This post is sponsored by the Center for Parent and Teen Communication. All opinions are my own.
Parenting a teenager is kind of like trying to put together a piece of Ikea furniture. You know lots of people have accomplished it but you find yourself sitting on the floor, surrounded by chaos and probably weeping.
Yes, there is going to be crying. Yes, it’s more challenging than you thought. But by the end you have raised a confident, successful adult (or you have a slightly wobbly dresser). Either way, success!
The Center for Parent and Teen Communication is a great resource when you’re pretty positive you have no idea what your doing.
Like this article from Dr. Ken Ginsburg. He writes about an exercise where you remember the things you loved about your child during their younger years and you see how those same attributes are still present in the teen years. As Ginsburg says, “They are the little boys and girls you have always loved, now growing into young men and women. The path may occasionally be bumpy, but they remain as you have known them to be.”
Ginsburg seems smart so I try it…
THEN: My daughter Dylan at 4.
NOW: Dylan at 14.
She is brave and strong. She is the first to raise her hand in class and strongly argue her opinion. She know her true compass and she follows it. She is passionate about the rights of kids. She believes young people need to speak up and be heard. She tells me that one day she will be a Supreme Court Justice or a Pediatric Surgeon. Or maybe both. Why would she ever limit herself? She still loves art and being messy. Life is too short to spend one’s life cleaning instead of creating.
I recently went home for my 85th high school reunion. It was super fun.
I saw a bunch of old friends who I adore and even got some of our old band “Pink Lace” back together.
In full disclosure this high school band consisted of one of us playing the keyboard and the rest of us belting out “Big Shot” by Billy Joel. We were very serious about practicing our first night as an official band until we found out a less musically inclined friend was having a party so we abandoned our practice and well, the whole band sort of fell apart that night. We all have our Yoko Ono.
It was also really nice to see my mom. Over the summer, 5 year old Cash and I spent a week visiting my mother in Connecticut. And you really should visit her too. Why? Because she’s friendly, loving, nutty and well, read and you’ll see why.
1. The first morning I’m there, my mother comes tearing into my room at 7:30 AM and says, “CASH AND THE DOGS ARE MISSING!! THEY WERE OUT IN THE YARD PLAYING AND I CAME IN FOR A SIP OF COFFEE AND NOW THEY ARE GONE. I’M HEADED TO THE BEACH TO MAKE SURE THEY AREN’T THERE.” And with that, she runs out the front door, to make her way as quickly as possible to the beach.
For any of you who know Cash, this isn’t really an overreaction because this kid has ridden a NYC elevator by himself, was found hanging over a 5th floor balcony, slipped though jetty rocks, wandered down our street alone when he was about 2 years old and a bunch of other things I’ve suppressed. And by the way – all these things happened while we were trying really hard to keep tabs on him.
Back to the missing 5 year old boy and the two dogs. I did find them. They were in my mom’s 1st floor studio apartment that she sometimes rents out. When I opened the door, Cash said to me, “We were hiding from Nanny!”
I’m sure it was the dogs’ idea.
2. Waking up in my mom’s house was sort of like living in an aviary. Every morning I would hear a tremendous amount of chirping.
At first, I thought – wow, there must be a tree very close to the house. But the sound of baby birds was so persistent that I finally investigated. I’m very Enyclopedia Brown like that. And there it was – a bird nest right next to the air conditioner outside my bedroom window.
Huh. Well, the birds were there before me so I figured I could live with a little chirping. It’s actually not that bad living in an aviary. I’m sure way better than a reptile house.
3. My mom will let you put this octopus hat on her.
4. My mom and I went to a clothing store and she decided to try on a few things. In their stock room. Even once we clarified for her that she wasn’t in the actual changing rooms, she was completely undeterred.
My mom doesn’t sweat the small stuff. And the sales girl wasn’t messing with a 70 something year-old woman who was changing in the stock room. So if my mom ever walks into your shop, don’t mess with her.
5. My mother consistently breaks out one of her favorite t-sbirts, “I just want to drink coffee and pet my dogs.” Obviously a crowd pleaser. But this trip my mom broke out a brand new shirt…
Yup. Dirty dancing. Why? I’m not sure. But I’m guessing because nobody puts baby in a corner.
(This is a sponsored post for Custom Ink Fundraising.)
