empty nest…college, the first stage

empty nest

This morning before dawn broke, we became first stage empty nesters as my husband left to drive our son to school. The car was so packed, there wasn’t room for anyone to change their mind, let alone room for me.

It seems like yesterday he was 10 and we were meeting for the first time at a First Friday Main Line long, long ago. I bought him a hot chocolate at MilkBoy Coffee when it was in Ardmore, and I was smitten.

We are a blended family, and I was never able to have children of my own, so my stepson is it for me. I like to say in some ways, we have grown up together, and now I get to begin that parental process of learning to let go and watching him spread his wings and learn to fly as the transition from teenager to adult really begins.

Damn this is hard. This morning as I stood in the rain in the doorway watching the rear lights of the car get smaller and smaller, I was a kaleidoscope of memories and emotions.  All of the years so far twirled and swirled before me in my mind’s eye.

Yes I cried when I hugged him good-bye.  I swore for days before that I wouldn’t. But I did.  And I had a good cry when they were gone when I walked past his open bedroom door.  The room was still and quiet.  And he had made his bed for me.  Yup. Puddle. Tears. This adulting stuff, oy vey.

We are so proud of him.  He did extraordinarily well in high school and has a very bright future ahead of him.  This is part of the natural progression of life, but damn don’t try it without Kleenex.

Another thing that gave me pause today is that I was experiencing something today like a regular parent, not just as a step-parent.  This new journey beginning today is something he, his father, and I share together like the family we have become.


As today is the check-in and freshman orientation for college, I call it the first stage of becoming an empty nester.  He will be home for break and vacations and occasional weekends, but he will never truly be here full time 100% of the time ever again.

He’s growing up (and yes he has been doing the growing up thing for a while – don’t mind me I am just enjoying parental denial.)  And some day, he will be having a day like this with his own children.

I am not old enough I said to myself this morning. I remember when I left for college.  I was excited and terrified all at the same time.  Now it’s his turn.

So what did I do this morning after I had my parental meltdown because the kid left for college? Well I cleaned and rearranged my spice rack. I oiled the cabinets and some pieces of furniture. It’s like I have an unnatural need to stay busy today.

Now I am sitting here writing this and listening to really early Madonna.  I never listen to Madonna.  Or I should say, I haven’t since I was about 21.  Holiday. Borderline. Material Girl. Lucky Star.

An hour or so ago I got a photo of the dorm room. That takes me back.  I remember that. Unpacking. Arranging my room.  But time flies.  37 years ago I was a just 17 year old freshman.  Seems inconceivable. I had a bright green bedspread.  My mother insisted.  I did not do that to him.

Now it’s his turn. He seems to like his roommate and survived his first freshman orientation gathering.  I remember I liked some of the freshman orientation activities, and felt like an alien at some of the others.

I have a feeling I will be cooking and gardening like crazy for just a little while.

I just got a text.  A photo of his first student i.d. He looks older already….sigh…

Have a great Sunday everyone.  Thanks for stopping by.




to the class of 2018

33965442_1932907406722201_6465525750287040512_n - Copy

Photo from my own high school graduation, 1981.   

The other day Spotify popped up with Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence in the song rotation.  Now it’s like an earworm.  The opening lyrics were playing in my head when I woke up:

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by

The song was written in 1989 by Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby.  Bruce Hornsby has been one of my favorite musicians since forever, and I liked this independent phase of Don Henley, so I have always loved this song.

I wonder if it is on my mind because this is the last week of high school for our son, my stepson?

I know that as a teenager about to graduate high school we are all annoying parental units, but where has the time gone?

GraduationI remember with great love the 10 year old with big eyes who loved hot chocolate and who used to make me apple slices with peanut butter on them.

Mind you I  love my 18 year old very much, but well…teenagers don’t make you apple slices with peanut butter or want to sit and drink cocoa with you.  They are here, and then they are out with their friends. Zoom. Zoom. Zoom.

Our son has done tremendously well in high school and we are SO proud of him.  He was accepted early decision to a truly remarkable school.  He is poised for success for the rest of his life.

And one of the best things I can say about our son, is that he is very much his father’s son in so many ways.  He is kind and loving and has a true generosity of spirit and loyalty to all in his world.  He has wonderful friends.

Time has flown.

In a sense, he (my son/stepson) and I have grown up together since as a stepparent I was late to this parenting game.

Sometimes it was very hard for me, I won’t lie.  Not because of our son, but the whole getting used to being a parent.  And being a stepparent is vastly different a role from being a parent.   It’s more of a supporting role.  And sometimes you have to keep your mouth shut, even when you don’t want to. (And well ME not having an opinion sometimes is torture!)

When he was in 8th grade I did not know if I could do it.  First of all, they all started dating then.  Dating in 8th grade is not something I did – probably because I was a year plus ahead in school, so I know back then, my emotional levels were completely different from my classmates. But it’s a different time and you do your best to adapt.

My growing up as a stepparent has not been without odd experiences.  Like the first dance.

