Weekly Column: Adventures in Parenting

© Stephenie Freeman
originally posted 2007

I've never been a particularly adventurous person, choosing instead to play it on the safe side, insuring that risk to life and limb is kept to a bare minimum. I'm the one who will always volunteer to take your picture while you bungee jump or hold your purse while you ride a roller coaster. Guess that's just the kind of considerate person I am.

But it's not always popular to be cautious, especially when you're supposed to be young and fearless. Growing up, I was what all of the brave children called a "scaredy cat." Cautious and vigilantly fearful, I always warned the other children of the worse-case scenarios and hidden dangers involved in their adventures. I was the child who looked like she wasn't having any fun, but in reality was happy and content to stay safely where I was.

This all being said, it only stands to reason that I would be an over-protective parent. Oddly enough, however, I am not.

Part of the reason that I am not has to do with having boys. It's one thing for a girl to be labeled a "scaredy cat," but for a little boy it's like the kiss of death. I didn't want to raise boys who were afraid to do fun things like I was, like jumping from the high dive. I wanted to raise the kind of kids who would not only jump off, but come up for air yelling, "Let's do it again!"

Like all good parents, I enrolled my oldest in swimming lessons this summer. The group was small; only four children in the entire class, three of which were girls. On the first day of class, the girls jumped into the pool first, doing so with gusto, obviously anxious and excited to learn how to swim all on their own.

Then, it was my son's turn. He stood on the edge timidly, unwilling to budge. It was only until his instructor held his hands that he jumped into the water, immediately gripping the instructor's neck as if his life depended on it, which I guess in that moment it did.

My husband and I looked at each other in agreement. Being shown up by a bunch of girls is never a good thing.

Soon, I found myself coaching him as we would drive to his lessons, saying things like, "Why don't you try to jump into the pool by yourself?" and "Try to let go of the edge and swim like those little girls do."

All of this coming from a woman who has stayed safely in the shallow end of the pool her whole life.

I guess I prefer to parent under the "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy.

I might not be an adventurous person, but I am an adventurous parent. I encourage my kids to climb trees and run around barefoot. I let them to play outside without my hovering over them. I never want them to be afraid to try something new and exciting, like hanging upside down on the monkey bars or swing across a creek on a rope swing. I want them to do things that I was always too afraid to do.

On the final day of swimming lessons, I couldn't hide my excitement when my son finally agreed to jump off of the diving board all by himself. He climbed up carefully, and as most kids do when they get to the edge of the long platform, he hesitated.

As he looked over at me, I knew what was coming.

"Mama, I don't wanna do it."

In that moment, I knew exactly how he felt. How well I know the fear of "what if?" and I'm sure that I was thinking the same things that he was. "What if I drown? What if no one's there to catch me? What if...?"

Understanding his apprehension, I could have easily walked over and helped him down.

Instead, I simply yelled back, "Don't worry, Buddy! You'll be fine. Trust me."

And unlike his mother, he took a chance...and jumped.

Leprechauns, and Easter Bunnies, and Jesus...oh my!

It is such a beautiful day outside! Does this mean that the Leprechaun woke up and saw his shadow or am I getting my minor holidays confused?

I did my part to celebrate this morning. I woke up a little early to make the boys green eggs and ham. What does green eggs and ham have to do with St. Patrick's Day? Nothing. A fact that was proven when my son asked, "Why do we celebrate St. Patrick's Day?" and I had nothing to tell him.

Here's what I know:

  • You're supposed to wear green or you risk getting pinched.
  • There's rainbows and pots of gold and something about the "Luck of the Irish."
  • There are a lot of adults who will consume large amounts of green beer.
  • People will eat weird things liked corned beef.
  • Leprechauns show up at preschools to wreck havoc and leave behind gold coins filled with chocolate.
  • Those leprechaun traps that you make in preschool never work.
  • Preschools are the best place to celebrate holidays.
  • Shamrocks are the "symbol" of the day. Why? I have no earthly idea. Maybe I should have paid more attention in preschool.

But none of that actually answered my son's question.

To top it off, on the way to school he asked me why we celebrate Good Friday.

