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Jun 162016


If your morning shuffle makes you look like a zombie actor’s stunt double and your brain is so foggy you put the milk in the pantry and the cereal in the fridge, you might be a new parent. Parenting takes a lot out of you, and the transition into parenthood is tough physically and mentally. Becoming the stay-at-home parent adds another level of transition into the mix, even more so if your partner is on active duty and deploying.


While that may sound, and occasionally look apocalyptic, it is very doable and one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done. But how do you go through this full-time parenting gig without losing yourself along the way? I’ve got five tips to help you get through the zombie zone and into that sweet spot of family life.



  1. Nurture yourself first, so you’ll have something to give to your family. Schedule some of what makes you happy into every day or at least once a week. Whatever your passion (music lessons, art, crafting, golf, reading, cooking, pursing an education, etc.), you need to actively pursue it. Schedule it when you can — during naps, after kids are in bed, get a sitter or wait until your partner is home to tag-team kid duties — but find time for you.


Kids make life richer; they aren’t an excuse to stop doing the things you love. It took me years to earn my degree, but I continued to attend college as a young parent because it fed my soul. When we were stationed in Sicily, I was able to work part-time for MWR to earn enough money for a babysitter on the nights I had class (when hubby was deployed or on duty). I applied for scholarships and took college classes on base.


  1. Live in the moment so you don’t multitask your life away. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day juggling of feeding, changing diapers, slaying the laundry monster, and the rest of your to-do list. Actively engage in what you are doing, and you’ll find yourself completing tasks instead of spinning your wheels on 10 different things. When you are feeding the baby, relax and enjoy the interaction and closeness, because this time won’t last very long. When you are deliberate with your actions you get more done and appreciate life a bit more.


Adjust your priorities. It’s OK to let the house go a little and focus on the basics. Rest, food, bathe, oh — and breathe. Breathing is good.


  1. Schedule your day so you can be spontaneous. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but trust me on this. Once you establish a schedule that works for you and your baby (or children), you will know your windows of active time and naptime and can take advantage of them. You need to get out of the house — sometimes to preserve your own sanity and other times to do the necessary shopping. Schedules help you do that and keep the kids happier.


When we were stationed at NAS Sigonella in Sicily, I stayed cooped up in the apartment for a while until I figured out that planning outings around my infant’s schedule made both our days better. Sometimes I planned for her to nap on the bus or in the car. Other days I found a quiet place for her to nap in the stroller, and we still had plenty of days where she napped in her crib. Manipulating the place of the feeding or nap, while sticking to the schedule, gave me newfound freedom to get things done or go to an impromptu lunch with friends.



  1. Wear your clothes, so you can connect with adults. I know that sounds silly to say, but if you are in the trenches, you know there will be days when you feel like managing to get a shower is an award-winning accomplishment. Pajamas or sweats are easier to roll with, but you still need to put yourself together so you won’t be in hermit mode every day. Once you’re dressed, with shoes on, you’ll find you are more productive and more sociable.


You have options in your day if you are dressed at the beginning of it. You can find and build a support network of friends that are in the same situation as you. Our second home in Sicily was farther away from base, so to find other moms I got involved with the local playgroup. We explored our little town of Santa Maria La Stella, went site seeing, hosted lunch play dates and watched each other’s kids when needed. That did my soul good and wore out my toddler so she napped like a champ, which in turn left me with a bit more me time.



  1. Date your partner. Between parenting, housework, career and the other activities of your life, it is easy to let exhaustion be an excuse to push off date night. Don’t let that happen. It’s important to reconnect with your partner daily and to have a regular date night each week. You don’t always have to go out of the house, but you do need to have regular time together and away from the kids.


You can have fabulous date nights on a budget. Check out your local Morale, Welfare and Recreation center for inexpensive and adventurous date ideas. Remember, your base usually has discount movies and you’ll find military discounts on different tickets at your ITT office. Be creative and surprise each other. Caring for one another as partners will make your parenting teamwork easier and more natural.


