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From smother mother to pick up your sh*t

I was a bit of control freak right from the beginning, never bottle feeding any of my children, always latching them to me like they were attached to me, which I guess they were. I reveled in that time where I wandered covered in milk stains, barely able to keep my eyes open, children dripping off of me. I wanted no help, embracing the martyr’s way and spending my days soothing, rocking, and strolling with a child on my hip, or on my back, or in my lap.

As they grew, I was always nostalgic for the year past – for when my four year-old was three, for when my six year-old was five, before my one year old could walk, zipping from one room to another instead of lying lazily in my arms. I worried that they were growing too fast. I was the ultimate smother mother, wallowing in the sap, working on five hours broken sleep a night, and kind of loving it.

It’s because of the mother I was then, one who stalked the nursery school halls, who volunteered for every single class project and trip, who baked cupcakes for reasons as nonsensical as, ‘It’s Tuesday!’,  that I am still amazed at how I’ve changed.

My boys are now 14, 11 and 8 years-olds. They are in high school, middle school and third grade. They still need me to do a million mommy things for them, but now I also expect them to help themselves a lot more. And when they don’t I am no longer the sweet loving mama, I am the nagging, cranky mama.

“Move your asses,” I’ll say when it’s time to shower and they’ve procrastinated too long. “Pick up you shit” and “Get it yourself” are other favorites. I don’t sugar coat things. I expect things done and my patience is minimal.

Maybe it sounds selfish and maybe it is, but I have turned a corner. Things are starting to be about me again and I am embracing this new cycle in my life. I am writing and loving it. But like any job, it takes time, and if I’m constantly nagging I am not sitting on my fabulous chair in my computer room tapping away.

I no longer want them hanging off of me (although a good hug is always appreciated). I want them to be more independent so I can be more independent as well.  I want them to do more for themselves so I can do less. It makes me feel like a bad mother sometimes when I remember how emotional I was when my oldest gave up his stuffed animals or when my youngest went to school without crying for me. But I’ve changed. The mother who always had the play dates at her house because she wanted the children near, now doesn’t mind so much when the boys are all engaged at a friend’s. Back then, I needed them to need me, but now there are many days where I just want to be left alone, not doing anything for anyone but myself.

I know there will be a time in the not too distant future when my beautiful boys are no longer always underfoot, and I will long for them to ask me to make them an egg sandwich, find their baseball pants, or pick them up at a friend’s. I will remember how lucky I was to be so present in their lives and so available to them.

But for now, I’d just like them to pick up their shit.

messy living room

It’s really not that hard.

And – shameless plug – if you haven’t checked out my books, Secrets of the Suburbs or Murder Across the Street, you can find them HERE. They make great holiday gifts!! You can even gift for  Kindle!! 🙂

From toddler to teen: A mom’s short retrospective

From toddler to teen: A mom’s short retrospective

2002

Love. Love. Love. Your drool is adorable, your poop, a topic of conversation. Never leave my side. Stay forever in my arms. You are mine. I am yours. Before you, life had no meaning. Before you there was nothing.

2005

Oh my baby. My poor sweet child. Don’t be sad. It’s only for a couple of hours. Everyone goes to nursery. Why? I don’t know why. Good question! Why?!! No don’t cry. You’re making me cry. Okay one more hug. Okay one more. Okay, Just one mor-

Yes, I know he’s going to be fine. Okay… shut the door.

(I’ll just be sitting here.)

2007

First day of Kindergarten. Can’t…. even….. speak.

2008-10

What’s going on, my love? Yes, I would Love to play dinosaur battles with you! Yes, I want to color! Yes we can build a set-up! Yes, I will even listen to the really really long and convoluted story about the dragons you are breeding on your video game and all 112 words you have made up for your own secret language. Tell me. I am fascinated.

2010-2012

Of course! Have all your friends come over! Everyone is welcome! Five on five wiffleball/soccer/football/basketball in the yard? Fabulous! Manhunt through the house? Movies? Wii? X-Box? Great! I’ll order a pizza! Who wants fresh baked cookies? Weeeeee!!!

2013-2014

Uh okay, of course I’ll drive you to your friend’s. Again.

2015

Me: Can I make you pancakes?

Him: Shrug

Me: Hey that was a good game you played today!

Him: Grunt

Me: Who did you hang out with at the party yesterday?

