I Did it Without Thinking

I was running errands the other day, walking down Park Avenue South when  I stopped at a corner.  No big deal- that’s what you do when walking the city streets- you stop at the corner.  The only difference was, I could see the westbound street was closed to traffic- there would be no car intersecting my path.  Yet I stopped anyway.  Why?  Because I did it by rote- 30 years of crossing streets in New York – I stop at the corners.

I think certain aspects of repetitive behavior are fine- brushing teeth, washing hands…..I even believe that school kids should be taught to memorize the times tables (in my mind 5×5=25- I know there is a reason for that, but at the end of the day, 5×5=25 is 5×5=25, because it is.  I don’t want to hear they need to show work, or draw 5 groups of 5 sticks, or be told it’s OK if they got the wrong answer as long as the work is right- tell that to a boss when the till is constantly off- “I know I gave out the wrong change- but my process was right)  Oh wait- I digress- where was I?

Rote. Unconscious behavior.  Doing an action without even thinking about it.  When I wake up in the morning I look at my phone- reflexively.  I check the time, I check the message bar for texts, emails or missed calls.  I check the weather.  I just do it without thinking.

How often to you unconsciously pick up your phone to check, let’s just say, the time?  There are times we legitimately need to know the time- but most of the time, do you just reflexively do it?

This past weekend, Husband and Daughter spent some time at a relatives rented beach house.  This family consists of 3 kids, 12 and under and Mom and Dad.  The beach house had a pool complete with floats and pool toys,  a tennis court and a foosball table- I think there was even a basketball hoop.  There was a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle open on the table, a bunch of board games on a shelf.  There were plenty of things to do.

My family went out to play tennis.  When they got to the court they realized there was a wasp infestation on the court.  Even though the host family had been there a week, no one had gone out to the tennis courts- they had no idea there were so many bugs you couldn’t play.

Daughter wrote up a foosball round robin tournament schedule.  There would be no prizes- just everyone playing the same game at the same time.  This was met by a chorus of “Oh- I don’t know” and “Maybe later”.  Eventually, she got the young boys to play.  But not the girl or the parents.

When they went out to dinner, the host family just pulled out their cell phones the moment they sat at the table.  My Husband tried to talk to the other Guy- but other guy was staring at his screen.  There was no actual conversation.  The only utterances were the Mom telling the kids what they could, and more often, could not eat.  “Stop eating bread.  No- you can’t get the ribeye- it has too much fat.”

Now- I wasn’t there for this meal- I was happily cleaning my apartment, watching our pets…..so how can I recreate this scene?  Because this family is on autopilot- they do the same thing every time they are anywhere.  They might all be in the same room, but they are acting as individuals, not a family unit.  They sit down, they pick up their electronic device.  They don’t talk.  It is habit.

What a habit.  Sit down with your family and pick up your phone.  I think that will be my New Years resolution.  I mean really, what’s the point of vacation if you need to talk to the other members of your family.  jigsaw puzzles?  Who does those anymore? (you  can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand- but our tradition is a winter holiday jigsaw puzzle- but I’m digressing again…)

Does a family need to play games together to be happy?  Do a Mom and Dad need to go into the pool with the kids?  Does a family need to talk to one another?  Or should we all just be on autopilot, looking at one another, but not seeing.  Hearing one another, but not listening.  Sharing space with people, but not sharing lives.  Picking up our phones because they are there, that flashing screen is infinitely more interesting…..

And I love my smart phone.  I love my ipad. I often look at them because they are there, because it is learned behavior. But maybe picking them up should be done consciously, when I have a legitimate reason- like reading all your blogs……

 

 

Who’s in Charge Here…..

I love my Mom.  I know she has made mistakes about things, but I also know she has always had the best of intentions.  That took me about 50 years to figure out.  But….my Mom can also drive me crazy.  Because even though she has known me my entire life, she still does not understand me.  Or chooses not to understand me- I’m really not sure which……

She pet sat for us last month when we were on vacation.  She loves to go to the theater, we live in the city.  We needed someone to take care of the girls.  This was a win/win situation. And I really do appreciate the help.  Truly.

