Thursday, July 20, 2006 That's all I've got to say.

There was an article in our local paper about a convicted sex offender that was just arrested for coaching a children's softball league. Deeper into the article it tells you that this man was arrested when he was 18 for having sex with an under age girl. He claims it was consensual and the article never states how old the girl was at the time. But because he was arrested for statutory rape, this man is considered a sex offender and cannot take jobs that involve children. A fact that escaped his mind when he signed up to coach his twelve year old daughter's softball league. I don't know how his arrest record came to light, but this man now fears that his kids will be tormented unmercifully about a decision he made as a teenager.

I'm not claiming to have any anwers here. This slope is more slippery than one paved with grease and covered in oil. But the subject of teenagers and their boyfriends has recently entered my world and it's a scary place to be.

Before school ended, one of Jasmine's friends moved to the next town over. She never said goodbye, never called, and didn't return calls either. We just assumed she had moved on and that relationship was done. Yesterday, she called. Her mom had to work the night shift as a nurse and wanted her to sleep over our house. Jasmine was thrilled at the idea. Jazz got off the phone and said that her friend wanted to be picked up at 5pm.
"Why 5? Doesn't her mom go to work at 2?" I asked.
"Yeah, but she's going to hang out with her boyfriend and do chores until then."

This 14 year old girl's boyfriend is 17. And her mom thought it was fine that they spend several hours alone together.
"He's really sweet and her mom totally trusts them together." Jasmine told me.

He could be the Pope's godson but he still wants to have sex with her daughter."Yup," my husband agreed "And if they're left alone long enough, he will too."

I tend to have more of a Flying Nun attitude with my girls (you want to soar around and see the sights? Great! Just wear a long black dress and remember the Mother Superior while you do it.) but there seems no point in setting them up for failure. A three year age difference is nothing when you are 19 and 22, or 30 and 33. Hell, with adults, I could not care less what the ages are. You go Anna Nicole! If you want to ride the wheelchair of some 90 year old guy so you can have his share of the pie when he's gone, more power to you. But 14 and 17 is a marked difference. If memory serves teenage boys are horn dogs ("True, very true" my husband agrees again) and chances are the 17 year old has had some more experience than his younger counterparts. Why would you want to put your daughter in a situation were she has to make the really tough choices about her behavior with a boy she likes and doesn't want to dissapoint?

Maybe he's a nice boy. I don't know because she wouldn't let me in the door to meet him. Jasmine met him. She told me later that night that when she and her friend ran back inside for her pocketbook, the boyfriend was still there.
"He's cute. And really nice." She told me.
"That's nice, I'm glad." I said "But 12 and 17 is an inappropriate age difference and I don't want you to spend any time with him." She nodded. She knows our rules and how her father and I feel about this subject.

So I don't have any real answers. Should the 40 year old who had sex as a teenager, with another teenager, be allowed to coach his daughter's softball league? Probably. The bigger issue seems that teenagers can't really understand the consequences of their actions and how it will affect their futures. One sweaty, 2 minute interlude in the back of your Honda Civic will embarass your future child and have her friend's parents calling you a sex offender. Not fair? Welcome to life, kiddo.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

American Girl Dolls and Lipgloss -Great! Building full of dead things- Not so much.

This summer we are going to be taking a couple of day trips to fun places instead of our usual trip to York Beach, Maine. We love the beach desperately, but it's so expensive. We also sent our oldest daughter camping for a week and that depleted quite a bit of our vacation money. Oh well, she had fun and that's all that counts.

For our first trip, we took the two little girls and my mom to the Peabody Natural History Museum at Yale University. When I was a little girl we would visit my aunt and uncle in New Haven Connecticut and occasionally go to the museum. I always loved it. They have dinosaurs, mummies, and all kids of different Egyptian and Native American artifacts. I just thought it was so cool. I was sure the girls would have a good time there.

Violet did love it. She ran through the whole place just racing from exhibit to exhibit yelling "Look! Dinasohs! Rooaarr!!" It was cute, until I looked up from the Camptosaurus plaque and saw her climbing into the area with the dinosaur bones. Christ kid, I can't put that reconstruction bill on my credit card.

Lila, however, did not have as good a time. It seems that, from a five year old girl's perspective, a building full of skeletons, dead animals, and mummies is not so much interesting as it is creepy. She spent the afternoon being simultaneously petrified at everything she saw and horrified that her parents had brought her there. I felt really bad about that. I still do. This is, afterall, her vacation time too and I terribly misjudged what her idea of fun and interesting is. I guess that I just have such fond memories of visiting the Peabody that I wanted that for her. The only vacations we ever took as a kid were to New Haven to see family and a few trips to the museum. I can remember savoring every sight. The shrunken head, the mummy in her glass case (still wearing her bracelets!), and the dinosaurs! I was always so amazed that there were actual dinosaur remains within a few feet of me. But as much as Lila is like me, this was just not her bag, baby. Maybe we'll try again in a couple of years and maybe she'll like it better. And maybe she won't. That will be ok, too. There's always the gift shop. That's one part of the place she did enjoy. I bought her a lovely and soft stuffed Triceratops for a whopping $20. Ouch.