Him: Eye roll

Sigh. (Both of us)

2016 –

How are you? How’s school? What’s going on? What’s new? Are you happy? Are you sad? Are you comfortable? Do you have friends you like? Do they like you? Are you feeling okay? Do you need anything? Want anything? Can I help you? Hello? Are you listening? Hello…

I’m here.

FT8T9064

And always will be

 

*Now that I have you all sapped up, go check out my latest essay over on Scary Mommy – Underneath His Teenage Scowl. Originally titled, It’s not you, It’s me. Okay, maybe it is you,  but just a little.  🙂

 

About Face

They pound into the backseat like an explosion, popping with energy, youth and hormones and the car heaves with the extra weight. I give a small smile in greeting but then concentrate on the road. I am just the driver. My job is to not say a word, suck in as much information as possible and deposit them at their destination without calling any attention to myself.

It’s hard when all I want to do is stare at them, at their maturing faces and expressions, but of course that would be weird so I just stare straight ahead wondering about these almost unrecognizable creatures who I have known for years.

I sneak glimpses through the rear view mirror at the angular lines and skin dotted with the blemishes. They are morphing into new people every day, every second. I want to study them and find the little boys who I remember. Where did the curvy cheeks and smooth skin go?  The sticky smiles? The Hot Wheels and Pokemon cards? But really, where did the years go?

My son sits in the front seat next to me and keeps me in line, changing the radio to a more preferred station, giving me a stern nod when I start singing along. That is not on the list of things moms are allowed to do. I comply, of course. I want to be allowed to chauffer them places. I want to get to know them as they are now, these little boy men.

I arrive at the chosen house of hangout and watch them shoot out like firecrackers. They remember to thank me politely and I know their mothers would be proud. My own boy jerks his head to the left, momentarily tossing his surfer long hair off of his golden eyes to give me a sideways glance and a shy smile. “Bye, mama.”

Oh that face. I wish I could preserve it, set it in stone, hide it away in my heart and in my house and never have anything change. He is so beautiful and I know he will grow and become a handsome young man like they all are, but I have just this moment become desperate to stop time and hold on to this boy. I’ve already lost the baby who nuzzled me, the sweet kid who clung to me, and soon I will lose this face as well.

It’s almost too much but life forces me to accept that. Because I know that while I can capture a moment, I can’t capture my boy. He will grow and change. He will rise and fall. He will love me and leave me. And all I can do is sit back and be grateful that I’m along for the ride.

I love this boy!!!!

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DCF 1.0

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Boys through nov 2009 024 IMAG0261 430 IMG_0286

My baby turns 13 this month. Puh Puh Puh. I love this face. I love this boy. Always.

This face has my heart, no matter what it looks like. Always. Happy almost 13 baby.

Passing Me By

I caught a glimpse of her pushing her double stroller along the side of the road as I sped by in my car on my way to crossing things off my list and getting things done.

The baby slept while her toddler twisted around in her seat. The woman, who seemed more a girl with her pony tail and workout clothes, slowed her pace then reached down into the basket underneath and handed her a sippy cup. Satisfied, the child sat back down and enjoyed the scenery while her mom strode onward to some unknown destination, the exercise and fresh air the most important part of the excursion.

My heart smiled, remembering that time both long ago and only yesterday when just getting out of the house was an accomplishment. When I couldn’t let my kids go without a good cry, stalked the nursery school, reveled in my martyrdom, ate up every bit of deliciousness and mourned the passage of time.

I loved being that mom. I loved her so much. And I loved those babies in an almost cripplingly powerful way. I wanted nothing for myself but to peacefully drift into the overwhelming tide, going under without struggle and no intention or interest in coming up for air. At times it seemed stressful, caring for these needy, fragile creatures but mostly we rode our days along peacefully with a few good friends who made all the difference.

But now, I’m different. I’m older. My babies are no longer babies. They are 7, 10 and almost 13.  I no longer have time to stroll, or even a stroller to push. My sippy cups have been replaced with sports bottles. I drive because my world has kicked into a higher gear and I need to keep up the pace. Beep beep, chop chop, let’s move it along, lady.

And I like it; the constant motion, the shift in priorities – I’m almost a person again! Having children that can actually (when they decide to) communicate and express themselves. Who are complicated, interesting and (when they decide to be) capable. Who are smart and strong and (except to each other) kind. Who are growing into young men I like, who make me proud and happy and grateful.

