Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Melancholy Baby

It feels like he's already gone. He's not. Graduation was only 2 days ago and he's still snuggled in his bed enjoying the luxury of sleeping late. Really, not much has changed, but in my mind, everything has. I still have him for 73 more days, but it seems too short. It feels like the umbilical cord is tugging, like he's saying that it's time for him to go, to move on. I'm not prepared for this. I was the one who sat there scoffing at the women on Oprah who were having trouble when their kids went off to college. "I won't be like that," I boldly declared. "What losers!" Look at me now - not so brave, am I?

If I'm being honest, I'm scared for him. This isn't like starting high school or first grade when I could be there every night to calm his fears or talk about his new experiences. I won't be there. In fact, I'll be 5-1/2 hours away. I can't make sure he's locked his dorm room door. I can't remind him to eat a piece of fruit once in a while. I can't casually glance to make sure his zipper is closed, saving him from embarassment. It's time for me to let go and dammit, I'm not ready.

Suddenly, I want desperately to go backwards - to those days when he woke me up too early and followed me into the bathroom too often and asked too many questions and bothered me all day long. At least I was a participant in his life. Now I'm not sure who I am to him. He won't need me like before and so I have to redefine my role. I'll always be his mom, but have I now gone from all-knowing provider to the recipient of obligitory phone calls?

Of course it could be worse. He could have been trouble. He could have turned my hair grey and caused countless sleepless nights. He never did. He's always been a rare one - polite, shy, responsible, mature. Maybe that's what bugs me - I love being around him and I don't want him to go. It's like I put all this work in on him, it paid off and what do I get to show for that? "Thank you and don't let the door hit you on your way out."

I have to keep reminding myself that he's not dead. He's healthy, relatively happy, a little scared but cautiously optimistic about starting college and maybe a bit excited at going out on his own. He'll come home for a few summers and breaks and then eventually, he'll move out. It's what we've always wanted. When we read stories about kids that never moved out, we silently prayed that wouldn't be us. So, now why would we feel differently?

With sweet irony, I think of the old adage: "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." Damn.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Queen of Mean

I've been looking at this all wrong. I guess I'm a glass is half-empty kind of gal. The point is, well, I'm not sure how to say this without sounding like I'm bragging, but I'm pretty much all-powerful and in control of the world. How else can you explain my apparent knowledge of the location of all of the socks, books and car keys? The English project that my daughter had to stay up until midnight to do? That was me, or in kid-speak, my fault. On the days when my daughter has nothing to wear, well, let's give credit where credit is due: I just didn't take her shopping often enough. This morning when she burnt her breakfast because the oven rack was too close to the broiler - all me. Or, as she preferred to explain it: "I hate you SO much." Apparently for not moving an oven rack. Damn, I'm good.

When I stop and think about it, this is pretty cool. I'm affecting the outcome of all kinds of things. Things I don't even know about. In fact, there are probably things that haven't yet happened that I'm responsible for. I sort of feel like the Harry Potter of my little world. I've been losing jewelry, notebooks and permission slips for years - who knew?! It's obvious now, I'm making my children's lives a living hell. I just need to learn to enjoy it more.

The other night when my daughter begged to stay out late on a school night, I totally ruined her social life by telling her to ride home on her bike (the one without a light) before it was dark. Brilliant!

This summer, there are loads of opportunities to wield my power: sleepovers to deny, not giving rides to movies at a moment's notice, ending instant messaging sessions after 4 hours, waking children up before noon, not having swimsuits washed soon enough, forcing them to eat one healthy meal a week. I'll definitely be "thanked" for these and a myriad of other actions. My friends, life is good. If I had a cigar, I'd smoke it....if it weren't for the smell and the health issues.

I'm here to say this about motherhood: Life is a bowl of cherries and we're providing the pits. We get none of the credit and all of the blame. It might be dangerous to say, but I'm starting to understand how God feels.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

You know you're a mother when....

Your child criticizes where you leave her lunch on the counter every morning.

You do your kids' laundry first, even if you're nearly out of underwear, because it's the path of least complaints.

Your lunch consists of the leftovers that nobody else would think of eating.

Your dinner consists of what your kids pushed around their plates.

You cry at the first notes of any sad song played within the walls of a school building.

You make big events out of first and last days of school, usually escaping the notice of your children.

You actually consider wiping off and using the piece of bread that fell on the floor amidst the dog hair because if you walk in the grocery store again they'll arrest you for loitering.

You have a list in your head of the inventory of every office supply, variety and drug store within 3 miles of your home, along with their hours of operation thereby avoiding panic on Sunday evening when your child announces that they need a poster board...for tomorrow.

You've learned how to smile enthusiastically when your child asks you to read their English paper, even when it makes absolutely no sense and could bore a monk to tears.

You know which are the really fun volunteer jobs and which ones should be considered work-release for felons.

You have to hide your excitement when it's the first day back at school. Conversely, you try not to cry on the last day of school, knowing that your house will be invaded by children 24/7...all summer long.

