Sunday, June 30, 2013
It sneaks up on you. And when it does, it is sometimes hard to recognize.
It is not always conventional. It is not always a baby grasping your finger, or a first kiss in the rain, or a long lost sibling returning just as the Folgers starts brewing.
It is not cynical or conditional. It is not permanent or guaranteed. It is not earned or deserved. It is not reliable or predictable.
It is fickle and elusive and seductive and enigmatic. Like a quirky woman in an indie romantic comedy, it is desirable in unexpected ways clothed in flirty skirts and funky boots and playing the intrusive yet intoxicating music of bangly bracelets. It does not quite fit in with the everyday and is terrifying, foreign and hypnotic all at once.
We buy bumper stickers commanding us to not postpone it in a desperate attempt to court it. We believe if we eat more kale, meditate more frequently, read blogs more fervently we can achieve it more regularly.
Like love and a great job, it often presents itself when we are not looking for it. And then, suddenly, it is there. And you can’t stop smiling and you’re conscious of your breathing and you know this is an uncommon moment that defies description and you want to bottle it and bathe in it every day. And for an instant you feel the unique pleasure of being fully human.
And then the phone rings, and there’s milk to be bought on the way home, and the report card is not as expected, and the dog has fleas, and the check bounces, and that uncommon moment gets smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. And we read the bumper sticker in front of us and snicker cynically as if we had any control in the matter at all.
But we do not give up, because not only did the moment happen, but we recognized it. We felt it. We know it exists. And we vow to eat more Kale, meditate more frequently and read blogs more fervently in the hopes that tomorrow someone will kiss us in the rain despite our Folgers breath and the baby grasping our finger.
Thank you joy. It was nice to see you today.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
What was I Thinking?
Okay, so for the record, I love my children. Literally would walk through fire-fight to the death-make voodoo dolls of anyone who breaks their hearts- love them.
But seriously, what was I thinking?
I haven’t stopped worrying at all for the last fifteen years, 9 months, 9 days, and 19 ½ hours. Sure, the level of worry varies; sometimes it’s practically undetectable, sometimes it’s at the “will they make it through High School” level, and sometimes it’s the “what if they get swallowed whole by an escaped Anaconda while walking the dog” intensity. Regardless of the level, the worry is the constant in this variable equation(a term I had forgotten until I had to re-learn it because I was worried about my son’s math final).
Did they get enough sleep?
They don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Did they do their homework?
Why won’t they brush their teeth?
Will he get a hit in the game?
Why don’t they LOVE to read like, apparently, every other child in the world according to their parents?
Did they do their laundry?
Are they smart enough?
Do people like them?
Are they respectful?
Do they like themselves?
Did they do their laundry?
Will they go to college?
Will they be able to take care of themselves?
Will they get someone pregnant?
Will they be able to hold down a job?
Will they be happy most of the time?
Will someone love them?
Will they ever do their laundry?
Keep me up at night worries…
Will they wind up in a clock tower?
Will they go down on the Titanic II?
Will they be stranded on an island after trying to deliver a package?
Will they ever make enough money to just buy new clothes when theirs get dirty?
Choosing to have children is choosing to worry. Yet another reason why aliens of higher intelligence are on other planets laughing at our lack of evolution in repeatedly making this choice; at least until their spawn crashes the time travel pod after drinking too much Klingon Blood wine and vomits acid on the custom Corinthian leather seats.
Of course we don’t know when we set out to start a family that we are embarking on a life-long hands-on study of the art of worrying. We are blinded by rosy cheeks and the new baby smell of other parents’ children. We revel in Johnson & Johnson daydreams of reading on the hammock with willing tots, of baking cookies while adorably dotted with flour, of homeruns, ballet recitals, and the inevitable valedictorian speech where we are thanked and given a spontaneous standing ovation by all the other parents and the surprise guest Oprah who wants to feature us on the next cover of O magazine.
Of course if we didn’t start out with visions of sugar-plums in our head, the species would eventually die out, because who, in their right mind would willingly choose to worry to this extent? I mean my husband and I willingly chose to make a human being…twice. A human being.! Not just a good student, or a good friend, or a good reader, or a good laundry-doer; a good human being. I never realized until this moment how arrogant I am to think I am up to that task.
And to throw gas on that arrogance bonfire, my worrying really has little to do with them, and, ultimately, all to do with me. What I’m truly worrying about is “am I doing a good enough job for them?” And, miraculously, they answer that on a daily basis with the touch of a hand when I am sad over the loss of a loved one, with the offer to make me a grilled cheese sandwich because they just learned how, with the way they smile and shake the hand of someone they’re meeting for the first time, and with the way they reluctantly carry their laundry basket down to the washer. Yes, the worry is balanced by moments of incomprehensible joy, and I find the courage to face the trenches again.
Worrying accomplishes nothing. It is an accelerant for a fire on a 97° day. It is real, and it is not going away. Yes, I choose to worry, but it is worth it, because yesterday he did his laundry.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
I do not have a very good sense of smell. I can smell the important things like the ocean and cinnamon, but, for the most part, when someone makes an “ewww” face and asks “Can you smell that?” I am of little use. There is, however a smell that penetrates even my limited threshold. Like John Carpenter’s movie “The Fog” the cocktail of smells brewed by the man-boys that reside in my house threatens to assume me into it’s haze of toxicity on a daily basis.