All parents go through this zombie stage. Pull yourself out of it with help from those who have been there. The friends I made while parenting my young children hold a special place in my heart. Those mothers helped me find myself when my zombie days blurred into one another. They reminded me that the best parts of life begin in parenthood. You have unique talents, knowledge, experiences and dreams you need to continue to nurture, because that is the well you draw from when you raise your children, solve problems and care for your family.


Life Hacks: 8 Ways to Get Your Teen to Talk

 Posted by on March 22, 2016 at 08:52
Mar 222016

Staff Blogger Julie

When my daughter rolled her eyes so hard her body seemed to flip around them, I knew she’d entered the Teenage Zone. The attitude, angst and awkwardness of the teen years affected everyone in our home. One of the toughest transitions to deal with when entering the teen zone was that my previously chatty child turned into a sullen, or at least more private, being.

It didn’t take much for my daughter, and my son (four years later), to clam up and for my husband and I to start feeling like we were losing our daily connection to what was going on in their lives. So how do you get your teen to gab — about their life — with you? While I don’t have a magic potion, I do have some experience with what does and doesn’t work.

Talk to your teen blog 2Start with being a safe space for your teen. Teens need to know they can trust you not to judge them, try to fix them or tell them what to do. I’m not suggesting parents turn over the reins completely, but during the teen years, it’s time for our young adults to learn to be more independent and solve problems on their own. Take a deep breath, smooth out your soon-to-be-grey hair and consider the following life hacks for getting your teen to talk.

  1. Connect daily shoulder to shoulder — Much like toddlers, who play beside their friends instead of with their friends, teenagers tend to open up more readily when they are beside you and occupied with other things. Do not look a teenager in the eye and expect them to dish their deepest secrets. It won’t happen. I’ve learned more about my teens while riding in the car than in any room of our house. Try some of the following ideas for shoulder-side chats including: ride in the car, take a walk, shop for groceries, rake leaves, paint a room, build something, fold laundry, wash and dry dishes, or cook a meal.
  2. Unplug to be available — Show your teen they are more important than what you are doing. Stop, drop what you are doing, and listen with both eyes and ears. When they know you will do that, they are more likely to talk.
  3. Listen while on mute — Let your teen have the floor, and you push your mute button. Listen to what they do and don’t say. Do not judge. Let them vent. When they finish, you can echo back what they said so they know you heard them, but do not offer advice unless they ask for it.
  4. Ask specific, open-ended questions — How you ask the question sets the tone for the answer. Do not ask “why” questions because that puts teens on the defense. Ask things like, “What was the best part of your day?” or “What do you think about that situation?” or “What do you think would solve that problem?” Show them their thoughts matter to you and you believe in their ability to problem solve.
  5. Adjust your attitude — I’m sure you’ve heard yourself tell your teens that what they say isn’t always as important as how they say it. Eh-hem … I guess they had to learn that sassy tone somewhere. *blink, blink* Yep, they got that attitude from their parents. You may think you don’t have a tone in your voice, but check again. My teens have called me on it. I own it, and work to double check myself. Take your own advice and watch your tone when you speak to your teens.
  6. Be the adult When your teen’s dark side emerges (as it will from time to time) simply say, “ouch” and walk away. This makes the statement that they hurt you, and you won’t allow them to continue to be cruel. Breathe. Count to 10. Do whatever you can to calm yourself so you don’t respond in anger. Then, you can discuss things after everyone is calm and collected. Give them a healthy example of how to solve personal conflicts.Talk to your teen blog
  7. Make new memories — Take spontaneous or planned one-on-one outings with your teen. You get to know your teens better when they are not competing for your attention with other siblings. Taking them out lets them know you value them for who they are — that you want to spend time with them. Just them.
  8. Show your silly side Give your teen the gift of knowing you aren’t perfect and that you don’t expect them to be perfect. Share your silly side with them. Confide in them with a story of something you failed at when you were their age. Let them know how you handled it and how you wish you had handled it.

Your silliness and imperfections are some of the things that may earn you more respect from your teen. Remember, teens have well-developed fakeness detectors. Be real with them and they are more likely to be real with you.