But…….

My Mom’s hobby is shopping.  Seriously.  Shopping.  She DVR’s shows on the shopping channels.  Mom only uses the internet is to look for things to buy.  The only reason she wishes she didn’t sell her big suburban house is because it had lots of rooms to store the things she purchases.  She literally has gadgets for everything.  And multiples of everything.  When I go to her condo, I want to bang my head against the kitchen cabinets- because she has so much stuff, it is impossible to find what you actually need.  (This problem also causes her to rebuy things that are already in the house….it’s a vicious cycle)

Now, if you read yesterday- you know I am a serious purger of goods- I hate clutter.  I hate things that take up space.  I am clearly function over form.

So what happens when a person who values objects stays at the home of her daughter who hates things?  Well- Mom buys things that she thinks will be helpful.  And daughter doesn’t want them, but feels a little bad, because she knows her Mom is trying to be helpful.  But maybe no one actually needs to be helped……

Case in point- the laundry basket.  I have a rattan hamper- it is just attractive enough to sit in my bedroom and not make my eyes sore, it is just large enough to hold clothes for a few days, small enough to fit in my bedroom, and light enough to carry down to laundry room.  My Mother bought me a different laundry bag- because mine didn’t make sense to her.  Hers was “better”.  For ten minutes she extolled the virtues of her laundry system over mine.  She exclaimed “Isn’t this great?”  to which I answered, “Not really.  If I wanted that I would have bought that.”  She made a hmpf sound.  I felt a little guilty- after all, she just pet sat for me- she didn’t have to do that.  But I’m 53 years old- I can figure out my own laundry solutions.

I also know, that in the end, it is about control.  My Mom still wants to control everything I do.  I get that- to a point.  I am a control freak (I know- you guys are shocked to hear this)  I like things to be my way- because I know everything, and I’m always right…… (My Husband has actually said to my Daughter- just listen to Mom- she’s always right)

But…..

No one can control everything.  There is a point when you have to let your kids make their own decisions- you can guide them- but the final choice is theirs.  Kids have to learn how to make choices- list out pros and cons, figure out the worst case scenario…..They also need to learn to adapt if something isn’t working, know when something is seriously wrong and needs to be scrapped- learn how to take control of their own lives.  This only comes by trial and error.  A parents job is to help them pick up the pieces if something fails- to support them emotionally if the choice they made was wrong.  If my laundry storage system goes awry, I should be able to call my Mom and cry, without her saying “I told you so”.

So what’s the point?

  1. Don’t buy your kids things just because you think they need it or will make their lives better- ask them first,  They’re allowed an opinion.
  2. Don’t feel guilty about saying “No” to a parent- it’s not healthy to say “Yes” to anything you don’t want to do
  3. Let your kids lead their own lives.  They’ll probably be fine.

Ensemble

It’s odd how some things come together.  One blogger friend writes about a word every day, and how it impacts his life.  Another blogger friend wrote about characters in TV shows.  And yet another wrote about the theme music on Good Times.  My friends father died last week.  This past weekend was the birthday of a dear friend of mine who passed away 7 years ago.  A fourth blogger has been posting about the end of his life, as cancer has taken over his body.  Today’s blog is inspired by all these things- it’s an ensemble.

When my daughter was in Pre-k, I met 4 parents.  Our children were all in the same class.  This was our first experience with the New York City public school system- these were our first (and for most) only children.  We had a lot to learn.  Parenting is so hard- we were afraid that we were screwing up at every turn. We needed support, so our little band of five was formed.  Our own personal ensemble cast- there wasn’t really a star (OK it was me….) but a group of great supporting actors.  We began meeting for coffee every morning after drop off.

These friends literally got me through early elementary school.  If I had an issue, a problem, an idea about child rearing- I threw it out to the group.  This was my safe space- where I could ask questions, give advice, laugh and cry.  These were my people.  We were what the best ensembles were- a collaboration of people, who alone were okay, but together could change the world.  Or run a school event.  Same thing.

