Entries Tagged 'Reality check' ↓

Mourning Mandela

Imagine you are a 14 year old girl and you are suddenly flown from the U.S. to a small southern African country and dropped off at a foreign international school found far, far up on a hill without anyone but your little brother by your side. It’s 1987, you are wearing a stone-washed denim mini-skirt, far too much hairspray and you are terrified. That was me and that school was a place that shaped my soul in a way I never expected. While I quietly pouted about the outrage of it all, I marched onto the campus that first day, followed thWKe rest of the student body into an assembly hall, slid onto a bench with other 14 year olds and, with arms folded, I waited for something to happen. And it had better be good.

Something did happen.

And it started with assembly every week. Well, it may have even been twice a week, but it always started the same way. We sang the Swaziland national anthem and then we sang the African national anthem. Every student sang loudly and beautifully and with a shocking passion unlike anything I had ever, EVER seen. No one at my old school sang my national anthem this way. What is this?? What is going on? It was so beautiful that I swallowed back tears week after week, deeply overcome.

And then we were taught about what was really going on. You see, I was at a school where we were being taught literature and history and information about current events that may or may not have been banned at the schools less than an hour away to our west, across the border in South Africa. We talked regularly about Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. Why he was there. What freedom really meant. Why children were shot and killed protesting their right to be taught in a language they understood. I was astonished. They were killed? Police shot students because of this??

I sat there and I listened. At first appalled. As if MY country would ever do such a thing. (Well. It had.) And then I accepted it. And then I absorbed it. And then I found my place in it. There was a fight for freedom happening around me. There was hope and anger and so much passion for change.

At every assembly, I sat and considered all of it. Equal rights were not given, they were a chance happening. A roulette table of skin pigment, culture and nationality. Oh look, she landed on “white girl from America!” So at the border crossing, SHE gets to go to the diplomatic line and get a friendly nod and a smile from the police man with the dog. My friend’s chance at luck got her “black South African,” and she went to the back of a very different line. And I waited and watched and the dog watched her and none of it made any sense. Madness. And never equal.

Nelson Mandela being released from prison was a far-fetched dream in my mind. I’m not sure I thought it would ever happen, let alone witness him become president or live a very very long life afterall. But let’s be real, I’m not sure I fully grasped all of it anyway. I was 15. And while it would be nice to say I was deeply engrossed in political conversation at every moment of every day while I lived in Africa, I was not. I was a privileged white American girl who got to escape to her lovely embassy-issue home after school and watch VHS tapes of MTV and Twin Peaks and drink soda and have sleep overs. I cared deeply, I really did. But… oh my God you guys, TWIN PEAKS. I was 15.

A couple years later, there were rumors. There was excitement and hope at school. Discussion, wonder, it could happen. I don’t know what the reason was but I was in Johannesburg with my family in February of 1990. I was in a fancy hotel downtown and our room was on the 30th floor. It was night, after dinner and I was probably willing my parents to evaporate on the spot while I lost myself in another Stephen King book. But suddenly it happened. The world exploded. I went to the window and looked out. With my forehead pressed flat against the cold, I peered down from my silent glass tower and watched the streets FILL entirely with joy and dancing and people, so many people. And then I could hear them through that thick, extra-paned, super fancy glass. I could hear them! It was true, Nelson Mandela had been released.

Sometime soon after that, Nelson Mandela came to our school. It was a surprise visit and I believe he came to see his grandson (a student there at the time). I secretly like to think he came to thank us for our writing, and learning, and singing so so loudly every week. I think he came on a Sunday. But guess what. I wasn’t there that day. Yep, back home, probably chomping on some newly shipped-over M&Ms and teasing my bangs and… oh my god you guys, TWIN PEAKS. Sigh. I cringe deeply now.

Nelson Mandela wasn’t my leader and he didn’t fight for me. The roulette wheel had spun and already offered me the privilege to chomp on M&Ms and watch TV without one damn care in the world. But he WAS my teacher. He snapped my hair-sprayed, peroxided little blond head to attention and taught me what I had and what others did not and that every single 14 year old girl had the right to NOT have one damn care in the world, no matter which way that roulette wheel turned. He taught me grace, humility and patience. He taught me the power of words. He taught me the power of faith and hope — his release was the first time I saw the truly impossible happen.

