Owning the Suck

13 Jul

Do you know what I’ve discovered?    A Zombie Apocalypse really is coming and our millennial offspring are going to get their proverbial asses kicked (or their souls sucked out), whichever comes first.   Every generation has an “apocalypse” of some sort.  The Baby-Boomers’ parents (arguably the greatest generation that has ever lived) had their apocalypse of WWII, the Holocaust, and Jim Crow brutality and inhumanity that cost millions of lives and shattered equally as many dreams and destinies.  The Baby Boomers had Viet Nam, AIDS, presidential and iconic assassinations, 9-11, and now economic devastation denying us the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in our golden years.  We, the Baby Boomers, sold our children, the Millennials, a bill of goods about what to expect out of life when they were growing up, and now they are ill-equipped to handle the shit that is already coming their way.

Image from

In our desire to protect them, we wrapped our cherubs in cellophane to preserve their self-esteem, hovered over them like they were Fabergé eggs, and decried that “there were no losers, only winners” while demanding our babies win a trophy just for showing up.  We gave our pumpkins bicycle helmets to stave off concussions (even though we would have collapsed from laughter at the thought of us ever wearing one while we rode on the handle bars of our older siblings’ bikes before we were old enough to tie our own shoes).  We demanded bigger and better Fort Knox car seats for our dumplings, we tore up asphalt playgrounds so our darlings’ little knees wouldn’t get scraped, we succeeded in declaring peanut butter public enemy #1, and we put paranoid warning labels on our babies’ $800 strollers that said:  “Please Remove Child before Storing Stroller in Trunk of Car.”

Now the Zombies are coming, and how do we tell our adult children (before they pass this suffocation on to their children) that none of that self-esteem bullshit and über-maniacal safety paranoia will stave off the destruction of their hopes and dreams or keep their fragile hearts from breaking when their lives go to hell in a handbasket?  Oh, shit!

Buckwheat Magnet/Little Rascals||image from

I can’t sit back and do nothing.  I must warn my fellow parents that we’ve blown it with our kids before it is too late.  I must do what I can to save our babies from the zombies by giving them the only sure-fire zombie weapon that has worked for every generation since the dawn of man:  knowing how to own the suck.  Recently, I took my “Big Mama Speaks” show on the road and held a couple of “Helicopter Moms Focus Groups” to chat with mothers who are trying to break free of the helicopter syndrome, and it was quite an eye-opener.

Helicopter Mom||image from



BIG MAMA:  Evenin’ everybody and welcome.  My name is Big Mama, and I’d like to let you know that, believe it or not, I am a survivor of the “helicopter mama” syndrome and have been clean and sober for a decade.  I no longer wake up with cold sweats in the middle of the night freakin’ out that something has happened to my kids that I didn’t prepare them for or protect them from and screamin’ to the high heavens:  “Help me Jesus to fix this wayward child, oooh, help me Lord!”  Can I get an Amen?


BIG MAMA:  We’re here tonight to learn how to “let go” of our kids and our fears for them and teach them how to soar without being afraid to fail while doing what I call “owning the suck.”  Does anybody know what our motto, “owning the suck,” means?

SANDY HOMEMAKER:  Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh . . . I do!  It’s a military term that soldiers use on the battlefield and it means, acknowledge the crap (excuse my French) that has come against you (being shot at, watching your buddies die, missing your loved ones), and then muster the grit and perseverance through the miserable conditions on the battlefield and rise to seize the day.  We learned about “owning the suck” from Lieutenant Colonel Tammy Duckworth who was our guest speaker last year.  She was shot down in Iraq, lost both her legs and the full use of one of her arms, for which she received the Purple Heart.  Lt. Col. Duckworth is running for Congress and has devoted her life to making the lives of injured veterans more palatable. There I think that about does it.

BIG MAMA:  Excellent Sandy!  Does anybody know what the term “Helicopter Mom” means?

SALLY HOMEMAKER:  Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, I do, I do!  Ask me, ask me!  It’s a derogatory term that means an overprotective and overly-involved mother who hovers—helicopter-like—over her children (at school, etc.) to see how they are doing, and then swoops in to give advice or aid if they seem to falter or fail, never giving them a chance to work things out on their own.

BIG MAMA:  Go on girl, with your bad self—aren’t you the smart one!   Now that we’ve clarified what we don’t want to be and where we’re going, who would like to give us an example of their bad-ass helicoptering mama ways?

SALLY HOMEMAKER:  Oh, oh, oh, oh I have a story, although it’s way in the past because I got free from the helicopter mommy syndrome quite a few years ago.  I just come to the classes to help support my friends.

