Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Lens > Big Giant Brain

I just realized that I have been squelching my child’s dreams… actually both children really… but more prevalently my daughter’s because she’s older and mere steps away from adulthood.

My daughter has a Big. Giant. Brain.  She scored 1550 on her SAT’s in 7th grade!  At 15, she is currently a student at John Hopkins University, taking college credit courses, all thanks to her “BigGiantBrain.” So what does she want to do with her life? What’s her passion? 


Well, let me backstep a bit.  In a perfect world, where she could craft her own successful career, she'd be a photographer.  Of anything.  Photo Journalism. Portraiture. Crime scenes. Nature.  I don't even think she draws the line at the photostand where one snaps pictures of people dressed up in Civil War garb. Yet, she has already decided that getting a degree in photography is a waste of time.  "You have to be the best of the best to make that happen, Mom."  Hmmm... did I say that at one time or another?  Gosh! I hope I didn't, but I know I did plant the seed of practicality over passion.

So, my daughter has been exploring more "sensible" options.  On her "respectable vocation list" is advertising and the FBI. Hmmm… those sound like good and reasonable choices for someone who has a Big Giant Brain. So I’ve been suggesting schools best suited to those degrees.

But what if inside her Big Giant Brain is a Big Giant Talented Photographer????  

Seriously, she takes photos and within two hours, she has 200 likes on Facebook.  And they aren’t stupid duckface photos, but just random stuff she decides to photograph.  She has a cheapy little, tourist-grade digital camera that she takes everywhere.  Yet her eye for… well, everything, enables her to capture images that are amazing.  

The other day, it snowed.  Crap snow, cuz it didn’t amount to anything, and my daughter and I were just pulling into the driveway during the flurries.  My vehicle hadn’t even come to a complete stop in the driveway before BabyGirl was out the door and snapping away… focusing on worthy subjects I just can’t see… in the fricken cold.  And girlfriend doesn’t do ANYTHING voluntarily that would bring about the slightest amount of discomfort.

Yet there she was; like a butterfly with a camera. Hovering. Focusing. Absorbing. Temperature meant nothing because these shots were… survival… the only chance. 

I felt the passionate vibe; it’s IN her… There’s a time when a mom should be a realist, and there’s a time when a mom should be cheerleader… 

Go Bailey! Go!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The D word Part 2...

So my daughter just came home from a late-night trip to Busch Gardens with her church youth group.  She met a guy.  She was all giddy talking about him.  Her friend that's spending the night silently nodded along while my daughter gushed about this boy.

"He's sooo nice!"

"He's sooo cute!"

"He's on the football team. Want to see a picture of him?"

It was clear to me within the first, oh... 10 seconds, where this was going.

She:  So... he asked me to homecoming too... and it's the same night!  Can I tell Casey I don't want to go?

Me: No!

Friend: Yeah!

Me:  Thank You Mary!

She: Shut up Mary!

Sorry Casey... I hope she treats you nicely on your date and doesn't sulk because you're not the Busch Gardens guy.  I hope the restaurant you choose doesn't have tablecloths, unless they're paper.  And please, skip the flowers.  She's just not that into you.  To her, you are now merely a life lesson in honoring your word.

One day she's going to go on a date with a guy she's crazy about.  I'm glad this first date is with 'just a friend.'  It makes this whole new frontier in growing up a little less scary.  For me.  Baby steps...

The D Word

Well, it happened.  It actually happened.  My daughter has been asked out on her first date.  The D word.  I’ve blissfully avoided it for fifteen years, and now, there it is.  My. Daughter. Is. Going. On. A. Date.

It’s just as friends, she assures me.  And I’m certain that’s how she’s viewing it. Now.  But I don’t think he sees it that way.  No proof, just intuition.  To top it off, I’ve never even met the kid.  I do know that he’s a black belt at the same karate studio she attends, and that he goes to a different school.  Great.  One reason I love her taking martial arts is so she can smackdown any guy who crosses the line with her... and he’s a flippin’ black belt. 


So the conversation goes like this:

She:  I just got asked to the homecoming dance. But not my school’s homecoming dance.

Me:   Who asked you?

She:  Casey

Me:  The guy from karate?  Do you want to go?

She:  I don’t know.  I guess.  It’s just as friends.

Me:  It’s fine with me, just let me know.