I remember the first dance, the spring formal for our son in 8th grade like it was yesterday.  I was so incredibly nervous.    It was my first social function for the school as a stepparent.  They needed someone to photograph the group of kids going together to the dance, so I volunteered.  It is something I already do, and having a camera in my hands in new situations is very calming.

We were going to the house of the girl our son was dating for pre-dance photos.  First girlfriend, first dance, official stepparent debut.  And no one spoke to me while I was there. Seriously.  I walked in and no one said hello, no one spoke to me the entire time.  Not even our son’s date’s parents at whose home the photos took place. It was like one of those dreams where you are speaking to people, but you are invisible, so they glide on by, not hearing or seeing you.

I was ready to hang up the stepparent dress right then and there.  It was awful.  Almost as bad as my first experience in the car rider line when I accidentally got into the wrong line and people surrounded my car and started yelling at me like I was an ax murderer. But then it all changed. Then I met the parents that helped me grow and get through high school as a learning stepparent.

These were the parents who welcomed me before the 9th grade dance.  Parents of boys and girls in his class, and I am appreciative of all of them.  I love the time spent with them. They welcomed me to their circle. And from there, we watched our kids grow.  I no longer felt such the outsider.  I felt I had a place among them.

I just spent time with a few of them over Memorial Day Weekend as a matter of fact. We laughed and talked about high school with the kids. It was wonderful.  And every single kid has a  bright future ahead of them.

In a way this is also like my graduation as a stepparent.  Sounds weird but it’s true. I survived and he survived me surviving.  We survived him learning how to drive and me being nervous, SATs/ACTs, girlfriends I didn’t like, and generally growing up.

And that growing up is both of us. My son deserves a medal for surviving me learning how to be a parent and stepparent.  It’s hard.  And some days I swear I still stink at it. But again, I love this kid.  To the moon and back.  I did not give birth to him, but he is firmly and forever etched in my heart.

His father and I love him so much and are  so very proud of him. (And he will tell you I had the total meltdown complete with tears this morning when I told him how proud we were of him.)


Back in the Dark Ages before social media and cell phones when we graduated

I have many friends with graduating seniors this year.  Some of whom are close friends I have known since we were basically the age of our kids.

To my friends: I have loved every prom photo, travel photo, dance recital , sports event, travails of boyfriends and girlfriends and swearing we of course did NOT drive our parents as crazy, every everything.  You guys have been my rocks, my teachers on the learning curve of not losing your mind on dumb stuff. It is somewhat surreal to think our kids are graduating as I remember graduation with some of you.  Lined up in our white dresses, with our flowers.

To my friends with all of this ahead of them, get out your tissues…it’s emotional parental puddle time. And take time to smell the roses.

Where has the time gone???  It feels like yesterday I was in his place, getting ready to graduate.

(And yes, I am passing along my earworm)

Thanks for stopping by.


on strike


I love my stepson.  I do, He is awesome. But like many other kids those manners you have been teaching since embryo stage applies most often when you child is a guest in OTHER people’s homes. It’s so not cool to use those manners where you live! It simply is not done!

“Oh he is so helpful!”

“How do I get a child who helps me clean up the kitchen, set the table, walk the dog, and helps make the salad?”

“He is the PERFECT guest! And so articulate and conversational!”

Yes, I love hearing all this nice things….but here I sit laughing to myself that I wish I knew that person inside the four walls of our home!

Perfect manners. Outside the house.


Here I have a mutant ninja teenager.  He loves the inner sanctum of the bat cave, err his room.  Enter at your own risk.

Or the gaming palace, errr I mean the FAMILY room.

Want to make a teenager twitch? Have the temerity to actually sit in the FAMILY room and use it for anything OTHER than video games. Or hide their phone for a few minutes.

And when said beloved teenager is in the FAMILY room, you see him practicing to be a future corporate mogul and reclining like Julius Ceasar.  He has the head set on to communicate with his friends (and sometimes I swear they are more on the head sets to communicate than game). Then he has the super battery charger thingy in case he needs to plug in, text messaging/snap chatting/whatever on the phone, and for the technology trifecta, the tablet….with another game going on.

Teenagers contrary to popular belief can actually multitask VERY well and ever so efficiently….it just has to be something that interests them.  (Which aren’t parental units, naturally.)

When a certain someone was a little boy he loved hanging out with us.  He even showed interest in the kitchen.  When he was 10 he used to make me his world class favorite snack: he would cut up an apple, put it on the plate and carefully like he was mortaring bricks, would spread on peanut butter and even drizzle a little honey. And we would make hot cocoa together.

But at 17, you do not get that.  It is about friends, school, girl friend, gaming and not necessarily in that order.  Parental units are to be tolerated and used for rides to get places or buy stuff.  It’s not cool to hang out with the parental units, I do actually remember that much from being a teenager myself back in the olden days of yore.

Living as the only female human in the house I have resigned myself to a couple of things. One is socks form their own strange colonies along with random piles of dirty clothes.  The second is laundry looks much better when artfully displayed on the floor around the laundry hamper.