Two boys, a husband, even the dog is a boy; I am literally out-manned on the aroma front at home. As women go, I’m not the girliest of girls, especially where scent is involved. I have a battery of perfumes that collect dust because they make me sneeze and, let’s face it, I’ve been married for 18 years, the seduction is over. I only recently got into bodywashes because they were on sale at Bath & Body Works, but my morning ritual does not hinge on the thought of the effect that that whiff of Sea Island Cotton will render in the innocent bystanders who are lucky enough to pass through my wake. And, I am, perhaps, the only woman on the planet who does not swoon for scented candles. So, once again, I am not an odor whimp.
But occasionally the Smell does threaten my existence. I capitalize it because its insinuation into our lifestyle demands personification. Like some superhero Arch Villain it grows in strength with the acquisition of each piquant odor it comes in contact with. I suppose it started innocently enough when one of my sweet and innocent boys, fresh off a triumphant fly ball catch on the baseball diamond, carelessly tossed off his cleats in the living room. And the Smell was unleashed, like a babe full of curiosity in a strange land it leapt into the fibers of a nearby carpet and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime.
It matured quickly, acquiring strength from the sweaty basketball shirt that was hastily discarded on the couch and the Nike elite socks that got trapped under the chair, for fear of inhibiting teenager 1’s freedom and shackling him to the confines of hamper rules. The Smell, now drunk on the elixir of sweat and foot odor, voraciously sought out the intoxicating power of unwashed dog, damp bath towel on the floor, stinky sweaty beloved baseball cap, and the subtle delicacies of crushed Dorito crumbs embedded deep in any cushion of any seating apparatus.
No longer content to roam the house on its own, the Smell, began living as a sycophant, latching onto whatever teenage boy passed by, and undermining seemingly pleasant odors, designed to combat the Smell’s very existence. But no, the Smell laughed at the feeble attempts by Axe and whatever cologne was on sale at Christmas, and instead combined their rakish flavors into its collective getting stronger and more powerful with each acquisition.
Were this a commercial for Lysol or Fantastik, this would be the moment when I entered wielding the sprays and a mighty dustcloth in mock superhero fashion to conquer said Smell in my stylish capris and non-threatening button down shirt (because who doesn’t where crisp freshly laundered clothes to clean?). But this tale does not have a cute pat Hollywood ending.
The Smell and I exist in a perpetual showdown. We have mutual respect for our powers and weaknesses. I’d be a fool and liar to pretend that I do not contribute to the Smell. We dance a subtle two step, the Smell and I. Sometimes I lead and the Smell shrinks and acquiesces with my every twist and turn. Sometimes the Smell is my Fred Astaire, and I am putty in his powerful hands. Yet I refuse to be completely assimilated. I will, as the sole female in the house, continue my quest to raise respectful, acceptably clean and pleasant smelling children, husbands and dogs.
So pull up a chair Smell, mix a sweat and Axe martini. We made you, and we will not back down in this ongoing Darwinian battle of wills
Saturday, June 15, 2013
It is Father’s Day and there are some things I need you to know.
You are not perfect.
After 15 years of parenting, you still call me at work to ask what you should make the kids for dinner.
You wrestle them before they go to bed.
You sometimes lead the burping and farting brigade.
You wouldn’t know their schedule unless I tattooed it to your Ipad.
You sometimes expect the impossible.
You still leave your dirty underwear on the floor right next to the hamper.
No, you are not perfect.
You did change their diapers.
You lost sleep over deciding the best batting order when you coached their teams.
You read to them at night.
You taught them how to shave.
You sometimes lead the burping and farting brigade.
You take them fishing.
You make them laugh.
You laugh at their jokes.
You cheer for them at games, loudly; you applaud for them at concerts, loudly; and you encourage them to do all their homework, loudly.
You introduced them to Fawlty Towers, Mel Brooks and Caddy Shack.
You work at a job you love to show them that such a thing is possible.
You drive them everywhere.
You make them toasted cheese sandwiches.
You let them fail.
You are a fierce and mighty advocate.
You try to remember all the Pokemon names and powers.
You sometimes expect the impossible.
No, you are not perfect…
But your love for them is.
And though we will continue to stumble on the “How,” and we may sometimes question “Why,” there is no question that you are the perfect father for them.
Happy Father’s Day.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
I have too many clothes. It’s stupid really. How many white shirts is enough? The t-shirt (v-neck and crew- neck), the camis, the blouses (fitted, tunic, Sundance catalog whimsical). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg towards which my titanic like vanity is headed. There are the jeans, the slacks, the capris, the dresses, the skirts(funky, fabulous, and family gathering styles), the shoes, the sweaters, the Star Wars tees. My closet is literally bursting and yet every morning I stand in front of it like a hungry teenage boy gazing into the Frigidaire baffled by the fact that I have nothing to wear.
I have Hot Mom Complex.
