Jennifer Wizbowski
Teens & Tweens
The chatter is everywhere: A gap year — once considered a questionable, even risky path reserved for unsure seniors — is now a viable, respectable alternative to starting university course work.In fact, a gap year seems to be an increasingly legitimate part of the American post-grad experience.And yet, I never thought it would be something I’d want for my child. College after high school, my husband and I have said repeatedly as we’ve raised our kids, is not optional. It’s not that we didn... more
Learning to love
Teenagers need family. They may not say it. In fact, their outward actions seem to defy this. Their eyes are always on their phones. They hide in their rooms, binge-watching Netflix, while still texting in five group chats at once. Sometimes, I think I’m really having a good conversation with them and I realize they didn’t hear my... more
Senior Year: The Beginning
Junior year for my first born is finally done. Honestly, I think they should’ve given us parents a ceremony, something with certificates of completion and small speeches. I realize that, in generations past, a boy of 16 would practically be an adult. Sixteen-year-olds of yore had to prove their manhood/womanhood in dramatic... more
Keeping time
We live in an age where we’re always on the move. And that societal rhythm affects the heightened pace we keep as a family. As a mom, I know I’m the metronome in setting the tempo for our kids — maybe even more so than their dad is. And as you may have heard me mention before, I prefer a normal walking speed as opposed to that... more
13 Reasons Why
In the age of social media, the surge of a good story can circulate around the world and back — and leave you spinning. I’m a 40-something Gen Xer, the parent of two teens. I do my best to keep up, but I’m aware there are things trending all over the Internet that aren’t the soccer pictures of my fellow moms’ kids.Netflix’s 13-... more
The second time around
With the advent of my youngest starting high school on the way, I can’t help thinking how ready I feel for her new adventure. With the first, it’s a guessing game, isn’t it? We so hope we’re getting it right. Then we — after one (or several) mistakes — start to seriously question things: Could I have done that better? If I... more
Teens and their squads
You’ve finally arrived. You’re the parent of teenagers. You’ve made it through the sleepless nights of babyhood, the tedious making of multiple lunches and snacks every morning. You share your home with somewhat independent creatures that may not keep a tidy bathroom, but show glimmers of their own future adultness. It’s hard... more
Parenting teens is hard
I have no excuse for my consternation. We’ve been warned for years. All along, we’ve heard comments in response to the antics of our kids’ younger personalities, playfully pointed out as little foreshadows of what might be yet to come: Oh, you think that’s bad? Just wait ’til they’re teenagers!She’s so pretty. Better watch... more
Why I let my teen date
The advent of middle teenhood has brought on a slew of stressful new challenges — grades, college-prep exams, varsity-sports dynamics, overscheduling, driving lessons and more. Just when you think you’ve had about as much as you can handle, you realize: My kiddo is sure taking a lot of Snapchat selfies. Does he even hear me talking... more
Decisively stubborn
From the beginning of my parenting journey, I’ve looked at the faces of my children with a bit of wonder and awe. I behold them as gifts bestowed upon me. I’ve studied their expressions, their reactions and their moods from the time they were just babes in my arms. I consider it my job to lovingly guide them to pursue who... more
My daughter’s iPhone
Three years ago, I reluctantly bought my then-fifth-grade daughter her first cell phone. We were new to the state and I didn’t have the comfort of known friends/neighbors to count on if a soccer practice ended early, or if I was running late to pick her up from school.I broke with my own firm belief that no elementary schooler... more
Introvert vs. extrovert
During a recent dinner conversation with my teens, I asked the age-old conversation starter: Who did you sit with at lunch today?I got two very different responses. As I took their answers in, I realized that this one simple question defines how they each approach life and relationships. When they were youngMy daughter is a 13-year-... more
Teens at work
I was 14 years old when my mom sent me off from my home in Central California to stay for a summer with my aunt in Hinckley, Minn.The trip was intended to ease me into a new move, which included changing high schools. I spent my summer canoeing on the local lake, experiencing my first thunderstorms and tasting my first brats... more
Feeling angsty, anyone?