Nelson Mandela passed today. I deeply respect the enormous impact he played on this world, even on my humble little easy life in the midst of it all. I wrote a message on my art teacher’s Facebook page today (one of my all time favorite teachers now a world away, still back in Africa) and told her I wish I was there with her mourning this loss. She wrote back and said, “But you were there when he was released and we celebrated!”

I am proud that I witnessed such an important time of transition in southern Africa. I am so proud to have understood the enormous impact of Nelson Mandela’s release. And I am so proud to feel the pain of his loss today, even here in this little home, buried deep in Florida suburbia, so very far from the place where I was taught, the community that changed me and our teacher, Madiba, who has passed away today.

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika!

Why I Voted For Obama

I guess I feel like it just needs to be said. No, I doubt very much that I will change any minds. So much of this country has already decided. But I still feel like I need to share why I am voting for Obama this year. Take it or leave it, really… but I voted last Thursday in Florida and now I am saying my piece here. After that? As my mother would say with a shrug of the shoulders, N’chala (an Arabic phrase that means “God willing”).

The Economy

Who are we kidding? Could any individual president have fixed this mess in four years? Nope. (No math wiz here but didn’t it take 8 years to screw it up?) Will either presidential candidate independently fix this mess? Ha. NOPE. That takes all of us, it means we ALL collectively need to be responsible and stop pointing fingers and looking out for ourselves above all else. I truly believe it will get better, it already is, but don’t you DARE kid yourself into thinking either guy has all the answers and it will or should change with the flip of a presidency.

Side bar: Taxes

WE NEED THEM. Don’t be greedy. Shut up and pay your fair share. Good grief.

Equal Rights

THIS is what is comes down to for me. Well, there is other stuff… sure. But THIS. I pick the guy who thinks women and men are equal. I pick the guy who believes any human being should have the right to love any other human being. Choosing the guy who DOESN’T would mean I care more about empty campaign promises than I care about my gay friends having equal rights. It’s really as simple as that. For me. My conscience is clear with my vote. And that’s that.

The Supreme Court

We have some supreme court justices who are likely to retire this coming presidential term. I know my beliefs. I know which rights I want to keep. I know I don’t want to see any delicate progress we’ve made slide dangerously backwards. As my husband says, I hope our next supreme court justice nominee has purple hair, a tattoo sleeve and a nose ring. Oh, I make generalizations, don’t I? But let’s get real, people. Do YOU see yourself represented in the supreme court? Just make sure that you do.

The Environment

Warm winters, blazing hot summers, melting ice caps, SANDY. Don’t even BEGIN to tell me you don’t think that global warming is for real. Is it. We need to deal with it. At the very least, we need to stop being so dependent on oil and oil companies and consider alternative energy sources. Yes, yes, there is so much controversy with what works best and what messes with things… but don’t throw in the towel and ignore it because it’s just more comfortable and convenient to do what you’ve always done. Getting comfortable and greedy is what screws us every time (see above under “economy”).

Trust

I didn’t trust Romney and his cardboard cut-out smile and un-smiling eyes when he was Governor of Massachusetts years ago. And I certainly do not trust him now. This man said that he couldn’t be bothered with 47% of this country. HE said that. Do I honestly trust that he is looking out for the middle class? Do I honestly trust that he will protect my rights as a woman? Do I honestly trust that he cares more about moving our country forward than protecting rich people’s money? No, no and NO. I do NOT trust that man. At all.

And there you have it for me. I feel better now. I got it off my chest. Again, I doubt very much that I have changed anyone’s mind. But it seems that NOW is the time to pull up my rickety little soapbox, get up on it and say my piece in this public space. Get up on yours. Let’s all have a holler about what we want and what we believe. Who knows, maybe we agree on more than we disagree and maybe, after Tuesday (and after a few wounds have been licked), we can get our asses in gear and come together. Maybe.

Here’s hoping.

We’re down to hours now, people. Make them count.

Nutting Up About Orchidometers

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.

Oh no.

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.

(He’s 9…!)

And then there was this…??? WTF is this??

An orchidometer????

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.”)

Shit.

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.

I’m working on it.

