Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Curtain Call

For the past couple of months, all across America, something has been taking place in each and every town. As parents, it's bringing us closer and giving us a common experience. It's also validating what we do every other week of the year. I'm talking about the infamous end-of-the-year concert/banquet/recital/awards ceremony. It signals the end of the season for athletes and the end of the school year for everyone else. It's the moment when, hopefully, you look at your child and think: "Yeah, I'm glad that he/she's involved in this."

Depending on how you've felt about the activity, you and your child might be looking forward to this much like a trip to the dentist. In some cases, this end-of-the-year thing might require elaborate costumes and memorized performances thereby causing anxiety-ridden children and, consequently, parents.

I've always sort of looked forward to these events, mostly because it meant that very soon, we got a break. Maybe we had to do a bit of running around prior to the "big finish," but it was worth it in the end.

My kids never seemed to care either way. It was just something else they had to attend. I'd always want to talk about it afterwards and their response was usually something like: "Yeah, it was OK. Whatever." It was always me that was getting choked up when it was the final time he or she did something. And when I think about it, this is sort of their thought process behind every extra-curricular activity. To them, it was just another thing on their list of stuff to do. Sure, they enjoyed some activities more than others, but nothing was the be-all, end-all that some parents may have you believing.

If you've had a chance to see "Sports Kids Moms and Dads" on TV, you'll see the polar opposite. Kids who should be taken away by protective services from parents who can't draw the line between their own ambitions and their childrens' right to be children. I've seen some of these parents at our various end-of-the-year events and I feel so sad for their kids. Mostly because they aren't enjoying the activity nearly as much as their parents are.

Last week I attended the final concert performed by my daughter's choir. It was a nice event where they paid tribute to the kids who were leaving the choir. The one moment that I remember distinctly was after a particularly soulful gospel song was sung, I glanced at the choir and saw a girl who happens to be blind. She was so excited at the end of that song that she was grinning from ear to ear and clapping her hands, while the other kids stood there trying to look cool. (Even though you could tell they felt the same way.) I got really choked up and thought: "That's how it should be. The kids should be the ones getting excited."

As parents, there's a fine line between a gentle push and an all-out shove. It's too bad we can't legislate against parents who don't know the difference.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Big Gulp

It's been an intense few days for me. We just returned from taking our recent high school graduate to orientation at his soon-to-be college. In a matter of weeks, he went from being at the top of the food chain (high school senior) to a bottom feeder (college freshman). Gulp.

As a parent, this tidal wave of emotions has truly blindsided me. I was excited to see where my son would be going to school but also nervous. It's 5-1/2 hours away, in the middle of Indiana. While our son, who tends to be shy and reserved, needed a bit of a push to fully participate in orientation activities, we parents needed the opposite - someone to hold our hands and let us know that everything would be OK. I must say, we got that and a whole lot more.

So many things amazed me about this 2-day experience. First is my undying need to mother my child. The first night, my son slept in the dorm and my husband and I stayed at a nearby hotel. When we picked him up the next morning for breakfast, he had slept only 1-1/2 hours due to a roommate who came home very late and also snored loudly. He looked crushed. Although his horrible mood was silent, I could almost hear him screaming: "This is gonna suck! This is too far from home. I'll never sleep and everyone will be a stoner!" I practically had to handcuff myself not to run into the administration building and withdraw his application. Gulp.

The second incredible thing was the many parents that took this orientation as an opportunity to incessantly brag about their kids. There was the dad who was frustrated that his son had chosen the state school instead of the full-ride scholarship to the preppy private school because his son was such a genius that some schools turned him down because he was too smart and when he graduates he'll make six figures no problem. Gulp. Then there was sweet little April who plays violin, sings and was offered a bowling scholarship and was recruited heavily by many schools to be on their bowling teams and in their schools of music but who deemed Julliard as "yucky." These people look at you in the face and proceed to regurgitate every aspect of their child's brilliance never even considering that maybe you think your own kid is pretty great too and perhaps you'd like to share a word or two about him. Gulp.

Then there were the goosebump moments that happened throughout the two days. Seeing my son overcome his shyness and connect with one, two or even three kids, thereby giving me hope and making him feel like this whole college thing could actually work. Or listening to an advisor talk to him about being a music major, his passion in life, and tell him that he is required to attend 60 recitals during his college career and hear my son say to us that he's so excited that he "gets to" go to 60 recitals! Gulp.

Along the way we were supported, cheered, prodded, cajoled, humored, educated, warned, consoled, bored, reassured, congratulated and appreciated for taking two days out of our life to get our child ready for college....something none of us are truly confident in doing or prepared to accept. Gulp.

