life skills, money, parenting, teaching financial responsibility

Dear Child O’ Mine…This Is Your Legacy

Every parent has a legacy for their children.  The legacy can be a strong family value system and financial security that they leave behind.   On the other end of the spectrum, the legacy can be a long history of family dysfunction and poor money management skills.  For some, the legacy is something more tangible, as in cash, stocks or property.  Since this is a financial page, we’re going to talk about that one. There are certain responsibilities that come with this legacy, and we as parents don’t always take the time to articulate our unspoken expectations.   I can’t speak for them all, but I believe that I speak for many.

Please do not blow through your inheritance like an impulsive lottery winner.

Your inheritance may be the size of a lucky scratch off lotto ticket or it could be like winning the Mega Millions, but I’m guessing it will be somewhere in between.   If it’s on the lower end, please, make sure your needs are met, do something nice for yourself, pay off debt and use it as a springboard to start building a legacy of your own.  If you get something larger, like larger than you have ever imagined having before, this is for you.  Remember that this gift can be the seed you plant to create generational wealth.  Or you can take it all and buy a big, expensive vehicle.  If you decide to spend it all on a larger new home, will you be able to afford the taxes and increased maintenance?  Will you be able to sustain yourself in retirement?  Or will you find yourself in more financial stress than ever?  If you can project forward and imagine the older and presumably more “mature” version of you, which one of these choices do you think would provide greater peace of mind?

Don’t spend in a short time what took me a lifetime to create.

Please be responsible.  It is not a windfall.  It is the result of years of hard work, patience, forward thinking and good decisions. Keep that in mind as you decide what you will do with it. The greater the gift, the greater the responsibility.   Receiving a large financial legacy is an opportunity to get your money to work for you. If you can amass a respectable sized nest egg, you can feather your retirement nest with the dividends created by the nest egg.  Even after you’ve used some of the principal for your own enjoyment, you will still have some to leave to the next generation.

Always Have a Plan B

You might be expecting an inheritance when your parents are gone, but have they set up a legal plan to transfer their assets according to their wishes?  Or are they living an inflated lifestyle which leads you to believe they have greater wealth than they actually do?  If that is the case, any equity they have may be used to pay off debt and not transferred to heirs.  Of course, even the most financially prudent parents could see their wealth eroded due to catastrophic illness.

I wish for you to have the warmth of a loving parent for as long as possible.  Take this opportunity to gently ask them some questions about this topic while you are able to do so.  Find out if there are any unspoken expectations that come with your legacy.  Learn to look at life through a long-term lens, which will usually lead to better choices.

Financial literacy, financial responsiblity-teens and young adults, Helicopter parent, life skills, motivation, parenting, Parenting humor, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults, teaching financial responsibility

How to Keep Your Young Adult From Moving Out* *Disregard if you’re ready for an empty nest…

If you’re looking for some ideas to keep your young adult at home forever, I’ve come up with some great tips.  These ideas will be especially helpful for parents of those who have decided that their education is complete or those who have completed college or trade school and are in imminent danger of moving out into the world.

 

  1. Make sure that you perform all of your parental cooking duties with regularity and without complaint. Do NOT trouble them with worrying about where their next meal is coming from and whether or not they have the time, energy or inclination to cook and clean up.  Keep the fridge and pantry full of their favorite snacks and be willing to make a special trip to the store just as soon as a special item has been depleted.

 

  1. Do their laundry regularly. If they don’t put it in the laundry basket, you’ll have to gather it yourself.  No respectable parent would ever allow their young adult offspring to be traumatized by running out of clean underwear!    Be sure that when you clean their sheets you make the bed afterwards.  After all, they didn’t ASK you to tear apart their bed.

 

  1. Don’t ask for any help with chores. After all, it’s YOUR house, so you shouldn’t impose YOUR standards of cleanliness on them.  Even their own room should either be cleaned by you or left untouched.  It’s ok though; since they will always be living with you, they will never need to learn to keep things tidy in order to successfully coexist with a roommate or a significant other.  Besides, they need to use their spare time to play video games and catch up on their favorites shows. 

