Author Archives: Suzanne Kosmerl

About Suzanne Kosmerl

I have two boys and a husband. I love J.D. Salinger, Godzilla, punk and '70s soft rock. Deal with it.

What the hell, World?

Has it always been this crazy?

The presidential election. (Sigh. This election.) Terrorists. Mass murder. Hate. Racism. Every other ism. Allowing ourselves to be pitched against one another. It’s madness.

My motherly instincts want me to hide my kids away, shield them from the absolute insanity going on in our world today.

But. They have to live in this world. And hopefully make it better when it’s their turn. So don’t they need to know it. All of it? Even the bad stuff?

It’s enough to drive a mom mad.

And yes, I do think it’s always been this crazy. We just didn’t know it. We didn’t always have social media, where we can literally watch things unfold in real time.

We didn’t have the news in our Facebook feed showing us every missing child, every murder, every abuse case from every small town in America. (Seriously, how do I turn that off?)

We didn’t have live tweeting from the scene. Giving us a perspective we’ve never had before. (And if you’re like me, you find out about things happening from Twitter.)

In the old days, if you skipped the 11 o’clock news and didn’t read the newspaper you were blissfully ignorant. (As long as you could dodge Gladys from down the street.)

Now, it’s everywhere. It’s difficult to ignore because social media and all things online are ingrained into our every day lives. It’s hard to escape, even if you wanted to.

I do love social media. I must, I do it for a living. I love keeping up with family and friends far away. I love seeing their pictures, hearing their stories. I love getting to know people from all over the world in a way that I could not have before.

But with the good comes the bad.

I also get to see the world as it is. Warts and all. And I get drawn in. Refreshing that feed too often. Checking the phone one too many times. And you know what? It makes me unhappy. (At least sometimes. I still love a good puppy pic.)

All the more reason to unplug regularly. (Or go off the grid altogether if that’s your thing.) I want to set a good example for my kids. I do think that, within reason, they should know what’s going on in the world. But they also need to learn moderation. And that constant exposure to social media and the insanity that comes with it is not healthy.

Earlier today as I sat in front of my screen working, my younger son waited patiently for me to read to him. I’ll tell you what, watching him giggle over a baby firefly being called a pupa was the most awesome thing that happened to me today. I’m glad he reminded me to unplug.

The best thing we can do is put our devices down and spend quality time with our kids. Raise them to be good human beings. As Whitney says, they are our future. Maybe if we raise them right this world will have a chance. I know I’m going to try harder.

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People can be mean

I called a little boy at the playground “nasty.”

It was not my finest parenting moment. In fact, it was a missed teaching moment. But he made my son cry and I lost it.

If you knew my youngest son you might understand. At five, he’s the sweetest, most friendly, outgoing, easy-going kid.

He just wants to play. He’s never mean. (Unless it’s to his older brother, but he usually deserves it.) In fact, when has encountered mean kids he’d get a confused look, like he just didn’t get it. And why should he?

He’s the kid who runs on the playground to join a group of kids he doesn’t know without reservation. (And being his shy, introverted mom, I’m always awed and thrilled by this.) He’s also the one who, when he sees a kid playing by himself, will invite him to join whatever he’s doing. He says hello to everyone he passes and never turns down a chance at a conversation, with kids or adults.

So, we were at the playground alone and he was doing his thing. A group of kids around his age showed up. He immediately tried to play with them. He ran over and tried to engage. It was pretty obvious from my view that they blew him off. But he’s easy going, so he went back to his thing. A little later, he tried again. No success.  But again, he just went back to playing alone. No biggie.

Then, they all descended on the play equipment that he was on. He was sitting at the top of the little slide, and a girl was trying to climb up it. He wouldn’t move. (He can also be pretty stubborn.) She started yelling for her mom, and eventually he moved aside so she could pass. A minute later, he’s standing there, head hanging down not saying a word, and this blond boy a good two inches shorter than him obviously just laying into him. I couldn’t hear what was being said, so I inched closer.

“You aren’t my friend!”

“You can’t play with us!”

“We are all friends, and you’re not!”

I asked what was going on. The boy said my son tried to hit him. “No,” I said, “I saw him and he didn’t.”

“He was going to hit my sister.”  “No, I said again, “I saw the whole thing, and he wasn’t.”

“Well, he was mean to me.”

At this point, I looked at my son. He looked pitiful. Big fat tears slid down his cheeks. Snot ran out of his nose and puddled on his upper lip.

This is where I went wrong.

Instead of walking away, or finding the mom (who was in a gaggle of ladies not paying any attention), or saying something more adult-like, I turned into a petulant child. I said, “Well, you are not nice. He was just trying to play with you and you were mean to him. You are a nasty little boy.”

The boy tried to argue back, and I again said, “You are not being nice.”

And then, I took my boy by the hand and we walked away.

I told him that sometimes people just aren’t nice and we shouldn’t let it ruin our fun time. Even though he was crying and asked to leave—and my heart was breaking—I took him on the swings and eventually got him to smile again. But his heart wasn’t in it, so we left soon after.

I forced myself to be pleasant all the way home and talk about how fun the playground was, and what we’ll do the next time we go, because I didn’t want him to focus on the negative. But my blood was boiling and, worse, I knew I blew it.

