Say What?! Kids and the Song Lyric Conundrum

As a parent of two boys who thoroughly enjoy listening to music, I am finding the vast array of musical options for them to listen to is an extraordinary thing. One second they can listen to boy band pop, and another heavy metal, hip hop, or emo. I’m someone who enjoys dance as a hobby, while my husband was a former music major and lead singer of a teenage death metal band. It’s pretty much a given that our kids would take to music whole-heartedly. Then again, who doesn’t? Remember that feeling that came over you when purchasing your very first cassette tape or CD? It’s part of life to identify with certain songs that somehow take us back to particular moments in our lives. But listening to music ain’t always rosey. Sometimes the words being sung, are not, um, age appropriate. In these instances, parents want to hurl ourselves at the pause button.

Remember the red hot embarrassment you felt the first time a suggestive song came on the radio and your parent turned it off and asked if you knew what that song meant? Or maybe you had the parent that just turned the radio off, then gave you a side eyed look wondering how much you knew about the lyrics that had single handedly just detonated a bomb of awkwardness in the car? Now imagine you’re the parent, you’re in the car, and ta-da! It’s your turn to have that moment with your own kid.

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Gone are the days of being limited to what is on the radio or having to choose from your very own CD collection. There is an entire galaxy out there now to choose from it doesn’t matter what gets radio play. The radio obviously no longer dictates the only songs our kids hear. Not by a long shot. Whatever is popular on YouTube, or the latest background music in their Roblox game, usually contributes to how they find new songs. Kids can request any music they would like to hear now as long as they have a streaming device to play it from.

In the now of 2019, our family uses Google Play, which essentially allows us to play any song we want on the various Google Home devices we own. This means our children are able to grow up hearing all different genres of music at a mere verbal request. They simply say, “OK Google, play ‘Bark at the Moon’ by Ozzy Osbourne”, or “OK Google, play ‘I’m in love with the Coco’ by O.T. Genesis” or “OK Google, play ‘Help Me Help You’ by Logan Paul”. As you can see, the options are quite broad. Along with this amazing capability to listen to any song we want, comes the need to police some of what comes on right after said song. Your child might request “Rolex” by Ayo and Teo, which is immediately followed by a song chock full of expletives and sexual experiences by Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz. Now picture this scenario when the volume is turned all the way up and Google can’t really hear you over the song saying “OK Google, STOP THE MUSIC!” five times over until every unspeakable lyric you can imagine has already infiltrated your child’s ears. This should seriously be an SNL skit because to be an outsider watching this is likely a scene to behold.

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Comparatively, in the late eighties and early nineties, there were some hardcore risqué songs my friends and I were listening to. In fact, I vividly remember singing just about every lyric to one of Eazy-E’s most raunchy songs when I was a bright eyed, innocent little 9 year old. I first heard it at a friend’s birthday party at her house. One of the boys there had brought the tape, and we all liked the beat so much we rewound the tape a hundred times and listened to it again and again. By the end of that day, whether I had access to that song ever again didn’t matter, the lyrics were engraved in my brain forever. I recall singing that song with reckless abandon in front of her parents not even thinking twice about what it meant.

When I think back to what those parents must have been thinking watching me confidently slay every word to that song, I want to absolutely curl up and die. I feel a little better when I remember that everyone around me knew the lyrics to “Funky Cold Medina” (Tone Loc), “The Humpty Dance” (Digital Underground), “Do Me” (Bel Biv Devoe), “Doin It” (LL Cool J), and the list goes on. Did I dissect every lyric? Definitely not before I was in the 7th grade. I loved to dance to those songs, but I had no clue what they meant. Once I was in junior high, of course that story changed. The lyrics of songs became so important. Suddenly, you’re identifying with a specific band and their songs become the soundtrack for that point in your life. Love songs, heartbreak songs, songs about sex, songs about rebelling, sticking it to the man, whatever it is you were going through at the time, that song will always remind you of that time.

Every generation has had their version of racy music. Elvis was of course considered massively sexual in his time with his hip shaking and snarled upper lip. To think that Elvis was considered “naughty” is hysterical, considering the overtly sexual songs/outfits/videos that came out in the late 80’s, and early 90’s. Think of Madonna, George Michael, and Salt N’ Pepa. In fact, “Let’s Talk About Sex” was the song my dad had turned off and nervously side-eyed me about from the front seat when I was 11. The difference here is that for some reason, my kids ARE paying close attention to the words, and it’s making me think I was either just plain dumb or willfully ignorant so I could shake my head and say no way do I know what that means Dad …so as to avoid further discussion.

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The lyrics my 6 and 10 year old are often repeating and giggling about constantly are in the songs getting the most airplay on the radio, of course. These are the ones on the top charts that I’m sure many kids are listening to across the country. I’d love to know how parents are answering the questions about the lyrics. That may be a great topic for a follow up to this article.

