Life with Ladybug: 7 strategies to keep you from twisting your t(w)eenager’s head off

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

That headline is a joke, of course. I’d never hurt my kid – and neither would you — but sometimes my preshus snowflake can give me a certain look or say just the most crazy (ungrateful) things …

If you’re like me, you might find yourself in need of some, shall we say, strategies to help make it through those moments.

Here are some strategies I’ve used (sometimes daily, let’s be honest) to remain sane in the midst of a teen/mom confrontation:

ladybug in frameLook at old baby pictures. Stare about those round rosy cheeks, those sweet rosebud lips. Place a few of your favorites around the house strategically so you can gaze intently at them while channeling Mother Theresa. The nostalgia should be enough to pull you through those few seconds/minutes/hours of outrage.

I hung some of my daughter’s baby pictures in the hallway right outside her bedroom. There’s also one in the living room from when she was about four years old. Wasn’t that baby girl so sweet back then? She’s still in there. The contents may have shifted, but she’s still in there.

Breathe in and out while thinking: hormones. As the Jewish Proverb reminds us: “A mother understands what a child does not say.”

Sometimes the hormones and the stress of life can make them a little crazy. Be assured that your kids are kind and considerate to others, while saving the crazy for you. Because you’re a soft place to land. (Think: Mommy Mattress.)

Think back to how you acted when you were his/her age and ponder this word: payback. Your own mother will likely not gloat openly, but you can bet there’s a small part of her (inside) that’s snickering.

But seriously, this is a phase.

You did/said/acted some of these same way. And admit it: you were worse.

Find something to laugh about. For me, it’s usually the pets who throw me a bone when I need to focus on something funny. Our big poodle, two cats and two chickens are typically acting ridiculous, so they serve as a helpful distraction. Laughing can bring a hostility down a few notches.

IGNORE. Seriously, I sometimes pretend not to see an eye roll, hear a growl or feel the woosh of a door as it closes very, very fast. We can’t react to every single thing.

It’s ok to let them blow off steam a little. Moms do it, too. Where do you think they learned it?

Don’t worst-case-scenario things. Just because you have a little parent/kid dust-up doesn’t mean your relationship is crap and things will never be the same. Repeat after me: She will soon come out of her room, act as if nothing happened, and will ask what’s for dinner. This is normal.

Teens sometimes have a force field around themselves (when it comes to their parents) because they’re trying to separate from us. We eventually want them to leave the nest and be productive citizens, so this is a good thing. Even if it really, really feels awful sometimes.

Listen. With a closed mouth. This one may be the hardest one to do, but it will help you stay sane because it might actually lead to your kid talking it out (instead of reacting negatively to your reaction). If your kid talks it out, you might actually have a good conversation and you’ll get a peek inside your kid’s brain.

You might even be able to help them with a problem. Which will make both of you feel better.

None of these will work every time (don’t I know it), but maybe one of the seven strategies will cross your mind the next time your t(w)eenager really pushes your buttons.

Peace out, mamas.

Shannon close up, peachShannon Magsam is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com and nwaMomProm.com. She’s married to an awesome newspaper guy and they have a fun-loving, artsy tween who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to mamas@nwamotherlode.com or leave a comment here.

Life with Ladybug: Why I don’t want a DVR

By Shannon Magsam

flashMy daughter and I weren’t home on Tuesday night, so we didn’t get to watch the mid-season finale of our show, The Flash.

But we can’t plan our lives around when Barry Allen will be running super fast and saving citizens of Central City at 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights on the CW, can we? Or maybe we can.

A DVR would help, my friends keep telling me.

Yep, it’s true: I don’t have a DVR.

And I admit I feel kinda backward not having one.

But the truth is I secretly like watching shows in “real time” when I know tons of other people are watching, too. It’s a collective social experience. It reminds me of when my family would gather around the TV to watch one of just a handful of shows a week, because we only had three stations and you watched when they came on – or you missed them.

On Sunday nights when I was a kid, we’d watch the Magical World of Disney movie. My mom always cooked amazing dinners, but on Sunday nights she and my dad would have steak and the kids would have frozen pizza on TV trays. All was right with the world when I was eating frozen pizza with my siblings while watching the newest Disney movie.