As my husband often says, “It’s time to nut up.”

 

They Are Listening To Us

I’m here to tell you that your kids hear you. They are listening. When you say the good stuff and… *cringe*… the bad stuff, they are tucking it ALL away and saving it in their brain so that they can refer to it again, down the road, whenever it’s needed.

What did Mommy say about that? Oh yeah.

I know. Not encouraging. But I thought you should know. And here’s how *I* know.

Last weekend, I watched the movie “The Help.” This is after I finished the book AND after I had decidedly parked myself into a permanent state of “feeling sorry for myself” thanks to screwed up plans. So, “The Help” was a FANTASTIC idea — and when the credits rolled and I had polished off my second glass of wine, I literally sobbed. My husband was very impressed by my performance (read: was pretty much wondering if he had married an alien).

But, if you saw the movie, and you’re a parent, you know what got me. It was when Aibileen, the woman hired to help raise a sweet little girl who was far too ignored by her mother, told her the following:

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

She told this to her regularly, hoping to fan the flames of her self-worth. And that little girl recited it right back to her in the final scene of the movie.

SWOON. *clutching my chest* I loved that. I did.

And then didn’t give it another thought.

The other day, I happened upon a friend and favorite blogger’s post about this very topic. Read it here. While I disagree with her less-than-enthusiastic feeling about the movie and book (WHAT?! Girl, come ON!), I loved her point. It is up to us to build our children’s self-esteem. It’s too easy to harp on the “Did you wipe?” and “I’ll tell you one more time, pick up after yourself” nonsense, that once they get tucked in to bed and out of your hair, you don’t always think, “Did I make my kid feel good about himself today?”

Granted, Angie’s point is also not to go overboard. WHICH I GET. I’ve seen waaaaay too many grown people brought up thinking their finger-painted refrigerator masterpieces owed them some sort of “I’m the awesome-est person ever because my mommy said so” kind of entitlement.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I just simply realized that you need to tell them that they are really great now and then. And not to take for granted that they already know this.

So, I decided to try it. Curled around my enormous almost 6 year old in his bottom bunk at bedtime, with the lights off, and his breath slowing, I whispered to him very carefully:

“You are kind. You are smart. You are important. You are special.”

I think I said it to him another time, too. Not sure if he heard me. I didn’t get a response either time. *shrug* Whatever, it felt good saying it out loud to him. Back to the everyday at hand.

Early this morning, while I was still deciding if I wanted to play possum when he crawled under my blankets and snuggled in deep next to me, he said:

“Mommy. I’m not sure if all my friends THINK I am kind and smart and important and special. This one girl is bossy so she doesn’t think so. But my other friend shares his toys so maybe he thinks so.”

I rolled over and probably looked kind of mind-blown. But I curled around him and we had a chat about how some friends will be good friends and some won’t and how that’s ok, blah blah blah. But he kept coming back to it.

“My teacher thinks I’m special. Pretty sure.”

I guess it seemed to me as though I had somehow given him permission to expect that he IS those things. Like he had actually listened and then filed them away. And had since been going through his day looking for those particular things to be reinforced by others. And sometimes they were and sometimes they weren’t.

When I told my 5 year old these things, I also told my 8 year old. A quieter, far less chatty kid, he has yet to give me any indication if these qualities about him have registered at all. But considering how quickly they registered with the younger one, I have to think that he was listening, too.

And maybe they always are, really. I am fairly sure they hear (however, never register that they hear) alllll kinds of other stuff I keep telling them or mentioning off-handedly or yabbering on the phone to others or mumbling under my breath.

All of it, stashed away. To consider and absorb and adopt as reality.

I’m not going to lie when I say that this knowledge scares me a little bit.

I am far too irresponsible to have little stenographers in my life, typing away and stashing every damn thing I say into their minds.

BUT THEN AGAIN they don’t remember to put their socks in the hamper! Or flush! Or sit down while they eat! NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I TELL THEM.

But, maybe that stuff isn’t really as important to them.

We do our best and hope the good sinks in more than the bad.

And, of course, whatever bad they do take note of simply gives them “character” and “prepares them for the world.”

Right?

Now I feel better. I think.

