More Questions Than Answers

“Do you like this one?” I hold up a t-shirt with a pug sitting on a couch surrounded by chips, soda, and a game console that says ‘Couch Pugtato.’ We’re in the boys’ department at Kohl’s, the last stop for the day on our back to school shopping expedition.

“I need that,” he says.

Of course he does. My firstborn son is eleven years old and loves pugs, screaming goats, blue hair, Fortnite, and Mountain Dew. If it’s irreverent, asinine, sugary, or all of the above, he’s all in. He’s a few weeks away from starting the sixth grade.

I hold up medium and a large sized t-shirts to his slim frame. Soon he’ll be as tall as me, which isn’t much of a feat as I’m a whopping five feet and three quarter inches tall, but it will be astounding nonetheless considering I once held him in one hand under my arm like a football.

The medium looks plenty big. As we walk to the front of the store to pay for the t-shirt, an unsolicited question floats through my mind.

Is it okay to wear a pug t-shirt to middle school?

Every year around this time, I field a lot of familiar questions.

Can I get a camouflage lunchbox? Can I get the binder with sharks on it? Can I get the bike helmet that looks like a watermelon? Can I get an iPhone? Can I be a Fortnite character for the Halloween Parade?

The answers come easy. Yes. Sure. I suppose. No. Of course.

From bottle flipping to flossing, I know what’s hot and what’s not in elementary school. But, as my soon-to-be 6th grader scans the store shelves filled with backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, pencil cases, and notebooks, I realize the only thing I know for sure about middle school is that I don’t know anything at all.

My tween son is perfectly ridiculous and ridiculously perfect, but will middle school eat him up (like me) or chew him up and spit him out?

You do you. I repeat this mantra often. It is how I’m tackling my forties and raising my boys. If I’ve learned anything over the last decade as a mom, it’s that every mistake I’ve made and regret I’ve had has been a consequence of unrealistic expectations. My kids are mine to guide but not goad. My job isn’t to make them who I want them to be. Rather, it’s to help them figure out who they are.

In the long run my ‘Couch Pugtato’ connoisseur will find his way and I’ll find mine. In the meantime, I’m leaning into the discomfort of having more questions than answers, which, I suppose, is what middle school is all about. Thankfully, there’s at least one question I can answer.

“Can I get Snapchat?” my son asks in the car on the way home.

“Absolutely not,” I say with all the confidence in the world.

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Puppy Rules

I’m in the process of raising my third puppy. As such, I know some things. I’m not here to tell you it’s hard but worth it (it is) or that your kids will step up to the responsibility (they won’t). I simply want to share a few rules that might help you navigate the early days of welcoming a puppy into your home.

Never wake a sleeping puppy.

There’s nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby which is why FOR THE LOVE YOU NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY. For Pete’s sake, Mama needs a shower and has feeds to scroll important things to do. The same goes for a puppy. I assure you, their snoozing sweetness does not disappoint.

Be a Grinch.

Don’t be fooled by tear-jerking videos of kids opening wrapped boxes of squishy, face-licking puppies on Christmas morning. Do you want to take a puppy outside to pee and poop when it’s eleventy billion degrees below zero? The great outdoors is where you spend oodles of time with a puppy. Be smart and do it during sandal season.

You will ask yourself, Whose poop is this?

No matter how careful you are about crating your puppy and gating off areas where he’s not allowed, you will inevitably discover a pile of poop under the coffee table in the living room. It will stink, literally and figuratively, but more troubling than said pile of poop will be your trepidation about to whom the poop belongs. Never mind that of course it was the puppy! You will still ask yourself, Whose poop is this? You will turn into Angela Lansbury in an episode of “Murder, She Wrote” solving the mystery of who pooped under the coffee table in the living room. Stay calm. The hysteria will pass. It. was. the. puppy.

Watch your step.

Puppies poop a lot. Like, five-times-before-lunch a lot. Like, the-number-of-times-your-kid-asks-for-a-snack-right-before-dinner a lot. Like, the-number-of-times-your-kid-says-I’m-bored-during-summer-vacation a lot. Stay on top of that crap or else.

Say yes to two.

Who the heck needs two times the poop, mess, and money? Don’t answer that, and don’t follow this advice if you have an older dog who would be exasperated by the manic energy and antics of a puppy. But, if you have a young dog, say YES because your older dog will teach the puppy everything he needs to know and they will be inseparable and you can binge watch “The Good Fight” while they chase each other’s tails. They will also sleep together and cause you to swoon from the cuteness. Just don’t wake them up trying to capture the moment because that’s against the rules and Mama has pictures to post important things to do.

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