Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Good Ole Fashioned Motherly Guilt

I guess I take this motherhood job pretty seriously. Why else would I feel guilty when I cannot cook? Our kitchen is being remodeled and we do not have a stove. We do have a grill, which is fine, but the idea of the "other" food preparation being in the living room or basement just really grosses me out. I can't get past it and so, I've only "cooked" one meal which consisted of burgers on the grill and purchased potato salad. But I haven't even tried since then. Nobody has really complained, but I'm still feeling really guilty. Like I should muster up every creative idea and whip up something fantastic and healthy. I guess I'm thinking that the end is in sight, but in reality, it'll be another month. How fat and unhealthy could we get by then? Hmmm......

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

It's a Dirty Job, but Somebody's Got to Do It

There are some things that my mom forgot to mention about motherhood. She never talked about the sleep deprivation or the terrible sense of low-self-esteem that develops after your children tell you or infer that they hate you. The other thing she never mentioned was dealing with vomit. Tonight our cat threw up. This happens about twice a month. By some biological miracle, I'm the only one in the house who can hear this happening. Because of this, and the fact that I don't want to find it by stepping in it, I always get to clean it up. A couple of weeks ago, the dog threw up guessed it - mom to the rescue. While we were on our vacation, my daughter threw up in her plane seat and in every garbage can in the Frankfurt airport. I began collecting airsick bags thinking this would never end. Somehow we made it through this. It was icky, but I do think it's somewhere hidden in the small type of the mom job description. And now I've become pretty good at dealing with this. I've developed a strong stomach and a quick hand with paper towels. I'm adept at soothing, reassuring and freshening the air afterwards. By now, I think I could get a job in post-crime scene clean-up. I have friends who wouldn't think of handling these situations - they actually send their husbands in - this wouldn't work in our house but it's OK. You see this allows me to bow out when the least little mention of finances comes up. Seems fair.

Homeward and Outward Bound

Traveling with your children is the way to finally find out who they are. Travel with them in a foreign country and you get a glimpse of their future and all of your past parenting mistakes all in one.

We just returned from a 9 day trip to Italy with my daughter's choir and I think we've all changed. My daughter emerged as an almost teenager with an insatiable need for socializing. My son became incredibly flexible, tolerant and patient. My husband and I now love America and its beautiful showers more than ever before. Don't get me wrong, traveling to Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that most people would give an arm and a leg to have. We are all so glad that we went and really had lots of fun in-between the group travel challenges and bad hotels.

Yet traveling to Europe with your children gives you a stark look at who your kids really are. Think they were picky eaters at home? Drop them off in Rome where the local idea of breakfast is lunch meat, cheese and pound cake. (No Cheerios here, Bella.) Does your teenager take a 30-minute shower? Just imagine that shower in a half-bathtub, in a half-bathroom with half a shower curtain and watch as the flood begins. All at once, you wish you had taken the time to introduce them to something other than bagels & cream cheese and an American shower.

Still, when things got unbelievably challenging, annoying and tiring, we found laughter to be our best friend. Suddenly the kids could joke about the fact that when the Italians said a walk was 10 minutes, that meant 30 minutes to us. (My son cleverly figured out that this time underestimation was equivalent to the exchange rate of the dollar to the Euro.) And just when I was about to throw my own temper tantrum because there wasn't a real cup of coffee to be found in all of Italy, my kids would amaze me with their openness to the strange Italian snacks and sodas from which they had to choose. We all quickly realized that we had better do "as the Romans do" if we wanted to make the most of this unbelievable travel opportunity.

All in all, we returned with incredible stories and memories that will last a lifetime. And most importantly, we came home with an appreciation of our wonderful life and home and each other.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Go Figure

You know what's more surprising than when your child acts like a beast at the most inappropriate and inconvenient moments? When you dole out a punishment that seems severe and bone-crushing and they take it well.

The other day our daughter was off the map with disrespect towards us. So we punished her in a way that would cut to the very core of her being - we took away her television privileges. Not just for a day or a week, but for the rest of the month! After a mild whimper, she accepted it. She took it like a great sport and all-around good kid. What's up with that?

Why is it that right in the middle of your blood pressure exploding, when you think you're experiencing another parental nightmare, your kid knocks you for a loop? Just when you get your armour ready to do battle, they go and do something totally unexpected. They act mature.