Life Hacks: Letting Go So They Can Grow

 Posted by on September 4, 2015 at 08:00
Sep 042015

Pudgy, dimpled knuckles of sweet baby fat gripped my finger for balance and then the next thing I knew, I turned BlogBrigade-JulieDymon-2015around to see my daughter looking at me eye-to-eye as we said good-bye when she started college. I think that empty nest phase is tougher on the parents and the siblings left behind than it is on the child taking flight, but military life does a pretty good job of preparing the family for this moment.


Deployments, homecomings and PCS moves build a family’s resilience to make it through tough times together, so when it comes to the shifting roles and changes in family dynamics, military families recognize what is going on because we’ve been through a version of it before. That doesn’t make it easier, but it does help when you recognize it for what it is. Check out these life hacks to help you prepare for, go through and come out better on the other side of the big move from full to empty nest.

Preflight tool check

I know we need to go from a parent to a friend/advisor role as our kids head off to college, tech school, the military or other workforce careers, but it’s not the easiest thing to stop parenting cold turkey. I mean, we’ve been doing this for 18 years. Ideally, we get to teach our kids the basics of how to live on their own near the end of high school, but if not, you can give them a crash course the summer before they leave.


Check to make sure your young adult has these life hack tools to ease their transition out of the nest.

  • Understand common-sense safety (don’t walk alone at night, use the buddy system, etc.)
  • Balance a checkbook.
  • Wash, dry, hang and fold laundry.
  • Clean up.
  • Cook a few meals well.
  • Maintain a car (either doing it themselves or when to take it in to a professional).


In-flight service

Parents, we are no longer flying the plane. In order for our young adults to grow into responsible adults, we have to let go of the controls and not grab on again (easier said than done). We become the in-flight service — if they push that request help button we can offer support, but that is not license to take over and fix things. They need the space and freedom to fail and succeed on their own.

If you want that new relationship with your young adult, as a good friend and advisor, your life hack is to let go so they can grow. Be their cheerleader and advisor when they ask for it. They need the freedom to:

  • Experience life on their own terms
  • Handle situations, both good and bad, and solve problems on their own
  • Believe in themselves by proving they can do it on their own
  • Be themselves as they choose their own paths


Post-flight phase

After they’ve landed at college, or a new home, and you’ve helped them unpack and set them up for success, it’s time to focus on the new phase of life for you and any of your other children still at home. It’s natural to have mixed feelings of sadness as you miss the one who flew and the family you were, and excitement for your new flier’s future, and the future of your changed family dynamic; but it’s time to establish new routines to keep your family healthy (both the in-home family and your free-flying adult).

Deal with your emotions from day one by setting some boundaries and ensuring connections using these communication life hacks:

  • Communicate at least once a week with a set a time that works for you and your adult child.
  • Let your adult child initiate phone calls in-between.
  • Write letters and send care packages.
  • Send texts (but don’t blow up your kid’s phone all the time).

Decide what comes next for you in this new phase of life (with more space, time and money — or maybe less money) using some of these life hacks:

  • Date your partner again — invest more time in each other.
  • Spend more one-on-one time with your kids that remain at home.
  • Look at your bucket list (or make one) and start making those things happen.
  • Learn to play an instrument, try a new craft, pick up a new hobby or join a book club.
  • Start a new exercise routine.
  • Redecorate your home.
  • Start a new business.
  • Go back to school.
  • Volunteer in your community doing something you love.

Be patient with yourself as you make this transition with your adult child and family. I cried every time we said good-bye to our daughter during her first year of college. I improved slightly this year. I didn’t cry until I was in the car on our way home.

My youngest child and I are painting his room and he gets a bit more attention these days (probably more than he’d prefer). My husband and I are working through various home and yard improvement projects and enjoying more time together. Our daughter is doing her thing at college and it’s a joy to see her grow, learn and make her own way in the world. Our new family structure is different now, as it should be, and we are learning to navigate the new dynamics through trial and error.

If you are an empty nester, hang in there, work with these life hacks and you’ll find the joy in this next phase of life. There are so many possibilities and that’s part of the excitement. Now you get to walk through life beside your adult child and lift each other up when needed.




