Holla To Your Mom

magnets-wow-i-get-to-give-birth-and-change-diapersMother’s Day.  Is there any other day that brings out such sentiments of love in human hearts?

As a mom myself, I have to say that giving birth to a child is a lot of work.  Staying up half the night with a small, screaming infant or a sick, miserable child is exhausting. Having small children who have inexhaustible amounts of energy and zero fear is also rather trying.  Homework is never-ending, reading parenting books is defeating and there is never enough toilet paper.  These are all a given.

However, NO ONE warned me about the fact that these experiences pale in comparison to the worries that parents have when their child is grown.  And drives. And smashes their car.  More than once.

Recently, I have diagnosed myself with PTODD, which stands for Post Traumatic Offspring Driving Disorder.  You won’t find it in any DSM but, trust me, it exists.   It began when Eldest Son started driver’s training and I’m still not over it.  The symptoms vary, but, in my case, it manifests itself by me believing, beyond a doubt, that my child is in mortal danger when I wake up in the middle of the night and didn’t hear him or her come in.  I can go from zero to mortally wounded and in a ditch in 0.2 seconds.

Recently, I brought this up to our eldest children.   I expressed my love and concern for them and told them about my darkest fears.  It went something like this:

Me: “You know, when you come home late and I don’t realize that you’re home, I think the worst.  I worry that you’ve been in an accident and they can’t find your i.d. and your cell phone is smashed and that’s why the police haven’t notified me.  I realize that this is a little over the top but I just want you to be careful.”
Eldest Son: “I’m sorry, Mom.  I don’t mean to worry you.  That’s terrible.”
Teenage Daughter: “Mom, that’s just weird.  If I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t find someone, I would just figure that they went out to pick up food.”

Clearly, I need to take some cues from Teenage Daughter.

Wishing all you moms out there a chill Mother’s Day.  You deserve it.

Earning My Stripes

This past weekend I met a woman who goes to our church.  We’re fairly new there, and she was asking me about my kids’ ages.  When I told her that my youngest son was 8 years old and goes to Sunday school, she immediately asked me if he sits in church with us too.  

I wavered.  This woman obviously was a “children should be in church” mom and I’m not.  When I think of Youngest Son lying on the pew, coloring and asking me 100 times when the service was going to be over, I silently thank the sunday school teachers for their time and kindness.   Things are definitely better now that he is no longer “worshipping” with us. 

I was then on the receiving end of a litany about how it’s important for families to be together and then go to Bible study, etc, etc when something in the very back of my brain snapped and I shut down.  If Bossy Mom had been paying attention and not lecturing me, she may have heard the hum of my mind come to a complete stop and seen my eyes glaze over.  However, she wasn’t done proselytizing despite the fact that I was done listening.

It then occurred to me that I was DONE listening to other Bossy Moms give me advice, period.  I’m not talking girlfriend advice or a friendly pep talk.  I’m done with people who want to give me unsolicited advice regarding how to live my life, raise my kids and conduct my church activities.  Done. Done. Done.

Today is Eldest Son’s 17th birthday and, quite frankly, I’ve been doing this mommy thing for a long time now.  In fact, I think that mothers should be allowed stripes for every year of parenting, just like the military.  We could work our way up in the ranks and special medals could be awarded for injury during combat, bravery and volunteering. 

If Bossy Mom had seen my stripes she would have said, “You don’t take your son to… oh, I’m sorry, Second Lieutenant Lee.  I see that you are a decorated war hero, rewarded with the ‘Lack of Sleep for 24 Months’ award and ‘I’ve Raised Willful Children’ medal too.  Forgive me – good job.  As you were, soldier.”  We would have saluted each other and moved on.  No lectures, no judgement.  Just two moms, both doing the best we can. 

However, I had no such stripes so all I could do was say, “Nice meeting you,” and go back to the trenches.  From now on, however, this Semper Fi mom is on a mission to be kind and supportive to other parents I meet.  Come to think of it, Bossy Mom would have made a great drill sargent.

Motherhood and a Heaping Pile of Guilt – No Extra Charge

This past Sunday, after a long day working at the library, I was finishing up my dinner with Youngest Son.  We were chatting amiably when he casually mentioned that  he was the only kid in his class who didn’t have a parent at lunch on Friday.   The kids had gone to the one room schoolhouse in our township for the day and the teacher had invited parents to come to lunch, but I had to work. 

He continued, “Yeah, I was feeling pretty bad.  I ate with my head down.  I felt really sad.”  

