When it comes to parenting, by far the biggest battle and discord we have had in our home isn’t drugs, sex, or rock ‘n roll.
I love it, I hate it. I’m always on it, I’m always vowing to cut back.
Our two oldest children had a phone upon entering high school, or soon after that. It was great for communication – and it still is. I text my son every day. I texted Cope every day until she left for her mission to Taiwan (I’ve got to write about THAT!) And I tell you what, I really miss NOT TEXTING her every single day. Or maybe I just miss talking with emojis.
We’ve got lots of tech rules. We’ve had many many discussions about usage. We’re all sick of talking about it. We have a technology contract. Children hand their phones in at night, cannot have it in their rooms without permission, and know that at any time, we, as their parents can access all of their accounts (Yep, we’re fun.)
And still, by far, arguments over technology use ranks #1 over all other issues.
This summer I really began to wonder why we continue to do this to ourselves. Actually, no one is doing this to us. We are doing this to ourselves. We are putting the internet in our children’s pockets, with all its pings and dings and apps and saying – but not too much! Get real.
I greatly dislike the worry and pit in my stomach I get when I see children reading less (Brynne: I WOULD STILL READ!) I worry we are training them to be more distracted as they are drawn into snapchat and social media time sucks. I dislike that we look at a screen first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
This summer, an epiphany: we’re not giving our ninth grader a phone.
How very revolutionary.
Response: “That’s so unfair!”
Yes, it totally is. But you see, darling, we are evolving. Getting better at this parenting gig. We will change our minds, course correct, and generally do things that are very unfair over the course of your 18 years under this roof.
Brynne, you still love me, right?
Interesting to me, she got over it very quickly. Life went on without anyone disowning us.
She has an iPod and a laptop. She has access to the internet. Thus far, she has always been able to reach us, has never been kidnapped, stuck on the side of the road, shoved in a locker, been swallowed by a whale, or any other worst-case scenario that I, as a mother, regularly envision. (Brynne: uh, NOT YET!)
With an iPod, she can text. She can borrow someone else’s phone when she’s on the road with the team. So far, it’s not been a hassle. (Brynne: uh, not for you!)
I almost caved a couple of weeks ago when Cope left her iPhone behind and we suddenly had a spare. Why not give it to our ninth grader? (Brynne: yeah, why not?) Why not? It’s paid for. For $20/month we could just pass it on down. But you know what? I don’t want my Niner to have a phone. When she asks why, I say, Because I Love You. (Brynne: insert eye roll.)
You’ve likely Googled “phone” and “addiction” (or is that just me?) (Brynne: just you, Mom.) We know they’re addictive, especially for our children’s growing, impulsive frontal lobe brains. This impulsivity has advantages, making our teens bold, creative, risk takers, out of the box thinkers. What do we do to that brain when we put the internet in their pockets? What I see? Eyes glued to screens. Fights with mom. Ugh. So over it.
Caveat: the internet is not bad. It’s great! What a genius invention. I just want to hold off a little longer, knowing full well our teens are already accessing the internet for hours, daily. But do they have to have it in their pocket?
Maybe in a few months we’ll change our minds and my 14-year-old will have a phone in her hands. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a week. Maybe the time will be right.
And parents: take heart. My Niner is not the only one without. I’m seeing the tide turn a bit, in that respect. Other parents are saying no, too. When I see this, I think – YES! And it makes me feel not quite so witchy.
SOLIDARITY is a POWERFUL thing! It has further emboldened me to say – Not Yet. And perhaps you will read this and be emboldened, too.
Bottom line: if you DO want to give your child a phone, it’s OKAY. I won’t throw rocks at your window. It’s a personal, family decision. Great! Good for you!
But also this – if you DON’T want your kid to have a phone – it’s OKAY. It’s a personal and family decision. Great! Good for you!
My girl thinks this post is lame. She would still like to have a phone. (Brynne: it’s not too late!) But I think she also understands. (meh.) And she’s still nice to me.
MUST READ HERE. “When I treat teens struggling with depression, anxiety, and ADHD, I tell them to get off their screens. In the hands of a depressed adolescent, phones can be dangerous. In my view, they are weapons. I wonder how we have gotten to the point in America where young children carry these weapons in their hands to school, soccer, parties, and even bed — and no one sees the danger?”
We don’t tend to like adversity and problems. Yesterday, these trees gave me a different perspective. The day after a wicked cold rain storm that raged through the night, I happened upon these trees sitting in cold flood water. They stood still and strong, with nary a root upturned. Missing leaves and small branches, but completely unmoved. And I thought: Strong winds and strong storms make strong trees.
