Missing Out

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“Why can’t I go?” I held the paper clutched to my chest. I’d earned a trip to a church summer camp for free. My ticket out of my own little hell for two weeks. I needed this. Never had I been allowed to go to camp. Up to that point I had been led to believe it was a money issue.

Please let her say yes, God. Please, please make her say yes. I promise to go to South America to do mission work when I grow up if you will just let me have this one thing!

My mother stood silently, her face turned away. 

“Mom! Why won’t you answer me?”

Her body stiffened. 

Finally, her back still turned to me, she answered:

“Because I never got to do something like that.” 

And then it dawned on me. My mother, my own mother, was jealous of me. Jealous of this opportunity. Was there more to it? Probably. But there was an undercurrent of envy and that was what I latched onto.

I judged her harshly.

How can you be jealous of your own daughter? What kind of person does that make you?

It struck me yesterday, listening to my son and daughter practicing on the piano, that I am envious of them. I am jealous that they get the opportunity to have piano lessons from a real teacher. I am jealous of my son’s spelling and math ability, how easily music comes to him. I am jealous of my daughter’s artistic creativity, her ability to easily make friends, and her extensive glitter pen collection. What I could have done with even a couple of those glitter pens back in the day… 

Even now I don’t understand all of the reason behind my mother’s refusal but I did learn an important lesson. I learned I could survive without church camp. I also learned, and a great big wave of relief washes over me even now when I think about it, that God did not *want* me to serve as a missionary in South America. 

Whew.

So where am I going with all of this?

Envy was a surprising emotion to recognize in myself and I find it embarrassing to admit. It snuck up on me. Since I am not a particularly unique person and I am living on this planet with billions of other not so unique people, I expect this means that other parents also experience jealousy when it comes to their kids. I wonder how many?

We all want to believe that we are somehow better than our parents, though, don’t we? 

And yet we aren’t.

I expect that maybe even more than my kids’ glitter pens and the piano lessons that I am most jealous of their youth…. those unexplored futures, the potential looming ahead of them. I wonder if this is simply because I am an older parent, or if younger parents feel this acutely, too.

Ultimately, I don’t intend for jealousy to motivate my saying “no” to things in the future… except maybe if my daughter wants to go out for cheerleading.

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Oops! I Did It Again….

Inside the Intrepid aircraft carrier in New York City

“MOM*!!!! Gross. Say ‘Excuse me…'” 

“What?”

“You farted!”

“Nah….”

Technically she’s right. I did fart, not that I would ever admit it out loud. It just sort of escaped. I don’t know if you truly get grassier in old age or if you just get less motivated to curtail the explosions when they rise to the surface. All I know is that I fart. I fart a lot. 

In fact, I come from a long line of farters.

One of the few times I was brave enough to have friends over in high school a sound erupted from the next room. The longest, loudest, wettest fart I had ever heard. My friends grew silent. One whispered, “Was that what I think it was?” Yes. Yes it was. That was the sound of my own mother making sure I never, ever had an adolescent social life to speak of. 

It is old news, that smelling farts may actually help prevent stokes and heart attacks. Unfortunately, my kids are not interested in the research. In their minds, it is chemical warfare. AND they are big enough that I cannot blame it on them anymore without them fighting back. Maybe I need a dog?

You may be expecting at this point that I will wrap up the post with some pithy moral lesson or propose a solution to an ethical delimma. Not this time, folks. But if you, too, fart a lot you do not fart alone. 

* To convey the proper level of shock and disapproval the word “MOM” here should be read with two syllables as in MOoo-ooOM.

** The photo above is from a WWII era aircraft carrier in NYC named the Intrepid. I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

Checking Out

Thorns of a Mesquite tree

“How is your day?” the cashier asked as he scanned the items one by one in slow motion. He looked to be in his late 20’s. The middle aged woman ahead of me wore a dark pants suit and looked to be in a hurry. It appeared there would be pasta for dinner in her house tonight.

My kids would love spaghetti and meatballs…

“Just fine. You?” She murmured politely as she pulled out her wallet.

“Terrible! It has been a terrible day. I woke up this morning to a text from my parents saying they are raising my rent. How can they do that? Raising the rent?!?!!!?! I live in their house! How DARE they?”

He went on to rant for several minutes about how he was just going to have to find somewhere else else to live and it was not fair. What, were they trying to get him to leave?

