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Tag Archives: growing up

Finding patience when you lose it

Today I realized I’ve lost something very important.

My patience.

I didn’t see it when I called my kids three times into the kitchen for their lunch but no one came until I stomped into the living room, snapped the TV shut and glared around menacingly.

I didn’t find it in the basement under the mountain of toys, the video games tossed around like garbage and the lego pieces scattered all over the floor. It definitely wasn’t under the one I stepped on.

It was nowhere in sight when my husband told me our baseball schedule for the next week… Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Monday and maybe but not definitely Wednesday.

Nor was it anywhere to be seen when my kids continuously tried to prolong staying up, even though at 11pm it was already past my bed time, by moving so slowly to wash up, then calling for drinks and snacks. I couldn’t even find it in the warm, extra hugs they tried to extract.

It certainly wasn’t under the table when I went to pick up the fork my son dropped and then banged my head.

Or in the sink under a pile of dishes.

I didn’t even bother looking for it by my father. No way I’d find it there.

Where o where was it?

For many years I gave everything, did everything and accepted everything. I had more of my patience but less of me, and it was all good. It was how it was supposed to be.

Now I feel a shift. I’m finding myself, making my needs and wants count. There will always be the household chores, moments of frustration, and times where you need more strength than others, but now that my kids are a bit older, all of a sudden I feel they’re supposed to get with the program, even though up until recently the program was I do everything.  It’s not their fault. These things take time. I’ve changed the channel on them, and I guess I no longer have tolerance for any other.

Still it’s coming. I see it when my children bring their dishes to the sink without reminder, automatically brush their teeth and get themselves dressed in the morning, make an effort to be nicer to each other, listen by only the second time I ask. And who wouldn’t smile when the kid covered in chocolate swears he ate none.

Of course there’s still…

“Mommy, I wanna build a set up with you!”

“Mommywatch me!Mommywatchme!Mommywatchme!”

“Where are my socks?”

“PLEASEEEEEEEE!”

“He won’t stop touching me!”

“Make him stop siiiiiingingggg!”

But we’re getting there…

Patience.

Could my patience be hiding in here?

Could my patience be hiding in here?

Teen interrupted

“Mommy, there’s a problem,” My newly minted 12 year-old says, plopping down on the other side of the couch, interrupting a rare moment of quiet where I am actually relaxing with a book.

This better be good.

I look up at his greasy hair, clothes dirty from a day at basketball camp and face still unnaturally sheened by sweat and sun block. “ls it that you desperately need a shower?”

“Silly Mommy,” he says, flashing me his goofy grin. “No. It’s that I’m bored.”

Well stop the presses.

“Should I mention the shower again?” I ask.

“Later.” He says, and absently starts twisting the top of his hair in his fingers.

Oh. My baby is tired. The simple gesture says so, immediately tugging at my heart and taking me back at least a decade. I see him in his crib putting himself to bed, his fingers twirled in his hair. I see him at nursery when I sneak peeks through the door before pick-up, drowsy on the camp bus after a long day, at the breakfast table the morning after a late night, in bed before sleep. I see him a thousand times, his eyes a little heavy, his fingers going round and round.

A dozen times over the years I told him to stop because he was making knots in his hair. He never listened, but then he did, just by growing up I guess. I almost forgot this little signal that had me nodding and knowing that it was bedtime. God, it’s sweet.

I smile, so happy for this intrusion to my moment alone to have this moment with him. My husband and middle son are off at his baseball game. Tonight I have elected to skip the 8:30pm game, yes that’s 8:30pm for a 9 year-old, and stay home with the other boys who have been out almost every night this week. It’s not often these days that we have this quiet. It’s always race race race.

“So how was camp?” I try, although I already asked this question earlier and received the standard blank stare, followed by the standard “fine,” which seemed an effort to extract.  But now he starts talking, telling me about his day, his birthday, his last baseball game; twirling all the while.