Go figure.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


There's comes a point in every woman's life when despite all efforts, you look in the mirror, grab your face like the "Home Alone" boy and scream: "Oh crap, I look like my mother!"

This happened to me the other day. It wasn't my fault. I've been cruising along for 43+ years confidently knowing that I didn't look or dress anything like my mother. And then crop pants and capris came into style. I know they are stylish because I see them in The Gap. (For me, this is the red flag of fashion. The other red flag is when I see something in K-Mart - then it's SO yesterday.) So anyway, I actually found a pair in my size - in stretch, no less. How great is that? So I pair them up with a soft Lands' End top. Voila! This is the most comfortable thing I've worn since footsy pajamas when I was 8. I'm feeling great inside and out and then I look in the mirror and do the above-mentioned scream accompanied by a gasp and a sigh. Suddenly, I was dressed exactly like my mother has dressed for the past 40 years.

There's nothing wrong with the way my mother dresses. She's very short, so it's hard for her to find clothes that fit. Most pants are too long unless she hems them. Plus, she rarely shops. I think at her age, you just sort of figure - why bother? Where am I going? And so for these past few decades, she's worn a variation of crop pants. I think she calls them pedal pushers. Often they are made of sweatpants material. Supremely comfortable and extremely unfashionable. But again, she's gardening and making my dad dinner - this is the uniform of her life. And suddenly, I've stepped into it.

You see, the problem with wearing what my mother wears is that it means one and only one thing - I'm old. In fact, when this revelation occurred, I felt like Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday: "I'M LIKE THE CRYPT KEEPER!!" I've been living my life all these years, sometimes feeling a little old but still imagining that I can't really be more than 25 or 30, tops. I'm a young-thinking, young-acting mom. I like rock music and I actually understand most of what my kids say.

But now, I'm feeling every one of my 43 years. It now makes sense why I can't read menus in dark restaurants. Or why when I climb to the third floor of my daughter's school to talk to her teachers, I have to pause in the hallway and pretend I'm actually interested in the science and literature projects on the walls - I can't breathe! I guess I have to accept the fact that I've reached middle age and I look nothing like Raquel Welch or Tina Turner or Cher. (And actually have no desire to undergo surgery to achieve that look.) When you look at the mirror and see your mother staring back at you, you finally have to come to grips with your mortality.

Look, I don't mean this as an assault on my mom. I know full-well that my daughter will also do everything in her power not to dress like me. I think that when we're in restaurants together and people say we look alike, she cringes inside. We strive for our own identity, but we're slaves to our genetic blueprint.

I guess what really matters when we look in the mirror is not who we see, but what see...and whether or not we accept that person, faults and all.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Begging for Scraps

More and more lately, I find myself following my children around the house hoping for scraps of details from their day or evening out with friends. I feel like a Golden Retriever patiently sitting with my tongue hanging out: "So, how was the concert? How was swimming? What did you have for lunch?" Most of the time, they give me bored or annoyed looks and reply with "Fine" while doing something else, making me feel about as interesting as a washcloth. If I wanted fine, I'd go outside and greet the neighbors. I want solid chunks of information. I want to know what was really cool about the concert, what tasted really good at lunch, who was really fun to hang around, who was really bothering them all night. I want to hear snippets of conversations. I want to hear about every single moment. Yeah, that's gonna happen.

And so, much like a CIA operative, I lie in waiting, hoping to ambush them when they least expect it. I wait till they're really psyched about the chocolate milk I just put in the fridge and in a moment of unguarded happiness, I can sometimes glean a little more than they're usually willing to give. Or I hear them giggle while Instant Messaging their friends and casually ask: "What's so funny?" And to quote Gomer Pyle, surprise! surprise!, they leak out exactly what they're laughing at. Amazing.

I need to be quick and flexible. I have to be willing to run upstairs and look at a website that they've just discovered so I can share in the moment. Or I need to casually slip them the newspaper review of the concert thereby initiating a discussion of how wrong that review is.

It ain't much, but it's probably all I'm gonna get. And sometimes good enough is better than nothing at all.

Friday, July 02, 2004

What Goes Around....

There's a line in the song "Putting it Together" that says:

"....all they really like is what they know."

