Category Archives: parents

Ode to my father and the NY Mets

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Ode to my father and the NY Mets

The only time in my life that I ever saw my father seriously worried for my future was when I threw a baseball with the wrong foot forward.  Horrified, he made a quick adjustment and all was well in the Roberts household.

Whether they were winning or losing, my Dad and I have been lifelong Mets fans. Being an awesome father with high priorities, he suggested I skip school to watch them clinch the 1969 World Series and while I was living in Boston, a highlight of my life was getting us mets1tickets to every game of the 1986 Mets-Red Sox World Series at Fenway Park. Surrounded by grieving and oh so silent Red Sox fans we celebrated the Mets win being anything BUT silent and grieving. When Bill Buckner (no relation), first baseman for the Red Sox, watched that ball  go through his legs he became, and will remain my favorite baseball player of all time. And if you’re a Mets fan you know what I’m talking about.

It’s become our tradition that every year I take my father to a home game. Sitting with my Dad, a starting pitcher for Rutgers Newark ‘53-‘56, I learned there’s more to the game than meets the eye and the past 2 years were particularly fun because they were a winning team.

This year, for the first time in a long time, sadly, there was no plan to get to a game. My mets485-year old father was very unsteady due to a bad fall and needed a cane. So instead, we watched the games on his big-screen TV.

I’m not sure if it was because the Mets were killing it this year with a rag-tag team of triple A players to make up for a bruised and battered starting line-up, or the fact that there were no kosher hotdogs in the house, but he turned to me and said, “You only live once. Let’s go to a game.”

In the words of the great Yogi Berra, “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.”

Off we went to Citifield.mets3

Arriving at the stadium, I opened the door to where my Dad sat and tried to calm my nerves. The long walk to the stadium mixed with the impatient, rowdy, and jostling NY crowd unnerved me. Ok, I thought, Ya Gotta Believe!

Slowly and carefully into the crowd we went. Almost immediately, we were met by a Citified representative who said, “Sir, what can I help you with?” I looked behind us. Was he speaking to my Dad? He was, and I almost hugged him out of gratitude. Showing him our tickets he escorted us to a private elevator. I felt like Kim Kardashian without the add-ons.

The elevator opened and another Citifield rep led us to the restaurant where 2 fans offered my father and I their seats. I made a b-line to the station serving kosher hot dogs and kraut. I hadn’t met so many smiling, helpful people in one place since Kindergarten.

Off to our seats where soon into the game another Citifield rep asked if we wanted to move to cushioned seats and I started to think having a senior with a cane had its advantages. Perhaps I would start an agency… Rent-a-Senior! Avoid all lines by hiring my Dad to be a stand-in at the DMV or Shop-Rite before a storm. He was a walking goldmine! But I digress, back to the Mets and my Dad.

It was a completely wonderful night capped off with a 10th run homer by Yo Céspedis which gave our Mets a win. When the game ended it was back to the star treatment and the private elevator.  I offered the elevator operator my autograph as I was now a legend, if only in my own mind.

You need a sense of humor to be a Mets fan.

That night my father set an example for me, (one of many in my lifetime): live and enjoy your life. Persevere, even if it takes time, patience, fear, and some pain to do it. But do it.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”  ~ Yogi Berra

LETS GO METS!mets5

 

A special shout out to Mike G. and Elise P. who were sitting next to me during every game, even when they weren’t. Wait till next year!

“Email, texts, shmexts…what’s the difference”

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“Email, texts, shmexts…what’s the difference”

As our parents age there are many things we wish they would stop doing.  Driving, eating too much salt and sugar, or becoming too sedentary seem to be the most prevalent concerns that I’ve heard from my friends. My suggestion to my parents isn’t quite so health textschmexts1related.

I simply want my Mother to place her iPhone under the front tire of her car and then drive over it. Many times. Until it’s pulverized.

First, the calls to me:

“Delly?”

No Mom, its Tracy.

“I didn’t call you, I called Delly.”

Mom, you called ME. You’re talking to Tracy.

“Well I meant to call Delly.”

