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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Irrational Reality of the Post Cancer Mind

On September 18th I had a mammogram. As a woman over the age of 40, I go in every year for the required boob-smashing. I have no history of breast cancer on either side of my family. ZERO history. But, as the parent of a child lost to cancer, the fear is there.

It's not just fear of breast cancer. It's fear of cancer. Period.

So, I had the mammogram. A few years ago I asked the woman doing my exam how long it would take for me to be notified if there was something there. She had just finished my scans and told me I could go get dressed. I'll never forget her - she was a black woman, probably about my age, with a friendly smile. She looked at me and said, "Honey, if I saw something there, I wouldn't be letting you walk out the door right now."

As in all previous years, that scan came back clear. Since then, I've always trusted that, if I'm allowed to get dressed and leave, the girls are good to go.

Last Tuesday - a full eleven days after my mammogram - I got a call from the mammo tech saying I needed to come in for more scans. Unfortunately, I missed the call because I was at work, so I got the message on voicemail after the clinic had closed. Immediately I was shaking. Instant tears. It was just a voicemail, and already I knew I was dying. I had to go to a baseball game that night and put on a happy face, because I didn't want to say anything to Mackenzie yet. How do I tell my child - the only child I have left, because cancer already stole her brother, her best friend, from her seven years ago - that I will never get to see her children...that I won't get to help her shop for a wedding dress...that I'm so sorry I won't live to be old like I thought I would.

The next morning, I called the radiology clinic as soon as it opened. I spoke with the tech who took my scans. She explained that there was "something" on one side that didn't appear in last year's scans (which she also took). I tried keeping my voice level, even as my insides felt like they had turned to jello. I asked when I could come back for more scans. She responded with, "I can get you in on October 13th."

It was September 30th. She wanted me to wait 13 DAYS? In my head, my already raging breast cancer was guaranteed to metastasize in those 13 days, becoming tumors in my lungs, my brain, and anywhere else sticky in my insides that it could latch onto.

I said, "Okay," resigned to my fate, hung up and called my husband. That is when the tears started. True to form, he blew a gasket. "What do you mean they can't get you in until the %&@#ing 13th? Did she say what it is that they saw? Can you call her back?"

After a mostly-failed attempt to pull myself together, I called her back. I asked if there was anything sooner than the 13th. I told her all of the questions that Mike had asked. And then I said the words that (I think) pushed the right button with her.

"I'm sorry. It's just that...we lost our 12-year-old son to cancer seven years ago. Cancer is something that we all have a very real fear of."

I was crying by the time I finished that simple sentence. She put me on hold, came back a few minutes later and offered to fit me in on October 6th. Technically the first appointment of the day was at 9:00 am, but she said if I came in at 8:00, she'd take my scans and then try to get a radiologist to read them as soon as she could. She warned that I might have to wait a while though. I was okay with that.

For six days, I imagined the worst. I didn't want to die. I was too young...I wanted to be there for Mackenzie as she falls in love, gets married, has children of her own. My husband was too young to lose me, which...let's be honest here...means that he's young enough to go out and  find another woman to love and spend his twilight years with, and that does not work for me. That bitch can find her own man, thankyouverymuch. Every older woman I saw, I thought to myself, "Why does she get to live to be old and I don't?" The morbid thoughts were endless.

If you think that I am the only one with this gruesome, pessimistic nature, think again. When I finally did tell Mackenzie that I had to go for more scans, she threw her arms around me and said, "If your hair falls out, I will shave my head too!" She didn't cry or freak out, but she automatically went straight to cancer, just as I had.

This morning, my husband and I got up and headed out to the hospital for the scans that I just knew would begin another journey of surgery and chemo for our family to deal with. Enough days had passed that I was thinking (slightly) more logically, hoping that my cancer was being caught early and at worst, I'd lose a boob (at best, I was hoping for a whole new rack).