I eat it all up and then say, “You’re tired, baby.”

“There’s a problem,” He continues and lifts his feet up so they rest on my legs. “I need a snack.”

Even through his socks I can smell them. “Oh, there is definitely a problem here.” I agree and push them off. “Come on, go shower.” I gently order and he slowly gets up to go but stops, bends down and rests his head on me for a hug. A warm, greasy, stinky hug.

I watch his hulking, itching to grow pre-teen body go. He’s so far from that little boy in the crib, but there’s still some baby left in there. And just like with all the milestones, this leap to teenager is bittersweet. I love watching him grow physically, mentally and socially, but of course with every step he takes and every inch he grows, I lose another piece of my baby.

I hear the shower go on upstairs. Afterwards, he will wash up and then retreat to his room either to read or play on his phone. He’s disappearing more and more these days, with friends, school, sports, life…

Putting my book aside, I get up as well to slice him an apple, cutting off the skins just like he likes it.

It’s not a problem.

Don't get too close

Don’t get too close

The good old days

When my grandmother used to call and ask “What’s douching?” Her quirky way of asking what’s doing, I’d generally answer, “Nothing really, same old nonsense.” To which she’d reply, “Good. That’s how you want it.”

Often I argued. “Well, sure, if you enjoy changing poop diapers or chasing down a maniacal two year-old with a blue marker and the glint of crazy in his eye.”

“Best years of your life.” She’d scoff, “Goes by like a dream.”

“Or a nightmare.” I’d quip, to be funny and also because some days it was true.

“You’ll see.” She’d counsel knowingly, “You’re gonna miss it when it’s gone.”

Not that I’d admit it at the time, but in my heart I knew grandma was right. Each night looking down at my sweet sleeping babes, I mourned the loss of each passing day; each precious giggle and milestone now stored away in the picture and video folders on my computer.

But, of course, those wistful, reflective moments always seemed to happen when my beautiful little rats were sleeping.  Before that I was counting the minutes till bedtime; puffing out deep breaths while cleaning up a bowl of cheerios my toddler had flipped to the floor, or realizing the reason why my baby had just peed through his romper and all over me was because I had put the diaper on backwards.

I couldn’t help day dreaming at times about doing my private business in private without some small creature pushing the door open, crawling in and yelling, “Mama, I sit on your lap!”  Or simply about being back with adult people and feeling smart. And not mom smart like convincing my kid that he was safe by spraying a water bottle of “monster remover’ all over his room, or sensing before seeing that my child was about to fall off a chair he somehow climbed in the 3 seconds I turned away.

Not that I’d ever knock mom smarts. Where would we be without the forethought to pack an extra diaper or stash a lollypop in the bag for just the right moment? Up shits creek, that’s where, but still, I longed for a little adult appreciation.

Although I occasionally fantasized as I sleepwalked through my days after walking from bedroom to bedroom each night; from nursing a baby, straight to comforting a child with a scary dream back to the woken baby; in so far over my head that I couldn’t even see the surface, I knew I was living my dream. That this was it. These were the times of my life, working and playing up through the ranks of ‘mommy hood’; where the work could be grueling but the gifts were overflowing.

When else would I be needed so? When else would babies nuzzle in my neck? When else would I rock in the blissful solitude of 3am with my child sleep-nursing at my breast? When else could I skip out of the house with spit-up on my shirt, dried sweet potato in my hair singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, and happily enjoy an ice cream cone with my kids without dwelling on my non-existent exercise routine.

Those were the times to remember just as much as they were the times to survive. Where the most exciting thing in my day was staying awake to fall asleep watching a movie with my husband; a long hot uninterrupted show was the epitome of pleasure, and a night out with the girls left us all flush with wine and laughter and still home by ten.