May 072013
Staff Blogger Kelli


Let me just say, as a mom my first reaction is NOOOOOOO. However, I know that loses its power the closer to 18 they grow. I decided to do a little research. I turned to my husband and said, “Hey, if we had a military minded child, how would you as a dad, guide him?” The following conversation occurred:

“You’re always right no matter what” came the quick reply. “What? Who is?” I asked confused. “You, the parent” my husband said. “Okay what else?” I ask, totally not getting his first comment. He responds just as quickly, “Do what you say, when you say it and how you say to do it.” Now I’m annoyed. He’s not helping me. So I ask, “Really? What the heck does that even mean?” He looks at me annoyed and says, “You asked me about boot camp, which is instant obedience to orders.“ “How does that help me with this blog?” I demand. “That’s your deal sweetheart.”

So I’m on my own.

We happen to have a child who has expressed the desire to go into the military. In pondering my husband’s seemingly not so helpful response, it actually became illuminating.

Do I set the expectations, hold my children to them and enforce the consequence when our rules are ignored or broken?  Umm, maybe.

Do I have a set schedule, routine and standard of living that we strictly adhere to? Umm, no, no I do not.

Am I concerned about the time when my husband retires and is home to see what REALLY goes on? Yes, yes I am.

So what does this have to do with raising a child who has a desire to serve in the military? Well, it makes me realize that just because they know what cammies, boot bands and military I.D. cards are doesn’t mean they have a real understanding of what it’s like to actually BE an active duty member. Dad got up early, came home late and sometimes was gone for weeks or months at a time. We all know it’s so much more than that.

Visit academies

If you have the opportunity to tour any of the military academies, do so! Especially once your child is in high school and that all important GPA starts growing. We have been to The United States Naval Academy and they give a great briefing and tour. During the summer of students’ junior year, they have a chance to spend a week in Annapolis to get a good idea about what they will be facing. It’s called the summer seminar and they have to apply. If the Navy or Marine Corps isn’t the desire of their little cammie clad heart, then don’t forget about the other service academies.

Use your network

Odds are you have more resources than you realize. If there is a particular job specialty or an aspect of life as an active duty service member you want your child to be aware of, you’re going to know someone who can talk to your child. Exposing your child to a different view of military life will help your child decide if he or she is suited for this lifestyle or perhaps should pursue other interests.

Helping our children understand that adherence to the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have the wiggle room that adherence to mom’s code of conduct may have is a good place to start as well. I don’t remember Marines ever negotiating time out…

Our one son who shows an interest in military service also shows some of the characteristics of a good leader. He is responsible, a self-starter and has a keen eye for detail. He likes order and having expectations laid out and made clear. As a 14-year-old young man, he bucks authority if he thinks it’s ridiculous, he expresses his anger as only a 14-year-old boy can and he thinks he knows more than his commanding officer, me. So if he REALLY wants to pursue the military lifestyle, enlisted or officer, then a few areas come to mind we need to work on.

So far, out of six children, he is the only one to truly express what I consider to be a real interest in following in his dad’s footsteps. So don’t worry that if you dress them in cammies and let them play capture the flag, they are going to run out and join the minute they turn 18. But if you do see the propensity to lean towards military service, it’s our job to educate them and prepare them for life as the one wearing the rank.

Teaching Finances to Kids & Teens

 Posted by on April 5, 2013 at 16:00
Apr 052013
Staff Blogger Kelli


Taxes, interest rates, credit cards, annual percentage rates and so forth. Finance is not a language I like to speak, unless it’s the cha-ching of a register and I’m walking away with a new pair of shoes. I wish I had more financial education before I ran off with my young and financially naïve husband, but I am happy to report that our children have made better financial decisions earlier in their lives than we did. I’d like to say it was because of my brilliant parenting, but that might be a hard sell.

It is usually my oldest son who starts getting anxiety at the register before I do. Expressions like “Mom, seriously, I don’t need that” come out of his mouth, even though he’s never gone as far as taking something out of the basket! My girls—well, one married a smart young man who happens to be a financial analyst and we can only hope my other daughter marries as well when it comes to financial savvy.

