The thing about kids growing up is that they get to be a lot less difficult to have around. And when it gets easier, I think they may be paying more attention to us than ever before. And it scares me.
I have always loved having my kids around but, you know, when they are 3 and tantruming up a tornado of crazy, they might just be a bit more “work” than they are at 10. When they are 3, you are on duty and always watching with your guard up and, when you put them to bed at night, you admit so much relief because you have a few hours to be you and not some hard-core routine enforcer.
At 10 (and even 7), it’s different. You can relax some. Suddenly you can sleep in, and your kids can get what they need out of the frig. The tantrums come less often and conversations become more two-sided. In fact, your kids aren’t as much work as they were before and you can kind of “do you” while they hang out do their thing.
You let your guard down some. You don’t feel so “parent-ish” ALL the time. When the kids are quiet and cool, it feels OK to be more true to who you are and what you do. And suddenly, in that moment when you are most relaxed and laughing and talking to the people around you, you look over and realize that they are watching and listening to you more than they ever have before.
We recently went to the beach with a group of friends for an over-night. We had a great time and the kids tagged right along. I was saying to my husband later that it didn’t even feel like we had “kids” there because it just wasn’t hard work. They never complained, they laughed along with us, they enjoyed the beach, the hung out with our circle of friends in the water, they watched TV when we did, they came along to dinner and sat patiently (ish) when dinner was late, and they went to bed quietly, probably listening to all the grown-up talk outside the window just like I did when I was a kid.
But here’s the thing. We all sweared. And enjoyed a few “adult beverages” around them. We said what we said and I am not sure we censored ourselves drastically. I don’t think we talked about too much that was very inappropriate but what if I said something off-handed about a person’s really bad tattoo as they were walking by. (I’m not sure that I did but I know I have, the beach has some bad tat art, it’s always something to behold.) What if I was a little bit mean? My kids were there, saying very little, careful to be considered part of the group, and they were eves-dropping the entire time.
I think now is a time when we need to be very, VERY careful.
If I think that I am my most influential as a parent when I am lecturing them about the ideals of right and wrong in the car while we go to the grocery store… I AM WRONG. That’s the stuff that they tune it out.
My kids are watching how I treat people when they serve us dinner in a restaurant. Or when I lose my temper over a broken grocery bag and swear. Or when I talk on the phone about another person on the porch and they are beside me reading a book. They are watching every move, drawing so much less attention to themselves now and getting closer to the person I REALLY am. And they are archiving it all away as an example of how to be.
People, when your kids get older, they see you for who you are, to the core. You won’t be able to bullshit them. Don’t think that you can. Don’t think you can tell them some tale of how kids should be and adults should be and try to convince them that you don’t swear or make fun of people’s bad tattoos WHEN YOU DO.
I love that my kids are more grown up. I love getting to know them as older people who suddenly have opinions and reasonable suggestions and remind me about appointment dates and know directions to places. That’s cool! They are so much less work and so much more fun.
But I can’t let the fun fool me. And I had BETTER not let my guard down and try to play the “my kids are my best friends” routine. It’s easy to do, they want you to be their friends. And you kind of can be. But, ultimately, you are their example and their compass for right and wrong. As they grow, I can NOT take this for granted or forget that when they are good, and sitting nicely… they are listening to and watching everything. EVERYTHING. So I had better make it count. And be the person I want them to be. I can’t tell them how to be good human. I can only show them how to do it. And showing someone how to be GOOD, when parents are so damn fallible in every way, is a very scary reality to face.
So, maybe it isn’t easier. This is a stage of parenting that challenges the person I have decided to be. And I think that’s how it always will be, even when they are adults.
*Checking moral center and game face in the mirror.*
I’m not sure if it is the flashbacks from my childhood or the fact that my kids will be rid of their video game temptations, but back-to-school time gives me warm fuzzies way down deep. New backpacks, new pencil cases, new shoes, new educational ways to keep my kids’ brains from atrophying from prolonged exposure of “The Regular Show”– yay for back-to-school time!
This year, I was once again invited by Westfield Brandon to do some back-to-school shopping on Florida’s tax-free weekend. (Cue happy dance!) And, let me tell you, I had a serious must-get a list: shoes, backpacks, clothes, socks (HOW do they manage to wear so many holes in socks?), and jackets all needed to be bought.