But we were geeks- specifically about pop culture.  We read, we watched movies, we watched TV.  We all loved sit coms.  We would quote from sit coms as a part of our daily lives.  We would have debates over shows, and characters, and favorite episodes.  We could relate almost any situation on our lives directly to a TV show- this is like the Chinese restaurant in Seinfeld, this is like the Smelly Cat episode on Friends.

Then, when our kids were in third grade- G wasn’t feeling so well.  He went to doctor after doctor- but no one could see anything wrong.  Until they did.  He got the prognosis on the morning of the spring parent teacher conferences.  As we sat in the pizza place with the kids, eating our now traditional half day of school lunch- we could not look at one another.  While the kids still retained their innocence- the adults did not.  Nothing would ever be the same again.  Six weeks later he was gone.

His memorial service- hundreds of people- including his Grandmother- stood around eating mini hot dogs, drinking Dirty Martini’s (his drink)- wondering how this could happen to a 45 year old man, wo had three little kids.  We held each other, cried and laughed, and cried some more.  When I spoke to the crowd, I held back the tears- G would not want be to cry during the eulogy.  He would want me to remember him the way he lived his life- and I did my best.  I told stories about our little band of 5- how we would spend hours talking about nothing- which was really everything.  And I ended my speech with a quote from Frasier, our favorite show.  On the series finale, Niles says to his brother, “I’ll miss the coffees.”  And that was the bet way to sum up an amazing friendship and amazing person.

Last weekend would have been his 53rd birthday- the same age I turned this year.  And I still miss his laugh, his wit, his biting satire, his humanity, and his take on pop culture.  His presence in my life changed me- for the better.  I’m a better person for having known him.

And remember way back in the first paragraph?  All those things?  Our lives, our stories, are made of little bits and pieces of everything around us.  Anything can trigger a memory, or an idea.  And all those things made me think of G, on his birthday.  And made me cry a little, and made me laugh a little.

And thanks to the following, who unknowingly inspired me:

https://www.thisismytruthnow.com/

http://theycallmetater.wordpress.com/

http://www.thatsoulshit.wordpress.com/

http://www.spearfruit.com/-  Courage and honor.

 

No- Say it isn’t So…..

I ran into a neighbor the other evening.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Hey.  All ready for college?

Young Woman:  Just about.  Can’t Wait.

Me:  When do you leave?

Young Woman: A few weeks.

Me:  Great.  Good luck.  What’s a recent high school graduate up to this evening?

Young Woman:  Tinder date.

Me:  Ohhhh…..sounds fun….have a good time???

And my voice trailed off into the sunset….

I remember when this girl was born.  She went to the same elementary as my daughter.  She just graduated from the same high school my kid attends.  I knew her.  I watched her grow up.  And she’s on a tinder date.

I feel old.

I realize people date.  I realize people use tinder.  I didn’t realize young woman that I remember running around the lobby would use tinder.

I feel like a prude.  I didn’t think I was a prude.  I thought I had a pretty healthy appreciation of sex.  I thought I was pretty open and realistic about what actually happens in life.  But I think I’d rather be an ostrich.  I’d rather have my head buried deep in the sand.  Because I don’t want to think about any kid I know, male, female or indifferent going on tinder dates.

If my daughter were to go on a tinder date, I would want to know.  Well- not really, obviously I want ostrich mode.- but I would want her to trust me enough to tell me what she was doing.  I would make sure she was as prepared as possible- has what she needs physically and mentally.

But I would not be happy about it.  I don’t think I can ever prepare myself enough for my daughter to go on a tinder date.  There is no “Dummies Guide to your Child going on Tinder dates.”  (But I guess that’s a book idea right there……)

I’m a fraud.  I’ve always said I would support my daughter no matter what she does.  But as of this moment- if she comes to me in 2 1/2 years and tells me she’s going on a tinder date- I don’t know what I would actually do.  Other than cry.  And bang my head against the wall.  And you  know, alienate her forever, and make sure she doesn’t trust me or ever tell me anything else again.