I think I had a total of 8 new scans done, although it felt like 30. The tech commented that she was sorry she had to be rough, but that she "wanted to get as much tissue in the scan as possible." The fact that I don't have one side dragging the ground right now is a testament to the elasticity of skin. At one point as she was pulling and smashing my poor girl, taking the exact same scan for the third time, she said, "I want to make sure I get 'it' in the scan."

There it is...breast cancer. This mysterious "it" has to be a lump of some kind, right? They'd probably do an ultrasound after this, just to be sure, but then they'd come in and tell me. We'd start discussing biopsy, or maybe they'd just go right to a full radical mastectomy. Then on to oncology, maybe radiation. I wondered if I'd have to get the little dot tattoos on my chest so that the radiation would get targeted to exactly the right place.

Finally, after all the scans were complete, the radiologist came in. I asked if my husband could please come in also. Mike came and stood next to me, ready to catch me when the hammer fell. I braced myself for the worst.

"It's a lymph node."

I'm pretty sure Mike and I both just stared at him. All of the morbid thoughts became a mist that, temporarily, fogged my brain. I can't remember (even though it was just this morning) everything else that was said. I do remember him saying that I don't have to have another mammogram until my annual exam next year and I must have still been looking doubtful (or just stupid, which is highly possible). He then said, "I would say the same thing if I saw this in my wife, my sister, or my mother. It's just a lymph node."

As Mike and I walked out of the clinic, each of us had our phones out and were texting the folks that we'd had waiting in the wings to be there for us, just as they had been when Keeghan was diagnosed 9 years ago. Because that is how it is when you already bear the scars of cancer. At the slightest hint that cancer might be rearing its hideous head in your life again, you start to circle the wagons. You prepare for the worst, because the worst has already happened once. Is it irrational? Of course. But until you have proof that there is no cancer...there is.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

I miss you, Bubby.

Seven years ago today was the last time I saw him alive. 

I know everyone thinks that August 31st, the day he died, is the hard day for me. It isn’t. It’s today.

Mike’s dad had been with us for a few days visiting, but left on the 30th. Mike helped me to get Keeghan and I settled on the sofa in our standard position - me sitting sideways with Keeghan between my legs, leaning back against my chest - before he and his dad left. We spent the afternoon watching movies, most notably his favorite movie - Transformers.

It was a good day if you don’t think about the fact that Keeghan could no longer walk, talk, or do anything other than click the remote to change channels on the TV. I had a whole day to just hold him and at that point, that was a good day.

Mike woke me up the next morning at 4:30 to tell me he was gone. I think he probably would have died sooner, but was holding on for a day when it was just us, The Fantastic Four, together. That moment wasn’t meant to be shared with anyone else.

Seven years. I just don’t understand how I have gotten through that much time without him. I miss the little moments…watching him eat his cereal and drink his coffee (with exactly one Irish creamer, thankyouverymuch), looking like a grumpy old man until he’d been properly fed and caffeinated, every morning. 

Seeing him watching TV with that big old cat, Buddy, curled up in his arms like a baby. 

The way he would look at Mackenzie in utter confusion as to how they were even related when she said something goofy.

Hearing his voice say, “I love you, Mama.”

I have so much love in my life, and I know I am still so blessed to have the amazing husband and daughter that I have. Without them, I would not be here, and that is a fact. But damn it, I miss my son so much. He should be here. He should be in college, working toward that goal of finding a cure for cancer like he told us he would when he was 5-years-old.

Instead, I get to see pictures of other boys his age doing the things he never got to do. Some are children of my friends or coworkers; others are children I knew when Keeghan was alive, children he should have been out running around and playing with, but couldn’t because he was going through chemo at the time. No longer children, but young adults now. I get to see them live the dreams I had for my own son.