 

  1. Ensure that they have the freedom to host friends both day and night.  Don’t embarrass them by expecting them to ask you for permission.  After all, they are adults now!  When the boyfriend/girlfriend sleeps over, don’t make them feel awkward.  They have their own room and nobody is bothering you.  Leaving a tray of snacks outside their door is a very kind gesture.

 

  1. Always make sure you provide them with a nice vehicle to drive. Never expect them to be responsible for any aspect of said vehicle. A loving parent would provide a gas card, perform routine maintenance (oil changes) and clean the car regularly.  Be sure you pay the insurance and that you place a valid insurance card inside the vehicle.

 

  1. Continue to pay their personal expenses. You’re expecting far too much if you expect them to buy their clothes, cell phone, car insurance, car expenses or any other cost that is directly attributed to them.  Any parental expectations of this kind will negatively impact the stock prices of such companies as Starbucks, Pink, Apple and Game Stop.  As you can see, if you were to expect financial accountability, you would be unpopular with not only your own family, but a wide range of shareholders as well!

 

  1. Don’t expect them to work at a job that is beneath their dignity. After all, wasn’t YOUR first job in management? Ok, I know, that was probably not the case.  But you shouldn’t expect them to go to a place where the people in charge are mean to them when they do not perform as expected.   Don’t encourage them to stay in such an abusive work environment!

 If you follow all of the suggestions listed above, you can be relatively sure that they will never leave the nest.  Just continue to keep up your part to ensure your reservation in the “good” nursing home!

If, however, your goal is to raise financially competent young adults who are able to move out on their own, check out some other articles by The Launch Lady.    www.the-launch-lady.com/about

Financial literacy, Insurance, life skills, money, parenting, parenting young adults

How to Decide Between PPO or HMO Medical Insurance Plans

Learning about health insurance is like learning a foreign language.   Not knowing the language can cause huge financial mistakes. This article has been requested of me by some of my favorite people.  Here are their stories:

Caitlin had just graduated from college, just had her first child, and had just accepted her first “real” full-time job with benefits.   She found it very confusing to have to read through and select her health care plan.  In the end, she realized it would be smarter to stay on her parents’ plan as long as she was legally allowed to do so.

Kelsey had the benefit of Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) medical plan.  She made an appointment with an in-network doctor.   After the insurance claim was filed, she found out that certain services are excluded from her policy when she was presented with a $400 bill.

Shannon also had insurance through a PPO plan.  She found a doctor near her new home and made an appointment for the purpose of meeting and selecting a primary care physician (PCP).  After the claim was filed, she also received a $400 invoice because it was coded as a preventive exam which is not allowed by her policy.

Today’s article should be useful for those individuals who get to choose between employee sponsored, managed care plans.   Many employers provide their employees with medical benefits.  They usually pay for part of the premium.   The premium is a fixed payment which is usually deducted from each paycheck regardless of whether the employee receives any medical care or not.   Here’s an example to show what that means:

Austin works for a company which offers medical insurance with a premium of $500 per month which is the group rate negotiated by his employer for each employee who chooses to participate in the medical plan.  Austin’s company is very generous, so they subsidize, or cover the cost of, his premium by 80%.  That means Austin pays only $100 per month (20%X$500) for his medical insurance plan which would be worth $500 if he didn’t work for such a great company.  His share of the premium would be deducted directly from his paycheck with pre-tax dollars.  In other words, the premium would be deducted from his gross wages, and then, taxes would be calculated on the balance (gross wages minus insurance premium) X tax multiplier).  Austin was confused when he saw his first paycheck because his deduction was not $100 as he expected it to be.  When he called his payroll department, they explained that his premiums would be pro-rated, or divided up equally between all his paychecks.  Austin’s medical premium for the year would be $1,200, so if he was paid only once per month, then his paycheck would have showed a $100 deduction for his medical premium.  But lucky Austin was paid every other Friday, so he had a biweekly pay schedule.  52 weeks in a year divided into 2-week periods assured Austin of 26 pay checks in a year.  His premium of $1,200 pro-rated equally between 26 paychecks created a deduction of $46.15 on each paycheck.  Congratulations to Austin.  He now has medical insurance, so if he gets sick, will all his medical care be free?  Far from it!  If he never gets sick or goes to the doctor, he must still pay the premiums.

