Overnight Parental Metamorphosis

 

My son, my second child, just left the house for his Senior Year of High School finals.  I know this day is a major rite of passage.  So I go to my basement and retrieve a few fragments of his and his sister’s childhood from the big box of grade school papers I have kept all these years.  I am that Mom.  The one who frames art projects and puts every lost tooth in a ziplock bag.  These memories are my treasures.

You don’t get to choose many of the experiences your children will have outside your four walls and nothing prepares you for the disappointments the world will heap upon them – you can only hope that your love will be the cushion your child needs to bounce back and return to the world of unexpected experiences the following day.

As a child, Motherhood and writing were my true callings.  I wrote plays and each afternoon baked goodies in my Easy Bake oven before picking my imaginary kids up on my bicycle riding up and down my long driveway and talking to them.  As an adult, my life has luckily pretty much mirrored what I always dreamed and imagined motherhood would be.  Except the joy I have felt over the beauty of children’s innocence and unfaltering love was deeper than anything I had ever experienced.  And the anguish over not being able to solve a child’s heartache with a bowl of ice cream and a hug more harsh than any adult experience I had ever known.

The most unexpected delight from mothering a girl and a boy has been the gift of being the guardian of the gentle unfolding of their hearts in this world.  Being a parent at our house has often meant inviting the outside world to our table.  The way my children embraced our Little Brother when we were matched as a Family in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was loving and open-hearted.  They were open and accepting of the experience and shared our abundance of love, food, toys and fun with him without urging by me or their Dad.  And the outside adventures their hearts led our family to were beyond any planned playdate or experience I could have ever mapped out.  When our daughter told us at age 8 she wanted to be a competitive cheerleader, we set off on 2 years of driving hundreds of miles each week and thousands of 8-counts and sassy faces and moves to impress judges at competitions.  She already had grit, determination and focus.  The competitive sport just gave her an outlet, and her overwhelmed Mom was grateful for that.

My husband will faint in disbelief when he reads this, but I am grateful to have lived in the country on 32 acres for part of our kids’ childhood, in particular, the formative part.  They learned how to occupy themselves on long, windy, hot summer days without constant monitoring or activities.  Families enjoyed campfires, storytelling and music in the evenings and our son became a huge fan of the annual music festival that took place 1 mile from our back door.  To this day, his favorite smell is smoke from a campfire and as a young man, our house has become the headquarters for his friends to linger, laugh and talk into the night by a simple campfire.  Our daughter honed her writing skills and our many 8-hour car trips to visit family in St. Louis were a great source of inspiration.  Here she writes about the “Throwing Up Spring Break” of 2006 which was preceded by the “greatest day” of our 6-year-old son’s life at Disney on Ice.

Although today officially marks a transition from parenting children to young adults, and my heart is somewhat tender with wistful memories of those early days, I look forward to the next chapter – one that has already begun with my daughter – of witnessing, supporting, validating and loving the young adults my children become.

These 2 are my treasures and they belong to the world now, not me.  That’s both the most painful and proud reality of parenting:  these children gifted to us are born to fly.  Instead of planning the next week to make sure I am available for sporting events or other activities they love, I am, even as I write this, officially promoted to Witness.  I don’t have to referee their journey anymore.  Another Mom recently said, “You go from parent to consultant overnight.”  It might take me a few boxes of tissue to make the transition.  Each tear will be worth it.

Now I get to see who they invite to our table.

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3 Things I got Right (and 7 I didn’t) in Motherhood

My Dad used to say with a great deal of disdain, “Anybody can procreate.”  The underlying meaning, of course, was that very few could raise children correctly.  All I really ever wanted to be was a Mother.  More than an archeologist, disc jockey, journalist, lawyer, nursing home administrator, speech therapist, French teacher, occupational therapist, florist or anything else – I have always “just” yearned to be a Mom – a really good one.

I always knew one absolute truth about Motherhood:  If I was going to model my maternal style on my own Mother’s legacy, I had big shoes to fill.   She managed to keep a clean house and serve three delicious squares every single day for 7 children (we won’t talk about emotional upheaval in between!).