You choose your clothes based on what will least embarass your children.

You can't imagine when you'll ever have an empty nest but know that it will be a sad day when you do.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Momtonamo Bay

I thought that being the mother of infants or toddlers was exhausting - it was. Physically, that is. From morning till night, and often in between, I spent a great deal of time not sleeping. Sometimes I didn't think I'd make it. I did. Only to find out that being the mother of teenagers is a whole 'nother kind of tired.

Parenting teenagers is not just mental exhaustion, it's mental abuse. Feeling down? A little low self-esteem? Just have your teenage daughter tell you how dumb your outfit looks. Feeling fat? Have your skinny teenage son give you dieting advice. Feeling like you aren't responsible for enough in this world? Have your kids blame you for every lost piece of clothing, set of car keys, unwashed favorite shirt, missed assignment or bad social event.

And how about getting them to do things around the house. What are you insane? They don't have time! They're really, really busy. They have to go to school, play a sport, instant message their friends and try on every article of clothing in their closet and throw it on the floor of their bedroom so that you can wash it all over again because you can't tell what's clean or dirty. If they do actually do something for you, they remind you of it for hours on end.

Then there's the mind games. Parenting teenagers forces you to be mentally alert in ways that military experts haven't even thought about. Your child is being pleasant? Be on guard! You will soon be asked for money, a ride somewhere or a sleepover. Your child actually cleaned up their room? Honey, you are about to be scammed for a majorly expensive trip to the mall. Your kid just called at 10:30 pm to say they ordered a pizza and she'll be home a little late? Sweetie - you are so punk'd. You think this pizza craving came on late in the evening? Perhaps there's just too many boys to chat with before curfew.

Your kids will throw you for a loop in ways that you wouldn't have dreamt of 30 years ago. They have no qualms about being disrespectful, copping an attitude or being downright rude. And let's not even get into clothing choices. The things that kids wear today would blow the nuns of my day out of their habits.

This is not to say that we don't have some control over this. We moms of teens have to be stealth about this and band together. We have to share our secrets as well as the latest so-called "kidsperiences." You know - what are they saying and doing that might blindside you tomorrow?

You see, years of maternal teen parenting have hardened me. I'm no longer just a mom - I'm RoboMom. A trained professional. I've become an expert at maternal interrogation. I've learned, over the years, how to strike when they least expect it in order to extract the most information possible. For instance, a well-baked pan of brownies may just get me the names of the cutest guys and the meanest girls. The rental of a favorite movie, along with a few carefully crafted questions can get me perhaps a day's worth of stories, anecdotes and rumors. And the best part is, I share with my friends.

Sure, I look like a typical housewife. I'm plain, my clothes are out of style and I don't speak or listen to hip-hop or death metal. This is exactly how I want my kids to perceive me - slow and dumb. What they don't know is that until they move out of my house, I'm undercover. I'll watch their every move, interpret their words and pay very close attention. You know, there's probably a career waiting for me in the CIA when I'm finished with this. That, and a good, stiff drink.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Age Old Questions

I have some questions for my mom. Frankly, I'm not sure if I really want to know the answers but I'll get them out in the open anyway. For instance, was I a slob? I mean, I know I was, but did she get all stressed out when she walked in my bedroom? Did I EVER help out around the house? Did I leave my things laying everywhere with no regard to who would pick them up?

Did I whine incessantly when things just didn't go my way? When my brother slugged me, did she think that it was high time that somebody knocked some sense into me? Was I a drama queen and was I always looking for reasons to stay home sick? Could she tell how much I craved attention and how badly I tried to get it?

Did I ever wear things that made her think to herself: "I should really tell her that the bright green bellbottoms do NOT go with the plaid halter top. And for that matter, she shouldn't wear a halter"? Did I try and do things with my hair that made her glance at me pitifully as if to tell me it was a lost cause?

Did she know when I hung around with creepy people or when I temporarily abandoned my real friends to find someone cooler? Did she ever wonder if anyone would ever want to marry me and put up with me for the rest of their life?

Did she know how badly it hurt when my heart was broken by a boy who was all wrong for me but who I was head over heels in love with? Could she sense how awkward and fat I felt next to my best friend who was 5' 6" tall and only weighed 100 pounds? Did she realize that I never felt as smart as my friends or know how hard I worked to hide that? Did she know that I sometimes felt like I wasn't good at anything?

Could she see through my dorkiness to know that I'd turn out OK? Did it seem, when I was a teen, that I had any redeeming characteristics? Did I annoy her as much as I annoyed myself?

Did she know how happy I felt when I finally figured out my place in life and knew that I was OK?

I have teens and much like the "empath" in the only Star Trek episode I've ever seen, I sometimes feel their pain, their hurt, their pride. Often, I want to jump in and take a bullet for them or jump up and down when it all finally works. Yes, I still have all of those questions and more, but I think I already know the answers. They come eventually with the wisdom of motherhood.