The Pre-Teen.

Ya’ll, I am not a perfect mother. Not even close. I can’t even pretend to think that I know all there is to know about parenting.

And parenting a pre-teen boy, or PTB as I like to call them? Well, buy stock in coffee, because at this rate – that’s all that keeps me from doing this on a regular basis –

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Let me give you some insight on what I’ve learned so far on this ‘raising pre-teen boys’ journey.

While uninterrupted showers seem like an out-of-reach oasis to us – they’re not that important to pre-teen boys.

I’m convinced that the PTBs have evolved past the point of normal human smell detection, and can no longer compute their own odor.

However, the rest of us can, yet they are completely unapologetic about it.

Yes, I remember the days of wanting to shop at Deliah’s and Aeropostale for everything. But alas, I had boobs and an ass that could bounce a Toyota Camry into a ditch. So I shopped at more practical places, like Stage and Hot Topic.

But pre-teen boys? Who knows? Who knows what they want to wear?!

Seriously, I’m asking.

They’re at this stage of wanting to have their own style, but still not ready to commit to what that means. So you, as a parent, end up buying this hodge-podge of flannel shirts and things with emojis and obnoxious sayings on them alongside a TON of athletic shorts.

Honestly, I’m convinced that athletic shorts are the PTBs yoga pants.

For the love of all that is holy, the sass level is real. Forget a teenage girls, because these pre-teen boys have a level of sass that would put Carson from Queer-Eye to shame.

This is mainly because in PTB world, their little bodies are starting to flood with testosterone and it comes out as pure unadulterated attitude…like Ironman.

And anything can send them into a tangent.

Hair is out of place? Forget it. The sock goes up too high on the left ankle? Nope, not today. Mom doesn’t know who a certain YouTuber is? Get out of their way ma’am, because you’re about to learn.

Girls are now on the radar. They have been noticed. There are school dances happening and awkward first kisses, for some. All I can say about this one is this – beware of Axe.

Pre-teen boys equate love with excessive amounts of body spray.

“If I spray it, they will flock to me,” seems to be the going philosophy.

I have been awoken from a dead sleep by the smell of my own PTB bathing in an ungodly scent called “After Hours.” After hours?!? Young man, you are in bed by nine, you know nothing of what happens after hours, nor do you need to smell like it.

See, the body spray industry is partnered with the housing industry. This is because any sane person knows, if you let someone spray in the traditional “X” pattern they recommend on the bottle, you have to either move, or burn your house down. There’s just no coming back from it.

I have a board on Pinterest filled with zombie preparation stuff – not because I’m actually preparing for a zombie apocalypse, oh no. It’s because I’ve had to learn how to hoard food away from pre-teen boys.

They may as well be dinosaurs. Feed them an entire mammal – and in twenty minutes they’re looking for more.

As their legs are growing, they’re hollowing out. That’s the only explanation.
I bought a bag of Doritos once, gone. GONE. Devoured in one sitting by one, singular PTB. I’m vegetarian, and thought stupidly, “I’ll just buy more veggies for myself, because he would never eat those.”

Wrong. Nothing is safe.

And grocery shopping? I can help you with your resume because you’re going to need a second job and maybe even a second mortgage on the house to pay that tab.

Ah, yes. Our pre-teen boys are starting to form their own taste in things. This can be anything really, and will absolutely change on a weekly basis, so don’t get too attached to the idea that they’re interested in guitar playing, skateboarding, etcetera.

For example, ‘Trap’ music (I’m still trying to figure out what it is EXACTLY) seems to be the “in” music right now among PTBs.

The always hilarious cat videos from days of yore will still pepper your internet search history, but you’ll notice new things starting to pop up, like ‘parkour’ and ‘how to be a YouTuber.’

This is where you ensure the insurance cards are easily accessible. Parkour never ends well for PTBs who have friends with video cameras.

Gone are the days of the sweet-smelling baby whose face I kissed, and who would hug me in front of his friends. I have entered the world of having a pre-teen boy, one who smells within ten minutes of stepping out of the shower and eats everything in plain sight, including some things I’m not even sure are edible.

But you know, I wouldn’t trade one stinky minute of it.

The journey is always interesting. Always. Enjoy it. Write about it. You’ll look back and laugh…even though right now you may be drowning in Axe body spray and crying into your box of chocolates.