At times I may receive a text with a red pin on a map indicating her current location. According to the map she’s in her house and apparently not lost and hoping I can find her so there’s no need for alarm.

The FaceTime application makes me yearn for those days of the land line telephone. My mother doesn’t know why my face appears on her phone even though she is the one who textschmexts2initiated the Facetime call. It’s difficult to converse; she is too busy laughing and has no idea what to do next. Turning her phone this way and that makes her face jump side to side, up then down on my phone. I get dizzy trying to follow her image. Mom, I ask, what the heck are you doing?!  She replies, I’m LOLing.

Calling her takes patience until she figures out which pocket, which purse, which counter, which chair, which car, which room her phone is in. Then she swipes to answer. Usually she swipes the wrong way no less than 3 times disconnecting me each time. When we finally connect she’s still laughing.  I’m learning to take deep breaths as I count to 10.

When I call, and my mother’s out of the house she puts the phone on speaker and then textschmexts3places it to her ear.   I hear the lawn mower, the check-out girl, a blow dryer, all sounds going on around her but I can’t hear HER. She can’t hear me and I can’t hear her.  My ears are ringing. We’re like walking advertisements for Verizon…Can you hear me now?

Despite my frustration, my dizziness, and the constant ringing in my ears, I’m impressed technology doesn’t scare away this 80+ year old.  My interesting, intelligent mother reads the NY Times on her iPhone forwarding articles on Tesla, hedge fund tax loopholes, and recipes.  So it’s with patience, respect, love, and deep breathing that I explain to my mother that no, I didn’t receive her message in an email, but received it in a text which textschmexts5didn’t include the attachment indicated, and oh by the way the text went to 4 people I don’t know.  From my still feisty mother, “email, text, shmexts, what’s the difference.”  And she inserted a red faced emoji.

But the worst day of my life happened with the inevitable, dreaded phone call.

I knew it was coming, but still not quite prepared for it.

My distraught sister on the line, tearfully saying…

“Mom’s on Facebook.”

STEP AWAY from Facebook, I quickly texted my mother. This is nothing to be LOLing about. She texted back an emoji of a certain hand gesture.

So I accepted her Facebook friend request.facebookheart

It might be easier to get her to stop driving.

Because I said so!

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I was standing in line at Dunkin Donuts behind a mother and her pre-school son, Thomas. They were discussing the family dinner plans. Thomas, like most kids today, was under the impression that his vote counted. Oh, I thought to myself, this should be interesting.

Mother: We will discuss what we are having for dinner when we get home and can include your sister in our decision.
Thomas: Jessica got to pick dinner last night; it’s my turn to pick dinner.
Mother: Yes, that’s true but we will discuss it as a family so everyone is happy.

And there is the first mistake…the discussion and subsequent negotiation over dinner plans made between a
40-something-year-old and her 5-year-old son.

When I was growing up my mother gave me two choices when it came to dinner: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. My takeorleave1happiness didn’t come into play. If I had friends over she never asked if they wanted curly macaroni or flat, crusts on or off, or this….which I swear one of my friends asked….do you want the napkin folded in a square or a triangle? If my mother had ever asked me how I wanted my napkin folded I would have run out of the room screaming thinking an alien had taken over her body.

One thing has become abundantly clear to me. From the time children are in pre-school, they are seasoned negotiators. We foster it. We allow it. I never negotiated with my parents. Their way or the highway? You betcha.

I didn’t learn how to negotiate until I was married.

Do you ever remember asking your parents “why” when they told you to do something? WHY? My mother would say. Now, let’s repeat all together people of my generation…WHY? BECAUSE I SAID SO! No negotiating, no family consensus,takeorleave2 no family hug. If my face showed that I wasn’t happy about the decision I would be told again folks, lets repeat together…STOP CRYING OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT.

I remember actually asking my kids what time was fair for a curfew. Are you kidding me, my mother who always sits on my right shoulder was frantically whispering…Who is the parent here? While growing up, my curfew was never up for negotiation. Was yours? There was one choice only: be home by the designated time or, or else. No negotiation or consensus necessary. Was I happy? No. Did my parents care if I was happy? No. Was I home by the designated time? No. But that’s a different article.