Another thing is the male of the human species have their own special, often somewhat primal non-verbal language.  They can move about the house  essentially grunting to each other and well sometimes the female feels somewhat invisible….until you cook or bake something that smells REALLY REALLY good.

One thing that doesn’t seem to happen very much in my house anymore are family dinners.  Teenager might turn into a pillar of salt or something if he couldn’t spend his time after homework on his games with his friends.  So I have pretty much given up on that ideal.  Which saddens me, but too many instances of teenager face (that special they are-bored-don’t-want-to-be-here-face), made me give it up.

But there is one thing I won’t give up on.  If teenager wants to be master of his own universe after homework, fine, but it is not my job to be the maid.  Yet somehow, I end up being the maid because teenagers never seem to know where the dishwasher is where they live…you are the maid and dishwasher.

Last night I cooked a lovely dinner.  Teenager did not join us.  But when he got off of his games and brought up his dinner plate (which was fixed and delivered to him by his father), it once again got deposited in the sink for the fairies or someone to take care of.

Proverbial straw meet camel’s back.  Time to go on strike.  I am not the maid.

So I decided to do to him what we once did to a summer beach house roommate who was a supreme kitchen slob: deposit his plate back in his room on a towel with a note (as seen above). Mind you I am being much kinder to him than I was to this woman once upon a time – we took a BIG beach towel and put it on her bed and onto the towel went a week’s worth of dirty dishes and glasses and detritus she had left trailing around for an entire week.  We had thought if we let her stuff pile up, she would take care of it but when that didn’t work, it was time for towel on bed. That worked and the rest of the summer she didn’t leave a mess in the kitchen.

Whether this leaving the plate back for my teenager to find will work or just be perceived as another parental unit nuisance remains to be seen.  I suspect I will have to go on strike a few more times.  Sorry not sorry but when I was his age I could not only cook, my sister and I were expected to clean up or help clean up.

Parents of teenagers are reading this and laughing, because you have to have one to truly get this new parenthood club.  I don’t ask for much, I just want a little help and cooperation once in a while.  And I am waiting for the feedback from some of my friends who do NOT have teenagers.  They feel free to liberally sprinkle parenting advice and while I appreciate their efforts, telling me what to do when they do NOT have a single teenager in residence is not helpful…and I will be sitting there with popcorn gleefully on the sidelines when their kids who “would never do that” become teenagers.

And I might get them the book by Dr. Peter Marshall titled  Now I Know Why Tigers Eat Their Young

Thanks for stopping by!


how humans can be like a flock of chickens, or navigating parenthood


So, I am but a few short years into this whole parenting thing, but by no means an expert or veteran.  I am an engaged novice at best. However,  I now understand further why my parents and a lot of my friends’ parents had limited involvement and interaction with a lot of school parent groups, PTA, and so on.  It’s often a no win proposition situationally.

Just like some work on the Victorian theory of children should be seen and not heard, it can also apply to the parents.  Truly, it’s fascinating. To me it can be like watching humans behave like a flock of chickens.

Chickens form flocks, flocks have pecking orders. If the pecking order is ignored or feathers are ruffled, often chickens will turn on one and other.  Remarkably, we will also do this to one and other as human beings. And it can be quite cruel and mean spirited.

I have now experienced marauding chickens first hand. Sadly what I have learned is just because someone is a parent, it doesn’t mean they will behave in an adult fashion.

My observations on all of this are simple: we all don’t have to be each other’s best friends and live in each other’s pockets but we are supposed to be the adults. We are supposed to (in theory)  be able to tolerate and appreciate differences in others. That is something I do not find from some parents at times.  I find that sad as we all share a common goal and core value of wanting the best for our kids.

I am very independent minded and unafraid to speak my mind, and always have been. I understand and appreciate that I can be considered an “acquired taste” . But I do always do my best to try to do the right thing. I respect this in others as well. But what I am learning is the path to good intentions is paved with the corpses of parents who thought they would try to help.

No school is immune to this phenomenon.  Check out any school of any kind whether public, private, parochial, or whatever and you will find this flock of chickens.  As long as your world view matches their world view, it’s all good.  But deviate from their comfort level or even just have a differing opinion and you will discover a world of hurt.  They will come at you hammer and tong. And trust me, it can be most unpleasant until you consider the source. They don’t call it bullying, but it is a form of bullying behavior in my opinion. It’s also fascinating to observe from a sociological perspective.

I will admit that for someone who was once a member of a sorority and who has headed up non-profit volunteer committees I am not much of a joiner. I was as a high school kid also not part of particular cliques or social circles. I enjoyed many different friends from many different groups and I am still very much that way today.  But independence like this is often very threatening to others.

With my 50th birthday came the renewed and self-inflicted wisdom that we should learn that sometimes tilting at windmills can be a fruitless proposition. But maintaining your independence and standing up for what you believe in shouldn’t have to resemble tilting at windmills either, should it? Yet sometimes it feels that way doesn’t it?