Even worse are the ones whose children survived cancer. Again, I don’t wish Keeghan’s fate on those children at all and am happy that they survived. It’s how the parents address that survival that can set me off on a flight of anger that can soar for days. Thanking some god for a miracle that implies that child was deserving of one when my son wasn’t is, at best, naive. At worst, it’s offensive to the families of all those children who have died. Thank a doctor, a research scientist…hell, thank Lady Luck that your child had the right type of cancer that was caught at the right time by the right group of medical providers. But DO NOT imply that your child’s survival was solely attributable to some mythical being who, apparently, thinks your child is more deserving of a life than mine.

Yes, I am bitter sometimes. I don’t wish Keeghan’s fate on anyone else, but I can’t lie - seeing those other children doing things Keeghan should be doing makes me angry. Not at them per se; just angry in general. It isn’t right.

I don’t know if other parents who have lost a child feel the same way. Many have religion in their lives to lean on; maybe that helps them to not look around at all the opportunities their children were denied and accept it. Perhaps some feel exactly as I do, but are too nice to say it, or are too afraid of the backlash from others.

I have always been the person who doesn’t really give a damn if I hurt your feelings with my honesty. You aren’t me and have no idea what I feel; therefore, you have no right to judge my feelings. I do a good job most of the time keeping my feelings to myself. Today is the day that honesty gets to be at the forefront though. Because today is the day that all of those years, months and days of watching him fight to live, only to see him slowly fade away and die, hit me all over again, the pain as fresh as it was seven years ago. Today is the day I allow myself to rail at the universe.

THIS IS NOT RIGHT! 

HE DESERVED MORE!

He deserved a chance, like all the rest.

He was so good, so sweet and compassionate…so smart! He had so much to offer this world. He wanted to be a father someday, so he could be just as good a Daddy as his own was. 

We all deserved to get to see him reach those goals.

For seven years, this world has missed his light, even if most didn’t even know it ever glowed to begin with.

Oh, what they missed out on, and oh, how I miss that light.

I miss you, Bubby.






Sunday, August 2, 2015

Will it ever end?

As August begins, once again I have to ask...what the hell happened to January through July? What evil time warp switches on in January and makes time zip by until August?

And then it begins again...the endless memories and mental tortures that August brings. At the beginning of August, he could walk and talk, but he'd begun to have seizures.

New drug trial....
   
          Hope....

                    Then the treatment almost kills him.

There's nothing more we can do for himTake him home, keep him comfortable.

          How do you tell a 12-year-old the doctors can't help him anymore?

                    How do you tell a 14-year-old her brother will soon die?

No more speech. Can't walk. But those eyes...those wise old eyes in a little boy's face! Right to the end, they looked at me with so much knowledge. He knew so much, but couldn't tell us.

          Helplessness of the absolute worst kind.

                    Then Death came.

Seven years...how can it be so long since all of that happened and yet still feel so fresh?

This year brings a new challenge for me in that it is the first year since Keeghan's death that I have had a job. For the past six Augusts, I've been able to face the month with the knowledge that, when it was necessary, I could break down. No boundaries to limit my need to feel. Now, I have got to keep it together 40+ hours per week.

On top of that, I have to deal with the invariable comments and questions that, while not asked with any malice, cut to the soul. The people who can't come close to imagining what it feels like to watch your child die...thinking that it gets easier with time, that at some point you get over it...move on...make peace with the loss.

It really should be legal to occasionally throat punch people. Truly.

So it begins. Twenty-nine more days until we once again mark that anniversary that has no name. I just call it The Day Keeghan Left, because calling it The Day That My Heart Broke in a Way That Can Never Heal takes too long.







Monday, June 1, 2015

Honestly...me.

I'm pretty sure I have posted before about my honesty. Some would call it brutal honesty. I can't pinpoint exactly when I became so hellbent on being honest, but I know I haven't always been this way.

Maybe at some point in my life I twisted the truth and it came back to bite me bad enough that I just decided to always be honest. A lot of it comes from having put up with treatment that I didn't like but never said anything, because I didn't want to create hard feelings. But eventually, you have to say, "enough is enough" and speak up for yourself.