Angst: Noun. A feeling of dread, anxiety or anguish. I recently had the privilege of hosting some very dear friends from Paris for a week.Our family friendship was one of those serendipitous discoveries. When we met, we found a playmate for each of us, if you will. They’re a family of four, with an older son and younger... more
Only two years left!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some tangible motto or quip that I might share with my eldest son as he enters his last two years of high school.As a mom of a boy, I’ve learned how important it is to economize my words.In his elementary years, I realized my ranting and long-winded explanations to him about making his bed and... more
Reluctantly 13
Thirty and Flirty and Thriving is the phrase Jennifer Garner’s 13-year-old version of herself says over and over to break free of her young teen stage in the film 13 Going on 30.The Razzle-eating teenager desperately wants to move past her awkward phase and into adulthood.I’ve read it’s kind of a thing for moms to show this flick at... more
The evolution of the hug
Having two children hovering around either side of adolescence brings up new concerns to both to worry about and anticipate. Some concerns tap you right square on the nose and make your eyes water. They get you when you least expect them. As both of my kids encounter the talked about “change,” I’ve been doing some introspection... more
Trusting my teen driver
Last summer, I took my son to the elementary school parking lot for his first driving lesson. His birthday falls in October, not only a busy time, but also a time when, here in Minnesota, precipitation comes in many forms. I liked the idea of him being over the initial shock of taking control of a car — without the added... more
Playing the numbers game
I never told my kids I expected straight As from them. I’m not sure whether this is a good, bad or better thing. I just want them to do their best. I suppose the next obvious question is: How do I measure their best, exactly? Admittedly, I haven’t come up with a system yet. All I know is that during their elementary... more
Embracing the new 'busy'
I remember when my kids were young and our evenings were spent with them playing with the neighbors’ kids in the street. While they rode bikes or rollerskated, I chatted with the other parents of the neighborhood and went in and out as I got dinner ready. I usually had a glass of white wine on the counter that I’d sip... more
Why we watch the news
I watch the news every morning with a cup of coffee in my hands — like clockwork — at 6:05 to be exact. The kids know this is the only time no one (not even dad) can ask to change the channel. No cartoons, no Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, no stage audience laughs, just the news.  My teenage son, who is up at 6 a.m. for the 7 a.m.... more
The secret lives of teens
Over the last couple years, my husband and I have taken it upon ourselves to introduce our 15-year-old to some of things we loved when we were teenagers.Call it a walk down nostalgia lane. We’ve had many a Friday night listening to music, hopping around Spotify to find our favorites. Inevitably, it always returns to the ’80s.My son, who... more
What's the deal with Snapchat?
My 15-year-old son, like most modern American teenagers, spends a good deal of time on his phone. It’s easy to be one of two things as a parent: I can be tired of keeping up — and just forget trying to understand what Snapchat is — or I can try to keep up. I admit I’ve done a little of both. The first option is much easier... more
Anything. But. Pink.
My 12-year-old daughter recently announced to me that she wanted to redecorate her room. She wanted it more grown up with a new color palette that involved: Anything. But. Pink.I saw this coming. She’s been looking, starry-eyed, at the new Pottery Barn Teen catalog for the past year, earmarking the pages along the way. ... more
Teens and stress
Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? I have some recollections of the emotions I felt: I feared that the inner dialogue in my head was somehow shouting out to everyone around me. Of course, it wasn’t. But the crushes, the school pressures, the dynamics of my family life were all bubbling together inside me like... more
Sibling symbiosis
As parents living in a digital age, many of us have thousands of pictures of our kids. But among those many images, certain photos stand out — signature shots that somehow speak perfectly to how we remember our kids in certain stages. They transport us back in time. I have several photos like this, and I can get lost in them if... more
Tweens and trophies
As a young tween, my daughter participated in a Destination Imagination tournament — an academic, kid-focused, think-outside-the-box program in which teams create and participate in challenges. Its goals are admirable: Encouraging kids to work together as a team, trust one another’s different gifts and ideas, and improve their... more
Tools for global travel
I was 21 years old the first time I travelled abroad. My final destination was a semester-long study program in Cheltenham, England. My plane from the West Coast landed in Boston along with a terrible snowstorm that cancelled my flight to New York City, where I was supposed to meet the college group I’d be travelling with to... more
Summer redefined
For many years, the mention of summer brought to my mind images of my kids spending far too long in their jammies. I can picture them still holding onto the coziness of their sleep with untamed bedheads and quiet play in their rooms. A new day meant a new opportunity to linger at an undiscovered park or pool, and endless places... more
The power of friendship
There’s a sweetness in child’s play that sounds like nothing else. And I’m not eager for that to go away when it comes to my tween daughter. She’s in both worlds right now, still playing with dolls, but also Instagramming selfies with friends. I can’t say she does one or the other more. I see the days of make-believe arching... more
Why do our children pull weeds?