The woman stood awkwardly waiting on the receipt. He waved it around for emphasis as he told his story, effectively holding her hostage. Eventually she cleared her throat and held out her hand, offering no sympathy. Finally he handed the paper over. She grabbed the plastic sack and practically ran out of the store.

“How’s your day going?” he asked me as the scanner bleeped my few items.

“Just fine,” I said, stopping there.

Shaving cream.

Toothpaste.

Socks.

Awkward silence.

“I guess they do want me to move out, huh?” He looked crestfallen.

“Yeah. Probably.”

Hovering

Blimp in the sky
My childhood was tightly controlled. Every aspect of my life was minutely scrutinized and managed. 

I was not allowed to ever spend the night at a friend’s house. I went to a friend’s house once in grade school. Only once. My first sanctioned date was to a church to deliver fruit to shut-ins on Halloween night when I was almost 17. The guy who had asked me out was required to participate in a 30 minute interview process prior to being allowed to drive me less than five miles to the church. That interview ran the gamut from current grades, college plans, statement of faith, general health, etc. Physical contact with members of the opposite sex was strictly forbidden, going so far as not allowing me to give a male friend a platonic hug at his graduation. He hugged first. I guess I was supposed to run away screaming. My punishment for that hug back was to write 1,500 times, “I will obey my mother.” I was a junior in high school. My library books were prescreened before I could check them out until I was 18. I was not allowed to learn to drive until I graduated from high school. Dancing, ear piercing, and make-up were against the rules and the Smurfs were not allowed (Gargamel used magic doncha know). 

So when my kids started playing with the neighbor kids, I found myself hovering. It was suddenly necessary to inspect the yard for mushrooms. Rake leaves. Hunt for pecans. Maybe I’ll just wander around looking disinterested while spying on their conversations. 

What am I afraid of?

I’m afraid that my kids will do something offensive, something that will get them labeled as weird or bullied or worse. I am afraid that someone will hurt them, physically or emotionally or sexually.

But I am also afraid that my kids will be judged unfairly because they are *my* kids. That they will be used as pawns in an attempt to get to me. The whole doctor thing. I have been burned before.

Because of the control I experienced as a kid, it is exceedingly difficult to let go of control of my own kids. It is all I know. BUT as I commented to someone yesterday, I am not raising pets. I am trying to grow a couple of independent human beings. 

My kids make jokes about butts and farts and you find that offensive? Maybe it’s your fault for letting your kids play with mine. Your kids are going to pick on my kiddos? My son and daughter are very, very good at karate. You want our kids to make friends so you can say you hang with the doctor? Well fine. I cannot assume everyone has ulterior motives, can I? I will cut you off if necessary. 

So this weekend when they all started playing together again I forced myself to let it go. I went inside and busied myself making homemade marshmallows. I even closed the back door. 

And you know what? They did just fine without me. 

Stolen Away


There was a beam of bright light emanating from under the bedroom door.

How curious… 

Please don’t let him be taken by aliens! Please don’t let him be taken by aliens! Please don’t let him be taken by aliens!

That’s how it starts in every movie, you know. The bright beam of light bursting forth from underneath the door….

In a panic, heart in my throat, I flung the door open.

No aliens.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

The lamp by his bed was turned on and he lay draped across the covers reading a book, completely and utterly engrossed. He did not even glance up. In fact, it did not appear that he had even heard me enter.

I know I should be mad. I should punish, him shouldn’t I? But I couldn’t. I just could not do it. I could not muster any anger. What I really wanted to do was jump up and down screaming for joy, giving him a high five followed by a fist bump, but that would send the wrong message, wouldn’t it? So instead I managed to maintain decorum as I insisted he go to sleep. 

My heart sang, though, as I tucked him in and kissed his cheek. I want my kids to love reading as much as I love it. Reading will help them through the inevitable tough times ahead, a means of escape. 

Secretly, I hope I catch him again tomorrow night….

On Stage

  

“Dancers should be in costume with their make up on, ready for the photographer at 7PM.”

Make up?

Make up?

Truthfully, I am not ready for this. I am not ready see what a grown up version of my little girl is going to look like.

Oh, sure, she loves make up, but she still thinks that a beautiful application of lipstick extends about an inch beyond the actual lips, hardly realistic and I am just fine with that.

I was not allowed to wear make up growing up. Even all through high school. None. Now, I had my ways of getting around that, to be sure… For instance, I had art pastels. The colored chalk sticks made great blush and eyeshadow in a pinch. Or black acrylic paint could stand in for mascara (I was too desperate at the time to worry about what that might actually do to my eyeballs). The trick was keeping it subtle so that my parents couldn’t tell and my brothers wouldn’t realize and rat on me but still enough that I did not stand out to my peers as a repressed, prudish freak. A very delicate balance.