I am going to be real with you, however. Sure, this is a sponsored post, but there are legit reasons why I love shopping at Westfield Town Centers. Here they are:
Westfield Town Centers put families first. I was impressed by that fact last year and I continue to be this year, too. We went in the Family Playhouse space three times over the course of the day. There is a quiet atmosphere, comfortable couches, a TV, a kitchen area, private nursing areas and a family bathroom. Shopping is exhausting and over-stimulating, especially on a tax-free weekend. We needed to power down in there, it had to happen and this was the perfect spot.
Westfield also has a bunch of play areas for younger kids. And who can forget the AMAZING carousel in the middle of the Center, and even the bungee fun being offered, too. You can shop, play, shop, play, eat, shop, play. I don’t think my boys could have lasted as long without that general activity pattern.
Westfield also offers programming for families on a regular basis. Check out what’s happening here.
Westfield Town Centers give you options and sales. I am always amazed by how many stores there are at Westfield Brandon. That place goes on and on and on. And then we were pleasantly surprised by certain stores. For instance, our first stop was at The Children’s Place because I needed to buy a gift. Hold on, there were clothes big enough for my 7 and 10 year old! I didn’t know that! We wound up buying my 10 year old the COZIEST zip-up hoodie with this fuzzy lining that will be perfect for winters here and trips north. It was, by far, his favorite purchase of the day (even if he was too cool to pose for it so here’s my seven year old holding the bag).
Westfield Town Centers have fun. While we were there, they were offering fun contests, games and make-overs. I saw lots of people involved and trying them out. The staff there were fun and welcoming and nice to kids when their $5 bill wouldn’t go into the token-making machine. (Thanks for the exchange for a crisper one!) Even the security guard tried to make my husband his new buddy while he poured over the map.
Westfield Town Centers offer you more than a food court. I have no beef with a food court, sometimes a quick stop has to happen. But I love how their restaurants are slightly separated from the Center and set in a pretty, landscaped area. It’s a nice reprieve and it is right there on site. We inhaled our food at Red Robin and got right back to it.
Westfield Town Centers give away shopping sprees! Westfield Brandon is currently offering families a chance to win a $1,000 back-to-school shopping spree! Hello, can you imagine how much that could help a family out? Be sure to enter here!
So, sure, our day utterly exhausted us (yes, the crowds were something to behold, as expected) and after five hours of hard-core shopping, I thought I broke my family.
But we really had a great time. My seven year adores his new Ninjago hoodie and Perry the Platypus shoes. My ten year old will be rocking an awesome backpack sure to withstand the rigors of fifth grade and really nice sneakers that won’t disintegrate on week one. There’s something to be said for “having fun” while you go back-to-school shopping, and we did.
Disclosure: I am working directly with Westfield. I am being compensated as an independent blogger. All opinions expressed in this content are mine.
My guess is that feeding a child may be one of the most complex processes in parenting. There is so much wrapped up in it, you know? It was the first thing we were instructed to do as parent after all. Feed your baby. Make sure he eats and then poops and thrives. If you can’t make that happen, well, what good are you?
But then they grow up and get notions and opinions about their food. How dare they. And we become crazed with the possibility that they will fail to thrive if they don’t eat their carrots. Oh yes, we are quite sure that their lack of carrot servings, and the resulting cases of scurvy and the rest, will reflect on our abilities to parent.
We insist that they eat.
They want control.
And there you have the ultimate child-parent stand-off. Well, after potty-training and before anything to do with puberty at least.
I am NOT one of those brilliant mothers who has managed to have my child consume foie gras and smoked salmon before he could talk. Some moms can and do this. Yay for them. But this has not been the case in my household. (And I am sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I can’t stand foie gras and smoked salmon, either.)
My six year old started out his toddler years detesting bread. And then he didn’t. He detested meat of all types. And then he could do processed nuggets. And then we banned nuggets and he swallowed down REAL chicken with ginormous swallows of water. Such. Torture. Then he liked chicken.
6 years of this. He always kind of, sort of comes around… after many, many torturous tries.
And tonight, it was Shepherd’s Pie.
HOW DARE I.
Sure, each item (meat, potatoes, simple veggies) are tolerable apart. But together? WOE! DRAMA! TEARS!