For instance, here is an example of what I told my son when he asked me about the song “Beauty and the Beat”.

“Hey Mom, what does it mean when Nicki Minaj says, ‘Buns out, weiner, but I gotta keep an eye out for Selena.’ in that song with Justin Bieber?”

Wow. Hmmm…. She is talking about how much she likes eating hot dogs and when you’re performing as a musician at a stadium, there are these men that walk around and sell hot dogs, like at a Yankees game, and she’s got to keep her eye out for people that want to steal her hot dog away, like Selena Gomez.” That question that was asked by my oldest, when he was 8, and thankfully, he bought my ridiculous answer.

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The two words that are in about 100 different popular songs right about now that I’m trying to conjure up how the hell to explain is “your taste”. It’s getting tricky folks. I’m all for a good double entendre, but when it’s just blatantly out there like that…how do you explain that one? Your guess is as good as mine. I will probably go with kissing as the explanation…which is the least offensive. But kisses in their minds aren’t usually spit swapping ones, so this plants that seed. Ugh, see what I mean? There’s nowhere good to to go from here.

There’s always the “waking up with you/next to you/in your or his bed,” etc., but this pales in comparison to some of the other lyrics. The truth is, I’m running out of clever things to come up with. Sure it’s easy to just turn the channel or change the song. But sometimes, you’re hearing the song for the first time and it’s by an artist the whole fam loves, and well, there she blows!

Sometimes it happens to be the chorus of their favorite song. “You’re unbelievable, you’re in my heart, you’re in my head, and now I’m waking up and you’re in my bed.” The lyric could be worse, but then comes this beauty of a question after gazing out the car window in deep thought, “Why can’t a girl sleep over again, Mom?”

Lord help me.

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Sometimes, instead of changing the station or song, I’ll turn down the naughty part of a tune and conveniently strike up a conversation. This way it’s not so noticeable. My older son picked up on it, and the other day, turned down the inappropriate part of a song while his brother was in the car and then looked at me and smiled. I didn’t know whether to be proud or mortified that he had picked up on my tactic.

So it seems that with each generation, the lyrics get more and more brazen, and the culture around the songs falls in step. I mean, after Miley Cyrus came along, does anything really have shock value anymore? I think not.

There was an excellent comedian opening a show that had a hilarious bit on just how raunchy mainstream radio and music now in general is. He mentioned that soon, every one of the worst words you can think of will make up an entire song and next thing you know, that very song will be playing while you’re on hold with your doctor’s office.

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Being a parent can be sheer comedy and terror at the same time. I can’t wait to see if my kids remember some of the song explanations I’ve given them. When they do actually figure out what some of these lyrics mean, if nothing else, they can look back and laugh. Well either that, or they’ll say, So that’s why I’m screwed up. Better yet, here’s hoping they’ll pilfer them for their own parenting bag of tricks when they’re in the hot seat.

Sneaky Little Bastard- When An Autoimmune Disease Rears Its Ugly Head

This July I turned 40, and the entire month was a dream come true. Actually, let me rephrase that. The entire summer was a dream come true. We packed in so much with the kids, and no doubt, spent more dinero than ever before. But life’s about memories, not money, so I’m honestly not fretting as much about the expenditure part. With turning 40 comes an awareness of sorts. Looking back at your experiences and choices reflectively, as well as peering out toward the future wondering what it may hold.

At my 40th surprise party, I had the most interesting conversation with my friend’s husband. He mentioned how and why the 40’s are our absolute best years in life, and to acknowledge this, because my 50th would feel very different. He had a smart hypothesis for this-mainly being that our health will surely begin to decline at the age of 50, and without a doubt our bodies will not be able to work in the same reliable ways. It was truly an enlightening and lovely conversation and I’m surely not doing it the justice it deserves here in this blog post. He struck a very poignant chord when he mentioned the importance of good health. We cannot partake in and experience much of anything, when we’re not feeling well. Fortunately, in my 39 years on this planet, I hadn’t had to think much about my health, and as a result, completely took it for granted.

Not only did I take it for granted, I think I tempted the universe with the hashtag I posted the day after my birthday in 2018: “whatyougot39?” Because the universe was like: You ’bout to find out!

Just a few hours later, on my son’s birthday, I would come down with an infection that would last two weeks, with a few days of health in between before the same illness struck again for another 2 weeks. I became suddenly ill with what felt like a UTI. But it felt stronger and more painful than any previous UTI I had ever had. After many trips to the same doctor and being put on a 3 day dose of a weak antibiotic, my sickness became a raging inferno of pain in the kidney region. With no improvement after 10 days, the doctor refused to change my prescription to something stronger. She said this was her decision simply because nothing was showing up on my urine culture (this is common with people with IC). She also thought I might have kidney stones or appendicitis. After passing out at the radiology center and being told she would not put me on a different medication, I went to someone else who immediately put me on a much stronger antibiotic, and smartly told me to see a urologist stat.

