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.