This was almost too much to take.  Never mind that I work to feed my family, pay for their essentials and send them one day to college.  Never mind that I would donate a vital organ to any of my three kids if they needed it or take a bullet to shield them.  Never mind that I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 16 years.  Disregard all the laundry, cooking and caring for sick children that I’ve done over the years.  Don’t pay attention to any of the field trips that I have indeed gone on.  Forget all that. 

The bottom line was that I didn’t show up for lunch and, therefore, I am a bad mom and just one step closer to Bad Mommy Hell.

I’d like to say that I can take the advice of Working Mother magazine and “allow yourself to not feel guilty”.  However, this would require a lobotomy on my part.  I wonder what the editor of this magazine would do if HER 8-year-old son came home from school and stuck a knife in her heart by saying that he was singled out because his mother worked?  Would she “allow” herself to not feel like pond scum?

Not long ago, I ran into a woman whose daughter had been my friend growing up.  When I inquired how she was doing, she gushed about what a fantastic mother her daughter was.  She breastfed all her babies for a year, took long maternity leaves and cooked all her food organically from scratch.  She marvelled at what a natural her daughter was with motherhood since she had been a working mother.

After listening politely and saying  how nice it was to hear about her daughter, I “allowed” myself to think of a word that rhymes with rich and is generally thought to be rude. 

And I didn’t feel guilty.  Imagine that.

Meet you in Bad Mommy Hell.  If you need a ride, let me know.  I call front seat.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Youngest Son is going to be 8 years old on October 5th.  So exciting.  Our little guy is turning out to be pretty funny.  He’s got a keen eye and is constantly reporting the state of the world as he sees it.

He’s also turned his keen eye to his sibling situation and is not happy about it.  Not at all.  In fact, he’s pretty disgruntled, particularly with his sister, and would like some answers as to why things have turned out the way that they have.

On more than one occasion he’s asked me why I didn’t have more children.  He’s actually more specific than that.

YS: “Mom, why didn’t you have a twin brother for me?”
Me: “Well, sweetie, that’s not something that a person can plan for”.
YS: “Why not?  I could have had someone to play with all the time.”
Me: “Your twin could have been a sister.  Would you have wanted that?”
YS: (After a long pause) “Well, it would be better than what I have now.”
Me: “Sorry, honey, I just couldn’t have any more kids and you can’t order twins like fast food.”
YS: “Why couldn’t you have more kids?”

How to answer this question?  I had flashbacks of sitting in the hospital and gestating for a month before his brother was born, taking medication to stop my pre-term labor with his sister and being rushed to the hospital five weeks before my due date with Youngest Son.  Even though YS was only there for a day, the sights and sounds of the neonatal intensive care unit still haunt me.  Should I share any of this with him? 

Just like those Expedia commercials where people imagine the very worst case scenario on their vacation and then change their itinerary, I simply say, “I just couldn’t do it, buddy.  You’ll have to appreciate our dog.  Someday, you and your sister will love each other and become great friends.” 

He just gives me a withering look and says, “Yeah, right.  That’ll happen.”

I have a feeling that if I had indeed had another child, Youngest Son, who would be Second to Youngest Son, would find a reason to complain about him or her too.  There would still be trouble in paradise.  It’s just the nature of being a sibling.

Normally, I would tell Youngest Son to be careful what you wish for, but in this case, there’s no need.  He’s not going to get it.

The Ghosts of School Supplies Past

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Over the years I’ve realized that my internal calendar goes from September to June and not January to December.  So, September is the start of my new year, and a fresh new start. 

One of the most exciting things about going back to school is buying new school supplies.  I love going to Target and looking at all of the bins of new pens, pencils, paper and other writing utensils.   Bin after bin of bright, shiny boxes.  It’s intoxicating.

I happen to be very partial to crayons.  There is something about opening a new box of crayons and finding them all perfect in their happy, little box.  The tips are flat, their papers unblemished and they are hopefully waiting for you to color with them.  

If crayons could talk, they would tell you why you should choose their particular color.  If I start talking to crayons, you have every right to leave me a comment that says I’m a few Crayolas short of a full box.

My crayon obsession became obvious this past week when Youngest Son decided that he wanted to draw me a picture.  He was particularly interested in using Sharpies (anyone want to explain my kids’ obsession with colored markers?) and crayons.

So, I went looking for the supplies of school years past.  I found them.  That would include six bins of crayons, colored pencils, dried out markers and some stuff that resembled dried Play-Doh. 

It appears that I’ve never required my children to re-use anything from year to year.  That’s a whole lot of leftover stuff. 

