered my mind that I read too much.

I hung up the phone and went back to my reading.  For a while.  It was only a matter of moments before I had unraveled his plan, so I got to work.  Thank goodness for the internet.  I discovered that Mr. Wonderful’s dad owns a publicly traded company – 10,000 shares issued.  See?  Obviously a bad man.  I read the articles of incorporation and discovered that his company is a subsidiary of a larger, international corporation.  A corporation that performs background checks.  I was convinced that he had something to hide.  Thanks to Google I confirmed the location of his company and the parent company, headquartered in Denver.  Both offices are in high traffic areas.  Definitely a front.  I zoomed in to look for the rear exits.  Found one!  I continued digging.  Board members.  I looked into each one and searched for any off-shore ties.  One of them has written papers on human resource issues.  Likely story.  They are surely practiced in the art of mind control, I determined.  I mulled over whether or not I could live with myself if I allowed my daughter to go on this date and something happened.  I imagined myself, depressed and swallowing everything in my medicine cabinet, unsuccessful in my own attempt on my life.  I imagined the ambulance coming, the neighbors watching.  Nosy neighbor down the street would be shaking her head.  This would be no way to go, with her shaking her head at me, so I went to my husband and explained to him that if Number One were to go on this date, she would be sold into sex slavery.  He tried to send me shopping.

I didn’t bite.  Instead, I spent the rest of the day steeped in worry.  Number One was unconcerned.  She had no first date jitters.  I asked her what she planned to wear and she said “this.”  That was right after she got up and put on jeans and a t-shirt.  I suggested a shower and a shirt with buttons.  Then I changed my mind.  Buttons?  What was I thinking??  Much easier to stay in a t-shirt than a shirt with buttons.

Finally the big moment came.  Mr. Wonderful showed up at the door.  He greeted us, then Number One, then Berlin (if you are not versed in my family tree, Berlin is the vivacious little sister in the story).  He told my husband that they would be seeing a two hour movie, probably two and a half with previews and he would have Number One home right afterwards.  My husband looked at me with that “don’t be crazy” look that I hate so much.  I barely noticed because I was getting my shoes on so I could follow them.  I waited for them to get halfway down the street, then made a break for my car.  Intercepted.  There was my husband, right in the middle of the hallway, waving my keys at me (I only have one car key since I got mugged while Christmas shopping).  He quickly stuffed the keys down his jeans, knowing I would let it rest.  The keys.  I let the keys rest right there.

And I waited.  For two hours and fifty-seven minutes I sat in the chair in my living room window.  Then she came in.  She was flushed and smiling and just beautiful, even in her jeans and t-shirt.  And she was safe.  This is the very moment we worked so hard to prepare for, stepping out into independence and having our complete trust.  It seems she is well prepared, too, but what we neglected was to prepare ME.  Nothing could have prepared me for the gripping terror that came from watching my heart walk out the door in the care of a neophyte.


Mirror, Mirror in the Crib…

Since I have been a mother, I have made an obvious assumption that God gave us family as an earthly expression of His unconditional love.  I noticed that when the girls were unselfish, I wanted to give them more.  When they made good decisions, I trusted them with more.  It felt like I learned more and more about the Lord my Father with each passing day and I have been grateful for His love and His example. 

So I thought I had it all figured out and things were good.  But then, God felt like I should learn a little more.  He loves that.  It’s time for the annual gift binge, complicated this year by the addition of my teen daughter’s social life.  Now it’s the annual gift and party binge from reindeer hell!  After spending yet another evening driving her to yet another party and waiting in yet another parking lot to pick her up, I thought about how much I love the words “thank you.”  There is a lot of thinking time in the parking lots I frequent, so I spent some time on this, mostly because I knew I wasn’t likely to hear it.  I love to hear “thank you.”  It is usually followed by “I love you” and is all around great.  It makes me so happy to hear and I am so concerned when I don’t, when favors from me or others are taken for granted. 