BIG MAMA:  Ha . . . and what a support you are, Sally.  How about letting one of the other sistas share their stories for a bit, okay?

Image courtesy of

DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER:    (Sigh!)  I’ll go next, if you don’t mind.  I know the definitions too, but I can’t put them into practice.  I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t let go of my son no matter how hard I try.  I’m so afraid he’s going to do the wrong thing and fuck up his life.  I finally got him in college last year but that took an arm and a leg to make it happen.  I had to fill out all of his college applications because he kept procrastinating, and then when he got there, I found myself calling him every morning at 7:00 a.m. before I went to work to wake him up (as I did every day in high school) for his 8 a.m. English Comp class.  Even with all that, he ended up missing most of his classes from what I understand.  “Just couldn’t wake up,” he said.  How is that fucking possible with me ringing his phone off the hook every three minutes?

BIG MAMA: Oh girl, you’ve got it bad—I’m so sorry.

SALLY HOMEMAKER:  Dottie, I see instantly where your problem is . . .

BIG MAMA:  Sally, sweetie, would you mind doing me a favor and going out to my car to get the door prizes from the trunk?  Thank you ever so much, Baby.  (Everybody holds their breath until Sally is out of the room and then they all breathe a collective sigh of relief!)  Go on, Dottie.  That should buy us at least five minutes.  After that, I can’t give you any guarantees you’ll get a word in edgewise.

DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER:  Well, it gets worse than that, Big Mama.  At the end of the year, my son got an F+ in English Comp on his final paper and a laundry list of nasty comments from his professor:

  • “I’m to believe you’re the student who read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Pastall 4,211 pages—when on the first day of class you said the only book you’d read the entire summer was the juvenile lit books, The Hunger Games?”
  • “Tell your mother congrats on having read Proust’s most industrious work and her substantive dissertation about him; I recognized her syntax from all the emails she’s sent me over the semester on your behalf. For her input, I gave her the “plus” to marry your “F” for plagiarism.”

BIG MAMA:  Oh, Lord Jesus . . . I’m speechless!  You know this story is wrong on so many levels, right Dottie?

DOTTIE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER:    I know, I know, but I’m scared to death about my boy’s future.  By the time our kid figures out how derailed his life will be without a proper education, he’ll be saying, “Do you want fries with that?” for the rest of his life while still living with my husband and me until the day we die.

BIG MAMA:  Baby, I’ve got to ask you a very important question:  who is it that wants the education—you or your son?  Whose life is it—yours or his?   If he can’t “own the suck” of getting his sorry ass up in the mornin’ and won’t attend classes or do the hard work required, then you need to let the chips fall where they may, Sugah, and let him shuffle on down to McDonald’s putting an end to his Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Time to let the little dude go, Mommy, until he can acquire the grit and determination needed to work hard to get whatever he wants out of life.

True Grit Baby|image from

ROSEANNA, THE RECRUITER:   Speaking of “letting go,” I have something to say.  I don’t have any children and with what I’ve seen of your offspring, I don’t want any children.  I am a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company and I am here to plead with all y’all mothers to stay the fuck out of your kids’ lives.  Excuse my crudeness, but I don’t know how else to say it.  By the time your urchins start looking for jobs, you can’t help them through the process.  The best you can do is listen to them after they have run the gauntlet of an interview session, but unless they ask you for advice, shut the fuck up!

Shadow Mom||Image from hreonline

BIG MAMA:  Hold the phone, girlfriend.   You want to dial it down some?

ROSEANNA, THE RECRUITER:  I’m sorry.  But I am losing my religion over you mothers.  Over the past year, I’ve had five mothers come to the job interviews with their Johnny or Susie—parking their asses right in the waiting room of our office building, and at least one mother came in and tried to negotiate salary for one of our interns.  A colleague of mine had a mother try to contest the fact that her kid was not given employment and “didn’t we know how fantastic he was—any company would be thrilled to have him?”   If your kids can’t send in their own résumés, or show up to interview for a job without you shadowing them, then heaven help us all, because some of these people will be our future leaders one day.  Do you know that some of my competitors are instituting a “Take Your Parents to Work Day” so that Mommy and Daddy get to see their little angels’ work environment, as if this were their kindergarten class?  This is not what I signed up for.  Somebody shoot me now!

SALLY HOMEMAKER:  I’m back, everybody.  Now who needs my advice?