Saying Grace

Do you ever wonder how you can keep things from going wrong? Just stop everything and hold on and push and shove the bad away? When you love something so much, you have so damn much to lose.

A couple weekends ago, we decided to go to the beach. In January. Of course, that’s not a big deal in Florida. It’s 75 and sunny this time of year as opposed to 95 and scorching. So we brought a lunch and I sprawled out on the blanket while my husband and kids went looking for shells.

I remember lying there and thinking — desperately acknowledging, really — that THIS IS UTTER PERFECTION. The water. The sun. The day. And watching them.

I am so grateful, it almost hurts.

When bad things happen around you to people you love, you try very hard to rationalize it.

A lot of bad things have happened to people I love recently. Cancer, death, lost jobs, broken relationships, bad stuff.

Bad stuff just keeps happening to good people. For no reason. For no purpose.

But there I lay under the sun that day, I lay there in total perfection with sun and clear water and my entire family and love and health and laughter and ease.

I am so grateful.

In fact gratitude has become my superstition, my religion, my lucky rabbit’s foot and my four leaf clover.

I keep thinking that if I say thank you silently (or, ahem, not so silently… like on a blog or something), the powers that determine good and bad will think… “OH. Well. She knows what she has. She is thankful for it. She isn’t taking it for granted. We’ll let the bad stuff slide. For now.”

Ha. As if that’s really how it works.

But when bad stuff happens to good people and there is no rhyme or reason… well, whispering my desperate thanks aloud over and over and over again makes just about as much sense.

So I am clutching my own kind of rosary beads, linked together with every single thing I love, and worrying over it and and treasuring it and giving it such careful focus…

Thank you for this day. Thank you for my boys. Thank for my life and our health and my thriving boys and that I can afford to put gas in my car and that I love the person on the couch next to me and that the sun is out and all is fine, fine, fine.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

 

This Does Nothing for Breast Cancer Prevention

There are two things you need to know before I post this picture.

1) It happens to be October, and so I have done a lot of recent writing about breast cancer risks and prevention. (Want to know them? Here’s what Susan G. Komen has to say.)
2) I was shopping for wine when I took this picture. Even though I was well aware that alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer. By a lot. In fact, only one drink a day is reasonable, ladies — if that. And if you have 4 or 5 drinks a day, well, your risk is up by 50%. True Story.

So, there I was, wheely-wheeling down the Target wine aisle in search of some breast cancer causing wine for a nice relaxing evening on the coach with my husband, when I spotted this…

Really? Really.

For all their apparent best intentions, these pink ribbons need to back off. Enough already. They need to be kept for things that actually DO something to prevent breast cancer. Those things that, would you believe it, raise money for research. They should not be about how much better consumers feel about the products they buy when, in real life, only $ 0.000001 of what they spent lands anywhere near any real research.

“Oh GOOD I can buy this Cuisinart because it’s PINK and helps stop breast cancer! Oh and here’s a pink spatuala! And this cereal box has a ribbon too! Good! We’re protecting breasts everywhere with MY SHOPPING!”

Um, no.

(This has all been said before, of course. It’s called “pink-washing“, but I’m saying it here, too.)

“But we’re raising awareness!”

On an enormous bottle of cheap wine? Don’t insult me. Who are we kidding. Keep your pink ribbons off my booze. I know what that wine is doing and I know it has nothing good to do with breast cancer. I KNOW BETTER. And so should all of us.

Needless to say, I did not buy THAT particular bottle of cheap wine. I bought another brand — one without any cheery health-related logos, thank you very much.

Cheers.

September 11th: Normal Mornings

I was supposed to fly out of Boston that day. But I changed my flight to the 12th. I had a conference in Texas to get to but there was just too much oh-so-important work to get done. So, instead of boarding a plane that morning, I was speed-walking across the Northeastern University campus at just about the same time they were getting on those planes only a few miles away.

On such a bright, cloudless, calm day, with everyone milling about their work mornings, why would anyone expect terror? Going to work, going through the routine of the morning commute is something we depend on, and trust deeply — our own daily clockwork ticking by and proving that all is well. We each have a work to-do list of so much busy business. We all carry with us the office drama, what will they need of me today, will any of it ever get done. Hair still wet from the shower, lip gloss still slick, subways, the usual streams of people, walking, bags over shoulders, newspapers in hand, Dunkin Donuts, cars, buses, crossing streets, blue skies, cool, fresh breezes, the sounds of the city, the sounds of normal.

