My Cringe-Filled Experiences Around Other People’s Kids

MMM Showcase, Parental Intel Thursday, August 14, 2014

Good news! I’ve been asked to join Mom.me’s writers’ circle. This means I’ll be posting more regularly on that lovely site. I dipped my toes back in those waters just last month when I wrote about my daily morning debate between motherhood and runner. This time around I’m talking about my recent awkward encounters with other people’s kids (and the parents, too!). Have a read, and let me know what you think. 

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From the minute they bustled through the doors, I started holding my breath. It was a small family — a set of older parents with a 3-year-old child — descending upon the already cramped airport lounge. There was a storm brewing on the East Coast, delaying a large batch of flights out. The benefit of being able to recline in comfy seats with a kind buffet of warm pasta, cold sandwiches and simple snacks, and free Wi-Fi was not lost on me. I was ever grateful, specifically because I had my 5-year-old son along with me on this trip.

Photo credit: Mom.me

Photo credit: Mom.me

We had just tucked into another bowl of cheddar fish when the trio — we’ll call them The Louds — stomped in. Kid Loud was high-octane, just whining and yelling and taking bratdom to the next level. Even my son said, “Mom, that kid is really whiny — way more whinier than any other person I’ve ever seen.” Word, li’l homey. Word.

The child’s parents looked completely exhausted and deflated: The dad proceeded to take out his laptop and fully ignore his kid, while the mother chased after and tried to corral the tiny human.

They picked the row of seats facing us. (Yay.) Kid Loud steamrolled over and started poking, talking, nudging, hugging, yelling, grabbing food and generally bugging my son. The two kids played, as best as they could. I must have heard Kid Loud’s name about 58 times in the span of 20 minutes, as the mother tried in vain to set her child straight. We still had another 90 minutes before our delayed flight was set to leave, yet I seriously considered fleeing the comforts of the lounge and heading to the sweatbox of the faraway, woefully neglected “satellite” terminal just to escape The Louds.

Instead I tried to focus on my newspaper, but ended up going over the same damn sentence on loop. At one point I was even reading out loud, in a stage whisper, to rise above the din of Kid Loud. Then I tried to zone out, get Zen, meditate. No luck. Listen, even Deepak Chopra would have given up and Namaste’d on out of there.

Read the full post here on Mom.me.

Make Lunches Daily? CUE ‘CATHY’ SWEAT!

Life As Mom, Parental Intel Tuesday, August 5, 2014

There are plenty of great things about my son’s preschool program. That they serve healthy, varied, delicious hot lunch (plus snacks) every day has got to be in the Top 3 Great Things list.

The school prints out a monthly menu and hands it out to parents, so we know what’s coming. This also means that all of our smart-pants tiny people know what’s coming too. For the past few months, The Youngster will ask me what the school will be serving for lunch tomorrow. (The paper is pinned to our activity board high above his eye line and pay grade.) If it’s something he doesn’t quite like (mashed potatoes, weird-combo meatloaf), he’ll ask if he may take home lunch to school instead.

Rock the Lunchbox | Ms. Mary Mack

Any given month, this switcheroo accounts for maybe five days. That’s decent, right? I’m packing lunch for this kiddo five times out of every month. I often see people posting pics of their kids’ lunches on social media. Many of the pics are fantastic and totally aspirational (hello, kale and pumpkin seed salad in a Bento box!). And then some of the photos are … a lot less fantastic and a little drab. But no shade … I know it takes mind energy to plot out what to pack, who likes this, who doesn’t like that, and what is going to actually get eaten at school, not making the return trip home.

Rock the Lunchbox 1 | Ms. Mary Mack

Our good friends at Honest Tea knows the lunchbox struggle is real. Keeping the lunch options fresh and fun and healthy ain’t easy. So they’ve once again joined up with Annie’s Homegrown, Applegate, Organic Valley, and Rudi’s Organic Bakery for the “Rock the Lunchbox” campaign.