I swore through all of that I would not do the same to any daughter of mine.

Then I had one. And now she is five and in dance and has to wear make up!?!??!!?

So now I am left wondering if the whole issue with make up for my own parents was not that it would make me look like a whore, as they said, but rather having to adjust to the reality of their daughter growing up. 

Maybe both.

I am not going to ask them, though.

Excuse me while I go watch some tutorials on dance make-up application.

Threadbare

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I am sneezing and wheezing again as I pull out old Nancy Drew volumes from the shelves and plunk them into a musty cardboard box. 

Why didn’t I bring my asthma inhaler?

The dust hangs heavily all around me, dust that has lain here for decades. It was not how I envisioned spending Easter but my mother had begged me. I squint and blink as I read titles, as much to keep the dust out of my eyes as to keep the tears at bay. There is a reason I have been avoiding it for so long.

This room used to be mine.

I grew up here, shed more tears than I care to remember within these walls. I cried out to God so many times when I just wanted to die. There was no hope left for me here.

Please. Take me away.

There is a different bed but everything else, including the ancient fraying pastel curtains, used to be mine. Now it is called the guest room but no one has ever been brave enough to spend the night here, not since my last night in 1997, the night before I eloped.

I wanted to escape.

“We have three bathrooms but when it rains only one toilet works…” My father thinks it is funny that the toilet overflowed on a high school friend of mine. He likes to tell the story over and over again. I don’t remember it, truthfully, but why argue? He will not remember next time I come.

The walls of an ancient box are crumbling down around my old drawings. “You used to be so artistic,” my mother says wistfully as I stuff sheafs of paper into a new box. My kids might get a good laugh out of them now. They are truly awful…

No more crying. Not here. Not in this room. Not now. This is not me anymore, is it?

Old stuffed animals are still strewn about, untouched except by the unrelenting hands of time. My precious giant pink hippo that I bought from the Goodwill store with money from hours and hours of pulling weeds in the garden in 100 degree heat now has a giant hole that stuffing is pouring out of. How does that happen when you are not looking? The threads that hold you to your childhood just decay away.

“Maybe you can sew up the hole?” my mother says.

“It’s, OK. Just throw them all out…” I try to act as if I don’t care.

There are holes in the walls from pipe work done when I was a teenager. They wanted to keep the holes in case they needed more work done on the plumbing at some point, work that was never needed. I covered up the holes with posters of an F-16 fighter jet and Faberge eggs.

Plugging the holes with strength and beauty. I understand it now.

Out the window I can see the lawn hasn’t been mowed in months and the grass now stands knee high due to the early spring. My father says he is afraid to mow when there is any wind because the clippings might land in neighboring yards and upset someone. Not that anyone has ever complained about clippings. They will complain about the unsightly yard soon enough, I bet. He shouldn’t be mowing anyway, though.

Financially they are in a great place now. They could pay to have all of this fixed. Hell, they could demolish everything and build anew three times over. But they won’t. Instead, my mother complains about the lettering on her Pyrex measuring cup wearing off too soon. She has had it since I was a child.

“How much do they cost? And how long should one last, anyway, mother? Just buy a new one!”

This place is a mausoleum. When I am away I can choose to remember how I want to remember, what I want to remember. Here, the memories are forced upon me whether I want them or not. 

I will not do this to my children. I will redecorate their rooms as soon as they leave for college.

I know I should visit more often but when I go, the place fills me with grief. I still want to run away, to save myself. I still want to escape that little girl’s despair. And yet…. I think the thread is unraveling bit by bit. The hold is getting weaker, I can feel it. 

Someday, this place will no longer exist for me.  

Multiples

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“Push!”

There was a guttural grunt.

“Come on, honey, push!”

Another grunt and a groan of pain and frustration.

“Harder?”

“Look, I’m trying, OK? Shut the hell up. You want to make this baby?”

She backed up, sheepishly.

“No, you go ahead. I’m just excited…”

He finally got the machine out of the box and plugged it into the outlet in the wall. He hit what looked like the power button. 

Nothing.

“It’s not working. Let me try this one.” Clicking. “Hmmmm.” More clicking. He stabbed at the control panel with his finger over and over again, hitting multiple random buttons in frustration.

