moms of teens

The Eleven O’Clock Dad grabbed Goose a minute ago, and they went to get haircuts and pick me up some of my favorite Greek yogurt.  Miss Lavender and Miss Zinnia took off for the library maybe an hour ago.  I am alone in my flat, a rare occurrence and an excuse to break out some of the chocolate I have “hidden” in my closet.  (The quotation marks indicate my certain knowledge that everyone knows where my stash is.)  I confess I am rather comfy at the moment in a long-sleeved Volcom pullover that once belonged to El Surfeador and a well-worn pair of men’s pajama bottoms.  I have cranked the heater–a strange-looking contraption of European origin that pumps out the most fabulously warm air–and no one can tell me, “It’s not even cold!” because they’re not here to say it.  The sun is out, but the weather’s been a big tease lately, messing with whoever gets cheeky enough to start believing it’s actually spring.

I spent an hour or so blog-hopping just now–something you might be surprised to hear I don’t do a whole lot of.  It’s Miss Lavender who’ll sometimes tell me, “Mom!  I found a blogger with older kids!”–as if such a discovery ought to be front page news.  The Mom Blogosphere is an interesting place, don’t you think?  Lots and lots of moms talking about their young ones.  Fewer of us talking about our older ones.

Really:  why do you think that is??  And does any serious discussion of that question pretend to happen without a) men’s pajamas in the mix, and b) chocolate as well?  (I particularly like the German brand that makes Milch & Schokolade, with a yogurt ganache in the center.  Yes indeed.)

Stay tuned for the afternoon session of these musings.

 

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Last spring, I packed up a few colorful outfits, some not-so-sensible shoes, grabbed my laptop, got on a plane, and flew to Miami, where the Mom 2.0 Conference, at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, was happening. I had decided I wanted to start blogging, and I knew nothing at all about how one went about it. I’d done plenty of writing. But blogging?

What I did know was that I wanted to reach out to moms of teens. That demographic, I felt, was underrepresented in the blogosphere, probably because we were all busy assembling meals for tweens and teens whose staggered schedules meant that the kitchen stayed open around the clock. Or we were helping with homework until 2 am. Or running this child or that one or all of them to/from ballet or voice lessons or track practice or a study group or a friend’s pool party or an orthodontic appointment or an MUN (Model United Nations) conference, etcetera, ad infinitum. Moms of kids in the (roughly) eleven to eighteen range, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I mean, how would any of us have time to blog, of all things?

Nevertheless, I checked in at the conference, and so began an interesting weekend, where mom bloggers of all stripes, authors, speakers, marketers, advertisers, media groups, and purveyors of very nice swag came together for morning plenary sessions, panel discussions, Q & A’s, lunches, a highly anticipated Twitter event, a reception at the Versace Mansion (skipped it, too tired), and on it went. Lots and lots to collide with, take notes on, process. Lots of networking to do, which is tricky if you have no business cards. Gals were handing them out like they were candy, and believe me, some serious thought had gone into the design of those cards.  As I was cardless, my line was, “I’m just starting out,” a confession which prompted one or two magnanimous smiles from women who were no doubt writing me off.

And there was plenty of “Reach out to me” talk going on.  One woman, a well-heeled rep for Macy’s, herself the mother of a teenage daughter, was telling me about her weekend in the Carribean with Rachel Roy and Martha Stewart. “Reach out to me,” she said coolly, passing me her card, and I was thinking to myself, “Mm, you probably don’t drive a Suburban that smells like the family’s last camping trip, do you?” But I smiled blithely, thanking her for her little compliment about my chevron-patterned knit skirt, which I’d picked up at a consignment store a few days earlier.  I doubted she frequented consignment stores.

On the one hand, I thought, what is all this?  On the other hand, I thought, why not?  Why not reach out, connect, build communities?  But I wasn’t sure my voice was sufficiently tuned, and that seemed to be the key feature of the blogs I resonated to–a strong sense of voice.  At the end of the weekend, I collected my things, got back on a plane, and flew back to Orange County, California, where the family waited to see how it had gone.  “It was cool,” I told them.  “Very interesting.”  Which it was.

And that was that.  Summer came.  The extended family met in Budapest to start a European river cruise, a gift from my parents.  My son was getting ready to embark on his own grand, two-year adventure, and I probably wrote five blog posts between May and September.

Then we moved. Out of the country. And I dusted off what I could recall from Mom 2.0 and started thinking again about blogging for real, about trying to connect moms of older kids, whose work is more fraught and rewarding and complex and gratifying (shall I go on?) than anyone can imagine. “We’ve got to be talking,” I thought, and realized I really wanted to try to kick start that conversation.

To that end, I thought I’d share my take aways from the conference. First, if there was one thing that became clear to me, it was that mom bloggers have reach. They have bandwidth.  I figured that out the second I visited momitforward, for example, one of the really amazing blogs referenced in a panel session I attended.  Up to that point, I had no idea that women could mobilize like that!–taking up themes important to moms of all kinds, creating communities, and making great things happen.  Second, while the business of connecting with your tribe through your blogging efforts takes the kind of boundless persistence I would have thought only Olympic athletes or candidates for political office were capable of, even small steps forward invite good things.  I talked to all kinds of other bloggers who were steadily building their communities and having a great time doing it.  Third, if you focus on content that matters deeply to you, eventually you’ll find traction.  Over and over I heard this, and now I guess I’m challenging us all to prove the idea solid.