Grandma knew those days would be the good old days. But honestly, these days are pretty good as well. There’s holding my breath as my boy strikes that last guy out; proudly signing a 100 on a test after torturous studying, negotiating whether to play Payday or Monopoly.  There’s catches on the lawn, water balloon fights and a growing communication and understanding between us. We’re a little older, a little wiser but we’re still living the crazy. It’s just different.

And sometimes when I see a sweet little one giggling and smeared in chocolate, or a baby making out with his mother’s cheek, I feel my heart squeeze and just for that moment I long for the good old days when my boys were little, nothing was ever new and grandma was still around to see it.

grandma & jack

She made the good old days better.

The other chicken dance

Even though I’m busy dropping sweet corn in the boiling water, from the eyes in the back of my head I see what’s going on, or more accurately, what’s not going on.

“Why are you standing on your chair instead of doing your homework?” I turn and calmly ask my 6 year-old who smiles mischievously, bounces a bit up and down, then with contrived indignity produces a sweaty looking blue crayon he’s clutching in his hand. “I am.”

Uh huh. I roll my eyes and go back to pressing my chicken cutlets into the egg, into the breadcrumbs, then into the pan.

“He’s not doing his homework.” My middle guy accuses. “Mommy, he’s not.” His affront is never mild. It’s always palpable.

“You just concentrate on doing yours.” I say. Dip. Press. Flip.

My oldest wanders in to take his place at the table but before he does, drifts over to me for a hug. He wraps his arms around my waist and I immediately respond to his warmth. He really is the sweetest boy. There aren’t that many almost 12 year-olds who love to linger in a hug with their mom.

We start to sway a bit and all of a sudden it feels like a dance. I have a flash of my husband and his mother at our wedding; his dark head bowed to her blonde one, just a mommy and her baby slowly moving together to Through the Years; a public hug before 200 guests for a private moment where a son leaves his mother and takes a wife.

So now I’m silently crying.

And of course, my middle son who notices everything from the non-existent speck of green in his pasta to the exact amount of minutes more of computer time his brother got than he did, wants to know why. “Mommy, you’re crying.”

“No I’m not.” I laugh. “I drank too much water, so now I’m leaking.”

My little guy giggles, “Mommy’s leaking!” and my oldest smiles sheepishly then pulls away. The dance is over, there’s homework to do and dinner to finish, but irrationally I don’t want it to end. Our time together seems suddenly shorter.

“You’re not leaking,” Accuses my middle son who is also the defender of truth and justice, “You’re crying. It’s true Mommy, say it. Say it!” How did a prosecutor get in my little boy’s body?

“Okay, okay. Fine. I was a little emotional.” Then I made the mistake of continuing. “You see, I was thinking about you guys and how fast you’re growing and when we were swaying it reminded me of…”

I looked at my boys. Not one of them was listening. They all amazingly had their heads down and were deep into their homework.

Huh. Note to self. You don’t matter.

“I’m hungry.” My oldest announced and my other boys piped in the backup chorus.

Okay, so I do matter. For now. For the next few years, they need me and love me, but before I know it, they will be grown starting lives and families of their own and I will be wondering where the years went; where my babies went.

“Dinner will be ready in ten minutes boys.” I assure them and pick up the pace.

Dip. Press. Flip.

I don’t ever want this dance to end.

 

dancing with jack

 

Room to Grow

For years he refused.

“Let’s get you a new rug.” I’d say, nodding toward the 8×10 baby blue Pottery Barn square lined with fire trucks that warmed his floor.  “And maybe a new lamp?” I’d add hopefully, pointing at the matching old one by his bed.

Each time it was suggested, he’d scrunch up his face and shake his head adamantly, like a toddler who had just been offered broccoli.

“Come on,” I’d coo. “I’ll get you cooler new ones. You know you’re eight.” Then nine. Then ten. Now eleven.

“No. I like my stuff.” Was all he’d say on the matter, year after year.

