Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Damaged Goods

I'm reading a book that says, among many things, that parents damage their children. Some more than others. Geez, if that isn't the most upbeat thought I've encountered in a while - wahoo. My kids tell me that every day - sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. I personally think it's a cop-out to blame your parents for virtually anything in your life, except where abuse and neglect are present. So here I sit, thinking that I don't force my kids to do enough chores and then this book tells me that I'm damaging them. I think it's the opposite. I think we parents coddle our kids too much. Primarily out of laziness. I'm afraid to yell at my kids because they'll hate me. Yet, I walk into their bedrooms, which look worse than Baghdad, and I think horrible, violent thoughts that involve opening the window and throwing everything through it...including the child, if he/she were present. Parenting is such a swing of emotions. One minute you're practically in tears from loving them so much. The next minute, you really don't think that college could come soon enough. You've helped create these beings, why don't they obey you?

I just saw a preview of the movie "I Robot" with Will Smith. It takes place in the future where robots are often utilized and 'live' among humans. Will Smith finds that there's a bad circuit or something making the robots do bad things. Hello!...Deja vu - where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, it's called PARENTHOOD. Here's how it works: You find someone you love and you have children with them. Then you very carefully consult every stupid parenting self-help book. You take some of that advice and mix it with the good stuff that your parents did and...voila! You have your child. Until one day, one of the circuits malfunctions and they (fill in blank here with something like "talk back to you," "tell you that they hate you," etc.) What happened to my perfect child? What did I do wrong? When did I teach them how to cop an attitude? I want my money back!!!!!

If parents damage kids, then I think the opposite is true as well. Kids do a number on us too. They pick the moment when we're weak and vulnerable and they move in for the kill. They leave us quaking in our boots and shaking our heads. It's moments like these when I turn to my husband and say: "Must be from your side of the family."

Saturday, June 19, 2004


I’ve tried to be patient. I’ve tried to be kind. I’ve tried to remember what it was like when I was in that time of my life. After all, it was only 8-10 years ago, but it seems like a lifetime. Still, I feel the same. Something must be done. Baby strollers and mothers have gotten out of hand.

When my children were babies, our stroller was average size. Sure I loaded it up with lots of unnecessary junk (would I really need to change them 4 times in an afternoon?) and hung a diaper bag on it that was so heavy it outweighed the baby. Nevertheless, we’d head to the mall on a weekend and people could actually pass us in the food court or even the mall corridors.

Have you seen strollers lately? These things are freakin’ SUVs with toddlers in them! The tires are larger than my first Schwinn. There are more cupholders on them than my minivan. What is up with the double-wides and the jogging strollers?! Are these women expecting to do some off-road travel with their tot in tow? Darn it all….they’re hogging the aisles and slowing down my shopping expedition.

It would be fine if there were just a few of these in a metropolitan area. But everyone has one. They’re huge and they’re taking over a mall near you. And worst of all, they’re driven by moms that don’t have a clue that anyone else is around. You know these women. They’re the ones driving around town with a cell phone in one hand, a decaf latte in the other and passing out juice boxes while veering all over the road! Get these women in the mall with a stroller and a herd of toddlers and they think they own the place. One of her children has a meltdown? No problem…they just stop in the middle of the aisle while they sweetly plead with their little tyke. Can’t decide what to feed the kiddies for lunch at the food court? No problem….just park the stroller right in front of the busiest food establishment and discuss the options.

And here’s the best part….these moms travel in packs! That’s right, just when you think that one of these moms is annoying…..they get together with 4 or 5 of their friends and their friends’ kids. And they have that pack mentality. Their needs come way ahead of yours. Who cares if you’re on your lunch hour or have to pick up carpool in 15 minutes. Their babies are hungry and they need time and space to consider the choices! Never mind the fact that their five strollers are blocking any and all access to food or tables.

If you own and operate one of these strollers – great. I’m sure it’s fabulous and I hope you enjoy the early years because they go by quickly. But realize that there are other people around. Share the road and the aisles and we’ll all get along really well. I’ll even smile at your child and pick up that tippy cup that he threw at me.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Adoration and Suffocation

I have wanted to be a mother since that day, 31 years ago, when my little sister was born. (Happy birthday tomorrow, sis!) I was 12-1/2 years old and expected that a baby in the house would be nothing more than another irritation. I didn't think it would affect me in the least. Instead, I fell completely, instantly in love. Here was the one person in the entire world who loved and adored me no matter what. She didn't think I was fat or uncool or had buck teeth. She worshiped me. In return, I showed her off like a new toy. I took her everywhere and bored friends to death discussing her cuteness. Why couldn't they see it too?