This one I had an answer for. After explaining Good Friday and Jesus's death on the cross, the Resurrection and Easter Sunday my son asked me, "So what does all that have to do with the Easter Bunny?"

He's just getting too smart for his own good! At least I know that the logical reasoning part of his brain is really working.

He caught me so off guard that I really didn't know what to say, but I knew what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say was, "Nothing. Bunny rabbits have absolutely nothing to do with the true meaning of Easter." But there was no way in hell that I was going to look at my innocent 8 year-old and murder the Easter Bunny with my words.

So since I was suddenly in an Easter frame of mind, I headed off to Target in my Shamrocked green shirt to buy plastic eggs to fill with candy to donate to our church's Easter Sunday Egg Hunt.

No wonder my son's so confused.

Overheard and Just Plain Disgusting

I heard my boys laughing hysterically. Naturally, I followed the delightful sound until I found them.

In my bathroom.

With their shirts off.

Putting on my deodorant.

"What are you guys doing?" I asked.

Still laughing they answered, "We don't know." And answer that for whatever reason threw them into total hysterics.

I had no idea that my deodorant could be so funny. I can't wait to see how they react once they discover my tampons.


I heard the Cheese politely say to his brother, "Do you mind if I sit there, please?"

And just as I was thinking, Wow! He's being so polite! and before he had given his little brother a chance to respond, I heard him say, "I said get out of my seat right this minute!"

Who knew that he could go from zero to yelling in 3 seconds flat? (I wonder who he learned that from???)


"Mom? (Because every sentence out of the Monkey's mouth currently starts with the word 'Mom?') Um, Mom? My butt is scratchy."

"Okay, bud. Why don't we put you in the tub." Because in our house the words scratchy butt are code for, "I didn't wipe very well and now my butt itches."

So just to make it extra fun, I agreed to put him in our over sized tub--a rare and exciting treat. I left him in the tub (my first mistake) to went to check on the Cheese's room clean-up progress.

In the minute--I'm not kidding--that I was gone I heard a faint, "Mom?" coming from my bathroom.

And when I arrived back in my bathroom, do you know what I found? I had made it through 8 years of motherhood and it finally happened: my son, my 5 year-old totally potty trained son, had actually pooped in the tub.

Hello, Monday. You suck.

The words "responsible adult" and "Vegas" just don't go together.

I've been married for almost 10 years. You wanna know how I know that it's been almost 10 years? Because my husband invited me to join him in Vegas yesterday and I didn't want to go.

The Golfer is in Vegas for a tournament and called last night to say, "Why don't you throw the boys in the car after school tomorrow and come to Vegas?" I love the fact that my husband misses us (me) and wants us (me) to be with him, but since I've become a mother and home owner, I'm not good at being spontaneous. I'm just not a "fly by the seat of your pants, moment to moment" kind of girl. That's just not me.

It's not that I didn't want to go. It's that getting there would take a lot of effort and I just don't have the energy. I'm boring and old and just don't feel like driving for 5 hours in the car with my kids for a mere 36 hours in Vegas to only get back in the car and drive another 5 hours home.

Just take me out and shoot me because the fun part of me has apparently died.

It wasn't always this way. There used to be a time when I was ready to go at a moments notice. In college I'd be waiting with car keys in hand for the Golfer would call after practice and ask me to come over. Am I ashamed to admit that I was so eager and anxious to spend time with him? Not really. I was in love--crazy college love--and all I wanted more than anything was to spend time with my Golfer.

:: Mama and the Golfer circa 1993. He had more hair, I had less. ::

It makes me a little sad that I'm not longer that girl, that girl in crazy college love. Now I'm in a deeper grown-up kind of love. But back then, I didn't have a house to worry about, 2 dogs to care for, and 2 kids to take with me and let's face it, along with being in a deeper grown-up kinda of love comes a whole lot of responsibility (i.e., kids, a house, etc., etc., etc.).

The Golfer was disappointed which made me disappointed, but he's come to understand and appreciate that he is married to a planner and planners don't take off for Vegas with 2 kids in the car on a random Friday afternoon. A planner needs to plan and I hadn't planned on going to Vegas this weekend. (Not to mention that I have nothing but dirt and trenches in my backyard, but that's another story for later.)