“Have your read the directions? Maybe we should ask for some help.” She peered into the box and located the instruction booklet. “There’s a phone number in here…” 

He flashed her THE look.

“Wait! Look. Something is happening!” He turned his attention back to the console.

The 3-D printer was making a soft whirring sound. 

“How long is it supposed to take?”

“I don’t know…”

The whirring continued for a few more minutes. Then there was a gentle coo from behind the panel door.

“Oh, my God.”

She slid the panel open, scooped up the perfect naked baby boy, and held him to her chest. 

“Hello, James,” she murmured into the little ear as she turned, “Meet your daddy.” 

He reached out to touch the soft, newborn skin tentatively. “He’s real.” 

Suddenly, the machine started whirring again.

“Is it supposed to do that?” She looked up, alarmed. 

“Uh, I don’t know…” He shrugged.

They both stood there staring as they heard another coo. He pulled open the panel again. There was another baby.

“Did we order twins?”

“No….”

He picked up the baby.

The machine started whirring again.

“Sean.” Panic crept into her voice. “Is it making another baby?”

“I don’t know!”

“Make it stop. Make it stop right now.”

In short order there was a third baby. The whirring started again.

“Plug. Pull the plug!” She was yelling now.

He was frantically pushing buttons again but stopped to fumble behind the machine and pulled out the power chord from the socket in the wall.

The whirring did not stop.

There was another baby. It seemed to be moving faster with each one.

“You hit something you weren’t supposed to,” she accused, still yelling. “Did you even read the directions?”

She lined the babies up in a row in the floor, including the new fifth one. They were identical.

“Never let a man to do a woman’s job…” she muttered as she grabbed the baseball bat from the hall closet. “…making babies…” She cursed loudly.

Within seconds she was bashing the hell out of the machine with all her might.

“There isn’t a baby inside is there?” He shouted. “Don’t kill it!”

She kept swinging the bat until the machine was a crumpled pile of metal bits and fluids of various colors dripped onto the floor. She finally stopped, out of breath, surveying the damage then stared in disbelief and at the babies. 

What to do next? she wondered, the heavy, wooden bat still in her hand…

Pop over to Teagan’s place and read about her 3-D party/challenge…

I Need A Wife

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“Mommy, we want daddy to be more like you and you to be more like daddy,” my son said.

We were in the car on the way to school discussing who was going to be picking them up that day (it might be daddy) and that daddy would be making them dinner as per our usual.

“Yeah, mommy,” my daughter sniffed, “be more like daddy. Don’t be like you.”

My heart hurt. There was nothing I could really say to that. My kids recognize that gender roles in our family are different and they do not like it. Short of quitting medicine, this is the way things are, the way they will be.

A mother who practices medicine HAS to have a “wife”, someone who is in charge of the minutia (like birthdays, activities, homework, laundry, dinner, groceries, etc.) and who can be flexible in case of emergencies. I am blessed that I have help. There are tons of working mothers who have no support whatsoever.

Romance

IMG_4031“Mommy, I love Audrey.” He said this casually, matter-of-factly, as he was scrambling out of the car after school.

“Oh, really? Why do you feel you love her?” I tried to sound casual, too, even though inside I was screaming: LOVE? You LOVE some girl? Look here, there is no possible way she is good enough so just stop right there, mister!

“She is so beautiful. And she is nice to me. AND, I like to kiss her.” He was so serious. 

“You kiss her?” My voice *may* have risen an octave. Aren’t boys supposed to still think girls have cooties? 

“I like when she chases to try to kiss me. I run slow on purpose so she she can get me.” He stopped on the sidewalk and looked up at me, earnestly. “It’s romantic love.” 

And I’ll be danged, he was serious.

My first thought was, What do you, a kid, know about romantic love? Then, I wondered how to describe romantic love to a boy his age which then led me to ask myself, What DO I know about romantic love, anyway?

I was at a loss.

Love is feeling pain and not caring.

You know what my next thought was? The movie The Princess Bride when the man in black says to Princess Buttercup, “Life is pain. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

Romantic love, huh?

“I do not think that word means what you think it means, sweetheart.”

At which point he had a meltdown, screaming at me that he did too know what romantic love was! Truthfully? He probably has a better grasp on it than I do.

I fear my son is going to have his heart broken at a very young age.

How would you explain romantic love to a six year old boy? Tell me about your first love. How old were you? Who was your greatest love? Did you ever tell them they were your greatest love? If not, why not?