People will often fear and judge what they do not know or understand.  I have been guilty of that in the past as it is simply put, human nature. But as a parent when I see this it makes me sad. But now as a parent the positive is I can gain perspective if I am open to it.

We are all supposed to have common core values of wanting the best for our kids. So why is it some parents need to decimate other adults to attain this goal? How is it we are supposed to teach our kids to be better human beings when by our very example we are doing what we don’t want them to do?

But back to the theory of humans as flocks of chickens.  We should be better than pecking farm birds, shouldn’t we? (And I say this as someone who actually really likes chickens!)

Navigating parenthood is a tricky proposition.  I am learning something new every day. I just wish more of these adults, these parents, could be more open to learning at times.  We all can’t be perfect, and we come to the table with different life experiences. I guess it is what we do with those experiences that matter, right?  We should NOT expect everyone we meet to be cookie cutter images of us, should we? Wouldn’t that make us all Stepford Wives on this life bus if so?

I endeavor to try to learn and go forward a better human being.  I am not perfect. But I do try to do the right thing. And I am reminded again that I can only be responsible for my own behavior and actions.

Thanks for stopping by.


pen & pencil


It started innocently enough. I wanted an answer to a question I had.

As a parent, I am newer to the game that a lot of people out there. And I am a step-parent. My instincts are good, but I simply haven’t been at it as long as other parents.

I had noticed even last year with our child that I didn’t feel the teachers had kids using a pen enough. Of course, the only basis for comparison I have are what I see my friends’ and family’s children doing, or my own personal experience. And my personal experience is different because I spent most of my life going to private school. I was using pens in fourth grade to learn calligraphy – of course I am dating myself here because that was back when there was actual penmanship still!

I asked my child what the deal with pens versus pencils was and he said “all the kids his pencil.”


I asked a mom I know who had a child in my child’s class and she shared with me that even her child who was older and farther along in high school still basically used pencil for everything.

do parents have the right to parent?


Really,dear?  Is that all?

When you are the parent of a teenager, unusual stories about teenagers make you sit up and listen.  I am the step-parent of a teenage boy.  I haven’t been at this for that many years, so as opposed to parents with more time logged under their belts, I might think about things more in some cases just because I don’t have that many years of life experience doing this.

And life experience is key here.  Kids have life experience, and no one said they were dumb or without rights, but where do you draw the line between kids and adults? Adults do have more life experience, right? And we are supporting these kids emotionally, financially, and literally, so what if one kid really throws a curve ball? Do we wrap kids in cotton batting and keep them insulated from the world and reality, or do we let them experience life and make mistakes?

And then there is the battle of the sexes.  My friends with teen girls always tell me boys are easier.  I don’t have enough experience to know, but after something caught my eye on the news this morning, I might be rethinking that.

My experience with teenagers is limited personally to my friends’ kids, my nephew, and my stepson. I am learning to speak teenage boy…..slowly.  It involves lots of patience, occasional piles of clothes on the floor, mono-syllabic conversations, fear of green vegetables, video games, things are never “cute”, and girls (although girls are not discussed).

Immediate family-wise, I am lucky.  I have an amazing kid, and my nephew is an amazing kid. (Please note: My niece is not being deliberately left out here, she is just not a teenager yet even if she is the best fashion stylist in the family.)  But how would any of us be if we were the parents of one Rachel Canning of New Jersey? This is what caught my eye this morning on the Today Show : the story of this girl suing her parents.  Only this isn’t some cute ’80s move starring Drew Barrymore.

This is the story of a teenager who didn’t like the house rules and basically ran away, went to live with and be supported by a friend’s parents and is now 18 and suing her parents for money.

New Jersey honor student sues parents for school fees after they cut her off at age 18

Rachel Canning, 18, claims her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning, threw her out of their Lincoln Park, N.J., home last year and stopped paying for her private high school, where she excelled as a cheerleader and lacrosse player. But Sean Canning says Rachel left voluntarily after she refused to abide by simple rules of the house.


Published: Monday, March 3, 2014, 5:07 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 9:40 AM

But Sean and Elizabeth Canning say their “spoiled” college-bound daughter doesn’t live by their house rules and left the home because she didn’t like the law of the land — overseen by her father, a former Lincoln Park police chief.

The Morris Catholic High School senior and lacrosse player instead has lived at the Rockaway, N.J., home of a classmate, whose father, John Inglesino, has foot the bill for the suit.

“My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules,” Rachel said in her court papers, according to The Daily Record of Morristown, N.J. “They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me and have redirected my college fund, indicating their refusal to afford me an education as a punishment.”

“I want money but I don’t want to live with you?”

It sounds like a bad Lifetime TV movie, doesn’t it?  Only it’s not and it is happening up in Northern New Jersey. This girl, Rachel Canning is a senior it looks like at Morris Catholic High School. It also looks like she has two Facebook Pages. This one and this brand new one she has been posting on for a few hours. She has been posting comments she has been receiving.  (For the record: no matter what she is trying to do she does not deserve to be called all sorts of vile and crude four letter words as that accomplishes nothing .)