With the other three boys, I have my work cut out for me. I need to step up my game…again. Just because I’ve attempted to instill some understanding of money, credit and the pitfalls of “buy now, pay later” doesn’t mean that any of it stuck! In my attempt to educate my younger children, I’m dusting off my tips and tricks on how to help our children prepare for life beyond my purse and their dad’s wallet.

Allowance – Do you or don’t you? When I could keep it up, an allowance was fabulous. Chores, household help and service to others were never tied to the allowance. I wanted a clear separation between the money and duty to family. However, I charged them for misuse of household resources, like when the girls left a giant six-dollar bag of cheese out overnight. I estimated my replacement cost and they split the fine.

Also, I no longer purchased items for them. They received a portion of our monthly budget and were expected to tithe, save and purchase personal items. I bought initial school supplies, but when they couldn’t keep up with their red pens, the bank of Mama didn’t open its teller window. They had to replace lost, broken or stolen items from their allowance.

Pro – Suddenly the lesson of need versus want was being taught in a whole new way. The light of a financial dawn began to glow in their beady little, I mean beautiful little eyes. I noticed a shift in the care and keeping of their belongings.

Con – I’m a sucker, a sap and a proverbial pushover. I love to dress my children, like life-sized Barbie dolls, so I usually slipped a little money their way when we were out shopping and I wanted to see them in a pair of jeans with no holes in the knees or seat. Call me crazy; I live dangerously!

Con – I would forget I had given them their allowance, buy their stuff and then realize I was supposed to be creating a financial learning moment for them. Have you ever shopped at a giant box store with six kids? Don’t judge me too harshly.  From an early age they learned how to work as a team and gain the advantage.

Credit – Not to be confused with CREDIT CARDS. Teaching teens about credit and how to make it work for them is important. Your financial institution probably has some great online tools and even prepaid credit cards to help them learn how to use credit in a protected environment. Some even begin to help them build their credit history.

Pro – This world revolves around credit…pardon the pun. Learning hard lessons with little risk when it comes to annual percentage rates or paying triple the cost of an item is invaluable.

Con – As a parent you MUST be willing to fork over the green backs for prepaid cards, cosign if necessary and take on the risk to your own credit history. And you must be willing to hold them accountable! It’s good to be the bad guy when it could save your child from bankruptcy and other financial pitfalls later in life.

Not ready for the credit card or the risk? Make your own credit account for your teen. Set the limit; charge them interest, late fees and overdraft fees; and then REPOSESS whatever they bought as forfeiture for non-payment. It’s better to lose that new phone at 16 than a house at 30.

Talk openly about your finances – Family meetings, explanations of debt and the cost of living are not things kids should be shielded from. The greatest impression is made by what they see us, their parents, do for good or bad. Do they see us saving, making do with what we have and taking care of our things? Or do they see us being disposable-minded, buying and throwing away money in the form of “stuff”?

Sitting down and reviewing a family budget, financial goals and necessary purchases may not have the mind-altering effect on our children we’d like. The checkout lane battles and the “I gotta have new this or that” won’t go away. Eventually though, those lessons will begin to take hold.

Pro – Kids begin to develop an idea of what it takes to financially support a household. Some of mine have even said, “That’s okay mom; I can wait a little while longer for new shoes.”

Con – Your kids KNOW YOUR BUSINESS! For some families that just won’t work, especially if your little darlings like to talk about your business. Might I suggest a lesson on the “loose lips sink ships” theory at the same time as the family budget? We explain that our finances are private and not to be shared outside our home. Don’t assume they know the difference between private and secret either. Secrets are almost always shared. Demystify the word private and it almost always takes care of that secret burning a hole in their pocket.  The extent of what you want to share with your kids is as individual as each of our families. There is no right or wrong way.

How you decide to teach your children about finances is personal. Just remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, and kids aren’t either.

When Kids Come Back Home

 Posted by on June 27, 2012 at 08:00
Jun 272012

When Kids Come Back Home

Staff Blogger Kelli


Not too long ago I wrote about kids leaving home. In the face of many moves, my children were my constant and uninterrupted relationships. They were my little buddies and we had movie nights, dance parties, and endured deployments together. It was hard as they began leaving home. Now I have one returning from school for a few months.

