Get a Job part 2: Pascal 1, Teenagers, 0

When I originally wrote about jobs, I was referring to four teenagers, who to date, have done nothing about getting jobs. It looks like drive in the family comes in the form of a nine year old.

Recently and for no apparent reason, Pascal took up the accordion – which in music terms is like deciding to study Swahili.   Not exactly a popular choice or with any apparent value.  But she wants one of her own (hers is borrowed)….Along with a new skateboard and other skateboarding gear. When I told her the standard parent answer:  We aren’t made of money, she came back with a surprising response:

Let me play on the street for money.  Like a street musician.  I’ll earn it.

Rather than describe what happened, let me show you.

The girl raked in almost $50 in less than an hour. Yesterday, we sat at a new spot, just out of the rain for only 20 minutes and she earned $25. She’s hooked (I’m hooked!), so we are going back today.  This is what I call resourceful.

And she’s not just self-serving:  she’s been playing for the retirement home down the street, bringing joy to a grateful audience.

I know I’ve got to get on the older kids, but here’s hoping a nine year old can motivate the others, as to date, there has been zero follow through. That’s my goal for this week:  bust some teenage ass.

Calling the shots,

So called mom

Blended Family Goodbyes Are Never Easy

Every week, part of my family breaks away.

Most of the kids in our family go back to their other parents’ house for a few days. Even though we’ve been doing this for 11 years now, it hasn’t gotten any easier. The ones that are left behind struggle a great deal with it, including me.

In this Mini-VLOG, I discuss the difficulty with having kids leave, while Leopold showcases his favorite pieces from my wardrobe (and helps me feel better).

It’s quiet around here,

So Called Mom

 

 

Meeting the Dark Side of the Internet

Kids iPhones and ipadsSo Called Mom

Well, it happened.

Milla lost her privileges to all of her screens and all of her accounts. The hardest part was, that none of it was her fault—even though she still thinks it is.
About a week ago, I posted my thoughts about screens and kids. Well, today I did a 180 on that. Why? Because of a sudden need for maximum security.
As far as I can see,  I’ve identified two kinds of damage that surround screen use. The first is the common one: the addiction that comes with too much use, whether it’s social media or video games. Theoretically there’s a straight-forward solution: go outside and play, read a book or use your hands and create something.
The second is more unexpected and much more concerning. It’s made me look to the connective power of the internet as something that is more harmful than helpful. It’s made me question my laissez-faire attitude.

It’s even made me question the way I’ve made some mom choices.

Cutting to the chase: I think my 14-year-old was lured into a teen self-harm group – which is bad enough, but to make matters worse, the group may be linked to some kind of sex trafficking gang or occult. Maybe that sounds like a stretch, but at this point, I don’t care what it is—I just want my daughter as far away from it as possible.

So don’t misunderstand:  it’s  not like we don’t comprehend internet safety, we just never thought the bad stuff would happen to our own kid. But the depth of insanity that I’m going to reveal is enough to make you realize just how much you don’t know. And I hope it gives you goosebumps.  It’s certainly freaked the hell out of me.

So here’s the story: 

Last week, Milla’s internet girlfriend broke up with her. She was devastated, and I helped pick up the pieces. This week, one of the friends in the same group of online friends died. I had no idea this child had cancer, no idea she became a bestie, no idea there was even a circle of “friends” that Milla now referred to as her “family”and no idea just how much that family knew about Milla.
The truth is, I had noticed Milla acting depressed lately and becoming darker and more isolated. I noticed her real friends had completely dwindled—but I thought it was because she favored the online version. For some reason, I didn’t think to question that. I wanted to be open to the fact that we live in a new world, where kids can connect with different people in different cultures. That she was ahead of the curve on this, like always and I wanted to respect her privacy. I tried to put my foot down when I could, but ever so lightly because she was, after all, a 14-year-old girl who was navigating all sorts of stuff—sexuality, friends, trading middle school for high school…all of it. It’s only a stage, I told myself. At least you’re a part of it.

But I don’t know why I thought I was a part of it when I obviously wasn’t.

I was an outsider to a place she was increasingly visiting for answers. I had no idea that she was being swept away. It wasn’t until she was devastated by back to back events –  heartbreak from one “Friend” and the death of another – that I was suddenly clued into something more twisted and dark. 

It was Pippin who stepped in with some critical questions:  

Ok….I’m slow to the uptake. But here was my wake up call.

We looked through her devices and uncovered multiple accounts from a tight group of people who shared images of slashed wrists and made art about death and loneliness. One of them was our beloved Milla—you could literally scroll and see the darkness taking over her originally cheery and artsy account. In scanning through everything, and comparing images and postings, I have reason to believe that there were only a few people, masquerading as a lot more and reeling in vulnerable kids like Milla.  I also suspect that some may have been “killed off” to lure kids in even deeper with an end goal I can only shudder to imagine.  