I never even considered mentioning the piles of stuffed animals that adorned his bed. They were untouchable. Besides, I was really in no hurry for him to grow up either. Still, when the ‘baby’ stuff in his room outweighed the ‘kid’ stuff, I worried about the random friend of his who might come over and comment. Many are second or third born boys graced with a social maturity that my first born just doesn’t have. But while I prize his innocence, I certainly didn’t want him being singled out by a snarky 10 year-old.

My son’s attachment to his youth wasn’t just about his stuff. Easily, from his third birthday on, he would mourn the loss of the passing year. To never be three or four or five… Growing up was painful for him. He resisted hard, wanting to remain a baby forever.

I hurt physically watching him struggle, completely understanding his pain; wanting him to stay little and nestled in my arms and afraid of his growing up and away. I got it, probably more than he did.

But I also knew it was my job to help dissipate that fear, so while I continued nuzzling, I whispered warm tales of the fabulousness he would enjoy at each growing age to his covered up ears. We continued that way for years, holding on to each other, working up the strength to let go.

When he turned 11 and entered middle school, he naturally just took a step forward and I watched holding my breath. The boy who barely crossed the street on his own was now walking home with friends. And on Fridays, they all wandered en masse down our town’s main street invading local pizza and ice cream stores. It was an explosion of freedom, baby strides not steps, and my boy happily hopped to it.

But it still took me by surprise last night, when after the cat pooped on his rug, and we brought up once again, the idea of getting rid of it, he actually said, “Okay.”

My husband and I looked at each other momentarily startled, and it took us a beat before we burst into action. Immediately, my husband started clearing the rug of all the toys and crap, literally and figuratively, and rolled it up.

Then, all of sudden, my son looked around his room and said, “I don’t think I need all this stuff.”

Instantly, hoards of papers, trinkets and little toys that he had been compiling for years suddenly found itself in two separate bags – one to be tossed and one to go down into the basement.

My husband and my son worked hard and efficiently, but instead of being enthusiastic, I grew more and more melancholy. Still, I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop this locomotive. It was good, I told myself. Sudden, but good.

Then came the moment when my son looked over to his bed and asked, “Do you think I should put away my animals?”

Uh oh. I heard a tear and realized it was my heart ripping. “All of them?” I asked quietly but I was drowned out by my husband’s enthusiastic cries of “Yes!”

Ultimately we left his two favorite stuffed animals on his bed, bagged the rest and placed them in his closet. By 10pm, we were done and my son had an entirely new feeling room. One without the toddler rug and lamp. One without dinosaurs, matchbox cars and piles of drawings and games he spent endless nights creating. One with very little baby left in it.

Except of course mine. The baby who was now pushing 12.

For years he refused, but now it seems he’s ready to grow up a little. It’s a really good thing, which I’m sure I’ll realize once I stop crying.

There's no schtuff!!

Go the F%$! to sleep. Oh, fine. One more hug.

“Mama!” I hear him yell from his bedroom; his need finding me, even though I’m downstairs in the kitchen cutting an apple for my older son.

“Mama!” He yells again and I roll my eyes. I’ve specifically told him not to call for me, that I will be there shortly.

Even at six years-old, lying with him at night is a non-negotiable. I love it more than it annoys me, which I repeatedly remind myself as his calls become more insistent.

I could enjoy relaxing with him more if I didn’t feel anxious about also getting the other boys into bed. If I didn’t hear the loud tick-tock of the clock in my head, announcing with every beat that it’s getting later and later; that I won’t have any time for myself and my husband, that they will not get enough sleep, that they are stomping on my last nerve and I might just snap, ruining a perfectly good day in the very last minutes.

I finish slicing and trudge upstairs to my oldest son’s room where he is reading a Tom Green book and happy for the snack. I note that he is fully dressed, and even though I’d rather he be studying his vocabulary for a test tomorrow, I hold my tongue on both counts. He’s eleven. I need to cut him some slack. Besides, I’ve told him twice already.