I’m taking a 7-day social media hiatus which is really nothing, but in one day I could feel the difference: greater peace and time. I found myself putting the phone down instead of feeling bored and scrolling. It’s been a tumultuous and upsetting news cycle (what else is new?) and I need to find the good – which is not out “there.” It’s right here at home, making eye contact with my children, having a daily conversation with my husband, and pondering deeper scriptural texts. This Saturday and Sunday we are immersing in two full days of General Conference. This event ALWAYS makes me so HAPPY.
Himalayan Salt Deodorant. Okay, this sounds strange – it’s JUST SALT! But I have this thing about putting chemicals straight into my pores after showering and shaving, and salt just feels so…natural. It works quite well! I picked it for cheap (just a few dollars) at a boutique, but I’ve seen them all over the web.
Alert Caffeine Gum as a running aid. Let me clarify: ONLY AS A RUNNING AID. I’m a little neurotic about not getting addicted to substances, and so I don’t allow myself to chew this piece of 40mg of caffeinated gum (a small cup of coffee has about 60mg of caffeine) except for early morning runs. Way easier and better than gels and GUs and Shot Blocks that have all that other sugary junk in it. It makes me feel motivated, helping me run faster and farther. You can buy 100mg/caffeine gum, but that’s “military grade,” and again, we don’t need any more addictions! Tired in the afternoon? May I suggest a 10-minute nap?
When Cope found it in my drawer she gasped and said, “Mom! WHAT IS THIS? I feel like I’ve discovered steroids in the house.”
RX and Lara Bars. 3-5 ingredients in them and that’s it! (The carrot cake bar above has 9 ingredients but all are “natural” and words I can pronounce.)
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Cope raced through the whole trilogy. I’m all set after Book #1. It was entertaining, and I adore reading of other cultures and languages, but I thought the book too long and lacking in substance (which might be just the thing you’re looking for!)
My friend Kate brought us the most beautiful bouquet of flowers “just because.” Patty sent my daughter a bouquet of flowers when she got her mission call Taiwan. Such a small – but big – gesture that makes me happy every time I enter the house. Happiness tip: Send the Flowers!
Two of my girls are using matching planners from BAM, because, like their mother, they cannot survive life for one day without a physical, hand-written calendar (Google calendar is great for sharing schedules, but I also gotta write!) It makes me a bit giddy to see them planning and organizing their lives. Check.
Also: these pens with the planner. Goodness, I love them.
Wasn’t I going to post books more often? Well, here you go – 8 books I read this summer and into fall as I try to hit 50 reads for the Goodreads Reading Challenge (I’ve always loved reading challenges 🙂 )
Love and Ruin by Paula McClain: Historical fiction. McClain (The Paris Wife) writes the story of Martha Gellhorn and her infamous relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Gellhorn was one of the first and most well-known female war correspondents. RESPECT.
Where There’s Hope by Elizabeth Smart: Nonfiction, adult. I took notes upon notes reading this book. We know Smart’s kidnapping story, but here she offers more: hope moving forward. I’ve become a huge fan of this woman, watching her take control of her life and empowering women of every age. One of the most powerful stories is her father bringing Elizabeth and her little sister into his study to practice, “screaming” after a woman cornered Elizabeth in the bathroom at church (after she was returned from the kidnapping she still didn’t know how to fight back!) Elizabeth froze, not knowing what to do or react. It’s wonderful to be polite and have manners when the occasion calls for it – but do our children (esp our girls!?) know how and when to scream and bite and kick when needed? Really great book.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: Middle grade, fiction. Take it from Paige: the movie does not do this book justice! Read the book! My girls read it over and over and over, especially when they need to curl up with an old favorite. I loved it, too.
Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin: Middle grade, fiction. Baldwin makes a lovely debut with her middle grade read about Della, the ups and downs of family and farm life, and a mother’s mental illness. Really well done! Just thinking about this book makes my mouth water and my body break out into the damp sweat of summer (that’s a compliment – Cindy brings great voice and language to this story.)
Calypso by David Sedaris: Memoir, adult. I’ve never read memoirist Sedaris before. He’s really funny, even when writing about family tragedy. He’s also extremely irreverent. Geez. You read a sentence and think did he really just write THAT? But no doubt, I get what all the fuss is about. He’s a great writer and I want to learn from him.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone Young Adult, fiction. This was my freshman daughter’s summer reading. She read it fast and said, “you should read this.” I casually picked it up and couldn’t put it back down. Real, sad, important. Justyce, a young black scholar is trying to balance two worlds – his old neighborhood and an elite prep school. It’s present-day, but he writes letters to the great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, trying to figure out his place in a racist America. Head’s up: language.
