An ending and a new beginning

11 Sep

*Deep breath*

I have not been present in blogland; that which prompted me to begin this blog in the first place finally came to pass, yet I still cannot freely speak of it…Mostly because it is not my story to tell, but also because I was hoping against hope that it would ‘go away’ and then I would never have to think about it again.

It did. And I haven’t.

So often in life, crappy things happen to us, or to the people we love, and we have no choice but to accept issues as they come up, and deal with them, or hide our heads and hope they go away…especially if they are outside our sphere of influence. Such a thing recently happened to ‘us’–to one of us in particular, but as is so often the case, it really happened to the whole family. We all got sucked in, and tossed around for the 6 months it took for this issue to resolve, and there were so many times it could have all gone so wrong; but every time, it worked out, as well as we could have hoped for, and ultimately just went away. Well, it didn’t just go away…but it is done. Best-case scenario, and many lessons learned, by everyone.

To say that my level of stress has decreased would be a gross understatement–I went from needing to create a blog to write down things I couldn’t say, to having no need for one at all. Then I realized: There is still much to navigate, and this unfortunately will not be the last time one of my ducklings threatens to go belly-up in the pond, and so I shall continue to blog…Hopefully for awhile it will be full of good stuff, so that when things begin to fall apart, as I know they will, I will have some good memories to fall back on.

So: Crisis averted. School has started. Manchild done with summer school, now caught back up after taking a term off for surgery. Girlchild entering her senior year (a veritable fount of future blog-material, I’m sure.) and boychild entering his second year of high school, but has already missed the first day due to baseball…so much for ‘education comes first’, but then again, it’s nothing I didn’t already know. Bigchild (that would be my husband (; ) still looking for the yellow-brick road, but they’re all good, so I’m good.

Bragging. Or not.

13 Aug

In doing my morning perusal of blogs and a certain social networking site, I have come across several times, interestingly enough, the subject of bragging.  Is there some sort of cosmic connection that circulates amongst bloggers? I dunno, but it was interesting to me that this post had already started to write itself in my head several hours before coming across all that, and it was indeed about that very subject. Or lack thereof, as it were, since the very mission of this blog is to look back on my parenting-of-small-people, and how I thought I was the shit and how it became the mission of some cosmic force to put me back in my ever-lovin’ place. Except that I still do it. I still think that I am the shit with babies. I mean, c’mon! What is so hard about figuring out something 1/10th one’s size? They eat, they sleep (eventually), they poop, so wash, rinse, repeat. It seriously was that easy for me. I’m not bragging, it just wasn’t that difficult. What I know now is that I had pathetically easy children, and in typical female fashion, have turned this inside itself, to the point that I’m now a little insulted at God, because you know that saying that God only gives you what you can handle? Well, He must not have had a whole lotta faith in me, because I got practically zer0-effort children.

And then ONE DAY it all changed.

For those of you over 40, do you remember hearing from virtually everybody over 40 “just you wait, shit starts falling off after you turn 40” and you just didn’t really believe them, because after all, you practically have military-grade night vision, and you’ve been a runner all your life and not one tweaky joint EVER?

Then you wake up the morning of your 40th birthday, practically blind, and can barely crawl out of bed.

Same thing happens with your children. ONE day they are sweet, and loving, and kissable…and the next, it’s like “who are you and what have you done to my child?’

The most powerful lesson, by far, that I have learned as a parent is to never say ‘never’. My child will never do that. I will never do that. (That is a really fun one. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve justified things I swore I would never do…the list is frighteningly long. I have come to terms with the fact that I have no principles whatsoever. My kids could have told you this years ago.)

I still brag about my kids, but the tenor of my bragging has changed. I realized, not long enough ago, that my kids were people, separate from me, and that every little accomplishment was not because I had guided them in the right direction. In fact, now I can safely say that my kids have accomplished what they have despite any direction from me, and I don’t mean that self-deprecatingly. I tend to still mother them like they are little, and to put band-aids where band-aids aren’t effective. They are the ones who have learned to pick themselves up and brush themselves off, and when I am done being insulted that they don’t always appreciate my brand of mothering, I look up and notice that they have learned another lesson about life and moved on; and in doing so, realize that being a parent to teenagers is as much about them teaching me as me teaching them.

I still can’t help but wish that they would just understand that I have already been through that, and if they would just listen to me, I could save them some serious heartache.

I will never learn.


12 Aug

Our firstborn, our manchild doesn’t really qualify to be present in my blog, as he has entered his twenties. However, he has moved back home (already!) and does not earn an independent living, or specifically contribute to the maintenance of our household, which would make him one of us. Therefore, he is, by default, one of them, and so bears the honorary title of teenager. (Defined in this blog as n: someone who knows everything, as opposed to parents, who know nothing.)

The thing that keeps coming to my mind about life in general is that it is what it is, except when it’s more of what it is. I just made that up, but it’s true. That baby came out of my womb and acted a certain way, almost from the very first little actions he made. Twenty-plus years later, he is still doing the same things. It’s just not very cute any more.