But I guess like with most things past, I’m sentimental. It was an age of innocence, theirs and mine. A time to laugh when you’re late for a music class and you just dropped your coffee on the floor and your baby pooped through his clothes again. A time to cry when you’re working on three hours of sleep with a newborn and your oldest sneaks into your bed in the middle of the night and throws up on you. A time to dance to Laurie Berkner and giggle with the Wiggles. And a time for endless walks with a good friend, a stroller stocked with goldfish and lollipops and your babies at the center of your world.

And you still at the center of theirs.

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Happy Mother’s Day! No matter what stage you’re in, it’s a beautiful place to be.

 

But there's this too

Finding the middle ground in 7th grade

“It’s 7:30am!” I call out to my oldest son, meaning that it’s time to go.

“Are your books packed?” I follow up when I receive no reply.

“Are you ready?” I shout, already annoyed on at least three levels. First, I am before coffee and racing through the morning routine of lunches and whatnot. Second, there is a binder on the dining room table that I know needs to be packed away in his book bag where I have already placed his charged phone (your welcome) and his lunch (your welcome again) and third, my son doesn’t freaking answer me.

Slowly he saunters into the kitchen. His sneakers aren’t on.

I grit my teeth, corralling my tongue, “Baby, I called you three times and you’re not ready.”

“What do you mean?” His voice flares a notch, “I’m ready.”

I point to the book lying open on the table.

“Oh my God, mom!” He huffs, “That will take like one second!”  He moves in on the binder and shoves it in his bag. He forces the zipper closed, jerks his head to the side to get the hair out of his face just enough so I can catch a glimpse of his rolling eyes. “See!” he challenges.

Yeah I see. I see he needs a haircut because even though he wants long hair, my boy doesn’t want to take the effort to use a comb or a little water or gel to make it look more like hair and less like a mop. I see that he needs to straighten his shorts, put on his sneakers, grab a zip-up jacket, and that we have very different ideas about what being ‘ready’ means.

I realize that this moment hits the crux of our relationship issues for the last year or so. I ask him questions he doesn’t want to answer and ask him to do things he doesn’t want to do… “What’s taking you so long? Put away your phone. Don’t you see your friends look people in the eye? Can you not forget your  book/sweatshirt/shoes/whatever? Is your homework done? Must you jump around like a puppy? No one else has blah blah blah. Did you do this that and the other thing…?”

It’s my job, of course, to help this growing up person act more grown up, to follow certain rules of behavior. Simple ones like responding when someone speaks to you, being respectful, taking pride in his appearance or being responsible to more complex ones like standing up for what he believes in, being extra kind for no reason and every reason or getting out of his comfort zone to try new things.

But what I also realize is that my wanting to help prepare him for being an adult is at odds with the person who he is. He is not a grown up yet. He is a barely a teen who has matured and progressed tremendously in the past year. He may not have his back pack ready in the morning on my clock, but he is doing awesome in every class at school. He plays team sports year round. He is practicing for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. He is fumbling through the social tornado which is Middle School. He still generally always has a smile on his face.

When we get into the car I ask him if he’s got everything.

“Yeah,” he answers without thinking.

“Your phone?” I prompt, forcing him to double check his bag. I’m being a bit of an ass. I know it’s in there, but I want to remind him that he doesn’t know. That he needs to be more prepared.

Growing up isn’t easy or immediate. Every day there are moments that make me quietly cheer and setbacks that make my eye twitch in frustration. It’s an entertaining, maddening road from here to adulthood, but it’s a process that necessitates patience and understanding. It can’t and shouldn’t be rushed, although I often have to remind myself.

After searching around, my son pulls out his phone from his backpack and I can see the boyish relief behind the teenage smirk.

He’s got it.

But we won’t really know until tomorrow.

Meeting in the middle

My baby, baby no more

 

 

Reflections and Ramblings

Staring out my kitchen’s sliding glass doors; I see the house behind us. Snow drapes off its roof and rises in small sloping drifts up the blue grey aluminum siding. A few months ago, I wouldn’t even have seen the house because of the fence, but the owners, two retired sisters who are looking to move, discovered that one of our fence poles was 6 inches on their property, and those 6 inches may as well have been 6 feet as far as the town was concerned. Yet instead of easily inching over the one pole, my husband, in one impulsive sweep, decided it was time for a backyard makeover. He removed the entire fence along with all the trees lining our yard, leaving nothing but mounds of dirt, which are now covered by mounds of snow, in between us and our soon to be ex-neighbors.