Admittedly, my initial reaction was to feel paralyzed and shocked.

I tried to Google, searching for some answers.  This was so far outside my realm of experience or that of anyone I knew that I didn’t know where to begin. There was very little at this level—nothing that would help me come to terms with what happened. Sure there was plenty of info about cyber-bullying, but it all seemed oversimplified and centered on hurt feelings—nothing this complex. Then my mind started to spin out, thinking that Milla was very well catfished by that little girl who broke her heart. What if she was a little girl caught up in it too, brainwashed and pressured to recruit other kids?
I understand I’m sounding completely crazy, but with so little information I’m left only with speculation and my own detective work. But wouldn’t you agree that I have enough info though, to make me scour all phones and profiles, delete photos, accounts, apps and block people and phone numbers that aren’t family or known friends? And even so, the devices I’m most concerned about—Milla’s—are sitting, powered off. Those deserve a good cooling off in solitude.

How do any of us really know what they are doing on their social media?

We are caught between letting them find their own way around as we learn to let go, and letting them loose in uncharted and unregulated territories.  It’s the wild, wild west out there, and I had been letting Milla—and almost all of my kids really, explore it solo. I would love to give all of the above the benefit of the doubt, but at the risk of losing my child? No way in hell do I take that risk.
I know this feels like punishment to her. I have reinforced otherwise and tried to reduce all of this to the simple example stated above: It’s time to just go outside and play, to reestablish yourself with your friends, and yes, even go talk to someone professional about what happened—to return to ground zero and rebuild.
If anyone has had a similar experience or any kind of advice, please, please share in the comments below–not only would I appreciate hearing from you, but I really kind of need it right now.
Your personal firewall,
So Called Mom

Using Dinner to Stay in Your Kids Lives VLOG

Hi there!

Here’s a sweet mini-VLOG for today on what our busy blended family does to stay connected with one another.

If you have other tips and tricks to add, please share in the comments below, I’m always open to trying out your ideas.

Thanks and don’t forget to subscribe!

So Called Mom

Let Them Quit School

I’ve decided to homeschool Pascal because school was getting in the way of her extracurricular activities. 

This became especially apparent after her birthday a few months ago, when we got her a skateboard—something she has been coveting for over a year.
Now skateboarding has taken over her life—and mine. We are at the skate park everyday, for 4 or 5 hours at a time, and since we are heading into beautiful summer weather, that is about to increase. But even now, this is a lot of time to be spending skateboarding daily—and since it has become the center of her being, I’m honoring it.
I just think that if a kid becomes completely absorbed by a talent and skill, it is up to this So Called Mom to remove the obstacles that prevent them from going over the top with it.

I mean, let them get eaten alive by their passion, right?

There are no people with success stories that say, I loved to do XYZ, but I was in school and had oodles of homework for 15 hours a day, and that’s what I have to thank for my success. No way. Everything, including education, needs to take a backseat to skateboarding from now on, and it will.

I have come to the realization that, at this point, school is the thing that is holding her back the most, so why not ditch it?

I know Pascal is driven by this new passion because not only can I see it in her eyes—it is deeper in that. There is this fiery competition that exists with herself—and that will be the golden ticket to her own success story. What other motivation could possibly get a kid to dive into a swimming pool with no water like this? It’s coming from within. I just know she is asking herself: Is she better than the Pascal that skated yesterday? If not, she skates longer and pushes herself harder. There are days where I wait in the van in the parking lot, while she skates in the park by herself in the freezing cold rain, falling hard— over and over again. I’ve learned to keep a small first aid kid in my purse.
We started an online curriculum, not because it had raving reviews or a perfect selection of learning materials—but because it was simple and she could get it out of the way faster. Basically, so long as she is passing her classes, I’m not worried. As a side, she did skip a grade a few years ago and her comprehension is at the next grade level, and she is learning Swedish (on top of her second language French) so if she did fall back, she would still be on target.

And, if it was possible to quit school altogether, I’d probably let her.

Kids are natural at learning and being inquisitive—I don’t believe in force feeding education at all.

For Pascal, the real education is coming from four wheels, moving fast, on concrete. She is learning all about herself and that kind of development cannot be achieved in a classroom setting, I don’t care what kind of school it is. There is no amount of instruction that can ever come close to what she is getting on her own out there, right now. So, if I can cut the ties to any barriers that prevent her dream from being a reality, I will—and I have.

It is my job to not push her, but to let her push herself.

Aiding and abetting,
So Called Mom