The open-door policy gets my vote

imagesBV3K17DTBy Lisa Sugarman

When I was a kid, we pretty much had an open-door policy in my house. As an only child, I think my mom was hyper aware of how important it was for me to make strong bonds with friends because I had no brothers or sisters around to torment, uh, I mean, keep me company. So from as far back as I can remember, our front door was wide open and there were always at least few extra pairs of Tretorns in the front hall.

Let’s put it this way, all my friends knew exactly which shelf the Miracle Whip was on in my fridge and where our spare key was hidden under the porch. (Not that we hide a key under the porch now. I mean, exactly how stupid do you think I am?) In other words, I guess you could say that growing up, my house was like a second home for a lot of people.

My mom hosted just about every major holiday and special occasion you could find on a calendar. And some I think she just made up for the helluvit. Point being, I always had the sense back then that our house was the epicenter of the world. And I loved it. There was nothing like that feeling of having your friends call your mother Mom. It meant they loved being there. And that was a beautiful feeling.

Now I imagine my mom had a revolving-door philosophy because that was how she and my aunt and uncles were raised. But I’m sure part of it, too, was to overcompensate for the fact that I had no siblings. Either way it was fine with me because my house was always so jam-packed with people that I never felt alone. Not for a minute. Because even then, as a self-centered teenager—yeah, I admit it—I consciously recognized and appreciated always having people around. And that’s because it made the house feel alive with energy. And that was an infectious feeling.

It really seemed to me, in those days, like our oven was indefinitely preheated and ready to roll at a steady 350 degrees for whatever pans of Toll House cookies might come sliding in. My mom was either baking or cooking or shopping. The way I remember it, she was always either on her way to, or from, the market. I often wondered when she actually slept. And it wasn’t until years later, when I had my own kids, that I realized she didn’t. No mom does.

Look, food and people equals love. Plain and simple. And my mother knew that. So we were always fully stocked with both. I think it’s fair to assume that a good majority of everyone’s happy memories somehow, in some way, involve food or people or both. Birthdays have cake, Thanksgiving has turkey, Easter has ham, the Fourth of July has beer. The list could go on for miles. The one common denominator being food. And the people to eat it.

See, it wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I fully realized what kind of an impact it had on me watching my mother host everything. All those memories of everyone always getting together under our roof left a serious mark on me. That one penchant she had for opening our house up to everyone had a direct and powerful influence on how I’ve raised my own kids. And my mother-in-law was the same way, so it’s all Dave and I have ever really known. And so, consequently, it’s all our kids have ever known.

I will say, though, that it wasn’t until I was a parent, with my own debit card and overdraft protection, that I realize that my mother must’ve either secretly won the lottery or been hooking on the side to have afforded to feed all those people. Obviously I’m joking. Please. She never won the lottery.

Really, though, I’ll never dispute how much time and effort goes into opening your house up, especially to your kid’s friends. But the return you get on that is, actually, like winning the lottery. For real.

I don’t think any of us would trade the slave labor it takes to cook one hundred meatballs, four gallons of red sauce, ten pounds of pasta, ten loaves of garlic bread, thirteen dozen brownies, and a builder’s acre-worth of Caesar salad just to have the cross country team over for a quick bite. It’s a haul, for sure. But any of us who’ve hosted a team dinner or Thanksgiving or birthday parties or playgroups knows that the joy it gives our kids far outweighs the bursitis we get from carrying eight grocery bags at a time in from the car.

Ok, well, it’s almost worth it anyway.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

Listen to my interview with Maria Bailey on Mom Talk Radio

Moms know Maria Bailey as the host of Mom Talk Radio, Author, Founder of BlueSuitMom.com, TV personality and Co-Founder of Newbaby.com and MomTV and Founder of National Mom’s Nite Out.

Listen to my interview with Maria on Mom Talk Radio, the first nationally syndicated radio show for moms, broadcast nationwide to over 250,000 moms each week.

Just click on the Mom Talk Radio link below and you’ll be redirected to my YouTube page. Then just fast forward the radio show to the 17-minute mark to listen to our interview.

Mom Talk Radio logoMaria Bailey

Do we ever really know our kids?

untitledBy Lisa Sugarman

I know this might sound like a strange question but, as parents, do you think we ever truly know our kids? Like really know who they are, as people. I know, it’s an inane-sounding question, but just humor me.

I’m asking because, even though I’ve been at this for a while—with a freshman and a senior in high school—I’m still honestly not sure if I’ve ever met the real them—at least not the versions of them that the rest of the world gets to see most of the time. And I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit jealous. I also have a hunch you might be feeling the same way, too.

I mean, we all get glimpses of the amazing people our kids are, but for parents it’s usually mixed with a disproportionate amount of other gunk that we have to pick through to expose the pearl. Because let’s face it, the kid we see in the privacy of our own home is decidedly different from the one the rest of the world sees. Even though, to a point, that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

At home, we get the Real McCoy. The gloves are off, peoples’ hair is down (and usually a white-hot mess), and everything hangs out. And the ironic thing is, the rest of the world probably wouldn’t believe us if we told them about even half of the crap our kids pull. They wouldn’t believe the short tempers and the mood swings and the meltdowns. And that’s because the rest of the world almost always gets the polite, controlled, respectful version of our kids. The rest is reserved for us. And while I’m well aware that that eventually does change, it sure would be nice if the change happened when they were still kids.

See, I’m at the point now, a point many of us are at, where my kids are spending way more of their time without me than with me. Once you give a kid a set of car keys, you might as well kiss them goodbye and wish them well, because a car is like the gateway drug to independence—one taste and they’re addicted.