Aha!  If God gave us a picture of His love when he gave us a family, then he handed us a mirror when our children were born.  I began to wonder, sitting in that parking lot, if God loves to hear “thank you” from us as much as I love to hear it from my children.  The Bible mentions gratitude hundreds of times.  He must love it.  Like our children, there is a reason we should offer thanks.  The minute we realize we have something to be thankful for, our troubles miraculously shrink.  Gratitude makes us want to share.  It makes us happy and it brings true joy.

So I wondered if God was holding up a mirror for me, a reminder that I don’t remember to thank Him for the ride – ever – but I sure complain when it is bumpy.  Or crowded.  Or lonely.

When Daughter Number One was in kindergarten, I got The Call from her teacher.  She had done something awful and was more rude than remorseful.  My first reaction was exactly what the teacher expected, “Where would she pick up something like that?”  The teacher was silent long enough for me to realize exactly where she picked it up.  Number One showed me all kinds of bad habits and unacceptable behaviors I had, so I have known about the mirror.  The problem is, I thought the mirror was mine.  Fourteen years later, I understand that the mirror, like everything else, is the Lord’s.


Magic Rediscovered

You know when you fall asleep on the couch and you are perfectly comfortable until suddenly you’re freezing, but not enough that you wake up and do something about it?  If you are lucky, you can reach a blanket in your sleep.  If you’re even luckier, someone will come and cover you up so you can snuggle back into your pleasant dream.  Well, that’s Christmas.  For years I have been freezing, but I finally found a blanket. 

The freeze started in the Barbie aisle at Target on Black Friday.  I realized that the years of Barbies and other dolls were long gone, yet I hadn’t once captured the magic that was the promise of the season.  It was not for lack of effort.  Every year I began shopping on Black Friday and finished on Christmas Eve, rushing from work to home to mall to boutique to big box store seeking perfection tied up with a bow.  I swore it off this year.  I resolved to cut the shopping back long before the economy tanked but I had no expectation that I would be able to stand my ground against the four color glossy ads.

But today the reinforcements came and helped put up our tree.  It was the first time we have managed to do it as a family from start to finish.  In true Norman Rockwell style, we listened to festive music, laughed, and reminisced all day.  Once the stockings were hung and the halls were decked, we continued to giggle around the breakfast bar where we snacked and teased my older daughter about her new love (she has her very first boyfriend).  Then, the cheese fest continued as we played Christmas carols and sang by the tree.  When we finally modelled the last tree skirt and untangled the little one from the lights, we cuddled up to watch “Elf.”  Then, we topped the evening off by tucking the little lovelies into the empty space under the tree where they are now sound asleep.  Even the older one at fourteen thrilled a the idea of sleeping under the tree.  It’s empty there right now, but particularly beautiful.

That empty space under the tree is exactly what I wanted for Christmas.  I never would have found it at Target.  I don’t know how I missed it for 14 years, but I’m grateful that I finally got it in the nick of time.  My normal routine is to decorate without involvement from the girls so I can get it done quickly and get out to find perfection tied up with a bow.  All that hunting and the Christmas magic I longed for was right here at home.  It was even waiting for me but I was way too busy.  It concerns me that I was convinced I had made my loved ones a priority this season because of the time I spent shopping for all the perfect gifts.  Surprisingly, the gifts were the true priority.  That’s where my time went.  Giving is lovely, but it is completely different from loving.  And despite what the retailers have said, loving is the true magic of the season.


Stolen Magic

img_1741Black Friday is over.  Retailers are steeling themselves for the financial fallout as their lowered expectations are met.  So is my family.  Last Christmas, as happened every Christmas before, we left Grandma’s house wedged into the car among enough new belongings to start a second household.  It was bittersweet.  On one hand, the girls couldn’t wait to get home and unpack their treasures.  On the other hand, we all knew how hard it was to find the right gifts for children, friends, and grandparents because we have everything under the sun and we know that so many don’t.  My husband and I knew then, when our then-six-year-old unwrapped her second MP3 player, that a line had been crossed and it may be difficult to even find the other side, much less get to it. 

So we determined to cut back.  So did my grandparents.  So did my parents.  So did my blessed princesses, but it was not voluntary.