“You’re going to make me dead with that food!!!!!” His exact words yelled at me while I stood there, still in rumpled work clothes, pans deep in the makings and hair standing straight out from the steam from the boiling potatoes…
Cue daggers springing from my eyes and muttered prayers to hold me back from putting my child out on the curb with the recycling.
So here we go. Let another stand-off commence. My child’s job tonight was to eat this. (And YES, if he did, he could eat a left-over Valentine’s day treat that I had meant to chuck out weeks ago.)
Oh. The horror.
And then I sat in front of him. Eating my own DELICIOUS serving. And taking pictures of his reaction for you all to enjoy. Consider it my revenge for the hour long whining while I slaved over that hot stove (because I DID, dammit).
So. Guess what? After a little time and numerous attempts… he liked it.
He ate the whole damn thing. THE WHOLE THING.
Ha-HAAAHHHHH!!!!! Mommy SUCCESS!!! Let me enjoy this moment. He did it! He will live and thrive another day!
…while he eats a nasty pack of fun-dip (shudder… the devil’s food… gah) and rots all those new little kid teeth right out of his head. But they rot away with PEAS AND CARROTS IN HIS BELLY.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy left most of this country permanently changed. The possibility of our worst nightmare came to life on a Friday morning, and most us have no idea how to make things right. We can’t, of course. 26 lives were lost. But we can find positive ways to honor their lives and move forward.
Many of us have taken on Ann Curry’s mission to offer #26Acts if Kindness. I adore this idea. It’s positive. It’s good. But for some reason, it also doesn’t seem enough.
So here’s my small attempt. I am writing down 26 lessons I want my children to learn in their lifetimes. Sure, maybe these are things I would have tried to teach them anyway. But, if they look back one day, I want them to know why these lessons meant something. And I want to remind myself why I am a parent and why it is so important to raise good, kind people. So, here we go:
1. Do your best everyday as a way to honor your community and your family, not your ego.
2. Share what you have, because you always have more than someone else. And what you have never makes you better than anyone else.
3. Enjoy and celebrate those around you TODAY. Tomorrows are hopeful but today is real and here and a gift.
4. Don’t be late. When you are, you are telling the other person that your time is worth more than theirs.
5. Ask questions. Knowledge is always more valuable than the perception of knowing.
6. Use your words. We don’t live in a world of mind-readers. Ask for what you want, say what you think.
7. Did everyone make a mess? Don’t just fix your part, help be the solution to the entire problem.
8. “The world owes us nothing, we owe each other the world.” You may earn things in your life, but never act entitled to any of it. Be grateful for what you get, and consider how to give back.
9. Love your brother. No, I mean it. Your sibling (or cousin or family member) is a part of your identity and heritage. Honor it, value it, never ever let it go. No disagreement is ever worth it. I promise.
10. Be patient. There will always be traffic, and people in front of you, and people doing things slower than you can do it, and things that don’t go your way. Breathe. Check yourself and just be patient.
11. Stuff doesn’t matter. Cool toys, fancy clothes, cars, houses, things that make you look like a rock-star… they can be fun. Enjoy it if you can. But, really? Don’t give it unnecessary value and none of it should ever define who you are.
12. Take care of your body. Go to the doctor, eat well, exercise, don’t ignore something that worries you. You have one body and one life, do your best to honor it and take care of it.
13. Love what you do. Really try to find a purpose that you leap out of bed for everyday. Your happiness is important and you will be able to give more when you are happy.
14. Be uncomfortable. Every time you are uncomfortable, you will learn something. You might even gain something. You might even learn to like it. Discomfort is OK, it’s good for you, it’s a challenge — don’t back away from it.
15. Keep learning. The minute you think you have it all figured out, you have closed yourself off from some very important lessons.
16. Don’t let someone else fix your problems. Not me, not your spouse, no one. Face the music, own up to your mistakes, take responsibility.
17. Earn your keep. Do your job to the best of your ability. Do your part. Be an active, hard-working participant in whatever you do.
18. Take initiative. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Don’t assume it’s someone else’s job to fix it. Don’t decide someone else has thought it up already. Want something to change? Jump in and make it happen.
19. Listen. I mean it. Listen to what the people around you are saying. Your opinions are no more important than theirs. Listen and consider and learn.