And so when I embarked on real motherhood, I assumed that it would be more of the same. Whoa. Reality bites.

My mother didn't tell me that there was more work than walking the baby to the park every day to show my friends. Who knew that infants stayed up all night? Suddenly I knew the deep, ugly secret. While I slept a blissful, pre-teen slumber, my sister screamed the night away. No doubt I provided respite for my exhausted over-40 mother, but I definitely got the better end of the deal.

On the good side, my own children did adore me...for a time. I was all they ever wanted. They clung to me for dear life in good times and in bad. Sometimes to the exclusion of my poor husband who just wanted a baby to hold and love and sit still. They also told me everything - every story from day care, every like, every dislike, every single thought. Who knew that kids could talk this much? Sometimes, in a selfish state of exhaustion, I'd go to work in the morning and sit at my desk, thankful that nobody there wanted to touch me or tell me a story that lasted 30 minutes and came to no conclusion.

And now that my kids are in their teens and pre-teens, I'm wondering where all of that unequivocal adoration went. I know that they didn't stop loving me, but when did they stop liking me? When did their hurts become beyond my expertise? How come I can no longer make it feel better?

They push me away and sometimes it wounds me to the core. They come home from events and I find myself giving them the 3rd degree. Not because I don't trust them, but because I want to know about their lives. What did they do? What do their friends do? What do they think about everything and anything? I just want them to talk to me.

I realize that I need to suck it up, mellow out and end the pity party. It's time for me to give them space and know that they'll come around. If you love something, set it free.....

Monday, June 14, 2004

A View from the Top

Here I am, the first Monday of summer. This is when it all really begins. Now it feels like it's really summer. Thus far, it's not too least not at 7:00 am with a good coffee buzz going on. The skies are sunny and my darlings are sound asleep. I was trying to figure out why this summer feels less...gloomy. I think the answer lies in the fact that now that the kids are older, they are less apt to jump out of bed and immediately ask: "What are we doing today?" in that whiny, sing-song voice. I actually have time this summer to drink my coffee, read the paper, shower and generally wake up before being confronted with those nagging questions.

So then, what's the problem? Well, gosh, for so many years I've lived under this mock-stress level that I now need to adjust. It's almost, dare I say - boring. There, I just poked at the gods of summer. There goes any chance of good summer karma. Now it's all downhill.

Or maybe I need to look at this differently. Perhaps this is my test-run of summers once my kids are off in college and much less dependant upon me. Perhaps my agenda needs to be more action and less nagging. Maybe I need to...get a life. Ooh, that's too scary. Maybe I can just crawl back into bed until that thought passes.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Thou Doth Irritateth

Is part of being a mom and wife being able to piss people off to no end? I mean, doing it so often that you can't stop yourself? I'm pissing off my family a lot lately. It seems to have no bounds. And even when I try not to piss them off, I still manage to piss them off. The hard part is when I haven't even said anything and I've pissed them off.

How can I irritate thee?
Let me count the ways...
I irritate thee by calling attention to thy overgrown hair,
month after month, after month.
I question thy clothing choices,
even when thy is not a slave to fasion.
I comment on thy friends,
when true friends are rare and sweet.
I have no qualms about pointing out thy cleaning deficiencies,
when mine own faults lay strewn about.

Oh, this is getting old - and my Shakespeare is weak, weak, weak. Suffice it to say, I have this warped idea that if I don't nag or criticize, who will? And of course that would be the worst thing in the world, right?!

Someday I'll learn to hold my tongue, sit on my hands, just plain shut up. Someday I'll understand that I'm not making it better, I'm just using up oxygen. Someday I'll learn to just mind my own business. Geez, this is gonna be hard....