My Fight with the Middle Finger

The last 72 hours have been a journey, to say the least. On Saturday while I was out shopping with a girlfriend, Miles injured his leg. How? We don’t know. I have gotten tall tales ranging from sibling rivalry to dinosaurs.

After him refusing to bear any weight on it since Saturday, a trip to the ER, followed by a trip to the pediatrician because I wasn’t satisfied with the ER diagnosis, x-rays and a knee wrap – he seems to be walking more. Thankfully.

Enter Jack. Stay tuned people – this is where it gets good.

This kid has an infected finger – from biting his nails. Disgusting, I know. Yesterday I noticed that his left, middle finger looked slightly more sinister than normal and when I asked about it, he wouldn’t let me touch it. I knew better – but with the craziness of the previous 48 hours and the normal morning craziness in general, I convinced him to let me put peroxide on it and dress it with some antibacterial cream before going to school.

Negative. That did not work. It only seemed to anger his finger more.

Just the words, “Let me look at it.” Were enough to send him over the edge, complete with a downward spiral of tears, snot and screaming. With the amount of drama that coursed out of his tiny, ten-year old body, if he doesn’t work in theater, I will be highly disappointed.

I begged him to let me look at it. Overnight the infection had gotten worse – I’ll spare you the disgustingly graphic details, but trust me, it was nasty. Something had to be done. I had to either convince him to let me drain it at home…or take him to the doctor where they would drain it.

Today my friends, is the day Jack and I lost our ‘cool.’

I initiated the conversation with, “let’s go to the doctor and get it looked at.” This only caused a meltdown. I then tried to convince him to let me do it – which may as well have been me asking for him to give me a kidney.  After almost an hour of yelling back and forth at one another, me going full on WrestleMania on him to get him to the ground so I could just look at it, and him locking me out of the house – he let me back in and I got ahold of this left, middle finger, gave it one good squeeze, and bam. It was successful and started to drain.

But my God, that only released a bigger monster.

Let me tell you, hell hath NO fury like Jack when he is pissed and you’ve just pulled a Benedict Arnold type move on him.

What I can only assume was pure unadulterated hatred began coursing through his veins in every direction that pointed towards me. There were not enough parenting books in the world to save me now. He was devastated that I had done that to his finger. That I had LIED.

*Note: I did not lie, I told him I was going to do it…just not in one big swoop.

After another thirty minutes of this back and forth coupled with him missing the bus to school, I looked at it again. It was still pretty gross looking, so I washed my hands – literally and figuratively, and we went to the doctor.

Why didn’t we just go to the doctor first, you ask? Oh, because that would be the easy way out, and when have I ever chosen that path for my life? That’s not fun, and then there wouldn’t be these stories to keep you entertained.

After a long wait, we were finally doing the procedure in the doctor’s office. The doctor also told him, “Bud, if you had just let your mom finish the job, you wouldn’t have to be here. She knew what she was doing.”

I am not even remotely ashamed to say that I took great internal pleasure in that big, fat ‘Boo-yah! I told you so!’ moment, even if I didn’t let it show.

He’s my baby. I held his hand and dried his tears because he was scared. I let him squeeze every ounce of strength out of my hand while they lanced and drained the rest of his finger. It was awful – but had to be done. I hugged him and told him I was sorry for going all Randy Savage on him to get a look at his finger. I told him multiple times that I loved him and hated when he was sick or hurt. I reassured him that he was doing a great job and being very brave. I also threw in the phrase, that despite what he may think, I do know what I’m talking about sometimes. Much to his hesitation, he agreed.

Now he is enjoying showing me the bandage on the tip of his middle finger every chance he gets. And while I know he forgives me for pulling some 90’s wrestling moves in order to save his finger’s soul, I also know he is enjoying having the ability to flip me the bird without getting in trouble. I’ll let him have it, as long as he’s healthy.


Potty Mouth: One Mother’s Fall from Potty Training Grace

There are moments in motherhood that we can all look back on and say, “Well that did not go as planned.” Unfortunately for me, potty training my youngest son Miles has been that moment. I honestly don’t even know if we would call it a moment at this point. It has become my Everest, and if I do not get a cover spread on TIME Magazine after this process I will be utterly disappointed.