My kids pull weeds. I should say, my husband and I make our kids pull weeds. Torture?Maybe, for us. We started this when we lived in Austin, Texas. It’s hot there, like really hot. So the weed pulling thing didn’t have a lot of initial appeal for them. To be honest, it didn’t have much appeal for me either.Our yard started out like those... more
You're OK, kid
Years ago, when my kids were climbing out of their toddler years and starting school, I came across a fascinating theory about childhood development. It went something like this: A child’s trust belongs to his mom until about age 7. After that, the child transfers that same trust to his father to carry him into his tween years. As the... more
Teach them to run
I’m not what you’d call an athlete — at least not by my standards. I practice hot Vinyasa a couple times a week and try to get a short run in once or twice a week as well. (I prefer floating on my paddleboard, but snow and ice hinder that in winter.) I’ve learned that, for me, it’s all about the exhale.I was the kid in middle school... more
Love and lunches
The very first opportunity I had to live out my role as mom came before my first child was born. It was the simple understanding that everything I took in to my body was being funneled into the formation of my baby. Keeping track of what I ate was the one thing I could do externally that gave me the opportunity to mother the changes... more
Celebrating adolescence
My daughter is no longer a little girl. It sort of crept up on me. Yes, at 11, technically she’s a girl. She chatters about everything and nothing like a little bird outside my window. She giggles, she jumps and makes up dances on her trampoline. But she also shuts the door hard when she gets ready for school. I’m no longer... more
Tween phone woes
I have a picture of my son excitedly holding a small box that had arrived in the mail. It was taken just weeks before he started middle school. In it, his ecstatic expression says it all: I have arrived. I am among the elite. I have a phone.A few months into the school year, he realized: As exciting as it was to pull it out and... more
Momming ... in my car
I’m on this road, but I do not travel it alone.My ever-growing, three-egg-a-day-eating teenage boy and my spunky, determined tween daughter — who goes through her day in a constant hum — join me.It’s strange that these two who I watched oh-so-carefully as they grew in and out of car seats and into booster seats — and quietly awed at... more
Waiting out 'boy brain'
When my son entered middle school — the dead center of the tween years — he seemed to lose his head. And I couldn’t figure out why.During his elementary years, schoolwork seemed almost effortless for him. Always easygoing and friendly, confident and calm, he was a natural in the classroom.He was a verbal processer, so he’d happily talk... more
Parents, we need each other!
Isn’t it funny, how all of a sudden you find you're right where you are supposed to be?I have a lot of that happening lately, some days more than others. I'm new to the Twin Cities, after most of my life in Central and Northern California and most recently a five-year pitstop in Austin, Texas.  It’s been months of getting lost... more
Where do you fit into your child’s education?
Sending your child off to school can be a traumatic experience.During a child’s earlier years, parents often have — for better or for worse — complete control over every day.But when you drop your child off at that first day of preschool or watch him or her drive away to high school on their own, you’re reminded that a lot of control... more
Finding quiet amid chaos
It’s October: Papers are strewn in lockers and backpacks. Pencils, once tall and sharp, are now short and stubby from long math problems. Club meetings and fall sports practices are in full swing. And your kiddo looks … tired.   In fact, you’re tired — tired of running around and trying to figure out how to have a family meal... more
How to survive kid sports
One of my favorite parenting activities is attending my kids’ games. Sure, I complain about the busyness of practice schedules. And I don’t always enjoy rushing out the door on a Saturday. But once we start throwing the folding chairs in the car, willing the Keurig to fill our travel cups faster and remembering we didn’t wash... more
Back-to-school success
My daughter, 11, is starting middle school this fall, and my son, 13, is starting high school. Although, I know they’re both excited, I sense a bit of apprehension at the mention of a big step-up year. They’ve both heard the horrors of far more work and academic challenges at their next levels of school — the older one, of course,... more