Friday, June 11, 2004

Serenity, maternal style

When my kids were babies, their sleeping was pure bliss for me. In the blink of an eye, I was suddenly transformed from that raving, stressed-out lunatic to a content and happy mother, adoring her child. I loved to watch my children sleep. I was exactly like that mom in I Love You Forever. I really did crawl into their rooms to watch them snooze. I was completely, totally in love with my children but sometimes didn't feel it until they were asleep. For some reason, that's the only time when I was rational about it - when I could separate my anxiety from my heart and know that I was happy to be a mom.

Now that my kids are teens or almost teens, the sound of their sleep is another kind of bliss. It means they're home, safe and sound, not doing anything that I need to question or worry about. They're still sort of under my protection and guidance, but I don't have to explain anything to them and, this is key, they aren't talking back. They aren't messing things up, taking things out and not putting them away, feeding themselves without cleaning up, making loud noises that grate on my nerves or generally driving me insane. They're home and they're quiet. Life is good.

When my children were young and I was sleep-deprived and very happy to complain about it to everyone, friends with older children would knowingly smile and say: "Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems." At the time, besides being annoyed, I also couldn't imagine what would be worse than never being able to sleep. I'm older now and, as my friends predicted, the fears loom larger: grades, SATs, ACTs, college applications, girlfriends, drunk drivers, drugs, cruel friends, catty girls, fashion temptations. The list goes on and on. The list used to consist of: ear infections, throat infections, not sleeping, toilet training, learning to read, not sleeping, etc. All things that they'd run to me to fix or make better.

What's the difference in these problems besides age and attitude? The difference is that I could fix the young problems whereas the "older" problems only allow me to advise, watch and pray.

Sometimes I'd take sleep deprivation in a heartbeat.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Stop Looking At Me!

I often wonder what my kids look like when I'm not around. When they're with their friends, at the mall, in class, or like my son was last night - at a concert. I remember attending concerts when I was in high school. The primary goal was to look cool. Having fun, enjoying a private joke with friends, knowing the words to all the songs, screaming when my favorite song was played. In retrospect, I doubt that I looked cool. I've never been very adept at accomplishing cool. It probably came off more as shifty (looking around to make sure people are watching) or over-caffeinated (laughing hysterically at not-very-funny comments from friends). My kids seem much better at looking cool than I did - probably because they don't care what people think and they actually know the words to the songs.

Sometimes when I'm with my kids I just want to sit and stare at them. Partly because I still can't believe they're as old as they are and partly because I just want to watch them do things. This doesn't sit too well with them. "What are you looking at?" Followed by: "Mom, cut it out." Followed by: "Mom, I mean it...STOP LOOKING AT ME!" If I tell them I'm looking at them because I love them, this is immediately followed by the eye roll.

I understand their hesitation at wanting to be watched. I guess, from their perspective, it's sort of creepy. But one day they'll understand why I'm just amazed at how they've grown. I'm blown away by the fact that they have their own personal gestures, looks, vocabulary....things that I haven't taught them. It's like....they're actually living, breathing beings when I'm not around. When did that happen? When did they evolve from constantly following me into the bathroom to hardly being around at all and going to concerts ALONE?!

I know this will all backfire on me, this parental voyeurism. One day, years from now, when I'm a widow and I'm living with one of them (let's be honest, my husband does NOT eat well). I'll be sitting in a living room (I hope it's a nice one in a nice neighborhod) with my grandbabies running around and my mind and body won't be as sharp as they are now (well c'mon - they don't have far to go) and they will be worried that I'll fall or drop something or step on the dog or pee on their nice couch and I'll turn to them and shout: "STOP LOOKING AT ME!"

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Grin Is In

When I was a young, romantic high-schooler, I always thought that seeing my husband or boyfriend smile would make me swoon. Well, of course it did. But here I am, in the lunchtime of my life (hey - if being a senior citizen is the sunset years, then wouldn't 43 be lunchtime?) and the thing that most melts my heart is when my children smile. It's the thing that we mothers work toward. (Ouch, dangling preposition.) It's what makes our efforts worthwhile. Yeah, sure, we want to see them go to college, be successful, make grandbabies (after they're happily married PLEASE!)....but there's nothing that makes our day more than a smile from our kids. I don't mean the "Gee thanks for making brownies smile." I mean the smile you get when you're doing regular things around the house and somebody says something funny and they grin from ear to ear. There's no meanness in this special smile. It's just pure and endearing and reminds me why I love them so. It counteracts the "Gee Mom you're an idiot" sneer and is an antidote to the "Gee Mom I hate you but I need my allowance" eye roll. This is what kids don't get - the small things they do mean the most. They hurt the most and they mend the most and they touch our hearts the most. We don't need diamonds for mother's day (OK, do NOT tell my husband I said that). Just a simple gesture like a handmade card with an ORIGINAL note or poem in it is better than any gem. Or here's one - how 'bout a hug once a year?!