I know I’m jumping the gun, that this may  never happen.  But us control freaks- we always like to anticipate everything….

But for now, I’m- I going to borrow a line from Mojo, and just go LA LA LA LA LA I’m covering my ears with my hands……..

In it to Win it

Name an 11  letter word that would be used to describe my family?

You have 30 seconds.  Cue the Jeopardy music-

The answer is:

COMPETETIVE

We played mini golf on vacation.  When we approached the entrance and picked out our clubs, the attendant asked if we wanted a score card.  We responded “yes please”, but  we looked at each other and telepathically communicated – Duh- who  plays mini golf and doesn’t  keep score?  Where’s the fun in that? Don’t they care who wins?  Now- for the record- no one in my family is a candidate for the mini-PGA.  I can get a hole in one  and follow it up with a 5.  But we have fun and we try to play on every vacation.  (FYI-the Husband won both mini golf games we played- he would want the blogverse to know that).

We’re a competitive family.  We like to play games with each other.  When the daughter was younger we would have weekly family game nights, and while we still have them- they are now on a monthly basis.  They’re more like death matches tournaments- we play 5 different games, and the winner gets to choose our next dining excursion.

If we’re at a fast casual restaurant, we will take bets on what time our food will be out.  If we’re walking somewhere, we will each take a different route to see who gets there first. We will scout out a Cracker Barrel just so we can play the peg IQ game they leave on the tables. We just can’t help ourselves.

But…… we are not cutthroat.  We don’t cheat.  We don’t throw tantrums if we lose.  We try not to go back to the rule book/instruction guide if we have a disagreement.  (That part doesn’t always work so well- playing mini golf daughter actually told me I brought my ball out too far when it was flush against the edge….and she made me redo the shot.  There was honor at stake……)

Then there’s resilience.  What better way to learn about resilience than to keep playing games.  Husband is a great Words with Friends player.  I am not.  (FYI- this kills me- he is an accountant with a vocabulary of about 12 words.  I pride myself on being a wordsmith, with at least 20 words in my arsenal.)  I could beat him on a vocab quiz any day of the week- but I rarely beat him at word games.  My guess is, he wins 3/4 of our games. ( Ok- who are we kidding.  He beats me 73% of the time.  Did you really think I didn’t know the exact statistic?)  Yet, I continue to play him.  And I will continue to play him.  I can be down by about 150 points, and I will not resign a game.  Because sometimes I do win, and  I’m only going to get better if I keep playing.  There’s no secret formula- it’s just play and learn.  That’s all.  Play and learn.

I realize that some people don’t like to keep score.  I realize that there are situations where everyone gets a trophy.  But I don’t know how good this is.  I don’t think it’s realistic.  Like it or not- there are times when you win, and times when you lose.  You have to learn to do both, with grace and with honor.  Maybe you don’t have to be like my family (I actually highly advise not being like my family, cause, well- you read my blog- isn’t that enough of a reason not to be like my family?) but competition can be good.  And sometimes, it can even make a family closer……

 

 

Let’s Bag It

Sorry- this is a rant and another vacation themed blog.  I can’t believe the mileage I’m getting out of my family trip.

See the bags in the picture- this is one of those blogs where the picture is integral to the story, not just a pic that I took that I thought was pretty.

The bag on the left is what my daughter used while we were sightseeing.  Cute, right?  The bag on the right  is what I used.  Utilitarian, no?  The bag in the middle is what my husband used.  ?  What word can you use to describe the bag between the other two?

