Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Leap of Faith

My kid is going to college. No, it's not really a surprise. We've pretty much been planning on this for the past 17+ years. We saved for it. We threatened that it would be a military institution. (It's not.) We prayed he'd get there someday. And now it's official. He's been accepted to a school that he wants and that wants him back and so we've signed him up and sent off the check.

Gradually, it's hitting me between the eyes: he's leaving. This is sort of the beginning of the end. I remember watching an episode of Oprah where she had these freaky women that were clinically depressed when their children went to college. (One was this way when her kids went to kindergarten - Hello, Dr. Phil?...) Anyway, I laughed at them and said I'd never be that way. Now, I'm not so sure.

Here's the thing: He's going to be 6 hours away. He's sort of nervous about it and so am I. My freshman year of college, I had some lame-brained idea that I should go to school in Florida - 26 hours from home. It was a disaster from start to finish. Now, I'm worrying that my son is in for the same kind of freshman year that I had - SCARY! On the one hand, it was a good experience for me to cut the apron strings, but on the other hand, I can't stand the thought of him being unhappy.

Jeez! You'd think he was five years old! I know he'll be fine and he gets to major in music, which he adores. I just have visions of the entire football team taunting him, making his life a living hell.

On the other hand, he's probably glad to be away from me and my endless string of nags and questions. But it sure doesn't feel like he's ready. I pray that he is. This truly is a leap of faith.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Look Ma, I'm Pope!

This new Pope thing is freaking me out. Not because I'm Catholic. I am. Because I'm a human...a mother. I realize that not much has changed, but as I watched Pope Benedict XVI appear at the papal window (don't you love how everything is "papal"? Like when you get married and everything is "bridal.") all I could think was what was his family thinking? He's 78 years old, so it's highly unlikely that his mother is alive. But just this morning, I read a comment by his brother who said something to the effect of "Yeah, my brother's a great guy, but they should pick someone younger and healthier." So if the brother of the new Pope doesn't even think he's a good choice, what does that mean? And as I watched Benny (hey, we're close - I'm part German), I couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking as he stood on that balcony waving to hundreds of thousands of people. He did the papal wave thing and then he clasped his hands together over his head as if to say: "I won! I won the election! Look at me! Yay me!"

We interrupt this posting to state that the opinions of this blogger or its management are strictly not endorsed by the Catholic church. The Pope is not only papal, he's infallible. The person writing this blog is probably now damned to hell.

Seriously, do you think that someone ran up to him with a TV camera and a microphone and said: "Joseph Ratzinger, you've just been named the 265th pope. What are you going to do now?" And he'll reply: "I'm going to ride in the Popemobile and then I'm going to Euro Disney!"

It's all so confusing. This guy is holding the most revered office in the world. People kiss his ring...daily. Was he like you or me? Did he go out drinking with his friends? Did he ever skip church on Sunday? But the most important question is: Was he nice to his mother?

Monday, April 18, 2005

I, Bodyguard

I ran into several of my former co-workers at a wedding this weekend which is similar to going to a high school reunion. I worried about what I would wear, whether I looked fat and if I was perceived as being successful. Many of them asked the same question: "So, what are you doing now?" For some reason, this is always a loaded question for me. Perhaps because I'm always trying to come up with a really fascinating answer that doesn't prompt any follow-up questions. At first I said: "I'm a stay-at-home mom." Then, I told several people: "I'm retired," which elicited looks of jealousy, anger or delight, depending on whether these were people I actually got along with when we worked together. Finally, at a loss for an answer, I told one person: "I'm a professional children's chauffer." He nodded in complete understanding, having one of those at home caring for his brood.

So this got me thinking about what it is that we do, here on the homefront. Driving is a huge part of it, but it's also looking out for our darlings, running interference, anticipating trouble and heading it off at the pass. When unseemly people call or come over, I give them the third degree and watch them like a hawk.

Suddenly, as I lay in bed, falling asleep to Access Hollywood, I figured it out: I'm a bodyguard! I won't even go near the discussion of my size, although it is somewhat helpful in this line of work. I drive my "clients" to and from various events. I get there early and make sure they get in and out of activities without a problem. In crowds, I make sure that they're at least within my sight, if not in my grasp. I tell late callers that my clients can't take their call because they're previously engaged. I'm both hated and loved by my clients and those who want to get near them.

Of course, I take it one step farther in that I'm also personal assistant ("Mom, where's my backpack?"), personal chef/nutritionist ("Mom, what's for dinner?") and agent ("Mom, have you found out about play tryouts?") Some days, it feels like I go everywhere with my clients and that it's all about THEM.

And here's the thing, much like a secret service agent, I'd take a bullet for these guys, I truly would. It's amazing that someone so young, demanding and downright rude, can bring out feelings of love, compassion and understanding. You see, unlike a bodyguard, I do get the opportunity, no the responsibility of forging a relationship with these young people. And then one day, I let them go and try to pretend it's not tearing me up inside.