Because all of these people going about their morning commutes so calmly would not be here if it was not ok, if it was not normal. Right?

I think about the many, many people of New York City and Washington D.C. and those stepping onto early Tuesday morning commuter flights feeling the same way that day. Work. Office politics. Needing coffee. Did I put out the trash. I have to sign the kids up for soccer practice. To-do lists, their own lives, all equally important, dusting the sleep cobwebs from their minds.

A perfect, cloudless Tuesday morning could never betray this routine, this trust of normal.

I was sitting in a meeting around 8:45. We went through the agenda around a conference table with a group of managers. No one was particularly excited to be there, it was just another Tuesday morning meeting which better end soon because I had so much to do before tomorrow.

I think of how many other people were settling into meetings too. Or checking their voicemail while browsing news stories online. Or taking sips of coffee from the vendor down the hall who is just so damn nice for having been at work for three hours already…

And then it happened. Our meeting carried on. So many meetings in New York City and Washington D.C. could not. Of course, we just thought it was a small plane.

But then it wasn’t. Stunned and staring at each other. And then one hit in D.C. and I bolted from the room. My mother worked next to the White House. I knew what had happened.

Can you understand that much horror in a moment? Probably not. I fell apart while others told me to calm down. But they didn’t understand the horror, either. Still, I stayed in the office. I was too afraid to get back on the subway system that got me to work hours before, and — while I dialed my mother’s phone number over and over and over — I stared at the Prudential Center from my office window. It looked so much like one of the towers, so why not.

When I finally reached my mother, she had somehow made it home. She was in Roslyn, VA. when the plane hit the Pentagon. She saw the smoke come up. And while everyone stopped and stared, she grabbed her purse and ran, made it out of the parking lot that was locked down ten minutes later, drove over sidewalks to escape the city and made her way back to the house. If you knew her, that wouldn’t surprise you either.

And while we talked on the phone, I watched the traffic jammed up Huntington Avenue, pushing out of the city. Not one car went into the city. The only car I saw pull up there was my husband’s who came to rescue me out of the city a few hours later. We u-turned, and joined the crawl away.

I came home to an answering machine with my father’s cries. He was in east Africa. Had I taken a plane out of the city that day?? Had I??! Where was I!? The only one he reached was my sister-in-law, who was being evacuated out of her office in Disney World. Because, well, why not.

We know the horror of that day now. But then, with our hair finally dried from morning showers and work clothes still on, we all sat in shock.

What the hell was going on?

I still find it fascinating that September 12, 2001 in Boston was as normal as it was. I found myself on the same subway train into the city, sitting across from the same people I always do. Papers open, pictures of terror on the covers. None of us said a word. And I went into to work for another meeting around the same time as I had the day before. We all talked some then, but there was work to do. It was another beautiful Fall day in Boston and there was no reason not to get down to business. Our buildings were still standing, after all.

Our morning routines, our busy-work and meetings and office chit-chat meant that much.

What else was there to do? Wait? Remain vigilant? Put a flag up? Buy some duct tape? Drive to New York City? Drive as far away from New York City as possible? Never fly again? Never go into a building again? Never trust a person who looks anything like the men who got on those planes that day?

No. Normal came back because we needed it so Goddamn badly. Like a brick dropped into water rushing to the sewer, around the chaos we fell back into line. It had to be fine. I still needed a shower the next day and those deadlines were still looming. While first responders only a few hundred miles away were digging in rubble for men and women who had just sipped their morning coffee seconds before their death one day before, we stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a 1 cream, 2 sugars and a paper.

We needed normal then, like we need it now 10 years later. We hold on tight to what part of normal we have left — the part that was not reduced to rubble that day — while we wait for what’s next.

Burn Demons

I would assume that it is only natural for parents to try to protect their children from their greatest fears. Our past traumas that haunt us just can’t possibly happen to these fresh, new lives. Untouched. Unscathed. Perfectly perfect, with no worries at all. It should come as no surprise to anyone, then, that when I make Mac N Cheese for dinner, I scream for everyone to clear far, far away when I retrieve the rolling, boiling pasta from the stove.