But...what if? What if I threw all reason and responsibility out the window and took off for the weekend?

What if...

Um, yeah, I love my husband, but it's just not going to happen. The moment has passed.

Sorry, Vegas. Maybe next time.

But I wouldn't count on it.

Monthly Column: Because you just never know

©Stephenie Freeman

It’s time once again for Parent/Teacher Conferences at our son’s elementary school. Time to hear about our son’s intellectual progress or lack thereof. The Cheese is cool as a cucumber about the whole thing, doesn’t seem to be sweating it one bit. Apparently, he feels that he has nothing to worry about.

His mama isn’t quite as confident.

Please understand. My sweet boy has given me no reason to be nervous. He’s a second grader who loves to learn and starts off each day by running into school—literally—with what I can see is an unmatched, unparalleled enthusiasm.

Nevertheless, I’m a little worried about what his teacher will say. You just never know what bomb a teacher might throw out there that you’re not expecting.

“Little Johnny is a bright boy who is reading well past his grade level. Unfortunately, he constantly picks his nose and, well, he also cusses a lot.”

Ka-blam! Never saw it coming.

Children aren’t perfect and parents know this better than anyone, but there’s nothing worse than having to be the one to deliver the news. There were several times when I, as a teacher, had to convey information about a child that was, let’s just say, less than positive.

Once I made a mother cry (not on purpose obviously), another time I had a parent threaten to sue me, and my all time favorite was when a mother pointed a long finger at me and said, “I’ll find you in the parking lot when you least expect it.” She never did, thank goodness, but surely you can see why these conferences make me a little skittish.

Now as a parent, my conferencing nervousness exists on multiple levels. At the lowest level, at the bottom of the pyramid, are the Nerves of Discovery. This involves finding out that your child sucks at math, needs a spelling tutor, or is getting an unsatisfactory grade in P.E. because he refuses to square dance. This is the kind of bad news that only adds to your already mile-long laundry list of parental responsibilities and that makes me nervous.

Above the Nerves of Discovery are the Nerves of Insomnia. This level involves getting news at a conference that is so embarrassing, so devastating to your motherly ego, that it causes you to lay awake at night wondering where you went wrong. I can think of nothing worse than sitting in a chair meant for a five-year-old and hearing the news that your child spends most of the school day with his hands down his pants. No wonder he was always so happy to go to school!

And lastly, at the top of the pyramid you will find the Nerves of the Unknown. This final level involves finding out something that is so out of left field, so unexpected, that you do stupid things like threaten to sue his teacher or beat her up in the parking lot. (For your information, the parent who threatened to sue me was upset because I didn’t make his son—who was didn’t speak a lick of English—take the state’s standardized tests, and the mother who wanted to beat me up was unhappy because I made her son stay inside during recess to finish his work. Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up, people.)

Hearing bad news can cause a parent to do and say crazy things. We’re parents! We are Mama Bears and Papa Bears protecting our cubs with a mean and angry growl when necessary! The trick with conferences is waiting to do your growling until you get home. Or better yet, do what I’m doing and pray that there won’t even be anything to growl about.

But that just makes me nervous.

The Cheese turns 8.

I took the easy way out this year when it came to the Cheese's birthday cake. These are supposed to be basketballs which have obviously seen better days, but it didn't seem to matter to the birthday boy. "It's okay, Mom," he told me.

Doesn't this just say it all when it comes to 8 year-old boys?

This birthday was about one of the easiest that I've ever done. The Cheese invited 2 of his best buddies to come over on Friday night for pizza, beat up basketball cupcakes, and presents before heading to a Lakers game at Staples Center. I highly recommend having a birthday party where after about an hour the birthday boy and party guests have to leave the house for the remainder of the party and you, the birthday Mama, get to stay at home and relax.

He's eight now. And he'll tell anyone who will listen. Some things just never change.

And off they went to cheer the Lakers to victory! And when they returned home I asked the birthday Daddy how it was to which he replied, "Other than the Cheese taking a dump during all of half-time, not bad!"