Now that you’re familiar with how a premium works, we’re going to backtrack and talk about the two most common types of managed care plans, specifically PPO (preferred provider organization) and HMO (health maintenance organization).

PPO’s offer more choices, but the premiums are higher. Most services are subject to a deductible and a coinsurance must be paid by the person who receives service.  You can choose between a service provider who is in the network or one who is outside the network.  The difference is that the plan will pay a higher percentage of expenses if you choose an in-network provider. You are not required to choose a (PCP) primary care physician and you can usually go directly to any specialist (eg. dermatologist) that you choose without having to see your primary care doctor first to get permission to do so.

HMO’s offer fewer choices but lower premiums. You must choose a PCP to coordinate your medical care. For example, if you want to go to a dermatologist, you first need an appointment with your PCP to ask for a referral.  If your referral is given, you will need to select a dermatologist from a limited network.  HMO’s have a tidy, predictable co-pay(ment) schedule and lower premiums, but is offset by fewer choices.

If you look at the table and see blah, blah, blah insurance, just skip to the example after the table…

Coverage Comments PPO In Network PPO Out of Network HMO
Preventive Care 100%, no deductible Services paid at 70% after deductible $0 co-pay
Deductible First $400 of medical care each year is paid by Austin before the insurance will reimburse any expenses. $400 single, $800 family $400 single, $800 family None
Co-Insurance/Co-pay Co-Pay (HMO only) is a fixed predetermined amount for service 85%* of eligible charges**after deductible*** 70% of eligible charges after deductible Co-Pay based on service
Out of Pocket Max $2,800 Single, $8,100 family $3,100 single,

$9,000 family

$1,800 single, $3,600 family
Primary Care Visit

 

85% of eligible charge after deductible 70% of eligible charge after deductible $25 Co-Pay
Specialist Care Visit 85% of eligible charge after deductible 70% of eligible charge after deductible $40 Co-Pay
Hospital Care/Surgery 85% of eligible charge after deductible 70% of eligible charge after deductible $200 day/max $1,000 year
Outpatient Surgery

 

85% of eligible charge after deductible 70% of eligible charge after deductible $150 Co-Pay
Emergency Room (ER) 85% of eligible charge after deductible 70% of eligible charge after deductible $150 Co-Pay
Diagnostic Tests 85% of eligible charge after deductible 70% of eligible charge after deductible $0.  Co-Pay

*Percentage figure in the entire chart shows the percentage of the eligible charges which will be covered after deductible.

**Eligible charges exclude certain procedures or services which should be called out in your policy document.

***Deductible example-Austin breaks his arm and ends up in the emergency room (ER) at the hospital which is in his PPO network.   His eligible medical expenses total $2,500.  A claim is filed by the hospital with his insurance company so they can pay the hospital directly for Austin’s medical care.  We’re going to assume here that Austin had chosen the PPO plan and we can see in the table that an emergency room trip is subject to a deductible.  Because this is the first time this year that Austin has incurred any medical expenses, he hasn’t met his deductible.  Once the insurance company reviewed the claim and determined that all the expenses were eligible, they paid the hospital $1,785.   The hospital then sent a bill to Austin for the additional $715.  He reviewed his Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to see the claim details from the insurance company to make sure that he was being billed the right amount.  This is how the insurance claim was calculated:

  • $2,500 for hospital services less his $400 deductible (Austin was single) left $2,100 of eligible expenses
  • $1,785 ($2,100 X 85%) is the amount the insurance company paid to the hospital
  • $715 is the total of the deductible ($400) plus Austin’s 15% coinsurance (2,100 X 15%=$315)
  • $200 is charged by his orthopedic surgeon for a follow up visit
    • The EOB shows that the insurance paid $170 (85%) and Austin owes $30 (15%) since the deductible has already been met for the year

The emergency room bill is just one component of the medical treatment.  Austin could be billed separately by the physician who treated him in the ER as well as for any diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, that needed to be done.