So she isn’t getting along with her parents.  Sounds like a teenager.

So the parents say they don’t want her partying, hanging out with a certain boy, and there are house rules.  Sounds like parents.

So she runs away to a friend’s house.  Sounds like teenage girl d-r-a-m-a.

So friend’s parents take up her cause, including living expenses and court costs? Ok, that sounds like over-stepping a bit?  And the father of the best friend where she is living is according to media reports Former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino? A politician and a lawyer? Why would he take this on? Does he have something against the parents? Does that sound normal to you? We’re not talking about the  cool parents you can talk to once in a while, we are talking about the parents that call me crazy seem to want to take over someone else’s child?

I must admit that I am somewhat astounded at these other parents inserting themselves here.  Are there real instances of abuse? Or are they just the type of parents of teens today more interested in being friends with their kids versus actual parenting?

rachelNow look, we were all teenagers once.  I remember one time in a fit of young teen drama like many other teens I told my mother I couldn’t stand it any more and was leaving.  I still remember my mother’s response which was “use shopping bags from the grocery store, not the good luggage.” That really pissed me off, I slammed a couple of doors….but I came down for dinner a few hours later and all was forgiven.

I did not have the acceptably “cool” parents of the day.  They didn’t throw us keg parties and they did things like called other parents before I went to a party to see if (a) parents were there (b) alcohol was being served. Needless to say, I missed a lot of parties. But at almost 50 I can say I am around to tell the tale.

Did I clash with my parents? Yes I did.  What kid doesn’t?  As a matter of fact, if I am brutally honest it has taken years to find the adult relationship with my mother I am actually comfortable with as an adult. And we still tangle on occasion.  That is the nature of parents and children.  It’s not always perfect.  It doesn’t mean I didn’t love my parents and don’t love my mother, it’s just reality.  They were parents, not my good buddies.   I loved them, I hated them, they embarrassed me, I embarrassed them.  And somehow, we all survived. They were real people, not Carol and Mike Brady.

My father has been dead a few years now and I love him and still miss him every day. I am lucky I still have my mother, and yes she is an original.  She is not your orthopedic shoes, gray hair and knitting kind of mother and grandmother. She is more like a senior fashionista who still loves her heels and dressing up.  She can be outrageous and even annoying to me because I am her kid even if I am almost 50, but would I have essentially divorced them, run, away, and sued for money?  Would I have turned them into a Bravo TV reality show?

No.  My parents weren’t perfect, but neither am I.

As a relatively new parent I am acutely aware of things like helicopter parenting.  Those are the parents that do everything including think for little Johnny and Susie….even well into purported adulthood. I have had people tell me stories of these types of parents which are truly a little crazy. I have seen things I thought was crazy.

The flip side of this, is I have seen some somewhat astounding kids here and there.  I used to live (for example) near an esteemed private school for boys. These boys used my old neighborhood as a parking lot – there wasn’t enough on-campus parking and well, that wasn’t cool anyway (you could get away with much more if you parked off campus).  I used to see two types of teenage boys: the really lovely ones who were in many cases children of my friends growing up, and the others with extreme misplaced senses of entitlement who quite frankly were brats.  Now that isn’t going to endear me to the private school set, but it is the truth.

And I saw it all I think.  For example, a lot of the kids drove mommy and daddy’s expensive cars to school and not only didn’t think twice about getting tickets (mommy and daddy would pay them natch’) , but they didn’t think twice about dinging the cars or even losing the keys. I remember finding a couple of those expensive starter keys that don’t look like regular keys for Mercedes Benzes and BMWs.  I used to always walk them back to the school, because as an adult I knew each one of these keys costs a ridiculous amount of money.  Every time I took the keys to the school I was told by the school I shouldn’t bother, the parents would just replace them anyway.

Weekends meant a lot of these boys would come back to my neighborhood as a meeting point to go to parties, mess around with their girlfriends, and dump their liquor bottles after parties.  The best story about bottles were the kids who tried to dump them in our trash.  My neighbor at the time (who was a psychologist by trade), stood there and made them take every bottle out of the trash.  They whined and protested and she kept it simple: they could deal with her or they could deal with the local police.  And yes, I still have still photos somewhere of this.  I remember one kid saying “you don’t know who my parents are”.

And all this time, through to present day I am told by parents of teenage girls that teenage boys are much easier to deal with.

After seeing this news report, I might be inclined to agree.

This girl Rachel got a bit of a smack down by a judge yesterday.  He told her no.  I am guessing that doesn’t happen very often.

N.J. judge denies teen honor student’s request for emergency funds in suit against parents 

Rachel Canning, 18, won’t get $650 weekly child support or payment of her private high school tuition from estranged parents Sean and Elizabeth Canning, a judge decided Tuesday. But a second hearing on the suit is scheduled for next month, and the Morris Catholic High School senior could still force her parents to pay up her impending college costs.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 6:45 PM

A judge Tuesday ruled against New Jersey teen Rachel Canning, who sued her parents for expenses and education tuition after she says they tossed her out of their Lincoln Park home last year.