I’ve alway considered myself to be a bit of a fashion designer. This is mostly based on the fact that I’ve watched a lot of episodes of Project Runway and I have an unused sewing machine in the basement. But then came along an opportunity to design a real actual shirt.
And look what I designed!
A pretty cute kids shirt, right? And no Heidi Klum or sewing needles required!
I did it through Custom Ink which makes it easy to design and sell apparel/accessorties so you can raise money and awareness for good causes.
I love a company that is focused on doing good things. Founded in August 2013, Custom Ink Fundraising has helped people raise over 50 million dollars for incredible causes.
I’m raising money for the Plastic Pollution Coalition which is working to clean up our oceans and reduce our reliance on plastic. Because plastic packaging is overwhelming our planet.
I mean.. you know that scary fish quote.
By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish.
And it’s toxic to human health. We can pretend that it’s not happening but it is. And it’s so gross.
I’m selling my kids t-shirt over at Custom Ink for only $95. Okay, seriously. They are only $25. For two weeks only because you know limited editions sell like hotcakes. And the proceeds go directly to the nonprofit. Plus, there’s no up-front costs or risks.
It was super easy to design and set up my fundraiser and obviously you could do this for any cause. The Custom Ink Design Lab gives you free access to a library of fonts and over 70,000 pieces of art. You can also upload your own artwork, photo or logo.
Now if you’re not a talented designer like me and Michael Kors, the team at Custom Ink will help you do it. How awesome is that?! Plus they gladly and quickly answered all my dumb questions.
So back to my cause – saving the world. I have never quite understood why we are so intent on destroying something so beautiful.
If every one of us could do something small…. start recycling (I’m talking to my friend Jaime K.), actually bring those reusable bags to the market, use a reusable water bottle, say no to plastic bags and support causes that help protect and clean up the environment.
Imagine if we all did something, how much would actually get done.
If you feel like saving the environment today, please consider buying my cute t-shirt for the cute kid in your life.
(This is a sponsored post for Custom Ink Fundraising.)
I was honestly overwhelmed by all your comments here, on Facebook, via email, through skywriting. Okay, no one hired a plane to skywrite to me. Maybe next time.
But your outpouring of support after I posted about my son Cash was amazing. Your personal stories and journeys with your own children lifted me up and gave me hope. Thank you for sharing them.
Scary Mommy asked to publish my post and I was honored. I want parents to know – no matter what a doctor tells you, there is always hope. Always.
Many people commented that I should sent the post to the child psychologist who assessed Cash. And I was hesitant. I had said all I needed to say right here. We had already consulted with many other experts who deemed her dim and definitive prognosis unprofessional and not even possible – given he is only five.
So what did I have to gain from sending this doctor my feelings on how she had handled the situation? She basically turned our world upside down in just a few minutes.
But then I talked to Devorah Kaplan. Devorah runs the Downtown Jewish Preschool here in Fort Lauderdale where Cash spent his first year of preschool.
When we first moved to Fort Lauderdale, we were trying to find a preschool for Cash. Rick said to me, “I found one. It’s a Chabad preschool. It’s Orthodox.”
I reminded my husband that I was not exactly Jewish so maybe an Orthodox preschool wasn’t the best fit. He said, talk to Devorah and then decide.
It took one phone call to sign my son up. Devorah Kaplan is an amazing educator and a person filled with compassion and a true understanding of how children develop and grow. Her energy and passion for her work and life is inspiring.
She called me recently to tell me how much she appreciated the post I wrote about Cash. And then she said something else that sort of began to haunt me.
She said that sometimes when parents are given a grim diagnosis about their child’s cognitive abilities, it freezes them in their tracks. Instead of propelling them immediately to get special services for their child, they feel hopeless. They think nothing will change the diagnosis, so they do nothing.
Then it can almost become a self-fulfilling prophesy because early intervention is so vital when kids have special needs and challenges.
Now this thankfully didn’t happen with us because we immediately sought other opinions. And Cash was already receiving OT, speech and physical therapy. But what about a family who walks into that first child psychologist and given all her credentials and experience, just believes her. And just loses hope about the future of their child.
And this began to really bother me. So I decided to write the child psychologist who assessed Cash an email. And here is what I said..
Hi Dr. ——-,
You recently completed a psychoeducational evaluation for my son Cash. Thank you for the time you took with him. Although Cash certainly faces many challenges, I was stunned by how definitive you were in your predictions about his future – especially since you don’t make it a practice to follow your patients longterm. I don’t question your diagnosis but only your definitive predictions about his long term prospects.