Everyone knows that 10 days of a UTI left to its own devices is like giving it a free pass to cuddle right up to your kidneys and then smother them. It was no surprise that I had a kidney infection. But what was the cause of this? How did it come on so suddenly and with such fervor? The urologist did a cystoscopy, and confirmed my bladder was quite inflamed. He told me to finish my meds, cut out coffee for one week, and call him if I began to feel better after taking a break from coffee.

One week later, I felt back to normal thanks to the stronger meds and ditching of my fave drink. The doctor said, I’m willing to bet you have IC (interstitial cystitis). I’m going to send you a sheet full of what you cannot eat because these foods cause what’s called a “flare up”.

OK, great! How do we cure this?” So cutely positive I was. P.S. there isn’t a cure.

What is interstitial cystitis? This is an inflammatory disease that seems to go after the mucous membranes, and for whatever reason mainly attacks the bladder. The lining in the bladder is compromised thus allowing toxins to seep in. It is set ablaze when the body is fighting off an infection, or sometimes, when I’ve simply put the wrong food or drink in my mouth.

Last fall, I was afraid to eat much of anything. I cut out all of my favorite things: coffee, salsa, fruit, wine, seltzer, juice, tomatoes, pizza, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, and basically anything that has acid or caffeine in it. While I missed my chips and salsa and coffee SO MUCH, I felt so good and began to realize I could contribute in a huge way to my own health by watching my diet. That was worth a lot.

It also gave “cheating” on my diet a whole new meaning. It meant feeling like I had the flu the next day and sometimes for up to a full week. Inflammation in my arms and legs, my neck, and my bladder. It meant feeling so tired I could not keep my eyes open. Instead of planning what fun activity I could be doing with my family, I was more often than not daydreaming about sleeping, so I could avoid feeling any kind of pain. This is why I was thankful I only had a couple of these flare ups since I had been diagnosed last August.

Also, imagine what parenting with a hangover feels like, except it’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had, and it lasts for days. There’s no pinch hitter, there’s just you. Good times.

Everyone’s symptoms are different and yet the same in some regard. Medical professionals don’t know a ton about it, although it is not an unpopular disease. Most of what I have read and heard from my doctors is it is centered around the bladder. It makes you very susceptible for infections. For me, this is just one small piece to this very painful puzzle. It is different for everyone, some have it severely, others only from time to time. Coincidentally, my mom was diagnosed a few months before I was, and one of my friends from junior high also has it. You learn to join Facebook groups and lean on each other for tips, tricks, and support.

Just when I thought I knew of every symptom that could occur from IC, I was introduced to something new. A week ago I woke up and felt like I belonged in a COPD commercial. Breathing felt really tough on top of the fact that I had a UTI. It went from 1 to 100 in only 24 hours time. Everyone’s body is different, but I am not stranger to infection (thank you 8 bouts of mastitis and one nasty infectious cyst in my back), so I can tell immediately when an infection is there, and when it’s serious. It’s the same core symptoms for me:my feet feel like literal bricks. My legs feel like I’m walking through cement, my arms are roaring like I’ve just bench pressed 100 lbs 3 times over, my back feels like Jeter just hit a grand slam against it, and my head is throbbing. My eyes and throat are sandpaper. This is part of the inflammation- all the mucus membranes suddenly become like tiny deserts. However, this time, the disease went after all of those things plus my lungs.

Fast forward to better antibiotics, anti-nausea meds, ibuprofen, and a regular inhaler, and one week later I’m almost back to normal. When I saw my doctor, he explained succinctly why I felt like I was dying from this infection. You have an inflammatory autoimmune disease, Amber. So your organs and limbs are always simmering with that inflammation. Now introduce an infection, and you’ve just set your insides on fire. That’s why it’s difficult to walk, breathe, and think. The three asthma attacks you had that first day of the infection were due to the IC . The inflammation doesn’t just stop at your limbs and bladder, it went to your lungs this time and it feels serious and scary, but with the right treatment, you WILL start to feel better.

I am sharing this story reluctantly. Being seen as sick is not sexy. I pride myself on being strong and this is making me uncomfortable just by writing it, but I feel compelled to do so anyhow. I’m 40 now and owning every part of who I am is important for me. I demand it of myself now.

Part of me has changed whether I like it or not. There are days that I wake up and I don’t want to move because I don’t feel well. There are days I have to pick up my kids from school and smile at people when I feel like I shouldn’t even be out of bed. I want to be the me that was always up for an adventure, energetic, and healthy. And, frankly, it pisses me off that I can’t always be that. I repeat this mantra when I haven’t gotten out of bed for 4 days THIS IS NOT WHO I AM, THIS IS NOT WHO I AM. Funny enough, having this happen also opened my eyes and made me look at everyone else differently.