20. I may say you’re “the most amazing person that ever lived” but you still need to prove that to the world. Humility is a critical part of growth.
21. Stubborn? Get over it. 98% of the time it’s just not worth it. I promise.
22. Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to be confident to get confident. Be what you want to be, no one else is going to give it to you.
23. Change is coming. No matter what you do to prevent it, things change. Either embrace and move with the change or shut down and lose the lesson that change brings.
24. Be loyal to the people you care about and respect, even when things change unexpectedly (see #23) or make you uncomfortable (see #14).
25. See the value in every experience, whether it’s positive or negative. Failure is OK. Appreciate the value in every bad date, job interview, basketball practice. Consider, learn, move forward.
26. Love is never a weakness. Love like it’s your job. Love like you have nothing else in the world. Tell those you love about how you feel often. Don’t assume they just know.
The 26 lives lost on December 14th were extraordinarily significant, and I will try to teach these lessons to my children in their honor.
On the day of the shooting, my husband picked the boys up early from school. He then texted me this picture of them goofing off in front of their school, with not a care in the world. I was truly, to-the-core, grateful for their joy, innocence and safety.
When I got home on Friday, and folded my boys into my arms, my youngest wrapped his fingers around one of mine — like an infant would. It felt so unbearably familiar and dear. I have loved them both fiercely since that was the only way they could hold on. It’s instinctive. It’s rooted in our deepest connection. It’s all I know.
I don’t think it was just me. In the restaurant that night, I think every parent clung to their child while waiting for a table. My kids got chocolate milk and coins for those damn machines and anything they wanted on the menu. And then, after dinner, we walked around the Christmas trees and laughed and loved and actually sang Christmas carols and held hands. So did everyone else. I don’t think it was just me.
It’s like they just knew. They both bounded into our bed early on Saturday morning and trailed us to the kitchen. They demanded snuggles. They sat by us. They wanted to play cards and games and wrap presents and do whatever we were doing. At one point, I had both children (6 and 9!) on my lap while I did work. They hugged so hard I had to tell them to stop because it hurt. We kept the news off this entire weekend but it’s like they knew.
The school superintendent called this afternoon. He said the schools were safe. He said there are resources for discussing it with our children. He said we needed to go back to our routines tomorrow. He said guidance counselors would be available all week. He said the school staff will take care of our children. I hung up the phone and watched my boys chase and tackle each other in our backyard on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
I let my oldest watch President Obama make his speech in Newtown tonight. Our president explained how our children are our nation’s dearest treasure. I want my son to know his safety IS valued by our president, by our entire country. He watched and wrapped his arms around me. I think he was trying to comfort me.
I lost nobody on Friday. My children are perfectly here, breathing and complaining and laughing and wonderful. But this stopped me in a way only very few tragedies have. However I can from afar, I am grieving deeply with each of those parents. DEEPLY. This tragedy has rocked me, and just about everyone I know, to the core.
I have nothing to offer here, no lesson learned, or respectful understanding about the laws of nature right now. Nope.
I just know that tomorrow, I will tell my kids it’s just another school day. And I will pack them into the car. And make sure science projects are ready and reindeer ears are in place for holiday activities. And drive onto the school grounds. And get in line with the other cars. And then, I will let them step out of the car and away from me. As they do every single day.
We are doing our very best. I know that. All of us. Parents, educators, first responders.
We are blessed by amazing faculty who don’t know me but would do anything to protect my babies from “the bad guys”. I know that and I find real comfort in that.
What a luxury. All I have to do is let my kids out of the car tomorrow. That’s ALL I have to do. While elsewhere, in Connecticut, dozens of parents will bury their children. So, without question, my kids will get out of the car for every single morning theirs cannot. This is their gift. This is their right. This is their life and routine. Not mine.
So, my nine year old and I could not come up with anything good for his Halloween costume this year. Star Wars, done. Harry Potter, done. General Skeleton, Frankenstein monster options, done.
But what about Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Well, dressing up as Greg Heffley wouldn’t really work — a kid with a back pack, yawn, no thanks.
But, what about the star of the first book? What about the Cheese Touch?
Our inspiration came from here:
It was a fun project to work on. We got foam board, yellow paint, black permanent markers, plastic bugs, glitter glue, crayons and even yarn. We also got a head band and some felt stick-on letters. Oh yeah, and some moldy-colored duct tape.