Like the man says: Nice work if you can get it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Laughing Mom, Hidden Humor

Moms, I'll try and break it to you gently, but really, there's no easy way to say it. We're being made fun of. We're are the "insult de jour." That's right, Mom Jokes are back.

Do you remember when the worst thing you could say to someone was: "Your mother wears combat boots"? Or, more recently, locker room jokes about what someone did to "your mamma"? Well, my teenage son just informed me that the newest comeback is to take something that someone says, repeat it back to them and replace the noun with "Your mom..." For instance, kids are having a conversation about the length of classes. One says to the other: "How long is that period?" The appropriate response is: "How long is your mom's period?!" Hilarity ensues.

This mode of humor was recently highlighted in the cult hit movie "Napoleon Dynamite." Kip says to his brother Napoleon: "Your mom goes to college." My daughter has been walking around the house repeating this line and last night I explained to her that it wasn't funny. That's when my son explained to me why it sort of was.

On the one hand, I'm offended. I asked my kids why dads can't be the subject matter. Apparently that's just not as funny. But then when I thought about it, I'd rather be laughed at and understand it, than have no clue why I'm being laughed at, right?

I was thinking that perhaps we moms should band together and come up with a similar type of joke about our kids. It probably wouldn't work, because mothers have this maternal instinct that's so strong that the urge to defend our offspring is just...unstoppable.

Still, just once, wouldn't you love it if when a mom walks up to you and says: "Yesterday, I spent all day cleaning the house", you'd respond "Your kid spent all day cleaning the house!" You'd be doubled over in laughter, wouldn't you? I mean, c'mon! The thought of a kid actually doing something worthwhile like cleaning? It's freakin' hilarious, don't you think? Or, how about: "Your kid was up late last night paying bills." Brilliant! Because it's unthinkable. A kid paying bills? Yeah, right! It would be like our inside joke.

I know, this won't exactly be on Comedy Central in the near future. But why not fight a little fire with fire? And if you think about it, what's the one sure way to kill a kid's enthusiasm for something? Participate in it! Heck, it works with clothes. If I grab my daughter's jacket and wear it in public, she'll never wear it again. It's like I have cooties. I'm sure the same theory would apply to jokes. If I suddenly latch onto the mom-joke craze, I guarantee it will die a quick and merciful death.

C'mon ladies, get on board! It'll be fun and it'll be our little joke. "Your kid'll be our little joke!" SEE!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Fear and Self-Loathing in Suburbia

It's so much harder to handle disappointment when it happens to your children. There's a crashing of emotions - sadness, anger, worry - you want to beat someone up or pay someone off. Here in our house we're living through C.A.H. College Application Hell. It was hell to get the applications done and now it's hell to get them places we want our child to go and where he wants to go.

On the one hand, I'm shocked that he was rejected by not one but two colleges. He's perfect, isn't he? Look at him smile. There was this one time he got a great grade on his report card. And he was once nice to his sister. He occasionally does what I tell him to do. He tries awfully hard...sometimes.

On the other hand, maybe the bad stuff showed. Maybe they knew that he IMed his friends instead of studying for physics. Perhaps they found out that he rarely takes out the garbage or remembers that it's anyone's birthday except his own.

I know the truth. It's subjective and yet it's not. The people judging whether my child is worthy of their school are just like me and my husband. Most also have children. I'm sure they sit there with their stacks of piles not really caring specifically about my kid and the hopes and dreams that are stuffed into his file. Like any of us, it's a job and on certain days they get to give people good news and other days, not so good. Sort of like a college oncologist, but this isn't life-threatening. I know it feels like it to my son. Like a death-sentence sure to force him to bag groceries for eternity.

In my modest bit of wisdom and my relatively short life (44 years), I know that this won't be his only disappointment and this won't spell the end of my son's career before it starts. Perhaps he's not destined for greatness. That's OK. I'd settle for happiness and productivity.

Right now he's just feeling loads of self-doubt, unhappiness, confusion, anger and desperation. It's hard for him to get his head around what's happening. Meanwhile, I try and be there for him. I cook him favorite foods, ease up on the nagging and let him mope...for a while. Eventually the day will come, perhaps tomorrow, where much like Cher I'll have to look him in the eyes and scream: "SNAP OUT OF IT!"

He's a lucky kid, even though he doesn't feel that way now. I want to tell him about the starving kids in _________ (fill in third-world country here) who don't even get to go to high school, let alone college. The kids who have the life span of an insect with barely a roof over their heads. There are kids in _________ (fill in giant city here) who live in horrible neighborhoods who are afraid to leave their houses and go to school. They'd do anything to even think about college.

Of course I won't say all these things to him, because they'd sound hollow and would be meaningless coming from me. Isn't everything? From a mother's mouth to a child's deaf ears. If a mom speaks in a room full of children, does she make a sound? OK, I'll stop. Needless to say, I'm not the person that he wants to hear. He wants to hear a college tell him that he's good enough to go there. He wants to know that he is worth something.

And so while he worries and doubts himself, I pick up his clothes and bake a batch of brownies. It's the least and pretty much the only thing I can do.