Hands down, the one moment that I'll remember for years to come, was the session where the parents shared their hopes and fears for their children. Most of us expressed concern about things like homesickness, homework and too much partying. One mom quietly said that her son, Evan, was in a wheelchair and had never spent a night alone away from home but that they had been preparing him for this all his life and her hope was that he become the kid that they thought he could be. That stopped me dead in my tracks. Here I was whining to myself about my healthy, able-bodied son being able to survive college and dorm food while this mom was legitimately concerned about her disabled son getting through each and every day. When I sit at home stressing out about how my son is doing at college, I'll pause and think about Evan and his mom. Big gulp.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Random Crabby Momblings

Yesterday I was at a public pool/waterpark. There was a young mother, quite pregnant, there with a 2-year old child. At one point, the mother made a cell phone call and stayed on the phone for at least 25 minutes while her daughter tried to get her attention. The child was a saint and was simply asking to swim. Would I have been out of line if I had "accidentally" splashed this woman and her phone for the sake of her daughter?

My friend told me about a sort of syndrome that occurs to kids the summer before they go to college. She's coined the phrase "PIB" which stands for pain-in-the-butt. Basically, These kids are hovering around the house before they leave for college, basically bugging the hell out of us moms. My fairly-good-natured son has suddenly become the spaciest child on earth who can't remember simple instructions given just moments ago. Is this God's way of preparing mother and child for the inevitable parting?

I also have an almost-8th grade daughter. She's chosen this week to not only be rude, irritable and lazy, but also request that I chauffer her around town. Would it be a bad idea if I offered her to the cell phone mom as a babysitter this summer?

Our elementary school has a fairly well-organized drop-off procedure in the morning. The guidelines are clear: If you have to get out of your car to help your kid, then park. If you don't, stop the car in the drop-off lane, let them get out and pull away. Why can't parents do this? Why must some mothers and fathers help little Poopsie put on her backpack, give her a big kiss and then discuss what they'll have for dinner? Would it be too much if we added a paintball sniper to gently remind these parents to pick up the pace?

Why is it that the cost of a summer camp is directly proportionate to the amount of paperwork that is required? Why have all the lawyers ruined our summers too? Can't we pay extra to have no paperwork at all?

Will there ever come a day when my 13-year old daughter won't roll her eyes at me? Does she think that I don't see that or that I like it?

What the heck did my mom do all summer long without the internet or cable television?

As my kids get older, more stubborn and harder to motivate, I see that I lower my so-called standards in order to meet with the least resistance. Will there come a day when my standards will be so low that I'll stop showering, sit on the couch, flip on the TV, pop open a beer and say "F*&% it. Nobody cares anyway, why should I?"

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Auntie Diaries

I had a baby last week. She seemed so small - less than 24 pounds. And you should have heard her talk! Wait a minute, I should explain. I didn't HAVE a baby...I WATCHED a baby - my 23 month-old niece, to be exact, for approximately six days. Her parents, my sister and her husband, were given the opportunity to go to Hawaii for free. Who could resist? And so I happily volunteered to play toddler mommy. Wow, what a trip.

It was only six days, but sometimes it felt like a lifetime. It has been about 11 years since I was responsible for a child that young, so I knew there would be a period of adjustment. What I didn't realize was how I would feel about this temporary gig. It felt exactly like when I brought my son home from the hospital. Suddenly, my freedom was gone. It was...a little scary. I looked forward to this for a long time, as I did when I brought my son home, but I have to admit I thought: "What the hell am I doing?!"

Don't get me wrong, she was incredibly well-behaved and she slept like a dream. Oh sure, she had her moments of stubbornness or the ability to eat less than an anorexic canary, but she was downright adorable. When she smiled or laughed, you just melted.

But it still took me off-guard at how ill-prepared I felt for this event...just like when I became a mom. I was blown away at my inability to entertain this small child. What could possibly keep her interest? "Would you like to watch Gilmore Girls?," I thought but easily surrendered at the suggestion to simply "Watch Elmo."

I was completely outside of my comfort zone. Frankly, I hadn't realized how comfy I had become with my life. Sure, I complain about my teenagers, sometimes painting a picture of them resembling Edvard Munch's "The Scream." But they feed themselves now and the only way I can entertain them is to drive them to the mall or make sure their favorite clothes are clean and the snack pantry is stocked. Yeah, yeah, there's a bit of mental anguish, worry, attitude and turmoil, but last week it seemed like small potatoes compared to making sure that wipes and diapers were close at hand and that we didn't venture far from home when nap time was imminent.

Moms of toddlers, I salute you. I don't know how you do it. Honestly, I don't know how I did it. Oh, wait...I do. I worked outside the home. In the midst of my babysitting duty, it suddenly all came crashing back to me - THIS is why I was a working mom. I'm a stay-at-home mom now, but I'm lucky - nobody's home. It's the best of both worlds.

I noticed one other thing toward the end of my nanny stint that surprised me. I started to get in the swing of things. I became more confident, less anxious and the little dear started to pull at my heartstrings. Sure, I've always loved her, but like a new mom, I was starting to get attached to this little creature. I loved that she loved me, and what more potent parental drug is there than a child who looks you in the eye and loves you unconditionally? It's simply addictive.

Oh yeah, THAT was why I wanted to be a parent in the first place.