I am discovering that “shit happens” to all generations.  It has been so since the dawn of man and it will be so until the end of time. There have always been wars and rumors of wars, unfathomable diseases, devastating natural disasters, and holocausts of man’s inhumanity to man—in other words, “zombie apocalypses.”  Much of it comes like a thief in the night, and much of the mayhem is beyond our control—no matter what the religious and political grand pooh-bahs tell us.   But all of it can be conquered by strength of character if we learn how to own the suck!

Lately, every poll I read says that the Baby Boomers’ greatest fear is that their children will not be better off than they.  I suppose that means that we’re afraid that our kids won’t get to have the American dream of a great job, a beautiful home, and 2.5 kids that can grow up to go to college and start the cycle all over again.  But what if the very threat of the loss of those things is meant to produce something else in our kids—something money can’t buy—like character!  What if our kids are meant to be heroes wherever they may end up—whether that’s working in a drug rehab in Harlem or lobbying for better medical care for veterans who have lost their limbs and minds because our kids have walked a mile in their shoes without any legs?

Tammy Duckworth||image from

Illinois Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth is a double-amputee veteran who won a Purple Heart for her service in the Iraq War.  “She found a way to turn profound adversity to her advantage. That makes her a model for other people suffering hardship. Being forced to recover from an extreme challenge amplified Duckworth’s sense of purpose. ‘I was always about other people’s approval,’ she said of herself looking back, before being shot down changed her life. Afterward, she said, ‘I had a new sense of fearlessness, because even on my worst day, nobody was shooting at me.’”—by Rick Newman, Huffingtonpost||What Joe Walsh Needs to Know About Tammy Duckworth


“The good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.”  Seneca quotes (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

“Difficulties show men what they are. In case of any difficulty remember that God has pitted you against a rough antagonist that you may be a conqueror, and this cannot be without toil.”—Epictetus (Greek philosopher associated with the Stoics, AD 55-c.135)

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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23 responses to “Owning the Suck

  1. becomingcliche

    July 13, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    I so agree that we as parents need to let our kids make some choices and mistakes on their own. I would not want to be a teacher these days because many parents seem to think the teachers are responsible for their kid’s poor performance.

    I try not to helicopter my kids. If they screw up, they have to own it. I’ve made enough mistakes of my own to take the credit for theirs, too!

    I don’t think bike helmets are a bad thing, though. When I was growing up, I personally knew two kids who died because they weren’t wearing one.

    • etomczyk

      July 14, 2012 at 12:14 am

      BC: I agree wholeheartedly with you that kids need to own their own mistakes. Teaching them that takes a lot of patience, courage, and humility. And also wisdom. I wish I had known earlier what I know now, I would have required that type of ownership from the moment they learned to walk.

      You’re right about the helmets, of course. I’m glad they were invented. I’m also glad for the car seats, although some of them are like contraptions from Hell trying to install them. Thanks so much for reading my “stuff” and leaving a comment. Cheers!

      • becomingcliche

        July 14, 2012 at 6:48 am

        I think my generation is a bunch of weenies. “Son, this hurts me more than it hurts you,” is true. It’s hard to see our kids struggle, and my generation in greater numbers than I am comfortable with is opting out.

        The weirdest sign I saw this summer was for a horseback riding camp. It had the name of the camp, the phone number, and the words “Trophies, prizes, awards ceremony.” There was nothing at all on there about what kind of horsemanship they would learn, just that kids would be rewarded for showing up.

      • etomczyk

        July 14, 2012 at 7:06 am

        BC: You are so right on. I found it horrible watching my kids struggle (usually from unwise choices on their part), or teachers and employers not treating them with respect or courtesy, or friends betraying them. But I started noticing that no matter how scared I got for them, the more they dealt with life, the stronger and wiser they became. When I look at my own life as a child it was Nightmare on Elms Street but it made me who I am today and my kids consider me to be a boulder of perseverance that they admire. I wonder how I thought they were going to acquire strong character if I intercepted all their suffering? But as you indicate, the first response of a mother is to nuture–to pull our kids close. Sigh!

        And that trophies, prizes, awards ceremonies sign is a hoot! I wish I had known about it when I wrote the post, I would have made a sign and made a photo of it for the lead in to the blog. That says it all!

  2. mary i

    July 14, 2012 at 7:18 am

    I found this to be a great post even though I do not have children. I knew that I was not mommy material. Bless ya’ll for having the guts to try and raise them in todays world… Thank you for the picture of Tammy she is Awesome on all levels….:)

    • etomczyk

      July 14, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Hi Mary. I don’t think I was Mommy material either. . .but by the grace of God I muddled through. Only my kids will be able to tell you whether they are the better for it with me having been their Mom. 🙂 It was definitely much harder to do than anyone ever let on.