Instead of absolute “perfection,” I have always aimed for a more realistic goal in my Mothering:  meeting my child where she or he was and lifting the goodness where I saw it.

In other words, I have been more of a “let love and joy lead”kind of Mom (similar to my vision of the Divine – never harsh or judgmental, always searching for the Light).

Now in their teens, I see my 2 teenagers’ experience of my Motherhood a little more objectively, and the 3 strengths and 7 flaws are glaringly obvious.  Here are the 7 things “good Moms” excel at that I really bombed:

  • Time Management Although we lived right across the street from the Library, my kids were always late to Story Time.
  • Potty Training  Instead of motivational charts, I employed begging and pleading, which never worked. My daughter begged me to make her a chore chart when she was about 6 and, out of frustration, she ended up making her own!
  • Volunteering  I was my daughter’s Daisy Troop leader and those poor little girls never earned badges, it was just too much; I volunteered in my son’s kindergarten class and total mayhem ensued and I had to be rescued by the School Social Worker.
  • Animals and Kids I thought the kids should have a puppy after my husband’s faithful and well trained Labrador passed away; Tango, the Boxer, made our lives wilder and more unpredictable than ever – if we weren’t searching for her with slices of cheese to encourage a timely and safe return home, I was scolding her for ruining a new rug or bringing home cow skulls.
  • Singing No, not ever did my kids enjoy singing with Mommy.  Instead, they covered their ears and pleaded, “No!!!!!!,” but when Daddy started singing, they quickly became calm and content.
  • Nursing When my kids were sick, they wanted their Dad, the calm and steady soul.
  • Cooking One time, a culinary flop was so embarrassing, my 10-year-old daughter got up from the table and started making omelets for our guests.  When I burned the bat-shaped cookies my son wanted to take to school for Halloween, he hugged me and said “Mom, I don’t know anybody who could have done better.”

In spite of these 7 maternal failings, I think my kids learned alot from their experiences!  Fortunately, I managed to get 3 things right, and I think that is going to be enough to seal their future adult lives as positive and productive:

  • Compassion   I am literally beaming with pride even today. When I visit their High School, I am almost always approached by a special needs student who proudly introduces him or herself as my son or daughter’s “FRIEND.”  Somehow, I got this right!  To be kind to the vulnerable and marginalized is not always second nature, and I guess, through living with me, my kids learned to practice (without knowing it) compassion.  THIS and only THIS was my main goal as a Mom, and this job is complete.  Thank you, God!
  • Acceptance/Inclusion There were times my kids were invited to do “yucky” things but instead of avoiding them, both my son and daughter would usually go and then come home and innocently share something amazing with me.  Like the time my son was the only child who attended an unpopular boy’s birthday party and he came home and said, “Mom, did you know you can be 7 years old and STILL in kindergarten?!”.  Or many times I observed my daughter sweetly ask a newcomer something about themselves, with genuine interest and warmth.
  • Celebrate I may have missed a few “learning opportunities” in the positive discipline arena while my children were growing up, but what they did experience alot of was celebrations of all kinds:  the dog’s birthday; the first day the Christmas lights were on in our local park; the joint 5th and 50th birthday party of my husband and our son with the bouncy house; picnics and craft parties with Big Brothers Big Sisters; going to the movies with their cousins; giving Grandma and Grandpa gifts they bought at a truck stop on Interstate 70; taking the first rose that bloomed in our garden to a teacher; sitting on the front porch with our friend with Down Syndrome and eating a Sonic corn dog.  Building moments to celebrate love, life and joy have been regular parts of my 2 kids’ upbringing, and I already see my daughter cultivating that kind of funloving, life-embracing attitude with her friends.  

One thing I know for sure, when we did things at our house, we did them with GUSTO, and for that, I am proud.  I hope my 7 shortcomings are forgiven and that my teenagers continue to move forward in life with open hearts and loving attitudes!  We can’t all be champion chart makers…..

