Sunday, May 27, 2007

Me and Miss Clairol

It's our pleasure to introduce Robin Burcell as our first out-of-state guest blogger! Here's her bio:

Robin Burcell has worked as a police officer, a detective, and a criminal investigator. After more than 20 years in law enforcement, including work as an FBI-trained forensic artist and a hostage negotiator, Burcell is now writing full time. She is the author of the SFPD Homicide Inspector Kate Gillespie novels: EVERY MOVE SHE MAKES (nominated for an Anthony), FATAL TRUTH (winner of the 2002 Anthony Award for best paperback original), DEADLY LEGACY (winner of the 2003 Anthony), and COLD CASE (nominated for an Anthony.) Robin is working on a new series featuring an FBI forensic artist, the first of which should be out next year.

Robin Burcell:

A virgin no more. Yes, it’s true. This is my very first post as a guest blogger on Working Stiffs. I had thought about writing something on my old career, that of being a cop for a couple of decades, a career that certainly helps when it comes to writing crime fiction. Then again, maybe I should admit that my kids aren’t exactly thrilled about my past career. I tend to be a bit on the overprotective side, because I know what goes on out there, and it’s not just something I’ve read about somewhere else. I’ve seen it, experienced it, investigated it.

And my kids suffer for it.

Typical conversation with my oldest daughter, currently 16, after discussing something that usually concerns boys or crime as seen on TV news:
Me: I’m locking you in your closet until you graduate from college.
Daughter: You can only lock me in until I’m 18, and then I’m getting my bellybutton pierced.
Me: Not while you’re living under my roof.
Daughter: (raises eyebrows in that “we’ll see” look she’s perfected over the years).

Ah, my firstborn. Someone near and dear to my heart--maybe
a more apt description would be someone who makes my heart
stop each time she steps out the door,
no doubt because I was a cop for twenty years, and
I know what goes on out there in that big wide world.
You see, about a week ago, she passed her driver’s test
and is now an official licensed driver. This is the rite of passage
that nearly every teen aspires to.

And it’s the moment in life every parent fears.

It already costs me about a hundred bucks every six weeks to get my hair colored, and that was before my daughter was licensed. Now what am I supposed to do? I’m fairly certain that the speed in which my hair grays is commensurate to my children’s movement toward young adulthood and their knowledge that I can’t really lock them in the closet. And having experienced parenthood this far into the game, I’m absolutely certain that if any parent knew what to expect, knew what it felt like when their kid walks out the door that first time and each successive time thereafter with car keys in his or her hand, the population growth of earth would be about zero.

Really there should be some type of manual that is required reading before you ever contemplate having a kid, a manual that prepares you for these milestones and the untold money you will spend supporting the hair coloring companies. After all, there’s a book on WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING. And the popular sequels WHAT TO EXPECT THE FIRST YEAR and WHAT TO EXPECT THE TODDLER YEARS. I loved those books. They were well-worn in my house, especially the section that listed illnesses and diseases. If the pediatrician thought I was neurotic, it had everything to do with what was in the books. When my kids got sick, I’d look up the symptoms of such maladies as chicken pox and Fifth’s disease. Who would’ve guessed that the horrible rash my oldest daughter continually got as a toddler was from feeding her corn. That discovery was one little line, tucked in some chapter, and saved us a fortune in diaper rash prevention. And that whole fingernails-turning-blue thing that indicates pneumonia? Yep, found that in the back of the book, too, thereby getting my youngest to the hospital just in the nick of time.

Personally, I believe they stopped this wonderful series too soon. I think the last book ends at the age of five, or maybe that’s the last one I bought, because by then, I knew every symptom for every disease my children could possibly get. I was prepared.

Or so I thought.

Too late I thought of the book I really need: WHAT TO EXPECT THE TEEN YEARS. Someone needs to write this. And like the earlier books, it should have lots of photos. Especially of the parents and what they’ll look like each time their kid walks out the door with the car keys in hand.

And that’s where it should remind you that you might want to invest in a CPR manual and maybe a defibrillator so that when your kid starts up the car and pulls out of the garage, you and your significant other are prepared to resuscitate each other. Especially after the insurance company quote arrives to tell you how much it actually costs to insure your little darlings.

Anyone else hold stock in hair coloring companies?

Robin Burcell attempts most of her parenting skills in Northern California. Feel free to visit her website HERE or HERE. All teen parenting tips welcome.


Tory said...

Robin, welcome to our blog!

Now, fess up: were you a holy terror to your parents as a teenager? Are you just getting karmic pay-back?

Anonymous said...

Robin, it's so great to have you here! Welcome!!

As a crime writer, I find myself getting extra paranoid about the outside world. Doing research on serial killers and crime on a regular basis opens your eyes to things most people don't want to think about when they send their children out into the world.

Hang in there during those teen years. I believe every year up until your kid hits 18 should come with a manual.

Annette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annette said...

I spent five years working on our local ambulance beginning when I was 18 years old. I think all new drivers should be required to ride along on an ambulance for a month or two before they get licensed. Talk about knowing what goes on out there in the real world! After you see first hand the physical results of an automobile or motorcycle accident, you tend to drive with an added dose of caution.

Welcome to the Stiffs, Robin. And go find a spot on your local ambulance service for your daughter!

Joyce said...

Welcome, Robin! I'm so glad you found time to guest blog.

