My Obligatory Miley Cyrus Post: Requisite Blogging

I have to say something about Miley Fricken Cyrus because I have a blog. And my opinion may not be the popular one. I’m not even sure what my opinion is, exactly, but it’s late and I have to stay up all night so I can sleep tomorrow in preparation for night shift. So I have earbuds in, the coffee poured, and I am going to try to explain.

Evan used to have a little crush on Miley when she was this:RP9581

I remember John practically losing his shit that his son wanted to spend birthday money on a Hannah Montana poster and cd, because John isn’t as open-minded as I am when it comes to gender roles. But then Ev admitted he thought she was cute, and that made it okay. The Age of Miley didn’t last long. It probably would have if Evan had been a girl, so for that, I was grateful.

But then Miley turned into something else. Controversy followed. Undies pics, smoking, whatever the hell she did. It didn’t impact my family, so I didn’t care. Everyone else seemed to be enthralled though. Whatevs. I lived under a rock or something. I didn’t participate in MileyWatch.

Until this shit happened:Miley-Cyrus-2224429

Even if you had no interest in MileyWatch, you got thrown into this shit this past week. It’s everywhere. Being somewhat normal, I had to see what the fuss was all about. Oh holy hell. Really? The whole thing was just weird. The giant teddy bears tethered to the backs of twerking girls, the teddy bear bustier, which really looked more like Chuck E. Cheese. The twerking, the hair. It was an attempt  to turn the juvenile to the racy, but it came off as trashy. I was appalled, and I can see how some parents would be up in arms that it was on prime time tv. But….

Have these parents watched anything else that is on MTV? Any of these videos? How was what Miley was doing any worse than what anyone else has done? And if you have seen what is on MTV, why the hell is your kid watching it if they are too young? So really, the air time is between you and MTV. Miley, I’m sure, was not given a choice on when it aired.

So that brings me to the whole sexuality thing. Miley is not Hannah Montana. Hannah Montana was a character. Miley was a child when she played the character for Disney. Miley is not a child anymore. She made that point a long time ago. Justin Timberlake used to be a fresh-faced cute little kid on Disney, and now he isn’t. Same for Brittany, Christina Aguilera…I’m sure there are more. Child actors grow up. We cannot expect them to stay kids forever. Just like our kids who once worshiped them no longer do. If that act was performed by Gaga, Britney, Madonna, we would have still thought it was weird and embarrassing, but there wouldn’t have been such an uproar. Quit being hypocrites, people. (In fact, I’m the reaction to this whole thing is kind of reminding me of the reaction to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” shenanigans of my childhood.)

Now, before you think I am letting Miley off the hook, let me tell you that I am not. The performance was weird. The hair was weird, though I think (maybe) she was trying to emulate teddy bear ears with it. The whole set was weird. The strategically-timed sticking out of the tongue, the awkward look-at-the-camera-stick-out-the-tongue-now-walk-down-the-stairs. The posing. Then there was the whole humping of the foam finger, mor tongue sticking out. Gettin’ down with Robin Thicke, whom I continue to confuse with the dad of Growing Pains. Miley is a pretty young girl, and while I don’t personally love her music (“La-da-da-da-Deee, we like to par-Teee”? Really?) she seems to have a knack for creating buzz. In celebrity status, it seems any attention is good attention. I heard somewhere that her iTunes sales skyrocketed the next day, but I can’t remember where I heard it, so it may be inaccurate. And she can certainly create a following, as she did it before. She shouldn’t have to resort to that God-awful getup and scheme. She should have more pride in herself, more self-respect than that.

And for shit’s sake, Miley, what is up with the tongue? Put it back in your mouth. You’re creeping me out.

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That B-Word I’ve Been Waiting to Hear

frumsWith the start of middle school for Evan came the option to enroll in band.

I’ve been waiting for it. Ready for it. Of course, it ultimately came down to what Evan wanted to do, but I secretly hoped he would. And he did. He chose percussion–drums. Of course all band parents hope their child does not choose drums, and many nix it. I wasn’t afraid in the slightest. The kid wants to play drums. So be it.