In my case, I think I went from one extreme to the other. After years of allowing myself to be mistreated by people, I hit the proverbial wall and won't put up with anything now.

One of my biggest pet peeves that I am wholeheartedly brutal about is following rules. It is something that makes me very unpopular where I live. So be it. I do not believe that rules are made to make anyone's life miserable. I truly believe there is a reason for every rule. Sure, I may not always like them, but I will not blatantly break them.

There are some rules that are a bit fluid. I don't try to drive faster than the posted speed limit, but if me doing the speed limit impedes the traffic flow, I will keep pace with the traffic around me. Within reason, of course.

We live in an apartment complex that has beautiful amenities, but they come with rules. Would I like to be able to sit out by the fire pit past 10:00pm? Sometimes, yes. I know there are others in the building who think the pool should be open past 10:00pm, as well. But, I also understand that there are residents who live near those amenities and could be disturbed by people using them after a certain time, so I am respectful of the rules and go home at 10:00pm.

The same goes for dogs being off leash. There are rules that state dogs must be on a leash at all times in the common areas around our building. The majority of the dogs here are friendly and would never hurt anyone, but if one person is allowed to break the rules, then everyone is given free license to do the same. This opens the door for the person with the dog who does bite to have a dog off leash, allowing someone to get hurt.

It's really just that simple. The only way to ensure bad things don't happen is for people to follow rules. Yes, it sucks sometimes. Being an adult sucks sometimes, but like it or not, we are adults and must act as such.

The things I believe in are what make me who I am. It has never been my goal to be liked by everyone. I'm not out to have 7,000 friends on Facebook, or be the person whose name everyone yells with glee when I walk into the room. That kind of thing is never real anyway. But I am proud of who I am.

While others might think I'm crazy, I'm proud of the fact that I believe in...

  • rules
  • saying, "I love you" often
  • saying, "I'm sorry," but only if I mean it
  • expecting apologies when they are owed to me
  • shared bank accounts
  • sharing chores
  • taking responsibility for my actions
  • not being a bully
  • not thinking I'm better than anyone
  • leaving high school in the past
  • giving more than just the minimum expected of me
  • calling bullshit when I see it
  • not being a hypocrite
  • not being pretentious
  • active parenting
  • spiritual freedom
  • hugs
  • being on time
  • working hard
  • recognizing that "family" does not always mean "blood"
  • accountability
  • doing the right thing, even when no one is looking

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. I have high expectations...of myself, of those around me. Really, of everyone, even though I know that sets me up for disappointment because that just isn't the norm in our society. It would be nice if it was though. Life is short and we all want to live a happy life. Unless you live your life like a hermit, other people's actions are going to affect your life. If everyone lives as though the universe revolves around him or her, we will all be disappointed. If we stop and think about how our actions affect those around us, instead of only thinking of what will make us happy, we could all have a much higher level of life satisfaction. 

Simple, right?

And there I go again, setting myself up for disappointment. 


Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's been so long since I last sat down to write. We've been in San Diego almost a year now. I haven't made any new jewelry pieces and I haven't really spent any time writing since moving here. All of this "downsizing" to fit into a downtown apartment seemed like a great idea, but a year later I feel like I've given up so many things that made me me.

The first place we chose to live in San Diego has been a big fail. Nice place. New building, very fancy, great location. Here's the problem though...too many people with too much money and not enough maturity to deal with it. An example of the things we've dealt with in the past 12 months:

  • 20-somethings getting SO drunk by the pool that they walk around with certain body parts hanging out that, in polite society, are normally covered;
  • a total disregard for rules, such as "no dogs in the pool area" and "no dogs off leash," which resulted in Mike being bitten by an evil little mutt of a canine;
  • a sloppy drunk neighbor telling us how so many others in the complex hate us for getting the dog kicked off of the property;
  • same sloppy drunk neighbor putting the moves on me right in front of my husband (which, honestly, I didn't take seriously but it was still incredibly awkward);
  • garbage left everywhere;
  • dog feces in hallways (because entitled people apparently don't have to clean up after their pets);
  • and the list goes on.
Needless to say, this place hasn't been a good experience. 

