Archive for July, 2015

Time share

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

In about six weeks, our daughter Jennifer Lynn leaves for her year-long study abroad program. She will be spending her entire sophomore year in Shanghai; we’re excited for the adventure ahead of her but my stomach knots up when I think about not seeing for more than eight months.

I wish I could take the time that we’re spending with her this summer and “bank” it, so we could withdraw it over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and weekends – times that I anticipate that we will especially miss having her here. Since that’s just not possible, the best we can do is to take the opportunity to spend time together as a family when our schedules open up.

Saturday was one of those days – Jennifer had the day off from The Gap Outlet, and Steve and I were happy to procrastinate the shopping trips to Costco and Target, vacuuming and laundry, and bookkeeping that usually fills our Saturdays.

So what would be a diverting and gratifying way to spend our day together? We love going Into San Francisco with an objective but also staying flexible. We have found that it’s often best to let the availability of parking in San Francisco drive the day instead of driving to park.

So with that in mind, our first destination (and amazingly we got a parking space without even circling the block!) was . I know – I had never heard of it either until Jennifer came home from a trip to San Francisco raving about what a cool place this is to shop for frames…as in eyeglass frames.

My standard response to just about every shopping need is, “Why don’t you just get (fill in the blank) at Costco?” But for a fashion forward 19-year old who just got a super-cute rock star haircut (I know I sound old), getting your glasses prescription filled at Warby Parker in Hayes Valley is like a hipster holy grail. And it worked out just great; it was affordable and the verly attractive 20-something staff were helpful, friendly and super-efficient with their iPads and paperless transactions. Jennifer’s glasses will arrive in 7-10 days.

When a day starts out with finding parking in San Francisco you know you’ve got a blessed day ahead and that proved to be true for us as the day wore on. We found a great place to eat (only a 10 minute wait!) in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. With our tummies happy, we thought we would try for some window shopping along the trendy area of Fillmore Street but since we couldn’t find parking we continued onto Chestnut Street (again no parking) so we continued north across the bridge.

It was still early in the afternoon and the sun was shining in Marin. My first reaction was to say “Let’s just head home” but Steve understands the value of cherishing the moment and suggested extending the nice time we were having by stopping at the Village in Corte Madera.

The affluence that envelopes that shopping center always makes me feel a little like I’m stepping aboard luxury cruise ship. But it makes for great people watching. Sitting under an umbrella outside of Starbucks watching the moms and daughters leave Nordstroms with their Anniversary Sale bags, I felt like I was on vacation.

But the great thing is that sitting there and taking in the view didn’t cost us more than gas and a Frappuccino.  If Jennifer has next Sunday off, let’s do it again and make another deposit into her “we’re going to miss you!” bank account.

Mommie dearest

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

It’s news to me, but according to the experts, the family relationship that is the most troubled is the one between mothers and their teenage daughters. Think of the door slamming, the silent treatment and the snarky comments hurled between Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan (back when she was cute) in “Freaky Friday” – a movie which we have watched and enjoyed many, many times.

Psychologists say that the root of these conflicted relationships is the result of the mother seeing her daughter as an extension of herself at the same time that the teenage daughter is desperately seeking her own sense of self. The article that brought this to light described a mother and daughter who hung out together on Friday nights, eating their favorite candy and watching “Project Runway” in their jammies.

Everything was fine until high school, when the daughter wanted to hang out with her friends instead of mom. The mom reacted like she had been stood up for a date and became resentful that her daughter was choosing to spend time with her friends instead of with her. Her daughter felt conflicted about going out with her friends because she felt like she needed to take care of her mother’s feelings. After reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder: who was the adult in that relationship?

Having had two daughters – and I still have one who is a teenager – mother-daughter relationships is a topic that I can speak from experience on.  While I’m not out of the woods yet, I can say that the relationship between me and my daughters has been relatively free of conflict and was even described as “good” by Jennifer…high praise indeed when you’re talking to a teenager.

How have we managed to avoid the fights and drama that are often a part of mother-daughter relationships? When our oldest daughter was entering junior high, I got some very good advice from a gifted family therapist who we saw regularly. He said, “Don’t try to be your daughter’s best friend. That’s not what she wants from you. She wants boundaries because that will make her feel secure.” That’s advice I’ve tried to follow. You won’t see us in matching bikinis on Facebook.

Another reason why we get along (and for which I can take no credit) is that I happen to be blessed with girls who want to please.  There are many parents who do all the right things and relationships still are strained just because that’s just the personality their child was born with.

And…and this is a huge…I have a husband who is ready to step in to support me and reinforce the boundaries when the occasional snarky comment is flung my direction by one of the girls.

That’s not to say that our household is run like an impersonal boot camp. My daughters and I have enjoyed many evenings watching “So You Think You Can Dance” together, sharing Jelly Bellys and trading backrubs. But should their phone ring with an invitation from one of their friends to go get coffee, I’m happy to for them to join their friends and leave me on the couch. Thank goodness they have friends!  All I ask is that you text me with what time you’ll be home.

Get a job Sha na na na

Monday, July 6th, 2015

So here’s a statement that will make me sound like I’m 110 years old: life is very different for teenagers today than it was when I was growing up.

The latest evidence to support that? Only one third of American teenagers had a job last summer; down 40% from 2000.

I don’t have the statistics on the percentage of teenagers who had summer jobs back in the dark ages when I grew up, but unless your parents were super rich and could afford to take you with them on a month-long trip to Europe, you spent the early days of summer scouring the want ads, asking your parents’ friends for jobs, or making the rounds of the local mall filling out handwritten applications.

Of course we worked during the summer…what else was there to do? Nobody knew what an internship was unless you were talking about the path to becoming a doctor. No one traveled to exotic locations to build houses for needy people.  And the year-round sports that consume so many high schoolers’ summers didn’t exist.

An informal survey of how my daughter’s friends are spending the summer confirms what the newspaper reported.  Jennifer Lynn and one other classmate are the only girls of her group who aren’t building their resumes by volunteering in the Dominican Republic, taking summer school classes in Florence, or interning at a high tech firm.

Those experiences can certainly teach valuable skills. But I think there is also a lot to be gained – in addition to the added funds in their bank account – by working a minimum wage summer job. Skills such as learning to work with people who you wouldn’t choose as friends, taking direction, customer service, respecting authority.

And there’s one more good reason for teens to have a summer job: you have to have some bad jobs so that you know when you’ve gotten a better job.

My first summer job was at Baskin Robbins. We had to wear white dresses that the manager had purchased at a medical supply store – hard to look cool when you’re wearing a reject from the nurse’s clearance rack. While the other soda jerks and I were earning $1.75 an hour scooping Jamoca Almond Fudge into cones (sugar or regular), the manager was in the back, reading romance novels.  Our closing time routine included scraping the floor with a putty knife, thanks to the popularity that summer of Bubble Gum ice cream.

That’s by no means the worst summer job ever; I have a friend who spent her summers in North Carolina picking tobacco.

But by the next summer, I was able to land a better job at a teen clothing store in a mall, working with girls I liked and a hard-working manager. While I didn’t want to make a career out of folding t-shirts, I had gained some perspective; at least I wasn’t scraping up gum. Learning appreciation? That’s wonderful on-the-job training for life.