I used to think to myself, wow, that person is always a grouch, or WTF? Why does she NEVER smile back, or God, that person is so short/cold all the time. Now, I wonder if they are in physical pain? Maybe they are suffering in some way-mentally, emotionally, physically? I feel guilty for having judged them. Maybe they legitimately feel like crap all of the time, and I am lucky enough to feel like crap only some of the time.

On this very topic, about 12 years ago, I worked with a woman who was a single mom in her mid-thirties who was always talking about how sick and weak she felt. There was just one strange thing- she never looked outwardly sick to me. Everyday she complained in confidence to me about how ill she was, how she did not know how much longer she could keep coming to work. She said she had an autoimmune illness and it affected mostly her bladder. She called out sick almost every other day. She broke plans whenever we tried to get together outside of work. Two of her friends at work would complain loudly about being blown off by her or vowing never to make plans with her again. I went out to dinner with her one night only to end up calling 9-1-1 because she collapsed on the way back from the bathroom. A few short weeks later, she quit work due to her illness. I never heard from her again, and I never tried to contact her.

I am ashamed to admit this, but I didn’t really believe that she was ill. This was purely on the basis that she did not ever “look” sick to me. I was frustrated with her, I felt she was making up her symptoms for attention, using it as a crutch to bail on people and constantly complain. I realize now it was my own pure and total ignorance as to why I felt this way toward her. Autoimmune sicknesses are often wreaking havoc on the inside, not necessarily visible on the outside, and folks are just sort of supposed to deal. Life doesn’t pause when your body decides to attack itself, and since there is no cure for most autoimmune diseases, that is exactly what you do. You keep going and do what you can to fix the symptoms.

After remembering this, I wanted to contact her. I wanted to see how she was doing after all these years, and if she was able to go back to work. I contacted a mutual friend to see if he had her contact info, and he also never heard from her after she left the company. I want so badly to apologize to her, because while I never said to her that I didn’t believe her, I’m sure she could feel it. All these years later, I realize that this illness I have, could very well be what she had. Part of me wonders if this is karma biting me right on the ass!

Health is everything. I know those of you reading this are just like 2018 Amber on July 13th, taking your health for granted and shouting at the universe – What you got? Bring it! I’m telling you, health really is EVERYTHING.

You know what else? Health insurance is also everything. And…I happen to not have it. Just in time for my first mammogram and for my first year of having IC. I hope there is change in this country in the foreseeable future making it so that our jobs are not tied to having good and somewhat affordable health insurance. The “least expensive” option through Connecticare for us was a $12,000 deductible with a monthly premium of $1100. That means we’d have to spend $25,200 before being covered. No thanks. When you step back and think about how getting a job with healthcare benefits dictates being able to have reasonable health insurance, and that our jobs and healthcare are somehow intertwined, it’s pretty nonsensical. Here’s hoping something changes.

I leave you with that to ponder.

Stay healthy my friends!

I Had the Leggings Conversation With My Sons

Recently, I read an article published by Scary Mommy that really stirred something in me. The article was titled Notre Dame Mom Writes Op-Ed Begging Girls To Stop Wearing Leggings. I’m thankful to the author, Valerie Williams, who brought to light this story of a Catholic mother, begging the women and girls of the world to stop wearing leggings. Her reason for this plea you ask? Because leggings invite boys and men to ogle, stare, and think sinful thoughts apparently. The Catholic mom goes on to say she wants to throw a blanket on these girls. She takes it one step further toward the end of her op-ed to say choose jeans instead. “Leggings are so naked, so form fitting, so exposing. Could you think of the mothers of sons the next time you go shopping and consider choosing jeans instead?”

I was as fired up as Valerie was about this article. Personally, I’m late to the leggings party and have owned 2 pairs of sweatpants in my whole life. It’s like being welcomed to the world of comfort as a late bloomer. The first pair of sweatpants I ever owned came from my boyfriend (who is now my husband) back in 2002 at the age of 22. I consider myself woke now that I own a few leggings and more than 2 pairs of sweatpants. So to read the original op-ed by Maryanne White, and be told basically-hey do me a favor and don’t wear what you’re comfortable in because you’re inviting both the good and bad men to stare at you and possibly do a whole lot worse to you- made me cringe. Not only did it make me cringe, it also made me think- I have to discuss this with my kids!

Because I’m a huge believer in open communication with my sons, I decided they were ready for this lesson. Additionally, I could not wait to hear what they had to say on this topic. It was both comical and sensible.