The start of this new thing has not been uneventful. First, I had to get an instrument for him. We went right away. I was going to just buy him a snare drum, which is what the kids always started out with when I was in school. Nope. They have to have a bell kit, complete with a drum practice pad, a xylophone-type instrument, a stand, mallets, and sticks. And because this was Evan, I knew he would likely quit in a couple of months when he realizes that I intend to make him practice. So I opted to rent to start us out. So they hand me this form to complete. The rental fee is a whopping $22 per month. Nothing to break the bank. So I fill this form out. It consisted of my name, employer, social security number, address, employer’s address, how long, etc. Then she hands me this other sheet–5 references. Okay, I guess, just to ensure I’m not going to skip town with an instrument. Of course my phone was dead, holding within its lifeless body all of my contacts and their numbers. I had to dig deep to come up with 5 people whose addresses and phone numbers I actually knew. So I finish and start to get my wallet out to pay the woman for the first month and the book that Evan needs. Not so fast. Next she hands me a sheet of paper with more detailed information–my last 3 employers, my occupation, highest level of education. Now, mind you, all of this is duplicated for John. Then she needs my driver’s license. At one point, I looked at her and asked her how much it would cost to just pay for the damned thing. I know a snare is only a few hundred. Nope, this is over $1000 worth of stuff. So I am just waiting for her to ask me to bend over for the body cavity search while she runs my credit. But she doesn’t. Instead, I reach for my wallet out of my purse, now ready to pay her. I never dreamed. They tried to decline me!!!! I have purchased 2 new cars in the past few years. I can walk into my bank and ask for a great deal of money on credit and they will give it to me. I have multiple college degrees, a good income, and decent time on my job. Why in the hell would they deny me for something that only costs $22/ month? Well, because I have a medical bill that went to collections that I am still making payments on–for Evan’s autism diagnosis. It was thousands of dollars, and I just didn’t have the funds to pay it in full at the time. So I have been paying $250/ month for it and still owe about 2.5 more months of these payments. That is why. The good credit didn’t matter. Now if I were trying to buy a $100,000 car or something, I could see them being that particular, but this? So I was about to call my bank and arrange to just buy the thing when the woman came back and told me that it was okay, that she called their credit department, who told her to apologize to me and put it through. But then I thought about what this meant.

We have decent credit–decent enough to get credit when we need it. The only real mark against us, aside from that bill, is that we don’t own our home. That is intentional because of my education. I have no idea where I am going to be 6 months from now, so it is a convenience to just rent. I have a decent middle class income, own late model cars that I pay for on time. What about all of the people out there who earn less, have lots of medical bills, or are just pieces of crap and don’t pay? Those kids are deprived the opportunity to play an instrument, to learn music? So that leads to the next thing.

Music education is not a luxury. I know because I was a student of music. I wanted to play an instrument and, tired of buying expensive instruments for kids who would ultimately quit, my mom was hip to the game and made me choose from one our family already owned. I got my sister’s flute. And I was good at it. I played for years, with the school teachers always recommending private lessons. Mom got those for me through the local music store for a whopping $8 per hour. But within a year, I quickly outgrew those. She had to find someone from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to teach me–someone who was good. Those got more expensive, but Mom paid the $72  per hour each week. And I got good at it.  Good enough to win awards, have articles in the paper about competitions I won, honors I received. By the time I was in high school, Mom was ill. They had to file bankruptcy on medical bills. And I outgrew my sister’s flute. It was time for a professional model. The one that worked best was over $4000, and my parents simply could not do it. Of course I couldn’t either. Knowing I wanted to go on to major in music, the band director at my high school cosigned for the huge purchase and I got a job at McDonald’s to pay the payments directly to him so he ensured they were paid. And I paid the last payment right before I left for college. Mom, continued to be my biggest fan, though. She followed me around to all of the concerts, competitions, solos, honor bands and orchestras in which I was invited to play. She would always have to sit in the back with her oxygen tank, and she would cry as I would play my solos. At home, when I would practice, she would listen through the air vents, knowing that I would get nervous and stop if I knew she was listening, She doesn’t know that I knew.

So I went to college. They went to great lengths to break me down, knowing that in the music world, only the toughest survive. I rolled with it, but it was emotionally draining to take something I loved so much and make it into so much work. And Mom got even sicker. She couldn’t be there anymore. And then she passed away. And I would try to play and would come across sheet music for a piece she had wanted me to learn or for a song she loved to hear me play, and I would break down, unable to play through the tears. I eventually gave up. When I fell on financially hard times in my early twenties, I sold that expensive flute. I have not touched one since. But the lessons I learned–about finding what you love, what you are good at, and throwing yourself into it; about hard work in exchange for goals reached, about the bonding power of music, about the value of a support system–I took all of these with me. They are still here and still influence me daily. I want the same for Evan. I want the same for Evan’s classmates. This is why it made me so sad that some children may not be able to participate because of their parents.