I prepared myself and my son. I said, “Son, you are going to be very unhappy when you come home.” I was expecting him to look at me with his beautiful eyes and flash me that drop dead melt-my-heart smile and ask me incredulously, “But why mother? I have the best family in the world!”

Instead he sighed heavily, hung his head with such an air of sadness that it made me instantly depressed and said, “Yeah mom, I totally know.” Oh gosh. Not what I really wanted to hear.

Now this particular child was pretty up front and honest about the hours he kept. He stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, slept until late the next day, ate lots of pizza and subway, and from what I saw, had a unique way of keeping his clothes in his dorm room. It seemed to be more of a pile, stack, and stuff system than any attempt at using hangars and drawers.

I brought him and his roommate home. The six hour drive back was entertaining to say the least. One conversation went something like this:

Kelli: “So I thought you slept through breakfast?”

Boys: “No we ate breakfast, it started at 0700.”

Kelli: “You got up and ate breakfast at 0700?” Imagine me saying this with awe.

Boys: “We didn’t say we got up. We were already up and it was almost seven so we decided to go eat breakfast before we went to bed.”

Adjusting him back to family life was going to be more painful than I originally thought.

The reality is our young adult children, who are morphing from man cub to a man before our very eyes (or giggly girl to sassy young woman), need to be parented differently than when they were 10, 15, or finishing up their last year in high school.

It’s even harder when you still have younger children at home. I used to wave my hand and make kingdom wide declarations to the subjects and they all knew it applied to each and every one of them. Now I have to remember he has things going on outside our kingdom I’m neither in charge of (woohoo) nor a part of (boohoo).

Our transitioning children want to be treated like adults, spoken to like adults, and allowed to run their own life. To a certain point I respect that, but there must be a compromise. It’s part of being respectful to those you live with.

I do have to say, my son has been trying really hard. He’s been home less than a week and we are giving him the week to unwind and adjust to being home. Trying not to put too many demands on him, but easing him back into the dictatorship that must exists in the walls of our home. I mean the loving parenting boundaries we provide…

Today we had a skirmish. He had an 8:30 am eye doctor’s appointment. It was an unpleasant experience waking him up… several times.

But then there are beautiful moments that rarely happened before he left home. He was getting ready to go to his lacrosse practice and before he left he asked what I needed him to do. I told him what I had the other kids doing and he willingly filled in the gaps, which involved the kitchen and den. He’s a good kid, just not when you’re trying to wake him up.

I have a few tips, but expect to be brimming with fabulous advice when he leaves again. So until then here is what I’ve done:

  • Acknowledged it was going to be an adjustment for him coming home after having been completely accountable only to himself since August.
  • Told him I was really going to try and respect the fact he was 19 and not 9, but he needed to be patient with me.
  • Reinforced that the rules at home were no different and we would not stay up all night waiting for him to come home. He would have to save those shenanigans for school.
  • Reminded him daily how much we love him, how much we missed him, and that he was my best friend.

He just read the last bullet and said “I am NOT YOUR BEST FRIEND, that’s a little creepy, and you need to get out more.” So some things seem to be working and others not so much.

What I do see is the consistent parenting we provided early on is blessing our relationship now. He called after lacrosse practice yesterday asking where I wanted him. I was at a baseball field with two of the boys, his dad was still on his way home from work, his littlest brother was at lacrosse practice at another field, and his sister was at a third location at her lacrosse practice.

I was somewhat overextended and so touched he called me to check in. I hadn’t told him to do that. I told him where everyone was and asked what he wanted to do. He said he would go to his youngest brother’s practice and bring him home. It was exactly what I needed him to do.

And so the summer begins, the honeymoon will wear off, and there will most likely be deep sighs with someone counting to ten.

I would love to hear from others who have experienced an adult child reintegrating back into the family. I have wonderful kids and for the most part a great relationship with them, but there is always room for improvement!

Teaching Kids Financial Responsibility

 Posted by on May 14, 2012 at 08:00
May 142012

Teaching Kids Financial Responsibility

Staff Blogger Kelli


I must look like an ATM machine. Somewhere along the way we became the Bank of Mom and Dad. To make matters worse, I unwittingly created this perception. I usually worked out “payment” arrangements with them to support their extra-curricular activities with extra chores, responsibilities, or volunteer activities.