Amid my resolve to teach my children the true joy of this season, I am shocked that I have been knocked over by eight tiny reindeer.  For the first time in years, I did not get a JC Penny snowglobe, the prize of a true Black Friday veteran.  Even if I wasn’t getting anyone a sweater, I still stood in line just to prove that I was a soldier prepared to brave the crowds at 5:00 am even after downing half a bottle of wine and the leftovers of a meal that never ended.  From Penny’s, I would hit Circuit City.  Then Wal-Mart for the essentials.  Then Target.  Then Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond.  Then Pier One, TJ Maxx, and finally the mall to visit Macy’s and the Hallmark Store.  Of course, I would visit Bath & Body Works, then Claire’s for stocking stuffers.  Sixteen hours later, I would be jubilant and nearly done shopping, except for the few items I had to wait out until last minute clearances. 

This year, I worked on Black Friday.  Then, I came home to play a rolicking game of Monopoly with my daughters, a rare treat to play such a long game.  Saturday we went out together to round up any remaining bargains, then came home for family movie night.  I enjoyed every minute, but it was another bittersweet moment.  Every turn of the aisle in Target unearthed a little more holiday melancholy.  First, I miss my snowglobe.  There will be an empty “2008” spot on my console table.  But of course, there is so much more.  

I have fallen for a tremendous, damaging, and tragic lie.  All this time, I have searched Penny’s Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Target (I nearly found it there), and all the others for magic.  I even thought I found it there and I think I convinced my daughters they can find it there, too.  Each year, I try desperately to create the magical scenes of ecstatic children opening beautifully wrapped treasures beside a perfectly lit tree.  The tree was always perfect, thanks to my mother, but that was it.  The harder I tried, the bigger the failure.  I have books and books of holiday stories that I planned to read to these girls by the light of the Christmas tree.  It never happened.  Most of the bindings haven’t been cracked.  My older daughter is 14 and we have uncracked bindings.  I have a 14 year old daughter who has never baked Christmas cookies.  I am not sure she actually knows that a cookie cutter is to make cookies, not to embelish packages for her teachers.  My friends and family have never gotten a Christmas card from me.  No family pictures.  I am never home before dark on a weekend during the holidays – unless there is a party later.  However, as much as I love a Christmas party, I have never filled my own home with Christmas guests – no time.  The retailers have gotten all of my holiday time.  I am guessing that they did not miss my Christmas cards.  My great great aunt who always asks after me and my children probably does, though.

Somehow the very retailers who promise all the magic and joy our credit cards can buy stole that from me.  I have had my suspicions, but since my escape from Black Friday, I know it’s true.  It hit home walking the Target aisles.  Even with my daughters in tow, we skipped the doll aisle, the Barbie aisle, and all of the toys.  The only thing they are interested in are grown-up electronics and CD’s.  I envied the women clustered around the new dollhouses and mourned for a time that has long gone.  My greatest hope is that they take the time to ENJOY this magic, rather than BUYING it.  

My girls have the big dollhouse, the American Girls, and every My Little Pony made, but there was no delighted squealing when they opened them.  They are not spoiled rotten – yet – I think we have caught it in time.  But I promised them magical Christmases.  According to everything they see, that meant that they would be getting these things and it ruined the surprise.  This year, they WILL be surprised with stories of a miracle that means eternal life with a very best friend.  They will be surprised to learn that cookies can come from an oven instead of boxes.  And they just may think it’s fun to show their relatives they are growing up by sending out Christmas cards and pictures.  We will have a housefull of friends for a Christmas dinner and I am sure the girls will be surprised that we have time to sip hot chocolate by the lights of the tree.   If I get my Christmas wish, my girls will discover that the magic of the holiday comes not from any big box retailer; it comes from the family the Lord gave us and the love He shares through His son.  Sorry Target – we already have MP3 players.


It COULD Have…

Well, we have moved on to Berlin’s THIRD week of second grade.  Last week nothing remarkable happened.  This week she had to step it up. 

It’s 10:30 and I get a call from the school nurse. 