As I was discussing with amazing Ann yesterday http://muddlingthroughmymiddleage.wordpress.com/, we like to be prepared in the event of say, anything happens.  I like to be ready- which means I carry a very large bag when we go on vacations.  ( I believe this is the fault of diaper bags- when you have a young child you routinely walk around with so much stuff you forget there is any other way to travel)

Personally, I take the following with me:

  1. wallet- can’t forget cash and credit
  2. key- hotel room key very important
  3. camera- I take a lot of pictures
  4. phone- I mean really- this is my datebook, alarm and means to the outside world- I don’t go anywhere without my phone.
  5. sunglasses- they add an air of mystery to any outfit
  6. rain poncho (I find the poncho is easier on vacation)

Now- these six things do not take up much room.  Frankly- I could use a smaller bag.  And I realize that I like to be prepared, and I might need the following things for my own use…..but…… I will in get the following questions:

Do you have any sunscreen?

Do you have any insect repellent?

Do you have any water?

Do you have any gum/mints?

Do you have a tissue?

Do you have lip stuff with SPF?

Do you have the map the hotel clerk gave us?

Do you have the brochure I picked up at that kiosk?

Do you have the review of lobster rolls that I ripped out of that magazine?

Do you have an advil?

Do you have any quarters for the meter?

Did you bring the phone charger?

I also get the following requests:

Can you hold my camera?

Can you hold this 500 page guidebook I found which has all the thing they list on the trip advisor sight?

Can you hold this 5 pound piece of fudge that I had to have?

Do you have room for my sunglasses?

We don’t need a bag for the 600 Boston Tea Party tea bags we’re buying, my wife can put them in her purse- you know- my wife is Mary Poppins in her spare time…….her bag can hold everything……

Hold open your bag so I can wash my hands, because you forget the hand sanitizer, but remembered the kitchen sink…….

I think you get the idea……you see how I began to go off the rails?

I know this is all my own fault.  I’ve spent 15 years being super mom/wife.  But frankly, I’m ready to take off the cape.  The only thing I’ve received for my super hero status are shoulders that are never not tense.  Silly me didn’t book a massage when I made the hotel reservations, so all the other Mom superheroes had already taken all the available spots.  Next vacation is being booked around spa treatment appointments.

Drop the cape.

Rationally Fearful- Part 2

Yesterday, you read about my fear of lighthouse climbing.  For the record, we also visited Bunker Hill Memorial while we were in Boston.  I’d never been to Bunker Hill, so imagine my surprise when we jumped out of an Uber to discover that the Memorial is a 294 step obelisk, spiral staircase included….The Bunker Hill story ends pretty much as the lighthouse story ended…me sliding on my backside down 294 steps….

But the terrifying nightmare family vacation continues:

After Boston, next stop : Maine.  Specifically- Acadia.  Acadia, as in mountains.

So, you are probably thinking, “Gee, how does someone who is afraid of a 40 foot high lighthouse actually hike in the mountains?”

I really enjoy hiking.  I love nature.  I love being outdoors.  As a city dweller, I don’t often get to experience green fields and trees, so I try to incorporate at least one hike into every vacation.  My Husband is not afraid of heights.  My daughter is part mountain goat, part adrenaline junkie.  Finding a balance of keeping us all happy is important.

Picture this:  the information desk at Acadia- the players- Park Ranger, The Husband and me:

Me:  I’m a bit afraid of heights, but I’m OK with physical challenges.  Can you recommend a good hike for my family.

Park Ranger:  (opens the map- takes her pen) Start here, Gorham Mountain Trailhead- it’s on the loop road just past Thunder Hole.  It’s a tough hike, but there are no ledges or anything to scare you.  When you get to this point. cross the street and then head back to your car along the Ocean Cove path.  Really beautiful.

The Husband now joins the conversation, he missed my question because he was purchasing a park access pass.

Husband: Can you recommend a really good hike- no issues with fear or strength?

Park Ranger: (she looks at me, then at him) Are you together?

I’ve always been afraid of heights.  Always.  I never liked roller coasters.  I wouldn’t climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty in third grade.  I don’t like heights.

The Husband knew this before we were married.  The husband knows this now.  I have no issues with telling people about my fear of heights, falling and small spaces.