Morristown Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard appears to have agreed with an independent investigators’ assessment of the home atmosphere: that the high school cheerleader and lacrosse player is “spoiled.”…..“We love our child and miss her. This is terrible. It’s killing me and my wife. We have a child we want home,” Sean Canning told The Daily Record of Morristown, N.J. “We’re not draconian and now we’re getting hauled into court. She’s demanding that we pay her bills but she doesn’t want to live at home and she’s saying, ‘I don’t want to live under your rules.’”

Rachel Canning has lived in the Rockaway, N.J. home of classmate Jaime Inglesino. Inglesino’s father, John Inglesino, has foot the bill for the girl’s lawyer fees, more than $12,000 thus far.

So I looked up this Rachel’s father on Facebook along with her.  I did that after Facebook, being Facebook I saw a comment by a friend of a friend talking about this Canning family. What she said prompted my further look:

“Father was police officer and chief in this town and….they still live there (he retired and now works in another town as town business admin.). Family has had personal struggles, but really nice family. Love the mother, very involved…. I think Rachel has headed down wrong path. Broke my heart to watch judge read ruling and Liz (mom) cry and Rachel not react. As hard as I remember those [teenage] years being, I cried a lot over arguments with my mom and dad…..That other man [parent of friend] is too involved. He should be siding with his peers not with children’s friends”

canning family

This person’s comments are nice and measured.  And see this is the thing: small towns always have gossip about the families of people who hold public positions so don’t you think if this girl’s parents were so awful or abusive to the point Children and Youth would have to step in or should step in that people would have heard of it?  I found this public photo of the family on Google and sorry, as a photographer you learn to pick up certain things in photos, and maybe my radar is off, but what do you see here?

This is what Rachel’s dad has to say:

father 1

father 2

father 3

father 4

And then there are the photos of the parents and this student-sues-parentsgirl at yesterday’s court hearing.  The parents in tears, the teen smiling and showing little other than that. I am sorry, but the more I read, the more I feel for the parents.

girlsCourt testimony seems to paint a picture of parents trying to not lose a kid to partying and bad influences, so I guess I don’t get why the parents of this friend of hers has inserted themselves here? How is their business to influence someone else’s child? If this was an “at risk” teen, maybe I would feel differently but what I can’t escape is this is a teen who was told “no” and didn’t like it.

Rachel Canning has two Facebook pages.  Her new one is very much in the public eye and she is “sharing” publicly.  I wonder if she is being coached? Or does she think at 18 she knows best in the sharing/over-sharing department? Does she want to prove our case or paint herself cleverly as a victim in overpriced jeans? Or is she just a messed up kid ?

brat 1

brat 2

Is it the responsibility for every parent to reward bad behavior? Because if this girl is an honor student really being wronged, why wouldn’t she be one of these kids applying for scholarships and financial aid? Is it just me, or might that be too much work?

And I have to admit this gal needs a dose of reality because not every parent can afford to send every kid to college as much as they might want to. And I know and have known kids who had less than nothing who figured it out and got the education they wanted.

I think this girl is about to learn a very valuable life lesson of who to trust and listen to OR she will continue to hold everyone else responsible for her life and her decisions.  I hope it is the former and not the latter.

N. J. teen sues parents but loses first round in court

Rachel Canning wanted $650 in weekly child support, plus the payment of her tuition at Morris Catholic High School. But a New Jersey judge denied her initial request. “Are we going to open the gates for 12-year-olds to sue for an Xbox? For 13-year-olds to sue for an iPhone?” he asked.

By David Porter, Associated Press / March 5, 2014

A northern New Jersey honor student who has sued to get her parents to support her after she moved out of their home had her initial request denied Tuesday by a judge who cautioned that the case could lead to a “potentially slippery slope” of claims by teenagers against their parents.

Rachel Canning had sought immediate relief in the form of $650 in weekly child support and the payment of the remainder of her tuition at Morris Catholic High School, as well as attorney’s fees.

State Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard denied those motions but ordered the parties to return to court on April 22…..Court documents show frequent causes of parent-teenage tension — boyfriends and alcohol — taken to an extreme. In the filings, there are accusations and denials, but one thing is clear: the girl left home Oct. 30, two days before she turned 18 after a tumultuous stretch during which her parents separated and reconciled and the teen began getting into uncharacteristic trouble at school.

In court filings, Canning’s parents, retired Lincoln Park police Chief Sean Canning and his wife, Elizabeth, said their daughter voluntarily left home because she didn’t want to abide by reasonable household rules, such as being respectful, keeping a curfew, doing a few chores and ending a relationship with a boyfriend her parents say is a bad influence. They say that shortly before she turned 18, she told her parents that she would be an adult and could do whatever she wanted.

She said her parents are abusive, contributed to an eating disorder…Canning wants the judge to declare that she’s non-emancipated and dependent as a student on her parents for support…

But this raises a conversation with parents.  What rights do parents have as far as discipline? Should they be more concerned about being popular with their teenagers, or about being their parents?

