Columns

Two Articles and A Mother's Prayer

To read an article by Marguerite Kelly entitled “Don’t Rush Dating”, click here.

To read “Death of a Beloved Child”, click here.

To read “A Mother’s Prayer”, click here.

Marguerite has also written her nationally syndicated column “The Family Almanac” in The Washington Post since 1979. To see those columns, click here.

The Family Almanac
Don’t Rush Dating

QI am 15 and I have NO dates. A lot of guys stare at me, even those who are five years older than I am, and younger guys do, too. This is weird but true. My friend said one boy was looking me up and down and he smiled, but it’s hard for me to believe her because she knows I like him.

I don’t know what to do to get boys to ask me to dance or to go out with me. I’m really a big flirt if I know them well, and I really believe in love at first sight.

I need a man’s touch — a hug, a conversation, a kiss, maybe a little more, but not sex. I just want love. I feel lonely without a man.

ADating and dancing are great fun, but don’t get seduced by romance novels, movies or the videos you see on MTV. Life is a little more complicated than they would have you believe.

Love at first sight can happen, but most people change their minds after they take a second look.

You’re more likely to find the right kind of guy if you go out for a coed team or an after-school activity or do some volunteer work. When you and a boy share the same interests, you will have something to talk about and be less self-conscious, too.

Conversations can be the start of a fine romance, but be careful. Your body is bombarding you with hormones now, which can create intense desires and send common sense right out the window.

In another year or so you’ll learn to live with those hormones, but in the meantime, you’re more vulnerable than you will ever be again.

You say want a man’s touch, but a few kisses — and maybe a little more — could turn that want into an irrestible need.

You won’t be ready to indulge, however, until you have developed mentally, emotionally and morally, as well as physically. In the meantime, these four patterns of growth are often at war with each other.

The body starts releasing hormones in the preteens, sending emotions up and down like a yo-yo. You won’t be in control of your desires until you automatically consider the consequences of every action you take — an adult way of thinking that should begin by 16. Until then, let prudence be your guide. A little bit of loving can lead to a lot of loving, and sooner or later you might get pregnant. If that were to happen you would either bear the child or abort the child and either way your decision would affect many people profoundly, including of course, the child.

Even if you don’t get pregnant, an early loss of innocence could leave you feeling deprived for years — an emotional price many 15-year-olds have paid.

Your reputation would be another loss.

Most boys are so proud of their “today-I-am-a-man” status that they usually tell their buddies about their conquests, and then their buddies tell their friends. You may as well announce your adventures in the school paper.

Like many girls, you also might find that sex doesn’t satisfy your need for affection after all. Teenage boys are usually too eager — and too inexperienced — to be good lovers, which often leaves their girlfriends feeling frustrated and angry.

Although you probably won’t succumb to early sex — most 15-year-olds don’t — you can still hurt your reputation and feel cheap if you’re too flirty and if you kiss too many boys.

A few simple rules will help you prevent these mistakes:

  • Flirt, of course, but not too much. You shouldn’t promise more than you’re willing to deliver or invite passes you may not be able to handle.
  • Choose girlfriends who are a bit more conservative than you are, so they can help you say no.
  • Date boys who are your own age, who treat you with respect, and who don’t tell you secrets about their old girlfriends. You’ll probably be one of them one day.
  • Go only to homes — and to parties — if an adult is present.
  • Double-date or go out in a group.
  • Keep both feet on the floor.

Washington Post
 

The Death of a Beloved Child

I’ve written the Family Almanac for 25 years, not because I’m so wise, but because I’m so interested in the questions I get.

Parents have the most exhilarating, amusing, creative job in the world, and the most exhausting, demanding, relentless one too. Somehow they are expected to do their best, day after day, even when they’re scrambling to pay the rent or hold their marriage together or work for a wretched boss.

I’ve answered questions on everything from addictions to bedwetting; day care to college; self-confidence to sex but this time I’m the one with the problem and I don’t know how to solve it.

Our only son, Mike–an embedded journalist in Iraq–was rushing towards Baghdad Airport on April 3rd when his Humvee was ambushed, causing it to flip upside down and fall into a canal. Death was quick but grief, I find, keeps going on and on and on and it affects me in strange ways.