So, yeah, it was not my finest moment. And an opportunity to teach my son to be the bigger person was lost. But, damn, when I saw those tears and that wounded face…I just couldn’t.

Look up and smell the roses

We recently took the boys on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Universal Studios. I feel truly blessed to be able to do this for our kids. When I think about the memories we are making, and how they will look back fondly on these fun times, it makes me so happy.

But there was one aspect of the trip that just made me sad: So many people staring at their phones.

Granted, when you go to a major theme park on a holiday weekend there is lots of waiting. It can be tedious and frustrating. My patience was tried a few times, the boys got bored, and a few times we had to remind ourselves to just breathe and enjoy it.

But the number of people staring down at screens really struck me.  It was just sad.

During a 45 minute wait to get into Hogwarts, a group of young girls in front of us spent the entire time each engrossed in their own screen. Occasionally, one of them would show something to another, they’d laugh, and go back to their own phone. There was no conversation. No excited chatter about the upcoming ride, no talk about boys, or school or what they had done the previous day. (Unless, of course, they were texting each other.) I was astonished, and even my son mentioned it.

In another line, there was a very young girl with her mom. Her mom was on Facebook pretty much the entire wait. The girl had her own phone, but she tried to talk to her mom a couple times without success. So she kept opening and closing apps, not really doing anything on the phone, but staring at it nonetheless. I think that made me saddest. She seemed to be either mimicking what she was seeing around her and wanting to fit in, or she was resigned to the fact that her mom wasn’t engaging and was just bored. What a wasted opportunity!

(And no, I wasn’t being nosy. When you are stuck in close proximity to someone it’s very easy to see with a glance what they are looking at on their phone.)

Those are just two examples of what I saw over and over again.

We really are having a zombie apocalypse, but instead of some mystery virus, it’s our smartphones that have turned our brains to mush. Did I mention how many times we ran into or had to walk around someone because they were doing the zombie shuffle, or stopped in the middle of the path to look at their phone? Maddening.

I’m not perfect. I wasn’t always 100% engaged with the kids. Yes, I pulled out my phone to text my husband who had the younger one on the other side of the park. Or to take a quick picture and post it to Facebook. And frankly, there were times during our waits that I wanted to sleep. (Sleeping in the same hotel bed with a four-year-old? That’s for another post.) Or I didn’t really feel like engaging because I was thinking about how much my back hurt from all the standing, or I was people-watching.

But most of the time, we enjoyed each other’s company. We talked. My older son and I made up our own versions of the rides we were about to get on. We talked about why he can’t see Deadpool.  (And he didn’t cry this time. Whew.) We dreamt up our own movies or stories. We laughed.

I would not have traded that time for any app in the world.

What are we doing, people? These are the memory-makers. These are the times we should be laughing and talking and sharing (IRL not social media sharing).  When else do we have time to just hang out with our kids without having to rush here and there? And we’re spending it on our phones?

It just makes me sad.

Why Deadpool—and parenting—sucks

Sometimes parenting straight up sucks.

I made my son cry on the way to school this morning.

Why I picked that time I don’t know. I guess I didn’t expect that reaction. I knew he wouldn’t like what I said, but I didn’t expect him to cry. I forget that although he’s taller than me and sometimes has pimples, he’s still a little boy inside. Now I’m devastated, thinking he had to start his day like that.

But I did it for a good reason. Honest.

For two years he’s been looking forward to seeing the Deadpool movie. Since before there was even a hint of the movie being made, he drew pictures of him that he hung on his wall. He made Deadpool his home screen on the iPad. He bought some of his comics. He loves Deadpool.

(I know the comic books, and how raunchy the character is. My son’s read only read a few of them. In his twelve-year-old mind, Deadpool just looks cool and says funny things. He’s still naive and innocent.)

When he heard they were making a movie, he was beyond excited. WE were excited. Because that’s OUR thing. We see all the Star Wars, super hero, big monster movies together. And I cherish and love every second of it.

So he’s seen every preview, read articles about the making of the movie, counted the days.

Then, with a dawning sense of dread, I realized how inappropriate the movie is going to be. I stopped encouraging it, stopped mentioning it. Hoping he’d forget, but he didn’t. When the commercials started showing the opening date, he’d look at me, wide-eyed.  I’d smile half-heartedly and change the subject.

I told him last week that I wasn’t sure the movie was going to be appropriate for him. Laying the groundwork. I dreaded telling him that he couldn’t see it. I knew he’d be disappointed.

Last night, talking to a mom-friend, we agreed we’d go together opening weekend to decide once and for all if our boys could see it.

So, this morning in the car (bad timing!) I told him that I would see Deadpool this weekend to decide if he could see it. And he was crushed. He started to cry. For some stupid reason, I was surprised. I knew he’d be mad and disappointed, but didn’t expect tears. Ugh.

It’s moments like that, that I really hate parenting. I hate to see my boy cry, even if it’s for the right reason. And especially when it’s my fault. Part of me was screaming inside to say, “OK, you can see it,” just so he’d stop crying. But I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do.

Once I explained my reasoning and apologized for the bad timing, I changed the subject and tried to be cheerful. To his credit, he pulled it together and was talking about possible easter eggs in the movie by the time he jumped out of the car. But still. I’m left with this knot in my stomach.

Thanks a lot, Deadpool.