When did we get to the point we are today where everyone needs to be happy or you feel like you have failed as a parent. Kids today don’t know what it’s like to be unhappy. They barely ever hear the word N0 and they feel they deserve the last word, or a word, in the ever-present family negotiations.

takeitorleave4Nothing was discussed with me or my siblings and guess what? We had awesome childhoods! We had plenty of our own decisions…kid decisions. Like, would I ride my bike to school or walk? Would my brother play baseball or soccer? Would my sister play with Sandy or Doreen after school? We weren’t asked our opinion on dinner, on where we went on vacation, or what color should our next car be. We heard the word no and lived with it. We expected it. And if you asked me to name one adjective to describe my childhood, it would be the word HAPPY with a capital H.

We were better off and better prepared for life’s disappointments.

So if I could have interrupted that mom I would have told her that her child isn’t quite a lawyer yet…that she can say no.

And that when she got home she should use another line from my awesome, happy, and filled with the word NO childhood….SOMEDAY WHEN YOU ARE MY AGE YOU WILL UNDERSTAND.

NOW EAT WHATS IN FRONT OF YOU.

BECAUSE I SAID SO.

IF AFTER READING THIS YOU HAVE ANY CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW. I WOULD LOVE TO PUBLISH A LIST!

takeitorleave5

CLAP, CLAP, CLAP

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CLAP, CLAP, CLAP

too busy 1I spent an afternoon with a few girlfriends and one of them asked me to help her load pictures from her camera onto her computer. I said, “Don’t you have 3 kids at home who can upload, download, share, and/or tag anything faster than you can say the word help?” “They have no patience for me,” she responded. Another girlfriend, “they only want to show me something once.” Then, “they are always putting me off…too busy.” Seriously, I thought? No patience? They’re too busy?

I’m wondering how these kids would have responded if their mothers had the same impatience when it was time for potty training. Can you imagine as they cried because they needed a diaper change if we rolled our eyes and
said ….Really? Again?

When it was time to teach them to ride a bike without training wheels how about if we said, “are you kidding me? too busy 2Didn’t I just show you this yesterday? Don’t you have a friend you can ask?”

I’m sure you fondly remember making yourself available to teach them how to throw a baseball, a football, a frisbee, to ice skate, swing a racquet, a golf club, do a cartwheel, a forward roll. Just imagine their faces if we had said, “does it have to be done right now?”

The list goes on and on of what we did with patience and smiles. We spent weeks explaining how to tie one’s shoelaces, sip from a cup, and then when it was finally accomplished we clapped like they had won the Pulitzer. You put your own socks on?! You pulled your pajama pants up?! YAY! Clap, Clap, Clap! I clapped so much I had calluses on my palms.

I can’t remember ever once rolling my eyes at my kids, can you?

I didn’t think so.

A friend had the best retort when her son complained about helping her with her iPod. “Look, she said, it took me months to potty train you. Sit down and show me this.”

Right on, girlfriend.

I admit, technology issues do need to be explained a few times before I understand enough to be proficient. But once I have it down I’m pretty good at remembering how to do it. And sometimes, after getting impatient waiting to be shown how to do it, I figure it out. Our kids must think that if they just ignore us, maybe we will have to figure it out on our own. Maybe it’s their way of showing us tough love?

too busy 3Maybe we should have tried the tough love approach when they wanted us to teach them to parallel park.

But what a feeling when on my own, I do figure it out.

Hah! I want to shout. I did it! I did it!

Who needs those uber-busy, hyper connected, impatient and oh so brilliant, incredibly fast texting children anyway.

After realizing nobody was coming home from college or driving 900 miles from Michigan to show me how to make an on-line photo album, I researched, did a few trial and error uploads to my computer, Photoshopped all the photos so that nobody looked better than me, got rid of red-eye, tagged people, I even added music! I cropped photos, made an album cover, and allowed people to post and share comments. Then I sent all the photos out electronically for printing to Snapfish.