“Mrs. SuzyJ?  This is the school nurse.  Berlin is here in my office – she’s very brave – but there is an object stuck in her shoe.  It is protruding.”

“What is it?”

“I can’t remove it, but it has probably impaled Berlin’s foot.”

“What is it?”  I ask again, concerned that the nurse is going into shock and cannot bring herself to answer me.

“I can’t see because it is in her foot.”

“Is it glass, metal, a nail, or a razor blade?”  I am annoyed, but very concerned that the nurse does not have the stomach for this job.

“It is a paper clip,” she finally responds.  I say I will be right there and begin to pack up my desk and call the doctor.  The nurse there asks that I go to the school and pull the object from Berlin’s foot.  She tells me that school nurses tend to exaggerate, so I should not plan to bring Berlin in to the office. 

I quickly made my way to the school.  During the drive, I tried to work out the logistics of removing a foreign object AND a shoe from my daughter’s foot without throwing up or passing out.  I decide that my only option is to carry her to the doctor’s office.  It is well worth the $50.00 copay to avoid this situation.

Then I get to the school.  If you are unfamiliar with this child, read my post “Raising Berlin.”  No time?  Suffice it to say, the world has turned a little faster since this child was born – mostly because she is running it.  So, at school there is a crowd around the nurses office which includes Principal Marine and his second in command.  There is much concern.  I am ushered in by the secretary who is hurried and worried.  Well, there’s my girl, sitting on the little bed eating corn chips and reading a magazine.  The sole of her pink shoe is entirely red, which nearly takes me down until I remember that she was just grounded for coloring her shoes with red marker.  Still, there is a paper clip.  It is protruding.  It is rusty.  The crowd disperses and Principal Marine tells me I can call him directly any time to report the progress.  The tension disperses along with the crowd and I look at Berlin.  She smiles and shakes her head, “Don’t take that thing….Don’t hurt me.”  I hold up the extracted offender and Berlin squeals, “So it WAS just in my shoe!”  She scampers down off the table.  The nurse mentions that she raised some concern with the amount of screaming that went on when the paper clip entered her…shoe.  I assurred her that I was suspicious the minute she said Berlin was being brave ’cause that girl’s a screamer and a gusher!

We made our way to the lunch room where Mrs. First Year (she seems to believe everything Berlin throws her way – pity next year’s audacious child) is reassuring the class, telling them that Berlin’s mother is on the scene and Berlin will surely make a full recovery.  We walk in and the children swarm, wanting to hear all about the adventure.  So Berlin speaks to her breathless audience.

“I could have died.  It was a paperclip someone bent up like a SWORD!  It went into my shoe and stabbed my toe.  You know, it could have gotten into my bloodstream and I would have been poisoned.  I could be poisoned now because it poked me!  I could be dead tomorrow!”  A collective gasp rises from her audience, “I could have tripped on it and it could have gone into my spine, then I might have died!  At least it could have poked me in the eye and blinded me!  I’m a lucky girl.” 

Berlin nods her head slowly and looks off into the distance.  The girl can work it.  Thank goodness Mrs. First Year broke it up.  The classmates all reached in to hug their nearly departed friend and all was well in second grade.  Until next time.  Life itself is the greatest adventure.


Raising Berlin

I seem to be low on thoughts.  School started last week, which saps my strength, sanity, time, and apparently all my innermost thoughts.  So…When all else fails, we can talk about our kids.  I have two – girls.  One is 14 (remember recent birthday?  It caused quite a stir).  She is the definitive first child – neat, organized, responsible, austere, and a little snooty.  Number two is 7 and in second grade.  For description, see the attached picture (see the crazed look?).  I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since she was born. Many nights it was because I laid by her crib listening to her asthmatic breathing, but as she grew, I began to lose sleep ruminating over the adventures (?) in store. 