It took us a couple nights of decorating and gluing, but I think we did a pretty rad job. AND it was original.
Here was the outcome.
(Oh and I swear he was more jazzed about his costume than it looks like in this picture. He was just mad I was taking pictures here and not taking him trick-or-treating…)
I woke up this Sunday and I thought to myself: “My kids need to get OUT.” Not forever (bite your tongue), just for the afternoon. But our kids are still kind of young and we are a little new to the whole “let-the-kids-out-to-play-in-the-neighborhood” thing. Sure, we did it as kids, but the rules have changed… haven’t they? So… what exactly ARE the rules now?
We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where my kids know other kids. Most go to their school and, with our little homes all in a row, lined by wide-open sidewalks, it’s easy to get to one another.
Well, up until this year, my kids and the kids in the neighborhood haven’t reached out to one another very much. Why? Because the rules with young kids are that you don’t play with other kids unless the moms know each other and set up an official play-date. Unfortunately, my favorite moms have moved away. Then I went back to work and that’s been about that.
NOW, the kids are old enough to seek one another out WITHOUT the moms really knowing each other. Whoa. Of course, we track down phone numbers for one another but it’s not about the moms getting along, it’s about the kids finding their way in the world without us nipping at their heels, wiping their noses and asking them when they last peed.
This is a very brave new world for all of us.
So, off they went this morning.
My 6 year old plays with a boy across the street. His father is a paramedic turned police officer. And I’m not sure I’ve ever heard his mom swear. They are pretty much the nicest, most responsible people ever. Plus, my 6 year old isn’t a risk-taker. He knows his limits and might look both ways about 10 times (with one ear cupped, listening for a car’s engine in the distance) before he ventures across our little road. No sweat there.
The other, my 9 year old, is slightly more dangerous. You see, he’s gotten fairly sick of us on weekends. We limit (or, right now, 100% cut-off) his video game time (his fault). His brother holds his attention for shorter spans these days. And, my suggestions (“Why don’t you go read a book–how about those nice Percy Jackson books?!”) are rarely a good idea anymore. Cue 9 year old eye-roll. So, it’s time he ventures out more.
And, get this. His closest friend in his class lives about a block away. Score!
However, while dangerously desperate to flee our home, my son is also easily embarrassed. And, until recently, he was too mortified to make the social leap of walking down and knocking on his door and asking him to play.
He got over that only recently.
So, after wolfing down a Dunkin’ Donuts egg sandwich this morning, he threw on his shirt, opened the door and went out to play. I hollered after him, asking him to CALL ME if he was going to stay. And desperately throwing out a: DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS! He never looked back.
So, my husband and I spent about 3 hours at home today with no children… and no babysitter fees.
I got some things done. He went food shopping. I cleaned. I watched TLC. He watched football. But, mentally, I paced.
You see, when they are underfoot, they drive me bananas. But when they venture off and DON’T CALL, I feel verrry unsettled.
Of course, since he didn’t call us, my husband did a slow drive-by TWICE to make he sure was still in his friend’s backyard playing football. He was playing football the first time. And, the second, he was walking back from a local orange tree with a pack of kids. Perfect, right?
Yep. We know that logically. But my husband fretted, too. He of an era when “I played outside ALL day until I heard a dinner bell.” He worried and rationalized just as much as I did.
Because it’s not about what he did once. The rules HAVE changed.
The weirdos, the creepy guys who drive ice cream trucks, the kids that never get to where they were going, the possibility of so much horror… we picture every scenario. Well, we do until he marches back in the door, soaking wet, covered in grass and streaks of dirt, and demanding dinner… which is exactly what he did tonight.
I know, I know. SO WHAT. “Just wait until they start driving!” I hear many of you say. “Just wait until they go to college and you have NO idea where they are at any given moment!”
I had better get used to it. And I am. But it is a process. And I am trying to navigate this new set of rules. Because if I keep them indoors and out of trouble… I have become the dreaded helicopter mom. But if I let them out… what then? How long do I let them go? SHOULD I insist he calls home, no matter how embarrassing it is? Do I give a curfew? Do I set limits as to how far he can venture in the neighborhood? Do I really trust him… really? Do I call his friend’s mom’s house, even when she doesn’t seem too worried? Do I stalk him with my car the whole time he is out? I’m thinking yes to all of this.