“Hey, back OFF. I don’t want you to get hurt like Mommy did. BACK! OFF!” And they always do. Mommy’s puckered scar makes for a fantastic safety lesson.

Ironically, for work, I had just written all sorts of articles about firework safety. All sorts. Did you know that one innocent sparkler can reach temperatures as high as 2000 degrees? Well, I did. And I had smugly decided we weren’t going to buy any fireworks this year, dammit. We were going to watch other people’s fireworks from a friend’s driveway. We should be safe enough.

When I was burned, I remember what my skin looked like immediately afterward. Red raw and then white, white, white, with skin peeling. A horrid memory for a three year old. But there it remains, tucked in my history, while my mother wrapped me in an old baby blanket. With flashing lights at the end of my front walk. And my father running up from a taxi parked at a hasty angle. I don’t remember much else, however. Except for the smell of Ivory soap, which they used to scrub it clean nightly. If I smell it today, it makes me gag. Horrid stuff. I don’t remember the screaming, but I remember that soap. Oh, and the dingy, nude-toned ace bandage, wrapped and wound and ragged about my left arm.

My youngest stepped out from behind the car while I sat comfortably in a friend’s chair in her driveway. It was almost dark and there were kids everywhere. But I knew it was him. And he had a sparkler. His face, lit by the sparks, was alive and THRILLED. So, what thoughts raced through my head? Well, these: 2000 degrees. He’s so excited! Am I a horrible Mommy if I take it away?

It took only those few seconds of thought for it to happen. A tiny spark jumped onto his arm. He’s never held a sparkler before, so jumping sparks are not normal. Or ok. So, instinctively, he flicked the sparkler. Down. And coals from that 2000 degree sparkler shot into that small spot where a little boys crocs meet his ankles. One actually slipped under. And stuck.

I thought his screaming was from the small spark. I was embarrassed. I was annoyed that I had to chase my screaming child up the driveway. Really, all over one little spark? I had no idea about the coals embedded in his feet.

But I did once we pulled him inside, terrified screaming bouncing off the vaulted ceilings, and stripped his shoes off. And there it was. Red raw, large patches of white, and peeled skin. And so much screaming.

I’m not going to say I handle panic well. But I have done ok-ish with emergency situations before, going into a zen-like, partially denial-based, ”it’s all going to be fine” trance.

I didn’t this time. This time I panicked and had to stop my own scream. I asked someone “what do we do?” And cried and grabbed my child and pulled him away from everyone trying to treat him as if he JUST NEEDED ME. I could fix him, no one else.

It happened to be that the guy with the goofy, over-sized, red, white and blue top hat at the same 4th of July gathering we were at was an ER doctor. Somehow, our pediatrician was called. Somehow, this 4th of July guy called in meds for us. I heard “3rd degree” and “burn unit” though. I most certainly heard those words. And I thought of Ivory soap and felt sick.

We see a plastic surgeon on Friday. And my running, wild boy is now wrapped in those very same dingy, unraveling ace bandages. His left foot is the worst. I have actually found myself saying “You got a burn just like Mommy!” As if that is something to be proud of.

My mom was in the kitchen, with her back turned, when I decided to crawl onto the stove, attempt to bypass that boiling water, and make a grab for donuts.

I was in a folding chair with a beer when he emerged behind that car with a sparkler handed to him by… well, it could have been anyone that night.

The worst stuff, the stuff that YOU think is the worst stuff, can happen to your children. I get that now. The control we have over their lives is nominal. But maybe, as I am only NOW (over a week later) able to clean his wounds by myself and tell him how great his feet are looking (kind of, not really), I am figuring this lesson out. Our children force-feed us our own demons. They make us deal with it, grow-up about it, handle it. It’s just a burn. On a limb. I lived with mine without incident, he’ll live with his.

My fears, his fears. My healing, his healing. The left side puckers, regrows, scars over, and moves on.

 

I Don’t Get It

My kids are being watched this summer by their Dad. And now they look like this.

I could probably end this post here. Yep, with Mohawks to show for it, Dad is in charge all right.

But wait. There’s more.