Finally, I thought I’d share a story that continues to inspire me.  One of the panelists that weekend was Lee Rhodes, of glassybaby.  A lung cancer survivor, she wrestled to get her company going in spite of the fact that naysayers popped up everywhere.  Wasn’t going to work, everyone told her.  No one would ever want to pay a premium for handblown glass votives.  But the light of candles had always kept her going during the dark days of her illness, and she felt so sure of her uniquely artisanal product and its mission that she pushed forward.  Take a look at what glassybaby is doing today, in spite of the fact that when the company was still just an idea, no one thought it could work.  Her message to everyone at Mom 2.0 was that all kinds of “you-can’t-do-it” folks will show up right when you’re ready to start something new and noteworthy.  They’ll tell you why it’s a bad idea.  They’ll tell you not to waste your time.  Do it anyway, was Rhodes’ message, because you might be about to connect with your right life.

For me, that was the big take away from Mom 2.0.  Whatever your own (or anyone else’s) hesitations about your blogging efforts and mission, do it anyway.  Because plenty of people are listening.

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So I decided I’m going to blog. About blogging. About my teenagers. A meta blog! So postmodern, isn’t it? So early two thousands. So bourgeois.

So self-important.

Oh well. Regardless, I’m going to cast myself as the mom who conquered the blogosphere by blogging about it. A blog within a blog! Kind of like Inception, except not about wildly cool dreams imbedded in deeper, equally cool dreams. And not about Leonardo DiCaprio. And without the mindblowing special effects. And also without the surreal box office success. I know, bad comparison. Okay, better one: blogging is like driving an ice cream truck. You wind around and around the same neighborhoods, day in, day out, your quirky little tune getting lost on the breeze, and you’re lucky if two people stop you for one of the treats you’re peddling. But hey, at least if you talk about the journey, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re getting decent gas mileage.

Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. First, to what I’ll call the L1B, or Layer One Blog. The inspiration came to me one day after I’d seen some disturbing stuff here and there on the web, written by (understandably) hysterical moms of teens. According to these women, their kids were completely out of control: on drugs, having sex, disrespecting their families and themselves and God and thus–like rogue tornadoes–generally cutting wide swaths of the acutest misery through the lives of everyone connected with them. Geez, I thought. Is this all that’s out there? Is no one saying a single positive thing about these not-yet-adults? Granted, teenagehood is tricky, everyone acknowledges that. Those of us who survived our own teenage years still tend to stutter when rehearsing the tales. (Say “still tend to stutter” four times, fast, while imagining yourself as a twitchy high school sophomore whose lips keep snagging on a mouth laced with orthodontic chicken wire.)

Anyway, I decided it was the tone of the web chatter that puzzled me most. So full of contempt. I’d grant them fear, these mom bloggers. Anyone could see why they would be afraid, given the stories I was seeing. I’d even grant them anger, considering some of the shocking things their teens had said and done. But I could not grant them contempt. Which got me thinking: was anyone talking about their teens with (semi) equal parts concern and affection? Or humor?? Was anyone talking about the strange extent to which our teenagers’ fitness for stirring us up may be directly proportional to their wonderful complexity? I mean, they’re interesting, these teens! And yeah, exasperating, here and there. And sometimes frightening. (I’ll grant myself that.) But darn it if every one of them isn’t thoroughly unique, a fact that requires us to put aside our own parental prejudices long enough to suspend judgment, thereby qualifying us to see the beautiful snowflake patterns, as it were, before adulthood tries to dissolve them.

You see, I wanted to talk about the complicated but brilliant business of raising teens. Why? Because my kids bump up the color of my world, all the time. When one of them starts deleriously riffing on something that happened at school–like, say, falling asleep in AP biology and hearing later that the entire class thrust their collective chins toward their drooling classmate when the teacher asked whether she was present–man, I LOVE those stories! I love that drooling, sleeping girl who studies her brains out! Or when one of them receives a special award for having started a service club on campus, an effort that involved making tray favors for hospitalized children, sending donated goods to troops in Afghanistan, and raising money for prostate cancer (I’m not sure why it wasn’t breast cancer, but still), I’m convinced that the applause could never possibly be loud enough. I love that tall, blue-eyed, tray favor-making Fundraiser!

So essentially, my blog was going to be me, in my ice cream truck, blasting my little song about the sangfroid of my teenage offspring. And I am blasting away. I am now Eleven O’Clock Mom. I live at http://www.elevenoclockmom.com. Go to my home page if you don’t believe me.

On to my L2B, then. (Layer Two Blog, if you’re wondering.) This is where I dive deeper, to blog about my blog. In short, this is where I chronicle my life as a mom-of-teens blogger. So far, I’ve learned two things. One, if I take myself too seriously, it will potentially hurt my ice cream sales. Second, if people discover that I don’t look like a top-tier blogger (Samantha Ettus comes to mind), it will hurt my ice cream sales. Thus, I will have to learn not to care what anyone thinks about my middle-agedness and also not to eschew the use of photo-altering technology to conceal the fact that I haven’t had a lip wax since 2011.

Stay tuned for more L2B-ing. In my next post, I plan to talk about why trawling the web in search of other successful mom bloggers in order to tease out their secrets makes you want to crawl headfirst into a pre-heated oven. Stay tuned as well for more of my L1B, where the real substance is. (Because it’s where the kids are.)

Ciao!

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