All on my own thank you very much. too busy 5

As I hit SEND I secretly wait for someone to clap, to say YAY, to give me a prize, a ribbon, a trophy, anything as I had done for so many years.

So I called my mother.

And she clapped.

(Thank you DL for the inspiration, and for my Mom who always clapped the loudest)

CROSS-COUNTRY

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group runners 4My dad looked at me and said, “That’s disgusting.” You’re wondering had someone neglected to pick up after their dog, a teenager getting sick in an ally after too much drinking, was it the sight of me in yoga pants? Nope. He was referring to the parents at a cross-country track meet for 10-12 year olds.

The track meet started out well enough. That is until the man standing next to me suddenly ran across the track, sprinted across the field to catch up with his son who was clearly struggling to finish. I thought he might be the coach until I realized he was obviously right off the NYC train in a suit, tie, and really nice shoes. He was running along side his son. Running backwards while his son ran forwards, picture it…in a suit, shouting, “C’mon Connor, don’t give up. Keep your head up Connor. Lift your knees Connor. Keep it up. KEEP RUNNING CONNOR!”

Are you disgusted yet? Wait. There’s more.

A woman seeing that Connor had a leg up on the competition (for 10-12 year olds, I remind you) had the same running-with-her-daughter reaction. “RUN KAYLEE…RUN FASTER…RUN HARDER!” Unlike running-in-a-suit-dad, Mom was not dressed for success but rather in yoga pants and let’s just say that um…maybe she should try exercising more regularly before she decides to run… backwards…in yoga pants. Anyway, I digress. group runners

I looked around wondering if every parent would suddenly run backward to their child running forward. Maybe someone was filming a You’ve Been Punked television clip. But these parents were serious and that’s when my dad said, “that’s disgusting.”

I could picture running-in-a-suit-dad thinking, “If Connor doesn’t win this race he won’t make the high school track team, which means that his HS resume for any college won’t be good enough, which means that he won’t get an internship and then he won’t get a job, and will probably not even go to college, and will be a failure and live at home for the rest of his life. Thus, “PICK YOUR HEAD UP CONNOR. PICK UP YOUR KNEES CONNOR. FINISH THE RACE!” UPENN DEPENDS ON IT!” OK, he didn’t say the UPENN part.

I’m out of breath just reading that last paragraph.

Why do so many parents think their kids have to be destined for Division 1? Can’t anything be just fun and not so $&#?ing serious?

I know there’s no “going back” because so much emphasis is on winning, competing, being the best, and of course that college scholarship that needs to be honed from the age of 8. I spent 7 years watching Sarah Mintz’s feet kick in front of me during competition swim meets. 7 years of never winning. Thank goodness my father never tried to swim alongside.

I’m glad I grew up when I did. The music was better and parents didn’t have a role in our sporting practices or group runners6competitions. We had terrific school coaches to facilitate and encourage us. No traveling teams, no sports that lasted 8 months, no personal trainers, no parents running backwards while we ran forwards. We played whatever sport we chose whenever we chose. Parents? They picked us up at the end of practice, they cheered during competitions, they stayed put in the stands.

Growing up, I was on many teams yet despite the absence of parents, I managed to learn to throw a football, field a baseball, out-swim my brother, execute a pretty good lay-up, play a decent game of tennis, and cheer on the sidelines for The West Orange Cowboys. Thankfully that was good enough for my dad.

The only time I ever remember my father stepping in was when horrified, he realized I was throwing a baseball with the wrong leg in front. After correcting that problem he went back in the house. Other than that, it was hands off. Go outside and have fun, and it WAS fun!

So back to Connor and Kaylee, both of whom were sitting on the track not finishing the race despite their parent’s athletic ability. Coming around the last turn was one little girl who was not struggling to finish. As a matter of fact, she was winning.

This little girl stopped her race foregoing her chance at a win and went over to Kaylee. Offering her hand she helped her friend up and they walked to the finish line together.

Need I say more? group runners 3

Tag or Dodgeball anyone?