Number Two starts 2nd grade.  Scene:  Established charter school with ex-officer of the Marine Corps at the helm.  Kids in uniforms walking in straight lines.  Frantic queen bee mothers, most of whom have actually E-Bayed their souls to raise these superkids in pleated skirts.  The queen bees are unafraid to E-bay me or anyone else who would foil their plans if there is one mis-step (the peer pressure is enough to give a mother a stroke!).  The school may be academically superior, but it is certainly not prepared for the tornado that is Number Two.  Before she started school, Principal Marine counted down the years until she began.  She was infamous at four.  Now she is seven – older, stronger…better. 

Day One:  She surprises me by telling me that she does not need any school supplies.  Her very sweet new teacher gave her everything she needs.  I am surprised and a little miffed.  It took three trips to Target to check everything off the list and to ensure that the inside of her pencil box had enough style to make up for her clothing.

Back Story:  Number Two explained to her unsuspecting teacher (first year, poor thing doesn’t stand a chance) that her mother donated all of the school supplies at our house to the Katrina victims.  Number Two fails to take into account that Katrina wiped out all her #2’s two years ago.  Nevertheless, Mrs. First Year pities the child whose mother cares more for unknown children than her own and offers her all the supplies from the “emergency closet.”  I have been around long enough to smell a rat, so when we get home, I pay a visit to Number Two’s bedroom where I find a stash of glitter pencils and holographic princess folders in record time.  I lay them on the kitchen table and wait for the explanation…She simply couldn’t bear to share all that glitter and there was a chance that sharing would go on.  What have I done?  Take heart, Mom, she did take her own scissors and glue.  She didn’t use all of the emergency supplies.

Day Two:  Backpack comes home with a note from the OFFICE.  Already?  Two days?  It is requesting that I re-submit Number Two’s registration since we changed her name over the summer.  Ummm…

Back Story:  Number Two refused to answer to her given name (not actually Number Two).  She told Mrs. First Year that she has her name is in the process of being legally changed because her mom wanted to name her Berlin, in honor of her mother’s favorite rock band of the ’80’s.  First, Berlin is not my favorite ’80’s girl band.  Second, I am not actually flaky.  I am a loafer, pearl and cardigan kind of girl – a style that perfectly reflected my personality EVEN in the ’80’s.  Third, Number Two – Berlin – is obviously disappointed in her very boring mom who by now Mrs. First Year probably thinks is one Bud Light away from going roadie.

Day Three:  Phone call from the school.  Actually from Number Two herself, which means she talked the secretary into some serious rule-bending.  That is one of her many gifts.  Maybe there was no talking involved, maybe she tied the secretary up.  Anything is possible – I can’t be responsible for that 8 hours.  Apparently the very cute wedgie-sneakers (what are those called?  high-heels, rubber toes like Chuck Taylors, sling back?) that she was going to DIE without simply are not appropriate for PE.  Would I please just go home and get her some pink Airwalks so she could at least walk back to her classroom?  I say no.  She suggests that I am not mother of the year.  Let me remind you – SHE’S SEVEN!!!

Back Story:  There is no back story – don’t stand between a fashionista and her wedgie sneakers unless PE is involved.  We can all relate to that.  Despite the fact that I am referring to her as Number Two, make no mistake – I LOVE this child.  My dearest friend told me when I found out I was pregnant that this child would bless me in ways I would never imagine – and a truer tale has never been told.  She is unruly, but underneath it she is determined, strong, willful, and fearless.  She has fun in any circumstance and carries a confidence that I have not seen in such a young child.  In fact, she has never been without that confidence.  When she was born, each nurse individually commented that she seemed so at peace, despite the fact that she cried herself to the verge of suffocation.  The greatest challenge in parenting her is bringing some discipline into her life without squashing exactly what it is that makes her awesome.  My goal is that she be socially acceptable and NOT lie about my acts of charity.  I try to remember that the goal in raising Berlin has nothing to do with easy.  When we raise children, raising them to be complacent should not be a goal.  While I may envy the mother of the quiet child, I would never trade.  The peace I would enjoy for the next few years would never be worth it.  Berlin is a tornado, like I said before, not because she leaves a path of destruction, but because she is a powerful force of nature.  If I can raise her to use these powers for good, this child will grow into the woman I always hoped to be.