Evan may never be a rock god, a virtuoso, a prodigy when it comes to music. But I will encourage him. I will be there. I will remind him of the value of it all. My mom served as a great role model in that.

Not Ready

28809_1470325484751_4630848_nI remember the day like it was yesterday. It was just yesterday, right?

We tell new parents all of the time that they shouldn’t blink, that it will all go way too fast. Evan started middle school a couple of weeks ago. That hit me hard. Not as hard as the day I found myself sobbing in the school gym as he turned and looked at me as he was walking away from me and toward his kindergarten teacher. I remember the clothes he wore: khaki shorts with a brown leather/ orange grosgrain belt coordinated perfectly with his orange polo from Baby Gap. He was small. He was my baby. He still is.

But then we had another one. I wrote countless times how I didn’t think I could ever love another like I love Ev. And I remember kvetching that I couldn’t possibly be pregnant again, that it was a cruel joke with the worst possible timing. I had no idea that the child would completely consume me. That he would become very much a part of my very being. I could tell you I love him, but those words seem so paltry and inadequate. If you cut me, I would hemorrhage Zachary.

So today happened. It’s a day I’ve done before, many years ago. Except Evan was starting kindergarten, not preschool. But somehow, this is worse. This is so much worse. He’s only a year younger than Evan was when he started kindergarten, but still. He really is my baby. And I just watched him. I saw the spark of excitement in his eyes, the amazement that that big yellow school bus was stopping for him this time. I watched his chubby baby fist grasp the rail and climb onto the first step of that bus, guided by his father while I tried to hold it together. That first step, incidentally, was almost waist height on him. The bus driver motioned me onto the bus, smiling in understanding and reminding John that moms just do this while the assistant helped Zach to his seat. And he turned and looked back at me as I blew him a kiss, all smiles and happiness at his new milestone reached. At independence and new days filled with macaroni art and learning to sing new songs. At things that would no longer involve me.

I turned and got off the bus and they pulled away. I turned back to watch him go as my heart splintered. Because I worry that these strangers entrusted with his well-being won’t understand how amazing he is. They don’t know how he almost wasn’t here, that he is a connoisseur of chocolate milk, that “bobberries” are really strawberries and are his favorite fruit,  that he simply must have an Eskimo kiss before his nap. But also because, having done this about 8 years ago, I know. I know that Tomorrow, he will be starting middle school. He’ll have earbuds in his ears and not want to cuddle. He will be too cool for me. I will become Mom, no longer Mommy.A Mom is, after all, different from a Mommy. Moms ensure you do your homework and take care of you when you are sick. Mommies kiss boo-boos to make them better, read bedtime stories, are given the gift of crayon scribbles that may as well be fine art. It will be Tomorrow.I know it from experience.

I’m not ready for Tomorrow. And I know that is where Today leads.

I’m just not ready.

Raising a Man


I’ve been having a hard time with this. I’ve sort of been wanting to post, but on the other hand, I wanted to save my kid the embarrassment in the event that the internet is a smaller world than even I realize.

My kid is growing up.

No, I mean, really growing up.

I don’t know when it happened. He was visiting his grandparents over the summer. He came back two inches taller, 20 pounds heavier, with peach fuzz on his upper lip. His voice is deeper. I took hi shopping for some school clothes. American Eagle and Gap replaced The Children’s Place and Gap Kids on our list of places to stop. He can wear the largest size in children’s jeans, or a 28/30 in men’s jeans. The American Eagle tees I bought him in size extra small are snug around biceps that are emerging. He outgrew children’s shoes at the beginning of summer.  He’s turning into a man before my eyes.

And the little girls are circling like animals.

I should probably explain that last remark before I unravel the cautionary tale for parents of tweens. You may recall the post where I did what I said I would never do and bought my child an iPhone. We had it shipped to his grandparents’ house over the summer after ordering from 4 hours away. So when we finally went to pick him up, I asked to see his phone. I’ve held iPhones and looked at them, but when John and I bought our new phones, we were waffling between the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy line. We’re Android people, so you can guess how we chose. But I wanted to play around with Evan’s phone to ensure I made the right choice. He handed it over to me, not even thinking twice about it. He had no idea there was anything he should be concerned about hiding from me.