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Today, most of us will not allow our kids to be bored. It’s like the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not be bored. We quickly drive them to the mall, the movies, suggest they invite friends over, and wear ourselves out so that they don’t need to figure something out. They have pools in their yards, finished basements that are more fun than the boardwalk and yettag3 they can’t figure out what to do with themselves when they have some down time.

When growing up if I ever told my mother I was bored, she simply said, “well then you’re boring. Figure something out or I’ll give you something to do,” which usually meant clean the bathroom, organize my closet or clean out the garage. I learned quickly to find something to do.

tag2 My childhood was heaven because I was lucky enough to live on a cul-de-sac with 4 other families all of whom had kids within a year of each other. Our mothers had the same mantra: “don’t bother me, just be home for dinner.” So I had 4 mothers, 11 friends, and 2 dogs at all times willing to walk to school, ride bikes, play tag, baseball, hopscotch, hide and go seek, play with Barbie and GI Joe, and chalk the sidewalk.

No boredom and no parental intervention. Well, I take that back…with 4 mothers someone was always lifting a window to tell one of us to get a sweater, but they never intervened unless Sandy was crying or Val had a tooth knocked out. Aside from that, we were on our own.

I was reading an article about how today’s children have a problem with self-regulation. I think that’s a new way of saying that kids today don’t know how to “figure it out.” I don’t think they know how to self-regulate because we regulate and figure it all out for them. Take this conversation I had with a friend of mine to try to find the time for their family to come over for a bar-b-que:

“Andrew (16) will have very little time this summer because he is volunteering at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital, and he will need to start his SAT prep classes, tag7 then he is taking a 4 week course at Cornell, then some one-on-one pitching training with a private baseball trainer, then perhaps a follow-up with another SAT prep class.”

I’m guessing little Andrew would love to be bored. As a matter of fact with this sort of summer he may even enjoy cleaning the bathroom or organizing the garage.

My summers were a bit different: Volunteer? I volunteered to weed my grandfather’s garden. SAT Prep? We didn’t even have summer reading back then and besides, IT WAS THE SUMMER! A college course at an Ivy? No comment available that could be printed. Training to excel in a sport? My brother went 0-99 at bats one summer. My dad’s solution: try soccer.

Then to make matters worse, I read that many schools are banning the game of tag and dodge ball during tag1recess. My friends of a similar age, I ask you…can you even believe this? Too many kids left out, they say, too many kids with hurt feelings when they aren’t picked for a team. Really? How about when they’re not picked for a college, for a job? And judging from my high school reunion, those kids who weren’t popular enough then to be picked first for a playground team are now titans of their industries. It all comes around sooner or later so relax.

I admit…I’m not much better with down time. Usually when I find myself with nothing to do I exert myself in Nordstrom and I was just as intent on making sure my kids built their college resume with the best of them. But I’m forcing myself to embrace the down-time without drinking too much wine.

I’m trying to figure it out, as my mother would say. Funny thing is, yesterday I spent an entire day cleaning out my closet! My grandfather would sometimes say he was “watching the air.” I’m trying to do that too. It really is lovely on my back deck. I’ll try and stay out of Nordstrom when I have nothing better to do and instead pick up a book. Maybe even pick up a pan which would make my husband very happy.

And I think the tide may be shifting… My daughter just texted me from college to say she was named captain of her intramural team. “What sport,” I asked. “DODGEBALL,” she replied.

I love it!!
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Benny Goodman and a Bagel

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Benny Goodman and a Bagel

I was sitting in my family room watching the weather forecasters get practically giddy that they were actually going to get their forecast for Hurricane Sandy and its path right for a change. During the commercial break I could picture them jumping up and down, hugging and screaming, “It’s hooking left, it’s hooking left…just like we predicted! I was hoping that they would be wrong as usual, but as the night wore on I knew they had it right.

In the hours leading up to the storm I learned plenty about surge, wave amplitude, and the physics behind the Gulf Stream and a nor’easter. My main concern on the morning before we got hit was: can I watch The Good Wife On Demand before the power goes out.