Which brings us to the next questions:

  1. Should you be embarrassed by your fears?  No, because it’s part of who you are.  To be embarrassed by it is to not accept something about yourself.  Not accepting yourself is never good.
  2. Should you partner/family/friends be embarrassed by your fears?  No.  You need to accept people for who they are.  If you are embarrassed by someone else’s fears, you must ask yourself why.  Why does someone else’s personality trait bother you so much?  Does it really impact your life?

I don’t think my husband is thrilled about my fear of heights and falling.  He gets slightly annoyed when I hike really slowly and/or cautiously.  He hates when people pass us (but that’s a whole other blog for another day). He has said on more than one occasion “You can do this.”

Which brings me to the next question:

  1. Should someone push you into doing something you are fearful of? 

This is where it gets tricky.  On one hand, sometimes you just need a little push to get over the hump.  On the other hand, no one should push you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing.  But how do you know which case it is?

Next question:

  1. Is your fear impacting your life?  Did you ever watch the TV show “Monk”?  Monk was so paralyzed by his fears (which included a fear of milk) that he was unable to work at a job he loved- ie being a detective.  So if you have a fear that is impacting your life, you may want to do something about it.  Not being able to hike up mountains is not impacting my life.  I am not a goat herder.  I am not a Sherpa.  Manhattan is a relatively flat island.
  2. Is fear stopping you from doing something you really want to do?  I’m going with a real life example here.  A few years ago we were in Hawaii.  My daughter,the adrenaline junkie,wanted to jump off Black Rock, a cliffish spot on Maui.  Though generally fearless, this made her pause.  I asked her if she would regret not doing this activity, to which she replied “Yes”.  So I talked to her about her fear (I know- the woman who can’t climb down the steps of a lighthouse is giving advice on cliff diving) and said I would love her either way, jumping was entirely her decision- but that I had every faith that she could do it if she wanted to.  (Disclaimer- I was petrified of her diving off of a cliff into the ocean- but I didn’t want to let my anxiety over power her)  She ended up doing it- and was so glad she did.  In my case- I don’t care if I hike to the top of a mountain.  I get enjoyment just being outside.  My family wanted to do the “beehive trail”.  This trail entailed scaling the side of a mountain holding onto handrails- at almost a 90 degree pitch.  I had NO INTEREST in this hike. I told them to enjoy themselves, and I would find a shady spot to read my book.  They loved the hike- I loved reading.  Win win.  I know I’m capable of hiking mountains- I really don’t want to.

And here ends our tales of fear.  For the record- I am not an expert on anything.  Everything written is personal experience and observation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice to Parents- Tradition

 

Dear Parents of Children under the age of 5,

You all know that I hate giving advice.  Really I do.  But sometimes I need to impart my wisdom on you all.  And really, no matter what stage of life you’re in, kids or not, you really should read anyway.

When your children are young-  start traditions.

What do I mean by traditions?  I mean any type of event that your family can do, that is done on a somewhat rotational basis. (sort of like Christmas in July…I never thought I could get so much mileage out of something)

Why have traditions?

  1. They are Kodak moments.  I have pictures of my daughter at the same sign for the past 12 years.  If I were to line up the photos, it would be like a flip book of her becoming a teenager.
  2. They are instant flash backs- they root you to a certain time and a certain place- and when your kids were young
  3. They’re fun
  4. Everyone will really look forward to them
  5. When your kids get older, they will have their own lives.  They will have too much homework, part time jobs, practices and friends.  But they will find time for traditions
  6. Because kids really do grow up too fast

Real Life Example:

School is a big part of many children’s lives.  After completing Kindergarten I thought that my daughter deserved a celebration.  When I asked her what she wanted to do, she asked if we could go to dinner at Cowgirl.  Cowgirl is a fun restaurant filled with foods that I don’t allow her to go eat on a consistent basic- I don’t mind junk food, (I actually love food that is not healthy) but for the most part we eat healthy.  Her favorite thing at Cowgirl is their special dessert- vanilla ice cream coated with cocoa powder, topped with whipped cream, and little pats of yellow icing.  It is surrounded by chocolate sauce, and topped with chopped up pistachio.  It is built to resemble a baked potato.  When you are 5, (and older) this place is heaven.  And we started coming to this place on the last day of school.