It’s at that point that you just cross your fingers and pray that they’re out there representing themselves with some grace and maybe a little bit of charm. Or, at the very least, that they’re not jamming their finger up their nose in public places.

You know, we invest so much of our time and effort, especially when our kids are young, in teaching them the Basic Rules of Human Engagement so that when they finally do get out on their own they don’t embarrass themselves. Or, more importantly, us.

I’m always reminding our girls—probably more than they appreciate—that whenever they leave the house, they’re out there in the world as official representatives of The Sugarman Family. Meaning, that if they make bad choices or behave like idiots, it’s ultimately going to reflect badly on all of us.

See, the thing is, when our kids finally crawl out from underneath us and start engaging with the world on their own, most of us, at least for a period of time, just hold our breath. We wonder if they’re giving thank-you waves when cars let them cross the street; if they’re holding the door for people; if they’re saying Please and Thank you; if they’re looking people in the eye. There’s a lot to consider when we let them loose on the world.

We spend those first handful of years, when they’re stapled to our hip, drumming every people skill we can think of into their little brains and then, almost overnight, we have to send them out solo. And considering what most of us see at home when our kids are testing our limits, it’s intimidating as hell thinking about releasing them to the general population. But the funny thing is, they all eventually pull it together. We did, right?

So I guess that just proves that home is the testing ground—the place where they can shoot off live rounds in every direction but no one gets mortally wounded because most parents are genetically bulletproof. And what matters most is that we take the hits now, while they’re still doing their dress rehearsal. Because I’ve been assured by a reliable source—my mother—that eventually, the two polar-opposite personalities inside every kid will mesh into one, beautiful person. So that’s what I’m holding on to.

In the meantime, though, I’m thinking of installing Nanny Cams everywhere. You know, in their bedrooms, at school, in the car. Wherever I can, within reason. But it won’t be forever; just long enough to let me see the real them in action.

What? Too much?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

Here we go again

By Lisa SugarmanimagesN208GXGF

I’m not exactly sure how—although I really never am—but summer has flown by again. Damn you, summer, you’re always in such a rush.

Now I wish I knew exactly how time manages to speed itself up during the months of school vacation, but I don’t. It’s slightly bizarre and extremely irritating, but I guess it’s just one of those conundrums of life that we’re never meant to understand.

So now we’re in the unavoidable position, as we are every fall, of having to disengage ourselves from our slow, free-spirited brain and replace it with a much more frazzled and scheduled one. And we don’t even have the luxury of it being a gradual progression either. We go from zero to sixty literally overnight; and we cross our fingers that everything clicks on the first try. Kind of like how we hold our breath that the car will start after we realize that we left the lights on overnight.

Because here’s the thing, just like a car that’s been idle for a while will sometimes take a few tries to turn over and run smoothly, so, too, can the process of going back to school. That’s because all the little nuances of re-entry work a lot like any machine—there are lots of moving parts that have to be synchronized and lubed if the whole system is going to work right. And even then, breakdowns still happen.

We cross our fingers that we did everything we needed to do to allow for a smooth start, but we also recognize that because the car has been idle for a couple of months, inevitably, the engine may backfire when we turn the key. And although it may stall, it will almost always turn over and get you where you need to go. We just have to remember to keep our cool when we try the ignition for the first time. Because we’re not doing ourselves, or anyone else, any good if we flip a nutty if it doesn’t run smoothly right away. It’s been idle and needs time to warm up. And the process of getting back into the rhythm of school is really no different.

That’s why I think we all should hope for the best but expect something close to the absolute worst. Just do everything you can do to make the ride smooth, but know that even the most finely tuned cars can still blow a tire.

See, we will forget things. We always do. But we’re not alone. We’re never alone. We’re all scrambling at the eleventh hour to make sure we’ve covered everything. But we almost always don’t. That’s why it’s smart to go into it knowing that nothing usually goes completely according to plan.

Look, there’s really no textbook way to wrap our minds around the unavoidable return to school and the disjointedness that we all feel. The kids are feeling it; the teachers are feeling it; and the parents are sure as hell feeling it. But the consolation is that we all somehow manage to make it across the start line. Some more graceful than others. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter how you get started, it just matters that you do. And, above all, it’s important to remember that it’s really not as scary and intimidating as we make it out to be in our own head.

I feel like we’re all allowed be slightly annoyed that our lazy break was interrupted. We all deserve the right to wallow in the loss of summer for a day. Maybe two. People need to be able to mourn a loss. But more than a day or two and then you become ridiculous. Then you’re just prolonging the inevitable. And the inevitable, in this case, is that the seasons must change and school must resume. Trust me, embracing where you are at the moment beats the hell out of being bitter and angry and stubborn about where you aren’t at the moment.

The smartest thing we can do is embrace going back, knowing that vacations and long weekends and days off, and yes, eventually summer, will come. And just in the nick of time. It always does, doesn’t it?

See, that’s the beauty of the natural cycle of life. It never fails to gently push us forward at exactly the moment when we need to be pushed. Because honestly, too much summer would be boring. And too much winter would be, well, painful. I say it all the time, but all things in moderation.

The way I see it, we all have two choices: A) be depressed and moody and foul that summer has ended and refuse to recognize the new academic calendar, or B) resign ourselves that it’s happening with or without us and we need to do our best to keep the engine running as smoothly as possible.

Yeah, I went for B, too. Duh.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.