Yes, we’re alive over here, time is just going so fast I start wondering where to start.
It’s such a strange thing to suddenly be the parent of older kids instead of having a posse of younger ones. The baby is going into 6th grade for heaven’s sake! I find myself gazing at her playing Barbies and with her American Girls, knowing in a blink they will soon be abandoned for American Eagle gift cards and iPods.
We’ve had a great summer, traveling out west for a family reunion, coming home to another family reunion (hosting all of Gregor’s brothers and family – a hoot and a holler!) The house has been FULL of people and so much food and messes and reminiscing.
Labor Day always marks the beginning of packing school lunches, quieter days, busier afternoons, and the rank smell of soccer cleats by the front door.
I find myself pondering Ernest Hemingway’s quote:
There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? -Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
I’d like dispute that, Ernest. If I may. Because what of this:
The past in a cool, dark pond; our feet are always damp.
I took that line from book critic, Lucy Feldman. Isn’t it terrific?
I’ve always been one to look back and also forward. I think I have a better handle on it, feel more at peace with change.
It’s been a good summer and a hard one. We lost a tremendous man and friend to suicide. His impact reverberates through our community in a painful way I’ve wanted to run from, yet it’s been a huge wake up to remember we belong to each other. It’s a reminder to check in with one another. To speak up when we are hurting, to reach out when we need help.
But the good stuff?
A LOT of swimming at our favorite hole:
Traveling to Utah for a family reunion, where the stomach bug traveled through all of us (YES!). We hiked some mountains, sold books, rope swinged into Blood Lake, ate gallons of ice-cream.
In early August I ran in the Beach to Beach 10k alongside elite-level and olympic runners (okay, fine, they were practically finished before I started) and now I’m ready to train for the Cape Cod 1/2 marathon this October. SIGN UP HERE! We (running buddies Maryn, Jill, Chloe, and Cope) have had great times on the rail trail. Running a 9-miler with a pal bonds you for life, I swear.
The other night I lay here in the dark, looking out at a bright moon lighting up the sky. The next morning I awoke early for our girl posse long run. The moon was still up when we started; by the end of the run we were running into the sunrise. WOW.
I’m waxing a bit sentimental thinking of the upcoming year and the many changes that will occur. These kids we’re raising? We haven’t missed anything. It’s happening all as it should. We’re watching miracles happen every single day.
Here’s a picture of my siblings and me from this summer: I remember so well when we were little kids and now look at us. Side note: isn’t it remarkable that I’m the oldest and have retained my natural L’Oreal Medium Brown hair color when the rest…haven’t? What can I say??? I guess it’s all in the genes! 🙂
And look at these kids. What will they remember about their childhood together? Adding Grandpa and Tenny to the mix sure was a great idea!
So here we go:
Cope is awaiting her mission call! It should arrive any day. Like, ANY DAY. She will serve an eighteen-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She will leave behind her phone(!) and everything else to serve and teach others of one thing: the life and mission of Jesus Christ. I’m in awe of her. She could be called to Brazil or Iowa – WE DON’T KNOW. I’ve known A LOT of missionaries, but how different it is to have my own child embark. Strange, for sure.
Nelson embarks on his senior year and is currently going through the college admissions process. Boy, that’s no small feat. Note to self: we will survive. He’s also ALMOST done with his Eagle Scout project and fundraiser. I’m more than A LITTLE EXCITED to see him on the soccer field this fall. He loves the sport so much, and uh, so does his mama.
And Brynne Brynne? She’s a freshman! Zowie. Paige is a middle-schooler. I mean, what is going on? They will also be on the soccer field and I’ll be coaching, so you know, packing lots of Lara Bars.
I process these transitions by running (which leads to cravings of wavy potato chips and Diet coke, but hey, no one’s perfect.) Also? More sleep, please.
Talk to me. What are you transitioning to?
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I ADORE a complex medical dilemma coupled with lots of family drama. And Genova is an actual neuroscientist – as well as a superb writer. Richard, the main character, is a brilliant and world-renowned pianist. He’s also a terrible family man. So what happens when you suddenly start noticing a funny weakness in your hand and are diagnosed with ALS? It’s the family who steps up. This hit very close to home as I lost a dear friend to this horrible disease. For me, an informative tear-jerker.
What do you know? Carrie Rubin is also a doctor in real life, and a superb writer. THE BONE CURSE is book #1 in an exciting new series: a medical thriller with a supernatural element! I also kindof know Carrie through the internet and it’s always so thrilling to see your writer friends pave the way and do it SO WELL! Great job, Carrie.