My sons are 9 and 6 and this is how the conversation went:

Me: I’m going to tell you guys a story and then ask what you think is right or wrong and ask you how it makes you feel OK?

Sons: OK, fun!

Me: Let’s pretend that you were told by fathers of all the girls at school there was going to be a new rule only for boys. The rule was that you could no longer wear tank tops to school because your shoulders, peck muscles, and collar bones invite girls to follow you, beg you to be their boyfriend, stare at you, stalk you, touch you, and not respect your personal space. How would that make you feel?

Sons: (Both looking confused and grimacing) 9 year old: But how is that the boys’ fault that the girls are doing those things? Why can’t the boys just live their life and wear what they want? That’s not fair. I would tell those fathers they can’t make rules for us like that.They need to tell their daughters to stop it. 6 year old: Yeah, I would tell those girls don’t touch me, I want to wear this shirt.

Me: OK, so now what if I told you, this is really happening in the world? Except it’s with girls. A mom of boys wrote an article saying she wants girls to stop wearing leggings and likely in some schools leggings are not allowed to be worn because people think it forces boys to stare, grab, follow, say inappropriate things, not respect their personal space, and beg these girls to be their girlfriends.

Sons: Gasp. That’s not fair.

Me: What would you say to that mom that wrote that or to people who tell girls they can’t wear a certain type of pants because they force boys to do things they “can’t control” like stare, etc.

Sons: 9 year old: Well I have a question first. What if the girl has a wedgie? We should tell her right? Who would want to walk around all day with a wedgie and not know? That’s just embarrassing. Am I doing something bad by telling her that? Will she think I was staring at her butt?

Me: (Silently cracking up) If you are friends with this person, you could politely say hey you may want to go to the bathroom and fix your pants in the rear area. I’m honestly trying to help you out. But if you’re not friends with this person, no you should not just randomly tell a stranger hey go fix your wedgie -even though you’re heart is in the right place.

Sons: 6 year old: We don’t touch other people and we don’t stare because it’s not nice. They can wear the pants. But we don’t touch people’s butts because we get in trouble.

9 year old: Yeah, let the girls wear the pants. Why does it matter? I don’t understand why parents of boys could control what girls are wearing. And they aren’t even their own parents right? That’s just weird.

My little lesson/test with the boys proved to me that it’s pretty straightforward. Teach your sons and daughters to be respectful human beings. Don’t make a specific gender the bad guy because they choose to wear a form fitting, comfortable clothing article.

When You Enter The Uncool Zone With Your Kids

We’d all like to think we’ve still got it. I’m not talking about that “it” factor that makes people attracted to you. You know, like when the college boy working the ice cream counter appears to have done a double take, and you walk out of there with an extra skip in your step.  I’m talking about the cool factor with your kids. Somehow, we’re hip in our kids’ minds for a certain time. We are infallible for a hot second and, on occasion, they look up to us. Maybe it’s because of the stories we share with them, or the things we participate in with them, or perhaps it’s purely because they feel the love.

Don’t be fooled friends, this can all change on a dime. I’m sure some of you are already being nicknamed and called things by your kids as they chuckle under their breath. You’ve crossed over into the uncool zone if this is happening. On this note, according to my 6 year old, I am what he likes to call “Derpy“.  He learned this word from the FTG family on YouTube and, apparently, it is the opposite of cool.

We went out to dinner recently and I was shamelessly pointing and whispering about a famous person that was dining nearby. Kids, that guy is definitely famous. Teetering on being obvious, I tried a bit too hard to be enthusiastic to hype them up about it. For what reason- I can’t even tell you. I guess I wanted them to have the same excitement I was having so I was behaving like Lenny Kravitz had just blown me a kiss. I guess you could say it’s never quite as fun to spot a celebrity without someone else to enjoy the moment with.

We carried on with a relatively uneventful dinner and about half way through I connected the dots with who the guy was. He was simply someone who worked in the same building as I had for many years. A celebrity he was not! Once I realized this, I almost spit out my delicious margarita. I proceeded to laugh off and on about it throughout the rest of dinner. I thought it was hysterical. My kids and husband sat there shaking their heads at my ridiculousness. Mom, you’re SO derpy my youngest proclaimed.

I pick my kids up from school each day and usually we’ll pass by someone I know. According to my 6 year old, even the way I say hi to my friends is derpy. Mom why did you say “hi ladies” like that? You’re so derpy.

During a playdate, while making him and his friend a snack, I started chatting with my son’s buddy. He whispered to her, she’s SO derpy and rolled his eyes.

Now it’s a face I make in a photo, an outfit I wear, etc….it’s all…you guessed it….SO derpy.

This is surely payback from the universe for all the awful things I nicknamed my mom growing up: Splinter (the rat from Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles), Skeletor (the bad guy from He-Man), and Bronto, short for brontosaurus (because of her long neck and smallish head).