I feel no denial. No anger. No bargaining. No depression. And this makes me wonder if I’ll ever get to peace and acceptance. These five classic stages of grief, cited so authoritatively by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, aren’t working for me. Instead my grief is amorphous, deceitful, unpredictable. Sometimes it hides behind distractions; sometimes it covers my spirits like the pall on Mike’s coffin, and sometimes it knocks me flat, particularly when I think of Mike’s beloved wife, Max, and their little boys, Tom, 7, and Jack, 3, who must live their lives without him.

I tell myself to get grief counseling or to go to the excellent, free support meetings of The Compassionate Friends, for parents who have lost a child at any age; to see sad movies so I can get rid of my tears; to read “The Lively Shadow” by Donald M. Murray (Ballantine; $19.95), a wonderfully understated, cathartic book about the death of his grown daughter, and of course, I tell myself to pray but mostly I remember my son as he really was. Not perfect, of course, but he was mine and he suited us so well. Mike’s political column could be fierce and it infuriated some readers, but he was a sunny, funny fellow who made fun of himself, easily and often. That boy could make a dog laugh.

A humble man, an honest man–a moralist, really—he was always true to himself. Although sometimes given to hyperbole, he said what he meant, whether anyone liked it or not, and he never ran away from a bully, either on the playground as a child or on the battlefield as a man.

He challenged his bosses too, and he did it as freely and as often as he challenged popular opinion, but he also cosseted and encouraged the young people he worked with, because he knew they would only love to write when they could do it well.

It was his own love of writing, and not the money or the glory it brought him, that made Mike change jobs every 2-3 years. As soon as he mastered the skills he needed to work for a particular TV show or newspaper or magazine, he wanted to move on. There was always more to learn.

As much as Mike loved to write, to accomplish and to think, he loved his family much more and he spent almost all his free time with them.

Mike threw himself into life and paid total, intense attention to the things that were important to him. He cooked splendid dinners for his wife; kayacked with his boys, told them wacky stories at night and had them help him make small repairs around the house: the Three-Man Fixing Company. He also dug in his garden with delight; ironed his own shirts (badly); painted his beach house (beautifully); called his sisters, his father and me whenever he could and read history, took long walks and occasionally went on retreats to meditate and pray.

Clothes were not among his priorities and neither were the necessities of modern life. He bought his ties at thrift shops, wore frayed shirts and holey sweaters and lost his ATM card, his cell phone, his credit cards and his driver’s license over and over again but he always made time for the people he liked and especially the people he loved. Lost memories, he knew, could not be replaced.

But now it’s my son who can’t be replaced and he mattered so much to me. There is no right time to lose a child.

 

A Mother’s PrayerA family by Katy Kelly

Help me give my children the best — not of trappings or toys, but of myself, cherishing them on good days and bad, theirs and mine.

Teach me to accept them for who they are, not for what they do; to listen to what they say, if only so they will listen to me; to encourage their goals, not mine; and please, let me laugh with them and be silly.

Let me give them a home where respect is the cornerstone, integrity the foundation, and there is enough happiness to raise the roof.

May I give them the courage to be true to themselves; the independence to take care of themselves and the faith to believe in a power much greater than their own.

See that I discipline my children without demeaning them, demand good manners without forgetting my own and let them know they have limitless love, no matter what they do.

Let me feed them properly, clothe them adequately and have enough to give them small allowances — not for the work they do but the pleasure they bring — and let me be moderate in all these things, so the joy of getting will help them discover the joy of giving.

beddy-bye time by Katy KellySee that their responsibilities are real but not burdensome, that my expectations are high but not overwhelming and that my thanks and praise are thoughtful and given when they’re due.

Help me teach them that excellence is work’s real reward, and not the glory it brings. But when it comes — and it will — let me revel in each honor, however small, without once pretending that it’s mine; my children are glories enough.

Above all, let me ground these children so well that I can dare to let them go.

And may they be so blessed.

The Mother’s Almanac Goes to School
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