So I have the phone in my hand, riding in the car, with John driving. I use the little touch-slide screen lock thingy to bring the phone to life and immediately, his home screen pops up. And the background is a girl in her bra and panties. And this is not a grown woman, the photo being something he got off of the internet. This was a girl. About his age. And clearly taken at home. I shrieked, “OMG WHO IS THIS?!?!?!?” His response: “Oh, that’s just XXXX.”

That’s just…Really? Really. A kid from his class at school texted him a photo of herself in her little training bra and panties. And so I started the hunt. Through text messages and browsing histories. I found more. The images, long since deleted from his phone, are still seared onto my retinae. Little girls, all pouty lips and pushed-out butts in flowered Hanes cotton panties, back turned to the camera with a fake-coy expression. I looked and looked through his phone, his emails, hoping to find something where he solicited the pics. He wasn’t hip to the idea that he had any reason to delete his histories, so if he asked the little girls to send these, the evidence would have most likely still been on his phone. Nope. The raciest thing I found of Evan’s was a photo of him in his swim trunks, sans shirt, at the lake.  And before you think my kid is all pervy, let me remind you that he is going to be 12 on Sunday, and these girls are the same age. And I would have known this went on sooner, but he was at Grandpa’s, who apparently didn’t understand that he was supposed to watch Evan with the phone.

I spent three hours researching, trying to find the parents of these girls, assuming they would be as grossed out as I was. All I found was one girl’s mom’s name, but no listed number. I thought about calling the school, but they were still on summer break and I doubted they would give me any information. I did the best I could. Each one of the girls got the same exact text message sent from Evan’s phone:

This is not Evan. This is Evan’s mother. I am just discovering this because Evan has not been home, but I can assure you that he is home now and I will be closely watching. I do this because Evan is a child and I pay the bill for this phone. You are also children. If I see any more nude or near-nude picture of children come across this phone again, you can be sure I will find your parents and I will show them the photos. I will also alert the school you attend. This will not occur under my watch.”

He didn’t get a response. I held his phone for a week, ensuring that he got no more texts from these little girls. But it has not left my mind. I cannot speak for the homes in which they are being raised, but in this house, we do not permit r-rated movies, unsupervised internet browsing. Evan hasn’t gotten this from home. But something out there is churning out children who are over-sexed. It is disgusting. My son still plays with Legos, for crying out loud.

John joked, “Damn, Evan’s got game. All I ever got were little folded-up notes from girls when I was his age.” I saw no humor in it. I will not be a grandmother when, as of right now, I am still buying toys and reminding thee kid to put on deodorant. So I am placed in the position of being hyper-vigilant, of watching out for the actions of my son and of his classmates. And it is coming from everywhere. Girls knock on the door, call the house, text Evan. And as Evan has started middle school, I am learning the hard way that I cannot be everywhere.

This all has had other effects on me. Not only am I concerned for my kid, but I am concerned for these girls. I wonder what type of home life they have, if their parents know that they need to be watching out for them still. If there is a female role model in their lives to teach them they they don’t have to use sexuality to get what they want, that they certainly don’t need to grow up so quickly. I worry. They’re just babies.

We can blame whomever we want. TV? Popular music? Of course the now-infamous Miley Cyrus performance comes to mind. Or maybe it’s the fact that you can get zebra-print string bikinis in just one size beyond toddler sizes? I’ve heard that there are even thongs out there for the parents who prefer that panty style for their little darlings. In stark contrast, I recently bought Evan a pair of boxers that had skateboards all over them. Or perhaps we can blame technology that makes it possible for little kids to have the potential to do this stuff without parents having a clue? When I was a kid, we had a phone that was mounted to the wall in the kitchen, living room, and my parents’ bedroom, and I had to talk to my little friends in front of my whole family.

Whatever the reason, these kids are growing up way before their time. I think every generation has said this about the next one, but it seriously is getting earlier and earlier.

And the mom in me is scared for them.

I don’t want the world of STDs, pregnancy scares, complicated relationships for these kids. I want good grades, making friends, having fun, learning new skills. I want Evan to find out what gifts he has, learn how to be a good person, practice the drums he insisted on learning to play for the school band. I want him to get into a good college, be a good big brother and even better student.

I don’t want him to be an adult before it is time for him to be an adult.