And here’s another plus about watching a TV show in “real time”: No Spoilers. You don’t have to worry about someone telling you how it ended the next day at work or school.

I remember when I was about 8 and the movie Black Beauty was going to be shown on television. We didn’t have a color TV, but my favorite book was Black Beauty and I couldn’t wait to see it. My mom decided she HAD to get a color TV so I could watch it. I can still remember playing in the big box the TV came in that day and the amazing movie in vivid color that night. It felt cool knowing so many people across the country were seeing the same amazing images as me RIGHT THEN.

wizard of ozRemember when the Wizard of Oz came on once a year and it was an EVENT? You didn’t miss it. Same thing with the Sound of Music around the holidays. We don’t have those kinds of gather-round-the-TV moments these days and it’s a little sad to me.

The closest we’ve come is live musicals The Sound of Music (with Carrie Underwood) and, most recently, Peter Pan.

There’s another (in my opinion, very compelling) reason not to have a DVR: I don’t want to have a backlog of shows to watch. It’s just too  much pressure to have all those characters just “waiting” for me to watch them. I don’t need that!

Now, there are obviously a few reasons a DVR would be great. I could watch The Flash episode I missed (although I’m sure we’ll be able to find in on the CW) and I could skip commercials.

I always hated sitting through those tampon commercials with my dad while we watched a TV show together as a family. And these days, the commercials are WAY more embarrassing, like the one for “E.D.”. “…ask your doctor if you’re healthy enough for sexual activity.” So you have a question now, almost 13-year-old daughter?

For now, as much as I’d love to skip the commercials, I think I’ll hold off on getting that DVR. If I miss a show, it will be my loss as it was back in the day. Or I’ll figure out a way to be home when it comes on the first time.

So if I say I need to rush home — quick as a flash! –to watch “my show”? Don’t DVR judge me.

shan, blue dress, circleShannon Magsam is co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com and nwaMomProm.com. She’s married to an awesome newspaper guy and they have a fun-loving, artsy tween who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to mamas@nwamotherlode.com or leave a comment here.

Life with Ladybug: The downside of mom blogging

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

Ladybug drawing among the daffodils (about the time I started blogging about her)

As you know, the name of this blog is Life with Ladybug.

Except lately, I really don’t write as much about my life with my daughter, code name Ladybug.

I’ve been writing Life posts since my little lady(bug) was in kindergarten, but she’s almost 13 now and doesn’t want the world wide web knowing about private conversations or most embarrassing moments.

As the child of a mom blogger, she often asks, “You’re not gonna write about that, are you?!”

For the past year or so, I’ve tried extra hard to respectful and discreet, writing around the edges of our life together, not going straight for the heart. I weigh every deep interaction, wondering if she’d be OK with me writing about it – or using it on the radio show Gwen and I do over at Magic. Usually I think: no.

I also try to leave her friends out of the mix, since they’re also struggling with their own tweenager identities and could be embarrassed by something I say. But I want to be real, and that means talking about my real mama struggles. These are new waters I’m wading and I’m trying to stay upright.

I know lots of other parenting bloggers experienced this same dilemma before me, when their kids came of age. At some point, it feels like it’s not your story to tell anymore. Our kids are separating from their parents, creating their own stories.

Lately, when I talk about the big things in her life, I share them from my perspective. How I feel about her turning 13 or having trouble in the sixth grade. I read and re-read my words and study the story from every angle, trying to determine whether it might make her cringe if she happens to read it.

I don’t write detailed accounts about that adorable thing she just told me — or that grown-up question she just asked. (EEEEK!! Seriously, lately we’re experiencing “the awkward word of the week” around here. It’s like Sesame Street for tweens! But I’m so glad she’s still coming to me for answers. Wait. Was that TMI? Too Much Middle-Schooler Information?)

have i everNow that Ladybug is older, I also think about the possibility of her future employers reading what I’ve written about her. I blew the kid’s mind the other day when I pointed out that her very own children will someday be able to read the social media comments and blog posts she writes between now and then.

Imagine that.

And what if, after my sweet only has her own children, she peppers a few posts on her blog with cooky anecdotes about dear old mom? I can tell you, the idea of that really makes me want to be as discreet as possible while she moves through the teen years.