Time and time again, that line comes up in my head. I realize that I'm often much more narrow-minded than I'd like to admit. I don't like new music till I've heard it 4 or 5 times. I have a hard time with instant messaging because there's no punctuation or capitalization. Things that are different bother me.

Case in point: I don't go to a lot of concerts, but once in a while I get out there. You know what the next concert is that I'm going to? Earth, Wind and Fire and Chicago. What the heck? You'd think it was 1982 or something. But it's music I know and many of the people there will look sort of like me and it will all feel familiar and comfortable. Not new and strange.

The other day my son wondered aloud what kind of music his kids will listen to in order to rebel against him. This fascinated me. See, even though I can be pretty narrow-minded, my taste in music can tend to be loud. Sure, I can tolerate Josh Groban, but give me Led Zeppelin and I'll be banging my head with the best of them. So I have this son who likes even louder and harder music than I do. Why? Because what fun would it be to say: "I love Led Zeppelin...and so does my mom!" He likes heavy metal music with people screaming about death and mortality. He likes heavy metal music where the band is singing in English but doesn't speak English.

My daughter also loves music, but her tastes lean toward pop and Disney...and entire genre unto itself. She also enjoys playing the same songs over and over and over again. The two of them couldn't be more diverse in their musical tastes. They both love music...their way. This is my fault.

When I was young, my parents listened to weird music: Evita, West Side Story, Elvis Costello, Jessie Colin Young, Hair...etc. I listened to what they listened to, plus what my brother listened to, which was Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones. Pretty hard stuff. And so when I had children, it was important that I expose them to a lot of music. Since we spent a lot of time in the car, they heard lots of show tunes and a bit of rock. It would have made me sad if they grew up still loving Raffi. I wanted them to have sophisticated musical tastes. I hoped that they would love music someday as much as I did.

What's the old adage - be careful what you ask for, you just might get it? I spades.

My house is now filled with music. Drum solos, piano solos, guitar solos, metal, pop, show tunes, never stops. This is great and I'm so happy that my kids have discovered music.

And so now, when my house is brimming with strange, loud, overplayed music, what do I like to hear? What I know. Music that brings me back to the time when my parents couldn't understand why I liked what I did. It's the circle of life...NO! Not the Disney tune!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Sunrise, Sunset

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I can't remember growing older,
when did they?

Grab the Kleenex. I just picked up my son's senior portrait proofs. I swear I started tearing up. Suddenly it was as if his 16+ years passed me by on the expressway of life. When did he get so handsome and poised? Is he really my son? Honestly, I think I'm going to cry through this entire next year. He's so sweet. It's as if he's never done anything wrong in his life. Blissful ignorance and bad long-term memory - the birthright of parents everywhere.

The Weight of the World

I've always had the philosophy that having a child is like having a small weight put on your shoulder. At different times during your life and theirs, the weight feels heavier or lighter. When they didn't sleep as infants, the weight felt crushing. Then they smiled at you and it's light as a feather. Trying to figure out their likes and dislikes - heavy. Watching them walk for the first time - light. Juggling daycare and work - very heavy. Hearing their first word - light. It goes on an on and even though my kids are older and less dependent upon me, it's amazing that the weight is still there - even when they are not.

When my kids were infants, people used to tell me "Little kids, little problems - big kids, big problems." Secretly, I used to think: "Yeah, well my kids won't be druggies like yours." (Spiteful, smug and mean person that I am.) And they're not, but the weight is still there. I lose sleep over the silliest things. It's as if I'm running their lives and mine and I need to stay on duty through the night in case something comes up. Or that I need to worry everything through and through so that nothing unexpectedly horrible can happen.

In our household we're approaching two big milestones - college and female teenagehood. I think both will be equally challenging - for me. I have visions of me laying in bed wide awake while my collegiate son is snoozing away on some lovely campus. And my daughter has reached an age where she doesn't want to tell me anything anymore - so I fear the unknown. Meanwhile she's happily IMing her friends.

You see, that's the irony of it all. They're the ones living and I'm the one worrying. I guess I need to chill a bit and let them deal with it just like I did.

There's a line in "Tuck Everlasting" that says something like "Don't fear losing your life. Fear the life unlived." I guess it's time for me to get to sleep and let my kids live their lives.