Austin pays the hospital for his share of the ER visit.  If he didn’t have insurance, he would have owed the entire $2,500.  Austin sits at home with a broken arm, wishing he had chosen an HMO since his ER trip would have cost him only $150!  Since he doesn’t get to go back to work for a while, he has plenty of time to read about his insurance plan.  He learns that dental insurance and vision insurance are covered in separate policies and he did not select them. He is relieved to discover that his company has Open Enrollment once per year, so he will have the option of switching to an HMO for next year and adding both dental and vision insurances.

How does each story end? Caitlin takes the money she saves on premiums and starts an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.  Both Kelsey and Shannon have worked with their doctors to ask if there is another appropriate medical code that can be used to resubmit the claim to the insurance company.  If the insurance company will still not pay the medical claim, they’ve learned that they may be able to negotiate a fee reduction for charges not covered by insurance.  And Austin?  Well, he takes his good arm and pats himself on the back for choosing to purchase the insurance even though he didn’t really think he needed to!

financial responsiblity-teens and young adults, life skills, money, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, stay at home mom, teaching financial responsibility, Uncategorized, wants and needs

Wants vs. Needs-Cutting the Food Budget

 

Wants Vs Needs Food budgetHello Fellow Parents,

I don’t know about you, but I’m here trying to make the best of my incarceration bonus time at home.  During the day, I change into my day pajamas and make the lengthy commute to my day computer.  When I am thoroughly sick of my work location, I retrace my steps.  I end the day in my reclining office chair with my night pajamas and my tablet.  The days are starting to run together.  I fear that I will work on a Saturday because I think it is still Friday.  Can anyone relate?

I’ve been trying to think of topics that would be helpful to discuss with your kids while so many people are spending extra time at home.  The topic today is very basic, but I think it might be time to bring it up again no matter whether your children are in grade school, middle school, high school or young adults.

Wants versus needs is a relevant discussion at any age.  It is especially relevant now with the current state of our economy.  Parents may need to make choices which will affect their dependent children and young adults.  I am writing to help get the conversation started which is the first step in making necessary budget cuts.

It’s painful to disappoint our children, teenagers and even young adults, but while we are going through periods of (hopefully temporary) unemployment, some tough decisions will need to be made.  The following list is a good place to start the discussion (only #1 will be discussed in this post):

  Basic Needs Wants
1 Healthy Food & Water Eating (or drinking) out, extravagant grocery purchases
2 Shelter Entertainment
3 Utilities Cell phone with Data Plan
4 Clothing New, designer clothing
5 Personal Care-haircuts, etc. Personal care-professional mani/pedi, color treatments
6 Transportation expenses Car-sometimes (with insurance, gas, repairs)
7 Basic Educational Expenses Private School Tuition
8 Debt Payments-existing Extracurricular and enrichment activities
9 Internet-sometimes Internet-sometimes
10   Subscriptions
11   Vacations
12   Gifts
  Other topics to be discussed in subsequent posts

 The basic needs require no discussion as I think we are all familiar with them.  It’s worth a family discussion to pull together and figure out where costs can be cut, if necessary.  I was a stay at home mom for many years.  I offer you my many years of personal experience in extreme cost cutting while still living an abundant life.  I have trained my whole life for this!