I think it’s important for you to know the impact you are having on families. I’m a writer and I wrote this piece so perhaps you can better understand what it’s like to be the parent sitting on the couch listening to the way you deliver your vision of a child’s future.
I only hope you can open your heart to the possibilities of every child, no matter what challenges they face. Because we all have limitless potential. And it’s important for every family to leave your office knowing that their son or daughter can not only rise to the challenges life presents but thrive in amazing ways.
Good luck to you.
I have not yet received a response and I don’t really expect to. But I hope my words will just maybe give her a tiny bit of compassion for the next “Cash” who walks into her office.
I have such respect for doctors. Science and the study of the mind is an incredible thing. But there is something else that is hard to quantify. It’s the magic and resiliency of children. And she should stop doubting it.
We have been so blessed to find amazing speech, occupational and physical therapists to work with Cash. These professionals are so committed and talented. I sat down the other night to play a matching game with Cash that his occupational therapist had sent home.
It’s not easy for Cash. This is not a boy who wants to be bothered with sitting down when he can possibly figure out how to jump from the counter to the couch with his brother.
But for a few minutes, we played.
And then he did something I never saw before. He read the numbers off the pieces of paper. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. I was stunned. Cash has never read anything before and he recognized these numbers.
I made him do it again to make sure it was real.
My son is making progress. In his own time. Cash does everything his own way. So why would this be any different?
Cash has magic. And resiliency. And so does every kid out there.
We just have to support and believe in them.
I sat there listening to this woman.
20 years assessing children just like my boy.
She talked. And I listened. But I’m not sure I really understood. She threw around phrases like “global developmental delays” and “borderline intellectual functioning.”
My kid certainly has his own way of experiencing the world.
He likes to go into random stores so he can “smell the breeze.” He named his toy elephant Todd. He’d rather spend a half hour inspecting a centipede than do whatever you think he should be doing.
More often than not, if I stop to pick up some sushi to go, he will sit himself down at one of the tables with some strangers and say hello.
As my husband Rick once said, “I’m a friendly guy but this kid is in another league.”
Cash is friendly. Sometimes aggressively friendly. Because he wants to know you. And definitely wants to know what kind of sushi you’re eating. And he’d like to know the name of your dog too. And maybe how old you are.
He has no fear. Of good things or bad. He’s adorable. And sweet. And perfect. In that imperfectly human way.
He went to see this child psychologist four times. Part of an assessment for a psychoeducational evaluation. The purpose was to better understand how he processes information so his speech and OT specialists could better tailor his sessions.
We have known for a while he’s delayed. He’s our 5th kid. We saw the difference. But this woman was attempting to tell us his future. She talked about limits and “altering our expectations” to the reality of his situation. She was definitive. And convincing. I’m not sure how I sat there for an hour without crying.
But then I walked to my car, got in and the tears were unstoppable.
Over the the next few days, we sent the report to a number of people… speech therapists, our occupational therapist and the director of a special needs school. We spoke to another child psychologist and to our pediatrician.
And what we heard was hope.
We were told that you can’t determine a 5 year old’s future unless you’re some kind of proven fortune teller. That her dire predictions of Cash were worst case scenarios. Not a given. That we were doing the right thing with early intervention and the enormous progress we’ve seen is real and positive and encouraging.
I was still rattled. But less so.
I guess in the end, I was most saddened by this woman’s limited view of my son. She will never know what it’s like to inspect a centipede with him. Or how on a recent trip to New York City, he made it his mission to pretty much pet every dog in Manhattan.
Or how he convinced some guy to give him a ukulele lesson during a long delay at the airport.
I hope one day that doctor is sitting in a restaurant. Just waiting for her food. I hope Cash bounds over to her and sits down. I hope she finds out what it feels like to be the center of his universe, even for a few minutes.
Because I think if she felt that she would stop doubting this boy. This gregarious, energetic, unstoppable boy.
Because I will not alter my expectations. I will not accept her limitations. Mostly because he doesn’t.
This beautiful child will become whatever he wants to be.
And someday her official report will be a small footnote in his amazing, probably unconventional life.
Now I’ve got to go. I’m off to smell the breeze with the sweetest boy I know.