Now maybe these Canning parents didn’t handle every conversation well with their daughter, I have no way of knowing.  Do I believe that the relationship issues between adults affects kids? Sure it does, but does that mean every teenager should rise up and sue their parents?

If she wanted to leave, she is now 18.  But it seems to me she didn’t necessarily want out of Hotel Parents, she just wanted her own way. I mean let’s get real if you are a woman: did your parents like every boyfriend? Isn’t boy drama just a part of growing up?

Of course with girls especially, there is that whole forbidden fruit thing.  The parents say no and they work harder to get around them. However, as much as it pains me to say it, for the most part my parents were right when they said “no”. I for one just didn’t want to hear it.  Do I think they could have phrased things better and as a new parent do I try to improve on what passed for teen-parent communication back in the day? Yes to both.

I feel strongly about kids trying to respect adults.  I do not see teens as equals to adults.  I think a lot of kids are more intelligent than adults, but now that I am the adult I kind of get the other side of the dynamic.  And it’s hard.  You want to be their friend, yet you literally have to be the grown-up.  You think you are saying the right thing and half the time it falls on deaf ears….face it if it is longer than two or three sentences I think all teenagers hear is the “waah, wahh, wahh” that Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty used to hear whenever their teacher spoke.

I admire the super patient among my friends.  I will admit sometimes I don’t get it, a lot of times I don’t get it….but I try all the time to get it.  I will admit I get hurt feelings when I try to make a super awesome dinner and it gets pushed around the plate or  my teen just shows up late. I will admit I don’t get the love affair with video games and dirty socks on the floor. And I know these are little things. But as opposed to some, I am so new to this, so this is all my learning curve.

And then I read about kids like Rachel Canning. And I hate to be all judgmental and mean grown-up, but I count my lucky stars.

But I feel for these parents.

So Rachel, I know you are out there lapping up your press. I can see it on your face in video and photographs and on your Facebook page.  Maybe you see yourself as a Real Housewife of New Jersey in training, or feel your parents should just cater to your every whim, but life doesn’t work that way. I hope you go to counseling with your parents and work it out. But do I think they should pay for you as a non-emancipated teenager living elsewhere? Nope. I hate to say I think you are being a brat, and I am sure it is not that simple, but that is how I feel. I also find your behavior selfish in as far as you as a kid don’t even realize your actions could say….cost your parents their employment and then where would all of you be, including your sisters?

And little girlfriend, I wish you could see how creepy it is that your BFF’s dad has so inserted himself into your life. Sorry, but the jaded adult in me just doesn’t see this as normal or good.

Love them or hate them, we only get one set of parents.  Don’t do something you regret. There is plenty of time to be a grown-up, my dear.  Go home. Actions have consequences, and I really don’t think you have a clue…..


file under loco parentis?

childI may regret posting about this blog post. It’s a touchy subject. The blog post article is called “Your Brilliant Kid?

So I am relatively new to the whole parenting thing and don’t pretend to know everything.  Oddly I do not disagree with everything this woman is saying (and usually I find little common ground in anything she writes about), but the way she says it is almost venomous in spots.

Where I saw this (because I do not follow this blog) also pointed out an op-ed in the New York Times about the achievement gap between wealthy and not wealthy kids. (You can read that HERE.) And wow, I so don’t even want to touch that whole have and have-nots thing.  I am like Malcolm in the Middle on this topic and maybe it is too zen for some of you but here it is:  I figure in this world there will always be people with more money than me  and people with less money. It is what it is.  Circumstances can’t be helped and to me it should be more about working with what you have got instead of lamenting what you don’t have. Life sometimes should be more about finding opportunities versus taking advantage.

Here is a brief excerpt:

Your Brilliant Kid? by Ru Freeman

…. if you think your child is brilliant, shut up about it already.

During the past several months – okay, who am I kidding – during the past several years during which I have lived among the haves (and we are all haves to varying degrees here in Lower Merion, let’s just be clear about that folks), I have had to suffer through dozens upon dozens of social interactions which revolve around the particular difficulties faced by the blessed and the brilliant aged 5-18…It is bad enough when thoughtless parents sit around bragging about their kids, but what is up with the way they inculcate their kids (thus transformed into brats), with the same notion that making self-aggrandizing pronouncements is the done thing? It is good to be (secretly) proud of the achievements of your kids, it is good to (secretly) sing their praises…..And if your kid has overcome some hardship in order to get there, sing it sister! But it is not okay to tell me repeatedly that your child is God’s gift to a sorry universe of Plebeians. It is not okay to pretend that you are really discussing a difficulty they are having “fitting in” when what you really want to communicate is that your child is above par. So above par that perhaps the entire public school curriculum ought to be redesigned to fit the particular needs of your child…..Here’s the rub – if your child is truly having difficulty fitting in perhaps you should consider turning down the halo over their heads. Perhaps you could reinterpret the poker faces of other parents when you start talking about your kid/brat and understand this: nobody can take your kid for longer than five full minutes. They probably already can’t take you, but you’re an adult….. it’s to late for you anyway – someone else already brought you up and they clearly did a bad job.