I had done everything suggested by the experts. I had plenty of water and non-perishable food. My computer and phone were fully charged and I had a full tank of gas. I was hooked up with my town’s twitter account. I had enough peanut butter and water to be good for a week.

I’m a Jersey girl, I thought. Much smarter than Snookie…I can handle it.

But as the winds picked up and we ultimately lost power, I realized I had the wrong list.  The list should have been more like something out of Little House on the Prairie. Clearly all our cell phones, tablets, computers, technology, and free apps would prove to be obsolete. Could an app keep me warm? Could my computer open a can of tuna? If the quality of my life came down to how many things needed to be plugged in I was cooked. It was like camping without the fun.

Here’s what we should have had on our list:

  • Wood for the fireplace
  • Matches to light a fire
  • Hand held can opener
  • Hand held wine opener (very important)
  • Buckets to carry the water stored in the bathtubs
  • candles
  • an ax to chop more wood

The reality was:

  • Nothing electronic was working and with no internet, no town updates were coming to me. If I wanted information on what was happening I had to go out the front door and take a look
  • I would not be able to blow-dry my hair

What I learned during the storm:

  • I didn’t need to check Facebook 10 times a day.  I didn’t care that friends loved their dog and I wasn’t in the mood to “like” anything.
  • I Loved oatmeal.
  • Backgammon was more fun than TV
  • I could live without my $4.00 cup of coffee from Starbucks.
  •  It was possible to be warmer outside than inside.
  • I could enjoy picking up sticks. (My husband wanted to know if I would also enjoy picking up a vacuum cleaner since he had never seen me picking up sticks before).
    • No matter what, college kids are still very self-absorbed. Friends with no power received texts asking for Tide pods to be mailed, letters to be written because they loved getting real mail, or the best one of all, “I  hate my life….they took away make your own pizza.”  REALLY? Get a freaking grip! Your mothers can’t feel their toes and you’re complaining about the demise of “make your own pizza??!!”

I almost said, “stop complaining! When I was your age I had to hike 10 miles up a hill both ways”, but I stopped myself.

At Kings, suddenly we were all the same…no make-up, bed-head, clothes that were functional and not stylish.  Everyone looked overweight with all the layering.  (Granted, some of us were already overweight even before the layering, but not a thin thigh in any aisle).  I was in hurricane heaven.

What I learned after the storm:

  • We were kinder to each other; nothing was a problem
  • Those of us with power offered showers, laundry services, open bedrooms to those without and didn’t want to be thanked for it
  • Texting was a lifeline
  • There were plenty of people a heck of a lot worse off than me
  • The kindness and compassion shown in the shelters from complete strangers to other strangers was beyond words
  • We really were Jersey strong

After 8 long days the power finally came back for me.  My parents were staying with me and when they came into the kitchen that first morning with power I asked my dad what he wanted.  He said, “Benny Goodman and a toasted bagel.”  So I plugged in my iPod and toasted him a bagel.  Such a small thing but it made us so happy and grateful for other small things that we took for granted. Gone were the candles, the matches, the can opener, the tea, the powdered milk. And no, I wasn’t nostalgic about putting it all away. Give me something to plug-in any day.

What became clear once I was plugged in was all the devastation. New York City subways underwater, the Jersey shore decimated. Yes, the experts were right this time.  We should have been worried about this one and I felt grateful that my home was still in one piece.

My girlfriend mailed her son the Tide pods and I wrote my daughter a letter. (Of course I couldn’t help but tell her when I was her age I had to walk 10 miles up a hill both ways in a storm).  I  washed all the sheets from the many friends who had stayed with me and I put away the coffee thermos and the backgammon game.  But I still listen to Benny Goodman every morning on my iPod, just to be grateful for the small things.

PS  My intent is not to make light of the seriousness of the situation.  I know the Jersey shore is decimated, NYC is struggling and there are many still suffering and homeless. I just wanted to bring a little humor to the situation and hope I didn’t offend anyone. I sincerely apologize if I did.