This year, my daughter was in Costa Rica on the traditional last day of school (in high school in NYC, this “day” is actually 10 minutes of running in to get your report card and then exiting the building as quickly as humanly possible), so we weren’t able to do our tradition till last week.  We sat at the table and talked.  We spoke of upcoming college tours, AP classes, and the PSAT.  It was a stark reminder that there weren’t going to be too many more report card day dinners at Cowgirl.

When we ordered, I admit I let my daughter go a little crazy.  She asked if we could order just appetizers, and I thought- sure- how big are apps anyway?  OK- here’s the problem with going to a restaurant only once a year- you forget how big the portions are.  Even the appetizers.

Very long story short:  My daughter ate too much.  Too much veggie quesadilla.  Too much Frito pie (yes- Frito pie- they open up a bag of Fritos and plop veggie chili, cheese and sour cream on top).  too much strawberry lemonade, too much ice cream baked potato.  Too much.

We decided to walk home, it’s probably about a mile, mile and a half, but we needed to digest.  Well, I needed to digest.  The Daughter….well, lets just say she really wasn’t feeling well.  At all.  She looked at me, and said “I think I’m going to be……..blhhhhhhh”  I’m happy we were at a corner with a trash can, and that I steered her there just in time.  I took out my tissues (Moms carry tissues) and wiped her face, her hair, her hands (because she tried to catch it…..I told her that was probably not a great idea.)

Me:  You OK?

Daughter:  I feel much better now.  Wow, I haven’t thrown up since third grade,  Wow, and we’re on Charles Street- that’s ironic- upchuck on chuck street…….

Me:  Do you need anything?

Daughter: I’m sorry.

Me:  Don’t be sorry.  It’s ok.  I’m glad you’re feeling better.

Daughter:  Thank you for taking care of me.  I love you.

And she held my hand as we walked.  And I kissed the top of her head.  At this moment she looked so young, so vulnerable.  I didn’t see the sophisticated teen wardrobe, I didn’t see the high school junior.  I saw all those Cowgirl dinners flash before my eyes. I saw my baby, because she’ll always be my baby- no matter how old she is.

When we got home, she smiled and hugged me.

Daughter:  Thanks Mommy.  That really was a great night.  Vomit and all.

Me: It was a great night.  Love you!

But in my head, this is what I said:

Me:  Thank you for giving me great memories,  Thank you for being an amazing daughter.  I am going to miss these days.  But we’ll always have Cowgirl.

 

 

Change: A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a Princess.  This Princess had lived her life fairly effortlessly, but she had some self esteem issues.  She didn’t realize that she was basically a decent person, so she was always trying to prove her worth.  She always tried to be nice to people and went out of her way to help others, but not out of a sense of altruism, but because she felt she needed to, so people would like her.  She did not feel worthy on the inside- she was looking for validation from external sources.

One day the Princess met a Court Jester.  He was not a nice person.  Most people did not like him.  He was smart, but arrogant.  He was attractive, but did not take care of himself.  He was quiet, but not shy.  He thought everyone around him were his inferiors. He drank way too much.  He did way too many drugs.  Of course, the Princess thought this would be an excellent project.

The Princess saw all the bad qualities that the Jester possessed.  But she kept thinking, if only he would change, he could be a great person.  He has all the positive attributes one needs in the world, he just needs to change.  And she kept thinking – he just needs to change, and she was the one person in the world that could make this possible.

And the Kingdom laughed.  Because the Kingdom knew that people don’t change just because the Princess wants them to.

But the Princess kept on dating him.  And married him.  And she kept trying to change him.  She made sure his clothes were always clean.  She made sure he had grooming necessities.  But he did not care.  He still left his beautiful clothes in a pile on the floor.  He still let his hair get unfashionably long.