Overall, San Diego as a whole has not lived up to the expectation we had when we moved here. Sure, it is beautiful if you like the majority of your year to be sunny. For me, personally, I like everything in moderation, to include sunshine. And like most cities, traffic is hell, people are self-centered, and the cost is beyond ridiculous. 

Not my idea of a "happily ever after" place.

It's been said that we haven't given the place a chance. I think we've given San Diego plenty of "chance." I'm not sure how much more chance I need to give it. I've lived here for a year, worked here for almost a year. Probably seen, experienced, and explored more of the city than many. We've certainly experienced more than the hipster bars of the trendy areas. San Diego has a lot to offer a snooty, entitled hipster. Or maybe a tourist. But not me. It doesn't have what I need.

And what do I need you might ask? 

I need....
  • seasons
  • less congestion
  • less expense
  • less "look at me, look at me"
  • more space
  • more time with my husband
  • less need to work
  • friendlier people
  • lake house
  • less entitled people
  • a yard for my dog
  • and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
All in all, we are not pretentious enough or materialistic enough for where we live right now. I'm hoping that moving outside of downtown will make things more bearable. But either way, I want out of here. I want to be far away from this place, these people...all of it. Mike and I are good with each other and with our child. We don't do well with others. Whether that is a good thing or not doesn't really matter - it works for us. We know this now and we accept it.

Bring it on - Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania...Thailand, Vietnam or Kuala Lumpur. Whatever...as long as it is just us, it will be good.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Divorce

I recently asked my friends to suggest blog topics for me. Not that I need help finding topics bouncing around in my head so much as sometimes it's fun to force myself to write about a topic NOT bouncing around in my head.

This subject isn't a "fun" one to write about, but I think it is one that I have a different perspective on - a perspective that isn't written about often.

My parents are not divorced...from each other at least. My dad was married before though and has two sons from that marriage. Growing up, I never thought much about it other than knowing that I had these two brothers who had a different mother than my own. The implications of being a child of the second wife didn't hit me until well into my adult years.

Looking back, I remember my mother commenting that none of my aunts liked her. I remember going to one uncle's house to swim in his pool and my mom staying outside with us kids the whole time while my aunt stayed in the house. Because this happened every time we went there, I just thought it was normal. Again, looking back, I now see the oddness of that.

The point being, even though my own parents never divorced, I still experienced the repercussions of a divorce - not invited to family gatherings, never having close relationships with cousins, not feeling like a "real" member of the family. We were the second set of children, never truly fitting in with the rest of the family.

Children of divorced parents face so much that I cannot imagine. Two sets of parents. Feeling like you're betraying one parent if you enjoy time with the other. Multiple "sets" of siblings - those you share a mother with, those you share a father with, and those you share both parents with. Multiple extended families. I'm sure those children, like myself as a child, have a hard time figuring out where they fit in.

I was married once before and technically got divorced, but I really can't say I know what it feels like for a marriage to end. My first "husband" (I have a hard time even calling him that) and I never lived together. We were both in the Army - he stationed in California, me in Germany - and by the time I came home from Germany I was in love with my current husband and wanting a divorce from the first one. I tell people that he was really just a boyfriend that required paperwork to break up with.

So I don't claim to know what it feels like to get divorced. Just the thought of it makes my chest hurt though. I look at my husband and imagine him telling me he doesn't love me anymore and that he's leaving, or worse...that he loves someone else now...and it makes me feel physically ill. I can't imagine how I would react to that, yet men and women have that happen to them every day and have no choice but to continue on with their lives.