Oooh…this one was kindof a guilty pleasure (in the tamest of ways!) The moral of this story is: it’s time get stone-cold sober. At least for Cassandra Bowden, who woke up next to a dead man. Did she do it? SHE CAN’T REMEMBER! She really doesn’t think she has it in her, but…SHE CAN’T REMEMBER! After flying through this book (ha), I said to self: GO FIND ALL THE BOHJILIAN BOOKS NOW.
This book is getting all the rave reviews for good reason. I LOVED it. I could not put it down. In the same vein as THE GLASS CASTLE: a family, a brilliant but mentally ill father, a child with no formal schooling who is schooled in survival and using her own smarts. After listening to the audiobook, my dad commented, “I knew a few people like that in Idaho.” Wide eyes.
After reading EDUCATED, I must have been on a survivalist kick, which is what Hannah’s written. The setting is the wild, beautiful, and dangerous Alaska. I enjoyed this book, but the mother’s horrible enabling DROVE ME CRAZY the entire book. Obviously I lack empathy. Or something.
This book is pretty astounding in its writing and its research. Bohjalian is really really good. I have so much more respect for what midwives do – and what they risk. A medical thriller with lots of family drama and ethical questions that are terribly hard to answer – right up my ally! A GREAT READ. Jodi Picoult fans will love Bohjalian (but you probably already knew that.) Also, he’s lives in Vermont! Think he’d mind if I knocked on his door?
YAY FOR DEBUT AUTHORS! I’ve known Melissa for years. How fun it was to both have debut books in June. This was a very sweet, yet realistic look at child homelessness. Sad, but hopeful. I loved all of the images of trees, throughout. Themes of hardship, sisterhood, and home run through this novel. Melissa has more books on the way and I look forward to more from this huge talent!
This book was not at all what I expected – in a really fun and surprising way! There’s this boy who doesn’t know where he is. What’s his name? Where are all the people? Why won’t his inner bully leave him be? With only one character throughout, Clark does a fantastic job of keeping the reader engaged. It’s somewhat heartbreaking but somewhat not…I don’t know. I’ll be thinking of this book for a long time. “Once upon a time there was a boy…” So good!
Okay, that’s it for me. What’s kept you up at night? Do tell! I love hearing what you’re reading and yes – I’m ready for a new book!
It’s officially summer! School’s out, time to play. Yesterday was the longest day of the year. The sun was up around 4:30a.m., helping me rise and shine – along with the birds. SO MANY BIRDS singing in the morning. Now the days will start getting shorter…but never mind about that…
We have already spent many hours at our favorite summertime spot:
This one is actually a mermaid:
It took me days to get “organized” for summer. The rhythm of family life changes so much with the seasons. All the kids are home. Three of them have summer jobs. We have four drivers, two cars, many bikes. Vacations, pick-up soccer, a messier house. Hence the giant calendar and job charts now posted on the fridge. Hey, this mama doesn’t do it all.
I’m very very envious that Gregor bikes to and from work with our girl Cope every day:
In other news, I had my official book launch on June 16th at Morgan Hill Bookstore in New London, New Hampshire. SO grateful to all who came. It was surreal to see Guinevere lined up in a row. I literally felt dizzy.
And then I actually signed a book I wrote. More dizzy.
I want to say a huge ginormous THANK YOU to all of you who have purchased and have read THE UNFORGETTABLE GUINEVERE ST. CLAIR. Years of my life were spent writing, researching, editing, querying. There were many days when I wondered what the heck am I doing? Would I still be querying literary agents twenty years from now? Was this all for nothing? To say it’s a dream come true is a terrible cliche no good writer should use, but…that’s about it.
Thank you, also, for your feedback! Every time I see a review on Goodreads or Amazon, my heart skips a beat. Which leads me to another ask: if you read and enjoyed Guinevere, would you please consider leaving a review at Goodreads and Amazon? Word of mouth is the best way to get a book in someone else hands, so I hope you’ll keep talking 🙂
Some Guinevere official business:
I’ve created an “official amymakechnie.com author website” HERE. It was fun. And challenging. And frustrating. And oh yes, fun. Geez, my learning curve is slow. If you’d like to receive a monthly author newsletter, click HERE.
If you’re not already a maisymak blog subscriber, but you’d like to to be, click HERE.
That wasn’t really the last. Here’s the last: Thank you, dear friends!!!
The other day I asked one of my kids if they knew I loved and was proud of them. It was a rhetorical question, because of course – I DO AND I AM.
But the reaction? There was kindof a shrug. So I pulled over and said, “Wait a second, you DO KNOW THAT, RIGHT?”