Generation Hope

Today I turned my daughter over to the hallowed halls of our chosen high school.  Who could have expected this day would come so soon?  It couldn’t have been more than a year ago that I went head-to-head with her second grade teacher who made her scrub the bathroom during recess (she had splashed water while she washed her hands for lunch).  Normally the high school years bring waves of nervous laughter among rapidly-greying parents.  Not anymore.  I have been watching this generation carefully, making sure my daughter will find her place in the world and what I have learned certainly bucks tradition.  Of course, there are always exceptions.  In this case, they can be found loitering at the mall.  Overall, though, I look to this generation with anticipation and hope.  Most teens I see are willing to exchange a smile and they are very capable of carrying on an adult conversation.  When a teenager is at the counter at my favorite Target store or Subway or any of the other thousand chains I patronize, I can almost always count on friendly service regardless of whether the person is a boy or a girl. 

On a more personal level, though, I see the kids at my daughter’s school and church.  These kids genuinely care about each other and I don’t think that they could define catty.  They are intelligent in all matters intellectual and personal.  Most of these kids have defined qualities they are looking for in a mate.  They don’t date lightly, if at all.  Not only have they defined their future mates, but these teens have thoughtfully considered what their families will look like when they have them.  They understand that a fulfilling life is not a matter of luck, but rather a matter of purpose, and that is how they live.  Their purpose is not just personal, they all believe in the greater good.  This up and coming generation has no fear of being involved.  They understand what it is to support that which is bigger than them.  I see them, each with their pet cause, and it’s more than just lip service.  These kids work to make the world better already in their limited capacity as minors.  Each of them, one by one, is going to build a bright future from which we will all benefit. 

We parents may criticize the media, but I credit some of this optimism directly to them.  There was no Disney Channel when I was a teenager and somehow Disney and Nickelodeon have managed to hold the interest of these kids with their milquetoast offerings.  I am amazed that high school students are enjoying High School Musical and Camp Rock when I compare these movies to the ones we were watching.  Over the summer, I set out to have a great bonding time watching favorite movies from my teens with my daughter.  Um…Has anyone watched a little Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, or Pretty in Pinklately?  Not such wholesome fun.  We turned my favorites off at the second or third teenage panty shot and moved on to The Princess Diaries for a modernized movie night.  No wonder Generation X was a mess.  We were all latchkey children with unlimited access to all the drunken teen sex we could watch. 

And that, I think, is the key.  Generation X was the first generation to struggle.  We were not as successful as our parents, as exemplified in various statistics.  Teen drinking was at an all time high, as was teen pregnancy and, thusly, abortion.  There was renewed interest in recreational drugs, though I am uncertain if it truly rivals the baby boomers in the ’60’s.  It appeared that there was no hope for this generation to contribute to society via career or family.  But we turned it around.  We learned from our parents who, as baby-boomers, were the most self-absorbed generation.  They gave birth to the yuppie movement and the 3.2 children that came with it in their Prego strollers.  Then, they offered up housekeys so their careers were not interrupted by child-rearing.  They followed that up with BMW keys to soothe the guilt.  Then they split – baby boomers may not have invented divorce, but they certainly made it their own.  When we Gen-X’ers began having our own children, it didn’t take long to see the folly in our benefactor’s priorities.  We invested time in our children.  The emergence of women into the workplace grew the economy exponentially, but the Gen-X family model evolved along with it, putting dads into new household and parental roles.  Time spent together is precious and filled with laughing and fun as we see more and more leisure time (largely thanks to the hard work of the generation before us – it all works for the greater good).

Yes, the divorce rate is still high.  There are still teen pregnancies, and drugs and alcohol are still out there.  These are not the norm anymore, though.  Teens know that certain choices lead to certain destruction.  Finally, they believe it and act accordingly.  I am grateful.  Once a child hits her teens, the influence of her peers is greater than that of her parents.  Knowing that her friends are like-minded and have the world at their fingertips is Tylenol PM for the parent in me and for the future senior citizen that I am.

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