While it isn't the same, I can relate to the idea of having to continue on. When my son died - something I never wanted to happen for sure, but also something I had no control over - I couldn't imagine how I could continue to live without him. But, six years later, I'm still here. Broken in many ways; stronger in many as well.

So I think if there is anything I can say to people experiencing divorce, and possibly questioning how they're going to get through it, the only thing I can say with any certainty is "you just do." In the beginning, I'm sure it is nothing more than going through the motions of life, doing the things you know you have to do, but over time I would assume that you gradually start finding things to be happy about again.

As it was with us dealing with the death of a child, a big part of it will be allowing yourself to be happy again. It's very easy to wallow in misery. Sometimes being happy is a choice and you have to make that choice...as in, consciously tell yourself it's ok to be happy...before it can happen.

In my heart, I wish people would just work harder at their relationships. If you're unhappy, talk about it. Work together to find ways to be happy again. Never forget why you got together in the first place. Flirt. Go on dates. Say "I love you" every day.

In many cases - such as my first marriage - make sure you're getting married for the right reasons, and when you do - commit to it. Don't think of your marriage as something you can walk away from if it doesn't work...and it is work making a marriage successful. Just because you're crazy happy in the beginning does not mean you always will be. You have to work at it. If you're not willing to do that, you should stay single.

Easier said than done, though, right?


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Filterless - read only if you don't mind being offended.

I really hate having to use sick leave for being sick. I'd far rather use it for a much-needed mental health/shopping day. I only get sick about once every five years though, and apparently it is time for my quinquennial illness. 

So, as I sit here on the sofa with my tissues, hand sanitizer and coffee (because seriously, coffee NEVER tastes bad) and look at my News Feed on Facebook, I find that my normal barely-there filter has gone completely AWOL in the face of my snotty-nosed misery. So while I'm feeling lousy and just don't care, let me share a few thoughts on topics recently trending on my wall.

Marriage. Specifically, youngsters getting married. How do I define "youngster"? I don't consider anyone under the age of 25 to completely be an adult. Sorry. You're just not. Are you old enough to fall in love? Sure. Be hormonal and think that is love? Absolutely. Play house like real adults? Yep. Choose the person you are meant to spend the rest of your life with? 

Hell no.

I know there are those of you who married your high school sweetheart and beg to differ, but you know what? Every statistical observation has outliers. I accept that. 

Then there are you young people who are just so in LOVE. 

I can hear you all now. 

But Shannon, you just don't understand. I KNOW this is right. 

All I can say is - WHATEVER!

You don't even know who you are yet - because you haven't even become the person you're meant to be yet. I firmly believe you have to go through a few of life's trials on your own - as an adult - before you know yourself well enough to make an informed decision on whether or not another adult is the right person for you. Did your parents marry young? Are they still married? Are they happy?

That last one is the killer question in my mind. I know a few people who have been married for decades, but are not happy. They just reached the point where their marriage was a hard habit to break, so they continued to share space, but not feeling.

I married someone when I was 24 (not yet an "adult" by my definition) and it was a huge mistake. I met Mike while I was married to that other person. I won't say that meeting Mike was what made me realize my first marriage was a mistake though; I knew that within 24 hours of walking out of that tacky little wedding chapel in Lake Tahoe. But I knew when I met Mike that he was the one I was supposed to be with (see "How I Met Your Father, Part 1").

Here's the thing - there were a few other times before that where I knew the current guy was "the one."  It wasn't until I did meet the right one and could compare that feeling to all the other times I thought I had met the right one that I was able to see that those first few were nothing more than infatuation. I was in love with the idea of being in love. 

Sorry, but you are too.

I had a young lady - a friend of a friend, if you will - add me as a friend on Facebook a few years ago. She was a senior in high school. Her boyfriend had just graduated and left for the Marines. She wanted to be friends with me because we were both "military wives." 