My 6 year old calling me derpy is way better than the mean things I called my mom the moment I deemed her uncool. Think back to what you called your parents or teased them about and get ready for it my fellow P’s.

Mom, you have my permission to call me Derpy whenever you want.

Sharing Stories & Supporting One Another

In the last six months I’ve written two stories about interesting and persevering women who deserve to have their stories told. These stories were submitted to an informative and thought provoking site called GirlTalkHQ for their Wonder Women series. The Wonder Women series was a call to writers to share stories about women who inspire us, have overcome adversity, and can teach us a thing or two based on their personal experiences. When I first saw the writing prompt Calling All Wonder Women, I couldn’t wait to get to work on these stories.

Continue reading here.

Bon Voyage! The Adventures of Traveling Solo With My Kids

Traveling alone with children is a feat in and of itself. When it’s over, you’re ready for a real “vacation”. On our latest adventure, so many unexpected things took place…

It had been exactly 4 years since I had traveled on my own with my two sons. I’m not talking about driving a long distance, I’m talking checking luggage, waiting in the security line, and flying on an airplane kind of travel. I didn’t really think much about it, I just went for it and hoped for the best.  This is sort of my MO and sometimes it gets me into trouble. While flying by the seat of my pants when making plans can cause me some of the usual parenting strife, undoubtedly, my kids always have a blast. Whatever discomfort or stress I sometimes need to overcome as the parent,  it is typically worth it on the other side of the adventure.  In the end, these experiences will be tucked away pleasantly in my sons’ memories for them to look back on fondly.

This close-my-eyes-and-jump travel decision with the kids, was quite a learning experience for me as a mom. So many unforeseen hurdles cropped up, by the time we returned, I was ready to hit up Home Depot to buy some lumber and build myself a lady shed in the backyard where Enya played on repeat and a masseuse was on call.

My sister had recently moved back to Chicago. I had initially decided to help her paint, hang stuff, and unpack without the kids in tow. However, the price was right, and it had been so long since I had brought the boys to their grandma’s house in Illinois or to visit Chicago, that neither of them remembered it. If they came along on this trip, they would get to see Grandma’s house, see their Aunt’s new house and maybe even visit with a friend or two and their kids also. These reasons were solid enough for me to make the decision to bring the boys. It would be another mom and sons adventure! So why not?

Fear of Flying

Upon mentioning the trip to both my boys, my 9 year old was elated. My 5 year old- not so much. He told me he was afraid to fly and that he was not going. When I told him it was not a joke, and we were really going, he burst into tears. This continued on for the whole month and a half anytime the words “fly”, “airplane”, “Chicago”, or even the words “Disney World” would come up. He would shake and cry and say again and again how afraid he was to fly.

Because his reaction was so severe, I decided to bring him to my EMDR therapist. He completed one session of therapy, and by the end, he was excited about flying. This alleviated his sudden breakdowns about flying. However, I only brought him to therapy once. It was not quite enough to solve the issue wholly. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to know this, until seeing how he reacted while boarding the airplane.

Luggage

My mom offered some pretty good advice regarding luggage,”Just bring one large suitcase and one carry on bag.” I took her advice and it worked out much better than trying to have the boys bring their cutesy roller suitcases.

When packing stuff for three people, one has to watch out for the weight so that there are not charges for oversized bags and so that you are not forced to pitch stuff due to it being overweight. Learn from my mistake, and check BOTH airlines if you are taking two different ones. It turns out one of the airlines had a 10 pound difference with their weight restriction than the other.  So on the return home, I had to throw away some of the gifts my sister gave me and shove all of the footwear we had brought into my already overflowing over-the-shoulder bag. Take it from me: mail extras, souvenirs, and gifts home. Otherwise, you’ll be frantically deciding what you can and cannot live without in order to get the weight of your bag down.

De Plane! De Plane!

The crying started once my husband pulled into the drop off lane at LaGuardia. My son was suddenly behaving the way he had been before the therapy session. He clung to my husband and begged to stay behind. We knew this meant boarding the plane was going to be a nightmare. My son latched onto my leg throughout the security line and whimpered quietly. I tried psyching myself up by telling myself in just a few short hours it would be over and we’d be in Chicago. I would help him get through this-it would be fine. We got to the gate and the attendant issued our seats. I saw that they were the last three seats on the plane and thought to myself, um, no way. I knew how loud it would be in that last row, and my son hates loud noise. I also knew that walking to the last row of a large plane with a frightened child would be like running the gauntlet. I let her know about his fear and she said she would absolutely help. Thank God for nice people. She moved us all the way up to row 14, and for a moment, there was relief.