In some ways I may have done them a disservice by not encouraging after-school jobs. However, I’m not ready to send them all into the work force at once, not yet anyway. So how do we teach them the value of money before we let them go get that minimum wage job? And is it a good idea for us to let our teens work when they have so much expected of them academically?

In order to begin teaching the value of money to my children who were not old enough to work outside the home I developed a plan with some other moms.

The Toaster Treat Revolution

The grazing would begin on my arrival from the commissary. Within twenty-four hours, toaster treats, cereal, and any other “fun” convenience food would be gone. I couldn’t even figure out who was devouring these particular items, but I knew there was more than one child involved. I announced I would never again purchase toaster treats and I was true to my word until one day… I was talking with some other mom’s lamenting the fact my children ate all our food and had zero understanding of money. From that discussion we developed the following system, and it worked!

I began giving allowance and charging for snacks. Fruit and vegetables were free and all you could eat, but toaster treats… They were fifty cents for one wrapped package containing two. There were other items that were a nickel or a dime, but I knew my real money maker was the toaster treat.

The most amazing thing happened. No. My children did not start eating more fruit. This free capital bartering system developed. A few of the phrases we began overhearing were

  • “I’ll do your chore for a quarter and split a toaster treat with you…”
  •  “Hey can you loan me twenty-five cents? I’ll pay you back when I get my allowance.”
  •  “Do you have any money left? I’m STARVING!” (this annoyed me in particular)

Then the inevitable happened. Someone didn’t hold up their end of the deal. We held family court. I was the judge and they each presented their case. Then the fines were levied. Yes…there were fines; all went back into the snack fund to buy more toaster treats.

Another result of requiring them to “pay up” was a growing understanding of the cost of irresponsibility. The girls left a bag of cheese out all night. At the time it was around five dollars to replace the shredded cheese. I collected two dollars and fifty cents from each daughter to replace the cheese they wasted.

I unfortunately did not keep it up as long as I would have liked. I’ve discovered I need to revisit this system for my younger children’s financial education.

What about the older kids? The ones who want to get a job. Should we let our teens get jobs when they already have so much pressure on them to make a certain GPA, get scholarships, graduate in four years from a good, no great, college, and say no to sex, drugs, and rock and roll? (I totally support rock and roll by the way.)

I never encouraged my teens to get a job before, but now see the value in letting them at least try. When kids have to pull money out of their own wallets and piggy banks, they have a greater appreciation for their purchase. They also think through those purchases more when it is their money, not mine, they are spending.

I’ve watched some teens do a great job managing school, work, and extra- curricular activities. Others end up burning the candle at both ends and are exhausted. Those less organized teens may end up learning a valuable lesson. Could be just the wake-up call they need, albeit a potentially uncomfortable one.

If they want to try, I say let them! I would much rather have my kids learn some difficult lessons while still at home then when they are off on their own in college, or worse, trying to support  their own family. If they overstretch and take on too much while they are still in high school, we as parents are their safety net. If they succeed and manage it all, then it’s a glimpse at what it takes to find a good work-life balance and that is a good thing!

With summer approaching now is a great time to let those adorable offspring test the employment waters. Be ready though. They will need some guidance when the honeymoon of the first pay check wears off and they realize how quickly it left their hands and how hard they had to work for it.

And if things go really bad, be ready with a listening ear, a warm hug, and ice-cream. Life always works out better with ice-cream.

Road to Retirement: When Kids Leave

 Posted by on December 20, 2011 at 15:00
Dec 202011

Road to Retirement: When Kids Leave


When I married my husband, we left my family home only two or three days after the wedding. I would like to say it was an easy transition with rainbows and butterflies accompanying our journey, but it wasn’t. We loaded up my blue 1975 Toyota Celica hatchback with all our wedding gifts. Sandwiched into the front bucket passenger seat, I waved goodbye to my family as we drove off in the gray, early morning light.  Our destination was Camp Pendleton, California where we had a one bedroom apartment in the town of Oceanside waiting our arrival. The day we arrived, my husband’s leave was over.  I looked around a small empty apartment in southern California where I knew only the man whose last name was now on my military ID card.  Then he left me and went to work.