She leaves, and I’m left staring slack-jawed at my equally slack-jawed husband.  What just happened here?  Is this a…  a DATE?

Before we could process anything, she comes back in and says she told him yes.  Then she says she told him since she doesn’t want it to be any trouble for him, that I could just drop her off at the school.


Now I am drop-jawed and saucer-eyed as I whip my head to meet my husband’s blank gaze.  Did he not just hear her or has it not registered… Drop her OFF?

So I say, quite calmly,  Ummmmm, I’m not sure how things are done these days, but dropping you off at a strange school to go to a dance with a boy we’ve never met is not the way it’s going to happen.

She goes into teenage-girl-defensive-mode.  I know she really was thinking ‘it’s no big deal.  I don’t want to inconvenience him.’ And I can’t blame her for suggesting this.  She’s a foreigner in the strange land of dating; she doesn’t know the rules and customs.  And it’s been exactly 30 years since I’ve been to a homecoming dance.  Maybe my passport to the teen dating world has expired.

Nevertheless, I reach into my motherly “Talk to your kids so they’ll see it your way” bag of tricks.  I make light of the subject by telling her that it’s her first date.  I’ll need photos, just like I did to all the other formal events she’s attended… with her girlfriends!

She acquiesces, but I still don’t have all the details yet.  All I know is that the evening is becoming more date-like, because now it involves dinner beforehand.  Just friends.  Mmmmmhmmmm Casey… I’m on to you.  The good thing is that they’re going with another couple; thank you God for small blessings.

So how this is all going to play out in the end, I don’t know.  I’m still letting it sink in. A date.  Date.  And I know she’s not interested in him other than as a friend.  Now.  Because she asked if she could back out of it.  This request was followed by a teen-loving lecture about keeping your word.  She’s also mentioned that “he’s soooo awkward!”  Yes he is sweetie.  They all are at fifteen.

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve taken the time to write about my kids.  But with what lies ahead next weekend, I feel another blog comin' on...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sealed with a kiss....

This afternoon, my son gave my belly a kiss.

And I was mortified!

Not because the kiss was directed at my belly-pooch, or that he was kissing the never-to-be-conceived sibling…

It was because he had been eating watermelon, and I was wearing a white T-shirt. Oh, and did I mention I was on my way to the grocery store and did not have time for a wardrobe change?

My concern was more about getting out the door, running the errand, and getting back.

Not living in the moment with those who love me.

Not appreciating a small person whose entire existence was to send me off to the store with all his love packed into one pink-stained pucker…


I’m still wearing that shirt.

And glancing down at the stain, I am reminded that I have been branded.

Branded to not own stainless clothes for the next 15 years.

Branded with a mark that will forever remind me what an awesome gift my son is.

It’s a forever kiss… and instead of worrying what others think when they see me wearing soiled clothes, I will rub that stain against my cheek every time I remove my shirt from the dryer…

I vow that this watermelon kiss will never be erased…
Not by Oxi-Clean,
Not by bleach,
And certainly, never from memory…

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Paradoxical Egg

Teenage girls are like raw eggs. During these years, on the surface, they appear simple, sturdy, uncomplicated. And when handled just so they are actually unyielding. Yet a mother's mere words can change the physics of that egg altogether... It seems, no matter how good the intention, that a comment, a glance, a response to a solicited question can cause that egg to shatter...and explode all over you.

There's a love/hate relationship with teenage girls. I know. I have one. And I was one once. And fortunately (or not,) the mantras I recited, "I'll never forget what this moment feels like," and "I'll never treat my kids this way," actually come into play on a weekly basis.

Because I do remember. The rawness of every emotion. The need for acceptance, despite your own denial. To fit in. But not. To rotate the wardrobe so you don't repeat too often. To be true to yourself and your morals, but say something off-color when adults aren't around. To stand out. To blend in. To be okay not excelling in something. To feel like a loser because you don't. To crave acceptance from your mother. To reject everything she has to say because you believe she obviously hates you.

But what I didn't realize at that age was the cache of wisdom that comes from being a former teenager/now an adult Mom. Many of the feelings you experience as a teenage girl are just that...feelings. As a teenager, you don't realize that feelings are not something that should rule your every decision. They are not something that you base your worth in the here and now.

Quite honestly, if I were to run my life on the sole basis of my feelings, I'd jump in my car this very instant and set off alone to find a place that had fantastical corned beef hash and eggs benedict, served to me by a tanned, handsome young man as I lay prone in the glow of the tropical sun.