 

 

 

 

 

City Pups Immersed In The Country

I don’t know about any other gals, but 19 years ago when I said, “I Do,” I didn’t give one darn about whether the Handsome Groom could drywall like a champ, or, on the more basic level, even fix a leaky faucet.  Does anybody?

I married him for his intelligence, wit and that mysterious Half-Latin machismo that got me so stirred up at our first lunch date my calves literally burst through my pantyhose – and he didn’t mind!!!!

Then things started to break around the house.  ALOT of things.  In conversations with my husband about what needed fixing, I started to feel like Emily Newhart and her adorable, book-smart, practical Bob.  bob-newhart-show-suzanne-pleshette

Fortunately, my lawyer husband had plenty o’ handy clients who were good-hearted and just a phone call away.  Problems solved!  At least some of them.  I learned that certain men who are genetically challenged in the handy department are also – well, to put it bluntly, pretty lousy GRILLERS, too!  We had our share of well-intentioned dinner parties where the guests walked away wondering, “What the hell was that mystery meat I was just served?”.

It was fine, though, we lived in the city and any deficiency of the homemaking sort (I am neglecting to tell you that I, the “Pumpered” Princess, as our Argentinian cousin lovingly  refers to me, am completely worthless around the house) was easily solved by finding a “service.”

In 2002, now with two babies, our perfectly appointed household “rescue team” went away because we moved to…..and I shudder to say this …… THE COUNTRY!

Mike with kids on 70th  “Goodbye, City Life – Green Acres Here We Come!”.

In Southern Kansas, a fellow knows how to do many handy things – to infinity.  We bought 34 acres – to do what with, I am still mystified.  But there went “Brender and Eddie” while their city friends waved goodbye…..

My husband immediately traded in his BMW with lovely seat warmers for a bright red F-150 pick up truck.  Perfectly Appalling, Right?

“What are you going to do with a pickup truck?” I calmly inquired one day.  Oh, his eyes lit up with wonder as if he had seen Jesus himself as he replied, “You know, haul shit and stuff.”

Okay.  That’s fine.  We can do this, my Inner Diva told me – we can rise above our pathetic City Helplessness and conquer the untame land of the heartiest souls on Earth known as…...KANSANS.  Yes, that very special place where people throw parties to, of all things – burn their land!  The place that was once referred to by a City Transplant not terribly unlike myself in the 1800’s as “The land of grasshoppers and drought.”

Soon, our lives became an adventure and our completely privileged and helpless demeanor became a source of entertainment for the locals.  One time I was advised to seek advice from the Farmers at the local “CO-OP” about our barn swallow problem.  These awful creatures build mud nests on your home then sit atop your roof (because they basically own you at this point) protecting their young.  “How do they protect their young?,” did I hear you ask?  By divebombing the eyeballs of any threat.  So, I put my signature red lipstick on and drove to town to this apparent shrine of intelligence, the Co-op.  I was told to tape plastic snakes near the nest of the barn swallow and assured that my problem would soon disappear.  What I would give today to hear those farmers’ howls as I left from the Co-op on a mission to the local Dollar Store in pursuit of plastic snakes.  The joke was on me:  it did not work.

Finally, exasperated by our complete incompetence, I suggested we do something as a family that would be good for the community.  We were matched with a Little from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.  He visited every Sunday.  Success!  And you know what? My sweet husband and son were the kindest, most patient souls with this lost little boy.

Mario with BrysonThey spent endless hours playing together and our Little did not mind one bit that we were weakling city pups – he really enjoyed us!!!

Fortunately, for me, our time in the land of awe-inspiring sunsets had an end – because I am just a girl who needs the comforts of a city.  George Lopez once said, “I need to get back to horrible crime, terrible parking and great Chinese food!”.  But we did have a lot of laughs, and I grew to accept my husband – and his adorable, quirky, country-wanna-be self.

We did what we could to “work the land” we bought and had some memorable bonfire parties in the canyon behind our home.  But, alas, the city beckoned us back.

And now “Bob and Emily” are back where they belong – laughing and reminiscing about the times we had trying to be RUGGED INDIVIDUALISTS.

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