Grocery shopping is a discretionary expense where we can cut a lot of “fat” from the budget, quite literally!  Just for an experiment, take a look at your last couple of grocery receipts, and add up the amount that was spent on beverages.  Include pop, coffee, tea, milk, juice, alcohol, bottled water, sugared powdered drink mixes and anything else I may have forgotten.  If all those items were stricken from the shopping list, you would still have plain old tap water.  Sound exciting?  Not exactly, but right now this discussion is about differentiating between wants and needs!   Next, add up anything that would be eaten as a snack outside of a regular meal.  Include chips, dips, desserts, pastries, snack bars, pudding, sugary yogurts, candy, nuts and anything else you see on your receipt that I didn’t think of.  How much would you save if you cut out all of them?  Next item under scrutiny is meat.  How much was spent on meat?   Can you cut out some meat and replace with beans for protein?  Can you buy less expensive cuts that are just as good after marinating?  How about cereal and other breakfast items?  A big container of oatmeal is a much more economical alternative than sugary cereal. Donuts and pastries are not an actual food group.    How is this a family discussion, you ask?  Well, once you have figured out what areas can be cut out of your food budget, add in a few of your family’s most important luxury items to your next shopping trip.  If you keep a bag of apples on hand, no one will go hungry, but they may decide that they were not actually hungry enough to eat an apple!   Also important is meal planning, leftover management, and where you shop.  You can get a lot more food at Aldi than you can at Whole Foods.  Buying generic, at least sometimes, shopping sales and clipping coupons will go a long way as well. Buying a large sized yogurt and adding your own fruit is more economical than buying individual serving sized containers.  Since most of us have nowhere to go right now, why pay extra for convenience?

Now that you’ve had a chance to evaluate and cut your grocery budget, now you can look at how much is spent eating out.  I recommend downloading your bank statement and credit card statements for the past few months.  If you download everything into an Excel format, it will be easy to see how much was spent on restaurant meals, coffee, bars, etc.  You might be absolutely stunned when you see the numbers in front of you in black and white.  Does your family eat out twice per week, or 8-9 times per month?  How much would save if you ate all your meals at home?  What if, instead, you splurged once or twice per month with moderately priced meals?  Could pizza night out turn into frozen pizza night  at home (feel free to splurge on the electricity to bake it) with a movie in your very own, virus -free living room with your delicious hot, almost free popcorn with real, actual butter?  How much was spent on coffee, craft beer and wine tastings?  How much could be saved if those indulgences turned into occasional treats rather than daily or weekly occurrences?  Open the restaurant discussion with your kids.  What if they could only choose one or two special meals per month?  Where would they choose?  There’s no reason that their carryout choice must be the same as yours.

Take this as an opportunity to talk to your kids about money. They’re resilient.  It’s not like they don’t already know something is amiss.    There is no shame in having to make cuts when necessary.  The biggest mistake would be denying that financial sacrifices need to be made and jeopardizing the long-term welfare of your family.

Let me know whether you did this exercise and how much money you found in your budget that could be used on fixed budget items such as rent or mortgage.  In addition to freeing up resources in the budget, this activity should also contribute to the health and wellness of your family.  Happy hunting!

 

 

Adulting, military, money, mother love, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults, Veterans Day

Lessons From A Veteran-You Can Never Go Home Again (Or Can You?)

waimea bay

Just 32 short years ago, I was finishing up my 6-year enlistment.  I couldn’t WAIT to get out!   I was ready to break out of my shackles and take on all the vast opportunities that this big world had to offer.  I thought I would never set foot on a military base again but it’s funny how life works.   As the mom of two young adult daughters, I have long had a dream of taking them back to the place where it all ended for me.  I wanted them to see the place ”that will live in infamy”…a place that became grander in my mind with each passing year that I didn’t return.  The very gates that I begrudgingly crossed each day for years had become inaccessible to me.  Finally, with the help of a friend and no less than a half dozen phone calls to coordinate, I was able to infiltrate the secure fortress where I had once roamed freely.  It was both magical and disappointing at the same time.   Magical because I got to relive a piece of my youth and disappointing because I had to face the fact that nothing stays the same.    Back then, I was a member of a team but now I was an outsider just trying to relive a part of her past.    On my stroll down memory lane, below is what I learned and hope to impart to my daughters:

Continue reading “Lessons From A Veteran-You Can Never Go Home Again (Or Can You?)”