It's what I really want. BADLY!!!!

But part of parenting a teenage girl is finding that balance. Between honesty and platitude. Saving my child from impending embarrassment versus letting her learn from experience. Between the mean streets of reality and the innocence of youthfulness.

There are so many examples of this that I could post and post and post and...well, that's not the point of this entry...

The point is, well, as a mom of a teenage girl, I'm struggling with when to say something and what to say...

What IS the proper response to, "Does this look okay together?"

I ascribe to the belief that if you don't want to know the truth, then don't ask the question. However, now having a teenage daughter, I realize for self-preservation purposes, there is a caveat: tread cautiously when talking with a teenage girl; even though she would be the first to tell you exactly what she's really thinking...

I swear, if this country would like to protect itself from terrorist attacks, then we should replace all TSA employees and with teenage girls, because here would be the dialogue:

Teenage Girl: "Since arriving at the airport, has anyone handled your luggage without your knowledge?"

Traveler: "No."

Teenage Girl: "OHMIGOSH! All I asked was if anyone handled your luggage without your knowledge! I so don't believe you, 'cuz you just totally sighed when you said 'No.' I can't believe anything you say now! 'SECURITY!'... you're outta here, so just deal with it!"

This would be followed by a dramatic door slam, if those metal-detecting thresholds had doors.

Thankfully, my daughter doesn't say "so," "totally," or "like," but the attitude can be there more times than I care admit.

So what do I do with these instances? Which daughter I get at any given moment is like parental roulette... and I'm not a gamblin' lady!

Teenage girls... they are so paradoxical... they are the most exhilarating, amusing, insightful, lovable, let-your-hair-down people with whom you could ever hope to spend your time. Yet, they are also the most infuriating, emotional, frustrating, trying, heartbreaking souls on earth.

So how do you parent a teenage girl without shattering her into a thousand pieces?

I'll let you know in five years...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Emotional Ambush

It’s funny how your emotions can catch you totally off guard.

That happened to me today at 8:30 this morning. I took my son to school to get him tested for Kindergarten. It’s the same private school that my daughter has attended since she was in Kindergarten. Although I had not stepped foot in the Lower School for three years, everything felt familiar. The display cabinets with colorful sculptures created by the students, the glass walls of the Computer and Science Labs that allow you to view all that goes on inside, the front desk and staff, the glorious library…everything just felt as if we had never moved on.

While I adore the school and love all it has to offer my children, I’ve been dreading the possibility of driving across the river six-to-eight times a day, going to two different campuses with two totally different school schedules. Truthfully, I’ve been finding myself being a little selfish with my time, not wanting to spend anymore of it chauffeuring than I already do. I’ve even caught myself hoping that he won’t get accepted so I can, without regret, send him to our wonderful local elementary school, complete with a bus that would deliver him to school and bring him home safely. A school that, should I need to be on campus, is less than five minutes up the road, not three counties away.

So that has been my mindset since we started the application process in the Fall - that this whole Kindergarten thing is no big deal. Besides, he’s my second born. With my daughter, I welled up as she went off to preschool, Kindergarten and even Middle School. When she was younger, I lingered in the hallways and parking lots, coming to terms with the fact that she was growing up. With my son, I’ve had more of a been-there, done-that attitude toward school, not feeling like I’m losing my baby to the world.

So today when we arrived at the Lower School, I chatted for a moment with the receptionist, showed my son some of the artwork in the cases, and pointed out the cool Science and Computer Labs as well as the splendid library. The lady who was to administer the test came out, introduced herself, and made small talk with my son. When it was time to enter the testing room, my son smothered me with hugs and kisses, walked into the room, waved and cheerfully said, “Bye, Mom!”

While heading toward the parking lot, I smiled about the sweetness of the whole scenario and checked my watch to see how much time I had until I needed to pick him up. A moment later, I was back in my car, heading to the Middle School campus to drop something off for my daughter and write a silly note on her locker. It was there, as I pulled into the Middle School parking lot, that I was blindsided by an emotional smack! A large knot instantly formed in my throat and tears began to pool in my eyes.


Where did this come from?

I’ve been totally cool with this whole Kindergarten thing. Happy actually. Excited for this time to come.

Haven’t I?