Yeah, sure, mom.
It’s been looping inside my mind like a reel: they KNOW I love them, but do they know it’s absolutely unconditional? That NOTHING can separate the love I feel for them? No matter what?
There’s the rub: no matter what
I had a friend who told me that every morning her mom would say, “you’re so pretty.” This was absolutely well-intentioned, but when she went to college, no one said that to her every morning. Am I pretty? began to be a constant, nagging question. It began a serious struggle with worth. Would I still be loved if I weren’t pretty?
Will you still love me if I’m not skinny?
Will you still be proud of me if my best friend makes the team and I don’t?
Will you still love me if I’m attracted to my same gender?
Will youreyes always light up when I walk into a room – no matter what?
Many months ago, when one of my kids was having a hard life stretch, I realized that I really only wanted one thing. I could let go of all the awards, public acclaim, athletic talent, musical ability. The only thing I really really wanted was for my child to rise up every morning and walk out the door feeling truly and utterly loved. What we couldn’t do and overcome!
I am convinced that with this sure knowledge, that even through the hard days, there would still be happiness on the horizon. That’s it. She/He could be ugly, misshapen, failing a class, dumped from a friend group – whatever. I just wanted a child who knew who she was: a child of God. Divine. Created from love. And absolutely and unconditionally LOVED by her parents.
It’s come into sharper focus for me with these school shootings. I see myself standing outside a school, waiting for my child to come out. I can feel the desperation and panic start to rise, just imagining such a scenario. In that very moment, all I would want is for my child to come walking out the door and into my open arms. That’s it. I want them to be alive.
Alive. And running in a field together. That’s all.
I think we sometimes forget what our children need. We are so hell-bent (and I use that word intentionally) on getting them into lessons and schools and teams and social groups that I worry – do they know that without any of those things – we would still love them?
How could they know? When all of our effort, when all of our praise is focused on the accolades?
I’m not advocating false praise, or handing out a trophy every morning – that’s external, materialistic, and meaningless “stuff.” You can love your child and not like them every minute. And true love can be tough love: “you will get a summer job and pay for your own cell phone” because I love you.
I’ve just finished reading the most terrific and heartbreaking book I’ve read in a very long time: EDUCATED by Tara Westover. What she is able to overcome is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever read. It also makes me want to weep – Tara is fiercely unique in her ability to get out of a family that is completely dysfunctional and literally crazy. I want to think I would be her, but I doubt my own strength, especially as a sensitive, compliant child. While you read, you can’t help but hurt for all the others left behind.
Amazingly, without ever going to school, Tara studies on her own to learn trigonometry (okay, right there, I’m dead in the water) and takes the ACT, earning a 22. She studies harder and earns a 28. She’d never seen a bubble sheet before.
Remarkably, she is admitted to BYU (where she sees all sorts of heathens showing their knees and ankles 🙂 ). She eventually earns a scholarship to Cambridge (you HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!)
A professor observes how uncomfortable she is, how she “knows” she doesn’t belong. Dr. Kerry says,
“You act like someone who is impersonating someone else…it has never occurred to you that you might have as much right to be here as anyone….You should trust Professor Steinberg. If he says you’re a scholar – ‘pure gold,’ I heard him say – then you are.”
“This is a magical place,” I said. “Everything shines here.”
“You must stop yourself from thinking like that,” Dr. Kerry said, his voice raised. “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold. And returning to BYU, or even to that mountain you came from, will not change who you are. It may change how others see you, it may even change how you see yourself – even gold appears dull in some lighting – but that is an illusion. And it always was.”
So good. Pure gold.
I am sometimes heartsick to think of all the ways we mess up our kids after they come to us, as small babies, so completely perfect. For all of our good intentions, it sometimes goes horribly awry. But all is not lost. I think it’s actually very very simple. WE JUST LOVE. Tell them their beautiful – but not just on the outside. Tell them their souls are beautiful, that their hearts are kind. Tell them you’re proud of them – but not just when they excel – but also when they fail. Because failing is perhaps the greatest show of courage; they can fail and they will still be forever and unconditionally LOVED. Teach them what goodness and true love is; use words if necessary.
Our kids are in the arena. They are fighting a daily battle. They are warriors just for enduring. I don’t think we know the half of it. And they sometimes forget – because we do – that they are already golden. That gold should SHINE, not dull, by the light in our eyes.
It’s that time of the year, when many many kids are being awarded, graded, applauded. But not everyone is, are they? I don’t begrudge any of the above. Achievement is important and good for our personal growth.
But in all of our effort to make our kids “great again,” let’s not forget that they already are.