She told him he needed to stop drinking.  She would pour bottles of alcohol down the sink.  He just bought more.  With her money.  He laughed at her and told her she was useless.  But she still tried.  Because if he would only stop drinking, he would have a great life.  Couldn’t he see that she was going to make a great life for them?

She ignored the sight of him drunk on the toilet, sleeping against the wall.  She ignored the cigarette burns on the floor of the den.  Because he was going to change.  Because she wanted him to change.

What the poor, sheltered Princess didn’t realize was that people don’t change if they don’t want to.  She didn’t realize that the change has to come from within one’s self, that the jester was never going to change because she wanted him to.  She didn’t realize how sad she had become.

The Princess had money.  She had a nice car.   She had made a pretty apartment and had beautiful clothes.  The Princess had all the things she had ever wanted.  She didn’t understand why she was so sad- because she had everything.

One night, a fairy godmother appeared in her dreams.  (Another version says that it was a pea under the mattress, but we’re sticking with fairy godmother.)  FG told the Princess that she needed to change.  Yes- the Princess needed to change her thoughts and actions, because the Jester was NEVER going to change his.  The Princess didn’t deserve to be sad and unhappy all the time.   The Princess felt conflicted at first- to leave the marriage would be to admit failure- she had failed to make the Jester into a Prince.  She had wasted so much time and energy on this person…..Was leaving her only option?  Was walking out the door the only thing that would make the Princess happy again?

Yes.  The Princess realized that yes, leaving was the only possible solution.  The Princess had to pack her pretty car with her pretty clothes and her cat, and the Princess had to flea the dungeon that she had been living in.  She unlocked the chains that kept her shackled to this farce of a marriage, and walked across the drawbridge to a different kingdom.

And she lived happily ever after.

 

Stepford Child

My daughter (community service, central America- you’re up to speed)) did actually communicate with me over the weekend.  The email goes something like this:

Dear Mother,

I hope this letter finds you well.  My community service experience has exceeded all my expectations thus far.  This morning we had to work with cement to repair the walls of a school.  This was grueling labor, but it was a worthwhile experience knowing that the children will have a safe environment to pursue their studies……..blah….blah….blah……

Please express my warmest regards to Father, the canine and the feline.

With Love,

The Daughter

And upon receiving this email, I screamed.  For the first time since she left, I was truly worried.  It was obvious that my daughter had joined a cult.  Or was abducted by aliens.  Or got off the plane in Stepford.  So I fired back:

Who is this and what have you done with my snarky, sarcastic teenager?  Where is she?  I’m sorry we don’t have any money.  We used it all to send her on this trip.  

And then my second thought was “My husband is not Liam Neeson.  He has no skills.”

My email pinged.

Wow Mom.  You think you would be glad to hear from me as I’m the only reason for your existence.

And I breathed a sigh of relief.  It truly was my daughter.  I could feel the sarcasm and teen angst surging through the internet.

But why the formal Edwardian language?  I’m pretty sure she didn’t bring down and highbrow literature (in fact I know she took a teen lit page turner because I saw the Barnes and Noble charge)  And though her school writing is just shy of brilliant, (no maternal bias at all) her communication with me is…..informal.

And my guess is, she was a little home sick.  By writing more formally, she was probably able to distance herself.  Too much witty repartee would remind her that I’m not there to drink a cup of tea with and chat about our day.  I’m not there to fluff her pillow just a little bit before she goes to bed.  It would remind her that we’re apart.

Our past few emails are how we always talk to one another- short, to the point, yet filled with warmth.  I’m figuring  she realizes that it’s OK to miss me…to miss home.  Missing something doesn’t make you weak, but working through the missing and allowing yourself to have fun and experience life makes you strong.

We are ending our emails with XO- which is how we always end our communications, whether it’s a text that she’s met up with her friends, or an email from Central America- because no matter where she is or what she’s doing, I always want her to remember that I love her.