I looked at Youngest Son and the huge mess that I brought up from the basement and declared how silly this all was.  Why I keep buying new school supplies every year was just beyond me and I needed to change my ways.  What was I thinking?

This year was going to be different, I vowed.  I was going to go through this mess, throw out the broken crayons and dried out markers.  We were going to be wise and thrifty.  Reduce, re-use, recycle.  I rock.

I was feeling pretty good about my “green” self when I found a Target bag sitting in the laundry room.  In it were three brand new boxes of crayons and some Sharpies.  It was all coming back to me… Target had them on sale for $.20 a pack.  Just thought I’d pick up a few of them at that price. 

You know, just in case we didn’t have enough.

Psycho Babble

There is psychosocial theory regarding the eight stages of life that was developed by a guy named Erik Erikson.  In a nutshell, a person is supposed to pass through these eight stages during a normal life cycle and handle the challenges that accompany each one. 

I learned about these stages in my freshman year in college, otherwise known as my “identity vs. role confusion” stage of life.  I remember reading about the stage that most 40-60 year-olds encounter, generativity vs. stagnation, and thinking how silly that sounded.  I mean REALLY… worrying about being stagnant?  Impossible.

Now that I’m over 40, I’ve decided that Erikson must have had a lot of time on his hands.  In fact, Erikson must have had a doting wife or maid too because no one I know has time to think up theories like this one.

According to Erikson, I’m supposed to be nurturing things that will outlast me.  This is true – I have three children who will, God willing, be around longer than myself.  However, ol’ Erikson and I go our separate ways when it comes to the stagnation part.  Instead, I think that this stage should be “generativity vs. survival”. 

There are a gazillion things that need to be done each day, from the most basic such as making meals and doing laundry, to dealing with teachers and going to work.  While I would like to say that I am building schools in third world countries and making a difference in the world in that way, the truth is that I’m not.  I’m just keeping up with what I’ve got going on at home. 

Erikson goes on to say that people go through mid-life crises when they look at the world around them and see that they haven’t “made a mark”.  Seems to me that there are quite a few mid-life crises just waiting to happen.

Talk to me in 10 years and we’ll see if I’ve made a mark on society like Erikson proposed.  No, make that 15 years.  In 10 years I’ll have another teenager.  Lord help.

There’s another psychosocial theory that I do agree with wholeheartedly.  Developed by a psychologist named Abraham Maslow, it’s referred to as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”.  Here’s a visual for you:

maslows_hierarchy21

This theory states that if a person’s physiological, safety, self-esteem and love needs are being met then he or she is able to go on to being creative and reaching higher levels of humanity.

Amen, Dr. Maslow.  This is exactly why I drink coffee every morning.

Please Check Your Ego as You Leave the Delivery Room

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It has become quite apparent lately that I am not cool.   It’s a possibility that I was never cool, but I’m really not now. 

Case in point… Teenage Daughter was invited to a birthday party for a friend on Saturday.  As we were driving to Target tonight (yes, I know, I was feeding into my addiction but I really NEEDED to go tonight) I asked her if she wanted to buy the above-referenced friend a gift.  “Nah”, she said, “I’ll just give her money.” 

Thinking that money seems like a somewhat boring gift I suggested that she buy something cute to add to it, such as a cuddly stuffed animal.  The look on her face said it all.  “Seriously, mom. She’s. Like. 14.”  Ok, I get it.   I’m not cool and my ideas stink.  

This is not the first time that I’ve been called on the carpet for my silly, uncool ways.   Pointed questions, such as, “You’re not going to wear that, right?” or “Do you really like that?” to my mommy faux paus are reminders that I’m not only not “da bomb” but I need supervision as well.

I’m not allowed to sing along to popular music on the radio either.  I happen to like the song “So What”?  by Pink (So what? I’m still a rock star…) and I like to sing it LOUDLY just to irritate sensitive teens who are riding along with me in my car.  Being uncool can be fun sometimes. 

Every once in a while my age and experience come in handy to dazzle my kids.  Puff Daddy’s “Come With Me”was playing on the radio and I just HAPPENED to have Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” CD queued up in my car.  I told my kids that “Come With Me” was influenced by the song “Kashmir” and  proved it to them by switching back and forth between the radio and my cd player.   For just one shining moment, I was hip.   Then we went home and I became my old, uncool self again. 

I’m going to give it ten years.  Maybe by then I’ll be appreciated.  And, oh, by the way – woot!  I can say that because no one is around to correct me.