Adulting, college, Financial literacy, financial responsiblity-teens and young adults, life skills, money, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults, teaching financial responsibility

Bill of Rights For Parents of Young Adults

Bill of rights

The unwritten parental constitution has changed immensely over the last 50 years.  In earlier times, parents had a lot more expectations for their kids.  Maybe it was just the way it was in that era or maybe it was out of sheer necessity.  More recently, parents in general can’t seem to do enough for their kids, even when they are pressed for both time and money.  If we don’t accommodate all of their desires, then we have tremendous guilt.    I get it.  I’ve had plenty of guilt, but not because I didn’t love and care for my kids.  It’s because I said no to many of the things other kids took for granted.  Like smart phones.  Before you judge me too harshly, just know that mine had a flip phone which they got for 8th grade graduation.   I wanted to teach delayed gratification and that trying to “keep up with the Joneses” was neither wise nor sustainable.

Continue reading “Bill of Rights For Parents of Young Adults”

Adulting, career, college, life skills, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults

Helping Them Navigate the Waters When They Go Away to College

huron

Most of us think of college as a place to go earn a degree that will help us demand a higher salary.  There are, however, a few lessons that are not taught in the classroom.   You, as the parent, might be able to lessen the shock by including some of these points in a conversation before move in day.

Food does not magically appear in the refrigerator

Many parents are so thoughtful and efficient that their children have never experienced the catastrophe of pouring a bowl of cereal only to find out that there is no milk.

Continue reading “Helping Them Navigate the Waters When They Go Away to College”

Adulting, career, Financial literacy, life skills, money, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults

Questions To Ponder Before You Decide To Send Your Kid To College

Capture

In earlier generations, college was neither necessary nor expected of every single person who graduated from high school.   However, today it is rare to speak to a parent who isn’t trying to find a way to prep their kid for college and figure out how it will be funded.  While college can be a great tool for many, it is not for everyone.  Here are a few things to think about before making the decision to invest in a college education. Continue reading “Questions To Ponder Before You Decide To Send Your Kid To College”

Financial literacy, life skills, parenting

What Happened To My Little Girl?

Shanny

I loathe goodbyes.  It’s not like she had never been away from home.  For the last two years, she lived in an apartment at college.  But this was different.  She was packing EVERYTHING.  It was moving day and I thought I had everything under control.  Well, actually THEY had everything under control.  I wasn’t exactly sure of my role anymore.  I thought I would be part of a caravan helping to transport all of their collective “stuff” to a neighboring state…until I learned they wanted to do it all themselves.  Why should I have been surprised?  Every parenting decision I had made up until this point had been made with the end in mind.  My goal was to help create young ladies who could successfully navigate life without me.  I suspect his parents subscribed to some of my beliefs as well in order to have created a college-educated, card-carrying adult who assumed the role of husband just after he turned 22.  Continue reading “What Happened To My Little Girl?”

Adulting, life skills, military, mother love, motivation, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults

An Open Letter From Drill Sergeant Mom to Her Domestic Platoon

military-662863_1920
As I was sorting through some old papers today, I ran across this old gem. While I was in my active parenting phase, I took my job very seriously. It was very important to me that I raised my daughters to be responsible, contributing members of society. I spent a great deal of time and effort planning and thinking of parenting strategies. Given my military background, I am not quick to accept excuses. Though it may sound a bit harsh to some, here is what the letter said: Continue reading “An Open Letter From Drill Sergeant Mom to Her Domestic Platoon”

mother love, parenting, Parenting humor, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults

Eviction Papers Served-Launch Lady Style

petting rug

I’ve been fostering my daughter’s cat while she prepares to move into a new home.  Here are the papers she was served yesterday:

EVICTION NOTICE

Princess (2)
Miss Kitty

In addition to being a free-loading, pseudo independent yet arrogant tenant, the pictured individual wreaks of entitlement.  She demands that her aging landlord meet, without fail, on the “petting rug” every time the landlord walks into the house. The landlord is expected to clean up the tenant’s excrement daily.  If the tenant’s meals are not delivered on time, her protests would wake the dead. The landlord is informed daily when the sun comes up whether or not the boundaryless boarder has any particular needs to address.  Unfortunately for the landlord, a full moon seems to confuse the domestic inhabitant who likes to sound the “sun up” alarm at random intervals throughout the night.   One of the freeloading squatter’s most memorable feats is the “pop and run”.  This is when the loitering leech skulks off to the side and rear of the recliner where the landlord rests.   This activity always begins with the tenant displaying large pupils.  If the landlord ignores her long enough, the crazed occupant will spring up from the side, execute a quick bite, then run like a crafty little coward.

Miss Kitty must vacate the premises no later than noon on Sunday, but preferably by the previous Saturday evening to allow her landlord one good night’s sleep before the new tenants arrive on Sunday).

Despite her selfish qualities, Princess Kitty will be greatly missed.

life skills, mother love, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults

Resisting the Path of Least Resistance

river

Take a look at my linked video if you haven’t already seen it.  This morning, I rode my bike to my favorite thinking spot to sit on a rock and watch the sparkling river glide effortlessly downstream.  Miraculously, I am able to take almost any situation and conform it to one of my two favorite topics which are parenting and money. Today’s session was no different. Continue reading “Resisting the Path of Least Resistance”

mother love, parenting, Parenting humor, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults, Uncategorized

A Mother With a Soul

IMG_8553

I woke up very early this morning and decided to get up in order to work on a very definite project. Unfortunately, as is often my experience, accomplishing certain things on the computer is like walking on scorching coals through the deepest chambers of hell. It didn’t take long for me to abort my intended project and pick up a book. At least I am confident in my ability to turn a page without outside intervention. Today’s selection was “Chicken Soup for the Soul; Like Mother, Like Daughter”. I sometimes wonder whether the mission of the Launch Lady makes her appear to be devoid of a soul. If there is any correlation between a soul and leaking eyes then I do, indeed, have one.

What an amazing way to start the day. I read about six stories and was touched by each and every one. My emotions ran the gamut from “I remember how hard I tried to be like THAT mom” to “Someday, maybe even soon, MY little girls might become moms”. I became a mom nearly 25 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the scariest thing in the world to assume the responsibility for this brand new little “creature” whose total dependence was almost entirely entrusted to me. My firstborn was everything I could have hoped for. She was beautiful, smart, loving and she accomplished all of the milestones with textbook precision.   After a couple years, I was feeling remotely successful and maybe a little cocky. I thought, “maybe I should do this again, but only once because I only have two hands”! My second bundle of joy was just as awesome as the first but I was much more relaxed in the way I handled her. I remember sitting her infant self on the table at a dinner with extended family. Each time someone spoke, I would pivot her body in their direction so she could listen to them speak. She was my obliging little puppet. She was very different from her sister in every possible way. While number one was sleeping from 8pm to 6am at age one, number two woke me up every night for ten years. While she was my infant puppet, I was her decade long jack-in-the-box; popping out of bed each time she cried for me at night or showed up at my bedside!

One of the most important things for me was to make sure that they grew up to be independent.   In doing so, I hope that they were given the proper balance of love and responsibility. I’m not really sure how I did but thankfully, there are two of them so they can laugh with each other about all of the different ways I tried to achieve compliance from them. Everyone knows that the darn “things” don’t come with manuals. Once you think you have found the perfect blueprint for successful parenting, the next child comes along and shatters that confidence.