I share this story of our beginning as a military couple because, looking back, it was much easier than what I am now facing. I am the one waving goodbye as my children, one by one, begin their journeys out of our home. It seems a little weird all of a sudden going in reverse.  As each child joined our family, we simply added another dresser to a bedroom and a plate at the table. I never fully appreciated the impact their growing up and leaving would have on my family. I never fully appreciated the impact my leaving home must have had on my own parents. I knew they missed us. I certainly missed them, but life was quickly becoming hectic and that has never really let up, leaving little time to really reflect.

When thinking about this time of shoving – I mean helping – our offspring out of our nest, I always pictured us retired in a civilian community, homesteading somewhere in Texas on about 10, 50, or maybe 100 acres. I saw a big house with a barn, some four wheelers, a horse or two, and plenty of room for 4H projects as well as room for grandkids and the garden club to come for lunch. Yes, I fantasized about being one of the Ewings on the popular television series Dallas. I still do. I maintain it could happen.

My kids aren’t waiting for that to happen. They have the audacity to grow up anyway in spite of my plans, go to college, get married, and have babies! I’m not in position yet for this transition, people!  No one is listening!

They are moving forward in their lives just like they should, only it’s not like I pictured. The hardest part, you wonder? Being apart from my grandbabies. THEY NEED ME! How did my mother survive living so far away from what she must have thought were the most perfect human beings on the planet, her grandchildren?

As a military family, every time we said good bye and moved to a new area, we did it all together as a unit. We loaded up and left. “The Grandparents” were always in the same place too. When we referred to “home” it was always their house we referred to. They were our hub and we were tethered there no matter where we went.

I always thought by the time my children started making their own way into the world and I was granted the title “The Grandmother,”  I would be stationary somewhere. We would become the family hub. The kids would all go out on their own, with their own individual tethers, but not too far away.

I am now the Grandmother and I have no hub! I am still living according to PCS orders and the Marine Corps. I need my hub. What is going to happen to their tethers?

Having them leave ME is much harder than when I left my parents and is in some ways harder than when they joined my family. It was easy to be the one to leave. It’s really not easy to be the one left.

Making room for a baby was exhausting yes, but joyous. I don’t remember it being all that traumatic. The fabric of our family stretched and everyone fit. Now when one leaves, there is this gaping, sagging hole in our family fabric. I don’t want to pull it together either. However, I have to figure out whose turn it is to do the dishes and I’m desperately trying to keep my name off the rotation schedule.

My husband and I miss them of course, but I am sometimes caught off guard by how much the other kids miss them. Now I have to worry about my heartstring and theirs.  There are other things too.  I can’t take them lunch if they forget it, or pick up a surprise candy bar if they’ve had a rough day. What if their car breaks down? What if they don’t get home by nine?! Okay, some things are ridiculous. I know that, maybe…

In defense of my insanity I want to point out something about military spouses. For years we manage, care for, secure, nurture, and are responsible for all things family. Handling and carrying, quite well most of the time, the burdens placed squarely on our shoulders due to our spouse’s military service.

There is no magic release from worry and concern over a child just because he or she has now completed a thirty minute graduation or wedding ceremony. You don’t just turn off the switch that easily.  They are still yours and the letting go is not as instantaneous as the taking hold was the day they were placed in your arms.

I only have two gone so far. One calls every day and the other… I have to call his resident advisor on occasion to make sure he is alive. The only reason I’m not curled up in a dark room under my quilt in the fetal position as they grow up and fly away is I have so many. I am exhausted and don’t have the luxury of really getting into my self- pity and wallowing around like I want to. In fact, as I try to write this I have settled no less than five disagreements and two physical skirmishes. I’ve signed two school agendas and threatened quite eloquently what might occur if they don’t give me a few minutes to wrap up work.

The craziest part some might say is really the greatest part. I wouldn’t trade one obnoxious, laundry filled minute for all the easy moments in the world. I will even face the horrific goodbyes as I have always done… with a smile, a good movie, and an Excedrin P.M.

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.