Rock the Lunchbox Toolkit | Ms. Mary Mack

It’s essentially a web site dedicated to sharing lunch ideas, tips and downloadable coupons for parents on that daily lunchbox grind.

Here’s where you come in … Honest Tea is generously donating a special Rock the Lunchbox Toolkit to one lucky MMM reader.

What’s in the Toolkit?

  • 3 free lunchbox containers (a Laptop Lunches Bento, a set of Blue Avocado Rezip bags, and one U-Konserve stainless steel container)
  • 6 free product coupons (we’re talking freeness from Annie’s Homegrown, Organic Valley, Honest Kids and more)
  • 1 set of Crayola Crayons (your kids can draw what their ideal lunch looks like and share it on the RTL site)

My son was excited to see everything spill out of our Toolkit. You would have thought it was some new LEGO set. And as result, I’ve been packing lunch this week — by his request. Hoping this excitement becomes a longstanding trend as we move closer toward the first day of … KINDERGARTEN! ACK!

Cathy Comic

For the giveaway, tell us what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever packed for lunch. One lucky reader will win the Rock the Lunchbox Toolkit. Leave a comment below, and the winner will be announced next week!

{Guest Post} From Honor Student to 16, Black, and Pregnant

Life As Mom, Parental Intel Friday, August 1, 2014

In the U.S., teen pregnancy rates have hit all-time lows. When I read this latest report, my mind went straight to two people: Gloria Malone, a blogger and young parent advocate who wrote this great post for MMM about sex, straight-talk, and teen moms.The other person was Donna Worrell. Donna was one of my best friends in elementary school. We went to different high schools and grew apart. But I always remember the day I heard the news that Donna, then just 16, was pregnant and on her way to becoming a teenage mother. 

Donna and I have reconnected, thanks to Facebook, and I after seeing a new photo of her gorgeous and now incredibly grown-up daughter, I asked my old friend if she would like to share her story, her journey. I’m thankful that she said yes.

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I was recently asked to talk about my journey through teenage motherhood. At first, I thought, “I have no story. What’s there to say?” I got pregnant, had a baby, and moved forward with my life. But on second thought, after I allowed myself to let go of my need to minimize both my struggles and accomplishments, I was able to admit that I do have a story worth telling: I went from being a high school honor student living in Montreal’s suburbia to being 16, black and pregnant.

Donna W. | Ms. Mary Mack

Teens mothers sadden and frustrate the masses.  Often this is due to real ideas about poverty, emotional instability, lack of education, broken families, and social welfare dependency. The very same problems that face adults are magnified when “babies are having babies.”

The fact is, the Teenager’s decision to have a baby is void of foresight. The still-developing teenage brain cannot even begin to image the life-altering reality of motherhood.  I could have never predicted how that decision to have a baby would continue to affect me even 25 years later.

I was a hurt girl.  I was so broken that I did not even have the good sense to find a boy who I believed liked me.  I developed a relationship with an individual whose own self-hatred matched mine.  Some days he was nice and that was good enough for me.  Hell, my sister thought he was cute. That counted for something!

I slipped on those rose-colored glasses over my adolescent eyes. My view became distorted, warped. The glasses made issues and situations appear bigger, move faster, and often presented me with sunflowers, when before me actually stood weeds.  These invisible, slanted specks actually enabled me to plan my pregnancy. Yes, I planned my teenage pregnancy! I chose to “get knocked up.” My vision for how it would all play out was: finish high school, have a baby, give love, and get love. I actually believed that this was magnificent idea, a smart plan. I figured that the worse part would be in the telling my parents.

I decided that I would break this news to them right away, straight to the jugular, quick and … painless?

No one could have ever prepared me for the contempt that came from the adults in my parents’  social circles. I could never tell if it was my actual pregnancy or the un-neighborly talk that would frequently bring my mother to tears. She never said anything unkind, never an angry word towards me, although her tears confirmed her anguish and disappointment.  You see, my mother was the child of a teenage mother, and she knew all too well how this situation would play out for everyone involved. She understood the difficulties that I would face and, stifling the pain of her own experiences, my mother supported me.