The same Delta agent asked me to get on the plane first with the kids. She said this would likely ease his anxiety versus waiting in a long line. This made a lot of sense because waiting in a line would only allow his fear to fester.  We got to the front of the line and started down the ramp. This is when my son came undone. I knew instinctively his first move would be to make a run for it, so I was already latched onto his wrist with a death grip. He kept sharply turning and trying to dash back to the boarding area but without any luck. Somehow I got him down the ramp and as we stepped onto the plane. This is the part we’ll all never forget. He lost all control and started kicking, biting, punching, and worst of all, screaming in what I can only describe as an animalistic like terror. The pilot and two flight attendants stood and stared aghast.  The one flight attendant had this look just dripping of judgement-I felt like she rolled her eyes with all of her face. She kept looking at her flight attendant buddy and I wanted to shout at her for having the empathy of a gnat. She would have never heard me over my son’s screams.

I finally got him in his seat by dragging him by his wrists with his back, bottom, and legs dragging down the aisle. I still had my carry on bag over my shoulder as well as my purse, so I was basically pinballing off the seats as I pulled my poor child to our row. As if the demon that had just possessed him was suddenly excorcized, he sat down, buckled up, and said, “I faced my fear mom.”

Huh?

We hadn’t even taken off yet. I was confused, but I smiled and hugged him and told him I was proud. In my head, I was concerned that this had just traumatized him worse than anything else I could have ever imagined. My older son turned to me and whispered that he could not believe what he just saw his brother do, and that it really scared him. He also confided that he was now feeling very afraid to fly himself.

I gave them both a pep talk while they fought over the window shade being up or down, held their hands, and hoped for a good take off and smooth flight.

Silently, I was cursing the world for my having to give up alcohol and coffee that week for a health issue I was having. Either one or both mixed together would have really helped in that moment.

The Airplane Lavatory

You may be wondering if the flight attendants came by to check on us or ask my son how he was doing. The answer is no. And as if to add insult to injury, when he had to go to the bathroom, I walked him up and asked if he could go in by himself with me standing there in case he needed help. Nope, the flight attendant said. I either had to go back to my seat while he was in there, or I had to go in with him. I could not block the galley.

So I squeezed into the bathroom with him. I also had to use the bathroom, as I had been holding it for the last hour. He refused to stay in there with me, and to his credit, we really didn’t fit in there together.  I poked my head out and asked if he could stand right outside the door while I went to the bathroom (his brother was using the bathroom at the other end of the plane), I was nervous about him making his way back to his seat on his own. Nope. He could not block the galley she told me coldly. I walked him back to his seat and realized, I was actually going to pee in my pants if I didn’t sprint back up to the bathroom. As I ran back up, I see the flight attendant stand with her arms above her head in an “X” like manner blocking the bathroom and looking at me. I cried out, “Are you kidding me right now?”

I wanted to scream, and I’m usually a pretty calm person. She made me walk my child back to his seat and was now blocking me from going to the bathroom? What kind of jerks do they hire to be in customer service these days? I thought to myself.

Turning and running to the bathroom in the back of the plane meant that the faucet was starting to drip if you know what I mean. I finally went and when I was finished it was upsetting because I basically partially peed my pants thanks to that flight attendant.

As I exited the bathroom, I was immediately met by the cold flight attendant, who was standing right outside the bathroom door, waiting to greet me.

“Ma’am, do you know why I was blocking you from using the lavatory? It’s important that you know why I was doing that. I saw that you were upset.”

To which I replied, “I have a bladder condition. You told me I had to walk my son back to his seat before I could return to the bathroom, then you blocked it. I was already in discomfort, and then I had to run to the other one and basically peed my pants.”

Unmoved and stoic, she said with that same face where she’s doing an all body eye roll, “There was a law implemented after 9/11 where if the cockpit is open for any reason, no one is allowed to use the bathroom closest to the cockpit. That was why I was blocking it.”

“Thanks for explaining.” I went back to my seat with her staring daggers at me. What was I supposed to say? I get that there are rules and laws, but did she really have to be such a jerk? I should have just made my son wait outside the lavatory and not even asked her.

After an uneventful flight, except for me kind of peeing my pants, we made it in one piece.  What did I learn? It’s really hard to fly with kids by yourself. You feel weird leaving them unattended, when you have to use the bathroom it’s a real hassle, and you have to constantly apologize to the people in front of you for the kicking and tray slamming.