I should start with what I have done in the past with potty training. I have three boys and two out of three are potty trained. My oldest, Jack, was disgustingly simple. He literally woke up one morning ready to be potty trained – and so he was. The Gods had shown me mercy at the tender age of twenty.

Our next son, Fisher came two years later and was a little more of a challenge. If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase, “It’s great he has an older brother! That will make potty training so much easier!” I would have a college fund paid for or bail money for getting me out of jail after publicly shaming the people who told me this tale. Maybe this adage is true for some, but for me it was hogwash.

Having an older brother did not make Fisher want to pee on fruit loops in the toilet anymore than it made him want to eat dinner that night. He had his mind made up about potty training and was a little later coming around to the idea of it. However, after we talked to his daycare and they mentioned his love for routine, we knew we had it in the bag. Routine worked for Fisher, he liked the anticipation of things – we just needed to make him aware of it. So with the help of his teachers and an egg timer, Fisher was potty-trained.

Enter Miles, sweet baby Miles.

Up until this point, all of the boys were potty-trained before their third birthdays. We are about three months out from Miles turning three and there is no sign of being potty trained on the horizon. Ever. I saw a funny meme about a gag-gift cloth diaper that you can buy in adult sizes online. Only when I laughed I cried on the inside because I instantly realized that Miles may end up being the one who wears this and lives in our basement when he is thirty if I can’t get him potty trained.

Short of sending him to a potty-training camp for puppies, I have tried EVERYTHING. Let’s recap a list of the things I have tried just for kicks:

  • New fun big boy underwear
  • Videos of his favorite cartoon characters teaching potty training
  • Songs about potty training
  • Books about potty training
  • Sticker chart rewards
  • Reminders and polite asking

This is where the list takes a dark turn…

  • The “look your brothers and daddy go potty – don’t you want to?” speech
  • Letting him run around naked – TRUST me when I say he was vengeful on this one and it was not a pleasant experience for Mama or his big brother Jack who’s room took the hit.
  • Bribery – “If you go potty I’ll buy you a new toy”
  • Extortion – “If you don’t go potty, you can’t play with that new toy”
  • Lastly – Begging. Sheer pleading on my knees while he giggles in my face and runs away

As you can see, the second half of the list is where my sanity took a slight dip on the Mom-Scale. The thing is, he is too smart for his own good. He knows I tell you, that we want him to potty train. I know this because he has done it a few times – mostly with bribery and rewards of cookies and Mommy dancing and clapping like a fool. But he realizes that he holds all the cards in this poker game. And by golly, he’s not bluffing.

It wasn’t until after I cleaned up a pile of Miles-poo he had politely left during the naked-phase that I was sitting in my bathroom floor crying and eating half a bag of Milano cookies that it hit me. I just have to stop. No more asking, begging or videos. I have to ignore it completely. Not just because I was letting him win, but because if I didn’t I was going to end up placing puppy training pads all around my house and quit.

And so I did. And so did Miles. Now I ask him every once in a while if he would like to go to the potty in a very nonchalant way. Sometimes he says yes, and sometimes he says no. That’s ok, Moms! It’s progress. Aside from birth, I will say potty training a strong willed child who is hip to your ways is the hardest thing you will do as a parent.

Much like the epiphany we had with Fisher about routines, the epiphany with Miles was a combination of both Jack and Fisher’s methods. Like Jack, he is going to have to come around to it on his own terms, or it just isn’t going to happen. But like Fisher, we are going to have to give some gentle nudging in the direction that works. So far, treats seem to be our best working option.

* Note: For those parents who will inevitably say, “you shouldn’t use food as a treat, it will make them fat,” You can shut up and walk away, or come potty train this kid yourself.

I say all of this to say, it will get better. I know, I’ve been there. I hit rock bottom with potty training when I thought I was at the top of my game. I begged a two year old to pee in the toilet for thirty minutes while shouting swear words in my head. I get it.

I apologize for not having the end-all be-all answer for potty training a strong willed child. But I have this. Listen to your child and notice what works for them. As I have painfully learned, not one child is the same when it comes to potty training. Take advice from other parents with a grain of salt. And when all else fails, buy yourself some wine and Milano cookies and hide in your bathroom.