Let me further illustrate my point. I ran across a photo not too long ago on a mommyblog (why do I still read these? I’m knowingly just torturing myself.) anyway, a mom had posted a photo of her adorable little cherub lining up a set of play tools she had just given him. It was a cute little vintage set, and there they were all lined up exactly right, and there he was in his little tiny madras shorts and little blue polo shirt with the little blue sandals. Just like my son so many years ago. She had written a little blurb to him to accompany the photo about how adorable he was that he was such a little perfectionist, and how he was always lining things up and it was such a cute little habit, and he only liked to wear matching clothes…blah, blah, blah…and I wanted to jump through the screen and shake her and say “Get him to the nearest counselor NOW! He is already dealing with perfectionist issues and mentally taking notes about the myriad ways he doesn’t measure up! By the time he hits high school he is going to be on Prozac just to get through his nightly homework!”

I look back on all those little quirks, and I just shake my head. How could I have been so blind? Why did I not see that when he was stacking his blocks and threw a fit because he couldn’t get them to line up just so, that it was a symptom of a problem that wasn’t going to go away with a few well-placed “Good job, Buddy!’ ‘s If I could go back and do it again, I don’t think I would be quite so free with the mindless praise. I did think he was amazing, and I was proud of him for every little accomplishment, but the thing I missed, or at least didn’t fully comprehend, was that he didn’t. Totally missed the boat on that one.


12 Aug

So much of what I am about anymore is conflict: creating it, avoiding it, minimizing it. Sick of it.

Today’s conflict is brought to you by the husband, and child#2, a female.


those of you with one of each are already saying to yourselves:

‘Major conflict.’

But I will digress right here and say that this relationship is a fairly stable one in our household. She has him wrapped around her pinky, and he is perfectly happy with that arrangement. The conflict enters when he realizes that he has not been paying very good attention to the butter on his bread, and decides to interject on my behalf in the perpetual conflict that seems to be my state with said female.

Onto today’s storyline:

He is out of town, but calls regularly to check in and see if I am dead yet coping. I love that he does this, and today I really needed to hear from him, because lots of crap is kinda coming down all at once on us these days, and we manage it better together. He could tell immediately that something was wrong, and asked what was up. I tried to refrain from giving him the dirty details, because he is at work, and after all, I am a perfectly competent adult. So he asked again, and reminded me that he might just worry himself into  a stroke if I didn’t spill the beans because he can create stress like no other. He’s really good at it. Knowing this, I dive right in.

This little boy rang the doorbell today, and started in with some story about how he was riding his bike, and the chain fell off, and he tried to stop his bike but he couldn’t and he ran into the little car that is parked right over there and broke its’s ear off, (yes, he said ‘ear’–too cute.) and was it ours, and he was really sorry. I looked, and sure enough, girlchild’s car had a mirror dangling from it’s door. I told him not to worry, it was a piece of junk anyway, to which he solemnly nodded in agreement, and then I asked him if he was OK. He said yes, he was just fine, and I thanked him for his integrity and he said you’re welcome, so I told him “Have fun! Thanks again! Be a good boy!” to which he grinned and biked on out of the driveway. I then tried to tell girlchild the recently transpired events, and she rolled her eyes and made some snide remark about being white-trash enough without a missing mirror.

My husband listened until I finished the story, admired the little boys integrity and then asked what the problem was. When I reminded him that this was girlchild’s car we were talking about, he told me (that which I already knew) that she didn’t like the car anyway, and she better have a decent attitude because having a car was a privilege, not a right, and did I want him to call her and chew her out? I said no, I really had just wanted to vent because I was tired of her crappy attitude, and thanks for listening, love you, talk to you later.

I hang up, and 5 seconds later I hear girlchild’s phone ring. Then I hear keening and sobbing and cries of ‘white-trash’ coming from her bedroom…and finally silence. I then get a text from husband along the lines of “well, I told her.” And since then I’ve gotten nothing but the icy stare-down.

*sigh* What did I do?

Raising Teenagers Raising Cain.

11 Aug

I don’t know when it happened, this shift from this all being kinda fun, to the part where I went: ‘OK, this is not what I signed up for. This is not fun anymore.’

My dream, from the time I was a little girl myself, was always to grow up and get married and have babies. I had a single-minded vision, and when the day finally came that I was a mother, every dream I ever dreamed about it came true. My baby was perfect. Perfectly healthy, perfectly beautiful. Then, a combination of several factors led to a rather considerable time-span between perfect child #1 and perfect child #2. Years between them, but worth the wait. She also was perfect. Perfectly healthy, perfectly beautiful. This one even got passers-by to stop on the street and exclaim how beautiful she was. I was so proud. Child number 3; not exactly planned, but joyously received right from the start. Not exactly perfectly healthy, but a manageable, fixable issue, and he was the happiest baby, and really beautiful. As perfectly perfect as I could hope for. I had been given my three chances to make the world a better place. I had succeeded!