That’s right, I want to be considered a Hot. Mom. I want people to wonder how I have time to look this good and still raise two children. I want men’s heads to turn when I enter a room as if in slow motion because of my hotness. I want other Moms to call me bitch after I’ve passed by because they are jealous of my hotness.
Let me clarify for a moment; I have never at any time in my life been considered hot. At times cute, pretty on my wedding day, blah, blah, blah; but never in fact would the word “hot” be listed in my top ten descriptive traits. So when I say I want to be a Hot Mom it’s really just an extension of my teenage Grease-Sandy-transformation-fantasy.
The problem is, that I am, inherently, lazy and not interested in putting in the time to truly achieve Hot Mom-i-tude. I do not exercise enough, drink enough water or have any intention of giving up gluten. I don’t get mani/pedis, still don’t really know how to do my make-up and am very clueless about what to do with my hair. I buy the majority of my clothes from the Gap Outlet, TJ Maxx and Marshalls. My underwear and bra never match and most of them date back to the Clinton Administration.
So, to recap: I am a vain, lazy, gluten-loving woman with too many clothes, who is hopelessly devoted to her shallow misguided ambition of being considered hot.
I could go on to say that I know I have to believe in myself and my inner hotness and not need the approval or drooling validation of anyone else. That being a mom is the most important thing I’ll ever do and I shouldn’t shy away from being identified as one. That I should just live a healthy lifestyle and not worry about how I look. That as long as my underwear is comfortable, it doesn’t matter how old it is. And that I know that at the root of it all is the deep desire to be known as more than just one part of who I am; that I am many things all at once and that’s what makes me truly hot.
I could say and even believe all of those things to the very core of my core, and my sermon might seem complete, and yet…
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
If my husband and I ever get divorced it will not be over infidelity or finances or growing apart, it will be about final exams. We both have the same ultimate goal for our children, to help them learn how to work hard and do their best...as long as it’s on our terms. The trouble is, our terms are a little different.
My husband is good at everything he tries. He’s motivated, smart, curious, a hard worker and entranced by excellence. Excellence is his true mistress. She tempted him to write a 30-page paper, front and back, single-spaced about To Kill A Mockingbird in 9th grade. She winked and flirted with him throughout The University of Pennsylvania undergrad and law school. She seduced him into becoming one of the best prosecutors at the Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s office. He simply cannot comprehend how anyone can resist the sweet siren song of excellence. He worked hard to achieve excellence in school and he believes that his study methods will work for others in their quest for excellence as well.
I have spent the majority of my life desperately hoping that people will not discover me to be the fraud I truly am. The youngest of six, I spent most of my childhood convinced that I was the least intelligent and least interesting person in the room. I worked hard in school probably out of a misguided desire to feel like I deserved to be a part of a family that was infinitely smarter than I. I didn’t love reading. I was not very competitive. I never asked for help. I did my homework. I studied. I did well. Never the best, but never the worst either. Excellence was the popular girl I didn’t feel I had the right to speak to. Nobody taught me how to study; I just did it to keep up.
Fast-forward to last Sunday, the night before Teenager 2’s Social Studies final. Husband’s plan was that Teenager 2 write his outline for the essay question, research details, practice writing the entire essay, and practice drawing the map of Europe, which would be on the exam. A sound plan to be sure. Teenager 2, however, wanted to write the outline, memorize the outline, study the other two practice maps he had already done and then play video games and watch the Transformers movie for the 567th time. Foolish misguided youth.
Husband went over the plan with me several times, leaving me in charge when he had to leave to take Teenager 1 to Spanish tutoring. I now absorbed the familiar fear of failure should I not be successful in carrying out the plan. What if he came home and there were steps left unfinished? The exam could be a disaster, the year’s grade could be compromised, there would be no hope of getting into an excellent college with an average or simply good 7th Grade Social Studies exam, who would hire someone with a B or, worse yet, a B-? How could I ever be a success with a grade like that?
I mean, how could HE ever be a success.
That’s what I meant.
And then it struck me; I already went through Middle School. I have no memory of what I got on my social Studies Final. I don’t even remember if we had one. And, oddly enough, I have never been asked for that result in any job interview. All I was doing now was transferring my stress to my son. I was not helping him learn material, I was just passing on the family heirloom of fear of failure. What Husband and I hadn’t realized was that Teenager 2 was figuring his way of studying, just like his crazy ancestors before him.
Ah, sweet catharsis, a term which I had to study for some final at some point, and now am actively using in a meaningful way. I cannot control the future and ensure everlasting happiness for my sons through definitive and traditional success on final exams. Because success is not marked by a letter or GPA, it is not marked by a fancy calligraphied diploma on your wall or the amount of boats you own. Success is trying hard, never giving up and being proud of what your effort accomplished on your own terms sometimes despite your parent’s perceived best intentions.
Don’t get me wrong, Teenagers 1 & 2 do not have all the answers, because this is the first time they’ve ever been 13 & 15. Husband and I will still try to help them find the answers, and we will succeed and fail brilliantly, because this is the first time we’ve ever been parents to Mr. 13 & Mr. 15.