      I just found out about Tammy. She inspired the entire post. I am so pissed at that neanderthal Tea Party guy, Joe Walsh, who is besmerching Tammy’s service and sacrifice–this by a man who alledgedly owes 6 digits in unpaid child support, and to my knowledge has never served in the military a day in his life. I wanted to write something that would really add to the groundswell of support for her. I hope she ends up leveling him in the election in Illinois.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Cheers!

  3. composerinthegarden

    July 14, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Great post, Eleanor. My childhood was a lot more like “The Little Rascals” than today’s adult supervised organized sports seasons for kids. So, we had broken bones, poison ivy, cuts and bruises and survived just fine, AND we had a blast playing in the woods, climbing trees, swinging on grapevines, and working out our own social standing within a group of peers. The confidence I gained allowed me to travel for years by myself without a second thought; my parents were strict but let us make our own mistakes (and owning the suck.) My mother now admits how hard that was but also says it was because she believed in us. I was very lucky 🙂

    • etomczyk

      July 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Lynn. Your childhood sounds idealic. I wish I had had your mother as a mentor. We need mothers like that to tell us to breathe and “let go.” That it is scary, but it will be okay. I think part of the problem for young mothers today is that everybody is acting like they’ve lost their minds when it comes to rearing kids and their is no sanity or common sense there to bring adjustment to the situation. And for all that paranoia and “attachment parenting,” our kids are not the better for it. One of the paragraphs that I took out of the post (due to length) was about massive cheating problems in prestigious high schools among kids who could easily pass these tests on their own (regular year end tests and paying $3,500 each to have someone take the SATs for them) but don’t because they are afraid of failing. In this case “failing” means missing out on a top score by a couple of points which they feel would stand in the way of getting into their Ivy League school of choice (a difference between an A+ and a B+). God help us.

  4. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer

    July 14, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I was lucky because my daughter told me, “Mom, I need to make my own mistakes.”
    Nice way to say “bug off and mind your own business.”
    Which is true.

    • etomczyk

      July 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      Ronnie: But that’s the problem, correct? Just like when they were little, some of those mistakes could take their lives! We had wisdom to say “NO” when they wanted to run into the middle of the streeet in the midst of traffic because we knew the outcome would not be pretty. If I were assured they’d come out alive or unscathed, I’d feel a whole lot better and could chill. You know, like “this is a test; this is only a test.”

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Appreciated as always.

  5. imagesbytdashfield

    July 14, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    OMG! Riding on the handle bars!! I had so forgotten about that but was one of the ones involved in such “unsafe” behavior. My mother basically was get your butt out of the house (read: my hair) and go play. I have the scars on my legs and one on my face from mom not even knowing where the hell I was let alone protecting me. She would go outside in the front yard, insert two fingers, and whistle for all of us kids to come home from wherever we were – and we had better make it home quick else it would not be fun times for our behinds.
    I hovered to some extent over my kids because I didn’t want them to go as feral as mom let us go. Some skills they did learn and some I wish they had. I will admit to hovering a bit more over the grandchild but that is what Nana’s do! hehe. But seriously, moms showing up at the job interview? Dayummm! Kids today have little concept of what it means to screw up and not have a parent fix it for them and because of that so many of them are ill equip to handle their business like they should. Trophies for just showing up? Puhleeze!

    • etomczyk

      July 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      TD: When I read the research on moms showing up for job interviews, I called one of my daughters who is a Sr. Recruiter for a Fortune 500 company and asked her if this was true. She confirmed that everything I had put in my blog was accurate. I was stunned. I can’t even imagine doing this.

      I was very torn as a mother about letting my kids roam when they were little because I did get damaged as a child by a predator. It was always a constant battle inside of me, but I know I was good at letting them walk out the circumstances of their choices. They will tell you today that my motto was “if you were grown enough to makes choices I didn’t raise you to do, then you are grown enough to deal with them on your own.” But it wasn’t easy.

      Thanks for commenting.

  6. notquiteold

    July 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Great post., Eleanor (as usual). I don’t have children, but I certainly worry about this spoiled generation, since they will be running things (sort of) when I am old. My pet peeve is the school bus, that stops at EVERY house. The kids can’t even walk to the corner, never mind to the school. I walked a half-mile to kindergarten with my two cousins – of course I had the older cousin to look after me – he was SIX and in FIRST GRADE. And my mother didn’t worry.

