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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Perfectly Timed Endings

The year was 2000.  It was August.  Kansas City was experiencing an epic heatwave, 30+ days of 100-degree temperatures.  The air was thick with humidity and, at my house, the sound of Barney’s voice and anticipation of the arrival of my second child.  My first child was only 19 months old.  She was really, REALLY, into Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

Weighing in at 207 pounds, my 5’4″ frame was struggling to keep up with Isa, the energetic toddler in love with Barney.  We established a routine that my 3rd-trimester, overly fatigued and aching body could maintain:  Up at 7 for Barney and breakfast; Walk or play with friends until 11; Nap until 1; Drive huge Ford Expedition with Blaring Air Conditioning 1 mile South to Sonic for “in-car picnic” of grilled cheese and milk shake; More Barney until Daddy got home at 6:30.  To say it felt like hell would be an understatement.  To comfort Isa during times when Barney and Baby Bop were not on tv or Mommy could not “find” the video, she had a stuffed version that sang the infamous “I love you” song and also said “Bye Bye.”

Fast forward 6 years.  My two children, now 7 and 5 years old, are not that “into” Barney – they are more obsessed with Sponge Bob and those twins living in a hotel with their singing Mom on Disney channel.  Though he still lives, the once-cherished stuffed Barney now belongs to our boxer puppy, Tango, and lives in the backyard.

Parents everywhere empathized with our total disdain for the Dinosaur with the Annoying Voice.  One friend even told his little girl that she could not watch Barney on tv for several weeks because he had been in an unfortunate car accident and was “banged up pretty bad”!!!!

On a cool Spring evening, I was scooping puppy poop in our yard for the umpteenth time.  It had been very rainy out and Barney, now Tango’s best friend, had seen better days.  I was certain it was his time to go.  Thus, with little more ceremony than slamming his lifeless, once-beloved, purple body in the same plastic bag with my dog’s poop, I bid Barney a final, gleeful farewell.  Then something very suspicious and spooky happened:  this symbol of torture, maimed by a puppy and hugged to death by 2 toddlers, rose from the poop bag and uttered one final phrase:  “Bye Bye!”.  

Barney got the last laugh.  He is a very clever dinosaur.

Isa came running from wherever she was playing when she heard Baby Bop's band!
Isa came running from wherever she was playing when she heard Baby Bop’s band!

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