The Pick Up

When we approached my mom’s car at the airport pick up, I unexpectedly broke down. I hugged my mom and sobbed like a baby. It’s hard to articulate the emotions that overtake you when you force your child to do something they don’t want to do. Could that  cause them trauma? But could it also help them to face a fear? The emotional aspect is heavy.  Once I had a good cry which thankfully was behind her open trunk, I pulled myself together and got in the car. About ten minutes into driving, my older son starts shouting that my younger son is going to throw up in the back seat. I look in the back seat and sure enough he’s got his hand over his mouth and his cheeks are full. He has somehow managed to hold his vomit in his mouth. We were in rush hour traffic, thankfully, so I told him to roll down his window and stick his head out to empty his mouth. He did this and we later learned it all went down the outside of the car door. Still, I was impressed with his ability not to get it all over the interior of the car. When I asked him if it was because of his scary morning, he said no, it was because he decided randomly to stick his finger down his throat and it made him throw up.

Oh, OK.

Don’t Touch Anything- My Sister’s New Place

My sister had shockingly done almost everything on her own related to moving in. She had hired painters, and set up all of her furniture and emptied all of her boxes. The only thing left to do was hang pictures and set up her balcony furniture. Her whole place was decorated in mostly white and her walls were a very light, freshly painted color as well. I don’t know about your kids, but mine love to run their dirty hands along the wall. She also had new flooring so we had to be careful on that. We mostly had to try to stay out of her new apartment because it was so beautiful, clean, white, and new. This meant we hung one picture out of the 10 she planned to hang while we were visiting and we set up her balcony furniture. That was about the extent of my “helping” her.  Her place was so nice it reminded me of a museum. Remember that kid that broke the museum statue and the parents were fined $132K for it? Yeah. It was very relaxing at my sister’s new place with the bulls, I mean kids.

A trip to Urgent Care

There is an amazing pizza place in Chicago called Lou Malnati’s. I have to get it everytime I visit. It takes awhile to make the pizza and since my kids don’t behave in restaurants, we preordered it so that when we arrived we could sit and eat right away. My little one and I decided to meet my mom, sister, and older son there since his shoes were soaked from him running through playground sprinkler  in them. They were taking forever to dry, so I wrapped his feet in plastic wrap and stuck them in his wet shoes. We walked to the restaurant and sat down at the table with everyone. Just after they served us drinks, my little guy started playing with his straw. He decided to drink a bunch of his apple juice quickly. Then he sucked it into the straw and blew it out and all over his Grandma’s shoulder. Just as I started to scold him, his face turned red and he put both of his hands to his throat. He started coughing and gagging and crying in a panicky sort of way. I asked him if he was choking and he nodded. I picked him up and brought him into the bathroom (which was right next to the table,thankfully) and gave him the heimlich maneuver. He started crying harder and pointing to his throat. He could talk which was a bit of a relief. He said something was stuck and it was sharp. The only thing it could have been was a piece of ice, I thought. The waiter came over to set down the pizza on our table, so I asked him to bring warm water quickly and he nodded. I called an Uber to take us to urgent care. My son drank the warm water to try to melt the ice, but it was no use. Whatever it was appeared to be lodged in his windpipe and not the throat. It was not something that could be washed down per se.

We ran down to the Uber and it felt like an eternity before we got to the urgent care facility. He cried and held his throat the whole drive. It was about 15 minutes before we got there. Another 15 in the waiting room. Finally we were seen and they took an X-ray to see if there was a foreign body lodged in his throat or in his lung because now he was saying the pain worked its way down to his lung. We stayed for two hours and the doctors listened to his breathing and heart and asked lots of questions. They had me find out if the straw had broken into fragments somehow and if it was either lodged or cutting into his throat. The answer was no. Fortunately, my sister and mom thought to inspect his cup and straw thoroughly along with the Manager of the restaurant and text me those details. That was the missing link that the doctor was waiting to hear. After observing him and debating on whether or not to send him to the ER, followed by the X-ray coming back with no liquid in his lungs and no foreign bodies lodged in his throat, he was cleared to leave. It was deemed that he had aspirated apple juice. This can cause a sharp burning sensation that feels like something is cutting your throat or is stuck. Because it was not enough fluid to show up on an X-ray he was released. If it had shown up, he would have been admitted to the ER. Parents beware of your kids playing with straws.

I do have to say that both the urgent care center and Lou Malnati’s were amazing. Both followed up later that night/the next day and Lou Malnati’s covered the cost of our meal. My son and I ravenously dug into our delicious pizza later that night.

When I See Others Traveling Solo With Kids

This is my message to single parents or parents traveling alone with their children: You are brave and you are no doubt, physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  What I wish for you is nice, compassionate people along your journey. May you be surrounded by understanding strangers, family members, and people in customer service positions. And may your children enjoy and appreciate all of the fun adventures you take them on.

Talking To Strangers Is Not So Bad As An Adult

No one likes waiting in line. Most people also don’t like talking to strangers. So it probably sounds a little off to say that talking to strangers while waiting in line is actually enjoyable. In the last year, especially these last few months, I’ve come to notice that strangers are randomly chatting with me, while I’m in line, and surprisingly, I’m loving it.

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