“Do unto others” is a phrase that comes to mind.

My husband and I are always joking with Ladybug that she should pay attention to how nice we are to her right now so that when we’re old and doddering she’ll be as nice to us. We’re paying it forward, honey. Remember that.

shan, blue dress, circleShannon Magsam is mama to Ladybug (a salty/sweet tween girl obsessed with superheroes and unicorns), wife to newspaperman/entrepreneur John, and is the co-founder of nwaMotherlode.com

Life with Ladybug: The terrible teens?

By Shannon Magsam

Mom and LadybugWe went to a restaurant on Saturday and I requested the Kids Eat Free menu.

And while the kids’ meal was being delivered to our table, I almost choked on my Diet Dr. Pepper. Because that’s when it hit me that we can only order kids’ meals for a few more months.

Because 13.

The problem isn’t that I won’t be able to skate out of restaurants paying less. The problem is my baby girl will officially be a teenager.

I get a little jolt of adrenaline every time something reminds me that the teenage years are creeping closer every day. And when the adrenaline shot wears off, I get a little weepy aftertaste.

Truthfully, I remember all my little ladybug’s age milestones and I got a little weepy about most of them at the time:

The first birthday.

She’s 5 now! Wow!

Seven.

Eight.

Nine.

(Poor Nine. Why does Seven always have him for lunch?)

Then: 10. Double digits!

Up next: thirTEEN.

And while I freaked about those other ages, this birthday has me the most freaked-outiest yet.

you're amazing croppedI think it’s because when I turned 13 I got stupid.

I remember my 13th birthday vividly. I looked in the mirror and expected to see a more mature version of myself looking back. But I didn’t.

I desperately wanted to be that grown-up girl, though, which led to some dumb mistakes.

So of course I get a little shaky thinking about this milestone as it relates to my girl.

The thing is (and this is a HUGE thing) I know my daughter has a better head on her shoulders than I did at 13. She knows herself better. She has very specific interests that keep her grounded. She has a great group of girl friends and they help insulate her. She’s practical and logical in a way that I just wasn’t.

See how I just talked myself down from the ledge? (I’m getting pretty good at it lately.)

Does that mean my teen-aged Ladybug won’t make any dumb mistakes during the years from 13 to 19? Of course it doesn’t. We all make mistakes in the teen years and we learn from them. I know she will, too.

But for now, I’ll breathe deeply and remember: 13 is just a number.

A very BIG number, and I’ll be paying more at Steak ‘n Shake, Red Robin and Chick-fil-A, that’s true. But I pray (boy do I pray) that when my baby girl looks in the mirror on her 13th birthday she’ll see someone she really likes.

Someone who’s just the right amount of grown up.

For 13. (But not for a few months!)

Life with Ladybug: Perspective

Love people sign.

By Shannon Magsam

I picked up the phone to call my husband. To vent.

I’d been to the dentist and I really needed to get a crown — plus I was reminded that I really need to have some dental surgery I’ve been putting off. And I remembered at the dentist that I also “really need” to get a mammogram, but our insurance has changed and that may be an out-of-pocket expense this time.

All I could see were dollar signs — disappearing fast down a big, huge drain.

It put me in a terrible mood.

When I called, my normally upbeat husband sounded sad and I asked what was wrong.

He told me that a woman we used to work with – who moved to another state several years ago – just lost her only child in a car accident.

My heart squeezed and, as a mom, I put myself right there in her shoes. As best I could, anyway, since I’ve never known that kind of pain.

I prayed for her (and will continue) and her loss immediately put my petty problems into perspective.

I often say to my parents and siblings that we need to enjoy each other’s company THOROUGHLY whenever we’re together. I told my sister recently: We can’t take this time for granted. We don’t know whether all of us will be sitting at mom and dad’s dinner table this time next year.

Our friend’s loss is a terrible reminder.

I read these sorts of posts all the time and I remember to be grateful and less annoyed about the small crap that happens in life for a few days. I’d like to hold on to this perspective for much longer. Like, until my last breath.

Life can be short.

You only get one.

Love God.

Love your people.

Love other people, too.

Praying for you, Cristal. We are so sorry.

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