Perhaps my kids are way less demonstrative than yours. They didn't used to be that way. They used to hug me and hang on me till I was sore. Unfortunately, at that time I wished for a little space. As they say, be careful what you ask for....

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


You know how after you're 40 years old and you forget something, somebody will say in a quippy voice: "Oops. Senior moment!" And then you freak out and assume that you're already declining or heading straight into senility?

Well, I figured it out - the cause of this. I call it Alphabet Soup or, better yet, Passworditis. Think about it - how many numbers and letters do you need to remember in your daily life? First there's your computer password, then your computer network password, then your PIN number, then your social security number, then your e-mail password, then your access code to your security system, then your employee number, then your student number....and on and on and on it goes. Then, one day, somebody asks for your child's social security number. It's at this point that your brain shuts down. You have filled it to capacity. Think about it - Your e-mail gets full. Your answering machine gets full. Your laundry chute gets full. Why wouldn't your brain fill up?

How the hell are you supposed to remember that Billy has band practice at 2:00 pm on July 1st when you've been working hard to remember your insurance ID number??!!

If you're like me and my husband, you try and streamline this and use a special date or birthday or something. Then you can't remember what the special date is or what his favorite team is supposed to be this year. Thus, you've made the problem worse because now you have to remember what you created to help you remember. This is the song that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friends....

If you've seen "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," you know that there's a solution to this. Have your mind erased. You know - clean it out. Free your mind, as they say. Sure, you won't be able to do anything - conduct business, buy anything, do your job, study, write, correspond. But think how freeing that feeling could be. Then you could tell people: "I'll be laying low for the next few weeks. I'm having my mind cleaned." Unfortunately, what this process will not do is rid your mind of the stuff that takes up the extra corners of your mind...i.e. the lyrics to "Love Is A Battlefield," the name of the Cubs' second baseman in 1974, your first crush's birthday, the breed of dog that your grandmother had in 1965. My dad calls this mental lumber. Useless information that serves no purpose until one night you're drunk and there's a trivia game going on and somebody yells out: "Who caught Brett Favre's first pass as a Green Bay Packer?"

Yeah, I know. But if I tell you, then I'd have to kill you. And then I'd have to remember where I hid your body. If you give a mouse a cookie....

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Greener Grass

I realize this is like a honeymoon, but today, motherhood is looking good. For the next 80+ days, I don't have to make lunches. I don't have to help with homework. I don't have to hear about teachers that are "so stupid" or assignments that are "so unfair." I don't have to go to any horrible music concerts listening to lots of kids that aren't mine and then not be able to see mine because I'm in the 95th row. I don't have to make sure the uniform is clean and that the permission slips are signed. I don't have to be nice to teachers that I don't really care for. I don't have to yell at anyone to go to bed...again, and again, and again. I don't have to search through the backpack to find out what I don't know. I don't have to sign any tests or progress reports.

You see, today summer starts. I have visions of happy, suntanned children happily running through my house, profusely thanking me as I hand them a home-baked cookie. I have dreams of my child coming home sweaty and exhausted after riding her bike around all day long. Then I see us collapsing together on the couch and watching a fun movie and sharing popcorn, knowing we're staying up way too late, but it's summer.

This is my dream. It's what I dreamed of for years while I was working. It's not realistic, but along the way, there will be sweet, fun and comforting moments when I realize why I'm staying home. Finally, I'm on the greener grass.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Mom, I'm Sorry

This is for my mom: I'm sorry for the way I was when I was 12 or 16. I realize now, because genetics don't lie, that I was probably often insufferable. I probably was certain that I was smarter than you and told you that often, in not such subtle ways (although I thought that a sneer was subtle.)

I probably took for granted the hotel-like service that you offered me throughout my teen years - a nice home, good food, laundry service. Geez, I was living like royalty. I probably rarely helped out and if I did it was with a groan. Did you often have to beg me to pick up my room? Did it look like a tornado passed through?