After awhile, I grew immune to the sound of my mother‘s tears.  I became immune to the unkind adults who would keep their daughters away from me, afraid that I somehow my “fastness” would rub off on their innocent girls.  I was immune to the woman, who used to call on me to babysit her children, now hustling by, pretending not to see me that day in the park. I was immune to the venomous words and rough actions that spewed from the Black nurse assigned to care for me during the birth of my child. I understood that in her eyes I was a statistic, another little Black girl destined to poverty and despair.  She was disgusted by me and in that moment, I was vulnerable, so I blocked her.  I focused all of my energy on delivering my baby.

Most teenage girls don’t have babies because they are “fast.” On some level, there is a genuine need to feel like they matter. Something is broken and the baby represents the possibility of repair.

I left home shortly before my eighteenth birthday. I had finished high school on time and then enrolled in nursing school. By the time I was 21, I was the young mother of two children. Today I am an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, with a soft spot for the adolescent population and the mentally ill (go figure!), and have three beautiful children.

I’ve since apologized to my mother for making her cry.  And I’ve apologized to my daughter for being her mother as a teenager.  I believe that her life would have been very different if I had mothered her at my strongest, smartest, best self. My daughter often assures me that I did well, I was a good mom to her, no matter my age.

A couple of years ago at my son’s high school graduation, I experienced tears of joy for him, mixed with tears of sadness for the adolescent me.  In that moment, I became my mother, weeping for the loss of my own childhood to teen pregnancy. I was surprised by my reaction that day, but those emotions consequently brought me to a place where I could apologize and forgive myself.

Today, I am using this guest blog post as a forum, a celebratory space for the teen mom who made it!  With kindest regards, I say to those of you, who might be inclined to have preconceived notions: Don’t count every teen mother out.  Here I  stand,  living proof that a woman’s life does not begin the moment that you meet her, nor does it end with the sound of her baby’s cry.  Without regret, I believe that through this difficult journey came my deliverance.

{sponsored} Our ‘Reading Under the Stars’ Party Was a Success!

Parental Intel Thursday, July 17, 2014

Remember last month when I wrote about Ms. Mary Mack being a proud member of The Scholastic Circle, and how happy we were to join Scholastic’s 8th annual Summer Reading Challenge?

Summer Reading Challenge Logo | Ms. Mary Mack

The Youngster had been counting down the days until our little gathering last week. Talk about excitement. Well, I’m pleased to report that the night, sponsored by Scholastic and powered by EVEREADY®, was a shining hit with kiddie-winks and parents alike.

I made star-shaped snack and treats and set up the backyard with chairs and blankets and books. My son also helped me lay out the nifty flashlights in a bag along with our special glow-in-the-dark bookmarks and The Magic School Bus activity posters. Big thanks to EVEREADY® for providing the blue and red flashlights and to Scholastic for the fun “Reading Under the Stars” kit!

Reading Under the Stars | Ms. Mary Mack

Reading Under the Stars books | Ms. Mary Mack

The kids, ranging in age from 3 to 7, had a blast. It was good to see them so ready to read and listen as stories were read to them.  A Pet for Fly Guy was a clear favorite, especially with our sweet, little buddy Maddie, who asked me to read it a few times back-to-back.

Actually, I got so swept up in reading to the kids that I didn’t snap any pictures of us. I could have used the photo break after I was handed a neighbor’s book blindly and asked to read it. Uh … it was Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. There were a few horrified, tiny faces as that tale unfolded. Yeah, not the best choice there. We cleansed our palates with some Curious George, and we were as right as rain all over again.

Reading Under the Stars treats | Ms. Mary Mack

Reading Under the Stars flashlights | Ms. Mary Mack

Each child left with books and posters and flashlights and good time had. The parents happily took home Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge pledges, books lists and log sheets. And we all felt pretty ready to stop the summer slide in its tracks.

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Thanks again to Scholastic for sponsoring this fun summer event.
You can still join the challenge. Just register your kids here and start reading! 

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