Ok is she completely wrong in her premise here? No.  There are a lot of obnoxious people and equally obnoxious children out there.  But wow, she’s a little mean.

People are proud of their kids, it is human nature.

And maybe if a parent says their kid is having a hard time fitting in, it is just that.  But what I have a problem with is the underlying current I feel of class warfare.  Enough already, there are far more important things in this world to worry about.

With regard to the comment about public school curriculum, the simple truth is a lot of it could be re-worked.  Face it, even when they are gold-plated school districts with fabulous everything (usually by their own description) what is one thing parents always complain about?  That is  IF your child is  just average, not among the super achievers or super athletes or  super problems they get lost in public school systems. And another truism is a lot of schools talk a good game about special needs but in truth do very little. Or their definition of “gifted”.

So are a lot of parents obnoxious? Heck yes.  But you can’t blame a parent for wanting their child to stand out in some way and be noticed.  Or get help when they need it.  Nor can you blame them for loving unconditionally. And that is not a function of socio-economic status, it is a function of love.

I have been told parenting is not an exact science, and I am learning that.  Unfortunately I am also learning that there are a lot of very judgemental people when it comes to parenting.

Anyway, thoughts are welcome here.


the difference between right and wrong

kidsParenting is never easy.  It is why there are so many books devoted to the subject, blogs, magazines, you name it.  You can have great kids but then have awkward situations.

Such is the case I heard of recently.

Someone I know has this utterly awkward situation to deal with.  Their kid had someone over to hang out and something got broken.  What got broken was a gift from a grandmother.  Headphones – something not particularly inexpensive.

So now what?  Do you think kids should take responsiblity for their actions after a point?  Do you think their parents should be told when they break something expensive belonging to your child?  Accidents happen, but where do you draw the line?

Apparently the kid who broke the headphones isn’t too interested in stepping up and replacing them and told the other kid NO he’s not replacing them and if he has a problem with that go to his parents. He is not even particularly sorry he broke something belonging to a friend.

Sign me once again the new Victorian.  Is everything so disposable in our society that it also affects personal accountability?

To me this isn’t necessarily the question of money or the object, it is the question of doing what is right.  After all if the kid who did the breaking of things said to his friend “hey man, I’m sorry. But look my parents can’t afford to replace them and I am going to get into soooo much trouble if they find out.” maybe I wouldn’t be wondering about this topic.  But because this kid is sort of cavalier and seemingly uncaring about breaking something that belongs to a friend, I have an issue with that.

If this happened to you, what would you do?  I have been thinking about it and personally I would go to the other kid’s mother at a minimum.  I would be honest with them and tell her it’s not about the money or the object it’s about the principle of it.  Accidents happen, and I’m sorry kids aren’t ever too young or too old to learn that it might be harder to own up to something but it’s better in the long run.

Maybe this kid breaks things with great regularity at other people’s houses.  Maybe when these things happen this is the kid’s M.O. and other parents are too embarrassed to bring this up to his parents. Or maybe the parents know and don’t want to deal.  You can dissect this a lot of ways.

It is indeed a sticky situation. Some say to this that you need to pick your battles, but I don’t see the issue that simplistically.  I think kids should be accountable for their actions, and even if they don’t replace what they broke, good lord it costs them nothing to apologize.  And it is the responsibility of that child’s parents to teach him that. That however in and of itself is another discussion.

Are you a parent?   What do you think?


am I just the new victorian?


No one wants to be an unhip mom.  That is like the fate worse that death.  But what if you really don’t like something?

I was never a player of PacMan, Ms PacMan, anything Atari or you name it video games. Truthfully, I am not a huge game person, period. I guess that makes me dull in that department.  Sorry, I try, it just makes my eyes glaze over.

I know kids, especially boys, love video games.  And I desperately want to be down with gaming, but when you watch kids get their brains sucked out after a couple of hours, where is the comfort level? Where is the love?

It’s like when the game goes on, the brain goes off.

So I am putting it out there to moms everywhere to check the pulse of moms and gaming.

Am I wrong to want balance?   Am I wrong that kids need to communicate other than just electronically and on social media? Everyone texts for example, but what about the lost art of a thank you note?  Sorry, but the Emily Post in me still thinks these old fashioned things have value….

I don’t want to be the new Victorian, so I am opening the floor to moms everywhere.  How do you approach games? Is game time unlimited and whenever or do your kids have a specific amount of time they can play video games? Do they have specific times of day where it is ok?

Is there a specific area where electronics live (as in not in the bedrooms at night so as to avoid wall eyed zombies that can’t function the next morning)? Because gaming also occurs on smartphones, do smartphones stay in the parent zone when bedtime rolls around?

What are the electronic frontier rules in your house? What happens when rules are broken in your house?  Are privileges lost, electronic items removed? If so, how long? How do you talk teen and pre-teen?

Tell me. (before Ms. PacMan rises from the grave and gobbles me whole.)