::snort::

She and all her little friends who were the girlfriends of young military men (not full adults yet) were amusing, but just like I knew would happen, those relationships ended. Little girls playing at being women. 

So, excuse me for not "liking" all of your posts about how happy you are, because me thinks you are trying too hard to convince me. The bottom line is that whether your relationship works or not really doesn't matter to me. So, instead of wasting my wall space trying to convince the world that getting married young is so great, just live your life. Time will be your evidence of either being right or wrong.

Whew...that topic went on longer than I expected. Next up in the flow of filterless ravings from a sick woman is parenting.

I will try to keep this one a little less verbose. Please do not perceive that as me being less opinionated on the subject. I just need a nap.

I am not a bible thumper, therefore I don't subscribe to the "judge not" idea that no one else subscribes to either, but swears that they do because of their religion. I judge you. Sometimes harshly. Especially if your children are wee beasties that show no signs of ever having been given boundaries or consequences.

In an effort to keep this short and reach my nap faster, here are the actions that I see all around me that make me turn to my daughter and say, "If you ever let your children act that way, I will steal them from you and raise them myself."

1. Throwing fits in stores. 

My kids knew when we were in the grocery store that they had to have one hand on the cart at all times and that the answer to every request to buy something was "no." If they didn't, the cart would be left in the store - full if necessary - and we'd be taking a trip to the car where some form of discipline would take place.

To answer your question - yes, it happened. In grocery stores, malls...you name it. We followed through. So consistently, in fact, that Keeghan once said to me upon seeing another child misbehaving in public, "Mama, we'd get in so much trouble if we acted that way." 

Start young. Set limits. Establish consequences. Follow through. It's not that hard. Which brings me to my next observation:

2. You are never too tired to parent.

From the moment that first child is born, you don't get to stop being a parent. You don't get to hand that duty off to someone else. Sure, if you're lucky, you and your spouse give each other breaks occasionally, but you can't count on those. If you wake up tired, oh well! When you start letting your child get away with being a brat because you're just "too tired" to deal with it, you have become a bad parent in my book. 

Because here's the thing...when you start phoning it in as a parent, other people stop wanting to be around you. A bratty child is the biggest social life killer of all, because no one wants to spend their down time watching you let your kids get away with bad behavior. When my children were small, I would have been horribly offended if I knew that someone else wanted to discipline my child for me because I wasn't doing my job well as a parent. Consequently, I was probably more strict than most, but it paid off. I was never embarrassed to have my children around other adults. Are you?

Lastly, here is my current parenting pet peeve.

3. Stop letting video games, television and iPads raise your children. 

I see it everywhere. Toddlers with expensive iPads in their hands while riding in the grocery cart at the commissary and God help everyone in the building if the battery dies! Child is bored? Heaven forbid you interact with the child to entertain them. No! Just hand them your smart phone and let them play Angry Birds for two hours.

Don't get me wrong - my kids watched TV, too. From 2000 to 2001, while Mike was in Korea for a year and Keeghan only went to preschool three mornings a week, Nick Jr. was my favorite babysitter in the mornings so I could get homework done. But I was always right there in the same room with him, and if he wanted to talk to me about something that was happening on Dora the Explorer or Blue's Clues, I stopped and interacted with him. 

My kids watched movies. We played video games, but always with me in the room with them. Oftentimes, I was the one playing the game with them watching (I can't count the hours spent playing Spyro the Dragon with Mackenzie and Keeghan yelling out to tell me where all the gems were that I needed to collect). Both children learned to use the mouse on the computer by sitting on my lap and playing JumpStart Toddler. 

The point being - we interacted.

That interaction is what I see missing. Parents are phoning it in far too often. They're giving their children everything they want and nothing that they need. It frightens me to imagine what the world will be like when these children hit the adult world and find that everything isn't easy and free and that they'll actually have to earn people's affection and abide by the rules of society.

Meh...they'll probably just get married young so they can get it from their buddy/spouse.