Regardless of what I did, they have both proven, in very different ways, that I can count on them to be independent. Conversely, I know that I have given them the love that they need. There are many faces of love. Sometimes love is giving and sometimes love is teaching. Often, showing love involves using the word “No”. What I know for sure is that I am best at giving the kind that encourages them to spread their wings and fly.  Number two was married last month and number one will be married soon enough. Every time I see them achieving a “grown up” milestone, my heart swells with pride and overflows with love. Too often these days, like when reading poignant stories about mothers and daughters, my eyes begin to overflow as well. Every sentimental exchange is prefaced with “Mom, you’re not going to cry, are you?” No, my dear girls, I will try to keep my vision from clouding so I can savor every moment of watching you experience the very same things that you etched into my heart and soul as priceless memories!

Adulting, life skills, mother love, parenting, parenting young adults, wedding

3…2…1…LAUNCHED!!!

wedding (3)

It’s been almost a year since the engagement.  I had plenty of time to mentally prepare, but no amount of time can prepare you for the moment you first walk into the church and see family and friends joined together for this very special occasion.   It was only the rehearsal, but it was time for the tears to begin.

I sat at the front of the cathedral near her dad.  When I asked how he felt, he said something about losing his little girl.  With a false sense of bravery, I reminded him that she was just borrowed, that she was not ours to keep.   I choked on my words as I told him that kids are given to us to help us grow up.  After all, we’ve been at this parenting thing for 25 years now.  We’ve earned battle scars, arguments, respect and maybe even a little wisdom along the way.  We’ve traded sleep for sitting in a steamy bathroom to calm a croupy child.  We’ve given middle of the night sponge baths to bring down high fevers.  We’ve cleaned up things that are unimaginable and unmentionable.  Things we probably hadn’t given much thought to before we decided to become parents.  We’ve been their biggest cheerleaders and also the worst people on the planet from our daughters’ perspectives.   Perhaps they were given to us to help us polish up the jewels we were meant to be.  For those who don’t have kids, don’t misunderstand.  There are plenty of opportunities for growth.  It’s just that when you have them, you have no CHOICE but to change, For better or for worse, a parent will never be the same as his or her former self.

The whole day was absolutely magical (well, except for maybe the 90+ degree temperature)!  I got a lot of compliments which I had to deflect to the deserving parties.  You see, while I did render some assistance, it was not with the planning.  I learned early on that the best thing I could do was to stay out of her way and let her do her thing.   After all, I had done my best to create an independent young adult.  This wedding was HER dream, not mine, and who was I to stand in her way! I will not be there to execute the rest of her dreams for her, so I was not going to jump in the middle of this one either.  I offered to read any contracts (After I enjoyed my $250 cake pop, I realized that they had not all been presented to me…).  I made myself available as a worker bee AND I was always there to say annoying things like “what is your rain contingency plan?” and “do both of you have valid passports?”  I tried to limit my intervention to the “big things”.   They handled every last detail from special thank you letters to the wedding party and parents to tissues at the end of the church pews.  If she ever decides to become an event planner, she has at least one successful event for her resume’!

It might seem pretty cold to some that I am happy to send my daughter into the world, but my job is done.  Her formal education has been completed and if she stayed with me, I would thwart her real education.    She has been loved and nurtured.  I was the first one to be entrusted with her care before she was born. I was privileged, along with her dad and sister, to be one of her first teachers.  I wish I could say that we did everything perfectly, but I can’t.  But if I could, then we would have denied her immeasurable opportunities for learning.  She still has lots to learn, but she has to find new educators.  Her newest teacher just gave his heart to her in marriage and it was a beautiful event to witness.

Now they move forward together on their own glorious adventure.  They leave behind parents who look nostalgically at the empty corner of the nest and wonder what happened to their babies.  But they didn’t really lose anything.  You see, her parents have gained a bonus son, and his, a bonus daughter.  As they set out to feather their own nest, we smile with satisfaction and look forward to watching them soar on their own.