I sat there in the parking lot, composing myself before entering the school. Still overwhelmed by the onslaught of emotions that I was unaware I possessed, I began trying to figure out the where and the why of this reaction.

Have I actually missed that place? Am I melancholy, not exhilarated by this pending milestone? I’ve anticipated Kindergarten and truly do look forward to all the ways he’ll grow and learn, all the exciting experiences that await him…yet this is so bittersweet.

Gripping the steering wheel and releasing a puff of air, I realized that I did miss Lower School after all. I have had wonderful experiences as a parent there, and I can imagine many more with my son.

And these milestones that punctuate the fact that my children are growing up are bittersweet, even if I am excited for their next steps. All along, my own selfishness, the dread about my time in the car, back and forth all day, had overshadowed these feelings.

Having my self-centered fog lifted, I became conscious that I was waxing nostalgic. Because I realized that as I observed those familiar stomping grounds and pointed them out to my prospective Kindergarten son, I saw the ghost of a little girl who used to walk those same halls. Talk to those same staff members. Have science and computer classes in those rooms. Took utter pleasure in the solitude of the library…

And now she’s a teenager.

A teenager.

And my son is going to Kindergarten.

I’m about to send him down the same swift-moving path my daughter has already trod.

And it feels like yesterday.

And I miss them already.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Polar Opposites

My son took a shower this evening.

Frankly, he didn't need one; he had a bath less than 24 hours ago. He also lacked that briny smell that boys acquire from playing outside in the muggy Southern heat. To you, I'm sure it seems like an unremarkable event to blog about. Except my son is four-and-a-half, and he insisted on taking a shower. He pleaded as though he was asking to stay up past bedtime ; "Please may I take a shower Mommy? PleasePleasePleasePleasePLEEEEEZE!?!?!!?!"

The reason he wanted to take a shower? Well, his sister was taking one. Yet another item to check off my son's list of "Things To Do That The Big Kids Do."

So I explained to him how to enter a shower when it's on (so water doesn't go everywhere) and gave him liquid soap so he could wash himself. It was then that a knot caught in my chest as I placed the bottle within his reach, because the irony was not lost on me that what I was handing him was Baby Wash.

My son wants to grow up so fast. Too fast. And I'm not saying this just because he's my youngest, though I do notice that as he races past every kid-milestone, I realize it's one I won't see again until I'm blessed with grandchildren.

Yes, there may be a few more baths here and there, but I know my son. This phase is almost over. As I listen to the sound of two showers running simultaneously, I start to make a mental inventory of items that won't be needed by the end of the summer: fizzy bath color tablets, bubble bath, tub toys. I'm already mourning the loss. One more innocent piece of childhood gone...

Now don't get me wrong. I in no way miss the baby/toddler stages. As much as I can appreciate the wonder of those years, I would not trade a day of yesterday for today. It just saddens me that my son is in such a hurry to grow up. Slow down; this is not supposed to be a race.

I'm acutely aware of how fast this time passes because my daughter, who in my mind I gave birth to merely a handful of years ago, will be a teenager in a few months. Where the heck did that time go? And, excuse me, how did I get old enough to have one of those?

Although I have a son who wants to be a teenager, I have an almost thirteen-year-old daughter who, ironically, is in no hurry to grow up! And let me tell you, when you have a daughter whose physical developmental hormones have been Super-Sized, it is a blessing indeed!

From the beginning, she's never been in a hurry to grow up. Sometimes she's even resisted; as if she already knew what she was about to lose. I'm not sure why, but she's always been one to do things her own way; never concerned about conforming. I have a theory on why she's not in a hurry to cross the finish line in the race to adulthood; she has an innate understanding of adult life. My husband and I say she was born an old soul. Even in her preschool years, she grasped matters of life with which many adults I know still grapple. It's as though she has a crystal ball and can see mortgages and mammograms in her future. Like she's saying, "No thanks, I'll walk. Let the bullet-train pass."

So having been given these two totally different children, I sometimes can sit back and appreciate their differences, as well as the privilege of getting to parent two opposite people. And of course I have to smile. Because the one that's in a hurry to grow up, adamantly requesting styling-gel before his hair dries, is wearing Cars jammies and Spider-Man slippers, while the other that's in no hurry, having the shape of a college co-ed and verbally cursing her endowments, wants to hang out with her mom, not chat online with her BFF's or obsess about boys.

Tortoise and Hare. Who'll cross first? I just hope they both win.