I am staring too long and the house turns ugly. I never really noticed the small windows, jutting air-conditioner or sad siding. I guess because it was never staring me in the face before. Or maybe it’s like when you say a word over and over and all of sudden it sounds ridiculous. Ridiculous. Ridiculous. Ridiculous.

It’s been a mixed blessings kind of day. Like, we played Bingo at the temple and two out of three of my boys won! Two of three. And although there were no complaints from my two boys at their basketball games where both played well, there were many from the one who had to sit and watch both games. And lastly, my brother called to say he briefly spoke with my father who told him to call him back in a ½ hour but if he didn’t answer to call 911. When we called back, he answered. So the day was like that, kind of up and down, and I rolled along with it.

Out the window I follow a trail of little footprints stamped in the snow that lead off into nowhere. I’m relieved to see them. We’ve been feeding a stray for months now and worried whether he’d make it through the last big snow. Now I’m worried if he’ll make it through the snow predicted this evening. Being a stray isn’t easy.

Sometimes I feel astray. Especially in moods and moments like this, staring out windows, feeding my melancholy.  But then the chimes ring, my family barrels in and there is no longer time for musing and melancholy, or as my grandmother would say, “My head up my own ass.” My husband has made a special trip to KFC for Super Bowl Sunday and now it’s time to feed my family instead.

The kids are digging in, grease shining off their smiling lips. Well at least two out of three of them. One is a vegetarian, more accurately a ‘carbetarian’ and he is already scrunching up his face just from the smell.

I take a last glimpse of my demolished back yard that we’ll hopefully redo sometime, but the kitchen comes first and we were supposed to start that project two years ago. I no longer see the neighbor’s house. I see my family’s reflection in the glass; a bucket of chicken on the table, my husband at the head, my animated boys doing what they do; one singing, one laughing and one about to storm off in outrage.

It’s a typical evening in a typical life that is never typical, but perfect and imperfect, ordinary and extraordinary, and where at any given moment two out three ain’t bad.

All I need to be looking at.

The best view

Life is Good

I was going to die.

I glanced over at the bright happy picture of my five and two year old sons and felt certain I would never see their gorgeous faces again. The tears began to well. It was all too much. Gripping the sides of my hospital bed, I took one last look at the children whose lives I was already mourning not being there for, gave one last push and brought my third son into the world.

That was seven years ago.

Seven years gone. Seven years lived. Seven years growing. Seven years of memories and moments. That baby is now a full grown kid; my 2 and 5 year olds now 9 and 12. How did we get from there to here? From diapers and midnight feedings, nursery school and little crawler gym classes to middle school and snark, multi-colored lacrosse shorts and sleepovers. Life is moving faster than one of my kids basketball games; racing from sport to sport to school to play dates – oh sorry boys, hang outs – and activities. We’re so busy trying to keep up that we almost don’t even realize the days, months, years passing.

It’s good being in the thick of it. It’s how it should be. But some days like today I stop and look around and see the wild haired boy with the mischievous smile who is my baby that is a baby no more. I see my older boys having grown as well – My 9 year old charming and wise beyond his years and my 12 year old on the verge of an amazing and frightening new time in his life for both of us. And I remember that day when in my panic I thought I might miss it all.

But here I am (puhpuhpuh), having been blessed to watch my boys growing and growing, their faces, bodies and personalities subtly changing, new expressions lighting up their eyes and mouths; thoughts and ideas opening like flowers in their brains.

One falls over in a pile of giggles, hysterical from his own hijinks, one decides to forgo the fork and shovels in his pasta with his hands and one decides to mastermind a complicated game of mazes, sport and points in the basement.

They are beautiful, unique and special. They are nothing alike and each one is perfect. How incredibly amazing to experience their humor, youth and innocence and see it changing moment by moment in infinitely subtle ways; to watch them grow and develop, rise and fall. Just to be a part of it all; a part of them.

I am overwhelmed by emotion and gratitude. I am so thankful to be here and see it; to hug them and be hugged by them. Today is my youngest son’s birthday, but just like his brothers, I celebrate him every day.

Life is a gift.

Good morning, birthday boy. Ooh that face!

Good morning, birthday boy.