The one thing I did not need was advice. I was a supremely confident mother. I was an early-20-something, but I knew what all their cries meant right from the get-go, when they bothered to cry. No colic in my house. Breast-fed is best fed, and my children were shining examples of the ease of breast-feeding. I didn’t need to change my diet, I could nurse while shopping, etc (discreetly, of course) and I carried a little tiny diaper bag, because they didn’t need anything other than a few diapers and the occasional change of clothes. I was militantly intolerant of women who said:

‘I tried it and just couldn’t get it to work!’ or

‘It’s so inconvenient!’

(What?? Are you kidding me? How is unclipping a snap on your bra less convenient than buying formula every week, midnight trips to the grocery store when you realize you forgot to buy formula, having to microwave water to warm formula, mixing, cleaning bottles, replacing nipples…as you can see, it remains somewhat of a hot-button topic with me.)

When they graduated to baby food, I made it. They rarely ate restaurant food, but when they did they were well-behaved, and when they weren’t, we sacrificed our dinner to remove the kids from the restaurant. They learned early on how to be respectful in public.

Our kids were smart. Early-readers all three, and every moment was considered a potential learning experience. We considered and dismissed the idea of home-schooling; my husband was a public-school teacher, and we valued the social-engagement aspect of a public education. We hand-picked every teacher they ever had, and did not miss a parent-teacher night. I felt that my kids had the best of both worlds, because they got their ‘real’ learning at home, but got their social interaction at school, in clubs and on sports teams.

Our kids went everywhere with us; we did not have lives separate from them. Shopping at the grocery store was an opportunity to work on math, reading, spelling and helping mama. Going to restaurants was an opportunity to work on our manners. We went for drives on the weekends to cover history and science. We would listen to music in the car, and I remember being so proud that my kids knew the words to and sang Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra

The list goes on and on. I though I was the shit. No, I was the shit.

Luckily I raised my kids in the days before blogging really took off, because most of my self-righteous ramblings were confined to self-dialogue, muttered under my breath every time I encountered someone who really seemed to be screwing up the whole motherhood thing. ‘Jesus! How hard do you need to make this??’

My husband and I would watch parents who yelled at their kids and said things like (my personal favorite:) ‘You better get over here or I’m going to leave you!” or “Stop that right now! Stop that I said! You’d better stop that right now! If you don’t stop that I’m going to spank you! One…two…two and a half…!!” and we would look at each other knowingly, and smile smugly.

I know this about myself, because I do it today, when reading all the blogs that new mothers are writing these days, but instead of wondering why it seems so difficult for them to get through a simple bout of colic, I read their ramblings and think: ‘Just you wait-your kids aren’t even mobile and you think you have problems?? oh, hoho! Wait til they become teenagers!

Because that’s exactly what happened to mine.

There are blogs a-plenty about Moms + Babies. Gathering places on the world-wide web where mothers go to offer advice and consolation about all manner of baby-care. These blogs are a particular hit for the moms who didn’t exactly practice motherhood before it arrived on their stoop wrapped in a little blanket. They ask questions like “How can I tell what my baby needs when he cries?” and “what’s the best Baby Einstein video?”

And I realize that babies are born helpless for their first year so that they won’t wander off while we’re busy trying to figure them out. Wait ‘til you’re trying to stay one step ahead of them when they have the car keys.

I have noticed a stark absence of blogs about teenagers. Is this because so much of the cute-factor is gone? Nothing like looking at a blog with pictures of a snarling don’t-take-my-picture countenance. Now, I must admit, I haven’t exactly gone looking, so I really couldn’t tell you if there are a ton of them or not, but I do peruse the w.w.w. on a fairly consistent basis, and I frequent the circles that one would assume such blogs to be in.


I will say, however, I won’t go looking for blogs-about-teenagers for the same reason I won’t watch reality television: I have enough drama, and tears, and screaming, and door-slamming in my own life, I don’t need to sit down and watch it on television, and I doubt that reading about someone else’s door-slamming drama will make mine any easier to swallow.

Don’t get me wrong. I have great kids. They are all doing pretty much what we set out for them to do, they are all on track to graduate from high school…but I can’t say that they all get straight A’s anymore, and I can’t even say that at least a couple of them haven’t ever been in trouble with the law. What I can state with absolute certainty is that raising teenagers is something I should have girded my loins for, by having colicky, nasty, horrible small-people, and the reason I am blogging now is that I am in the middle of an ocean that I am barely navigating. No, I am not navigating. I am in a storm-tossed tempest, and since my husband and I have the oldest kids we know, there is nobody with whom I can compare my kids, or confide my fears. So I’ll set it all down on virtual paper–trying very hard to respect my nearly-adult childrens privacy, (even though it would never dawn on them to reciprocate) and hopefully out of the mist will come a measure of peace, or at least solidarity.

And if you were one of the people on whom I passed such harsh judgment when our kids were little, I humbly beg your forgiveness. Mea Culpa.