I probably grunted a barely audible "thank you" when you did something special. Something that you thought about all day and were excited to finish or purchase or do for me.

I probably never told you what was wrong when I was moping around the house and if I did, I probably acted like you were an idiot when you tried to help.

I probably never hugged you enough, if at all. Or perhaps I shrugged you away when you tried to hug me.

I probably over-dramatized everything, be it school, friendships...whatever and gave you the impression that you had never been in the same situation as I was.

I probably had to be told at least 20 times to do something - or where my things were, even though it wasn't your job to know that.

You probably won't be surprised that I'm getting my just desserts. Yes, I get the thrill of experiencing these very same things first-hand. Meanwhile, I quietly hope that my children will someday too as well.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Mother-lovin' summer

You know, when I was working full-time, I used to see stay-at-home moms and think: "Wow. I'm so jealous. Can you imagine how nice it is to do whatever you want all day long." Now I peer into office buildings, look at women working and think: "Wow. I'm so jealous. Can you imagine how nice it is to do whatever you want all day long."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not whining. OK, I am whining. I just am a bit fearful of summer. I have a 12-year old girl at home. Let's face it - she runs my life instead of the other way around. Often, we're like oil and water - when she wants to shop, I want to see a movie. When I want to shop, she wants to see a movie, with 5 friends, and then come back to our house, where they trash the basement and I'm held captive here until they leave.

I hope my fears are foundless. Perhaps her bike will be her salvation and she'll want to be with her friends. I hope her friends will be true friends and remember that she exists and actually call her instead of always having to call them. That's the other tough part about summer - watching your daughter wishing she had a best friend. A true best friend. I was blessed to have that when I was her age, but I don't think she's yet found that. The special person that you tell all your inner-most secrets to. I could be that person, but I shouldn't be. You see, I'm just a mom - low on the family totem pole. One whose needs disappear in the face other others. What do I really know, anyway? It's not like I've ever been twelve or know anything about what she's thinking or feeling. I mean, really.

And so it begins....but wait, here's a happy thought: ONLY 85 MORE DAYS TILL SCHOOL STARTS AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, June 04, 2004

This is your brain on motherhood

What a long, strange trip it's been. Motherhood. The root of all that's good, warm, wonderful, kind....and sometimes scary. I've been a mom for 17-1/2 years. Wow. I can't believe that I've done anything for that long. Actually, I worked at my last job for that long. It was too long and I finally needed to quit after they gently nudged me out the door. Sometimes I feel like my children are kicking me out the door. Let's face it, they often would rather have anyone but me. In my not-so-infinite wisdom I'm always thinking that someday they'll appreciate me. But will they? I'm 43 and I still complain about my mom. I still don't appreciate what she's done for me and perhaps I never will. Sometimes when I'm forcing my daughter to go to sleep (she's 12 - she never wants to sleep unless she should be waking up) I wonder how much she'd miss me if I died suddenly. I know, it's drama queen material, but I've been reading a lot lately and if you read a lot, you know that PEOPLE DIE. It's not like it's a big secret, but it seems to take everyone by surprise. Talk about a spoiler ending! But still, I look at her and picture her sobbing into her pillow as she remembers my chocolate chip cookies, the way I did laundry, my fabulous cooking (OK, now this is a fairy tale) and my wicked sense of humor. I really do have a pretty warped sense of humor which I intend to pass on to my children. I mean, what's the point of bringing them up to be normal? Normal people don't get into People Magazine and isn't that what life is really about? JUST KIDDING. But when I was young, that really was my dream. To open up People Magazine and see a 2-page article on me and how great I am. It would be complete with cute little photos of me and the kids romping in our backyard. Mind you, I've NEVER romped with my children. But it's fun to fantasize. Then the article would have cute little quotes from them like "I love my mom so much, I hope I grow up to be just like her. She's taught me everything I know." Yeah, right. That's likely. In reality, the quote would be: "My mom is driving me insane. WHO CARES if my room isn't picked up? I mean, it's not like she has a job and doesn't have time to pick up after me. Like, what else does she do all day?!" Now, that's more like it. That's the daughter I've grown to love and despise all in the same day! I'm sure the feeling's mutual.