You see, it has been such a 180 for this household. After being home with my boys for 8 years, suddenly I’m the one working all day and my husband has taken on the boys. He’s a college coach and, while he still has to go into work during the summer, he can set them loose in the indoor gym or drop them at swimming lessons on campus. It’s not perfect, he’s pulling his hair out trying to balance everything, but he’s doing it.

And the boys are better off for it.

I read this article the other day about how good roughhousing is for kids. And I see the logic, I do. But I don’t “get it”. When my kids wrestle and yell and pile-drive one another in the carpet, I freak. They laugh and scream and consider it sport while I holler at them to JUST QUIT IT. I look at them like they are insane. I tell them to get ahold of themselves, to CALM DOWN for crying out loud, to get outside IMMEDIATELY. “What is WRONG with you?” I ask. And I probably have a look of such disgust on my face while I shuffle them in a giggling pile out the door. And then I turn around and sigh at the destruction left in their wake. What. The. Hell.

So, now that my husband is home, what does HE do when the pile-driving commences? Usually, he ignores it. Or laughs. Or joins in. Or, if they interrupt him too much, he tells them to get outside too. But he never looks at them like they are wild, unnatural beasts… like I do.

When I come home in the evenings, I find everyone getting along. One pack of boys in three sizes. They are quietly laughing about silly things and seem relaxed into the evening. And (unlike myself at 5:30 pm after a full day of boy-dom), my husband doesn’t seem all that harried. I suspect the majority of their crazies have probably already been expelled. But no more mess than the usual upheaval betrays the madness that probably occurred in my living room only hours before.

So, we must ask. With three boys and then… me… which one of these things is not like the others?

I don’t GET rough-housing. But maybe if I did, maybe if I stopped worrying who was going to crash into the coffee table and split their head open, maybe if I moved with the insanity more often than fight it — it would actually be easier on all of us? A “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” kind of thing?

Still. I don’t get it. But they do. And they truly seem better off for it, with Dad at the helm setting an example for whatever male-ness they hope to be.

And what do I do? Duck and cover and ask that they NOT jump on the bed while I paint my toes.

And hand out smooshy, lovey hugs when the days is done and they are weary from thrusting out their bony chests and verging on whatever it is they will become.

Parenting lesson learned. Yep, another one.

Perspective with a Side of Perspective

Who cares about air conditioners. I had one of those days that grinds you to a halt and abruptly puts your priorities in check.

My 4 year old, who turns 5 next week, graduated from preschool tonight. He wore a blue gown and a mortar board on his head with a 2011 tassel hanging off the side. He held his chin high, and seemed thrilled to be counted as one of the big boys now. My little baby is an elementary aged child.

My 8 year old, who also had his last day of school today and now counts himself as a third grader, is most likely transferring schools next year to be closer to home. Tonight, when he was getting ready for bed, he crawled awkwardly into my lap… and cried. He quietly admitted that he is very very sad to say good-bye to the same friends and the same class he has known for 3 years. I never, ever expected this reaction from him. Truly. Never.

My aunt called tonight to tell me about my cousin graduating from high school next week. The very cousin I babysat for hours and watched Barney with while at college. He drives and texts and doesn’t tell her very much and is leaving to college. I remember this boy in his Radio Flyer wagon. She said she is having a hard time letting him go. How is this happening.

My father had minor-ish heart surgery today. Minor, but still surgery. He’s ok. But. You know. Anything can happen. And I only have one parent. And I really, really love him.

My friend had some horrible things happen to her son this weekend. It’s the worst-case scenario stuff that you say could always happen but then never expect actually will. Such bad stuff. And I don’t know when and if it will be over. I don’t know how to help.

Oh and my new air conditioner was installed.

Yeah, exactly. Who cares.

Sometimes life turns everything upside down all at once, scatters it out across the floor, and lines all of it back up again in very deliberate order. Am I paying attention? THIS matters. That doesn’t.

My father in surgery, children leaping into entirely new phases in their lives, bad things happening to good people – THAT matters.

An air conditioner, or how much it costs to replace it, certainly does NOT.

Am I paying attention? I better be.

Grateful for my life. My children. My family. My time with everyone. My job. My means to even pay for that F-ing air conditioner. This moment, right now. So, so grateful.

Lesson learned.