I stop in my middle guy’s room to tell him to stop shooting basketballs and get in bed. He continues shooting, so I tense, preparing for battle. “Just let me make this shot!” He bargains, sensing the imminent loss of his ball. I accept his compromise thankfully, confrontation averted.

Finally, I head to my youngest son’s room. He’s hiding under his covers, preparing to jump out and shout ‘BOO!’ He does it every night. I used to feign surprise but now I just tousle his head. “Boo yourself.”

“I wasn’t supposed to call for you.” He admits. “But I did.”

“I heard you.”  I say, pushing a long dark curl away from his face.

“But you took sooooo long.” He complains.

“You were supposed to be relaxing.” I scold, but not really.

He nuzzles closer, unzipping the extra sweatshirt I’m always wearing because even in the house I’m cold, and tucks his little arms in and around me.

“Stay for 10 minutes.” He coos, snuggling his face against my chest.

He still loves squishing into my boobs. Since he was three, he’s been trying to cop a feel.

“Two minutes.” I whisper, feeling my insides go mushy at the soft curve of his cheek, the long lashes, and pouty mouth. With his eyes closed, he still looks so much the baby and I tenderly kiss his fat cheek that’s not as chubby as it used to be.

“Mama!” My middle son yells. “Tickle!”

“One minute.” I call out.

My baby instinctively pulls me closer. “No, not yet.”

I pet his head and kiss him again, knowing it’s time to go, wanting to go, but afraid of the day he’ll just let me, so we cling to each other a little more.

“Mama.” I hear the voice of my oldest. “Come.”

I really want them all to be sleeping. It’s late. I’m tired. I want to relax and watch Modern Family. But I can’t stop myself from taking the moment to baby each one of them; to remind them that they’re still little and special and mine.

It’s time to go, and I gently but forcibly extract myself.

There are still two more rooms to visit.

Sweet faker

Such a faker

Such a faker

You’ll grow up when I’m good and ready

“Hey, baby.” I say to my eleven year-old. It’s what I call my boys, except my middle son, who at four would already reprimand me for calling him baby. “I’m not a baby.” He’d growl, to which I’d reply, “You’re my baby.” He never accepted my answer and would yell at me whenever I slipped.

Not so with my oldest. He’s always embraced both being a baby and being my baby.

I can’t say I don’t love it, but at times I worry if I’ve made his comfort zone too comfortable; if I’ve babied my baby too much.

“You want to call a friend to come over?” I ask.

He’s curled up in his favorite chair, wrapped in a blanket for comfort not warmth, a bowl of popcorn at his feet watching Austin and Ally on television. He barely turns his head toward me when he answers, “Nah. I’m good.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, walking to the chair and squatting down next to him.

At my closeness, he immediately leans over and nuzzles his head against my body. I give him a squeeze and kiss his head. Ah. My baby.

“I’m good.” He says again, opening his arms for a hug, which I happily embrace.

It’s his downtime. He works hard at school, homework and sports, so I don’t mind him relaxing if that’s what makes him happy.

He craves home, while my middle son craves independence. At eight, he’s already a social animal, and has secured a friend to come over. After his play date, it is not unusual for him to ask for another.

Sometimes, I worry a bit that my oldest is too happy nestled in his chair while his more socially developed friends spend more time bonding and making connections. I worry about him being left behind. Even, shallowly, about not being cool. I want, what I think, most parents want, for him to have an easy run through middle and high school. To fit in. To be well-liked.

“Mommy?” He asks, as I give his head one last tousle and rise to leave him. “Can you bring me water?”

I struggle with wanting to push him out there and pull him back in. I struggle with wanting to do things for him and for him to do them himself. Push. Pull.

He’s eleven. Maybe that’s the age where they need to mature. Almost all of his friends are texting and addicted to Instagram. Quite a few are already into girls. At the moment, my beautiful, sweet son remains blissfully unaware of the social tornado going on all around him.

But probably not for very long.

“Okay, baby.” I say.

His chair

His happy place