I'm thinking about the New England Aquarium in Boston for our next trip. I will be sure to show her the website first, because I really want her to have fun. And if all else fails, there is always a trip to the mall for this.

Lila and the skeleton of a 1.6 million year old Homo Erectus. The plaque says it was most likely an 8 year old boy. She was not impressed.

Lila and the largest Sea Turtle ever caught. That thing was frickin huge!

The mummified remains of an Egyptian female. These have been at the museum since I was a kid.

Violet & Lila & the T-Rex head.

Lila and the baby Camptosaurus. There was a bigger one behind this one.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The first day of school

Lila had her first day of summer preschool today. It's just a small, 3 day a week program. Nothing to educational, it's really just to keep the kids in the swing of going to school. Some times a long summer break can make it even harder to go back to school. Especially for a shy kid, and Lila is definitely that. So Violet and I walked her into the classroom and stayed for a few minutes to play. When it was time to go, I dragged Violet out kicking and screaming and looked back at Lila. She had that look on her face like she was trying very hard to not cry. "My brave baby girl" I thought and got the hell out of there.

I'm not a cold hearted bitch you know, I've just been through this before. Two years ago, when Lila was three, she started this preschool program. I was as nervous as I could be. I couldn't get the teacher I wanted so Lila had to go in Joe's class. Joe is a great preschool teacher, but for a little girl who had only been taken care of by her mom and her Grandmother, a man teacher was going to be tricky. The first day of school came and Lila seemed eager to go to school. Her cousin Wendy was going to be in her class and that made her happy. So we got there, checked out the room and played for a bit. I finally got up and said it was time to go. I gave Lila a quick kiss and headed for the door. I was three feet away when the screaming started.

I don't know about your kids, but when Lila starts screaming or crying real hard, she throws up. So when I turned around and saw her starting to gag, I rushed over to calm her down before she could puke up her breakfast. Long story short, I spent the afternoon in the hallway outside the preschool room while Lila cried and ran to me every few minutes.

The next day, Lila was transferred to Cindy's class because Joe thought she would be more comfortable there (which is what her mother said, but what do I know?). They also separated Lila and Wendy because if one started to cry so did the other. We walked into Cindy's class and when it was time for me to leave Lila started crying but this time I couldn't comfort her and she threw up in my hands. I'm not a religious girl, but god bless those teachers. One brought me the trash can and some paper towels and said "Clean up your hands and just leave. She'll fine, really." So that's what I did. I left her there in the care of her teachers. As I was walking down the hallway I could hear Lila screaming "I WANT YOU TO FIND MY MOM!!" . I started crying and turned to run back to the classroom when another mom stopped me.

"Is that your little girl in there?" She asked me. She put her hand on my arm and slowly turned me around.

"Yes, " I said through sobs. "I really need to get back in there." I was trying not to cry. I felt like this wonderful combination of complete idiot and horrible mother all at once.

"My son had a hard time the first day, too." She said as she guided me down the hallway. "She'll be fine. The teachers here are great. She'll settle in in a few minutes. Is she your first?" The whole time she was talking to me, this mom was leading me farther away from the classroom and towards the door.

"Uh, no." I sniffed "She's,uh,I have three. But I'm a stay at home mom and Lila's never been taken care of by anyone but me. I should just check her." By now we were outside the school building.

"I think she's ok by now. Enjoy your couple of hours of freedom, it will go by fast."
We said goodbye and I walked home. When I got home I bawled like a baby. I felt so bad for leaving her there, but we had to start somewhere. If she didn't get used to this now, I'd never get her off to kindergarten.

Pretty soon the two and half hours were up and I went back for Lila. I was convinced that I'd find her in a blubbering pile on the school room floor, covered in her own vomit and screaming my name. In fact, she was standing in line with the other kids, back pack on, ready to file out the door. She made it. She was definitely tired out, but had made it just the same. I tried not to cry when she came through the door and ran to me.

That was not the last difficult day. Actually the first month was hard. The first two weeks were her crying and puking in my hands or the trash can.I'd clean us up and say goodbye, she'd walk away with her head down and settle into an activity. Oh, and lets not forget the day her nice teacher Beth crounched down and gave Lila a hug as she cried. Lila promptly threw up rice krispies in her cleavage. I scooted out the door and got the hell outta Dodge on that day.

But it got better. Every day, a little more. Pretty soon there was no crying at all. She always would rather be home with me, or course. But she had resigned herself to the fact that she had to go, so she did her best.

So that is why, when she gives me that look, the flat smile, eyes welling up a bit, a look that just screams "I'm nervous, meeting new kids is hard for me." I just smile back and leave as quickly as possible. My baby girl can do things with out me just fine. She's learning just how strong she really is.

And to that mom, the one who guided me ever so gently through the door and into Lila's independance - thanks.