    • etomczyk

      July 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Nancy: I hadn’t heard of the bus stopping at every house. That is a new one. I do understand the fear of parents with the weirdness that seems so prevelant through kidnappings and/or bullying, but how do we keep a balance. It’s really hard. I don’t think I’d have the stamina to have children now. It’s so stressful.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  7. aFrankAngle

    July 16, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Character, character, character … Yep, that’s a pretty damn good word that crosses all generations – a timeless description of the good and the bad of humanity. This post took me back to my teaching days when two of the things that drove me crazy were enabling by parents and enabling by the educational system. The parents with their Johnny/Susie can do no wrong or the educators stressing the importance of self-esteem centered education.

    PS: The World Choir Games have ended … and I’ll let you know when my post is published. 🙂

    • etomczyk

      July 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      Frank. Isn’t it the truth! After how the “adults” have demonstrated such a lack of character (Madoff, Ken Lay, all the politicians caught in some sex scandal or another, the Penn State debacle, the Catholic church scandal, I’m sure our kids look at us and say “what character?” Which is why I say, maybe it won’t be so bad if the “toys” diminish and our kids have to work a lot harder in life. Maybe character will make a comeback.

      Thanks for dropping by and I’m looking forward to a taste of the choir competition. Cheers!

  8. Sondra Smith

    July 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Finally getting around to commenting. I loved this one. So true, so funny and hits right between the eyes. I can’t tell you how many parents that I have talked have at least one ungrateful, lazy, “what are you going to do for me” adult child…I remember whining to my Dad once because I couldn’t have what I wanted. He told me to get in the car and he would take me to where poor was!

    • etomczyk

      July 17, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Sondra. So true, so true. It is such a delicate balance. Whoever said parenting is not for cowards really knew what they were talking about. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. All the best.

  9. Hudson Howl

    July 20, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Were you a major league baseball or NFL coach in a different life?

    You certainly nailed this one, sending it deep deep deep centre field. Dam if that ball don’t have wings.

    You succeeded in summing up the sediment of many and , at the same time, pointing to short comings of a pie in the sky generation who want the world perfect, then high tale it to their therapist or blame governments when things are not working out. We get bent out of shape for injecting growth hormones in the animals we eat and at genetically altered vegetables.And yet babies get injected with huge amount of antibiotics……..and on and on it goes.

    • etomczyk

      July 20, 2012 at 11:56 am

      Hi Hudson. If you only knew how your questions associating me with sports are such a hilarious comparison, you’d be rolling on the floor laughing, because I certainly am. I barely know the difference between the shape of a baseball and a football! My husband is still chuckling. That said, I’ve raised children, dealt with their friends, taught school, dealt with my students parents, and dealth with my own guilt: did I do enough, did I do too much, did I push too hard, did I not push hard enough? I’ve said it before, parenting is not for cowards. Not to mention the fact that I grew up a “very poor black child” in the ghetto and yet as a mother, I found it hard to resist falling into the same traps I spoke about (fear drives most of us to do the things we do). God helps us all. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. (P.S. due to the events in Aurora, CO I edited your last line out of respect for those victims and their families because I didn’t want anyone to misconstrue your words and take them out of context when I know you to have a kind poet’s heart. Hope you don’t mind.)

      • Hudson Howl

        July 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        I don’t mind one bit -had to search Aurora, CO. I had not heard of this. Hunkered down working. Plus my browser is defaulted to blank. I can literally go for days and not have a clue as to what is happening and the day started off so bright too.

  10. Elyse

    July 22, 2012 at 10:44 am

    You certainly nailed this one right on the head, Eleanor. It is a constant struggle to protect and push. I can recall being told that I had to explain “why” for everything before trying to change my child’s behavior. I responded, “Really? What if he steps in front of an oncoming car? Should I negotiate?” I am more of a “you gotta make your own mistakes” parent. My husband is the helicopter. We have interesting discussions about it.

    I also hire young folks. Folks who expect nothing but compliments. Especially when they do crappy work. There are still many who work hard and are effective. But the numbers are dwindling, I fear.

    Thanks for putting a voice to so many of my thoughts. You deserve a trophy just for posting this (there are several upstairs …)

    • etomczyk

      July 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      Elyse. I literally laughed out loud at the last line in your comments. Touche! I have been both the helicopter parent and the parent who let my kids learn from their mistakes and ill-advised choices. Fortunately, I woke up to the errors of my ways during their teens, and although it took me a while to change direction, I finally did and I think it saved my girls mental health and future–it certainly saved our relationships. They are in their late twenties and early thirties and we adore each other. But I’ve got to tell you, it wasn’t easy. Thanks so much for stopping by and especially for commenting. ET


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