I want to do this right. But it feels very panicky, fumbling and uncool so far. I feel like such a rookie.
Granted. That about sums up parenting, doesn’t it? We’re all rookies–panicky, fumbling and uncool.
So, now that they are home and bathed and about ready for bed, I shift my fretting from “Are they safe right now?” to “How will I keep them safe next time?” and “What else should (shouldn’t?) I be doing?”
It’s not easy to be this much of a basket-case. It takes a lot of over-thinking and hand-wringing to get to where I am. And panicking and fumbling and far too much uncoolness.
I almost titled this post “Don’t hesitate, Poison Control is Great!” But, no. Even I know how much cheese a blog post can really take. Still, I am feeling some fairly enthusiastic love for Poison Control today, so I thought I would share. No, they didn’t ask me to write this. But I got to call them today.
Honestly, I was probably over-reacting. This morning, my 6yo had a fever. My husband and I thought we should give him some chewable Tylenol. Cool. While he was busy in the kitchen making coffee, I gave my kid a dose. And then when I was busy getting dressed, my husband gave him a dose, too. Double dose. And the Pedi’s office was still closed.
So, I looked at the box. Under Overdose Warning, it said:
Taking more than the recommended dose (overdose) may cause liver damage. In case of overdose, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away. Quick medical attention is critical even if you do not notice any signs or symptoms.
I looked over at the couch. He was snuggled under his blanket, cozily watching Beyblades… WHILE HIS LIVER SHRIVELED WITHIN.
So, I checked in with Dr. Google (even though I know better). Well, he’s a big gigantic jerk because he just gave me repeated headlines that read something like “…death in child from acetaminophen overdose…”
I looked at my husband. “I think I’m going to call Poison Control.”
“For peace of mind…”
And I did.
I consider it fairly amazing that this has only been my second time calling Poison Control, actually. The first time was after my now 6yo ate an entire stick of lipstick at about 2. I had no idea what was in that stuff. WHAT IF, you know? So I called then, too. And I had the very same experience. There are five things that truly impress me about Poison Control:
They are very calming and reassuring (basically, the nicest people ever).
They NEVER make you feel like a dumb-ass.
They know a LOT of about a lot of stuff. (Way more than Dr. Google.)
EMS calls them on the scene for dosing advice and treatment suggestions.
They won’t call social services on you for making a stupid mistake. (At least… not that *I* know of…)
So here’s my take-away. Did your kid eat something weird? Just call them.
It only takes a minute. Yeah, they will ask for your kid’s name and your number. Don’t stress. They just want to help. Your peace of mind is worth a whole lot more than wondering whether your child’s liver is slowly shriveling thanks to a Tylenol botch-up.
Or wondering whether they are about to go into toxic-lipstick-shock.
So, I just had a birthday. And I’ve got a story to share about it. It was kind of a “light-bulb” moment with a slight supernatural twist. Maybe. (You be the judge.) But it was an important moment and birthday gift, to be sure.
Rewind to a few mornings ago, on the day of my birthday. I was sitting in my car and I was feeling pretty great. The kids had been dropped off at camp, and I was about to pick up my husband for a day alone together. (I know! THAT’S a gift right there!) I was alive and healthy and my family was healthy. All was well.
So, as I was driving along and kind of settling into the groove of my day, I was suddenly caught entirely off guard. On the 80′s station I was listening to (…yeah, yeah, it was my 39th birthday, so they’re relevant tunes for me…), a Stevie Wonder song came on. NOT one of his best, but one my mother used to love.
And it was as if I could hear her say right there next to me, “Oh, I’ve always loved this song.” So, there I was, sitting at a stoplight and hearing the song “I Just Called To Say I Love You” for the first time in many, many years. Of all the songs… really…
The intersection I was sitting at was significant, too. It was there when I got a call on my cell from my mom 3 years prior to wish me happy birthday. I remember that detail because I have replayed so many of our interactions during those weeks in July.
About two weeks after that particular birthday, she passed away.
So, if you know me, you know what I thought about that particular song playing on my birthday at that very intersection.
It was like she was in the car with me. Truly.