I know what you mean about teenagers, although I had it a little easier since I have boys. Mine are 23 and 19 and I still worry.

Somehow we make it through. All we can hope for is that something we've taught them over the years has sunk in.

Thank goodness there's something to cover those grays, though!

Robin Burcell said...

Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome *and* the reassurances that that this, too, shall pass.

I have to confess... that if this is karmic pay-back, I'm in a *heap* of trouble. Sometimes I have to laugh at my daughter when she recycles excuses and explanations that I used a good thirty years ago. It's not like I can tell her *why* I know.

And that thing about riding along in an ambulance? Pure genius. Every kid should be required to do that, and be given a tour of the jail, maybe have to sit in a cell for a couple hours. Just one look at the toilets they have to use (especially for the girls) would be enough to send many of them on the straight and narrow.

Anonymous said...

Because of a post on SinC, I came to read. And enjoyed the post very much.

Theresa de Valence

Nancy Martin said...

Brilliant blog, Robin. As a fellow user of hair coloring products (read: mother of teenagers) I can assure you that this too, shall pass. But you use a lot of Clairol boxes getting there!

Nice to see you here. Thanks for being our guest!

Robin Burcell said...

It rather makes one wonder: How many boxes of Clairol does it take to raise a teen?

I think that should be one of those trivia questions they have in those lovely informative pieces that guestimate the cost of raising a child through teenhood and out the door. You go through X amount of diapers, food, clothing, and it costs you X amount of dollars to raise a kid through the teen years. Factor in the cost of Clairol, times that by the price of gas...

Too staggering to even contemplate.

lisa curry said...

Goodness -- my boys are only 7 and 9, and I don't have any of my natural hair color left even now, so I shudder to imagine what's ahead. Maybe my hair will start falling out when they hit adolescence, and I'll be bald by the time they're grown!

Welcome, Robin -- I enjoyed your post. (As I read it, I could hear my kids riding their dirtbikes in the backyard, so it wasn't a big reach to imagine the whole driving experience.)

Robin Burcell said...

I've heard tell that raising boys is way, way different than raising girls. (I have three girls, so no practical experience with this.) Now what I've heard is that boys are harder in the beginning: more rambunctious, harder to keep up with them--never mind trying to feed them. Girls--allegedly--are easier to begin with, until they hit the teens...

I do remember looking at my friends who had boys, chasing after the little tykes while my girls sat quietly, playing with their toys. I'd smile.

Wonder who's smiling now...

Joyce said...

Robin, running after boys is probably why I used to be 30 pounds lighter!

Robin Burcell said...

See, these are things that don't appear in the baby How To books. All priceless.

Christa M. Miller said...

Good post, Robin. My boys are still very little, and I'm trying to enjoy chasing them - I've heard they never talk as teens! That makes me sad.

As for ambulance ride-alongs, well, that might accomplish more than just personal responsibility! An 18-year-old student (getting a degree in emergency medicine) was present when I gave birth in the back of one. She now swears she is NEVER EVER having children. EVER. ;)

Lee Lofland said...

I was a single father/police detective who raised a daughter. Hair color was never a worry - mine started falling out when she got her driver's license.

Cathy said...

When my daughter turned 18, a man in a blue truck came and took her, and she didn't even tell me where she was going. It took detective work to figure that one out.

I told this story to one of my clients, and he wanted to know how he could contact the man in the blue truck to come and get his 19-year-old. I'm working on the phone number, if anyone's interested.

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Robin.

Robin Burcell said...

Okay, that is too funny. You might want to hold onto that number. I'm betting a lot of people would pay for it. Question is: how much does it cost to get 'em back when they're over being teens? I have a feeling this is one of those scams. Sort of the balloon payment thing.

And my luck, the blue truck would come before she does her chores...

Louise said...

I enjoyed your post. I didn't think that anyone other than my daughter (now 35 and a police detective), her doctor, and myself had even heard of Fifth disease.

Robin Burcell said...

I remember it well, Louise, the day I looked at my daughter, saw the red cheek, and thought, "A ha!" Actually the reason for its name is much more interesting than the disease itself, at least from what I remember. Not nearly as exciting as those late night runs to the ER for burst ear drums and such. (Is it written in the stars that when your kid has a sudden acute ear infection, it will always happen on a weekend or holiday, and after bedtime?)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I agree. This is the karmic payback our Moms warned us would happen.

(They didn't put it that way. Mine said things like: "Someday you'll know what I mean." She still says things like that.)

So for instance, I decided at age 16 that I didn't need to go to the hairdresser to cut my hair in an asymmetrical Vidal Sassoon. I could do it myself: cut my hair up over one ear on one side, and leave it chin length on the other.

My mother said: some day you'll realize how astonishingly terrible that looks.

(She actually said something like "Ahhh.."and then ran upstairs.)

You see what I'm getting at.

Didn't we all do the same things?
I went to a "Sixties" party a year or so ago.We were supposed to dress up like we did then--Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, anyone remember?
So I thought, Oh, I can do this.

Blue eye shadow, short skirt, Cleopatra eyeliner. Just what I thought looked terrific and hip back then.

I looked at myself in the mirror.

I said: Ahhhh...and then I ran upstairs.

(Actually, I called my mother, and said the words they love to hear: "You were right.")

Robin! Thanks for the memories. Someday: your kids will also tell you that you were right.