And, yeah, I was all kinds of out-of-the-blue emotional. I truly went from 100%, totally FINE and jazzed about having a day for me to just chill out and be grateful for my life… to a muddled, weepy mess at a traffic light.
It’s fine, though. That’s how loss goes. Mourning happens out of the blue sometimes. And, after all this time, I’m actually grateful for it because it means she is present in my heart and she is still so very real in many ways.
Anyway, I learned an important lesson in that quick moment. Maybe some of you have realized this before but it took me 39 years and a bad Stevie Wonder song to figure it out…
Your birthday is not your own. It is your mother’s day, too.
Sure, sure, you came into the world that day. Good for you. Toss the confetti. Being alive is certainly a very good thing. But I can bet you all the coins lost deep in my couch cushions that your mother cares more about your birthday–a day she worked so, so damn hard to get you out of her body and breathing and OK–than she does about her own birthday.
I remember the first birthday I had after my first son was born. It felt so stupidly insignificant. THIS child and HIS life was significant. My job was to live for him now, birthday-shmirthday, behold the golden, blessed child!
(Well, ok, so that’s a “new mom” thing. You get all overwhelmed by that new kid, you think you don’t really matter… but you do, of course. Balance. Love yourself, then love another and all that poppycock… I get it. Now.)
Anyway, I may not have cared about my birthday in the weeks after my son was born but I will tell you who did… my mother. My guess is that, all those years ago, she probably didn’t express it very well. I don’t know how that call went that day, but we had a lifetime of issues we never really made peace with. It’s likely that we may have only talked briefly.
It doesn’t matter. I know she was was thinking of me on that day and all the birthday before and after that. Whatever the baggage, mothers think about their children on their children’s birthdays. Sometimes it’s about the one thing they are even sure of: “I gave birth to someone special on this very day.”
I get it.
Anyway, I had a great birthday. 39, woot!
(And many thanks to my mom for checking in that morning, too.)
Where did you learn where babies come from? Well, I’ll tell you where I did. I was in third grade and I found out from my friend’s older sister who had just had her period and, feeling very mature and knowledgeable, decided to saunter into our Barbie playtime and school us on what was what.
I was mortified.
And then I walked home slowly only to avoid eye contact with my parents at dinner that night. HOW COULD THEY.
Fast forward 30 years… and here we are with a little boy who is about to enter fourth grade. I’m not sure what he’s heard on the playground about where babies came from but, when I said that babies DO NOT come from belly buttons (a theory I had heard at one point at his age), he cackled loudly… and a little nervously.
It’s time for the talk. Or the first of many.
And what do moms like me do when we need a few answers? Well, I marched right out and bought a book, dammit. MY kid is going to know what is what and what goes where. He is NOT going to learn from someone’s far too knowledgeable older sibling or some nasty kid spouting untruths under the playground slide, either. He’s going to learn from his parents. And it was going to be great and healthy, with trusting, open lines of communication and everything is going to be juuuust fine.
So. Back to the book. I got one and it was written explicitly for boys, too. Score! So, I marched home proudly to review it and decide where we would begin.
…And I flipped it open.
About 5 minutes later, I stopped in my tracks.
I am NOT ready for this.
Go ahead, call me a prude. Tell me I’m being immature and squeamish about perfectly reasonable and very important developmental information.
IT’S MY DUTY TO TELL MY CHILDREN HOW THEIR PARTS WILL GROW, DAMMIT.
But… but…. there were DETAILED diagrams and entire chapters dedicated to what makes boys sheets crunchy and how to put on a panty liner and what this little bit of skin may or may not look at different stages of life or blood flow.
And then there was this…??? WTF is this??
They have a NAME for this?
Yep, it’s what you think it’s for. It’s for measuring testicle size.
(“This drawing is life size.”)
I need to get my head together on this. Or pass the book onto my husband and call it a day.
(Because who the HELL needs an orchidometer? Really?? I sure as hell didn’t have a boob-o-meter… And I grew up fine without one… probably because I would have ranked about the size of an 11 year old when I was 16 anyway…)
(And that’s the other thing, will my kid feel like crap if he ranks on one end or the other of this thing?? Ugh. I have no idea!!)
9 years into parenting and I clearly don’t have a clue about this stage of things. Just when you think you got this mom-thing figured out, life throws an orchidometer in your face and leaves you unable to grow a set and just TALK about it.